Wire Cutters and A Mule

Downtown Houston

I am a native Houstonian. Born, raised and lived there the majority of my life. I have survived hurricanes with names like Carla, Allison, and Rita plus a myriad of other storms that perhaps didn’t grow large enough to meet hurricane standards and were relegated to tropical depression status. The one thing they all have in common is the potential to affect the quality of life for the small inconsequential humans who happen to exist in their pathway. I moved to Austin about 12 years ago and my up-close-and- personal encounters with angry storms have diminished. And then came Harvey.

Downtown Austin and the Boardwalk on LadyBird Lake

For four days within the confines of my safe, dry, well stocked condo, I watched the rain pound Ladybird Lake, the looming clouds scud slowly by and the persistent squalls of rain drenching Austin. I never lost power from the winds, so I watched the tragedy unfold before me through television video clips. And as I watched, I cried. I couldn’t stop crying when I witnessed the absolute destruction of a city I love and witnessed the horrible struggles of the innocent people battling to survive torrential rains and flooding. Houston has weathered many storms throughout a colorful history but never before has an American city experienced a year’s worth of rain in excess of 52 inches within a four-day period… an event that is impossible to imagine and totally beyond anyone’s expectations.

Houston will survive and rebuild stronger than before because it is a lumbering unstoppable behemoth of a city bent on surviving, but also because it must. The “Chemical Coast” that encompasses a large portion of the Texas/Louisiana coastline, provides huge amounts of petrochemicals that fuel the lives of Americans everywhere. A monster storm interrupts that well-oiled machine that churns out all sorts of products that fuel our life “needs” and it makes us aware of our dependence on many things that make our lives so comfortable. Without electricity, no air conditioning, no lights, no power for toasters, hair dryers, washing machines. Without electricity, no power to pump water through miles of pipe into our homes to deliver drinking water, water for ice making, water for bathing, flushing toilets. Without electricity, gas pumps don’t pump gas so if your car is empty, you will be walking or hitching a ride from a neighbor. Without electricity, the food inside our refrigerators and freezers spoils. And the list goes on and on. We take so many things for granted each day and one hiccup can make us aware of how quickly it can all disappear.

I know a lot of this from first-hand experience. I remember the fear my parents had when Carla swept through Houston ripping the roof shingles from our home and delivering huge quantities of water in a horizontal attack so fierce that moisture was literally driven under doors and around and through window sills. As an adult, when another “caine” burst upon Houston, our side of the street lost power for two weeks and as we struggled to deal with the heat and the humidity, all of our neighbors across the street had power. The lights from their homes each evening made our pain greater. And when Rita came knocking and a mandatory evacuation of Houston was ordered, I obediently began to travel West to escape her murderous rage. There were thousands upon thousands of us that departed Houston to evade this storm only to be bogged down in traffic, running out of gas, without food or rest on a 12-18 hour journey traversing a mere 75 miles. The evacuation was a disaster itself. People died on the roadways. It is simply impossible to evacuate millions of people from an urban area for a storm that may or may not decide to come your way. The landfall of hurricanes can be unpredictable because these giant water and wind monsters can be capricious.

Any natural disaster or, God forbid, a man-made nuclear disaster, and life as we know it can vanish in a remarkably short time. And then what? What do we absolutely NEED in order to survive? Food, water, shelter, the basics. But how do we escape the concrete jungle if the roadways are bogged down in traffic or gas is unavailable. Growing up in the Cold War era and vividly remembering the Cuban missile crisis, I recalled sage words of wisdom from my Father about how to survive a calamity. With confidence and great clarity, he said “All you need to survive is a good pair of wire cutters and a strong mule.” Something to think about in a world that is teetering on the brink of disaster on an almost daily basis.

My heart bleeds for my beloved home town. Be well Houstonians.

 

The “What IF” Countdown

 

Expressing our great joy at getting stuck in the sand on Matagorda Beach!

For the past 3-4 months I have been experiencing some heart health issues. We aren’t suppose to be aware of our heart beating, it is just supposed to happen. Our heartbeat is a part of our Autonomic Nervous System which does all sorts of things to keep us alive, none of which we have to actively think about…like breathing, digestion or a heart beating. Within a heart there is a “pacemaker” that initiates the heart beat and in turn that electrical signal travels through the heart causing a beat to occur. When the electrical system of the heart goes wonky, we can have extra beats, irregular beats, too slow beats or too fast beats. These are called arrhythmias and they make us aware of our heart beating and although they are rarely fatal, the various symptoms sure can make us uncomfortable. My symptoms had gotten increasingly worse and longer lasting which ultimately led to the placement of a Pacemaker to crack the whip and keep my heart doing its job correctly. I had a two-week period in which to think about all the “what ifs?” What if I don’t survive? Are my affairs in order? Who will clean out my cubicle at work? Who will take in my cats? Stupid worries but worries none the less. Two days before my surgery I decided that I would eat steak and ice cream…all that I wanted…because it may be my last meal. It caused me to reexamine the stress in my life, to look at my world in a more appreciative way, to reexamine relationships and to evaluate just how I would like the rest of my life to be. Self examination is hard work!

Of course I am writing this PPP (post pacemaker placement), so obviously I survived and all that worry and hard work attempting to put my life in order “just in case” was all for naught. But it really wasn’t non-productive because it did energize me to do a myriad of things that should be completed as we age if for no other reason than to help our children deal with the “what ifs”.

I am thankful that I have this new task master I’ve named “Thumper” sitting within my chest as a watchdog for the electrical system within my heart. We live in a marvelous age with medical knowledge and technology which can enable us to live long healthy lives. Have cataracts?…get new “eyeballs”(AKA lens implants), need a new hip or knee?…no problem, get a replacement. Kidneys, liver, or heart failing?….your name can be placed on a transplant list. Yes, medical knowledge has advanced at warp speed and combined with all of the new medications on the market, it is possible to keep our bodies working much longer than our pioneer forefathers would ever have imagined.

All of these advantages should not be taken for granted. They are extenders of our life. Gifts. A chance to build more memories, spend more time with family, take a long-anticipated once-in-a-lifetime trip, listen to the laugh of a baby, feel the sandpapery tongue of a cat on your skin, smell puppy breath, sip a cocktail on a beach while watching the sun sink beneath the surface, read another book by a favorite author, weep through a great movie for the hundredth time, take up a new hobby or just enjoy another trip or two around the sun.

Sweet Bernie

Life is precious. Take time to enjoy every moment. And as the well-known Lee Ann Womack song expresses…”I hope you’ll never lose your sense of wonder….May you never take one single breath for granted….I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean…and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you DANCE!”

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Happy Life!!!

 

 

Port “A” Revisited

Port A surfside

Even short moments sitting on a beach or exploring new birding venues can boost spirits and alleviate the summer doldrums. And what nicer way to revisit Port Aransas than with my daughter, grandsons and friends. The beauty of traveling with them now is that the burden of all the “doing” of things is not on me. Yes, I have finally arrived at that sweet moment in life when I can be totally free of responsibility and confidently place my care and well-being into the hands of loved ones. I LOVE IT!!!!

Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center

After a Saturday sitting in the canopy shade on the beach, listening to the surf, and being caressed by the ocean breeze, I set out early Sunday morning to explore some birding spots I had not seen before. First up was the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center located adjacent to the water sewage facility. Some might think this to be an unlikely place to encounter birds of any merit, but I was richly rewarded that morning. Walking through the gate and onto a well constructed boardwalk that snakes out over the salt marshes, I had the entire place to myself and immediately enjoyed three Magnificent Frigatebirds soaring high in the clear skies above me. Black Skimmers were flying low over the water ponds collecting breakfast, a Little Blue Heron flushed with my presence, a Common Gallinule creeped among the marshes closely followed by her baby chick, Cormorants, Black Vultures, Black-necked Stilts, Killdeer, Snowy and Great Egrets, one lonely Coot, gulls, terns, Tricolored Heron and a flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks made for a nice birding morning.

Next stop was Wetland Park where I was greeted by American Avocets, White Ibis, Common Sandpipers and Marbled Godwits. This stop was a spectacular one for me since I was able to identify by behavior, a Reddish Egret White Morph cavorting in the shallows. Surrounded by Great and Snowy Egrets, he was easily identified by his dancing skills.

Reddish Egret White Morph
Marbled Godwit

Finally I visited Paradise Park, a very small swampish area located behind a local restaurant. A boardwalk twisted through the trees and as I strolled I spotted a GBH and then my third prize of the day, an Immature Little Blue Heron. Baffled by his white egret-looking body and light green legs, I finally realized what he was. Once again, location and behavior assisted me in the identification. Little Blues are mostly solitary and shy and even though this small pond is smack in the middle of a very urban area, it was well concealed by trees, brush, marshy reeds and brackish water.

Immature Little Blue Heron

My weekend was a great combination of family time combined with alone time. Great memories made in a close-to-home location.

Common Gallinule
Common Gallinule Chick

Happy bird searching!!!         

Trumpism Tweets

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Now more than ever in the internet age,  the old adage of “once a word is spoken it leaves its mark behind” carries great significance. Young people should be very cognizant of this since just one inappropriate post on social media might mean the difference between advancement in their chosen career field, termination from a coveted position or rejection from admission to a college of their choice.

Donald Trump obviously has no filter on his social media tweets. There is the real world and then there is Trump’s world as evidenced by a series of tweets and interviews throughout recent years. They are enlightening and relevant in today’s world since he was elevated to the Presidency. His past postings are evidence of the hypocrisy which floods his world on a permanent basis.

A few examples would include:

Travel tweets: “The habitual vacationer, @Barack Obama is now in Hawaii. This vacation is costing taxpayers $4 million+++while there is 20% unemployment”  December 27, 2011 

Fact: Obama’s travel cost over 8 years $97 million…Trump travel costs over 3 months-$21 million. At the current pace, Trump will outspend Obama travel costs in just one year

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Golf Tweets: “Can you believe that with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf.” “President Obama not busy talking to congress about Syria..he is playing golf…go figure” October 13, 2014

Fact: 100 days  into presidency…tRump 19 golfing trips,  Obama 1.

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Syria Tweets: “We should stay the hell out of Syria, the “rebels” are just as bad as the current regime.WHAT WILL WE GET FOR OR LIVES AND $BILLIONS? ZERO” June 15, 2013

“AGAIN TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA-IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN & FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING” September 5, 2013

Fact: Obama in response to chemical warfare by Assad goes to Congress to request permission to punish Syria militarily. Republican congress refused. Trump doesn’t ask Congress and proceeds to fire 59 tomahawk missiles into a Syrian airbase… excuse…”vital to United States National Security.”

Transparency Tweet: “Why does Obama believe he shouldn’t comply with record releases that his predecessors did of their own volition? Hiding something? and “He is the least transparent President –ever–and he ran on transparency.” October 30,  2012

Fact: Early in his term, Trump announced that White House visitor logs would no longer be available for public review, but kept secret for five years past Trumps’ time in office. Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk in front of White House is closed to visitors. He also refuses to release his tax records.

Experience Tweet: “Obama is a disaster at foreign policy. Never had the experience or knowledge. He is not capable of doing the job.” September 12, 2012

Fact: tRump has zero military or political experience and I challenge anyone to define his foreign policy. He is delegating his Commander-in-Chief position to his generals.

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Diplomacy Tweet: “Obama has picked fights with our oldest friends”. Campaign speech April 2016.

Fact: tRump insulted Australia”s Prime Minister, bombed Syria and Afghanistan, alienated Mexico, fanned the flames of a nuclear war with North Korea, acknowledged Turkey’s self-proclaimed dictator wanna be, and embraced Putin as a great person he is “honored to meet” to mention just a few.

Obama Tweets: “President Obama is losing on so many fronts, in fact all fronts, that I am concerned he will do something totally irrational. He can’t lead!”  4:01 PM, 25 April 2014

Fact: Never in the history of the Presidency has the world thought so little of our leader. He has made America a laughing stock, is currently baiting North Korea into a nuclear confrontation and threatening military action in Venezuela. Listening to his unscripted “speeches” is like being immersed in a humongous word salad. With the vocabulary of a fifth grader at best, he is totally incapable of expressing his thoughts in a dignified, thoughtful, cohesive manner. The fate of our nation and perhaps of our planet lies in the hands of a narcissistic, bigoted, racist, misogynist sycophant.

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Stay tuned. Until he is removed from office, alternative facts and tweets will be the order of the day.

 

Fire & Fury, Locked and Loaded

 

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How has it come to this? History will not be kind to those in positions of power who are sitting idly by and doing nothing to stop the ignorant madman who indiscriminately uses fiery rhetoric to inflame distrust and chaos within our homeland as well as globally. His stupidity and childish insecurity may lead to a nuclear holocaust at the worst or at the very least, to the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. And if all of this is contrived as a distraction from the Russian probe, like some sort of reality television program, shame on him for creating stress and playing on the emotions of millions of people worldwide. Abuse of power is a horrible thing. Our Constitution has a provision for stopping this from happening but the spineless Republicans in Congress continue to make excuses for the inexcusable. In fact, we have moved from “no contact with foreign agents, to well maybe collusion but that isn’t illegal, to coordination with a foreign enemy, to do we really care if it is illegal since everything is wonderful” No way is this normal in a democratic society. We are witnessing the snail-like progression of a coupe, the demise of democracy and an attempt to move to an authoritarian government.

I miss the days of awakening free of angst that war may be imminent, that healthcare may be ripped from millions, that environmental protections are removed. I want normal again. I crave it.

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This man-child has been systematically dismantling the norms of common decency and with his filthy mouth has succeeded  in unleashing the scum hiding under rocks to spew their vile hatred towards anyone who may be slightly different from whom they perceive to be the only “blessed and chosen” people of their God.

I am sick of the professed “Christians” who are so un-Christ like in their behavior.  No way would Jesus condone what is happening to people of color, immigrants, children, the poor and aged of our nation. How is it “Christian” to blithely vote to remove healthcare from millions, eliminate programs that feed hungry children, and foment violence? These actions do not exist in my wheelhouse as examples of christian behavior.

Like so many others in the Resistance, I am exhausted by the daily assaults on my psyche. So we wait, with fear in our hearts, to see if the two man-child demagogues will launch the missiles heard round the world. Please wake up America and realize the dangers that are eroding your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Make sure you end up on the right side of history!

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Expressions of Grief

Road trips can be adventurous. I am dreaming of a moment in time when I can take an unplanned road trip with a gypsy attitude, traveling wherever the road leads me based on road signs, whims or just the desire to take “the road less traveled”. I have this desire to climb into my car and to start driving west, or north, or east to see parts of America that I have yet to experience. No reservations, no definitive plans, just drive and spontaneously do whatever feels right at that moment in time.

All the road trips of my life have been planned…to the beach, to baseball tournaments, to cities within easy reach of home or long adventures over seas to other lands. And along the road I have always been fascinated with roadside monuments erected to honor loved ones who perished as road warriors.  I find myself slowing, imagining the pain their families experienced and the love that spurred them to erect a monument to their lost loved one. These beautiful expressions of grief are reminders of the preciousness of life and how quickly circumstances can change, how quickly what matters the most can vanish. A reminder of just how fragile life really is. A reminder to take time to enjoy life’s journey.

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Safe travels everyone!!!

 

Two all beef patties,special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun or a “Nothing Burger”

How do you like your burger? Fully loaded or just meat and bun? We have a new type of burger in America now…a “Nothing Burger”! Lately this new term has taken the television waves by storm. I think if I hear one more Republican call the spy novel we are inhabiting right now a “Nothing Burger”, I may be nauseous. Just what is included in a “Nothing Burger”? Their so-called “Nothing Burger” includes an awful lot of Russian ingredients. It is loaded with alternative facts, prevarications, flat-out denials and a perverse refusal that any of those Russian secret sauce ingredients are present. My personal favorite, the “Fully Loaded Burger”, comes with true indisputable facts, evidenced based science, reality over perception…dates, times, players, secret meetings exposed, actual true information, a regular Snopes of the culinary world .

How does one forget a meeting with a Russian official? How does one forget a meeting with a Russian official where an interpreter is needed? Why has Trumpulthinskin never acknowledged Russian interference in our presidential election? Why does he appear to embrace Putin as his best friend? An autocrat who has robbed the Russian people of billions of dollars, Putin arranges the deaths of dissidents, invades other countries to promote the Russian agenda, eliminates media threats and rules with a heavy hand, all while added to his own personal coffers.  These are but a few of his transgressions. His agenda is always about rebuilding the power and might of Russia and what better way to do this than to destroy the credibility of American democracy.

Democracy is the Fully Loaded Burger. This burger makes your mouth water just at the sight of its “beautifulness”, full of wonderful pleasures that meld together to give one a satisfactory belly full of goodness and happiness throughout a lifetime. When you are the best, the competition is always trying to land a knock out punch and take your place. Trumpulthinskin and his minion’s collusion with the “Nothing Burger” are willing to do anything for a win even if that win means the death of morality, ethics, the demise of truth, the elimination of all that is so cherished by Americans. He is and continues to be Putin’s puppet.

I still believe that eventually the “Fully Loaded Burger” will prevail, that truth will triumph over lies, that goodness will deal a death-blow to evil, that “love WILL trump hate”. The competition is fierce though and we will have to be vigilant and strong, persisting and resisting to keep our “Fully Loaded Burger” the best of the best and assure the survival of truth.

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Always seek the truth, examine all sides of an argument, read to educate yourself about just what is at stake when we walk into a voting booth to choose the guiding hand for our nation. It may be painful to watch a news channel that may not support your beliefs but being uncomfortable can lead to enlightment or at least a better understanding of all sides of an issue. Your very life may depend upon the choice you make.

Happy bird searching followed by two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles onions on a sesame seed bun!

 

Death of Democracy and Common Decency – The Criminality of Corrupt Politicians

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My tears are flowing again like a river flushed with the melting snows of a heavy winter. I cry for the lack of humanity exhibited by elected officials who believe that removing healthcare from tens of millions of Americans is the right thing to do, the moral and ethical thing to do. What motivates these people, these beasts from Hell, to think that a tax cut for the richest top 1% of our population is worth the loss of health care for millions of poor, sick, mentally ill or disabled Americans? I cry for all the elderly who will be uprooted from nursing homes, for their children who must reconstruct their lives to care for  Mom, Dad, Grandma or Grandpa, for the elderly who must make choices between food or life saving medications and for the parents of an infant born with multiple congenital birth defects who must bankrupt their lives to provide major care.

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Medicaid is the largest healthcare provider in the United States insuring 75 million Americans. I encourage everyone to watch the Rachel Maddow show of June 22, 2017 to understand the full scope of the criminality of what is being attempted by the Republican party led by the meanest toad of a man Mitch McConnell. Medicaid provides healthcare for 50% of all babies born today in the United States, 60% of all poor children, and helps the disabled to remain in their home rather than in institutions. In other words, protection for the most vulnerable members of our society.

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There are a multitude of cartoons and comic skits on television about tRump and his best friend Putin. Laughter is medicine to help us survive untenable things. They may temporarily relieve anxiety, but unfortunately what is happening to our democracy is no laughing matter. We may be witnessing the death of “truth” in our nation and moving to a world of lies and falsehoods. Daily tRump and his minions attack the media as “fake news” and as America watches, we are witnessing the dismantling of the democracy our forefathers fought to ensure when they penned the Constitution, the bedrock for life and liberty, that was fought and paid for in blood hundreds of years ago.

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As Americans we have come to expect and enjoy, in fact take for granted, the safety of our water supply, the assurance of clean air to breathe, the guarantee that the food we eat is free of harmful pesticides . The environmental and health protections achieved for over 40 years are being systematically swept away. The food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe may be suspect in the near future if the deconstruction of the EPA continues at this alarming rate.

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The constant barrage of “unimaginable” things that this administration is  trying to  implement  is numbing our senses and lulling us into the beginning acceptance of this behavior as being the “new norm”. This acceptance or complacency is the beginning of the decline of democracy as we know it.  Sadly, this loss of “truth” or the normalization of “alternative facts”  is to watch America sink into an Orwellian “1984” society where what we believe is dictated by the “Big Brother” government, driven by the elite few seeking wealth and power to the detriment of millions of everyday hard-working citizens.

I cry for my nation as it writhes in death throes. I cry for the millions of my compatriots, fellow citizens, that will succumb to death if this administration is allowed to dismantle all that is good and wonderful about our way of life. My tears flow freely trying to wash away the pain of what I am witnessing on a daily basis.

Are you crying yet?

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The Cycle of Life

 

 

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Osprey

Today I was reminded to check out the Cornell University bird cams to revisit Ezra and Big Red, the Red-Tailed Hawks at Cornell University and Iris & her new mate Louis, the Ospreys, in Missoula Montana. Tearfully, I was saddened to learn that apparently Ezra the great Red-tailed Hawk provider and father of at least 15 nestlings, was euthanized after a fatal wing injury received in the wilds of nature where he lived his entire life. And his mate for all those years Big Red was soaring the skies over and around the Cornell area in mourning for her lost mate yet driven by instinct to find another. Will she be successful for this season is anyone’s guess. But nature has a way of balancing the uneven. And in Montana I was heartened to see that Iris is protecting her nest as Louis continues to reinforce it with huge sticks that they meticulously weave into the perfect home for their nestlings. So hope followed despair much as it does throughout life.

The hardship of living life is not confined to humans alone. Birth, Life, Drama and Death are an integral part of all life on our planet. Most human and other animal and bird species just want the basics…a place to nest, raise their young, food for their brood and to live peacefully to a ripe old age enjoying the bounties of our universe.

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Fortunately for most species, life is rhythmic and very mundane filled with the ordinary tasks of daily survival. For birds, it is a cycle of hunting food, mating, raising young, protecting the home nest, teaching their young and then launching them into flight. For humans our days are filled with chores, learning skills, making choices, buying and cooking food, birthing our children and schooling them in the ways of life prior to launching them into their own life cycle. Along the way tragedies happen…events that may scar us emotionally or physically… and we will either succumb or survive.

Our Democracy is under assault right now. A war is being waged….one which threatens to interrupt the cycle of human life as well as bird and animal life. With the elimination of the EPA, our environment might become a more hostile place. Threats may be present in the air we breathe or the water we drink or in the destruction of our homes as glaciers and polar caps melt giving rise to ocean waters. Climate change is real and denying it only proliferates the harm to both man and beast. Democracy will either survive or suffer the fate of many nations throughout history and fall.

Promoting unrest, fomenting racial strife, using alternative facts, fleecing America and mounting a continuous assault on the many institutions that have so valiantly sustained our government and America’s position as a major world leader on our planet is treasonous.

As we sit on the brink of perhaps the most dangerous threat to nuclear war since the Cuban missile crisis, our life cycle is interrupted with worry, stress, uncertainly, depression. Our nation has become divided and it has become increasingly difficult to decipher fact from fiction. In a world where trust is needed most, it exists less.

We have no control over most of these events except to never forget…

Nevertheless we must persist!!! And I will survive!!!

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Sure Signs of Spring

On my way home from work last week, I stopped in a sports complex parking lot to take a peak at the Monk  (AKA Quaker) Parakeet colony where these beautiful birds were busily building and reinforcing the colony nests that look like condominiums. They are busy, very busy right now preparing to procreate their species. They are noisy, messy and fun to watch. And appropriately a group of parakeets is known as a “chatter” of parakeets.

Monk Parakeet
Nest building time

A recent trip to my sister’s home in Burton Texas rewarded me with some beautiful flowers bursting into bloom as Spring arrives in full force.

Climbing Pinkie Rose

Climbing Pinkies bursting into bloom
A new arrival in Burton – A friend for Burton Ernie!!

A short stop at LadyBird Lake found a few year round and some winter residents.

Female Mallard
Cormorant
Green Heron

Opportunities to enjoy Spring rituals abound. Turn off the cell phone, take a deep breath, go for a walk,  become aware of all the wonders that Mother Nature provides for our enjoyment if we only pay attention. And just like Spring which is a renewal, you will begin to fill invigorated by the beauty that surrounds us all in our ordinary lives.

Happy bird searching!!!