Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Site to Bookmark

This is probably of more interest to the Americans in the crowd, but you never know. If you REALLY want to stay in the loop when it pertains to U.S. National Security alert levels, Health Risks and Mother Nature at her worst, you should bookmark www.emergencye.com

I began receiving e-mail updates on the Swine Flu epidemic 1-2 DAYS before the media started reporting on it. Today there's a CDC report stating they don't think this can be easily contained. Not comforting, but informative. There's even a listing of the 2 drugs which are effective and how patient treatment should be prioritized.

Same with the last few Salmonella outbreaks. This site also includes maps which show where problems are occurring as well as some of the best real time weather info available.

The e-mail alerts are FREE. You can even sign up for a particular state, like I did, so I'll get hurricane info affecting my area immediately!

I only wish I'd picked a better time to start reading "Critical", the sequel to Robin Cook's book "Crisis." Yes, it's always medically themed since the author is/was a physician but this one's about an outbreak of MRSA...something I became familiar with when the nursing home aunt caught it while recovering in the hospital.

Here's hoping your day was disaster free and lovely.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Red & Yellow, Black & White

I've always been a big fan of Native Americans. In fact, as a kid I rooted for the Indians and booed the Cavalry. [I reasoned the Cav never played fair and after all, the Indians were here first]. Of all the tribes in the United States, the Cherokee have always been my favorite. No, I have no idea why. Yes, they did once extend as far south as I am, but the majority ended up in North Carolina. Before the Trail of Tears. I think the first book which effected me as to man's inhumanity to man was "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee". I cried. I wrote the Bureau of Indian Affairs to demand an explanation of why Native Americans were treated so badly. I was twelve. The BIA sent me a few brochures and praised my interest in human rights.

Yep. Government hasn't changed much.

Interestingly enough, neither has the way Cherokee legends effect me. The Cherokee, like most Indian nations, believe that we don't own the Earth, but are Mother Earth's guardians. Since Earth Day just passed, I thought I'd share one legend which shows we humans truly are a connected lot. Remember, this story has been passed along for generations.

The Earth is a great island floating on a sea of water and suspended at four corners by a cord that hangs down from the sky. The four corners represent the four points of the compass. If the Earth grows old and misused, the cords will break and the Earth will sink.

In the beginning, the Great Spirit gathered all his people and told them they would be changed into four different colors and sent in four different directions. Each group was given a task on a stone tablet. When the group reunited, they would share their collective knowledge and live in peace as one great civilization. But if their tablets broke, the Earth itself would die.

The Great Spirit made the first group Red and thus the Indians were sent to the East as "Guardians of the Earth" to learn about plants and healing herbs. He sent their Yellow Asian brothers to the South to be "Guardians of the Wind" to learn about breathing and spiritual advancement. To the West he sent the Black men, "Guardians of the Water", to learn about the power and humble spirit of water. And to the North he sent the White men, "Guardians of Fire" who would create ways to move upon the face of the Earth and reunite the human family.

According to legend, the Red Tablet was kept at the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona at an area called Four Corners. The Black Tablet went to the foot of Mt. Kenya, the Yellow Tablet to Tibet and the White Tablet to Switzerland. And so to the four corners of the Earth went these people, all of them to live on high mountains to overlook the Earth. If they failed to come together as a family, the Great Spirit would grab the Earth in his hands and shake it.

The legend says the Great Spirit shook the world twice because Man began to hurt the Earth by taking what he wanted instead of gathering just what he needed. The Great Spirit predicted that life would speed up because of Man's greed. He offered Man a clue to when this would begin: when "an Eagle will land on the Moon". The Great Spirit reminded Man that when all four colors came together, they could share wisdom and bring peace to the Earth.

Just a story, you say? Interesting how legends filter into our lives. In spite of how many missionaries tried to "save the heathen", the truth is those religious brethren had much to learn about the stewardship of the Earth. I always found it ironic that those who came forth to help the Red Man learn basically stole their land and beliefs in the process. Or did they? Learning is a two way street. Otherwise, why would I have sung the following song as a child in Sunday School?

Jesus loves the little children.
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.


This is a Mohegan tribal medicine wheel which hangs above my desk.
I
t represents the Earth, the four points of the universe and yes...
Red and Yellow, Black and White....all the people of the world.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Day is Done...a.k.a. I Survived Shuffleboard

The Senior Fitness Games are over. The Awards Banquet is Monday night. Our Center won't win the Team Trophy this year but I don't care. They chose principle over playing the game the government way. Translation: my Supervisor's declaration that they weren't eligible to win the Team Trophy, [which they've won 11 out of 14 years,] was evidently meant as a joke. At least that's what she told our Boss when this deception blew up in her face and one of my seniors called to complain. Well of course she blamed me...I only speak and hear in Common Sense and am not fluent in Butt Bussing. And yet, three of my folks persisted, announcing it is the fellowship and fun which is important to them, not the medal count.

A hearty round of applause to the trio of fun lovers.

And a standing ovation for Annie, who is one of the three. Annie lost her husband to cancer seven years ago. He was the type of man who had a perpetually bad attitude. He only survived three months after his diagnosis. Annie is his polar opposite. She knows no strangers and everyone seems to approach her to say hello. By name. Annie was diagnosed with breast cancer but was one of the fortunate ones who was able to correct this bump in the road [which is how she looks at it] with surgery. But to be safe, 30+ Radiation treatments were declared a necessity. Annie didn't complain, she shared how thankful she was to be spared Chemo.

This is how Annie earned a standing ovation in my book.

Annie signed up for the Sr. Games and apologized for having to leave in the middle of the morning on Day One for a radiation treatment. She advised she'd be back in a little while and we all smiled and nodded. I bet to a person we were silently thinking, "Yeah. Right." An hour later Annie returned and played Shuffleboard. Cheerfully. I kid you not. She didn't get a high score, which she would tell you is normal for how she plays that game, but she smiled and giggled the whole time. Yesterday she came for Lunch and Bingo, today she Bowled.

Annie is officially my hero of the moment. And every time my power loving Supervisor got on my nerves, I'd just look at Annie. And smile.

So for those of you who struggle with your own ups and downs, yet take the time to make others smile....Thank you!

And Susan, here's a sunset for your collection. A good night salute from my own backyard.

[Um, is it just me or does that bush look like a man's profile?]

Monday, April 20, 2009

No...Shuffleboard pucks aren't suppose to go airborne

I'm putting in a preemptive strike and asking for your patience, sympathy and prayers. Short of that, while you're snickering, know that I am yet again putting my life on the line so others may have fun.

Wednesday is the start of Senior Fitness Games. It's what I call Olympics for senior citizens who aren't Olympic athletes. It's all about fun, fellowship and, let's face it, food. If you cook, they will come. It's a county wide event open to anyone over the age of 50 and people compete in 5 year age groupings against those of their own gender. For 3 days we run the gamut of semi-serious sports like golf, bowing and track to more lighthearted fare. Competitors can choose up to 5 events over the three days, from the simple checkers or card tournaments to stuff needing a little more muscle like Horseshoes and Track. Yes, track. No, they're not betting on the horses. Sure, most of our folks simply pick the mile or half mile walk but I have one senior who still runs. Three years ago he had open heart surgery to repair 3 blockages. Last year he ran the 100 yard dash in 9.8 seconds. Did I mention he's 70?

As the t-shirt says, "Old age ain't for sissies or wimps".

Our "in between participants", who want more of a workout than checkers and less than running, enjoy events like the Baseball throw. That one's especially fun when the target is a co-worker yelling, "Aw come on Sarah! You can throw farther than tha-...ouch!" as the ball impacts with the cheerleader's shin. I wonder if being last year's human target is the reason the new Asst. Athletic Director quit...sometime just after the games. There's Spin Casting, consisting of using a rod and reel with a weight which you toss into washtubs at varying distances. The Basketball Free Throw event comes with a woman who advises everyone her grandson has been out in the yard practicing hoops with her. She then screws up her face with determination and mutters, "Sorry kid, but I wanna be just like Mike!" She can't jump as high as Jordan, but she usually sinks a few shots.

Horseshoes and Shuffleboard are the two most popular games and the women outnumber the men in these events five to one. The one event I no longer venture near is Darts. My co-worker couldn't keep score and keep the group straight. I played scorekeeper. Everyone thought it was funny that my tall co-worker pulled darts out of the board while built low to the ground me snagged those on the floor. I usually had more to pick up. Never again will I speak to a senior unless I can look them in the eye while saying,"Okay, wait until all the darts are collected before you throw. All he heard was "Throw." Yes, he hit me. Fortunately it bounced off my back. We're not complete dummies. The darts are plastic tipped. Besides, the gentleman threw like a girl. Absolutely no power. :)

Every year the staff has a game they are in charge of and mine is Shuffleboard. Oh, not because I'm some kind of whiz at it. No, I'm the only one who has the patience. We play indoors, in a hallway used only for this game. There is no good place to stand, although the speed at which I can lift a foot to save an ankle has improved over the years. It was tough the time two contestants forgot and shot at the same time. I move quickly for someone with short legs.

The real problem concerning shuffleboard is my co-workers, who don't believe in having their groups practice prior to the games. Last year I got on my soapbox at a staff meeting and politely declared that I DID NOT have time to teach someone how to play Shuffleboard when there were 40 other people waiting for a turn. They smiled.

I've retired the soapbox. Does absolutely no good.

The problem is, it's hard to convince women old enough to be your grandmother that you actually know more about something than they do. Every year I start off with a cheerful,"Now just place the stick against the puck, step forward and push. Just like mopping your floor. Just push." I demonstrate. Every year they nod.

Then they pull the stick back as if it is part of a pinball machine and slam it into the puck.

Two things usually happen: all their momentum gets lost in slamming stick into puck, allowing it to sail all of 5 feet forward. And the head of the stick shatters. I was rather proud to have gotten through 20 of these demented dames before they killed the first stick. I can't wait to get to the age where, instead of being aghast that I've broken something which isn't mine, I giggle hysterically, turn around and yell at the next woman in line, "Martha, you've just got to try this!"

So if I don't blog for a few days, it's because I'm giving Shuffleboard lessons and running a stop watch at the track. I'll be thinking about you, all sitting at home...and laughing.

No, I can't picture Michael Phelps sitting down for a rousing game of Bingo before lunch but he'd probably get in a lot less trouble...and probably take home a nice tea towel to boot.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Making a List

A plan. A goal. A Dream.

Like a never ending audio loop, it’s been running through my head all day. I woke up this morning quietly acknowledging I need to do something so the phrase “blood pressure” doesn’t automatically raise mine. Something’s got to change. Okay, my move. I can’t control the pollen, but I can weed out stress. Sounds simple. What’s the biggest stress factor in my life? My job. Hmm, not so simple. Especially in this economy. And yet the more I attempt to work around that which ails me at work, the more it works on my last nerve. Me, I can change. Them that run the work universe…not so much. Unlike diplomatic me, they do not believe in compromise. Not exactly the Disney version of the circle of life, huh?

A plan. A goal. A Dream.

Every time the mantra repeats, I keep thinking, “That’s backwards.” Shouldn’t life entail dreams and goals with a plan emphasizing how to achieve them?

And why did I only capitalize “dream”?

I have a habit, good or bad, of allowing that childlike optimism in me to declare “dreaming” a good thing. It’s like thinking out loud, silently. Dreaming is the ability to see the absolute best case scenario while learning how to live with reality. A dream mulled over and modified can often turn into a goal. I still believe most goals are achievable if you think small….then build.

Like most teenagers, I once had a list of “Things I Want to Do”. No, not like the movie “The Bucket List”, which contained ridiculous aspirations of things to do before you die. I had no yen to sit atop a camel and tour the pyramids of Egypt. I wanted to learn to drive a car with a standard transmission. The ability to shift gears seemed important to a girl who learned to drive a car with an automatic transmission. Besides, if I could shift gears on say a truck, I wouldn’t be intimidated by some guy just because he knew how. I know, it was 14 year old girl logic, but in my mind it leveled the playing field.

The things I can remember on the list are the ones I accomplished. Like learning to crochet a granny square. It wasn’t just a minor victory. It allowed me to make afghans, which in turn were donated to strangers in hopes of brightening their day. I wanted to be a published writer. Evidently I didn’t define “published”. I’ve sold a few articles along the way but my favorite writing I did gratis: three years as a columnist for a children’s magazine. It was my own version of heaven because my column was about the joys of childhood, which evidently many people allow adulthood to smite. It was like being a kid twice. All because I was challenged to enter a “name the magazine” contest. 300 kids and 9 adults…and my title won. I bet you won’t be surprised when I tell you the title was “imagine that!

I wish I had that list. Just to see how far I got before it was lost in the shuffle of being a teenager. I remember there were 20 goals, gradually increasing in difficulty. Which is why it worked for me. Some wise adult along the way encouraged me to dream big, but to start on the first step, not the tenth. The only other goal on the list which I remember was “marry a good guy.”

I did. In fact, he taught me how to drive a stick.

A plan. A goal. A Dream.

Perhaps this mantra is my brain silently telegraphing, “To have a plan, you need a goal based on a dream.” Maybe I just need thirty minutes of uninterrupted time to create a new list. Yes, “New Job” will be on it.

And the kid in me? She’s always wanted to go out west and stand in “Monument Valley”. It’s where the t.v. cowboys of my youth rode, usually on their way to capture the bad guy during a shoot-out in a box canyon. Hmm, start small. Item #1: write letter to my favorite t.v. cowboy and thank him for adding to my childhood joy. To this day the sound of jingling spurs and boots walking down a boardwalk makes me happy. That gentlemanly nod of the head, finger touching the brim of a cowboy hat and deeply voiced greeting of ”Ma’am” still makes my heart beat a little faster.

That kind of raise in blood pressure is still allowed. And appreciated.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

True Love

True love has nothing to do with fairy tales, bodice ripper romances or some guy riding in on a white horse to spirit you away. No, true love is being able to gently awaken your spouse after midnight to inquire the name of the street where the hospital in the next town is located because your wheezing is starting to scare you.

True love is rather than just mumble the information, hubby gets up and drives you there himself.

I've always had a problem during allergy seasons which I just wrote off as one of my body's many quirks....like being short or having freckles when everyone else outgrew theirs. Then again, I didn't grow much. Sneezing and pollen just were part of spring and fall to me. I keep the tissue and sinus medicine people in business and in return, I get to breathe. Oh sure, I've occasionally noted that extreme changes in temperature, like going from warm to really cold, seem to make the old airway want to squeeze shut. I just figured that was my body's way of shivering on an internal level. Same with certain types of exercise. I'm not an Olympic caliber athlete so I concluded that same feeling was my body's way of saying, "Hey, we're not an Olympic athlete so knock it off already."

Gee, after midnight last night I learned two things: [1] I do not turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of twelve and [2] you can get asthma when you grow up. I knew that growing up thing had a downside.

Turns out that asthma is also genetic. I had a great uncle named Joe who I never met. When I was a kid it was explained that he had some kind of "fits" and had to go live in a "home" when he was fifteen. Never sounded right but you know growing up when I did, kids didn't keep asking questions. When they grow up however....

I discovered that Uncle Joe actually had asthma. Just last year his baby brother, my favorite, Uncle Gene, explained that the doctors once said it was the worst they'd ever witnessed. Eight years old when his problem was first "discovered", Joe feared that because he flailed around so badly during his "fits", which were asthma attacks, he might hurt his mother so he asked that they send him away so that wouldn't happen. Unfortunately medical science was more in line with Dr. Frankenstein than what we have today and being sent away meant the local Asylum for the Mentally Insane. You have to wonder who was insane: they tried to treat the poor boy with morphine. I kid you not. By the time he was 18, Joe's doctor had made him a junkie. A new doc came in and instituted what his colleagues deemed crazy...what we know as going cold turkey. The new doc fought the old docs and although he was able to get Uncle Joe off morphine, the other docs used electric shock therapy. By the time they figured out years later that the real problem was asthma, the damage was done. Although he wasn't insane per se, Joe had lived in an institution for so long, he continued living in one, graduating to an assisted living facility where he died. Heart breaking doesn't come close.

The good part of my brush with medicine was having a husband by my side who was not grumbling over a ruined night's sleep but concerned. So concerned that HE filled out the paperwork at the hospital. I did have to come over to sign something and when the woman behind the desk asked if I was married, I pointed to hubby and said, "Yes, to this wonderful man here. For 28 years." Hubby grinned while the younger girl gasped, "28 YEARS? Wow!"

Funny, I keep thinking everyone marries their true love and keeps them until death do they part. And frankly, I wasn't quite ready to do the parting part yet.

Hospitals here have changed. Fifteen minutes after wiring me as if I was a NASA astronaut in training or then again, considering my blood pressure at this internal mutiny, I was wired for sound, in walked hubby. They thought I'd be happier with a face I knew. And trusted. For the record, I have what they call "White Coat Syndrome". That's fancy medical talk for being stupid. Although intellectually I know that a blood pressure cuff will not harm me, when that little sucker tightens down, it makes me see red. It makes me mad. It often hurts...which makes one's blood boil, which isn't helpful in getting "true" readings. I often warn a nurse so she won't think I'm having a stroke. So after the first reading, I'm lying on my back and looking as if I'm doing a headstand so I can see the numbers on the machine behind my head. It is obvious I need to do the deep breathing-pretend-you're-somewhere-else routine.

In walks hubby with a cheerful, "And what do you think you're doing?"

"Trying to keep the Doc from having a heart attack," I replied with a smile as he studied all the numbers and complained my pulse was too high. I blamed it on him and when his brow furrowed, I added, "You do tend to make the ol' heart skip a beat."

After ingesting benedril, liquid albueterol, having a shot of steroids and a breathing treatment, I was deemed fit to go home. And to watch my blood pressure. The irony being, of course, that it will be higher than normal until I'm off all the meds.

So how do you know what True Love really is? It's the man you can count on in the middle of the night. The one who knows when to crack a joke and when to just squeeze your hand. The one person who'll call in sick for you....while letting the boss know in no uncertain terms that you WILL NOT be participating in another Easter Egg Hunt because although they were warned you could get sick, they insisted you take a pill and report for duty any way. True love is the person who lets you get some much needed sleep while he goes to the pharmacy to get your prescriptions filled and comes home with.....

.....a blood pressure cuff. Just to ensure you're around to love him for a very long time.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Isn't That Suppose to be Fun?

The world we live in dictates that the banker's day of Monday-Friday from 9-5 went by the wayside along with 35 cents a gallon gasoline. It seems we all work all the time and some days I do wonder why.

And on other days, I just wonder how in the world I ended up where I am.

I'm in the recreation business...no, not THAT kind of recreation, the kind that involves kids playing baseball and senior citizens playing bingo. The majority of my fellow co-workers enjoyed Good Friday off and we're all enduring having Monday off as well, even though it's a furlough day...which is government for "have an extra day off, without pay, and be damned appreciative of the fact you have a job." I often want to remind them they're lucky to have me still hanging around. That said, I have just survived my 17th Annual Easter Egg Hunt.

I hope I never experience another one.

Every year while others enjoy their long week-end, my co-workers and I hide Easter Eggs in a public park for children ages Crawling - 12. My group consists of ages 4-6. I love those little kids. They still believe in stuff like the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy. You can reason with them and they still actually believe adults are in charge. Plus, they don't wear their pants hanging down under their butts. They bring colorful baskets, little girls wear dresses and bows in their hair while the boys wear tiny baseball caps featuring their parent's team of choice. Hiding the eggs isn't all that exciting....talking to them is more so. Every year I learn something I didn't hear the year before and it makes me laugh. Happily.

Management, however, can suck all the fun out of everything. This year they had the help of "The Unknown Woman."

The problem is one of logistics. The newspaper says we begin at Noon. What it fails to mention is that there are five age groups which hunt in order, not simultaneously. Try explaining to an irate 5 year old and his glaring Mama that you know it's difficult to wait for over 30 minutes but our turn is next. We've tried asking the powers that be to do it differently. We get their logical reply of, "Well, if parents have children in different age groups, they can only pick one child to watch."

And every year one of we, the staff, wearily offers, "What ever happened to family back-up? Grandma, Aunt, Cousin....?"

Every year, the staff loses.

So I took my sinus meds to ward off the pollen, which is [a] my mortal enemy [b] at it's height this time of year and [c] the heaviest in yes...the area I'm in charge of. Add to this joy the fact we hide eggs two hours prior to the event...then sit and wait. The 4-6 year olds have no idea about the true meaning of waiting and cranky.

Every year a parent complains...and we politely point to the Boss and ask them to share their ire with her. This year, someone took matters into their own hands.

What a nightmare!

This was the story I got after all was said and done. A woman in the crowd asked the Staff handling the 7-9 year olds why they didn't just line the kids up already. To keep kids from killing each other, we line them up inside the fence, side by side, so they don't trample each other. When the Staff members, all two of them compared to a crowd of over 50, saw we were done and headed their way, they lined up the kids. As soon as the line was formed, this woman yelled "Go!" and sent the kids scrambling. THEN SHE GOT IN HER CAR AND LEFT!

That was bad enough. The worst was still to come. When I arrived, the Boss was making all the kids give the eggs back so we could HIDE THEM ALL OVER AGAIN. Don't know who was more irate...us or the kids. I felt really bad for the little girl who'd won the "Special Silver Egg" which came with a prize. We were all horrified when she was asked to return it as well. Boss told the kids to "look the other way" while we hid the eggs. Yeah. Right. Then to add insult to injury she let the next group hunt while we hid the eggs.

Ever see a Farmer broadcast seeds? Grab a handful and just toss. Imagine the seeds were Easter eggs and you get the idea.

The kids "re-hunted" but the thrill was gone. For all of us. Then I hear a staffer screeching like my mockingbird Walter. Turned out one of the fathers had snuck around to the other side when he saw where the Silver Egg was hidden and was pointing it out to his kid.

A spirit of peace and love for this holiday season was genuinely missing.

And yet, I remember the happy faces. The grins for finding eggs, the tears for finding only one. The little boy who, when I asked how many he'd found said, "Five...and this frog!" as he thrust it toward my face. One child in the "disaster group" had been so traumatized that she refused to hunt again. I told her [and her Mom] that she was still entitled to candy and I would personally take her. Mom put her over the fence and when that kid latched onto my hand for dear life, all the anger just slid away. This little girl needed to remember Easter with happiness, not terror. So we got her candy, I walked her back to Mom and both were grinning ear to ear. Mom gave me a thankful smile that said more than words could. Suddenly the pollen didn't seem so bad.

On the way back to the car one of the little nieces of a co-worker decided to walk with me. She's 6 going on 45 and talks like an adult. When I asked her how things went, she beamed and said, "I met the Easter Bunny. Bunnies."

I asked if we still have a White Rabbit and a Chocolate Rabbit ...oh, politically correct has never been done so well. She nodded, then looked puzzled.

"There was something wrong with the White Bunny's feet," she confided with a frown.

"What?" I asked, knowing a male co-worker was in the suit, probably against his will.

"Well, his feet weren't fuzzy. He was wearing....," she said, looking around as if ready to give me a trade secret, "shoes."

"Really?" I asked as she nodded sagely.

So this year I learned, thanks to the observant eye of a child who was looking for more than Easter Eggs, that the Easter Bunny....wears Nikes.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

For many people, Good Friday brings to mind religious beliefs involving sacrifice and salvation. It's also a day with it's own superstitions, one of which I actually cling to....

....never plant anything outdoors before Good Friday.

You see in the South, we get false spring. Often. You emerge from home one morning and robins are singing on the front lawn. That's sign #1. Sign #2 is the rebirth of the weed most gardeners consider a curse... the dandelion. Personally I love them but hey, I live in the country, not in a subdivision. Sign #3 is the air feels warmer, as if the sun is shining brighter in a sky so blue you wonder if it can be real. Everyone wants to be outdoors and if you're susceptible to gardening like my clan is, you feel that itch....the itch to plant. This first yen should be ignored.

Or you'll pay the price. Twice.

My grandmother, Memaw, always told me you should never plant before Good Friday. When I questioned if this was a religious belief she laughed. Then she explained that where we live, spring pretends to show up, we plant like crazy to make our yards lovely, then a sneaky frost comes along and kills everything. By waiting until Good Friday, which is governed by the moon phase for Easter, the last frost has usually occurred. You may see one more, but generally those too cool nights are behind you.

So I've stuck to that planting schedule...except for one year, about 15 years ago. And yes, every danged thing I planted was burnt by the frost and curled up to die.

The man who owns the outdoor market where I buy my plants use to laugh at me. He'd show me all the beautiful, tempting buckets of floral color and ask what I was going to buy. I'd smile and tell him, "I'll be back on Good Friday." He was confused the first time until I explained. Then laughed at me for believing an old wives' tale.

Two days later we had a helluva frost that smote everything in the yard which hadn't been established for years.

I returned on Good Friday to buy my plants and the Market Man grinned at me. "Okay, so you're right," he declared in defeat. "But please don't tell my other customers. Every last one of them had to come back today to buy another round of plants."

Yep, everyone but me.

So today, I planted the fiery red and yellow lantana I purchased from him yesterday. When I purchased them Market Man asked, "You're not planting that until tomorrow, are you?" Soon I can look forward to a burst of color from a lonely portion of the yard which previously had none.

And while I was out in the yard today, I grabbed my camera. Sometimes I don't think people really understand how big that pecan tree is in my front yard. So I stood at the end of our driveway and took this. I just wish the new guy farming the land around us would get a crop in!Thought maybe I'd walk up the driveway and take you with me.



The building on the right, which looks like a red barn,
is hubby's archery shop.


Yes, it's actually a pecan tree, not an oak!
She's a little lopsided now as severe storms 2 years in a row
sheared a giant limb off last year.



We almost didn't even look at this house because from the front,
it looked so small.
That's a dogwood tree to the right of the house and pink azaleas in front.


But as you can see, looks can be deceiving! The old gal goes waaaay back.


A bee investigating the azaleas asked me to share with you....

Have a Happy Easter!



Saturday, April 4, 2009

Meet Walter

Every neighborhood I ever lived in had one...the grumpy old guy on the block who patrolled his yard as if it were a separate country. He owned no pets, his lawn was immaculate and he treated children as if they were a necessary evil. His frown muscles were more overworked than the ones for smiling. A mere glare from his direction sent kids scattering...or at least crossing over to the other side of the street. He was the kind of man who regally surveyed his little patch of earth as if Emperor in a kingdom he was damn proud to own. Trespassers were not welcome. In fact, if he spoke to kids at all, it was usually to yell at them, "Hey you! Get off my lawn!"

I live out in the country. Our nearest neighbor is almost a mile away. And yet, a grumpy old man has taken up residence in our yard. No, not the guy I married. This is a grey headed little tyrant who works diligently to keep intruders off the lawn. HIS lawn.

Meet Walter.
Although I'm not sure he knows it, Walter is, in fact, a Mockingbird. Yes, I did name him. He's the only bird I've ever seen who has such a specific personality. If he were a General, he'd have five stars. Right now, he's a loud, often agitated, yard alarm system. No one comes into the yard that Walter doesn't try to chase out.

Including me. Once.

Well, I deserved it. I was instrumental in insisting we remove the crepe myrtle trees that the idiot... I mean prior home owners...had planted on either ends of the porch. Against the house! The one on the left was Walter's command post, where he kept a diligent eye on things. If a bird lands in the yard, Walter swoops in squawking as if he were an Eagle or a Hawk and runs it into the field, off of his beloved lawn. The day after we cut down the trees, I walked out the back door. From his new command post, right outside the back door, Walter gave me a tongue lashing I have not forgotten.

Walter is actually fun to watch. He marches back and forth, glaring at any bird which dares land on the lawn. This is him in "Red Alert!" marching mode. He is semi-tolerant of humans, although hubby laughed that some of his "too loud" archery customers have been surprised to see Walter fly over their heads, as if trying to find the best angle to run them off. He doesn't bother the dogs, but I've noticed that when he's in fussing mode, they tend to stay on the other side of the house.
The only day I feared for Walter's safety was the morning the Blackbirds invaded. Every year they arrive by the hundreds. Usually they scrounge around the fields surrounding us, looking for corn leftover from last summer's crop. Unable to find any this year, they decided my bird feeder would do.

Poor Walter! I thought he'd have a stroke. One by one he'd single out a Blackbird and dive bomb it, all the time squawking at them to keep moving. Amazingly, he kept on until, one by one, the Blackbirds decided there had to be a friendlier neighborhood and took to the skies. Then Walter went back to strutting back and forth. When I stepped out the back door, he called to me, as if to note all the work he has to do around here to keep us safe from marauding Blackbirds. The only bird he doesn't pick on is a female Cardinal...although he keeps her mate constantly on the move.

And yet when he takes a rest, Walter sings the most beautiful tunes! I sit quietly, out of his line of view, and listen to the wonders that this little bird has to offer. He's taken to a quick yell when I leave for work and another when I arrive home. Yep, Walter and I get along just fine. If Walter could converse with me, I'm pretty sure he'd say.....

"Hey! You there, with the camera.
Did I give you permission to stand there?
Did I say you could take my photo?
I know you live here....but GET OFF MY LAWN!"

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Harder I Try...

...to do my part being "green" and ecologically responsible, the more places my Boss sends me. Sigh.

So tomorrow I hope to post something light and uplifting, choosing to put grumpy to bed in hopes the light of Friday morning makes everything all right again. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

Here's wishing you a pleasant weekend!