Ducks watching Ducks

It’s been a while since I strolled around the containment pond with my pesky eye irritation. As I rounded the curve, I could hear the panicked high pitched peeps of the whistling ducks. The parents ran away from the grass where they were nesting with babies in tow and splashed into the water. The bombproof Muscovy ducks just sat and watched with perplexment. They live here year around and are domesticated – nothing to fear from humans who feed them (and keep them warm when it snows). The whistling ducks are migratory so are pretty feral and very skittish.

This year we have a bumper crop of whistling ducks to go back to Latin America. Dozens and dozens of lovely wee non-ducks, as we call them as they are neither ducks nor geese. The ducklings are just precious little ‘stripes’. I didn’t see any Muscovy ducklings this year but I think this lot are all the same family. It’s doubtful that would stop them getting frisky, though… Red faces not red necks?

On my trek back, I got a better photo of the six Muscovy Ducks. Don’t they look dapper in their evening wear? I like the touch of taupe in the middle duck and the silver one is my favorite. They look ready for the Oscars or whatever the Duck equivalent is.

American Robin

Mommy Robin: “Oh this is lovely!  There is nothing like a morning bath when it is already 80 degrees.”

Baby Robin “Mom!  What are you doing?  Can I get in?

Mommy Robin “Could I just get five minutes peace to enjoy my bath?”

Baby Robin “I’m bored…”

Mommy Robin “If I have to get out of this bath, you are in so much trouble!!”

Don’t you just feel for poor Mother Robin? I think she might have been using some bad words…  This video was taken one morning after the Raccoons had used the Pyrex bowl as a swimming pool.  To the US readers, the American in the title is redundant.  The Brits are more familiar with the iconic European Robin which is a much smaller, cheekier bird, part of the flycatcher family.  I imagine the early settlers were delighted to find their own red breasted bird in the New World.

The American Robin is really part of the Thrush family and they have the same gentle nature although they are not quite as shy.  Our Robins used to migrate but some decided to stay here all year.  I am delighted because they are such sweet birds.  Like the crazy lady that I am, I love to chat to them in the undergrowth when they are rooting about for worms.  One day I stopped my car to allow one to dip a worm in the savory puddle water at her own pace.

Mom and Dad Robin look very similar except the female has slightly lighter coloring.  The males have a more vivid red breast and the females a rusty color.  They look after their babies equally and have up to three clutches a year.  The juveniles have a speckled chest but don’t seem to leave the nest until almost full grown.

Robins are songbirds which is delightful… except they sing at daybreak.  Still, they cannot be as bad as the current cicadas which are so loud that Teddy ran through the house looking for a plumbing break.  Every night I think, ‘will one of our many night critters eat that bloody cicada?’.  In truth, the cicadas were the reason why we bought this house.  We were enchanted by their alien song when we moved here 17 years ago.  I have been wondering if these particular cicadas are on a 17-year cycle because they sound different from the summer cicadas.  If I wasn’t so creeped out by their appearance, I would research it…

Teddy’s Boo-Boo Et Cetera

The God of Health (Valkyre Eir perhaps?) has not been looking after this household.  I thought we had sufficient animal sacrifices; the skunk under the deck quickly followed by a lovely dead rat (“Is hamster?”) First it was my eyes – which are much better and thank you for all your good wishes – and now Teddy’s rather dashing blue stitches.

Teddy went for his annual dermatological inspection and our doctor honed in on this tiny wee mole (a millimeter in diameter) on his forehead.  Over his adult life he has had dozens of moles removed but all were benign.  It went to the lab and within two days the surgeon had removed the basal skin cancer and surrounding tissue.  That is the most common type of cancer and the least worrisome of the skin cancers unless you ignore it.  European immigrants who move to hot places have to be particularly cautious.  If I had a dollar for every time I said, “Have you put sunscreen on and where is your hat?”

His surgeon looked about 14 years old but this is just from our aged perspective…  It’s the same with firemen and police.  She said, “I am just wondering how to place the stitches to fit in with your forehead lines.”  Teddy laughed and responded, “You mean the wrinkles!” The surgeon gasped and said, “We don’t use the W word in here!”  They also perform plastic surgery along with dermatological procedures.  We were delighted at how quick the procedure was and Teddy can now relax (but wear a bloody hat).

Our neighbor’s father has just died of Covid despite being inoculated and our hospitals are full.  I have an appointment with my gastroenterologist tomorrow for a postponed colonoscopy.  I wanted to cancel the elective procedure again but he is not scheduling until 2022, so fingers crossed.  Our air quality in the Houston area has been bad.  Somewhat surprisingly because of Saharan dust and smoke from the western wildfires.  It really is a small world; even smaller for me because I have stayed inside to heal my scratched eyes.

Our floral coleus spikes are magnificent (future post), the raccoon kits are getting bigger and we are awaiting Tropical Storm Nicholas.  This year we don’t really need the rain so they have reduced Lake Houston and we sit praying to the God of Weather, Freyr. Actually, that’s a lie – we will just be watching the weather channel and Netflix in tandem.   My favorite program is Ice Road Truckers when it is hot and humid down here. Our electricity provider has already warned us about the storm and I hope that doesn’t mean they wish to be absolved from potential blackouts.

Hope your God or Gods are keeping you safe and healthy!

Cute Baby Animals!

I felt like I needed an antidote to my last post…  Over the past few weeks, I noticed that the water in the Infinity Pool and Blue Lagoon was murky.  I had my suspicions so we put the night camera out.  My heart melted when I saw these baby raccoon kits.  The next night we put out some of our old cat’s toys and the kits didn’t disappoint.  It has been really hot so they loved having a wee bath. Perhaps they are bathed more than Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis’ kids?

Raccoons are part of the Procyonidae family widely spread through North and South America.  There are 7 species, from Alaska to Argentina, and include Coatimundi and Kinkajou.   Their original Latin name, Ursus Lotor, referred to their perceived habit of washing their paws.  As omnivores they will eat food in shallow water but the real reason for them moving their webbed paws in a washing motion is because they use them as vibration sensors.  Our kits were about the size of the Pyrex dish (although apparently two can fit at a push…)  In my mind, they look like a cute little bear/cat/dog hybrid.

Mother raccoon did not appear on camera so she was probably resting in the reserve, leaving the kits in the Garden of Raccoon Delights.  Raccoons usually have 2 to 8 kits but it’s likely that our 6 kits are cousins. Female raccoons sometimes live together to raise their kits – the original Sister Wives?  The biggest raccoon I have seen in our yard was as big as a Bulldog – their weight ranges from 5 to over 50 lbs.  Mrs Stripe, who was a street cat from Egypt, looked at it with utter astonishment.  It didn’t smell like a dog or a cat, so what was it??

Striped tails are my weakness so I smile every time I look at the video.  They are so small, fluffy and playful!  In another video we heard them whining for Mama.  It sounded like a puppy whining softly.  In general raccoons can make a variety of noises – yowling, growling, hissing, purring, chirping and cooing.  This litter was really quiet and I couldn’t hear them even though they were feet away from my bed.  What goes on in our yard at night?  It’s a magical, if occasionally stinky, place.

Fancy Women

One of the many aspects of Texas that I love are the signs. This one tickled me and I wonder what constitutes a fancy woman? This is actually a sign from our next door neighbor, Louisiana. I noticed plenty of ‘fancy women’ in New Orleans….most were drunk as skunks and flashing their boobs from balconies in Bourbon Street.

I like to think of myself as a fancy woman but in the nicest possible way… This is the ‘skirt that disappeared’. Just before the Pandemic started I ordered a maxi skirt from American Eagle. After some weeks they got in touch to say that the skirt was no longer available. I completely understood given the chaotic situation but eventually started to wonder when I would get my refund. Just as I was getting ready to complain, my skirt arrived in the mail three months later. I had absolutely nowhere to wear it but finally it came out on my birthday, one year later.

This sign was on the Cantina next to our Cajun restaurant. It reminded me of a sign on a major toll road in Houston that made me laugh every time I saw it. It was a ramshackle old sign with mismatched letters leading to a very insalubrious bar in an industrial area, along the train tracks. “Our beer is colder than your ex wife’s heart…” I imagine that only ‘fancy women’ would ever dare go there!

As for the Cantina, all margaritas make you sexier. They didn’t reference the type of meat – that’s always suspicious…

I love marinas and this one at Lake Conroe has got way fancier as the decades have passed. Last year there was a Trump rally in boats on the lake – there was another on Lake Travis in the north of Texas where 4 of the boats sank. I will leave you to imagine how I felt but let’s just say schadenfreude was involved. Before you ask, no one died – there was too many boats on the lake at the same time. The Devil looks after his own…

Mature Conversation

Teddy asked, “What’s the difference between Queer and Gay?” Kerry scoffed, “Gosh, you really are old, aren’t you?”  She then Googles it because she doesn’t know the difference either.  Later she explained the difference to Teddy who said, “What does the plus stand for in LBGTQ+?” “I have no idea” she responded. “I don’t think we need to know at our age…”

“Good morning, Kathleen” said Teddy referencing that Kerry looked like her mother while staring vacantly into the middle distance in her beloved lilac dressing gown.  “Feck off” responded Kerry.

“She’s nae bonny, is she?” said Teddy to Kerry while they were watching a dreadful reality show.  The girl was a tad plain. “Do you remember your mum and that poor girl’s prom dress?” responded Kerry who was referencing an incident back in the 1970s when Nessie, a skilled seamstress, persuaded a girl, quite overweight, not to choose a white fabric.  “What was the expression she used”, asked Kerry. “She would have looked like a galleon in full sail”  And that was her trying to be kind.

“Would you like a savory snack, Sir?” asked Kerry, with her best impression of a British Airways flight attendant with a London accent.  “Yes please, Miss!” responded Teddy in a high-pitched dweeby London accent.

Teddy grabbed his wife’s delectable ass while passing her in the kitchen.  Kerry laughingly responded with the expression she has been using for 40 years, “Don’t touch what you can’t afford!”  This evoked a play chase around the house with Kerry screaming for her husband not to touch her.  Over the years, the chasing has become a bit more sedate and they both collapse on the bed with no further action.  Sometimes Kerry begs, “Don’t squeeze me – something awful might happen!”  Teddy responds, “We don’t have to bring up your family’s bowel and bladder problems…”  Hysterical laughing followed by a rushed trip to the bathroom.

Teddy starts a monologue, “I need…blah…Amazon…blah…cable…blah.” Ad infinitum.  After he finishes, Kerry says, “You have just wasted another five minutes of my rapidly diminishing life cycle.  Do whatever the Feck you want.”

“Can you get me the industrial vinegar from the garage, Ted?” asked Kerry.  Some time passes with clattering in the garage.  Kerry shouts “If I have to come in and find it, you are in so much trouble!” “It’s not here!” he exclaims.  Kerry walks into the garage, opens the first cupboard and it is right in front of them.  Teddy is futtering about in the second cupboard – every shelf is labelled.  Kerry sighs in exasperation.

Teddy and Kerry are watching a French movie on Netlix. “Ecoutez!” booms the French actor “…et répétez!” shouted Teddy and Kerry in unison.  Their shared experience of the Scottish education system sets off some familiar phrases.  “Ma tante ouvre la fenêtre!” says Kerry.  Teddy responds, “Mon oncle trouve la plume!”  They lose track of the movie.

With no segue, Kerry states “I haven’t found a foolproof way to kill you since they put bittering agent in anti-freeze”.  Teddy gives her a withering stare and she cackles.

Kerry is doing something in the bedroom when a hulking creature appears at the doorway.  She screams, “Stop creeping about the bloody house!” “I live here, too” he responds sadly.

“I think we need to cut down the wine” said either Kerry or Teddy.  A few hours later, “Are you still not drinking or would you like a glass of wine?”  “Yes, please!”

Kerry is reading while on the toilet, against her gastroenterologist’s advice.  Teddy walks in and says, “There you are! I have been looking for you everywhere.  The back door was unlocked but the front door is still locked and I was worried”.  Kerry shouts, “I miss my privacy since you retired.  GET OUT!”

Teddy, “ I love you to Pluto and back!”

Kerry, “I love you to Alpha Centauri and back!”

Blue Lagoon

It’s official – Infinity is a bust!  More precisely, our Pyrex Infinity Pool was not appreciated by our garden critters.  We watched as they walked cautiously around it, looking at it suspiciously. “What did the People do with the old bowl???”  I think they couldn’t see the bottom of it or the edge and it made them wary about how deep it was.  The critters had spoken and we trekked off to our favorite ‘antique’ shop in Tomball  to replace their pool.  We enjoyed our antiquing but you know it is time to stop when you wonder if they would like our stuff…  The precious bowl Blue Lagoon was actually found at the church shop and cost $2.

Infinity’s a bust!

I was tickled that it was a genuine ceramic from the Coushatta Casino Resort in Louisiana. The Coushatta Tribe moved from their home base in south west Louisiana to Alabama to avoid Spanish explorer Hernandez DeSoto after an encounter in 1540.  They relocated back to their homelands and some live in East Texas.  Gambling casinos are illegal in Texas despite a recent bill in the Texas Senate.  Teddy felt that we should have made some miniature roulette tables to our lagoon but it is too hot to be bothered now!

The new Blue Lagoon is a hit with the garden critters as you can see at the top and below with the infra- red camera.  That is an indigenous pack rat sitting on the diving rock.  Given his occupation, he would have loved rummaging through the antique shop.  My favorite find was a George Bush doll! 

Perfect for a pack rat!

Does anyone else remember old school desks that still had the inkwell in them?  By the 60s we had stopped using the inkwell but I do remember having a few fountain pens.  It was a really hot sticky day so Teddy and I enjoyed a wee glass of Pinot Grigio at this lovely outside bar.  Afterwards we realized we hadn’t had any breakfast – we are turning into retired reprobates.

Cheers!! Sláinte!! Salud!! Prost!!

Toxic Positivity

That’s an oxymoron, isn’t it?  I am fascinated by this new post pandemic phrase – can positivity be toxic?  I think the answer is yes but with some caveats.  When I first started blogging on WordPress, most of the blogs were literary (poetry/writing), travel based, humorous or healthy living (mental and physical).  Over the past year there have been a huge increase in blogs with a ‘Positivity’ focus.  I follow several blogs that fall into that category and I write posts that are positive, too.

No matter how many ways you say it, however, there was really few silver linings about this last year.  It was, what it was – a Pandemic.  There is truly no way to fully prepare for it and all the consequences that include unemployment, isolation, illness and death.  Like many of my readers, it became too much at times and I stopped watching the news or anything pandemic related.  I found some succor in my Fairy Blight stories.  We gravitated to lighter TV programs and movies and that is natural.

Positivity becomes toxic when it is insistent, leaving you no room for feeling bad or empty.  We should feel very sad and grief stricken about the great loss of life.  We should be on edge about the political and other divisions between us during this stressful time and be prepared to take action (in a non-violent legal way).  There is nothing positive about all the mass gun shootings in the USA this year alone – we need a cultural change along with a legal one.

In day-to-day life, I have noticed that some friends only want to talk about upbeat topics.  That can leave the friend, who wants to share their angst, feeling alone.  There is room for both.  You can chat about how crappy you feel and then start laughing about a shared memory or plans for the future.  Real friends are there for you in darkness and light.  Be assured that there is light ahead – every morning there is a new dawn with endless possibilities.  Was that the cheesiest phrase I have ever written?  At least I can laugh at myself and my toxic positivity…

When I was growing up, my mum had a major depressive breakdown with a hospital stay and electroshock therapy.  I inherited the genetic disorder but also struggled with a mother who couldn’t see anything positive in life.  As a result, I did everything I could to make her happy, until I got angry.  After I married, I would call my mum every night at 6 pm.  In an instant I could tell if her mood was low.  If it was, I panicked, wondering if she was going to drink that night, then I went on to MAKE her feel positive.  It’s possible that I had a remarkable skill with my poor mother or she just pretended to be okay so I would shut up!  Sometimes she felt so bad that she wouldn’t answer the phone.  Then I phoned her next-door neighbor…  I think that is the essence of toxic positivity and my intentions were so good.

In retrospect, I should have given her some space, and allowed her to feel bad but I was full of fear.  When I worked in mental health, I took a couple of courses in counselling skills and was mortified that this was not my forte.  The excellent trainer pointed out that I was trying to make the client feel better rather than truly listen to them.  That taught me so many lessons but I also knew that training to be a fully qualified counsellor was not for me.  To be honest, I am much better in a triage or stressful situation giving sensible advice.  That’s why I worked so long at an airport.  My desire to overwhelm passengers with positivity and happiness was appropriate in that small time period of contact – and mostly appreciated by stressed travelers.

Many years ago, I worked with the colleague from hell – she was the epitome of a gas-lighter.  Eventually I left the job with a vague excuse although my co-workers thought the gas lighter was the reason.  She was full of fake toxic positivity and plastered the walls of our office with those awful 90’s motivational posters. I wanted to deface them all with the opposite word as well as hold her down and write SOCIOPATH on her forehead with one of her black markers.

ACHIEVEMENT – FAILURE

FOCUS -APATHY

EXCELLENCE – MEDIOCRITY

Being positive is a wonderful quality but you can’t force it on yourself or other people.  Balance and moderation are in short supply currently but hopefully life will improve.  The mask mandate is lifted here because there are so many fully vaccinated people and what a joy it is to smile at random strangers.

Here is a definition from VeryWellMind.com

Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. It’s a “good vibes only” approach to life.

This is the second in a series of essays; the first was Cancel Culture or Consequences and the third will be Gaslighting.

The Scream

Mama – I need lunch !!!

This delightful young red-tailed hawk has been waking me up every morning, YELLING for breakfast.  It was such a lovely day seeing the baby close up – they have a huge nest in a pine tree behind our neighbor’s house.

Later that day, we set the night camera out and some squirrels came up to us looking for peanuts which we readily provided.  We looked out at them snacking on their peanuts on the top of the fence.  I turned away and Teddy, gasped “Oh no!”.  The enormous (4 foot wing span) Red Tailed Hawk mother snatched one of the wee squirrels off the fence.  I was distraught and convinced it was my fault although objectively I know it is just the circle of life.

We lived on a farm many years ago and woke up to dead sheep or cattle when they had died in the night.  The farmer would drag the carcass onto the drive next to our house so that the knacker man could pick it up.  It couldn’t go for human consumption.  I adapted to farm life but still grieved each loss as I knew them all personally and had named them (Pal, Ilford, Ermentrude, Toffee, Fudge and Moo were my favorites).  Eventually they all went to market anyway.

I struggled to sleep after the squirrel kill but laughingly realized that we have been running a small farm in our backyard.  The stock is fat and healthy – excellent food for a beautiful hawk.  I won’t put any more peanuts out until winter as they have plenty of food.  Someone else is eating every bud off my hibiscus plant…

Teddy took these fabulous shots of the juvenile, about 60 foot up, with his Canon camera that cost more than me – no dowry from a council house! He was offered many camels for me in Egypt, however, and very kindly turned them down.

Dungarees or Overalls?

My Texan friends always look perplexed when I refer to the outfit above as dungarees, “Oh you mean overalls”.  I checked the web and technically both are right but here, in Texas, my apparel is a ‘bib overall’.  Whatever you want to call them, I had a penchant for a pair two years ago.  On a trip to Scotland in 2019, I found a perfect pair of bib overalls and matching blouse in H & M (in the clearance rack, naturally).  I wondered if I was too old to wear them at age 60 but I think I rock them!

Close up of bib overalls

I still refer to H & M as Hennes from their original name Hennes and Mauritz.  It is a Swedish based company and on one particularly awful trip to Stockholm, the airline lost all our clothes and MY WHEELCHAIR!  There was no offer to lend me one, or connect me to their Red Cross.  They couldn’t give a skit, as they say in Sweden and got the sharp end of my tongue, to no avail.  We needed to get some clothes and headed to Hennes.  I could walk a few yards and perhaps had a stick?  Nothing fitted me but Teddy got the best clothes he has ever worn.  They were finished properly with excellent material and lasted for years.  My new outfit from 2019 was well made too but not quite the same quality. 

As I Googled for H & M, I noticed a variety of forums that suggested that because H & M promoted fashionable clothes it wasn’t an eco-friendly store.  Well, I will still be wearing mine for a decade, as Teddy did his, but I really prefer thrift stores.  I noticed that we have a new baby critter in the garden – a blue tailed Skink.  As you can see, he is the same size as a peanut shell but he will grow to about a foot including his tail.  He is very welcome because he loves tree roaches and cicadas – eat away little skink!

It’s a little fuzzy because it was taken through the window but his dungarees are even cuter than mine!