Susie Finkbeiner’s latest novel The Nature of Small Birds tells the compelling story of Mindy. A woman on a journey of healing and self-discovery, who chooses to face her past and search for her birth mother in Vietnam. The story however is uniquely told through the eyes of her three closest family members. Beginning in 1975, at the end of the Vietnam war and the fall of Saigon, Finkbeiner captures a picture of history rarely told to today’s generation.
Four days ago my friends and I shared dinner at a local pub and as we were leaving for a school meeting, an old man stopped us. He was wearing a Vietnam hat and my friend thanked him for his service. As he lit up, I wondered what his return home must have been like in the 1970’s. A sad retreat? A divided nation? Few patrons offering discounts to war heroes? It’s a story my parents do not like to tell. “A dark time in our nation” is how my mother put it. Finkbeiner tells this story.
Whether you were on the anti-war side, the support democracy side, or the nobody has taught me anything about it side, The Nature of Small Birds will pull you in to the roller-coaster emotion families experienced in this often not spoken about decade of America.
This book is moving and pulls you into a heart-felt story. Personally, I found the 3 distinct voices bouncing back and fourth over a period of many decades a little hard to follow. But please do not let this discourage you – I have been busy and distracted. I simply recommend you read this book when you can focus. The diction is also a shift away from standard writing as it is in first-person narrative/journal style. I prefer this in non-fiction but Finkbeiner does a fantastic job with her style. This book is unique and worth the concentration.
Learn how to master your angry words because your family relationships need to be protected. Especially your relationship with your children and your spouse.
He was in tears and I was apologizing. Again. Impatience and frustration had clouded my judgement for the third time in 24 hours. I retreated to my bedroom and swung in my hanging macramé chair, twisting and twirling as I silently cried out to God asking, “How will I ever tame my tongue? Is it even possible?” Then I heard it. God in his characteristic simplicity whispered into the secret places of my heart:
As I twirled and swirled in my chair, I rolled the words around in my head and I thought, “What? Like a vow of silence monks used to do in the 1500s? Impossible. I am a busy mama.” But the thought brought a lightness to my heart I could not describe and before I knew it, I had decided I would try it. What I did not know is that I would be amazed.
Raising a family is not easy. Being overstimulated and overwhelmed means you may be short-tempered too. But does that mean life has to be tainted with angry words? That it just is what it is, or is there something more? I vote for more. My God does the impossible and his word says, “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives me strength.”
When we use food for the wrong reasons, we fast. When we develop an unhealthy relationship with social media, we pause our accounts and delete our apps. And if we battle an unhealthy relationship with words, we stop talking.
I know this last one sounds bizarre. Especially as it is coming from a mama who runs with five little children all day. But this is such an incredible and simple strategy I had to pass it along to you. Here are 3 simple steps to mastering angry words:
Choose a Time
Create Hand Signals
Choose a Time
Pick a time that requires interaction. I chose to begin with one hour. Choose the hour before school or before dinner. Your purpose is to interact with your family without allowing angry words to get in the way. Tell your family BEFORE you begin. Be honest by apologizing for using angry words and tell them that you are going to do something new. “Soon I will not be using words and it will be your turn to speak and my turn to listen.”
Create Hand Signals
Life is still in swing and you will need a way to communicate with your family. Luckily, they say 90% of communication is nonverbal. Before you begin, create with your family some basic hand signals to communicate things like, “time to go” or “time to eat” or “bedtime.” Keep it simple. Personally, I tend to talk with my hands so my kids already knew the motion for “hurry up.” Ha!
Warn them first, then zip it friend. No talking, humming, singing, emailing, texting or journaling. You are silencing your words and that means all of them. Spoken and written. This is your time to receive input, not give create output. (I highly recommend this for prayer, too!)
What should I expect?
Here are a few things that happened while I practiced fasting my words:
The kids tuned into my every move. No more telling them to do something 2-3 times, ending in a screamed instruction. They had to watch me for cues and they were so responsive!
They handled their own squabbles.Oh, they tried to get me to be judge between them. But since I wasn’t speaking, it empowered them to solve their own disputes. Praise Jesus.
The kidswere empowered to demonstrate all they had learned. They have been trained well. But for some reason, my kids love to be told every move to make. This was a chance for them to show me how mature and capable they have become.
Rest. You may not realize it, but sometimes us mamas contribute to the chaos more than we realize. Choosing to put a pause on speaking gave me a rest from the endless questions, the repeated instructions and the the mental process of always directing and responding. I demonstrated my love through hugs and kisses and saw my family with a new perspective.
No regrets! Best of all, God spared my family from my angry words. I distinctly remember 4 incidents I would have prematurely reacted to, but in my silence I had no regrets. My original goal had been one hour, but it was such a lovely experience I ended up doing 2.5 hours.
More walking. You can’t yell at your kids to come in, come down stairs, or come to dinner… so there is that. It’s a small price to pay.