Archives for category: Entertainment

When I told people I was heading north to Des Moines, Iowa, there was always a moment where you knew they were going to ask “Why?” I’m kind of used to this coming from Tulsa, Oklahoma, but I did have a specific reason. My junior high friend and her husband were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with a weekend of parties and I was happy to be included. A mutual friend, who has lived in New York City for the past 50 years, was joining me so I knew it would be a fun adventure. Actually, almost everything I do these days is an adventure.

On the way north, we stopped in Joplin, MO due to a tire incident and made a stop at the Joplin City Hall. We had been talking about Thomas Hart Benton’s work and I said there is a mural there. If you go to Joplin’s City Hall, you can see his last signed large work, a mural of Joplin around 1900. Benton used to live and work in Joplin, so he knew the area well. As you can see, it’s not his largest work and you should go to the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City to see the murals there.IMG_8604The interesting thing about this mural is the extra display that shows all the drawings, plans, letters, and models that went into making a mural. It’s a very complicated process. Here is a clay model Benton used.IMG_8601The Joplin City Hall is an interesting building to see and it was a nice stop along the way.

I always enjoy driving through Missouri with its rich green trees and hills. July is a great month for the drive if you can stand the heat. I don’t care what you say about dry heat or humidity – 100 degrees is hot! I’ve been in the heat for the last month from Texas to Iowa and it’s all hot! Other than that, it was a beautiful drive and I should thank all the people who invented air conditioning every day of my life!

At a beautiful Iowa information center, we learned our first new history fact about Iowa. Who knew?IMG_3333We sped towards Des Moines so we wouldn’t miss the first party of the weekend and were awed by the beautiful site for the event, the World Food Prize building. This was an old Beaux Arts library that was scheduled for demolition before wise Des Moines benefactors saved it and spent millions renovating it for the headquarters of this organization which gives an annual prize to the individual who has done the most to stop hunger in the world. It’s quite impressive!IMG_3336The inside is stunning. My favorite part was the sculptures of different grains adorning columns in the Rotunda.IMG_3340Every detail of the building was gorgeous.IMG_3355IMG_3341I was getting more impressed with Iowa and the Iowans who planned this city. Here was a view from the second floor towards the Des Moines River that runs through the city. The state capitol is in the background, as is our hotel, peeking out from behind the hotel in front.IMG_3361On Saturday, we were invited to brunch, so we walked across the river, along the river walk and into the incredible Farmer’s Market with over 300 booths along the way to the Des Moines City Government building at the end.IMG_3607IMG_3377IMG_3380IMG_3400After shopping our way down the street, buying food, clothes, Amish woven ware, and other trinkets, we arrived at the historic Kirkwood Hotel with its wonderful Art Deco lobby. Here is the desk.IMG_3605

And the row of phone booths that take you back. I expected Clark Kent to be in one of them.IMG_3389In the afternoon, we drove to the Capitol building, one of two in the country with five domes (the other is in Rhode Island). I had to admire the gumption of these Iowans who built this city in the middle of the country with such great aspirations.DSC_0110I guess they are re-gilding the dome. We visited the monuments on the capitol grounds, including the Soldiers and Sailors Monument honoring Civil War heroes. It was very impressive with large sculptures all around honoring the men and women of Iowa. I’m standing by it for scale – it’s 135′ high.IMG_3603One of the things my friend, Edie, and I both loved about Des Moines was the whimsical art everywhere we looked. It is a clean, vibrant, fun city with lots to do. There were unique shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment everywhere we were downtown. Paul McCartney was playing and there was a Broadway play, both within blocks of us Friday night. People were walking and having a wonderful time.DSC_0138IMG_3618IMG_3409IMG_3637IMG_4632IMG_3632IMG_3723Our hosts captured the spirit of Iowa with a photo stop at the big party Saturday night. In fact, we drove by lush fields of corn from Oklahoma through Iowa. What a rich, abundant country we live in!ScanAfter the party, we spotted an outdoor concert on the river and stopped to watch. Phillip Phillips was playing to the paying crowd and the audience along the bridge.IMG_3595Before leaving Iowa, we had to stop at some of the Bridges of Madison County, just south of Des Moines. We managed to see two of them and they were worth the visit. The first was the Holliwell Bridge, built in 1880, and the longest of the wooden bridges still standing.DSC_0149DSC_0147IMG_3719IMG_3720IMG_3644The second bridge we visited was the much smaller Imes Bridge, built in 1870. It was a cutie and a good comparison with the other one.IMG_3667IMG_4672Part of the fun was seeing all the graffiti left by visitors, which they must paint over periodically, just as they do the wall at Graceland.IMG_3673We left the rolling hills and lush cornfields of Iowa, headed back to Tulsa.DSC_0150I didn’t mention the beautiful fields of wildflowers that waved at us as we drove. I love this old gated road.DSC_0153On the way north, we had seen the sign for Peculiar, Missouri, and felt we had to stop and explore this town on our way home. You can look up the origin of the name, but we had fun using it as we drove into town along Peculiar Way and Peculiar Road. Actually, the town has grown and has a lot of new homes. We saw the high school and stadium where the Peculiar Panthers play. I wanted to hear their cheers.

The old Main Street is almost gone, but the three-legged water tower remains.DSC_0158There were a few buildings left and a hint of civic pride and desire to bring back some of the history.IMG_3680.jpgWe were lucky enough to meet ReGina Edmondson, who has lived in Peculiar since her military father and her mother decided to settle there and raise eleven children. ReGina has lived there since she was three and owns the house, one of the early ones on the main street, where she was raised. She is a writer for the paper and is working to have a museum. She was a delight and a source of information we couldn’t find anywhere else.DSC_0162She steered us around the corner to a Feed Store that is being refurbished for something historic and fun to see.IMG_3682IMG_368420286731_10212203272069629_1670150760645299054_oSuch a fun little piece of America. One can only imagine the jokes they have to put up with.DSC_0165We finished our tour of Peculiar, stopping at the local market to find a magnet, which we didn’t find (they’re missing a marketing opportunity). Edie captured this sign, which kind of summed up our trip. IMG_3717We started out as two old friends who kind of knew each other and discovered a mutual passion for photographing and exploring all the places along the way, catching up on 50 years as we drove. That wasn’t so peculiar, but it was a whole lot of fun!

This year is full of craziness and not the fun kind. I feel paralyzed with shock, not only with the craziness that has come crawling out from out from under the sleazy underbelly of the internet and talk radio, but from my own realization that this kind is crazy is a massive money maker, feeding off fear, built on the worst of what people can be.

Of course, we all knew there were white supremacists, misogynists, racists and haters of every kind out there. What I hadn’t really taken account of is how much money is being made from these people by websites, talk radio hosts and strange cult leaders. This is a multi-billion dollar industry that has now been brought into the mainstream.

I googled just white supremacists websites so I could give you examples, but there are so darn many of them and I don’t want my computer thinking I’m even looking at them, so you’re on your own there. My only graphic for this piece will be Pepe the Frog. I did find out the horrifying truth about this strange critter, much to my dismay.unknownI’m mostly writing this because I’m depressed and ashamed to have given any encouragement at all for the growth of this ugliness. I’m embarrassed for all the times I laughed at mean-spirited jokes or didn’t speak up when I heard words spoken that made me shudder. I’m ashamed for being so afraid at this time in my life when I should be relaxing and enjoying the fruits of my life – mainly my children and grandchildren.

And, I AM afraid, afraid that we have tried to be too cool and too inclusive of everyone’s ideas and have let some of the craziness take over. The incredible 24-hour news cycle, the explosion of cable channels and internet sites and the endless need to fill all those hours has let all the crazies into our homes, our sacred safe places. People watch all kinds of insane activities, listen to all kinds of mindless talk, and they absorb it until it becomes normal. But, it isn’t!

Photos and moving images, sites and sounds, from campaign rallies offer up people I don’t understand. The Ku Klux Klanners, the ones waving Confederate flags and wearing Nazi symbols, the haters we’ve seen for decades are at least familiar and, despicable as they are, easy to process. But there are other crazies at all rallies, ones that I am perplexed by, nice people like I see every day at the grocery store or ball games. Normal seeming people.

An example that stands out to me was at a rally where a young person was being escorted out by security. I’m not sure why, but that’s the right of the organizers. The shocker was the senior citizens, the white hairs, who were shoving him, shouting obscenities, giving him the finger. Really. They must be someone’s parents or grandparents. The images are burned into my psyche and I don’t like or get it.

I get being upset that your life has been turned upside down and didn’t turn out like you expected. Jeez…I was widowed at a young age and had to pick myself up and figure out what to do. I had to go on unemployment at one point while making my way. I was never desperate, but I had to stand in the lines, figure out how to pay my bills, and see what I could do to keep on going. I’m on Social Security and Medicare. I get it. I look at my fixed income (although I’m fortunate enough to have a little additional income from part time work and investments) and I worry about whether I’ll outlive my money. I get all of that and I sympathize, empathize, and care. It’s not easy out there and life doesn’t always, in fact hardly ever, goes the way you wanted it to.

I won’t label the people who are feeding the crazies by listening to their spewed ignorance and hatred, because we have all done it. I won’t blame ignorance, lack of education, or anything else. I do wonder what ever happened to common sense and a sense of decency in this world. I wonder what happened to wanting to find the truth rather than just absorbing whatever the mouth of the moment says. With all of the resources available to us all every day, why don’t people look up something that sounds phony or wrong to see if it has a grain of truth in it?

That may be the root of my disbelief. How did we get so lazy that we believe whatever we hear, no matter who says it? How can people blindly follow anyone, whether religious, political, or just an entertainer, who says things that in our deepest of hearts we know seem off.

I refuse to believe that the crazies will win, even though they are getting rich being as crazy as they can be. I refuse to believe that people don’t still look at themselves in the mirror and want to be the best they can be for their children, their grandchildren and the world.

I will always have hope that love will win and the best in us will prevail.

Always.

 

Girls today probably don’t really appreciate the women in the Olympics just as I didn’t really appreciate the fact that women in America only got the vote the year before my mother was born, 1920, 25 years before I was born. I keep going back to my own school years, the years when these Olympic athletes are starting their training.

As a child, I attended a private school that included Junior Kindergarten (like pre-K now) through 12th grade. Boys were enrolled in the Lower School (through 6th grade) and then it was an all girl school. I remember our gym teacher as a former military woman, drilling us as we played playground sports. In this exclusive school, the girls in the upper school had physical education activities. In the 1955 yearbook, there is this explanation,

Each year the students begin their classes, all being rather stiff after a summer’s rest. After the first few gym classes with Mrs. K’s giving us exercises to do, we become stiffer than ever. We have learned that the exercises are good for warming up before games and they also help in good posture.

The students in the school were divided into two teams, who competed against each other during the year in baseball (softball), hockey (field hockey), soccer, and basketball. The rewards were the coveted Athletic and Play Day cups. On Play Day, they could participate in tennis, softball, volleyball, deck tennis, shuffleboard, badminton, table tennis, one hundred yard dash relay race, and the fifty yard relay race. They held swimming competition at the nearby Y.W.C.A. and competed in diving and swimming with speed and form the main factors. Here are the girls in their school uniforms displaying all the equipment of sports.IMG_9147

At this time, when I was in fourth grade, I was participating in swimming and golf in the summer and games in gym class. That’s about all there was out there for us, although the school had a football team for the very few boys who attended the school. There were usually about six boys per class, so I guess there were enough to have two teams to play each other in 4th-6th grade.

I didn’t think about it because we weren’t getting extensive coverage of the Olympics or other sports, mainly because we didn’t get much television coverage of anything. When I was little, the television stations came on, yes, they actually came on the air, about 4:00 in the afternoon and signed off with the national anthem followed by a test pattern about 10:00 at night. Not much room for sports programming there. We listened to baseball on the radio or read the newspapers for scores. Not much to obsess about as far as sports were concerned.

By the time I left the private school to enter 7th grade at a large junior-senior high public school, not much had changed. In gym class, we swam in a hot pool wearing ugly tank suits and bathing caps, learning the strokes but not racing. There was a synchronized swimming group, but I can’t remember if they competed with other schools or swam for fun. In gym class, from 7th grade through high school, I remember folk dancing, exercise sessions (think jumping jacks and sit ups), interpretive dance, basketball, volleyball, and games. I’m sure there were more, but I can’t remember. And we wore these charming gym suits, purchased at Sears where they would also embroider your name.271

This was a big public school in a city with many big high schools and there were no sports for girls. I actually won a letter in basketball my senior year for intramural basketball, which makes me laugh to this day. That was about it. There was cheerleading, but who thought that was a sport or even athletic? I checked my high school yearbook, Class of 1963, and found 27 pages of boys’ sports and one page for the girls.IMG_9146

You will note there are three photos and one of them is of boys. I think this makes my point.

After high school, I attended Oklahoma State University, where I was required to take four semesters of gym. I took Golf (which I had played since I was 9, although not taking it seriously and only competing in small tournaments), Badminton (which I had played in the back yard forever), Archery & Riflery (which was fun except we used the ROTC rifles and they were very heavy) and a class called Body Mechanics (back to jumping jacks and sit ups). Easy As or Bs on my college transcript. Other options were Bowling, Tennis, and probably some others. Bowling was the most popular and the hardest to get into.

After I finished my four semesters, I didn’t participate in any sports and don’t remember even intramurals or anything else for girls. We walked across campus in our skirts (another subject, since we were required to wear skirts regardless of the weather) and walked up a lot of stairs, so I guess that kept us in shape. I’ve tried to remember if there was anything going on I didn’t know about and couldn’t think of anything, so I once again pulled out my 1967 yearbook. OSU was a large university and had nationally recognized teams in football, basketball, golf, wrestling, and other sports – for the guys. Once again, I found 25 pages of various men’s sports, 2 pages of men’s intramurals and one page for the women.IMG_9145

At least all three photos are of women or coeds (is that term even used today? I hope not).

In 1968, I became a mother to the oldest of my three daughters (a son followed, but this is about the girls). My second daughter was born in 1970 and the third in 1973. In 1972, Title IX became part of the Education laws and I was so busy having kids that I didn’t really pay attention to the changes that were about to happen.

In 1976, when my two oldest girls were in Kindergarten and Second Grade, soccer was in its second year in Tulsa. It was a new thing to have a sport that girls could play, so I put both girls on a team. And so it began. All three played soccer for many years and the trophies were awarded when they were on winning teams (not like the participation trophies today) and I made sure they had tennis, golf and swimming lessons every summer. At one point, all four of my children were on a competitive swim team, winning many ribbons and medals. They were exposed to many sports in school and each girl played on at least one team in high school (track, tennis, softball, and soccer). My middle daughter received a partial soccer scholarship in college, when those scholarships were just beginning to be awarded to girls, and played well past college.

During those years, there was more and more coverage of sports on television and the Olympics, both winter and summer, were anticipated, with more and more women’s sports being included. Our national interest and obsession became greater and more opportunities were out there for girls to participate. They didn’t just participate, but competed at higher and higher levels.

For women my age, it’s been a long time coming. I don’t take it for granted that my almost fifteen year old granddaughter has been competing since she was little and is currently on the high school volleyball and soccer teams. My six year old granddaughter is just beginning to explore the sports out there. It isn’t important whether she likes them or wants to be on a team. It’s important that she has the opportunities she wants.

Women have been competing in the Olympics for over 100 years, but it’s only been in the past 50 years that there have been so many choices for them to excel. As I watch the Olympics this year, I get an extra thrill when I watch girls of all races participate together, because there were also times when the races couldn’t compete against each other. Some sports were only for the privileged and now those are open to all.

In my life, there have been so many changes. I loved my childhood, but I don’t think of those as the good old days, or times I want to return to. Women are running companies, running races and running for President. This is in addition to being homemakers, although the men are becoming bigger partners in this, as they should. Opening all these doors to women has actually opened more doors for men, also.

During these current Olympics, as I read griping on social media about the slights to female athletes or complaining about the use of terms that are now becoming obsolete in describing women, I am thinking back to the times when these conversations weren’t even possible because we weren’t watching any women reach these spectacular heights.

My perspective is from my lofty 70 years, but my perspective is also for all the girls I grew up with and for my girls and my granddaughters. My perspective is also for my mother and grandmothers and all the way back to when they couldn’t vote, much less be active in sports. I’m all for celebrating that we’re here today, men and women cheering the achievements of some absolutely stellar female athletes.

The women also participated…

During the past exciting week, I have had two grandsons graduate from high school and have been keeping my 6 year old granddaughter while her mother is on a nursing trip to Nicaragua. The flurry of activities has been a welcome relief from the incessant yammering of politicians and pundits talking through our craziest election year ever. It’s the craziest because we have to hear about it all the time unless we have wonderful distractions to clear our brains.

I grew up very white in Tulsa, Oklahoma, smack in the middle of the country in what is now the reddest of red states as far as voting conservatively. I’m not sure why that is because I used to do some work for the American Red Cross in this area, out in the rural counties, where I found the population to be very diverse and very blended. Anyway, I grew up in the 50s and 60s, mid-century they are calling it now. My high school had one African-American student out of thousands and I think he was the son of the janitor. He was very well liked, but I realize now how hard it must have been for him. Our other ethnic students were from the foreign exchange program, so they were well accepted.

It was college before I began to meet kids who were different from me and that was still rare at Oklahoma State University, where I was excited to meet real cowboys at a school where our mascot was a real cowboy. I had one African-American friend, from Arkansas, and she was pretty open with us about her experiences. I also made some Lebanese friends, male and female, who had come to America to flee the terror in their country or as exchange students. One of them was in our wedding and lives near me today. My husband loved this guy and they could tease each other with affection, “camel jock” never being used other than as a joke that made them both laugh. I’m sure our friend had never been on a camel just as we had never lived in a teepee, as most people thought we did in Oklahoma.

It’s been a gradual change through the years as I helped enroll Vietnamese refugee children at my children’s elementary school, wondering if we could ever pronounce their names correctly. I remember meeting little Thuy, Hung, and Fa as kindergarteners, shy little children in a strange place. My children’s most beloved teachers in elementary school were African American and Middle Eastern and we didn’t really even think about it.

When I worked at the American Red Cross, I worked with a diversity program since the Red Cross serves all people and we were trained to respect their cultures in order to help them in times of disaster. It was an education in all the cultures who lived in our area at the time, turn of the century (21st century). There were Russians, Muslims, Native Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics and many others living in our city at the time. I had no idea there were so many cultures right here where I grew up.

When I’d served on the Board of the American Red Cross many years before, I’d been one of the first to distribute information about AIDS to the community since the Red Cross is a leading supplier of blood products. The information consisted of a pamphlet explaining the disease. When I came back as a staff member, this area had grown and I became an HIV/AIDS educator, learning how to take the information into the Native American population. One of my dearest friends was the diversity expert at the time and I learned of her childhood as a half Native American child growing up poor in Tulsa, the side of Tulsa I didn’t know about as I grew up. Now she’s a PhD, a far cry from her struggles earlier.

All of these things have grown in my mind through the years as I’ve been exposed through volunteer work and the time at Red Cross to the diversity in our community. I never felt threatened by it and welcomed the different cultures. I’ve been fortunate to travel to many countries, the best way to realize that people are as alike as they are different on this planet.

This past week, watching my beloved grandchildren with their friends and out in the community, I realized how very far we have come. At the school where I graduated in such a white class, seven of my grandchildren have friends who don’t match them in color, but they don’t seem to care too much. If they like them, they accept them. Here’s a random photo I took of my grandson running onto the field with his football team  DSC_0081   In this photo, looking at it today, I see his best friend who has a very Italian family, a Native American, an Hispanic, black students and coaches, white students and my grandson (with the beard) who probably looks Middle Eastern if you don’t know his family. These kids are a team that worked and played together on and off the field.

Here’s my other graduating grandson as  the tall captain of the soccer team with his Hispanic co-captain.IMG_9895I arrived at commencement early by myself to save seats for the families and sat through part of the graduation of another high school. This school has a higher percentage of Hispanic and African American families than my school, but the result is the same. I watched large family groups whoop with pride as their student crossed the stage to receive his or her diploma. They all had cell phones or cameras to take a million pictures of their child’s special day. No red carpet will have as many flashes as a graduation. Everyone is all smiles, swelling with pride. The experience is the same for all of us and I teared up watching kids and families I don’t even know.

Thank goodness my grandsons are in the same class so I didn’t have to sit through another ceremony with the speeches that are to inspire us and will be forgotten in a minute. The good part is listening to the students speak and then walk across the stage. One of the largest cheers from the crowd went out for Javier, a beloved Hispanic student. Another was for this great kid, one of the student leaders of the class, who won an award for representing Native Americans so well. I watched him on the football field, with the drama students, and at assemblies and I agree. In my day, nobody acknowledged Native American heritage, even in a state where we have more tribes than any other, and today we embrace it.13263764_1022420817835511_160239830595331892_nStudents of all ethnic backgrounds flung their hats in the air, ready to enter a world where their next steps might go in all directions. For this day, they were celebrated for being who they are.13241333_1022420561168870_2207988693638277508_nHere’s to my boys, hoping all good things for their futures.13237747_1022421881168738_4114059906056242530_nA few days later, I took my granddaughter to the zoo. It was a sunny Sunday so families were out in force. As we walked and walked that day, I heard voices all around me speaking in various languages from English to Chinese to Spanish. Watching the people, I realized there was no difference. We were all saying the same things for the same reasons. “Stay close!” “Stop running!” “Come here!” No matter whether you are a Mimi or an abuela, a Daddy or a Grandad, by whatever name you call us, we are all there to share the experience. We all paid the money, carried the children, pushed the babies in strollers, rode the train, and said “Look!” with excitement as we shared the experience of seeing a giraffe in person IMG_8076or met the penguins up close.IMG_8037We had the same experience that day, generations of families together making memories for our children and grandchildren. It didn’t matter what language we spoke or where we came from. We were all trying to ride herd on little ones, watching them play, keeping them safe from the dangers all around us, and loving them so very much. There was no difference in our hearts at the zoo that day.

Last night, my granddaughter introduced me to a place I’ve driven by many times and never noticed. It is a Mexican bakery and was delightful with its variety of baked goods, its cleanliness, its friendly service. I looked it up on the internet because I was fascinated that it is a 5th generation business. Started in 1912 in Mexico, it became one of the largest bakeries in that area of the country. For some reason not given, one of the family members came to American in  1998 and opened the bakery in Tulsa. They have three bakeries here and are about to open a fourth with the vision not only to make pastries rich in ingredients and taste, but also to promote family values and unity. How American can you get? Or how Mexican.

This morning, the television came on blaring the latest ugliness in our election. I think all the candidates and the commentators need to take a day off and go to the zoo. It’s much more civilized there amongst the animals.

Last week, I watched my youngest grandchild play in her first soccer game. They had two practices and were ready to take on the game as only a bunch of kindergarteners can, not knowing what they didn’t know. The parents and grandparents had little expectation and it was all fun. When I later asked mine what her favorite part was, she said scoring the points. They didn’t score any, so that’s that. Here she is getting close to the action. She also played goalie for a quarter, which I think was maybe 5 minutes. DSC_0019As I was turning out of the park, I had a sudden memory flash. Wow! This was my, counting in my head, 12th child to watch play soccer, including my four children and my eight grandchildren. Wow. This was the first organized sport for all of them and the only organized sport they all played. Wow. I spent time processing this as I remembered so much.

My oldest daughters started playing way back in the last century, back in 1976. Ancient times compared to the students I work with who were born in the late 199os. Soccer had been introduced to Tulsa the year before so none of us remembered or knew too much. Soccer was a game we played in gym class back in the 1950’s, or mid-century as it now referred to.

Anyway, my two oldest daughters were in 2nd grade and kindergarten that first year and played on the same team, the Crickets. There were no places to buy uniforms so our clever coach either made little weskits for them to wear over a shirt with shorts or found them somewhere. I’m not even sure they had soccer shoes, but I remember shin guards. I guess someone lined the fields. We didn’t have fancy game chairs and the kids played on full size fields, so there was a whole lot of running involved. And clover picking. Not much yelling since nobody understood the rules yet. That was later…My oldest daughter went on to play soccer and tennis and swim competitively. She liked it, but sports weren’t her all-consuming love. She had fun teams, mostly with girly names.

IMG_7483My second daughter took to soccer with a passion. Although she swam competitively and learned other sports, she played soccer  as a goalie all the way through college, getting a partial scholarship at a time when schools were just starting to offer them. She played after college and played with injuries until she had to stop. Then she had kids and became their coach and coached others and became a soccer mom. She was definitely our soccer kid!Scan 37Our third daughter started playing in 1978, when she was 5. Her first team was the Lollipops. She was later a Tiger and on other teams, and also swam competitively, but eventually took up softball and track in high school. She’s now a runner and has been in a couple of marathons. IMG_7485Our son started playing about 1980 when he was five. I don’t remember if this was his first team, but I love that my skinny boy was once an Incredible Hulk. He swam, although I wouldn’t say he was competitive, and played t-ball, basketball, football, and ran cross country. To be honest, he was better at art and comedy. When he died at the age of 35, one of his friends remembered him as the worst player on the soccer team, but the most fun. That was pretty much his story all along. He did win class elections, so there was a bit of competition in him!IMG_5021By the time we had grandkids, soccer was so established and was definitely still the place most kids started team sports. Now they could sometimes find teams when they were 3 or 4 years old playing on little fields. I think all of ours were at least 5 or in kindergarten, but they all started young. Our oldest, who is now a freshman in college, was a big kid and ready for sports. He played soccer for several years as well as baseball, basketball and football. Baseball was his favorite and he played through high school.86777-PH-8Sept2002-020Our first three grandsons were all born within 8 months of each other. The next two are graduating from high school next month. The second one is the son of my soccer playing second daughter, so he was on the field with Coach Mom. Guess what?! He’s almost 19 and still playing, although I think his years on the field are drawing to an end. Now 6’5″ he played basketball too, although he ended up in soccer, playing on a competitive team and the school varsity team. Note Coach Mom on the sideline here.86777-PH-8Sept2002-016The third grandson started with soccer and t-ball and played soccer and baseball for many years. He found his calling in football by high school, ending his career last fall as the Center on the high school team. He’s into filmmaking and off to other things now. He’s about to kick the ball in this picture.86838-PH-Box 01-066You can’t imagine what a rush of blurred soccer memories this has brought back to me. Putting all these sports into the perspective of my life has been a trip of sorts. Now we’re to my fourth grandson, another son of my Soccer Mom, who played soccer, baseball and basketball until he settled on soccer, playing on competitive teams and the high school team with his brother. He’s grown almost as tall as his brother in the last year and will still be kicking for as long as he can! I’ll throw in this picture of him with Coach Mom, although I have to show one of him running. He still flies through the air at times.

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My fifth grandson is about 9 months younger than the fourth and they are in the same class. This guy is our biggest kid since birth, still growing at 16 and 6″5 1/2″. He started in soccer and played soccer, basketball and baseball for many years. He only wants to play baseball now as a sophomore in high school. In fact, that’s all he wants to do and plays on a competitive team and on the school team. Anyone need a tall pitcher/first baseman to play for them when he finishes school? He started like the rest of them…with soccer.

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Whew! Are you keeping up with all of this? How many patches have I sewn on uniforms? How many soccer fields have I driven to? How many half-time bottles of water, orange slices, and after game snacks have I provided? When my kids were little, I had three or four playing at once and my husband had to work on Saturdays, so I drove a lot. Games on every side of town at the same time. The only time I wanted to scream was when I heard one of my daughters say I didn’t go to her games (she said this as an adult). Dang! I didn’t miss many! Really now.

The next two grandkids are now in 8th grade, in the same class, at the same school as the rest. It’s a combo middle/high school where three of my children and three of my kids’ spouses graduated. The girl, the third child of my soccer mom daughter, is now playing soccer, basketball, volleyball, and, are you ready?, shot put on the track team. She’s the envy of her youngest cousin who now has trophies and medals in her eyes after seeing a picture of her idol with a medal around her neck and the team trophy awarded to her for her work as goal keeper. She was into it from the start.

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She’s only about 3 weeks older than her cousin, who is in the same class. He started with soccer and has played baseball, basketball and football. He’s now playing baseball most of the time on a competitive team. I guess he’ll go out for varsity baseball and play with his cousin next year. When these youngest two (not counting the kindergartner) began, they were on the same team with Coach Mom coaching. She became Coach Aunt Robin at that time. Here they both are, jumping for joy at the same age my youngest is now.

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All these memories rushing in. So many trophies and medals. So many games and tournaments.

The meaning I get from this is that I am the luckiest person in the world. I am still alive and healthy and have seen all of them play their games and enjoy all their activities from sports to singing to art and dance. Does it get any better than this? I don’t make it to every game because that would be impossible with all the sports in all the places with all these kids, but I see enough to bask in their enthusiasm and take pride in their abilities.

I’ve watched my children and grandchildren lose, pout, stomp their feet, cry, laugh and enjoy the wins. I’ve watched the kids do the “good game” hand slap walk across the fields with the other team and walk back to their parents with either the joy of victory or the sting of defeat. The best is the beginners who haven’t figured it out yet and run off the field happy either way the game ended.

It’s been fun to be on the sidelines all these years. You know, it’s not too long until there may be another generation for me to follow to the kicking fields. I hope I can make it because won’t that be the best ever?

Lucky me! I got a break from my regular life at a time when it was much appreciated and went south to Florida with friends for a few days. For something different, we left the beauty of St. Petersburg and traveled north to Crystal Springs on the Gulf Coast.

Amazingly, it was predicted to hit a low of 30 degrees the morning we wanted to dive with the manatees in the only place you can do so by law, when they head from the colder Gulf waters into the springs with a constant temperature of around 70 degrees. We almost chickened out, discouraged by reports of visitors only lasting a few minutes before leaving with chattering teeth. At 70 years old, you think you’ve learned to be smart enough to know when it’s not going to work out. We considered a kayak to see them from the surface, but that was a 45 minute paddle, which sounded worse. My friend and I are nothing but game when it comes to a fun experience, so we prepped ourselves by worrying about the cold all night, packing up all kinds of non-Florida like things to keep warm.

It was 30 degrees when we walked to the boat at 7:15 am. I’ll be really honest – I was more worried about squeezing into a wet suit than the cold. Not pretty. I wasn’t shivering and I somehow got into the wet suit as several of us helped each other. Our boat was enclosed which helped.
IMG_9664Their slogan was promising a lot of fun ahead.IMG_9665It was the middle of the week, cold, and we lucked out with the last boat, so there were only 6 of us, my friend and me, two older ladies (maybe our age, but who knows) who are sisters-in-law, and a couple in their 50s celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. He didn’t end up going in but a few minutes at the end because of heart issues. This was on his wife’s bucket list and he was making sure she got to check it off. Captain Ed has been doing this for 27 years, being a guide for 6. We had an extra photographer and another helper, who stayed on the boat and later served us coffee, hot chocolate or Manatee Mocha (a mix of the two). It was looking good.

We watched a video of rules for approaching manatees before we left and Captain Ed gave us more pointers on how to use the snorkel equipment as our boat approached the location. Everyone had their own dive shoes but us, so the worst cold I felt was taking my shoes and socks off on the boat. The water felt warm, there was no wind, and I climbed down the ladder to be met by a curious manatee.

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This was a great start. I’ve been on whale watching trips in Alaska and Oregon and swam with stingrays in the Cayman Islands, but this was different. For one thing, manatees are so cute. When the first one you ever see swims over and rubs against you as you tickle its back, you fall in love instantly. They’re called sea cows, but a cow could rush you. There is absolutely nothing to fear with a manatee. Nothing! They eat plants and their only teeth are at the back of their mouth. We didn’t want to disturb them, not for fear of them frightening us but because we didn’t want to bother this endangered species whose greatest enemy is man. One had great slashes along his body from the blades of boats, even though their skin is tough.

Manatees can be as large as 13 feet long and 1300 pounds, but those were mostly sleeping. Ducking under water in my snorkel and mask, I quickly came face to face with some smaller ones. Oh, those faces.

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We had seen manatees mating, thrashing around near us, as we approached our site. As the captain said, they’re trying to keep from becoming extinct. We also were so thrilled to see a baby nursing at its mother’s side below us.

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In the springs we visited, there were homes around and the waterway was only 8 feet deep at the deepest. Most of the time, I could stand up if I wanted to stop my floating. We were there almost two hours, petting the cuties we met, watching them roll over in delight with our tickles.

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There were some areas we couldn’t enter, full of large manatees resting.DSC_0081

I can’t exaggerate how very peaceful these funny creatures are.

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When you have a chance to spend time with creatures who are so innocent and passive, you have to compare them to every other person or animal you’ve encountered in your life. I don’t know what their purpose is in our ecological system, but maybe it’s to remind us that it’s sometimes enough to get along with everyone, accepting them without qualm. These aren’t stupid beasts as they are compared to the very intelligent dolphin in many ways. They are gentle in the best kind of way. I felt so special to be in their presence.

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At the end of the trip, I knew I’d had a unique experience. Captain Ed said you’re never going to get as much love as we did that cold January morning in the warm Florida spring water. In the end, we never were cold and had almost missed the adventure of a lifetime over nothing. A friend looked at this picture of me and said my expression was different, the glow of the morning showing in my smile. I know the magic of the manatees had rubbed off on me. I’m very lucky!

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This all started when I saw a news story on a senior center where the residents were playing Pickleball and I thought it looked like fun. Where have I been? There are Pickleball courts all over town that I knew nothing about. One of the most popular is less than a mile away, so I went down to watch. Wow! It’s in a senior center that uses a church area and gym and offers a wealth of programming for old folks (defined as 50 & over).

OK. I know I’m a senior, hopefully, a young seeming senior. This place was inspiring, positively inspiring. First, I joined at the crazy low price of $25 a year. A year! I started walking because they have an indoor track that circles over the gym floor, allowing me to watch all the various activities. And, then I took Pickleball lessons from the dynamite 81 year old instructor, who was obviously a gym teacher in her previous life. I also learned she had been a nun, so double whammy of discipline there.

In this place, I’m kind of in the middle of the age groups, so I fit right in. Nobody hesitates to welcome you or visit with you, so I jumped into Pickleball, where I’m also in the middle of the skill ranges at this point. Pickleball is a cross between tennis, badminton and ping pong, played with a paddle and a whiffle ball on a short court. I always feel like I’m on a giant ping pong table due to the sound of hitting the ball.

Don’t let the fact that I’ve been playing with 70 and 80 year olds make you think that these people can’t play. Good grief! One of the first people I talked to was a woman who retired last year after working 54 years for the same company. 54 Years! Unheard of for today’s workers. She retired because she had a stroke, but she’s recovered except for a little memory loss. I’d say she has also had knee problems from the way she moves. Anyway, she told me she also plays on the women’s basketball team in the 75-80 bracket and then she spotted a woman she said is on her bowling team. I will say she doesn’t always move fast on the Pickleball court, but she can sure hit the ball hard.

I played with a gentleman who I estimate to be 83 (my firm wild guess). He slowly walks onto the court and then, WHAM! I couldn’t believe this guy. He doesn’t move fast to the ball, but he hits hard with strategic shots. Several of the other women, good players I have played, with have asked him to go soft for us. Very deceptive, these old people. The line to play is always long, so they play fair with everyone changing partners every game and nobody is too obnoxiously competitive so far. Of course, I don’t play on the Advanced play days, so they may change in those games. This lady told me she’s been playing a  year and she’s good. I think she’s finally accepted me as a player and won’t wince when we end up together. She also told me she sometimes lets shots go by because she doesn’t feel like running for them. My kind of player.

IMG_7773At the end of a game, the players meet at the net to touch paddles and tell each other what a good game it was. Very fun. You’ll note the knee brace on one player. I watched a game stop for a minute last week when a lady’s pacemaker came undone. She hooked it up and kept playing. She’s another very good player.IMG_7781From my walking vantage point, I watch some of the other activities, such as Tai Chi, a great activity for balance and strength. There is also Zumba Gold, a low impact dance exercise class. Watching these ladies, listening to the variety of music to which they were moving, I realized that these ladies were always dancers. They did ballroom, swing, cha cha and rhumba, Western line dances, and rock & roll. These ladies did the Twist when they were young and now they’re moving to those same tunes. They cooled down to Frank Sinatra after some faster numbers and I thought of how many dances they had been to in their lifetimes and how many of them were probably dancing without their life long partners these days since the women do tend to outlive the men, no matter what we’d like to think. The memories moving to this music must bring to mind…IMG_7725Another day, I walked my two miles very quickly, watching a Functional Movement class that made me tired to think about. These ladies were bending and pulling in ways that I’m not sure I could do or even want to try, although I should. In this one, they walked with a partner who pulled on the giant rubber band to give them resistance. That’s not so bad, but the floor exercises…IMG_7782Today, I walked while the basketball teams warmed up, watching gray and white haired ladies make basket after basket as they practiced their drills. I don’t know if they played a game or not, but the drills were fun to watch. They all arrived with their own basketballs, which is so amazing to me, although I have my own Pickleball paddle now.IMG_7813These aren’t the only ones moving or active around the place. There is a small gym with exercise equipment, Yoga, and seated exercise and seated Yoga classes which are always full, plus activities for the mind. There is Bridge, Mah Jongg, Skip-Bo, Canasta, a knitting group and a painting group. One of my friends goes to a group called Stories, where people meet to share memories and stories. Some of them bring things to read, others tell stories, some share things they have written. One lady in her 90s reads poetry she writes. There are several 90+ year olds in this group with a great collection of memories to share. And, of course, there are Pot Luck lunch on Fridays.

I find this group so inspiring to watch and be a minor part of, especially since these are my peeps after all. It’s also a nice contrast to the days when I work on the university campus and feel every bit my age watching the students pass me by. I have a lot of things going on in my life, so I’m just walking and playing Pickleball, unlike some of them who are there every day for many things. Mostly, I love seeing that they laugh and share and think and remember and play and, most of all, move! We all need to move, no matter what our age. And, I like movin’ with these nice people. I’ll let you know if I get good enough for the Advanced group in Pickleball. I’m not sure I’m old enough!

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay area is rich with adventures, so each day of my recent trip was spent exploring something new, including revisiting San Francisco to see the things missed on previous trips. We passed the incredibly ornate City Hall (those city fathers wanted to make a statement) and buildings with the old state seal.  DSC_0393

DSC_0300There were the obvious places, such as Fisherman’s Wharf, which was so crowded with tourists (not that we weren’t) that we skipped stopping there.DSC_0328We did join the crowd at Lombard Street, only because I hadn’t seen it and felt I must.  Driving the crazy curves in the line of cars and standing for the obvious pictures was actually pretty charming, only because it is what is is. DSC_0322We drove through the business district with the imposing iconic TransAmerica building…DSC_0351And this delightful lady reaching between tall buildings…DSC_0387Streetcars are as delightful as ever…DSC_0329And we visited the waterfront, enjoying the sailboats and fishermen…DSC_0339DSC_0342Leaving the city, we passed this delightful mural…DSC_0536before reaching the Golden Gate Bridge, which never fails to delight…DSC_0540On this day, we headed towards Sausalito, changed our minds and I suggested the beach, which looked pretty close on the map. Of course, I forgot that this is the coast and that short road was crooked and narrow and the trip to Stinson Beach took way too long for what we were planning. But we got there and dipped our feet in the ocean and enjoyed the views and people watching…

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DSC_0544…before heading back along the same long, curvy road…IMG_7353On other days, we headed into Berkeley, driving through the campus of UC Berkeley, intrigued with its ties to the incredible Phoebe Hearst and her son, William Randolph Hearst, along with buildings of every architectural style.  A hodgepodge of buildings strung through the hills.DSC_0230

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DSC_0412with the classic Clock Tower at the center…DSC_0242Looking for a late lunch, we found the Gourmet Ghetto district…DSC_0251opting for Oscar’s, a classic burger place, over the fancier trendy restaurants nearby. The selling point was that Oscar’s had been there since 1950 and was destined to close in a few weeks to be replaced by yet another salad restaurant. We wanted to experience the history not the health. IMG_7250That day, we drive north to the towns of Benicia and Martinez, the location of the historic home of one of our national heroes, John Muir. Entering Martinez, we were struck with the irony of the oil refineries in the home of the man who protected our wilderness areas. DSC_0260We found his home on a major thoroughfare, back by an interstate highway. You have to wince, but the site at least has preserved enough to let you envision the way it used to be. Looking at old photos of the rich orchards that covered the hills, you look out at the modern mess of franchises, motels, and fast food that have replaced the fruit and trees. But, if you look the other way, it’s the way it was, somewhat. You get the idea. This is the home where Muir took over his father-in-law’s orchards very successfully and began his writings that so enlightened the world. I had read much about him, but had forgotten how painful it was for him to write since his words are so lovely. DSC_0262

DSC_0264I should have realized when I saw the mess of his office with papers strewn around the floor as he did. It was nice to pay tribute to this genius of a man.DSC_0267On another day, we drove to Palo Alto to see the Stanford campus, probably the most beautiful campus I’ve seen. In contrast to the variety of building styles at Berkeley, from classic to contemporary, Stanford has consistency (like my own Oklahoma State University), which gives it much beauty.  This 8,000+ acre campus is casual and elegant and impressive as we entered through an avenue of magnolias and beautiful homes, followed by streets lined with oaks and shops and restaurants and then through the campus gate and an avenue of palms leading to the heart of the campus. DSC_0592

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DSC_0614The Stanford Memorial Church has a simple name that belies its grandeur. Having toured many cathedrals and historic churches, I have to admit that this lovely sanctuary reached me with its beautiful warm details. The incredible mosaic murals on the outside stand over the central quad of the university. IMG_7373

DSC_0611and the interior somehow comforts the worshipper.IMG_7375Across the campus, there are architectural details and fountains that delight. Students walked through them casually in their shorts and tanks. A group played in the elegant fountains, a perfect example of the atmosphere. I reminded myself that these are the brightest of the bright, playing and not studying at the moment.DSC_0644

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IMG_7402 - Version 2On our final morning in the Oakland area, we visited a beautiful botanic garden, the plants displayed by the region of California in which they grew.

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DSC_0722Around another curvy road (that’s all they have – I’m sure of it), we delighted in an old fashioned carousel with its colorful, fanciful animals and lovely paintings of California history.  Built in 1911, one of the last original merry go rounds in the country, it has been in this location since 1948, hidden away in the California hills.DSC_0735

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DSC_0726And so ends my tour of the areas around Oakland, an area of history, natural beauty, and absolute delights wherever you go on your adventures. Put it on your bucket list again and again because there is always something new to see.

Here we are, almost 40 years later, waiting for the next Star Wars movie to open.  When the original was released, I read about this phenomenon in the newspaper and took the family to see it.  My youngest, my son, was only about 1 1/2 years old, so it was his first movie.  I remember spending part of the movie walking around the back of the theatre with him, little knowing how much it would affect his and our lives.  From then until now, I can’t remember a time that Star Wars wasn’t around me – or under my feet.

There were the movies, anxiously awaited by the entire family.  The first thing we recorded when we got a VCR was Star Wars.  I still have the tape somewhere.  And the toys!  Packed in my garage are the figures and the tiny guns that I picked up so many times that I can’t count.  The toys I waited in line for, the special figures only available from some cereal or by mailing off something.  Some are stored in the big Darth Vader carrying case that’s out there somewhere.  There’s the Millennium Falcon and the At-At and the Storm Troop Carrier (it actually spoke when you pushed the button) and planes and one of those big snow creatures they rode and no telling what else.  My son collected lunch boxes and his Star Wars box is a prize.  Later, we had Star Wars talking figures and large collector figures and whatever else came along.  By this time, my son was in college and my daughters were marrying guys who had also grown up with Star Wars.  One of my sons-in-law has his figures intact with their guns, packed away for safe-keeping.  Nothing to snicker about either.  This is important stuff.

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They re-released the first three episodes in theaters when my oldest daughter was pregnant with her first son.  She could feel him jumping as we watched our favorite scenes.  Another generation has come along and all eight of my grandkids are familiar with the stories and the characters.  I was at a 2 year old’s birthday party, a child named after my son, and he knew Darth Vader in his limited vocabulary.  Good job, Dad!  Here’s my son with one of my grandsons many years ago, passing down the fun…

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So here we go again and I couldn’t be more excited.  The next series will start and the comparisons to the old ones will be rampant on social media and we’ll all be swept into this wonderfully fun world again.  Last week, I traveled to Oakland, California and was amused to hear all the references around the Bay area.  First, I spotted this book in a gift shop.  Where was this series when I needed it for my kid?

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Then we drove by the entrance to George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, pointed out by a local.  She remarked that the woods we were passing through were the setting for the Battle of Endor (she didn’t say that and I had to look it up).  You know the one where the rebels and the Ewoks fight the stormtroopers in the woods.  Of course, you know.  That great scene where they rode those fast things that raced through the trees.  Anyway, I could see what inspired it and where it was filmed (except for the computer stuff, of course). It looked like this area…

DSC_0167I learned that the cranes that we kept passing on the way across the Oakland Bay Bridge into San Francisco were the inspiration for many of the big machines in Star Wars.  After all, George Lucas passed them all the time.  It makes sense.  From then on, I tried to capture the images as I was driven by them.  Can’t you see them marching across the movie screen?

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I guess I’m getting too excited.  There are still months to go and more trailers to entice us and more products to show up in the stores and I know that we will all be in that theatre, waiting for the music and the opening and the familiar heroes.  I’m excited that there’s a new generation getting their own episodes and new parents walking around picking up the beloved toys and just crazy fun for this old grandmother to share.  Silly…

We love to see eagles soar, but I love watching them nest even more.  I’ve watched eagle cams, cameras placed by eagles’ nests, before, sometimes with tragic storylines, and am always fascinated.  It’s reassuring to watch the parental instincts kick in and know that we share some of those traits with other species.  And baby eagles are cute, like all babies.

This year, I’ve been watching the eagle cam in Hanover, Pennsylvania.  All of my screen shots have this credit:

Image courtesy of Pennsylvania Game Commission, HDOnTap and Comcast Business)

The eagle cam website is:  http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1592549&mode=2

When I was in high school, our team mascot was the Eagle and our publication of student works was titled Eyrie, which is the name for an eagle (or other large bird of prey) nest.  So I’ve been watching this Pennsylvania eyrie from the comfort of my home office on my computer or iPad for the past few weeks.  It started with the eagle on the nest being covered up to her neck in snow as she sat patiently waiting for her two eggs to hatch.  This week they both hatched and today I started my day with the treat of both parents in the nest with the babies.

When I first tuned in, the mother (the larger of the two birds) was sitting there, looking around with her eagle eye, and watching snow start to fall again.  I’m sure her thoughts (because I’m relating her to my experiences as a mother) are “Snow!!! Again???  Dang!”  At one point, she peeked under herself like she was telling the babies to stay still.  Later she actually snapped at the snow, catching some for a drink, I suppose.  And the wind began to blow her feathers.  They’ve fixed the nest up pretty nicely, as I watched them rearrange the grasses before the eggs hatched.  And they’ve been stocking up on fish.  There’s a wing there, too, so I’m guessing they got a smaller bird.  Anyway, there’s plenty of food around.Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 8.54.53 AMI didn’t have to watch long before the father showed up.  The expression on eagles’ faces is always stern, so it’s hard to tell if the mother was happy or not.  I have to go with their body language, I guess.  He hung around, looking like he didn’t know what to do and then picked up a stick, a large one.  And then he moved it to the other side, getting in the mother’s face to do it.  Not hard to interpret what she was thinking here…Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 8.55.26 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-28 at 8.55.42 AMShe got up at that point.  I mean what else is she going to do with wiggly eaglets underneath her and him rearranging her nest right in her face?Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 8.55.56 AMThe eaglets turned to the mother for food, of course.  I’m not up on my eagle parenting and I had a husband who helped me with babies, so I’m not sure if this father is the norm, but he stood around looking like he didn’t know what to do while the mother started feeding them.  He had picked up the fish and brought them home, to his credit.  Big fish!  Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 8.56.50 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-28 at 8.57.19 AMHe was walking around, watching the mother feed them when the camera stopped, which it does every once in awhile.  I just checked again and he’s gone and the mother is back on the nest.  I love to watch her settle down on the babies because she rocks side to side while she gets in position, appearing to be rocking them to sleep.  That’s my interpretation, again based on my own motherhood.

What a unique experience it is to be able to watch a live feed of these mighty birds as they raise their babies.  I know it can get seriously sad because there are so many things that can happen to babies before they leave the nest, but it is so very engaging to watch them go through it.  The eagles stare towards the camera sometimes and I wonder if they sense they are being watched.  Their expression is the same mine would be if I saw a camera there, but that’s always their expression.

Please take time to visit the website and watch this family – soon!!!  The babies are growing.  I guarantee it beats what’s on television most of the time!  Really!