Thursday, February 26, 2009

Eastern Bluebirds out back!


Perched on a Birch. My Birch.

On most days, the same old birds welcome me home from work. I usually give them a casual glance then move on and promise to feed them later. On Tuesday I opened the door for Chloe and Bella’s outdoor business trip and within a few seconds, had to skip back inside the house to get my camera.

There was a pre-spring bird convention of Mourning Doves, Cardinals, House Finches, Starlings, Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, House Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Carolina Wrens, Downy Woodpecker, Cedar Waxwings, and a lone Red-winged Blackbird. All together at 4:15 p.m. I looked to the sky and wondered if they had heard of a humongous storm approaching. Did I miss the forecast?

I’ve shown Eastern Bluebirds on this blog a hundred times. They’re everywhere except at my house, until this week. Well, they flew by a few times and enjoyed a bath on the pond two years ago…


Can you imagine how loudly I wanted to squeal? I’ve been waiting for this for three years. Shocking.

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.


She had an appetite.


There were a few microscopic morsels of Zick dough left in that cup and she was determined to have them!


He kept a watchful eye on her and wondered
if she’d ever push herself away from the table…


"Dang. The lady can EAT!"


She hopes refills are free.

I don’t know how long I can continue to guard Zick dough and peanuts after I fill the feeders and cups. Starlings and House Sparrows fly in to jab, fight, and squawk before I turn my back. I have great pleasure in seeing Starlings soar towards the suet and make an abrupt U-turn at first sight of me. My awful “aaaack!” voice scares the poop out of them while all other birds continue to go about their business like I wasn’t even there.


I’m very impressed with the sweet Bluebirds. The commotion and fighting doesn’t move them. They both watch the angry mob close by, stand firm, and wait their turn at a morsel - if there is one left…
Gee, I hope they stay.

Monday, February 23, 2009



Earthy shades of the driftwood, stones and rock, and a little parrot feather were magnified in the two o’clock sun. Look inside the bubbles.

Our backyard pond recently had its once-yearly power wash and scrub-a-dub-dub. Sparkling details will come in a later post.


While examining the cleaning job, I watched single, quarter-dollar sized bubbles drift across the pond and realized I’ve never photographed a solitary floating bubble! Am I insane to realize something like that? Well, maybe so… But I focused on some incredible bubbles.


Thanks, Hank. That’s a grand bubble you blew.

Oh, to shoot away at unfamiliar landscapes and exotic birds would be a real gift to share. Sigh. Today, I offer beautiful bubbles!


I used cheesy photo editing software for ages, primarily for importing from the camera and I’ve occasionally cropped or enhanced a photo to fix overexposures. Otherwise, I rarely take the time to bother with editing.

Now I use Google’s Picasa3 and the editing options I have now are just too exciting. If you don’t already know, Picasa is fast, efficient, and free!


I prefer to not alter my photos but for these glorious bubbles I tried a feature called I’m Feeling Lucky. It removed glare on the water surface and enhanced the real thing below.


Look at the small stones reflected beneath this bubble. I had to get away from the monitor to relieve my bladder from the excitement. Yeah, it doesn’t take much to make me happy.


Look closely at the middle of this bubble. Hello! It’s me, at the lower rim.


This one is better. I’m so glad the bleach 'n paint stains on my old black sweat pants aren’t visible.

I'm stuck on bubbles.

Saturday, February 21, 2009



Photo courtesy of the Internet

I’ve always been the one to up and leave my co-workers, moving on to a new job or new home far away. The farewells and good-byes were never easy for me when a good friend was concerned. Maybe the good-byes were more difficult for the ones I left behind? I don't know. Now, for the first time, I’m on the receiving end.

My friend at the office, a highly skilled police officer and trainer, will retire next week and pursue a training company of his own. We’ve worked closely for three years - close enough that we can finish sentences for each other and often don’t need words to speak. He helped me overcome my fear of motorcycles and took me for a ride, slowly around the parking lot once. Sure, he’ll return occasionally to visit or teach but I’ll miss our daily laughs and his greeting every morning. I'm already missing him before he is gone.

Another gentleman at the college is getting ready to retire and should be leaving his office any day now, after forty-something years of service. I’ve never met him but a few days ago he sent a college-wide e-mail that contained a poem that is so meaningful to me right now. When asked why he continued to work for so long, he offered this to all.


Sometimes you just connect,
like that.
No big thing maybe
but sometimes beyond the usual business stuff.
It comes and goes quickly
so you have to pay attention.
A change in the eyes
when you ask about the family,
a pain flickering behind the statistics
about a boy and a girl in school,
or about seeing them every other Sunday.
An older guy talks about his bride,
a little affectation after twenty-five years.
A hot-eyed achiever laughs before you want him to.
Someone tells about his wife’s job
or why she quit working to stay home.
An old joker needs another laugh on the way
to retirement.
A woman says she spends a lot of her salary
on an au pair
and a good one is hard to find
but worth it because there’s nothing more important
than the baby.
In every office
you hear the threads
of love and joy and fear and guilt,
the cries for celebration and reassurance,
and somehow you know that connecting those threads
is what you are supposed to do
and business takes care of itself.

Love and Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership by James A. Autry

In the building next door there works a sweet lady who had to leave the office and check herself into a hospital last week. She’s wearing a heart monitor now. It’s the job, you know? And everything else in life that complicates. We’ve mentioned getting away for lunch together … always too busy … never came up for air to do it.


I think it’s time we pack a few pieces of fruit, crackers and cheese, and take a ride to the duck pond for an hour at noon. And reflect some.


Relax, reflect, and talk about birds. Not budgets.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It isn't all doldrums and drudgery for Lil' Non-Smokey.

Winter, as we know it here, is digging in its heels. The chill is still crisp enough for coat hugging high on your neck. Shades of brown prevail.


The landscape isn’t very pleasing to the eye


for someone who likes to take photos and

quickly becomes terribly bored


when she can’t find what she’s looking for.

In the midst of doldrums and drudgery, there were a few days of springtime surprises last week


when the sunsets were warm like early summer evenings,


everything green got my attention,



and fish bobbed and begged to impress me.

Bullfrog echoes were heard under the pond rock, Spring Peepers practiced their chorus, and I smiled. Oh, how I smiled and gasped.


I stopped to admire pink against sky blue


and the bees.


It was all so intoxicating to the senses. A lovely, perfect tease.


I’m sorry to admit the longer I stayed away from Mary’s View, the more I enjoyed being away... Posting here is always a pleasure. I thrive on it. But, the commitment to blogging in general gets harder, year after year. Sit and read blogs, sit and read blogs, sit and read blogs, get stiff and wide, and get sick of it, just sick of it. There’s so damned much else to do to soak up my “me” time! With that being said, I’m working on this balancing act, once again, because I’ve missed this blogging community and my readers. I do care, deeply.

A dear friend referred to me as Lil' Non-Smokey which sent me into a fit of laughter. Lil' Non-Smokey is doing well but is still fighting the urge to raid the frig! And, is there anyone else out there who can down a row of Girl Scout cookies in ten minutes? God, I love those Thin Mints like gumdrops.

I’ve heard that smokers are the best people – ones who know how to relax and are generally very friendly. I’ve also heard that reformed Lil' Non-Smokeys aren’t very nice. There’s truth in those statements. Yes, I’ve gently changed sides from the selfless to the selfish. But, what the hell.

Spare time in the evenings is good for walking around the neighborhood at a pathetic twenty or twenty-five minute mile pace, sans camera. While I hate the steep hills, I love the challenge. It's embarrassing to tell that my new, unused Ipod Shuffle has been hidden in my nightstand for two years but I’ve made progress! The pretty little silver gizmo is now sitting next to the laptop, ready for me to clumsily find a way to download some funky walking tunes. Gonna get that fifteen-minute mile back, shin splints or not!

How could I end this post without a picture of my backyard friend?


Hey, I’ll be back if I can cook up something to post about other than what’s bugging Lil' Non-Smokey.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Mary's View on Kicking the Habit


A 72 degree Sunday! This is an old photo of walking weather. That's what we did today. Wonderful.

Tomorrow I will celebrate four weeks of smoke-free living. I feel real good, but when I thought the going was easy there came a twist. Listen up, all you smokers and non-smokers out there.

Someone told me day 21 would be the toughest. Why so? I have no idea, but I remember day 21 and it wasn’t a grand day, by any means. Another person told me getting passed the first month and a half is the key to success. Well, I’ll be dipped. I’m not there yet.

Weeks one, two, and three were smooth sailing. I floated from one day to the next in a euphoric/honeymoon state of mind – just me and my happy, smokeless self. Ah, to breathe deeply and quietly without sounding like an old purring cat, to drag the 500 pound trash receptacle up the driveway with breath to spare at the top, and to laugh hard without coughing was such an immediate, noticeable, and good change. I do believe my skin looks a little brighter and my teeth are a little whiter.

I was not a heavy smoker, so I can’t imagine how difficult it is for multiple packers to quit! However, an addiction is an addiction. Week four has been hellish and I’m still dealing with it. The honeymoon is over. Nicotine gum saves me as I slowly wean myself off the nagging drug ahead of schedule.

So, as I sit here foot-tapping to Cheryl Crow and Eddie Money, I must vent. You may click your back button if you haven't already.

Perhaps I became very tired of being happy with my delighted self, tired of staying occupied with life outside of planning my next cigarette break, and began to let every...little...damned...thing on earth irritate the sh-t out of me. For example:

Those freaking damned ants are crawling around in the bathroom again. They appear out of nowhere.

Someone in authority at work asked me to serve on a college-wide “Smoke-Free” committee. Is that nailing someone who is vulnerable and has more than enough to do already? That was very evil.

A simple photography software update I installed on Friday caused the program to hang up and hiccup. Hence, I wanted to scream. I have no patience for that and wanted to drag on a cigarette so badly. Computers can't run fast enough for me anymore.

Everything and everyone at work brings out my best sarcasm and cynicism. I threw a stack of paper last week and cracked my mouse. I hated that mouse anyway.

Habitual triggers continue to torment me. I still reach into my right pocket for a cigarette and lighter but less often than I did four weeks ago.

Facebook continues to eat away at my spare time and I’m very annoyed about it. How could I forget allegiance to my blog?

During the first three weeks of withdrawal, I lost one pound. It’s not supposed to be that way. My, oh my, how quickly things changed. I gained five pounds in five days last week. You read that right. I’m almost speechless about it and sheepishly admit that eating two breakfasts and two lunches one day had much to do with it. The potato chips and Snickers bar I ate in the privacy of my office every afternoon wasn’t necessary, really. I can list every edible item in my refrigerator and pantry right now. I have loads of baby carrots but prefer salty crackers or Hershey Kisses. Yesterday I almost bit into a chunk of Zick Dough and later, at a restaurant, I was the one still cleaning my plate while the server had cleaned the rest of the table. No take-home box for me!

Today, I am fueling up on unsalted peanuts and water. I will lose those damned five and at least five more pounds between my neck and hips in three short months.
And, dear readers, I will remain smoke-free because I want to.

Life goes on in the back yard and this week, I chewed that nicotine gum double time.


It was irritating to play hide and seek with Tufted Titmouse. (What a goofy name.)


And also with Carolina Wren.


Why won’t Titmice sit for photos like the finches do? Huh?


Female Cardinals play games, too. She teased me unmercifully. After about thirty shots...I smiled.

Another constant tease,


Those nuts looked scrumptious to me. (No I didn't.)


Week five will be better, I think. A short blogging break sounds good. I'll be back when I settle down or lose a few pounds, whichever comes first.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Snowmen in Charlotte


The tall one was only two feet high. But cute!

Late on Tuesday afternoon, fifteen of us sat around a conference room table discussing cut-backs in spending and reducing 2009-2010 budgets when someone across the room woke us up with an impromptu shout, “It’s snowing!” Our eyes were on the window instantly where we saw about ten flurries then howled when another hopeful shouted, “Snow day tomorrow!” HA! An intended joke.

The early evening clouds were low and dark. The breeze was slight and the air was warm at 44 degrees but provided occasional snow showers that were so pretty. It was the kind of weather I pay attention to, standing in the middle of yard, looking up, regardless of what the local forecasters predict. Mother Nature fooled them.


It was most beautiful as it fell faster in the late evening and by the time I forced myself to go to bed, it look like this. I liked the quiet, muffled sounds of Chloe and Bella's footsteps to the outside, then in.

If you don’t know me, I miss mid-Atlantic snow and the lifelong memories attached of laughs, chapped cheeks, snapshots, hot chocolate, and a few pairs of wet mittens lined up to dry near heating vents in the kitchen. And a Flexible Flyer with blades so sharp…

Wednesday morning,



Mocker knocked himself out trying to get to the Zick Dough before the Starlings arrived.



“What? What? What do I do? Where do I go?” I love Killdeers and their worried little faces.


The children in Charlotte were happy, at last.

Our snowfall accumulated a few inches. It was the most snow I've seen since 2005, and as expected, it disappeared in sunny spots after the lunch hour.


I laughed at a pair of Mourning Doves swaying back and forth on a fresh serving of sunflower seeds. Somehow, they manage to fit on the smallest of feeders and never, ever go hungry.

On my way back inside, I glanced down to my left. A pile of feathers had scattered in the breeze as evidence of a satisfied hawk earlier that day...



Tuesday, February 03, 2009

It's Time for February Eye Candy


For me, February is the most boring month of the year. I browsed through a thousand photos of spring and summer delights and struggled to choose only a few.


They energized me!


Let me share my energy with you today.

We’ve all had enough shades of brown, gray, and winter white. Cabin fever has taken a toll on our psyches, yes? I need color.


If I had pretty snow scenes I’d show them,

but look here.

In almost seven weeks,


I’ll be making nectar and waiting


for their homecoming.


Stop looking out the window at snow-plowed roads and gray slush for a few minutes.


Remember the inevitable growing season!


We’ll be rescuing baby Mockingbirds and


keeping a list of butterflies that will grace our garden flowers.


If you’re so inclined, you’ll sit and chat with a lizard like I do.


We'll always have our camera ready because


a surprise is waiting around every corner, one thousand times a day,

during my favorite months of the year.

I can hardly wait!


I hope you enjoyed my February eye candy.

The snow will melt.

A lovely, fragrant spring will emerge, followed by


a freakin’ hot, buggy, muggy, fry-an-egg-on-your scalp summer. :o)

Now, don't you feel better? I do.