Thursday, November 30, 2006


Each weekday morning I awake to the alarm at 5:25 a.m. After letting the dogs out and tending to a few other things, I wait for Michael to finish in the shower while sitting at the computer and playing Free Cell for a little while. I listen to the local news on the TV (radar up for traffic reports). Free Cell is a jump-start to the brain since I don't drink coffee anymore. Ok, I'm a Free Cell addict. Around 5:59 a.m., I get my cue to exit the game and start my shower. This is when a school bus drives by my house to start loading sleepy students. Is it unusual for students to be boarding a school bus at 5:59 a.m.? In my lifetime, I don't ever recall students boarding a bus before 7:00 a.m.

My drive to work should only be about 14 minutes. But because of the horrendous traffic situation in Huntersville, a northern "bedroom" county of Charlotte, it takes me at least 30 minutes to arrive at work, on a good day. There is a stretch of road, about a mile long, when I don't get out of first gear. Frustration and boredom takes over me while I, this morning I grabbed my camera.

There are too few roads in this county that's growing at an alarming rate. In the above picture, there are middle school students behind me on those buses. It was 7:10 a.m. and some of them had been riding for more than an hour.

Above, this is a picture of those same students boarding buses at 4:00 p.m. They won't be home until at least 5:00 p.m.

Along the way to my campus, I pass North Mecklenburg High School with an enrollment of 3,500 students. Next to the high school is an elementary school which houses 2,000 students. Next to the elementary school is the middle school (seen above), housing 3,000 students. Is this insane? And the majority of the roads leading to these schools are two-lane back roads without right or left hand turning lanes! Bonus: Next to the middle school, a charter school is being built to house 1,000 students. Not to mention about seven new housing developments on my way...

Those almighty test scores would be somewhat higher if the conditions for students were better...and oh, yeah, pay the teachers what they deserve! I can't say it enough!

Replace those state road engineers making six figures and let ME solve the problem for much less! Oh yes, the funding game is always political bullsh--.

Above, North Meckenburg High School (the school housing 3,500 students). More than half of the "what could be a lovely campus" is littered with these portables.

My rant is ending and I apologize for anyone who reads this...gee, I hope no one reads this... I remember the traffic in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. very well. Nothing can compare to that. People across the world in larger cities have it much worse than me and I shouldn't complain. I just had to vent today because I've been cursing under my breath about it for too long.

Comforting note: I tried to get a decent picture of a new 400-bed mental health facility being built across the street from our campus. When it's complete, it will be nice to know I can take a short walk and check in whenever I need to.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Laugh or Cry?

For a few days, I haven't had anything noteworthy to post in this journal, except that I'm absolutely mortified that I misspelled "Carrot" in a previous post, according to Merriam Webster. I've been negligent with the picture taking, too, and adding photos to my posts are a requirement for me, since I'm a visual learner/person. Maybe my loss of original thought is due to my brain not being sugared up anymore and my body is in shock. Whatever. I'll just wing it today.

The Christmas season is annoying the heck out of me. Homes are decorated and the stores are reminding me to make my list and check it twice. I'm just not ready. Our Indian Summer gave us temperatures in the mid-seventies this week.

Two bagged Christmas trees have been laying on the floor of my dining room since Saturday. I just walk by them, wearing my sandals, t-shirt and shorts. Looks pretty bad, but I'll assemble them in a day or two. I'll definitely decorate them over the weekend. I do love Christmas trees...

I had an interesting conversation with my brother the other day. He picked up Dad from the nursing home and brought him to his house for Thanksgiving Dinner with the whole family, in-laws included.

His oh-so-serious comment to me was, "Dad is really slipping fast, Mare."

"Oh, what is it?" (Nothing surprises me anymore.)

"You should have seen him at the table. Eating with his fingers - I had to tell him to pick up his fork ten times! Finally, I just fed him, then rolled him in front of the TV in the family room."

"There's nothing you can do about it, Victor. He's more senile these days and you just need to accept it."

"Yea. I know. But then later, I looked over at him watching TV and he was eating the drawstring on his pants!" (This is when I lost it...choking back the laughter, although he could have choked to death.)

He heard my muffled laughter and shot at me, "Mare, it's not funny! I'm tired of his antics!"

Still holding back a guffaw, "Oh, just lighten up Francis! I agree that it's not really funny, but sometimes you gotta relax and stop worrying about every little hiccup. Laugh a little, will ya?"

I'm telling my brother to relax and all the while I'm wondering if there's something wrong with me, laughing at something so sad.

This conversation brought to mind my father's newly acquired conversational skill of mocking and it can be quite frustrating unless you have a good sense of humor. Here's an account of a conversation between the two of them a few months ago while Dad was still living at home.

Victor: "What do you want to watch on TV, Dad?"

Dad: "What do you want to watch on TV, Dad?"

Victor: "I'm not Dad!"

Dad: "I'm not Dad!"

Victor: "Want the History Channel?"

Dad: "Want the History Channel?"

Victor: "I said that!"

Dad: "No, I said that!"

Victor: "Get your hand out of your pants!"

Dad: "Get your hand out of your pants!"

Victor: "I said that! Stop it!"

Dad: "I said Stop It!"

Victor, under his breath, "I'm caring for a freaking parrot."

Your sense of humor will get you through. If you don't need to be serious, smile and nod, laugh with gusto, and be silly when you can. It will do your heart good.

A sunny subject: Bella, soaking up the rays and enjoying a new chewy.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Birthday Remembered

Mom, six months ago yesterday, you left this world and entered a much better place. Now there is a huge void in our hearts that no one can fill and I have had a little trouble refraining from picking up the phone to tell you something important that you would love to hear. You always wanted me to write...

I wish you were able to leave the world without a struggle and that you would have been able to enjoy your later years feeling healthy and more alive. Your keen ability to analyze people and philosophize wasn't always popular with those who knew you, but you made us think broadly and open our minds to things that really mattered in life. Even though you were a true rebel at heart, you were probably the most selfless and compassionate person most people will ever meet.

"I needed the quiet so He drew me aside, into the shadows where we could confide. Away
from the bustle where all day long, I hurried and worried when active and strong. I needed the quiet, though at first I rebelled, but ever so gently, my cross He upheld and whispered so sweetly of spiritual things. Weakened in body, my spirit took wings to heights never dreamed of when active and gay. He loved me so gently, He drew me away, I needed the quiet. No prison my bed, but a beautiful valley of blessings instead. A place to grow richer in Jesus to hide. I needed the quiet, so He drew me aside."

During this season, I will miss your kooky Christmas gifts that we loved to laugh about but they came from your heart and will be cherished forever.

You would be 73 today! Not wanting to be photographed most of the time, I caught this moment of you and Joseph, the light of your life.

Happy Birthday!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

We (the small heifers) Emerged Victorious!

Heifers Stomp Turkey Skins in Thanksgiving Overtime, 2-0

As a follow-up to my Cheese Ravioli or a Plate of Carrotts? dated last Saturday, Gina and I dressed down this morning - meaning no heavy clothing or jewelry - just light-weight pants and t-shirts. We left the house with empty and oh-so-hungry stomachs and with high hopes. Our first week of Weight Watchers was a life changing experience for both of us, to say the least! Gina learned what 3/4 cup of cereal looks like and I was in vending machine withdrawal last Monday. I found a lone peanut under my desk that I must have dropped a few days prior. I picked it up, wiped it off, and ate it. Pathetic? Oh, yes!

At 10:15 this morning we arrived at our meeting and removed our shoes and anything that might add to our weight, took a deep breath, and stood on the scales. Just as I predicted, Gina lost 6 pounds and I lost 2. You go, Gina! As for myself, I'm happy to have lived a few days feeling a little lighter. Without Weight Watchers, we would have gained those eight pounds between the two of us. I gave in to most temptations from Wednesday through Friday but I exercised a little portion control, too.

Gina and I left the WW meeting feeling very powerful, as if we conquered the most difficult week at the dinner table! We shopped a little then stopped for a little lunch...and...after chowing down on our our tossed salad and 1/2 chicken sandwich at Atlanta Bread Company, Gina look to her right and saw a cheese danish to die for. We split it. My motto: There's always tomorrow...

Lately, instead of Chloe and Bella getting the last bite of my English Muffin, they get an order from me, "Move away from me, you beggars! It's MINE!"

Friday, November 24, 2006

Waxing Crescent Moon

Every night, before bed, I look for the Moon. The Waxing Crescent Moon is vivid in our clear sky this evening. Moon gazing is so mood altering. It's comforting to know that your loved ones far away can share the same sight with you.

Can you see it? It's there...! (I want a better camera.)

In her crescent stage

Shadowy craters cover her face

Sharp and cheerful are her ghostly points

As she spins I talk to her

Slowly Abandoned is she

I notice new holes every night

Shining Spinning

As I talk to her about my problems

Hoping she will join

By Morgan

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Aroma...and Thanks

My feet hurt, but that's OK! Preparing a Thanksgiving feast for four people takes as much time as preparing one for ten, but today was glorious and I'm not complaining. After a few days of frigid rain and gloom, I woke up this morning to a glorious blue sky and warm sun. The heat from the oven made me open windows to let the breezes move the aromas inside and out of the house.

Gina, Billy, and Mr. Biggins came for dinner and everyone was lighthearted and satisfied. Michael became over-protective of the turkey carving but that is to be expected! I wish I had taken more photos. I did capture one moment,

Bella and Chloe sat in the kitchen and were under my feet for hours today. Watching my every move near the oven and salivating... This is Bella, completely play with Mr. Biggins and a taste of a few slices of moist turkey breast. The aroma in our house was too much for the Boston Terriers to bear! They were treated very well when the dinner bell rang.

Personally, I'm thankful for -

  • Our move to Charlotte being a good decision.
  • I can almost run now, after ankle surgery!
  • I am attending Weight Watchers and hope for good results.
  • Gina and Billy's move to Charlotte from Wilmington, NC provided them with good jobs and a positive outlook on their futures.
  • Michael and I are healthy and content.
  • I found employment in Charlotte within a few months.
  • We are happy in our jobs.
  • My Mom is finally resting in peace after a very long struggle.
  • My Dad is getting the care he needs in a new home.
  • I have made new friendships this year and nurtured some long-lasting ones from a distance.
  • Through blogging, I have met terrific and interesting people who have generously welcomed me into their lives and offered so many different dimensions into every day.
  • I am just thankful for the beauty that surrounds me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Getting Ready to Give Thanks

The storms are leaving the region but not without leaving the havoc of flooding and power outages. Four inches of rain in 24 hours! A messy commute awaits travelers this afternoon and I'm glad to be home for Thanksgiving after too many years of being on the road!

Blowing, stinging, icy cold rain, and 25 mph winds. The Canna have been cut back behind the waterfall and the pond is dormant, except for some hungry Koi! I still need to work harder with this camera...ughhh!

Today was a workday for me in the kitchen. While cooking away, I felt the Holiday Spirit grab me so I powered the Bose and found a great Christmas music station. One of my projects today was to make Italian stuffing with the main ingredients being ground beef, chicken livers, romano cheese, oregano, eggs, and bread. Don't wince because if you like chicken livers, it's great! I'll stuff the turkey tomorrow. More on the menu: cheese ravioli with meatballs, pork and homemade "gravy" (sauce), tossed salad, broccoli, and cranberries. No doubt, tomorrow will be a Weight Watchers bust but I've been somewhat devoted this week and deserve a plate of delight. I'll set my napkin beside my plate when I'm satisfied and be able to walk, instead of waddle, to the kitchen. That pumpkin cheesecake will tease me and I wonder how long it will take before I choke down a large slice of it!

Chloe and Bella, finally tired of begging for liver droppings and licking the kitchen floor. They are relaxing to "Oh, Holy Night".

Tonight, on Thanksgiving Eve, I'm making a mental list of everything I'm thankful for. One of those is that Gina, Billy, and Mr. Biggins will be here tomorrow! It's a blessing to have her living close by vs. those six years of the eight-hour drive, one way. By the end of the day tomorrow, I plan to have my complete list of thanks.

Before I get back to the many things I need to do tonight, I want to wish everyone I know a Blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends surrounding you, making your heart swell with thanks and contentment.

Monday, November 20, 2006

My Bird Photo Contribution

Teeth were chattering today. The skies were shades of gray and muted blue, the clouds were dark and low, and the wind blew right through ya. I couldn't wrap my jacket close enough for comfort. For a while this afternoon, the clouds blended into a solid gray sky and it looked like snow. The winds calmed and the stillness made you shiver and look up and around for a snowflake. The atmosphere you breathe has a blueish hue and you can smell the snow! I live in Charlotte now where Mother Nature is just a tease most of the time. I miss seeing a snowfall and the childhood feelings of wonder that come with it. After all of my years, I feel as excited as a child who is hoping for "no school tomorrow!", until I need to drive to work in the mess.

I had no intention of creating a post today since my camera is charging and I don't have an idea. But a few minutes ago I received this photo embedded in an e-mail forward. Cute..."What are YOU lookin' at?"

Name That Bird!

Susan...are you there?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Cheese Ravioli or a Plate of Carrotts?

Surprise! I chose a new template tonight and I like it better than the other version of dark greens and blues. The links will be added soon.

After losing 15 pounds in '05, my waistline has expanded again (ahhhhh...ickkk!) I lost that weight because I was on crutches for eight weeks and it was just too damned hard to get to the food. My elastic pants are too tight now and even my underwear won't hug above or below my belly. All day long, I find myself readjusting the underwear, stretching the elastic waistline on my pants and pulling at my bra. I do this in the privacy of my office but I've wondered if there is a security camera somewhere snuggled in one of the corners and a group of people laughing their skinny asses off at me... Five pounds have returned in two specific areas - belly and back. The belly fat is bad enough but I think the bulges on my back under and over the bra lines are disgusting. Let's face it, back fat has never been the rage!

For the first time in my life, I'm going for help with my dear daughter Gina who wants to lose, too. Her case should be easy. She's only 24 and has an athletic body. She stopped swimming competitively a few years ago and, out of habit and sheer desire, still wants to devour the 10,000 (exaggerated) calories a day like she did during her 11-year swimming career. Her weight will drop quickly but I am post menopausal and it won't be a cakewalk for me, by any means. Tired of shopping at the mall and coming home with virtually nothing to wear, we agreed, "Weight Watchers, here we come!"

Today we approached the reception desk, I stopped in my tracks, and jumped back. Holy shit. There, on the floor were two scales without a readout and I saw cables sliver from the scales to under the reception desk! Whooaaa. I'm pleased with that because I envisioned a blinking marquee stating, "Mary is a short cow at --- pounds". After receiving our handy-dandy, nicely organized Member Organizer and after handing over lots of money, we took off our coats, shoes, handbags and weighed in. For a moment, I wanted to imitate the sound of a heifer but held back. I learned that for optimum results at the weigh-in, you remove earrings, too, and wear lightweight cotton clothing.

The meeting was very good and I'll study my handbooks this evening and through tomorrow. The presenter and staff were excellent and we learned the basics from them today. Really, for a person who is truly aimed at losing pounds of fat, it's the right place to be, I HOPE.

Maybe a little confused, the presenter/trainer asked us, "Why are you here now?" (meaning...5 days before Thanksgiving) Answer in our subconscious: "Because we are desperate and up to the challenge." OR "Because we are desperate and stupid???")

We learned the basics in a short time. I learned that I can't have peanuts anymore and it's killing me. I need to substitute dairy products for milk since I don't LIKE it. This won't be easy. I also learned that 4 ounces of wine is 2 points! Ohhhhh, crap... One lady in the meeting has never counted her wine points and still lost weight, so that was encouraging to me. Phewww. At least I'll have flex points to work with... Heck, I haven't even read everything I need to know yet but I'll make an attempt tomorrow. Every day requirements: fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and healthy oils. Plenty of cold water.

After we left our meeting, we had already made plans to meet Lea, Gina's friend, and her Mom, Ellen for lunch at the Olive Garden. Hmmm. Need I say more? Our stomachs were growling audibly...


Day One. I failed miserably. I ate enough points during lunch to carry me through Tuesday. Hey, there's always tomorrow!

Friday, November 17, 2006


On many Friday evenings during the fall and winter months, I crash. The week is behind me and I'm feeling tired, somewhat cranky, relieved, and cold. As a matter of fact, I'm sitting here wearing a coat and it's fifty degrees outside. My shoulders are relaxed and drooping and if I rested my head on this keyboard, I'd be sleeping in fifteen seconds. Perhaps it's the Friday night traditional two glasses of white wine I just downed. Even the dogs are calm and Michael is snoring in his chair after his drive from Charleston, SC this afternoon. His work there is finished and he's back after several weeks of hotel living.

It was a wild day. One of my absent supervisors had a delivery for emergency medical training taking place tomorrow. The truck arrived with 3,000 pounds of secured equipment, packed in large crates, and they wouldn't fit through the doorways. With a phone on each ear, I managed to contact the right people for help. I changed into athletic shoes and ran around the entire campus looking for an open bay in the transportation building and found a forklift, too. I was a "First Responder" in my world of public safety.

Received some good news today...Dad is settling into his new home and doing well so far. My brother saw him looking quite alert today, in the company of ten other residents in a family room setting. Dad has always been a social butterfly and even though his words are slow to come, there is no doubt in my mind that he will find some friends. They'll tell lies and trade absurd stories that no one has ever heard before. But that's OK. The activities staff at the nursing home learned that he loves music and will invite him to sit at the grand piano in the dining room and play. I know he will try - not with his paralyzed left hand, but he'll try hard with his palsied right hand to play "Down on the Farm", or at least, "Jingle Bells". Then he might ask someone to offer him a beer in exchange for another tune!

Dad's piano from 1964 until 1989 when he surrendered it to me.

Thursday, November 16, 2006



I've heard about it recently. It's a Japanese form of poetry. Having lunch at my desk today, I browsed Haiku on the internet and found samples and a set of rules tied to it, and believe me, they are intimidating, especially for someone who never studied poetry or writing. This is what I learned while having my very exciting cottage cheese lunch.

Haiku poems consist of three lines (or units), each having a number of syllables - 5 syllables, over 7 syllables, over 5 syllables. Total: 17 syllables. That's not enough! The poem must include a kigo, a word connecting to or relating to a season, i.e. "snowy" as in Winter. Each unit must also compliment the others and there are other rules I just flat out ignored. There are many definitions of Haiku poems for different languages and this is the one I tripped over.

A photo I previously posted came into mind and I thought about it. Then, I reached for a piece of paper and pen and scratched away. By the time I finished my delicious lunch, I rewrote what I came up with and slipped it into my handbag.

Here is my feeble attempt at Haiku. I'm one syllable short. Oh, well. I'll give it another try one day.

Chill descends deeply

Koi succumb to the nature

Drenched in slumber.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Random Photos, Testing Blogger

For four days, I haven't been able to upload photos in the evenings but I could upload in the morning from the office. Weird. I'm ready to use Flickr if someone tells me it's reliable and non-complicated. Tonight, I can upload in Blogger!!!???!!!???? Why, Blogger?

I'm testing my camera on different settings to see if I can get better photos than I've been taking. Of course, I've misplaced the reference manual I received with it last Christmas.

Took this one of the scavengers tonight without flash. Their mouths are still wide open but temps are too cool for feeding. I hate to disappoint but the nights are too cold.

Here's another random photo of Bella's first Birthday Party in August '04, living in Delaware. This camera was larger, heavier, and a bit more cumbersome. I think it took better pics even though it's about 7 years old.

They wore "Scooby Doo" party hats and enjoyed vanilla ice cream cups. Chloe knew exactly what to do but poor Bella only stared at the spoon, knowing she really wasn't allowed at the kitchen table. The party lasted two minutes but we sure had fun with it! I ate both cupcakes. Belch...

This was taken tonight. Here are the girls, sitting next to me at the computer and being patient, but wondering when Mommy will get up and play!

Heck, I'm tired of this. The dust is getting thick around here and I need to fold some laundry and maybe I'll watch the finale of Dancing with the Stars.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Memories Almost Forgotten

Some beautiful writings at Somewhere in NJ inspired me to reflect on my relationship with my Dad. He's in the winter of his life and is fragile right now. Those writings invoked vivid, seemingly insignificant, but lasting memories that I am compelled to put on paper and read to my Dad when I see him again. He might not know me or remember anything I say, but maybe he will, and I will feel comfort in sharing it with him. The timing of this is so coincidental as he took his last ride, perhaps, from the hospital to his nursing home today. My heart is aching as I write this but I need to do it. I'll feel good when it's done. very vivid memories of you:

You never lost the ability to make me laugh through my tears. Not ever.

When I was only about 4 or 5 years old, you took me to the firehouse on your day off so I could sing "You Are My Sunshine" for the firemen while you strung on your guitar. I felt like Shirley Temple on the stage that everyone made for me.

You loved your piano and guitar, and played anything "by ear". You always wanted me to harmonize with you.

Twelve years ago, you took your first piano lesson even though you played very well without reading a note. In the eighties, on some evenings while I was cooking dinner my phone rang... It was you, saying, "Listen to this, Mary!" And I'd hear your piano or electronic keyboard playing a new arrangement and I'd also hear you say, "Ooops." (Giggle) I was the only person you called to let me know you were practicing.

Perhaps the songs you sang to me the most in my life were "Sherry Baby" and "Catch a Falling Star". I haven't heard you sing either of them since 1995. Want to give it a try?

You took me to my first grade registration in a four-room schoolhouse with wooden floors and the school was swarming with bees. Knowing how frightened I was, you held my hand the entire time, and later, you brought me a box of Good 'n Plenties and everything was OK. I remember that sunny day, and you.

You bought me dime store rings that sparkled and we went outside and watched the sun light them up.

We were poor but didn't realize it. We didn't have everything we wanted but we had what we needed. You took Victor (my brother and your son) and I on rides through the worst parts of Baltimore City, and then we knew - just how fortunate we were.

At age 16, on my third attempt at passing my driving test, you watched me drive to the finish line and you were the only person who stood up and clapped and cheered. Three weeks later, I drove your 64 Chevy to the grocery store and an older lady tore the quarter panel off your car. You didn't raise your voice or bat an eyelash about it.

You always sang enthusiastically in Church and was responsible for my totally irrespectful, out-of-control giggling. But did you have to say "Ooops" after you hit a sour note?

You worked three jobs so you could afford my private high school tuition. You were so proud of me.

On the worst of days, when Gina was an infant and sick, you would unexpectedly arrive on my doorstep with loads of "Huggies", baby food, and whatever else you thought I might need.

When Victor and I were in elementary school, one evening after dark, you were driving an 18-wheeler and phoned the house. You asked Mom to let Victor and I listen for you outside because you would be on the highway nearby in 10 minutes. She woke us up and we listened, and heard 7 blows of the horn, interpreted as, "Good Night Ma-ry and Vic-tor."

You'd give Mom a break from "us kids" and took us out on the weekends whenever you were off. We never knew your plans since they were full of surprises. I will always remember the rainy day you pulled into a parking spot at the movie theatre and we saw "Mary Poppins". I could hardly catch my breath with excitement. Once, you showed us quicksand (we all watched from the car...). Double-dip ice creams cones, soda fountain drinks, and you. Treasures.

You made 150 people weep while dancing with me to "Daddy's Little Girl" at my wedding.

You and I liked sitting at the kitchen table and drawing caricatures, sometimes at Mom's expense. We'd laugh until we cried.

When I was a young woman, working in downtown Baltimore on the 31st floor of a high-rise, you rounded the corner in my office area and surprised me..."Dad? What are you doing here?" You had stopped by to check out the fire alarm system and escape route.

I remember you driving that old, convertible, fire pumper - Engine 32, sirens blaring, through the streets of Baltimore. I'd see you and wave, "Hi, Dad!" You didn't see or hear me, though. But I was there.

With this on-line journal, I intended to write about light-hearted subjects. This is a heavy-hearted post, but isn't that what a personal journal is for?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Big Reveal, Comedic Style

Yesterday, I spent some time working on my profile and I added some links, too. I even added a photo to my user profile - one of my favorite photos of Chloe & Bella taken two years ago. What I really wanted to do was post of photo of myself but since I am the one with the camera all of the time, there are no pictures of me.

Gina and Mr. Biggins came to visit this afternoon so I put Gina in charge. I shoved the camera into her hands and said, "Shoot away, but don't use a flash, zoom in from chest up, let's find a nice background in natural light, and I'm not wearing my eyeglasses." Well, this fueled her fire, for sure, and she started laughing before we got started. I had practiced some smiles with teeth, without teeth, with glasses, and without glasses. Damn! Twenty years ago, I was so, when I smile widely, my cheeks push my eyes closed.

Before we started, I said, "Oh, let me fix my hair and get some lipstick." There were 40 mph winds outside today and I still look electrocuted.

First few pictures were a NO GO (lots of laughter) and I had an idea, "Gina, let me hold Bella under my chin to hide the extra one."

Gina, pleading, "Will you please just smile and stop rolling your eyes and making those faces?" (Gee, I was only trying to show my best side...)


Gina said, "Awww, it's blurred."

I said, "That's good! Wrinkles won't show! Did it hide my extra chin?"

Bella's nervous and thinks it's time for ear drops.

We are bent over laughing at this point. Barely able to get the words out, Gina asked, "Do you have any duct tape to pull things up behind your ears?"

I was in side-splitting pain...tears running. Instead of using duct tape, I used my hands.

Another comment from Gina, "What about the droopy eyelids?"

I said, "Oh, yea, I think I have some 1/2 inch transparent tape. I can raise them. By the way, Gina, they're hereditary."

Windblown and disgusted. I'm just not 30 anymore. Spent way too many years in the sun, at the pool, baking my skin, and squinting. I give in to my age but I'm not giving up on trying to get the best photo. We had the best time this afternoon.

A thought: "I wonder if there's a Glamour Photos in Charlotte?"

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Poop on the Porch

Since I started this blog a month ago, I've met some terrific people. Many of them are animal lovers, naturalists, and bird-loving folks with great senses of humor and they certainly add another dimension to life...a bright and sunny one...and are always able to grab an audience for times of reflection on many subjects. To them, I am grateful. I especially appreciate posts about kids and dogs, but since October, I've learned some things about birds. I'm an illiterate bird-watching dummy and admit it! On the other hand, I have always loved being outdoors and filling my bird feeders and tending to the pond. Lately, I notice even more about things in life that went unnoticed. Journaling is work but you look forward to it. Camera always charged...thinking never stops.

From my photo archives, I'll share an experience I had with a pair of Barn Swallows this summer. We moved into our house a little over a year ago, and, under the roof of the front porch, the builder had placed a rock on the ledge to keep birds from nesting there. That rock actually turned out to be a firm base for a Barn Swallow nest...HA! Within a few days in June, a nest appeared on top of that rock. I watched the swallows work from sunrise to sunset, packing a sturdy nest made with red clay.

This photo was taken today. The nest is a mess and I'll need to clean it up. Lately, I've noticed feathers have been brought in and layer it.

Within a few weeks, the pair allowed me to stand a few feet from them. Mom slept in the nest at night and Dad perched on the opposite corner of the porch.

Soon I saw some tiny beaks rise above that nest and for the next two or three weeks, the feeding began in earnest. Gina and I spent many hours sitting in our rocking chairs and watching the feeding frenzy. The adults would swoop in, the babes would raise up and sing, "me! me! me! me!...feed me!" The drop would be made quickly...then silent. This routine continued every two minutes from dawn to dusk. We laughed the whole time. But in the oppressive heat on the west side of this house, I wondered if the poor birds would die of heat exhaustion.

Lovely little fledglings! There were five in the nest and it seemed that within just two weeks, they resembled smaller versions of their parents. Perhaps the most fun Gina and I had was watching them poop. Growing too large for the nest, some real serious and skillful shifting went on to get that back end out and the aim right, then...p-p-p. Poop, poop, everywhere. Each day I'd do poop patrol for the dogs in the back then headed around to the front porch for another clean-up. I didn't mind much.

Late July, Gina called me at work.

"Mom, the babies are gone."

"What? They flew out? Are you kidding me???? Do you see them anywhere? Did they get hurt?"

"No, Mom. They left this morning while I was out."

Somehow, I thought I might see them leave. I didn't even get a chance to say, "Have a safe flight and be careful out there..."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lame Post & Photos - Short & Sweet

Today just wasn't conducive to cooking up a post. Too frazzled. Did manage to take two strange photos, though.

This morning at 6:30 a.m., while I was scurrying to find the right pair of shoes to wear and getting ready to leave for work, I noticed that Bella was acting a bit out of character. A week ago, she was desperately trying to scratch her right ear off so I took her to the vet. He prescribed anti-fungal drops in both ears, twice a day, for two weeks. Bella, being smarter than I give her credit for, realized this morning it was time for those dreaded, smelly drops and decided to protect herself.

"She can't see me. I'm safe."

I was very busy but HAD to find the camera...Giggling the whole time, which is something I never do at 6:30 a.m...

"Is she gone yet?"

Bird Watching for Dummies, by Bill Thompson III from Amazon arrived in the mail today. Took a quick look at the author's Top 40 Favorite Birds and saw a photo of the Great... blue... heron. Hmmm. Author quotes, "Because they are large and easily seen, great blue herons are one of the species most likely to be appreciated by non-bird watchers." Oh, yes, I wholeheartedly appreciated that defiant, brazen, Great blue heron when he visited my ponds in Maryland and Delaware and managed to gulp down my entire fish stock on two occasions! But, by golly, that bird was truly magnificent!!! I was near enough to make eye contact with the thief.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Holiday Prep Already?

A "Jingle Bells" tune ruffled my feathers yesterday. An ad on the radio for lazer hair removal. Gift certificates are available, so hurry, there are only 57 shopping days until Christmas. Whaaaat!!??? Seems the great push for holiday shopping starts earlier every year and I start my great push later each year. Whether I'm in a grocery store or department store, I'm surrounded by the sights and sound of Christmas. And I worry, each and every darn year. Until yesterday, I hadn't given the Holidays more than a 60-second thought.

And to all of those super organized women who have their shopping done in July, gifts neatly wrapped, and cards written already, I am so impressed...but...shut up about it! I am laughing out loud right now... Christmas is my favorite Holiday, hands down. I get so giddy with lights, sparkly things, decorations, glitter, and foil wrapping paper and bags. I don't know why I wait until the week after Thanksgiving to get cracking.

It rained steadily all day yesterday and the sky was dark and gray. The misting rain was nearly silent and you could hear a leaf float off the trees and touch the ground. Just the kind of day you want to warm some soup and camp out on the sofa to watch I Love Lucy shows until you fall asleep. My dogs had the right idea...

My pond has become so unattractive. The annuals bit the dust and the Canna, after a real heavy frost three days ago, just shrugged in submission and gave up. They were so alive and full of color on Sunday!

A burst of energy bounded through the door around 6pm last night.

Mr. Biggins! He's a shot of pure adrenaline on a lazy day! "Let's get ready to r u m b l e!"

Like this photo, his visit was a blur.

Kissed Gina and Mr. Biggins good-bye, then packed away my aquatic crystal and brought out some of my winter crystal.

Hey, that's one item checked off the list of 250. Way to go, Mary!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Parents and Education

This was supposed to be yesterday's post but I had a fight with Blogger last night and lost. I'm going to try to get as fired up as I was yesterday...

Parent involvement in schools and in their child's education is wonderful, unless it becomes a long-term hindrance or...disaster.

Sorry to those who might read this because I know it's loaded with my very best sarcasm. Years of pent up frustration will spew right here and right now.

While shuffling papers in my office yesterday and minding my own business, I overheard a young male student talking to a teacher across the hall. That's normal around here. It's a good thing, but not when Mama is there, too. My reaction was, "What in the world that that woman doing on this campus if she's not a student?" Took a little nonchalant walk nearby and heard talk of a grading error. The discussion wasn't three-way, either. It was MOM vs. teacher. Please, give me a break! This kid had to be at least 18 years old and his mother is still wiping his nose.

For fifteen years in Maryland, I was a registrar in a private, Catholic, co-ed secondary school, grades 9-12. It was a fantastic school that upheld it's mission statement in every way and was filled with bright students with great futures and some not-so-bright students with questionable futures. The environment was caring and nurturing enough to be on the brink of being too enabling for the wrong set of students and their parents. A Parent Advisory Board had a strong and influencing presence there but I regarded most of their efforts to be "tail wagging dog".

In the early 80's I noticed philosophies on parenting take a turn to something so different from the way I was raised. Nowadays, the rights of children overshadow the rights of their own parents and anyone else in authority, for that matter. When I was a student (at any age) and failed to turn in an assignment on time, I got a zero - goose egg - no points - period. And a sneer from my teacher. I suffered that consequence and never even dreamed of asking my Mom to write a note or call a teacher. She would have flatly refused!

Never did I need to do a song and dance to get Gina to behave. Nor did I need to promise her new toys for good behavior. Nor did I need to kindly persuade her that my idea was a better one. I had rules and I was fair and consistent. Gina liked it that way and I think she was (and still is) a good kid, just for the sake of being good.

Back to the school: Whenever the receptionist was at lunch or out for the day, I would be one of the few who would sit in the main office to greet visitors and answer phones - a nice break away from registrar duties. But sometimes, the students and parents really ticked me off! Here are a few cases that were way too common and took up most of our time in the front office:

A famous student (one of about 40), known for never having a copy of his schedule, shows up for the 60th time asking for another copy. I grit my teeth, make the copy, and place it on the counter for him. He finally opens his eyes and asks, "Where's it at?" I quickly snap, "Where is IT! And tuck in your shirt and don't come back for another 6 months." We always rolled our eyes with kids like this one, but, lo and behold, his parents appeared at the counter one day and we said in unison, "The nuts don't fall far from the tree, do they?"

Forgotten lunches and lunch money brought Moms and Dads to the office every day. "Johnny forgot his lunch again. Can you call him to the office to pick this up?" Dutifully, I looked up his schedule saw he was in class. Apologetically, I replied, "No, he's in class. I won't interrupt his teacher and 25 students for him. Sorry." A furrowed brow from Mom in whiney voice, "But he only has one mod for lunch." I reply in a sympathetic tone, "Oh, he won't starve. He'll either come here looking for his lunch or borrow money from a friend." What she didn't realize was that about 80% of those bag lunches are either traded or aimed straight for the trash can. She leaves the office and I throw a pencil across the room.

Another issue all too common were parents who, rushing into the office, breathless, pleading, "Sally left her French paper at home and it's due today - (heavy breath) - can you deliver this to her before 1:00 - (pant pant)?" Being a customer service oriented school, I had to do it. But I would have loved to say, "Lord have mercy on your daughter. Why don't you let her GROW UP and stop teaching her to become an irresponsible dumb cluck? Let her take the freaking zero and live with it!"

Moms and Dads wanted ME to change a grade on the report card and wanted ME to talk to the teacher to find out why Lizzy didn't get the 98 her teacher promised. I always told them, firmly, "Send your student directly to the teacher to solve the discrepancy." And they hated it. Isn't that the way it should be, though? I would have loved to say, "In one year, Lizzy will need to deal with it herself. And it won't be pretty because she's bound to meet up with a professor who won't give a rat's ass if she passes his course or not! And you won't be able to do a damned thing about it. So there! HA!"

When parents pay tuition they develop a strong sense of entitlement. And when you see so much spoon-feeding and coddling day after day after day, you become spiteful.

Here are two more serious cases of parents who were determined to get what they wanted, only to see their whole plan backfire, and badly!

Both parents marched into the main office one afternoon to see the Principal and they would not wait. Their daughter earned Salutatorian, just 4 one hundreds of a quality point away from Valedictorian. Not trusting our computer grading system, they demanded that I manually calculate the cumulative QPA for the top two ranks, and, of course, it was correct. Their daughter was a lovely Asian girl and very bright who took every AP and Honors course offered (against the school's recommendations) and also scored near a perfect SAT. If she received a 93 in AP Physics, it wasn't good enough, and because she studied so much, she did nothing else to contribute to the life of the school. That's why Harvard and Columbia didn't accept her but her parents would not listen to any advice we offered. The family was disgraced.

In 2001, the Valedictorian was a young lady who had it all. She was a varsity athlete in 3 sports and exceptional in fine arts. She was accepted to MIT and Princeton and was offered full or partial scholarships elsewhere. Her Mom was a strong force in everything her daughter did. Sadly, though, a few weeks after graduation, the burn-out set in. So instead of shopping for dorm stuff and looking forward to a new life in college, she took a job at the Home Depot.

I think I've gotten off track. Yeah, like WAY off track! I'm trying to end this commentary but I forgot my point! Forget it.

Now for something a little lighthearted. My poor girls listened to me curse a lot last night and waited patiently for a game of golf ball...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Blogger is Killing Me

I just spent an hour on a great post and Blogger sucked it away from me. Had to do with saving and editing a draft and you know what? I quit!!!!!!!!!! Quit! Quit!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Change of Heart

The old man who owns Zina had a change of heart after his automobile accident on Friday night. He wants her back. If he has another change of heart, I am first on the adoption list.

Strangely, after being too wary for a few days, I was having a change of heart and was just beginning to look forward to meeting Zina and welcoming her into our family.

Now I'll be thinking of her being alone on sub-freezing nights instead of being snuggled under the covers next to another warm body.

What a bummer. I guess everything happens for a reason.

Jane always makes me feel better...Thanks, Jane!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bostons on My Mind

Some serious thinking is going on here. I sent this to Jane, my Boston Terrier expert/advisor and friend, to get her take on this.

I've talked about having another Boston for Bella's entertainment since Chloe is getting older and has only a few years left with us, probably. Bella is only three years old and Chloe is ten. Gina works at Wachovia Bank and found an ad on the employee's board from someone looking for a home for a Boston Terrier. The phone calls started a flyin' between Michael and Gina and I was strongly urged to talk to the lady today. Gina and Michael have always pushed me into having dogs in the past and I always get PO'd about it. Here's what I learned over the phone:

1. The female Boston is 4-1/2 or 5 years old. Free to a good home.
2. Her name is ZINA (the princess warrior?)
3. The owner of Zina is the lady's father, in his 70's, with a failing heart. He can't care for Zina anymore.
4. So the lady has had her for a few weeks. Her busy lifestyle and long hours away from home doesn't permit time for a dog.
5. Zina lived outside for all of her years, so she has had some accidents in the house for the few weeks she's been living inside. She doesn't mind being crated.
6. Zina hasn't been spayed yet.
7. According to this lady, she's the sweetest dog and loves other dogs, children and adults.
8. Zina is healthy - 18 pounds.
9. Bostons run in the family. Her father had a 13 year old Boston named "Chloe" (gave me shivers) who died and that's when the lady bought Zina for him.
10. Zina was purchased at a flee market for $160. (Eeeks. Gulp!)
11. She is not AKC registered but she has papers from CKC (?) What is THAT?
12. Zina is up-to-date on shots and they will provide all of her paperwork.

They are bringing Zina here on Sunday afternoon to see how the dogs get along with each other, to see if she likes us, and to see if the feeling is mutual. No decision has been made yet on my part! The housebreaking issue turns me off and I sure hope she isn't one of those long-snouted Bostons...or has eyes that scan 360. The lady doesn't have any digital photos to send to me so we'll be surprised on Sunday.

A part of me thinks a third dog will be OK since I already have two. If Zina is not a warrior princess and just a little female that needs a lovin' home, I'll be so happy to offer her a warm place to sleep, a sofa to cuddle on, a fresh nylabone or rawhide, squeaky toys, and someone to kiss. Another part of me thinks, "three's a crowd". I know I could be in for triple BT trouble.

Bostons here

Bostons there

There goes poor Mary

Pulling out her hair.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


At 7:15 a.m., I arrived at work feeling frustrated and tired due to this annoying head cold that prevents me from smelling or tasting anything - not even sugar or salt. For the next several hours, I still accomplished way too much work and kept things moving fast. Had two conference calls and used some very kind persuasive skills on some genius idiots. Tackled a wacko budget but didn't win. Almost physically abused a high tech copier that I think is way too smart for it's own good. Got hungry around 1:00 and still wasn't able to smell or taste a damned thing and I was getting very antsy, to say the least. That's when my mind started wandering. Wandering to a better place... OUTSIDE, in the warm sunshine...oh, my.

There is a blue bird apartment behind the leaves.

Taking a day off or time away from work for no apparent reason is referred to as a "Mental Health Day". In today's case, I'm talking about the freedom to choose whether to stay in my office or BREAK OUT! Hmmm... Sitting at my desk, my eyes shifted from one pile of work to the next and not a darn thing screamed out, "Stay! You have a deadline, dummy!" Then, I accounted for those who might miss me this afternoon. HA! No one! Oh, I had a reason to leave work, albeit a flimsy one to go to the central campus in uptown Charlotte. In ten minutes I was in my car. It was only 1:30 p.m.

Rolled back the sunroof and cranked up the volume. Started jamming to the music. Did I care if people saw me, a mature woman, gyrating like Taylor Hicks? Heck, No! I'll never see those people again, anyway.

Taking a picture on I-77 South is risky, but I know of two ladies (whose names I won't mention) who make a habit of doing this... Volume up a bit more....Christina's new single made me belt out a few lyrics and I sounded terrible, even to myself! Then, a summer 2002 hit, "It's getting hot in here, I'm gonna take my clothes off..."

In 20 minutes, I was in uptown Charlotte.

Charlotte isn't a large city but I love the skyline. It reminds me of Emerald City. It's clean and shiny with lots of flowers and foliage.

Gina works in one of those highrises - most of them are banking headquarters. I'll need to meet her for lunch one day soon.

The business I had only took about 20 minutes so I headed north for home. Still singin' and loving the afternoon.

Camera happy again - passing Gina's apartment. I wanted to go in there and kidnap Mr. Biggins but it's a gated community. Darn!

My few hours of freedom were just what the doctor would have ordered. Whewww! What a day. No regrets.