Friday, April 22, 2011

Fridays are Golden

In the late afternoon the dogs have some special time.  After dinner we sit in the front yard and allow the dogs to "hang out" and ramble around without leashes.  They are not interested in playing but simply enjoy checking out the smells in the yard.

Lucy catches a scent on the breeze.

Meanwhile Ellie checks around the wildflowers.

Lucy smiles as if to say, "Isn't this great?"

Ellie climbs on a chair.  They are not allowed on any furniture inside the house, but the lawn furniture is fair game.  Too bad it's not all that comfortable for dogs.

Lucy tends to pick up things...acorns, pine cones, or even rocks.  "Lucy...drop it" is a common phrase.  Lucy does not quite understand.  She thinks "drop it" means "come over here and I'll dig in your mouth to see what you picked up."  Today the object of interest is too large to fit completely in her mouth.  It's a chunk from a rotting log.  She walks past without making eye contact, knowing full well she is not going to be able to keep it.

Um, Lucy.  I can see that.

She walks right past me, never giving me a glance.

OK, Lucy.  Hand it over.

April is just flying past.  We have schizophrenic weather with temperatures varying widely from one day to the next.  Yesterday's high was in the 70s with bright sunshine and a nice breeze.  A band of thunderstorms and dropping temperatures came though last night and today we won't get out of the 50s.  We haven't had "seasonal" temperatures at all this month.  It has been well above normal or well below normal.  We keep changing from short sleeves to long sleeves to sweatshirts during the day.

I won't be posting next week.  I'm going to visit a friend and I'll be too busy laughing and talking.  We'll be like two little girls at a sleep-over.  Of course we will have more grown-up drinks and snacks.

Whatever your plans for next week I hope they include having some fun.  Take time...even if it's only a little bit of time and do something that makes you happy.  Many of you will attend special church services and have a grand Easter Dinner.  If so, try to relax and enjoy the weekend.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another Warbler

My husband saw a "new" bird outside.  I got my camera and sat on the deck for quite a while.  I was just about ready to call it quits when a Yellow-throated Warbler flew to a nearby tree.

Could you turn just a little?

Yes, that's perfect.

We are on the cusp of the Yellow-throated Warbler's summer habitat.  I have heard from others that in the past they were fairly common around here.  As more woodlands were developed there were fewer and fewer sightings.  Isn't that the way it always seems to go?

At any rate, we were delighted to see this lovely little bird.  We saw him for two days and I suspect he is moving  further west.  After I took the photographs, the bird flew to the very top of the tree and sang his little heart out.  Perhaps because there was no answering call, he decided there might be more females elsewhere.  Too bad.  I would have loved having him around a bit longer.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Again We Are Fortunate

Severe weather raged across most of North Carolina late Saturday.  Here we had high winds and driving rain.  The sun burst out on Sunday with a blessed calm.  Our county had flash flooding and some downed trees.  Other areas of our state were not so fortunate.

Sixty-two tornadoes ripped through the Piedmont, leaving scores of injured and at least twenty-one people dead.

I went to my favorite spot to reflect on the loss of those lives and the devastation left behind.  There is an overlook in our community and I often go there to sit on a bench and admire the beauty.  From the overlook I can see a farm valley below and the gorgeous mountains in the background.  It is a lovely spot.  In fact, the header photograph I am currently using was taken from that spot.

I was a bit surprised.  The small river had swollen from its banks, flooding the valley below.

I took this photograph on Sunday.  Compare it to the header and you can appreciate the amount of water.

I thought how fortunate we are to have escaped the worst of the weather, and how terrible this Sunday morning dawned for others across the state.  Eleven people died in Bertie County...a rural area with a population of only twenty thousand.

This photograph is from the Raleigh News and Observer

This week marks Holy Week for Christians and Passover for Jews.  For all of us of any faith (including those whose faith is not based on a deity) I ask that we think about those who were affected by these storms and all others who are suffering, both in our country and across the earth.  The oft-used phrase, "Count your blessings" is appropriate for all of us.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fridays are Golden

Our Lucy often props her head on a chair rung, or the hearth, or shoes, or Ellie.  Other times she seems to want her head lower so she lies in her bed with her head on the floor.  If we sit in the recliner with our feet up and have a cover on our legs, Lucy thinks we made a little tent for her and she lies underneath it.  We often find her with her body on a bed and her head on the floor underneath a chair.

The headless dog.

No, Mom.  I'm not at all interested in moving.

Our dogs are generally happy and like many other dogs, they smile a lot.  I believe Golden Retrievers have the best smiles but I admit to having a little prejudice.  No matter how often I see them smile, it always warms my heart.

Is that a big enough smile, Mom?

So the thought for the week is for all of us to try to smile more often.  It has been said that we all smile in the same language.  I firmly believe that if we all smile more we could get along with each other much better.

Mother Teresa once said, "Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing."  So this week, no matter how you feel, try smiling your friends and family and at strangers you encounter.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Two Posts in One Day

Something has bugged me so badly all day that I feel inclined to post about it.  No, it was not the rhetoric about the deficit reduction plan.  I'm immune to politics now.  (OK, I'm not really but I truly wish I were.)  Oddly enough, it is hoopla about an advertisement for J. Crew.  It is an adorable photograph of Jenna Lyons and her son.  They are laughing together as she paints his toenails.

Fox News decided to turn this advertisement into a "news" story.  One of their medical "experts" said the ad was "...blatant propanda celebrating transgendered children..."  Another said the ad is a "dramatic example of the way our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity."

Give us a break!!!  Jenna Lyons said in the words accompanying the photograph, "Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink.  Toenail painting is way more fun in neon."  Apparently those words further inflamed the "experts" at the fair-and-balanced-reporting network.  [Purely personal prejudice:  I don't think Fox likes J. Crew much anyway.  After all, our First Lady often wears their clothing.]

When J. Crew was contacted for comment they responded that they had no comment because there was no issue.  Good response.

Now I've got to run.  I'm going Online to buy something from J. Crew.  We don't have a store here.

Titmouse Checking Out a House

Birdhouses fill the trees in our backyard.  We have all types of them.  Some are designed to attract specific birds.  We're always happy when the birds build nests in one of the birdhouses near the deck.  We love to watch the activity.

We bought one of the birdhouses purely for its appearance.  While it had a door in the back for cleaning, we weren't sure any of the birds would use it because of its shiny metal roof.  But we liked the way it looked and we hung it up to enjoy on its own.  Surprisingly enough, it is the most popular birdhouse by far.  We have several nestings every spring and summer and many birds seek shelter in there during the winter.  The birdhouse has held chickadees. titmice, and nuthatches.  So far this spring all three have checked out this popular spot.

Hmm...wonder if they've already rented it?

I'll just take a peek inside.

All right if I just pop all the way inside?

Very nice indeed.

The outside seems to be in good shape.

Notice in the above photograph a chickadee is sitting on a branch waiting a turn to check out the birdhouse.  We never know who will end up with the first nest in there but over the summer several different bird couples will raise families in that house.  And we will have the pleasure of seeing them bring their fledglings to our feeders.

Spring is definitely here despite our sudden "cold front."  The hummingbirds arrived last week and I have heard the spring peepers.  The trees are ready to leaf out.  What a wonderful time of year!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Evening at the Lake

Our community has four lakes.  We live near Lake Atagahi, the largest of the four.  [Our house is only half a million dollars away.]  I often go down to the park on Lake Atagahi near sunset.  I especially love it this time of year because I rarely see any other people.  It's too soon for the evening picnics and late swimming that will fill the park later on.  I'm happy that so many people enjoy the lake and the park, but it surely will disturb my solitude.  But at this time of year the lake is all mine.

I'm always thrilled to see the Barn Swallows as they go about building their amazing mud nests.  The netting you will see in the photographs was put up to discourage the swallows from nesting under the roof of the cabana.  Fortunately, the clever swallows use a gap in the netting to anchor their nests.

This swallow stares at the intruder with her camera.

Another flies up to assist.

They become more suspicious of the clicking and fly over to sit on a beam.

Finally one of them returns to the nest.

I put down my camera and watched the swallows skimming along the lake for insects and grabbing mud by the shore for nest building.  It is an amazing sight to see such large numbers of these beautiful birds flying around.  After a while my presence went unnoticed.  Oh, what a treat.  I sat there for quite a while until a pair of geese caught my attention.

A pair of Canada Geese pass by.

When I looked up at the sky, I saw the dark clouds heralding a storm.

While I was looking out over the lake I failed to notice the darkening sky.  I quickly headed for home before the storms began.  Once safe again at home, we sat on the screened porch and watched the lightning streak across the sky.  We had some rain but were spared the really bad parts of the storm that did severe damage throughout the state. It was a lovely evening.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fridays are Golden

Our dogs do not growl nor fight with each other over treats or toys.  Lucy is such a little brat that many people think she rules the kingdom.  But the truth is, Ellie is the Alpha dog; the one who takes the lead in new situations.

They never fight, but they have some really great wrestling matches.  These are not done to establish superiority and there is no winner or loser.  It just happens.  One dog will look at the other and on some unseen cue they go at it.  There is no predicting when it will begin or why.  And it ends just as abruptly as it began.  No one ever gets injured.

They crash together to begin.

They suddenly stop and walk away from one another, each of them happy.

I think a good tussle (mental rather than physical)  is important in human relationships as well.  It helps to clear the air and give each person a sense of independence.

As you know, the leaders of our government are in a mental wrestling match over the budget deadlines.  Unlike Ellie's and Lucy's little matches, these are not friendly engagements.  They resemble a playground fight with angry little children pointing fingers at each other over who's to blame rather than getting something accomplished.  Little children who have not yet learned the concepts of reason and necessity of compromise.  Their most commonly used phrases are likely "he/she started it" and "that's not fair."  The perceptions of both are formulated in their little heads not often in reality.

Little children often "take sides" and support an issue without having all the facts.  They blindly follow the rhetoric and become convinced they are always right.  This is normal for children and hopefully they will learn to investigate more thoroughly before drawing conclusions.  In children we call this lack of maturity.  In adults I call it ignorance.

I can assure you with confidence that this individual has no clue about the ramifications of shutting down our Government.

I leave you with a couple of quotes without my comment:

"I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance."
Thomas Carlyle

"There is nothing more frightening than ignorance in action."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Bird Visitor as Well

Our visitors last week spent a great deal of time watching our birds.  Many of our common birds are not seen in Wisconsin.  A frequent question from our guests was, "what kind of bird is that?"  They were especially thrilled to see the Pileated Woodpeckers swooping to the suet.  They had never seen a Tufted Titmouse.  At one point they asked, "What kind of bird is pale gray with brown streaks?"  I wondered what they could be seeing.

Finally I saw her for myself.  A gorgeous leucistic female Purple Finch!!!  Her body was white with light brown markings.  What a sight!

She seemed quite attractive to one of our male Purple Finches who started feeding her sunflower seeds.

Note the difference between the "normal" female on the left and the leucistic one in the middle.  The male has just fed her a seed.  You can see a glimpse of a male cardinal in back of the feeder.

She has been around now for several days, often sighted near one of the males.  Here's hoping they decide to nest here.  I would dearly love to see the offspring.

And so March Madness went out with a fizzle rather than a bang.  The final game was the worst game of the entire tournament.  Our favored Butler University team play as poorly as we have seen.  Even victorious UConn did not bring their "A" game to the floor that night.  Maryland coach (at the time) Lefty Drisell once said of his team, "Tonight they couldn't stand on the beach and hit the ocean."  That applied to Butler on Monday night.  What a shame that a team normally so good could perform so badly.

Too often we get so caught up in the NCAA Tournament that we forget that most of these players are teenagers.  No doubt the game was even more painful for them.  They felt they let themselves down and let their team down.  They felt they let their coach down, and their families and friends.

I think this photograph (taken from the Internet) best describes how the Butler team felt on that awful night.

But the sun came up on Tuesday and life goes on.  A hard lesson in the lives of these talented young men.

Monday, April 4, 2011

March Madness Ends in April

Tonight is the final game in the NCAA Tournament.  And what a tournament it has been.  Butler University and University of Connecticut will play for the championship.  Relatively few people even knew about Butler until last year whey they became the Cinderella team of the tournament.

For several years Butler has been a household word in our home with coffee mugs and other items with the Butler logo.  Our son graduated from Butler University.  He met our wonderful daughter-in-law there.  So we have a personal interest in tonight's outcome.  Besides that, how can you not love their adorable mascot and youthful, charming and unbelievably poised coach?

[All photos from the Internet]

The Team

Matt Howard

Matt Howard is a star player on the Butler team.  His father is a mail carrier in a small town (Connersville) in Indiana and Matt is one of ten children.  His father's work ethic is such that he has missed only one day of work in 33 years.  Everyone in town knows the Howards and everyone in town is delighted that one of their own is playing for the national title tonight.

Last year the Final Four was held in Indianapolis.  This year Texas hosted the final games.  The people in Connersville knew that the Howards were people of modest means and did not have enough money for travel and lodging and would have to watch their son's games on television along with the rest of us.  So the small town decided to band together and send the family to watch the Final Four.  The people of Connersville (population 13,481 in the 2010 census), held bake sales, car washes, and did every sort of fund-raising activities they could think of.  Almost every little store. restaurant, and gas station had a big jug for collections.  And they did it!  You can see an interview with the family here.  It is such a heart-warming story of small town America coming together.

The Butler team was not allowed to bring their mascot, a bulldog named Blue II, to the early round games.  But the NCAA officials said that if the team made the Final Four, Blue would be allowed on the floor.  And sure the Final Four games there was Blue.

Blue II, the Butler Mascot

I hope you enjoy college basketball as much as we do.  We have gone through some nail-biters during this tournament.  And we are delighted that the Butler Bulldogs are playing in the final game tonight.  And we are glad the Howards will be watching their son.  And we're glad Blue will be there as well.

Enjoy the game!