Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The May Tree

I am wrapping up my tropics special for the year with a lot of little photo shoots I did on the side.  We spent the entire month of August in Panama and I didn't want to stray too long from the Tucson garden during my writing because the central theme is Tucson gardening.  I LOVE plants and it's my dream to learn as much as I can about them....even if they don't grow in Tucson.  Anytime we learn a new language, we tend to want to learn the slang expressions or words that stand out as funny.  Well the same goes for me when it comes to plants.  As we were heading to Isla Bastimentos, this tree stood out from the rest and caught my attention.  Known as the May Tree, it towers over the canopy of the rain forest appearing much like a broccoli sprout.
Caught in a rain storm, Steve, our host and landscape guru, gave me a book on tropical plants in the rain forest.  I hung out with candle light in my hammock as the rain just poured down.....and read.....and read.  So many trees.  So much biodiversity.  A rain forest can look the same because a lot of the leaves are similiar on trees as are the roots and bark.  My tropic friends are probably saying, "No no.  They don't look the same at all!"  And I understand your meaning.  If you came to the desert, you'd probably look at the cacti and think they were the same plant.....especially the Opuntia varieties!  It is my goal on trips to educate myself on different plants in different areas.  Here's what's really embarrassing.  I know NOTHING....ZILCH!!! about the plants that grow in my hometown of Two Rivers.  I can recognize a Maple tree but that's about it.  In college, my friends had to identify the 101 different pine trees in the forests and I boring!.  Yet today, I see the value in the activity.  I really know my desert plants and trees, but if I leave the area, it's like a whole new world!  So back to the tropics....
It's interesting to note that if you research a plant online, very little can sometimes be found.  Yet at the same time, there are so many resources out there for birders.  And for buttefly enthusiasts, it's hit or miss depending on the region you are visiting.  The May Tree, or what they call it on Isla Bastimentos and in the tropical trees book that I had been reading, has it listed as such because the tree generally flowers around the month of May into June.  However, while typing the name in both Spanish and English, I found nothing about this tree.  Could it be a nickname given to the tree for this area? Or is there another name out there? Either way, it's a beautiful tree.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


This Vinca began as a tiny transplant.  2 months later, it has become a bush.
Vinca. Penta. Vinca or Penta?  This was one of the most confusing plants for me to identitify when I first began gardening in Tucson.  Today's post is all about the Vinca.  Click on Pentas for more info on this plant.  I wanted to get this post out during our hot summer because if you'd like a reliable plant that flowers all the time, takes the heat, grows rather quickly, and can handle a bit of the afternoon summer sun, you'll love this plant!  And Pentas:)  In an experiment for flowering plants in Tucson, I grouped several of  the Vincas and Pentas together and surprisingly, they both were strong performers in the planters.  During the summer, you will find these plants rather cheap and easy to transplant.  The secret?  The catch?  Water and good gardening soil.  Just make sure you water these two plants regularly and you'll be rewarded with endless blooms.  There is another catch...... 
During the winter, these evergreen plants can and will freeze back if the temps get cold enough.  Pentas are way more frost sensitive than the Vinca.  And Vincas are more aggressive than the proper Penta:)  Vinca can spread and spill over planters, etc if left unattended.  I also noticed several other things about the Vinca in our own garden at El Presidio.  The pinks and reds outperformed the white flowered varieties.  That's not to say that the white flowered Vinca didn't do well; it just grew at a slower rate.  I also noticed the same thing with the Pentas.  Vinca makes a great plant for pots as you see in the above pic.  They can be arranged in eye popping ways that grab people's attention from ugly areas(for example, our former pool space:). There is another variety of Vinca(Vinca major) with blue flowers that gets into everything here!!  But I don't mind and let it spread throughout the space.  If you're looking for color in your garden, this is a must for your flower bed.  More tomorrow....

Monday, November 28, 2011


As I'm finishing up posts on the tropics, I thought I would mention several plants that caught my eye on these trips.  The first one is the breadfruit which I encountered in Panama this summer in the Bocas del Toro and Coiba region.  It was so odd looking and therefore caught my attention.  This fruit is known as breadfruit(Artocarpus altilis) and here's what I learned. 

It's from the mulberry family, Moraceae, and grows as a tree.....and a very large one at that! Its name is derived from the texture of the cooked fruit, which has a potato-like flavor, similar to fresh-baked bread.  A lot people report enjoying the flavor but state it doesn't have the typical sweet taste associated with fruits.  I had wanted to try this, but unfortuneatly it didn't happen.  These trees can grow to a height of 85 feet and indeed, they were very tall.  I found many of them growing near a water source and bending in a curve.
The leaves are gorgeous on this plant and make quite the statement in the tropical garden.  This tree can produce a yield of around 200 fruits per season.  I loved the look, but more importantly I am curious as to how they taste.  Perhaps someday I'll get a chance to do so:)  I have another plant coming up from the tropics that I thought was interesting in the next day or so.  More tomorrow....

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Waddling Around

I'm a beginning birder.  An amateur who basically knows that birds can fly. Oh...and they're cool to look at:)  Birders are funny people as well and I have decided that I like them as a group of people....although they can be quite literal at times:) 
Just like the birds, you'll find them up at the early dawn or right before sunset because that's when the birds are active.
Tonight, because I am broke until Friday, I decided to head over to the Sweetwater Wetlands (which is free)with my camera and play around with the settings.  What a difference a season makes!!!!  I counted billions of birds everywhere.  Yeah, that was an accurate account.
I also love how birders will look at how big each others lenses are on the cameras passing size matters!!! Based on your lens size, you'll get a smile and hello. Too small of a lens and forget about it!! You're nobody:)  The lens does matter but the person behind the camera is the one who matters most.
If you asked me what the yellow bellied bird was, I'd tell you it was a yellow bellied bird.  And of course a duck is a duck.  A woodpecker a woodpecker.  A hawk a hawk. And so on and so forth.  I love that I don't know ANYTHING about the whole thing......I just know that I like birds.
So to my birder friends and your blogs, I thank you for your knowledge and details on the .....hobby?  Well it is fun.  Your detailed work  shows me that there is a higher level to achieve and I hope that someday I'll get there.  But for now, I'm just going to enjoy the ride.
Gilded Flicker
As a photographer, my goal was to capture ducks in flight which I partially succeeded at....but the sun was a challenge.....and using a quick hand on the manual focus continues to challenge me on every shoot.
I get lost with the camera around my neck and almost fell into a hole because again.....I was looking up and not looking down.  Dangerous!  Plus, there were birders in positions I would not get myself into.....two of them to be exact, were hiding in the reeds for the incredible shots.
At one point, I forgot how I got to where I did.  I was following the mountain lion tracks in the mud until I discovered I was all alone in the middle of tall reeds.  Several of the reeds were flattened and there was a musky feline smell like something had recently sprayed the area.  I'm good with cats and their smells out in the wild. That was a bit scary and I thought, "Oh great.  My luck, I'll get eaten and pulled into the reeds with no one around to find me!"  I don't own a cell so no GPS tracker.  
It was time to go and the sun had already set.  Those two hours of my day quickly flew did the birds:)


Today, I'd like to wrap up the Guatemalan posts just like we did for our trip in the village of Chichicastenango.  Why?  Well it's in this very large Mayan market place that you'll find lots of fabric and fun things to buy and bring home for friends and family.  We spent our last day here picking up a lot of souvenirs at a good price!
But plan ahead.  Chichi(the nickname here in Guatemala) only has market on Thursdays and Sundays.  It has been this way for a loooong time.   It was a great day and we did a lot of shopping.  There are a lot of shuttles that leave for this town from Antigua and it makes for a great day trip.  Also bring your camera.  There are a lot of great shots all over the place.  Many of you may wonder why I don't have a lot of pics of the people.  Well, here's the story.  Mayans are kinda weird about people taking shots of them.  Be careful aiming your camera here in this market place.  Always ask for the shot of the person before you make it.  Some believe that taking a picture of their person is actually stealing a piece of their soul.  Soul stealing, therefore, should be kept at a minimum:)  However not all people feel that way and there are ways to cleverly get your shots with people in this market place. Go to their extremely colorful fruit and vegetable square and snap a shot from above onto the square below.  You'll get a rich and colorful shot of the fabric, plants, and people!  I wasn't so fortunate as we got there a bit late.  To see this, you'll need to get there early in the morning.
I loved Guatemala and today it's one of my favorite places that I've gone to visit.  Looking at my old pics makes me want to go back and visit all over again.  For more info on Chichi, click here.  One last note for my Spanish speaking friends, please be careful using the word "Chichi" or "Chichis".  In Mexico, this word is used for "breasts"...well another word similiar....but you get the idea. But in Guatemala, it is used for this village.  Buen viaje!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Garden Buzz

Gomphrena 'Fireworks'
 Well, it's another gorgeous day in Tucson and a great day to be outside celebrating one of the most perfect months of the year in the Old Pueblo.   I'd like to share with you two plants that are really showing off their colors right now.  These photos were taken from a friend's home today.  The bottom pic is of the very common and lovely Tucson plant.....the Fairy Duster.  It makes a great statement in the garden as a small to medium size shrub.  During this time of year, you'll find lovely red blossoms surrounded by lots and lots of bees:)  It's an extremely xeriscape friendly plant and comes highly recommended by most Tucson gardeners. 
Fairy Duster
 Now, blogger friends, I need your help on this one.  I honestly don't know what this plant is at all.  But I can tell you that it's an amazing plant in pots.  This plant below is a top performer in the garden with full sun and lots and lots of blooms mostly all year round.  But because I don't have this plant in my own garden, I don't know what it is.  Any guesses?  I have cared for it during the height of our summer heat and continue to be surprised at how well this plant is doing right now!!!  I'd like to have this plant in our own collection here.   During winter, it goes dormant and is cut back, but in spring it grows out bushy and tall inside the various pots at my friend's house.  It looks similiar to a thistle, but I am stumped.  If you see this plant at the garden center, I highly recommend getting it for your summer and fall collection.  It's really quite beautiful.  More tomorrow.... 
Here's another shot further back...
Gomphrena 'Fireworks'


Pitayo de Mayo

Trying to figure out a way to bring your garden together? And tie it all in?  I've been really enjoying mixing different varieties of cactus together and this is another plant that grows tall with an attractive form.  There are 3 things to watch out for when planting this cactus into the ground.  1.  If planting in the full summer sun, give it a tad bit shade when first putting it into the ground so that it can build up tolerance to the full sun.  2.  Don't overwater, BUT it does like a little bit more water than other cactus.  3.  Protect from extreme freezing temps.
Recommended Temperature Zone:
Frost Tolerance: takes little frost
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Origin: Coastal Venezuela and islands nearby; encountered in Mexico in Oaxaca and Veracruz, possibly escaped from cultivation
Growth Habits: Tree like cactus, up to 30 feet tall (9 m), stems up to 5 inches in diameter (12 cm); 6-10 ribs; areoles 0.8 to 1.2 in. apart (2-3 cm), 0.3 in. long (8 mm); 1-3 reddish centrals, up to 1.6 inch (4 cm); 10-11 grey radials, up to 0.4 in long (1 cm)
For more info, click here.

I placed this cactus into the garden in October and look forward to watching it grow over the next couple of years. Until tomorrow.... 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Clinging Closely

Cooper's Hawk
Today I made a fascinating discovery in our garden forest.  For the past few days, the birds have disappeared from the landscape and I couldn't figure out why.  The hummingbirds have been chirping up a storm at El Presidio. And then....a squack!!  squack!!  I walk outside and discover two large winged shadows fly over my head and into our live oak trees.  A dead pigeon lies on the ground and a homeowner stands in awe at Mother Nature's bloody show.  I quickly run and get my camera to snap shots of the action and it's all so incredible to watch.  It is cold and breezy in the Old Pueblo.  We had a light rain storm the night before and everything smells fresh outside.  The mountains, from our courtyard, are still blanketed by the remnants of the passing storm system. I feel like a little kid again with my camera.  AND I don't have to leave my garden to witness it all! The hawks cling to the branches for tactical advantage.  The clouds cling to the mountains and try to stay intact. And we cling close to home to bundle up in our blankets on this very wonderful day off from work.  

The Strange Black Book

My fierce snow wolf.....Anastacia Lewis Petakobitchka with my little sister....playing with fire
These photos would be some of my first photography efforts.
While on a closet cleaning expedition, I discovered a long lost black book of memories.  I've always been fascinated by writing and creative ideas.  I never went into the writing field because it didn't seem like there was any money in it.   And yet it's something I love to do....and create!  Evidence of this is captured in my little black book from the late 70's.  As a kid, I wrote down ideas for superheroes, songs, interesting words, and short stories.  Opening it up was like going back in time and remembering the goofy things I did.   I was around 8 or 9 years old and my writing is fact, it's rather humorous.  But the book reminded me of what I missed the most from my imagination!  Today, it's still there in my garden and work:)  Here are some things that stuck out from this little black book.....
A picture taken back in '84 shows a gentler puppy.
Apparently, my plans were to become a father of 3 kids, a zoologist or pet store owner.....which I am none of today:)  But I was fascinated by super heroes as a boy, Egypt, dinosaurs, fantasy, animals, music, and death.  I created lists of super heroes, wrote several short stories which you may have never read like, "I Pitty the Fool Says Sister Esther.", "The Ghost Squirrel that Got Ran Over", and "Indian Times Has Gone Out of Smarts." Classics.  Unfortuneatly, I cannot find this prized collection of writings.  I look at my spelling and wonder how in the world I ever made it through grade school!!!  Simple mistakes like, "to vs. too" or "here vs hear".  I cringe at it all.  And let's not mention the terrible hand writing.
The Dark Knight
I apparently wrote music....mostly funeral dirges dedicated to dead pets like the infamous tune for my black feline friend who died at an early age from feline leukemia.  If you watch a "Game of Thrones" or have read the books, you may understand this next bit.  My cat was to me like the wolves are to the Stark children.  The cat was "Pokey" or as some liked to call him, "The Spawn of Satan."  I remember I hated my babysitter so much that we cornered her and my siblings using my secret cat powers to tell Pokey to attack.  He was a vicious thing as most Siamese-Burmese cats are, but we worked in sync together and the day he died was probably the saddest thing that had ever happened to me because you see, I had never lost anyone or anything during this time in my life. We were all immortals and what a wonderful thing it was! My faithful warrior kitty was gone.  Pokey would follow me around the house and together we'd attack and bring down tattle tale siblings. Their blood curdling screams were payback for going into my room and playing with my Star Wars toys or for constantly getting into things that would drive my parents crazy! Being the eldest is a tough job.  Losing my side kick was terrible and made me write several dirges titled, "Look at My Soul", the infamous "Rest in Peace Now" or just simply, "Pokey".
While cute in this picture, Pokey Mus Doon could turn moods quickly and strike fear in hearts of others.
Unfortuneatly my work was never discovered by the major music labels and it would collect dust in old cardboard boxes:)  We would later adopt a snow puppy by the name of Anastacia Lewis Petacobitchka.  She would be my wolf in the winter snows of Wisconsin and replace my dark knight as my protector from the evil Rohrer clan.  We'd create snow caves and with the magic words, "Burrito Beano!"  my white dog would fly through the snow invisible to other human beings and knock down my naughty siblings.  She would drag them back to the cave where they would meet the ultimate snow washing on their faces. RIP to both Stacy and Pokey.
After Pokey's tragic death, I had to train a new soldier to take her place.  Sure she looks cute here, but Stash(nickname) would turn into one of my greatest allies against the Rohrer dynasty.
Several top songs that I loved back then were Bonnie Tylers' "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and Olivia Newtons "Twist of Fate".  Apparently I loved them so much that I copied down the lyrics.....poorly. I was, and still am fascinated by the world's cat population.  People will ask, "What's your favorite animal?"  Well you can't do that to me because you have to include the air and water as favorite animal=cats; favorite bird=owls; and favorite water creature=dolphins.  I found something that did however strike a chord with me today some 30 odd years later.  The paragraph reads like this, "My mind is full of adventure.  I love animals, science, and music.  I love taking pictures of animals."  These truths still remain but now extend into the photography of plants and gardens....and of course the little adventures that make our lives interesting. It's amazing what a little black book of writing will do to a person.
Of course, a new kitten would be introduced into our home by the name of Maxine.  She would live 23 years. Here she is eyeing up our pet guinea pigs.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Pics taken in Madera Canyon, Arizona.  I hope those of you in the states have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends.  We're actually having dinner at a friend's house here in Tucson.  It's an annual event with lots of friends that come each year to celebrate together. 
This year is a bit different because one of our annual members won't be showing up.  We're going to miss you Keith....but you'll be there in spirit.
After our turkey feasting, we go for a walk around the neighborhood to burn some of that meal off.  Hope your holidays are festive and fun!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Death Trap

Taking a break from "memory lane", I thought I'd bring up an issue I'm having with the property.  One of the garden spaces is almost complete.  I've added a hummingbird feeder that attracts 3 different kinds of hummers and a birdseed feeder for the others. 
Here's the issue.  I love cats, but I'm not loving the feral cats outside.  One year, I had a campaign to get rid of them because there were so many hanging out on our property.  Today 3 or 4 of them are left.  I wasn't able to capture them in our live trap because they were too clever.  Well, yesterday, during a Snow White and the 7 Dwarves moment, I was sipping my coffee writing.  My cats were hanging out with me sleeping on their backs by the sunny windows.  And then I hear a terrible bird sound.  Not the happy chirp chirp chirp.  It was like, "AAHHHHHHHHHeeeeeeeeee!!!!"  I knew something was up when both my the black cat and white cat ran to the window and didn't try to kill each other.  They dislike each other very much, but today they joined forces to see what was going on outside. So did I.
Luna-The White Kitty.  I know she'd love to catch birds on her own if she could:)  She makes an excellent mouser.
I looked out the window and discovered that one of the white feral cats had caught a bird.  The bird was about to die and there would have been nothing I could have done to help it without watching it suffer more....and then die. I think I felt disgusted by it all and a bit angry.  I know it's a cat eat bird world out there, but it made me think.   How many cat owners allow their cats outdoors?  And how many cats eat our local birds, lizards, and bugs?  It's quite shocking, but the answer is A LOT!  And then I remember our coyotes and hawks and am greatful for their services:) And I LOVE that is hard for me to watch as well! So while I'm feeding our local bird populations; I've also set the scene for Russian Roulette in their world. Perhaps they will feed well today or perhaps not. I just hope they keep their views open for a quick fly away from the evil feral and hungry cats.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Jaguars Return To Southern Arizona

For many years, it was thought that the Jaguar no longer roamed the southern Arizona regions.  But today's story is a hopeful one.  There have been several Jaguars spotted this year and it's a good sign that Jaguars are making their way back to the most northern regions of their territory once again.  Arizona, of course, is home to Bobcats and Mountains Lions.  Ocelots and Jaguars have all been thought to be gone from our lands here, but it seems that things are changing. I've written an article this past year on the elusive jaguar titled The Mystery of the Jaguar in Southern Arizona.  Here is a follow up on this magnificent creature.
I took this shot in Peru several years ago from a canoe.

"PHOENIX, Arizona (Reuters) - An Arizona hunter has made a rare confirmed sighting of a wild jaguar close to the Mexico border in southeastern Arizona, the Arizona Game and Fish Department said on Monday.

Jaguars' habitat ranges from Argentina to the rugged borderlands of Arizona and New Mexico. There have only been a handful of sightings by hunters in Arizona, and no jaguars are believed to breed in the United States.

The report was received on Saturday morning from an experienced hunter using dogs to track mountain lions in Cochise County, in southeast Arizona, the department said.

The large cat was driven up a mesquite tree, where the hunter was able to take photographs and video. The footage was subsequently viewed by the department, which classified the sighting as "verifiable or highly probable."

"It's very exciting ... we know that jaguars use southern Arizona as part of their northern habitat ... Although confirmed sightings are fairly rare," Lynda Lambert, a spokeswoman with the department, told Reuters.

Lambert said the hunter declined to be named, and did not release the photographs or video footage for publication.

After photographing the cat, the hunter left the area with his dogs and watched from a distance. The jaguar remained treed for approximately 15 minutes and then headed south.

Jaguars are the only cats in North America that roar. They prey on a variety of mammals, fish, birds and reptiles.

There were thought to have vanished from United States until two confirmed sightings in 1996. Only a handful have been spotted since then, and very little is known about their habits.

Based on the images, biologists believe the jaguar is an adult male that appeared in good health and weighed approximately 200 pounds.

The department said it hoped to compare the photographs and video shot by the hunter to images of other jaguars taken in Arizona in the past.

They will try to use comparisons between a jaguar's unique spots, known as rosettes, to determine if the animal has been previously identified.

In recent years, concern over the well-being of the U.S. jaguar population has intensified as a program to build some 700 miles of security fence along the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico has gathered pace.

Some conservationists feared that the fencing would prevent the powerful, solitary hunters from roaming up from Mexico.

In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would designate critical habitat for endangered jaguars in the United States and develop a jaguar recovery plan." End of article. Northern Public Radio

What You Leave Behind....

C3P0 and R2D2
Time.  Perhaps the most puzzling experience we face as people. As a child, it drags on forever.  As an adult, it speeds up the older you get. From one box of memories, a flood of experiences and people come back into my life again.  There were times I wish I had absorbed that precious time more with the people who are now gone.  During this holiday season, I think of all the people I have loved and who have loved me in return. I'd love to go back in time just to say one more "hello" or give one more hug good bye.  Getting older is wonderful but it also makes you miss the people you love even more....and the older we get, the more people we miss!  I wouldn't change a thing though.  Life has been pretty amazing.  I thought I'd share with you all some cherished memories from my childhood....and all thanks to a box of goodies. And let me just say it's better than finding that box of letters from the ex's!:) I hope I burned that one somewhere along the way:) 
Ewoks on the moon of Endor....well really they're hanging out in some flowers in a pot. 
I've been prepping my Star Wars toys for an eventual auction on EBAY and with this project, I have opened a flood of childhood memories.  So with the camera, I did some artistic shots on some of the figurines that were in the the case.  I had a very active imagination as a child.  I created stories in my head and scenarios that sometimes had no ending....just so that we could continue the saga the next day. My Freshmen year was the last time I played with toys.  There are a lot of responses in your minds right now like, "How sad!", "Wow...Freshman year!", or "Yeah me too."  Either way, it was the end.  For more on this topic, you can click here and read about older people who still play with toys. 
Master Yoda....being small doesn't mean you can't kick butt!
 I'd like to think that for everything we leave behind, we gain something of value.  My experience with toys allowed me to imagine what it might be like to explore the greater world around me.  While childhood was at times painfully slow, this fantasy world allowed me to escape, create, and imagine things in my mind.  Today, I am able to explore that world(just not the universe unfortuneatly). To do that, we go to NASA and sci-fi conventions.  I'd give my life to go to the moon or settle on Mars.  For now though, it's all about creating magical spaces in the garden, exploring different countries, and writing about the experience. The question to myself is, "Will it be difficult to sell off my childhood memories?"
The triad.  Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker on the planet Hoth

Monday, November 21, 2011

20 Years Later

This year marks 20 years since I've graduated from high school.  While I wasn't able to go to the reunion because it's in Wisconsin, I did connect up with several of my classmates via Facebook. But here's the kicker!  My old and ancient high school no longer exists.  It was built around 1922 on a sand dune.  There was a lot of history in this place and it felt old......and was it cool looking inside!  There were secret tunnels, wooden floors, multi level floors, and lots of personality that made it different from the other area high schools.  Well, like anything that I ever was part of in Two Rivers, it's no longer there.  It was torn down for a better, flimsier, and blander school.  I think it's one of the worst decisions my hometown has made.  Today condos exist on this several acred land along the river.
A lot of my class got together and it was fun looking at their pics they took at the party. Like any reunion, there are people who are easily recognized and others who have physically been altered as "unrecognizable".  I'm so glad I wasn't there for that one particular reason because I would have said something perhaps that may have been accidentally, "Who are you?" For the most part, people haven't changed too much.....I still recognized their smiles and eyes.  Of course, some haven't changed at all while others look even more fabulous than before! 
In 1922, Washington High School was completed. It cost $600,000 to build. The original portion of the high school was earmarked by the reddish brick and tall window openings. (Washington High School was demolished after a new high school was built and opened on the east side of the city in 2002).  Here you are witnessing the demolished school.  My parent's house is on the corner next to this area so we watched it all happen rather quickly. this class photo. One person stands out....the first row and second picture in.  At one time, there were many priests in the world.  We had 3.  I'm 3rd row down, 7 pics in with a fashionable red vest and butterfly collar...yeah! 
I was raised in a Catholic family and therefore I went to a Catholic school for 8 years before attending this public high school.  My mother made sure I got every nun possible (as I could be a handful at times).  Surprisingly, I would discover at an early age(around 5th grade) that I wouldn't follow the Catholic faith.  However my parents made me go until 8th grade. WARNING!!  A RANT IS ABOUT HAPPEN! To this day, I think my parents are in denial that I am NOT Catholic.  Let me just put it briefly like this as some of you may wonder why there is animosity...and please understand, this is just my experience.  I remember certain homilies(priest talk and interpretation of their scripture lessons for the day) which had priests sometimes condemning others of a different faith, sexual orientation(one spoke about the gays going to hell while he himself was one....personal issues to work out?), female limitations, and of course other racial mentions.  I remember at a very young age thinking, "Why would "GOD" hate these people if "HE?" created them in "HIS" image?" and I became angry. "Just accept it kid.", but I wasn't having any of it.  I walked out on my confirmation and refused to step into another church after that day. I don't know, but I think hate has no place in our lives or this world. We have so many wars because of it.  And Hell is a place that uses scare tactics. Oh yeah, and why was God a man?  My father wasn't very happy about it and I remember some intensely hot debates at our house.  The siblings would say, "Just go.  Make Dad happy." Being the first child sucks sometimes. I didn't fall for that line at all.  Today I accept it all and yet none of it.:) We do not discuss religion or politics at our house, but it sometimes creeps in after a couple beers:)  I've learned to accept everyone for their ideas and not try to change them.  Now if they would do the same for me:)  END OF RANT.  TRCCS was a good school and I really had some great instructors....Mrs. Fritsch(biology), Mrs. Beine(super intelligent English teacher that went beyond grammar),  and Mr. Fitch(history).  Years later I would work with him again in the ranger station eating pizza and hiding behind trees to catch underage drinkers at the park:) Love that guy.  He's retired now. 

I've always known that I wanted out of Two Rivers at a very early age.  I worked my summers in the factories. For most of my high school years, I worked at the local hospital as a dietary aide.  Kept a part time job at a gas station selling cigs and lottery tickets and at one point, working for the local newspaper stuffing papers  so that I could pay my way through college.  I was a workaholic.  Today when I visit,  all the places I have worked have shutdown or have been torn completely down.  The factories have moved to other countries because labor is cheaper.  Sadly, the city has shrunk in size as well and more people are on wellfare because poverty has risen in this town.  The well off will say nothing has changed, but it has.  The town has still kept its charm, but the new public school has seen an increase of kids getting government funding to pay for school meals.  The high school has also seen a drop in students because people have had to move elsewhere to get jobs.....therefore losing several teacher positions over the years. Sometimes, when I go home to visit my family, it feels like I don't know the place anymore.
As a kid, I looked forward to getting out of Two Rivers as quickly as I could.  There is no way I would live in a small town of conservative minds.  I wanted culture, language, and education.  And that's what I got.  But when I go home to visit, after all my longings to leave, I see value and beauty in my little hometown.  There's Lake Michigan, Point Beach State Forest, history, and culture.  Sure it's not for me, but I see value in it now and am grateful to have been raised there.  But as you can see, the past can provoke some dark and passionate thoughts.  Wisconsin is home to good food and wonderful people.  You won't find a nicer group of people in the States and I miss that friendliness they provide each other to get through the freezing cloudy winters.  I'm hoping I'll get some good shots for the blog when we're home during winter break.   In closing, it sucks that our high school was torn down and maybe I'm still a little upset about it all after all these years.  The past is sacred and should be treated with respect...not carelessly destroyed.  Do we treat our elderly like this in the States?  Wait....let's not go there:)  Plants, gardening, travel and critters will be back in the near forecast:)