Clouds and Water

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.

No more Banana Bread…

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.

My Glorious Live Oak

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!

Ruby Anniversary Trip

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.

The Biopsy

I had my first biopsy last week.  It was an interesting new experience.  My GP has been ‘watching and waiting’ some thyroid nodules for a few years.  On this year’s ultrasound one of the nodules had reached the size that should be investigated.  With some trepidation I set off for the hospital and found a parking space straight away – that was miraculous!

Going for a procedure in the USA is full of ridiculous bureaucracy but curiously there was no payment requested.  More trepidation…  It’s possible I have used my deductible (about $5000), if not they will send me a bill, post haste.  After almost 2 decades living here, I don’t even bother to look at what I am signing.  Eventually I got to another desk where I filled in even more documents about my current health.  They took me to a small unit with single bedrooms for the procedures.

The very nice lady asked even more questions. “What is your name, date of birth and why are you here?”  Then she presented even more documents.  I may have sold my soul because I signed everything including the one that alluded to their hand slipping, slitting my artery and me needed lots of blood transfusions full of monkey pox or whatever glamorous name the CDC are going to call it.

While all this was going on, I could hear a man in the next room talking relentlessly.  Was anyone responding to him or was he on his cell phone?  There is a strange lady in our street who goes for a walk around the ‘hood’ and talks the whole time.  She has an ear piece in but I think she might be talking to herself or the voices in her head?  The nurse took pity on me and found a remote so I could watch the one channel working on the TV.  Thank the Lord it wasn’t Fox News…  I tried to focus on Law and Order but the fella next door just kept talking.  I regretted not taking my Xanax.

Then the door was wedged open so I could see other patients in various states of undress.  One man across the way was preparing to strip not realizing I could see him.  His nurse ruined everything by closing his door – dang it.  Suddenly the ‘talk the hind legs off a donkey’ man appeared in my doorway.  He looked like he was reversing into my room and I had an excellent view of his underpants because his gown wasn’t fastened at the back.  I wondered about laughing or crying but then it struck me that he was a poor old soul, likely suffering with a dementia.  He made it to the bathroom, talking all the way.  The nurses retrieved him and took him back to his room, not mine.

My team arrived in a flurry.  There was an ultrasound technician to locate the little blighter, the nurse practitioner who was going to do the biopsy and the assistant who was doing all the sterile stuff.  They injected lidocaine (numbing agent) around the area at the base of my neck, using the tumescent technique which I knew all about because I am addicted to Dr. Pimple Popper.  Yet again they asked me “Who are you, when were you born and why are you here”.  After that was confirmed, she said, “The lidocaine will really sting but you shouldn’t feel the biopsy needle”.  Not exactly reassuring but correct.  It is very strange having a numbing sensation in your throat instead of your teeth.

During the fairly short procedure, I could hear the talker next door loudly objecting to signing all the papers. “Why would I need a blood transfusion?” The nurse responded, also very loudly, “Well, Mr. Talker, you are having a lung biopsy, so it’s just in case something happens”.  She had the patience of a saint and was very kind to him.  I really wanted to chuckle but I had to stay still.  After it was completed, they told me that it was possible that the results would be inconclusive because it was a watery cyst.  That’s a good sign although there is a very small chance of cancerous cells floating in the liquid.  My gut feeling is that it’s yet another of my odd yet benign cysts that lurk throughout my body.  What should I name her – ‘Nora Nodule’ perhaps?  The one in my chest cavity is called ‘Pumpkin’ because she was discovered at Halloween.  Still to name the one in my bile duct – he feels a bit creepy.  What a place for a cyst to hide!

They left me in the room to rest for a bit with an icepack on the puncture.  I felt perfectly fine so just got dressed and went out to get my discharge papers.  On the way home I popped into the Purgatorial Post Office which I usually avoid at all costs.  The staff are snotty and there is always a queue.  The assistant who served me was entirely silent during our transaction.  I hoped he was unnerved by my mask, the Band-Aid on my neck and the two patient wristbands (one was bright red for the Monkey Pox transfusion).  Why are they so difficult to cut off?

Still waiting for results but there was no bruise, little swelling and just a little discomfort.  Compared to life during the Pandemic I would class this as a fun day out!

Forest Tails

As I write this, the ‘Eeeeee’ of Baby Hawk is preventing me from feeding all my other ‘tails’, although all their baths and bowls are freshly filled.

Baby Hawk

Our red-tailed hawks have had baby #2022.  We had our first small shower of rain after two months of drought and all the forest babies wondered what the wet stuff was falling from the sky.  Baby Hawk sobbed…  It was heartbreaking and funny.  Mother Hawk was wheeling above enjoying a refreshing shower. 

The Tail Family

All our squirrels have funky tails this year.  We have ‘Tail’ who is at least a year old – her tail was fractured but healed well.  The fur came in with strange chevron markings and a much darker gray than usual.  Then there is ‘half’, ‘three quarters’ and ‘pipe cleaner’.  ‘Half’ is extra cute and will come running for a peanut or chopped up apple – she is also a wee bruiser, using Jujitsu on her kin, perhaps that’s why she has half a tail? I am guessing that the ‘Tail’ family all have a genetic weakness with their tails or the clumsy gene.  ‘Nut Mom’ (aka me) also has the clumsy gene and break as many items as my mother did.  One day in the garden, the hawk suddenly appeared and the squirrels were blissfully sitting in the trees.  I ran out, shouted ‘lie down’ and they did!

Baby Blues

We have twin baby blue jays.  When they are first fledged, their iridescent blue feathers have not fully grown in and they have fluffy gray tummies.  The parents have a distinctive black necklace which the babies don’t have until maturity.  My friend across the cul-de-sac thought the nest was in the trees by her garden because she rescued a newly fledged blue jay from one of her dogs.  From my friend’s rose colored perspective, her ‘black lab mix’, Gertie, was just going to nuzzle the baby…  Gertie, who looks like a Rottweiler, has nearly pulled me off my feet when I took her for walkies in past years.  Then she was desperately trying to ‘nuzzle’ ducks at the pond.  Methinks she saw feathered snacks.

The baby blue jays have been so fun to watch – they have tried every voice in their repertoire.  Gentle beeping, the rusty wheel, the annoying squawk and their imitation of the red-tailed hawk.  That gets me racing to the door to check if it is a raptor.  Their mimic is pretty good but if you listen carefully, it doesn’t have the mournful lament of real hawk.  Their monogamous blue jay parents are very attentive, gently showing them how to drink from the bird bath and feed themselves.  They seem to know our garden is a safe kindergarten.

The Cardinals

The cardinals often accompany the blue jays who provide a Minder service for the smaller birds – early warning of predators.  One of the silly baby blue jays tried to sit in a tiny bush with a baby cardinal.  The father cardinal lay on the deck, with a ‘broken wing’, pretending to be injured to lure him away.  Baby blue didn’t know his own size and meant no harm.  Two American Robins, a type of thrush, have arrived from the north.  It seemed as though they had traveled through our airport system because they were exhausted and filthy!  They didn’t quite understand this garden of plenty but feasted and washed.  They have settled in the oak tree in the front.

The Laurel

Alas, not everything survived our drought.  In the early spring our Texas Mountain Laurel was glorious, covered in blossoms but by early summer she suddenly died.  We have raised her for about 8 years so we are sad.  Your swan song was glorious.

On a lighter final note, Wanja Joseph, commented on my post Dolphins are Jerks

“I am having a hard time describing or thinking of those sea kittens as naughty or crafty. My innocence is gone! Beautiful shots”

Henceforth our squirrels are known as tree kittens…

Sweet Dreams, Little Ones

Just thinking about these little headstones brings a tear to my eye. On our tour of the painted churches in Texas we stopped at St Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church in Dubina. The church was temporarily closed so we wandered through the large cemetery. The original settlers were from Moravia, part of what was Czechoslovakia. In the past, stillborn babies or those who lived just a few days, were usually placed in unmarked graves. Sometimes they were added to the grave of the most recently buried stranger or put in a mass grave for stillborn babies. The congregation of this church have created beautiful little headstones for their ancestor’s babies.

The hand-painted church is small but so pretty. When I gazed at the celestial scene above the altar, I thought that the stars represented all the little souls above. Rest in peace, Otilia, Joseph, Valentine, Carolina, Anton, Felix, Dominic and Wilomena. Sweet dreams to all those little ones who visited earth so briefly.

St Cyril and Methodius Church, Dubina, Texas

Current Covid

I know – everyone is sick of hearing about Covid and all it’s variants but please take care. This is an x ray of my lungs during my recent bout of Covid in mid July, before I tested positive (two previous tests were negative). The doctor said it looks like emphysema which is perplexing because I am not a smoker. All that hazy white stuff should not be there.

This image is courtesy of CBS news in Dallas and here is the link to the article. You can see why the doctor thought I had emphysema but I suspect it is mild Covid lung. My symptoms are improving and I have tested negative but I am still coughing and breathless at times. I see a pulmonologist at the end of August and I hope my lungs will look better.

When I looked at the x-ray, I wondered what would have happened if I had not been fully boosted and vaccinated. My husband’s bout of Covid triggered his AFIB. Our elderly neighbor was hospitalized last month for the same reason. It is a very new disease so we don’t have all the answers especially about long term problems.

Please take sensible precautions and don’t assume if a test is negative that it is just a cold. A throat swab may have been more effective in my case.

Catfishing

Oxford dictionary definition of Catfishing – the process of luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.

I chose WordPress as a gentle and safe forum to write on the Internet.  For the most part, I have been really happy with WordPress and my host service.  Like most of you, the Spam filter catches the most ridiculously fake ‘Bloggers’.  Last week, I had a short comment on my post and I responded, “thank you’.  Then there was a message asking if we could be friends…  I went back to his website which I quickly realized was full of other people’s posts.  Then I looked at his profile and that’s when the alarm bells rang.  He was a 9 (out of 10); graying hair, big brown eyes in his mid-50s, I would guess.  Jeffery hailed from North Carolina, a single Dad of two sons and a marine engineer.

I don’t believe in false modesty – I am reasonably attractive lady for my age.  Especially at twilight with a glass of wine…  Over the years on WordPress, I have had some suitors, for want of a better word.  Usually, it’s just harmless flirting and I am happy to indulge.  My favorite was an older gentleman from a remote Pacific Island whose wife had died and he had 10 children.  I gently let him down but noted that he was handsome and I don’t have any children!  Jeffery provoked my curiosity and I searched for him on LinkedIn with no success.  Then I checked out his URL.  What a surprise – it was from Africa.

On that note, I have to share my dirty little secret – I am addicted to terrible reality shows where you marry someone inappropriate from overseas.  Inevitably, it very rarely works out with some surprising exceptions.  I think my obsession started in Africa when we lived in Cairo.  Every so often we had to go to a terrifying, massive government building called the Mugamma.  The staff reminded me of the Department of Motor Vehicles, in the US.  Teddy’s company paid for someone, fluent in Arabic, to accompany us and navigate the stressful world of visas.  Despite this, I always needed to see my psychologist after the dreaded trip.

There were lines of refugees from every part of Africa, often wearing national dress, and my heart went out to them.  I always felt that Cairo was very generous to refugees and guests, since it is not a rich country.  Then there was the line for anyone getting married.  My friend from Ukraine married her  beau from New Zealand while we were there.  I was 42 when we moved there and I was fascinated by women in their late 50’s desperately pleading with the soulless staff to be allowed to marry a much younger Egyptian man.  Did they really think they were in love with them?

I knew quite a few European women who married Egyptian men and some were genuine love matches.  Very few survived the challenge of a completely different culture.  There was one older Scottish lady who married a younger man who then took all her money out of her control.  She was left with very few options; putting up with the situation or returning to Scotland penniless, living on welfare.  I am not even sure that there was any malice involved – it was normal for a husband to have full control of the family finances.

Back to my Catfisher – was it male or female?  It was a pretty complicated scam and fraudulent.  After their request to be friends, I responded, “Of course!  I would be happy for you to join my group of WordPress friends.”  The lack of response spoke volumes and I blocked him. Life is really hard right now, especially in third world countries, so it didn’t surprise me that someone would want to strip me of my American dollars.  Be careful of the sharks out there.  Do you think Jeffery would still be interested in me if he saw this photo of me catfishing or more correctly rescuing catfish? Yes, I am thigh deep in a murky lake with water moccasins and alligators.

PS.  I was going through a mental health crisis which explains the bald head.  Read the original blog here – Kerry and the Catfish.

Painted Churches, St John the Baptist

This is one of the many beautiful painted churches in central Texas. The early settlers from Czechoslovakia and Germany hand-painted their new places of worship in the style of the places that they came from. The churches are off the beaten track, in rural areas, and a joy to behold. I like to call this one the ‘peach church’ but it is really St. John the Baptist, a Czech Catholic Church, in the hamlet of Ammannsville (closer to San Antonio than Austin but in the central area otherwise known as the hill country).

Not only did the beautiful stained glass windows have Czech names on them but the stages of the cross were also annotated in Czech. It struck me that the original settlers probably only spoke Czech for at least one generation, if not longer. Each community is separate, if only by a few miles. Perhaps they learned German before English to communicate with fellow settlers? It’s remarkable and heart warming that they are so well maintained. The original building dates from 1890, it was destroyed by a hurricane in 1909 and this current building is from 1917.

It was another cloudy but warm day in May. The dark clouds give the church an ominous look as did the thousands of tussock moth caterpillars that covered the church and surrounding area. You couldn’t help standing on them or them dropping on your head – eek! My dopey husband wanted to touch their furry bodies but I stopped him in time. Their cute little fur spikes are poisonous, causing a nasty rash, and no doubt he would have ended up in ER (he is highly allergic to bug bites).

Holy Caterpillars! Zoom in, if you dare….

Dolphins are jerks…

Before you report me to the CIA (Cetaceous Investigative Agency) for slandering precious dolphins, read my rational explanation. This is the best shot I got on a dolphin watching cruise in Galveston and it is typical of every other photo I have taken looking for the crafty cetaceans – at least you can’t miss a whale. Galveston Bay is teeming with more dolphins than usual because the water is soooo hot. The Captain told us that there are many sharks eating the dolphins too – didn’t see any of them either. They are bottle-nosed dolphins and curiously the most northerly group of bottle-noses lived on the coast close to where we lived in the Moray Firth in Scotland. That’s when they started to annoy me…

For years, I worked as Teddy’s unpaid assistant while he did his Masters by research on a piece of craggy coastline overlooking the Moray Firth. On rare occasions it was lovely and warm but mostly it was just ‘Baltic’ weather. My hands were frozen holding tape measures and other geological stuff. I gazed off into the Firth always looking for a dolphin but never saw one – in almost 20 years. This Scottish group of dolphins had followed the warm gulf stream from the Caribbean to the far north of Scotland. These Cetaceous skinheads also beat up porpoises. Not so cute, now, eh??

When I was scanning the water in Galveston Harbor, I wondered if the Scottish squad had come on a wee holiday to the Gulf of Mexico and they were laughing at me, nearly falling over the railing in my attempt to catch a shot. You know this is a tongue in cheek post – I love all critters even the skinheads! They really did beat up porpoises in the Moray Firth but it was probably overfishing by humans that caused the aggression.

We went for a two day trip to Galveston just to get a sea breeze. The temperature was about 10 degrees cooler than at home (101 F) but it was still overwhelmingly hot. The breeze felt more like a hairdryer. Our boat was filled with two very large extended families. One speaking Spanish and the other were from a south east state. It could have been English but so hard to tell; bless their hearts! The tiny kids could barely see the dolphins but the Captain let them all ‘drive’ the boat and finally see them. There were some reports of a badly behaved dolphin in the of the southern coast of Texas but it had just become too used to humans and lost it’s fear much like bears that have to be removed from the suburbs.

Of course, Teddy got a much better shot with his fancy camera but even he struggled. Do you notice the strange color of the water? Tourists are often disappointed that the water at Galveston is a muddy color but it is glorious in other parts of the Gulf of Mexico (turquoise in the Yucatan). Houston sits at the base of a delta system of rivers that cause the churning of sediment and Galveston is our barrier island. It’s full of really great tasting fish, though.

Dolphin bubbles…