I do believe Winter is on the wane.

One month from today is Spring (even though I thought it was always the 21st when I was a young ‘un, or so it seemed). In a four-season state, normally by the third week of February, we are so Winter weary, that we rejoice when the sun peeks out from behind the ever-present gloomy skies, or, by chance we hear a songbird warbling in a tree as we pass by. Every little glimpse of Springtime now will fill my heart with joy.

On Monday I saw and heard my first Robin – what a welcome sight and sound that was.

Before long, the marshy area around Council Point Park will be filled with the call of the Red-Winged Blackbird as it trills to its mate.

Only then do I feel like Spring is just around the corner.

Long-range Winter predictions were a bit scary.

Our Winter has been wacky, but not just here in Southeast Michigan. Way back in October, it was more than ghosts and goblins scaring us, as several learned meteorologists, including the local folks, the National Weather Service – even those prognosticators from The Old Farmer’s Almanac, all gave a long-range forecast for an extra snowy and cold Winter. I believed them as they sagely predicted this doomsday and even added that it would likely rival or surpass Winter 2018-2019 for snowfall and brutal temps. “Ugh” I thought and remembered during one chilly week in late August, the Park and ‘hood squirrels began burying their peanuts and not eating them on the spot. At that time, I muttered to myself “do they know something we don’t?”

Folklore tells us that the wide black bands on the Woolly Bear caterpillar I saw back on October 17th would indicate a bad Winter was in store.

When a dusting of snow on November 7th adorned porch pumpkins …

… then a record-setting 8.5-inch (22 cm) snowfall on Veteran’s Day occurred …

… I sure wished I could be like a bird or butterfly and head to warmer climes ‘til April.

Our Fall was cold, not even chilly – the trees turned color, not as vibrant as usual, yet the cold snap messed them up and my ornamental Maple has yet to drop its leaves. My neighbor’s Magnolia bush has buds and I’ve already seen crocuses, daffs, and snowdrops beginning to push their bright green heads through the still-frozen soil in homeowners’ gardens, likely due to several days when we climbed to 50 F (10 C) or above.

Winter vocabulary.

There have been countless predictions for a three-to-six-inch snowfall, resulting in an “oops” with just a dusting of snow or some icy precip. In fact, we’ve had many mornings where freezing rain has messed up my a.m. walk. When our snowfall is off the mark, the weathermen have some clever ways to explain away the deficiency. I have to laugh as they report “the snowfall was not ambitious enough” or, my favorite “this storm was a low achiever.” It sounds like a teacher’s renderings on a bad student’s report card. Also heard was “the complexion will change later today” – so now Ol’ Man Winter has become a she, or is this Mother Nature being referred to? I’m a wee bit puzzled and perplexed, but happy the Groundhog knew the scoop better than all the rest of ‘em.

With the advent of Spring, and sunrise earlier every day, I am excited about the happenings that await me in the ‘hood and Council Point Park in the upcoming months.

The joy of new life, whether it is the green leaves as they unfurl, or the baby robins’ beaks wide open for Mama Robin to drop a grub or worm bit into them, is a sight for Winter-weary souls.

And then, just like that (snapping fingers), those babies are ready to fledge.

Watching fuzzy yellow and gray goslings with their parents is a sight I never tire of.

But, in my usual mad sprint out the door every morning to my favorite go-to spot, with coat tails flying and woolen hat askew, I cannot help but think about a fellow walker named Mike Chiola.

Who is/was Mike Chiola?

There are many types of walkers, with a myriad of personalities, that frequent the perimeter path at Council Point Park. Some are eager to just get their steps done and are plugged into music while they walk. Some stare at the ground, not willing to engage in eye contact or small talk. Because the entire Park encompasses only about two miles, it is a small enough venue that most people take the time to get to know all the other walkers, even if it is just their first names. Since I’ve walked at this Park since 2013, I know almost everyone by their name and a little bit about them as well. But, I want to add that I generally walk by myself. This is not because I’m antisocial, but anyone who is there to bulk up their steps and get exercise, is not necessarily interested in stopping with me along the way while I photograph a Blue Jay swooping to the ground, or I bend down to feed Parker who sometimes gazes at me like a lovesick cow until I give him a few peanuts.

Then there are those walkers who are there to enjoy nature AND exercise.

Now that would be the category I fit in, as did Mike Chiola.

Mike Chiola walked at Council Point Park for many years. He was a former football coach at Lincoln Park High School and also functioned as a substitute teacher. I’d walk alongside Mike from time to time and our conversations ran the gamut from the good ol’ days of the 70s and 80s, to current events, sometimes politics. But, most of our conversations revolved around nature because there is lots to see there … if only you look up, down and around.

Most of the other walkers called him “Coach” but I always called him Mike. He had a few names for me too, including “The Peanut Lady” or “The Camera Lady” and occasionally he’d even call me by my name. 🙂

Mike was pretty protective of this Park. He took an early retirement after suffering a heart attack. For rehab, he began walking at Council Point Park. He walked the entire circuit (a Figure Eight loop, consisting of two miles, with each loop being approximately one mile). Every day, rain or shine, even all Winter, the first complete trip around the entire Park he picked up trash. Mike’s pet peeve was trash that Park attendees threw anywhere but the garbage cans, so Mike picked up empty water bottles, fast food and granola bar wrappers, or plastic store bags which littered the Park. When he was done, the second two miles were his to enjoy. He loved the natural setting of this Park and boy did he love the squirrels. (More on that later.)

Drop down and give me 25 (pushups)!

Mike, for all his good qualities, never lost his coach demeanor and I was often on the receiving end of a few well-meaning wisecracks through the years. In retrospect, I’ve come to realize that Mike was right about some things, and now, as I reflect back on my interactions with him, I recall one of my mom’s favorite sayings. She would recite this old proverb when I finally understood something she’d preached about in the past and I had failed to see her point right away: “we grow too soon old and too late smart.”

Many times I’d arrive at the Park breathless, staying too late at the computer to finish up just one more reply to a comment here on WordPress, then hightailing it out the door to the Park. If I passed Mike on the perimeter path, he’d quip “too bad you were so late getting here because I saw a ___________ this morning.”

Mike never said a “heron” but instead he’d say “that big bird you like to take pictures of” …

… or, he was apt to add that I’d missed those “red birds you like that sit in the trees” – well, those would be cardinals.

Mike knew the names of those birds – that was just his way. So, why did I feel like he was chastising me for my tardy behavior – furthermore, why did I care what he thought of my punctuality (or lack thereof)?

I distinctly remember this one conversation.

Mike: “Where were you this morning? The goslings were all together by the twisted tree and you could have gotten a nice picture, but they’re gone now, so too bad you weren’t around earlier.”

I thought about my retort, while smarting a little from that accusation. Plus, sheepishly I was remembering how I used to be out the door to catch the bus for work so timely that one could set their watch to my schedule – sigh, what happened to that young woman?

And, despite the fact that I was late, I did see those goslings at the twisted tree anyway!

Inwardly, I began to take the gruff demeanor with a grain of salt, feeling it was MY prerogative to set MY own schedule. Furthermore, I hated being chastised, my tardiness exposed for anyone within earshot. But, I politely just let the comments roll off my back. This time I had to explain why I always seemed to be running late these days – I was not just going to let it go.

Linda: “Mike, I was running late as I was responding to some comments on my blog.”

Mike: “A blog – what’s that?”

Linda: “Well, where do I start?” [at which time I explained as succinctly as I could what a blog was.]

Mike [after a long pause spent pondering what a blog was]: “I don’t know anything about computers, I’m not computer literate and I don’t want to be. I have a flip phone and I like it that way.”

Linda: “I have a flip phone too and I admit sometimes it is easier to be on the outside of social media as it does hog a lot of your time, but I bet you’d enjoy interacting with people.”

Mike: “I do all the interacting I want right here and down at Dingell Park.”

Such were our conversations from time to time and I jollied along to the equivalent of getting my hand slapped for missing the heron, cardinals or the goslings.

Sometimes, if I was running late, Mike would alert the other walkers to seek me out … like one time when he said “tell The Camera Lady to get over to the Creek to see the mist rising off the water – she’ll want to take a picture for that blog she has.” The message was shared and received – no missed mist opportunity for me. Thanks Mike – I got that shot.

My mind is a blank every day when I get to the Park. I absorb what is around me, do some thinking and sometimes a blog post is begun in my head, from a photo I’ve taken or something I’ve seen. I had to admit to myself that Mike was right – why was I lingering at home when I could be here? The purpose all along was to walk, then I began taking pictures … but somehow the reason for my being here was becoming an afterthought. I mused on that a bit, but no way would I tell Mike he was right! I had my pride after all. (Note to self: Linda – linger later in the day at WordPress … the comments will still be there.)

Every year, once Spring arrived, Mike would finish walking at Council Point Park, then head to Dingell Park down at the Detroit River to chat with the fishermen there. He’d scope out the nature doin’s at that venue, then give me a daily report. My blog is full of references to Mike when he told me he’d seen a Mama Mute Swan with its cygnets riding on her back, or when, just like clockwork, the Mama Mallard built a nest in the planter’s box near the boardwalk and sat on the eggs to incubate them. People would stop at the nearby restaurant and bring Mama Duck goodies so she didn’t need to leave the nest unattended. Mike would give her goodies as well. I’d go down on a weekend to scope out Mike’s “finds” for my own interest, or picture-taking for my blog – yep, I’d be toting goodies too and I got pictures of Mama Duck semi-hidden and incubating those eggs.

I never did see the cygnets going for a ride though – this year I know I will, even if I must go to Dingell Park every weekend to scope ’em out.

I wanted to reblog a particular post centering around squirrels, but I could not since this current post has pictures and is lengthy. So, if you click here you will be able to read the post in its entirety. That blog post mentions a conversation between Mike and me, not quite two years ago, where we, along with a dozen squirrels, (give or take a few), congregated at the fork where the two paths meet – it was a beautiful Spring day.

These are the featured photos from that post of Mike feeding the squirrels. On that day, once again, he challenged me … this time not for my tardiness, but why I would not tender peanuts to the squirrels like he did, hand feeding them, instead of just laying peanuts on the ground?

And here’s how that conversation played out:

Mike: “Look Linda – here is how it is done, put the peanut between your fingers and hold it out. It’s easy – watch me.”

Linda: “Mike, I need my fingers for work.”

Mike: “The squirrels aren’t going to bite your fingers off – give them some credit.”

Linda: “They might not have had breakfast or I ticked them off one time; you never know.”

Flash forward almost two years.

So, on and on it goes, and, like anyone who suddenly passes away, after that initial gut punch, you struggle to remember the good stuff. Gee, I could have eulogized Mike – I’d have regaled the mourners with his wit and touch of sarcasm, or maybe his grumpy old guy demeanor, even though he was just 70 years old at the time of his death. But, I would have concluded by saying he was a good man and a friend to all at Council Point Park (the peanut pals included).

Mike had some serious health issues the end of last year. His growing absence at the Park was evident, as was his gaunt and haggard look on the few occasions when he did show up and shuffled along the pathway, head bent, a dark gray hoodie covering his head and hanging off his slumping diminutive form. It was evident to all of us, he’d lost weight and was not speaking clearly. He stayed to himself, mumbling in monosyllables to our greetings of “how ya doin’ Mike?” We walkers compared notes saying “Mike/Coach is just not himself – did he say what was wrong?”

Collectively we worried about our friend.

And then he didn’t return anymore.

We learned through Ray, a fellow walker who went to the same barbershop as Mike, that our friend had a stroke, then oral cancer caused his tongue and part of his jaw bone to be removed. He landed in a nearby nursing home to recuperate as he lived by himself. I sent a ‘thinking of you’ card with a note, signed simply “Linda, a/k/a The Peanut Lady and The Camera Lady” – I knew he’d know who I was.

Mike eventually lapsed into a coma and passed away on February 7th. Al, one of the regular walkers, went to his funeral and advised us a memorial tree will be planted in Mike’s memory this June. I went on the obituary notice tribute wall and posted these pictures of Mike feeding the squirrels, unfortunately not the clearest shots in the world as they were taken on the fly. I wrote a message to say how Mike loved this Park and he’ll be missed.

Rest in peace Mike. I was a slow learner sometimes, but I now “get it” … so up and at ’em going forward. I’m gonna get my butt movin’ every morning and down to the Park timely and you aren’t even there to chide me about it. I’ll miss our talks … and walks.

[Photo of Mike Chiola courtesy of R.C. Aleks Funeral Home; included are some of my favorite shots from Council Point Park the past few years.]

Posted in nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , , | 35 Comments

Cuddle Alert!

It’s Valentine’s Day weekend, so I will squeeze in one more post for this Hallmark holiday.

I wish I could say I coined the phrase “Cuddle Alert” for those frosty and frigid mid-Winter nights here in Southeast Michigan; no, it was not my clever idea, but the trademark description belongs to a local weatherman named Chuck Gaidica.

Saturday morning, the alarm rang and I hopped out of bed, put on the radio to hear the news, then scurried back to bed and listened from under the covers where I would contemplate my day’s agenda. Nice … the wind chill was -1 F (-18 C) with an air temp of 11 F (-11 C). Those stats made it so tempting to crawl back under the covers for a few hours … or hibernate.

Decisions, decisions – do I stay home and tackle the dust bunnies, or, do I get going and take a long walk before the sun is supposed to sneak back behind the clouds at 11:00 a.m.?

Yes, of course – you’d go on a walk too, as the housework can always wait.

For Valentine’s Day I gave you CUTE; today I give YOU CCCCCCC-COLD.

Yes, this is what cold with a side of snow looks like in my part of the world. I suited up in multiple layers and while getting dressed (it took me about 15-20 minutes to do so BTW), the weatherman said it had dropped to a -4 F (-20 C) wind chill. Yikes! Add more layers? Nah – I may look like the Michelin Man in my down coat and not be able to move my arms and legs. I told myself to just get going as there are two hours of sunshine max! (Not that the sun was going to warm anything up mind you.)

My destination was Heritage Park in Taylor, a ten-mile roundtrip.

Cuddle” alert – hmm, it looked more like a “huddle” alert to me.

My squirrel pals Parker and Grady are so cuddly looking with their soft fur and endearing looks, that you might like to pick them up, like you would a puppy or a kitten. The Mallards and Canada Geese at Coan Lake at Heritage Park won’t elicit the same feeling, but I guarantee it will melt your heart to see them huddled together on the cold ice or paddling in the frigid waters of the man-made pond known as Coan Lake. Yes, I’m a bleeding heart for these fine feathered friends congregating in one section of the lake. Unfortunately, I cannot make a panoramic shot that would show all of them, so there are many more that were not included in the header shot either.

This is what cold looks like.

On this sweetheart weekend

… it appears no one was the object of his affection.

I always watch the waterfowl when I see them at a Park. No matter the size of the body of water, there is always one duck or goose that gets stirred up and causes a ruckus. Here this Canada Goose prepares to go into attack mode.

A split-second later, this goose was hissing at one of his counterparts. Check out that nasty face! A few chose to quietly exit the scene …

… while others got the heck out of Dodge in a real hurry! No worries – everyone was fine and they only flew to the other side of Coan Lake – look how they churned up the water during their mass exodus!

A heart-smart hike focusing on red, the color for February.

After taking a ton of shots of the geese and ducks on or around the ice, it was time to move on. I decided to keep with the February heart theme and take pictures of red items around Heritage Park – this was easy to do as you’ll see in the below shots of the Taylor Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and Petting Farm which are on the fringe of this Park.

First the Gardens.

I had a bit of a hike from the historical area of Heritage Park to get to the Botanical Gardens.

First, I had to pass the Community Gardens, where you may recall that people buy garden plots to grow flowers or fruits and veggies and a good portion of the Community Gardens are planted and tended to by prisoner detail and that food is donated to the Fish & Loaves Food Pantry. The Community Gardens look a little desolate, but the evergreen roping, wreathes and festive bows add a touch of color to the blah landscape.

Then, after hiking the length of those Gardens and a large, snow-covered grassy area, I arrived at the Botanical Gardens. I last visited this venue on a hot and humid September morn while in search of hummingbirds. I’ve visited here often in the Summertime – it is a delight to walk through and the volunteers are all friendly and knowledgeable. This was my first Winter visit and I wanted to photograph THE HEART and I think I picked the perfect weekend to do so.

Winter does not do the heart garden justice – you must imagine the beauty of blooms planted at the base of the dedication plaque and for special occasions, the heart is lit up.

I moved along over to the main structure which looked a little barren without all its flower adornments.

Scattered around the pavilion area were potted flowers that have survived the cold weather, pelting wintry precip and I was in awe of these pretty red flowers tucked among the evergreens and their delicate beauty on this frosty February day.

Now onto the other touches of red around this Park.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll recognize the big red barn of the Heritage Park Petting Farm. I am a little bummed that they leveled the decrepit red barn that was badly in need of a paint job, boarded up with a multitude of old signs and always seemed like a stiff breeze would blow it down. A white fence was around the barn with a huge lilac bush and it was very picturesque in the Springtime. But all these photo ops have vanished and the City is building sheds to accommodate Park maintenance equipment. The new structures will be built to resemble the barns to keep with the Park’s quaint look.

No trek around Heritage Park would be complete without taking a photo of the little red schoolhouse, especially with a snowy background. Check out the evergreen tree that is listing to one side. (Note to self – don’t walk too close to it.)

My last stop on my brutally cold trek was at the red wooden Fitz caboose and accompanying boxcar.

The sun was fading fast as I snapped this photo; if my frozen fingers could speak, they would have said “no more pictures please!” Even with two pair of gloves on, it was no match for the brutal cold, so I called it a day at Heritage Park. I made a brief pit stop at Council Point Park to leave peanuts on the table for the squirrels, as I didn’t see any out and about, then headed home, ready to wrap my frozen fingers around a large cup of coffee. When I returned home, no pleading faces awaited me and I saw none of the squirrels who hang out at the house had eaten their peanuts … feel their foreheads? No, it was just that cold!

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It's Valentine's Day …

… and American Heart Month too.

I figured it was the perfect opportunity for another installment of “A Girl and Her Squirrel” – oh, I know I have inundated you with more posts than usual lately, and some were really long, with lots of words and pictures. So, since brevity is the soul of wit, it’s time to let the photos (and Parker) do the talking.

These pictures were taken on February 3rd after my walk. Parker was a real sweetie and I was lucky that he seized the opportunity to grab one of these big, heart-shaped cookies I took to the Park, hoping to get a cute shot or two of him or the others.

I placed some cookies on the picnic table near the inspirational graffiti, then sweetened the pot by scattering a few peanuts around as well. There was a large dog running around the Park that morning and all the squirrels had scurried up the trees, so I left a big pile of peanuts on the picnic table where they could access them after I was gone.

Parker was fearless and the only squirrel to discover the cache of treats, as you’ll see below:

“Cool! Linda brought peanuts AND sugar cookies.
Wow are they big!”
“I’ll take this cookie to the ground so no one else sees me,
‘cuz all these goodies are just for me, me, me!”
“Linda will want to take my picture, so I’ll turn the red sugar side toward her
so I’ll be especially photogenic.”
“BTW – that’s why I get the best treats, ‘cuz I’m smart;
Linda’s a pushover when it comes to me.”
[Looking around] … “Hmm, looks like I’m still the only one here,
so I’m not telling the other squirrels because ya snooze, ya lose!”
“Gee, I’m getting full – good thing I didn’t eat peanuts first!”
“Mama always said ‘don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach Parker’ so
I buried the rest of my cookie and went back for peanuts.”

Not everyone is a cookie monster. I left a few heart-shaped cookies for the “house squirrels” and they were not interested in the least (while I was there anyway, because the next morning they were all gone).

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and those who make you smile!

Posted in holiday, nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , | 40 Comments

Someone had too much time on their hands …

… er, paws.

Well I couldn’t resist doing a quick post about today’s somewhat amusing event with my corded landline phone. I thought it was especially relevant in lieu of yesterday’s post touting technology in the workplace. This is a tale about tech in MY workplace, a/k/a the kitchen table, where I’ve parked myself since I began working from home.

Now, I may be handy with computers, but phones and their technology, not so much. In fact, I concede I am truly not much of a gadgets-and-gizmos kind of gal at all. I hate to read manuals and often scour YouTube to watch an abridged version of a lengthy how-to manual.

My kitchen table ceased being a place to dine many years ago. I have a Dictaphone, a speakerphone, smaller phone, radio, gooseneck lamp and my laptop placed around the table. This is my “office” – we’re not talking anything fancy here. I like the speakerphone which comes in handy when I need to troubleshoot computer problems at work with our IT guy, or checking voicemail and transcribing messages for my boss when he is out of the office on vacation or business. On occasion my boss will call in some dictation, so I put him on the speakerphone. About a month ago, he called and there was massive static on the line and we had to hang up. It lasted a few days and went away.

Yesterday he called me at 4:00 p.m. and we chatted briefly. About 6:00-ish, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the small phone had a red flashing light and the speakerphone’s caller I.D. read “line in use” – sigh, both were red flags for a dead phone, so I picked up the receiver and there was no dial tone.

I realized I had to contact AT&T to alert them my landline was kaput. I am likely the only person in the neighborhood with an AT&T landline. Most folks are on an internet provider bundle or use their cellphones. So, I was probably the only person with a complaint.

Creating a repair ticket at AT&T’s website was interesting. First, you must give an alternate phone number for an AT&T tech to contact you. No problem, that would be my cellphone. I have a cellphone which I carry with me while outside the house, but I never use it – it is just for emergency purposes only and I also have OnStar in my car, so if I end up in dire straits while driving, I push the blue OnStar button, or use the cellphone to call the Auto Club number.

Long story short – I NEVER use my cellphone and I never call myself, so I had to go find my cellphone number from my annual loading of minutes bill to put the contact info into the repair ticket.

Next, a brief description of the problem was needed. Well, brevity is not my strong point, as you all know, so trying to condense my issue of static and no dial tone into just a few characters had me being creative – “dead phone” and “I work from home” seemed to work best.

I got the repair ticket completed, pressed submit and received a confirmation a few minutes later. I waited an hour or so, and, with the phone still dead as a doornail, I hopped onto the AT&T website to check the phone repair status. I typed my logon/password to access my account, then went to the status area and needed to use the same logon/password and was told my password was wrong. (I used it just a few seconds before … just sayin’.)

Finally, I figured out a workaround and my phone was already being tested – “great” I thought, I don’t have to stay home for the repairman on this last sunny and dry day before tonight’s three-to-six-inch snowfall. Sadly, the phone was dead when I went to bed and when I got up as well.

This morning I turned my cellphone on to await the call and was filled with some trepidation, having never taken a call on this phone. It is different than my last phone and I had to buy this one when AT&T no longer supported the 2G phone I had for 15 years. This time the password worked and as of 7:05 a.m., a tech was “on it” meaning I was still hopeful for a walk. Then the cellphone rang and I hurried to answer it … two rings and it went to voicemail. Oh no, I never tackled the cellphone voicemail before, but I managed to push all the right buttons and discovered a typed voicemail message (not a text) that the tech was on his way and would see me shortly.

He arrived, we chatted and he said he would try multiple fixes before coming inside to repair the phone port, to ensure it was AT&T’s issue, not mine. This necessitated checking the box behind the house and two places where the phone equipment is housed. I heard him leave in the truck and return twice. He was walking around on the roof which annoyed the neighborhood dogs. Finally, the phone stopped blinking and I picked up the receiver and there was a dial tone.

He soon knocked on the front door with a big smile on his face. “Ma’am, your phone should be working now” he said and I replied “yep, I saw the light go off and tested it – so what was the problem?”

“Squirrels – they are my best customers, as they like to chew the insulation on the wire, so the torn coating allows moisture to get in and damages the phone wire. You are not the only one to have this happen, believe me!” I laughed and said “many years ago my boss had a fax machine in his home office and AT&T had to bury the phone cable because they were out three times for chewed wire repairs.” I continued, saying “I want you to know the peanut shells you see scattered on the sidewalk are from me. I feed those little buggers every day and they do this to me? I must have fed them late one time and my tardiness was not up to their standards (or they were very hungry) and tried to eat the wires!” He laughed out loud at that. I continued, saying “at least you didn’t have to climb and crawl all over in the snow – good thing it was today.” Another big smile and he said “it’s all in a day’s work Ma’am – no worries” and then he left.

Thank goodness my outside internet cable is a very heavy wire because internet interruptions are not great when working from home. Good thing I have a forgiving nature with my furry friends that I feed here at the house, but I’ll warn them to cease and desist! After all, I wouldn’t want all the robocallers to get a busy signal when they bug me, which is pretty much ALL DAY LONG, despite having put the number on the Do Not Call Registry back in 2003.

So, my day was a little squirrelly – how about yours?

[Squirrel meme from Pinterest]

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You’ve come a long way baby!

In 2019 our country celebrated the 50th anniversary of several historical and significant dates: the moon landing, the Woodstock Music and Art Festival and 50 years of being amused by the cast of characters from Sesame Street. We even looked back wistfully at the last time the Fab Four played together live on the rooftop of Apple Records some five decades ago.

This year we’ll give the nod to those feisty broads, a/k/a the Suffragettes, who aided in the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote – 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of that feat.

This is not going to be a political post – no rants or raves. As many/most of you know, I’m a Canadian citizen, living over here since 1966, so I’m not voting, even in the local election. The only time I vote is for those little polls y’all have in your blog posts, or when WordPress asks if their Happiness Engineer gets a thumbs up or thumbs down.

So why did I go searching for suffragettes’ pictures on Pinterest?

And why did I use this blog title, which was the theme song from the popular Virginia Slims skinny cigarette ads so many years ago? The commercials were vintage themed and geared to show how women gained the right to vote and smoke – I thought they were very clever. Take a peek here and be prepared to end up with an earworm. And, while we are discussing dates, we have not heard any cigarette commercials since December 31, 1970, when Virginia Slims aired the very last cigarette commercial on network TV, at which time all cigarette commercials were banned from radio and TV.

Milestones.

I, too, have come a long way – even though I’ve never marched to get the right to vote or be permitted to smoke a cigarette in public.

Today I am celebrating two significant anniversaries … so break out the cake!

First … it’s my 7th Blogiversary.

Yes, I have been blogging since 2013 and this will be post #1,415 – who knew I had so much to say?

My posts weren’t always as long and full of photos as they are now. In fact, during the course of these past seven years, my blog has morphed from one-paragraph posts with a single-word title and no photo (or an image purchased from “Dollar Photo”), to posts so long and picture-laden that I have fallen asleep proofreading them. 🙂

“Walkin’, Writin’, Wit & Whimsy” has become my labor of love and I am having great fun with it, especially with my renewed interest in photography. The blog posts are a great way to write about the ordinary and extraordinary nature I encounter on my walks. I sometimes think I should rename my blog “Simple Joys” for my morning meanders bring me such peace and pleasure.

Today is National Make a Friend Day (#NationalMakeAFriendDay) and it is no coincidence that fellow bloggers and friends in this forum have been a blessing. One might think the blogosphere is large and intimidating, but, in fact, the blogging community is small, and interacting with all of you, and my e-mail subscribers, has been very fulfilling to me.

But wait, there is another anniversary ….

It’s my 40th year as a legal secretary.

Forty years ago today, I began my career as a legal secretary, after spending 18 months in an ad agency, hoping to advance from a Creative Department secretary to a junior copywriter position. It would have been super to parlay that print journalism degree into such a dream job, but that didn’t work out since we lost our major account and my mentor went to another ad agency, leaving me behind.

So here I am, forty years later, in a job that has taken me on a long journey with technology twists and turns aplenty during those four decades.

Ponder this: can you imagine a day in your business or personal life without e-mail or voicemail? Well, those niceties didn’t exist circa 1980. And, while I didn’t use a mimeograph machine with purple ink to make copies, (no I’m not quite that old), I used a fax machine that you wound up like a Victrola. It smelled like rubber tires burning and its dial tones beeped and screeched when a fax was sending or receiving.

I began my career typing on a non-correcting IBM Selectric typewriter, often using carbon paper; (believe me, you learned how to type with great precision, or forever be fixing your boo-boos). I then graduated to a self-correcting Selectric typewriter and finally to an IBM Wheelwriter typewriter, with storage capability for phrases and addresses. Imagine doing a lengthy appellate brief with many footnotes and gauging how much space to leave at the bottom of each page for those references – it was a nightmare! Or, how about retyping an entire letter because your boss wanted to change one word? Grrr. Now word processing is something all legal secretaries just take for granted.

The technology aspect alone has made law firm life much easier – important documents once sent via overnight courier are simply sent as a PDF accompanying an e-mail. Voicemail eliminates the need to be tied to the phone or paged incessantly the very moment you stepped away from your desk. Even the fax machine is becoming obsolete due to e-mail/PDFs and now document productions are transmitted between client and their attorney or to opposing counsel courtesy of Dropbox. No more stuffing thousands of pages into boxes and shipping them out.

As to work, it’s been a long and sometimes onerous journey and now I don’t even deal with most of those administrative rigors of office life since I’ve not worked on site since 2009.

Now that I’ve waxed nostalgic about work and play, there will be many more posts coming down the pipe as my computer photo file is still groaning with recent trek pics as well as some taken last Summer and the accompanying posts are bubbling around in my brain as time marches on.

[Vintage and cake pics courtesy of Pinterest]

Posted in Memories | Tagged , , , , | 74 Comments

It’s a Marshmallow World.

When I was a little nipper, even in the dead of Winter, Mom would bundle me up in multiple layers, including a scarf, that made a wide woolen swath across my face, leaving just my eyes and those uneven bangs visible. Then, after donning those horrid brown rubber galoshes with the big buckles, she’d push me out the door while saying “go outside Linda and get the stink off ya!” So, out I went to play in the snow with my pals, who were similarly dressed and we’d build snow forts or snowmen. Hours later, I’d trudge back inside with rosy cheeks, then my folks would admire our efforts from the living room window. After shedding my bulky and snow-drenched layers, I was rewarded with cookies and a mug of cocoa with plump marshmallows hugging the frothy chocolate. Aah, life was so good!

Yesterday, I took myself outside, with snowflakes twinkling down in 24 F (-4 C) temps. It was not as bad as it sounds, as it was a bit misty and that high humidity and multiple layers of clothing made it quite tolerable.

So, … about the snowman pictured up top.

Ever since I saw those two snowmen from our last big snow event (click here if you missed this post), I’ve been thinking it would be fun to create a small snowman and see the house squirrels’ reaction to it. How difficult could it be to build a snowman anyway? I even looked at YouTube to refresh my memory on how a snowman was made since the technique was lost on me, having been many years since my snow-building skills were tested.

We had snow three days in a row, so there was plenty of the white stuff, so I was geeked to do this. I had a mental list of stuff to locate around the house first, like a hat, scarf and the fixin’s for buttons and a face. I did not bother looking for a corncob pipe as none would be found.

My main criteria was that I wanted all the snowman face fixin’s to be edible a/k/a squirrel and bird goodies. I assembled everything before I went out: raisins for a smile, mini Oreos for eyes and buttons, plus a baby carrot for a nose. I took extras of everything in case my not-so-nimble, cold fingers and gloved hands dropped them in the snow. On my last shopping trip, I bought some shelled walnuts and I took a Ziploc bag of these to entice the squirrels to visit the snowman. Finally, I tucked an old hat and scarf into the bag and hung the bag on the fence while I built this work of art. I doled out peanuts to the squirrels so they would hang around after the snowman was done, so I could take pictures of them. (That was assuming I’d finish the snowman before they finished the peanuts … more on that later.)

This would be an easy, fun project (or so I thought).

I was not aiming to build a large snowman – no, just to my knees would be fine. After about a half-hour of trying to pack snow for a snowball to roll and having it fall apart countless time, I lost my patience. (Guess I had more patience when I was young?) The squirrels gathered around me munching their peanuts contentedly, probably thinking I had lost my mind.

I finally got two snowballs rolled and “cemented” together with icy snow and I patted everything down to smooth it out. I stepped back … well, it would do, though I decided Mr. Snowman, with his outstretched arms, appeared to be doing sun salutations.

I jabbed two twiggy arms into each snowy side, noting they were a wee bit out of proportion, as I had anticipated a bigger snowman; I also left the hat and the scarf in my bag. Then I had a devil of a time getting the carrot to stay put, so I resorted to twisting it into the “face” which promptly collapsed. Well OMG – back to the drawing board and another head had to be made! This time I built the face around the carrot nose and lightly placed the Oreo minis for the eyes. I decided to skip the smile as the raisins looked too small (and patience was wearing thin). Next I sprinkled the bag of walnuts around the base to join the many facial features that had fallen off earlier. Grady the gray squirrel had hung out the whole time and I tossed him a few walnuts and said “stay put and don’t climb on the snowman ‘til I get the camera.” He was on his best behavior, (despite giving me the cold shoulder in the second picture).

Where are your pals Grady?

It began to flurry a bit, so there I was protecting the camera lens with my bare hand, awaiting the arrival of the critters. By then the peanuts were gone and even Grady was evidently watching his waistline and suddenly bolted, taking off for parts unknown.

A female cardinal perched nearby looked interested …

… and flew over for a closer look, but didn’t stop by to visit the snowman (or perhaps walnuts were not her thing?).

The persistent and pesky snow showers and concerns about getting the camera wet, finally drove me into the house and evidently the critters to their nests for the rest of the day. Soon I will go out to walk and I’m anxious to see if they finished the goodies off. We are getting several inches of snow and freezing rain later today, so Mr. Snowman will either be covered up with snow or glazed over for the short term by Monday morning.

Hmm – the day was young, now with a hint of sun and salted roads.

The snow flurries stopped, and, with the snowman debacle done, I saw a hint of sun through the door, so I decided to head to Council Point Park on foot. The snow was melting on the road due to all the salt applied in the past few days, so I grabbed some peanuts and set off.

It is one mile to get to the Park and I wended my way through the hood, plodding down the middle of the road like an old horse, mindful of the few cars that zoomed past me. It seemed everyone was content to stay home after two days of slippin’ and slidin’ during both the morning and afternoon rush hours. The snowfall at the Park was picturesque, but it looked desolate.

The icicles were hanging from the Park pavilion and looked like downsized stalactites. There was not enough sun to make prisms, but worth taking note of these raggedy crystalline daggers.

Well, I was on a mission to get the peanut pals fed and a few miles racked up for myself. Unfortunately the perimeter path was not completely clear, but it was not bad. The DPS had cleared the past few days’ snow, but not this recent coating – no worries, as most of it was slushy anyway and I was wearing my lug-soled hiking boots.

Tree trunks and branches bore the traces of recent snow – I thought they looked pretty.

The Creek by the cement landing was totally frozen over with a dusting of snow on top. Not surprisingly, the waterfowl were MIA. What a difference a week makes – well only six days actually. Last Sunday and Monday we climbed to 54 F and yesterday’s high was 34 F (1C).

Likewise, on the other side of the Park near the sideways tree, it looked about the same.

Here’s a close-up of that tree without the artwork in the foreground – sometimes the graffiti makes for an interesting shot though.

The Phragmites weeds and assorted reeds blew gently in the breeze – some were laden with snow.

It looked like a typical bleak February day – last Sunday and Monday were just a fluke!

I was the Peanut Fairy.

As I walked along – no one came to greet me, not even Parker or Stubby. A disgruntled-looking squirrel eyed me from a branch near a nest, probably his safe haven for these cold and snowy nights … and endless gloomy days.

Even the jays and cardinals were at large. It was later than usual, so perhaps that is why, so I made peanut drops at the picnic table and on this park bench …

… because, as you see in this shot taken last week, the squirrels know how to find their treats and the geese don’t know about these two places – yet.

Two times around the Park, meandering around taking pictures plus my round trip, yielded almost five miles – I have to add my total miles to date, as I have them jotted down here, there and everywhere in 2020.

This post took forever to get done this morning as it was long and picture laden. I hustled outside a few minutes ago to feed my furry and feathered friends and will head out to walk once I publish this post – I will catch up here later. Snow is beginning early afternoon. If you’ve hung in until the very end of this long post, all the snowman edibles were gone … he is bare so I sprinkled peanuts around the base … I know my little pals will be there, just as soon as I closed the door. 🙂

Posted in nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , , | 42 Comments

Spring Fling!

I usually write a post entitled “Spring Fling” which is that first glorious day that I return home from walking with my coat undone, or even carrying it and my bare head uncovered after many months. Last Sunday, we enjoyed the first sunny day after weeks of being mired in a persistent cloud cover. Before the day was over, unbelievably we climbed to 54 degrees F (12 C).

Earlier that morning, the Groundhog predicted an early Spring, and the weather folks predicted a high in the low 50s, which surprised me after the dusting of sleety snow we experienced on Saturday afternoon. I was ready and willing to head out for a long trek and planned the day’s agenda of three different parks: Council Point Park and two small riverfront parks, to scope out swans and eagles, who usually show up at Bishop Park and Dingell Park respectively. After a late start due to Sunday morning’s still-icy road conditions, my first stop was at Council Point Park. Since this is a picture-laden post, I will focus on the riverfront trips in a separate post.

Gallavantin‘.

I must admit it was a bit chilly as I set out. I even went back into the house and changed into a heavier coat, because the west wind was brisk and at 16 mph (25 kph), with intermittent high gusts, I knew the wind would be whipping me around when I got to the boardwalks at the Detroit River. I spent several hours at Council Point Park. The sun felt glorious and my first stop was at the cement ledge at the Ecorse Creek, where the ducks and geese were gathered; please notice the somewhat mushy layer of ice on the water’s surface and how the Canada Geese had zig-zagged through it, as you see in the below picture.

Chillin‘.

You can see how the waterfowl had broken through that icy barrier in some areas, yet in some places the ice was still intact and the ducks waddled around on top of it. The ducks seemed at ease whether in or out of the water, and they were quacking up a storm – were they happy quacks as the temps were moderating or disgruntled quacks about the ice?

The Canada Geese, because of their size, were plowing through the ice … they came up close to where I was standing, and I suspect that was because they saw my bag of peanuts for the squirrels. I’ve had two more incidents of geese overtaking the squirrels’ peanuts, but the geese were not problematic on this sunny Sunday. No, it was the dogs who terrorized the squirrels and sent them scurrying up the nearest tree (except for Parker who came to see me a long time after the Labradoodle loped by a contingent of squirrels). Here are a few pictures of the Canada Geese.

Fishin‘.

I had hoped to see Harry the Heron and get a photo or two of his fishing prowess, so I hung out with the ducks and geese for a while. Harry must have gone to another fishing hole, but I was astounded to suddenly see a lot of action in the water and took a closer look. With the camera still pressed up against my face, through the lens I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a Canada Goose wrangling something large in the water. I quickly took a photo which you can see up top. I saw a flash of silver, so I thought the goose had bitten onto some trash in the water that was snagged onto a fishing line. I often see bobbers and lures that have gotten tangled up in low-hanging branches over the Creek or bobbing in the water, fishing line and hook still attached. There are many folks who fish off the cement ledge at this small creek and I have always wondered how many fish and what size they could be catching – well, I will wonder no longer.

Suddenly this Canada Goose pulled a good-sized fish out of the water and began wrangling it, as the poor fish wiggled and floundered about. The goose lost that fish countless times before it finally bit down hard and the fish was still. I was amazed as geese are herbivores and their diet consists of grass, reeds and underwater aquatic plants (not to mention bread that people feed them, and now we know they like peanuts as well). Fish are not a staple of their diet. In all my years of trekking around this park and other venues where geese are present, just one time did I see a goose with a fish and it was a bite-sized one. 🙂

I took a lot of shots of the goose wrangling this silver fish from start to finish; these are my favorite pictures below. The fish was the size of the head of the goose and just ask me if he/she shared that prize with its mate or friends? Nope – I stayed there ’til that fish was down the hatch and no sharin’ by this goose, despite the hungry onlookers.

Meanderin’.

Of course no trip to Council Point Park would be complete without a few pictures of my furry friends. As mentioned earlier, my visit to the Park was later than usual due to the early morning slippery road conditions and that was unfortunate, as the squirrels forage and do most of their visiting earlier in the day. They might make an exception for peanuts, but there were three dogs in the Park the same time as me, and that put the kibosh on any lengthy visits or photo sessions with the squirrels or peanut-scamming birds. A huge Labradoodle galloped around the Park scaring the squirrels to their respective trees, but faithful Parker eventually surfaced, as you’ll see at the end of this post. While waiting for my furry friends to show up, I meandered around, taking in the sights and seeing the sun casting some amazing long shadows – I had forgotten all about that sun-and-shadow concept due to the lengthy absence of Ol’ Sol.

Most of the snow from the storm a few weeks ago was gone, but due to the cold temps, tiny piles of snow dotted the sides of the perimeter path and this portion of the Creek looked like a washboard as you see below.

Oh Sun, glorious sun … it was a feel-good day and everything in the Park just looked better with a glint of sun touching it, like the metal park bench with its wavy, grid-like shadow on the grass …

… or the pretty berries against the blue sky.

Even the twisted tree looked like wooden artwork.

Nuttin‘.

Parker found me and put in an appearance, so I passed out peanuts. He was a bit of a ham in the second picture, don’t you think? (Notice how the current must be stronger as there is no ice behind where Parker is standing and the wind made waves in the water.)

It was the perfect place to while away the day, but after several hours I finally departed and headed down to the Detroit River to do some strollin’ on the Riverfront. Stay tuned for that post.

Posted in nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , , | 83 Comments