Seventy Trips around the Sun

IMG_0614Yesterday was a big birthday for me. Another decade behind me and who knows how many more I might enjoy. The title of this piece comes from a young twenty year old woman who was auditioning for American Idol this year. She reminded me so much of me at her age….a free spirited hippie chick in her attire as well as her viewpoint on life, dreams, ambitions, her whole life before her with never a single thought to being old. When asked how old she was by the American Idol judges, she quickly replied, “I have been around the sun twenty times”. Her answer resonated with me as a wonderful way to express age. Instead of stating I am seventy years old, saying I have been around the sun seventy times implies a long journey filled with many wonderful adventures. And true to that, I feel I have had a very blessed and interesting life.  Family, children, grandchildren, friends, travel and the many hills and valleys of life have all combined to make me the person I am today. And I wouldn’t change a thing. Just as a pebble dropped into a pond creates motion, each step or misstep in my life led me to the next. Changing any one thing would lead to a totally different memory book for me.

Today I went to work at a job that I truly love, working with people who truly care not only for me but for each other. We are caregivers and a work family that celebrates the beauty of our amazing department that daily changes lives in the diabetes world. My cubicle was crisscrossed with happy birthday banners, happy birthday signs, shiny birthday cakes, stars and circle confetti, floating balloons and streamers and a happy birthday tiara for my head. The Birthday Fairy had arrived during the night and transformed my work space into a magical place that made me feel extraordinary on my special day. To my co-worker who regularly creates this transformation, I thank you. It made me smile and I am grateful.IMG_0616

Birthday wishes, cards, and presents are all celebrations of the completion of one more trip around the sun. Like fireworks on the Fourth of July, or the bells, whistles and sirens that emanate from a football scoreboard when the home team scores a touchdown, they are an affirmation of a wonderful event.

A highlight of each of my birthdays is when my oldest sister once more relates to me the circumstances of my arrival into her world. She describes in intricate detail her first sighting of my bassinet covered with a dotted swiss material and my Mother affixing to the bassinet a pink bow from a box of candy my Daddy had given to her. She describes a trip to the hospital to wave at our Mother through the hospital window, my arrival at home and the people who were present, the hush of our Mother’s room because she was ill, the knitted blue blanket that covered me in my crib, a baby bath. Each year I eagerly anticipate the repeating of a part of my life of which I have absolutely no memory. And each year some small additional detail may slip out. Special birthday events that have enormous meaning to me.


Birthdays are important and should be celebrated as milestones in our journey of life. Happy travels in your own special journey around the sun.

Sister Linda’s Flower Garden

Hand tools

This past weekend I visited my sister in Burton again. Walking around her beautiful garden is a great pleasure. Gardening is therapy in our worlds… digging into the soft soil, smelling the earthy aroma, watching the squiggling earthworms as they burrow deeper trying to escape the trusty shovel or trowel, the mystery of planting seeds and the daily anticipatory excitement of watching for the appearance of the first green sprouts. My sister is a Master Gardener and the beautiful flowers that flourish under her tutelage are breathtaking.

Yellow Iris












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Climbing Pinkies

Spring is always an exciting time for any gardener. Winter clean up has been completed, seed catalogues perused, selections made, ordered, received and eagerly planted. Gardeners are optimists…always hopeful that each seed will grow and we can reap the rewards of our hard work of digging, hoeing, weeding and mulching….flowers to adorn our dinner table or a kitchen window sill and fresh vegetables from our gardens that enhance our meals throughout the growing season.

Purple Bearded Iris
Texas Brazos Penstemon?
Red Poppy

Each season brings with it the end of the flowering cycle, movement to the seed making cycle, dispersal or gathering of those seeds to save for sowing the following late winter. I have gathered thousands of larkspur seeds and shared them with fellow gardeners. The very larkspur seeds I shared were given to me by a complete stranger when I stopped my car one day and admired her garden. This is what gardeners do…we pass it on. Seeds are spread by birds, the wind, other mammals and of course from the hands of one gardener to another.

Lamb’s Ear and volunteer

And the beautiful flowers, blooming bushes and shrubs attract birds and bees who also participate in the life cycle process.

Visiting Mockingbird

So take a chance, grab a trowel and plant some flower seeds, herbs or tomato plants. It is a vastly rewarding and relaxing endeavor!

Happy Gardening and bird searching!!!

Art Journal Basics for Drawing/Sketching/Painting

Pileated Woodpecker

As long as I can remember, I have drawn, sketched, colored, painted and in general taken great joy in piddling in different mediums in my feeble attempts to be an “artist”. It took me years to learn that as long as I was happy with my creation, that was enough. I have finally lost the need for perfection or approval. I am happy when I can capture the essence of a bird or a landscape or a human figure. I guess that makes me an impressionist. Whatever I am, it matters not. I derive great pleasure from sketching my birds and revisiting those pages in my journals to revive the memories of their sightings.

So just what are the basics for drawing, sketching or painting in a bird journal? A short list might include the following:

  • Sketching pencils – 4B and 2B (higher the number, the softer the lead)
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Eraser
  • Mechanical pencil ( an optional item, personal preference)
  • Strathmore Drawing Pad (many different sizes so once again personal choice)
  • Strathmore watercolor paper – 90# coldpress (this is a medium weight paper)

    Various drawing mediums
  • Strathmore watercolor paper – 140# is a higher quality and therefore more absorbent
  • Windsor Newton Water Colors – get student quality (really cheap ones will frustrate you but professional quality are not needed for learning)
  • Water soluble wax pastels. (Aquarellable)
  • black sharpie
  • Stabilo pencil
  • Charcoal pencil
  • A couple of watercolor brushes
  • And of course, some type of journal
Bird Journal Entry

The list could stretch on and on. Experiment, try new products/papers. It doesn’t take long to find your “go to” favorites that help you capture a memory in a birding journal. Paste in beach passes, restaurant receipts, print a photograph and lay it into the journal. Make your journal yours and build memories along the way.

Art paraphernalia

Happy Sketching!!



Spring Happenings

Bladderpod Sida (I think!)

Spring usually comes very early to Texas. In fact, Central Texas really hasn’t had much of a winter this year. February brings rodeos to many Texas cities and the one that I grew up with was the Houston Fat Stock Show & Rodeo, as it was called way back when. The “when” was me as a young child. Each year my Daddy would take us to the rodeo and back then there were no fancy stages or country western rock stars performing. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were eagerly anticipated and each year after singing some songs they would ride Trigger and Buttermilk slowly around the arena shaking each child’s extended hand and allowing us to touch their horses. The Midway enticed us with bearded ladies, hawkers promising great prizes for winning a game or the fortune-teller who enthralled us with promises of exciting adventures in the future. The roller coaster made us wildly scream and a ride on the tilt-a-world always left me slightly nauseous. A trip to the rodeo was always an exciting adventure.

Keith Urban – Houston Rodeo 2016

I know it has been at least 40 years since I attended the Houston Rodeo but a couple of weekends ago, one of my BFFs invited me to go with her. I eagerly looked forward to it because one of my favorite entertainers was performing…Keith Urban! And he certainly delivered a rocking good time for all of us.  He did one thing that looped me back to my childhood. Toward the end of his concert, he exited the stage and proceeded to walk around the entire arena shaking hands, giving autographs and even taking selfies with eager fans. It was so refreshing to see and it made me happy that some small part of my childhood memory was being recreated.IMG_7588

Driving home, I was scanning the landscape and enjoying all of the beautiful wildflowers that grace our highways. Carpets of bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrushes, primroses, all brilliant examples of nature preening. I was drawn to an old cemetery where aging, faded tombstones were adorned with a multitude of colorful wildflowers.

Female and Male Northern Shoveler

Returning to Austin, my journey down Highway 71 passes close to Hornsby Bend, the water treatment facility for Austin. Settlement ponds are a beacon for migrating birds…a place to forage for food or just rest along the way. Just a quick stop landed me some great shots of some visiting Northern Shovelers. I am always fascinated by the huge shovel like beaks on these beautiful birds. And another shallow area brought me a sighting of some black-necked stilts. Birds abound if we but take the time to look and listen!

Male Northern Shoveler
Black-necked Stilt

Spring is a new beginning, so grab your binoculars, a sketch pad, or a camera and take the plunge into the spectacular world of nature that surrounds us all.

Happy Bird Searching!!!