Monthly Archives: April 2013

Spreading a Little Joy on Draw a Bird Day (DABD)

This morning my friend Robyn forwarded a tweet that read, “Did you know today is National Draw A Bird Day?” I did not know this. Drawing a bird was not on my to-do list but I quickly found myself making an opening.

I went to the DABD website and learned about the day’s history. In the early 1940s, a little Londoner named Dorie asked her uncle, an injured soldier in the hospital, to draw a bird for her. He appreciated her candor about the drawing not being very good and yet still being willing keep the picture. Other wounded soldiers that found humor in this took up bird drawing contests during her subsequent visits. They reached a point where they filled the entire ward’s wall with bird drawings.

After a tragic accident that took Dorie’s life a few years later, soldiers and hospital staff drew birds on her birthday in her honor. The tradition grew over time, and while not declared a national holiday, it has become a world-wide way to express joy in the simple things of life and provide a welcome distraction for those suffering in battle.

Considering birds as ambassadors of simple joy, I knew immediately who I would sketch.

house sparrow squatter

Around the start of this past winter, Joel asked me if I noticed what was living under the deck. I immediately gave him a wild-eyed expression to convey a worried “WHAT?!?” reply. “Oh it’s just a bird. I think it’s a sparrow,” he assured me. Well that was a pleasant surprise; I had no issues with that. When I went outside the next day, I did not find a bird but I did find plenty of evidence on the mulch that supported the theory of a bird living under the deck. We had a squatter alright.

This little male house sparrow spent the winter tucked up on that bolt that supports the deck. I was always quick about taking little peeks because he didn’t entirely trust me. He’d only let me take two pictures before dashing off. While I’ve probably been feeding the guy for years, I still respect a wild bird’s fear of humans. I think we may have reached a new understanding though when he stayed put while I shoveled out snow late one night so that Peanut could go outside. I made sure not to stop and make eye contact so he didn’t feel threatened to leave. I’ve since learned that it can be a matter of life and death for a bird that loses its body heat in very cold temperatures from an act like flying off once it is tucked in for the night. I whispered “goodnight” to him each time Peanut and I came back inside from her last trip out for the evening.

A bit rusty with my drawing skills, the eyes didn’t shape up as well as I’d have liked. I think the sparrow looks like a cross between Ray Charles and a jazzy hipster with that goatee. That’s OK though because this isn’t meant to be a drawing contest, just an act to share a little joy and happiness.

Did it work?

sparrow sketch

Thank you to Robyn and those who participate in spreading a little joy with this fun tradition.

Want to draw your own sparrow? If you’d rather not wing it (ha!) like I did, here is a step-by-step beginner’s guide on how to draw a bird.


A Dear John Letter to My Women’s Lifestyle Magazine

Dear Popular Women’s Lifestyle Magazine,

I regret to inform you that I am officially breaking up with you. After almost two decades together, I’ve come to realize that it is me, not you, who has changed. You are who you’ve always been, but I am no longer in your target demographic. I need to move on.

Arden at the office 1996

About the time when we first got together in the mid-90s.

I fondly remember when we met, back when I had very different goals and expectations from life. I had an idea of who I wanted to be, and at the time, I’m sure it was right. We had so much in common back then. From fashion and skin care to dating advice and general women’s  issues, we just clicked. Stories were new, educating, thought-provoking, and life-affirming. You introduced me to new products with clever marketing that (somewhat) promised to make me feel special and happy. We spent lazy Sundays catching up over coffee. Getting together was a real treat.  

Now, I find myself quickly skimming articles that simply no longer interest me. We’ve been discussing these exact same topics for years. I’m all set with what I deem to be very common sense office etiquette. Our concept of fun couldn’t be more different. I grow concerned each time I see models displaying clothes on hunched frames that seem to scream out for orthopedic intervention. With expressions often so sullen, so vacant, not only do I not want to buy the clothes, I want to take them out for coffee and ask them what I can do to help. I balk at your “price upon request” items that I wouldn’t purchase at the county flea market. Is that really how we want to spend extra money after bills are paid? I can’t help but roll my eyes at styles you show me that I unfortunately found myself in decades earlier that don’t exactly compliment the figure of the average woman. I can now afford those pricey products but often choose to buy from the just-as-good, if not better, less expensive competition, especially because I’ve learned that those things are not what make me feel special and happy. Last but not least, I genuinely hope that I’ll never need dating advice ever again.

I can only imagine how hard it is to keep so many of the same topics fresh and exciting. Every once in a while I do come across an article I find appealing, but it’s just not enough to stay together. I want you to know that you still have so much to offer…someone else.

I acknowledge that you’ve worked hard to get me back several times, and while I do appreciate the attractive “We want you back!” rate and free tote bag, if it’s not right then it’s not right. We can’t keep going back and forth. I’ve already started seeing other publications specific to birds and home decorating, and I’m having a lot of fun.

Not to rub it in your face but there have been a few other lifestyle magazines watching our relationship fall apart that are trying to capitalize on the opportunity. I’ve been courted with a free six-month subscription from a new publication targeted more towards my current demographic. I was excited as I went through that first issue in the hopes that this one would “get me.” By the time I reached the end however, I already had misgivings about making any kind of commitment. Not to be hasty, I went ahead and read the second issue. While I admire their efforts, we just didn’t have enough in common. I can’t blame them for trying but there won’t be a new subscription there either.

Thank you for all you’ve given to me through the years. I wish you the best.