Sunday, February 6, 2022

Bird Brain

 I feel like writing a blog post – it helps to clear my brain. Right now, my brain could use a good cleaning. For that matter, my whole house could use a good clearing and cleaning. Perhaps that is the true source of the moss in my brain. So many tasks, so little time! More significantly, so little motivation!

The world is going to hell in a handbasket, but my little microcosm for today, at least, is defined by the plot of ground outside my window. Here at my desk, which sits beside a window, I can see four bird feeding stations. My favorite is a clear acrylic feeder affixed directly to the window with suction cups.  It’s delightful to have birds and squirrels visit less than three feet from me.

The excessive snow and ice this winter have driven the birds and squirrels to our yard – there’s the silver lining to the raincloud that is our winter. I do love winter, but enough with the snow and ice already!  My favorite of all the wildlife visitors is the Northern Flicker woodpecker. One visited regularly during the lockdown winter 2021. Finally, just a week or so ago, he came back! Now I see him every day. He likes the suet feeder, but more often than not, he feeds on suet crumbs dropped by other birds (and squirrels) at the base of the tree.

view from the porch

Where I usually walk Gracie

Work is crazy hectic as hell right now. I don’t want to go into it (because I don’t want to think about it), but let’s just say that once I post this blog entry, I will be repotting some plants, walking my Gracie, and then working until I drop into bed. No housework.  No Netflix. Instead, we shall press forward with work tasks that MUST be done ASAP.  I mean that in every sense of the words – as soon as possible, like, no later than tomorrow. UGH!  I’m getting too old for this kind of work stress.

Catherine is just amazing. I got to visit her last weekend (or course Sarah and Desmond too)…but really, it’s all about snuggling with that irresistible baby!  She’s just so much fun to play with now at 3.5 months old. Her little coos and squeals are delightful. When she smiles at me, the world stands still. Everyone should be so lucky in their lives to have a grandbaby.  Alas, it will likely be a few weeks before I see her in person again. The mean Covid is spreading throughout campus (“like a gender-reveal wildfire”) and we’re hosting a covid super-spreader event next Friday. We’re having kids from four high schools come to our campus for a competition. I won't be visiting anyone until I'm sure I haven't caught a germ. 

Sweet baby 💗

The many faces of Catherine

Life doesn’t happen in a chair in front of a screen. It’s time to get moving and make some things happen today.  It’s go time!

Thursday, December 23, 2021


 I am smitten. Totally. Baby Catherine graced our world on October 21. She is beautiful and marvelous and loved beyond any measure.

newborn Catherine 💖

Flashback, it was a very rough entrance for both mama and baby. Those who have borne children can imagine the experience of giving birth to a nearly 11-pound baby. It seemed that everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Mama and baby had to transfer to a bigger hospital shortly after the birth. It was all so scary, and I didn’t really know how bad things were until it was mostly over. Hospitals around our state still have strict Covid rules in place. I didn’t get to put eyes on the sweet baby until she and Sarah were discharged. I was thankful that Sarah and Catherine came home together. I myself had the experience of leaving a baby (Erin) behind in the NICU and going home without her – it was traumatic for me. We can thank the good Lord that all the pieces fell into place, perfectly.

I got to stay with Sarah and her husband for a few days as the new family adjusted to all the demands of a newborn in the house. What a delight it was to have so much time with them and baby Catherine, and to be able to help out a little.  

People say that grandchildren are very different from your own. As I see it, the biggest difference is that I have all the fun and none of the responsibility. As soon as my own babies fell asleep, I put them down and did chores, or went to sleep. When Catherine falls asleep, I can just sit, hold her, and drink her beauty into my memory. I have been going to visit at least once every two weeks just to get some sweet baby time.

Catherine - around 6 weeks

Sarah and Catherine 💕

I have not been blogging much this year. All work and no play make a dull life. I need more adventure in my life – good adventure.  Catherine is new frontier, but it’s time to plan something. I am thinking of potential places to visit: Zion National Park, Yosemite, the Blue Ridge Mountains (strong contender), and Florida (to visit my mother). Someone wants to go to Hawaii, but the Covid restrictions seem still to be too much hassle there. I would go more places if I had to wife to make the travel plans for me. 😊

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Milk pod

I was taking Miss Gracie for a walk and spied some milk pods growing on the hillside beside the road. For those who may be unfamiliar with what a milk pod is, it’s a seed pod that grows on milkweed plants which are native to this part of the US.  The plants are tall and the blooms of native milkweed are unspectacular, but the blooms and plants attract butterflies. I do have an affinity for butterflies. Monarch butterflies are particularly fond of them.

Milkweed pods

Whenever I see a milk pod, my Grandmother Starr (my mother’s mother) comes to mind. When I was very young, perhaps three or four years old, I remember walking with my grandmother through a field that had many milk pods in it. We made this walk when I visited her because it was a shortcut to get to a nearby town.  We walked because she didn’t have a driver’s license – through the field, down a dirt road and across some railroad tracks to a small town.  She sometimes took me to church meetings with her in the evening.  Church ladies met in the basement and there was no air conditioning, so the door was always standing open when we arrived.  The ladies sang hymns and talked while I was usually given paper and pencil to entertain myself, which I was happy to do.

I don’t know why I visited her without my brothers, but that is how it was.  Maybe she liked me best. 😊  After church, we sometimes stopped in the little town and got vanilla ice cream cones to eat as we walked back to her home. 

I remember asking my grandmother if the milk pods have milk in them.  She said they did, but I should never try to drink it.  She picked one off a plant and pulled a long pin out of her purse (I think it was a hat pin or perhaps a large straight pin that might be used to attach a corsage to a lapel). She pierced the pod and sure enough, white sap came oozing out of it.  I was in awe that she knew the pods had this magic in them.

I didn’t know Grandmother Starr very well.  She and my grandfather moved to California before I was five years old.  After they moved away, I rarely saw them. What I remember most about her is that she had red hair and she talked a lot. She was artistic – she painted pictures and wall murals.  She also wrote stories and wanted to have them published.  I never had opportunity to read her work; I presume nothing was ever published.

I hope to live close enough to my grandchildren that we know each other.  Someone’s daughter, Katie, has Alice who is now four years old and is great fun to play with.  Little ones are so unpredictable which makes for great adventure. Unfortunately, we only see Alice once every three months or so…just not often enough for her to get to know us. I don’t know if this will ever change – it’s complicated. 

Sweet Alice - 4th birthday party

Sarah will be having a baby any day now.  We are so excited!  I do hope to see this baby more often than I see Alice. I don’t want to be a stranger to it. I want it to recognize me and be happy to see me.  I want to spoil it rotten and show it wondrous things. We are dreaming of a life to be brought into the world soon.  God is good. 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Mourning Miss Molly

 Our Molly died a few weeks ago. I miss her greatly. She adopted us (actually, no, the girls invited her into our home despite my insistence that we could most certainly NOT keep another cat) about 13 years ago.  The vet estimated that she was about two years old at her first visit.  Molly was the most affectionate cat I’ve ever lived with. My belief was always that she was grateful to have a home and people who cared about her, and so, she spent a lot of time on my lap, on my desk, and on my bed. Maybe she was just wanting to be near the person who usually fed her.

Sweet Molly MooMoo

Molly got sick and the vet was not sure which condition (heart or kidney) was the worst. Long story short, she just got too sick to live. Erin was home when she died…I am grateful. Molly was an outdoor/indoor cat and she conveyed clearly that she wanted to be outdoors. On her last full day of life, Erin and I sat outside with her to love on her and to keep her from wandering off into the woods to die. She mostly laid still (slept?) in the grass as we watched and tended to her.  She refused to drink.  We brought her inside that night because it seemed too cold for her, even on the porch.  The next morning, Erin got up to check on her and was with her when she took her last breath.

No euthanasia for Miss Molly because she did not seem to be suffering and she always stressed out terribly anytime we took her to the vet. I would have taken her if she showed signs of suffering. After she died, we washed her, brushed her, and laid her in a box for burial. Emily came home and we had a proper kitty funeral.  Miss Molly joins our other beloved pets in the family pet cemetery. 

Miss Molly Beans

For the first time in 40 years (perhaps more), there is no cat in my life. It is odd.  Someday, I can imagine going to the pound or an animal rescue to get another, or perhaps another stray will turn up.  For now, we will take time to grieve our Molly.


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Beautiful Lake Tahoe Adventure

Earlier this month (June, 2021), Someone and I went on a “real” vacation – just the two of us – to a place we’ve never been before.  We stayed for a week, which was plenty of time to explore and have dinner with my cousin (our grandmothers were sisters). 

We stayed at David Walley’s Resort in Minden, Nevada.  The resort (David Walley’s) was wonderful – everything about it.  It’s out in the middle of nowhere – you get that impression when you see it from the highway.  But, once you start getting familiar with the area, you realize that the resort is very close to Carson City which has anything you could want, and minutes from Kingsbury Grade and Route 50, both which take you over the mountains to Lake Tahoe.  Genoa is within easy walking distance from the resort.  It's the oldest settlement in Nevada and very quaint.   We loved our suite. The hot springs were…well…interesting and different, and very beautiful.

View of springs from our balcony. The lilac near the railing smelled heavenly!

The hot springs were what enticed David Walley to build a resort in that location (many years ago). Hot water bubbles up through the ground in puddles around there. It’s full of minerals that are somehow associated with good health.  People with arthritis and other ailments use to come and soak in the spring water long ago (as shown in old pictures posted around the resort).  On our last night at the resort, we tested out the hot springs. Because of our litigious society, the resort modernized the springs experience for guests by creating five small pools for people to sit in - they are much like swimming pools. They have to control the temperature and filter the water so that people don’t get burned or sick. We sat in several of the pools (some were just too hot for one or both of us).  It was interesting and pleasant at times, but the water made my skin and swimsuit smell like sulfur. I was grateful to take a shower afterwards.  It was very much like sitting in a bubbling, hot jacuzzi that smelled bad. 

We could see the hot spring (kind of like a creek) from our balcony at the resort.  Steam rose off of it in the mornings – the temperature there was in the 40s (F), even in June.  We were walking along the creek on the path when we came to a water puddle with what looked like little air bubbles.  I watched the bubbles for a moment and wondered if the water was actually boiling, or if perhaps a creature was below the surface, or perhaps something below such as a pipe was leaking and causing air bubbles.  Silly me, I stuck my fingers in the water to test it…yes, it was boiling water. 😊

Lake Tahoe is beautiful! The first time we saw it (just as we drove over the top of the last mountain), we said “OHHH” simultaneously.  Pictures cannot do it justice.  The water is bluest blue and along the shore where it’s not so deep, you can see rocks on the bottom: clean, clear water.  I took more than 300 photos of mountains, lakes, pinecones, trees, and flowers.  We hiked 9 to 14 miles everyday that we were there.

My two favorite places were Spooner Lake and Sugar Pines Point State Park. The sugar pines have the most gigantic pinecones I’ve ever seen in my life. They are 14 to 15 inches long and when you try to wrap your hands around them, your fingers don’t touch. Spooner Lake has a trail around the entire lake (a little less than three miles) with beautiful, tall aspen trees and lupines growing all around it. The Spooner Lake trail is easy walking – the trail is well worn so you don’t have to constantly look down to keep from tripping over rocks and roots.

Our flights out and back were uneventful and surprisingly (pleasantly) on time. Flying used to be fun, but these days, not so much.  We had to wear masks in the airports and on the flights.  I’m not a fan of masks, but I follow rules about such things. I am hoping the rules change for vaccinated adults (at least) before the next time I fly.  

For anyone who enjoys hiking and biking, swimming and boating, or just walking outside, visit Lake Tahoe. You won’t be disappointed.   

Monday, May 31, 2021

I'm still standing

Oh my!  Time goes by (as it does) and it’s all I can do to find time to participate in my own life.  University #1 has wrapped up for the spring term and I’m now on vacation until the summer break ends.  With two full months (plus a few extra days off) from University #1, it should feel like Endless Summer, but it will be nothing like Endless Summer.  I have to migrate five courses to a new platform over the summer.  My estimate??  I’m thinking 40 – 60 hours per course.  You’re welcome, University #1 (it’s time and labor gifted – I don’t “work” or get paid during summer months).  

COVID seems to be winding down in our area.  Thank you, Jesus. I’m grateful for the vaccine because I’m tired of wearing masks and worrying about germs. I have LOVED working from home all semester – that part of the pandemic has been most agreeable. It was always my dream job to work full time from home and I got to experience it for six months. It was completely marvelous!  Come August, it’s going to be very difficult to leave Gracie and Molly and go back to campus.  Even more than that, I’ll miss watching my birds and squirrels at the bird feeders.  Having fed the birds every morning, you can’t even imagine the increased diversity of birds in our yard.  I’ve been working to identify and learn about them: the ones I did know (cardinal, blue jay, gold finch, dove, sparrow, wren, bluebird, chickadee, titmouse) and many new ones: Northern flicker, towhee, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, rose-breasted grosbeak, purple finch, and others I can’t think of right now. I love watching birds.

Northern Flicker - one of my favorite visitors

One of the most delightful outcomes of feeding the birds regularly is that we now have doves living near our house. They coo in the early morning and late evening hours. Hearing them triggers memories of my tiny, upstairs bedroom on 20th street – the last house I lived in before leaving home to embrace the world on my own. My bedroom was on the corner of the house with two windows (one on the south side and one on the east side. We had no air conditioning in the house so I slept with both windows open in the summers. My bed was in the corner between the windows where there was the most breeze. Just outside my front window was a huge maple tree. Doves nested in the tree. Their mournful coos serenaded me in the early morning hours, and it was a lovely to listen to.     

In February 2021, we had a horrific ice storm. Thousands of people in our area were without utilities, and it took nearly six weeks to restore services. The ice bought down trees which blocked and damaged roads. Trees fell on houses and garages.  It was devastation for many people.  We were so fortunate that we were not affected directly. The National Guard was called in to help with repairs. Every morning for weeks, a fleet of military helicopters flew over top our house around 7:30 AM. They were used to drop supplies and people to work areas and to identify places where roads and bridges were impassible, and utility poles were broken.  Having not been inconvenienced, we were able to get out for Gracie’s walks and appreciate the magic of ice on trees and plants.  When the sun shined on the ice, the beauty was beyond breathtaking. Pictures can’t do it justice.

Erin made a snow cat

Ice on the trees

Fast forward to spring. The KYLady garden is well underway.  We are feasting on lettuce now – it is tender and delightful!  Soon, broccoli will be ready to cut. We also have tomatoes, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, cucumbers, beans, and corn underway.  

My irises are amazing this year, though now after a lot of rain these past few days, they are mostly gone.  The deer ate all of them last year, so this year I began spraying them with repellent starting early spring before buds even formed.  The deer will eat almost anything, so spraying Deer Fence (the kind I use) is a frequent task.  I have to spray almost all my flowers and almost every bush. They don’t seem to eat rhododendrons which is good because ours are big and would need a lot of spraying. Deer Fence isn’t cheap and it’s a miserable product to use – it stinks SO BAD!! 

These irises smell like licorice.

Beautiful irises

Someone broke a bone in his foot about two months ago. He’s had to give up everything he enjoys – karate, tennis, running, and even golf.  He is now much better (praise God, because I am a lousy and impatient nursemaid) and it’s a good thing because we are leaving on vacation next week - we are going to see Lake Tahoe and some of the places near there (Reno, Carson City, and maybe Yosemite). Mainly, we plan to hike, but we are there for six days, so I’m not sure if he can hike for six days.  Someone likes to gamble so no doubt he will spend time in casinos. I have a relative (my great-aunt’s granddaughter) who lives in Reno that we will meet somewhere for lunch or dinner.  It will be nice to see her and her husband. I hope Lake Tahoe is as beautiful as the pictures I’ve seen.  

And now for the BIGGEST news of all...imagine drumroll...Sarah is pregnant with my grandbaby!!  She and Desmond are preparing themselves for all that is to come, as if that is really possible.  I think childbirth and living with a newborn are things that are impossible to really understand until it’s experienced. It’s kind of like trying to describe what honeysuckle smells like.  I could describe it for an hour, but you wouldn’t truly know what it smells like until you actually smelled it.  

My grandbaby is due in early October. Sarah and Desmond do not want to know the baby’s gender before the big day, but I do.  It’s not that it really matters because I have no preference, but it’s hard to imagine this baby in clear detail without knowing gender. The baby is “it” rather than “him” or “her” at this point.  Whatever it is, this baby, I can’t wait to meet him or her, hold him or her, play with his or her tiny feet and hands, and kiss his or her soft skin.  He or she will be beautiful regardless of gender and a blessing to our family.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Beast: 2020

 This year, 2020, has been quite a butt. Who in this world could deny it?  At the top of the list in terms of what is the worst thing about 2020, hands down, COVID-19: death, suffering, businesses lost, economic devastation for too many people, riots, destruction of art, government corruption, and on and on. Yet, I am grateful for all that has been wonderful this year: my new hip, a visit to the Smokey Mountains, lots of golf, kayaking, hiking, my work, my new car, my pets, and of course, last but certainly not least (definitely most), my children.

October kayaking on the Little Sandy

My family lineage has been decimated in 2020. It seems that way to me because having been raised by my father’s parents in circumstances where parents took care of great grandparents, I knew my great aunts and uncles (and great grandparents) pretty well – I saw them frequently. All the great aunts and uncles on my father’s side passed away this year, as did two of their children. And then my father died unexpectedly.  Well, I’m not sure it makes sense to say unexpectedly given that he was 83 years old and had Parkinson’s.  But the last I had heard, he was getting along pretty well and was in no danger of dying.  Then came a phone call that he’s in hospice and may not survive the night.  My brother and I made an emergency visit (a five-hour drive) to see him – Covid be damned. I had not seen him in over a year because of timing of my usual visits and Covid (and that’s another very long story that I won’t go into).  He was barely conscious, but he uttered a few intelligible words...I don’t think he knew who we were.  He looked bad, but not horrible.  His hair looked marvelous – he always had great hair.  He looked like my grandfather and my brothers.  He died a few days after our visit.

Rest in peace, Dad

It makes me sad that I didn’t know my dad. He didn’t come around much, and he didn’t stay long when he came. As children, I could count on one hand the number of times we visited him at his home. His wife and my grandmother hated each other.  That was the primary reason – that is what I always thought, anyway. Hate.  Nothing good comes from hate. Life is much too short for that.

The long dark winter is nearly upon us. Early last summer (I blogged about this in my last post), I planted lupines and lavender in a tray with hopes to populate my new flowerbed.  The seeds emerged. All but two of the lavender shriveled up and died.  The two survivors lasted until mid-September.  The lupines looked healthy, even sprouted second leaves, but then, they too died. Failure.  I’m hoping next year will be better. It will be better! My first attempt was a “learning experience”.

My girls have given me gift cards for seeds and roses. I can imagine a glorious yard of wondrous gardens, heavenly scents wafting on the breeze, and stunning blossoms.  The reality is that we have many large trees, so very little sun.  Our soil is clay so we have drainage issues.  Voracious deer eat nearly everything they come to, and we have a plethora of rodents. Don’t even get me started on the Japanese beetles! Excuses, excuses, but there are solutions. All it takes is lots of work and diligence.

Molly hunts and kills things (mostly rodents, but sometimes snakes, and baby rabbits or young squirrels) every day, leaving poor little ravaged bodies on the doorstep.  I feed the birds and the rodents take their fair share.  The bird feeders are an attractive nuisance.   I love, love, love my trees.  I could not bear to have any of them cut down. My favorite is the hickory, which as you might guess, is also the squirrels’ favorite. Nevertheless, I am determined to find a way to have so many beautiful flowers that every bee and butterfly in the county will visit us.

Gracie and Molly (the Relentless)

I cleaned out one of our birdhouses yesterday. A mama bird had worked hard to fill it up with moss and bits of straw and leaves. I read that birds are more likely to inhabit a house if it is clean. I checked the newer house (made by my very talented son-in-law) but there is no evidence that anything nested in it.  It must be that I didn’t hang it up in time last spring. I'm hoping a bluebird will take it next spring. I made a third birdhouse from a large gourd and hung it yesterday, deciding that if I wait until I paint it or until Spring to hang it, another year will go by. The gourd has been sitting in our kitchen and garage for nearly three years. It was finally time to take action. Left in its natural state, perhaps it is best to just let it be what it is. 

gourd birdhouse

I've not blogged in a long time and since my last visit, I see that Blogger has added new edit features.  Well done!