Red, White and Southern

This is what Christmas decorations look like in our township – fresh flowers and a huge tree! We live on the cusp of the subtropics and the piney woods area of Texas. On the day that I took these photographs it was glorious. Cool, for us, and bright sunshine.

Isn’t that Veranda just perfect for sippin’ something southern? It is really the Tommy Bahamas’ store and restaurant and you can sip whatever you want on the back patio looking at the Christmas tree.

I liked this modern installation of birch trees and Cardinals. We don’t really have birch trees like that but we do have plenty of little Cardinals.

Flowers and greenery everywhere!

Just one more shot of the Christmas tree that shows how very high it is. Finally we got lovely new Fake Grass! It is impossible to keep our Augustine grass alive in winter – it naturally dies back and goes green in Spring.

Egyptian visitors at the pond

There has been a curious mystery at our pond for the last few weeks.  There were three little ducklings swimming alone in the middle of the water.  The Whistling ducks have gone to Latin America – would they leave their ducklings behind?  It would be strange as they are the helicopter parents of the duck/goose world.

JUVENILE WHISTLING DUCKS

Then I noticed we had a lovely dove gray Muscovy duck that I assumed was a daughter in law to the extended family.  Was she a flighty young mum, ignoring her ducklings?

UNUSUAL DOVE GRAY MUSCOVY DUCK – AKA DAUGHTER IN LAW

When I walked with Teddy to the pond on Sunday we spotted new visitors. We have a pair of Egyptian Geese which are an invasive species.

EGYPTIAN GEESE

I watched their relationship with our adored Muscovy Ducks but all seemed well.  To be honest our Muscovy ducks are bruisers, more than ready for the pot, as they would be in Mexico.  They look like those Mexican wrestlers with a mask on so I didn’t think the Egyptian Geese would bother them.  I recognized the geese but couldn’t remember what they were.  Now I realize I have seen them on thousands of Egyptian papyrus and ancient carvings.

Much like the Whistling ducks they are neither ducks nor geese but a sub category most similar to Sheldrakes. Today we had an important duck/goose update when we met one of the neighbors who has named all the Muscovy ducks and who lives at the pond. Apparently the Egyptian Geese were indeed terrorists and had frightened the Muscovies on two occasions. What!! She chased them and they seem to have left the area. If I see them again I will call the Ranger. How dare they frighten our residents!!! As for the abandoned ducklings, they are just deadbeat parents…

A few years ago we had another invasive species at the pond, Nutriamama and baby are pictured above. They are a relative of the Capybara and were brought to Louisiana for the fur trade. They breed like rabbits although they look like little beavers and can decimate the vegetation that is needed for the local species. My friend saw the Forest Warden preparing to trap them and asked him, “What are you going to do with them?” Bless her heart! It was like asking the store Santa if Santa is real. The warden very kindly told her that they were being ‘relocated’ to another area.

For some more fake news see RARE TWO HEADED DUCK below

THAT’S ALL FOLKS!!!

Dr. Carlos Araujo-Preza, RIP

DR. CARLOS ARAUJO-PREZA

Last night I was watching CNN news when a familiar face and name was on the screen.  In shock, I recognized my beloved lung specialist and he had died on November 30th 2020 of Covid-19.  According to the various news reports, he had worked 80 hour weeks since the Pandemic started trying to help his hospitalized patients.  As a respiratory expert he was always on the front line for Covid-19.  He was 52 with two young adult children.  He was a brilliant mind who had immigrated to the USA from El Salvador enhancing the lives of all his patients. This is the article from CNN.

He was utterly charming and warm, able to empathize and sympathize with compassion.  I first met him 8 years ago when I was the victim of a traumatic car crash.  Initially they took me to ER to check my spine as it was a rear end impact.  To everyone’s surprise the scans revealed an egg sized tumor or cyst in my chest cavity – nothing to do with the accident.  They referred me, one by one, to neurologists, a cardiac surgeon and finally to Dr. Carlos.  I was mentally traumatized by my first car accident in the USA with all the insurance shenanigans, the ludicrous medical bills and then the unexpected tumor/cyst.  The cardiac surgeon said that they normally surgically removed cysts of that size but they would have to deflate a lung to do so and would not recommend it.

By the time I got to Dr. Carlos, I was a mess, mentally and physically.  He thoroughly reassured me that it was a congenital cyst, not cancerous, and best just to keep an eye on it.  Over the years, I visited him and he always made me feel like a Princess.  Last year, I went for a routine scan and check.  To everyone’s surprise the cyst had shrunk down to the size of a raisin.  Hurrah! It was a lovely celebratory doctor’s appointment and I thanked him profusely.  I had another routine scan arranged for February 2020.  It was before quarantine but I cancelled it because I can physically feel when the cyst gets larger.  The staff members at his office were delightful as always and reassured me that I could make an appointment at any time.  But now I can’t.

Few of us know people who have died from Covid-19 or its complications but now I do.  He was very special to me and to all his other adoring patients.  I can still hear his voice – he sounded exactly like the Puss in Boots from the film Shrek.  I have been very careful this year because I am surrounded by immunosuppressed neighbors and friends.  On a personal note, I was unsure if my lung history made me at higher risk.  Would my cyst expand if attacked by the corona virus?  I know we hate this strange time but we have the vaccines now and it will be a relatively short time until life becomes safer.  Please, please wear a mask.  Assume that everyone could be exposed to the virus.  Think about it as a wartime scenario.  Unemployment, poverty and social chaos are with us but we will be stronger.  Just be safe and unselfish for a few months more.

Dr. Carlos Araujo-Preza, you epitomized what makes America a good place.  I will never forget you.  Thank you for the gift of compassion.

Nutcrackers…

…are they naughty or nice?  My husband can’t stand German Christmas nutcrackers.  In his mind they are akin to the clown in the Stephen King book IT, or any clown for that matter.  As a result, I have one pathetic little nutcracker that someone gifted me.  My neighbor has a huge collection of them and Teddy would run shuddering from her house.  He doesn’t like their mouths and won’t accept the logic that they are NUTCRACKERS!

We live in a German area of Texas so nutcrackers are just a part of holiday life, much like scary tree roaches in the summer.  To my joy, I noticed that our village (the Township is divided into villages, each with grocery stores, cafes, doctors, dentists and other essential stuff) had new holiday decorations.  We are now guarded by giant silver Nutcracker soldiers.  It is a big upgrade to the ancient ‘doves’ which look like pigeons or geese or some other mutation.

Early one morning I went down to our Market Street and saw this window display, above.  My friend forwarded me a article from Saxony, in Germany, where traditional Nutcracker makers have created a new Virologist with mask. 

Do you see what he is standing on? Let’s stamp this Corona virus out!! The woodcarvers are struggling like many other businesses. Click here for the article – Saxon Woodcarvers.

This is my tiny nutcracker and tiny tree and tiny elf. Teddy hasn’t noticed him yet… On a brief segue, I read the book IT many years ago and have never felt the same way about clowns/bridges. At the time I had to trek through our very dark hamlet in northern Scotland to the school at the top of the hill. I crossed a railway line and then a wooden bridge across a stream. One very dark morning a heron flew out from the bridge just as I was crossing. There were some choice words directed at the poor heron.

The Christmas That Was

Christmas 2019, Fredericksburg, Texas

This was a completely different post a few hours ago. In essence, I revealed how miserable and anxious I was feeling about the upcoming holidays. On reflection, I realized that’s not what I want to share with my friends. Instead I hope you enjoy these pretty pictures from Christmas 2019 which we spent in central Texas with the most glorious weather.

The Christmas Tree and Decorations at Fredericksburg 2019

There will be happy holidays and celebrations in the future. Please keep safe and warm. 🎄

Silvery Pixie

No, I haven’t had a psychiatric break – I just wanted to see what my gray hair looks like. If I was a guy this cut would be so sexy but even so I quite like it. It is more salt and pepper than silver – that is literary license…

I had a light bulb moment when I realized that I can’t even go out to restaurants for many months so why bother dyeing my hair every few weeks. My hairdresser was trepidatious but cut it so cleverly if very short. I have come to terms with the fact that I no longer suit long hair (and perhaps never did). See A History of Horrid Haircuts for reference.

I thought that the texture might be softer but it is not…but it is much less itchy. When all of this is over I might decide to color it blonde again (or pink or peach) or not. My eyes have darkened to almost all gray and I suit different colored clothes.

On a random note, do you notice my Frank’s sign on my never pierced ear? It has long been hypothesized that this vertical crease on your ear is indicative of cardiac disease. Given my family history, that is probably true but why worry? There is always a new pandemic or crazy election around the corner… 😉

Lest we forget

Dad in POW camp Stalag IXG, circa 1940

I just wish to send my personal greetings to all who serve and to all veterans here in the USA and in the United Kingdom.

The photograph above is of my dad; a Gordon Highlander who was captured at St Valery-en-Caux, France in 1940. He spend the remainder of the war years as a POW in Stalag IXG (Muhlhausen) Thuringia in the east of Germany until they were liberated by US troops in the very last days of the war. Dad passed at the grand age of 93 in August 2012. Below are the medals awarded to him that I keep with lots of other interesting memorabilia – stories for another day.

This a copy of a post by my husband on his LinkedIn page. I can add nothing more to this tribute than say that it brought a tear to my eye. May he rest in peace.

I am so relieved

Today life magically went back to normal despite the chaos yet to come.  Teddy and I walked to Kroger and sat outside with our lattes and celebratory snowman cookie.  A lady sat down at the next table (6ft or more away from us) and asked if she was far enough away.  “Of course”, we assured her, smiling widely.  Shortly after a young woman came out and started YELLING down her phone.  It was obvious that her card had just been declined at Kroger and she was pissed.  There was sarcasm, “I am SO sorry you are having a bad day, Boo Hoo”.  There were endless expletives, unusual in our wee forest.  Our eyes and our neighbors got wider at this unexpected display – maybe she voted for the loser??  Finally she stopped yelling and turned to enter the store again.  Just before she did, she apologized for the ‘show’.  I said, ‘it’s okay, we all have bad days”.

This hilarious exchange provoked conversation between us and our neighbor.  She told us that she was looking up scriptures to calm herself because of her relatives.  I burst out laughing because I know the feeling.  She was a black lady about my age and I just had a feeling she shared our political viewpoint even though our forest is very Red.  I said, “Have you seen that car?”  She burst out laughing and immediately took a photograph as we did.  Has he escaped to Texas?  She asked me what the passengers looked like and they were remarkably normal.  Two white females.

Donald Trump in the back seat

It has been a terribly anxious week for all of us and we now have 1 million cases of Covid-19 in Texas so it is hard to truly celebrate.  I literally risked death to vote – the election lady greeted us with NO MASK.  There were no gloves or sanitizing of booths.  There was one INCH between the voting booths and they made us vote for every bloody judge, township director and their dog instead of allowing us to just choose Democrat or Republican.  I ran out of there like there was the devil on my heels.

May we be a kinder and more integrated society; there is no malice in my heart for anyone with a different political opinion but I need my leader to be decent.

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!