“Reflections — On a Rather ‘Moving’ Summer Experience”

It has been a while since I posted a new piece on the Writing Blog here with Little Red Bear, but with the completion of a long-drawn-out relocation over the summer and now past Labor Day, we are ready to get back in the writing saddle again. There are still boxes waiting to be unpacked, mostly bear making, jewelry, and other art supplies, but my Writing Muse has returned from her summer break, will wait no longer, and is waking me daily at 5:00 a.m. with more Little Red Bear characters and stories again, along with other fun new ideas, so it is time to crank up the laptop and get busy.

But first, a question – Are you or someone you care about possibly considering a move and relocation in the future? If so, I urge you to please read on before embarking on such a torment venture.

Because we thought perhaps it might be best to start back by bringing you up to date with some observations about –  ‘The Move’ – a “Moving Postmortem”, if you will. It should be noted that this is move number three in the past six years and number four in fourteen for Little Red Bear and me, some local and some cross-country, two self-moved and two with so-called ‘professional’ movers, so we do feel a bit qualified to address the subject, hoping others may benefit from our misfortunes experiences.


With this somewhat broken-down, cane-in-hand (and some days two) baby boomer pushing into the shadow of seventy soon, this most recent move stopped just short of overwhelming. Aside from an improbable winning lottery ticket and penthouse condo dream in Fort Walton Beach, if forced by unavoidable calamity or circumstance to move yet again in the near future, the only box I will order will be made of pine and be done with it. Let others do the heavy loading, lifting, and lugging next time. “Waiter – check, please.”

As physically and mentally stressful and taxing as it was, not to mention severely strained family relationships on the actual moving day and apparent ongoing communications blackout since, I am happy to report that I have once again somehow managed to survive a relocation and lived to tell the tale. Or, at least to pass along some hopefully helpful insights garnered from the experience to perhaps ease the moving journey for the next intrepid soul contemplating a change in address. And beneficiaries, perhaps.

They say that moving is right up there with the death of a loved one, job change, and divorce as life’s biggest stressors. Having experienced all firsthand, they will get no argument from me.

So at this time, in mostly random order as they occurred to me between nightmares and hallucinatory flashbacks of moving day, here are a few nuggets I consider worth mentioning. I say “I” and not “we” here, because for the majority of the time Little Red Bear was in a dazed state of nervous, glassy-eyed distress, obsessing over the safe transport of his honey stash, and not the most aware or observant to offer meaningful commentary on other matters.


My first thought, superseding all others, is to simply take a match and set fire to everything right at the start. Don’t stress over downsizing, what to take, what not to take, what is an heirloom somebody three generations down the line may treasure, who might benefit the most from giving whatever away? Simply torch it all in the name of Righteous Downsizing and be done with it. Nobody really cares. Save the pile of money spent on boxes, packing materials, dish padding, bubble wrap, packing tape, box labels, a moving truck, dollies, furniture pads, movers, Band-Aids, and aspirin.

Simply purchase a cheap brand of kitchen matches instead, together with a box of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. Light up the night, make S’mores and set off some fireworks. Collect the insurance money, replace needed items with brand spanking new, thumb your nose at future generations who most likely won’t give a hoot about your grandmother’s vintage teapot anyway, and take a vacation trip to the beach to celebrate letting go and outwitting the moving gremlins.

(Side note — It should be noted that I am still researching and waiting for our esteemed attorney, Brooks the Badger — Attorney at Lawlessness, to get back to me on any possibly relative arson, insurance fraud, and other niggling details which may interfere with this plan, so you may wish to hold off on the matches and taking action on this one until I confirm the “Match Plan’s” viability, despite the clearly obvious appeal.)

Bonfires notwithstanding, feel free to go ahead with the S’mores, though. S’mores are always a good part of any plan. And, you may want to consider doubling or tripling the recipe, depending on how neighbors may feel about your moving away from the neighborhood and possibly wanting to celebrate your departure, as well. Certainly not that any neighbors would be celebrating in your case of course, but thought it worth mentioning for others, perhaps. Just in case.

Here is a tantalizing recipe for Campfire Waffle Cone S’mores from Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen to help get you started! These look amazing and provide a cleaner handle for the little ones in the crowd at the same time. Moving is hard enough. Why add chocolate-covered little hands to the mix?


‘Moving’ on, in case “The Match Plan” does not interest, I have always been a collector of books, still preferring to read a book in hand vs one on my Kindle. For me, something still just doesn’t feel quite right holding a Kindle in my hands compared to a good old-fashioned, page-turning, ink-scented, hard-bound print book. And since the print version of the “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The First Holler” short story collection has outsold the Kindle version by over two to one since its publication despite the necessarily higher price, I tend to think I am not alone in this view.

That being said, after packing, stacking, moving, re-moving, sorting, re-stacking, and then unpacking ten heavy boxes of collected books (treasured, each and every one!), someday I want to track down the inventor of Kindle and eBooks and give them a big bear hug and jar of honey!  Moving the stacks of books nearly killed my back, while my Kindle made the move nestled comfortably in my backpack as it always does. I have clearly not given eBooks the credit they deserve in that regard. The ability to carry your bookshelves in your backpack is a strong selling point for eReaders.

And where do you strike the balance between “overly-heavy boxes” and “too many boxes” for a move? Heavy items (like ‘books’) are supposed to be packed in small boxes, avoiding overly-heavy large boxes weighing the same as a baby elephant and too weighty to carry. So, you end up instead with stacks and stacks and stacks of small boxes if you have a moderate-sized book collection, and moving helpers suffer immediate panic attacks at the site of all the stacks. Likewise, the old vintage vinyl record albums. I will always keep my books and albums, but moving them seems a no-win situation.


If at some point during all the moving work, I say –  “Hold on for a minute, I need to take a sit,” – please listen closely. That should not be confused with something else. It merely means that my back and legs are aching very badly and I need to sit down and rest for a few minutes before passing out and risk dropping a 50-pound box on your foot. There is no need to dash about opening windows and searching for spray cans or push me out the door towards the little shack in the back, especially on a 95-degree day. Perhaps I should try to be more clear.


Over the course of the move – organizing, packing, stacking, reshuffling, reorganizing, re-stacking, and schlepping about – all of the boxes and I became very well acquainted, especially those whose handles tore and gave way while carrying to customarily crash on my foot. Familiar to the point where I often felt obliged to give names to my cardboard companions. None of which are suitable for printing in a family-friendly blog it must be noted, so that’s about all I can say about that. Nevertheless, you should feel free to name your boxes beyond the requisite Room/Content information label, too. It makes it all a bit less stressful to be on a first name basis when your foot gets pancaked. Even if the names aren’t printable.


With regards to the Room/Content labels for boxes –  use them or don’t, being aware that they are solely for your personal comfort and use and nobody else will notice. In my experience, movers could care less, if they even bother to look at them at all. You politely request –  “Please put the boxes in the correct rooms as indicated by the labels, with like boxes (as in “Books –  #1 of 10) in stacks with the labels facing outwards so I can see them.”  You actually get – Box Chop Suey –  with boxes randomly placed helter-skelter anywhere in your home, most often closest to the entrance where a spot was available at the time they were carried in.

One possible solution to this, instead of labeling merely the box top and front as I have naively done in the past, is to next time label every side, top, and bottom, so that no matter which direction a box is placed in a towering stack, you will be able to read its contents at a later time and locate things. Bearing in mind, they will still in all likelihood, not be sorted by rooms. Half a win, possibly.

Marking boxes as “Fragile” is also at your discretion, as inevitably light boxes labeled “Fragile” most often could be found at the very bottom of stacks, with heavy boxes on top of them. I caught one mover actually kicking a “Fragile” box into place at the bottom of a stack. If it makes you feel more comfortable and helps you sleep at night by labeling glassware and the like as “Fragile”, by all means, do it. Just bearing in mind again that it will probably make no difference whatsoever.


Every small accomplishment is a positive step forwards in the sometimes seemingly endless treadmill march in relocation and should be celebrated. I think this helps to keep spirits up and maintain momentum going forward. And that’s important. Seal up a box or unpack one at the new destination? Find a box that you have been searching for an hour amongst the mish-mashed stacks? Stop for a few minutes and have a piece of cake to mark the accomplishment!

No need to worry about extra calories or packing on unwanted pounds, because there will likely be much more packing, unpacking, and hefting ahead to burn them off anyway, if not simply to avoid abject deprivation and starvation in the process altogether.

So have the Cupcake. Or a Twinkie. Or a Snickers bar. If destined to pass over to the light during the ordeal, I would much rather go out with my last thought on Earth being the fond remembrance and aroma of a Brownie or Butterfinger bar, than being mired in packing tape with the smell of cardboard in my nose. I think it will make for a much more enhanced next life, Karmic experience.


One can never have too many boxes at hand, or too much packing tape, bubble wrap, and wrapping paper. It is very unsettling to discover that you are out of any of these items the night before a move and the stores have all closed.  The importance of peace of mind and normal blood pressure at 2 a.m. when the movers are scheduled to arrive mere hours later cannot be overemphasized and greatly outweighs the minor hassle of what to do with a few leftover boxes at the end. (Tip – U-Haul buys back any unused boxes, so save your receipts.)

It is my observation that the normal life expectancy of many life forms on this planet is sadly not long enough to pack a kitchen and dining room. However long you think it will take, add six months. Unloading cabinets while individually wrapping each glass, cup, mug, shot glass, dish, bowl, plate, serving platter, cutting board, trivet, cooking pot, skillet, griddle, wok, spatula, serving spoon, knife set, pancake turner, ladle, potato masher, salad spinner and bowls, cookie sheet, muffin tin, pie plate, cake pan, loaf pan, bread pan, measuring cups and spoons, cake and serving platter, utensil drawers, and more, seemed (like this sentence) truly never-ending. Not to mention cookbooks, recipe boxes, and innumerable spice and storage containers.

Every time I turned around thinking I was nearly finished, another cabinet awaited. Packing the kitchen cabinets, pantry, and dining room hutch seemed truly never-ending. Add the six months to your schedule to be safe. Minimum.

If there is any outside chance that you may possibly even consider moving in the next three years or so, regardless of how remote the possibility, start packing the kitchen now to be safe and avoid heartache.


Are you like me and have a nice inventory of cast-iron cooking utensils? Skillets of various sizes, grills, griddles, and Dutch ovens?  God bless you.  And have mercy on your back and movers. I absolutely love all of my cast-iron cookware. But moving them –  not so much. If we could fit a battleship onto a scale, I believe that we could balance it with the counterweight of a Dutch oven and three assorted cast-iron skillets.

My one little 9” specialized cast-iron wedge pan for making cornbread and scones is approximately the weight of a St. Bernard all on its own. And despite how often used as that pan is, I stand a reasonably better chance of the lumbering St. Bernard coming to me when I call it, especially if I am holding a slice of bacon. And there’s an outside chance he may arrive with a little barrel of brandy, to boot.

The ponderous skillet? Bacon treats or not, indifferent at best, just sitting there waiting to be carried like a whining baby Titanosaur.


And then there are the kitchen appliances, each seeming to only want to fit into its own individual box, with every one larger and heavier than I remembered having merely observed them serenely sitting on the countertop over the years. I confess to never really having appreciated just how heavy and cumbersome a stand mixer, toaster oven, and microwave truly are. Were these things this heavy when I purchased them and set them on the counter in the first place? Or was I simply so excited over the new acquisition that I was running on adrenaline at the time and did not notice? In all likelihood, I imagine that, like me, they seem to have gained weight with age, to be honest. I’m sure all of those calories that they processed must have had some cumulative, weight-enhancing effects over the years, wouldn’t you think?


And have I mentioned yet that one can never have too many boxes at hand? The coffee maker, smoothie machine, iced tea maker, and toaster all sat comfortably in peace side by side by side by side in a small area on my kitchen counter. Like children in the backseat of a car, will any ride peacefully along in the same box with another? Of course not.

And while on the topic of appliances, the oh-so-carefully set toaster settings which we labored so hard to perfect over time will inevitably be reset during any move. Box gremlins apparently can’t wait to dive in and twist the blazes out of the light-to-dark toast setting dial. I was reminded of this little moving reality by a perfectly cremated breakfast bagel yesterday morning.

May its little cranberry/walnut-filled soul rest in peace.

Here lies my bagel,

‘Twas just a wee little wisp,

Done in by my toaster,

Woefully burnt to a crisp.

 


If you can avoid it, never seek the help of a bear when preparing and packing for a move. Little Red Bear occupied the time leading up to the move either worriedly pacing back and forth in the kitchen, or on my laptop researching the safest and most recommended ways on YouTube to move his honey stash. And then he spent the entire packing time sitting ill at ease in a corner fretting over the possibility of a pending honey calamity, nervously wrapping, unwrapping, rewrapping, re-unwrapping, and re-rewrapping a dozen honey jars over and over and over again, night after night.

By the time moving day dawned, the poor fellow’s ample-sized bear claws had been anxiously nibbled to nubbins. In the end, each jar of honey occupied its own medium-sized box, securely wrapped in half a roll of bubble wrap, with packing paper firmly stuffed into the corners so there would be no jostling of the cherished honey jar. Treasured works of antiquity have not been transported by museums with such care and concern.

Our Bear Cookie Jar was wrapped the same way. In a predictably even bigger box.

Needless to say, Little Red Bear grew ever more relieved, excited, and happy as each box was unpacked later in our new home to find a safely-transported jar of honey inside.  Spare yourself the trouble and the tranquilizers (not to mention a small fortune in bubble wrap) by packing any honey jars yourself. Give the bears your new address to meet back up at a later date and send them off fishing somewhere. It’s best for all concerned in the end. Trust me.


If you haven’t guessed yet at this point, stock up ahead of time on aspirin and antacids.

Aside from nervous bears, cranky family members, and inept movers though, some trusted friends can truly be of assistance surviving the relocation turmoil and stress.

Overall, the two most dependable and helpful companions that I relied upon the most during the transition, move, and subsequent resettling were named Jack Daniels and Captain Morgan.


This information has been offered in the hopes that it may help ease someone else’s moving day experience, should anyone be forced or so misguided as to voluntarily embark on such an undertaking of their own in the future.

Speaking of undertaking — I may have forgotten to mention that while an ominous flock of buzzards circled patiently above my apartment during the weeks of moving preparation, it was really the three black hearses and undertakers following along on moving day, incessantly jockeying to be first in line behind the car en route, who were undeniably the most unsettling and worrisome.


In the end, when all was done and dusted, nothing of major consequence was damaged or broken aside from a few more nicks, scratches, and battle scars acquired on furniture pieces and my legs. A carelessly self-inflicted cut has healed, and black and blue marks have at last begun to fade. Yet another successfully completed move in the history books.

Unexpected at this time as it was, the strenuous move aside, Little Red Bear and I are delighted to be in our new home. Still settling in, finding forgotten about treasures from the past while unpacking, meeting wonderful folks and making new friends every day.

Any major life change is stressful at the time, and frequently a very bumpy road to travel sometimes littered with potholes and challenges. But from my experience — in the end — each and every one has been for the better in the long run and have no doubts at all about this one being the same.  Every new location and each new person we meet is an opportunity to learn more, expand our horizons and awareness, and to become a better person ourself. And that is what we are all really here for, is it not?


So, once again, Little Red Bear and I are delighted to announce –

WE’RE BAAAAACK!

Thank you as always for visiting,  kindly spending part of your day with us here, and for patiently following along as we seemed to take way too long to get thru this latest move. Little Red Bear and I are very anxious to be sharing new information, stories, and adventures with you again, along with new features and tidbits about Red’s coming new adventures in the works now.

We look forward to your visits with us and hope that you drop by often for new posts and features as we now enter our favorite time of year here in the backwoods – Autumn and the approaching Holiday Season!

The rest of the boxes will just have to wait,

Because now we have Muffins and Pies to bake!

Very best wishes and bring on all the pumpkin and fall recipes! Watch for a new Autumn Recipes feature coming soon, and a reminder to register and follow my writing blog to be notified of every new post. – Jim (and Red!)


“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” — Maya Angelou

“Some trails are happy ones, others are blue. It’s the way you ride the trail that counts. Here’s a happy one for you.” — Dale Evans


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place. We stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” — Pascal Mercier


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today, because together we can do so much!

Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


                 “It is amazing how nice people are to you when they know you’re going away.”           — Michael Arlen

“The light is what guides you home, the warmth is what keeps you there.” — Ellie Rodriguez  

Happy Hummer Season! Welcoming, Helping, and Attracting Hummingbirds In Your Neighborhood

Happy Hummer Season!  Soon the buzzing and whirring sounds of rapidly beating wings and flashes of color will be filling the air in our backyards once again. The hummingbirds return!

My earliest memories of hummingbirds from many years ago recall the stern admonition and warning from my Mother, taking a page from the ‘Mother’s Guide to Eyes & BB Guns’ — “Don’t go anywhere near the hummingbirds or bother them. They’ll poke your eye out with that bill of theirs!” 

This has always seemed out of character with my Mother’s deep love for all things ‘nature’, but she nevertheless firmly stood by it all thru the years. Maybe she knew someone from her past that had an unfortunate run-in with a disgruntled hummingbird. But I tend to doubt it.

Despite the “Eye Poke” warning, we planted a never-ending stream of flowers and butterfly bushes over the years to attract them, and it was always a special time celebrating new arrivals each Spring. It seemed that Summer would not really be Summer without Hummingbirds buzzing around our flower gardens!

Hummingbirds are a joy to observe in the backyard as they hover, flit and fly about, and will very soon be arriving back to summer homes in North America from winter stays in Southern Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and other regions of Central America. Hanging a nectar feeder to greet their arrival in Spring will help immensely as they arrive thirsty and in quick need of nourishment following their long migrations northward.

To find out when to expect the arrival of regional hummingbirds in your area, check out the Audubon Guide.  Residents in the South and along the Gulf shores should expect them first and have feeders out, available, and at the ready. When the tiny hummingbirds arrive after long journeys across the Gulf of Mexico from Central and South America they are famished, exhausted, and in need of quick energy resupply!


Providing a hummingbird feeder in your yard helps to renourish the little hummers quickly and get them off to a healthier start for the coming breeding season after their arduous travels northward, and can be both a source of entertainment and a healthy learning experience for the children in your family as they learn more about nature.

If unprepared in the Spring, not to worry. It is never too late during the season to put your first feeder out for hummingbirds, and extra feeders in the fall are very important for both local birds to prepare for southern migrations and for those passing thru from up north on their way south. It’s never too late to start.

Hummingbirds need to consume several times their body weight in food intake each day and are necessarily always on the lookout for flowering plants to quench their thirst and maintain energy.  Flowering plants for the hummingbirds are much more numerous and available during the summer months, so providing an early supplementary food source with a hummingbird feeder can help them get thru leaner spells in springtime when flowers and natural food sources are not yet as numerous.

There is no need to worry about supplementing their diet with a feeder and distracting hummingbirds from natural food sources, as they will continue to seek out and consume plant nectar, small insects, and tree saps to prepare for the breeding season, and then later feeding their young in the nest. And later still, preparing for fall southern migrations back to their winter homes.


To select the best feeder, choose one that can be easily cleaned on the inside to prevent contamination and illness for the birds, and one that is brightly colored with lots of red to get their attention and attract them to your feeder.

If you have few hummingbirds in your area, completely filling the feeder is not necessary, to not waste the nectar mixture. As the season progresses, filling the feeder to the brim may be more advisable as the birds will be visiting more often to drink and the feeders will probably be even busier with greater numbers in the summer heat and growing families.

If there are a large number of hummers in your area, a larger feeder with a greater number of feeding ports can help to reduce territorial conflicts brought about by the hummingbirds’ natural territoriality and competitiveness to guard the feeding source by allowing more birds to access the feeder. Everyone enjoys a little elbow room.

Feeders can be inexpensive and plain, or very decorative and ornamental.  The hummingbirds only care about the nectar and happily leave design and decor choices to the humans’ personal tastes.  But it is important for any feeder to contain a good deal of bright red coloration.  Hummingbirds are naturally attracted to brightly colored flowers, including yellows, oranges, pinks, and purples, but are drawn to the color red much more than any other color as it signals a food source to the tiny bird, so they naturally associate the color red with food.

Wearing a bright red shirt one hot day last summer, a hummingbird approached and examined me closely before sadly moving on, clearly disappointed after determining that the giant flower he thought he had joyfully discovered was not in fact, a flower.


There is no need to purchase pre-packaged hummingbird food mixes in the store, as a perfect nectar mix can be easily and inexpensively prepared in your home kitchen using only sugar and water as the ingredients.

It is important to prepare the nectar supplement mixture using only Refined White Sugar, as honey can promote dangerous and harmful fungal growth and should never be used. In addition, organic, natural and raw sugars may all contain excessive levels of iron which can be harmful to the birds. Plain, white refined sugar is sucrose, which when mixed with water comes the closest to matching the chemical composition of naturally occurring nectar in the wild.

With a brightly colored red feeder, there is no need to add red food coloring to the nectar mixture, as the chemicals in food coloring can be harmful to the hummingbirds.


To prepare the nectar mixture, simply mix 1/4 Cup of Refined White Sugar in 1 Cup of Boiling Water until the sugar is all dissolved, or a ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water if preparing a larger amount. Let the mixture cool and then fill the feeder and hang it outside for the birds. Simple as that.


For best results, hang the feeders preferably about head high so you do not need a ladder to reach it for cleaning and refilling, and also in the shade to keep the nectar from spoiling as quickly as it would in the full sun.  The nectar will serve as a healthy and beneficial supplement to the birds’ natural nectar diet in springtime, and then all summer long as well, providing the birds with an extra and welcome energy boost at the end of long, hot, and dry summer days.


Keeping the feeders freshly filled and available for the birds when fall arrives and having the extra nectar nourishment available will help your little neighborhood hummingbirds restrengthen after the breeding season is finished, boosting energy and helping them to prepare for their long migration back to southern wintering grounds.

Autumn feeders will also provide welcome and needed nourishment to migrating birds passing thru on their way south. Because of the influx and numbers of migrating birds, putting additional hummingbird feeders out in the fall can actually be very helpful in providing needed migration energy for all.

Extra nectar mix may be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks in a clean glass or plastic container.  If the mix in the feeder becomes cloudy or mucky, it should be discarded and the feeder cleaned.  The feeder should be cleaned regularly every few days, especially during hot weather to keep it free from mold and mildew, as nectar is a food and will spoil. We usually clean ours every other day just to be safe.

Feeders can be cleaned using various sized bottle brushes and by soaking them in a mixture of 1 part plain white vinegar and two parts hot water, then thoroughly rinsing to keep the birds healthy.

If black mold is detected, soaking for an hour in a bleach mixture of 1/4 cup bleach to a gallon of water can be done, followed by a very thorough rinsing. Mold should not be an issue if the feeders are cleaned regularly.

To control and keep away uninvited wasps and bees which may visit hummingbird feeders, avoid choosing a feeder with the color yellow on it, as yellow is known to attract them.  Some feeders have built-in water moats which protect against ants contaminating the nectar, and some have screens over openings which only allow the hummingbird’s long tongue to enter, keeping bees and other insects out.

For additional tips to prevent the problem of unwanted insect visitors,  visit Control All Insects On Nectar Feeders.  In years of feeding hummingbirds with different types of feeders, we have never really had a problem with either mold or uninvited guests.


Hummingbirds can be territorial, especially during breeding season, so there is no harm in hanging out more than one feeder, which may result in even more visitors to your yard.  If possible and for the best results, hang additional feeders out of the line of sight from one to another to attract more birds and to diminish conflicts over territory.

Adding native plants for your regional area and growing them in your garden and yard will also help the hummingbirds by providing natural shelter and food, including a healthy environment for insects. Many are surprised to learn that insects provide an important part of the hummingbird’s diet, especially during the breeding season.

For help in selecting the best native plants for not only hummingbirds but all birds, a great resource to check out is Audubon’s Native Plant Database. Simply enter your zip code to find the recommendations of local experts in your area for your yard. Then you can narrow down the search by the type of birds and/or plants you have in mind.


So, happy Hummer Season!  Little Red Bear and I hope this guide to helping the hummingbirds was helpful, and that both you and your family are able to experience the joys and delights of watching the amazing aerial displays and acrobatics of hummingbirds all summer long. Teaching children about the wonders of Mother Nature can never begin too early, and hummingbirds are fascinating and captivating to watch for all ages.

Likes, Comments, and Shares are always appreciated to help spread the word to others about Mother Nature and helping to make the world a better place for everyone.

Thanks as always for visiting and spending part of your day with us.  Join us in the “Smile & Compliment” club and help brighten someone’s life today!  — Jim (and Red!)


“Kindness is the sunshine in which virtue grows.” — Robert Green Ingersoll

~ Every Day is Earth Day.   Think Globally — Act Locally. ~


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

                   “The woods hold not such another gem as the nest of the hummingbird.                   The finding of one is an event.” – John Burroughs


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.

Because together we can do so much!


“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” — Vincent van Gogh

“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the Earth are never alone or weary of life.” – Rachel Carson


 

Happy Spring! — On Singing Birds, Baby Rabbits, and Our New Video “Springtime in Little Red Bear Land!”

Happy Spring!  Long awaited, Spring seems to have finally arrived here in the Central Midwest, while other areas to the north are still being buffeted by Winter-like storms.  Two days in the past week reached 80F degrees and doggone it the calendar says April 15th, so with all due respect to Jack Frost and Ol’ Man Winter, Little Red Bear and I are firmly declaring “Welcome Spring!”

As I write this, the windows are open and two Cardinals are singing lustily back and forth in the front of my home, while a House Finch sings for his enchanted in the back. An untold number of English Sparrows are embroiled in loud and urgent arguments over prime nesting spots behind outdoor lamp fixtures around the building.

Robins have been hopping along on the grass for a few weeks now, and I was blessed to see the arrival of a pair of Goldfinches yesterday morning, the first seen this year. The House Wrens have yet to arrive in my neighborhood, but they are usually among the last to arrive, along with the Hummingbirds.

Birds are dashing here and there hurriedly weaving and constructing new nests, while bear cubs, fox kits, and other babies are emerging from dens. A good time to remind to please be careful when driving or out and about with activities, to please be watchful for Mother Nature’s sometimes clumsy and careless new youngsters scurrying about, and to be mindful of spring families and nesting sites, including nesting shorebirds if visiting the beaches.

Because — Spring has arrived!


Little Red Bear has been hard at work on a new video celebrating “Springtime in Little Red Bear Land” and decided it was time to share it with everyone. As the Director of our videos, Little Red Bear has added a new wrinkle to this one, incorporating mini videos within the primary video.  Please let us know if you like our new mini “videos-in-a-video” approach because Red’s always trying new things to make them better and more entertaining for everyone.

Very special “Thank You’s!” to our dear photographer friends Adele Barger Wilson, Marilyn Schroeder, Matt and Delia of M&D Hills Photography, and Sallie J. Woodring Photography for the generous use of their images to create this video, along with images and video inserts from Pixabay.

Our hope is that even though some areas may still be held in Winter’s icy grip, Little Red Bear’s video will help bring warming thoughts of Spring to arrive soon.

We hope you enjoy Little Red Bear’s new video, and if so would truly appreciate a “Thumbs-Up” on YouTube to help other people find their way to it. Likes, Comments, and Shares are always appreciated! Happy Springtime!

When Spring arrives in your backyard — Open the windows! Listen to the songbirds! Watch the baby animals bouncing around! Walk barefoot in the new green grass! Plant a garden with some flowers for the bees and pollinators! Get dirty! Jump in a rain puddle! Take a hike and enjoy all of Mother Nature’s Springtime blessings!

If you have Dandelions popping up here and there in your yard this Spring, please check out “Please Don’t Pull The Dandelions — They’re Nature’s Gift!” before cranking up the lawn mower or reaching for the weed puller.


Jeffrey and Jolene are a pair of cottontail rabbits who live with their family beneath Red’s cabin in “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” stories, invited there along with others by Little Red Bear for protection against marauding packs of weasels. But not all rabbit families are so lucky to have a caring and helpful bear in the neighborhood. So, while pushing or riding the lawn mower this Spring, please be watchful to navigate around rabbit nests with babies in your yard.

A quick walk around the yard while picking up winter twigs and debris before mowing, searching for depressions in the ground and grass, can reveal any nests to be easily avoided later when mowing. Be on the lookout for fluffy tufts of the mother rabbit’s fur or for what otherwise may appear to be simply brown patches of dead grass. There may be a nest beneath, and a quick inspection will reveal it.

If you find one, simply leave a six-foot circle of unmowed grass around the nest, and then keep children and pets away for a few weeks. For more information and a quick little video, check out How To Spot A Rabbit Nest Before Mowing Your Lawn from Ontario Wildlife Removal, Inc. The mother rabbit rarely visits the nest during daylight hours (to avoid tipping off the nest’s location to predators), so not seeing any rabbits in your yard is not an indication that there are no nests. Please take a few minutes to simply walk around your yard before mowing to avoid any tragedies.

The baby rabbits only stay in a nest for about three weeks, so while leaving a circle of uncut grass around a nest for a few weeks is not really a big deal for us, it can be a lifesaver for baby rabbits!


If you would like to check out more of our videos, please visit Little Red Bear’s Homespun Videos page to see all that Red has produced to date.

Thanks always for visiting and spending part of your day with us!  Wishing you and your family a very Happy Spring! — Jim (and Red!)


“In spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” –  Margaret Atwood

“To pick a flower is so much more satisfying than just observing it, or photographing it . . .                        So, in later years, I have grown in my garden as many flowers as possible                       for children to pick.” – Anne Scott-James 


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“In springtime, love is carried on the breeze. Watch out for flying passion and kisses whizzing by your head.” –  Emma Racine Defleur


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.

Because together we can do so much!


” Spring is nature’s way of saying — ‘Let’s party!’ ” –  Robin Williams


 

Little Red Bear’s Special Easter Recipes & Ideas To Please Everybunny!

When Little Red Bear and I are not trying to scrub Easter Egg dye from our hands (paws), we like to discover interesting and fun new recipes and treats to make for family and friends.

It has been a few months since Little Red Bear shared some of his special recipe finds with the holiday season so busy and everyone having their own family favorites, but with the Easter Bunny working overtime and the holiday drawing near he thought it a good time to get going again and share some Easter treats and information. Let’s get hopping!

Starting off with a healthier treat for the little ones because being about Easter treats and goodies it’s likely to become more sugary sweet as we go along.

As usual, simply tap on the link to view the original recipe and provider’s page.


Peep Fruit Kabobs

An alternative to sugary sweets, little ones should ‘Peep!’ with delight over these.

Peep Fruit Kabobs Recipe


Krispie Treat Goodies

Krispie Treats are among Little Red Bear and my favorites for Easter and any time of year!  Here are three different Krispie Treat ideas to make up for Easter.

Fruity Pebble Krispie Treats — My personal favorite kind of marshmallow cereal treat, made with Fruity Pebbles cereal for a different and fun take on the original.

Rice Krispies Treat Easter Eggs — Fun for the whole family!  Simply use plastic eggs to form the fun egg shapes for these.

Easter Rice Krispie Cake — Neither Little Red Bear nor I had ever seen a cake made from Rice Krispie Treats before and couldn’t imagine why we hadn’t thought of it sooner ourselves!


Easter White Chocolate Crockpot Candy Clusters

Creamy, crunchy, peanutty, and beautiful for a brunch buffet or candy dish. Three ingredients plus your choice of sprinkles, prepared in the crock pot while you do other things. What could be better?

Easter White Chocolate Crockpot Candy Clusters Recipe


Easter No Bake Birds’ Nest Cookies

Made with oats, corn flakes, mini candy eggs, chocolate and butterscotch chips, and peanut butter, kids (and adults!) will love this Easter treat.

Easter No Bake Bird’s Nest Cookies Recipe


Easter Sugar Cookies

Everybody likes sugar cookies! Wouldn’t the kids love to find a fun-shaped and brightly-decorated Easter Cookie in their basket? Little Red Bear wants one. Or, a dozen.

Easter Sugar Cookies Recipe


Easter Egg Cookie Dough Truffles

Another delightful and beautiful Easter treat to make up ahead of time for family and guests. And who doesn’t love cookie dough?

Easter Egg Cookie Dough Truffles Recipe


Easter Surprise Confetti Cookie Bars

Cookie Bars are always a perfect treat for buffets and treat dishes for holiday gatherings, a perfect “hand food” as they say, and able to be made ahead of time. These Easter Surprise Confetti Cookie Bars come with a sugar advisory — they are loaded!  Packed to the max with oatmeal, peanut butter, chocolate chips, M&Ms, springtime confetti sprinkles, and five (5!) different kinds of candy bars, this treat will not disappoint. You may want to put these delights up out of the reach of little ones if planning to get any sleep the next week. Little Red Bear is already busy whipping up a batch of these! I see some late night writing sessions on the horizon.

Easter Surprise Confetti Cookie Bars Recipe


Easter Trifles

Do you have a trifle bowl tucked safely away after the Christmas holidays? You may want to bring it back out for one of these delicious Easter Trifles!

Cotton Candy Easter Trifle — One white cake mix as the cake filling baked in separate smaller cake pans and dyed with food coloring, with cream cheese, whipped cream, and candy bits of your choice make for a colorful buffet presentation.

Mini Egg Trifle — Using brownies and chocolate pudding mixed with cream cheese and crushed Oreo Cookies, then topped off with whipped cream and mini eggs, this trifle will delight chocolate lovers.

Rainbow Peeps Trifle — This vivid trifle features swirled cake pieces, Cool Whip, lemon pie filling for a touch of spring freshness, and colorful Easter Peeps for decoration.


Chocolate Easter Eggs With Cheesecake Filling

I love traditional Cadbury Eggs and these remind me of those — with a creamy, lemony cheesecake filling and yummy apricot sauce for the ‘yolk’.  If the kids turn up their noses at these and opt for the sweet treats, that simply means more of these amazing creations for the adults!

Chocolate Easter Eggs With Cheesecake Filling Recipe


Easter Cathedral Candy

Another amazing no-bake recipe to prepare ahead of time, these beautiful candies require only three ingredients — vanilla flavored melting wafers or almond bark, colored mini marshmallows, and sweetened coconut.  Mix, chill, slice, and serve!

Easter Cathedral Candy Recipe


Easter Eggs and Creative Hunt & Craft ideas!

For anyone who may be new to hard-boiling (or struggling with it as we seemed to somehow always do each year) and coloring Easter Eggs, or who may be looking for some exciting and different new decorating ideas, check out the helpful links below.

How To Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

A Handy Food Coloring Custom Mixing Chart

Making Tie Dye Easter Eggs

How To Dye Easter Eggs with Kool-Aid

Decorating Natural Brown Easter Eggs

How To Make Marbelized Easter Eggs

How To Host The Best Easter Egg Hunt Ever

Tips for Dying Easter Eggs With Toddlers

More Tips for Dying Easter Eggs With Small Children

Fun New Easter Egg Hunt Ideas

Fun (and Educational) Easter Egg Hunt Ideas For Children

18 Simple Easter Crafts for Kids



Find over 600 more Easter Holiday features on my Easter Treats, Fun Crafts, and Activities Board on Pinterest. To find today’s features and all of the recipes we have shared so far, visit our Little Red Bear’s Hand-picked Blog Recipes Board. Visit and Like my Writer’s Facebook Page to see daily recipes and features we share.

Thanks as always for spending part of your day with us! We would be honored if you recommended our site and pages to friends and family.  Little Red Bear and I look forward to your visits here, and hope that in our own way we help to make your day special, too! And if you are not familiar with Little Red Bear yet, I invite you to tap on the links below to find out more about Red and his family-friendly adventure stories.

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and Happy Easter! — Jim  (and Red!)


“Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life.” — Janine di Giovanni

“Easter combines the best of the present with the traditions of the past – like Cadbury Cream Eggs with hunting and gathering.” — Melanie White 


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“Easter is so disappointing. You suffer all the way through Lent, and what do you get for it? A ham.” — Garrison Keillor   


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes. Because together we can do so much!


             “Behind every young child who believes in himself is a parent who believed first.”        – Matthew Jacobson


 

 

 

 

Happy National Oreo Cookie Day!


Did you wake up feeling a little happier and bouncier than usual this morning and perhaps wondering why?  Chances are it’s not your birthday.  Or Christmas.  Or anniversary. So, what is it then?

It’s March 6th —  National Oreo Cookie Day, of course!

Oreos — That little creme-filled bundle of crispy, chocolaty goodness we have come to love over the years. Since its introduction years ago, the Oreo Cookie has become the best-selling cookie in the United States. No surprise there. A mere glance at my cupboard would confirm that fact.

Nabisco (originally The National Biscuit Company) first developed and produced the “Oreo Biscuit” in 1912 at its Chelsea factory in New York City. The block on which the factory was originally located is now known as “Oreo Way”.  Wouldn’t you like to go to work each morning to a place called “Oreo Way?”

Here are some other fun facts about Oreos from the National Day Calendar folks —

  • The name “Oreo” was first trademarked on March 14, 1912.
  • The first Oreo cookies in the United States sold for 25 cents a pound in clear, glass-topped novelty cans.
  • In 1912, the Oreo Biscuit was renamed to “Oreo Sandwich”.
  • In 1948, the Oreo Sandwich was renamed to “Oreo Creme Sandwich”.
  • William A. Turnier developed the modern-day Oreo design in 1952 to include the Nabisco logo.
  • Nabisco’s principal food scientist, Sam Procello, developed the modern Oreo cookie filling.

Oreos now come in a wide variety of flavors, including Banana Split, Berry Burst Ice Cream, Birthday Cake, Candy Cane, Candy Corn, Cool Mint, Creamsicle, Pumpkin Spice, and many others. And of course, not to leave out Golden Oreos, and maybe my personal favorite, the Double Stuf Oreos!

What is your favorite way to enjoy an Oreo Cookie?  Do you dunk it?  Bite into and crunch it?  Or are you a twister, like me?  My favorite way is to carefully twist the two cookie halves apart, crunch and enjoy the plain half first, and then slowly savor the creamy goodness of the other half.  Mmmm — creamy goodness.

Thanks for visiting and spending part of your day with us.  Now, go treat yourself — it’s National Oreo Cookie Day! — Jim  (and Red!)


“Happiness is a tall glass of milk and Oreo Cookie in each paw.” — Little Red Bear

         “Health food may be good for the conscience, but Oreos taste a hell of a lot better.”          — Robert Redford


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


 

Walking A Mile In Another’s Moccasins — What Tracks Will We Leave Behind?

The name of this heartfelt poem by Mary T. Lathrap (1838-1895) was originally titled “Judge Softly” when written in 1895, and has later come to be known by its most famous and quoted line — “Walk a Mile in His Moccasins.”

This line was quoted by my Mother to me over and over growing up, and has been attributed to various Native American tribes, but comes from this poem by Mary Lathrap. Whether she was inspired by a direct Native American contact or not I have yet to find, but it reads as heavily influenced by the conditions of Native Americans both on and off the reservations at the time.

Regardless,  it is not the title which is significant in the end,  but rather the meaning and true message of the words of Compassion, Kindness, Empathy, Tolerance, Acceptance, and Understanding still so relevant and needed in our world today, over a hundred years after it was written. Have you walked in another’s moccasins?


“Judge Softly”

“Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.

There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too.

Don’t sneer at the man who is down today
Unless you have felt the same blow
That caused his fall or felt the shame
That only the fallen know.

You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, unknown to you in the same way,
May cause you to stagger and fall, too.

Don’t be too harsh with the man that sins.
Or pelt him with words, or stone, or disdain.
Unless you are sure you have no sins of your own,
And it’s only wisdom and love that your heart contains.

For you know if the tempter’s voice
Should whisper as soft to you,
As it did to him when he went astray,
It might cause you to falter, too.

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.

I believe you’d be surprised to see
That you’ve been blind and narrow-minded, even unkind.
There are people on reservations and in the ghettos
Who have so little hope, and too much worry on their minds.

Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I.
Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions
And see the world through his spirit and eyes
Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.

Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins
And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders.
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave
In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.

Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.”

~ by Mary T. Lathrap, 1895


“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave,” is a Lakota Native American proverb. Words of wisdom to be kept foremost in mind when choosing our actions and reactions, and the individual impacts each make upon the world around us today. And the far-reaching effects on the world we will be leaving for our children and posterity. What tracks do we each choose to leave when confronted with choices of kindness and peace, or exclusion and violence?

Thanks for visiting and spending part of your day with us. When we find ourselves rushing to judge others, we reveal more about ourselves as being someone who feels the need to judge, than about the other person. We never know what storms others may have been called to walk thru in their lives, and each of us is carrying a burden, whether seen or unseen.

Choose to brighten someone’s journey and share your smile, a kind word, or gesture today, and truly be the change you wish to see in the world.  — Jim (and Red!)


“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.” – Alfred Adler

“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”  — Harper Lee (‘To Kill a Mockingbird’)             


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping him up.” – Jesse Jackson


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


“Open your mind to the world and the many different ways that can be found in it, before making hasty judgments of others. After all, the very same thing that you judge from where you are— may very well be something totally different in meaning on the other side of the world. The problem with making hasty judgments is that it will emphasize your ignorance at the end of the day.”  — C. JoyBell C.


Making the World Worthy: A Timely Reminder For Our Children and Us All — “You Are a Marvel”

Sharing an illuminating piece from Pablo Casals, applicable not only for guiding our children but for reminding ourselves, as well.

For those not familiar with the name, Pablo Casals was from Catalonia, Spain (December 29, 1876 – October 22, 1973), and is generally regarded as the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest of all time. Also a composer and conductor, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy.

His comments seem especially relevant as so many search and attempt to find their way and place in today’s world.


“Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France.

“When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them — Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michaelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel.

And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel?

The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world will not be, another child like him.

You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.”

— Pablo Casals


These instructive words of wisdom seem very applicable today, as so many in our society struggle with self-image issues, self-doubt, personal worth, learned hatreds and prejudices, resulting in lashing out more and more frequently with heartbreaking episodes of violence, with families and communities shattered and forever changed.

People the world over share a desire for happiness and a better life for their families. If we truly desire a peaceful, kind, compassionate, and forgiving world, not only for ourselves but for our children and children’s children, then it must start now with each of us taking responsibility for our own actions and for the age-old resentments we harbor, continue to nourish and pass along to future generations. No one is born with hatred and prejudices — they are learned.

Leaders and politicians may bluster, give speeches, form committees and convene hearings. But change, true change in society never comes from the top because attitudes and morals cannot be legislated. True changes in society invariably spread and percolate up from the bottom.

Peace and kindness for our children and the world begin with each of us as we go about our daily lives, starting with how we view and treat ourselves, our families, and our neighbors.  We must step up and “Say ‘No!’ to Violence”, and become a kinder and gentler people. Because violence and hateful rhetoric are dividing and ripping us apart.

You, like a child and along with each and every one of us, are a marvel, unique in all the history of the world and time to come. There has never been and will never be another “You!” A gift to the world. A perfect marvel capable of so much more than we imagine.

You and I each have within us the power to change the world for the better or worse. It is up to us. Do we choose to allow our light to shine, encourage, and show the way for others, or to keep it hidden while those around us continue to stumble thru the darkness and our world becomes ever more violent and intolerant? Our country and the world are in urgent and dire need of more Light.

Thanks for visiting and spending part of your day with us.  Brighten someone’s journey with your smile today, share a kind word or gesture, and truly be the change you wish to see in the world. Lead with your light for others to follow, and help to make the world worthy of its children. — Jim (and Red!)


“In music, in the sea, in a flower, in a leaf, in an act of kindness . . . I see what people call God in all these things.” – Pablo Casals 

“When we see God in each other we will be able to live in peace.” – Mother Teresa


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

                           “In this world, hate never dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate.                         This is the law, ancient and inexhaustible.” – Buddha


“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” – Gandalf, “The Hobbit” – J. R. R. Tolkien


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


                            “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace . . . . ”  – St. Francis of Assisi