Author Archives: brennancm

About brennancm

I used to write fiction a long time ago and even published a couple of things, but then life intruded. I'm back. I write fiction. I submit fiction for publication or put it up in this space. Sometimes I blog about what I've been up to.

Willowbrook Wildlife Center

While walking Bennett today, we found an injured hummingbird, probably a female ruby-throated one. She sat on the sidewalk, barely moving.

Tiny hummingbird on seeming acres of sidewalk.
Infinitesimal Hummingbird

I called Willowbrook Wildlife Center to see if they could help her and they thought they could. However, they also warned me that because she was so small, they might have to euthanize her. Still, I thought bringing her in was a better option than leaving her for a cat or hawk to find.

They coached me through getting her into a box. Otherwise, I followed the guidelines on their website, which mostly involved keeping the box covered, driving with the radio off, and only using the bare minimum of air conditioning.

Sign - Parking for Animal Rescuers Only

Special parking for animal rescuers and good signage help make the drop-off process easy. I took the hummingbird inside, they took her into an area I wasn’t allowed to see and thanked me for bringing her in.

Sign - Wildlife Hospital Animal Intake Only

Once she was in their care, I walked their outdoor trail to see other animals they rescued. 

They prefer to release animals whenever possible, but sometimes an animal is too badly injured to survive in the wild. Their center is currently home to several red-tailed hawks, a red-shouldered hawk, and some great horned and barred owls.

It wasn’t always easy to spot any of the animals. I took pictures of those I could see, but with enclosures in the way the quality isn’t great. I’ll share a few anyway.

Great Horned Owl in an enclosure
Great Horned Owl
Woodchuck inside plexiglass inside a barred enclosure
Hint: How Much Would He Chuck?
Red-Tailed Hawk in a barred enclosure
Red-Tailed Hawk
Barred Owl on a perch under a plywood shelter and inside a barred enclosure
Barred Owl

I wandered along a half-mile trail they provided through restored prairie and spotted some flora, but no particularly remarkable fauna.

Glen Crest Creek - a Tributary of the DuPage River
Glen Crest Creek – a Tributary of the DuPage River
Jewelweed - an orange annual found in the forest preserves
Cornelian Cherry Dogwood - white berries with green leaves turning red
Cornelian Cherry Dogwood
Burdock - spiky light purple flower and green flowers that have yet to bloom over broad green leaves

Most of the animals were within a fenced area of the center, but along the walking trail is a sandhill crane enclosure. They call their crane (who was nowhere in sight) Ichabod! I’ll pause now for the groans.

The trail made a loop, so the first and also the last animal I saw on the walk was an American kestrel. which is one of Cookie’s spirit animals (I’m guessing; it’s certainly an alias she uses). Sadly, the cage bars were so close together I couldn’t get a photo. I’m sharing this one from the National Park Service:

American Kestrel aka Sparrow Hawk - a bird with pale underside, gray wings tipped with black and a tawny back. Small black hooked beak.
American Kestrel, aka Sparrow Hawk

They were very kind at the center, and visiting was fascinating. During the hours they’re open it’s a great place to walk.

Rainbows on the Brain

Dutch and I went to Hawaii at the tail end of Pride Month. As part of the celebration, I bought a new rainbow band for my watch. I’ve wanted one for a couple of years (that’s another anecdote in itself), and finally successfully scored one this year.

Good timing. My cousin and his long-time boyfriend got hitched sometime during the COVID hiatus, but we were all finally able to celebrate together this year on their home island of Oahu.

I kept seeing rainbows, both before and after the wedding. I thought, given the occasion, that maybe I was just noticing them more than usual or something.

That’s not it, though. Hawaii is officially the best place on earth to see rainbows, according to science. Just ask Smithsonian Magazine.

Maybe that’s why “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is such a popular ukulele number! Here’s a link to my current favorite (ukulele) version because you should get to hear it, especially if it’s been a while.

Dutch and I visited three islands during our Hawaii visit and saw a lot of rainbows. I’ll just treat you to one per island here:

Waikiki Rainbow – Oahu
Rainbow over Maui Seaside Hotel
Over Kīlauea Crater on the Big Island

Aaand you don’t escape my vacation photos that easily! More of my Hawaii pictures are on the way.

A hui hou*

*Until we meet again

Thanksgiving vs. Christmas

Thanksgiving has seemingly devolved into a kind of pre-Christmas or Christmas-lite, However, when we were kids (yes, I am a boomer), my parents made sure we knew the difference. For one thing, Black Friday was not a trap we were ever lured into. The Friday after Thanksgiving is for many the day the Christmas shopping season starts, but our mother wasn’t going to wade into any Madison-Avenue-induced slugfest just to acquire Christmas gifts. Friday was spent with cousins, playing board and card games at home, with turkey sandwiches for lunch.

Here’s what we learned about Thanksgiving back (mumble) years ago:

Pilgrims came to these shores in 1620. They barely survived the winter, and that was only possible thanks to the help the Wampanoag people provided. They taught the Pilgrims how to grow local crops. The part of that mythology I remember best, however, is that when the pilgrims were on the brink of death, members of the Wampanoag tribe arrived with baskets of food and they all had a wonderful feast together. It didn’t happen quite that way, but Wampanoag and pilgrims did share a feast.

The Wampanoag would later learn that no good deed goes unpunished, but when we were kids creating pilgrim outfits and Indian war bonnets out of construction paper, we accepted this sugar-coated tale with warm hearts.

Youth Worker photo, date unknown

For the most part, European invaders were too busy in the 16th-19th centuries getting the Native nations out of their way to appreciate the help they once provided. So I suspect Abraham Lincoln wasn’t even thinking of Wampanoag and pilgrim when he created Thanksgiving in 1863.

Another difference: Thanksgiving music is not as endemic as Christmas music, and it’s just not the same. As kids, we learned “Over the River and Through the Woods.” I also love “We Gather Together” at Thanksgiving, but not the original Dutch hymn, which is way too Calvinistic to enjoy. Give me the Unitarian-Universalist version any day.

Anyway, while our materialistic society wants to make both Thanksgiving and Christmas all about spending money. In some people’s minds, Thanksgiving is just the beginning of the Christmas season. Here’s how resisters distinguish between the two:

The meaningA day to give thanks for our many blessingsCelebration of the birth of Christ
How it’s 
really celebrated
A frenzy of cooking and eating; watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and (American) football games on television. Heartier souls may even play football. Some people start Christmas shopping already, but those people are heathens.Some people go to church; Christmas Eve Midnight Mass is usually lovely. 
A nice lunch or dinner with family and friends
MenuTurkey is apparently the law; ignore at your peril. Pumpkin pie, cranberries, sweet potatoes & more!Often turkey, but also ham, roast beef, or other family favorites. Christmas cookies!
MusicOver the River and Through the Woods, We Gather Together. There might be some I’m missing, but people don’t sing nearly enough at Thanksgiving!Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, White Christmas, Jingle Bells (& too many more to list)
MoviesVery few. The Big Chill, The Blind Side (arguably), maybe  Miracle on 34th Street (which is more of a Christmas movie)A Christmas Carol (& updates like Scrooged), It’s a Wonderful LifeWhite Christmas & many more

Bike MS Tour de Farms 2021 was Canceled!

When dangerous thunderstorms and flooding were predicted all day June 26, the organizers had to call off the 40th anniversary of Bike MS Tour de Farms. People have asked me if it was canceled or just postponed. Unfortunately, there’s no way to reschedule something like this. Too many moving parts had to be assembled ahead of time. Not only would the riders and volunteers have to come on another date, but use of the fairgrounds, road closures and the associated police/traffic support would have to be arranged all over again. That wasn’t going to happen.

Undaunted, Captain Cookie, Tiger, and I set up our own ride and accomplished it the following Friday, July 2nd. We had a blast, even without the usual hoopla that surrounds the main event.

BK did his usual duty as team photographer before the ride began.

Me, happy that we get to ride after all!
Putting on our rider numbers

Cookie puts her rider number on her bike
Ready to go!
The scenic setting – we started out over a swing bridge
Captain Cookie – our fearless leader, was ready to ride

And so was Tiger!
The starting point
Halfway point, and fresh as daisies!
We lived to tell the tale!
My rider bibs, post-event – rather the worse for wear

We rode just over 26 miles on Centennial Trail—Romeoville to Willow Springs and back again.

Thanks to everyone for your sympathy, support, and especially your donations. Fundraising for this event remains open until July 26, so if you wanted to donate but haven’t yet, you still have a chance. Please visit my fundraising page at

Let me know if you need help, and thanks again!

Bike MS 2021 – Progress Update

June the 1st

Bart’s Posse, left to right – Tiger, CB, and Captain Cookie

Eeeeek! Bike MS Tour de Farms is only 25 days away.

We’re only riding 25 miles this year.

I should be fine, right?

Two weeks ago, I didn’t think so. I started to let Tiger and Captain Cookie down easy. After each riding session, I’d say things like, “I’m in terrible shape.”

This led to, “I thought I was going to puke after my last ride. Maybe have a heart attack.”

Finally, I came out and said, “You know, I don’t think this is my year. I just haven’t trained enough.”

“That’s okay,” said Captain Cookie.

She was so understanding that I couldn’t stand it, so I softened the blow. “I’ll give it a couple more weeks and see if I’m doing better. I can decide then.”

“That’s fine.” Then Cookie took on undeserved blame. “Besides, as captain, I should have set up more group training rides by now.”

Nice of her to say, but I knew Cookie and Tiger were already riding many more miles than I was, and at a way faster clip. I was embarrassed to ride with them and reveal how dire the situation was.

Cookie set up a training ride about a week later. Previously, here’s what our training rides looked like:

Captain Cookie’s Wild Ride

Cookie rode 17.29 miles at an average speed of 9.54 mph

Tiger’s Swift Sprint

Tiger rode 13.15 miles at an average speed of 11.72 mph

My best showing (as of 5/24/21)

Aaand I rode 10.51 miles at an average speed of 8.79 mph

With a heart full of dread, I agreed to go anyway.

Now for a little background. I am not now, nor have I ever been an athlete. Being the slowest, weakest person in our little cadre brought back the trauma of junior high gym class, when two captains for [fill in the sport] took turns choosing people for their team and I was always picked last. Or at fitness test time, when they made you run a mile and the gym teacher finally gave up and told me I was done because there are only so many minutes in a class period.

But unlike almost any other physical activity, I actually love bike riding. I was never going to enter the Tour de France, but up until this year, I wasn’t embarrassed to ride in Tour de Farms. 

When I showed up at Busse Woods, Tiger said, “I was afraid when you saw my last ride it would freak you out.”

“You were right,” I said.

She made some excuse for her frighteningly excellent speed and said not to worry about it. Hmm. Then Cookie showed up and reiterated that they’d take it easy on me, it was going to be fine, etc.

You know what? It actually was fine. Cookie and Tiger took good care of me. They didn’t even sigh at my tortoise-like pace. They said it was comfortable, especially for a longer ride. They pretended I was doing them a favor! 

It always helps to ride someplace scenic and fun, and Busse Woods in Elk Grove Village is both. We saw elk!

A bull and a cow

Anyway, we here’s how we did:

I was encouraged enough to finally set up my Bike MS fundraiser, which you can access here: main fundraising page
or here if you’re on Facebook: Facebook fundraising page

We’re going to Busse Woods again in a couple of days. When we get up to 21 miles (or one more loop of the trail we did last time), I’ll know I can handle a 25-mile ride on June 26th. I’ll keep you posted.

New Chapter

BK just retired! His final day at work was last Friday.

I’d like to say he’s mostly been resting on his laurels and enjoying everyone’s congratulations. He’s basked in the well-wishes somewhat, but he’s also been busy. I woke up pretty much at my usual time this morning and he’d been up for hours already. Part of that time he soaked up the ambience in our loft, where he’s been hard at work. Over the weekend and for a few hours yesterday, he set up a desk he and Rocky got me for Mother’s Day. Much furniture assembly and reorganization was required. Doesn’t it look great?

My new, improved workstation

After that, he played bridge on his iPad, which seems more like retirement activity to me. As does playing guitar. He’s been looking forward to getting his calluses back and as I write this, he’s noodling around on his guitar, playing, changing his strings, etc.

BK also has an adventurous streak. I won’t say he’s given it free rein yet, what with all the furniture assembly, but he’s begun to explore it. This morning, when faced with a sour cream coffeecake (a retirement gift from a friend) he hefted a pastry knife and demanded, “draw yer cutlass, ye cowardly swab! Defend yerself!”

However, this soon segued into, “And I shall call you Sting!”

“I will do the stinging!”

Clearly, he’s going provide entertainment whenever he’s not improving our home environment. So far, I’d say retirement is going fabulously.

Bike MS 2021- a Post Pandemic (please!) Tour de Farms

After a past Bike MS ride with Tiger and Cookie

Okay, who here is in terrible shape after a year of not being able to use your gym? Show of hands, please.

(My hand is waving wildly in the air)

I’ve heard people refer to the “COVID-Twenty” or “Thirty.” My weight gain was less than twenty, but it was not in my best interests to gain even a gram. Losing the COVID Twenty or Thirty (or even Forty—I’m a cock-eyed optimist) would have been preferable.

So what’s my excuse, other than too much emotional eating? For part of 2020, my gym was closed. You just couldn’t go. At least they didn’t charge members during those months. Then the gym reopened, at something like one-quarter capacity, with temperature checks and masks and physical distancing required. I rarely went during that period, even with those precautions. Maybe twice. Then I quit going altogether around Thanksgiving when COVID cases were spiking. I considered returning afterwards for about ten minutes, and then we got THE VARIANTS. So I was like, “how about I wait until I’m vaccinated?”

Which is what I did. Two weeks after the second jab, I went back. I’d reintegrated strength about six weeks before then, but I was still in pitiful shape. Here’s a little tip for anyone closing in on 6 decades of life: try not to get out of shape. It’s not as easy regaining your muscles as it was when you were thirty or forty.


All of this is a roundabout way of saying, I’m not ready for Bike MS this year. Despite being comfortable riding 50 miles in past years, idea of only 25 miles is mildly terrifying. Especially when one of those miles is heading east on Keslinger Road, the hill that has caused many to climb off their bikes and just walk up.

And yet, I’m doing it. I’m posting this intention here, in my semi-public blog. That way, I’ll feel accountable.

So Far…

I rode 9.6 miles this past Sunday. In former years, that was a shorter-than-normal weekday ride. This time out, I thought I was going to puke. I also achieved saddle sores—the lady-parts were not happy, if that’s not TMI. Still, it was half again as much as I’d ridden up to that point. Baby steps.

I’ll post about my progress once in a while, either to kvetch or to kvell, depending on how it’s going. Maybe I’ll be ready by June 26th.

I realize with our past and present times and the resulting economic troubles, donating may be difficult, but if you’re able to support my fundraising effort for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, I’ll be grateful, as will BK. You should find my fundraising page here. If that doesn’t work or you have any questions, please contact me or post in the comments below.

Thanks for your support!

An Appreciation of BK

BK, aka Spouse Charming

As the pandemic wears on (and on… and on), I find myself reading productivity porn and wellness porn and anything I stumble on that makes me feel like I might someday sally forth to conquer.  Make the world a better place. Live long and prosper. All that kind of thing. One idea I’ve come across in a few places is that you should perform stretches before you get out of bed. I’ve tried a couple different routines.

Two discoveries resulting from my experiments: 

  1. Stretching before you get out of bed can increase your energy and even help alleviate aches and pains
  2. It’s very hard to accomplish one of these routines if you share a bed with someone. Seriously, you could put someone’s eye out or bruise one of their kidneys. 

Two more discoveries:

  1. I’m not going to kick my sleeping partner out of bed so I can perform morning stretches there.
  2. Being a creature of habit, if I don’t do something everyday for at least three weeks, I won’t remember to do it going forward.

So some mornings I start out cranky and achy. That’s the price of sleeping with BK. But I don’t want anyone to think this situation comes without its perks! I’m always finding new ones. I recently discovered, for example, that structural engineers can be filthy!

Now that BK works from home, I occasionally get to hear his work conversations. These include discussions of “erection drawings” and “riser supports.” When I overheard him say “a relatively stiff member,” I couldn’t take it any more. I allowed my inner juvenile free rein and immediately texted him: “Haha, you said ‘stiff member!’” 

Being quite the philosopher, BK mused that maybe one reason engineering remained an old boys’ game for so long was due to all the locker room talk. 

Thus endeth my little PSA for girls considering engineering careers. The women who are already engineers have probably heard it all already. I have a new appreciation for what you’re going through.

Another perk of living with BK is his tendency to make dad jokes. I’ll close with his most recent offering.

(Content warning: if you’re a fan of our former president, read no further)

“Donald Trump is so clueless that, until one of his staffers explained it to him, he thought Roe v. Wade was a discussion about how to cross a river.”


Ba-dum-ching. Thank you very much.

Read This: The Once and Future Witches

By Alix E. Harrow
Redhook Books/Orbit
Hachette Book Group

During the first few months of the pandemic, I’d pick up books that I probably would have enjoyed in normal circumstances and I couldn’t make the words on the page mean anything interesting or relevant. 

Then around mid-August, I discovered Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic and then N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became (as an audiobook, brilliantly narrated by Robin Miles). I was back. 

Not everything I’ve read in the interim was as fabulous as those two novels, but I was able to enjoy reading (and the occasional audiobook) more than I had in months. 

Another book that delighted me was Alix Harrow’s Ten Thousand Doors of January.  The characters and concept immediately hooked me, and I can recommend the book to anyone who likes portal fantasy. I read everything I could find by Harrow (she has some great short fiction available online), but I really waited for her next novel breathlessly, based on the title alone: The Once and Future Witches. It came out in October of 2020.

I’m a huge fan of Arthurian legend reboots, and the teasers I read about the novel also promised there would be suffragists. And naturally, with that title, there had to be witches.

I read it. I loved it. It might just be my perfect book. Feminist witches? Fascinating characters to love and hate? A plot that zips right along? Terrific use of language deployed in the service of all of the above?

I’m thrilled to enjoy reading again. I’d hate to imagine not appreciating this novel as much as it deserved. For me, the book succeeded so well that I chose it as my study book for the DIY MFA Writer Igniter Challenge

If you like your fantasy liberally spiced with alternate history and a feminist bent, you really should pick this one up.

Goosing the Muse

I’ve had difficulty writing for a while. Maybe since last March. I blame 2020. In response, I’ve tried shaking up my process somewhat—investigating new forms, brushing up on the basics, doing a LOT more reading, and reading differently.

One enjoyable strategy: I signed up for DIY MFA’s Writer Igniter Reading Challenge by Gabriela Pereira. It’s free through February 12, 2021, so if you’d like some guidance on how to read like a writer, this challenge could provide a valuable resource to explore that skill.

It’s a ten part class consisting of a short video (the longest is about fourteen minutes) explaining each concept she wants you to investigate. She then provides an assignment related to that concept.

The sessions included choosing your book, the protagonist, promises made to the reader, the inciting incident, secondary characters, the midpoint, theme, and more.

I found the challenge useful. It was a way to keep my hand in. Granted, I was writing ABOUT writing rather than making much progress on my WIP. Still, I can easily see that noting how a good writer puts together a good book could improve my future work.

If you think this sounds interesting, check it out here: