Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Other Side of the Tree

Thank you for your comments on my last post. The reason for the post was to remind all of us just how tenuous our grip on life can be. I was extraordinarily healthy, had NONE of the predisposing factors for gastric ulcer, and NONE of the warning signs and symptoms before that day. My case was certainly atypical, but it happened nonetheless. Fortunately I have no long-term effects, and it's as if it never happened. I must admit that I did worry a bit that I never saw the "light" and no one encouraged me to come over or go back. But I didn't see goblins either so I suppose if I wasn't at the gate of Heaven, at least I wasn't at the gate of Hell either.

Now, on with the blog:

Our Pileated Woodpeckers started bringing their fledgling near the feeder and I cannot tell you how many hours I spent trying to get a good photograph. It just was not to be. The lighting was terrible and the birds in constant movement.

Here the baby waits for a feeding.

And here is the baby getting fed. And of course, it's like so many other great birds. It's on the other side of the tree.
Each and every feeding that I observed was on the back side of the tree, almost as if the woodpeckers had it planned. So I do apologize that I was not able to give you a good look. I doubt that the Pileateds will have another nesting this year. But there's always next year.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Very Special Day

Today is my birthday and it is a REALLY special one. Oh, not because it's one of those "landmark" birthdays. No, it's because I spent my birthday last year in the ICU and almost didn't survive to see another birthday.

I didn't feel well on my birthday last year. As the day wore on, I began to feel worse and worse. I just wanted to crawl under the covers and lie there. My physician husband insisted on taking me to the hospital despite my insistence that I would be all right if he would just let me lie there and leave me alone.

I remember arriving at the hospital emergency department. I remember my husband trying to explain to the incompetent hospitalist that I had classic signs and symptoms of a significant GI bleed and that I needed immediate care. I remember the hospitalist being rather patronizing to my husband as if he had lost all credibility and medical expertise when he retired two years earlier. I remember my husband's refusal to allow the hospitalist to send me for a full body scan and his insistence that I needed to be in ICU RIGHT NOW because I was going into shock.

My recall of the next 24 hours is sketchy at best. The long and short of the story is that I had a very large bleeding gastric ulcer. After I was transported to ICU, the ulcer eroded into a blood vessel and I had a severe acute bleed and went into deep shock from the massive blood loss. I do not recall seeing the amazing gastroenterologist who saved my life by performing an endoscopy right there in the ICU (certainly not under the best of circumstances) and finding the bleeder. I do remember distant voices periodically. One physician said, "Start pumping the blood and up the dopamine. We're losing her!" I was not able to speak, but I do remember thinking that I should reassure everyone that I was going to be fine. While I was unconscious for most of this time, I did awaken periodically. One nurse later told me I had asked why I was in Trendelenburg so she laughed and told everyone, "this one's a nurse for sure." [Trendelenburg is the "shock" position in which the head of the bed is lowered and the foot of the bed is elevated to provide more circulation to the head.]

I spent six days in ICU. An endoscopy 24 hours after the bleed showed the bleeding to have originated from a large gastric ulcer. A biopsy proved the lesion was not malignant. From there all things progressed better than anyone could have expected. I came home a week after my birthday and quickly regained strength.

Two people saved my life a year ago today. One was the skilled gastroenterologist who was able to find and zap the bleeder. The other was my husband. Without losing his cool, without using profanity, and in the face of a hospitalist who treated him like an old war horse my dear husband served as my advocate. It was at his insistence that I was not taken for a CAT scan but rather straight up to ICU. In short, it was his persistence that saved my life.

Major contributors to saving my life were the selfless people who regularly take their time to give a precious part of themselves...their blood.

So today we celebrated my birthday. We went to a nearby town and did some shopping. We had lunch, then met with a wonderful sculptor and commissioned a metal piece for our mantle. And every now and then, all day long, one of us would say "this time last year" never bothering to finish. We both just smiled at each other and enjoyed the day.

Like this startled little Pileated Woodpecker fledgling, sometimes you just have to hang in there.

So for this birthday, and for all the days of this year I am truly blessed.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fridays are Golden

Our first dog, an English Springer Spaniel, was the best dog in the world. I knew there would never again be such a dog. We had her for 13 wonderful years. Our next dog was a really wonderful dog and I loved her dearly. But I knew I had already loved the world's best dog and that doesn't come around twice in one lifetime. I believed that and accepted it. Until...along came Ellie.

Ellie's birthday was last Monday. She was born June 21, 2003. We were so excited because there were three females in her litter. The breeder was keeping one for himself and there was only one other person ahead of us on "pick list" so we would definitely get a puppy from this litter. We got a frantic call from the breeder a few weeks after the puppies were born. It seems that one of the little females had somehow crawled under the freezer and sustained a cut on her head. They were able to stop the bleeding and took her to the veterinarian who said she had no permanent damage but that she would always have a black scar. The breeder said this was likely the puppy to be left when it came our turn to pick and that if we wanted to pass then he would move us to the top of the list for the next litter.

Both of us had arranged time off work so one of us would be home for the first six weeks. We had no interest in perfection and told the breeder that we would still want to take this puppy if she was the one remaining. He gave us a discount although we would have taken the puppy anyway.

In August we drove to pick up our puppy whom we named Dichi Sirius Eleanor Rose. Dichi is the name of the kennel and must always be the first name. Sirius is the Dog Star and her mother was named Star. Eleanor Rose was a tribute to one of my favorite women, Eleanor Roosevelt.

Here is little Ellie at the breeder's just before we started home.

Here are her six brothers saying goodbye. One key to an excellent breeder is that all puppies from a litter are so much alike. Go here to check out the kennel.

Finally, we're home and she is an exhausted little bundle.

She grabbed a leaf the instant I took the photograph.

Here she is at six months of age. She just loved soft stuffed animals and the little yellow duck was her favorite. She carried it with her everywhere. What a joy she mellow and loving. And she breezed through obedience training, quick to learn and quick to respond. I already knew that I had been wrong. Sometimes you really do get the most wonderful dog in the world again.

At seven months she is looking so grown-up. Of course, her father was well on his way to his AKC Championship points when he was that age.

Now, at seven years of age, our Ellie continues to give me endless joy. She is so tolerant of the bratty little princess we brought home when Ellie was two. In short, she is the best dog in the world.

Have a wonderful weekend. Keep in mind that there are so many people who could use a little support from you. Give of yourself as much and as often as you can.

Stay safe and happy and share your joy with others.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Should'a got a Mac

I gave serious thought about switching to Mac when I bought my last laptop. I've had so much trouble with my PC today that I'm sure I made a mistake. Of course, the problems are all different and inconsistent. (The Geeks call it a hiccup.) When a Web page can't be loaded, my PC asks if I want to send a report. I click that I do want to send a report and suddenly the Web page in question appears. You figure.

I thought my worst nightmare was when I had the very first version of Windows XP. Not only was it totally vulnerable, Microsoft would send out security alerts which of course encouraged every hacker around to try to break into the lapsed security. My computer got infected several times while I was going Online to get the required patch. Bill Gates never told me I was beta testing his new version.

So I shouldn't get so frustrated when my computer decides to goof off for a little while. I run my protection frequently and don't do stupid things but by golly, why can't it just work smoothly ALL the time? Is that too much to ask?

Enough whining. Ironically, a friend sent me this today:

And I saw this one on Punditkitchen.

How appropriate.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Bit Confused

Our backyard birds give me joy in all seasons. I love the visitors we get during spring and fall migrations, but I love our year-round birds more. I love seeing the brightening yellow of the goldfinches. I love watching the courtship displays and the feeding of the fledglings.

This little cardinal is amazed that the parents stopped providing meals. A bit confused, the little one also seems a bit forlorn.

That's life, kiddo. You don't get a free ride and best to learn that now.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fridays are Golden

We got another yard bird. This one is quite tall, another made from recycled metal parts. I never ever indicated that we had good taste. But we feel comfortable enough with ourselves that we don't care what art critics might say. We buy art because we like it and it doesn't matter much what others think about it.

When we brought the piece out, the girls checked it over. They no longer get terribly excited when we buy a new work of art but they feel compelled to check it out nonetheless. As always, Lucy walks right up and starts her inspection while Ellie lingers behind, observing.

Ellie comes around and decides to check it out. By comparing the size of the dog with the size of the bird, you can appreciate that it is a rather large sculpture.

She sniffs the bird's posterior as if she were greeting another dog.

I made them pose with the bird when it was in place. They look like pouty little children because they do not like to be told exactly where to sit. It spoils the fun of being off leash in the yard.

So I took a shot of the big bird by herself. She blends into the foliage and makes me smile.

The sizzling heat in the south seems to be moderating only slightly. It's hot even here in the mountains. We are having August weather here in mid-June. At least it's beginning to cool down a bit at night, making for wonderful mornings.
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. Live the words of the famous bumper sticker, and

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Special Morning Treat

We rarely see Luna Moths (Activas luna) around here so it was a special treat to find one hanging from our deck railing. These amazing adults have a very short life. They do not eat during their adult lives. They simply mate and start the new generation.

A true creature of the night
green, golden,
soft, velvety,
gracing my day
because the light lured her
from the night.
Raymond Foss

Monday, June 14, 2010

Food for the Red-bellied Baby

The advantages of living in the forest are far too numerous to list. Surely one of the biggest is being able to watch the birds go about their normal activities.

We have four pairs of resident woodpeckers; Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, and Pileated. As might be expected, they pretty much fledge sequentially based on their sizes. We had seen the Downy Woodpecker fledglings and looked forward to the Hairy Woodpeckers. The Hairys came to the suet in a frenzy and suddenly stopped coming. We have no idea what might have happened but apparently their nest was destroyed and they moved elsewhere. What a shame.

Right on time came the Red-bellied fledgling. For a frustrating week we saw only glimpses of the baby since the parents were feeding it deep in the woods. Gradually they began to bring the fledgling closer to the suet feeder and we were delighted to watch.

First the parent(s) bring the fledgling to a tree near the feeder. This is used so often by the woodpeckers that we have taken to calling it the "launching tree." From this tree they are fed and from this tree they make their first attempts to fly to the suet all by themselves.

Now don't you move from there. I'll get some food and be right back.

You can count on me!

Hmm...wonder if there's anything here I might try.

Never mind. Here's comes my fast-food breakfast.

The fledgling gets a tasty morsel of suet. It seems that early in the feeding process the parent feeds from above and as the fledgling gets older the parent feeds from below. Perhaps this is in preparation to teaching the little one how to eat for himself.

Is that all? Please can I have some more?
[Note that the fledgling has only a very subtle hint of red. This makes the bird blend into the tree and is fairly well hidden even in full view.]

The food is delivered quickly to feed the impatient fledgling.

These birds do not really need our suet. There is plenty of food available to them. But when I think of the long incubation phase, I am thankful I can provide a quick and nourishing bite of food for the hard-working parents. And yeah, I admit it. I do so love to watch the activity from my deck. Somehow it gives me a little faith that all might be well in this troubled world.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fridays are Golden

We needed a new vacuum cleaner for the doggie room, so we picked up an inexpensive one to replace the old one which wasn't well-designed for dog hair.

Ellie and Lucy love packages in spite of the fact that the contents rarely have anything to do with them. Whenever something new arrives, Lucy heads straight for it while Ellie stands back thinking it over.

Lucy dives right in to see if anything is missing.

Ellie continues to observe.

Finally she approaches the parts of the vacuum.

She looks up as if to say, What's so special about this? I don't get it.

Is that it? Is that all there is?

Disappointed, they show no further interest in watching the assembly of the new vacuum. Lucy plops in a bed.

Ellie lies on the floor.

Both dogs are doing quite well following their treatment and are perfectly normal. Well, as normal as a long-haired dog can be in hot humid weather. They still come into the kitchen every evening looking for more of those marvelous bits of bread slathered with Laughing Cow cheese. I'm sure that will continue for a while until they realize that the "special" treats are gone.

As you enjoy this weekend, remember all those in pain for whatever reason. Reach out to them in whatever way you can. One of our fellow bloggers is grieving the sudden death of her husband. Drop by "Cicero Sings" and offer some words of comfort and support.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. Live the old adage and don't postpone the joy.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Things Big and Things Little

Whenever I feel a bit down (usually because of politics or the environment) I reflect on some recent wonderful days. One such day was a visit with my daughter to the North Carolina Arboretum. The Bonsai Exhibit is my very favorite. From the beginning, one feels the magic.

Many of the exhibits represent the trees that grow in certain areas of our mountains. This one beautifully reflects the trees around Mt. Mitchell.

This tiny rhododendren was getting ready to burst into full bloom.

I stood in awe of tiny trees so wonderfully shaped, looking exactly like their giant parents.

We were fortunate enough to find a gardener trimming one of the trees. Using small scissors, he is thinning the leaves.

Not everything at the arboretum is small. One of my favorite works of art is huge! A Native American stands with his hands up to the sky. The full figure bronze, titled "Oh, Great Spirit" stands more than 12 feet tall.
The figure, opening his arms to the heavens, gives us pause to reflect on our concept of god, (or nature as god) regardless of religion. Standing beneath him, we can momentarily forget the problems we are encountering.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Little Downy Fledgling

Our Downy Woopeckers fledged last week. I watched them for several days, trying to get a good photograph. Finally I decided to show you what I was able to get. Not great pictures, but a wonderful process. This pair of Downys had two fledglings, but now only one remains. They seem especially devoted to the remaining one.

The little Downy perches on a nearby tree while his daddy goes to the suet.

He seems to be a bit impatient as Daddy feeds himself first. Still the little one sits and watches.

Finally! Daddy comes back to the tree with some food.

The move around the tree a bit.

And finally, the little one is fed.
No matter how often we see this process repeated, we gaze in awe at the care of all the fledglings. Soon we will be treated to the antics of the fledgling trying to get to the suet independently. We have already seen a Red-bellied Woodpecker fledgling, but he is fed so deep into the woods I haven't gotten more than a glance. Before long, our Pileateds will bring their huge fledglings to the feeders. What a wonderful time of year.

Fire your entire PR staff, or at least the ones who thought your warm fuzzy (expensive) commercials would make me feel better. Quite the opposite. The message of your "concern" makes me as angry as the sight of an oil-soaked bird or animal. I'm thoroughly disgusted and can't stand the sight of you.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fridays are Golden

Rarely do we take only one dog anywhere in the car. However, Lucy needed to see our veterinarian. She's been having some digestive problems which didn't resolve with medications last week.

Ellie was totally shocked to find herself left behind.
Wait! You forgot my leash.

She plopped down in the bed, still wondering why she didn't get to go for a ride.

She moved from place to place, but her expression and demeanor did not change. She was down-hearted for sure.

Periodically she went to the window to look out at the driveway.

At last she heard my husband's car and ran to the garage door.

Hi, Mom. I'm home! Lucy is delighted to be back. Ellie checks her out. Perhaps she smells like the veterinarian's office.

Well Mom, I checked her out and it is indeed Lucy. No switcheroo here. But she does smell a little funny.

Both dogs were exhausted for the remainder of the day. Ellie because she had fretted about being left behind, and Lucy because of the visit to the doctor. They slept side-by-side for most of the afternoon.

The doctor is fairly convinced that Lucy has picked up whip worms. They are notoriously difficult to detect and treat and apparently the eggs can lie dormant in the soil for years. In fact, our veterinarian said that if your dog gets whip worms, you shouldn't blame it on your neighbor's dog; you should blame it on his grandfather's dog. A specimen sent to the lab will confirm the diagnosis or give us another one. Lucy has always been the dog that picks up all sorts of things...clumps of dead leaves, moss, pine cones, acorns, and even rocks.

Both dogs are being treated. You may recall that these dogs get nothing but dry dog food and the occasional carrot or two. Imagine their total delight when they found a bit of canned dog food (with the medicine stirred in it) on top of their kibble this morning. The bowls were licked until the dishes spun around in the holders. Lucy is also taking Flagyl. We spread half a slice of bread with a small amount of Laughing Cow cheese, wrap the pills inside and they think it is the best thing since, well, sliced bread. (We have to give Ellie a small piece of bread sans medicine.) They have no idea the origin of their newfound wonderous snacks, but it is marvelous indeed. It's going to be hard for them to realize that in a week, there will be no more bread and cheese for them.

Fortunately, both girls seem to feel fine and the only real problem is that Lucy sometimes awakens us in the middle of the night to go potty. On the one hand we are getting far too old to quickly fall back to sleep. On the other hand, we are retired and seldom have an early appointment.

I think all of us remain very anxious about the Gulf oil disaster. I do not have the words to tell you how much this affects me, and I live far from the coast. It's hard to imagine the future of the wetlands involved and what this is doing to the people along the Gulf coast. Our thoughts are with them as we approach yet another weekend since this disaster.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. Hold your friends and family near and do at least one nice thing for someone else.