Monday, October 22, 2018

Fresh Thoughts for Your Monday: Be Strong. Be True to Yourself.

It isn’t always easy. The pressure to conform, to remain silent, to go along with things that don’t feel right to you is strong.

But you have an option. You can be strong. You can be brave. You can be true to yourself and your values.  That wisdom that you carry deep inside of you is real and shouldn’t be ignored or squelched.

The truth that you feel deeply and viscerally is important to acknowledge. The words you have to say are important. Give voice to them.

Today, this week: Be strong. Be true to yourself. Listen to the wise voice deep inside of you. What is it telling you?

Monday, October 15, 2018

Fresh Thoughts for Your Monday: Wisdom Resides in the Silence

Our calendars and date books are packed with back-to-back commitments, obligations and have-to-dos. Everything becomes a blur as we run from one thing to the next.

We reach out so much in our lives. The only way to balance it is with time when we reach within.

Become still and silent for a while each day. Allow the silence to fill your spiritual well and give you the answers you seek.

It is there where Wisdom is waiting for you.

Today, this week: Give yourself time for silence and stillness.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Human Being, Not Human Doing

Sometimes, the journey takes us where we least expect it and to destinations we could never have dreamed of. 

Today marks seven years since I started this Time to Be blog. It grew out of my writing little essays about joy in small composition books during the last months of my mom's life as a way for me to cope with my sadness and grief. 

Today, I celebrate that those little essays about joy turned into a blogging, writing and speaking adventure that allows me to be my authentic self and to use my voice to hopefully bring some joy to others.

Here, once again, is my first blog post, published on October 11, 2011:

Time to be.  Why call my blog by that name?  Because I enjoy the peaceful act of simply being as much as doing.  I've learned that it's necessary to set aside regular time for solitude, reflection and introspection.  With this blog, I'll focus on being, not just doing.  I'll express opinions and observations, offer thoughts about items in the news, reflect and ruminate, reminisce and ramble, dream.  I will look to see life for all that's good and report on the simplest tasks and most fundamental of relationships with nature and others.  With a deep respect for the gentle steadfastness of my beloved mom who passed away four weeks ago and with a nod to her favorite author, Gladys Taber, I will write of joy, of loving and of living in the moment.  Time to be.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Fresh Thoughts for Your Monday: Embrace Abundance

With the changing of the trees to beautiful autumn color, think blessing. Just as you see the change in the trees, change your way of thinking to recognize all of the abundance in your life.

As you embrace that abundance, the lens through which you see the world will change so that even more abundance will seem to naturally come to you. 

Blessing begets blessing when you direct your focus there. Being in a grateful state sets the stage for more and more for which to be grateful.

Today, this week: Use the autumnal changes to the landscape as a prompt to shift your thinking and your energy. Embrace your abundance and give thanks.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Curiouser and Curiouser

I'm a big believer in lifelong learning. My schooling didn't end with a college diploma. Learning doesn't have to happen in the classroom or for credit. Learning something new is a daily adventure!
I tend to be a curious soul, especially when I hear people's interesting stories about their lives. I love to explore new topics and concepts. I believe I inherited the "curiosity gene" from my maternal grandfather. Grandpa Joe was always fascinated with people's stories. He soaked up new information. Consequently, Grandpa's perspective stayed young, despite his years.
Sometimes a word or concept comes into my life repeatedly for a short period of time and I'm challenged to pay attention to it and to determine what it means in my life. 
And so it was about a year ago when the word curiosity kept manifesting itself over a period of days--first in a chance conversation with someone who told me he is curious about so many things that he will never grow bored. He told me about the books he was reading. They were diverse and fascinating. Then, I saw a tweet about curiosity being the cure for boredom. And then again, I saw yet another tweet about curiosity keeping us present and reminding us to be open to change, meeting new people, challenging ourselves and growing.
The repeated messages about curiosity were meant for me! I had been overwhelmed by many professional directions at one point a few years ago. I had taken professional multitasking to my limits. As those professional endeavors came to their natural conclusions, I was left with just one project--one that led to the writing of my third book, Find Your Heart, Follow Your Heart: Get to the Heart of What Matters and Create Your Abundant, Authentic, Joyful Life, published in July 2017. 
Media exposure, speaking engagements and a series of Facebook Live videos followed, marking the next fulfilling chapter in this new venture. However, in the midst of it all, I started to feel that itch again, questioning as to where I was being called next. 
That was when the messages about curiosity came into my life with increased frequency. My tendency toward curiosity led me to even more opportunities for growth, fulfillment and enjoyment this year. 
With the calendar turning to 2018, I began writing a new series of blog posts called Fresh Thoughts for Your Monday, Affirming Words and Seasonal Sprinkles. Nudges from all directions also caused me to write a five-part blog series about My Dad, the Snake Man that has been posting this summer and fall. Another nudge caused me to submit my father's interesting life story to a magazine, where it is now awaiting publication. 
As I write this post, I'm exploring even more exciting, new avenues this fall.
I offer these examples of the joy and adventure of curiosity and their recent effects on my life as a nudge to you. 
What is appealing to your curiosity? What new concept, skill or subject might you like to learn about? Are there new people and new places calling to you? Are there new adventures waiting for you to say yes?
A curious mind is a fertile mind that eclipses fear, obstacles and limits. A handy dose of curiosity can lead to fresh insights, thoughts and ideas. Curiosity can lead to fresh starts. 
Stay curious, stay present, stay aware. There's so much to explore. The sky's the limit!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

My Dad, the Snake Man - Part Four

This post is Part Four of five posts that will highlight aspects of the life of my late father, Roy Paul "Chuck" Naidl, who dedicated his life to educating people about the value of reptiles in the ecosystem.  He was often referred to fondly as "the snake man." This year, Dad would turn 100. (To view the My Dad, the Snake Man - Parts One, Two and Three posts, please scroll down to July 30, August 21, and September 13, 2018.)

My parents, Barb and Chuck Naidl, on their wedding day 70 years ago - October 2, 1948.

The bride wore a softly tailored suit in her favorite shade of blue. The groom looked dapper in his suit and boutonniere. It was a day of beginnings for this newly married couple. There was so much to anticipate, so much to enjoy in this new life together.

Following a small wedding ceremony flanked by their witnesses, Dorrell St. Pierre and his wife, LaVerne, the newlyweds stood on the lawn of the Methodist Church parsonage in Manitowoc, Wisconsin and had their pictures taken. The newlyweds were my parents, Chuck and Barbara (Wood) Naidl. The day was October 2, 1948. Today marks their 70th wedding anniversary.

My parents fell in love in Two Rivers, Wisconsin while my mom was caring for a great-aunt who was dying. Dad was back in his hometown, honorably discharged from his stint in World War II and Mom was a fresh graduate as a registered nurse from St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. My mother had received her schooling courtesy of the U.S. government as a Cadet Nurse, agreeing and anticipating to serve in the war when her three-year education was completed. The war had ended by the time she graduated, however, so with diploma and nursing license in hand, Mom accepted the responsibility of caring for her great-aunt instead, and traveled from Iowa to Two Rivers.

My late mother, Barbara Naidl, while in Cadet Nurse training during WWII.

Upon marrying, the agreement had been that if Dad learned how to dance, Mom would learn to like snakes. For the longest time, only Mom held up her end of the bargain. Finally, about four years before his death, Dad danced a slow dance with Mom. They rehearsed in the kitchen at home several times before trying a public dance floor.

This doesn't appear to be the face of a woman who is afraid of snakes.
Mom overcame her fear once she met Dad.

My parents honeymooned at the Warren Hotel in Baraboo, a south-central Wisconsin community of fewer than 10,000 people at the time. Dad had discovered the community while on his snake-hunting expeditions and he found Baraboo to be appealing. He loved the Baraboo Hills and the wide variety of snakes that inhabited them. On one of his earlier visits to the area, Dad had met and become friends with Forrest Zantow who introduced him to the Baraboo Hills and to others who had an interest in reptiles. Dad also discovered great places to socialize, such as The Panoramic Resort, owned by the Roche family at the entrance to the north shore of Devil's Lake State Park.

Forrest "Woody" Zantow, left, and Dad. The two gentlemen became friends
during some of my father's earliest visits to the Baraboo area
and remained close until Dad's passing some 40 years later.
Woody and Dad are shown holding a bull snake, Wisconsin's largest nonpoisonous snake.
A beaded lizard is on the table in the foreground.

By 1949, Mom and Dad had purchased a five-acre parcel of land south of town on U.S. Highway 12. It featured a one-story, ranch-style structure that had at one time served as a bath house when the property was a trailer park. When the trailer park was closed and the property sold to a family from Illinois, the building was converted into a summer home. However, a miserable experience with seasonal allergies caused the family to sell and my parents to purchase the property.

Chuck Naidl's Reptile Farm, as it appeared in the 1950s, based on the vintage of the automobiles.
Dad and Mom would go on to plant many trees and renovate the building to become our family home.

After having grown up on main street in his hometown due to the location of his late father's photography business, Dad wanted nothing more than to live in the country where there were open spaces and he could plant as many trees as was possible. Mom, who had also lived within the city limits in her hometown of Charles City, Iowa, had never experienced country living either. Fortunately, once they bought their Highway 12 property, they were surrounded by kind neighbors who helped them acclimate to the country ways of life, including mending fences in order to keep neighboring cows from meandering.

Dad and Mom spent their summers at their rural Baraboo home, quickly turning a portion of the property into a reptile farm that would bear Dad's name. My parents would operate the reptile farm each summer for the next 35 years.

Chuck Naidl's Reptile Farm with the ambiguous address of Route 4 and the even more interesting
phone number of 723-R-1, from a Baraboo phone book of the 1950s.

During the remaining months of the year, Dad and Mom toured across the eastern and southern sections of the United States, with Dad giving lectures in schools about reptiles and Mom serving as his assistant. In those early years, my mother worked on and off at St. Mary's Ringling Hospital in Baraboo as a registered nurse, often doing private-duty nursing for patients needing more care.

The mansion of Alf. T. and Adella Ringling, of Ringling Bros. Circus fame,
whose home would become Baraboo's first official hospital in the 1920s.
My late mom, Barb Naidl, worked at the facility on and off for the better part of 40 years,
first as a hospital nurse, then as director of nursing when the building became a skilled nursing facility,
and later as director of nursing when it became a convent for retired Catholic sisters.

At times when they weren't touring, Dad would find other work, such as road construction where he helped build a new section of U.S. Highway 12 between Baraboo and Madison. He and Mom even worked for a short time in the 1950s at the Badger Army Ammunition Plant in nearby Sauk-Prairie, Wisconsin, with Mom serving as a nurse there.

My late parents worked for a short time at the Badger Army Ammunition Plant
on the Sauk Prairie in the 1950s.

My parents' touring years were filled with the adventure of new places, new people and new experiences that naturally come with travel. They also experienced segregation for the first time in their lives. My late mother would tell me again and again how jarring and disheartening that experience was for her to witness. But my parents also met many lovely people along the way, including the owners of motels where Mom and Dad would repeatedly stay when lecturing in the vicinity. Many of those friendships remained throughout the years, even if contact was made only once a year with the exchange of Christmas greeting cards.

My mom, Barb Naidl, could be counted on to assist Dad with his lecture programs,
even bringing some of the program right to the audience.
These little girls look as if they're enjoying the experience.

In some of the early years of their touring, Dad and Mom not only traveled in a vehicle filled with reptiles for Dad's lectures, they also traveled with their beloved Dalmatian, Jigs. The dog was so named because he "danced" with Mom whenever a popular television program from the day, Dairyland Jubilee, was on. Mom would ask Jigs if he wanted to dance and he would respond by standing on his hind legs and placing his front paws on Mom's shoulders so they could "polka" together. Traveling with a dog proved to be too difficult in the end, however, and Jigs found a home--as would seem appropriate--at a fire department.

My maternal grandmother, Carolyn Wood; my dad, Chuck Naidl; and Jigs, my parents' beloved Dalmatian.

Even before my parents married, my dad had experienced a few poisonous snake bites. By the time I was born in 1958, my dad had experienced his tenth and final poisonous snake bite. That last bite struck a nerve in his right hand, causing his thumb to become paralyzed. Rather than amputate his thumb (which was on his dominant hand), it was decided that it would better serve him by being folded across his palm. Despite that disability, Dad's handwriting, both cursive and printing, continued to be exemplary and he had complete use of his hand, even without a functioning thumb.

When Dad experienced that tenth and final snake bite at the fangs of a diamondback rattlesnake, Dad drove himself to St. Mary's Ringling Hospital in Baraboo where Mom was working. She met him in the ER.

This photo explains the injuries Dad sustained from his ninth poisonous snake bite,
this time by a Wisconsin timber rattlesnake in May of 1948,
about six months before he and Mom got married.

Dad's right hand, draped over Mom's shoulder, is bandaged from one of his snake bite experiences.

Mom was never bitten by a poisonous snake, but she could very well have been during one incident when a shipment of snakes arrived at home while Dad was on the road lecturing. The shipment was anticipated and was to include a boa constrictor, as I recall. However, when Mom opened the large Styrofoam box's lid and lifted out the sack containing the snake, she could see the shadow of a cobra lifting itself up and flaring out its head inside the bag. Mom quickly and carefully placed the still-closed sack back into the Styrofoam box and affixed its lid. Then, she called the school where Dad was lecturing and left him a message to call her. When she picked me up that day from school, she was still shaking from the experience, even as we shopped at the local A&P Store on the way home.

It didn't take Mom long to become comfortable holding snakes,
as evidenced by this photo from the New York Sport Show in New York City circa 1950.

Needless to say, we always had an ample supply of blue boxes of Wyeth Laboratories' antivenin in our refrigerator in the event of a poisonous snake bite. To others, it probably seemed strange to open up the frig, only to find poisonous snake antivenin next to the condiments in the refrigerator door, but it was a necessity in our household.

For the years leading up to my birth, Dad "milked" poisonous snakes, collecting the venom for the antivenin and selling it to Wyeth. Dad even milked snakes in a store window in downtown Baraboo, which surely must have drawn a crowd.

Dad, milking the venom from the venom sacs of a poisonous Timber Rattlesnake.
As always, Mom was by his side.
Note the snake tattoo on Dad's right arm.
Although too small to read, the word next to the snake's head
reads "MOHAVE," meaning the Mojave Desert where Dad got the tattoo during WWII.

As the photo's label shows, this picture gives a close-up view
of how Dad extracted venom from a poisonous snake.
The venom was used in antivenin for poisonous snake bites.
Note Mom looking through the doorway.

When I was born, which was a surprise to my parents after ten years of marriage, Mom and Dad's lecture tour experience changed. While we continued to tour during my preschool and even kindergarten years, once I was enrolled in elementary school, Mom stayed home with me and resumed her work as a registered nurse and soon as a director of nursing, while Dad toured alone except during my school-year breaks. 

That change in our lives required that Mom learn how to drive. Dad ended up serving as her driving instructor. I recall riding along with them, crouched down on the floor of the backseat playing with my dolls, as Dad coached Mom down the snaky South Shore Road to Devil's Lake State Park. Every time I take that road, even to this day, I can still feel that same excitement for Mom as she deftly negotiated the hairpin turns and went on to get her driver's license at 40 years of age. 

My parents enjoyed a close marriage. They were partners in life in every way. My father requested my mother's wisdom for his every major decision and he respected her career as a nursing professional. In return, my mom gave my dad his work freedom. His months away from home on lecture tour didn't create quantity time for them, but it did foster quality time, and they took every advantage of that time together.

All smiles as Dad, Mom and an unidentified gentleman, at left, deal with a handful.

In the final years of Dad's life, he spent more time at home. During winter evenings, Mom and Dad would enjoy hours in their cozy kitchen playing cards. In the summer, they would sit in lawn chairs in the backyard and look up at the star-studded night sky. Theirs was an unusual marriage compared to those of my little friends' parents when I was growing up, but theirs was a charmed life together and surely a devoted and loving partnership. They showed me each and every day what a successful marriage looks and feels like. I owe them that and so much more.

Happy 70th anniversary, Mom and Dad, with my love always.

Birthday pie amidst a game of cards.
Dad favored pie over cake, so his birthday always featured the pie of his choice.
It looks like pumpkin pie was the preferred choice for his 61st birthday.

In next month's installment, posting on November 21 at 9:00 a.m. central time, I'll cover Dad's early years on what would be his 100th birthday. See you then.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Affirming Words AND Fresh Thoughts for Your Monday: Positive Energy Brings New Opportunities

On this first day of the month and the first Monday of the month, here is a double dose, a double dip—some Affirming Words and some Fresh Thoughts for Your Monday!

Consider adopting these Affirming Words for this month. Say them often to yourself -- whenever you see yourself in a mirror, when you get out of bed to start the day, whenever you need a little pick-me-up:

I am overflowing with creativity and positive energy. I attract exciting, new opportunities.

You are a creative being. You have unique talents and gifts that need and deserve to be shared with the world.

Today, this week, this month: Embrace your creative spirit. Feel the positive energy. You are attracting new opportunities!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Fresh Thoughts for Your Monday: The Call of the Heart

We all have seasons in our lives—not the seasons of the year necessarily, but those times when we can feel that a shift is happening, a change is needed and a time of newness is calling to us.

We would be wise to listen to those nudges. Is it time for you to consider new experiences, new places, new insights, new people, new opportunities?

As summer gives way to autumn, in what direction is your heart calling you?

Even a slight change can reinvigorate your life.

Today, this week: Listen carefully to the call of your heart.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Seasonal Sprinkles: Autumnal Equinox

This evening, we welcome the autumnal equinox, marking the first day of fall.

With the change of the season from summer to autumn, we have the opportunity to examine our lives and to determine what changes we, too, might like to make.

Autumn is the time of harvesting. What efforts have you been making in your life over the summer that now call for harvesting?

Autumn is the time of the vegetation changing color and dying away in preparation for a quiet time before its renewal next spring. What aspects of your life might you wish to allow to fall away in preparation for something new?

Enjoy this beautiful time of year. Use it as a time for opportunity, growth and change.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Fresh Thoughts for Your Monday: Expand Your Horizons

The new school year provides the perfect time to remind ourselves that learning can take place every day and at every stage of our lives, whether or not we’re in the formal setting of a classroom.

When we’re curious and when we choose to see everything as a teachable moment, we learn new information and expand our perspectives.

Today, this week: Expand your horizons. Spend time each day learning something new.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

My Dad, the Snake Man - Part Three

My dad, Chuck Naidl, with a beaded lizard
at one of his educational presentations about reptiles, likely in the 1950s.
Dad had a cherished beaded lizard for many years.
Although the lizard was eventually stricken with arthritis
that was visible in its spine, Dad tenderly cared for his friend all the way until its death.

This post is Part Three of five posts that will highlight aspects of the life of my late father, Roy Paul "Chuck" Naidl, who dedicated his life to educating people about the value of reptiles in the ecosystem.  He was often referred to fondly as "the snake man." This year, Dad would turn 100. (To view the My Dad, the Snake Man - Parts One and Two posts, please scroll down to July 30, 2018 and August 21, 2018.)

My father was an educator, but he never taught in a classroom, graded a paper or issued a report card. My dad, Chuck Naidl, was an educator who saw his classroom as anywhere and everywhere. My father gave educational presentations about the importance of reptiles in our world. He spoke to audiences, particularly school-age children, across much of the United States for more than three decades. Dad felt that if he could inform, educate and enlighten audiences--especially children, they would lose their fear of these often-maligned and little-understood creatures and come to co-exist with them respectfully and appreciatively.

As noted on this photo, Dad presented this educational program about reptiles
in the gymnasium of the Newburg, Missouri High School.

From the early years of their marriage, my father and my mother, Barbara, spent their summers at the property they purchased in the late 1940s on U.S. Highway 12 south of Baraboo, Wisconsin--a property that would quickly become a reptile farm bearing Dad's name. After busy summers opening their reptile farm to the public, my parents spent the remainder of the year traveling. They appeared at sport shows and presented educational programs in schools, universities and even a prison or two.

In the early years, Dad presented his educational programs about reptiles in schools and at sport shows.
The look on the face of the little boy wearing the striped t-shirt and overalls is priceless.

My parents' travels took them from the Midwest to along the eastern portion of the United States, moving north to south, where Dad presented educational lectures about reptiles. My parents often booked the programs themselves. However, Dad wanted to up his game in the early 1960s, so he auditioned one summer in Lakeside, Ohio to become recognized as an International Platform Association (IPA) member and, thus, move his career into the professional speaker circuit. My father's program was accepted and he began a new chapter in his lecturing journey by being professionally represented by booking agencies located as near as Chicago and as far away as Kansas, Florida and New York.

Dad's business card,
noting his membership in the International Platform Association
as a professional public speaker.

Dad's presentations were often given on stages in big school auditoriums and even more often right on the floor of school gymnasiums, with the audience sitting in the bleachers and on the floor. Those environments weren't conducive to high-tech (1960s-style) presentations, so he relied on his own words and live reptiles to convey his educational message. 

In preparation for his potential IPA membership status, Dad developed a new look for his presentations. Live reptiles were placed in specially outfitted wicker baskets. A T-shaped stand held the hides of snakes that weren't shown live in his program. Cal and Maida Bergner, neighbors of ours on Highway 12 who were professional sign painters, painted a sign that promoted our reptile farm for Dad's lectures. They also lettered in bright yellow a brown burlap tablecloth for a card table on which Dad placed smaller items for his programs. 

In the 1960s, this was how Dad's presentations looked from the audience.
Cal and Maida Bergner, neighbors of ours and professional sign painters,
painted the framed sign and the burlap tablecloth in the photo.

Given the size of his audiences and his desire to truly reach them with his educational message, Dad spent a portion of each show getting close to the audience, allowing them to pet a snake or see a tarantula up close as it crawled up his arm. As you can well imagine, such opportunities to get close to someone holding a snake and even getting to touch its cool, dry skin and muscular body created quite the sensation with the audience.

Dad gets up close to the audience to give them a better look at a snake
that likely could be found right in their own neighborhoods.

My father liked to include in his presentations reptiles from other parts of the country and world, but he also featured those from the areas in which he was speaking. It was important to him to be able to relate his program to the regions of the country where he spoke.

Everything Dad used in his programs fit neatly into a station wagon. Given all of his loading and unloading experiences from presenting three programs per day, Monday through Friday, Dad was adept at making everything fit. He could assemble and disassemble his display quickly. He effortlessly drove in reverse in order to back up to a stage or gymnasium door. Often, older students were assigned to help him load and unload. Some of them got the opportunity to get up close and personal with the reptiles that Dad presented in his program.

Hey, Mom! Guess what I did at school today?

Dad's lecture tours took him from Maine to Florida, the Carolinas to the Rockies, the Upper Midwest to the panhandle of Texas. Along the way, he met many interesting people, often the very teachers who taught in the schools where he lectured. Dad's tour took him to Texas during my third-grade year. We spent my Thanksgiving break hunting diamondback rattlesnakes on a ranch owned by a teacher Dad met while giving his program. By the time I entered kindergarten, I had traveled through at least 15 states, all because of my father's career and the opportunity for my mother and me to travel with him.

Using a chalkboard, Dad explained to audiences the differences
between the heads of poisonous and nonpoisonous snakes.

Dad's programs were always given exceptional scores by his audiences. His lecture "report cards" were pretty much straight A's. His lectures were also memorable. I recall a teacher from my hometown of Baraboo, Wisconsin telling me several years ago about a conference she had recently attended in Atlanta. A fellow conference attendee from a faraway state commented that she was familiar with Baraboo because she had seen Dad's program at the school where she taught many years earlier and she remembered our community as the home of "the snake man."

Dad had a way of wowing his audiences,
as evidenced by the expressions of the children in this school audience.

A few months ago, I received a surprise message from my dear friend, Pam, who now lives in North Carolina. She was at her local veterinarian's office with her dogs when, as she put it, "The vet warns me that snakes will be out soon and to be aware. So, I mention that my best friend's dad was a herpetologist. He asked where and I reply Wisconsin. He says that he knew of some (herpetologists) in Florida but was surprised about Wisconsin. I explain your dad went around to schools doing educational lectures. He then proceeds to tell me his daughter had a similar lecture she attended in grade school. He has the picture on his desk. Sure enough, the man in the picture with this gaggle of kids was none other than your dad!! The vet and I both had this weird wow moment. It was back in the 60s." 

It touched me deeply to know that my father's positive, instructive message about the value of reptiles in our ecosystem continues across the miles and decades.

Dad delivered his program at his alma mater, Washington High School
in Two Rivers, Wisconsin on October 12, 1962.
From the looks on the boys' faces, Dad's message must have resonated:
Replace your fear of reptiles with knowledge, understanding and respect.
They are interesting creatures who can teach us. There is a place for all of us on this earth.

In addition to Dad's lecture tours, our reptile farm was open most days of the week throughout the summer. There Dad, Mom and I took turns giving educational and experiential tours to visitors about the reptiles in our care. My father hunted for some of those reptiles himself. At other times, he purchased them from zoos or from individuals. There were also countless occasions when local people would call, asking for Dad to come get a snake that had somehow found its way into their home or barn or well. There were even situations when he would receive a call because someone's pet snake, lizard or alligator had grown bigger than the owner had expected and it now needed to find a new home. (Take that to mean our reptile farm.)

Dad climbed the Baraboo Hills many times over the years in search of reptiles
to study and present in his programs,
for television appearances and at our reptile farm.
He can be seen in this photo wearing snake-proof boots and carrying snake tongs,
so that meant he was looking for rattlesnakes.
Note the ease with which Dad appears to walk down the boulders.
Mom used to say that Dad could climb up and down the bluffs "like a billy goat."

During the summer months when our reptile farm was open, Dad also presented his programs to children, youth and teens at Camp Upham Woods, a 4-H camp located in nearby Wisconsin Dells. The programs would take place in the evenings after our reptile farm was closed for the day. Dad, Mom and I would make an adventure out of it, often driving through busy Wisconsin Dells to see if there were still any vacancy signs on the motels and ending our evening with root beer floats in frosty glass mugs at the nearby A&W stand. The smell of the campfires, the scent of the pines, the beautiful surroundings of Upham Woods, and the interesting professors and University of Wisconsin-Extension professionals who became our family friends were an important part of my happy childhood summer memories.

Dad spent summer evenings presenting his educational programs
at Camp Upham Woods in Wisconsin Dells.

During the summer months, Dad also regularly appeared for many years on Stan Bran's Outdoors Calling, a popular television program for outdoor enthusiasts produced in Madison, Wisconsin. The show aired on Madison's NBC affiliate, WMTV (now also known as NBC15). Stan Bran was rather afraid of snakes, yet he and my dad presented wonderful television programs together over the years and you could tell that through their friendship, my father had helped Stan's fear of snakes lessen some. 

From left, my late mother, Barbara Naidl; my dad, Chuck Naidl;
and the host of Outdoors Calling, Stan Bran.
Outdoors Calling was a popular, locally produced program in Madison, Wisconsin
that aired on Saturday afternoons for many years.
Note that Mom and Dad are not only holding snakes,
but also flashlights provided by one of the show's sponsors, Rayovac.

It was always exciting to go to the TV station for one of Dad's appearances. He was usually featured on Outdoors Calling three times each summer. For many years, the programs were live. In later years, they were live and taped. I am fortunate to have a DVD of Dad's final two programs with Stan Bran. After so many years since his passing, it is a blessing to be able to hear my father's voice and watch his mannerisms. 

One Outdoors Calling program each summer would generally be dedicated to poisonous snakes. The station's crew even built a special glass-enclosed area in which Dad stood so that the poisonous snakes could be presented safely but still be easily seen on camera.

The glass enclosure at WMTV allowed for poisonous snakes,
such as this timber rattlesnake seen in the left foreground,
to be seen on camera while ensuring everyone's safety.
Dad is wearing his snake-proof boots and using snake tongs.

Mom would often be featured with Dad on Outdoors Calling as the trusted person handing him each reptile as he talked about it on camera with Stan Bran. I even had the opportunity to be that assistant to Dad every now and again. Such fun memories.

I love this particular photo: the vintage television camera circa 1950;
the show's host, Stan Bran, looking at his notes;
Dad in his snake-proof boots so that his pants looked like jodhpurs;
and Mom, all dressed up, complete with high heels.

On the last evening of my mother's life, I was alone with her, seated by her bed, witnessing her move more and more toward death. After such a wonderful life with my parents, I was now about to become an orphan in my mid-50s. Dad had been gone for 30 years and Mom was now about to join him. I silently asked my dad if he could give me some sign that he was there with us, that when I eventually let go of Mom's hand, he would be there to take it. In Mom's hushed and darkened room in the skilled nursing facility where she lay dying of cancer that evening, the staff had turned on the television to an easy-listening music channel. As I sat there, asking Dad for a sign of his presence, I suddenly realized that the piece of music that came on the television was the theme song from Outdoors Calling. I smiled through my tears, feeling confident of Dad's presence. He had indeed provided me with a sign and I knew that the three of us, our little family unit, were together in that space--each of us in our own form, our own way, but still and always together. 

My mother died on this day, September 13, in 2011 at age 85.

On the set of Outdoors Calling in 1957.
As always, Mom is by Dad's side and looking lovely in her skirt and pumps.

My father's adult life, whether lecturing in schools across much of the United States, giving a tour at our reptile farm, presenting at Camp Upham Woods or being a local television personality, was spent exactly how he wanted it to be spent: educating people about the value of reptiles so that they wouldn't look upon them with fear, but rather with appreciation, understanding and respect. Dad believed that humans could co-exist with reptiles, that we were all placed here for a reason. It's no wonder that years after they first heard his program, people would still remember "the snake man."

Dad, creating quite the sensation with his boa constrictor at a sport show circa 1950.

In next month's installment, posting on October 2 at 9:00 a.m. central time, I'll explore Dad and Mom's life together. Although she enjoyed her own career, my mom helped make my dad's career what it was. See you then.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Fresh Thoughts for Your Monday: Be a Healer.

With each day and each encounter, we’re given a choice as to how we will respond. Will our words lift up or will they tear down? Will we heal or will we hurt? It’s up to you.

Today, this week: Use your words to heal, to understand, to spread love, to dry a tear.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Fresh Thoughts for Your Monday: Have Faith and Keep Going

The road isn’t always clear. It’s okay to check your surroundings and get your bearings. But, don’t let that stop you. Keep going.

When the way ahead is unclear, rely on faith and have confidence that the path will present itself when the time is right.

Today, this week: Stay strong. Stay focused. Keep going. The fulfillment of your dreams and ideas is waiting for you.

Sunday, September 2, 2018


Although I know very little about the constellations and planets and I’m surely no expert on weather or cloud formations, I’ve always been intrigued and awed by the sky and its infinity.
When we were young girls, my forever friend, Pam, and I used to refer to “God Skies” and “God Clouds” after seeing too many televised versions of The Robe, The Ten Commandments, and Ben Hur, where God's presence would be made known by particular sky scenes—usually the sun's rays angling out from behind clouds.

Since then, I have found solace in those magnificent “God Skies.” Any burden that seems to be weighing heavily on my shoulders lessens because I feel as if a greater power knows the plan.

I also love to watch the early morning sky. When all is still and the day is unfolding, there is nothing as lovely as the dawn. It’s not unusual for me to find myself unable to move away from the bedroom or kitchen windows, for the early-morning sky is often a radiant shade of pink. How can one have a bad day when it starts out with such majesty, beauty and tranquility?
The sky at sunset also has a way of drawing my attention away from other matters. Often, those evening skies are filled with sherbet colors of pink and orange. My late mom used to refer to "sky blue pink," as a tongue-in-cheek color description.  I wonder if that phrase came about because of a sky like those I often see at sunset.

The night sky always used to captivate my parents' attention.  Growing up in the country, there were no city lights to obstruct our view of the celestial nuances.  My parents would sit outside in lawn chairs in our back yard on summer evenings, gazing upward with appreciation. The wide expanse of blackness, dotted with many bright and twinkling stars, makes one feel small in the context of the cosmos. 

My husband, Larry, and I have had the opportunity to learn more about the night sky from members of an area astronomy society who generously share their telescopes with the curious at our local state park. We’ve seen planets, stars and constellations in ways we could never enjoy with the naked eye.
Larry and I have also attended lectures about solar eclipses and black holes. There is so much to learn about that vast umbrella that we call the sky.
When life feels as if it’s spinning too quickly, take a few moments to look up at the sky, whether at sunrise, midday, sunset or in the dark of night. Spend a few moments in awe of the infinite, and find peace.