Caretakers of the Earth

As a member of the Middle Generation, most of my blogs involve stories about people- both older and younger than me. Today, however, I would like to point out that the Middle Generation is also responsible for taking care of our planet. We are the bridge between what was left to us by our parents and grandparents and what we leave to our children and grandchildren.

We may think our actions do not make a difference, but I saw something this afternoon that gives me hope…

Several years ago, the plight of the Monarch butterflies became a national interest. Their disrupted migration patterns and disappearance from their regular habitats  were showcased in Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior”- which gave readers the beautiful image of what a wonder these creatures are!

Shortly after reading the book, which consequently spurred multiple discussions and pleas for help in the news, I decided to take a small step and see if I could help save the Monarchs from extinction.

One of the trails in my neighborhood is a host site for Milkweed- the native food supply for Monarchs. I transplanted several roots into my garden in the hopes that I could attract the precious butterflies. Each year, the plants spread and produced more roots. This June, I saw beautiful flowers on them for the first time! Sadly though, even with the flowers in peak season, not a single Monarch came to drink. I was sitting on my deck a week ago, thinking what a shame and that maybe my efforts had been futile. I even considered pulling them all out at the end of the season.


Miraculously then, it seems, today I spotted a bright orange butterfly- which I can only believe was a Monarch- flitting around amongst my patch of Milkweed! I only saw one- but if she laid her eggs on one of my plants- maybe in a few weeks there could be dozens of caterpillars! And after that, another metamorphosis into fill-blown butterflies!

I didn’t dare go closer to disturb the process. Maybe in a few days I will check if there are any eggs, but for now you will have to accept these images I found on the web. And until then,  I am hopeful that I may have assisted this majestic species in its survival effort.

I can’t say that saving one butterfly is enough, but if that butterfly reproduces and its offspring reproduces and so on- it could make a difference in the long run. Just think what could happen if everyone was able to save one Monarch?

So my message to you is:  find a cause that you believe in and do your best to support it- whether it is for clean air or water, saving an endangered species or any other aspect of climate change. If we each do our part as caretakers of the earth, we can hopefully leave this world in better condition for the next generations.

UPDATE: 8/5/17

I spotted this caterpillar on the milkweed leaf this afternoon. I verified that it is indeed a Monarch.  The pictures  below show it’s parent laying the eggs a few weeks ago. Now I just hope it makes its way through the chrysalis stage without getting consumed by a predator.


Update 9/28/17

I do not have photos to back this 3, but over the course of the last 2 months I have seen numerous solo monarchs in flight! One at a time, not colonies, but every time I see one I get excited ! If everyone keeps doing their part, maybe we can help this magnificent species recover…

Fall Traditions: A Trip to the Apple Orchard

It would not be right to let Fall pass without a trip to the local apple orchard. Ever since my kids were little, we would head out on a nice fall day, purchase a bag for our apples and walk through the orchard in search of the best trees.

We always sampled the apples first, because we wanted to know what kind we were getting. Empires, Galas, Macintosh, Cortland, Pink Lady, Yellow Delicious, Granny Smith each has their own distinct flavor. Some are sweet, others are tart; some are better for baking, others keep fresh longer and we can still enjoy them a month later.  We usually found a favorite to load up on, but we always mixed in several other varieties, depending on what was available.

At first, we looked for the trees with lower branches that the kids could easily access and as they got older, they liked the challenge of reaching the top ones with an apple picker- a long pole with a grip on the end. The grip would loosen the apple and release it into the bag hanging from the pole. They enjoyed seeing if they could catch more than one at a time.

Once we had picked our fill, we would head over to the farm house where we could purchase hot apple cider and cider donuts. We would take our snack and sit at a picnic table near the petting farm. When the kids were little, they got a thrill feeding kibble to the sheep and goats. Afterwards, we would head home where I would make applesauce and apple pie with our surplus. There is nothing like a crisp apple you have picked yourself for lunch!

This year our trip was considerably shortened and more focused on the purpose of picking apples. We had time restrictions which did not allow us to wait in the long queue for our cider donuts, and the kids were no longer interested in petting the animals. Regardless, I know the kids felt it was a tradition they wanted to do.  Establishing traditions is an important job of a parent. Traditions create a sense of continuity and calmness in today’s busy and often unpredictable lifestyle. Even though I could not say we wandered aimlessly among the trees since we did have an ultimate goal, we did not have a step by step plan to follow and could randomly choose where to go, depending on how full the trees looked or how the apples tasted. Traditions also are a way of learning about life and it’s lessons.

The kids worked together to choose the trees and sample the flavors (respect). They were also assigned the task of transporting the bag (responsibility). It took both of them to carry it, balancing the weight of the apples between them (cooperation).  They had to deal with the mishap of a handle breaking while the apples poured onto the ground (problem solving). The unexpected happens, we pick up our apples and carry on. It’s what happens in life.

Family traditions give us a chance to step back and think-  this is what is important, this is what really matters. Traditions can be passed on from generation to generation and hold real meaning. My parents took me and my sisters to the apple orchard every year for a similar family bonding activity. I have fond memories of dad lifting me on his shoulders to reach the highest apples or of helping grandma peel the apples to bake in a homemade pie. The memories are so special to me, that now I have passed this seasonal ritual on to my own children. And if we have apple pie as a reward for our efforts, well that isn’t half bad!

Post-mortem Insight: Why wait til it’s too late?

Yesterday my family and  I attended a memorial service for my father-in-law. It had been 9 months since his passing.  Our wells of tears had dried up and our minds were open to honoring his life accomplishments. Many people came up to the podium to speak of him- the challenges they faced together in their career, the obstacles that they overcame and the principles that motivated them. As his daughter in law, I had not known him during his career days. While I knew drips and drabs about his work, I never fully understood his personality and the drive that sometimes triggered conflicts of interest.

Listening to what people had to say about him yesterday  gave me so much insight into who he had been and gave me so much more respect for his ideals. I always knew what a warm, passionate person he was but this window into his other life outside of family gave me a whole new perspective. My children respectfully listened to the stories about their grandfather and one of them even got up to thank people for giving her this opportunity to learn about him.

This whole experience really got me thinking: why do we wait until someone dies to reflect on their life? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if families got together to share these stories at a time when you could still ask the honoree questions? There are so many things left to second guess. We only know the facts through other people’s eyes. What if we had a chance to clarify the rationale behind his choices; or ask what he was most or least proud of doing?

Children never seem to pay attention to what their parents do outside of the home. Sure they know what profession their parents have chosen, but they have their own lives to live and can’t bother with more than that. By the time they do become interested, they are likely involved in their own careers and families and have limited time for in-depth discussions. And then the grandchildren come along, but they are more interested in hearing about when grandpa was a little boy- not the ups and downs of his career.

So when is the ideal time to have these reflections? I wish I knew, but there has to be a better way…

The Sandwich Generation and family traditions

   When my kids were little, we had a family tradition. Every morning when they awoke (often before we were ready to arise), they would crawl into our bed and we would make a “sandwich”.Depending on where they squeezed in, or whether our family dog had joined us, we took turns being the bread, cheese, ham, turkey, lettuce or whatever else was on the sandwich that day.

   Some days we would be daring and have anchovies or pastrami; other days we had the safe fallback of

peanut butter and jelly. you could always tell what kind of mood they were in by their choices and infer what the day ahead might bring.

   The kids loved this tradition so much that they played it with their grandparents or aunts and uncles when we stayed at their homes. They came to know something about each others likes and dislikes (provolone or cheddar) and sense of humor  (“Sorry, we don’t have that”).  Rye, sourdough or basic white; smoked, honey roasted or southwest flavored turkey- exposed us to a taste for new things and a desire for adventure.

   The days of the sandwich game are long past. The kids are now sleeping in much longer than the parents, and besides it would be way too embarrassing for teenagers to consider crawling into our bed. I look back fondly on those days and think of the lessons we learned: closeness, working together as a whole but each playing an important part, and depending on each other. These are the lifelong values that continue to bind this family together and keep our connection strong from generation to generation.

   Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be playing “sandwich” with my own grandchildren….But for now, I am content to be the core of the sandwich- holding the bread and the toppings together.