Thankful…

As Thanksgiving approaches, there doesn’t seem like much to be thankful for this year with ‘Winter is Coming’ fuel shortages, war, pestilence, inflation, climate change and all the other stuff we are worried about.  Take self-centered me, for example – my newish bikini razor broke and I couldn’t find the receipt.  I took out all my receipts and had a mini meltdown.  All the numbers on the receipts blurred and I became panicked – about something that cost less than $20.  I really struggled to find my sensible head but wonky head was in control.  As always, I calmed down eventually, but I was shaken.  The unimportant broken razor was just the catalyst for how I am feeling.

I am not alone but my worries are ridiculous and magnified by my mental illness.  The city of Kherson in Ukraine has just been liberated from the Russians who destroyed all their infrastructure as they left.  Yet, the residents were smiling and thankful.  Perspective always helps to settle my mind so I make sure I read the world news every day.  My aunt in Ireland told me that the government has asked local authorities, businesses and households to ration energy use and Christmas lighting displays.

Inflation makes us anxious in the US but it is running at around 85% in Turkey.  It’s a post pandemic global issue and the US is about average compared to other first world countries.   I just received a check from the UK for £1000 – once converted, it was only $1000.  That’s never happened!  The fact that I was fortunate enough to receive a check for $1000 should have made me thankful…  As a child I was so happy to receive a $20 note in a birthday card from aunts in the USA.  The concept of money was beyond me but I remember the excitement of going to the Rutherglen Post Office to change it into UK pounds.

Last week I wrote a draft post about having chronic fatigue but then the clocks changed back and I am not tired all the time.   Two weeks ago, I could not walk around our circular street without being exhausted.  We had Covid in the summer so perhaps that’s part of it.  The ugly truth is that it is nearly always my aggravating mental ill health that causes or exacerbates my other physical complaints.  It has been a stressful health year for us but nothing out of the ordinary for older people.  Maybe ageing is stressful?

Twitter might be bankrupt soon and Meta, aka Facebook, is failing.  Have we finally realized that social media is a potentially toxic entity, especially when managed by ethically dubious people? I have usually lived in small communities and when I heard a tantalizing piece of gossip, there was that initial thrill.  Then I assessed it and hopefully made a sensible decision about repeating it.  In a perfect world, I would not have repeated it but I am human!  Is there anything more fun than sharing a juicy titbit with a friend over coffee?  These days, there is less ‘wife swapping’, and more ‘he is in a wheelchair now’ tales.  There is a difference between salacious gossip and keeping a community connected.

Most of us are now personally affected by climate change.  This summer was just too hot and I struggled.  It affected my mood being unable to go out for a walk because of the heat or dangerous UV radiation.  Some of my neighbors got up at 7 am to take their dogs out but I just couldn’t manage that.  Last week winter arrived and it was 40 F today but it was 82 F yesterday.  That’s a huge change for big critters and little ones.  Teddy and I talk aimlessly about living somewhere more temperate but remember how much we disliked the cold in northern Europe.  Nowhere is perfect.

I remember bitterly cold nights in Scotland, as a child.  Window panes frozen with delicate patterns.  On the worst nights every blanket or eiderdown was used on the beds – with winter coats atop.  Back then, I didn’t have such an aversion to cold.  We had very old flannel sheets that we used in the winter.  They were darned, as mine are now.  Electric blankets weren’t commonplace so we put rubber hot water bottles in the beds, moving them from the middle to the bottom before slipping into bed.  Heaven!  My flannel sheets are so old that they feel a bit rough on your skin – maybe I could sell them as a body exfoliation product?  This summer, I bought expensive new flannel sheets on sale.  Once you go ‘Lands End’ you can’t go back…

Last week, I told the pharmacist that I was going to kill my husband and I think she believed me.  We finally switched to Affordable Health Care aka Obama Care from our work sponsored medical insurance.  Teddy spent months planning it so the transition would be smooth.  My bill for cheap, generic medication was $92.  What the heck?  The insurance wasn’t working because I had the wrong birthdate on the policy.  We assume that it was a Scottish accent problem…  The worried pharmacist did a magic trick with coupons and reduced the bill to $13.   Teddy was working at the wolf sanctuary so I didn’t want to call him in case he had another cardiac event. 

Then I called healthcare.gov (pause for a joint sigh of despair) but it was okay.  I had to swear on my first-born cat’s life that I was not committing a felony and sold my soul to somebody.  It will take a few weeks for it to be sorted and it was not the end of the world.  So, with that in mind, this is what am I thankful for –

  • I have healthcare of any type
  • There is enough money for food
  • We can heat or cool the house
  • My illness is manageable
  • I live in a democracy
  • Thrift shops are my happy place
  • Loving friends and family
  • There is a roof over my head

Let’s keep our wishes simple, our gratitude real and be generous with time or money for those who have less than us.  That can be rescued wolves or homeless people.  If you don’t feel good or need help, share it with someone you trust.  It’s not necessary or normal to be happy all the time.  Keep some perspective about real world problems.  Be kind to as many species as possible.  Mother Earth will thank you!

Talk Therapy

Life has been busier than normal recently.  My husband was scheduled for a cardiac procedure but after much thought he decided to cancel and/or delay it.  At the same time, a family member from Scotland was coming to visit us in Texas.  I haven’t seen my family in over 3 years and was so excited about his visit.  Every part of the house was cleaned, over and over again.  Anticipation, stress and then fatigue…  In a brief Zen moment, I lingered in the discount corner of our local supermarket.  It had been stocked with wonderful organic potions that caught my interest.  Then, I was aware that another shopper was hovering nearby.

“Gosh, I am so sorry!”, I said. “Please come in and have a browse – I can’t make up my mind which wrinkle cream to choose.”  She was a pretty younger woman in her 40’s, perhaps?  I noticed she was very slim and looked a bit harassed, although smiling.  Inevitably, we started chatting about various bargains we had gotten at our two supermarkets’ discount corners.  We both had found fabulous discontinued products that we later had to hunt for on Amazon and pay full price for the second purchase.  Then she asked me if any wrinkle creams work.  I started laughing, pointing at my face and saying, “Of course they don’t!”

Suddenly, the conversation took a turn.  The lady said, “I have aged so much over the last 2 years since my husband left me.”  My counselling skills automatically clicked on so I just adjusted my gaze and fully focused on her.  “He won’t leave me alone but it was his choice to leave.  I guess he has to see the children.”  I hope I chose the right words and soothed her somewhat but she saddened me.  The Pandemic has been bad enough without a separation or divorce.  It is often easier to talk to an anonymous lady about deeply personal problems.  While I am honored that she picked me but I hope she has someone else to talk to.  Or perhaps a blog?

Our family visitor came for a lovely but brief visit.  We went out to dinner at a local restaurant and I ate gluten, wheat and walnuts.  That gave me gas that was incredibly painful, if laughable.  Note to self; keep to your sensible diet or suffer the consequences.  My cousin is our genealogist and we had great fun looking at old photographs.  We currently have a mystery about our great grand-parents.  We both thought they had lived their whole lives in Ireland at the farm but an Ancestry DNA link is intimating that they moved to Maine (I have a photo of great grandma taken in Rhode Island) and then went back to Ireland.

My cousin had jet lag, woke up at 5 am and I found him reading out on our deck when I got up.  He said there was an odd smell wafting from the deck.  Aghast, I looked beside him and there were glittery decomposition flies – gah!  All that cleaning and my guest is sitting next to a (very small) dead body on our equivalent of a Body Farm.  I blame Baby Cooper Hawk.  Did he drop injured prey on our deck that fled under the deck?  So…I have asked our handyman to come and dismantle the deck.  We are getting too old to deal with our Body Farm so we will have it dry landscaped.

After Cousin left, I lazed around for a couple of days before going to early voting at the library.  When I arrived, there was a small queue outside but the weather was glorious – not humid or warm.  Two very elderly people with sticks were asked if they would like to jump the line but the old man said he had nothing else to do anyway.  Then he told all of us (about a dozen) that his wife had died recently and life was difficult.  We all made reassuring noises (and I felt sad again…)  Another lady about the same age told us she was glad that her husband died before her and her eyes welled up with tears!

So many people need some talk therapy these days or just a cozy chat.  The lady right in front of me then turned around to chat to me about the electoral process.  Did I look knowledgeable?  She asked me how mail-in voting works and is it secure?  I said I had no idea and hoped she didn’t hear my accent behind my mask.  I was the only person wearing a mask.  This brings me to my favorite funny story about voting in the States.

Some years ago, British friend of mine, in Texas, went to vote in our township.  The election worker noted her English accent and asked to see her ‘papers’, despite her voting card and driving license.  This provoked my friend to say, rather sharply, “I have been an American citizen for 30 years and this is the first time anyone has asked to see my papers”.  Quite rightly, she was outraged at the query, especially since the greater Houston area has a wide array of legal immigrants – many first generation with accents.  Unfortunately, for the election worker, there was a lady with a strong Russian accent behind my friend.  Her comment was, “This place like Stalingrad!”  (You have to read it with the accent.) My friend and the Russian/American lady bonded, they voted and we all lived happily ever after in our suburban bubble. 

Keeping smiling at people and chatting.  You never know who might need a shoulder right now.

Update – Manuel deconstructed the deck. It was a decomposing raccoon leg – a perfect Halloween scene and mystery. Who ate the rest?? Not Baby Cooper but perhaps a hungry possum. The circle of life…🦝

Knitted Pantaloons

I was all set, getting ready to leave the house to go to the Dentist. Then I saw a flicker of gray in the garden and crept to the window. It was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, resplendent in knitted pantaloons. If I was little, I would ask my Nana to knit me a stuffed Hawk just like this one.

The Juvenile was very skittish and as I went to get my camera out of the drawer, I noticed a squirrel staring intently at the hawk from the fence. Part of me wanted to warn the squirrel but I really wanted a photograph… We have plenty of squirrels and this one was curious, not scared! Baby Cooper posed so nicely for me, showing off her fabulous plumage. I need to get an outfit of taupe and steel gray now.

Eventually, I made a noise as I was trying to poke the camera through the Venetian blinds and the hawk flew off straight into the squirrel. My heart was in my mouth wondering what would happen next but the feisty squirrel fluffed up her fur like a cat and terrified Baby Cooper. They eat much smaller prey than squirrels. Our squirrel stood her ground, saying, “That is MY Nut Mom and MY garden.”

Please come visit us again, little hawk! I want to see those yellow feet…and those fluffy pantaloons.

EXCITING UPDATE

When I went out on the walking path yesterday, I met Baby Cooper! She sat in her tree while I have a one side conversation with her. There is an open invitation for her to visit my yard.

Autumn Ramblings…

I love the not very scarecrow and the upside down witches legs at the next store

I am in a strange mood for the start of my favorite season.  Fall has taken some of the heat out of the air and I woke up cold today.  Can you believe it was 73 F (23 C) in the house?? Every so often, I have notions about moving to somewhere quieter with better air quality but those places are always cold in the winter so, ‘No Bueno’.

Before the pandemic, I was delighted at myself for fixing the leaking U-Bend pipe under the sink, with step-by-step instructions from the local hardware store.  Then it leaked again, mid pandemic, and my husband fixed it.  This week it flooded again and the plumber had to be called.  Over the last two decades I have cultivated a cache of trusted contractors in Texas.  We came from a small village in Scotland where you could rely on word of mouth for good service.

I know the plumber’s wife very well and we chat away like old friends, both trapped in the house by work or anxiety. “Hello, Mary”, said I, “Could you send that nice young man that came before?”  As soon as the phrase was uttered, I burst out laughing, as did Mary, at how horribly ancient I sounded.  We shared memories about how embarrassing it was when our respective mothers talked to complete strangers.  You never think your mother’s words and accent are going to fly out of your mouth like Parseltongue.  Then you look in the bathroom mirror and she is staring at you…like Moaning Myrtle.

Mary told me that James would be delighted to be requested, especially from a VIP customer, such as myself.  James came early but phoned to see if that was okay (isn’t that perfect?) and arrived with his wee pal, Carlos.  Both were married and about 30 years old but seemed so young to me.  About a decade ago, I might have tried to emulate Mrs. Robinson for a good price (for the plumbing) but can only pull that off with old codgers now (the electrician, for example).

They went straight to the sink and James said, “This is my last day.”  NO!!!  Then I turned into Auntie Kerry as he told me that he had to take 2 months off work because his mother, in Washington State, just had a serious stroke and was awaiting a brain operation.  He was really agitated about it, understandably, but particularly because he might lose the best job he had ever had.  We chatted some more about making difficult decisions but I assured him that he was making a good decision.  Life is so short; he would probably regret not going and the plumbing company would keep the job open as long as they could.  If not, there is always a need for contractors.

As they were fixing the sink and then the cistern, I whispered to Teddy about the situation and asked him to find a nice geological rock for James as he collects them.  As they were leaving, and undercharging us, Teddy presented James with an ancient rock from Ireland and one from Scotland.  Carlos was just standing, being supportive to his colleague and I felt sorry for him.  So…I asked him if he would like a Popsicle?  Now I had gone from Auntie to Granny Kerry.  They both left, looking happier with popsicles and rocks.  How does this happen and when did I turn from sexy cougar to nice Nana?  Thank goodness I still have my gardener who calls me Babe!  Even Martha Stewart does thirst trap Instagrams.

On the squirrel front, ‘Half’ has been behaving badly.  He was chasing everyone off the deck so he could eat all the peanuts.  I opened the back door and shouted, “Half! I am going to smack your bottom, if you don’t stop that.”  Distant neighbors will be calling social services about the Scandinavian neighbor who assaults her children  The drought has returned and I am watering the garden again.  Yesterday I went into the back yard in my disgusting nightie (stains, no shape).  As I was hosing, a GIANT grasshopper landed on my head.  I had a tiny mental break, lost control of the hose which soaked me and my newly cleaned windows.  The grasshopper was terrified too.

I got washed and went to Trader Joe for groceries.  It’s a hip and groovy store and all the checkout staff are interesting…  My Dude was about 45 years old and looked like he had started a degree at a liberal arts college in California.  In my imagination, weed and surfing took over his life and now he works at a store.  He was so friendly, Bro, and we started talking.  I had bought some cans of wine (it’s a trailer home next) that were pre-mixed with sparkling water for Teddy’s restrictive diet.  The label said that the beverage was for those with an active lifestyle?  I started laughing and told him that I fully intended to sit motionless on my sofa and watch Netflix with said cans of wine.  He laughed and suggested I drink the harder stuff at the weekend.  In response, I told him that I only drink Jagermeister at the weekend (I was joking) but he looked at the old lady with new respect.  For the Brits, Jagermeister is the equivalent of Buckfast.  Gives you a hell of a hangover.

There was a big social event in the street – the second I have attended in a month!  I was so pleased with myself for going to both, behaving like a normal person and not drinking much.  But a toll has been taken – my mental health took a dip from all the social anxiety.  They were all people that I know and like but these last two years of introspection have made it difficult fight against my overwhelming desire to stay at home all the time.  I know it is important to keep challenging myself so although I didn’t feel like it, I kept a promise to visit one of our local antique towns today, with Teddy, and regretted it almost immediately.  Still, I followed through, and that’s important to improve my health.  Now we are meeting friends for lunch on Thursday.  Go, Kerry, Go!

Who doesn’t love a Corpse Bride at the Wedding Store?

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!

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…

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…

Best Birthday Gift Ever!!!

My birthday and our 40th wedding anniversary are this week – I have Covid-19.  About three weeks ago, I started coughing and took a negative test. “It’s the excessive heat or allergies,” I thought.  A week later I was watering the garden when I became really breathless so I made a Saturday morning appointment at the doctors.  He asked if I was anxious but said it in a kind way.  All my medical information tells doctors that my primary illness is anxiety so it is reasonable to ask.  In my mind my files are stamped with ‘DON’T BELIEVE ANYTHING SHE SAYS!!!!’  ‘CRAZY OLDER LADY WITH WEIRD ACCENT’ ‘SHE’S AWAY WITH THE FAIRIES’ ‘DANGER, DANGER!!!’.  He was very thorough given my ‘cyst in the lungs’ history, gave me another negative test for Covid and chest X-rays.  I haven’t seen a pulmonologist since my last one died of Covid during the worst of the Pandemic but the GP urged me to find a new one.

I left thinking it was all in my head – ‘bloody anxiety is the bane of my life’.  Teddy and I went off to Galveston for a couple of days and I felt good.  The sight and smell of the sea was heaven.  When we came back, I decided to book a little trip to one of the Great Lakes (cooler, more water, less tourists) for the anniversary/birthday combo.  The bag was packed instantly and for once I was excited.  Then I got anxious…we are having a drought and every day is over 100 F.  My sprinkler system has not worked for 2 years because I had nothing else to do but hose the garden.  What will happen to my little critters who rely on the various water bowls?  For some reason the birds prefer the blue bowl on the ground and the squirrels love the bird bath to drink out of.  A friend kindly offered to water the garden/critters but using my very sweet voice, I asked the sprinkler guy if he could fit me in – he could!  All problems solved…

We always book at the last minute because of my rapidly changing moods.  The flights could be cancelled but I hovered over paying $70 more for the hotel for last minute cancellation.  Teddy said, “Why would we cancel at this stage?” so I booked the non-refundable option…  This will now become part of the saga of our marriage and brought up every time I am annoyed on vacation.  Then the diarrhea started which was exacerbated by the hacking cough with almost disastrous results.  My nose was running into my coffee, my mask and the food I was preparing.  Then there was a message from the Saturday doctor – there was evidence of emphysema on my chest X-ray.  Really??  Time to take another stupid Covid test which was finally positive.

The hotel allowed us to book another date and the flights were cancelled.  God laughs at our plan, eh? On our 30th anniversary we had to cancel a trip to Panama because Teddy’s Dad had the temerity to die so inconveniently. I got sicker with Covid but the worst symptoms are abating.  I was fully vaccinated with 2 boosters but worked at the airport.  At least I don’t have Monkeypox.  Now Teddy is getting ill.  Nurse Ratched has appeared and he may as well be Patient Zero or Typhoid Teddy.  Is grumpiness part of Covid?  He has just sloped off to bed because he feels weak.  My response was ‘Good’ doublespeak for ‘Get out of my sight’.  Then we got an alert because we used 500 gallons more water than usual when the sprinklers started so I am back to hosing and misting.

Last night I cooked chicken marinated in white wine, lemon and oregano along with spiced couscous with sour cherries.  It just tasted like small white food with bigger white food.  My hair is standing on end with all the sweating and sleeping so I took a shower last night.  As I was drying off, I spotted a small cockroach fall out of my towel and skitter under my bed.  My OCD brain struggled to compete with Covid brain.  Previously a KLAXON warning would have gone off; I would have bathed in a light solution of bleach (joking DO NOT DO THIS), sprayed insecticide under the bed, washed the carpets, changed the sheets and had a small breakdown.  Covid brain won.  I just washed the towels and went to my unwashed bed with my new pet slumbering beneath me.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO US!