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!

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.

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.

Pest Control moved in…

This tiny little bug is commonly known as a junk bug or aphid lion – ain’t she cute? Teddy was admiring our fire bush when he saw this wee pile of debris moving.  If you click on the red link to junk bug you can read a hilarious article about this ‘voracious predator’ – it is about the size of the half-moon on your pinkie.  She is a gardener’s friend; the debris on her back is the remains of aphids and other plant eaters (her victims…).  This little dusty bundle is her larval stage and she blossoms into one of my favorite insects, the delicate green lacewing.

Henrik Mackevicius, Pixabay

Teddy and I get so excited when we discover a new animal in the garden no matter how small.  Below is Leo (DiCaprio), one of our many spotted Anoles.  He loves to sit at the prow of the deck and display his bright red throat flap to attract a mate.  There is so much lizard sex going on in our back yard that we should rename it Studio 54.  There are tiny babies, pregnant moms and horny teenagers (none of them are social distancing).

A few weeks ago I found what looked like bird poop in the garage and I was curious.  It was unlikely that a bird had gotten into the garage which is usually closed and then I saw another poop on the front porch.

The black section is full insect bits and the white part is uric acid (pee)

As I was taking in the groceries, through the garage, this week I spotted a small cockroach struggling in a spider web.  Briefly, I wondered whether I should put it out of its misery but when I went back for the rest of the groceries the roach had gone.  Then I spotted her – we have a five striped Skink living in the wall of the garage.  Woo hoo!  She is now called Skinky because I have no imagination.  They eat cockroaches – what more do you need?  My neighbor has one on her front porch and after I told her how useful they are in our bug ridden swamp, she named her Skink, Tiger.

Jan Haerer, Pixabay

Can you tell that the pandemic quarantine is beginning to wear on us?  My psychiatrist forgot to put in my regular refill for Xanax, WTF!  I panicked briefly then I put my big girl pants on and am back in a Breaking Bad situation with a drawer full of meds.  My friend was laughing at Teddy and me when I shared with her that I refused to share my prescription-only painkillers with him.  She felt that it was a perfect senior couple moment – she’s right!

 

Miss Tomball and Line Dancers

Isn’t she purty?  Before the horses and wagons arrived at Tomball, en route to Houston Rodeo, we were entertained by Miss Tomball 2020 and Line Dancers.  As I people watched I noticed that two little sisters were wearing handmade dresses with little horses on them – could they be any more cute?  One of the siblings looked at Miss Tomball as though she was a Disney Princess and showed her the dress.

OMG – look at her little boots!  Her little smile caused my eyes to tear…

Well, it wouldn’t be small town Texas without line dancers of a certain age…

Eventually folks from the crowd joined in with the line dancing.  Teddy and I met an older couple who had moved here from New York City.  Their lives had been terribly sophisticated with jobs in Broadway and learning Tango when they lived in Argentina.  How excited they were to find out that they could join the Tomball Line Dancing group.

I wrote this post to encourage myself that I still live in a wonderful place and it helped a little.  One day, I hope, we will get back to what to blessedly simple days like the one above, pre Covid-19.  In the meantime, think of others especially those most vulnerable and please, please wear a mask or socially distance.

The eyes are the windows to your soul

cutting-cake.jpg

In my last post, I mentioned that I thought I had mislaid my parents wedding photographs.  Once I found them, and breathed a sigh of relief, I sat and looked at them.  I never really knew my father – he was a creature of legend both good and bad.  When I was young, my Mum tried her best to paint a balanced picture of Dad despite the unpleasant comments from family members.  These photographs were never displayed but I had seen them many times.  I was fascinated by the glamour of a professional shot and thought they were both attractive.  As a youngster I really looked much more like my father with our dark Mexican roots.

As I gazed at the shots, I realized that neither my Mum nor Dad looked happy.  They married after a couple of months of meeting but they were in their late 20’s, more than capable of making a sensible decision.  My theory is that they were pregnant with me and I know that my dad asked my mum to have an illegal abortion.  I had admired these photos for years, longing to have similarly glamorous wedding shots, but had never noticed the lack of happiness in their eyes.  The social mores of two Catholics not marrying after a pregnancy were overwhelming.  My mum told me that a distant relative offered to adopt me so the circumstances must have been dire.  Eventually my mum divorced my dad in 1976 on the grounds of mental cruelty.  He had already remarried in the States.

KathleenAndBeau

Then I found a photograph of my mum with a previous American boyfriend above.  If anyone recognizes him, you might have been my sibling!

My mum had mentioned that he was a really nice guy, Italian American, but that she hadn’t fallen for him.  Maybe she wasn’t ready but my mum looked truly happy in this simple photograph.   How I longed for a normal father like him when I was young.  As the years have passed I have come to terms with my Dad probably having some mental health and addiction issues (as did my Mum).  I have so enjoyed meeting members of my Dad’s family – seeing distinct resemblances both in appearance and also personality.  My mum’s bridesmaid, who has stayed close to me, told me many times that my Dad had a fascinating charismatic side that I had inherited.  To the right is a photograph of Teddy and I signing the register 38 years ago – now that’s a real smile.

We had not a single professional wedding shot…❤️

Are pearls unlucky?

For many years I would not wear pearls because my mum did, on her ill-fated wedding day, and shed many tears.  She would bring it up so frequently that I was convinced that pearls were unlucky at any time.  In some cultures wedding pearls represent the tears a bride will cry on her wedding day.  I felt much the same about opals until my sensible geologist husband pointed out that you would only be unlucky not to have these beautiful gemstones.  Both my Nana and my mum were terribly superstitious and some of it still sticks in my addled brain.  I gasp if someone puts new shoes on a table and I wouldn’t walk under a ladder.

Mum leaving her wedding car with pearls, San Francisco 1959

After many years, I fully understood that my parents’ marriage was doomed from the start.  The pearls, which I later broke, and the bridesmaid’s green dresses were of no consequence.  Bit by bit, a few pearls snuck into my jewelry collection.  Most recently one of my dearest friends gifted me the funky pearls below along with the ring and earrings which were her mother’s.  I just love them!

I have few occasions to wear them too, especially now, but Teddy and I had a second date to our local restaurant and they looked lovely with the claret dress.  I found the dress (and another in black) at Old Navy’s clearance rack for $5 each.  There was a young woman looking for the same dress and I helped her look for one to no avail.  She gave me a look that suggested that I should really give them to her but I am not dead yet…and it was my bargain!  Is it some type of primitive foraging gene that makes woman get so excited about a deal or buying stuff?

Our restaurant meal was disappointing this time, although the food was delicious.  Texas is up to 75% capacity at restaurants and although the restaurant was almost empty, they seated an older foursome just 6 ft from us.  We have an inevitable spike in Covid-19 cases as we opened up and I just felt uncomfortable.  I have retreated back to our homestead as the numbers tick up and Teddy is working from home again.

When I was preparing for this post, I looked for my mum and dad’s wedding photo and could only find one.  I knew I hadn’t thrown them out but it took me hours to track them down.  While doing this, I realized we are saving far too many sentimental photos and documents and cleared one box from Teddy’s parent’s house.  There is no reason to save books that stink of cigarette smoke but I did save Teddy’s paternal Grandma’s pearls from the hoarder house.

Kerry Miranda

Can you believe this guy is a professional photographer?  WTH – I have a plant growing out of my head.  It is hard to imagine but there was a life before the Pandemic hit.  Every year Houston hosts the largest Rodeo in the world, natch.  As much as I would love to visit, there are just too many people in one place.  This year we decided to go to our nearest town, Tomball, where the Sam Houston Trail Riders arrive by horses and wagons from Plantersville for a reception/meal/bunk.  It was cold but gloriously bright (which is maybe why Teddy couldn’t see the plant), so we arrived early in great anticipation.  The location was around the old railway station so we had a look inside, for the first time in 16 years.  Why do we always ignore the history right beside us?

Which one is real?

My husband looks like a real cowboy – until he opens his mouth…  It has been a long time since there was a working station office at Teague or Tomball but there is still a working commercial railroad.  I was 20 minutes late for a dental appointment when I had to wait patiently on the other side of the line.  We met a charming docent who told us all about the train museum.  He was fascinated by our Scottish accents and had another regular Scottish visitor who comes to the museum when he sees family in Texas.  The world is full of train geeks.

Kerry got friendly with the station master…

Halfway through the rodeo, we got news that the Pandemic had reached us and for the first time in the Houston Rodeo’s history it was cancelled.  One of the first patients in our county had visited the Rodeo but had not traveled anywhere else.  After a month in our local hospital, he finally recovered and got to go home.  It was touch and go but he was one of the lucky ones.  More posts about the trail ride to come.