Teddy and I went out to lunch in our township’s downtown. This is the view from the bridge above the canal. Fall comes gently in the south, if we are lucky. When there is a hurricane, all the leaves are blown away.
Yesterday I visited our pond across the road and it was bitterly cold. This beautiful heron was hunting in the marsh.
Every so often there is an odd tree or bush that is vividly colored and gives a real autumnal pop!
The sun was shining on the water but they avoided the cold water. They always wag their tails like dogs when they see me. I am just as happy to see them. If only I had a tail…
As Thanksgiving approaches, there doesn’t seem like much to be thankful for this year with ‘Winter is Coming’ fuel shortages, war, pestilence, inflation, climate change and all the other stuff we are worried about. Take self-centered me, for example – my newish bikini razor broke and I couldn’t find the receipt. I took out all my receipts and had a mini meltdown. All the numbers on the receipts blurred and I became panicked – about something that cost less than $20. I really struggled to find my sensible head but wonky head was in control. As always, I calmed down eventually, but I was shaken. The unimportant broken razor was just the catalyst for how I am feeling.
I am not alone but my worries are ridiculous and magnified by my mental illness. The city of Kherson in Ukraine has just been liberated from the Russians who destroyed all their infrastructure as they left. Yet, the residents were smiling and thankful. Perspective always helps to settle my mind so I make sure I read the world news every day. My aunt in Ireland told me that the government has asked local authorities, businesses and households to ration energy use and Christmas lighting displays.
Inflation makes us anxious in the US but it is running at around 85% in Turkey. It’s a post pandemic global issue and the US is about average compared to other first world countries. I just received a check from the UK for £1000 – once converted, it was only $1000. That’s never happened! The fact that I was fortunate enough to receive a check for $1000 should have made me thankful… As a child I was so happy to receive a $20 note in a birthday card from aunts in the USA. The concept of money was beyond me but I remember the excitement of going to the Rutherglen Post Office to change it into UK pounds.
Last week I wrote a draft post about having chronic fatigue but then the clocks changed back and I am not tired all the time. Two weeks ago, I could not walk around our circular street without being exhausted. We had Covid in the summer so perhaps that’s part of it. The ugly truth is that it is nearly always my aggravating mental ill health that causes or exacerbates my other physical complaints. It has been a stressful health year for us but nothing out of the ordinary for older people. Maybe ageing is stressful?
Twitter might be bankrupt soon and Meta, aka Facebook, is failing. Have we finally realized that social media is a potentially toxic entity, especially when managed by ethically dubious people? I have usually lived in small communities and when I heard a tantalizing piece of gossip, there was that initial thrill. Then I assessed it and hopefully made a sensible decision about repeating it. In a perfect world, I would not have repeated it but I am human! Is there anything more fun than sharing a juicy titbit with a friend over coffee? These days, there is less ‘wife swapping’, and more ‘he is in a wheelchair now’ tales. There is a difference between salacious gossip and keeping a community connected.
Most of us are now personally affected by climate change. This summer was just too hot and I struggled. It affected my mood being unable to go out for a walk because of the heat or dangerous UV radiation. Some of my neighbors got up at 7 am to take their dogs out but I just couldn’t manage that. Last week winter arrived and it was 40 F today but it was 82 F yesterday. That’s a huge change for big critters and little ones. Teddy and I talk aimlessly about living somewhere more temperate but remember how much we disliked the cold in northern Europe. Nowhere is perfect.
I remember bitterly cold nights in Scotland, as a child. Window panes frozen with delicate patterns. On the worst nights every blanket or eiderdown was used on the beds – with winter coats atop. Back then, I didn’t have such an aversion to cold. We had very old flannel sheets that we used in the winter. They were darned, as mine are now. Electric blankets weren’t commonplace so we put rubber hot water bottles in the beds, moving them from the middle to the bottom before slipping into bed. Heaven! My flannel sheets are so old that they feel a bit rough on your skin – maybe I could sell them as a body exfoliation product? This summer, I bought expensive new flannel sheets on sale. Once you go ‘Lands End’ you can’t go back…
Last week, I told the pharmacist that I was going to kill my husband and I think she believed me. We finally switched to Affordable Health Care aka Obama Care from our work sponsored medical insurance. Teddy spent months planning it so the transition would be smooth. My bill for cheap, generic medication was $92. What the heck? The insurance wasn’t working because I had the wrong birthdate on the policy. We assume that it was a Scottish accent problem… The worried pharmacist did a magic trick with coupons and reduced the bill to $13. Teddy was working at the wolf sanctuary so I didn’t want to call him in case he had another cardiac event.
Then I called healthcare.gov (pause for a joint sigh of despair) but it was okay. I had to swear on my first-born cat’s life that I was not committing a felony and sold my soul to somebody. It will take a few weeks for it to be sorted and it was not the end of the world. So, with that in mind, this is what am I thankful for –
I have healthcare of any type
There is enough money for food
We can heat or cool the house
My illness is manageable
I live in a democracy
Thrift shops are my happy place
Loving friends and family
There is a roof over my head
Let’s keep our wishes simple, our gratitude real and be generous with time or money for those who have less than us. That can be rescued wolves or homeless people. If you don’t feel good or need help, share it with someone you trust. It’s not necessary or normal to be happy all the time. Keep some perspective about real world problems. Be kind to as many species as possible. Mother Earth will thank you!
… and all the lady train geeks like me! The bright red engine looks so festive. We often put my husband’s childhood train set around the bottom of the Christmas tree. Below is the historic sign for the beautiful art deco but defunct train station in Galveston, Texas. Much like parts of Britain, many train lines were discontinued when cars where in common use. Our township is surrounded by train lines but they only carry freight these days. It’s quite normal to wait for 20 minutes for a train to pass with endless freight carriages. I still love the sound of a train whistle on a quiet night.
As you can see, it was part of the Santa Fe railroad network. As a child, I watched so many American movies with trains, especially Westerns. Just the name Santa Fe Railroad gives me goosebumps, imagining the vistas as you crossed prairie and mountains. We live between Houston and Dallas, and Amtrak still runs passenger trains between the cities. The nearest working station is 40 miles away from us so I doubt we will ever use the current train system.
The museum had ‘populated’ the station with plaster model passengers and it helped to show how glamorous the train station was back in it’s hey day. There are some beautiful art deco buildings and hotels in Galveston – it’s amazing that they have survived so many hurricanes.
The mail sorting rail car was the most exciting part of the museum. It was so perfectly restored after Hurricane Ike damaged it. I loved the idea that the train didn’t have to stop while picking up the mail – and wondered if this technique ever failed!
The Route of the Zephyrs sounds like a dream. I have flown over all of these places and visited some of them. It’s certainly a fascinating view of the vast differences in American landscapes. From steamy, subtropical Houston to pretty Denver surrounded by snow-tipped mountains. Amarillo is my favorite place on the list with the best canyon in Texas.
As we approach Remembrance Day or Veteran’s Day as it is known in the US, on Friday 11th November, may we remember all the servicemen and women who perished in war.
Life has been busier than normal recently. My husband was scheduled for a cardiac procedure but after much thought he decided to cancel and/or delay it. At the same time, a family member from Scotland was coming to visit us in Texas. I haven’t seen my family in over 3 years and was so excited about his visit. Every part of the house was cleaned, over and over again. Anticipation, stress and then fatigue… In a brief Zen moment, I lingered in the discount corner of our local supermarket. It had been stocked with wonderful organic potions that caught my interest. Then, I was aware that another shopper was hovering nearby.
“Gosh, I am so sorry!”, I said. “Please come in and have a browse – I can’t make up my mind which wrinkle cream to choose.” She was a pretty younger woman in her 40’s, perhaps? I noticed she was very slim and looked a bit harassed, although smiling. Inevitably, we started chatting about various bargains we had gotten at our two supermarkets’ discount corners. We both had found fabulous discontinued products that we later had to hunt for on Amazon and pay full price for the second purchase. Then she asked me if any wrinkle creams work. I started laughing, pointing at my face and saying, “Of course they don’t!”
Suddenly, the conversation took a turn. The lady said, “I have aged so much over the last 2 years since my husband left me.” My counselling skills automatically clicked on so I just adjusted my gaze and fully focused on her. “He won’t leave me alone but it was his choice to leave. I guess he has to see the children.” I hope I chose the right words and soothed her somewhat but she saddened me. The Pandemic has been bad enough without a separation or divorce. It is often easier to talk to an anonymous lady about deeply personal problems. While I am honored that she picked me but I hope she has someone else to talk to. Or perhaps a blog?
Our family visitor came for a lovely but brief visit. We went out to dinner at a local restaurant and I ate gluten, wheat and walnuts. That gave me gas that was incredibly painful, if laughable. Note to self; keep to your sensible diet or suffer the consequences. My cousin is our genealogist and we had great fun looking at old photographs. We currently have a mystery about our great grand-parents. We both thought they had lived their whole lives in Ireland at the farm but an Ancestry DNA link is intimating that they moved to Maine (I have a photo of great grandma taken in Rhode Island) and then went back to Ireland.
My cousin had jet lag, woke up at 5 am and I found him reading out on our deck when I got up. He said there was an odd smell wafting from the deck. Aghast, I looked beside him and there were glittery decomposition flies – gah! All that cleaning and my guest is sitting next to a (very small) dead body on our equivalent of a Body Farm. I blame Baby Cooper Hawk. Did he drop injured prey on our deck that fled under the deck? So…I have asked our handyman to come and dismantle the deck. We are getting too old to deal with our Body Farm so we will have it dry landscaped.
After Cousin left, I lazed around for a couple of days before going to early voting at the library. When I arrived, there was a small queue outside but the weather was glorious – not humid or warm. Two very elderly people with sticks were asked if they would like to jump the line but the old man said he had nothing else to do anyway. Then he told all of us (about a dozen) that his wife had died recently and life was difficult. We all made reassuring noises (and I felt sad again…) Another lady about the same age told us she was glad that her husband died before her and her eyes welled up with tears!
So many people need some talk therapy these days or just a cozy chat. The lady right in front of me then turned around to chat to me about the electoral process. Did I look knowledgeable? She asked me how mail-in voting works and is it secure? I said I had no idea and hoped she didn’t hear my accent behind my mask. I was the only person wearing a mask. This brings me to my favorite funny story about voting in the States.
Some years ago, British friend of mine, in Texas, went to vote in our township. The election worker noted her English accent and asked to see her ‘papers’, despite her voting card and driving license. This provoked my friend to say, rather sharply, “I have been an American citizen for 30 years and this is the first time anyone has asked to see my papers”. Quite rightly, she was outraged at the query, especially since the greater Houston area has a wide array of legal immigrants – many first generation with accents. Unfortunately, for the election worker, there was a lady with a strong Russian accent behind my friend. Her comment was, “This place like Stalingrad!” (You have to read it with the accent.) My friend and the Russian/American lady bonded, they voted and we all lived happily ever after in our suburban bubble.
Keeping smiling at people and chatting. You never know who might need a shoulder right now.
Update – Manuel deconstructed the deck. It was a decomposing raccoon leg – a perfect Halloween scene and mystery. Who ate the rest?? Not Baby Cooper but perhaps a hungry possum.The circle of life…🦝
Do you see the name of the boat? It is named after our current Roman Catholic Pope, Francis II – the first Pope to hail from the Americas. Argentina, to be precise. This is the harbor at a magical little fishing port, Palacios about halfway between Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas. The majority of the population is Hispanic, some white and minority of Vietnamese who migrated to Palacios for the shrimping. The names of the boats reflected their heritage.
If you zoom in on this boat coming into harbor, you will see that the owner is Vietnamese. He was waving at us very enthusiastically as we snapped images of him. It was the end of a very long shift for him and hopefully a good catch. Palacios is not a tourist trap so perhaps he was intrigued by the Paparazzi. Our respective grandparents were farmers and fishermen, so we are drawn to working harbors and the countryside.
We stopped at the pretty main drag to get a lovely cup of coffee. I have a theory about why coffee tastes so much better in remote places. The water is better and the milk fresher, perhaps? Some of the cafes we stopped at have a Mission connection to a small coffee farm in Latin America. Coffee that’s good for your soul. In the school vacations I used to see groups of Texan youth going to Missions in remote places of central America – better than playing video games all summer.
The boat’s names were an intriguing mix of Texican, Spanish and Vietnamese. Palacios has been home to the indigenous Karanwaka natives, then the Spanish conquistadors, French and finally the other Europeans. It is satisfying to see that Vietnamese refugees found a new community in the most unlikely of places.
Then I spotted this random dude that I fancied… I am so proud of my Teddy for losing all his excess weight and getting healthy. He is easy on the eyes too. 💗
I was all set, getting ready to leave the house to go to the Dentist. Then I saw a flicker of gray in the garden and crept to the window. It was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, resplendent in knitted pantaloons. If I was little, I would ask my Nana to knit me a stuffed Hawk just like this one.
The Juvenile was very skittish and as I went to get my camera out of the drawer, I noticed a squirrel staring intently at the hawk from the fence. Part of me wanted to warn the squirrel but I really wanted a photograph… We have plenty of squirrels and this one was curious, not scared! Baby Cooper posed so nicely for me, showing off her fabulous plumage. I need to get an outfit of taupe and steel gray now.
Eventually, I made a noise as I was trying to poke the camera through the Venetian blinds and the hawk flew off straight into the squirrel. My heart was in my mouth wondering what would happen next but the feisty squirrel fluffed up her fur like a cat and terrified Baby Cooper. They eat much smaller prey than squirrels. Our squirrel stood her ground, saying, “That is MY Nut Mom and MY garden.”
Please come visit us again, little hawk! I want to see those yellow feet…and those fluffy pantaloons.
When I went out on the walking path yesterday, I met Baby Cooper! She sat in her tree while I have a one side conversation with her. There is an open invitation for her to visit my yard.
I love the not very scarecrow and the upside down witches legs at the next store
I am in a strange mood for the start of my favorite season. Fall has taken some of the heat out of the air and I woke up cold today. Can you believe it was 73 F (23 C) in the house?? Every so often, I have notions about moving to somewhere quieter with better air quality but those places are always cold in the winter so, ‘No Bueno’.
Before the pandemic, I was delighted at myself for fixing the leaking U-Bend pipe under the sink, with step-by-step instructions from the local hardware store. Then it leaked again, mid pandemic, and my husband fixed it. This week it flooded again and the plumber had to be called. Over the last two decades I have cultivated a cache of trusted contractors in Texas. We came from a small village in Scotland where you could rely on word of mouth for good service.
I know the plumber’s wife very well and we chat away like old friends, both trapped in the house by work or anxiety. “Hello, Mary”, said I, “Could you send that nice young man that came before?” As soon as the phrase was uttered, I burst out laughing, as did Mary, at how horribly ancient I sounded. We shared memories about how embarrassing it was when our respective mothers talked to complete strangers. You never think your mother’s words and accent are going to fly out of your mouth like Parseltongue. Then you look in the bathroom mirror and she is staring at you…like Moaning Myrtle.
Mary told me that James would be delighted to be requested, especially from a VIP customer, such as myself. James came early but phoned to see if that was okay (isn’t that perfect?) and arrived with his wee pal, Carlos. Both were married and about 30 years old but seemed so young to me. About a decade ago, I might have tried to emulate Mrs. Robinson for a good price (for the plumbing) but can only pull that off with old codgers now (the electrician, for example).
They went straight to the sink and James said, “This is my last day.” NO!!! Then I turned into Auntie Kerry as he told me that he had to take 2 months off work because his mother, in Washington State, just had a serious stroke and was awaiting a brain operation. He was really agitated about it, understandably, but particularly because he might lose the best job he had ever had. We chatted some more about making difficult decisions but I assured him that he was making a good decision. Life is so short; he would probably regret not going and the plumbing company would keep the job open as long as they could. If not, there is always a need for contractors.
As they were fixing the sink and then the cistern, I whispered to Teddy about the situation and asked him to find a nice geological rock for James as he collects them. As they were leaving, and undercharging us, Teddy presented James with an ancient rock from Ireland and one from Scotland. Carlos was just standing, being supportive to his colleague and I felt sorry for him. So…I asked him if he would like a Popsicle? Now I had gone from Auntie to Granny Kerry. They both left, looking happier with popsicles and rocks. How does this happen and when did I turn from sexy cougar to nice Nana? Thank goodness I still have my gardener who calls me Babe! Even Martha Stewart does thirst trap Instagrams.
On the squirrel front, ‘Half’ has been behaving badly. He was chasing everyone off the deck so he could eat all the peanuts. I opened the back door and shouted, “Half! I am going to smack your bottom, if you don’t stop that.” Distant neighbors will be calling social services about the Scandinavian neighbor who assaults her children The drought has returned and I am watering the garden again. Yesterday I went into the back yard in my disgusting nightie (stains, no shape). As I was hosing, a GIANT grasshopper landed on my head. I had a tiny mental break, lost control of the hose which soaked me and my newly cleaned windows. The grasshopper was terrified too.
I got washed and went to Trader Joe for groceries. It’s a hip and groovy store and all the checkout staff are interesting… My Dude was about 45 years old and looked like he had started a degree at a liberal arts college in California. In my imagination, weed and surfing took over his life and now he works at a store. He was so friendly, Bro, and we started talking. I had bought some cans of wine (it’s a trailer home next) that were pre-mixed with sparkling water for Teddy’s restrictive diet. The label said that the beverage was for those with an active lifestyle? I started laughing and told him that I fully intended to sit motionless on my sofa and watch Netflix with said cans of wine. He laughed and suggested I drink the harder stuff at the weekend. In response, I told him that I only drink Jagermeister at the weekend (I was joking) but he looked at the old lady with new respect. For the Brits, Jagermeister is the equivalent of Buckfast. Gives you a hell of a hangover.
There was a big social event in the street – the second I have attended in a month! I was so pleased with myself for going to both, behaving like a normal person and not drinking much. But a toll has been taken – my mental health took a dip from all the social anxiety. They were all people that I know and like but these last two years of introspection have made it difficult fight against my overwhelming desire to stay at home all the time. I know it is important to keep challenging myself so although I didn’t feel like it, I kept a promise to visit one of our local antique towns today, with Teddy, and regretted it almost immediately. Still, I followed through, and that’s important to improve my health. Now we are meeting friends for lunch on Thursday. Go, Kerry, Go!
Who doesn’t love a Corpse Bride at the Wedding Store?
I thought it was snowing on the way to Rockport, Texas. That was very unlikely given the 100 F temperature. To my intense excitement, it was little bits of cotton in the air. The fields were full of cotton crop or wrapped bales. The pink wrapper is in honor of a cotton farmer’s wife who died of breast cancer.
This is the sky at sunrise over the bay. The dark clouds just disappeared even though they briefly promised water in a drought…
An almost empty beach at Mustang Island State Park. Even though it was early in the morning, it was too hot, with warnings to stay inside because of the high UV.
Sunrise sparkling on the dock in Fulton. The sentinels are brown pelicans, getting in some early fishing before the dolphins arrived.
A fishing chair outside our hotel at Port Lavaca, looking onto Matagorda Bay. I lived dangerously and went beyond the sign – nothing happened. When I looked at the sign later, I noted the last sentence. Alligators, methinks! There was also an oyster bed to the left of the chair.
Happy memories of summer although it is still 98 F here – longing for a real Fall.
One of my favorite treats is eating some delicious banana bread at a country café. My favorite type is oozing with ripe bananas, some walnuts and cinnamon. This is now a beloved memory after I finally went for allergy testing. I thought, like my mum, I might have a protein allergy. Chocolate, eggs and cream gave her fantastic welts on her forehead – often spelling Mars Bar. She would swear blind that she hadn’t had chocolate but I always knew. Finally, she would break down after my interrogation, laughing hysterically. One little cousin had allergies to almost everything but has grown out of some of them. Over two years ago, on the advice of a good medical friend, I stopped eating gluten. It was difficult but I now have a very healthy diet full of walnuts (allergic), bananas (allergic), cinnamon (allergic). My friend was correct and I am also allergic to wheat, yeast, peaches, cashews, almond and mustard. Who the heck is allergic to bananas?? I can’t bear the smell or texture of seafood but am allergic to nothing (unless it has a mustard sauce…)
My diet is mostly vegetarian but I have no allergy to milk or meats. On a side note, I received a note from Ancestry DNA to say my profile had changed again. To my surprise, I am 3% Basque, which might explain my lack of Spanish DNA. The Basque people are ethnically unique from their neighbors, France and Spain. They come from a very ancient group of Europeans and have more Neanderthal DNA than most (as do I). Many years ago, on a trip to Madrid, I looked with trepidation at all the Basque terrorists on the “Most Wanted” posters, hoping that the customs officer wouldn’t notice they looked like my siblings. Perhaps I should embrace my hunter/gatherer origins and just eat the squirrels in the garden? Luckily, I am not Epi-pen allergic but should avoid certain foods or start the allergy shots.
I was quite overwhelmed by the lovely comments on my post The Biopsy, and I am happy to say that my tardy results finally came through. Nora, the thyroid nodule, is not malignant. Dear reader, you may wonder why I am having so many health issues right now. My recent Covid infection provoked some of the doctor visits but I am also trying to catch up on yearly tests that I avoided during the pandemic and before our ‘good’ insurance stops soon. My husband retired two years before he could claim Medicare (next May) so we have taken advantage of his last work insurance. COBRA is a US scheme that allows you to continue your last work insurance for 18 months, at your own cost.
Recently, I saw a new doctor at our practice, and it was just to ask for a referral to physiotherapy. She thought that perhaps my incessant coughing during Covid triggered my cervical pain and numbness again. She said, “I see you have spinal stenosis”. “I do?” responded Kerry, having completely forgotten about that diagnosis. When we lived in Scotland, I became a minor celebrity at our local orthopedic hospital because of my strange spinal problems. It’s likely congenital and what a gift my relatives have given me! Mental illness, high cholesterol, dodgy spine, allergies and Lord knows what else. They also gifted me great skin, good legs and an amazing sense of humor. You take the good with the bad… That doctor suggested allergy testing after I expressed some frustration that I ate more fiber than a heifer but still have digestive issues.
When I was being poked by the allergy nurse, she asked if I would like environmental testing also. “Why not?” said I. This one was less fun – I could feel one prick throbbing almost immediately. Bottom line; I should not live in a humid forest. I am most allergic to OAK – you can see the beautiful live oak outside our house, above. Then there are three water oaks behind my house. Few of our neighbors have oaks. When I came home, I pointed at Miss Live Oak and whispered, “YOU!!!” Don’t worry I will cuddle her next week, perhaps with a mask on. Almost all the molds were ticked – who knew there were that many??
Teddy and I were talking about getting a horse and wagon, given the gas prices, but we will have to switch to an Ox. I am allergic to horses but not cattle. I don’t think the neighbors would mind a lovely Ox on our shared pasture… On a creepy note, I am allergic to COCKROACHES (and dust mites)!! Our trusty bug guy came out last week because the cockroaches were getting out of control. As soon as he left, dying cockroaches were crawling up walls and making me ALLERGIC!!! There is very little dust in my house because I have OCD – et Voila, another silver lining. I will now take bareback horse riding off my bucket list.
Walnut, Sycamore, Sweet Gum, Cottonwood and Cedar trees are on the list. Ragweed, Russian Thistle (Que?), Sagebrush and Marsh Elder also make me itch. Maybe Greenland might be a good place for me to live or just stay in the house as I currently do. I am seriously considering the allergy shots because I would like to enjoy my beautiful environment more. On a funny final note, Teddy and I were herding ducks across the four-lane road at the end of our cul-de-sac. Our beloved Muscovy ducks at the pond have decided to visit all their friends in our street. I stood in the middle stopping the traffic and Teddy hopelessly tried to herd them across to the pond. At a street birthday party this week, I discovered that other neighbors have also been herding ducks/halting traffic. So far, there are no dead bodies (human or duck) on the road and I am not allergic to either!
After our anniversary trip was Covid Cancelled, we decided to take a road trip to our favorite part of the Gulf Coast in Texas. Our final destination was Rockport/Fulton, an idyllic fishing, wildlife and artist colony. This is a silhouette of Teddy looking for dolphins at our hotel. We saw them all day, every day. A Mom, Dad and baby dolphin who delighted in taking the catch of the leisure fisherman’s lines.
The sand at Mustang Island is perfectly soft and white. I love getting my toes in the beach but then hate having sandy sandals all day…
We ate at our favorite fish restaurant in Rockport, Latitude 28.02. I dressed to match the shrimp sculpture outside the front door. Drum and Triple Tail were on the menu – local fish and freshly caught. It was so good we went again the next night.
Eagerly awaiting our fish dinner as was the Great White Egret below
We bought each other the same anniversary card although you can see that one of us is more romantic than the other from the inside notation below. Love my Teddy (Oso in Spanish)!!!
It was a perfect vacation, especially since we saw those crafty cetaceans aka sea kittens.