Flamingos, fireflies, and mosquitoes, oh my!

“I feel like a dog that’s been chasing after a car and finally caught it. Now what?!”

Tara Petruska

Man, I get that sentiment. I’ve been so hyper-focused on finding a job — the kindling to get this fire started — that after the initial wave of jubilation faded, reality set in.

Namely, we don’t have a place to live! Gulp.

So, Saturday we set about trying to find a suitably decent apartment. Wherever we end up, it’s going to be a huge step down from this lovely house we own. But, we keep telling ourselves, it’s temporary. Eyes on the prize. One year from now, we should be settled into an even better home, with lots of land for Tara’s garden beds. Hashtag sacrifice.

We applied for two apartments. Our options are somewhat limited based on our holy-shit-this-is-happening-fast! timeline, but it’s one of those things where we couldn’t make plans before we had a move date, and we couldn’t have a move date until I got a job. Hopefully, we’ll hear back on those in a day or two.

Otherwise, we may be pitching a tent in the Kwik Trip parking lot.

Lots of emotions swirling through our heads. Everything feels bittersweet. There are the occasional bouts of what-the-hell-are-we-doing?! panic. Yesterday afternoon, I got so caught up in my own head, I had to leave the house and just start moving. I ended up hiking the Skyline Wilderness trail. In 93º heat. Just to do something other than sit around thinking.

That helped.

It also helped pulling up Madison’s current weather. The difference was striking.

Climate is a factor, without a doubt. But obviously, not the only one. Once we really started digging into Madison, we knew we were on the right track. For starters, Livability.com ranked it #1 on their list of Best Places to Live in America in 2021. And then again in 2022. They talk about the high employment rate, diverse economy, natural beauty, and plethora of free cultural attractions.

All great things, but what really sold us was the fact that Madison’s official bird is the plastic pink flamingo. The whole thing started out as a college prank in 1979, but became such a popular tradition, the Madison Common Council made it official in 2015.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’re well aware of my obsession with flamingos. Not only do we have several in our yard year-round; we put special ones out over the holidays. I even wear flamingos on occasion.

So, I mean, c’mon. That’s gotta be a sign! (Maybe a sign of insanity, but hey — a sign’s a sign!).

I’m also obsessed with fireflies. Growing up, my brother and I used to catch lightning bugs and put them in a jar whenever we visited family in Trenton, New Jersey. And when we lived in Ohio, we got to enjoy ’em all the time. But I haven’t lived anyplace where fireflies exist in decades. I’ve seen them on the eastern side of the state, but their habitat range pretty much ends at the Missouri River.

One of my fondest childhood memories involves fireflies. I will forever associate them with a warm, sleepless summer night in Ohio, Bob Seger playing on my transistor radio, my whole life spread out before me. Even at the age of 11, I understood that night that I was experiencing a transformative moment in my life. Moments of clarity like that are rare.

Knowing that Wisconsin has fireflies, the Monday I was there, I headed out to a recreational area just a few minutes from my hotel. The sun was just setting and it was spectacular. I actually texted Tara these photos and said, Are you fucking kidding me with this!? (Sorry, mom.)

As the shadows deepened, the fireflies emerged. Hundreds, if not thousands, of them. I walked for two miles, through stands of trees and past open fields, watching in awe as they blinked and flashed. I swear, I’m still a kid at heart.

Unfortunately, the mosquitoes also emerged. I was prepared for this, and sprayed myself with repellant the moment I exited the vehicle, but still ended up with half a dozen bites. They got me in places I hadn’t sprayed: my ring finger, the top of my foot underneath a sandal strap, even on my back, apparently unfazed by my t-shirt. But you know what? It was totally worth the price of that magical evening stroll.

Are you a fan of flamingos, either real or plastic? How about fireflies? How big a role does climate play in your decision to live where you do?

46 thoughts on “Flamingos, fireflies, and mosquitoes, oh my!

  1. I also love flamingos! I even have a flamingo tattoo. Seriously! I was even sober when I got it. Fireflies are cool…they seem to making a comeback here, as the past few years there haven’t been as many around. This summer there have more of them around, thankfully.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. My personalized plate IS epic! Although the head of the Maine DMV is threatening to recall a bunch of “vulgar” license plates…which to me is ridiculous, since the state of Maine opened it up for anything. I say grandfather those plates and not allow any new ones. But who is to judge what is considered vulgar? What may be to some, is not to others.

        They will pry my license plate out of my cold, dead hands before I give it up voluntarily!! May the STFU live on forever!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love Madison too, and when I visited I knew it would be a great place for people to live. best of luck with the job, and just keep telling yourself you’re in the in one of those in- between stages of life and it will all shake into place over time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re exactly right, Beth. Thank you for pointing that out. In-between is a very weird place to be. But it’s better than being in limbo, which is where we’ve been residing the past couple of months.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s difficult to be in transition but you have your eye on the prize. I love fireflies although they’re hideous when it’s not nighttime. We had one trapped in the car once on a trip and ewww. I don’t live in a place with them so I find them magical. Climate is a big deal for me too since I’m outdoorsy. I like to be able to exercise in the fresh air or do yardwork without being uncomfortable.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. At first I was a bit leery of your “let’s ditch everything and move to Madison Wisconsin “ idea… but knowing that the city picked a pink flamingo as their official bird? My reservations magically disappeared. I think you and Madison were meant for each other. Think of the possibilities… flamingo festivals, flamingo apparel, flamingo birthday cakes. Hell, there might even be a flamingo martini waiting somewhere. Life is good! (As long as you don’t have to live in a tent at a convenience store. That would suck. )

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The plastic flamingo being the state bird is AMAZING!!!!!! Wow. Just… wow.
    72 vs 93 is a no brainer. But, hey, it FEELS like 91! I couldn’t live in RC. I hate the heat. And the cold. I’m unabashedly a weather wuss, which is why San Diego suits me just fine. Yes, climate pays a large part in why we live where we live.
    Growing up in OH, I too have fond firefly memories. And memories of plastic flamingos in yards for people’s birthdays. What an enchanting evening you had. Those mosquitos certainly know their way around repellent. They probably scoff, laugh to one another, and place bets on the most hard-to-reach place they can bite you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been bitten in worse places than I mentioned, but this is a family blog so I’ll refrain from saying more.

      Wait. IS it a family blog? I never did make that claim…!


  6. I would bet a flamingo state bird is the surest sign Mark. It’s a no-brainer you made the right decision. Everything will come together as it should and think of the fun you and Tara will have exploring and searching out the perfect place to settle, even though you have to endure apartment life for awhile.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The idea of exploring new places is super appealing! I got to do that when I moved to the PNW, and again when we moved out here (though having lived here previously, they were mainly new to Tara…I was just along for the ride, but that was still fun!).


  7. Love me a pink flamingo. When I was a little dude, I used to go out every night just to watch the fireflies. They showed up here a few weeks ago, and some nights they put on quite the light show. There is little doubt one of the reasons we’ve stayed in the Philadelphia area for so long is, especially now, you can’t beat it for climate compared to the rest of the country, especially the south and west. We don’t have extremes like other areas. There also is little doubt when and if we move, climate will be a huge factor.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I agree with each of the above comments… A bit leery initially at the idea, but your well thought-out reasons make perfect sense. Plus, Madison is, indeed lovely. You will land well, with a great place to live. Putting up with a temporary inconvenience will be in your rear-view mirror in no time. Fireflies! Yes. Oh my, yes… Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, they were everywhere all season. Where we presently live, it’s very rare to see a single one. That flamingo is a definite sign of good things to come.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s bittersweet to lose our Rapid City connection, Carol. I’ll always be thankful we had the opportunity to meet up with you and Bruce shortly after moving out here…on your anniversary, no less.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Another pink flamingo fan here. I have a pair in my yard plus a few hanging around the house in various forms. It’s impossible to have a bad day when there’s a flamboyance of flamingos keeping you company. If you are ever in San Diego in August, a friend of mine throws a HUGE flamingo party. You’d fit right in 🙂 We don’t have fireflies here, but I remember seeing them for the first time when I was small. They were magical. It sounds like everything is falling in place for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Just yesterday I learned a factoid that stuck in my head, and I was wondering, how would it ever be useful? Well, not even 24 hours later, I get to share it with you: did you know that there are more plastic pink flamingos than flesh-and-blood pink flamingos?

      I’ve never heard of a flamingo party but it sounds absolutely flamingoTASTIC! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The weather has been cool and lovely here, too. Such a nice change of pace from all those 90+ days this summer. Hopefully we’re past all that for this year.
    Yes, the flamingo thing is a sign. A BIG sign.
    And finally, mosquitoes suck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m excited to be moving out there right at the start of September. Fall seems like a very nice time to begin a new life out yonder. We moved to Rapid City two days into summer and I remember how hot those first few weeks felt.

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  11. I miss fireflies, too. They are literally the ONLY bugs I miss.

    If we ever move away from SoCal, I think we’d really miss the diversity, the sushi…and the right to bodily autonomy soon to be enshrined in the state constitution.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, if you’re ever in Sioux Falls – scoff if you must – I can hook you up with great sushi.

      I’m excited to be moving to a more liberal state. I know abortion is a mess out there currently, but there’s a much better chance of passing abortion rights in WI than there ever will be in SD. Fingers crossed.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Love this. But I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a lightning bug in person now that you mention it. Your dusk walk sounds fantastic.

    Love the flamingos story. Our flamingos have been legless for a couple of years given the alternate uses for long, poky things but we love seeing them around!!

    Good luck finding someplace to live!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I live in the mountain surrounded valley where everyone here deals with Allergies..I never really thought about leaving. As for the flamingo, love the bird like the movie by John Water’s too

    Liked by 1 person

  14. If you like flamingo’s, here is a little bit of info, if you ever find yourself up north in a town called Rhinelander there is a creature called the Hodag. To keep it away it’s best to put flamingo’s around to keep it away. the Northwoods can be a very interesting place to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Madison’s official bird is the plastic pink flamingo.

    Well it was meant to be, obviously. As for my connection with flamingoes, like them. Fireflies, love them. I know you’ll do well, but it’s going to be bumpy, no matter how great the climate is.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Are you a fan of flamingos, either real or plastic? How about glass? If I remember I’ll have to try to locate the ornament a friend of mine got for me somewhere. Since I don’t think I’ll ever have another xmas tree I left it somewhere for my kid to use!
    How about fireflies? They were a new semi-big thing to me when I lived in TN because they made such a big deal there about their magical appearance in GSMNP for a few weeks in the summer.
    Imagine my gleeful surprise when I saw them floating all over my daughter’s lawn one evening.
    Now I know they’re not such a rarity as they were trying to make out in the bass-ackwards state I no longer have to reside in.
    How big a role does climate play in your decision to live where you do? We shall see after I encounter my first MI winter as a resident!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I’m SO very excited for both of you! This is such a leap of faith, and how often are we able to do that? Not very often.
    I love flamingos! My Aunt Trisha has such an extensive collection of them (now at her GA mountain home, of all places) because her kids called them MaFlingos. It’s a family joke.
    The sunset photos: OMG. Beautiful!
    We have SO many fireflies at our place in GA; I’m always amazed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is the third leap of faith I’ve taken in my life. I swear I’m not going for a world record or anything!

      I’m jealous of your fireflies, but I should have a backyard full of them myself next summer, so it’ll pass. Enjoy yours (and your MaFlingos!).

      Liked by 1 person

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