Finding something beautiful each day

Adult spoonbill with two juveniles
Black crowned night heron, great egrets, ibis, roseate spoonbills
Killdeer sitting on her egg
Red Velvet, male cardinal, and Ginger, female cardinal lovingly feeding each other. Ginger was rehabbed after being hit by a car and released in my yard. She has made a full recovery and found love.
Great horned owlet
Petunia our resident squirrel who likes to stop and smell the roses
Juvenile bald eagle. This was incredibly hard for me to get in my wheelchair so I ended up lying flat on my back resting my camera on my knees
Mama and baby owlets napping in the afternoon
Sharp-shinned hawk lives behind my house with his mate
Northern Parula. A bird i have searched for for years and she ends up coming right outside my window!
Papa great horned owl trying to stay awake and watch over the nest while mama is hunting
I look forward to the goldfinches every year. They are only here a short time
Beautiful white winged dove stopped by my yard
This yellow throated warbler posed nicely with the flowers I put up
Petunia loves her flowers
Flying back to the nest over the prairie
Pine warbler landed just where I had hoped
Red tailed hawk very magestic
We have named him Denzel as he lives under the deck with his wife Marguerite and he often lands in front of flowers.
This mottled duck’s wings looked angelic to me
This least bittern is very elusive and I was thrilled to get this shot
After I thought the goldfinches had left, I discovered them on the thistle on the prairie
Flowers in gardens near our house
A flower in my neighbor’s yard

Two years ago I decided to start living each day to the fullest! I wanted to find something beautiful each day. That turned into over 1000 photos each day. I spend 4 hours or so a day taking photos and then another 3 hours looking through them and picking my favorites.

These are a few of my favorites for the last month. I hope they bring you as much joy as they have brought to me.

Parents: get your camera out of your kid’s face!

I am not impressed by a parent making their child add “ ma’am” to their yes. I’m going to go all biblical on you and say: 37Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ I don’t know if it is a parent trying to truly teach a child respect or if it is just a show for others. It often feels like it is a show for others, which they think reflects on the parent being a good parent because they raised their child well JUST by saying yes and no MA’AM. We all parent in different ways. We all teach our children and give our children experiences that we think will allow them to grow into honorable respectable adults. Some parents allow their children to sleep in bed with them, some don’t. Some mothers breast feed. Some don’t. Your parenting choice should be focused on you and your child and not social media worthy. I feel like somewhere along the way the child’s best interest has taken a second seat to “posts”.
I’m scrolling around social media and I am seeing parents sticking cameras in their children’s faces round the clock. When my daughter was young we photographed and videotaped as many special moments that we could. But NOT for social media purposes. And not to impress others and not for show. We videotaped because of the preciousness of the innocent moment that we wanted to capture and keep forever.
I don’t know the motivation, intention, or plan of parents now as they raise their children. I see on social media, “ The problem with kids now is they didn’t have this,” with a photo of a paddle or a belt. Videos and memes and gifs of what makes a good parent. It is all a bit nauseating to me.
I feel as if it is all, “ My child is better than yours! Look what mine can do! And this is how we get it done! And if you don’t do this or that (spank, breastfeed, make them do math at 2 years old) then you suck!”

Children are no longer raised to use their instincts. They are forced to stand strong, suck it up, and say yes ma’am and go hug uncle Bob and go kiss aunt Judy because THAT is what shows YOU are a good parent. Let me tell you right now that by doing these things you are NOT being a good parent. You are more worried and concerned by what other think than what is good for your child’s development.

What if uncle Bob makes them uncomfortable. What if they hide behind your leg and CLEARLY show you they are uncomfortable and yet you pull them out and force them to hug uncle Bob. You are taking away their instinct. They will no longer see you as a protector. Once you do this over and over and over again, that instinct is gone. Then when they are 18 years old about to step into an elevator and they see a man is in there, they don’t listen to that voice that says, “ It is unsafe to get into an elevator with that man based on how you feel.” They are thinking, “ Mom and dad always told me to be polite, be nice, don’t offend anyone, so I’m going to get on the elevator because I don’t want anyone to think I wasn’t raised right.”

I got my degree in child development for a reason. While getting that degree I learned that children need to feel heard, feel safe, and taught to follow their instinct. They need boundaries and consequences. They need positive reinforcement. They need unconditional love.
If I can give some advice in raising your children it would be this: Raise your child in safety and love, keeping in mind that your child matters more than what other people think (on social media) of how you are raising her. This is not show and tell of your child. Be immersed in moments with your child. Don’t let your mind wander to social media and if you should post it or not. Live it! Add to your child’s growth, do not diminish. Allow instinct, creativity, and imagination. Engage in being full present and put down the phone. Stop thinking about what would look good in a story to your friends, and full focus on what would FEEL good in your child’s heart. Get the camera out of their face and put their hands on a flower to plant in the garden. Teach them the names of trees and birds and flowers.
If you teach them to respect they won’t need a word to show respect.
Hey, use ma’am if you want. But back it up with some real parenting. Your child deserves that.

Acceptance: an ever evolving state of mind

If you go through life accepting bad behavior from others and dismissing their behavior away by excusing it or ignoring it, the damage will be tremendous. Sadly, most of the time this behavior has gone on or for so many years that you’ve become immune to it. You have a slight cringe then shrug it off. You may be so numb that you no longer cringe and instead let it become part of you. Those words pile up and build up and cause destruction. They destroy self confidence, self esteem and strongly affect how we view ourselves. Whether it is a friend, a parent or a spouse, you have to get away! How ever many years they did their damage it will equally take that long to undo it. It is hard to escape. You may move out and they follow you. The ties, especially to family, are very hard to break. It has been drilled into us to honor our parents and respect them. We were told from a young age to not talk back or voice our opinion if it did not line up with their opinion. Like many who are conditioned to these comments, it is very difficult to truly see them and be aware of the damage they are doing. A little comment here and one there. They add up over 30 years. One day you wake up and see the toxicity. The narcissistic behavior and dehumanizing demeaning behavior and it is a shocking revelation. These words have crept into your very being and become who you think you are. These words that are inappropriate and inexcusable are now seen as outrageous and you decide they will happen no longer.
When you decide you will not accept toxic behavior, you WILL become the bad guy/girl. You will be deemed angry and rude. You will be made an outcast. You no longer fit in and it will be told to you that it is because you’ve become different in a way no one likes. You will be demonized, lied about, and their true colors will be more clear than they have ever been. This will be a reflection on them. Not you.
The truth is, you have evolved. You now see and do not accept these people in your life anymore. You are aware. You want unconditional love. You want to learn how to love yourself. They will try to mark you with their words as they always have. You will become the enemy. It’s OK! They have to make you the enemy. If not, then they would have to be accountable for their actions. They will NEVER be accountable for their actions. Understand that now. Pining over them and hoping they will change will only be you falling back into old practices of thinking they are ANYTHING like you. They are not like you and never will be.
It is normal and human to wish they would change and understand why you no longer will allow them to degrade you. It is normal and human to wish they would run to you and say, “ I’m so sorry I hurt you by saying and doing those things.” At some point you will have to accept that they will not do these things. There will be no awakening for them. Even the IDEA of an awakening would open the box of denial they are living in and they can’t do that. They don’t want to see that. So they will live in their denial and facade to avoid the truth of who they are forever. That is on them. They are driven in ego. You’ve moved past their ego now and onto healing.
You have chosen a different path. You have chosen good and light and love. You have chosen to no longer allow abuse. This will take some getting used to. It will take time. But for your heart and soul and body, and for those in your life that love you, you’ve made the right choice. My husband loves me unconditionally. I cannot imagine it was easy for him to watch my family treat me as they did for all of those years. That love should be rewarded by removing the false loves OUT.
Acceptance is the biggest challenge I face. I fight it. I ignore it. I walk around it. I am not quite there yet. I believe it is because I thought that accepting meant forgiving. I thought accepting meant everything was ok as it is. I am now ever evolving to understand that just because I accept it, does not mean that I am happy about it. I don’t even have to let it go.
Accepting is simply a knowing. A realization that does not have to be concrete. It can be an ever flowing movement of your mind, from one space to another. It doesn’t have to be BOOM I ACCEPT. That is how it is working for me. Acceptance is a slow progression through understanding and validating oneself and loving oneself. You cannot undo being devalued in a day or a month or a year. At first it will seem easy to just hate them and know you did the right thing in that hate. But you cannot stay in the hate forever. It is a coping skill that you needed but will eventually move through. You never have to love them or forgive them again.
Acceptance is not about them.
Acceptance is…whatever you are comfortable feeling that it is. Just know that if you are moving toward acceptance, at any stage in the process, that means you have moved away from what was toxic. You are moving in the right direction! Stay that course! Take a deep breath. You’ve taken your power back.

Behind that smile: trigger warning

Behind that smile was already 6 years of sexual abuse. At the time of these photographs I was 14 years old. I look at my smile and feel haunted by it now. I did not have any concept of the magnitude of what had been done to me. I would not have known that 40 years later, I would still be waking up to nightmares.
In the photo of all of the girls, we are on swivel skis. The boot, where you put your foot into the ski, turned 360 degrees. It was very challenging for me. To some people, waterskiing came naturally. To me this did not. Smiles are deceiving aren’t they. To do this trick we were doing, we would put one foot in a special handle on the rope and then turn around backwards. Oh it was so difficult for me! Every other part of waterskiing was almost magical. Climbing to the top of a pyramid on the water I felt like I was on top of the world. To master this trick I had to be abused for years by a man who gave me lessons in exchange for using my body.
In the other photo, the ski team was in Costa Rica doing a ski show. Three men in that photograph had abused me. Many others in that photograph knew I was being abused. One man I confided in that I was being abused. I thought he’d save me. He didn’t. I look at myself in that photo, casually leaning on the knee of the guy next to me smiling. I remember that moment. The abuse had been going on for so long and by so many. I had been groomed for years. I had been brainwashed for years. I had no instinct, no intuition, and no gauge for the severity of what was being done to me. I had a “feeling” but did not know at 14 years old what that feeling was.
That ski team bled over into all areas of my life. Members of team went to my church, they were in my theater group, they were in my ballet and dance center. I could never escape. There was no escape for me.

I did not know what safe felt like. My “no” was never a no. My words were silenced, threatened, and shamed. This was not a one time event. This was an ongoing weekly abuse that lasted until I attempted suicide. I was thinking just last night about those who visited me in the hospital after that suicide attempt. They had no idea why I did what I did. They still came to see me. I remember them and their concern and love. A person doesn’t forget things like that. But an abuse victim does forget many other things. It is a protection mechanism. A survival technique that our brain does on its own so that we can live through the horror of each time.

My mother called DCFS after I told her about one of the men. I had turned 15 and something happened. I don’t know what happened in my brain that told me all of this was very wrong but I knew it was all wrong. After I knew, it became this identified feeling: traumatic. I did not know at the time that EVERY TIME prior was traumatic. But from that moment on I felt the trauma and I felt it hard. At that moment in my life of abuse, each time I had a pit in my stomach, thinking: someone save me, get me out of here. Once you know it is abuse, fear comes. Shock comes. The hope that someone will stop it comes. But no one did.
When the DCFS older white man came to my house and asked me what had been done to me, I had no idea what to tell him. I did not have the words to tell him what had happened. I did know I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I didn’t know what I had been shown was porn. And he did not ask if I had been shown naked people. He did not ask anything. How could I tell him that I was made to model and shown naked people and praised, etc. I did not know. I did not know. Anything! I was still a child. I did not know that what I had experienced by him was an erection. I knew there was something hard pressing against my butt but I did not know that was what it was. I did not know the right words to tell this man what had happened. I didn’t even know which parts were gravely heinous and which parts were just, eh, over the line…ofcourse I know now it was all abuse. I did not know because I was still a child. At 47 years old it is very easy to express every single detail of what happened. The DCF guy did not help me. He did not offer any way for me to tell him what I did not know how to tell him. This is hard to explain. I felt traumatized, invalidated, and even threatened. I had wasted this man’s time he said. I had now accused someone of something and I had no valid experiences to share he said. How did I expect him to help me…and it goes on and on. I did not know that men were not supposed to “accidentally” show you their penis. I did not know that I was not in the wrong for being forced to do things to men. “ Put my penis in your hand NOW. DO IT!” I mean I was doing what I was told. I was being a “good girl” so was that on the list of things to tell this man? And did I tell him of the 10 other men too? What was right and what was wrong was so blurry and I could not put it into words. Because of that one meeting, nothing ever happened to anyone.

After DCF was called and nothing came of it, more abuse came upon me. I was no longer on the ski team but I was waterskiing in shows with other groups of people who knew this secret of what had happened to me. I was pulled aside at ski tournaments, I was picked up for skiing jobs by men at the airport, I was placed time and time again in situations when I was still under 17 years old, where men were abusing and raping me. THEN I knew and THEN I dissociated from my body so often that anyone could do virtually anything to me. And they did.
I remember once at a ski tournament I went back to my hotel room to get something I’d forgotten and a guy from another ski team was there waiting for me. I can honestly tell you that I have only flashes of what happened but I do recall another guy coming in and telling him to put my bathing suit bottoms back on because adults were coming. I think I had just turned 15 then.
That time in my life I don’t even think I was alive. Most of me was dead, being killed, or quickly disappearing.

I have nightmares now and flashbacks now of things that I had no idea ever happened. Then in a flood of agony my body remembers.

I was still smiling when I was 14 years old in those photos because I was a child who had been sexually abused for so long that smiling was all I could do. I smiled through it all until I could not smile anymore. Once the ski club abuser threw me into the water because he wanted the other guys in the boat to see my breasts through my shirt all wet. They all laughed. I covered myself and I cried. I was 12 then. The next day at practice I smiled like it never happened.

40 years have passed since those photos were taken. I have PTSD. I have anxiety attacks. I throw up at certain scents, and flashbacks. I freeze when I should stand up for myself to this day.

Everywhere I turned I was not helped. The gynecologist, after multiple times seeing her thought I was a whore. At 15 years old. I already had sexually transmitted diseases and had a chunk of my cervix removed. I had been later raped and given who know what medication after although no rape kit had been done because I had no words. My BODY was the proof. But no one cared. I am not exaggerating. Hundreds could have stepped in. Falling through the cracks is just a catch phrase people use who CHOOSE to not do anything when the truth is staring at them right in the face.

I had no words.

I was a child.

I was then a teenager, still with no words. When I tried to speak my truth I was shoved aside and disregarded like trash. My family sent a clear message to the ski team when they allowed my brother to still ski with them after I had accused the ski team member of abuse. I spray painted the ski jump that he was an abuser. I told multiple people I was afraid of him, he had done things to me I did not like. I did not have the perfect words so my words meant nothing at all. The words I painted on the ski jump was very clear though. I named the abuser, said he was a child molester, said to protect your children, and it was covered up.


I spoke what I could. If one person would have helped me to express the details I would have. Had one person put their arms around me and told me that it would never happen again and I was safe now, that would have changed my life forever.

After being put into a mental hospital after the first suicide attempt, I got to come home on the weekends to see my brother skiing with the man who PUT me in the mental hospital.

I was blamed for years for not being able to tell all of the details. I mean, there was that smile! It could not have been that bad right?
I’d go to new waterskiing jobs and encounter the same abuser or a different one. My name was out there and they all knew I would do nothing, say nothing, and that my body was there for the doing.

I did not understand fully what had happened in my childhood. I saw it from a child’s skewed and groomed perspective. It was not until my best friend’s husband sexually assaulted me and held me against my will with a gun that my life flashed before my eyes. That was 14 years ago now. We are coming up on that date. Hmm, maybe that explains all of the nightmares. Anyway, I believed he would kill me because that was his plan. He said so. I was happily married with a 10 year old at home and my life was PERFECT! And then it wasn’t at all. I froze and I could not unfreeze. I stayed in shock for days and told no one. So the cycle repeated. And every single memory of my past came back and has been coming back ever since. I eventually told but “ it was too late.”

I started seeing a psychiatrist who helped me to understand the enormity of what had happened throughout my childhood and his assault. The affects of sexual trauma over and over and over again. She helped me to see it through an adult’s eyes, and I was horrified. I had a child the same age as I was, when I was being abused. She was just a baby! I was just a baby! I started remembering the details of the clock ticking on the wall and the smell of his breath and what was playing on the tv. I remembered watching myself outside of my body. I remembered his weight and I then understood that all of the words I could not speak were words a child should never have to. Those words were words a child should not know. I could not have known. They were abuse words. They were rape words. They were violation words. I did not know those words as a child and certainly no one helped me to find those words. It was much easier to pretend they never happened. My psychiatrist brought it all into focus. She allowed me to finally understand why I felt the way I felt. It was all normal. I am normal. My reactions are normal for a person who has been through so many traumas with so many men. I know that I will never be ok. I know that this will haunt me forever. PTSD does not go away. I have been given great coping skills but the flashbacks still come.

This sounds like I am writing just about me but I am not. I am writing for every other individual in the world who has gone through what I have been through. I sit here right now wondering what my life would been like had someone comforted me, loved me, made me feel validated, made me feel safe, been outraged, fought for me. I have no idea what that would feel like because to date, no one has ever done those things for me that were a part of my life then. No one who knew has apologized. No one who knew has reached out to me. No one has been held accountable. I’ve had two separate individuals reach out to me to tell me they knew I was being abused and tried to help but were stopped. I have told my story and people who did NOT know have supported me and been outraged that they did not know what was happening. That has given me some comfort. Those who did know, still have said nothing.

When telling my family the entire truth about my childhood they chose to do what they did back then but in a more severe stand. They turned their backs. They are no longer in my life. All they ever wanted were the details and when I gave them they still were not the perfect words they wanted to hear. They wanted me to shut up. The lies trickled and rippled through our town and friends and family so far that they have taken on a life of their own. I still tell the truth about what happened to me. I still try to protect girls on the ski team where the same abusers exist. No one cares. I have had the loss of my childhood and then the subsequent loss of my family and: NONE OF IT WAS MY FAULT.
In reflecting I’d have to say one derogatory thing about my family…they are all pathetic cowards and I deserve so much better. When you watch the movies and hear the dad’s say, “ If anyone hurt MY daughter, they’d never find his body,” know that in real life, dads don’t do that. My story is not original. I’ve met many victims who have the same family I did.

Some of the things that happened to me may not have been preventable. There are pedophiles and sex offenders and predators everywhere.

I am writing this because AFTER the abuse, HAD I been treated as I SHOULD have been treated, perhaps I would not be suffering now in such an incomprehensible way.

If you know of an individual who has been or is being abused, DO SOMETHING. I’ve heard it said, “ Well it wasn’t really my responsibility to do anything.” Whose responsibility is it then? Each person who knew and did nothing plays a part in the abuse. Each one. Their part, the ones who knew and did nothing, is, on some days, worse than the abuse itself. I needed to be saved. I needed to feel safe. I needed one person to fight for me. I was so very alone. An alone most could never understand. In some ways I still feel that.

How do you save someone? How do you make them feel safe? How do you validate?
There is not a perfect formula for how to treat an abuse victim. I can just tell you that you should try anything. TRY. You may not be perfect but TRY.
I used to crawl into my parents room and sleep next to their bed after they fell asleep because I did not feel safe in my own room. They never knew this. I would sleep in my closet because I was afraid to sleep in my own bed. My dad and mom divorced soon after all of this and my dad soon remarried and started a new family. It was like nothing had ever happened to me. I was…invisible.

Had I found out my daughter had been abused I would have asked her: What can I do to help you to feel safe? If you don’t know then can I make suggestions? Would you like me to put a mattress on your floor so you don’t feel alone? Would you like to sleep in bed with me? What can we do as a family to make you feel like we support you? We support you! We will fight for you! We will hug you if you want, not touch you if you want. We will do whatever it takes for you to feel loved and heard and safe again.

That is what I would have done. Had that been done for me then my life would be different. I know this. Shoot I not only had no one to make me feel safe, I still have family and ski club members who refuse to acknowledge anything that happened. They are angry at me for telling the truth. It “taints” their facade. They have said taints. My truth taints their memories. I will keep telling the truth of the abuse because their is one little girl or boy or adult who needs to know they are not alone. There is a parent who doesn’t know what to do. There is a friend who doesn’t know if she should do something and how. If you know someone is being abused don’t stop fighting for them until they are safe. No matter how many people turn their backs or shut you down, fight. Fight for those you love who have no voice and are unable to fight for themselves.

I remember bleeding in a back room and not knowing what to do. I was searching for something to scrub the floor so no one saw. I pulled my jeans up and there was blood all over them. Why was their blood? I didn’t know. I was told I was supposed to be happy. I was supposed to hurry and get dressed and act happy. But the blood. What was I to do about the blood?

And that was what was behind that smile. That smile when I was waterskiing in those photos. Behind that smile was a damaged, pained, horrified, traumatized, broken girl. No one wanted to know. And those who knew did nothing. So I am haunted. Haunted by the me with a smile. Haunted by the men. Haunted by those who used me and shared me like I was worth nothing. I am haunted still behind a smile. I may always be.

Two year persistence reward of a bobcat

I have been searching for this bobcat to photograph him for 2 years at the wetlands area we go to. I finally got my broken scooter fixed which can handle packed gravel unlike my wheelchair so we went out and just as we were leaving and the sun was setting my husband saw him! From my scooter I couldn’t get a photo so I flopped down in the dirt and took this I was so excited I had to share it!!! TWO YEARS!!!!!