Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mama and her ducklings

Quietly she leads all six of them out from the cover of weeds and bushes near the bay. They follow obediently, staying close to each other. Once they are clear of the foilage she allows them to lead the way, waddling up the stone covered path to the top of a small incline. Again, they enter the foilage, their brown and white speckled bodies blending so well with the dry leaves on the ground that if they stood still you probably wouldn't notice them. She hangs back a little but not too far, allowing them the freedom to explore on their own. She stretches her thin beige and white neck, watching all around for any signs of danger. Her six ducklings peck at the dropped seeds and bird food lying on the ground under the feeders. The yellow or purple finch, beautiful red cardinal with black mask, black and white chicadees and various woodpeckers including the hairy and downy with their white and black speckled bodies with the red dot on the back of their heads are not afraid of the ducks' presence as they continue to eat and drop leftovers from the feeder. The female cardinal with her bright orange beak and muted reddish orange colors sits nearby in the branches until she feels comfortable enough to rest on the feeder.

As the ducklings feast, Momma Duck stands guard, never once lowering her head for one morsel of food. She is beautiful in her own way. She waddles gracefully, her head held high, her young always nearby. I cannot help but notice her protective nature toward her babies, yet I see how she is also training them to be independent. She allows them to wander around under the feeders and in the nearby woods, yet when they are all done eating, she needs only turn her brown speckled body in the opposite direction and all six of her ducklings immediately follow her back down that path, into the foilage, and then lost again in the bay area to return several hours later for another meal.

I wonder though where the father is. During the spring and early summer I always saw the beautiful multicolored male duck with his shiny green neck and yellow beak, alongside his female partner,  his colors always more prominent than the muted brown speckled feathers and greenish yellow beak of the female. His neck had a white ring around it and a richly colored brown chest.  I would see them swimming in the bay, walking along the road or in the grass. He appeared protective of her and always near her. They were definitely a pair, a couple. They have six young together yet now it seems she is alone, a single mother caring for her babies. Is he still in the picture? Is he there with them when they disappear from my view? Or has he moved on, continuing on with his life again, a free single male, proud to have recreated as so many young men today; Father the children, puff out the feathers or chest and be proud, then walk away leaving the female to care for the young until they are old enough to get by on their own.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Towering above the others

At first we were in the darkness, buried in a 40# yellow and red plastic seed bag in the shed. Then we saw daylight when we were poured into a bird feeder. “Here they come! Here they come!” we seeds whispered to each other as the birds landed nearby.  Some were eager to be chosen by the cardinals, nuthatchers, chickadees and woodpeckers.

But not us! We hid until she found us sitting near the tray of the feeder, just inside the mesh. We knew we had better things to do than become a chunk of food to be pecked, opened, and swallowed into some bird’s belly.

Our job was more important. We will sprout. We will grow. We will produce more seeds from our tiny black shells. But before that, we will bring happiness and beauty to the occupants of this site and the many passersby.

She carefully chose us and then laid us gently on the moist, fertile black soil inside the round clay colored pot sitting on her deck.  I heard her say, “Maybe I will have better luck here,” as she put a soft layer of that dirt overtop of us. She marked our resting spots so she knew where we were. Each day she looked for us to pop our little heads. One day we surprised her. A couple at a time, we pushed through the dirt, our little green seedlings still not open but now above ground. She watched as we grew taller and larger and pushed open the seedling to become a real plant. We were on our way to something better. We were watered, talked to and touched until we were strong enough to be moved.

She chose a sunny spot for us in front of her campsite, near a pole that says “73” and “Volunteer Camp Host”. She had more of that beautiful black soil ready for us with a border made from pretty little rocks she had handpicked. We had our own bed now that we shared with other pretty flowers but when the beauty contest is over, we plan to win.

As we grew, she attached our hairy stems to bamboo stakes tying the green tape between our coarse leaves to help us grow straight and tall. Our buds turned into petals that bloomed into yellow globes of sunshine. In the center of our petty yellow head is the eyeball of our bloom which has spirals of florets. For now, we stand with our heads slightly bowed, admired and appreciated. We have brought happiness to the campsite occupants. People who are passing this site stop to look at us and see how tall we have grown. We are the only sunflowers in the campground. We are special.

Our work is not done. We will produce seeds from the florets in the eye of our flower and then the birds will come to us. We will not be that one seed in the feeder that they grab, but we will have many fresh, moist seeds upon us for them to choose from. Their choices will be many and they can come as they want until we have been picked over. Hopefully, some of our seeds will drop to the ground and sprout again next year, so we can again, bring more happiness and beauty and food.

Friday, July 15, 2011


40 years ago Ken and I eloped. We were two 18 year old kids madly in love. We thought we were ready for a life together and all the things that come with it. Little did we know what lay ahead of us, just like any other couple, young or old, on their wedding day.

Being so young was probably against us but I don’t think we ever saw it. We enjoyed all the fun things most other 18 year olds would do but did it together. We finished growing up together and now we are growing old together.

We became parents while we young and enjoyed our children at each age as they grew into adults. Sometimes we were like a balancing act while raising our children: one of us keeping the other calm when we were ready to explode, another explaining what was really happening and why the children were doing what they were doing. We watched our children grow, blossom and become responsible adults who make us feel like a success. We blended two family backgrounds into one and produced our own family.

We prayed together, cried together, laughed together and grew together. We were together when we found out we were going to be grandparents and were together when our grandchildren were born. We have weathered storms together, taught each other patience, gained a lot of knowledge of life through trial and error, learned to accept differences, and enjoyed the security of knowing that we both accept each other as we are. We learned that giving is better than receiving, especially when it comes to your spouse. Giving is not hard when it is done in love, placing the other’s needs or wants in front of your own. We don’t consider that a sacrifice, just part of loving another.

I couldn’t have asked for a better life partner, husband or friend than I have in Ken.


Happy Anniversary to a special man, Ken, my husband. I love you.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mosquito Lake Campgrounds vs Geneva Campgrounds

We checked out the campgrounds at Geneva State Park while on vacation, comparing it to Mosquito Lake Campgrounds. The only thing I liked better was the bathrooms had flush toilets and also showers and they had another shower house. Mosquito only has one shower house which has flush toilets and the rest of the bathrooms are pit toilets. The sites at Geneva were neat and had grass but did not have the character of Mosquito Lake Campground sites. Geneva State Park Campground appeared as if they cleared the area for the roads of the campground, then only cleared the trees back so far along each road to make campsites. The sites were all pretty much the same size and didn’t go back into the woods. The sites had trees behind them but no camping areas in the back like Mosquito Campgrounds.  Geneva has only 100 sites compared to 234 sites at Mosquito Lake Campgrounds. Our amphitheater is definitely bigger and better. Their screen was smaller and they didn’t have as many or as nice seats as Mosquito. Their theater sat at the front of the campgrounds right in front of the check in station. Ours sits a little in the woods and away from all the hubbub of the campground. Beside our theater we have a butterfly garden and the pavilion where lots of activities take place, especially for the children.  They had only one camper host. The host occupied one of the last sites in the campground, at the end of the last road as you exit the camping site area. We didn’t find it until we were ready to exit the camping area. Campers in the other areas are pretty far away from the host. They have three or four sites that have full hookups which need to be reserved well in advance. They do have one road just like Mosquito which is a non-pet area. Geneva has a lodge nearby unlike Mosquito Lake which does not.  There was a bike trail right across from the campgrounds which was nice in Geneva. We have a bike trail in the area but it is a couple miles away. The campground store at Geneva is quite a bit larger than our campground store but Carol sure has a lot more merchandise in our store. She utilizes her space wisely whereas Geneva had a big open space in the middle of the store with no merchandise in it. In comparison to size (100 to 234 sites) I believe we still had a lot more campers utilizing the park on a Wednesday than Geneva did.  Geneva also has twelve cabins available for rent. We passed them and they looked nice. We didn’t stop to look at them.
Overall, I personally prefer Mosquito Lake Campgrounds over Geneva at this point.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


This week Ken and I took vacation. We keep telling each other that this is how it can be when we retire; not having to get up at a certain time each morning, not having to get ready for and drive to work, not having a work schedule to adhere to making us try to fit in everything else in life after that.
We haven’t slept in yet. We have not thought much about our jobs. We have spent time doing the everyday kind of things that retired people do. We sit on the deck and drink our coffee in the morning, watching the red-headed woodpeckers arrive for their meals. Along come the cardinals, red winged blackbirds, the gold and red finches and the hummingbirds. Our suet feeder sat empty until later in the week so the woodpeckers came sporadically to the feeder with the sunflower seeds until we refilled it.
We have spent time with friends from the campground during the day, enjoyed concerts at the marina, watched our youngest grandson take part in the Fourth of July parade, then his All Star mushball game, spent Tuesday with our daughter, son-in-law and three grandsons feeding the fish at Pymatuning Lake and letting the boys enjoy the beach.

Wednesday we had the pleasure of having Aaron alone with us and we took a ride to Geneva on the lake as well as to Geneva State Park.  
Aaron enjoyed the arcades and we enjoyed watching him concentrate so hard to win. We then checked out Geneva State Park Campgrounds before coming home.

Thursday night we went back to the drive in theater to see Super 8 which was okay but not great. We remembered to use our radio to get the sound this time. It was a late night because Super 8 was the second movie. The first one was Transformers which was okay but a little too long on the ending.
I thought we would sleep in on Friday but that didn’t work out too well. I did get a little nap in on Friday afternoon which helped.
Today we took some time to go to some garage sales near the campground but didn’t find anything us old folks need. We will go to the concert today with friends and probably have a fire tonight. We enjoyed a fire last night after Ken made some awesome steaks on the tripod. It was amazing to watch the fire lick up the side of the steaks, dancing off the moisture that dripped from the steak. The orange flames seared them nicely. They were so tender and juicy and all he did to them was pack them in rock salt for a while before cooking them.
There is only one more day of vacation for me. This vacation was well needed and well enjoyed. I know I will have a lot of catching up to do at work but the time off was great. Now, how can I get to retirement sooner???

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fourth of July Holiday

This is a popular holiday for most people.  For many it means a day off from work in the middle of summer. Add to that that this year it makes for a long weekend since the 4th falls on Monday. Most people have picnics or do something outdoors. Fireworks and sparklers seem to abound everywhere. The smell of grills or fires cooking steaks, hot dogs or hamburgers, sometimes spareribs or roasts makes one hungry. You might see that red ripe watermelon, seeds poking through the watery texture, lying sliced on a plate, or in a child’s hands, dripping down his face and arms. There will be hot dogs cooked on a stick, marshmallows over the fire, potato or macaroni salad on the table. Ketchup and mustard bottles wait ready to be dispensed on the meat of choice, sitting on tables covered with checkered tablecloths along with paper plates and napkins, sometimes blowing away when left without weights to hold them down. Coolers filled with pop, beer or water covered with ice slowly melting over each brightly colored can or bottle await the thirsty.

But really, the Fourth of July is Independence Day. The day the Declaration of Independence was signed giving us freedom from Great Britain’s rule.

We are so lucky to live in a free country. We have the right to vote into office people we feel and hope will do the job according to our wishes. We have the right to freedom of speech, religion, and the right to “the pursuit of happiness”.

We have many men and women who serve in the military for us so that we can maintain those rights. They also fight and serve so that people in other countries can have quality lives.

These service men and women leave behind their families and friends to defend you and me. Thank you so much for doing that.

I also want to thank all those families that wait for their loved one to return. Many of them are suffering hardships because their spouse or parent is serving his or her country. Incomes are not where they should be. Help of a spouse with household chores and raising children is not available. Many of these parents left at home struggle financially and emotionally. Imagine having your spouse overseas, not knowing whether he or she is safe, while you are home trying to do the job of both parents. That job may entail not only raising the children, but maintaining the homestead, and working to supply everyone’s needs. Does this leave much time for oneself? It doesn’t seem likely.

How do those children feel each day as they go off to school, having not had their mom or dad there to say “goodbye” or put them on the bus? Missing that parent in the evening when doing homework or saying prayers, waiting for that goodnight kiss; not having that parent around to help him or her improve how to play baseball or some other sport; needing that parent there on holidays.

To all those families who will celebrate the Fourth of July without their loved one while he or she serves in the service, I hope that you hold your heads up proudly and know that you have someone very special in your family, someone who is appreciated by many people in this country as well as in other countries.

When you see those sparklers or fireworks going off over the weekend, let each one represent a troop that is serving overseas or in our country to protect us. Let each loud boom remind you of gunshots or missiles or explosions that might be going off in another part of the world. Say a prayer for all the service men and women who strive to make the world a better place for all of us to live.

May each of you have a safe and happy Fourth of July.