Thursday, February 28, 2008

A few random facts about me

A real scare on the laptop today…black monitor, live cursor, and the Dell wouldn’t turn off. Sick, sick, sick feeling. I moaned when I had to call the Dell Techie from New Delhi. I spent an hour on the phone, full of static, but I’m back in business. I cringe when they call me “Marry”. Add to that, a two-hour loss of cable TV, phone, and internet. I'm wired.

Now for the post.

I’m smitten with this wonderful world of blogging. I’ve received a number of “blogger” awards and stored them away in my notes but rarely talk about them. I should take the time to add them to my sidebar because I’m truly flattered and happy to receive them. Thanks to... well, you know who you are, and this is for you…


The memes! Too many. A post written by Carol at May Dreams Gardens, an organized gardener who churns out posts daily that inform and entertain, reminded me that it’s been almost a year since I participated in a meme. Why? Simply because there isn’t much to tell about myself. I’m an open book here, for the most part. But today, I’ll catch up and list some random facts about myself.

Religion and Politics. I won’t talk about either subject here. I usually withhold my opinions but will give them at the right time and place. Growing up in a home of political and religious debates as a child left me with some not-so-nice memories.

Cooking. I'd rather do something else. Over 50, who needs a three course meal after 6pm? What’s wrong with popcorn and a banana for dinner? If I’m hungry I can cook up good protein-rich and low fat meals, like a lean, mean stew and a great salad. I like yogurt for dinner.

Staying in touch. I don’t know how people in the military manage to stay in touch with dear friends. There are so many good friends in Maryland and Delaware that I have almost neglected for six years. I still miss them and need to reconnect more often. I’m not good at that.

Music. Eclectic. I sing and tap to everything from Janet Jackson and Boyz II Men to Beethoven, Enya, Country, and Lion King and Little Mermaid soundtracks. I swoon with Rhythm & Blues. Spent several years in the car with pre-teens and teenagers in the nineties: Dave Matthews, George Michael, Bare Naked Ladies, Robert Palmer. Love to dance to Prince. Love to dance, period. Hate rap.

Swimming. I floated my way out of a deadly riptide in Ocean City, Maryland once, in front of a crowd of 200,000 people pointing at me. Get the picture? Don’t know if I could save myself by swimming out of a riptide… As far as diving off a board, can’t to do it, but I love winging a cannonball. Never used a nose clip, but I’ve held my nose occasionally, especially on the high dive…takes my breath away.

Public Speaking. Conquered my fear late in life, around the age of 40. The dry mouth, hot cheeks, and butterfly stomach quickly diminished when I coaxed ninety disgruntled high school teachers to use in-house grade reporting. They whined and hated the idea of new technology. There was no need for a water bottle that day because their pitiful reactions got me fired up and helped me to forget how nervous I was. Now, I can talk a blue streak in front of anyone but don’t ask me to honor a retiree or good friend in front of a crowd. I’ll lose my voice and sink into a pathetic pool of tears.

Television. Don’t watch it since starting “the blog”. Exception: American Idol. Before the blog, I was a mindless, reality TV junkie. The Osbornes (yeah, my humor is a bit warped), Real World, Bachelor (ugh), AFV. Still adore classic movies, world news, Jeopardy, King of Queens, and does anybody not love Raymond?

You are all tagged.

Have I told you all how much I appreciate your visits here and entertaining, sweet comments? Oh, I do. My intent is to reply to everyone who visits me but I fail too often. I’ll try harder… A peace offering: what I saw today,







Yes. They are getting to know me ;-)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's a wonder I get anything done around here.

It’s a mechanical life I lead, lately. Spring and summer fuels me with an incredible amount of energy but I contentedly collapse at 10pm. Now, it's nearing the end of winter and its numbing routine.

Home from work. Greet happy Boston Terriers. Change into yard clothes and algae/seed-caked Sauconys. Clap shoes on driveway. Check on birds. Play with excited Boston Terriers and give them the cookie they expect. Feed Koi. Clean the kitchen and get dinner started. Glance at the mail. Check e-mail and phone messages. Turn the volume up on the TV to hear Oprah and unhappy local news. Unload the dishwasher and decide whether to post on the blog, or not. Sort laundry and put a load in the machine while thinking of possible ideas for a post, realizing I’m a pathetic grasshopper. Fetch camera and a paper bag. Take care of yard poop patrol. Throw the hula hoop for Bella fifteen times. Drop the poop spoon and bag and watch the birds. Take a few pictures, 99% of which are trash.


Tend to the birds, i.e. wipe the feeders, add sunflower seed, nuts, niger seed, and prepare their special treat of Zick dough, worms, and raisins. Throw hula hoops and golf balls another twenty-five times. Do this all before dinner, and that dough smells good enough to eat.


Chat with Mocker for a little while to calm him down.



They’re all worth it. The sweet Nuthatch amazes me as I watch him pluck a nut and carry it away with the clumsiest bill I’ve ever seen.

And this is how it goes - day, after day, after day, after day. It’s tiring, particularly during winter doldrums and when the atmosphere, so dull, messes with my brain. Sort of casts an unwanted spell on my body and mind. My eyes glaze over during picture-taking and I sigh. With every slow, mechanical step I take, I remind myself of the excitement that spring will bring. A multi-vitamin might help, too.

Does this sluggish routine sound familiar to anyone?


She stole the Carolina Wren’s two teaspoons of dough and worms twice last week. Silently, right behind my back, she lapped them up from a little dish on the deck. Licking her chops, she looked up at me, “Go ahead and holler. Won’t bother me because I have no regrets.” When Chloe likes something, there isn’t much that can stop her and she needs to be watched closely, like a hawk.


I snatched a paper plate of dough before she could run with it. She reveled in getting the empty plate just because... “I have your plate.”


Bella looks to me, S-s-ee? She's a thief. You n-n-need to punish her.

Some nights, it's all about the dogs. I thought about putting this post together last night while sitting at the computer, viewing my photos, browsing a few blogs, but it was impossible to read. A diversion is what I needed and Bella knew it.


Will you play w-w-with me or not?

Two front paws pull my left hand off the keyboard.

Play with me?

Please, my needs attention. You are glum. Let’s have f-f-fun.


Maybe if I be c-c-cute? Demure? Stop the computer.

I resisted for a while.

This was her last, possible ploy and it worked.

I f-f-feel tummy rumblings and I’m gonna let it blow.

Oh, the cloud. I had to get up and go. Seriously, this is true. She got her wish, that sweet little twit.

I believe your pets know when you need a break and have more intuition than you think. We should listen to them more often.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sights and Sounds


A sad sight. Directly across the road from the entrance into my neighborhood, six acres of a refuge for wildlife has been flattened, quickly. Oh how we need another strip mall! I understand that growth has its advantages but I regret that I’ll never see a Loggerhead Shrike there again.


I’d rather believe the trash flew from a refuse vehicle than to blame it on people who don’t care about the landscape. Won’t be long before this parcel of land is flattened just like the photo above, located on the other side of this former country road.

To live on the countryside or in foothills of the mountains sounds divine to me right now. At our age, I wonder if there are assisted living residences tucked away in scenic, natural surroundings. HA! Probably not ;-) My tiny 1/3 acre habitat needs more work. More native plants, flowers, and more bird feeders!

I can recognize birds by sound this year and how they change with the seasons.


Aaaaaack! Belted Kingfishers have reflexes that might drive me to drink. It’s unusual to see her before I hear her mechanical voice. I dream of a nice portrait…

When I listen to my backyard birds, I know who is waiting in the wings.


The feeder King has relaxed. I enjoy the Mockingbird’s voice - a beautiful range of melodies. Still demands to be fed and tends to drive most birds away from his feeder cups, but not as vehemently as before. There is only one other bird who defies him and wins,


I admire this chatty little bird. They make me smile.


Cedar Waxwings have been landing before sunset a few times a week, only for a brief visit and a drink on the pond. I don’t recognize their sound yet.


Red, grumpy-looking old men are loud lately,


and their nags are grumpy, too.


Speaking of grumpy… There was a bird fight low inside the evergreens. A Starling squabble pales in comparison to what I saw. When ten of the terrorists emerged from their battle and perched in a nearby tree to compose themselves, I reacted swiftly by raising Bella’s hula hoop, crashing it against the fence, and sending them on their way. And I growled. I don’t regret it, either.


I’m glad for the sweet-natured.


My scissor-billed White Breasted Nuthatch loves the Zick dough and when it’s gone, he relies on the nuts. He’s a constant visitor and is doing well. A female visited only once…


The Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers always excite me and they know it! I hear his cronk for a while before he arrives. He doesn’t like my hair. It’s too bright, even when I think I’m camouflaged behind the wax myrtle. There’s a dark green hat on my shopping list.

I’m seeing some hints of spring.





It’s only February. The weather changes overnight. There could be ice.
I'm already thinking of hummingbirds…
I'm so glad to end this post. I need some caffeine now. Maybe it's the season, but I just bored myself to tears. Heck, I couldn't even think of a decent title for this post. If you're still here, pour yourself a diet Coke or a cup of coffee. I understand...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Humans and Sheep

Here’s a post that's truly “nature related”. HA! From silly humans to sheep. I don't usually offer anything here on Friday nights as I'd rather lounge on the sofa but I had to share this. It's my 300th post over sixteen months.

At the end of the work week, there’s nothing better than a side-splitting laugh. Agree? We were all tired and dull. Our brains and bodies craved a little relaxation. So we chose the police cadets to give us some entertainment. I talked about their discipline recently. It’s tough. They’re bonding and I can see they’re beginning to relax.

They were in strict formation at 1pm but drill Sgt. Moore was delayed in a meeting. Ah...ha! Major Patty Brown and a few others on the staff had an idea. We wanted to play with police recruits today and lighten up a bit.


Each are carrying a wooden block in their left hands at all times. It’s mandatory that they have it with them and inscribed on that block is the nickname they earned during their first six weeks in training. Silly nicknames – a name they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives, if only in sweet memory.


Major Brown wanted to know the story behind each cadets’ nickname and they had to respond with a serious, respectful reply. If anyone made a sound – muffled laughter or all out hee-haw, they had to get down and push-up.


This is Scrappy Doo.

Major Brown: That’s a ridiculous name, recruit! What in the hell did YOU do to earn the name Scrappy Doo?

Scrappy Doo: “Ma’am! Everyone thinks when I give commands I sound like a scrappy, barking dog. Ma’am!”

And he does.

This is Almond Joy.

Major Brown: Tell me about it, ALMOND…JOY? This name is so damned dumb, I wanna know! Now!

Almond Joy: “Ma’am! The sergeant thinks my head shines like the surface of an Almond Joy candy bar. Ma’am!”

They all fell down. I had tears running down my cheeks and could barely focus the camera.


Major Brown said she’ll never eat another Almond Joy candy bar and we all agreed. It became a wild party and Sgt. Moore would never know about it. We were breaking the rules...




Yes, this is Johnson, aka “Nikki Parker” from the sit-com, The Parkers. She’s a born leader and I’m proud of her.

This was an impromptu blessing of angels. We all need such nice surprises and forbidden laughter on an otherwise tense and boring Friday afternoon.


Every morning on the way to work, I pass the sheep. The sunrise behind them is breathtaking and I moan every time I must pass them because of traffic. Today, the skies were overcast and dull but I pulled into a side street and crossed a busy road on foot to introduce myself to them. Silently giggling…


Uh-oh. An alien. I got a three-second stare.

Two seconds later,

I thought, “For goodness sakes, don’t be so darn sheepish! Come back here. Let’s get acquainted.”

This is what they thought of me.

Well, I’ll have them eating out of my hand soon. And they’ll like it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

She wears her heart on her sleeve.


Of course Koi don’t have four eyes, silly. Those are olfactory organs called snares, or nostrils.

Wearing heart on sleeve. Yeah, that’s me.

Since I started keeping this on-line journal, I’ve posted about my reasons for blogging here and here. I need to evaluate my blogging addiction occasionally and now I have good reason to contemplate again. Read this blog once and you’ll see it’s all out there folks, slightly guarded in details and subjects, but anyone can read one of my posts and know who I am.

Me, a young girl, never a stand-out, was not the last poor kid picked for sides in a ball game but never the first, either. I sat on the sidelines and watched my elementary school friends roller skate and receive academic and athletic honors in high school because I never had good enough balance for skating and only had a B-average. I could have done a lot better. And I cheered for my friends and shared their triumphs, yet, I always, sometimes sadly, yearned to join them and to feel that natural high and a few moments of fame, too. Always ordinary Mary, seemingly content with mediocrity but possessed a well hidden competitive spirit. I wanted to be an athlete but never had the physical size or confidence to play organized sports so I exercised my skill at basketball with the neighborhood boys in the allies of Baltimore City, and I have the scars to prove it. Loved badminton, too. You can laugh all you want (Gina), but Badminton is a sport.

During Gina’s twelve years of competitive swimming I applauded her and was constantly amazed at her strength. No one can make an athlete swim miles every day. She made it happen. The sport is grueling and caused her tears, disappointment and weariness, but I'm so thankful she heard the sweet, sweet sound of hundreds of people cheering for her and that she felt the thrill of receiving the gold, silver, and bronzes at championship meets from elementary school through college. These joys in life are what we wish for our kids, especially if we never had them. My husband has been recognized nationally for excellence in electrical construction. So, I’ve been their cheerleader, never knowing how it feels to own a plaque, ribbon, or medal and never feeling anything close to that until recently. This is not a pity party. I'm reasoning with myself here.

Two weeks ago I joined the Nature Blog Network. Just curious, I was. I saw many blogs I know well, respect and admire, and joined the NBN but never, in my wildest dreams, expected to rise in the ranks from the bottom of the barrel. My ranking skyrocketed in a week to #27 and I felt giddy, shocked and amazed... People like my blog? They really like it? I’m nothing special – no great talents here in comparison to these nature-loving greats. I had 10th grade biology and don’t remember squat about it. Last week I became feverishly addicted to the rankings to the point I wanted to post more often and agonized over subject matter that would be more suitable for a “nature blog”. What’s worse, I started to feel competitive in a pool out of my league and I didn’t like it. How pathetic. Oooo…ugly, Mare.

A few days later, a friend and mentor, Julie Zickefoose, produced the most honest, overwhelmingly heartfelt post on human nature and her own thoughts on this same subject. Thanks to her, I felt alright. If you haven’t met Julie, please do because she is, hands down, the best out there and loves Boston Terriers, too.

So here I sit, still wondering what I’ll post about next, before I finish this post.
Wait, Mary. Back up and think a little harder about what you enjoy about blogging most of all and what you have to offer.
I love to make people laugh or cry. I love to take photographs with my point and shoot. I love writing about nonsense and my dogs. I love reading comments I receive. I love reading other blogs and forming relationships with people - not necessarily loving what they know. I love to photograph nature but, for the most part, I don’t have a freaking idea of what I’m seeing in front of me. A bug is a bug. I love the excitement I feel when I have a terrific post all ready to go and click “publish”.

So that’s what it’s all about, man. It’s been a wild ride for a little while and now it’s over. I did my best and had my fame. Now I'm back to doing things to float my boat, like


Sneaking outside at midnight in my nightgown and discovering pond sex.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Great Backyard Bird Count


This should be have been the weekend of the great turtle count. The numbers of them I saw surpassed any bird species, so I spent more time gazing at the turtles emerging from their slumber than I spent counting birds. Can’t get enough turtles!


The Northern Cardinals win the prize at my house. Their numbers are ahead of Mourning Doves and House Finches this year. The only way I could get a conservative count was to photograph two trees full of them within a few seconds.


Sorry, guys. You’re outnumbered this time.

As a beginning bird person (I just can't use the word "birder" yet for some odd reason), participating in my first GBBC was fun and gave me a good reason to break my monotonous weekend routine of cleaning house and to get out there - backyard to wetland to pond.


I gave close attention to the ground feeders – the ones I often overlook. A neighborhood cat and a brief appearance of a Cooper’s Hawk kept the feeder areas vacant for a while which made me a bit frustrated. I called in the Boston Terrier Swat Team who were more than happy to terrorize a kitty on the other side of the fence.

A visit to the wetlands was downright disappointing at 9am this morning. I arrived there right out of bed - looking quite scary. Couldn't get the hair to lay down instead of up. It's Monday. Did I forget to mention going to work? Didn’t appeal to me too much. Who wants to go to work when there might be a second chance at a Red-Headed Woodpecker? Huh? I played hooky.

What did I find there?


Plenty of them and a few Mallards. I heard a distracting bird nearby that made me whirl around on my heels several times to find it. Made me wanna scream, "Will you STOP playing games with me???!"


“fee-bee! fee-bee!” On the way out, I found the little trickster on a road sign! It was gone before I could get out of my car. Dang.


The pond was loaded with male Hooded Mergansers. I've been wondering where all the guys were…


They nearly outnumbered the Canada Geese.


Mystery Duck! (Please click to enlarge most of these photos.) I can’t find this bird in any of my field guides. I concentrated on looking for the black ring on white. Any help out there?

On one of the dreariest, coldest days a month ago, I was taken aback at seeing a female House Finch sleeping soundly in one of the feeders, all puffed up in a little finch ball. I startled her and she flew away in an instant.


Yesterday I sighed with a heavy heart, as I am sure it’s the same girl. She enjoyed the sunflower seeds, oblivious to potential danger or any stimulation through sound and sight. Conjunctivitis, perhaps.

I spoke to her quietly and there was no response. I clapped my hands and she continued to crack a seed. Possibly, she’s blind and deaf.


I waved my hands near her face and tapped the feeder gently in hopes she would realize I was there. Maybe she saw my shadow.

The rest of the House Finches here look very good since I began close examinations.


So alone and vulnerable, she floated away, to a low evergreen close by.

This bird thing I have going on has given me so much joy. I've learned plenty and lived through the arrival of Starlings, Grackles, Rock Doves, and House Sparrows; upsets over Bluebird drama and their recent disappearance; Barn Swallows, and a damned House Sparrow kicking a sweet Carolina Wren out of the Barn Swallow nest recently. I'm OK. But honestly, there are times when I want to withdraw, step inside the house, and close the blinds. Seriously, I do.