Posted in Photography

Every Picture Tells a Story

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.  When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.

Ansel Adams

            When I am behind my camera, I see things that others miss.  I feel new and young and inquisitive.  My world is more interesting, with colors so vivid it is almost too much to bear, and I am able to focus on what really matters, the fine details of the bigger picture.

            When I retired, I upgraded my little Nikon Coolpix to this bad boy, Nikon D3500.  The 3500 came with one lens that was adequate and allowed me to snap pics from 17-55 feet, but as I got used to taking photos and our travels expanded, I soon “needed” a larger lens.  (18-400)

            On a trip to Mount Vernon, Virginia, the historic home of George and Martha Washington, I found myself enthralled with the immaculate grounds, gardens, and the Potomac River.  You can actually sit in rocking chairs on the back porch and just stare at the beautiful trees, river, and horizon.  There are probably 40 plus rocking chairs set up just for visitors.

            By now, Boo knows nothing means more to me on vacation than taking photos.  He lets me wander and stop to snap as much as I want.  Sometimes he will call out worthy subjects and point to interesting sights, as he did at Mount Vernon.

            “Babe, look at the cool bird sitting on top of that huge magnolia tree.”

            I love photographing trees and as I was snapping away, I felt something behind me as two rather ‘weathered’ ladies tiptoed up, whispering, “We saw it too. You’ve got quite an eye.”

            I turned smiling, “Thank you.  It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?”

            “Have you seen one before?”  they asked, still whispering.

            “Oh sure, lots of times.  We have them in Texas.”  I whispered back.

            “Ohhhhhh my, that’s rare.  They are usually only seen in this region.  Do you use a journal or keep track online?”  One lady asked.

            And that is when I realized that they thought I was a Birder.  Before I had to admit I was talking about the tree, the bird flew off and two more with it that had been hiding in the tree.

Impressively, I snapped photo after photo of the birds in flight and was able to follow the birds across the sky, all the while not having a clue as to what kind of birds they were. 

            The ladies stopped and burst into an applause. Then waved fondly as they moved on down the path.

            “Good luck!”  they called.

There is something about a large camera that makes people think you must be taking important photos and you must know what you are doing.  On my first ever trip to Mardi Gras, I went with my Sittn’ Ugly Sistah, Ginger, to her parents’ home in Eunice, Louisiana.  Our friends, Mary and Cynthia went too and the three of them really schooled me as to Mardi Gras etiquette.  Once we got to downtown Eunice, I was behind my camera soaking up the colors, sights, and action.

 

People would stop and ask, “Will you take our picture?”  They never seemed to worry about seeing the picture or wondering where it would go, they just wanted to be photographed.  Couples would dance by on the street and pose, waiting for me to snap.  I gladly obliged.  I could almost hear the band and smell the gumbo through my lens.

I love photographing pets, and I could make a large coffee table book just on the pictures I have of our cat.  She’s very photogenic, if I do say so myself, and she is a subject that never gets old.

On a beach trip to Galveston, Boo broke speed limits and raced against time to get me to  ‘the best place in Galveston to capture a sunset.’  He googled the location and even carried my tripod, while helping me out onto the pier.   In Maine, he carried my camera backpack all the way on our three-mile hike around the pond. 

In Glacier National Park, he sprinted through the rain with my camera under his shirt just to make sure the camera stayed dry.  At family gatherings, he’s constantly asking, “Did you get that?”  He’s happy to see me happy taking pictures.  Even Uncle B, Boo’s brother, is supportive.  He gave me his tripod and is always sending me photos he knows I would appreciate.

When your heart jumps every time your camera locks focus- You’ve become a photographer.

Mark Denman

My heart jumps when I photograph my grandkids.  In fact, my favorite subjects are the people I love.  My second favorite is nature.  Any raindrop, insect, flower, tree, or animal; all gardens, mountains, oceans, and clouds.  My mind actually sees things within a frame.  It’s as if my vision is a camera lens.

Most of my photography is what the professionals call a “happy accident.”  I accidently get a beautiful shot and I’m not sure how it happened.  I’ve taken classes, yet sometimes I feel intimidated by people with seemingly more knowledge, bigger vocabularies, and fancier equipment.  But, as with writing, there are a lot of people who talk about it, think about it and plan to do it, and there are those of us who do.  I’m taking a chance, embracing imperfection and enjoying my photography more than I could ever explain.  It simply fills my soul, and that’s all I need to know.

Posted in Relationships

Walker – Stalker

            The first time it happened, I was not prepared.  The sun was shining, and I had a spring in my step as I headed outside for my walk.  Two blocks down I heard, “Oh, howdy neighbor,” as I ran smack dab into John.

            On our first meeting I learned John was a retired college professor, married to a woman whose mother was ill, the mother lived in Poland, and he knew three languages.

            He was going home after his walk but decided to walk with me for a while, just to chat.

            “Won’t you be going the wrong way?” I smiled.

            “Oh, I don’t mind, I’ll walk with you at least to the next street.  What did you say your name was?”

            “Nancy,” I said.  “I live on the corner, there.”

            “I know,” he said, and we walked together to the next street.

            John, bless his heart, is in his late seventies.  He uses a cane to support his stooped frame but is surprisingly agile as he sprints across the street to see me.  Most days he has on a faded baseball cap, PBS t-shirt, and plaid pajama pants with tennis shoes.  He sports a dashing mustache and has twinkling blue eyes that light up when he smiles, and he’s always smiling.

            Because John often needs to stop and catch his breath, I slow down and just wait while he rests and entertains me with his steady stream of stories from the past.

            Lest you think I am sweet for listening, I have been known to look out my front door and scan the streets before starting to walk.  I selfishly want to be alone with my thoughts or Spotify favorites, and walk at a faster pace.  But, on many occasions when I thought the coast was clear, he will come out of nowhere and POOF, I’ll hear him calling my name.

            Once I left the house, calling to Boo, “I’m going to get the mail.  Be right back.”

It takes me fifteen minutes to walk up the street and back to our community mailboxes.  Forty-five minutes later when I returned; Boo was standing in the kitchen,

“John?”

            “John.”

            “He’s a walker stalker!” Boo laughed.

            John will start talking fifty feet before he gets to me, and ever the gentleman he says, “I see you’re going for your walk.  Do you mind if I join you?”

            Another time I lied, “Sorry, John, I’m trying to get a short walk in before I have to go to a doctor’s appointment.”   

But he said, “Me too, which doctor are you going to?  I’ll just walk with you to the next street.”

            John asks me questions about myself, too.  He now knows my husband’s name, how long I worked in education, how many children we have and how long we’ve lived in our house.

            Boo was mowing the front yard one day, when I suddenly heard the mower stop.  I figured he was emptying the clippings, but when the mower never started back up, I opened the door to check.  One foot out the door and I saw John, leaning on his cane, chatting up a storm with Boo.  I quickly and quietly shut the door and hid.  Some time later the mower sputtered back up and soon Boo came in calling, “John says hello.  Did you know he was a college professor?”

            Last year with the Pandemic and all, John would always stay a respectable distance while we walked, asking if I was comfortable about the six-foot rule.  But now I know John is vaccinated, his wife is visiting her mother, he married late in life at fifty-three, he has sciatica and he had lunch with two friends yesterday.  Things are getting back to normal.

When I’m walking with John, he smiles and greets everyone on our path.  He knows most of them by name and can tell me something interesting about each one.  He’s amazing.  His seventy-plus-year-old mind is as sharp as ever.  When I stop to think about it, John has been the highlight of my shelter in place, stay at home days.  He’s upbeat, never feels sorry for himself, and although he has to stop now and again to rest, he’s out there doing his thing. 

As much as I selfishly want to walk faster some days, I know there will come a time when I miss seeing John and hearing about his life.  Perhaps divine providence brought me John to slow me down and refine my patience.  He certainly has brought me company along my walks and a smile on those lonely COVID days.  It’s hard to believe that someday I may be out walking the neighborhood, looking for friendship and a listening ear.  I hope you’ll slow down and walk with me, at least to the next street.

Posted in #Confessions

True Confession #1

1971

A Fork in The Road

            My junior year in high school I was invited to the senior prom by my crush, Clay Thornton.  It was exciting to be included with his senior friends and to dance the night away, pretending to be way more worldly than I was.  Before we left my house, Daddy announced, “Be home by 11:30, Nan.  Nothing good happens after midnight!”  Even though I was about to be seventeen, my curfew never changed, no matter what.

            Clay was tall, handsome, polite, smart, and played on the football team.  I had also been wearing his letter jacket for quite some time, proving to the world our mutual admiration.  We dated on and off my whole junior year and until he went away to college.

            I started my senior year fresh, unattached, and looking forward to graduation.  In the ‘70’s, at Tascosa High School, in Amarillo, Texas, you were assigned to a home room alphabetically.   I had been with the same “C” students for three years.  Once we got alphabetized in the tenth grade, that was it, until we graduated.  Mr. Thompson was our homeroom teacher and also taught government and economics.  He had been in the Naval Reserve with my dad, which was awkward, and he chewed on cigars that he carried in his front shirt pocket.  He was gruff, crusty, and personally I don’t think he gave a hoot about what we did as long as we were quiet.

            There was one student in our homeroom who was not in our usual classes, Tim C.  He was super tall, exceptionally thin and had an odd way about him.  We knew he went to special classes, but no one was out right rude, just dismissive.  Tim was quiet around our rowdy “C” students, so sometimes I went out of my way to say hello to him or smile when passing in the hall, to which he would raise his hand in a half wave and speed off.  I tried to be kind, while also tolerating a few snickers at Tim’s expense.  Wanting to do what’s right and wanting to be popular is a hellish place to be.

            I had plenty of dates my senior year, almost every weekend.  When I wasn’t working at Montgomery Wards in the stereo and record department, I enjoyed going to parties, attending games and definitely looked forward to my senior prom, graduation and going off to Baylor University in the fall.  My grades were more average than Daddy would have liked, but I thought of myself as ‘well-rounded’ and didn’t worry too much about it.

            I was home one evening in February, when my dad came to my room. “There’s a boy named Tim on the phone who wants to talk to you.”

            I couldn’t think of anyone I knew named Tim until I picked up the receiver.

            “Hello?”

            “H-hii N-n-ncy, this is  Ti-im Coley from h-h-home room.”

            “Hi Tim,” I said calmly, feeling awkward.

            “H-how are y-y-you?”  he asked.

            “I’m fine.”  I could feel my eyes widening and my heart started to pound. I kept thinking ‘ohmygosh,ohmygosh,ohmygosh.’

            “W-w-well, I have s-s-something to ask you.  It’s very i-i-i-important.”

            “Yes?” My mind racing, I thought oh no, he’s going to ask me on a date.

            And plain as day he said, “Will you please go to Prom with me?  M-m-y mother w-w-will take us and bring us h-h-home.”

            Sitting on the floor of my living room, right beside the bookcase clutching the phone so tightly I thought I might faint, my mind went blank.  I was unprepared and nervous and suddenly I burst through the silence with, “Uh, Tim, it’s awfully early to be asking, isn’t it?”

            “I-I kkknnnow, I’ve been wanting t-t-to ask since last y-y-year.  But my mother said I had to wait.”

            “Thank you, Tim.  I need some time to ask my dad.  Can I let you know soon?”

            “OK. S-s-s-ee you tomorrow.”

And with that, we hung up.

            It was all my foolish mind could think to say as I stalled, not wanting to hurt his feelings.  Instead of just saying no, I prolonged my torture by being dishonest.  I thought if I could just wait a few more weeks, someone else would ask me and I would be off the hook.  All I knew was I could not go to the prom with Tim C.  What would my friends say?

            Almost three weeks went by and my agony was palatable.  Every day at school was a game where I tried to hide so I wouldn’t run into Tim.  I finally, in my angst, wrote Tim C. a note.

Dear Tim,

Thank you for inviting me to prom, but I forgot someone had already.

 asked me a long time ago, so I have to go with them.

                              Thank you, Nancy

            The next day after the bell rang, I dropped the folded note onto his desk as I hurriedly left homeroom.  In my blinded teenage fog, I thought I had done a good thing and was happy the ordeal was finally over.  One side of me was happy and felt free but the other side of me kept saying, “I think you hurt his feelings.”

            You cannot possibly say anything to me I haven’t said to myself in the last fifty years since then.  Tim C. never spoke to me again.  He would look down when I walked by and he avoided eye contact even more than before my sorry excuse.  I disappointed him and myself.

            February turned into March into April, and there was not one prom invitation extended to me by anyone else.  As much as I dated and had friends, the closer it got to prom, the quieter my social life got.  Couples paired off making special plans.

            In 1971 girls did not go to dances in groups, it just wasn’t done.  It was a date’s only situation, and that was a situation I was not in.  The night of my senior prom, I was at home. 

            I was in my room when my dad knocked on the door and came in. “Honey,” he said, “you’re just too pretty.  The boys were afraid to ask you and they probably thought you already had a date.”  He hugged me, and in that moment, I broke into sobs of hot salty tears.  I wanted to tell my daddy what I had done and how I lied to Tim and hurt his feelings.  I wanted to confess this awful secret and get it out of me.  I was so disappointed in myself and my cruel actions, but I knew my father’s disappointment would be worse to bare.  I didn’t deserve his kind words and sympathy.  I deserved to be dateless the rest of my life.  And worse, I let my shame keep me silent about my actions for many more years to come.

            The night of my senior prom I learned a huge lesson about honesty and decency.  The laughs and embarrassment I thought I would have gotten for being Tim C.’s date might have instead, been a lesson in love and kindness for all of us.  There is always a fork in the road, where we make a choice that brings us up higher or takes us down lower, and the choice I made was not the best.    

Perhaps Tim C. doesn’t even remember me now, but if I could, I would tell him how sorry I am for my behavior.  And if I could do it all over again, I would choose differently.

I learned something inside all my disappointment, and shame.  I learned how I wanted to treat people and that being a kind human being was more important than potential popularity or perceived coolness.  I learned honesty really is the best policy, and that morals are private, but decency is public.

Posted in #Confessions

Progress Not Perfection

            I admit I have visions of grandeur.  I see my home and the belongings therein, as neat, tidy, and organized.  I know how Martha Stewart folds her towels so she can have the perfect linen closet and I have watched Marie Kondo on Netflix enough to know if I am over-burdened with unnecessary things.  I envision my possessions in their uncrowded, beautiful spaces, but my follow through is lacking.

            Besides my usual ‘junk’ drawer in the kitchen, there is ‘the pile.’  I confess that I am a stacker.  Beside my refrigerator is a stack that started with two pieces of mail I intended to do something with.  I should have opened the mail and immediately taken what action was necessary:  pay the bill, return information requested or discard the paper.  I postponed the action, which lead to this.

            Two pieces of mail turned into three cookbooks I haven’t used, a bulk pick-up reminder, one cat toy, a sequined seashell from my granddaughter, a white board and a flyer with coupons for pizza, which is now expired.

            Remember when Covid first started, people were posting on social media about using their time wisely to do home repairs or clean out closets?  Boo and I spent hours playing dominos and spades.  We walked and napped equally, and never cleaned one thing.

             Organizing my closet in an ongoing project that never gets completed.  I have sorted by what I wear and what should be given away.  I have refolded, rehung, and repurposed.  I tried to keep only what I love and brings me joy, but I kept hearing my dad’s voice, “You might need that to paint in someday.”  Another problem was when I asked myself if I loved an article of clothing, I would often answer, “I used to love that. I might wear it again.”

The ten prom dresses I wore when I was a high school administrator and had to chaperone Prom, a long black crocheted vest I might use for a 70’s costume someday, a navy- blue suit I wore two sizes ago that was my all-time favorite, a couple of wedding dresses (that’s probably too much information), and an old chambray ‘work shirt’ with candy cane’s embroidered on the pocket and collar are all examples of ‘my problem.’

            A few years ago, my dear friend Linda came over to help me organize my closet.  We took everything out and laid it on my bed, dresser, and floor.  She was overly polite as she pulled out twenty-two belts and ten formal, cocktail purses.  “Wow,” she said, “maybe you can decide on just a few you like the best.”  (I told you she was polite.)  The next few hours flew by as she challenged me to give away things I hadn’t worn or didn’t even like.  But, somewhere along the way, she pointed to a stack of hangers on the bed and asked, “Don’t you think you have enough?” 

“I have a problem with hangers,” I confessed.  “I like good hangers, remember Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest?”  Linda gently guided me to throw some away and donate the others, but secretly, I wanted to order more from QVC so I could hang everything on the same color hanger. When a salesclerk asks me if I want to keep the hanger, I always say yes.  I even have a few wire hangers that have crocheted coverings that Auntie Sue gave me years ago.  I know I have a problem, but I just can’t get rid of those.

            At one point, I thought I would just call and schedule a visit with Marie Kondo, here in my home.  If I had her here, in person, I thought I could change.  But sadly, her website says I will never get her, only one of her consultants at $100 an hour and paid travel expenses.  So, I took the $100 and bought cute baskets and containers to store more stuff in.

            Once, my daughter and her friend took everything out of my pantry and organized just like it was a grocery store.  “Mom, that expiration date was three years ago!” she began, and it went downhill from there.

 “Mom, why do you have three devilled egg plates?”

 “Doesn’t everyone?” I countered.  “Besides one day all of this will be yours and your sisters.”

 “Mom, do you ever use any of these cookbooks?”

 “I used to,” I lamely answered.  “Before you were born.  Besides, I love cookbooks.  They’re so pretty and colorful and I always find things I want to cook.”

Eye roll from daughter.

Lastly, “Mom, what’s the fascination with so many cans of black beans?”

“Once, I thought about going vegan.”

Disgusted eye roll.

My meek and sometimes weak answers did not deter them as they made me throw away out of date items, and tiny bits of saved crackers or chips that wouldn’t even feed a bird.  Don’t even get me started on the stack of grocery bags and bottles of wine.  “I don’t want to run out,” I whispered under my breath.

            Almost everything I own is either potentially useful or sentimental and that is why I have such a hard time letting things go.   I seem to lack inspiration and dedication, but, at the same time I can’t give up the dream of one day being color coordinated, pared down and organically organized.  I just hope you won’t think less of me as I straighten my piles and keep the three pairs of shoes, I haven’t worn in two years.  I might need them to paint in someday.

Posted in Nature

Mi Casa Es Su Casa

My backyard sanctuary is home to two new families.

Being an amateur photographer and Birder I use words like cute or sweet to describe the new families that have inhabited our decorative birdhouses on the patio. I call them chickadees but I’m not positive they are, so maybe one of you will know for sure.

Every year these little birdies spend a week or two preparing a new nest for their springtime babies.  It is hard work to fly back and forth, collecting leaves, string, feathers, and twigs to weave elaborate homes for their soon-to-be eggs. Below you see our bird taking in a rather large piece of white, paper-thin material.

Building the nest

When the nest is built, the mother-to-be will unceremoniously enter the nest, lay eggs, and begin to brood.  Although, we saw the birds building their nest, we were surprised when we peaked in one day and saw the mother looking back at us.  Even if the mother were to be scared away, she will come right back for the two-week incubation period. 

We definitely saw the little brown bird building the nest in the bluebonnet house, but during Easter weekend our son-in-law peeked into the white house and saw babies. How, we wondered and when did this happen?

Shortly after Easter the babies hatched in the bluebonnet house.  We do not hear their faint cries yet, but there is quite a commotion that ensues nearly all day long as the parent birds fly back and forth, looking for food and bringing food to the babies.   I read that when the eggs first hatch, the female will brood the young and the male will bring food.  After brooding both female and male will search for food.  Right now, I’m assuming the male flies out to locate worms, seeds, insects and berries. When his beak is full, he flies to one of the patio chairs and surveys the area.  Then he will fly to the roof or a plant near the birdhouse, and after looking around, he will land on the perch, glance around, then stick his beak into the birdhouse.

Boo, Emmy Cat, and I are mesmerized at their beauty and diligence.  We spend way too much time watching from the window and sometimes from outside, as I sit at the table quietly observing. Usually after a few minutes the birds will resume their work after they’ve decided I am no threat.  Even the other birds watch with anticipation.

We have stacked more plants on the rack to deter any neighborhood cats or other animals from disturbing the new family, while we wish we could do more to keep them safe, nature has its way.

I would love to know from you fellow backyard Birders if these are chickadees?  And are the brown ones in the same family? The brown and black/white birdies are both going to both houses! What’s going on? Boo said this is like an episode of Sister Wives!

Inquiring minds want to know!

Emmy sits for hours watching her birdies.

Posted in Boo, Nature

Rocky’s Back!

           “Shhhhh! Do you hear something?”

            “I think it’s the dryer.”

            “No, listen.”

            Boo, the cat and I were all looking up toward the ceiling in the den.  We stood up and walked, almost in synchronized form, following the sound as it moved around overhead.

            “Whoa,” Boo said.  “Whatever is in our attic is huge!”

            After the third night of sounds, Boo determined it must be a large squirrel.  At first, he used the regular sized trap we had once caught a rat with.  He shelled some old pecans and put some inside the trap with a line of pecans leading up to the door.  We continued to hear sounds the next night, so he went up to the attic and the trap was still set, but the pecans were gone.

            Gol darn it!

            Once more we tried the same trap and got the same results.  No pecans and no squirrel.

            A few days later, Boo came back from Home Depot with the mac-daddy of all traps and declared, “This will get him!”  Him or her, whatever it was, could not out smart this trap.  It was 32” long and 13” wide, with a large metal handle and a spring trap that was sure to surprise.

            “Why don’t we just call Critter Ridders?”  I suggested.

            “No, it’s personal now.  It ate half a bag of pecans.”

            Looking in the pantry I gasped, “You gave that ‘whatever it is’ the good pecans from my friend Cynthia?  I was saving those for another pecan pie.”

            “I can’t set my trap with just any ol’ pecans, now.  This is serious.”

            And so, Boo went back into the attic, set the mac-daddy trap, and put the good pecans leading up to and inside.  “This will get him.”

            The next night was silent, so Boo went up to check and the pecans were gone, and the trap was still set.  “Damn it to hell!”

            “That bastard has got to be thirsty now after so many pecans, so Boo put a plastic container of water inside the trap and more pecans.  “There goes our pecan pie,” I sighed.

            Fast forward to 3:00 a.m. and a loud Snap! Bang! and Thud!  We both bolted from the bed and Boo said, “We got him!”  The last thing I remember was Boo saying he was going up to the attic to check.  I went back to sleep, but the cat, with an anxious look, jumped into bed with me.  I admit that later I realized I should have spotted Boo as he went up those creaky attic stairs at 3:00 a.m. but, I didn’t.  I vaguely remember him saying it was a raccoon when he got back in bed.  But the next morning Rocky Raccoon was in our trap sitting in the garage.

            “He looks so cute,” I said.

            “Well, he’s not that cute.  He chewed up the water bowl and hissed at me as I carried him down.”

            Boo fed him a few more pecans and drove him to a park about a mile away from our house.  We were so happy and both of us were proud of Boo’s courage and ingenuity.  “It’s the water that got him!”  he said, and we high-fived.

            THREE separate people told us that one mile was not far enough away and that sometimes raccoons will come back to the same house.  We laughed!

            One week later, early one morning while the cat and I were sittin’ ugly, we heard something in the attic.  Emmy cat jumped to the top of her kitty condo and sat looking straight up at the ceiling, then her wide green eyes looked at me like ‘what the heck?’

            When Boo got up, he went straight to work preparing the trap, water, and pecans, and two nights later…Snap! Bang! Thud! 

            This time I spotted Boo as he ascended the treacherous steps to the attic.  I heard the usual string of cuss words as he yelled down, “He’s back, and he broke off the handle of the trap.”

            I don’t know if you are familiar with raccoons, but they have long, slender arms, with long, sharp nails.  That’s how he was able to get the pecans without even going into the trap the first time.  

Boo began the slow descent down the rickety attic steps, while both hands held the trap.  One step at a time, slowly he tried to stay balanced while Rocky continued to move around.  He had thrown an old towel over the cage to help protect his hands from Rocky’s clawing.    

            “Be careful, Babe!”  I hollered, trying to be supportive while standing behind a large shovel, ready to defend myself if necessary.

            “Mother trucker!”

            Before I knew what happened, the trap, raccoon and all, tumbled down the last few steps and landed upright on the garage floor.  “Boo!!  You dropped him!”  I yelled.

            “What about me?  That bastard tried to claw me while I was carrying him down.  He might have rabies.  I could have fallen too.” 

Well, Boo had to go to work so Rocky spent the day and night in his cage with the rest of the pecans.  Boo even rigged a water dispenser to the top of the trap so he could get water.

            The next morning when I went out to check on Rocky, he didn’t move and didn’t open his eyes when I rattled the trash cans and made more noise.

            “He’s dead!”  I whispered to Boo, while he was still asleep.  “I think the fall killed him.”

            “%!*&!”

            When Boo came outside, Rocky perked up and opened one eye.  He was still alive!

Boo bungeed the trap to the inside of the truck bed and we took off for greener pastures, so to speak.  As we drove, Rocky put his arm out of the cage and with the air in his face, seemed to be enjoying a leisurely ride in the sunshine.  He looked at me with his beautiful brown eyes and almost smiled.  Approximately ten miles away, we found a lovely, wooded area and let Rocky out of the cage.  He paused just for a split second, as if to say farewell, but instead he pooped in his cage which fell onto the truck bed then he sprinted out into the woods.  Our raccoon days were over.

            Lest you think we are foolish, or suckers for pecan-loving raccoons, we will somehow find the point of entry.  For right now, Boo declares we do not need professional help, but I am asking for prayers that no accidents, hazards or other rodents befall us, and that Boo is able to repair the damage that no doubt is on the roof and in the attic.  But for now, I will bid adieu.

And to quote the famous Ice Cube, “Bye Felicia!”

Posted in Contemplations, Gratitude

I Need Something Sweet by Nancy Malcolm

            There are days, we all have them, where it seems everyone and everything around us is sharp. Sharp tones or answers to our questions that feel snippy and harsh.    I call these tender days, a day when tears are close by and thoughts are deep.  On these days I feel alone in an alien world that thrives on being blunt or quick.  “I need something sweet, Lord,” I whisper in a quiet prayer.  “I need something sweet.”

            As I get older the tears fall more readily.  They often are on the brink, ready to fall and just as close is a smile open and ready to fill my face.  Maybe it’s because I realize I have less time to waste on foolishness, or hurtful people or things that don’t serve a loving purpose.  I appreciate more the answered prayers that are sent to me.  I feel the more I ask for sweetness in my life, the more is sent to me. 

            On one such tender day, two years ago, I was volunteering with my elderly Hospice patient.  She had wanted to go to the grocery store, just to look around.  I pushed her wheelchair up and down the aisles as she looked at make-up, smelled the candles, and marveled at the various types of crackers. We perused the Hallmark cards and bought some candy.  She just wanted to feel normal for a change and I wanted that for her too.  We had spent an hour wandering the aisles, when we got in line to check out.  The woman behind us kept staring and smiling at us and finally she said to me, “Is this your mother?”

            I smiled at my patient and said, “Oh, how I wish she was.  We’re just good friends.”

            The woman replied, “Well, you look beautiful enough to be mother and daughter.”

            And my patient said, “I wish we were.  She is the sweetest girl in the world to me.”

            I bent down to hug my little friend, and we both had tears in our eyes.  That was something sweet.

            I always find when I whisper my need for something sweet, God is waiting and willing to send it.  A smile from a stranger.  A love pat from my husband.  A phone call from my daughter.  A thank you from a friend.  There’s goodness on its way in many different forms if I am open to see it.

            My dear friend Mary, who has since passed away, always encouraged me in my photography.  She would call and ask if I wanted to walk the trails at the Wildflower Center, “Be sure to bring your camera,” she would say.  Then as we walked, she seemed happy for me as I found butterflies or dragonflies just begging to be photographed.  “Look over here!” she would say. “This butterfly is just waiting for you.”  She never failed to compliment me or brag to others about my talent.  She was something so precious that I can live on the memory of her sweetness for years to come.

            I feel the blessings when I encounter kind and generous souls inside my day.  The friendly cashier, gracious friends or a loving card in the mail.  I feel so lucky because my inner whisper, “I need something sweet,” seems to send my guardian angels into overdrive sending me all manner of beautiful expressions.  Even now as I sit at my desk, there is a gorgeous red cardinal outside my window especially for me to enjoy.

            I pray to be reminded that when I whisper, “I need something sweet,” there are others, too, who are whispering.  Perhaps it is within my power to be that source for someone else.  I want to be mindful of their whispers, too.  Take note of the whisper in your heart and the hearts of others. Ask God to let you hear the whisper and give you the courage to answer the call.

In loving memory of Eunice J.
Posted in Contemplations

It Just Got Real

            I did it!  It has been one long year of Pandemic, COVID-SNOVID, and sheltering in place and I finally did it.  I tried on my jeans.

            For one harrowing year I have worn workout clothes.  Lyra, polyester, stretchy cotton, and spandex.  Nothing else.  Oh, a few times during the hot summer I wore moo-moo type sundresses, but by and large it’s been workout pants.

            I’ve dressed them up and even worn them the few times we’ve gone out to eat.  I have not gone anywhere that had a dress code.  I think I have even begun to fool myself into thinking no one cares.  Psychologically, I feel that when I’m wearing my mask, no one can see me anyway.  I already don’t wear makeup below my nose.

            Teleconference with my doctor?  Zoom party with friends?  Texting?  Church online?  Curbside pickup?  Who sees me anyway?  And the worst part is that I haven’t cared.

            Boo and I have been lucky enough to get our vaccines and it looks as though we may take a trip to Colorado soon.  The bad news began as I smugly got out my ski pants and tried to put them on.

            “Whoa!  What’s going on in here?”  Boo asked.  “What’s all the grunting and groaning?”

            “I’m trying on my ski pants.  DON’T COME IN!”

            Perilously I laid on the bed, flat as Flat Stanley, and slowly began to zip, careful not to pinch the extra skin that was not there five years ago when I easily wore two layers underneath.  I finally got them zipped and hooked the closure, which looked as if the threads were disintegrating right before my eyes.  I stood up.

            “I can breathe,” I said to myself, but then I couldn’t sit back down. 

            That was a wake-up call, because I instantly thought of my jeans.  I ooched out of my ski pants and went to the closet flipping through hangers with jeans that said: Straight leg, skinny jeans, low rise.  Good grief!  Where are my jeggings?  My high waisted, relaxed fit?  This was not for the faint of heart.  I had to find one pair that fit.

            I spotted my all-time favorite pair draped unsuspectingly under the low-rise jeans.  “Please fit.”  I begged them as I headed for the bed to assume the position.

            “You’ve always been my favorite,” I crooned to my jeans.  “You’ve never let me down.  I need you.”          

            It’s not only that I mind getting a larger size, but also the whole trauma involved in finding a pair of jeans that fit perfectly and always work.  It takes a lot of effort and confidence and frankly, I’m fragile after my spandex wearing, no make-up, pony-tail swinging covid year.

            Just then, the sun started to shine, I heard a birdie outside my window, and I zipped my jeans and cautiously snapped them at the waist.  As I stood looking in the mirror, I knew they didn’t look exactly like they did a year ago, but they zipped, and I was oh so grateful.

            I have come to believe that nothing will ever be the same after this year.  We’ve all developed a new way of interacting and behaving during this traumatic time.  But friends, keep your eye on the positive, keep your sense of humor and for goodness sake, keep your favorite jeans…they just might fit.

Posted in Boo, Fears and Worries

Water Issues by Nancy Malcolm

            My closest friends know I have issues about water.  I worry we won’t have enough.  I always bring my own and I don’t drink bathroom faucet water unless it is at my own home. I know that the tap water from the kitchen sink is the same water from the bathroom sink, and it’s not that I think your bathroom isn’t clean…it’s just that, well I’m not sure why.  There is something about it that makes me squeamish.  I’m not proud of this, mind you. I am just being honest.

            I cannot go to Costco without purchasing a case of water and I carry bottles of water in my car at all times.  Until this third week of February, when I was completely discombobulated by our freezing weather, loss of power and depletion of water.  We had twelve bottles of water in the garage and just a mere trickle of droplets coming from our faucets before it completely cut off. As a former Girl Scout, I was totally chagrined at my lack of preparedness and cavalier attitude.  My years of lecturing family, friends, and coworkers on the importance of drinking enough water every day and planning ahead fell flat as we stood at the sink for hours at a time to get enough drops to half fill a small saucepan with enough bad water to boil.  We also scooped snow and stored it in a cooler to use for flushing the commode.  Oh, the horrors and indignities we suffered!

            It used to be, if anyone complained of a headache, I asked, “When is the last time you drank some water?”  Stomachache, sore throat, bad mood?  “Here, drink this glass of water.” Water is the answer to all your ills.  I firmly believe that, and the fact that this week Boo and I have been less than cordial to each other on a few occasions just proved the point that we needed water. 

            When we travel, you can be sure that I have packed water bottles in my suitcase and cuties in my purse.  Once, on a cruise, I brought a case of water and checked it like luggage.  They actually let me do it and even brought it to my room.

            “You embarrass me sometimes,” Boo said.

            “Do you know they charge $6 for a bottle of water on the ship?  You should be proud of me.”

            Once, we were on vacation in Philadelphia.  I had drunk all my water and asked Boo to go across the street from our hotel and purchase two bottles of water from a rather shady McDonalds. 

            “If I go, I’m going to smoke first.”

            “OK,” I said.

            I stood at our fifteenth-floor window and watched as Boo came out of the hotel.  He smoked and then walked across the busy street toward the McDonalds.  Then I saw three rather unsavory-looking guys approach him and they stood in a circle talking. One of the guys must have been the ringleader because he talked the whole time and gestured with his hands.  I watched as Boo gave each of them a cigarette, opened his wallet, and handed the man who was talking, some dollar bills. I was yelling and waving my arms, but of course he couldn’t see me from the fifteenth floor.  Then the main guy put his arm around Boo, and they turned around and all four walked down some dim lit steps that led to who knows where.  I stood frozen as I watched them walk out of sight.

 I’m not going to lie, I was scared.  I had a vision of Boo being mugged and left for dead.  He would be lying crumpled at the bottom of those stairs, with his empty wallet nearby, and blood gushing from a knife wound.  I thought I should call the police, but I stood frozen watching out the window for what seemed like hours.  I envisioned the police report and how I would have to admit I sent him out at 10:30 p.m. for bottled water.  Seven long minutes later, Boo emerged from the dingy steps with his new best friend’s arm around him.  They said goodbye at the corner and Boo walked up to the hotel, holding a McDonalds bag.

            “Boo!!!!  I’m so sorry.  I was so worried and thought I should call the police, but I froze!  I saw that guy with his arm around you.  What happened?” I cried.

            “Oh, they wanted to bum cigarettes and then said they were hungry, so I bought them all burgers.  Then, the one guy told me he would escort me into the McDonalds and keep me safe from the riff raff while I bought the water.  He said we would be friends for life.  It was quite the experience. We had to go down some scary stairs to the Mickey D’s.  The things I do for you.”

            I was appreciative of Boo’s heroics, and I knew I may have pushed things a little too far. So, I got my own water from then on out, and tried to plan ahead.  Which brings me full circle to our Polar Vortex, the very same one I was not prepared for.  As Boo and I lamented about the fact that our only baths had been with baby wipes and we had drunk all the beer and Gatorade, I remembered a cheery bit of information to pass on.

            “According to the Mayo Clinic, men should drink 15.5 cups of water a day.  That’s only 124 ounces,” I quoted.

            “Are you trying to drown me?”

            “I don’t care, the Mayo Clinic is never wrong,” I said.

            “Good, I love mayo on my ham sandwiches.”

            My quote of statistics does fall flat in the light of February’s disaster for so many.  My gratitude has grown for all of the things I have taken for granted.  Clean clothes, clean dishes, clean water to drink.  Not to mention so many without electricity and a warm place to stay. My fellow Texans have had a very rough few weeks, and I sincerely hope and pray things are getting back to normal considering the Pandemic and all.  As for me, I promise to be better prepared, more grateful, and less haughty about ‘bathroom’ water.

Posted in Contemplations, Grandmother

The Mantle Clock

That black mantle clock stayed with Grandma even in the nursing home.

            Occasionally, as a child I would spend the night with my grandma.  She lived in a small, stucco duplex on Hayden Street in Amarillo, Texas.  Modest is an accurate term to describe my grandma’s house, modest and comfortable.  Grandma lived a simple life and was quiet by nature, and since she did not own a television, her house was very quiet, too.  The rattle or clang of pots and pans in the kitchen or the on and off of her sewing machine was the only noticeable sound, except for a long sigh or wince as she lowered herself into the swivel armchair by the window, smoothing her apron and rubbing her knees.

On the mantle, proudly displayed in the center, right above the little gas heater was her black mantle clock.  The ticking sound was steady and rhythmic and set the tone for Grandma’s house…methodical, never rushed.        

            My brother and I would ask to wind the clock when it wound down, and often she would let us, but only under her watchful eye and direction.  She kept the key that wound the clock safely placed behind it.  We understood that if the clock was wound too tightly, dropped or mistreated in any way, it would have to be taken to a clock repair shop and that would cost money.  We instinctively knew she did not have the extra funds for that, and so we treated her clock with much respect.

            At night as I lay on the lumpy pull-out sofa bed, under two or three handmade quilts, I would fall asleep to the ever present rhythm of the clock.  My heart would begin to beat in time with the ticking and I would be lulled into a deep, peaceful sleep.  During the day, the clock struck on the hour and half hour with a coil gong striking sound, but at night the gonging sound never made it into my dreams.

            Now, in my den, on the mantle is a little French, battery operated clock that reminds me of Grandma’s mantle clock.  In the mornings I find it peaceful yet strong as it regulates my heartbeat and sets the perfect tone to ‘sit ugly.’  Listening to the steady ticking reminds me to relax and slow down before the demands of the day take over.  There is so much noise in our world, so many sounds that assault us from morning till night.  Alarm clocks, blaring music, angry news, sirens or car alarms to warn us of various violations.  Have you ever noticed that even commercials are louder than the television show itself?

The other day, I bolted out the door to get in my daily walk.  I was halfway through my route when I noticed that I had been “thinking” or at least having mental chatter the whole time. I almost wasted my walk, my time to recharge.  When I quiet my mind and listen to nature, my walk is restorative.  When I worry, think too much or rush my walk, I waste the gift of today. 

 Birdies singing, squirrels scampering, the rustle of the wind through the trees; these are the sounds that heal.  Nature heals us if we will let it, if we listen to the rhythmic beat of the earth.  Everything and every living being falls into the pattern flow of the earth and if we purpose it, our footsteps are like the clock, peaceful yet strong, left-right, left-right.  Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist priest and author of Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, said, “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”  As you walk, you are aware.  Aware of your being, your thoughts, your surroundings, and your blessings.  The blessings given to you by nature.

            Grandma’s mantel clock was one of her most prized possessions.  It was the center of her home and the focus of her life, especially as she got older.  I think the steady ticking and hourly gonging comforted her and reassured her she was not alone.   That classic, black mantel clock stayed with Grandma even in the nursing home, and when Grandma left this world, my brother became the proud recipient.  He has it, even to this day, on his mantel, front and center.

            We all need to find our rhythm, something that centers us and regulates our insides so that the outside world doesn’t wear us down or threaten our peace.  Whether it is the steady ticking of a clock, the rhythmic pace of a mindful walk or sitting quietly with your hand over your heart, this is the day we have been given.  We must embrace it.   The path to peace is always methodical, never rushed.