Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


A tale of customer service

Some of you know that I spent most of my career in banking. The last 13 years of it were spent in mortgage banking, but the before that, for about 7 years I was management in retail banking. IE, a branch manager.

I managed different sized offices during that stint, some really small, some really big. All of them were busy, back in the days before electronic paychecks and even before ATM machines.

I remember lines out the door on General Motor’s weekly paydays. And cars constantly lined up in the drive-throughs on Friday evening when we stayed open late.

Working with the public can be stressful. I get that. But somewhere along the line customers got cut out of the service equation.

This week I realized my credit card was expiring at the end of May and I hadn’t received a replacement card. I’ve had this card since 1980. It says so right there on the plastic, and I’ve never had an issue like this.

So I figured I’d just call in and find out when I might expect the card. It wasn’t like I had any grand purchases planned, but it’s handy to have. I called the 800 number on the back of my card, the number for Customer Service.

After listening to several instructions to push 1 or say yes or no, I listened to a few advertisements for things they could do for me, none of which I was interested in. And interspersed between the ads, were suggestions about how much easier it could be if I’d just download the mobile app. Or perhaps I’d like to go to their website where surely I could solve all my problems.

All of this repeated for many long excruciating minutes, with ugly background noise disguised as music enhancing my enjoyment. They were experiencing a ‘high volume’ of calls and the wait time might be unusually long.

Huh. On a Tuesday night at 6:30 they were experiencing a high volume of calls? OK, I needed to go to band rehearsal, so after waiting for 15 minutes I decided to try again on another day.

Early Wednesday morning I called again. The same irritating music, the same ‘high volume of calls.’ I waited almost 20 minutes and hung up in disgust. It was obvious they were not interested in talking to me.

So I decided, what the heck, I’ll just drive to my local branch with my expired card and have them help me figure out what to do. Seemed so simple I don’t know why I didn’t think to do that from the start.

This afternoon I stopped by my branch.

There was nobody sitting at any of the customer service desks. The lights on that side of the building weren’t even on. There was a stock broker in a suit sitting in his office, but he wasn’t the appropriate person to fix my credit card issue.

Behind the teller line was one man, talking to a customer about a problem. It seemed quite complicated. At the far end of the teller line counter was another man running money through a counting machine. I couldn’t see it, but I’ve been around equipment like that enough to recognize the sound.

He never looked up.

I waited at the “enter here” sign for the employee to finish with the only other customer in the building. I waited a long time. And I noted he did not provide a solution to the customer’s problem.

Finally the man with the problem left and I approached the teller window. “You’ll need to go down there,” said the employee, nodding his head at the man on the end, still busy counting money. “I don’t have any money.” And he began to walk away.

“I don’t need money.” I said.

“Then what do you want?” he asked.

Yep, I’m feeling really weird about this whole place now. No customers, no staff, not even a teller working the drive-through, the curtains there are drawn, there’s no equipment on the counters, something seems off.

“Are you still a full service bank?” I asked.

“Why do you ask,” said the guy still counting money.

“Because there’s no one here.” I responded.

“We just had a bunch of people call in sick.” he replied.


Anyway, I told the employee about my expired credit card and he said he couldn’t do anything from the branch and gave me a phone number to call.

An 800 number.

Apparently it’s my responsibility to fix this problem. And I’m not going to get any help from my local branch. If they’re even a branch at all.

I know I’m not alone, but when did customer service stop being a thing? And why must we only deal with people far away in call centers which must be so understaffed that exceptionally high call volume is really the norm and not an exception at all.

Maybe I’m just an old baby boomer who likes to reminisce about the way things used to be. But you youngsters should have been around when customer service ruled. When you got to talk to people face to face. And when they did their best to solve a problem rather than pass it on.

Or back to the customer.

Yep, those were the days. You’d have been amazed.

Note: images are from a walk last month at my favorite park. I never got them into a post, so I figure even if you don’t want to read about banking, and who would, you might enjoy the birds.


Shiawasee continued

When I left you last I was sitting on a bench, feeling defeated having walked a couple miles through the Refuge looking for great images and feeling as though I had missed the mark. I was tired and hungry and, slumped on a bench, was eating an apple when suddenly a bird flew low and fast, just missing my head, and landing somewhere behind me.

“Don’t call me a Red-bellied, lady!”

I didn’t know what it was, I thought maybe a Red-bellied Woodpecker, as those have been known to divebomb me during spring walks at Kensington. I grabbed the camera from the bench and got a couple of shots. Whatever it was was extremely noisy, but I couldn’t tell from the image in the viewfinder just what it was.

It was only after I got home and did some research that I knew there was such a thing as a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. So cool! This image is better than I thought it would be, and though not perfect, you can see the yellow and red on the bird.

From earlier in my walk.

I think I was very lucky to see two of these guys that day!

And then, then…..just as I was putting the camera back down a flash of something caught my eye back cross the trail. I heard the sound of wings and something landing in a bush just over there. Could it be? Even though it was mostly hidden behind the branches I was thrilled to see an Eastern Towhee!

What’s that back there?

I clicked off some shots, praying I had the bird in focus and not just the branches in front. Either way I was happy just to see him.

I rarely see this bird at home, I think in the 30+ years I’ve lived where we are now I’ve seen a Towhee twice. They’re supposed to be here in Michigan all summer but they’re rare in my world. I was thrilled to see him, even if I didn’t get a better look.

And then, as if he was reading my mind, he hopped out onto a branch and stared at me.

“What are you looking at, lady?”

He sat out there for a long time. I was shooting as fast as I could. He gave me a good look at both sides of his profile…

“Make sure you get my good side. Oh wait. Both sides are good sides!”

… and then he got bored with the whole model for hire thing and flew off for parts unknown.

“Well, that’s enough of that! Does she think I work for free??”

I looked at the images I had captured and tried not to squeal. This bird, this one little bird made my entire day. All the walking and lugging the heavy camera equipment, all the missed opportunities and focus issues, all the aches and pains were worth it for this one experience.

This is my favorite crop of him, including the graceful curve of the greening branches.

And, after a bit of reflection and giggling, I picked myself up and wandered happily down the trail, where I eventually found another bench and thought I’d try my luck and sit there for a moment or three, just to see what might stop by.

“Lots of people overlook us sparrows, but we’re pretty cute if you just spend some time with us!”

And this little guy, perhaps a swamp sparrow, graced me with his presence. I liked his (or her?) butch haircut on top. He didn’t stay long, so I moved along too. It was getting late and I wondered if the cinnamon teal was still in the pond back at the parking lot.

I was almost back to the parking lot when I saw this pretty mourning dove sunning.

“I know I’m beautiful.”

He or she wasn’t shy about showing off subtle colors in the afternoon sun. I appreciated the display and moved on toward the car.

I was almost back on the main drive when I noticed these two killdeer standing together in the road.

“Hey lady, we could use some privacy if you know what I mean?”

And then I realized they weren’t exactly innocently standing there.

“Geeze lady, give us a break!”

But rather they were enjoying a little afternoon delight. He seemed pretty happy and let me get one last shot. She was out of there, totally embarrassed.

“Hey! I get a cut of any profits you get selling my image…right?”

And when I finally got back to the parking lot and the pond? Nope, no cinnamon teal to be seen, but the turtles were fun.

“Those birding people have mostly gone home, thank goodness. We could use a little peace around here.”

And I met a wonderful nature photographer who happened to be up on the viewing platform looking for the teal too. We had a nice conversation and I told her where the towhee was and she headed off into the woods.

“Those photographers will follow you anywhere!”

I headed home, exhausted but oh oh so happy. And that, dear readers, is the end of this story.

Until next time.


In search of cinnamon

An hour north of me is another magical place. I keep track of it on Facebook, where people, dedicated to photographing the wonders there post images and after periods of time away I am always itching to go back and see for myself.

I always try to arrive before sunrise, to witness the Shiawasee National Wildlife Refuge waking up. Sometimes it’s very noisy, but last Friday it was quiet, no flocks of cranes flying over, just some little birds and a couple swans.

Waiting for sunrise.

But the moon was coming up and that kept me company as I waited for daylight. I was there to see the cinnamon teal I’d been hearing about. A bird that doesn’t frequent our part of the country had been sighted regularly, in a pond right next to the parking lot.

Absolutely beautiful moonrise, big and golden, it came up just ahead of the sun.

Just as the sun rose a car roared into the parking lot, and a woman, dressed in waders and lugging a camera with a huge lens eased her way into the water beneath the viewing platform. I was still in the car.

Ummmm….what would this angle afford that standing on the viewing platform wouldn’t?

As the light brightened I figured if she was that prepared I didn’t want to disturb her or any potential shots, and I avoided the viewing platform in favor of the parking lot itself. And guess what? The cinnamon teal was there, with his lady friend.

Yep he’s out there, and not that far away from where the woman was standing.

But the light was still low and I was far away. Still…I have proof that I saw him and that was enough for me. I left her to her project and started down the road to the trails, intent on what other wonders I could see.

He really was beautiful.

There was this female merganser swimming all by herself in the ditch along the road. I wondered where her mate was.

Sometimes a girl just needs some alone time.

And this killdeer was be-bopping along in the wet grasses. He didn’t really want his picture taken but I got what I could.

If I hide behind this piece of grass she won’t see me.

Mostly I was just happy to be out there in the golden early morning light. But I kept thinking about that teal…and when another car pulled in and a guy clompped his way up the viewing platform I figured I had as much right to be there as either of them and I walked back, tiptoed up the viewing platform and saw that the teal, and his lady were nowhere to be found.

She’s still under there, and he’s stomping around up top. People…sigh…

I wasn’t surprised, with all the commotion. So I took a couple pictures and walked on back down the road. I was kind of disappointed that I didn’t have a clear shot of the teal. But I had a couple of tree swallows dive bomb me. They were so fast I didn’t get a good focus, but it was kind of cool.

People are kind of overbearing, don’t you think Harvey?

I resigned myself to the fact I might only get images of common birds, like robins who seems to pose for me as if to say they were tired of being overlooked.

Say lady! I’m sort of cinnamon colored!

And there was this little bird, that was cute, but I couldn’t tell in the low light what he or she was. I figured a sparrow and I wasn’t too excited. When I got home and began to process the photos I realized it was a phoebe with nesting material! What a cutie! But at the time I was feeling sort of sad.

I know I just look like a little brown bird, lady, but I’m really cute!

I trucked on, stopping when I heard something, looking for opportunities. I talked to a birder who was walking behind me for quite awhile. He said he was out there to see deer and eagles. I assured him he’d see eagles near the back of the trail, and there had been deer earlier, by the parking lot.

What’s that over there?

Just after he left me I noticed these guys in a field to my left. I wonder if the birder noticed them at all.

Shhhhh, don’t tell him.

I moved slowly down the path. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that when I’m walking I don’t see much, but the wildlife sees me. I’ve missed lots of opportunities by moving around too much. And by changing lenses.

No wildlife here. I just liked the colors.

I almost always think I have the wrong lens, and plenty of times on this walk I wished I didn’t have my long lens on the camera, but this hike I was determined to use one lens and stop often.

In the end I think it worked out.

Not in focus, but he was flying directly at my lens, so I just instinctively pushed the shutter. Kind of cool.

I noticed this little bird hopping along a big limb. Turns out, though I couldn’t tell at the time, that it’s a cute little junco. You can tell it from the phoebe by it’s pinkish bill. They should be migrating further north any time now.

He definitely wanted his picture taken.

As I moved closer to the back of the trail I concentrated more on the beautiful reflections in the still water.

Not everything beautiful here comes with wings or fur.

And the angles of the light and trees as another birder passes me looking for anything interesting.

What’s that up there?

About then I heard what I thought was a woodpecker right above my head. Well darn it, I thought, so far I haven’t gotten images of much of anything…where IS this woodpecker? And then…there he was.

Not a hairy woodpecker.

I thought maybe he was a hairy woodpecker, he was bigger than a downy, but it was hard to tell. Guess what? When I got home, and after looking at some other photographers’ work, people out there the same day, it turns out this is a yellow bellied sap sucker! I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before. Or if I have, I didn’t realize what it was.

So exciting. Still, while I was out there I didn’t know what I had and I was still pretty discouraged. I trudged on, out to the eagle’s nest. I figured I’d at least see an eagle or two or three…and yes, way off in the distance, in a massive nest was one eagle, mostly cleaning the nest with his or her back to me. Hardly anything to look at.

Yep, there’s an eagle in there, tending to the nest.

But there’s a bench out there and I was tired so I sat and watched the swans chase each other around in the water just past the eagle’s nest.

Lots of angst, all in the name of love.

There seemed to be quite a rivalry going on. The light was still low and they were far away and I was having the hardest time getting a focus, but I tried.

And in between the swan shots I’d check the eagle. Finally I could see the adult eagle more clearly and I got the best shot I could.

Well that’s a better image.

Then I wandered on, past the dueling swans…

Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Oh wait…that doesn’t apply here.

…where I met another birder coming the other way. He told me that there were lots of little birds on the next section of trail. Kinglets, thrush, swamp sparrows, towhees, just lots of little birds.

He says he lives just down the road and does this walk almost every day. Lucky guy.

Great I thought, I’m having trouble getting BIG birds in focus, and I’ve never been very good at getting the littles. Those guys never hold still.

Plus, did I tell you that Thursday evening my husband and I, with the help of a neighbor and his tractor with a frontend loader, moved 30 yards of mulch? I was a little sore and a lot tired and I was double thinking even being out at the Refuge, much less walking the four mile loop. Especially when all I had so far was a bunch of out of focus bird shots.

Kinda like this one.

Or so I thought.

So I trudged on along the water, then turned to head back south for the last mile and a half to the car. I was starving. My back was tired. My eyes hurt from straining while looking through the viewfinder.

But there was a mama goose, all curled up on her nest. How pretty. How peaceful.

I’m watching you lady.

And there, up ahead was a bench. And I had an apple and a bottle of water in my camera backpack. I gratefully slid the backpack off and sat down. The camera sat on the bench beside me, backpack at my feet and I munched the best ever apple and contemplated my day.

No matter what it was still spring and the sky was blue and the trees were in bloom and the birds were singing.

I was still glad to be out there, but I was tired. I didn’t really think I’d see any little birds. I was pretty unhappy with the cinnamon teal image, the eagle image, the combating swan images. I didn’t know I had a phoebe or a junco or anything else.

But the apple tasted really, really good.

I could always call them artsy-fartsy images….right?

And the blue sky and warm sun made me smile too. Would it be enough, just sitting in this beautiful place? Or would I ultimately be disappointed by my hike through a Michigan wonderland?

These guys were interesting.

You, dear readers, will have to wait and see.

Because this is already way too long.

Don’t worry, she’ll be back!


Blue magic

It began, as these things often do, during an early morning wander with the puppy in the back yard.

My first glimpse from across the yard.

What was that flash of blue I caught out of the corner of my eye?

My wife likes these fixer-uppers. Personally I’d rather have a move-in-ready place.

Why look at that, a bluebird, shining in the early morning light, claiming ownership of an old bluebird house out near the road.

But you know how it is….happy wife, happy life. Right?

I hurried back to the house, got the camera and long lens, and tiptoed out onto the deck.

And besides, she says she’s going to do all the work, so whatever.

I got to watch for awhile as she worked hard to get new nesting material into the old box.

I told her the renovations were going to cost more than just buying a nicer place. But she insisted this one felt like home.

The story unfolds in pictures.

Things in the renovation zone are too noisy for me. I’m going to sit over here for awhile.

Might as well take this personal time to spiff myself up.

Maybe I can get a date night tonight, know what I mean?

But wait. Maybe I need to woo her a little bit. After all she’s been working pretty hard all day.

I don’t know where he is. Just like him to fly off when there’s work to be done.

Best to just do it yourself, I always say.

Just a few more accessories and it will be perfect.

Hmmm….I should have measured the door before I brought this back.

If I just push a little harder…

Man, that was tough. But a woman’s work is never done, and this will all be worth it in the end!

I’m so excited about this place. We got it for such a great price!

OK! I found her a succulent insect, her favorite. Now where is she?

Is she in here?


I don’t get it. Where could she be?

She’s got to be around here somewhere.

I got her this great treat and she’s not even here!

This bug is going to go stale if she doesn’t eat it soon. I don’t think she appreciates my efforts.

Women! I’m going to go hang out with the guys down at the bar.



It’s definitely spring here in Michigan. Proof is everywhere, but especially at our backyard birdfeeders.

The male goldfinches have turned yellow, and it seems like it happened overnight.

Olive green one day, brilliant yellow the next.

Or so it seems anyway.

I hope my little goldfinch made you smile. What says spring where you live? Has it happened yet or does winter still hold your neighborhood hostage? OR….are you in the southern hemisphere and you’re headed into autumn? What changes are happening in your backyard?


In search of a loon

I belong to a Michigan birding Facebook group and there have been images showing up of some loons that are currently hanging out at Kensington Metropark, only 40 minutes away from me.

The blue herons are back and nesting in their rookery, waiting on this year’s crop of little ones.

The weather hasn’t been great. And I’ve been occupied with a certain fuzzy puppy so I hadn’t made it out to the park. But we all know that loons wait for no woman.

“Hey lady! Don’t forget us in your quest to find loons!”

So Monday I headed out much later in the day than I’m usually at the park. Instead of early morning I was heading out there as the day was closing and evening was descending. It felt weird walking onto the boardwalk while most people were heading back to their cars.

“Where have you been? I have to do all the nest building around here!”

On the other hand I didn’t see too many people, and those I did see were mostly photographers there for the soft late day light. Just like me.

“If you’re not going to feed me then you’re not worth my attention.”

I ran into one photographer who was headed back to his car. He was all excited about the loons he had photographed “right near the nesting sandhill cranes.” He wanted to show me his images on the back of his camera, and I have to admit they were beautiful. I was excited for him too. “I can’t wait to get home and see these on a bigger screen,” he said, as he scampered off (there’s really no other word for how he moved but scampered!).

I knew the feeling.

Any loons out there?

But the light was fading and I hadn’t made it out to the bay with the nesting cranes and loons yet. So I left him and walked as quickly as I could until I saw the crane on her nest.

“Midway through my shift and I’m getting hungry, I wonder if I can get something delivered.”

Then I moved slowly, to a better position, and stood for a long time, another photographer nearby, silently shooting images of her as she moved around her nest.

I need to stretch my feathers a bit.”

And, as she stood up, I gasped quietly in delight. She had an egg!

“That egg was pressing up against my breastbone!”

Then another crane on the other side of the lake began to call. Our nesting mom stretched her neck and called back…

“Hey you! Be quiet, you’re stressing the baby!”

…and then was joined by her spouse who was standing nearby.

“Hey don’t upset the Mrs! It’s quiet hours now!”

It was pretty amazing to be so close.

Then she got back to work cleaning the nest and checking her youngster, still in the shell.

“There, there, little one, mama’s got you all warm and safe.”

In between watching her I tried to see if there were any loons out in the bay. There were a lot of ducks, but they were all far away and the light was fading fast. There were probably a couple loons out there, but I couldn’t be sure. What I was sure of was the spouse of my nesting crane stalking past me headed for quieter dining.

“You can’t get a quiet meal around here.”

Eventually I moved back to the main path where I saw the spouse of the nesting pair strutting his stuff. I guess he had had enough and needed to get away for awhile.

“I hear there’s a new bar and grill down this way,”

I found him shortly after, having a drink at the local pub.

“And another thing, ever since she had that egg she ignores me. It’s always all about the egg!”

He was sharing tales of woe and his fear of becoming a father with the local bartender, this muskrat who was munching on bar snacks.

“I know what you mean man, sometimes it’s just easier to hang out alone.”

In the end I never did see the loons up close, though I walked all the way around the lake.

Toward the end of my walk I was focused on capturing the moon in the branches of a tree, almost back to the car, when suddenly two cranes flew low right over my head and landed on the path directly in front of me.

A nice evening was coming to a close.

That was startling, and I was kind of worried about getting past them in the growing dusk. They seemed intent on me paying some sort of passage ransom.

Notice this one is missing his or her right foot.

So I threw some seed toward them and inched by. As I was doing that I heard rustling in the reeds right behind me. Turns out there was a third crane walking back there, perhaps a distant family member of the two who had just dropped in.

“Just toss us the food, lady, and nobody gets hurt.”

Regardless I bid them all a good evening and scurried back to the car. Night was closing in on the rookery and it was time for me to head home.

Thus ends another beautiful day at the rookery.

I didn’t see the loons, but I had such a wonderful walk and saw plenty of things that made me smile. And now I hope you’re smiling too!


Don’t forget the pelicans!

This is a post I thought I’d have up a long ago. But exciting things interrupted the flow (and she probably always will).

I interrupt this blog to announce my intention to control everything my mom does for the foreseeable future.

A week ago, long before we knew we’d be sheltie parents by the weekend, I went out looking for barns and failing at that decided to check out Midland’s Overlook Park to see if the pelicans I’d heard about would be there.

Saw some barns along the way.

I saw lots of other stuff, but no pelicans for the first couple hours. The sun started going down and it got colder. I hung out, hoping. But how long should I wait?

I’d just about given up, had started texting someone about something or other, my mind moving on from the cold parking lot in the growing dusk, when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of white, right up near the edge of the pond directly in front of me…and behind the chain-link fence which is covered with vines.

Hard to focus through a fence!

A squadron of pelicans had landed! I squealed even though I couldn’t get a clear shot of them.

Next to me in the parking lot was another photographer, also with a long lens, also frustrated that the big white birds were swimming up and down along the edge of the pond, obscured by the fence.

At first all we got were pelican behinds.

But we waited, hoping. And eventually the six of them edged out just a bit into water unobscured by the fence. It was very, very, very cool.

The initial six.

And as the dusk intensified four more pelicans arrived to join the pod. Most of the time we couldn’t really see them…they’d swim out toward the middle a little bit and then all of the sudden they’d all flock back to the edge as if something startled them.

Much more obviously pelicans from the side.

But I’ve been reading how scoops of pelicans can work together to herd fish into more shallow water for easier fishing. It’s possible that’s what they were doing.

Maybe they’re fishing.

Groups of pelicans are called several things, according to articles I’ve found. “A group of pelicans has many collective nouns, including a “brief”, “pod”, “pouch”, “scoop”, and “squadron” of pelicans.” You can google it too….they’re called different things depending on what they’re doing at the time. I don’t think I used the right terms, but it was fun to read about.

Reflecting on his evening plans.

Regardless of what they’re called, they were magical to watch, and I’m really glad I stuck around, and I’m doubly glad they decided to show up, right in front of where I was parked!

See you next time, you guys!

And now you’ve seen them too!