Monday, October 18, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

(This post was originally published in October 2009, the 25th anniversary of NBCA month, but the message and the stories remain the same. The first nine comments are from that original post, and I included them because of the "conversation" between myself and my husband's niece, Wendy, regarding her mother Sandy, who died of breast cancer.)


October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It's a call for us to recognize that we need to be vigilant in our attempts at early detection through self examination and regular mammograms, to bring attention to the need for improved testing and treatment, and to honor those of our ranks - family, friends, and strangers alike - who have battled and survived... and battled and lost.

My life has been touched by the breast cancer diagnosis of four women:


This lovely lady, above, is my stepmother, Ferne. She came into my life as the third wife of my dad, and she was the mother that I had always wished I had had growing up. If I were to be asked to use just a few words to describe her, it would be sweet, loving, soft spoken. I only saw her once a year after the first few years of their marriage, but she never failed to treat me as a treasured member of her family. She had her first diagnosis of breast cancer in, I think, 1987. (I say I think because they didn't tell me that she had or was going to have a masectomy, because they didn't want me to worry long distance. Of course, I took umbrage with that, telling them that, instead, it made me feel out of the loop, but that's another story.) I actually am totally ignorant of her treatment, don't know if she had chemo or radiation or anything, that's how far out of the loop I was.

In the spring of 1993, it was found that Ferne's cancer had metasticized to the brain. By July I was in Texas sitting by her side 24 hours a day so that my dad could get away from the hospital for a bit, and it was then that I saw, for the first time, what a chest with the puckered scars of a double masectomy looked like. In October she died, and I think she was 73. But look at the statistic there ... she survived, and lived well, in the six or more years after the original diagnosis. She was a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother.

This smiling lady is Sandy, my sister-in-law. She was one of the funniest people I've ever known, and the most talkative! She was known for her talking, her easy laugh, her love of sewing/decorating/crafts, her kindness, and her clutter! She would much rather be doing crafts with her kids than keeping house, and she was a wonderful mother to her four children, though she didn't always have an easy time of it. Once again, we were not around to see how she lived her life with cancer. I couldn't even tell you when she was first diagnosed or if she had chemo or radiation (although I'm thinking she didn't). She did not have an easy time of it, but she lived her last years to their fullest and on a journey of self-discovery. She died at the home of her mother in March 1997. We had called her that night as we hadn't talked to her for a while, and had been told that she wasn't doing well. Her brother Corey answered and said he'd take her the phone... then he came back on the phone and said: "She just died". You never know when the last time you talk to someone will be the last time you talk to that someone. Sandy was 50 years old, a daughter, sister, divorcee, mother, and she did not live to see her two beautiful grandbabies, Joey and Kam.

This blurry lady with the Tweety shirt is Charla, the wife of my husband's cousin. This photo was taken when they came to visit us here in Georgia from Colorado. We had the best time. She was truly a lovely lovely person, and we discovered, she and I, that if we lived closer, like we had for many years but didn't know each other, we would probably have been best friends. We talked so easily, shared secrets even. Within a year of this photo, Charla would be diagnosed with breast cancer. We saw her in Colorado a few years later for a family reunion, and she was a mere skeleton, and I hardly recognized her. I asked her what it felt like, what did she think and feel, knowing that all treatments had failed in this very aggressive form of the disease, and she said she had no choice but to take each day as it came, and took what joy from it that she could. She died at the age of fifty-seven in August 2007. She was a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother.

Delores is the wife of my step-brother. I don't have dates here, but she was diagnosed with cancer maybe ten or so years ago, and had a masectomy, chemo, and radiation. She's had several scares in the years since, but it appears that she is currently cancer free.

There will be many activities this month in recognition of breast cancer awareness, on small and large scales, in schools, churches, communities, and cities. If you get a chance to participate in some way, please do. If you don't want to 'walk', then maybe you could just do an extra donation for research and free mammograms this month, or remind a friend, sister or mother to do a self-exam or get a mammogram. Or make an appointment to get one yourself.

"When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved, you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better. ” Maya Angelou

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

If I had been posting ...

Donna at Mystical Journey has a new grandson, the other Donna at Starkey Hollow had to have her doggie, Sam, put to sleep, Cheryl at Scrubby Bush is having trouble with a randy kangaroo repeatedly having his way with her pet roo (how many people can say that?), yaya at Whispering Pines lost a dear sister-in-law and now herself has a finger in a splint from putting a fitted slipcover on her couch. Jeanne's dog Dodger is getting the cold shoulder from the little corgi down the street, Susie of City Gal Moves to Oz is raising a herd of guineas who are growing too fast while she's off working, and Middle Age Woman almost lost her adult son last month. Life is going on all around us! It's been going on here in my corner of the world as well, and if I had been posting this last month I would have told you about it.

If I had been posting, I would have told you about our battle with lice and fleas at my daughter's house and mine, and how I have done so much laundry between the lice one week and the fleas the next that I think I should be qualified for some kind of special laundress award! Conner brought them home from kindergarten, and keeps getting re-infested with nits, but we can't figure out from where because they also spray and wash at school! As far as we can tell, none of the other of us has had them, except for a few nits on Melody early on, so it's got to be something that hasn't been sprayed or washed at school.


And I would have told you that Eva Jean had such a bad reaction to the Frontline flea application after being off it for six months (do you know how expensive that stuff has gotten?)that she frothed at the mouth, couldn't stand up without falling down, and had a seizure. Scared the crap out of me, but I hurriedly washed it off repeatedly with a wet towel until she came around and stood up and walked off like nothing out of the ordinary had happened except that Mom was freaking out about something again.



If I had been posting, I would have told you that Connor (left) turned five years old in September, something he has been looking forward to since he was four and a half. For his birthday I got to go to his muffin and juice party in his kindergarten class (which was a hoot, especially with eleven boys in the class and only a sprinkling of girls), and then that night the family met at the park after football and soccer practice for cupcakes and some playtime. Most of it was in the dark because the park hadn't yet changed their automatic lighting to 8pm instead of 9pm, but we had a good time anyway. His big gift was a DS because his brother and two cousins each have one, so he was always odd man out.
If I had been posting, I would have told you about how Connor and I and then Garrett and I, on separate occasions, spent time at our nature trail and creek. It had been way too hot to do that this summer, and even now the mosquitos are horrible. The day that Garrett and I went we took Oliver, and had the best time for about an hour, until he started feeling sick and wanted to go home. Turned out he was cooking something, and threw up at Connor's birthday party and then missed three days of school (plus the weekend) with an upper respiratory thing. I had to take him to the doctor twice, with the last one having a change of antibiotic and a nebulizer, both of which did the trick.

If I had been posting, I would have told you about our mouse infestation, which we get several times a year because of the field behind us. Cute little things, but the cuteness wears off real fast when they poop and pee on everything! I had to put all the cereals, crackers,popcorn, cake mixes, etc., in the oven until I could get plastic containers that are mouse-proof (I keep these things on wire pantry shelves on the door in the laundry room), and forgot one night and turned the oven on. Luckily, I realized what I had done when I smelled plastic burning, and the only damage done was melting the cellephane wrapping of the snack crackers. It's actually been a nightmare because killing them with the traps wears on you after a while, especially when they aren't completely killed (I won't go into detail on that one), but we've tried all the no-kill traps and they aren't as effective or they flat out don't work.

If I had been posting, I would have told you about my new babies, Hannah and Henrietta McHamster. (Yes, I see the irony of that in light of the above paragraph). And they, also, are cute little things. In fact, I'm quite enamered of them and spend at least thirty minutes every night (what would normally maybe have been my blogging time) freshening their cages and playing with them. The idea was that I had hamsters growing up, as did my daughter, so it was only fair that the grandsons should have the experience...but with the hamsters staying at my house. So I bought two girls, who I separated into two cages so they wouldn't start fighting, and they're right next to each other above me here at my computer desk. The boys adore them (though the thrill has worn off a little as the weeks have passed), and I've no regret that they (the hamsters) have added work to my already busy day, cuz, like I said, they are so cute and entertaining! (My husband says that if he didn't know that the hamsters were in the bathroom with me, he'd worry about my sanity because of all the talking I do!)
We had one near disaster, feeding my fear that the dogs will get hold of one of them. I was sitting here at the computer, saw a movement out of the corner of my eye, and looked a scant few inches to my left at the bookcase , and who should be staring back at me from the top of the photo albums but Henrietta! The masking tape holding the door to her nesting box on top of the cage closed had curled, allowing it to open when she was up there, nesting. I've tried imagining what she must have been thinking as she peered over the edge, if her mind was on the great escape or 'hey, there's mom!'. Be that as it may, I quickly threw the dogs out of the room, slammed the door, and got her safely back to her now super-reinforced cage.

If I had been posting, I would have told you that Lewie the Bluey died, and I'm convinced that he never recovered from the tomato sauce incident. I stopped to look at the fish when I was at Petco to get the hamsters, and ended up going home with another betta, Miss Lady Fish. She runs to the front of her bowl and swims in excited circles when I come near, which actually means nothing more than that she wants food, but I like to tell myself that she's glad to see me.

If I had been posting, I would have told you about and had photos of my garden, or lack of. A few things, like the zinnias, salvia and cone flowers, did well, but most everything else just died on the vine or went into self-preservation mode by shutting down production of flowers. It was so hot and dry here in Georgia that there was little inclination to even go outside to tend a garden. So I have no photos of baskets of tomatoes, beans, or peppers to show you. Of course now that fall is here and frost not far off, everything is growing prolifically with no chance of reaching full potential. Except the cone flower, which has re-seeded everywhere, including the middle of some of the perennials.

Finally, I would have told you that my daughter's fifteen year old cat, Jasmine, had to be put to sleep. She was Melody's first pet that was all her own when she was in college. Her boyfriend now husband brought it to her as a teeny tiny kitten, so Jasmine was actually her first 'child' and my first 'fur grandbaby'. She and the boys and I gathered around Jasmine's body before we buried it, with Garrett writing a poem in the center of a heart (Roses are red, violets are blue, even though you're gone, we still love you.), and Conner drew a picture of a cat and some writing I'm not sure what it says that he put on the mailbox 'so everyone would know what happened'. He then sang his 'I love you song' (a rendition of one I taught him as I have a song for everyone), then we buried her with the poem under a tree in the backyard. I was so proud of both of them as this is still early in their experience with death, even though they have experienced it before with my pets.

So, that brings you up to date on my life these last five weeks. I'm so pleased to say that Fall has finally arrived to our neck of the woods, and I have spent more time outside the last week than the entire last three months. I can't think of a summer I have enjoyed less than this one we just had, but it is over and gone and good riddance! Unfortunately, Fall is arriving on the wind, and wind and I are not friends. Any change in the barometric pressure, especially when it's windy, makes every muscle in my body feel like one big bruise, as well as causing a pins and needles tingling that drives me to insanity. But at least it's not HOT!
Now, here's hoping that I can now get back on track with my posting so that I don't have to write so much at one time! I wish I had something philosophical or intelligent, passionate or artistic to write about, but, well, I'm just busy putting one foot in front of the other, and I suspect that's what most of you are doing as well. Getting through each day as best we can, delighting in the simple pleasures of hamsters and fish, grandkids and pets, and.... well, whatever gets us through these times with a semblance of normalcy and sanity.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Changes, Frustrations, and Joys

Several people emailed me this week to ask if everything was ok because I hadn't posted in several weeks. I replied that yes, all is fine, just have been busy with a schedule change and some frustrations. Which got me to thinking about what, indeed, is going on in my life right now.

For one thing, my daughter has gone back to work as an elementary school counselor after being a stay-at-home mom for the last two years. Before she quit work, I had been the babysitter for the two grandsons for three years, so when she was home my 'job' was eliminated. I had thought I would go back to work, but jobs around in our area are scarce, and I'd been out of the work place for three years at that time. Besides, I didn't know what kind of job to look for as I have some 'brain quirks' that make my choices limited.

I began cleaning house once a week for her sister-in-law, and then later going every day twice a day to walk and play with her(the s-in-l) new dog, a high-energy min pin puppy, which turned into me being a working mom's assistant (doing a quick kitchen clean-up and house pick-up while letting the dog play, and then cleaning on Fridays). The rest of the time I just played happy homemaker in my own home, watched a lot of tv, worked in the yard, interacted with my dogs, and spent waaay more time than I should have here on the computer. Basically, I made my own schedule and didn't have to do a lot of accounting to anyone. And I make enough money each week to at least pay for my meds, or buy Eva Jean's special and outrageously expensive dog food every four weeks, or do something with one or both boys.

So, back to the present. Like many families these days, we're all suffering greatly from slow downs with work and being in financial distress. I won't go into all that here, but suffice it to say that we are all incredibly frustrated. When Melody decided she had to go back to work (kicking and sceaming the whole way), it also meant a specific schedule change for me. It goes something like this:

9:30-10:30 walk Max and clean kitchen (I take my Oliver with me so they can play)
10:30-12 clean daughter's house (kitchen, vacumn, laundry, or whatever needs to be done)
12-1:30 my house
1:30-2:15 walk Max and play with him
2:30 pick 4yr old Conner up from school and go to his house
3:15 Garrett gets home by bus
3:15 til 5-7:00ish sit the boys and cook dinner for them and enough to take home for us

The joy of this schedule change is that I get to see the boys every day, and get to interact more with my daughter and her family life at her house as opposed to the boys being dropped off/picked up from my house. She doesn't pay me a salary like before, but reimburses me in sooo many ways throughout the year/month/week/day, more than any daughter should have to do for her mom and dad who are still ambulatory (though becoming more decrepit every year!).

The other change that comes with this schedule change is that I will have to pick up some of the slack in some of my daughter's other obligations, such as in a business that she's involved in with her dad and husband, which is fine, except that I'm afraid I will screw up and disappoint them because of those 'brain quirks' I mentioned before. I'm not sure they actually realize how scrambled my brain is sometimes, though I've certainly told them about it often enough, and I sometimes wonder if they think that I just use that as an excuse to not do some things, or think that it ties into my irrational belief that I'm basically a screw-up. Be that as it may, it's not a huge effort to do what's basically secretarial work, just the frustration (and fear) that I'll screw up something important and disappoint them because of my huge inability to follow or remember directions.

Also, and this is something I don't know how she ever managed to do with the kids running around plus the time consuming business stuff, I have taken over one of her PTO duties of entering Coke product codes for school rewards. Seriously, bags of Coke bottle tops have to be entered on the computer one.at.a.time, and it is the most boring and time-consuming task imagineable! Could Coca-Cola have made it more difficult to earn rewards?

Ok, all this sounds like a cake walk to those of you who have four kids, two jobs and an aging parent to take care of along with your own disabilities! But it's a change for me nonetheless, and we're still in the process of fine-tuning it. I'm having to redefine my priorities as far as just getting the basics in my own home done in a timely fashion, in addition to semi-running two other households...especially since, as you might recall from my previous post, I am the queen of procrastination. If you ask me to do something for you, I may happily and willingly say "sure, no problem!", only to forget about it for the next two weeks, so I'm having to remember that there are other people involved now.

But here's something that I realized this week that I guess could also be put in the joy column. While I was berating myself for only being capable of doing fluff work like housecleaning and babysitting (as opposed to, say, nursing or teaching) to bring in some money, I realized that I am contributing to the quality of life for two families with a mother who works outside the home, the absolute hardest job in the world. When my daughter and her sister-in-law get home from a day at school, they walk into a clean kitchen and a straightened up house, giving them time to spend with their kids and doing other important stuff, instead of walking in and being slapped in the face with all the crap that's left over from dinner last night and breakfast that morning (not to mention the mess that three indoor dogs and two cats can make in a twenty-four hour period!). And probably just as importantly, my daughter knows that when those two little boys get home from school, the person who greets them and makes their snack does it with love.

And I've realized that this is something I do well, being a working mom's assistant, whether it's cleaning up a kitchen or cleaning out the kitty box, throwing in a load of clothes or scrubbing a toilet. I used to have my own house cleaning service (which means that I cleaned a bunch of houses by myself), but let it fall by the wayside as it's really.hard.work by yourself on a regular basis, especially if you have a bad back. While my own house is far from being clean, uncluttered, or organized, I have a natural impulse to walk into their houses and head straight to the kitchen or straighten a couch. I also had a very lucrative petsitting service which I gave up when we moved here as I didn't have time because of the grandsons, so it's nice to do that again.

But here's the really nice part ... my 'brain quirks', my inability to focus on a particular task and see it to it's finish, or my inability to even understand the steps to do the task, don't matter! No boss is going to say to me again: "Linda, if we didn't love you so much, and if you hadn't worked so hard, we would have had to fire you a long time ago because of your memory problems". (Well, unless I forget to walk Max, or to pick Conner up from school, or be home when Garrett's bus gets there, or enter the reward codes, or check the email for new orders, or forget to enter those orders, or ... hmmm, maybe I better not get too cocky!).

So, to make this loooong explanation even longer, I'm still reading new posts on my blog list every day, but if I don't publish my own post it's because I'm not managing my time well in my new schedule!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Two New Awards!


I recently received recognition from two of my fellow bloggers who I consider my online friends. I know some bloggers have award-free zones, which I guess means they don't display awards or just find it very time consuming, but I'm more than appreciative of the pat on the back, and will proudly display them somewhere on my blog. I guess the 'rules' do seem kind of silly, but it's all just a way for us to get to know each other, don't you think?
From Bernie at Old? Who Me? comes the Blog of Substance award. The only rule is that you pass it on to ten other bloggers. That's actually the hardest thing to do, as I can't think of many blogs that I've read over the last year that weren't blogs of substance, simply because they all are people like myself who are putting themselves, their thoughts, feelings and opinions, out there for all to see.

From Cheri at Cheri's Chatter comes the Versatile Blogger award. Cheri and I are new to each other, but I know her well enough to know that, besides being a fellow grandmother who dotes on her grandkids, she is a ray of sunshine. Seriously, you can almost hear her southern charm and positive attitude radiating from every sentence. The rule for this award (though I doubt they take it away from you if you don't follow the rules) is to give seven things about myself that you probably don't know about me. I've actually done this once before, so I hope I can think of a few more things. Oh, and pass it on to seven fellow bloggers who I consider 'versatile', which I guess means they write on a wide variety of topics.

I'm actually going to send BOTH of these awards on to the same people. Everyone I read deserves them, but if I have to name ten they would be: Annie at Quiet Commotion, Julie at Midlife Jobhunter, Lorna at Bathtime Blogger, Dinah at My Aimless Infatuation, Tim at Catnip, Suz at City Gal Moves to Oz, Michelle Rene at Must Be a Full Moon, Kobico at Mindless Meanderings of a Middle-Aged Maniac, Bernadette (Bernie) at On My Own, and Yaya at Whispering Pines. Forgive me for not linking to their blogs...I'm just lazy that way, and you can find them on my blog list. I also didn't check to see if they already have these awards, but that's ok as this is really about my personal recognition of them.

Ok, here goes:

1. I'm a time-waster of the highest order. I can find more things to do to waste time, and waste more time doing those things, than anyone I know. And when all is said and done, I've got nothing to show for the expenditure of that much time.

2. I have the lowest self-esteem of almost anyone I know. I don't know where it comes from, but I feel, and have felt for my entire life, that I am pretty much worthless except as a mother and grandmother. I'm one of those people who says to herself "can't you do anything right?", or "how fucking stupid can you be?", even if I just knock over a cup of coffee or forget to pay a bill. I realize that sending these negative messages to myself is a really bad habit, and I work on trying to change the way I talk to myself every day. Thanks for your urge to tell me I'm wonderful, but a person feels what a person feels no matter how irrational.

3. I'm addicted to crime shows, currently the Law and Orders, CSI, Bones, The Closer, and the new The Glades.
4. I've been watching General Hospital since I was pregnant with my daughter - 36 years. Even when I worked, I took a portable radio that had tv audio so that I could listen on those little earbuds. Almost every week I wonder why the hell I still watch it - but, I still watch it.

5. I've lived in Chicago Ill, Ft. Worth TX, Dallas TX, Denton TX, Alexandria VA, Dayton OH, Greeley, CO, Arvada CO, Loveland CO, Monroe GA, Eatonton GA, and now Rock Spring GA. Over a 62 year period.

6. In my lifetime I've owned 17 dogs (Brownie, Sleepy, Snookey, Chop Chop, Shaz, Grumpy, Gordon, Lulu, Nady, Toby, Chessie, Nady, Gracie, Charity, Molly, Eva Jean, Oliver) , 11 cats (Black Button, Kesch, Sugar Plum, Honey Bun, Blitzen, Clarisa/Clarence, Meg, Hazel, Hobo, Kitty, Tweety), 6 birds (Tweety, Micah, Spraddle, 3 cockatiels whose names escape me except for 'Bird'), 3 hamsters (Hercules, Squeeky, Pinky), multiple fish, 1 salamander, 3 rabbits (Dandy, Thumper, and another whose name escapes me), and 3 horses (Moon, Poco, and Lady). I have a collage frame in the hallway with all their photos.

7. I cuss like a sailer, especially when I'm mad, and when I'm mad I have a HUGE temper. No one suspects it of me as I'm soft spoken and shy, but when I blow it's big and LOUD. I'm also quick to apologize. Well, truth be told, I don't have to be mad to cuss. It's just an aspect of my verbal repertoire, as unflattering as it might be. I restrain myself in public or with certain people, and certainly around children, and it's very rare here on my blog as I don't like to offend people, but with family and friends it comes out.

Whew! That all took more time than I thought it would, but it was relatively painless. Thanks again for these awards, and I hope to continue to be deserving of them. And if I didn't give you an award but you'd like one or both of them to decorate your place, go ahead and take it and say it's from me - I'm sure you deserve them!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Revised Ending!

A week ago I told you about my little bluebird, the one who escaped the clutches of a snake, only to be used as a plaything by my boxer, Eva Jean. I had sadly placed his slobbery, limp, barely breathing little body in the nesting box after looking him over, thinking that the parents could find him and know that their job was done. Later, before finishing my post, I looked in the box once more and saw that he seemed to have died, as he was unresponsive and to my eyes was not breathing (even knowing that they sometimes play possum). As you know, I shed some tears!

Imagine my surprise when I opened the box the next morning and found this...

A wide-eyed baby bluebird, thinking I had come to give him some breakfast. I just about cried again! After ooohing and aaaahing for a few minutes and performing a soliloquy for him about how excited I was, I closed the door and hurried inside to the kitchen window. I watched for quite some time, but the parents were not coming...they were still in the yard, apparently looking for their baby. It was truly heartbreaking!

I opened the door of the birdhouse, hoping to get their attention and let them see that he had returned there, and within minutes they both appeared, then again and again over the next two and a half days. Sometimes they tried to coax him out, sometimes they fed him, sometimes they just kept vigil in the dogwood tree. I was on pins and needles wondering if all of his body parts were working - no broken wings or legs - and absolutely NOT allowing the dogs out the door except on leash!

I was ready with my camera at the kitchen window, and have probably a dozen starts and stops of his hesitation at the door of the nest. At dark on Tuesday night he still had not fledged, so I had to give it up. Wednesday morning was the same. Wednesday afternoon Garrett and I were walking Oliver and Charity around the yard, me knowing that the baby had been in his nest just a little while earlier, and he looked down under the maple tree where Oliver was sniffing, and saw this...
I don't know WHO was more excited, me or Garrett or the dogs wondering what was going on! After exclaiming over him for a minute, I ran to the house with the dogs and got my camera to get this photo before the parents had another nervous breakdown. They had been following our every move, and after all they had been thru they didn't need these big people messing with their kid! (I also checked the nesting box to make sure it was OUR bluebird!)

I don't actually know if this story has a happy ending. Thursday he was nowhere to be found, but the parents were keeping vigil and guard at one corner of the yard which borders on an overgrown lot, which borders on our green area. I couldn't tell if he was in or near our tree limb pile or on the other side of the fence. Friday they had moved further out into our neighbor's nicely mowed lawn that also borders on the green area. This is good news and bad news, as this area is shaded from our 100 degree week (with 107 degree heat index), but also home to the snakes.
But in my mind I'm calling it a happy ending. By some MIRACLE he survived his time in our little corner of the world. He survived the sparrows and mockingbirds, the wasps and suffocating heat, the snake, and the dogs. His parents were AWESOME, never giving up and battling all those demons to the best of their ability. Now he, and they, are off to the next stage of their lives. According to the book, they will feed the little guy for up to two weeks if he needs it, and then will possibly be a family group for a while until nesting begins again.

Now the question is: Do I leave the nesting box hanging on the deck, to possibly repeat this heartache and happiness again, or do I take it down? Hmmm....
(I uploaded several videos but blogger didn't show them in preview...now I know that they don't play until you've published! Gosh, it took me long enough to figure that out! It's a little boring, and I shot it thru the screen, and I forgot to zoom, but take my word for it that he was sticking his head out! In case you're like me and wondering how to start it, you just click in the middle. And did you now that if you click the little white square on the bottom right of the video screen it will go to full screen for better viewing? I just found that out!)

video

Monday, July 19, 2010

I'm Glad I'm Not a Bird: TWO SAD STORIES

I can't believe I'm sitting here at the computer crying big wracking sobs over a nest of birds. But I think if you hear my tale you'll understand why I'm such a goof.

Remember the nest of wren eggs on the front porch, the porch that gets so hot on a summer morning that touching the steel front door will actually burn your hand? The one in the geranium pot that at one point I covered with the cereal box to shade the eggs and the mama? Well, the two week gestation period ended with no babies. But the mama continued to sit on them for another week before she gave up. THREE WEEKS she sat on that nest in that blistering morning sun, only to have to desert it with no babies to show for it. I think she was a first-time mama and had picked that spot in the shade of the afternoon or evening, but it was just too sad to see her sitting faithfully, unwilling to give up too soon. Yes, it happens all the time in nature. But it was just very sad. I left the eggs in the nest in the pot so that she wouldn't come back to nest again. There were four of them. (pictured above)

But we still had the nest of bluebirds on the deck, remember, who were due at the same time. They hatched (we didn't know how many), and mama and daddy took such good care of them. I marked the calendar when they'd be due to fledge, and the plan was to leash walk the dogs when it was time. Last night (Sunday) at dusk, the mama and daddy were all over the place out back, going back and forth from the nest to the bushes and trees, that thing they do when they're coaxing them out of the nest. The sparrows and mockingbird chose that time to come and harrass them, so that the protective parents had fight them off in order to protect their brood. We took turns at the kitchen window, running out to chase off the sparrows, and David even took a pellet gun to the mockingbird (but missed). I had made plans to spend the night with the grandsons, so left thinking all was well in my bird world.

This morning I called to see how it was going, and David said 'you don't want to know'. I said 'oh no, did the dogs get the babies?', and he said 'no, a snake'. 'ARE YOU ****ING KIDDING ME?' No, he wasn't. He had taken Eva Jean out just after I left, looked over at the nesting box, and saw a six foot snake hanging out of the box. He grabbed my lopping shears and grabbed hold of the snake, trying just to get him out of the box, and pulled and pulled before he finally came out, and, though it was injured, was able to get away. It was dark by this point, so there was nothing David could do until this morning. He looked in the nest, and there was one baby left.

I didn't get home again until tonight (Monday). I was so excited about one baby being left, even though he could have suffered 'crush' damage from the snake (or psychological damage from seeing it's siblings eaten). I'd look out the window now and then to see if there was any activity, and mama and daddy were out there and coming to the nest with a worm, but then leaving with the worm. We weren't sure what that meant. I began to prepare dinner, and without thinking I let Eva Jean out back. Went back to the sink. Looked up to see Eva Jean racing around the yard and tossing 'something' up in the air. I flew out the door and across the yard...to find that she did, indeed, have the baby bluebird.

The little guy, already a dark blue, was barely alive. Neither of us had the heart (or stomach) to put it out of it's misery, so I gently placed him back in his nest, hoping the mama and daddy would find him and realize their job was over, that none of their babies had survived, that they would have to start all over again. (When I put him back, I saw that there was one unhatched fragile blue egg still intact that never hatched and escaped the snakes clutches.) As I stood again at the kitchen window, the anxious parents were sitting atop the dogwood tree, searching the ground for their last baby. (And, just now having checked, I think he is probably dead.)

I know nature can be cruel and that this scenario plays itself out dozens if not hundreds of times a day. But nature can also be beautiful, and I will continue to hold out hope that one day we can see the full cycle of nest making to egg laying to fledging played out successfully in our little corner of the world. But from now on I will post about it after it's a done deal.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Peaches

Summer 2006, we planted one peach tree. One year later, we had one fuzzy little peach ... Garrett and I split it, and it was the sweetest, tastiest peach either of us had ever tasted. We could hardly wait until summer number three when we surely would have a bumper crop! Spring of 2008 brought hundreds of tiny little flowers, which fell off a couple of weeks later in a hard frost. Summer 2009 brought dozens of tiny, hard green peaches, to be lost a few weeks later in a late and extended spring feeze and ice storm. This summer, summer number five, was surely to be THE YEAR OF THE PEACH!

The tree this summer was covered with beautiful Georgia peaches! They even ripened several weeks earlier than expected due to the early spring weather we enjoyed (and which quickly gave way to a hotter than expected summer).

The only problem was, their ripening coincided with the appearance of the dreaded Japanese beetle. If you've never had to deal with them, count yourself lucky. If you have seen them, you know that they not only destroy every fruit and flower in your garden, but are downright disgusting, munching and copulating at the same time. To try to pick any fruit that was NOT covered with these nasty creatures was like something out of a nightmare, their hard bodies slamming into your face and arms in an effort to chase you away from THEIR bounty.

But they weren't the only pest at the peach tree. This particular one, with sparse white hair and dark freckles, is an EVA JEAN, with the ability to just reach up and grab a peach at will, taking a few bites and leaving the remains on the ground for another pest, the ants.

This hairy pest is called an OLIVER, a common ordinary thief who will go so far as to grab a peach right from under your nose after you have done all the hard work, and who is not above taking one in the house and trying to tell you it's a ball.
I've saved the worst pest for last, and thankfully I have no photo of it. It's the 'plum curculios' worm. It enters the peach in the early stages of development, and if you don't spray in a timely fashion it will destroy the innards of the peach and cause it to either fall early or bruise heavily.
And when you cut them open, no matter how beautiful the peach may seem on the outside, there will be a teeny tiny squiggly white worm on the inside at the pit. And after you've cut open a few dozen peaches, your stomach begins to do this funny little squirmy thing, and if you weren't raised to do this on a regular basis, you just flat give up and say 'no more'.

When all was said and done, there were only enough peaches to freeze five two-cup bags for future cobblers. I'd have taken a photo of the one that we already made, but it didn't last long enough! It was simply scrumptious. And next year, if we don't have an early frost or heavy freeze, and if we spray in a timely fashion, and if they can time their ripeness before or after the invasion of the Japanese beetle, maybe, just maybe...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Oliver, Sunset, Bluebirds, Wrens, and Lewie the Blewy

It's been a while since I posted a photo of my little Oliver, so here are two. I don't have a story to go with them...just wanted you to see how cute and sweet he is. Twelve pounds of love!




Also don't have a story to go with the sunset, except that it was at the end of a horrifically hot and humid day, and obviously beautiful!

I haven't had much luck with bird stories, but will try one more time. Three weeks ago, Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird began testing this hanging birdhouse on the deck. Knowing that they sometimes start several, we weren't sure if this would be a keeper. It was. Mrs. Bluebird is now sitting, and the birds should hatch within the week.
Mr. Bluebird has been quite busy keeping those pesky sparrows away, though they haven't been as much of a problem this year as last as most went on to greener pastures when we had the hawk hanging around. And, apparently, the maurading mockingbirds have been busy harrassing someone else's nest, as they haven't been a problem either ... yet. He sits here next to or in this old feeder above the box or in a nearby bush, and is very attentive to Mrs. Bluebirds needs. I'm disappointed, though, that the birdhouse is facing away from the kitchen window, as we'd have to have a tall ladder to be able to see what's going on inside, and they might not be happy if I took it down or turned it around at this point as it wouldn't face out into the yard.

Why, you may be asking, is this pathetic looking geranium covered with a cereal box? Because of these...
On the hottest porch in town, which gets blazing and reflected sun from sun-up til 2pm, in a geranium that I somehow managed to baby thru the winter in the house, is now home to a nest of Carolina wren eggs. I know that mama birds know how to take care of their babies, but I was thinking she might not have known exactly how hot this spot would be in our unseasonably hot June. After watching her hanging her head out and panting, I cut up a cereal box and put one half of it on top of the plant to block the sun, and would take it down in the afternoon. The plant is blooming now and blocking the sun, so I can leave them alone (except for occasionally putting a little water on the front side to keep the plant alive). She didn't seem to be bothered by the box or by me coming and going out the front door, though I did put reflective tape and a note across the steps requesting everyone to move slowing and quietly! If all goes well (and we all know that it doesn't always), we will have babies in the next few days. And I will not become emotionally attached this time!

Last but not least, I'd like to introduce you to my birthday gift from the two grandsons back in May - Lewie the Bluey, a male blue betta. I haven't mentioned him before because I wasn't sure if he was going to live due to the 'tomato sauce incident', or that you would believe me if I told you what happened! It would sound like a 'fish tale', just like the one I read at a blogger friend's place when she posted about a fish she had had as a girl that was blinded because of a broken bowl, which I thought was a fish tale but that she swears really happened.

Anyway, I was cleaning Lewie's bowl and had put him in his little plastic holding dish, then went to put him back in the cleaned bowl with the dark green net. Did I mention that I was right next to a cluttered sink, that I didn't have my glasses on, and that he's a dark blue with a greenish tinge? Oh, and maybe I had my head up my butt?

Long story short, I thought I had got him back into his bowl from the net, tossed the net in the sink, looked back at the bowl, and there was no fish. Looked in the sink, saw he was still in the net, picked up the net, and he fell out...into a can of tomato sauce from the night before that was soaking to loosen up the dried tomato sauce residue. I hurriedly tried to get him out, pouring the water into my hand thinking I'd catch him, but fish being fish, he slid back down into the cluttered sink, underneath dirty dishes and silverware.

I finally got hold of the poor fish and put him back into his bowl, but the next week was touch and go. I thought at the very least he'd be blind from contact with the tomato sauce, or emotionally damaged from his tour of the sink. For the next week or so he wouldn't eat. Nothing. I don't know how he survived at all, actually, and was preparing the boys for his imminent death. Luckily, that didn't happen. He is alive and well, eating like a pig, and so glad to see me when I walk into the room. He's right here at my computer, and I do believe he knows the sound of my voice as when I speak he does rapid laps around his bowl. And that's not my imagination!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Amanda

I had the most wonderful surprise a couple of weeks ago! I received an email from my niece, Amanda, that she was in the area (all the way from New Mexico) with her husband and four kids to visit the husband's family here in Georgia, and wondered if I was anywhere near to where they were in Lafayette, Georgia. Well, uh, yeah...I was about fifteen minutes away from there! We made a plan for me to drive there to visit with her, and then possibly make plans for her to come to my home before they left on that Friday. I hadn't seen her since 2003 when Melody, Garrett and I drove to Panama City, Florida for a very brief visit with her and Kathy, so I was full of anticipation. But first, a little history...

This is my sister, Kathy, pregnant with Amanda. As most of you know, back in 1978, I found my birth family, which included an aunt and five half-siblings. A few months later, in May 1979, one of those siblings, Kathy, came to live with us in Colorado. She was a single mother of a small boy (Jacen) and was pregnant again...and needed a place to live for awhile. Being a new big sister, I was quick to say "sure, come on down!". They moved in, and in the beginning all was well as we got to know each other. Then we began to get on each other's nerves. She eventually found a little trailer to move into, and in Sept. 1979 gave birth to her little girl, Amanda, and I was in the delivery room to welcome her into the world.

Kathy moved into a little apartment, and we co-signed for her to get a phone. All was not well with us for one reason or another, and she got into a church situation that bordered on being a cult, which I disapproved of. We rarely saw each other, and for some reason there are no photos of Kathy and I together during that entire year even though we were new family, and there aren't even any photos of me and Amanda, which I find so strange! Anyway, almost a year after she came to Colorado, Kathy and the two kids vanished. Literally. She moved to Las Vegas and didn't even tell me she was leaving. And left us with a huge phone bill.

Flash forward to 1989, ten years later. Kathy, who I was still in touch with occasionally, called to say that she needed a big favor. She was now the single mother of three kids - Jacen, Amanda, and Brandon - and had been having a very difficult time. She had been in an abusive relationship with a guy named Jim, and he had molested Amanda. She was trying to get out of the situation, and wondered if she could send Brandon and Amanda to stay with me for the summer. I said yes.
Their faces show that they were happy to be with us, and I know I was delighted to have a chance to get to know the little girl I had welcomed into the world! We lived in the country, and had four dogs, three cats, a new litter of kittens and three horses (actually, they were more like big dogs, but that's a whole other story). It was a dramatic change from the life they were used to! Amanda especially loved the horses.

Look at the joy and excitement on her face! I think this must have been the very first time she had ever been on a horse.



As happy as they look in these photos, all was not well. Amanda was, not surprisingly, acting out in so many ways. We started butting heads big time. I remember one time her stomping out of the house and across the pasture, with me in hot pursuit, screaming at her that she damn well would listen to me and to come back to the house! Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse, and my hopes of being the favorite aunt who showed them the good life turned sour for all of us. After four weeks, I had to call Kathy and tell her that the kids needed to go home. I am not proud of that. And for years afterwards, to this very day, anytime I thought of Amanda, I remembered those four weeks and felt that I had let her down in so.many.ways.

As the years went by, Amanda's life did not get any better. She lived thru several of Kathy's dysfunctional boyfriends and religions, as well as a life at poverty level in the home of a single mother with three kids, and eventually got into drugs and went to rehab. She herself became the single mother of three children beginning at age 18. Other than that oh so brief visit with her in Florida in 2003 (literally maybe 30 minutes), we had not been in touch all those years.
So, here we were in June 2010, seven years since I had last seen her, and only the third time in her life that I'd spent time with her. As we sat next to each other on the couch in her in-laws home, everyone excused themselves so she and I could visit. After we exchanged details about each other's lives, I expressed to her, with a shakey voice and near tears, that I had never forgotten that summer that she and Brandon had visited us in Colorado, and how I had always felt that I had let her down and was so sorry. To my surprise, she said she had always remembered that period of time, even my chasing her across the pasture, and that it had a great deal to do with where she was today.

She said that the visit had shown her what a 'normal' and stable life could be like, and that that was something she wanted for herself someday, though it took her a while to get there. It also fueled her love of horses. For the last three years, she has been married to a real cowboy, and they live on a 'ranch' and home that was built by his grandfather, some 300+ acreas...with horses. She's a stay-at-home mom with three kids and a step-son, and credits her memories of those four weeks with us as an example that she lives by. I was astonished to hear this...and relieved.

On their way out of town to head back to New Mexico, the whole family stopped by our house for a few hours. And this time we took every combination of photo possible! (Don't worry, I won't show all of them!)

Here we are, thirty-one years after we first met!

I kept saying that I thought that Amanda and my daughter Melody look so much alike, but I may have been the only one to see it. I think they have the same cheekbones and smile.

This is her cowboy, Scott. Just the nicest guy! And they seem to be very happy.

I'm so glad to have a photo of my daughter and grandsons with my niece and her children, and hope that someday they will be digging out the photos and remembering back to when they all met on that incredibly hot and humid day in Georgia.

Thirty-one years ago I saw a little girl take her first breath, and was one of the first ones to hold her. I was so pleased to be able to tell that girl now a woman how proud I am of her, and how proud she should be of herself, to have gone thru so much in her early life and to come out the other end with this lovely family and life that she has made for herself.
New Mexico is a long way from Ringgold, Georgia! We've promised to keep in touch when we can and if we want, but no pressure or expectations. Even if I never see her again, I will always remember this visit...and this time have the photos to mark the occasion!

Monday, June 28, 2010

oops!

If you started reading the post about my niece, Amanda, you'll have to wait to see the rest of it! I left a draft here on the computer while I went to work in the yard, and one of the boys must have clicked publish when they were sitting here! So, I need to take back the other one and finish it!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Riverbend 2010: Darius Rucker and Charlie Daniels Band

This last week I went to two of the concerts at The Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga - Darius Rucker and Charlie Daniels Band. I don't do musical reviews, but will just say if you ever get a chance to see Darius, do it! I really enjoyed his voice and his choice of music, and it made for a very enjoyable family evening. On the last night, Friday, we went to see the Charlie Daniels Band, and it was just the nicest evening! He's not bad for a 70+year old man - especially because he didn't take some of his better known music and destroy it so that it was unrecognizable (ala Willie Nelson). 'Devil Went Down to Georgia' was a big hit that had the HUGE audience singing along, and smoke was coming off of that fiddle. Immediately after Charlie Daniels was the fireworks display, and it took place on the absolutely most beautiful evening where the horrendous heat of the day (90+) had been replaced by a cool and welcomed breeze.

Whether sitting in your chair and talking or watching people walk by, or walking around listening to other musical groups along the way and eating, or playing at the Children's Village, Riverbend is just fun. Rubbing shoulders with humanity of all sorts. Groups of giggling teenagers meeting up. Teenage girls showing off their boyfriends or their clothes (short shorts or skirts with cowboy boots was very popular this year), teenage guys on the prowl (thank goodness, no 'pants on the ground' like last year). Lots of tatoos! Oldsters sitting in their lawn chairs watching them all walk by or enjoying the antics of their kids or grandkids. Different ages, socio-econmic groups, religions, professions, rockers, country folks, jazzers(don't suppose that's a word), all there to just have a good time. And it appeared that they did.

Here are a few (ok, a lot) of photos from the two nights. I had my camera on the wrong setting, so a lot didn't turn out at all, which is always disappointing on a personal level. However, there were certainly enough to remember the week, and I'm sure Garrett and Conner will be having me pull them up many times over the next year.

Leave it to a four year old to want to put his fingers in the dog's nostrils.


I didn't take note of whether this was a wildlife display or taxidermy exhibit.
Notice Conner didn't get as close to the critter as Garrett did.

This is a view of the stage before the concert. I don't have details, but apparently it's a floating stage.

This area is called Ross's Landing; hence, the plaque.

This is one of my favorite parts of coming here...the river and the boats.

Garrett was actually grounded for the day in that he couldn't ride any of the carnival rides, and no kettle corn or ice cream, which were three things that he had waited for all week. And believe me, he deserved to be grounded! But all was not lost as the playground was cool, plus we did take pity on him and gave him a few bites of our ice cream (though not enough to null and void the punishment!).



No, this isn't the same photo as last week, just the same boy doing the same horns!

The evening wouldn't be complete without a nose bleed, and all we had on hand was a napkin left over from my waffle cone and a fem-wipe. They did the job and all was well.

Boys being boys, these boys found some long weed stems to have a sword fight with when we were out walking.

Conner had a fever all day that ibuprofen was keeping under control. However, toward the end of the evening, the fever was back and he had earned the right to be carried again.

The End.