Thursday Re-View — That Empty Nest

For those of you who haven’t already,
please read the following posts first to fully appreciate today’s post:

In Love Again at My Age?
What I’ve Learned From My New Love

Well, it’s finally happened. One of the 3 Pittsburgh Hays eaglets flew for the first time last week on National Bald Eagle Day. And what a glorious sight it was…

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The eaglets, who are now almost the size of their parents, have been identified as 2 females and 1 male. There’s been a whole lot of wing flapping going on, and sometimes they actually flap enough to be lifted an inch or two above their nest. They have also been branching, or going further and further out on the limbs of their roosting tree.

And then, one of the eaglets flew. When I watched the video of its first flight, I just kept shouting, “It flew! It flew!” There was enough joy in my voice to almost match when my son took his first steps without falling.

Am I crazy? Maybe. Am I invested in the well-being of these eaglets that I’ve watched through incubation, hatching, feeding, branching and now fledging these past 3-plus months? Absolutely! My maternal instinct is at full throttle, and I’m their cheering section, worried mother, avian advocate and ardent supporter all rolled into one proud middle-aged package. This must be what being a grandparent is like, but without being able to hold the baby in your arms. So instead, I smother them with kisses (read: encouraging shouts) from afar.

Soon, the brother and sister will take test their wings and fly for the first time. That will leave an empty nest. And for the second time in my life, I’ll get to experience just what the Empty Nest Syndrome is all about.

The first was with my son. Who knew the mother of an only child would experience a second one, this one filled with feathers and dead fish, bird poop and rodent remnants?

And you know what? This Empty Nest is just beautiful!



Monday Meeting — Fr. Greg Boyle

Let me introduce you to one of my favorite Jesuits – Rev. Gregory Boyle, S.J., founder of Homeboy Industries ( ) and author of Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion (Free Press, 2010). 

Fr. BoyleFor 25 years, Fr. G (as he is respectfully called by the homies) has run Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program located in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighborhood, otherwise known as the gang capital of the world. “Hope has an address.” Its mission is “to provide hope, training and support to formerly gang-involved and recently incarcerated men and women, allowing them to re-direct their lives and become contributing members of their community.”

To find joy in serving others. To love unconditionally. To acknowledge everyone as a human being with value. To learn the patience needed to walk in the darkness with someone sorely in need of being lifted out of despair, out of the darkness, into the light.

                          A Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light, and
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive -
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

It sounds like St. Francis of Assisi would feel at home working in LA, right next to Fr. G of Boyle Heights. Encouraging us to seek something much bigger than ourselves as individuals.

“Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” ~ Fr. G

My son – the one who was born on St. Francis’ birthday and has Francis as his Confirmation name – called me up one night quite awhile after I gave him his own copy of Fr. G’s book. The above quote was the one that stood out for him, the same one that stood out for me. Interconnected. Reaching out. That same son (actually, my one and only) who helped his Dad and I for more than 8 years in our church’s soup kitchen, told me that he found the book to be exceptional, but (there’s always a but) he couldn’t keep wiping away tears one minute, then laughing out loud, while reading it during his daily subway commute.

Laughter and tears. I agree. But by no means is it only about darkness.


David: “Yeah, I know I can fly. I just need to catch a gust o’ wind.”

Sharkey: “Damn, G. I’m gonna tattoo that on my heart.”

Willy: “God thinks I’m ‘firme’ (could not be one bit better).”

Rascal: “You know, I’m gonna take that advice, and I’m gonna let it marinate (pointing at his heart) right here.”

A homie who has given up: “That’s it. I’m moving to Mars. This planet is tired of my ass already.”

Scrappy: “I have spent the last 20 years building a reputation for myself…and now…I regret…that I even have one.”

homeboy industries

Betito: “Hey, G, you know what you are? You da real deal.”

Terry (a 16-year-old pregnant girl in a short, bright red dress): “I just want to have a kid before I die. Promise me you’ll bury me in this dress.”

Leo: “I was watching Jerry Springer…and they had a commercial ’bout that ITT Institute – where ya learn shit, and I think, maybe I’ll call G, you know, and get me one a’  them careers.”

A homie calling off work: “I have anal blindness. I just can’t see my ass coming to work today.”

Moreno: “Damn, G – Biooooology. That’s the boooooomb right there! On Monday, we’re gonna DIGEST a frog!”

Soledad at the death of 2 of her children: “The hurt wins…the hurt wins.”

Chico at his new job: “Dear G: I am learning how to use a fax machine. A am learning a gang a’ shit here. Thanks for getting (this job) for me.”

A place of truth. Community. Dismantled boundaries that were erected to keep others out. Boundless compassion. Acceptance. Love. Kinship. Loveliness. Sacredness.

A gathering of souls. Where our souls quicken in awe at the rightness of it. Where the human spirit triumphs.

As Fr. G says: “And so the voices at the margins get heard, and the circle of compassion widens. Souls feeling their worth, refusing to forget that we belong to each other. No bullet can pierce this.”

One last thing: Fr. G has been diagnosed with leukemia. A cancer of the blood that cannot touch his heart. His soul shines and marinates in love, compassion and understanding.

Enlightened witness. Priest. Jesuit. Man.

“Go forth and set the world on fire.”
~ St. Ignatius of Loyola

That is what I wish for the world. For the new Pope. For the homies.

And for Fr. Greg, whose grace and spirit are tattooed on my heart – my love, prayers, gratitude and blessings.

Pax vobiscum. May peace be with you.

You are my light.


Thursday Re-View — What I’ve Learned From My New Love

I’ve learned a lot from my new love.

Those of you who follow me or read my posts know of what I speak; those of you who missed it, before reading any further, I’d invite you to peruse In Love Again at My Age?

Back with me? Good.

I’m talking about my Pittsburgh Hays Eagle Family: Mom, Dad, and their 3 eaglets. I’ve watched them live on the Eagle Cam for almost two months now, when the Mom laid 3 eggs. Here’s what I’ve learned from being addicted to watching:

  • Mom and Dad take turns incubating the eggs, but Mom always does it overnight
  • the eggs are never left alone, whether being watched over by Mom, Dad or me
  • my eyes aren’t as good as when I was younger, since I kept imagining I saw hairline cracks in the eggs when there weren’t any (turned out they were small twigs)
  • the eggs hatch at their own rate, in their own time, regardless of how much I sing them sweet lullabies
  • just because the last egg took so long to hatch doesn’t mean there was a birth defect involved
  • I didn’t cry when the eaglets were born, but I was a proud Mother regardless (now that I think about it, my nose does resemble a beak at times)
  • the baby eaglets are never left unattended
  • the youngest eaglet now seems to respond to my voice when I croon into my computer
  • the youngest eaglet now seems to respond to my commands during feeding time (“Push your way between them – you have to get something to eat!”)

pittsburgh eaglets V

  • it hasn’t taken me long to learn the lyrics to the “Circle of Life,” which I especially bellow when the parents bring back fresh fish or fowl for breakfast, lunch and dinner (“Some say eat or be eaten, some say live and let live…”)
  • that eaglets have that “in-between,” awkward “tween” stage, same as humans, when they’re not so cute any more (they lurch like Godzilla on huge, yellow clown feet)
  • that eaglets have that same adolescent phase when they start to grow a beard feathers and eat voraciously, snatching food from their very own siblings in a take-no-prisoners manner
  • the youngest eaglet no longer responds to my commands when it perches precariously on the edge of its (up to) 2,000 pound nest (“Get away from the edge! You don’t have feathers yet and your wings won’t work! You’ll fall out of the nest and suffer from severe head trauma…”)
  • it hasn’t taken me long to learn the lyrics to the “Circle of Life,” which I especially bellow when the baby gets too close to the nest’s edge (“Some of us fall to the wayside, and some of us soar to the stars…”) My voice: “Get away from the edge – now! Can’t you hear me all the way in Pittsburgh???”
  • the youngest eaglet has a healthy appetite and gets fed well, since it poops on a regular basis with unerring accuracy (“Look how cute! It leans forward, sticks its butt in the air, shakes back and forth, then lets that white stuff shoot out in a straight-as-an-arrow stream…bull’s eye!”). Note: my husband, who thought I was crazy when I called him at work to report the first successfully sighted bowel movement, now gleefully reports his own BMs. Actually, not his own, but whenever he sees one of the eaglets let it rip with such gusto…
  • that eagle parents allow their kids to be more and more on their own in the nest as they get older, but watch alertly from a branch in a near-by tree, ready to swoop in at the first sign of danger or a party with underage drinking
  • that eagle parents need a date night, just like humans, to keep their mate-for-life love alive

pittsburgh eaglets IV

“In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life…”

~music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice


Thursday Re-View — In Love Again at My Age???

I’m in love again.

That’s right. Who knew? At my age. A married woman. With her own family.

I can’t believe I’m broadcasting this on a blog read by millions (okay – maybe not millions, but hundreds).

I’m in love with the Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Hays Bald Eagle Family, and I’m addicted to watching the live feed – the Pittsburgh Eagle Cam – sponsored by the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania.

pittsburgh hays eagle

The live feed:

After an absence of more than 150 years, this bald eagle pair – the national bird of the United States – is nesting for the second year in the steel city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They’re in Pittsburgh because there’s food there. In fact, the near-by Monongahela River holds 76 species of fish. Much of an eagle’s diet consists of fish, although they also eat rabbits, squirrels, snakes, frogs and other small creatures, as well as scavenge dead animals.

The current nest is their second, as last year’s nest collapsed from a near-by smaller tree. The Hays female is believed to be 5 1/2 years old. The Hays male is smaller (normally by about 25%) and for those of you watching the live feed, has a small white spot on his right side, near the tail.

The eagle pair’s first egg was laid on Feb. 19th, followed by a second on Feb. 22nd and a third on Feb.25th. The Mom fended off attacks on the incubating eggs by a raccoon, a marauding raptor and a flying squirrel. The eggs hatched successfully on March 28th, 30th and April 3rd.

Pittsburgh eaglets

Three surviving eaglets is unusual, and it is not uncommon for the oldest, especially if she’s a female, to kill the youngest, something with which the parents do not interfere. Because of the difference in size of the 3 eaglets, I find myself squirming whenever they are being fed as I watch the smallest get pushed out of the way by the ravenous older and bigger siblings.

“Feed the little one. There – feed the little one!”

I’m on my desk chair, leaning back and forth, trying to help the tiniest eaglet position itself for maximum feeding. The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania needs to install a live feed in my office; I’d be (almost) more entertaining than the eagle cam!

Sometimes during the feedings, I actually have to turn the live feed off (not for long), because I am that invested in the outcome of the tiniest eaglet’s welfare. Worrying that I will actually see it killed, or pushed out of the nest, or waste away to skeletal proportions is far too stressful for this human who gets a neck and shoulder massage every 2 weeks with little relief.

Plus, whenever the Dad brings the latest hard-won food offering to his family – a gleaming trout, a chubby squab, a cute (unidentified) furry mammal – I have to keep singing Disney’s “The Circle of Life” in order to not dwell too much on the fact that something gave up its life so that the adorable eaglets might live.

pittsburgh eaglets II

Just when I calm down, I see on one of my many bookmarked eagle websites that approximately 40% of young eagles do not survive their first flight, and I am back to being the worried, over-protective mother.

Whew – watching this eagle cam is hard work!

A week ago – and this is not a joke – I woke up from a bad dream where I was trying to save the eaglets from a rabid dog that kept climbing the tree to attack the babies. In the dream, I put together some kind of animal trap to catch the predator, but he kept outsmarting me as I perched precariously on a tree limb near the huge, foul-smelling nest. (Yes, I not only dream in color, but have the added benefit of smell-o-vision as well). I woke up before the rabid dog reached the eaglets.

I think I have too much free time on my hands…

So, dear readers, I’m in love again.

That’s right. Who knew? At my age. A married woman. With her own family.

I’m in love with the Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Hays Bald Eagle Family, and I’m addicted to watching the live feed – the Pittsburgh Eagle Cam – sponsored by the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania.

It could be worse. I could be addicted to watching reality TV shows or soap operas or the Weather Channel.

And just because I no longer cook or clean for my own family because I’m keeping watch over my second family doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.

I’m just a woman in love.

Who knew?????

pittsburgh eaglets III