Owl be seeing you

“To that which you tame, you owe your life,” Stacey O’Brien was told when she adopted a tiny barn owlet in 1985. The tiny creature had an injured wing and would not have made it in the wild, so O’Brien brought the wild into her home. She tells their story in Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl.PaperbackCover

One would think the Caltech biologist knew what she was getting into. She was part of a scientific research community that in many ways was its own subculture, so she had not only knowledge but support. But does any new parent truly know what he or she is getting into? Perhaps the task is not to know, but discover.

To provide Wesley with what he needed, O’Brien had to enter the world of a sophisticated bird of prey with his own set of rules — “The Way of the Owl,” as she would call it. This required her to procure and prepare mice to feed him — all in a day’s work for an owl mom, but not so easy for an adoptive human mom, even a scientist. You recognize it’s the way of nature. But still.

Wesley was as devoted to O’Brien as an owl in the wild would be to his mate, and he held her to the same standards. When she traveled, he pouted upon her return. When gentleman callers turned up, he let them know who ruled the roost. He groomed himself fastidiously; if he plucked a feather on one side of his body, he invariably pulled the corresponding feather on the other side. Wesley even became an unexpected link with O’Brien’s grandmother, a fellow animal lover. O’Brien also learned to use her intuition to care for and communicate with Wesley.

The relationship lasted nearly 20 years — through jobs, boyfriends, and the ups and downs of life. Sometimes she cried into his feathers and he tried to understand. When she had to contend with her own life-threatening illness, the knowledge that Wesley needed her helped keep her going. “I looked into the eyes of the owl, found the way of God there, and decided to live,” she writes.

After Wesley passed from this world, writing about their journey together gave O’Brien a way to cope with her grief, and to offer the rest of us a glimpse of The Way of the Owl.

Minding nonprofits’ mailings

Mail - cogdogblog via Foter.comDear Handful of Respected Nonprofits:

Last fall, I contacted each of you and politely asked that you take my 90-year-old mother off your mailing lists. She was quite generous to you in 2015, and I can understand why you or your fundraising software algorithms would thank her profusely and ask for more. However, with her eyesight, memory issues, and conscientious soul, Mom was starting to treat your repeated mailings as bills that needed to be paid. As you can imagine, being nonprofit organizations that help others, that created problems.

As her power of attorney, I explained this to each of you, and you all agreed to remove her name from your mailing lists and stop all requests for donations. I also made use of the Direct Marketing Association’s mail preference and caregivers’ registries — just to make sure it was clear that these solicitations were to stop. Those of you who followed through have my sincere thanks.

Mom passed away just after Christmas, and I had her mail forwarded to me. That’s when I discovered that a few of you were still sending mail asking her for donations. “We tried contacting you,” one said; “don’t you want to continue supporting this important work?” “We miss you! We need your help now more than ever!” another declared.

I realize it takes time for these “stop your mailings” requests to take effect, but I contacted you in October and you’re still sending mail in February.

Don’t get me wrong; I respect the work each of you does. You help people find hope and re-start their lives. You bring quality broadcasting to your community. You try to help this country, through its leadership, be all it can be. You were lucky to have the support of my mother, a Depression survivor who saw her share of challenges and wanted to give back.

However, you did not abide by what should have been a simple request to help protect my mother’s well-being. What does that say about the way you operate?

I’m not naming any of you because doing so would only distract. If you, the individual person reading this, are part of a nonprofit organization that solicits funds, I hope you’ll take a hard look at how you do that. And if people ask you to take them or an elderly relative off your mailing list, please do so. Your donors will find you, and funds are easier to recover than trust.

Any Adult Child

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