Cougar in the Coulee?!

Cougar in the Coulee?!

We had some excitement this week at our house! On Wednesday, my husband called me to “quick come here and bring your camera” while he was getting ready for work. When I met him in our bedroom, I could see what he was excited about! There was a large black animal in the dry creek bed by our house.  It was large! Both of us thought it was a cougar – or black panther! I know, I know. It is Wisconsin. We might see an occasional cougar trotting through our forests and valleys but this animal was totally black. And, very large.  Its tail was very long.  The cat moved using large back haunches and paws that seemed as big as my closed fist! We were sure we were seeing an exotic animal in the coulee right next to our house!


Many photos were shot. I recently obtained a 600mm telephoto lens for our son’s sporting events and was able to zoom in close enough to get a good look at this beautiful, yet, somewhat scary animal.

Soon, my husband left for work. We were both excited at what we thought we saw. I posted photos to FaceBook and sent my husband some to his email so he could show his co-workers the “cougar”! When our teenage boys arrived home from school, I proudly showed each of them the photos on my computer. Both laughed! “Mom”, my 18-year-old stated, “that’s a house cat.”


“No! It was really big! Too big to be a house cat,” I told him. “It’s tail was really long, too! And, the haunches!”  He just laughed.

I am a great lover of wildlife. Just days before I was exclaiming over a hawk’s wingspan as he glided over our backyard into the same coulee in which we saw the large cat. And, the week before that, it was a fox trotting through the same dry creek bed that I caught on camera. In our house, I get teased a lot for my exclamation of wonder about our natural world. This was no different.

That night, I sent five photos to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Website (DNR) that asks citizens to report large mammal sightings. The laughter continued but my husband had co-workers that hunt agree with him that it was a cougar and I experienced the same from some of my FaceBook friends. There was amazement, laugher, and maybe, a little fear, too!

We kept the garage doors down all day on Wednesday. I did not want to be met in the garage by a hungry cat, that’s for sure!

By Thursday morning I had a response from the DNR warden. It was, in fact………..a house cat I had caught on camera! Really? We were so sure it was bigger. My husbands’ response was “baloney” (Well, not that exact word!) Later on Thursday, a black cat returned to the coulee’s dry creek bed. My eldest son was home and agreed with his brothers. It looked like a house cat to him, and really, not a very big one in his opinion. I had to agree. This cat looked very similar to the other cat but was smaller and the tail was shorter. Could it be different? Could it be the same but our perceptions of the cougar-cat on Wednesday was fed by our excitement?  Maybe, to both questions.

On top of it all, when in the grocery store on Thursday afternoon, we happened to see this “Puma Kola” made by a gourmet soda drink company, Sprecker’s.  There was no question that was coming home with us ……. It was  just too funny!

In any case, we have had a lot of fun with this experience in our house this week. And, I think we provided some entertainment for our friends as well! One, messaged me that she loved the sense of adventure and, whether cat or cougar, I should keep posting! I think I will —- after all , everyone needs a good laugh!


Engaging Readers: Tougher Than You Might Think

Engaging Readers: Tougher Than You Might Think

Daily Blogging for Over a Year

My blog is just over a year old, and during that time I have posted almost daily. My readership has grown at a nice rate. I started just before the 2017 Slice of Life Challenge hosted by TwoWritingTeachers. According to my WordPress insights, I had 949 views in March of 2017. It was my blog’s most viewed month since I started!  This year, unless things really pick up, I will not acquire that number of views. My blog has been viewed less than half that amount as of this morning – what I am considering half way through the month and half way through the challenge.  More than that, those commenting on my blog is way down this month. I am somewhat disappointed and confused by all this. I gave up posting my photo-only posts on Sunday and Wednesday to be sure I was writing for this writing challenge. Those were a very popular type of post for my blog.  I am second guessing my commitment to the challenge, in all honesty. While last year I got a lot of “warm and fuzzy” support, I have felt invisible for the most part for much of this month on the writing challenge. The support is has just not been there for my blog.

Terms of Engagement

Part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge is to read and comment on at least three other blogs that are participating and posting to the forum. Instructions included to be sure to post on those blogs that are new to the challenge.  I definitely have done the last, and tried daily to do the first of these requirements. Yet, I have found my readership to be flat this month.

This observation made me wonder how it is going for other writers that are participating in the challenge. So, last night when I went to read and comment on the other blogs, I began noticing how others were fairing.  I looked at five blogs and commented on four.  Two of the blogs I commented on had no other comments before mine. The other two blogs had 2-3 comments a piece. Certainly, not a lot of comments but at least the author was connecting with readers.  It was 8:30 last night when I looked at this.  Each of those blogs had been posted for 3-5 hours before I commented.  I was not impressed. Where are all the supportive comments? Maybe it is just the blogs I chose to look at or maybe the community of writers is not the same this year.

Engaging readers is a difficult task.  You have to write on subjects people can relate to and do it with accessible language.  You have to offer an entertaining piece and not have it be too long. Offering a piece of appropriate length, I find difficult.  Some of my blog posts are expository, not just reflective, and might be a paragraph or two or three or four longer than other posts who come from authors just struggling to get it done for the day.  And, I’ve been there – done that, too. This month has been extra-busy for me with my graduate work and other obligations such as speaking at a local conference.

Ways to Engage: Visuals and Links

One needs to make their blog visually appealing with the use photographs. I usually try to include at least one photograph per blog. Again, I am wondering about the wisdom behind my decision to not have my photo only posts.


Providing links to similar content, references, or resources is also an important way to engage readers. If they think they might like something you mentioned, they will not have to hunt for it, if you provide a link.

Inspirations: Other Bloggers

Aim to inspire others and be inspired by others. There are a few bloggers to which I have  connected over the last year that I continually love to read and comment on their posts. One of these is the author of WahooLiteracyTeacher.

Another blog I have enjoyed reading is not from the Slice of Life Challenge but a blogger I connected with over the topics of distance education and anxiety, two topics on which we both have personal experience. This is the writer of AlysJournals. This young writer has found an audience.

Audience is something I believe I am still working on. My posts are varied from things that encompass parenting, travel, gifted education, educational reform, food, volunteerism, photography, and gardening. Perhaps, my blog is too broad. Perhaps, my readers do not know exactly what they’ll be getting when I write. Perhaps, it is just a lull. I will have to give this some thought.


In the meantime, I will finish the Slice of Life Challenge and be interested to know how my “numbers” will fare when they are stacked up at the end next to last year’s challenge.  I intend to play by their rules of engagement – after all they are only asking what blogging is about anyway – connecting with others.  I will wait on deciding to do next year’s challenge until next year. But, I will continue to write daily because I want to write and maybe, at this point, even need to write. A blogger wants to connect with readers. Ways readers can show they are connected or can relate to the blog or blogger is by viewing, liking, and comments on the blog itself.  I hope as I continue to do that for others, the same is done for me.

Whack a Mole ….

Whack a Mole ….

Place Based Learning: Instructional (PBL) Strategies was a one credit graduate course I took this past month. Thankfully, it is over!  From my past experience one credit classes seem to be over-filled with heavy assignments, placing demands on one’s time that seem incongruous with the gains received. Such was the case with this class. However, I really wanted to take it, as PBL has been how I have taught for the last 14 years!  I thought the class would give me some new ideas, connect me to new resources, and allow me to inspire others to use this method of teaching.

But, I ran into a snag! The final assignment was to video tape a micro-teaching lesson using PBL.  After much thought, planning, and a few concerns about things like consent to tape students, as well as a snow fall of six inches the morning of my lesson that necessitated a quick change in the lesson activity, I taught and the students taped me. That was well over a week ago. The lesson went well. I used a point and shoot camera and had 8 video clips ranging from 14 minutes to 38 seconds.  So, being the perfectionist that I am, I began editing the tapes and putting together a 30 minute presentation on iMovie. It turned out well but I had some frustrations uploading the video because my hard drive is close to being full.


Finally, I got the four videos uploaded but not without first having to clean files from my computer and put them on an external hard drive.


Once I was happy with the presentation on iMovie, I tried to export it to publish and be able to send to my professor as a file. It did not work! Whack! Then, I tried exporting to Vimeo. The files too were too large to be uploaded to a free account. Whack! Then, I tried You Tube and Facebook under private, or visible to me only links. No go!


and another hack!

Are you getting the idea? I felt like the mole in that old children’s game we had years ago, Whack a Mole, where you hit the mole when it popped its head out. Just as I was beginning to feel like I made progress, WHACK! I would be sent back down into the tunnel!

Fortunately, at 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning, I was able to upload the video from my SD card to Quick Time and from there compressed the files. The compressed files were then sent to my instructor! No fancy iMovie, no editing, no title page! Just 8 raw camera video files! I had to be done with it! So much wasted time! My one credit course cost me a lot more than it was worth!

mole-2089816_1280 copy

With my files sent, finally, my head was fully out of the tunnel!

I could rest easy and get some sleep!

Spring Haiku

Spring Haiku


Spring Beckons A Smile

Sun Warms Our Soil and our Souls

Welcome New Season

Maple Buds Ready

Plump Knobs Containing Green Leaves

Silently Opens

White Clouds Reflecting

Bright Sunshine in the Blue Sky

Whispers of Spring Call

Spring: Bright Clouds White Snow

Light Dances Off Every Surface

Teasing Us Forward

Yellow Daffodils

Soon to be Springing Up Now

Trumpets Announcing


Art on a Cart

Art on a Cart

Some years ago, before we expanded and built a fourth elementary school in our district, our students had art on a cart. Since there were so many students and only one art room, part-time art teachers visited classrooms for the time the students were scheduled to have art class, which I believe was once in every six-day period. It could have been more frequent but I fail to remember exactly how often it was.  I do remember that the art teachers would load up portable carts full of the materials needed to do whatever form of art on which the class was currently working. Paper, Scissors, Paints, Brushes, Tape, Pencils, Magazines and more were all pushed and pulled from one classroom to the next on a scheduled rotational basis. I specifically remember my youngest son was in first grade when he had Mr. B and, occasionally, Mrs. S. for art on a cart.  It didn’t seem to curtail the wonderful projects that would line the halls of the school and eventually arrive home.

I do not think the students minded art on a cart at all. After all, they still had their art class and didn’t even have to leave their classroom for the lesson. But, having been a “mobile” teacher myself – bringing my monthly lessons to school for garden club in bags, baskets, and totes as well as having to set up quickly in someone else’s space – I wonder how the teachers liked it. I do not mind having to cart my lessons around but it does require quite a bit of flexibility. I am sure the art teachers felt the same. Having a mobile classroom also requires a great deal of organization to ensure one has what one needs since you cannot just keep your supplies stored on a shelf.

Art on a cart lasted only as long as it took to build the fourth elementary school and alleviate some of the crowding and lack of available classroom space in the buildings. But, this all came back to mind this weekend when I carted posters, handouts, brochures, my Powerpoints, pens, props, and of course, tape to a conference venue to give a “lesson” on a larger scale. I was thankful for the experience I had with providing mobile presentations!

And then, yesterday, I returned to Sam’s Club where I saw a mobile cart a week before.  Our youngest son, the one who used to have art on a cart that I mentioned before, is an artist. He usually does hyper-realistic colored-pencil drawings. But, recently his high school art teacher pushed him to try pastels and water colors, too. After success with both of those mediums, he felt he wanted to try oil paints. So, we did what any parents would do when a child exhibits talent. We set him up a work-space in the basement utility room. We bought a set of oil paints, canvases, and brushes.  A week ago Sunday he completed his own “Bob Ross” style landscape. I was impressed. He was self-critical. But, I did notice that he needed a cart. A cart to store his art supplies on in the basement. A cart that could be stored against the wall, but pulled over to his work area when he was painting. I returned to Sam’s so that we could have art on a cart in our house!


Just like the creations that develop on the blank page or canvas, you never know where your ideas will come from or to what they will connect!  Art on a Cart – It was a good thing.



Darn That Daylight Savings Time!

Darn That Daylight Savings Time!

I was on a roll with my sleep lately. Prone to insomnia, especially when stressed or worried, it is not uncommon to find me wide awake in the middle of the night. I know I do not function well without a fair amount of sleep so I guard it carefully. I make it a habit to practice good sleep hygiene. This includes things like no caffeinated beverages after 3pm, a glass of wine at dinner – not later in the evening, keeping my bedtime routine the same – which includes reading a book for a few minutes, and having a dark but cool room. I am sensitive to any and all changes that occur in that routine – be it an outside light left on, a warmer than needed pajama set, or the lack of a good book to read. I try not to do school work or have difficult conversations right before bed. I also try to make sure I have a light snack, since I’ve noticed that if I wake up hungry in the middle of the night, it is difficult to get back to sleep. (This is definitely a first world problem.)  I also make it a habit to go to bed at the same time each night – within a range of 30 minutes, either side of 10:30 p.m.. And, I try to arise the same time each day. This is fairly easy when I have lunches to make and course work to tackle. I always feel like I am wasting time if I late to rise in the morning. So, I get up.

Being that I am so protective of my sleep and careful with my sleep habits, I have been very happy that my insomnia seemed to be under control lately- even with being somewhat stressed with life this winter.  But, I also know I am very sensitive to ANY changes. So, why would I be surprised when I was unable to get to sleep last night. Yesterday, we turned the clocks ahead by an hour for Day Light Savings Time.  UGH!

You have got to be kidding me, I thought to myself!  I had no worries. But, I had also skipped my evening snack because I wasn’t hungry.  I had a clue there might be a problem when I went to bed (at the same time, but really an hour early – on old time, as we say in our house) and remembered that I had finished the novel I was reading (The Woman in Cabin 10) and was without a book. I got back up and took We Were Liars off the shelf in my son’s room, getting back into bed and realizing my stomach was growling!  I tried to ignore it. I read a little bit, I was sleepy. I turned off the light and WHAM –  I find myself wide awake within ten minutes. By midnight I was in the kitchen making tea (decaf, of course) and helping myself to pretzel goldfish. (Thanks, Pepperidge Farms!)

It was probably close to 1 a.m. before I fell asleep – on the couch cozied up with two throws draped over me. I am ready to ditch that old tradition of Day Light Savings Time. It used to be hard to keep the kids on track when the time switched, now – it seems to be my problem! That Darned Daylight Savings Time!

Good Friends

Good Friends

Lately, while being in somewhat of a slump, I realized I have really good friends. Friends that know me so well, they know what will make me happy. Today, for my Slice of Life post, I thought I would share some things my friends have done to let me know they care for me.

A few months ago, my friend gave me milkweed seeds for my birthday. This gift was not just a couple of packets of seeds but enough seeds to fill 100 packets to package. As I was getting ready for presenting at a conference yesterday, I packaged the seeds and gave them away on my handout table!  Many thanks to my friend.  She helped me spread the word about planting milkweed and efforts to save the Monarch Butterfly!

Last week, two different friends posted short video clips to my FB page about the Monarchs “wakening” from their overwintering slumber in Mexico. It was a joyous sight. Monarchs are headed north now.  We will see them here in a couple of months (hopefully). I know my gardens of milkweed and flowers will be ready for them!

I received kind words of encouragement on days I was down. My friend who walks with me once a week was okay with my need to take a break from our weekly outing just because life got busy. We resume our walking today.  Thank you for waiting for me, dear friend.

My husband, who is also my best friend, has agreed to walk with me on my schedule, not his. I am not a morning person, while he is. He’d prefer to get up and out to walk. I would rather do it in the afternoon or early evening as we did Friday night at 8pm! It is a small but kind gesture that speaks to his love for me. Our walking is for our mutual exercise and health!

Through my friends, I’ve learned of the importance of being a good listener. We all need to know we are valued, that what we say matters, and be given the time to say it. This is something I grapple with in my daily life. Sometimes, people are too busy to really listen and hear what you are saying. As I try to listen to others, I hope others will listen to me. I also realize I need to position myself in a way I can be heard. Important stuff.  I am trying to listen more and speak only when I need to. It is difficult, but doable.

I have friends who supported my efforts at the gardening conference yesterday at which I spoke.  Even though they were not there in person, I know they were in spirit.  They know my passion. It was so good for me to feel like I was making a contribution at the conference and be valued for it. I realize this is something I need on a more regular basis.

My blogging friends consistently read what I write. I am so thankful for those friends. Writing has become an important part of my daily life. While I’d like to think everyone important to me reads my blog, I know it not to be the case. Still, I feel compelled to write.

My friends are good to me. I appreciate them all. Thank you!