Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I'll be back.

Two years ago I quit caffeine. Tonight, I should have brewed a pot of coffee and sipped all evening, or, I should have run out for a cold Red Bull or one of those new caffeine explosive drinks. In about five minutes, my head will be resting on my cool contour pillow if I can stop sneezing. I’ll be back. The female talent on American Idol wore me out when I was already exhausted after a long day. I'll be back!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Thinking and Looking Up


The Robin is the One
That interrupt the Morn
With hurried - few - express Reports
When March is scarcely on -
The Robin is the One
That overflow the Noon
With her cherubic quantity -
An April but begun -
The Robin is the One
That speechless from her Nest
Submit that Home - and Certainty
And Sanctity, are best
Emily Dickinson

After the morbid but funny post I wrote yesterday, I awoke this morning and forced myself to look upwards. What inspired me more was to see my first bird of the day, a Robin - the sign of Spring arriving and perhaps a new beginning.

I came to two conclusions for myself today. First, greet the birds in the morning. That’s when they are most active and brave. Second, make time everyday to feel at peace and smile, as I'm responsible for my own happiness.


I never tire of bluebirds. I know this is Millie, and next comes Johnny. Yeah, I’m on the verge of being a cuckoo, but I love these birds.


and heeeeere’s……….JOHNNY!


I postponed my budget meeting today until tomorrow. Guess what? I still won’t be ready but that’s alright because no one else will be ready, either. I’m not going to lie awake at night and worry anymore. There’s just too much going on right now, the workload is overwhelming for many of us, and I need to study for my “Whodunnit” trial tomorrow. But I did make time for a long stroll around the campus today and visited places I haven’t seen before. I thought the sun’s reflection on the pines were pretty.


The Forensics team has a pig pen at the base of the campus and I’ve heard about it but never saw it with my own eyes. This is where dead pigs are caged for observations on body decomposition, flies and maggots. Sad, but true. I’m glad there were no pigs today but soon, when the weather warms, they’ll be there.


I’m not a plant expert but I think this is a Rose of Sharon that’s hidden on the back of the campus. What a shame that it’s hidden from view! I’ll visit it more often. While I was looking around in these hidden areas, I decided that I won’t let the injustices and inconsistencies in the office make my eye twitch anymore. For my own sake, I’ll look the other way and concentrate on my own business and learn to say, “No” to all of the invitations for help I receive that cramp my style. For most women, saying “No” is a difficult decision to make.


There was a wide variety of birds at the feeder tonight when I got home and many of them were my favorites. Ten minutes later, I saw they were gone, and the freeloaders were “hanging out” like teenagers at a burger joint. Just sitting there, hogging the space. But I forced a congenial “smile and nod”…


Will this clear sunset resemble my thoughts and attitude in the morning? I hope so. But already, I gritted my teeth tonight while Michael sat at the computer when I have a post to finish before American Idol airs. Note to self: get your own computer. Am I fooling myself throughout this post? Probably. I’ll be back to a weekly rant in six days - a gentler and kinder one. :o)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Mama said there would be days like this.

I’ve heard the words of wisdom, “If you work hard, you will go far.” It’s a very true statement. In my case, however, I’m tired of working hard because the more hard work I contribute on the job, the more hard work I receive. This scenario has followed me for the past thirty-plus years and now I’m at a point in my life that I just want to do a good job without the stress and go home. I’m not focusing on career moves anymore because I’ve been there and done that. A year ago, I accepted this job in NC with a forty percent cut in pay from what I earned in Delaware. Because of that, I don’t want so much pressure in this low totem pole job I have. My character won’t let me slack off, though. It’s just in me to be dedicated to volumes of quality work.

Today, I just couldn’t take it. This afternoon I broke away for a short hike on the trail.


I thought I was looking at another Pine Warbler fifty feet up in a pine tree but it turned out to be a Titmouse! That was quite a surprise to see one in the wild.


Trying to hide from me, as usual. I’m getting better at having my head cranked back and looking up without falling backwards.


This bird looked foreign to me as I saw brown in the sunlight from where I was standing. I refuse to call it a mockingbird, because I'm sick of them and I’m irritable. I’m going to call it something like a Southeastern Overgrown Brown Phoebe Morph and be done with it.

At noon, I went to the Food Lion to get some lousy chicken strips for lunch. You don’t need to drive miles away from home to see birds. Just go to the grocery store with your camera.


I heard bird noise but the trees were bare. This is what I found in an “O” at Food Lion.


Another in the “A” at Huntersville Family Haircutters.


A pair of them on the parking lot.

As I was focusing my camera, cars stopped and people watched. My words to them were, “It’s OK, carry on.” “Oh, excuse me, I’m sorry, I’m in the fire lane, just ignore me.” In my mind I was thinking, “I’m just taking photos of the low-life scum of sparrowdom.” I’m glad the house sparrows are living in a grocery store parking lot and not at my house. What a thrilling LIFER.


Wow. Another scavenger.


A perfect ending – a blurry, but new visitor at the feeder.

I’m due for another exciting post I was able to share on February 14 - “Valentines Day and Cedar Waxwings”. I am dying for a thrill. Now, I guess I'll be off for a glass of wine or two or three and I’m calling it a day! Despite everything on this miserable account, I’m laughing. A sense of humor is a true blessing.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Photo Driven Post

There’s no theme or subject in my head today so I’m going to record my weekend by referencing the photos I’ve taken. Saturday was bright and beautiful but today it’s wetter than wet and quite dreary. I’m not complaining, though, because we need a day of soaking and steady rain.


Pelting rain. I regret topping the pond yesterday as it’s overflowing as I sit here. The birds are enjoying the bath and I’ll don my raincoat later to refill the platform feeder for them. This post is coming earlier than usual because a warm front will move in later today with forecasts of thunderstorms and damaging winds. I admire the power of gas and electricity. It’s a blessing we take for granted until it’s gone!


This is the goofy face of a Boston Terrier who is inviting you to play! What you can't see is her butt wiggling back and forth, challenging me to take her new rawhide stick. She's back to her puppy ways after having her bad teeth extracted and her nails cut to puppy length. She must feel so much better, as seen in her face. Her personality radiates mischief in the purest sense of the word.

Michael bought Chloe and Bella some dental puppy sticks at Target this morning. Neither of them have had puppy sticks in years and anything new to them creates a riot!


“Anybody gotta light?”

Bella: “Chloe, I didn’t know you smoke…”

The Carolina Blue Skies are amazing. Maybe they were just as blue in Maryland and Delaware and I didn’t notice. That’s probably the case since I didn’t carry a camera around my neck then. This blue background is what I see nearly every day. Some people might wonder if my photos are edited. For one thing, I don’t have time to edit them (plus, I’m too lazy) and what I see is what you get.

It was glorious yesterday. The temps hovered around 60 degrees and I worked outside for most of the day. The cracked seed got raked under the feeders and the pond pump and filter housing got washed. The Koi and goldfish are beginning to beg for food again and are racing around in mating behavior although it’s quite early for that. This male House Finch watched me for the entire time I worked.


A Tufted Titmouse teased me for at least thirty minutes…a constant source of frustration for me but when I can nail a photo of any quality, I’m happy. Yahoo!


Standing way too far in the distance and afraid to move in closer, I waited to get that little bird! I read on Julie’s blog about her rehabilitating a titmouse and how vocal they are. It’s true. Look at this bird in the photo, shouting and screaming obscenities at me, possibly… I could hardly contain my giggle when on full zoom. Even the Cardinal turned its back on the fool, “I don’t know you…”


Another frustrating bird but sweeter than a Titmouse. Not my best Chickadee photo, but it was a pleasure trying. Their "steal and run" technique drives me crazy.


If I were driving on the interstate and saw a vehicle like this one, I’d wonder who on earth would drive something like this? Maybe I’ve been living under a rock but I’ve never seen a Hershey's Kissmobile! It was parked on a grocery store lot on Friday afternoon raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network. For a donation, I received four Hershey Kisses. They were unfoiled and gobbled before I drove off the store parking lot. Mmmmm. Just what the doctor ordered.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Missing Dad


During my drive to work this morning, I saw the sun rise and remembered that I dreamed of my Dad. Perhaps he was in my dreams because I’m planning to drive up to Maryland to see him in the next few weeks since the mid-Atlantic weather has calmed down. I haven’t seen him in a few months and I want and need to go soon. He won’t know me as his daughter but I’ll enjoy hearing him laugh with me.

Nearly twelve years ago, my Dad had a major stroke that paralyzed his left side and he’s been in a wheelchair since then. He lost his wife of nearly fifty-four years last May and sadly, he doesn’t remember her. He didn’t even remember her on the day she died, after her two-month stay in the hospital. Maybe it’s good for him that he doesn’t grieve for her…

Tonight I looked back on posts I have written about him and the two most recent ones are here and here. The first one breaks my heart and the other one makes me laugh out loud.

My brother lives near the nursing home and keeps me informed of Dad’s days there. He stops by to see him quite often and other than his progressing dementia, he’s doing well without any major health issues. Whenever my brother drops in to see him, he’s never in his bed but is out and about in his wheelchair, either enjoying the view or participating in the activities. I picture him sitting with a group of patients, telling lies on top of lies and believing every other lie he hears. He enjoys music and I know he has belted out a few tunes with the piano player!

He is 81 years old and I hear he wants to eat ice cream with his fingers but is working on trying to remember to reach for the spoon. What makes me happy is that he still craves a treat!

I’m giggling as I write this and picturing him exhibiting one of his most outstanding traits as a younger man. He never met a stranger. My Dad was a social man who thrived on interaction with people. That’s why after he retired from the Baltimore City Fire Department he gained employment at BWI, driving the airport bus and taxi. On the day before his stroke he delivered meals by “Meals on Wheels”. He participated in every church activity that needed him, and, ironically, his stroke made him fall on the Church altar while he was lighting candles for the 5:30 a.m. Mass.


This photo was taken last April while my Mom was in the hospital. I cared for him for a few days and we got along wonderfully even though, at times, he knew me as his sister Patsy. He wanted to watch the History Channel before bedtime that night but I encouraged him break away from his same old routine and watch American Idol with me. He loved it! That’s “Ditty Kitty” - his constant companion.

What I saw today:


White Throated Sparrow, off the ground. Peek-a-Boo!


Are you a King? Or are you having a bad hair day...

A surprise on the way home from work. Trees with color! Pink! Must have happened overnight!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bits of Info


When I pinched the new growth on this tree, a little puff of pollen blew. I had only a few minutes away from office today for a little walk and the smell and sounds of Spring were all around.


The temperature reached 72 today but it will get quite chilly overnight and for the rest of the week. This would have been the perfect day to call out sick for driving around, chasing hawks and finding other things of more interest to me than organizing piles of paper in a windowless office.

My article about the Bluebird release on campus was published in the college newspaper. Will I receive a stipend? HA! Of course not, but I’m not about stipends. I just enjoy the whole experience. I learned of good news yesterday, too. The Futures Institute of the college has received funds to create a National Wildlife Habitat on each of the seven campuses. Plans are to provide bird sanctuaries with feeders, properly mounted birdhouses, and shrubs and trees that will attract birds and butterflies. My Dean and another professor solicited my help to co-chair the effort and I wholeheartedly agreed! Little is known about details yet but I’ll be informed soon. I have ideas already to include a stream bed but it will depend on the budget.


Michael brought bird and butterfly chimes home on Tuesday night. He’s caving in. Maybe he’s realizing that birds aren’t all that poopy after all. They’re ceramic chimes so I’ll keep them hanging inside the sunroom to prevent damage.


Maybe this is old news to most people. Gina has been promoting these goofy looking shoes called “Crocs”. When I first saw them, I laughed out loud and refused to even try them on. Last week, she convinced Michael to buy her a pair and he bought me a pair also. Hesitantly, I tried them on and since then, they are my preferred pair of shoes! I wear them from the time I arrive home from work until bedtime. They are cushiony, light-weight, and give ultra-comfort. I even think they are therapeutic for my left ankle that has screws and pins in it. Wonderful shoes! I still can’t get past the fact that they remind me of bedroom slippers, though, so I haven’t worn them around town – yet.


House finch butts. This is the best I could do this afternoon with 55 mph wind gusts.

A few days ago, Cuppa at Brown Betty Brew wrote a post that included links to truly sweet, wonderful stories and photos of Chickadees. If you love Chickadees and would love to be very close to one, go to this post and follow the two links she provided. I loved it. The stories made me want to go out and stock up on Jiff peanut butter (not Peter Pan)!


The Soul Sistas. My little Chickadee on the left and my Ewok on the right say goodnight. Time for American Idol.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cell Phone Sins

Many people don’t hesitate to bring out their cell phone anywhere or any time. Does it give them a natural high to reaffirm their own self importance, i.e. VIPness? Cell phones annoy the heck out of me as do the people who use them with such a sense of urgency. Take it outside, if you must gab away, and don’t expect me to listen to your conversation because I-Just-Don’t-Care!

cell phone

In the early 90’s my husband had a “mobile phone” he used for work, a heavy cumbersome thing that was hooked up to his dashboard in his car. I thought that was a great concept. A few years later, cell phones became the rage and I bought one for a good reason. My cell phone was a safety tool I kept with me during the rides to and from swim practice with five or six kids in my car, many times at 9:30 or 10:00 at night. I didn’t even consider chatting on that phone. We insisted that Gina carry a cell phone when she got her driver’s license, too, and she was told to pull over and park her car before picking up the phone to call anyone.


I realize times have changed and a lot of people don’t even have land lines anymore. And sometimes I wonder how we ever managed without cell phones. I think the most value I ever placed on having a cell phone was a few years ago when Gina and I were driving from Wilmington, NC to Delaware in our separate cars. It was our first time taking a route through Virginia and we were lost a few times that day – a horrid trip but funny in retrospect! We were in heavy beach traffic on Rt. 64 in Norfolk/Virginia Beach, looking for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Following Gina, I wasn’t speedy enough to stay close behind her and it was difficult for me to read the signs since my right contact lens popped out and I later found it dried up and crispy on the steering wheel. I looked to my right and there went Gina in her little green Cabrio, disappearing from my sight down an exit ramp, while I was being pushed straight ahead by the heavy flow of traffic. Ooops. Twenty minutes later, we reunited on the parking lot of a Walmart store, thanks to our cell phones.

This post started out cranky and this is why. While waiting in line with two people ahead of me at the grocery store today, a woman at the checkout counter was having a conversation on her cell phone. And she blabbered away the entire time her items were being scanned and bagged. I estimated her age to be around forty, dressed in business attire, and I had plenty of time to determine it was a business-related call having to do with rescheduling an appointment. Now, how urgent can that be, I ask? She finished the conversation and while rooting through her ridiculously enormous black leather bag for her debit card, her phone rang again. She answered, of course, and continued the conversation where it left off seconds before… This is when the cashier, the man in front of me and I exchanged a quick glance. Then we started shifting our weight from one leg to the other witih hands on hips. This high and mighty woman had the audacity to raise her pointer finger up at the cashier as if to say, “Wait just a minute”. She turned and faced the opposite direction of the register, cashier, and the two poor fools in line who were waiting for her to put the phone away. Forty-five seconds is a long time to hold up a grocery store line of people, especially when you are in the “10 items or less lane”. Our jaws hung open. I wanted to shout, “Just end the freaking call, woman!”

Unfortunately, this type of person is far too common. She didn’t apologize to the cashier and I wasn’t surprised. Sometimes we wonder why America’s children seem to be self-centered, preoccupied with their popularity, and grow up to be rude and disrespectful adults. I’m certain that “cell phone be-och” made her contribution by setting an example for her own kids…

Had to vent and I feel better now.

I sneaked out of the office twice today for a 15 minute walk and here is what I found. By the way, it was 65 degrees today, nice enough for a light jacket!


There were about five Fox Sparrows digging around and they knew I was approaching so I kept my distance. They’re not a lifer for me, but I rarely see them. They blend in well, look closely or enlarge.


Mystery bird. I’ve been watching this bird dart around the treetops for weeks. It’s very tiny, has a bright yellow belly, and clings and flits back and forth at the top of the highest pine trees. Difficult to catch by camera fifty feet below! Here’s another.


It could be a Kinglet but I know I can’t rely on a guess. I’ll be looking for more photo opportunities.


I saved the best for last. Yes, it’s only a male Downy Woodpecker, but it’s a lifer for me. When I caught sight of this black and white display, I stopped dead in my tracks and took one shot. He fled instantly. Oh, I wish I could have moved in closer!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Spring & Summer on the Horizon!


If Laura in NJ can photograph toads hugging each other in her post, “Not What You Think”, I’m going out on a limb and showing a little toad porn taken last Spring on my pond. Look closely or click to enlarge. See the on-looker waiting for a piece of the action? Now is the time that I am ready for fun in the sun! I’m so tired of dwelling on how short the hours are in the day so I’m dipping into my photo archives and concentrating on what I have to look forward to in a few weeks or few months.


By May 1st, I expect to see the canna growing and multiplying, and color around the pond as in this photo taken last May. It’s so dormant, depressing, and bland now. It’s a young pond and will grow more beautiful each year as I add my personal favorites around it. I'll be ready for the hummingbirds to return in a month or so, too, and adding more Koi and watching offspring grow.


Here's one of the residents who was responsible for a lot of noise and over a million tadpoles last year and still resides in that spot, all winter long.


The lizards like the western side of the house where they bake in the hot sun. Might sound weird, but I like the lizards.


The fragrance of a Magnolia blossom is so heavenly!


This pair was my first sighting this morning on campus. It’s possible they are Millie & Johnnie, as they were perched above the house they investigated a few weeks ago. I saw a different side of bluebirds today. Not the sweet song I’ve heard before, but I saw irritated wing flapping and loud songs as if they were very annoyed with each other. Could they be courting, or was there another male invading their territory? I found a link at Life Histories of Families of North American Birds that described the loving courtship of bluebirds. I'll be watching them closely.
Here’s an excerpt from the link:

The love-making of the bluebird is as beautiful as the bird itself, and normally as gentle, unless interrupted by some jealous rival who would steal his bride; then gentleness gives place to active combat. The male usually arrives a few days ahead of the female, selects what he considers to be a suitable summer home, and carols his sweetest, most seductive notes day after day until she appears in answer to his call. Then he flutters before her, displaying the charms of his widespread tail and half-opened wings, warbling in delicious, soft undertones, to win her favor. At first she seems indifferent to the gorgeous blue of his overcoat or the warm reddish brown of his ardent breast. He perches beside her, caresses her in the tenderest and most loving fashion, and sings to her in most endearing terms. Perhaps he may bring to her some delicious morsel and place it gently in her mouth, as an offering. Probably he has already chosen the cavity or box that he thinks will suit her; he leads her to it, looks in, and tries to persuade her to accept it, but much persistent wooing is needed before the nuptial pact is sealed.


The pond needed topping today. At the same time I dropped the garden hose in it and looked to the feeder, I saw a Tufted Titmouse preening itself, only twenty feet away from my face. He looked at me, square in the eyes. This is a bird I don’t see often it and made my adrenaline rush. It was too much for me to take and I blew five shots at this brave little bird…each one of them resulting in a blurry mess. At least I suppressed a primal scream before he fled. I really need to settle down and relax, but when you are new at photographing birds, you fumble. I have said this before…being a novice in bird photography is similar to being a novice golfer. You have your eye on under par then you wind up with a triple bogie more often than you’d like. And, each time that happens, you need to keep in mind that there is always the next hole.
I'm putting off the winter doldrums tonight. Husband is in VA and I have the house to myself. Now, I'll crank up Taylor Hicks on the Bose and clean the Beta tank.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Working Weekend

After I spent last weekend fooling around and gallivanting around town, my conscience forced me to buckle down and give the house a good cleaning. The past three days have worn me down. For three nights in a row, a dog has vomited in the bed and on the carpet in the bedroom. I know these things happen when you own dogs or cats but I’m tired of waking twice in the middle of the night to the sound of heaving next to my ear and cleaning up. Stripping the bed and washing the linens down to the mattress pad on a king bed is enough work for one day!

We recently changed dog food but today went back to the old. Chloe’s problem is more than likely due to the upset of surgery. My fingers are crossed that tonight will be peaceful since I want to get to work tomorrow and be somewhat coherent.

It’s been a weekend of scrubbing and dusting (the chore I loathe). I left the house only twice since Friday just to visit the grocery store! This morning, daughter Gina questioned, “What are you having for dinner?” What I wanted to do for dinner was to throw a frozen pizza in the oven and be done with it, but since I love seeing her, Billy, and Mr. Biggins, I knocked myself out and made a nice meal. We watched some of the Daytona 500 and a golf tournament that I can’t even name.

What I needed was a little time outside with my camera. So for a few minutes here and there throughout the day, I stepped outside. None of these photos are breathtaking but I’m posting them anyway.


It’s unseasonably cold here in Charlotte. My skin is dry and my hands are cracking. The winds were so fierce that the birds were flying backwards in their attempts to get to the feeders. The chair hammock on my neighbor’s back porch eventually broke off and landed on the roof of their neighbors’ house. The temperature should hover around 60 by the weekend and Michael primed the lawn equipment today. I wish I felt Spring in the air...


Cute little thing held on tight for a sunflower seed.


I’ve been nicknaming Bella “Chickadee” lately. I see a resemblance.


My convalescing Chloe is doing quite well other than nighttime belly problems... My old girl is a trooper and eating slowly until her mouth heals.


My goal was to get near a male Cardinal today since I usually ignore them, in search of others less common. Most of the time, there are about twelve of them staring me in the face, for goodness sakes! Could I catch one up close? No, sir – not today! The wind kept them moving and finding sheltered spots too far away from me.


This guy didn’t give a hoot if I clapped my hands or not. The wind blew the roof open on the feeder and I found him inside! In this photo, he had just realized that I meant business and made a dash for it right after I snapped the photo. Another thing to add to my list, “BUY BAFFLE.”

At least the bed linens are once again fresh, there is no dust visible, and the house is sparkling. The weekend wasn't a total loss. Sigh...