WTH is on the chimney?

There was a huge clatter on the chimney after a thunderstorm. Teddy and I looked at each other – WTH is that? Sometimes a mockingbird sings noisily sweetly or a mourning dove coos down the chimney but there was silence…apart from the clatter.

Black vultures have no voice and make a strange grunting noise. This pair were just enjoying their lookout.

A lovely spooky moment as we approach Halloween!

Fat Bear

Courtesy of the Katmai Conservancy

Have any of you been watching the Fat Bear competition in Alaska?  If you were worried about post Covid weight gain, look at 747.  That really is a wide body…  The bears at the Katmai Conservancy are feasting on fish, salmon in particular, to bulk up for their winter hibernation.  I bet 747 is saying, “I can’t face another salmon…maybe a sausage?”  If you look at the website you can see the before and after photos – the opposite of the human ideal.  I would like to snuggle up with him in his cave until spring.

Back in Texas we have had a scary infestation of wee white moths that jump out of the bushes and scare the living daylights out of me.  I panicked because we had a termite infestation in our house some years ago.  Were they termites?  They were really sod web worms which create dead brown patches on the lawns.  Before I knew that, I called our regular bug/termite guy for a treatment inside and out.  There was just one giant cockroach too many – even our lizard colony couldn’t keep them under control.

When he arrived at the door, my first thought was “Are you preparing for hibernation?”  He has always been a tad husky but now he looks like a bear.  There is no judgment from me who used to weigh 200 lbs. It is strange how this pandemic has affected humans differently.  Some people are scary skinny, exercising themselves to death and others have succumbed to the delight of carbs/booze.  I had to go to the eye doctor this week and I was worried because I couldn’t see the computer.  Turns out that my right eye has got better which is weird because it has been Lasiked.  Then my hairdresser noted that my gray hair is darker than usual.  Is it my gluten free diet?

When I wrote this we were having the first bands of Hurricane Delta – I can’t believe we had to move onto the Greek alphabet because we have had so many storms.  The one thing that I miss from Scotland is the wind.  I love a fresh breeze, especially near the ocean.  Here in Texas, wind always means something sinister.  Nonetheless, I went to the pond, lay down on the grass and imagined I was at an ocean.  All 11 ducks/ducklings are accounted for so all is well.  Have a happy Weekend!

Yee Haw!

There was a tangible sense of excitement as the lead horse approached, dancing his way across the main street in Tomball that was closed for this yearly pilgrimage of trail riders to the Houston Rodeo, the biggest in the USA.  Then the crowd started cheering as they welcomed the wagons with mules and horse riders.

Sam Houston Trail Ride

There are 12 trail rides that come from all over the south Texas area to converge in Memorial Park in central Houston.  The Sam Houston Trail arrives in Tomball on their third day.  They are on route to Houston and the trail originates from Pinehurst, Montgomery County.  All the trails are astonishing when you think that they have to traverse a vast city full of interstates but it reflects the original settler’s routes which eventually turned into proper roads.

It tugs on my heart strings because I can envision how life was like for my early pioneer ancestors, especially my great grandparents, Sam Houston and Lillie Dellinger who settled in Oklahoma and north Texas.  He was named after the original Sam Houston, one of the original leaders of the Texas Revolution.  My great grandfather was an intriguing man, well named, some might say.  Even my father’s middle name was Houston.  All the signs were pointing to us ending up as Texan folks even though I was born in California.

I love all animals but I am particularly fond of donkeys and mules – an elderly donkey was one of my first sponsored animals as a child.  The wagons were just amazingly well restored.

One of the groups comprised of two charming brothers from Cajun Country in Louisiana.  They had taken the animals on trucks over to Pinehurst to join the trail.  One of them asked me if I would like to get on his horse!  He was so handsome that I would have been delighted if it was a euphemism… 😉 Teddy was there, however, and I stupidly wore a short skirt so couldn’t attempt getting on his horse without taking my skirt off first.  Maybe in 2022 we will have conquered Covid-19, the trail riders will visit again and I could try to get on my first horse!

This softly spoken cowboy was whispering sweet nothings to his adorable mare in case she was frightened by the crowd.  Everyone was so well behaved especially the little children.

 

Some good stuff

It is hard to ignore all our global crises, from the pandemic to catastrophic weather, but laughter truly is a medicine.  My psychiatrist Zoomed me last week and I made him laugh out loud.  He suggested I try a stand-up comedy evening and generally gave me a gold star for trying hard to keep the blues away.  The next day, I felt low and overwhelmed but just watched one of my favorite Youtube comics.  The First Minister in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, has been giving daily briefings to Scotland on Covid-19.  Unlike ours in the US, her briefings are succinct, sensible and more importantly CORRECT!!  A Scottish comedian, Janey Godley, does a voiceover of the briefings in a strong Glaswegian dialect.  They make me howl with laughter because they are so familiar.  I doubt that many of my readers could understand her so I have put a translation underneath.  The First Minister approves of the voiceovers because Janey Godley keeps the real message intact within the comedy.  WARNING!! There are a couple of F bombs in it (common parlance in Glasgow) but the other video below is more gentle and doesn’t need translation.  Just one wee eff at the end…

Right here’s the official word and I will tell you (for) why.  All the Sandras, big Jeanette, all the Pippa Dees (Tupperware like parties?) have all been cancelled.  Nobody is going to Torremolinos (Jersey Shore style Spanish resort).  We are all just chatting on the Snapchat Group.  Stop going out.  Stop meeting your friends.  Stop going to the park and gathering together.

A Bunch of effing Idiots.

You have all been told.

Everybody is going to die if you keeping going about and going home with a virus on you.  So, I’ve told you once and I’m not going to tell you again.

This the Official Line –

If I see any of you out there, I am going to take a run and put my toe up the crack of your bottom.  So stop it.  Stay in the house, wash your hands and keep your families safe.  Effing snapchat your friends.  I will be speaking to Big Teresa later.  All of you; use your phone and STOP IT!

If you browse Youtube you can see the real briefings – that have no F bombs and are less fun!  I know that we all need a wee massage at the moment so I hope you enjoy the virtual cat one below.  I think you will understand this but let me know if you need a translation.  Happy Weekend, Wash your Hands, Keep your Distance, Wear your Bloody Mask and Keep Safe.  Most of all, keep laughing.

A threesome of tunics

Since Covid-19 started, I have been wearing the same as everyone else – leggings and a t-shirt.  Actually, that is not entirely true.  Most of the time I have been wearing a nightdress…  I am a thrifty shopper and love a root around at Goodwill or charity shops but they are not suited for social distancing.  When I cleared out my closet in spring, Goodwill benefited.  Humans get an endorphin shot when we buy something, even a lipstick.  Perhaps it goes back to early human foraging?  I have been window shopping on the internet for months without buying anything but then I found this online site Rockflowerpaper   (They didn’t financially compensate me other than offering me a bargain!)

Most of their tops start at $50 and up but their clearance items were a real bargain, ranging between $4-7.  I decided I could risk $26.45 for four final sale tunics including shipping.  They arrived really quickly in the mailbox and I had a visceral thrill when I saw the package.  All four were sized small but one said that it ran a little neat so I was forewarned.  That one was gifted to my slimmer friend.  They were all different fabrics and styles.  The red and orange pin tucked tunic is my favorite but the blue and cream tunic is incredibly soft.  The gauzy pink and orange tunic suits me the best but it isn’t as soft as the other two.  All in all, however, I was delighted and Rockflowerpaper is a woman owned enterprise in San Francisco.  I liked the hippy, boho vibe from my birth city.

It was so much fun to create a fashion post after such a long time and you might notice that my hair has been ‘fixed’.  I put my tail between my legs and went to my other hairdresser for a revision.  Putting make up on felt weird too but I loved having bright lipstick on and SMILING!  My model mother is alive and well both in face and poses…😁

 

My Enigma

Every time I call the doctor or health insurance of late, there is an extra message to check that my mental health is okay and offering care options.  I feel a little bitterness that it has taken a tragedy for society to take mental ill health seriously – where were you when we had to wait many months or years for psychological help?  Clearly, Covid-19 has challenged even those of us who have not had a pre-existing condition.  My psychiatrist seemed shocked at the amount of patients presenting with psychosis during this time, although I am not.

My diagnosis/mental health had always been an enigma to me, the people I love and the medical profession.  Like many others, my original diagnosis is not my current one.  After years of working in the mental health field (and my own personal experience), it is clear that we know less about this complex field of medicine than others.  Heart bypass surgery has become almost commonplace and much safer, for example.  I was perfectly happy with my original diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  It was such a relief to find out why I had to check the gas was off a dozen times or more or check that a plastic bag in the road was not full of cats.  In the back of my mind, I was sure I had separate depressive and anxiety episodes but perhaps it all goes together, I thought.

As much as we would like a clear cut name for our individual illness, for many of us diagnosis seems to be a wavy, mysterious line.  That is not the fault of the medical profession, necessarily.  One of my cousins had very different diagnoses in her later years and she ultimately died of an overdose.  I imagine her doctors were trying desperately to find a medication to make her feel better.  Then there is me.  I present a chameleon personality to both my doctors and loved ones.  At a social event, I seem like ‘party central’ – confident, amusing and fun to be around.  This exhausts me.  My mother was so concerned about my shyness as I child, that she made every effort to bring me out of my shell.  Drama classes in high school and finding a group of peers helped me to blossom.

This pandemic has had the opposite effect on me – my mental health has rarely been better.  Teddy and my doctor express astonishment that I am coping so well.  The truth is I always knew what was best for me – isolation and silence.  After I married at age 21, I followed Teddy around the world for his career.  He was always going to be the major breadwinner with ambition and skill.  He kindly says that he couldn’t have done it without my support – who knows?  My IQ is above average and I have honed my people skills over the years.  As Teddy was pursuing his career as a Geoscientist, I did a variety of dead-end jobs such as cleaner, bar person and fossil picker.  That last job sounds more exciting than it was.  My husband’s company offered me training and a job looking at tiny fossils down a microscope.  I then transferred those of interest to a slide and a micro paleontologist would further assess them – this was all in the pursuit of oil.

It was the perfect job for someone with OCD – timing and precision was critical.  Even though I was smarter than the average bear, I was quite happy to stay in this dead end job.  Teddy persuaded me to push my ambition further and that is how I ended up in the mental health field.  That led to various other jobs where I could use my writing and people skills to their best capacity.  But I was always so stressed, even when I enjoyed the plaudits.  The job I really longed for was Librarian.

So here we are in 2020.  At the suggestion of a doctor friend, I started eating gluten free at the beginning of the year.  This was to try to address my curious neurological sensations in hands and feet.  I have since read some medical journals on the effect of gluten on the brain – fascinating.  It was relatively easy to change my diet – I guess I avoid gluten naturally. At the same time, I stopped working and driving because of Covid-19.  Now I don’t know if the absence of gluten or driving/working has helped but my neurological symptoms have abated considerably.  It’s another mystery – but a silver lining for me.

Turning 60 in 2020 has given me so much time to think about growing older.  Unexpectedly, I have reached an acceptance that I do feel different and a little less sexy.  Teddy disagrees – thank goodness! There is a huge sense of relief that I don’t have to work anymore and I realize how lucky I am to be in that position.  I am perfectly happy cleaning the house, watering the garden and making very short journeys away from the house.  When all this is over, will I enjoy the normal pace of life or need to buy 10 acres of wilderness for peace and quiet?  I guess we will all adapt and realize how strong most of us are, even in the most desperate of situations.

For now, my Enigma remains just that and I am grateful for this moment of stillness in society.

It’s the little things…

Can you see me?

This year has been one where we have had to be introspective and appreciate the little things.  It’s a small silver lining given the tragedy of Covid-19 but perhaps it will give us new coping skills for the future.  Teddy and I used to go out to lunch at least once a week.  We knew all the wait staff and enjoyed the banter along with the food.  It was my only reason to get dressed up as I wore a uniform, of sorts, at work.  Like most of us I have cleared out the closets but the pretty dresses flutter sadly in the closet.  Recently I bought two new nightdresses because that’s what I wear most.  On the plus side, I found nightdresses with pockets – wow!

Teddy was pushed to his limit last week when Hurricane Laura blew through.  It missed the large centers of population but it tore down large parts of our electricity grid to our east.  The next day the power went out unexpectedly for about 8 hours.  That seems perfectly reasonable to me but it was 100 degrees outside and 84 degrees in the house.  Teddy had to stop work and paced the house like a tiger.  He tested the generator (it works), he hunted for batteries and torches (which are all in the hurricane box which Kerry packs each year) and generally drove me crazy.  After many hours, I shouted at him, gave him a beer and told him to sit his ass down.  To his horror I said, “Look at the flowers” which is a line from Walking Dead before one of the characters was dispatched.  I reassured him that it was a Freudian slip…  Then nature sent us a little precious moment to calm him down.  Two little squirrel siblings who had been running crazy along the fences and trees, suddenly stopped and started grooming each other.  They snuggled and licked each other and our hearts melted.

I’m coming down for the snacks. Muchas Gracias, Senora!!

Like everyone else, our vacation plans have disappeared.  We had planned something special for my 60th birthday/38th anniversary in July but instead I made Teddy his favorite meal.  He loves potato gratin – so simple but I rarely make it.  For dessert I made him something he had been hankering over for 30+ years.  Many years ago I made a very decadent Pashka (Russian Easter cake) for a dinner party that we were hosting.  I searched the internet for a slightly lighter version of my original recipe and then altered it a little.  The main ingredients are butter, sugar, toasted almonds, crystallized ginger and vanilla.  Teddy was so excited!!!  I think it might have been the nicest anniversary meal we have ever had.  Our expectations were low and I was not stressed.

Potato Gratin

Pashka

Then there are the lizards.  As you know, we have been without pets for over a year now.  We rarely sat out in our back yard because Toffee was sadly sitting inside but now we can happily sit in our rockers looking at nature.  We noticed that spotted Anoles would come running when we came out.  Perhaps it was coincidence but now we have them named. Lorenzo has a regrown tail and Leo likes to sit on the prow of the deck.  When we call them, they run out from under the deck and start displaying in front of us.  Sometimes it is little handstands or head nods but if we are lucky they show us their red dewlap.  They let us go within an inch of them to admire their chameleon coloring.  We have one sweet little green Anole, Gerry, who is a native Texan.  The spotted Anoles are invasive from Cuba and they are feisty.  I Googled “snacks for lizards’ and they like live crickets and meal worms. They will have to eat what’s in the backyard…

velvet ant

Covid-19 has made me less obsessive about the usual bugs and germs.  Teddy dispatched a giant tree roach in the house and I didn’t bat an eyelid or get out the bleach.  We are in semi-drought here so insects are coming in, looking for water.  In the middle of the night, I went sleepily to the bathroom.  Through drowsy eyes, I saw what looked like a scorpion walking in while I was trapped on the toilet.  It was big, brown and not a cockroach.  Ruthlessly, I took a magazine and squashed it.  Later, I discovered that it was a mole cricket and I have been grieving ever since.  It was a harmless wee thing and I wish I had taken it out to the garden.

Mole Cricket with a curious pup, courtesy of Pixabay

Another day the lizards were agitated and when we investigated, they were chasing a velvet ant away from their babies – beautiful creature but with a deadly sting.  Red throated hummingbirds have visited the Mexican Fire Bush en route back to Latin America.  Finally, there are the babies. We have two nests of red tailed hawks behind our house. The baby hawks screech, “Mom, I need a mouse!”, then the Blue Jays start squawking and lastly the squirrels bark.  What a racket!

Just before this capture of a blue jay, he had been screeching that the water was dirty… Just as well they are beautiful.

I think this is a mixed marriage…like Teddy and I.

A History of Horrid Haircuts

Modern Mullet?

After months of quarantine and despite a decision to grow my hair longer, I finally ventured out to a hairdresser.  In my head I constructed a complicated algorithm of risk versus reward and was fed up with looking scary in the mirror, especially in the morning when I look like a Who from Whoville.  I wanted layers to tame my hedge thick hair but didn’t want all the length off.  I searched Google and discovered a Modern Mullet, a little less frumpy than a Shag (which is quickie sex in the UK but a hairstyle in the US).  Somehow I thought that, with some fairy magic, I could be transformed into mirror images of Scarlett Johanssonn or Miley Cyrus, both of whom experimented with a Modern Mullet.  I didn’t take into account that my hair is the wrong texture and I am 60 years old.  Maybe they regretted it too?

Pyramid hair in Giza 2003!

Halfway through, I could see this was going to be a disaster and remembered a similar sinking feeling in Cairo when I went to the local hairdresser in 2003.  Her special skill was making my frizzy hair look like a pyramid.  The title of this blog tells you everything about my hair.  This time in our 2020 crazy world, I drove straight home, dropped my clothes in the washer before running naked into the shower, futilely trying to wash away any virus, dodgy haircut and lack of good judgment .  My hair looked a little better with the product washed out but it still looked like a bad 70’s mullet – all business at the front; party at the back.  Teddy’s face was a picture…  I managed not to cry because it’s just a bloody haircut and of no importance in a ‘these difficult times’.  Later, I howled with laughter about my predicament and regaled Teddy with the tales of bad haircuts – some of which he was there for.

The Scottish Pyramid style 1990s??

The first bad haircut that I recall was in the mid 70’s when my friend and I decided on a whim (bad idea) to go to the local hairdresser for a cheap trim.  My hair was already short and layered but I came out looking like someone from an internment camp with lice.  My friend’s bangs/fringe was cut at a sharp diagonal, almost as though she had stolen a protractor from our school bags.  Oh, how we laughed…  It was even more hysterical because misery loves company.  Think of how much worse it would have been if one haircut was good??  At a later date, I colored the hair of the long suffering friend.  It was supposed to be Blonde but it was really Ginger.  You would think I have learned a lesson but I did the same to an American friend a few years ago.  I bet you don’t have friends who are that trusting???

The second really bad cut was in our local town in Aberdeenshire (always go to the big city salon).  Astonishingly, she was trained at the same place as the Egyptian hairdresser and this time I had a slightly shorter but just as wide pyramid with fringe/bangs.  The third disaster, a few years later, was a good cut, at least.  My hairdresser had some new product that enabled her to blow dry my hair into glorious straight locks – I was so delighted!  It was smirring (light rain) in Aberdeen and as we walked out into the night my hair transformed.  Ringlets appeared one by one until my head was covered in a riot of curls – more than usual.  Teddy was with me and was fascinated by the alchemy of my hair.  We laughed then, too…

My hair has always been a family problem.  Nana and my mum battled with my hair for years.  I even had a special treatment called ‘Toddle locks’ that helped tease out the knots.  They weren’t used to my alien, thick, coarse Hispanic hair.  When I was 13 years old my mum admitted defeat said “Brush it yourself!”  I did brush it but ignored the matting birds nest underneath.  Finally she discovered it and marched me off to the nearest hairdresser.  They spent hours painfully combing out the mat and had to cut some of it out.  I was so ashamed that I think that is the first time I have told that story.  She let me cut it short after that…

To be honest, I thought I was beyond bad haircuts at my venerable age but apparently you are never too old to look like an ass.  I am going to wear my Mullet like a hair shirt and contemplate my vanity.  Thank goodness for baseball caps…

PS – In case you are wondering, there is no perm involved – that is my natural hair texture.  More of an entity, really.

Necropolis

It looks like such a peaceful scene, doesn’t it? Teddy and I have used our deck more often, since the pandemic, than we have in 16 years.  The trees in the reserve have grown so much that we get nice shade cover in the afternoon.  A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a ‘farmyard’ smell but we live many miles from farms in our forested idyll.  At first I wondered if someone had put down some stinky mulch or fertilizer but it is entirely the wrong time of year and it has been 100 degrees out there.

We had a few breezy days and Teddy agreed with me that he could smell a faint odor on the air but perhaps it was the communal garbage bins at the apartments beyond the reserve?  After another couple of days, I asked him if I should do a ‘Karen’ and complain to the apartment manager.  Teddy, very wisely, suggested that we just leave it since it was almost 100 degrees and maybe the bins needed emptied.  (We have never smelled their garbage bins in the last 16 years).

The next day, I started looking under the deck but could see nothing but dead leaves but there was still this strange odor that now Teddy (probably post Covid-19) could not smell at all.  Then he started saying things like, “You know what you are like when you get obsessed about stuff…”  To be fair, I agreed with him but we had paid hundreds of dollars two years ago to remove a huge dead skunk which had been ripped to pieces by another predator from under the same bloody deck.  This new odor was delicate by comparison.

One evening we put out the night camera to see if there was an obvious culprit with a smelly nest?  They were just the usual subjects – squirrels, possums, wood rats and two gorgeously marked little skunks (alive and well).  On a forensic note, we had spotted some very pretty little iridescent flies around the deck, glowing purple and green.  We never have flies in our yard…only endless mosquitoes that have tested positive for West Nile Disease in our forest this year.  At this stage, I should note that I am an aficionado of every Forensic program, real and fiction.  Decomp and adipose are terms that I am very familiar with.

With that thought in my head, I finally snapped and said to Teddy, “We need to call pest control out”.  He looked at me as though I hadn’t been taking my medication.  We compromised on him unscrewing some of the deck planks so that I could root around like Bones.  The drill had no battery power as it hadn’t been used for a while.  In desperation, I put a blanket on the ground and got my rake under the deck and started pulling stuff out.  When a cloud of these pretty iridescent flies flew out at me, I knew I had found the evidence.  Finally I brought out a little gray furry thing and even more of the dratted flies.  I stood up and ran off squealing but then put my big girl pants on and returned with gloves, bags and disinfectant.

It was a poor little squirrel, who had left this mortal coil and decided our deck would be a lovely resting place.  I shouted to Teddy that I had found the victim but he chose to carry on working since he didn’t want to confront his wife who said, “SEE, SEE, I told you it was a critter!”  The decomposition flies were now yukky, not pretty, and I had to shake the corpse to get the damned things off.  Another friend had just told me this lovely story of rescuing a dying baby bird from their pool, putting it in a leaf lined box and then burying it in their garden with a cairn for remembrance.  Our squirrel went in the wheelie bin.

After all that, in almost 100 degree weather, I went all OCD (that’s a clinical term).  Hose, disinfectant, bleach and then I did the same for me.  All my clothes went in the washer immediately.  It struck me as ironic that there is a virus out there that is so much more dangerous than any dead squirrel.  The garden is serene again, smelling verdant and I am so glad I didn’t speak to the apartment manager…