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Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin’

I’ve been into birdwatching (or “birding” as it is commonly called) for a little less than a year now, and this year the kids and I are participating in the GBBC—The Great Backyard Bird Count.

Basically, everyone in North America can count the birds wherever they go this long weekend (Friday through Monday)…whether it be on birding trips or hikes, or just on a trip to a local park or running errands to the grocery store.  Did you see 6 pigeons when you went to WalMart?  You can count that.  Were your kids playing at the park when a flock of 30 starlings flew by?  Check.  Did some adorable black-capped chickadees come visit your yard bird feeder this morning?  The GBBC people want to know. (Scientists use this information gathered every year to track bird trends, health and other things.)

Here’s the website with all the information you need to participate.  There’s also a section for kids with a birdsong quiz, puzzles, recipes for bird treats, and more.

We are having a blast watching the home page for the GBBC change constantly as it’s updated every 30 minutes or so with bird finds from across the country.  Yesterday morning, when it started, there were a few red dots marking submitted checklists in the west part of the U.S., with a large cluster of them on the East Coast.  Now the map is nearly full of red, with lots in Canada and Mexico, too.  We love to see the bird count and species count change.

You can also access lists for your state and even city.  We are following Utah (because we live here) and Wisconsin (my beautiful home state…I love that my hometown of Eagle River even had 1 checklist submitted! Thank you, unknown Eagle River birder).

Yesterday we watched our back and front yards for a while and counted 1 Black-Capped Chickadee, 1 Mountain Chickadee, 12 House Sparrows, 5 Starlings, 1 House Finch, 1 Dark-Eyed Junco (Oregon variety) and a Spotted Towhee.  The Spotted Towhee was a thrilling find…we’d never seen one before, let alone had one visit our yard!  They’re beautiful birds.  The kids decided they have the head of a Junco, the tail of a Magpie, and the stomach of a Robin. 

Spotted Towhee (from Wikipedia)

Last night we went out to the International Center, near the airport, and saw a Great-Horned Owl.  He was more awake than the last time we’d seen him and the kids were so excited to see him wide awake and looking at them.  We tried to get some pictures but our cameras aren’t the best:

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Here’s the nest, which is a bundle of pine needles, sticks, and leaves, and the owl peering out of his nest

We also had a fun time feeding the ducks in a nearby pond, despite the bone-chilling wind.

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Nia thought it would be fun to pretend this bench was a bed

The kids were beyond excited to come home and enter their count on the GBBC checklists.  They loved the fact that we counted the only Great-Horned Owl and the only Killdeer (as of this morning) for Utah.

Note: In the half hour or so I’ve been composing this blog post, the national bird count has gone up by 4,000 birds.  We hope you’ll consider taking part in the fun!

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I’ve been trying to decide for a couple of days whether I should post on this topic or not.  More than likely it’ll bring even more “haters” down on my head.  But this is my blog and I have just as much freedom of speech as anyone else, so I decided to do it.

First, I want to give a little background to both myself and the Facebook group I started.  I’ve told the Facebook group beginning to numerous media sources but the general public hasn’t yet heard it. 

About me: I’m 34 years old, originally from northern Wisconsin, a beautiful land covered in deep green forests and thousands of lakes and rivers. 

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County J, a beautiful road near Eagle River, Wisconsin

I’m the oldest of 7 kids.  I was homeschooled (except for one semester of high school when I attended full-time so I could take driver’s training) until college, which I attended in Utah.  I graduated from LDS Business College (LDSBC) with an Associate of Science degree, transferred to BYU, and graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Arts in English. 

I met my husband John at LDSBC in 1995.  We are both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS church) and both of us served as volunteer missionaries from 1996-1998.  We got married in May of 1998 a few months after coming home from our missions.  We now have three children, which I homeschool.  My husband works as a computer programmer.  I fill my spare time with writing, reading, knitting/crochet, music, and time with family and friends. 

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Detail from one of my knitting projects

John and I moved into our current home in West Valley in 2003.  Since we had both recently finished college and had 3 small kids, we were excited to make new friends and meet people.  But most young people in our area were still in school and working and too busy to have time for friends.  In the spring of 2004, Josh and Susan Powell bought a house in our neighborhood and came to church.  Their first Sunday at church we introduced ourselves and told them we’d love to have them over sometime to get to know them.  They said “Sure, that sounds great!”

We thought that was the end of that, assuming they were as busy as everyone else and wouldn’t have time.  But we were proved wrong the next Sunday when they asked, “Is today good for getting together?”

Since that time, we’ve been very, very close friends.  The Powells came over to our house at least once a week, many times more often.  We went on picnics together, babysat each other’s kids, went to parades and movies and other activities.  We stayed home and played games, watched movies, went on walks and bike rides. 

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Thanksgiving a few years ago with Josh, Susan, and my family

When Susan went missing three weeks ago, I was besieged with phone calls all day from members of my local congregation (called a “ward,” for those unfamiliar with LDS terms).  They knew I was in close contact with both Josh and Susan’s family and they wanted to stay in touch constantly.  I tried sending out mass update messages to my ward friends on Facebook but it just got too overwhelming to try to update everyone that way.

When Kayla Reed (ward member and friend) suggested that I start a Facebook group so we could all stay in touch easier, I thought it was a terrific idea.  I’d never started one before and didn’t know anything about it but the process was easy enough and took less than 5 minutes.  I started it at 6pm on Tuesday, December 8.  The purpose of this group was to give the ward members a chance to easily interact/comfort/share news with each other about Susan’s disappearance. 

I had no idea it would expand so quickly.  No idea that Susan’s family and Josh’s family would visit the page to update us all on the search for Susan AND to receive much-needed comfort and support.  No idea that it would become “Search Central” with a wealth of information on donations to Susan’s family, lists of people with specialized volunteer help, people willing to do a physical search, and many other topics.  No idea that thousands upon thousands of people from all over the world would join to get news, updates, and express their prayers and support for Susan’s family.  No idea that this little group would become such an invaluable tool for finding Susan.  Within days we were over several thousand members and now, less than three weeks later, the group membership is over 10,000.  The purpose of the group has changed a little, and I’ve had to “hire” additional administrators (these other admins are volunteers and doing hundreds of hours of behind-the-scenes work on YouTube channels, social media, and other things to help find Susan…and all of this in addition to their regular full-time jobs, families, and normal busy lives). 

Like anything in life, with growth comes problems.  We’ve asked—as have Susan’s and Josh’s families—over and over that no one posts anything negative, hurtful, speculative, or accusatory on this Facebook group.  99% of the group members have honored this request.  But some have not, and they’ve had their posts deleted and if they’re repeat offenders, we’ve had to ban them from posting to the group.  Also, I have found myself, to my surprise and disgust, bearing the brunt of many online attacks from anything from my physical appearance to accusations of “wanting fame” and “trying to get rich” from Susan’s story. 

These accusations are very hurtful.  They cause tons of additional pain to myself and those of us who are already hurting so much that it seems impossible we can feel any more pain.  People want to know, Why are you still friends with Josh?  Why aren’t you physically searching all day long?  Why don’t you ask Josh, if he’s still your friend, all the questions people want to know?

When I tell people the answers to these questions, they either 1) don’t believe me or 2) dismiss my answer as something they don’t want to hear and would rather belittle, criticize, and make fun of. 

Here, once and for all is the short answer to those questions: You don’t know all the details here.  There are many, many details of Susan’s background/relationship with Josh/etc. that have NOT been made public.  And you WILL NOT hear them from me, either.  My whole goal, focus and priority here is to find Susan.  This includes not telling the world things the police want kept inside the investigation

There are things the general public has never even thought of, about this investigation.  And it’s going to stay that way.  I’m not going to explain my reasons for remaining Josh’s friend or what I have or haven’t asked him.  What I will do (and have done) is tell the police any and all information I have that will help them find Susan. 

And as for physically searching?  Yes, I’ve seen the comments out there.  Some people think they can use the internet to spew poison and vitriol on anything and anyone they want to because they’re “safely anonymous.”  So they can say anything they want about anyone, no matter if it’s slander or libel or defaming someone’s character and reputation.  Not to mention, cruel, hurtful, and tearing someone’s soul to shreds.

Here’s the lowdown on the physical search: Chuck Cox, Susan’s father, has said that if anyone wants to do their own search, you must contact the West Valley PD.  Get their permission and register a record of where in the wilderness you want to search and then report back to them after you’re done.

As for me?  People are always asking me what I believe happened to Susan.  I’ve imagined many horrible scenarios but the one I believe most likely (for reasons I won’t share, but I will say they’re good reasons) is that Susan has been taken against her will and is most likely not in the state of Utah.  This is why I personally am not out searching the desert or mountains with my three little kids.  I won’t waste my time or resources fruitlessly looking for someone who may not even be in the state.  Instead, what I believe to be the greatest help here is the vast power of the internet. 

I’ve seen how fast something can spread across the internet.  It’s a very powerful tool.  I know the “haters” will keep laughing at me for doing this, saying I’m wasting my time and it won’t do a bit of good because they believe Josh has done the unthinkable and that Susan’s body is dumped somewhere close by.  So, according to them, I’m dumb and naive (and worse) for believing anything else. 

Well, guess what…as I said above, I have my reasons for believing what I believe and I’m not going to share them with anyone but the police.  So here’s a suggestion to all the “armchair detectives” and “amateur gumshoes” and all the rest who want to spend their day criticizing, defaming, and hurting others with their cruel words: why don’t you start using your energy to HELP find Susan instead of HURT? 

But I suppose I’m wasting my breath.  If you really cared, you’d be either joining our effort to post fliers in every state and city or spread the word online or else coming up with your own effort.  You see, unlike you, I believe and hope that Susan is still alive.  And even if she isn’t, I also believe that someone, somewhere, knows or has seen something that will help us find her.  So yes, I believe I am not wasting my time by doing everything I can do—especially online—to spread her name and picture to the far corners of the globe. 

I want my friend back.  More than anything else in the world.  If you want to find her, please help in a constructive way…not by tearing down and hurting others.

One last thing.  As to accusations of wanting fame and money from this?  Wow.  That is the most hurtful of all.  I would not take one penny from ANYONE in the media or anywhere else in this effort to find Susan.  And I know very well that I’m no model—I do not like being on camera and I hate the sound of my recorded voice.  Please believe me when I say that appearing on local and national TV are the last things I want to be doing with my time.  I would not do any of the media interviews if I didn’t believe it helps get her name and story out to the world.  And I can promise you that I have never, EVER contacted a single media outlet, asking them to come interview me.  They all call me…e-mail me…show up at my house unannounced. 

But I know you probably won’t believe that, either.  So go ahead with your time-wasting hatred that doesn’t do anyone one bit of good (especially yourselves).  As for me and my friends and the thousands of people that truly care about Susan, we’re going to spend all of our time and energy on helping any way we can to find our Susan and get her back to her family.

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