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Thursday, December 8, 2016

NEW ENGLAND

Anticipation was high.  I was sitting in the breakfast room reading and was also watching the front door of the motel as people came in to register.  I was waiting for a friend I had not see in 46 years.




I had gone to a 10-grade church school. For my junior year of high school I registered for the local senior high school in Rhode Island.  Every year I had gone through the first 10 grades with the same 12 friends. Now I was full of in trepidation of going to a high school with 500 students in my grade.  I was riding the school bus home at the end of the first day of school.  There was a girl sitting on the bus across the seat from me.  About a mile from my house she got off the bus and headed into her house.  Right after the bus started on it's way...I noticed a purse where she had  been sitting. So I grabbed her purse and got off at the next stop and walked back to her house. She had just noticed that she had lost her purse and was happy to see it!   We became great friends.  She was God-sent to me to help me get through my first year of public school.   We did everything together at school...and in our senior year we took nearly all the same classes except for Spanish and French! 

 

When we graduated from high school her dad retired and took her family to live in Maine. I went to a small college in Massachusetts.  We completely lost touch.  One October night I couldn't sleep and got to thinking about Darla!  I grabbed my I-Pad and googled her first and maiden name and got an address, email and phone number!  So I emailed her in hopes it was the same Darla that I knew in high school.   In the morning I had heard from her and it was the same person!  How thrilled we both were.  We spent the next 8 months emailing and catching up!  She was married and lived in New Hampshire.  



I had to go to a wedding in Rhode Island in June. So we decided to get together up in Maine at LL Bean in Freeport.  So here I was at the motel waiting to see someone I had not seen in years and  years!  The motel door opened this lady walked in....I knew it was her! She walked over to the desk to register...she said her name to the clerk...I was right behind her and said ..."Hi Darla" !  She turned and we hugged and then sat down there in the breakfast room and for the next 3 hours we looked at year books, laughed and cried as we caught up with each other.  The next day we went hiking for 3 miles in the Maine woods. Darla had prepared a vegetarian lunch. We found a picnic table in the middle of a meadow and ate.  The day was pure bliss!  How sweet and treasured are old friends.




Fall in New England brings back so many memories.  I lived in a small house right next door to a huge house and lots of land.  There were children around  my age that lived there.  Every fall our families would rake up the leaves and put them in a pile and burn them. But before they did this.... we children would rake the leaves into different piles all over this huge yard.  When the sun would set at night we'd put on just the garage light...which cast an eerie glow over the yard.  We then play a game we made up called "Spook" !  It was a game of tag...one person would be it...and the rest of us would go and hide under different piles of leaves.  Then the person who was it would came looking for us and try to tag us before we got back to "base" !   We would yell and scream with laughter as we played this game.  It was chilly out and when we'd finally finish we would come into my house for hot cocoa and marshmallows!







"Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain,  and feel the wind. Live life to the fullest potential."   Ashley Smith




Friday, September 30, 2016

Happiness....Joy.....Pleasure....Pleasing

                                                      
                                                                  


On Labor Day a few weeks ago I was at the Slough in Fort Myers.  I stopped at the first pond and saw this HUGE alligator trying to climb upon this old dock. It took him quite awhile and finally he made it.  He got settled, then gave us all a big grin of accomplishment and bellowed a loud "Happy Labor Day Folks!" 
  
        
             "One's happiness depends less on what he knows than on what he feels."
                                                       Liberty Hyde Bailey


Have you ever asked yourself exactly what happiness is?  I know many people can look at happiness in many different ways. I'm going to share one of my experiences of happiness.



                                                          
 
 
 
 
Every year that I taught school I was always including multiple things of nature that would grow in the minds of my students (first graders) as they achieved what was expected of them in that particular grade.  I wanted them to love nature, to learn to explore and to realize how unique nature can be.
 
 
One year I decided to hatch 10 turkey eggs in the incubator in my classroom. The students were happy keeping counting charts of the days until the turkeys hatched. Halfway through the 28 days we decided to "candle" the eggs to find out if a turkey was growing inside.  We found only 1 egg that was fertile. 
 
When we got down to the finally days, even the parents would come in to see if there was any action in the incubator!  Finally at the start of one day we peered into the incubator and realized there was a hole in one egg. We could hear the turkey chirping away inside the egg. We were so excited, (including me), we  could hardly do any work that day...eagerly awaiting for the turkey to hatch. It was a long process...with frequent stops in our schoolwork just to watch the process of hatching. When the turkey hatched the students couldn't leave the classroom that night to go home. All the parents came in and sat with their children for at least an hour after school to watch the newly hatched turkey!
 
 
The following days were filled with happiness.  We moved all of our desks together so that the turkey could walk anywhere he wanted....and he did. He felt free to walk up and down their arms....sitting right next to them as they did their schoolwork...occasionally pecking at their pencils as wrote. They  each kept a writing journal of how fast the turkey grew, taking pictures along the way.  The students named him Tickles.   I trained the turkey to sit on my shoulder during the day while I taught!  He seemed to be quite happy doing this.   I took the turkey home with me at night!
 
 
One of the parents of my students was very interested in adopting Tickles.  So at the age of 8 weeks he went home with this family.  The family built a pen outside in their backyard for Tickles. They would bring the turkey inside their home each night to sit on the couch and watch TV with them.  The turkey would ride inside their van in the mornings as the mom brought the kids to school. He would sit in the front passenger seat, sticking his head outside the van window on the way to school.
 
 
 
 
His adopted family would drop Tickles off to school once a week in his little red wagon, along with his lunch. I bought an old playpen from a thrift store for him to rest in.   Tickles loved the students and they loved him. My students would read to him, practice their math facts with him. He would go outside at recess with the students. They would chase him across the playground and then he would chase them back.
 
 



 One morning his adopted parents woke up to find that Tickles was missing.  Someone had opened his cage and either let him out or took him. They looked and looked for him. They even put a picture in the local newspaper of the students with Tickles, asking people if they had seen Tickles the turkey.


                                                                     
 
 
He was missing for 2 and 1/2 years. The adopted family moved about 6 miles away so they could have more room for their animals. One morning, a neighbor from their old neighborhood called them and said they thought they had spotted Tickles. The mother rushed over there, but Tickles was no where to be found. This happened quite often, until one day the neighbor called again to say they had spotted Tickles.  So the mother figured that this was the last time she would go over there.. But this time was different. Tickles was there. She called to him and he came over and sat in her lap!  He was very thin.  She took him first to the vet and left Tickles there for a check up.  She had not told her children that she had found Tickles. After 3 weeks the vet called and said that Tickles was ready to go home.  So the dad told the children to sit out on the front steps because their mom was bringing home a surprise. She came driving up in her van with Tickles, sitting in the passenger seat, sticking his head out the window! The children were thrilled.
 
Tickles lived for 5 more years...each week spending one day in my classroom!  
 
 
Happiness is taking advantage and enjoying every opportunity you have to enrich your life!
 

 
 
 


                                                         

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Where Are You Going?

                                                                      


It was early in the morning and the sun had just come up.  It's soft beams were just hitting the tops of the mountains. Eager Americans and Chinese were awaiting to board the plane in China for the city of Guilin.   The plane was an old Chinese war plane.  When I boarded I sat amongst the Chinese.  As the old plane took off ...it shook, sputtered and headed straight up in the air. It felt like the back of the seat was about to come off...even more, sitting in my seat felt like I was in a rocket about ready to shoot to the moon!  


                                                                          
 
 
As the plane finally reached it's right altitude I could start to relax. The nice Chinese young man sitting next to me...turned to me and started a conversation in broken English.  He asked me questions about where I lived and what I did for work!  I then asked him questions of how he learned English and what he did for work.  He told me that he had learned English from listening to the English language lessons on the radio. He quite animatedly talked about his shop in the city of Guilin. He had a fan shop...where he made the most beautiful Chinese fans....the type you could put up on the walls in your home or business or even give as gifts.
 
 
 
 
He was so excited about his fan shop. He then stopped and looked at me.  He had decided that I needed to visit his fan shop.  When I was in China ...those were the days where Americans had to have a guide and were not allowed to wander much on their own. So I tried to explain to him all about this...but he just didn't understand. By then the plane had landed and he said that he would see me soon! 
 
 
 
 
In the city of Guilin, there is a special cave that I had decided to visit. It's called the Reed Flute Cave.  It got it's name from the reeds that grow just outside the cave. With these reeds the people would make flutes!  Inside the cave there are rocks, stone pillars, and stalactites.  All of these are illuminated by colored lights. When in the cave you feel like you are in paradise...as the whole thing is breathtaking!
 
 
 
 
The city of Guilin is quite large with thousands of streets and thousands of little shops that are right next to each other on the streets.   My friends and I had spent 5 days there and loved every minute of it.  On the morning of the last day there, our guide had informed us that he was letting us explore the city ourselves. We were thrilled.  The only drawback was that it was just pouring rain.  I had not brought an umbrella with me on the trip....which was NOT very smart of me!   We  were wandering around the city and ducking into shops when it poured the hardest.  As we ducked into one shop (it was a fan shop)  I was standing there looking around.  Across the inside of the store I thought I saw one young man that looked like the man on the plane.  But then I thought I was wrong. A minute later I looked again. Then he looked at me...and shouted, "The lady from the plane!"  Sure enough it was the same young man!!  He came over and actually hugged me.  He thought I had come to visit his shop.  He showed me all his beautiful fans. Of course I had to buy one!! Can you just imagine out of all the thousands of shops in the city of Guilin that I would meet up with the young man who sat next to me on the plane?
 
 
 
 
 
 
"If you can't fly, then run,
 
If you can't run, then walk,
 
If you can't walk, then crawl,
 
but whatever you do you have to keep moving."
 
Martin Luther King Jr.
 
Where are you going in life?  Are you taking advantage of each day? Are you enjoying the gift of friends and the good things that God gives you each day?  
 
 
 
 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

TRANSFORMATION

                              " TRANSFORM: to change in form, appearance or structure"
 
 
I'm always looking for ways to enrich my life. So I decided to take a class in Sign Language. It was one of the neatest things I've done. I had a great teacher and asked him if he would be willing to volunteer in my classroom to teach my 1st and 2nd graders Sign Language.  He did, and he was fantastic with the students!  They loved him. He would teach Sign Language once a week. Then at the end of the school year, the teacher would invite about 12 of his retired deaf friends to come and spent the day in my class with my 1st and 2nd graders. The students were not allowed to "voice" with the deaf...everything had to be done in Sign Language. The retired deaf had a blast with my students. I'd have the students do an art project with the deaf.
 
 
 
 
Every other year I would do the Life Cycle of a Butterfly.  I'd send away for 50 Painted Lady butterflies starting from the caterpillar. I'd set up these caterpillars so that the students could watch them grow and then change into a chrysalis. They could actually watch the caterpillars knit themselves into a cocoon.. We'd just stop everything in the classroom and put up our chairs to where this was happening and spend lots of time watching this happen.
 
 
 
 
When the chrysalis were about to hatch....we would put all the students desks to the sides of the classroom.  Then I'd put up a HUGE tent.  We would watch the chrysalis hatch into beautiful butterflies. When the butterflies would hatch they would be very weak. It took a few hours for the butterfly to gain strength by opening and  shutting their wings without flying. My students were simply amazed at the entire experience.
 
 
 
 
But what was really neat is that when all the butterflies were hatched and flying around, we'd put the 50 butterflies into this huge tent.  We'd put in wet sponges filled with sugar water.  Then I'd let 3 students at a time sprinkle sugar water all over them, take off their shoes, and then climb and sit down very carefully in the tent. Soon enough the butterflies would come and land all over them....on their faces, hair, socks, arms...etc.   Some students would actually hold 5 butterflies at a time on their hands.  The children were delighted.
 
 

 
 
It so happened that one year when the retired deaf spent the day in my class, that I had up my huge tents with the butterflies. The deaf were very engaged in watching the children in the tent with the butterflies.  There was senior deaf man, named Johnny, who asked me if he could get in the tent too. That was fine....so he took off his shoes and went to sit in the tent. I completely forgot about him...and finally remembered. I tapped on his arm and he twisted around to me ...and there he sat with butterflies all over him with tears running down his smiling face. He "signed" to me that this was the best experience of his whole life!!
 
 
 
Sometimes it's difficult to be "transformed."  Sometimes life changes unexpectedly and that is really hard...(especially as we get older.)  I try to look at unexpected changes as new experiences in my life as a way to grow.  We may find in these changes a  new direction in our lives for the good!
 
I need to heartily thank Bob Pelkey for his advice about starting a blog...which is really outside my comfort zone...and a big thanks to my friend, France, for encouraging me on this project!
 
"Everyone needs beauty as well as bread,  places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul."       John Muir
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
                                          

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Little Things

Hello !

This morning I got up early and rode my bike along Kings Highway down by the ponds.
The ponds were busy with all sorts birds looking for breakfast.  What was really neat to watch were the Moorhens in the ponds leading their babies around as they searched for tasty morsels. As I approached on my bike the mothers bleated out a warning and all the babies scrambled for the bulrushes!  Some pretty yellow flowers greeted me as I rode by.

                                             
 
I usually am the cashier for a small thrift store and food pantry on Sunday mornings.  There is a retired Brazilian couple who help also in the thrift store. Every once in awhile I come across such interesting lovely people and this couple is one of them.  The lady of this couple has such a beautiful singing voice. As we worked last Sunday she told me an experience that she had lately.
 
Her grandchildren had spent the summer with she and her husband. A week ago they took them to the airport in Tampa to fly them back home.   They parked their car at the Tampa airport as they took their grandchildren to the right terminal.  They forgot to write down the section where they had parked their car.  Now if you have ever flown from the Tampa airport and left your car there you can know how confusing it might be if you don't write down exactly where you left your car. At the airport there must be at least 4 named sections for parking your car...and there are at least 3 or 4 levels in each section.  So when the couple came back to drive home they realized they didn't remember where they had parked their car. They went to each section and walked up and down rows looking and looking for their car.  The just couldn't find it.  And didn't really know what to do.
 
Then a young lady who had been observing them, approached them and asked them if they were looking for their car. They acknowledged that they were searching for their car.  The lady told them she would help them.  So she took them in her car and drove up and down the rows of "zillions" of parked cars. Finally after another hour they found their car.  This Brazilian couple were so thankful that this lady, a stranger, had helped them and wanted to thank her.  They didn't have much money on them, but then the Brazilian lady thought of something she could do to thank this lady for helping them. So she told the lady to just wait a few minutes, as she was going to do something special to thank her. Then the Brazilian lady started to sing and sang a beautiful song to this young lady who was a stranger to them but had given of her time to help them !!  The lady that helped them was thrilled with the song. They hugged each other good-by and went on their way. Isn't it amazing how perfect strangers can make your day!
 
I love Burrowing Owls. I think they are very unique.   I first saw them in PGI, (Punta Gorda Isles). On one of the roads, there was a golf course,  and on the edge of the golf course a pair of burrowing owls had a nest.  The nest was surrounded by the usual orange tape.  I knew better than to get too close...so I kept my distance. All of a sudden a baby popped out of the nest in the ground...then another and another until 10 babies had actually surfaced !!  By then I was flat on the ground at quite a distance from them. I was simply amazed as I watched them.  They drove their parents crazy.  The babies scattered all over the place. The poor parents just couldn't keep up with them. The babies were trying out their wings by jumping up in the air and fluttering down. It was enchanting to watch them.  One baby spied me and hurried on over.  Of course I was thrilled! Here I am flat on my stomach taking picture after picture.  I could hardly breathe as the baby approached me. He stood right in front of my camera and stared at my camera. I know the baby must have been wondering what this object was.  He tilted his head as if trying to figure it all out.
 
 
 
Thus I fell in love with Burrowing Owls!! 
 
This past Spring I was in Cape Coral to see the Burrowing Owls there.   This one particular nest had 6 babies.  One baby was quite smaller then the other. The mother brought out of the nest a dead frog that she had hidden in the sand in the nest.  She found the runt and began to feed him first.
 
 
Then she brought out a dead frog for each baby.  I really enjoyed watching her feed them.
 
 
 
 
Have a good week. Look for someone that you can help this week!
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Breakfast on Siesta Key Beach

The first part of June, early one morning I headed to Siesta Key Beach. I stopped at a bagel place, picked up a toasted bagel and OJ, then head to the beach to eat my breakfast.  I love doing this. 

Then I spent a couple of hours walking the beach looking to take pictures of shore birds.
The first thing on the beach that greeted me was a CRAB !

 
 
I walked way down the beach and found to my delight this HUGE tidal pool. There must have been at least 8 different species of birds. There were quite a few Spoonbills.  The sky was a brilliant blue that reflected quite nicely in the tidal pool. I watched and took pictures.  I thought I'd share these.
 
 
 
 
Spoonbills are one of my favorite birds.  Here are a couple of images I took of Spoonbills in different places. 
 
This image I took at Merritt Island. The wind was blowing and all of sudden this Spoonbill's feathers flipped over!
 
Often in the Spring I visit the Alligator Farm up in St. Augustine.  This Spoonbill was standing practically in front of me and allowed me the privilege of taking his pictures.  I love the colors on Spoonbills. See how the colors just blend into each other!
 
 
Have a wonderful Saturday.  
"Keep close to nature's heart."  (John Muir)
 
 
 
 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Bird Talk



Hello !

 
 A few years ago I was up at the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida.
In March, some of the wild birds fly into the swamp at the Alligator Farm. They
 build their nests, mate, have babies and raise them there.  By the end of June the babies have fledged and both the babies and parents have left until the next year! 
 
In this nest of Great Egrets the babies were squabbling among themselves. As I stood there and watched them I realized that the 2 older babies were trying to shove the runt out of the nest. The runt steadfastly refused.  The mother did not want any part of this...so she turned her back.  I came back 3 weeks later and all 3 of the babies (which were nearly full grown) were still in the nest. I was happy to see this!
 
I had observed another nest and actually saw the mother shove the runt out of the nest. The baby just happened to fall on another limb of the tree. It was weaving back and forth. I was standing so close I could have reached out and put the baby back into the nest. I knew what was happening was just a part of nature. There were alligators in the swamp at the base of the tree just waiting for a good meal.  There was also a ranger standing next to me. I had to hold my hands behind my back and the tears just streamed down my face. The ranger looked at me and said, "Don't even think about it." I had to leave. I realize that there are some sorry parts of nature.