Friday, July 31, 2009

The End Of An Era

Today was my last official work day for my place of employment. As of tomorrow, August 1st (which will be today by the time I get this posted) I will be officially retired. I've already applied for Social Security and all my retirement papers are being processed according to an angel named Helena that I spoke to today. I'm done. And I'm lucky.

I walk twice a day every single day. And I walk fast. I'm 63 years old and I can't believe how fortunate I am. I'm retired and I'm healthy enough to stay active.

But I'm bitter. I started this job only 14 years ago with stars in my eyes. It was my dream job and I was ready to give it my all...which I did. But this job wanted more from me. This job wanted my self respect and my dignity.

The powers that be in this failing enterprise seem to believe that the only way to salvage this organization is to beat up the very people that keep them going. They pile on more and more and appreciate less and less. It's a very, very physically demanding job especially if your part of it involves only walking all day every day. And it's not just strolling along the sidewalk. You're required to take every shortcut possible and the steps you go up and down are killers. They wear on your joints and your stamina.

And the working conditions? Believe it or not, it's a dangerous job. There's ice hidden in places you can't anticipate and you're down before you know it's there. There are hidden obstacles seemingly designed for trips while you're attending to your job as you walk (as required). And if you have an accident in the worst winter on record or worse yet, two of them, you will be treated like the lowest of the low. You'll be told that it's a shame that this organization lets you work for them with your accident record. But wait, I'm the first person they've said this to in my work unit. Is it because I'm 63? Surely not.

Don't get the wrong idea. I slipped on hidden ice and my head hit a planter. The ensuing cuts required 5 stitches and I was back at work the next day. I'm not a slacker. I'm a hard, conscientious worker and I was treated like dog****.

When my daughter called me with the most devastating news any mother could ever hear - that the identical twin boys she was carrying had both died, my employer told me that if I went to her, I would be fired for abandoning my route. And the thing I'll NEVER forgive myself for is that I didn't walk away that day.

I'm leaving this dream job because it turned into a nightmare. And I'm not walking away with pride in a job well done (although it was), I'm leaving an embittered, battered, beaten down ex-employee who is relieved that for the rest of her life she never has to walk into that place again.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

You Capture - Friends

I wasn't going to participate in You Capture this week because I'm not in contact with any of my friends. My sister's my friend but I rarely see her anymore. Then I thought of someone who has been my tried and true friend for over 40 years. Someone that is loving and tolerant and always gives me the benefit of a doubt. Someone that soothes my troubled mind over and over and over again and who calmly and steadfastly sticks by my side through thick and thin. Mr. Right. This is truly my friend.

For more friends indeed, head over to Beth's at I Should Be Folding Laundry

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What Happened To Striebel Pond?

Yesterday Mr. Right and I took our daily walk at Striebel Pond and saw wonderful scenes like this:

The only really unusual things we saw were some ominous looking cloud formations.

And some guys working out there:

Today Striebel Pond was very different and the ominous looking clouds had a lot to do with it. Last night we had almost 4 inches of rain in a short period of time and Striebel Pond is actually a drainage area for a large subdivision behind the woods you see in the background. Today Streibel Pond had very little wildlife. Early in the day there were a few frantic birds darting over the part of the pond that used to be water and was now submerged. Were they looking for nests that used to be on dry land? There was one goose and one duck family and no other birds to be seen. Because all of a sudden Striebel Pond looked more like Striebel Lake:

When we got there, even the swans were nowhere to be seen. Thankfully by the time we finished our figure eight, this is what we saw:

We were so relieved.

So we can conclude that Striebel Pond is an idyllic place for wildlife UNLESS it has to be used for it's true purpose. Then things can get a little dicey.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

They're Still Swimming - Just Not Very Many

In my post on June 30th, I excitedly reported that we had literally hundreds of swimming koi fry. Things progressed swimmingly up to the post I wrote on July 7th showing a picture of hundreds, really probably thousands of koi fry. In that post, although I was a very proud koi mom, I did express some trepidation about the likelihood of bringing so many to adulthood or even teen hood.

There was a good reason for that. I planned to post pictures weekly to show their progress but then something bad happened. They started dying. It seems like it should have been simple to figure out what went wrong but it was so complicated. Everything I read was either vague or contradictory. For example. Koi babies are very hungry and must eat at least 5 times a day. BUT don't overfeed them because koi babies will eat until their tiny abdomens literally burst. Oh no.

Then, there was the problem with aerating. Koi babies and koi eggs need lots and lots of air. But when we put two aerators in, the tiny little bodies seemed to get bounced and battered all over the place. Some hid on the bottom or in the corners but most seemed to swim around in this never ending circulation. Later I would realize that a lot of those swimmers circulating around were dead. Oh no.

Then the filtration question. We covered the vent on the filter intake with mesh so that nobody would get sucked in but guess what. The first day that I cleaned it there were probably fifty koi bodies stuck to it. Well, if they're dead it's good to get them out of there I thought; so I cleaned it and put it back in and guess what. I watched as live koi bodies got stuck to it and couldn't get away. So we invented a large cage covered in mesh so that we could get some filtration but no bodies would stick to it. That sort of worked but I think the filtration we're getting is so minimal that it's questionable whether it's worth it.

Then, the problem of water changes. Most sites I visited stressed the importance of doing a partial water change every day. I tried that but there was difficulty getting the precisely correct amount of dechlorinator in the tap water. Some sites suggested adding pond water. I tried that but I wasn't convinced that our pond water was healthy enough for these fragile little babies. So I tried a combination of the two. I don't think that was the answer either.

I don't know what spelled doom for so many babies. All I know is that I don't have it figured out. I suspect now that overfeeding was the main cause.

Anyway here are pictures of where we are now. This is not to show how few there are left (although it will) but to show how they're changing. And, knock on wood, the numbers seem to be stabilizing. You'll want to double click on the pictures to see what they really look like.

So you can see that the tank isn't real clean (we had to take the algae eater out because in additon to algae they eat anything they can get their mouths on including koi eggs) but they are starting to look more like fish and we have maybe 40 or 50 more in the tubs outside that didn't get as much tender loving care so they had a better chance of survival.

I'm still thrilled to have koi babies though. And I'll keep you posted. Literally.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Art or ?

Look what I photographed!

Did I do a good job? I'm almost thinking of having it printed and framing it for wall art. Or is it not so pretty?

You do know that you can double click on it to get the full effect right?

I'd love to have your opinion.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Walking At Striebel Pond

Once again I'm going to share some of the sights that we enjoy almost every day at Striebel Pond.

First of all there's a tern. This is a diving bird that I had no idea could be found in our area but he's there every day swooping and diving. My goal was to capture him in a dive but I didn't quite achieve it. Here he is, though, just coming out of one. Right after that is a picture of him in flight.

Next we'll cover geese. They aren't my favorite bird by a long shot but photographing them can be fun. This first guy wanted to swim under the bridge that I was standing on but just couldn't get up the nerve. While he was trying though, it gave me the opportunity for some real close ups.

Then the geese landing picture looks almost like an optical illusion. This would have been a good picture for You Capture - Reflections week.

Then there are geese in flight and geese landing in the water.

And finally, geese playing soldier.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

You Capture - Black and White

This week's You Capture sponsored by Beth at I Should Be Folding Laundry had me excited from the beginning. I started carrying my camera last Friday on my daily walks, looking for that picture that would convert the best to black and white. I'm not sure I found it but here are a couple of my efforts:
See what happens when I start working on a project too early? I go overboard. You should see how many I eliminated!!!

Anyway for more black and white captures visit Beth at Ishouldbefoldinglaundry and remember the real fun is in joining in.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Unexpected

It can happen to any of us. We're going along, living our life, and pretty secure that everything is copacetic. And then something completely out of our control and beyond our awareness happens and spoils everything. It happened to this guy on the 4th. Fortunately he probably will never know that it happened but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have been as relaxed and jovial if he'd known what the wind was doing to his costume. I didn't even know until I got home and reviewed the pictures.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Look At My Birthday Present!

I love, love, love my new look. I was so excited when Beth called on my birthday and told me to take a look.

But I wasn't just excited about the blog design. I was excited about the phone call. Because it was my Beth, back again from a deep, dark place just out of my reach.

When we found out that we were expecting James and Jake, there were so many amazing things about what was happening.... not the least of which was that they were due on my birthday. Everyone knows that they wouldn't have been born on that day but it was part of the magic. And after their loss even I couldn't think about the day without sorrow. Part for the loss of the twins and part for the pain of my daughter. It was her pain that filled my heart with dread when I thought of July 20th and in my heart I knew I'd always dread that day.

Then, she called yesterday, and I know that it wasn't all sunshine for her, but she was trying to get past the darkness. And it filled my heart with happiness and love.

And I had a lovely birthday, the cake was delicious, I got to talk to all of my kids and my oldest granddaughter, and most of all, the company was Beth and her family, moving forward from another place.

It just might have been my best birthday ever.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Striebel Pond Inhabitants

We walked again tonight at Striebel Pond. We had barely gotten started when about 20 feet away we saw this:

She watched us very intently for several seconds (long enough for me to get 3 pictures as I moved ever closer, but then I guess she realized I was shooting at her with my little black machine so she hightailed it out of there (literally):

And right on her tail were her two children. The camera and I didn't get them but Mr. right saw them both. So we watched very intently as we came around the other side of the pond.

Before we got there though there was this beautiful, serene duck family swimming in the pond at sunset.And this not so wild animal that came up and tapped me on the leg so I'd take his picture.

Or maybe it was a panther! I'm not sure now.

Anyway, back to the deer family. It was getting really dark by the time I saw them and they were so far away that I just could not get a good picture, but here's what I got:

See those people on the bridge? That's where I want to be tomorrow night at the same time. And the best part of the deer family was watching those two little ones run and splash and dash around in the shallow water. It was so amazing.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Railcats Mascot

Last night we went to a Gary Railcats baseball game. They have a nice stadium, lots of entertainment, some pretty good baseball, and last night ended with a really good fireworks display. They have two mascots providing lots of diversion, Rusty and Rascal.

They did lots of cute fun antics that had the crowd enthralled. Rusty seemed especially proud of his pelvic thrusts I mean dance moves.

It was all in good fun but there was one thing that haunts me yet today. Rusty held out his fist for a fist bump toward a little boy about 6 or 7 years old. The little boy came running up and just as he put out his own fist Rusty turned his back. The little boy seemed hurt and confused and walked back to his seat but Rusty relented. He came back, held out his fist, the little boy's mother encouraged him to go get his fist bump, and the little boy returned with his fist out only to have Rusty turn his back as soon as the boy got there. Ahhhhh. Good times. Very entertaining for everybody except the little boy AND his family. And me. I felt like it was a humiliating experience for the boy and he didn't know quite how to handle it.

For the most part it was an enjoyable evening but this one little incident kind of put a damper on it for me. Am I being overly critical?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

You Capture - Shapes

Shapes! What a fun subject. And with a little coaching from the ultimate coach, Beth at Ishouldbefoldinglaundry I was able to come up with a an interesting beach picture taken at our fireworks display (one week after the 4th). That's just how we roll in our hometown.

And is this perhaps a hexagon?

And the focal point of this picture is a really beautiful circle.

Mr. Right and I have taken up walking recently, so I grabbed these shapes from our favorite walking site. We've just graduated from the oval to the figure eight which could qualify as two circles. Right?

For more fun and more shapes, be sure to visit Beth at Ishouldbefoldinglaundry

A Flicker Of Something In The Backyard

I saw just a flicker in the back yard so I took a closer look and in fact it was a flicker! I recognized it as a bird I'd seen often before and always wondered what it was. Now with the zoom on this camera I was able to get a look that my naked eyes couldn't. Isn't he a pretty?

While I was taking pictures, something wandered into my view finder just as I snapped the pic:

It there was a shadow of a doubt about the identity of this bird, he erased it when he flew away. My bird book says, "Note the conspicuous white rump, visible when the bird flies". And sure enough, when it flew away, there it was:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

And We Still Have Koi Fry

We still have koi fry although not as many as we started with. I guess I should be thrilled though that there are any left because they seem so fragile when they first hatch. Some of them are starting to look more like fish, too. I think my dream business would be to raise koi but at my age it's probably unrealistic to go into a business where the product takes a few years to fully develop. I'm going to give it some thought though and part of the decision will be based on how many of these I can bring to adulthood.

I know one thing. I'm not going to be a koi fry photographer. I'm having the hardest time getting a decent picture of them. While I was scanning through the many pictures that I've taken I noticed that I captured a halfway decent photo of a few of them on an algae covered rock in the bottom of the aquarium. Here's that one enlarged:

What do you think? They're looking a little more like fish aren't they? Don't start thinking of names yet though because these could be dead before I publish this post.

I've even taken out the mesh covered filter because the last time I cleaned it there were about 50 dead babies stuck to it. :(

So, since koi like algae filled, murky water, that's what we're going to have to have in the aquarium until these guys (or at least the survivors) are ready to go outside.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Topsy Turvy

You've seen the advertisements on TV right? The upside down tomato and other vegetables planter? It always looked pretty bizarre to me but we've tried planting a couple of tomato plants in the backyard and we've never had much success. Usually about time we get one or two ripe ones, the plant is falling down and any tomatoes we might have gotten are somewhere in there on the ground and we just kind of get bored with the whole project. So the Topsy Turvy seemed liked something we should try. So we did.

We planted our tomatoes around the first of June and here's how they look now:

And look:

It really looks like we're going to have some wonderful tomatoes if we can just keep up with the watering and fertilizing. And we're quite excited.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What We Didn't See On Our Daily Walk

Since we caught such incredible deer shots on our walk on Thursday, we now watch for the deer every time we're out there. (You won't believe it, but we've walked 6 days in a row now.)

On Friday, we had gone past the point where we saw the deer but we still kept looking back to see if we could spot one. Sure enough, when we got to the opposite side of the pond, I spotted the telltale bright brown color down by the water. Of course I felt I had to get a picture but it was SO far away. I said to Mr. Right, "Now we'll see how good this zoom really is". He suggested we walk just a bit farther where there was a solid surface on which to steady the camera so I took one quick shot and headed for that spot. By the time I got there though, the deer had moved into tall grass and was no longer visible.

Like always, as soon as I got home I downloaded my pictures to see what I had gotten and was I ever surprised. Not only had I gotten a passable picture of the deer, but a bonus as well. Can you believe it???!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Don't P--- Off The Swan

We went to our favorite walking place last evening and did a mile again. That's four in a row!!!! It's starting to seem like there's always something interesting going on there and last night was no exception.

Right from the getgo, there seemed to be a lot of commotion around some geese and a large swan. We saw the rest of the swan family about 100 yards away watching the big daddy do his thing. And his thing seemed to be to pursue one particular goose. And he pursued him VERY aggressively.

And at times it almost seemed like the other geese were either taunting the swan or trying to distract him. But the swan was undaunted in his pursuit.

We completed our one mile look which I'm chagrined to admit took us about twenty minutes, what with picture taking and not walking very fast and all, and the swan was still at it!

And the goose didn't seem to be having much fun at all.

The swan would chase the goose away and then the goose would do everything possible to get back with his flock. While the goose was away, the swan seemed relaxed and content but as soon as that silly goose got back, there was trouble again.

It was really interesting to watch and photograph. One point that surprised me was how fast that swan could churn through the water. He was beautiful, magnificent, grouchy and left a big wake.

And there was never any doubt about who was large and in charge.