Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Hello everyone!

This weekend I had the pleasure of spending the day with twelve of my relatives while we went on a train ride through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Now, I am an avid visitor to the park and have even had the honor of aiding in some of the park’s research. However, my family has never gone. I even talked my cousin into camping there and going kayaking.

I was thoroughly impressed with the train ride which wove its way through the park smoothly.

The train, which was from the 1940’s, was in great condition and the railroad system easily adapted to any changes. Due to the high population of visitors that day, the railway added several additional train cars to fit all of the passengers effortlessly.

This was my fist time on the train at the CVNP and I am definitely going back.

My family also really enjoyed the ride and said it was very relaxing. We even got the chance to see the 1000 pound (~453 kg) Bald Eagles nest. This past season two new eaglets were born and have already left the nest.

Definitely a trip to remember!


Let’s Talk: The Cheating Zany Grandma

This past Labor Day my family was over for a cookout. The day was very nice and everyone was lively with chatter.

After dinner my family usually likes to play some games. Recently, we have trying out various card games. We started out with Rummy and made our way to Golf. My grandma won every single game, but one. We all jokingly accused her of cheating.

We played till everyone went home.

The next day, I was folding the blanket my grandma was using and I was surprised to see a couple of cards fall out.

The jokes of cheating were correct.

My precious grandmother who was winning all evening was cheating!

No, I have not asked her and I will not. However, I told my father (grandma’s son) and all he could do was laugh and yell “that cheater.”

Till next time



Plants Can Talk

We are going back to the science track with this post.

Little known fact: Plants can talk! WHAT?!

Okay, obviously I don’t mean can plants talk in the same way humans can. I, for one, have never walked down the street and had a daisy bid me “good day” (at least not sober).

I mean plants can communicate with each other. This is done through the release of chemicals.

When a plant is being attacked by an insect or disease it releases specific chemicals. These chemicals act as a warning to neighboring plants.

A nearby plant then detects the chemical and reacts to protect itself. This can be done in several ways. However, it usually involves the action of a secondary metabolite. There are several classes of these chemicals and each performs a different job.

The neighboring plants defend themselves by releasing chemicals either inside or outside the plant. These chemicals are produced based on the threat. A plant can produce chemicals to kill an insect if ingested or release chemicals to deter the threat from the plant.

These secondary metabolites are key to plant survival and human survival. Many medicines used today are derived from the secondary metabolites of plants. These chemicals are key for the survival of both.

There are many other ways plants can communicate, but that is a whole other post.

I am amazed at the “secret lives of plants.”

In all honesty, thank you plants for producing caffeine (a type of secondary metabolite), I don’t know how I would survive without coffee.


Let’s Talk: The Zany Grandma And The Oven

Hello everyone!

Shall we continue with another “zany grandma” tale?

My grandma has lived in the same house for over 50 years. Most of the appliances she owns are from when she bought the house. So, as the title of this post suggest, her oven is also over fifty years old.

A couple of years ago my family started to smell something strange when we would visit. We figured out it was the smell of gas and a little while later we deduced it was her oven.

Now, before I continue I think it is useful to keep in mind that since this oven is so old it is ignited with a match

It took months and months of warnings and us turning off her oven for her to finally listen to get the it checked out.

After a couple of months, at a family get together, the oven was still letting out gas. My grandma informed everyone that she had the oven checked and that nothing could be fixed (the parts are no longer in production) and the oven needed to be replaced.

Everyone in the family offered to pitch in to pay for a new oven. I also told her she could get another oven similar to the one she had. However, she was not interested in any of this. She said “the oven has been with me this long it will stay with me.” Yes, my grandma is emotionally attached to her oven; even if it could kill her.

My family has tried desperately to change her mind and buy her a new oven due to the risk of explosion. My stubborn grandma simply tells us, “I only run it when no one is here, but myself.” That does not stop the risk!

Many appliances in my grandma’s home are like this, but to her they are as precious as family. My entire family has run into problems with items in her home. Another product that she is deeply connected to is her Rotary Phone, but that is a story for another day.


Climate Change Versus Global Warming

Climate change is one of the major issues we face today. We live in the moment of a potentially devastating event.

Most people accept climate change as an issue because it is backed by copious research. However, the media is filled with both deniers and acceptors. This includes prominent politicians who want to start televised events to debate the existence climate change.

There is one problem with all the televised material on climate change. The news and politicians usually refer to climate change as “global warming.” This is starting to change with more and more news companies writing headlines as “climate change.” News anchors and reporters will still say global warming when relaying information.

We need to make a change in the way we speak. Climate change is a scientific term used to refer to the change in weather patterns and climate on a global average. Global warming simply refers to the warming of the world.

One of the simplest ways to observe climate change is in weather events such as thunder storms or hurricanes. It is seen in the increased intensity and spontaneity of storms. Since climate change deals more with weather patterns it is not appropriate to call it global warming.

Certain politicians call climate change a hoax because the city they are residing in is cold enough to snow. This is not only ridiculous it is wrong. Climate change does not mean all areas will warm up. In fact some areas will even cool down.

We exist in one of the great moments in history. Future generations will look back and will either praise or condemn us. We can change the gruesome future that is being painted by scientists.


Dogs Are Amazing

Okay, I know this is a widely accepted fact, but I just need to say it again. Dogs are amazing!

I am not just talking about how cute and lovable they tend to be. (Although that is included). I am talking about how skilled and useful they are.

Recently, I dove into learning the skills and expertise of these canines. Most college seniors have to complete a capstone course in order to graduate. With my degree, that meant I had to prepare an hour long seminar and present it to over 100 people. Worst hour of my life.

The topic I chose was the olfactory capabilities of canines. After months and months of research I was even more amazed with dogs than I was before.

I focused on cadaver dogs or search and rescue dogs, but also came across research on detection dogs. Dogs can be trained to detect seizure in people before they start and even detect cancer in the body.

During my research I came across a comparison that blew my mind: where a human might be able to detect a teaspoon of sugar in water, dogs would be able to detect a teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic swimming pools of water. (yeah my dog can’t do that, but it means a trained scent dog would be able to).

Dogs can even smell the difference between genetically identical twins. However, they cannot smell the difference between newborn identical twins. I learned a lot about the use of dogs in law enforcement and as aids in forensics. This amalgamation of knowledge is what I am truly grateful for after my seminar.

All animals are amazing and many animals have a better sense of smell than dogs, but only dogs are man’s best friend.

Let me know if you would like more science based posts. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.


Let’s Talk: The Zany Grandma’s Birthday Present

Ready for another Zany Grandma story?!?

The beginning of July marked another birthday for me. This is a story of my grandma’s birthday present to me.

My grandma typically gives her grandkids collectibles for holidays and birthdays. Yes, she still believes collectibles will be valuable within a few years.

One of her favorites to give is Swarovski Crystal. Now, I am not complaining about receiving those as a gift. I think they are beautiful, delicate, and am extremely thankful to receive one as a gift, but I didn’t always think this way. You try telling a five year old they cannot play with their present.

My grandma told me a few days before that she found old collectibles in the attic which she forgot about. These were originally purchased for her youngest grandkids years ago and she wanted to give them to us now. Yes, she bought our presents in bulk. It is like that cliché of the husband that buys his wife’s presents in bulk in case he forgets an event.

The day of my birthday my grandma dropped off my Swarovski crystal and left a message saying that it was broken and she wanted to have it repaired. By this she meant she wanted me to look up ways to repair it and contact people to have it repaired.

The Swarovski I received was an angel, but both arms had broken off. After searching ways to repair it the only answer was to take it into a jeweler.

Now none of this story is that crazy yet, but get ready.

My grandma has two more crystals for my younger cousins. In a previous post I mentioned that my grandma plays favorites and my aunt’s children have always been her favorite. (Widely accepted fact in my family).

The crystals my grandma had in her closet consisted of an angel, a lady bug, and a drum. So of course my very catholic grandma gives me the angel despite the fact that she knows I am an agnostic and have been for over 10 years. Even crazier, she plans to give the lady bug to my cousin who is going to Bible School and wants to teach religion. Also keep in mind I am a biologist. She has always given me religious gifts just because I’m not religious in hopes she can sway me.

Here is the craziest part. My grandma called me recently to tell me that she is taking the crystal for my cousin to a jeweler to have it fixed because it is also broken. She proceeded to tell me “you can’t give a broken present.” All I could think was “but you gave me one.”

I think I have become desensitized to her crazy actions and just make a mental note, smile, nod, and say thank you.

If you have any crazy grandparent stories please share.

Till next time.


Let’s Talk: The Zany Grandma And Her New Dog

I previously stated that I had many zany grandmother stories to share. So here is one you may enjoy.

My grandmother is very particular when it comes to dogs. I didn’t know how selective she was until I had the esteemed honor of finding a new dog for her to adopt.

This started about two years after the passing of her longtime dog Yankee III (yeah another story there). She was wanting another dog, but was not making any decisive actions. She has only ever bought dogs from breeders and paid top dollar; no she does not put them in shows. I refused to let her do that so I offered help in searching for a dog for her. I searched all over local shelters to find her a dog.

This should not have taken long or have been difficult. It was.

The reason why it was so hard is that she is incredibly picky. She had a list of requirements for me to meet. This was the first list:

  1. A male
  2. A puppy or young dog
  3. Small
  4. Upright ears (An absolute must)
  5. Short hair, but not too short
  6. Not too loud
  7. Must be okay with children
  8. Cannot shed too much
  9. Light coloration
  10. Solid coloration
  11. Open face (Yeah, what??)
  12. Cairn Terrier preferred
  13. House trained (from a puppy…)
  14. Straight tail
  15. No distinct smell
  16. Okay with being left alone for a short while
  17. No health conditions
  18. Terrier group
  19. No biting

Okay the list was long and made me angry. I can look at any dog and say you absolutely perfect. (We as humans don’t deserve dogs; they are too good for us)

After a few months of looking I told her I could not find a puppy Cairn Terrier that wasn’t from a breeder. She thought of just contacting a breeder, but I convinced her to be lenient with her list. She would now “allow” a non terrier and simply a young dog.

I searched for over a year to fit her specificities. Then she says she wants a female dog. Yeah now more searching.

I finally found her a perfect dog. I kept it as close to her list as possible. This dog came from a rescue called Marilyn’s Voice which focused on rescuing puppy mill dogs. The dog I found was a tiny, six pound, Toy Poodle and Yorkshire Terrier mix.  I wanted to find her a small dog that would remain easy to lift as the dog ages. (Her last dog, a West Highland Terrier, was too heavy for her to lift when the dog got too old to get up stairs to go outside).

She went to meet the dog and fell in love instantly. This dog had character and was so well behaved.

This dog ended up being about 5 years old and had some missing teeth. She also has chronic ear infections and is not used to people handing her food. Even with these quirks my grandmother fell in love with her (I knew she would).

About a year has passed since she got the dog and they are inseparable. The dog had many difficulties at first, but was attached to my grandma instantly. She ended up being partially house trained, afraid of stairs, and barks when my grandma was not in sight. My grandma considered sending her back to the shelter (which upset me because I tried to explain puppy mill dogs take a while to settle into their homes). After about a year the adorable little poodle is now better with stairs, pretty well trained, and content at home and with other family.

My grandma is now in love with the little fuzz ball and says she could not imagine her life without the dog. She babies the dog and spoils her beyond belief.

Well that is my grandma story for today. Let me know if you would like to hear more of these stories.

Until next time.


Let’s Talk: Graduation and The Struggles of Post-Graduation Life

Graduation is a time of joy, sadness, and uncertainties. Seeing as it is May and is the season of proms and graduation I thought it would be a good time to bring this up.

You have many graduations in your academic life and some are more important than others. That kindergarten graduation you had was probably night the highlight of your life or the even that changed everything for you. If it was… I am sorry…

Sure that eighth grade graduation was a little more symbolic. It is the first step to high school.

You High School graduation is where it changes. Most students choose to continue their education to college or some other secondary education. Other students choose to immediately start working. It’s all a very personal choice that depends on circumstance and personal drive. Either way most people are still living at home, going away to college, or relying on their parents for at least part of their funds. Especially today…

Now College graduation is on a whole other playing field. Just a couple weeks ago I experienced my very own college graduation (another zany grandmother story here). The whole experience was joyful and a hell of a lot less emotional and sappy than high school. But my gosh the existential crisis that begins immediately! What do I do now?! Where do I go?

There are so many choices to make. Do you go to Grad School or start working? The pressure begins and is deepened with every cut of the phrase “what ware you doing now?”

For me, I want to get my Masters, but it takes time and many applications to even be accepted. Right now it is a waiting game. I have already applied,  but the options are limited. I feel stuck. I know where I want to go and only applied there. I know it is not wise to do that because I basically put all my eggs in one basket. However, I also plan to commute and save money. I am already in debt from my undergraduate education. There used to be two schools with the program I want that are relatively close to where I live. Unfortunately, one of the schools (the cheaper one) lost accreditation and now I am left with one school. A school I absolutely love and am desperate to get into. I feel idiotic for applying to only one program, but what choice do I have?

Like many individuals in their early 20’s I am straight out of college with no options. Go to college they said. It will be fun they said. You’ll get a better paying job they said. ALL LIES. Here I am applying to the lowest ranking jobs in hospitals desperately trying to get into grad school. It’s either a job that you only need a high school degree or a job that requires a specialized programs degree. Every job I see for college graduates requires at least 5 years of experience to begin. Yeah an entry level job. I love this era…

On the bright side, I had the best graduation cap 


Let’s Talk: Family

You love them; you hate them. However, as the cliché goes you can’t live without them.

You love them; you hate them. However, as the cliché goes you can’t live without them. Whether it’s from the simple birth to the meddling mother, you would not be where you are without your parents.

Now let’s get away from the sappiness of the last few lines and get down to it: The dreaded family get-together. My family LOVES reunions. We probably have three or four a year all arranged by my grandmother. She sets up a full family reunion for each side. This means one large reunion for the Polish side and a separate large reunion for the Greek side. During the down time between these two reunions she sets up “tea parties” for the ladies of the two sides (always separate).

Recently, my grandmother heard of a small get-together being hosted by my aunt for a cousin and her siblings because of moving out of state. Of course my grandmother thinks it is a “swell” idea and immediately informed her sister. From there, the two sisters initiated the family tree of phone calls. This small party which was supposed to be for four people ended up with more than thirty people invited. Needless to say when my aunt found out she had some major crowd control to do and basically uninvited everyone to this random reunion.

Oh the wonderfully quintessential stories of a zany grandmother I have in store for you! You will have to wait to find out more…