Monday, March 30, 2009

Catching Falling Stars


This bloom has nothing to do with the subject of this post. It’s here because I need flower power,


Butter Butt power,


and turtle power.

All good therapy.

For fourteen hours of a long weekend, the interstate scenery was captivating - saturated with fog, mist, and pouring rain all the way, baby. A little sunshine appeared below Richmond on the way home yesterday and I hooted.

Interstate roads have shoulders perfectly designed for spontaneous picture-takers who might stop illegally and admire red barns, fields of thoroughbreds, cattle, ponds reflecting Forsythia blooms near the water edge, Lake Gaston, Falls Lake, the grand and mighty Chesapeake Bay, and all wonderful rivers and basins that flow through Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. That spontaneous picture-taker would be me, but I didn’t get any this trip.

How many times did I gasp at the beauty of it all? So many times that I could scream at this very moment. My camera sat near my feet for the whole ride, as he wishes to make stops in NASCAR fashion. Stops for fuel and snacks are made with few seconds to spare and left-hand turns or U-turns are prohibited. It’s funny, in a way. Here we are, approaching our Golden Years and still rushing through life for no real good reason other than being in a hurry to get out of an automobile or to get home quickly and kiss our dogs.

Mental images of Dad on Friday and Saturday totally grip me. During the seven hours homebound on Sunday, I wished to erase some images of him. Escape. Just get out of the car, climb over the guardrail, and visit those wild turkeys and vultures near the orchard over there… Disregard the misty rain and immerse myself in a lovely distraction. Replace his images with those Forsythia reflections on the still water, maybe? Those digital images of the pond would have been downright gorgeous but Dad’s images are solidly etched in my mind, despite my odd feelings about it. I did not take photos of him and I regret it. How selfish of me, dammit. He’s my father.

Finding him in a cheery, brightly lit room full of others who had been dropped off and parked in their wheelchairs, he was all dressed up in his new yellow and green loungewear. He has not walked in more than twelve years after a massive stroke paralyzed his left side but his white sneakers had been washed and dried in the sun. His fingernails were trimmed and his beard had been shaved. It was activity time with a live female pianist who was very talented but I can’t remember a note of what she played… There were residents who raised their arms and smiled for the amplified music and singing while others sat hunched over, uninterested. They preferred to rest chin on chest for a while.

And that was my Dad when I found him. Oh, he’s over there! Hunched lower than before. His palsied hands and arms more twisted… Regrettably, I had not seen him in several months and wanted to see him smile like he always does for visitors. I ask for too much. My expectations are too high.

“Dad? Sorry to wake you. You’re missing this great party!”

There was certainly a smile and a twinkle in his eyes when I woke him. He recognized me as someone he knew before, I think, but I’m sure he did not know he was looking at his daughter and son-in-law. And his mood changed abruptly from drowsy delight to confusion and deep concern. Something was very different this visit. He focused on the floor and not on me. Gee, an unexpected twist. Off-day, I guess.


Boston Terrier power. Therapy by Bella.

We found a quiet place to talk but Dad cried like an infant, mouth wide open, and vocal. I did not want to hear any of his apologies as he should not be sorry for anything. I told him so! Stop it! But I understood him crying about how it’s too late to have lady friends in the hallway or how it’s too late for playing the piano the way he used to play, so well. Oh, so well.

Where’s your new wristwatch, Dad? More tears spilled. For him, nothing we said was good enough. Then, I looked at my husband the same way I looked at him twenty-six years ago in wonder, what do you suppose is wrong with this crying baby?

Dad was not hungry. His diaper was clean.

I just held him and said everything’s okay. That’s all I could do, I suppose.

While his bottom lip quivered and the tears kept streaming, I used his brand new shirt to clean his face. I couldn’t speak much as the words were stuck in the back of my throat but I promised to see him tomorrow. K, Dad? I told him of a little surprise I would bring.

Today, on the window next to his bed, there hangs a bright and shiny blue star - a sun catcher from Hallmark that will safely catch and hold the sun for him.

He often sang a song by Perry Como, to me, decades ago,

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day…

Gosh, he always adored the gaudy stones with the most sparkle and shine. You know - the ones you can find in the Five & Dime? The most bang for your buck?

He still loves the shine ;-)

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Imagine. No Blog, Facebook, TV, Ringtone, TM, or IM.

Have you tried it for an hour, a day, a week, or a month?

I have and I like it.


Spring arrives sweetly, giving a gentle tap on your shoulder

- an invitation to untangle yourself,


go outdoors and see what's living right before your eyes


if you care enough…

It’s real life happening that many don’t notice.

No monitors. No wires. No intrusions. No annoyances.

By all means, leave your cell phone inside!

Life goes on without your connections, you know.


The world spins on its own.

Listen to Red-winged Blackbird’s oak-a-ree or

Common Grackle’s rusty wheel.


There’s a faint Chickadee-dee-dee voice in the distance.

Breathe deeply, watch the bees, and don’t hurry back to the technology. It makes us wild and sleepless sometimes.

Take some pictures instead. Take a long walk.



Deliberately, lower your shoulders and feel


Think about it. How good it feels. It's a sensual season.


Your blood pressure will respond in a good way and you might smile for no apparent reason! Trust me!


Perhaps a lawn mower or leaf blower echoes nearby

but you won’t mind, especially if the breezes are on the warm side.


Spring is pink and soft and warm.


The bees are back

and love is in the air.

This post is for you.
I'll be back when I get tired of untangling wires... ;-)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Backyard Birds and Challenges


The dark clouds and rain hung around for so many days that when the sun finally peeked through today, I took photos of almost everything in sight during one of my walks on campus.


It’s going to be a banner year for fire ants, I think. They'll definitely keep me out of the fields of Bluets I’d like to photograph right now.



There are a few bird photos left in my stash that I’ll share here. Most of them get sent to the recycle bin as they don’t satisfy me any longer. Whatever it was I had, I’ll get it back, I guess.




I loved this photo. It needed some editing, so I gave it a try. Can you tell it was taken through a dirty window during a rainstorm?

The White-throated Sparrows are still whistling their odd little tune. There are a dozen, so sweet.


I have many great birds at my house all year. I like catering to the Downys and Red-bellieds. When spring arrives, however, the dark and heavy mobs move in and defeat the nicest birds.

Last spring was a backyard bird nightmare here while I continued to top off the feeders every day, served a wide variety of the best bird lovin’ food. Who dominated and ate it all? Take a guess. I can name five species.

All birds go to heaven and have a right to eat and live. I’m OK with that concept... but not on my dime. If I’m a snob feeder, sue me.


Starting now, routines change. My feeders will be dry for a few days a week! I’ll save cash for my trip to West Virginnie!


The birds don’t need twenty pounds of black oil sunflower or safflower seed and ten pounds of nuts with all the trimmings every week… There are bugs and fruits out there. Plenty of it!


That rule will apply to me, too. No, I won’t eat bugs, but fruit for dinner is a good thing. Mr. Meat & Potato can have what he wants. I’ll even prepare it but pass on helpings.

I’ll be walking inside and outside and attempt a few sit-ups if I have any muscle left!


I’ve started walking hard and fast this week, inside the college building with my iPod.

I’m working through the pain of shin splints. It’s great.

I’ll lose some weight, hopefully...

No nicotine or cigs = extra pounds. Ugh. I’m facing yet another challenge.

The days are longer,

the sun will be shining,

and I shouldn't be sitting all evening.

So, I’ll be busy for a while.

When I hang the hummingbird feeders on Sunday,


I'll think of you.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Walls Tell Stories


Brown Thrashers are back! Check.


Mr. Biggins, our well-mannered houseguest, went home yesterday after five fun-filled days with the girls and losing one game after another. Rather than to hang in there and try to win, he quits the game and acts rather dignified and uninterested. Male pride, I guess. Bostons don’t give up a game. Ever. Never!


He watched the driveway for minutes at a time and I wondered if he was waiting for Gina to appear, missing her.

We’re so busy giving the house a facelift this spring! In this post I expressed my disgust for the condition of our bedroom linens. After a few months of agonizing over the right choice of bedspread or comforter, we headed to a mall south of the city yesterday where I bought the first one that moved me. I liked it. I bought it. Here it is.


Too bad those pretty shams and accent pillows are hidden under a cheap Vellux blanket. This, folks, is the way it is until I develop a plan to separate the bedroom ensemble from the dogs without hurting their feelings. :o)

A few days ago I received the nicest e-mail from a special friend who admired our freshly painted walls she saw in one of my recent posts. Her husband was looking over her shoulder at the photos and commented that he wishes to live graciously in a newer house like mine. They’ve been living in their home for thirty-four years and she asked him, what would happen to the ducks, birds, squirrels, raccoons, and possums we’ve catered to for so long if we moved away?

On my way to work that morning, I couldn’t shake her e-mail from my mind nor my rush of emotions. Here’s an excerpt from my reply to her, slightly edited.

…About the house. Sometimes, I’d trade my new home for the opportunity to grow roots in one place like you and your husband have done. A few states away from here, there is a home we lived in for fifteen years. In it, there is a time capsule hidden behind a basement wall that Gina made when she was seven years old. Her elementary handwriting and goofy sketches made with a permanent marker and paint are no doubt still gracing the undersides of the basement steps leading upstairs to the kitchen and on the cinderblock wall behind the furnace. Since 1992, there is a beloved cat buried under the largest, most graceful weeping willow tree out back. She’s wrapped in a white crocheted baby blanket with her favorite catnip toy and blue food bowl, labeled “Mini”. Nearby dear Mini, are the remains of about two dozen gerbils buried in assorted jewelry gift boxes. All were buried with our hearts breaking. We left so much behind.

To hell with the glamorous walls and ceilings and open floor plans I have as they only hold three years of memories and little character. God, the older I get the more I realize how old I am and just how far away the 1970’s and 1980’s are from here and now…

So tell hubby to hold on. Hire a painter and keep those walls! Seriously. Tell him what I said, OK?

Gee, I’m all teary-eyed now, here at work, 7:55 a.m.

And there I sat at my desk, bawling like a big ole baby. I’ve had a few dreams of visiting that home and I did not like what the new owners did to it. I do, however, think the wallpaper in the foyer and hallways I chose back in the late 80s - a pastel floral that reminded one of cake and ice cream - needed to go, for sure. Yeah, parts of that house looked like a birthday party for a few years.

Given the opportunity to visit that house today, I’d climb the stairs to the second floor and predict the creak in the floorboards before getting to the linen closet. Peek inside every bedroom. Back down in the living room I'd hear my Dad tickling the ivories and echoes of giggles where the Christmas tree stood at the big front window, brightly lit in twinkling multi-colors. Yes, I liked them to gently twinkle as much as I liked that big picture window that was once trimmed in mint green paint. Turning around to the dining room, and rounding the corner to the kitchen, I’d look for a small tear in the linoleum on the pantry floor. To the right, there’s a corner of the family room where a metal dog crate sat for two growing pups in the 90s. Facing right again, I’d take a walk through the sunroom, pass the pond, way down the back, towards the wooded stream, behind the barn red shed, and stand under the weeping willow, where I’d see images of Chloe’s young face and remember her shenanigans with the birds and quirtles and bunnies and turtles and hornets and crayfish. Quite frankly, I think a visit would be too much for me to handle. I’d want to move in for a week with a box of wine and write a damned book!

There are those who seem to keep moving forward, not caring about much, and never looking back. I certainly do move happily forward but always, always look back to love the footprints and echoes…

And about the walls that surround you? They really do matter.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Temporary Disconnect


There was a low-flying vulture in this sky shot and I missed it. That’s the way it’s been lately. Off target all around.


Can anyone identify this odd, thorny shrub I found during a walk on campus this week? I brought a tick back to the office that day and I was thankful that a co-worker flicked it off my back before it held on. Thirty-six hours later, that tick that found its way back to me. That’s incredible. When it appeared out of nowhere on my wrist, I walked it outside and heartlessly beat it to smithereens. The flushing toilet option came to mind but I heard they’ll crawl back up the bowl to get you.

My state of mind isn’t important. I call it temporary disconnect. Others I know refer to the same disorder as a prolonged brain fart. Whatever.


Our pond was professionally cleaned and power washed a few weeks ago. Before I turned the power on, I took a snapshot of the biological filter behind the waterfall.


Spring cleaning uncovers the colorful rock bed


and lily roots in the shallow end, about a foot under.


It was sub-freezing that week. Two feet under, stunned fishcicles waited for high noon under the sun.



A friend joined me while I admired the brilliant clarity of the pond water. Through all that cleaning, life in the pond remains.

In the bottom of my handbag, there are a few pieces of nicotine gum left to chew. I will be completely off the drug by this weekend, actually. I hope I don’t blow up or something. Been Lil’ Non-Smoky for two months today. Maybe by finally ridding of the bit of nicotine absorbed into my bloodstream every day will help bring back my smooth organizational skills and ability to multi-task. Boy, I dislike that noun/verb so much. I’m going to take this further.

Multi-task. Ugh. A word that’s terribly over-used. Its meaning is overrated, too, but it’s what makes the world go around, I guess. Fortunately for us, all those multi-taskers out there save the day. But I really want to know why it’s so damned important to be a super MTer?

“This position requires blah blah blah…and the ability to multi-task in a fast-paced environment, accurately meet deadlines, blah blah blah...”

Good MTers should be proud of themselves but also know that chronic MTing can be hazardous to their health.


Our lives should be gentler.


And easier. Every night should be American Idol night with the dogs.

Somebody move over!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Beaver Creek


If I had wading boots on, I could’ve seen the front of this Daffodil blooming under pines near the edge of a pond. I always wonder why Daffodils grow randomly on roadsides or in the middle of fields.

A man stopped his car and asked me if I had seen the beaver at the pond. The grocery store pond is on Beaver Creek Road. He said it’s the largest rodent he’s ever seen in his life! His enthusiasm struck me funny and I wanted to reply with well, just how big is it? As big as your compact car?


No, I haven’t seen the critter because I don’t visit in the middle of the night but you can tell a beaver has worked hard for the past three weeks flattening the landscape, tree by tree, branch by branch, twig by twig. It’s astonishing!

Beaver has changed the look of the pond where Belted Kingfishers, Green and Great Blue Herons, and Great Egrets dined and rested.


I’m appalled, yet fascinated.


Here’s what I think is the beginning of a lodge (or beaver shack), two weeks ago.


Today, it looks complete – if it truly is an active lodge… I’d love to place a hidden camera inside as I know they have very efficient floor plans for resting and drying. And, I’d remove the shack trash. That bothers me.


I’ll keep tabs on my favorite retreat on Beaver Creek. Perhaps I’ll find the herons and egrets again one day. And the lovely songbirds? Gee, I hope they remain.


The birds are singing sweetly and loudly. Love songs.



This is what I get for shooting into the sun. Can you find the Butter Butt?

Dog update -

Bam, Gina’s English Bulldog, had knee surgery yesterday and is resting well. I have his brother, the 80-pound Mr. Biggins until the weekend.


There are six eyes on me. Every moment. Often annoying, but three times the love.