LIFE UNFOLDING BEFORE MY EYES

As you may recall, I purchased some Painted Lady caterpillars a while back as a diversion during the state “safer at home” orders during the pandemic. The caterpillars arrived along with their “muck in a cup” (or pre-made food).

After about ten to twelve days, the caterpillars crawled to the top of the cup in which they arrived and started to form the tell-tale sign that they were about to form pupae. The tell-tale sign that signals the beginning of this stage is seen when the caterpillars begin to look like the letter J, as they prepare to bundle up to make a case which is attached to the cup lid by a silk pad they have fabricated. After about twenty-four hours of hanging upside down, the caterpillar skin splits off and exposes a case or pupa.

Seven to ten days later, the painted lady breaks free from its pupa and metamorphisis has been completed. During this stage, the adult structures are formed, and finally the pupa has now turned into a butterfly that needs to dry his wings before he can fly.

Wings dry and harden after about twenty-four hours, and the butterfly continues his life for about two weeks during which the butterfly can travel up to one hundred miles a day at thirty miles per hour. The butterflies can mate around five to seven days after emerging from the cocoon, and the female can lay as many as approximately five hundred eggs in their short life time. Eggs are singly laid on a host plant, such as thistle, mallows, hollyhock, legumes, and others. Once the butterfly reaches the adult stage, their diet includes many nectar plants, such as blazing star, cosmos, New England aster, Joe-pye weed, Mexican sunflower, purple coneflower, and zinnias. They will visit other nectar plants, though, including red clover and milkweed, too.

In our home, when we woke up one morning to find that the first one of our pupae had hatched into a butterfly, there was a great deal of red exudate on the side of the net cage. This exudate is not blood, as many people think, but is meconium, which is waste products of their metamorphic activity.

Shortly after, a second butterfly emerged before we knew it, about a half hour later. We decided to watch the remaining pupae and actually had the good fortune of actually seeing a butterfly emerge from its pupa stage. It was a magic moment, watching life literally unfold before our eyes.

After giving the painted ladies some orange slices and sugar water on a cotton ball on dish in their cage, we decided to let them go free. It was yet another magic moment for us, as my daughter reached inside their cage, and the each butterfly crawled onto her hand in order to be released.

“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” -E.B. White

If you are interested in raising butterflies, I would recommend you order a kit with pre-mixed painted lady food to start (“the muck in a cup”). Now that we’ve gotten the butterfly “bug”, we plan to raise butterflies from eggs to caterpillars, then caterpillars to pupae, then pupae to adult butterflies. Each type of butterfly needs a certain host plant to lay eggs upon, but there are often many nectar plants that they will eat from as adults.

Three valuable sources of information and supplies can be found at:

butterflydans.com

shadyoakbutterflyfarm.com

butterflyworkx.com

We have been busy gathering a few host plants and many nectar plants for containers around our yard and likely will try malachite butterfly eggs next.

” And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Roald Dahl

Life is good; find something new in some hidden spot that excites you. Carpe diem, friends………

LESSONS LEARNED FROM A LANTERN

Lanterns have been used throughout the ages for many things. First and foremost they have been used to light up a dark area. They are the inspiration for many festivals around the world, especially in Asia. They remind us that the light they yield can bring us out of darkness, if we follow the light, both literally and figuratively. Finally, lanterns symbolize joy, celebration, good fortune, longevity, and protection (from evil.) Lanterns have also been associated most recently with knowledge, finding one’s way or helping another find his or her way, light over darkness (or good over evil), intelligence, and even truth.

It’s uncanny to me that “Teen Traveler”, my daughter, and I discovered by chance recently that we both had seen lanterns made out of cans independently and both wanted to make them some day. Someday is today, whenever I can make it so. To that end, we have been washing out cans from the vegetables we stocked up on for the pandemic. Seems as though we’ve been eating our fair share of canned green beans. Probably even more green beans then we ever wanted to eat. Probably even more green beans than we ever will eat again. That being said, we put some water in the washed cans and froze them overnight. This makes punching holes in the cans easier (and safer), as the can is less likely to roll when working on it.

After we decided on our designs, we put the can on a towel to prevent it from rolling while we were working on it and to catch the water as the ice melted. The internet is full of can lantern patterns, so we looked on the net for inspiration. Some people spray paint their cans afterwards, too.

With a hammer and a nail, we punched a hole through the pattern we taped onto the can. This project takes just a few minutes and yields a lot of fun when doing it together with someone. “Teen Traveler” makes me laugh so much that tears flow from my eyes, and this project was no exception. Ice from inside the can broke like an iceberg off a continent while we were hammering the nail, and the ice slid (and sometimes flew) out of the can. The pattern from the can became wet and disintegrated after a while. The project looked so easy to those that had gone before us to do this very same project. The more the project didn’t work out according to our plan, the more we laughed. Life isn’t perfect, as they say, and neither is this seemingly easy project. I am reminded of something Alan Alda, and American actor, once said he wished he had told his younger self years ago. That is, the need to “adapt, adjust, and revise.” We adapted the pattern we wanted to use. We adjusted the pattern we had chosen, as it was far more complicated than we originally imagined to accomplish. Finally, we revised our plan to fill the yard with a barrage of lanterns we would make and hang from the tree. Maybe just two is plenty, afterall….

I wanted to think of some clever poem or song about lanterns to provide us with some inspiration, but then decided that simply being together with my teen daughter doing something fun was inspiration enough for me. It doesn’t get any better than that. It is what it is, and what it is was beautiful.

Life is good; find a way to make something wonderful with someone you love today. Create beauty and recognize the beauty of the moment.

Carpe diem, friends………..

DON’T FORGET TO HAVE SOME FUN DURING THE PANDEMIC

target (credit:Dreamstime)

My daughter, “Teen Traveler”, and I used to have a lot of fun when she was little with the computer chair. On days where it was rainy, and we were stuck inside, I pushed her around in the wheeled computer chair through the living room, into the kitchen, then into the family room, along with some twirls and spins along the way. When she was a bit older (and stronger) we took turns pushing each other in the same manner, laughing again until our bellies hurt.

It has been a while since we did this, but the other day, “Teen Traveler” rolled me out from in front of the computer….into the living room, into the kitchen, then into the family room, along with some twirls and spins along the way, laughing and laughing as we went along.

I was recently thinking about how much we missed going to Walt Disney World while it is closed due to the pandemic. While I was laughing in the computer chair, an idea came to me. I have seen how some people have gone to great lengths creating Disney World in their own homes during the pandemic, so I wondered how we could make a fake “Buzz Light Year” – type ride. I got off the computer chair and went into my daughter’s room to get our old supply of nerf guns, ammo, and tactical vests. You can imagine her watch me, wondering what I was up to. Even the look on her face made me laugh. Yet, just minutes later, she completely understood what I had in mind and let me know with her twinkling eyes (and her glimmering smile). Before long, we were donning our tactical vests, loading our guns with ammo and re-filling our ammo pouches. Not too long after that, we were busy making bulls-eye type targets to hang around the house. Game ON! I loaded Teen Traveler into the computer chair, both of us still laughing, and slowly moved her out of the computer room into the living room, spinning her a few times, watching her try to hit the targets we had taped on the walls. We kept score, and she is evidently quite a marksman, EVEN when trying to hit a target while moving. My “Lara Croft”.

Next was my turn. Armed with my tactical vest and belt, I was poised to beat the record. Game ON again! Ready……set…..GO! Of course my daughter turned and twirled me in my chair every single chance she could, and I was already dizzy before we even started. Try as I may, I can not beat my daughter’s score, but we had such a fun time. NOT “Lara Croft Mom”.

Life is good. Try to connect with those you love in ways you haven’t connected in some time. Find the fun. Look for a way to laugh ’til your belly hurts today.

Carpe diem, friends………….

ROLLING THROUGH ROSWELL, NEW MEXICO

While driving through New Mexico a few years back, we just HAD to stop in Roswell, New Mexico for a laugh or two and certainly a few great photo ops. Roswell is the fifth largest city in New Mexico, and the city really got on the map in the 1940s when a military balloon crashed in a nearby area. Residents were convinced that this was a UFO, but the military maintained that it was a weather balloon. Conspiracy theories were created and gained interest, especially in the 1970s, when some conspiracy theorists suggested that an alien was onboard the alleged UFO.

I’m not sure of the validity of any of these claims, but it sure seemed like a fun place to visit. I would suggest only driving through the place, as the alien/UFO area is pretty seedy at the present time. However, many things on this stretch of road, route 285 or Main Street, leading through the city have alien-themed photo ops. Even the McDonalds is saucer-shaped.

Even the lamp posts on the streets had alien-themed lights. This is the ultimate kitschy place and a hoot to roll through.

One place that was an interesting, albeit short, stop was the International UFO Museum and Research Center, where there were many displays about the history of the alien hype.

Display at the International UFO Museum and Research Center

By far my favorite place in Roswell is the Alien Zone shop, however. For just a few dollars, you can go into this seedy (and frankly dirty) little place where you can take funny pictures with “aliens.” This place is priceless in my opinion for kitschy photo ops. Granted I wanted to go back to the hotel to take a shower after posing with some of these old props that could have used a good cleaning, it was worth the laughter thereafter.

There are several “scenes” where you can walk into and take pictures. Some of the scenes are better than others but definitely worth a few dollars (if you have some hand sanitizer).

Traveling through New Mexico, you just have to roll through Roswell for a few laughs if nothing else. It is out of this world.

Life is good; find somewhere kitschy to take photos and laugh thereafter, LONG after.

Carpe diem, friends…………………….

WHITE SANDS NATIONAL PARK IN NEW MEXICO

A few years back I remembered reading about a place where one can actually go “sledding” down a hill of white sand. Longing to teach my Florida child, “Teen Traveler” a bit about another kind of sledding, I couldn’t wait to go there. We planned a trip to New Mexico to see this incredible place of large dunes. I learned this white sand isn’t really sand at all but really is gypsum, a mineral that covers about two hundred and seventy-five square miles of desert in New Mexico. Gypsum is used for many things, I learned. It can be used as plaster in surgical casts, as an additive in many foods (ice cream and tofu among others), for brewing beer and mead, for creating drywall, wallboard, plasterboard, for binding tennis court clay, as molds for dental impression plasters, as a hardening agent in Portland cement, in chalk, in hair products and even in some toothpastes.

White Sands National Park, known as the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, is located approximately fifteen miles southwest of Alamagordo. Some time during World War II, the military started using this place for scientific research and missile testing in the area. Missile tests are still conducted near here from time to time. The dunes are sixty feet high in some spots and are breathtaking to see. The bright blue sky against the whitish dunes is remarkable, almost other worldly.

There are picnic areas and limited back country camping allowed in some spots here. At the visitor center, you can purchase a round saucer-type plastic sled along with some wax to coat the bottom of the sled to make it easier to slide down the dunes. You may also bring your own plastic sled from home, as this is allowed. Round saucer-type sleds seem to work best, though. Sledding is lots of fun here, and so is climbing back up to the top of the dunes afterwards. Although currently closed because of the covid pandemic, normally the visitor center is open 364 days a year (closed on Christmas). The visitor contains a gift shop with snacks and drinks, too, along with rest rooms. There is no water available on the dune fields, so plan ahead. It can get very hot out there.

Life is good. Go out and have some fun all over again. Sledding for both children and adults is a blast.

Carpe diem, friends………………

COPING WITH CORONA WITH A LITTLE GOLF AROUND THE HOUSE….”NOTHING IS MORE POWERFUL THAN THE HUMAN SPIRIT”

I have heard so very many interesting stories of how people are killing time during self-isolation, but this story of the human spirit is one that really inspires me. One of my best friends from college has been self-isolating with her family for quite some time now in a cold New England town. At least one grown child moved back home, a humbling situation because he has been unable to work because his job in the restaurant industry has been halted because of Covid-19. This is a very difficult period in time for most people around the globe, but my best friend, the Grateful Goddess, and her husband, Golf Guy, have found a way to instill laughter in their family. Just about two months after Grateful Goddess unexpectedly and suddenly lost her grandmother that she was extremely close to, she has found the resolve to keep moving forward, embodying the spirit of the old adage that “if life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” This family makes gallons and gallons of lemonade at a time. The sound of laughter, the warm feeling of love, and the excitement of joy fill their rooms as they make happy memories at this difficult time and any other.

Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”

Wilma Rudolph

My friend, Grateful Goddess, has always been one of my most creative friends and one of the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever met. She’s always always there for me and for everyone else. I count her among my greatest blessings and have been honored to have her as my dear friend. She selflessly and joyfully gives and gives to those she loves. It’s no wonder that this matriarch of her family found a way to give some love and laughter to her family during these trying times. Her disposition is on the quiet side, but she has a playful gleam in her eyes when she is planning something fun, which is most often. She is known for having the most amazing parties with the most amazing games that she’s come up with to entertain her extended family and friends. I’m not exactly sure if she or her husband, Golf Guy, came up with a rousing game of mini golf INSIDE their New England home recently, but they all had lots of laughs as they played mini golf, moving from room to room within their home.

“The greatest achievement of the human spirit is to live up to one’s opportunities and make the most of one’s resources.”

Luc de Clapiers

Tee-off started with hole number one in the home office….this was serious business, as you can see from the face of concentration in the photo below.

Golf Guy is one of the coolest and calmest Dads around, always willing to lend a hand to his family in any way he can. Here he sets the rules for the game and offers support as well.


Hole number two was in the living room with Golf Guy keeping score meticulously, I’ll bet. He has an easy-going spirit, but I’m sure he was “in it to win it.”

Hole number three in the dining room with evidence of other fun activities, such as puzzles all around………..the competition escalates………..

I can just hear the laughter echoing off the walls for hole number four, which was also in the dining room but was a bit more challenging……by now, the whole family was also “in it to win it.”

Hole #4 – Teeing off in the family room, but the hole is in the kitchen, which is the adjacent room. Now this is getting REALLY challenging…………

Golf Guy is the picture of agility in mind and body as he makes the corner for hole number four in the kitchen………such concentration and determination……going for the win………

This is where it starts to get really crazy…………hole #5. Tee off is in on the front hall stairs, but the hole is in the mudroom! I am almost certain this was the brainchild of Grateful Goddess, shown below. I can see her now with the gleam in her eye, concentrating, but hearing a little restrained giggle escape her lips……she is intent on winning to be sure.

The golf ball makes the corner toward the mudroom…………the crowd was roaring…….I can hear the commentator now………….

FINALLY the golf ball lands in the mudroom, OVER the inverted waste basket with the cat making sure there are no cheaters. Can’t put ANYTHING past that cat!


Tee off for hole six off throws caution to the wind……..each golfer draws in a deep breath as the ball is hit from the TOP of the stairs into the basement below……..

Hole six in the basement is known as “The One With The Most Hazards”, the hole that separates the “men from the boys” and the girls from the women………


This hole in the basement requires the golf ball to travel through the carefully crafted red tunnel to…..

the final hole in the corner………….

Scores were tallied, breaths were held, giggles escaped from mouths………and….the…..winner…..is……………GRATEFUL GODDESS! A great day indoors in this safe haven, which is always filled with the welcoming scent of something wonderful cooking on the stove or in the oven. Pandemic or no pandemic, this incredible family finds a way to laugh and create happy memories and celebrates a full life together. Their spirit and joie-de-vivre shines through again and again and is an inspiration to all who know them.

Human spirit is the ability to face the uncertainty of the future with curiosity and optimism. It is the belief that problems can be solved, differences resolved. It is a type of confidence…..”

Bernard Beckett

“The darkest moments of our lives are not to be buried and forgotten, rather they are a meory to be called upon for inspiration to remind us of the unrelenting human spirit and our capacity to overcome the intolerable.”

Vince Lomardi

“Nothing is more powerful than the human spirit.”

Charlie Grant

Forget about the pandemic for a while, even if it is a short while. Find a creative way to cope with corona and fill your home with laughter and love. Transcend whatever prevents you from having a little fun or whimsy in your day today to create joy.

Life is good; carpe diem, friends…………

“We are all capable of living lives characterized by great joy. Within each of us is an amazing human spirit that is strong enough to overcome pain and disappointment. And no matter what our current situation happens to be, or what beliefs we may currently harbor about ourselves, we can tap into that inner strength and wisdom and move forward to create more joy.”

Salle Merrill Redfield

“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade” every single time….
ID 190334 © Tmcnem | Dreamstime.com

*golf ball photo courtesy of Dreamstime.com