August 31, 2010

Sweetbriar Nature Center

One of my favorite things to do on warm and sunny summer afternoons is to go on long nature hikes. With today being just such a day, I stopped off on my way home from work to visit the Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown, NY. The Sweetbriar Nature Center is a building dedicated to native wildlife rehabilitation and education about the unique ecosystems found on Long Island. It is situated on a 54-acre preserve filled with walking trails that meander along side the Nissequogue River through varied garden, field, woodland, and wetland habitats. As I ambled through the numerous paths with camera in hand, I encountered jagged stairways, dense vegetation, graceful birdsong, the trunks of mighty fallen trees, the gentle rushing of water--nature hikes always offer a potpourri of sensory stimuli; I must have spent two hours on the color-coded paths that wind through the preserve.

On the premises, there is a screened butterfly vivarium that houses over 20 species of Lepidoptera and the lush foliage necessary for their survival. One can see all of the stages of creation at work, from the egg to caterpillar to the chrysalis to the winged mosaic that is the butterfly. Highly cool.

The butterfly vivarium is a wonderful place, though I think the thing that I most enjoyed was Sweetbriar's Indoor Rainforest. Here, I strolled through a tropical environment, meeting a variety of animals: boa constrictor, parrots, macaws, iguana, tarantula, a working honeybee hive, an ant farm, and, perhaps the strangest creature that I've ever seen, the walking stick.

I was very happy to spend my afternoon at the Sweetbriar Nature Center. Not only is it an interesting place to explore, I also find their efforts toward the conservation of the earth's critical habitats applaudable.

"Your word, O Lord, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures."

~Psalm 119:89-90


August 29, 2010

John W. Engeman Theater

The John W. Engeman Theater opened up a few years ago in Northport, NY. I have always been a huge musical theater enthusiast and I am so happy to have a quality venue right in my hometown. I have visited the theater three times so far.

The lobby of the theater is a piano lounge. As guests enter the building
, they are greeted by the pearly teeth of a baby grand. The surroundings are quite posh: a classy bar with several micro brews on tap, plush seats and curtains that line the walls, ornate chandeliers, several cocktail tables set up with crystal candles burning and carafes full of goldfish crackers. It is quite apparent at first glance that the designers of this place had a lavish experience in mind when they were drawing up the plans. One step into the building and I felt immediately at home.

On October 2, 2009, I went to the theater for the first time to see RENT. I had seen the show on Broadway three times and I was very interested in seeing how it would transfer on to a local stage.


Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles

In laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand

Six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love?

How about love?
How about love?

Measure in love

Seasons of love


The production was great! My first experience at the John W. Engeman Theater was definitely a wonderful one.

I visited the Engeman Theater again on May 30, 2010 for Fiddler On the Roof. I really lucked out with seating. I decided to go on the day of the show and I ended up getting a front row center seat. The theater must have released a few front row tickets at the last minute. That's the only explanation that I can think of because the rest of the theater was sold out.

The role of Tevye was played by Eddie Mekka (best known for his role as Carmine Ragusa on the "Lavern & Shirley" TV show). I was so near to the stage that he made eye contact with me often throughout the performance. His portrayal of Tevye was excellent. I really felt myself transported into 1905 Tsarist Russia. So close to the action, I just reclined in my seat and let the music and acting wash over me. It was marvelous.

I went to the theater for the third time on August 22, 2010 to see Damn Yankees. This may have been the best performance that I’ve seen there yet. The quality of the vocalists for this production was phenomenal. Very powerful singing. The show is very charming with great songs and the fact that it is a baseball-themed musical definitely scores extra points with me. :)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and lean not on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him

and He shall direct your paths.”

~Proverbs 3:5,6


August 27, 2010

A "Little" Cricket Story

This is the time of year (late-August, with the autumnal equinox looming on the next page of the calendar) when the crickets start coming out in force. I can hear their songs through my bedroom window every night and, in a strange way, they're kind of reassuring.

I had a cricket living in my house for almost a year. Last year at this very time, he appeared on my bathroom floor, a very tiny thing. I have always heard that it is a blessing to have a cricket in your home; they are said to bring good luck. Being a nocturnal creature, I never saw it during the day, only at night it would come out. I meant to pick it up and put it outside at some point, but it really wasn't bothering me so I kept putting it off. He was always there when I would shower, keeping me company as I would dry off and brush my teeth. I quickly got used to it being there and began thinking of it as a companion. Kinda cute actually, with his long antennae tasting the air above his little domed head.

He was there throughout the entire Fall, getting bigger and bigger, and sticking around well into the Winter. I knew then that he was completely out of his season and I couldn't put him outside without killing him, so I resigned myself to the fact that he was a part of my household. Then one day, he vanished. I don't know anything about the life expectancy of a cricket, so I figured that it might have just crawled into the floorboards somewhere and died. I soon forgot about it.

Well, Winter turned into Spring which turned into Summer. Then one sultry evening, I got up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water. I turned on the overhead light to find the largest cricket that I've ever seen in my life parked in the middle of the kitchen floor. He had gotten so big that I was startled to see him. WOW! After the initial shock, a huge smile came over my face--if having a cricket in your house is good luck, having this one around for a year was a windfall! LOL!

I haven't seen it now for a while, but for the last few nights, a new tiny cricket has been living on my bathroom counter behind the sink faucet. This time, I have no plans of moving it outside.

May your home always overflow with extra-large cricket blessings!

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!”

~2 Corinthians 5:17


August 23, 2010

Stony Brook University

I want to tell you a little bit about my job. Well, to be more specific, my first job; I'm one of those lucky people who has more than one. I work full-time for SUNY at Stony Brook in the Transit Dept. Our department supplies bus service to the campus.

I report at 5:00AM every morning. Usually, I work in the office; my duties include answering telephones, dispatching, and doing various computer proj
ects and paperwork. It is a good job and the work environment for the most part is pleasant. My coworkers are a group of undiscovered comedians and, although we get our work done quite efficiently, the atmosphere is far from serious.

From my office window, I get the best view of the sunrise. I never pass up the opportunity to stand on the patio with teacup in hand and take in a beautiful morning. It always has a way of setting my day right.

My first task of the morning is to walk the bus yard, writing down the starting mileages from the fleet of vehicles. At that time in the morning, the bus yard is desolate. I walk the yard alone with the only light coming from the moon. It is very spooky. The buses themselves are my only company and being surrounded by those hulking exoskeletons offers little comfort; in fact, it only increases the creepiness. There was one morning last fall when I was doing my mileage duty; the moon was full and I was feeling a little uneasy about it. I was walking between two buses when a raccoon suddenly darted out from under one of the buses and ran right across my feet. I must have jumped 5 feet into the air, dropping all of my paperwork to the ground, and landing on my back. LOL! That was a shock, to be sure. I always keep that moment in the back of my mind when I do my morning tour. :)

Lately, I've had the chance to get behind the wheel of our buses again. Office work is great, but I do enjoy the fresh air and change of scenery that the bus offers. It's as if the entire world suddenly becomes my office and I love it. Students often ask me if it is difficult to drive such a big vehicle, but the answer is "No." A large bus is easier to drive than a car. At least, in my opinion.

I get an hour for lunch every day, though I never eat at that time. I spend all of my breaks at the Sports Complex, using the Varsity Weight Room and the mezzanine track in the gymnasium. The facilities are free to employees and I've been following that routine for 9 years now. It works great for me.

A few weeks ago, the Stony Brook cheerleaders were holding a practice on the gym floor as I was walking the track:

"L. E. T. S. G. O. Let's go! Let's GO!"

LOL! I do believe that their enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I was really sweating that day! :D

Stony Brook University is huge and ever-expanding. I’ve explored the campus with camera in hand many times and I always seem to discover something new.

My very favorite building at SBU is the Charles B. Wang Center. It is a place dedicated to the study of Asian cultures through arts, history, religion, language, business, and science. The exterior of the building features a 100-foot tower that resembles a pagoda. It is an awesome sight that dominates one’s field of vision.

The interior of the Wang Center boasts some fantastic architectural elements—spiral staircases, sky-lighted atriums, terraces, hidden bamboo gardens, a koi pond, even fountains in the shape of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animal heads. It is a place that I come to often to enjoy its peaceful ambiance.

I love the fact that the walls throughout the building are adorned with inspirational words written in Asian characters.

The Fall Semester begins next week and this is always such an exciting time of year. I have to say that I’ve been employed by Stony Brook University for 10 years now and it is a pretty good place to work. Monday through Friday, I am there from 5:00AM to 1:30PM, from there I head directly to my second job. But that, of course, is another story…

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.
Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully
to the work of the Lord, because you know that
your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

~1 Corinthians 15:58