Friday, March 30, 2007

Short Little Stories - A Day Late

At 11:30 last night, I nearly finished this post. All that was left to do was move the photos into the text. No big deal, ordinarily. But I After a long day, my eyes stopped focusing and this keyboard made me feel like I had ten thumbs. I took one last look at this keyboard, clicked on Save as Draft, and cursed. That glass or two (?) of Merlot didn't help, either. So here's Friday's post on Saturday.


Demanding. 24-7. Irresistible.

Friday afternoons signify either excitement and energy for the weekend ahead or a time to crash like a robot with a dying battery pack. Today, I feel like the latter description. So, no matter what, I am faced with this every night of the work week. Bella, in the photo above, and Chloe, who was too busy digging holes to pose for a photo. Yawning non-stop, I threw the “hoolie hoop” fifty times. On days like this, I understand why Mother Nature suggests women over fifty to think twice before bearing children. Having these dogs is similar to having toddlers under your feet and I welcome the times they are napping. Most of the time I am grateful, however, for their inspiring “get up and go” invitations!

Michael and I were summoned to view another house that Gina and Billy found this evening. Their offer will be delivered tomorrow and I wish them good luck. They are learning that real estate transactions can be disappointing if you are not lucky enough to be the first and best offer!


For the longest time, I’ve been teased by a tiny bird that flits and floats at the top of the tallest trees on campus. I’m not talking about now and then teasing. The torment is every day. This little bird is no more than three inches long with a slender build. After ten shots today, this is the best I can offer. I’m guessing it’s a Pine Warbler but I can’t call it a lifer since the photo isn’t good enough. The leaves are getting in the way! Click to enlarge the photos.


To the right in the middle of the photo (click to enlarge), see the little red head on this tiny bird? Very tiny! On the left is the same bird I spoke of in the photo above. I refuse to give up on this hunt even though it's making me crazy.

Several grackles and starlings were socializing as I drove through my neighborhood this afternoon and I made a few u-turns along the way to get closer without holding up traffic or seeing neighbors point at me. I was only able to get a decent shot of this starling. Oh, well.



Taken from my car, here are tulips at the entrance of the clubhouse. Groundskeepers routinely replace colors throughout the year. I’d love to be able to afford to hire them, but then I wouldn’t have the fun of watching my own stuff grow haphazardly, the way I like it.

Last story of the night:


I made a horrible mistake today. While checking the pond skimmer for debris and toads, I found this one floating around inside. Normally, I either place the toads on a rock or gently toss them into the pond away from the skimmer in a way they would dive into the pool themselves. But my hand malfunctioned. My aim turned bad and I unintentionally tossed the poor thing onto a rock, heard its body hit, and saw its pale underside roll into a crevice and land motionless… I dropped my net and cried, “Oh, my God!” and ran to scoop it up in my hands to gently caress the little thing. Relieved to know it was still alive and unharmed, I placed it on a rock far from the skimmer. It dived toward a safer place and rested its little self on the lilypads. Thank goodness. I'd hate to live the rest of my life as a toad killer.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Various Subjects (a little weird) Post


The skies were gray today. Cold, wet, and dull. Despite the fact that I know we desperately need rain, I still wanted to view some vibrant color from yesterday.

Donna at KGMom Mumblings posted on a hot topic today relating to concerns of fuel conservation and consumption. We all agree that people in general have become lazy and should walk to their destinations more often, but I couldn’t help but address the automotive industry and what they could offer, too. It brought to my mind a photo I took about a month ago of an affordable alternative to gas guzzling machines we purchase.


Hey, it’s something to consider! I was thinking of Susan’s wish to drive a conservative vehicle and I wouldn’t mind scooting back and forth to work in something like this. If my husband reads this, I’ll be in trouble. He’d investigate this little buggy to save on our gasoline bill and we could certainly afford my protective gear, if that’s the case. I can’t help but laugh out loud at the mental picture of myself, with helmet, driving a battery-powered tricycle!


The sprinkler gave this mockingbird a thrill to its back end over the weekend. “Ah, oh, ah, yes!” I wish I had focused well enough to get the spray.


“Come closer. I smell sooo good.”


When the mothers of the world insist on a 9pm bedtime for their little pre-adolescent girls and tell them to GET OFF THE PHONE, Sanjaya will meet the end of his road. The producers of American Idol are eating this up as seen by Ryan Seacrest sporting a Mohawk on last night’s results show. Sanjaya will probably be singing (if that’s what you call it) for a few more weeks because the news media loves drama. This has to end. If Melinda Doolittle or Jordin Sparks aren’t in the final show, I will undoubtedly quit AI. There are some talented guys on the show who deserve more kudos than that little boy. Does anyone else agree with me?

If Tom at Monarch photographs Stinky Bugs, I can photograph bugs, too. On the concrete sidewalk at work, I saw a beetle. Knowing that I’d be cooped up inside due to weather with few photo opportunities, I thought about getting my camera. The beetle was lodged in a sidewalk crack so I thought I’d help it out. I just can’t get used to the feel of beetle legs pinching my fingers. Gives me the willies.


It’s out of the sidewalk crack and I’m on my knees, butt high, trying to focus on a better shot. Behind me, the police cadets arrived quickly and quietly from their four mile run. I only heard the huffing and puffing of their breath and their shoes on the parking lot as they grouped in formation within a few seconds. Did they need to see me in such a position? I wonder what they were thinking… My last shot:


Back in the crack. CLUNK. I thought, “You’re on your own. I’m outta here!”

I am sane. I am sane. Sure, I am sane.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wordless Wednesday






It's killing me to post without words but after last night's fiasco I need time to fold some laundry and kick back for a while. Yep, I blew it on "Wordless Wednesday". No surprise... ;o)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

When you want to be heard, SPEAK.

One of the first things I do when I get home from work is to watch the feeders while letting Chloe and Bella out on their business trip. Today, what I saw was different from the normal activity I usually see. Where were the birds? Little food disappeared from the hopper. I wondered if the hawks are gearing up or if there is cat on patrol. A little later, I heard some squawking and I found a lifer. At my age and after years of watching the birds, it’s a shame I have never tried to name them and now I am calling a Common Grackle a lifer. I’ve missed too many years of fun, but I guess it’s never too late to start enjoying a bird’s characteristics and lifestyle.


This bird had an attitude and similar the one I could have had today. My unhappiness at work, described last week, isn’t a good thing for the mind or body and I drove to work on a mission. I needed to fix something, for my own sake. And I did. I'm glad I didn't sit and boil, wearing myself out.

Our temperatures are way above normal at 85 degrees today. It’s dry. We need rain to wash away the thick layer of pollen dust that’s causing people to sneeze and gag. The weeping willow is not mine but I enjoy its beauty. Well, guess what? I lost the photo, thanks to this damned stupid keyboard so to hell with it.


I examined the river birches last night and there were no leaves. Not one. Progress in less than 24 hours! This is where the hummers flitted and perched last summer!


Our builder planted these pretty evergreens on trellises and I don’t even know the name of them. Look at the color and softness of the new growth.

It’s hard to believe that just nine days ago we had two very damaging frosts. Spring is bursting like there's no tomorrow.


She’s wary of me. I don't even want to see more house finches this year and wish the barn swallows would return to claim their territory. Maybe but it’s possible as they nested here last June. I miss the swooping, trusting swallows. It was the first real relationship I had with bewds.

See? Even with this frikkin’ keyboard, I can’t be brief about it. This post was a nightmare. I’m still cussin. I'm wondering if I can deliver a wordless and pictureless Wednesday.
HA! I'm clicking "publish" right now without looking back!

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Lot of Inconvenience

This is a disappointing announcement of something that happened right here on my blogging desk. It happened on Saturday while I stifled the scream of a PMSing crow. I felt as if two of my fingers on each hand were removed. My first thought was, “How will I post on my blog?” An hour on the phone with the Dell technician resulted in him pronouncing my laptop remote mouse and keyboard dead. It might be up to a week before the replacement parts arrive, so, until then I’ll be reaching for my poor, motionless mouse and cursing to high heaven. Speaking to an English speaking-challenged Dell technician for over an hour who just couldn’t get the service ID numbers right nearly put Michael and I over the edge. Michael must have flipped the laptop over six times to clearly and loudly recite the ID numbers too many times, using a lighted magnifier lens to read the ridiculously small print. “C as in Charles, N as in Nancy, K as in Kevin…and it went on and on…


Why am I so upset? I learned to type on a manual typewriter (another age reveal). Speed and accuracy have always been my goal. My fingers fly over a keyboard while I gaze through the window. Laptop keyboards aren’t the same. When I see people using a laptop keyboard, I imagine they never really learned to keyboard at all and they just hunt and peck with four fingers at 20 wpm. How pathetic. I’m probably dead wrong but I can’t believe high school students have the type of keyboard proficiency I have learned.

On Sunday I discovered how challenged I am in this new situation. With my arms and elbows held high above the desk, I had trouble typing simple three letter words and just couldn’t keep my pointer fingers on the F and J keys. Then I had the bright idea to raise my chair six inches. Duh... I had planned to work diligently on my template but that will have to wait. It’s still slow going.

Perhaps after a week of weaning from my traditional keyboard and mouse, I’ll step into the year 2007 and start pricing one of those wireless laptops that I can carry around with me. Now, what type of gear would I need on a daily basis to carry a laptop, binocs, and camera to the grocery store?


A weekend highlight was the temperature. The pond is in bad shape after a drastic change in temperature with an algae bloom of the string and free-floating variety clogging the filter and pump. I'll need to purchase some chemicals very soon.


We haven't had a chance to shed our winter coats! The warm temperatures offered some tongue wagging smiles. These photos were taken as the dogs were resting.


No googly eyes on this Boston. Bella exudes sweetness in her expression.


Mr. Biggins came to visit and I wanted to grab that slab of a tongue and if I did, he wouldn't care at all. He's a very sweet young man.


A googly eyed girl. Chloe has been transformed into a puppy again after her surgery in February. Have you ever seen a wider grin on a dog? What a comic.


I...just...can't...resist these little Chickadees. I'll take their photos until the end of time.


This red-bellied woodpecker visited on Friday and Saturday. Although he is not as brave as the others, I used my stalking skills to get this shot. I'm so thrilled.

It might delight some of my readers that I won't be posting in my usual long-winded style this week. This post took longer than I thought it would since I'm keyboard challenged tonight. I tried, though. Gee, this is hard. I just reached for my dead mouse for the 50th time.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Simple Beauty often Unnoticed

It's Friday and I'm flying freely (well, with laundry in the tub...).

Thank you, camera, for slowing me down this afternoon and allowing me to notice simple beauty that many of us notice but don’t always appreciate. Sadly, much goes unnoticed. One day I’ll learn how much more you can do for me and I’ll take you off “auto” mode.


I’ve never seen a banded bird before. Robins: Trusting? No. Nervous? No. They eye you up and think about it before fleeing. I was waiting for him to scoot into the sunlight but I waited too long.

Butterflies in flight make me work with the camera. I’ve never attempted to photograph butterflies before. (Is it a moth?)

I can’t imagine how much fun I’ll have this summer with the Dragonflies and Monarchs.

Bee: Hard working but delicate.

Gymnast, performs at any angle.

Suspended, in route. Lovely nature at work.

At the very moment I thought about how discouraged I am becoming with seeing the same birds at my feeders every day, I was graced with a sight that made me quietly scamper around and call the dogs inside. In less than thirty seconds, I captured a shot that I’ve been waiting for… and then, poof, he was gone. I am still shaking my head and smiling! Happy Dance! It’s Friday and Life is Good. I hope you are graced with beauty and a nice surprise this weekend.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Great Opportunities

iandthebirdlogoolive For great reading and a wonderful display of relationships between birds and humans, check out Journey Through Grace. Jayne did an outstanding job hosting I and the Bird #45.
She also celebrated her 45th birthday! I am honored to see one of my posts exhibited in her wonderful display. Thank you, Jayne, for your time and talent.


Writing about work at the office again was not on my agenda but I need to make an exception today. Several of us at the office are working long hours and are under a lot of pressure and stress. There are many, though, who are working on easy street which offered me a grand and glorious opportunity that I could not pass up!


This is what my desk looks like. A mess, determined by whatever happens lately. I do know where everything is, most of the time. As I flew out of my office on an urgent work-related errand, I stopped dead in my tracks. Holding back a roar of laughter, I tiptoed into my office and grabbed my friend (the camera). I am so cynical sometimes. What did I see?


A dreaming fly catcher, right across the hallway. Oblivious to the world around him.

The people who accompany me in this sea of stress gathered around to see the view on the camera. The resulting belly-splitting laughter was the best stress reliever we could receive. Tears streamed down our faces and we were exhausted after that much needed release. The gentleman I photographed is one who has nothing to do on the job, apparently no work on his desk, but he was gracious and actually reveled in his popularity.

A good day. I am so tired...


There has been little time for my walks or photographing birds lately and this is the only photo I have to offer. Taken in low light this evening - a mockingbird ready to dive into the suet.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Home Sweet Home


Home is where your heart is and have I left mine in several places.

We met with Gina, Billy and their real estate agent last night and walked through a house for sale with them. On the way home I was quiet in the car as I recalled the first house we bought, back in 1977.

It was a modest duplex under construction, in Millersville, Maryland. Thirty years later, I can still recall the smell of the sandy soil and fresh pines we breathed as we walked the lot during the hot summer months and made a list of errors in construction. That house holds seven years of memories. We brought Gina home in that house, two days after her birth in 1982. We lived with three cats – Muffet, Mini, and Maggie. Sadly, we lost Muffet one year earlier to the day that Gina was born. The house was small inside but the backyard was a little, tree-filled wonderland. I remember doing our first painting and wallpapering jobs there and the fun of shopping at all of the home stores every weekend. I particularly loved the glossy wallpaper and Hollywood lights we hung in the only full bathroom in the house. Gina’s nursery was painted white and the largest wall in her room was papered with cute little sheep in bright, primary colors. Pretty yellow Priscilla curtains hung at her window. I remember so much…

Our next house, in Pasadena, Maryland, holds five years of memories. Maggie died and another cat, Ralphie, joined our family; Gina finally started sleeping through the night at seventeen months in her big girl bed; I decorated a 14-foot tall Frazier fur Christmas tree that needed to be tied up because it was so large; we bought our first sunroom; I returned to work after a three year leave; we celebrated Gina’s first birthday and she entered kindergarten; and, I loved those cathedral ceilings and the pizzazz inside. That home was struck by lightning twice but I’ll never forget how special it was. I drove by that house last Spring while my Mom was in the hospital and winced at the site where we had planted a “Gina’s first birthday” pin oak tree in the front yard. It had been cut down.

Fourteen years of memories are cherished in our home in Bel Air, Maryland. There are too many memories to list but a lot of growing and loving took place there. Gina grew up from a little first grader to a sophomore in college in that lovely home. Michael and I aged! We celebrated a First Communion, forty-two birthdays, and fifteen Christmases. We lost two cats to old age, welcomed Casey, a Cocker Spaniel who died at the age of five, and welcomed Chloe who is still kicking at age eleven. I’ll never forget how lovely that home was, even during those few years we grimaced at the poor paint choice I made in the living room. It was Pepto-Bismol pink. We built our first pond there and I met my first Great Blue Heron beside it. We buried at least two dozen gerbils down the back and buried our beloved cat, Mini, back there, too. Very few days or evenings would pass when I wouldn’t say out loud, “I love you, Mini” while visiting her gravesite under a large weeping willow tree. We buried her on a warm day in April and it was the first time that year I heard tree frogs singing. Whenever I hear tree frogs in the spring, I think of her.

We had three short years in Delaware in a very lovely golf course home. It was situated at the ninth tee and we were able to wave and say hello to those we knew while they were teeing off. Since Michael and I customized the floor plan, it was probably the best home we’ve ever had. It was wide open with many windows and the Delaware flatland sunrises and sunsets were spectacular. Michael’s Dad died while we lived there and we welcomed Bella in that home.

My current home is very special to me, too, and it’s equally as lovely as the others. I’ve only been here for one and a half years but it has a few memories attached already – the death of my Mother and the brighter memory of Gina coming home to be nearby after six years of living so far apart.

Once in a while, I yearn to see, feel, and smell my homes again. I would also love to see the home where I grew up and the homes my parents had during the past twenty years. The comforting smell of each one still lingers in my mind and I can visualize where the rips in the linoleum were, the size of the linen closets and pantries, and the places where I stored the vacuum cleaner in each house. I can still vividly remember every nook and cranny of every home I loved and can remember myself walking through those homes with a basket of laundry on my hip and hoping I wouldn’t trip over a cat, dog, or toys. If I were able to walk from room to room again (with a box of tissues), it would bring back the fondest and most heartwarming memories and emotions, even if our successors gave those rooms complete makeovers. Perhaps my curiosity would disappoint me.

There are people who move on from home to home and never look back. I treasure all of those four walls that embraced us in laughter and sadness. Have you ever longed to visit a home from your past?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Listen, Stop, and Look

Today ends my four-day weekend break from work and if you have read my recent posts, it was a break I needed in the worst way. I made a terrible mistake late last night and looked at my e-mail account at the office and found it to be dreadfully long and work-filled. Whenever I decide to take two days off, I pay for it!

This morning I needed to make a decision. I had already accomplished a few goals around the house over the weekend, i.e. cleaning the hardwood, etc. How will I spend my last day of freedom? How will I relax and rid the evil spirits at the office that haunt me? Go the mall and browse the new spring fashions and perhaps stop at the Lancome counter (love it!)? Or, shall I drive to the Latta Nature Preserve and explore a bit? My decision was a quick one as I am finding out that there is no better form of relaxation than to explore and experience natural places for the benefits of simplicity and quiet. Better yet, it’s free. One gallon of gas is all it costs.


The Audubon trail was slightly disappointing (I wanted bird shots) but I did see some unusual tree formations and met some fisherman on the lake. They were quiet and respectful men. I was alone and felt somewhat skittish but I overcame that feeling half-way through the hike.


Ok. It’s a Blue Jay, but I haven’t seen or noticed a Blue Jay since I lived in Baltimore. Honestly. I remember them attacking my Mother’s cat. Loud creatures, they are, but very beautiful. My photos stink today but it was fun trying. No waterfowl today, either!


The lake edged the trail and while I was thinking of how great this hike is for strengthening the ROM in my left foot (recent surgery related), I descended off-path and found myself in slow motion, gracefully slipping down an embankment. I heard voices nearby on the trail and while I was brushing soil from my butt, two Russian fishermen asked me if I was an employee and if I knew what time the parked closed. Now, how could they think a lady wearing make-up, a camera around her neck, and brushing off wet leaves from her ass was an employee?


Feeling a bit frustrated, after I listened, stopped, and looked that gave me little excitement with birds, I drove away from the Audubon trail but saw another on my way out. I knew I had to stop when I saw a hawk circling the parking area. It was an equestrian and hiking trail and screaming with birdsong. After a few minutes, I reached a spot that was incredibly quiet, motionless, and peaceful to the point I could hear myself breathe. All thoughts were away from what I’ll face tomorrow. Awesome peace, althought short-lived. Nice.


Being so alone in the woods can be eerie. I saw fresh dog dung, heard a bark, so I found a tree branch and kept it with me. Even though I’m a die-hard lover of dogs, a stray dog scares the hell out of me. Of course, a vicious dog would eat the stick and me, too. HA! I placed my walking stick against the split in this tree and wonder if it will still be there when I return.


There were woodpeckers busy hammering away and since they have decided not to visit my feeders, I took many shots of them. This female hairy was a treat. It was so nice to see her spiral the tree without caution. A lifer!


This red-bellied was also unconcerned and quite busy.

After a few hours, I headed home to enjoy my own backyard.


A pair of Bluebirds that I haven’t seen at home in a while.


Bluebirds are too darn special to be seen in the gutter!

For dinner tonight we are having soup I made yesterday - delicious bean soup with ham and some pumpernickel with real butter.


Am I ready to return to work tomorrow? Not really. Looking at this pot of soup gives me an idea, though…

Maybe it will serve as good ammunition to keep problematic people away from my office? Yes! (tee-hee)