Calling All Oriole Fans

Calling All Oriole Fans

Oh, did you think I meant the baseball team, The Orioles? There was a time I liked them, too. A long time ago, when I lived outside of Baltimore and Cal Ripken was just starting his family, living North of the city in horse country. I even went to a game or two with co-workers from Johns Hopkins.

No, I was talking about the type of Oriole that is a North American song bird. I spotted a female on our deck railing today. My husband had said he spotted one the other day, a vibrant male, trying to eat the sugar-water from my new Hummingbird feeder that is attached to our deck window. Maybe, his partner came back to check it out today! Orioles are somewhat of a rare sight for us. Usually, we get one couple, or just a male or two, in the very early spring. I’ve tried luring them to stay longer by putting out grape jelly and oranges, but it seems nothing satisfies their needs enough to prevent them from fleeing. I tried again today, taking a large half-orange out to the deck. This female seemed pretty tame. She allowed me to open the sliding glass door and start to approach her before flying off.  I left the orange, hoping she would return.  Maybe, then, I could get a better photograph of her. The two I took were not worth sharing!

It has been a little while since I wrote a summer enrichment post.  But, here’s an idea for you. If you want to engage your kids in nature and have them learn a few things along the way, try attracting different species of songbirds to your yard. There are many books and Apps that will allow your kids to self-teach. You will be surprised what they learn! I am sure they will want to share that they know what bird has which song or what species is sitting on your deck railing. Birdwatching and bird identifying can be enriching but your kids will have so much fun they will not even realize they are learning!

We have a birdsong identifier. They were popular 10-15 years ago.  We only have four cards for it but the cards helped us to identify birds and frogs around our house and cabin based on photos and the call or song the species make.


The Wisconsin DNR offers the site found by clicking the highlighted words. There is great information and photos but not any sounds to help the young birdwatchers.

The epitome of bird watching organizations where I come from is the Cornell Ornithology Lab. They have many ways to help you identify birds on their site. You can reach there landing page here >>>>>>-

This is their bird identification page on the oriole’s song.  As you can see there are other tabs you can click on and enlighten yourself or your children! Topics include identification, life history, feeding habits, cool facts, range, and migration habits if applicable. If you want information all at once, just watch one of their videos on the bird of your choice! Here is a great example again, using the oriole.

There are dozens of books on the subject of birds, from children’s books on one type to or another, to adult encyclopedia volumes on the fascinating song birds of North America!

Look outside! Do you see any birds? Do you know what they are and what they sound like? If not, your children probably do not know either, so go on a summer learning excursion and find out all about birds!




Slice of Life: Anxiety vs. Relaxation

Slice of Life: Anxiety vs. Relaxation

Today’s post is truly a slice of my life. I am buried in work for my grad class on Advanced Interpretive Media Design. This will probably be the most busy week of the summer for me. My final project is due, along with the regular week’s worth of assignments. So far I am not all that optimistic that time will be on my side. There is a lot to do and seemingly not enough time to do it. This is the problem with a perfectionist personality! This is time to do it adequately but not time to do it in an excellent fashion. Why this continues to bother me when I am this old is beyond me!  It is ingrained in me to strive for excellence.

Life tends to move on when one is preoccupied with a task. This is also what is happening to me now. Our cherries have ripened all at once. They need to be picked! I have carved out a limited amount of time to do that. But, once they are picked they need to be processed – that takes time, too.


Our youngest son has two soccer games this week. My husband and I will probably split the duties on those, but since he works on the day of the second one and it is in the Twin Cities, that responsibility will fall to me.  I am trying to get as much done as possible to be able to go without undo anxiety that I should be working on my final course project, due July 2nd.DSC_0351

My sister, and her family, who I dearly love is coming in from out-of-state for a visit. We will be hosting them at our cabin in the Northwoods this coming weekend. Ideally, I should be making some meals, and planning activities. In reality, I have purchased non-perishables, including a lot of wine as well as white t-shirts and tie dye kits. I really would like to visit with out a lot of pressure to turn in my week’s work (all due, July 2nd).

The school district committment that I wrote about earlier this week, is Wednesday night, make that tomorrow night. I woke up today feeling like I should cancel attending due to the pressure and anxiety I am feeling about getting my coursework done. I will decide tomorrow morning whether I can keep that committment.

It is mid-summer, a time of year for reading good books, lazing around, campfires, and long walks. I cannot say I have done much of that yet.  I did only get 5 and a half hours of sleep last night and it was not because I was doing something fun. I am very familiar with anxiety and insomnia.  When I do not sleep well, I do not function well.   Earlier this morning, I was trying to move something with my mousepad on my computer and realized I was touching the table instead!  This is not good! It is uncharacteristic for me to say this but, I really think “I need a break”.  My course ends July 9th and I will be so glad it will be over.  This is a slice of my life right now.


Only in……

Only in……

We used to have a saying in college, “only in Alfred”!  My husband and I attended this small, private university in what is known as the Southern Tier of New York State. The tiny pedestrian campus, governed by one stoplight in town, is surrounded by rolling hills that make the setting very picturesque.  It was not unusual to wake up and find a cow grazing near Oppenheim, one of the  dorms near the edge of campus! To that sight we would reply, shaking our heads and smiling with a slight eye roll, “only in Alfred!”  Of course, there were other things that deemed that requisite reply – the plethora of dogs with bandanas, snow in the month of May, the intriguing Steinheim Castle building, being mugged by someone running out of the woods rather than creeping up on you on a city street, nursing students, in full white dress uniforms including caps, heading off to breakfast at 4:30 a. m. prior to catching  a bus, and driving golf balls into a cow pasture for gym class, among others.

Yes, in the mid-80’s, we thought for sure we had cornered the market on use of the term, “only in Alfred”. Now, some thirty-odd years later, with much more life experience, I know that there are always occasions, no matter where you live that demand the verbalization of, “only in…….”. Local flavors predominate your choice locations in which you chose to live. If you are a transplant, you will quickly learn what constitutes the oddities that local residents proudly proclaim are only theirs.

A case in point was yesterday on the I -90 interstate coming back from soccer practice in Minnesota to our home in Wisconsin. It sounds like a long trip, but in reality only takes about 25 minutes to travel the highways, cross the Mississippi River, and land in a middle class subdivision’s lovely park to work on passing and shooting skills. Not all that unusual. But, on the way home, we were passed by a greater-than-life dairy cow on a trailer! This was definitely one of those, “only in Wisconsin” moments! I had my son whip out his brand new smart phone (one he paid for himself) and take a few photos.


kwik trip cow

The experience led me directly back to those good old days, when we gleefully exclaimed, “only in Alfred” and some great memories!  What are some of your “only in……..(fill in the blank)”, experiences?

My post was not inspired by the WordPress Daily Prompt: Local. But, it fits!

Silent Sunday: Picking Cherries

Silent Sunday: Picking Cherries

back cherries 2017
Cherry Bushes in our Backyard, June 24th, 2017
Bountiful Cherries in our Home Orchard, 2017
Incredibly Beautiful Cherries, June 2017, © Carol Labuzzetta
Covered in Cherries! 2017
Gazillions of Cherries, 2017
Our First Picking, June 2017.
Twenty minutes of pitting only gets you so far! 
We’ll be picking for days! Bountiful Harvest, 2017.
Orchids, A New Obsession

Orchids, A New Obsession

As a semi-self taught horticulturist, I learned to stay away from orchids. It seemed everything I read warned that these plants were hard to grow, and the person attempting to grow them was doomed to failure. I took these warning seriously and went about my business growing other plants that interested me, but were “easier”.  Over the years, this meant cacti, succulents, carnivorous plants, milkweed, eggplant, and herbs. But, I grew bored.

Approximately, two years ago I purchased two orchids from our local Home Depot store. They were beautiful and affordable! One, I gave to the secretary at our school, who did a lot for me at the time. It was a combined holiday/thank you gift. The other, I kept for my- self. Both were blooming at the time. The blooms on my orchid faded and fell off, twelve months came and went with nothing but the stems getting longer. I did some reading and decided to cut the stems, as instructed, to force another bloom. This is described in a prior blog post.

Six months later, I was rewarded with thirteen flowers in the deepest shade of purple. My care of the orchid was not hard, it just took a little reading and a leap of faith. During the time the flower buds were developing, I bought two additional – smaller orchids at the Ikea store in Minneapolis. These were also blooming at the time. One has continued to bloom and the other faded to just have stems, much like the larger orchid. However, since these plants were much smaller, I left them alone until this week when I repotted them.

The smaller orchids were treated to a repotting with Orchid chips. Soil is not needed since Orchids are epiphytes, living naturally in the sub-tropical regions of our country and elsewhere in the tropics. Epiphytic plants do not need soil, but absorb their nutrients and needed water from the air! They grow on top of other things, like tree branches.

I must be feeling bold with my orchids since I am repotting them but, I am hooked on these fascinating plants. In fact, my mother’s day present was a yellow orchid and I treated myself this past week to a new white and purple orchid from Ikea.  I must be doing something right to be able to grow these plants that I thought were “hard” to have successful with nurturing. Before long, I might even have an orchid collection, not just an orchid obsession!  Happy Gardening!

New Orchids May-June17






To Commit, or Not – That is the Question.

To Commit, or Not – That is the Question.

The postcard has laid on the shelf for a week. Just receiving it, although expected, brought up many mixed emotions for me. My response is required by today.  It would mean another committment, another volunteer role, and another chance to advocate for our student body. It also would mean another possibility there might be retribution aimed towards our students, if I say what I should, say what I want to, and say what needs to be said to garner improvements in our educational system at a district level. We need reform. I am being given a chance to provide insight from a parent perspective, a long time contributor to student enrichment, a non-formal educator, and dedicated community stake holder.

For the past week, I have tried to ignore the postcard, although it was moved to my to-do pile day after day.  I know what is involved with this invitation for community listening. I know from the stand point of a community member who has been involved for 18 years in what makes our district work and not work.  I know from the standpoint of past committee work, volunteer work, and service on interview teams.  I know from having taken a leadership course on strategic planning this past spring. There is a lot involved.  Opinions will run high and emotions will run even higher.  I do not express myself well verbally when I am passionate. I would rather write. I am better at that form of communication. Still. It is a chance to make a difference. Again.

Here is my problem, when I choose to commit, I do it with 110% of my abilities, feelings, and time. I know. This is me. Committing with fierce loyalty and the expectation of excellence, knowing the risks of vulnerability, and judgement that might await me, is difficult. Not everyone commits in the same way. I know. I have seen the half-hearted attempts to be involved, to “pretend” a difference is being made, to say “we are already good” – let us talk about that instead.  Most commit in this fashion. Not all, but most. I am not necessarily saying it is wrong. It just is not me, not the way I commit. Just different.

Earlier this morning, still undecided, still worried about this new chance to commit, I picked up the post card and called to respond to the community listening session invitation from our school district. My belief in the need for improvement in our educational system for all students is strong. I value excellence in education. Our students deserve the best. We need to become student centered, offer transformative experiences, and use an increased variety of models to reach students when we teach.  We need change.

Yes, I know the buzz words. I do a lot of “extra” educational reading. I have recently taken graduate courses in leadership, strategic planning, and models of teaching and learning. I know students, both my own and others, could be served better – and deserve better.

So, this morning, maybe against my better judgement, I, once again, decided to commit. Commit to attend the listening session. Commit to respectfully listen to views that differ from my own. Commit to being vulnerable again. Commit to, once again, trying to make a difference for our student body.  I made the call. I decided to commit. May God give me strength!

Inspired by WordPress Daily Prompt: Commit

Looking for You, My Brother

Looking for You, My Brother


I have been looking for you.

It has been eight long weeks now, at least that is what the humans will say.

Many dark nights, the rooms only illuminated by the moon or a light left on


looking. Up and down, all over the house and garage, in all your favorite places,

I look.

Almost every morning, I cry, trying to tell the humans I cannot find you.

They tell me its okay. They try to comfort me. I let them for a little while.

They tell me that they are sorry you are gone. Gone? What does that mean? Where?

You know I hurt myself jumping up onto that high ledge in the room where we used

to sleep together on that shelf with the blanket.

 I cannot jump now. My back leg is lame. It  happened when I was looking for you.

I am lonely. I cry a lot.

Where have you gone, my brother?

Eating is not the same.

I always waited to eat until you were finished, staying behind you at the food bowl.

You never come to eat, so I don’t eat much now.

I know the humans are worried. My world is different now. You are gone.

So many moons and bright sun lit days have come and gone since you were here.

It makes me sad that I cannot find you. What happened? Where have you gone?

Will I see you again? I miss you.

Your Brother, Lewis