Friday, June 29, 2007

One Child

My brother and his wife have four terrific children. Their youngest child, Joseph, is a rising second-grader in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

There's something special about Joseph and you would know it if you met him. He's easy-going, contemplative, and sort of a quiet boy. I can watch him think. A twinkle in his eyes and a broad grin gives way to a sophisticated sense of humor that I love. He’s the one that talks the least but says the most! This special boy was a very good friend to my Mother.

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He learned about the homeless and had an idea. Joseph asked for help at his school because his desire was to make sure that every child in the county had a toothbrush and toothpaste. He received school-wide help that resulted in taking donations of over 1,000 toothbrushes and toothpaste!

Joseph delivered his donations to a shelter in Fort Meade, Maryland and met with the Director to discuss plans for a project during the next school year. I giggle when I think of his endearing little self exhibiting child-like professionalism and sincerity. During the final school assembly this month, he addressed the students, faculty, and staff. At the end of his report he said, “So, if you want to help me with my next project for the homeless, see me in second grade!”

I am soooo proud of him.

Joseph: One child with a big heart.

He's making a difference.

God Bless you, Joseph.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hot Wednesday

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Summer evening. Of the four seasons, summer has always been my first choice. My “Color Me Beautiful” seasonal shade is “Summer”. Does anyone remember “Color Me Beautiful”? Probably not, because I’m an older chick. During a demonstration party at my home with men and women as guests, our skin tones were matched with a season of shades that compliment your natural beauty. I still find myself choosing the cool summer shades that were prescribed for me many, many years ago. Enough of that!

My glorious summer has been challenging me lately... The days are longer and that suits me just fine but the heat (can I curse this unbearable heat?), humidity, and electrical storms are giving me grief. How did we ever survive without AIR CONDITIONING decades ago? My hours outdoors are limited and the evenings, lately, have halted my instinctive desire to be outdoors to observe and smile. The threatening skies and low lights keep me indoors.

Along the way today, I was able to see a few things that interested me. I’ll do this quickly because I hear thunder rumbling in the distance and I might need to shut down soon. I had less than two hours outdoors but I was determined to make the most of it and took a few photos.



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Dove is wondering how they do it. Dove wants some suet, too, but Dove doesn’t have acrobatic skills to get there…




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The drought (yes, we are still dry) is causing brown edges and crispy leaves but roses are strong.




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I appreciated this fly-by when I was in a hurry.


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A willow tree succumbed to the heat two days ago and the leaves suddenly turned brown. Sigh…


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I slowly moved in closer. This photo made me feel better.


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I did it again. At 7am, I pulled over quickly to see the most beautiful STOP sign of my life. It's my favorite photo of the day.

I guess it wasn’t a bad day, after all.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fish stories, a birthday, and a lifer



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My neighbors are moving away in August. I’ll miss them so much because they are like old friends, even though we’ve only been neighbors for less than two years. They have a water feature in their yard – a pretty stream that trickles down their back hill and empties into a small pool where they keep three Koi. My neighbors aren’t nature observers or lovers, but they named their fish. A month or two ago I promised to take their Koi before they move since they feel apprehensive about the new owners’ commitment to them.

While they oooo’d and aaaa’d over our new pond reconstruction last night, everyone thought it would be a great idea to bring their three Koi to our sparkling pond. I hated to bring it up, but I did. According to my pond expert, I was overstocked with fish even before he lined the pond with large rock and gravel. Now I have less water and too many fish! I told them so, gently. Then I told everyone again, a little more emphatically. No one understood the meaning of “too many fish – too much waste – too little oxygen". What I heard in three-part harmony was, “Oh, what’s three more?”

I upheld my promise and netted the three Koi from their little murky pool because I really like my neighbors. I wonder why I just can’t be assertive and say “Sorry, but NO”.

A decision had to be made this morning…


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I needed to remove some goldfish. I thought of the following options. Do I know anyone who has a pond nearby? No. Should I take them to Petsmart or Petco? NO! Should I find a kid with a fish aquarium? NO! I had a place in mind.

They were hiding from me. I found my "pond" Keds and tied them.


I stood in the middle of the pond with my net and moved in slow motion to avoid crashing into the lilies and causing too many waves. It is very difficult to net small fish, especially when they have so many hiding places in their new environment. After ten minutes, I only caught one goldfish and I had about ten more to net. Hmmm… I thought of quitting but I couldn’t capture only one lone goldfish. I needed two and the second capture was easy from the skimmer. This is when my heart started breaking.


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They are ordinary goldfish that have tripled in size since I brought them home. I just have too many. There are eight more out there that I should give up. Sigh… I am not attached to them in the same way I am attached to the Koi who allow me to drop food pellets down their throats, but I cared for all of these goldfish and their offspring.



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A three-minute ride took me to the place and I parked the car. I skipped over Canadian goose poop and found a spot to release two of the ten. There were some life birds and nature buzzing all around but I couldn’t see them through my tears. Horrible thoughts of predators and water chemistry made me regret what I had done and I don’t know if I can do this again. It's torturous when you have a knack for being too caring and way too dramatic.



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The Beta who watched me in the kitchen for two years died last Saturday. He looked like a male and I called him “Guy”. My new Beta looks feminine. I call her “Girly”. Creative, huh?


Less than ten minutes after I said my good-byes to two lovely goldfish this morning, I came home to see this:



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For fear of further incriminating myself in the ID department, I ask for help. My Stokes guide provided no help. Internet, no help. Sibley’s gave me a clue but the bird doesn’t belong here.



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It has a yellow-orange back with flecks of black on the wings.




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Its color of yellow-orange ranges in different light settings. The tail is very short, yellow-orange. This bird is not a fast flyer. Its wings flap like crazy but it only seems to hover into a tree. The song is a repetitious, shrill and loud, “tseee tseee”.

It’s been hanging around my house all day and just a few minutes ago I saw it on the ground at the feeders, near the pond. If I learn this is a common bird with an easy ID, I will never guess again. Maybe the heat is getting to me?




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100… in… the… shade. Add the humidity to 100 degrees and we’re in a sweat drenching pit.




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It’s a day for swimming and bobbing for golf balls. Bella takes a running leap to be the first one to the ball.




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Today is Chloe’s Birthday. 1996…over a decade of fun.




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Chloe: “Gimme eleven kisses!” I say, “Ok, then we'll go wash your face and I will tell you I love you eleven times!"

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Note: This post was ready for Sunday. A wild thunderstorm screwed up my computer in the evening so I spent Monday night on the phone with the cable company for thirty minutes and then another three and a half hours on the phone with Dell. I was in hell. Dell Hell? No dinner. Another thunderstorm cut off my conversation with Dell before we finished and I gave up. This morning, I discovered that I’m back in business and that’s a good thing.

This is my two hundredth post since October and I'm still hanging in.

Monday, June 25, 2007

I was going to post...

I'm posting this from work. One of the worst storms I can recall hit us last night. There was no warning - no thunder, no rain, no dark skies. One intensely loud crack of lightning that shook the pictures on the walls started the storm yesterday around 7pm and continued after midnight. We didn't lose power, but we lost our computer network. So I can't post until I have it fixed - hopefully this evening.

I've been longing for rain but I think 6-8 inches in a few short hours is a bit too much. Add hail the size of golf balls to the scenario. I typically love a good thunderstorm but this one was downright scary.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Rebuilding a Backyard Pond!

The pond we had installed nearly two years ago is beautiful enough and our installer kept his price low enough. What he didn’t tell us was that we needed a biological filter, which I thought was odd… “Just treat it with beneficial bacteria once a month. That’s all you need to do.”, he said. We thought, OK, we’ll try it. It didn’t work. My plants weren’t thriving and the water clarity was poor during warm months, even after adding clay. The Koi have grown and are thriving very well, thank goodness. The pump we had, until yesterday, choked up every three days and I had to slam and manhandle it to keep the water flowing. Three of the same models burned up in the past year. I guess when you opt for the low bid, sometimes it will backfire on you.



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A new crew of three arrived on Thursday morning with three pick-up trucks and a trailer. They were carrying 3.5 tons of rock, new plants, and all sorts of new equipment to provide a glorious ecosystem. They’re getting ready to drain the murky pond.



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Nearly 1,200 gallons drained from the sidewalk to our fast descending driveway.



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I watched my my Koi and Goldfish get netted. Poor things…



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Here is where they chilled out, except for one excitable Koi who jumped out and sunbathed in the grass. I yelled, “Casualty!”, but he/she survived and is doing well.



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The Boston Terrible Sisters wanted in on the action. I walked them outside on leads and kept them away from the muck. They eat anything that stinks.


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While the pond drained (only took 15 minutes!), work began on the new pump. This baby won’t clog and it’ll throw a rock instead of choking on a tiny piece of mulch.


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While work began on the pump, our bare-bottomed pond was power washed. I was glad to hear it was an easy job in comparison to others they’ve seen!



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The Canna lilies were dug up (wince) and a place was made for the new bio filter behind the waterfall.

ALL OF THIS HAPPENED IN ABOUT AN HOUR!

I need to comment here. If Michael and I were doing this job, we’d still be backing the trucks into the yard, taking the fence down with them, and we might be in the hospital with fractured backs. We might have had a fist fight! LOL! Boulder lifting at our age is out of the question!



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Still blooming, my orphaned lilies…




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These guys were meticulously lining my pond with rock to capture good bacteria. Not one inch of pond liner is exposed now. We have fewer gallons of water, so I’m at my limit in the fish department. The pond depth is still a good 30 inches.

Pondscapes of Charlotte is an outstanding, award-winning group. They worked diligently and followed their plans. No time was wasted with guesswork or chat and I was in awe with the ease in which they completed a large amount of work in one day. Check out their gallery!


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This is where it all happens. A new bio filter (in front of the Canna and behind the waterfall) will capture good bacteria and create an ecological balance, along with the rocks that line the pond in the previous photo.

Lilies are planted at the bottom and celery plants, grasses, parrot feather, hibiscus, and a water orchid are rooting now and will eat up the nitrogen. I’ll love watching them grow. The transplanted Canna Lilies will need good watering every evening for a while, as they look a bit wilted. Our UV light burned out a few weeks ago and although we probably won’t need it, I’ll replace it anyway in case an algae bloom occurs.



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A new waterfall. Now we have a shallow place beneath the fall for the birds to drink and bathe easily. They perch on the driftwood and I’ll have great photos of them. Today I saw a red-winged blackbird lapping up the luxury but my camera was… where? Not with me! The birds are obviously feeling the heat, too.
The toads and frogs were screaming nearby last night. I'm sure they will find the way to their new home.



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Everybody’s happy!

When I paint my toenails, I'll post a photo of my hot feet submerged and the Koi nibbling on them.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The longest day of the year

It's officially summer! And, yes, it has been a long day. I didn't go to work. I watched, and in a very small way, took part in the reconstruction of my pond. The contractor was excellent!

The sun was blazing hot and I am sunburned, smell of sweat and pond sludge and algae, so I think I'll shower now...

I can't wait to show what took place today. I'll tell tomorrow and catch up with everyone's blog, too.

Okay, here are two photos from the day:



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It's a good thing that we have a wide gate to the yard. The pond was drained and the hose sprung a leak. A mess.



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The only visitor I've seen at the hummingbird feeders since Tuesday was this guy. I have been pouting about it. Around 5:00 p.m., I saw a lady hummer visit. She made my day!
I smell badly. Off to the shower...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hot Fun In The Summertime

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Hazy, hot day in Ocean City, Maryland

At 4:00 p.m. yesterday I saw 95 degrees on my car thermometer. Hearing Sly & The Family Stone on the radio took me back to summers when I was in love with the heat, beach, and sun. (Many won't remember Sly...I'm dating myself.)



“End of the Spring, and here she comes back,
Hi Hi Hi Hi there,
Them summer days, those summer days…

Hot fun in the summertime... (4 TIMES)


How foolish I was back in my teen and young adult years! My foolishness continued into the 90’s, too. I probably started using a #4 sunscreen after I turned thirty but before then, I thought, “Come on, sun, bake me!” I made my own recipe of Johnson’s Baby Oil and iodine for cooking. My itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini (yes, I wore one) didn’t cover much and I burned badly. Honestly, I had a few whopping burns during my life. The top of my nose was raw often. Solid masses of water blisters on my chest and shoulders turned into dried up skin that I’d peel off in long strips for the fun of it. I’ve been burned so badly that I’ve shivered under the bed covers and winced in pain to simply move an arm. A few times in my life I had that perfect tan! But was it worth it? A deep tan looked odd on a blue-eyed, fair skinned person like me.

I’d sit in a beach chair for hours until I became deliriously hot, got up and waded in the water for a while, then turned that chair to follow the rising and setting sun. Oh, those were the days. There’s nothing better than placing my chair at the edge of the surf, sinking in the low waves, while the sea mist cooled me. The fragrance of Coppertone is in the air. The sand serves as a free pedicure when I bury my feet in it.
The beach wasn’t enough for me. For ten years, our swim clubs saw me every day of the summer from 12pm until 4pm, mainly due to the fact that Gina was a mermaid. It was too much.

I used to look at women many years older than myself and think, “Ewww…another dried up sun goddess – how pathetic.” Well, look at me now! I have sun damage but not that severe.

If I should find myself on the beach or at the pool today, I'd look different. I am wiser now. First of all, I’d be fashionably outfitted in shorts and t-shirt over a swimsuit and complete sunblock lotion. I’d wear a wide brimmed hat and polarized sunglasses with lenses the size of grapefruits. I’d pitch a shade tent and sit under it and have a colorful beach towel cover my exposed legs. Hey, I wouldn’t be embarrassed at all since I’d be so camouflaged that no one would know it’s me! I’d drink my Diet Lipton Green Tea and snap pictures of women who shouldn’t even think about wearing a two-piece swimsuit and plump old men flaunting their thongs. I remember seeing older folks on the beach, all wrapped up like mummies in the shade and I’d wonder, why bother?

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It’s too hot to be outside lately. We are crunching in the grass again in this drought. This basket was lush and green two days ago after a rain storm. The air quality was labeled “code red” yesterday. I stay inside.




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“Chloe! STOP THAT DIGGING!” The heat makes me gripe.



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Bella never gets enough action. I allow her five minutes in this heat then back inside we go!




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The name of this dragonfly is “Dragonfly”. I don't know...



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What is this? The librarian (media specialist) gave this plant to me. It had one four-inch tubular purple flower but fell off before I planted it. Now something is about to burst. What she called it sounded something like this: “delphffffinphmff”.




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Very large bug with tweezers on its face. How’s that for an ID?



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Just before sunset lately, I spend my time outdoors tending to the birds and fish and trying to keep everything alive with the garden hose. During this time, I usually work on a post for my journal. I miss posting more often but the heat is making me long for bedtime at a decent hour.




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We share some “cool fun” in the summertime. We meet in the sunroom after dark for ice cream.


“County Fair in the country sun
and everything, it’s true, ooh yeah!

“Hot fun in the summertime...”

There are so many songs that remind me of glorious summer. How about you?