I may chat about my books, what I'm writing or reading, or just general thoughts. You may read posts about my cats or just my crazy life in general. Comments are welcome, if anyone wants to interact with me. Maybe we can share war stories, whether it's writing related or just about life in general.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nature Thrives in the Desert

I have an old bench that sits by the window outside on my covered patio and I like to sit there in the evenings and watch all the critters getting their last meals of the day.  Last evening I was sitting there, enjoying my glass of wine, and listening to the howling wind as my trees danced about and birds tried to hang onto the branches as they chirped away noisily.

My bench is out of the wind so it’s always a good spot to settle to watch all the nature in the desert.  Sometimes it amazes me at all the life that can live in such conditions.  We get extremes here – hot and cold – and lots of gusty winds, but what else is supposed to carve the beautiful red rocks and cliffs into the intriguing shapes that only your mind can imagine is animals or old Indian tribes standing side by side.

I am constantly in awe as I drive back from the grocery store surrounded by the panorama of colorful mountains that always take my breath away.  I’ve wanted to capture their beauty with my camera, but so far I haven’t had any luck stitching all the pics together to make one glorious expanse, which is the actual view you have in person.

Just before sunset is a wonderful time to sit back there on the patio because the major heat of the day has died away and, as I mentioned, the animals and birds come for their last morsels of the day.  The quail pairs will bring their babies who dutifully follow the parents about and are so well behaved I’m always amazed.  Usually the mom or dad will pace back and forth and keep a lookout over the offspring while they eat.

Along with this, there will be various rabbits, doves, pigeons, squirrels, assorted little birds (finches and sparrows among them), hummingbirds and orioles, lizards and chipmunks, not to mention the jack rabbits that hang out in the desert and rarely come in the yard and all the ravens and birds of prey that skim the ridge.  Occasionally, the roadrunners will come by as well and every night in the summers the desert toads use the water bowl as their own private swimming pool.

It is something to see all these critters eating side by side and peacefully, except for the occasional squabble that breaks out now and then as everyone is very protective of their young ones.  Of course the roadrunners and birds of prey are not included in this group.  The wildlife run from them as life in the desert can be cruel and critters are lost everyday to feed these birds.

As I mentioned, the desert is a harsh but beautiful place to live and I’m lucky in that my house is situated where the whole desert is my back yard, which must seem like an oasis to all the wildlife because it is situated on two levels with the top one next to the house containing a small expanse of grass and shade trees and the bottom level left in natural landscaping and separated from the top by a three foot high natural rock wall in which the chipmunks have decided to call home, making burrows all through that area.  I don’t know if any of you have ever seen any of these little creatures, which are actually antelope squirrels, but we call chipmunks.  These little guys are very cute as you can see by the picture below, but they are very mischievous and never stop moving.  I have no idea where they get all their energy from, but I know they must be plain worn out at the end of the day.

There are literally dozens of them living in our rock wall and hundreds more in the desert beyond that make their presence every day.  Of course we feed them peanuts and they eat the bird seed and about anything else they can get their little paws on.  Forget about trying to grow anything around here, because they aren’t too particular and, always being on the hunt for food, nothing is safe.  They will eat most of your flowers and your veggies too.  As you can see, we no longer grow tomatoes and this is why:

Nothing seems to be safe around them even if you enclose it in wire cages.  They are very smart and will figure out a way to get in, even if it takes them all day.  They even send the babies in, if the adults are too big, and the babies are instructed to bring the food out, one way or another, to the waiting parents.

They are only trying to survive in this environment and we are always sad when a bird of prey catches one for their dinner.  I guess we shouldn’t make our yard such an inviting place.

If it is windy, the ravens love to play and show off their flying skills as they dip and soar on the currents, usually flying in pairs.  They are something to watch and can bring a smile to your face with all their antics, but birds do bring omens so you have to beware when they gather on the bluff in large groups as if having a community meeting.  Did you know that ravens are not bothered by any weather conditions and they are the smartest of all birds?

Sitting outside is a great way to end the day with nature’s noises and very inspiring before it is back to the computer for more writing.  “Cooo, cooo, cooo” go the doves while the chipmunks make a rattling noise as they call together their families, but the quail noises are almost mournful and sad, sounding much like the doves “he-heeee-hee,” but in a different pitch, and a noise I really associate with the loneliness of the desert as twilight settles around us.  Perhaps they are just thankful they have survived another day in this world.  These sounds of nature at dusk always bring to mind the song by Crystal Gayle that I can hear in my head.  I put a link here if anyone wants to listen.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Remembering the Soldiers

We should all take a minute out of our daily lives to remember the soldiers on this Memorial Day.  There are many who paid the ultimate price – giving up their lives – for our freedom.  There were many others who made it home again, some maimed or with other problems, but all of them having to live with the memories of seeing their comrades fall in battle.

No matter how you feel about any war effort, we still owe it to the service men and women, to think about them on this day and to offer up our thanks for their service to our country.

My father, like so many, served in World War II.  He was a tail-gunner back then, but that is really the only thing I know about that time in his life because he never talked about it with any of us.  He did miss out on most of the heavy battles because he had rheumatic fever and was sent to a hospital in England before coming home.

After his return and a job at the shipyard in Houston, he eventually ended up on his parent’s cotton farm 30 miles south of Houston.  I was only a baby then.  I can only imagine what my mother must have thought when he moved her and me to that farm, especially when she was used to city life and had never been on a farm in her life.  But that is a story for another time.  My parents would go on to raise seven kids at the farm in the coming years.

No, my daddy never talked about his time in the service, but yet I knew he was proud to go and serve his country.  He was a very hard working, stubborn man, yet determined and would never give up on anything he started, a trait he passed on to some of us kids.

I’m sure he must have thought about his fallen service buddies from time-to-time and he didn’t go totally unscathed himself, as a small piece of shrapnel lodged in the bone above his eye would eventually claim his eyesight by the time I was nineteen.  He had other health problems as well and passed away at the young age of 55.

I do think of him often, especially on certain holidays and his birthday.  I don’t live in Texas now, where he is buried, but I’m hoping one of my siblings who do will find the time to take flowers or a flag to his grave.  He would like that.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Listening to Your Inner Voice

Hi everyone.  Life happens as they say and before you know it a week or two has gone by and you’re falling behind on your posting again.  I want to thank all of you who have dropped by to read what I have to say and of course I always mean to put more out there than I do.

Today I want to share how important it is for all of us to listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us and to heed that inner voice.  I’m usually pretty good at this, but there are times I choose to ignore things I shouldn’t.  Luckily, I’m glad that wasn’t the case a year ago today because had I ignored the situation I probably wouldn’t be sitting here at my computer now writing this.

I got to thinking about all this because a year ago I was rushed into emergency surgery.  Thank goodness I had the good sense to go to the hospital when I did.  I had ended up with a stomach ache that lasted all day and by evening I was in quite a state.

It started out like any normal day and I went to the gym, etc and then got a bad case of what I thought was indigestion.  I used an old family remedy that we were taught as kids on the farm and laid around all day with my feet up.  For an upset stomach or indigestion, my grandparents and then my parents were great believers in lying flat on your back with your legs and feet leaning up and against the wall, so you were in an L shape.  As kids growing up, this seemed to work and all of us did it from time to time.  We thought it was to take our minds off things, but it always seemed to help so in about 20-30 minutes we could get up and go and play, or do what we had been doing that day.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I had been doing that all day and it didn’t help.  I finally decided I was getting no sleep that night so my husband took me to the emergency room at 11 pm.  To make matters worse my stomach was so distended and uncomfortable that I had to recline the seat and lie down all the way there.  Of course it seemed like we hit every bump in the road.

Once I got to the exam room I was X rayed and given a cat scan.  They called the surgeon and by 4am I was in surgery.  Unbeknownst to me, my colon had decided to twist around and I had to have half of it removed to fix things.  That was an ordeal and quite a long recovery for someone active like me, but it’s probably a good thing I didn’t have time to think about having the surgery, never having had any before.  If I had waited it probably would have burst.

My whole point here is to always listen to what your body is trying to tell you because there is usually a good reason to take notice of what it has to say.

Since that incident, I have heard of several people who have died from the same thing.  My sisters and friends make a point of telling me this news.  But I was stunned to learn that when the latest BeeGees brother passed away a few days ago, his younger brother had died of the same thing some years ago.

My surgeon told me it was not all that common and he did about four surgeries like mine a year, but I’m beginning to think it is more common than we know.

I am very thankful to have used my common sense back then and hope I do in the future when it really counts and is important to do so.

Thanks for reading this story.  Maybe it will help someone out there.  I wish the best of health to all of you and I hope we all live long enough to achieve our dreams.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Cat Fights

Why do they always happen in the middle of the night or when you’re really on a roll and have to stop everything to go and break it up?  And it’s always on nights you can finally sleep because you’re so beat.

This just seems to be the nature of things at my house.  At the present time I’m down to three cats – all girls – and things aren’t always rosy between them.

For some reason Comet hates Koki and I have no idea why?  This all started a couple of years ago and now every time she sees her she pins her ears back and is in attack mode.  Koki is scared to death of her, so I’m thinking that Comet probably beat her up one day when we were both away from the house.  Since then, Koki who is my little shadow rarely comes upstairs anymore to camp out in my office when I’m working.  Comet will stand at the top of the stairs and dare her to even think about it.  I have no idea what went down between them, but it wasn’t always this way.

I know that Comet misses the boys very much.  They were her best buds and they hung out together all the time.  She has gotten very nasty with the other cats since their passing.  She knows she’s the oldest now so doesn’t let them ever forget she’s top cat around here.  Tootie just stays out of her way and Koki tries to, but there is at least one cat fight around here every week.

Unfortunately, this usually occurs in the middle of the night and it really disturbs my husband.  I wish Comet would knock it off because I can’t stand by with a water bottle to keep her in line 24 hours a day.  I’m sure they get into it all the time when we aren’t home anyway, so it’s disturbing to get shaken out of bed and told to go and take care of it in quick fashion when you don’t even have your wits about you and didn’t even hear the fight going on to start with.

Then once back in bed it takes me forever to get back to sleep, which I get so little of anyway being the insomniac I am.  But my husband will be fast asleep within 10 minutes, snoring away with the radio blaring because it has to be on every night.  I’m not sure how he can sleep with all that noise, but he can.

I like to listen to Coast to Coast too, but I turn it down really low and then off when I get drowsy.  But I wouldn’t trade any of the cats for anything because they are all very dear, even though there are moments they can drive you batty.  They probably just have to workout their little tiffs and nothing is ever so serious that it requires a vet visit.  Worst case scenario, there is cat hair everywhere to pick up in the morning.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Watermelon

I thought today I would post a snippet from the family book I'm writing about our childhood.  All comments are welcome.

It was a lazy summer afternoon.  The Texas heat was almost unbearable with the humidity sitting at 98% and the thermometer matching it.  Of course we wouldn't really realize the full impact of the heat and humidity until we were grown and had traveled to other dryer places in the country.  To us, as kids, this was just summer and it was hot.  We thought it was like this everywhere.

We loved the three month summer vacation except for the work that had to be done in the fields.  Any kind of work was miserable in those conditions.  Sometimes even play could be miserable so most of the time we just sweat, drank tons of ice tea from mason jars and tried to ignore it.

Looking back on this, I am not sure what was so great about summer vacation because we were stuck on the farm, but I guess we preferred it to being stuck in the classroom.  Most of

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cart Cat Makes News

Here is the whole story:

Cat Delivers Treats in her Handmade Cart

Tootie worked frantically pounding nails into her cart and attaching the wheels.  Bits of lumber and assorted tools lay scattered on the ground.  Shaking her long, striped fur to dislodge bits of wood, she mopped her brow and sat back to look with pride at her finished project as she laid the hammer down.  It wasn’t the best looking cart in the world.  The wood she had collected was weather-beaten and the wheels weren’t perfect either, but she decided it would serve the purpose.  After all they were all she could find in that old junkyard on the edge of town and dragging them back to her home about wore her out.  However, it was all worth it now.  Her whiskers twitched as a big smile burst across her face.

For a moment she allowed herself to daydream as visions of the finished project danced in her head.  It was time to pick up the tools and tidy the place up.  She would wash up and spruce the cart up a bit before she went into the village.  The hard work was done, now it was time for the fun part.

Tootie looked around at the buckets of paint she salvaged, purple, green, blue.  There was only a small amount of yellow but she would use it as an accent color.  She was so very excited to be chosen as the village cart cat.  She just knew her fresh baked treats would be a hit.  Although she was awfully tired and ready for a nap, she almost danced into her little hut.  She would take a small break first and have a cup of tea and a small treat as a reward for a job well done and then she would paint.

As she stepped inside she saw a flash of black and white disappear around the corner.  The crinkle of wrapping pricked at her ears and she looked over to the pile of treats and discovered they had been rummaged through and left topsy-turvy.

“How dare you!  Get out here this minute!”  Tootie demanded.  After she yelled out a second time with no response, she decided to investigate.  Perhaps the culprit escaped out of the window.

Stomping and twitching her tail, she walked around the corner only to be attacked by the black and white intruder who was s till licking her whiskers having devoured the delicious cake.

Tootie shook her off, her fur standing on end.  “What are doing sneaking in here and eating my treats?  You know how important this is to me!”

“Oh, I was just sampling them.  Please play with me?”

“You can see I’m kind of busy right now Koki.  They are expecting me in the village and I still have a lot to do to get ready.”  Tootie scolded her friend.  All Koki ever wanted to do was play.  That cat was never serious.  And how she managed to stay so slim Tootie would never know as she felt her own thickening waistline.  She even heard someone in the village call her Ms Wattles the other day.  Perhaps she was sampling too many of her own baked goods.

“Can I help?  It really looks like fun,” Koki did a jig and bounced around the room, shaking Tootie from her thoughts.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.  You get into too much mischief,” Tootie looked at her sideways.

“I’ll be good.  I promise.  Plus this painting looks fun!”  Koki’s green eyes gleamed, “Besides you can use an assistant can’t you?”

Tootie paced around the room and finally consented to Koki’s help, but only if she did exactly as she was told and at the first sign of mischief she was out of there.

As they passed the pile of treats on the way outside, Koki grabbed another.

“Put that back!”  Tootie yelled.  “Are you here to help or to eat?”

“I thought I might get hungry out there.”

Tootie sat thumping her tail on the floorboards and giving Koki the evil eye until she replaced the treat back in the pile.

“Now come on.  We have a lot of work to do,” Tootie pushed her through the door.  There was no way she was leaving that cat unattended.

And so the two cats got busy slathering paint onto the old wood and it wasn’t long until the broken down cart looked brand new.  It gleamed and was transformed from drab wood with flowers painted on the sides.  Even the splits and chips were hardly noticeable now.

They admired their artistic ability as they stood back and smiled.  But the sun was lowering in the

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Look Whose Turning 7 Today?

It’s my baby girl, Koki.  She wasn’t too happy with the birthday hat, but she puts up with me anyway.  It’s just hard to believe that I’ve had her this long already.

She is such a little character and the best thing that has happened to me since moving to the desert.  It seems there is never a lack of creativity on her part when it comes to driving me crazy and scaring me half to death.

This cat is a daredevil and, even at seven, is still bouncing off the walls at times.  I’m always afraid she’ll break something that’s irreplaceable, but so far we’re good.  There are some ways you can take precautions, but you can’t do that with everything.  Once she almost knocked the TV out of the cabinet, so now I make sure those doors are closed if it’s not in use.  I shudder to think what my husband would do to her if that becomes a reality.

If you bring something into the house, such as a ladder, she has to climb it to the top.  Anything like that is an invitation and challenge.  Luckily, most of the time cats land on their feet because she starts wreathing and making crazy moves up there.  So far the only time she’s really hurt herself is when she jumped off the balcony as a kitten.  I don’t really think she thought about her actions first and what kind of repercussions they could have on her.  She quickly learned when she broke two teeth and had to have them pulled.

But I honestly think this cat is immune to pain.  She did have a broken jaw when we found her as a kitten under my car one summer morning in June.  She was only 6 weeks old then and had to have her mouth wired shut for about 2 months.  She was a little trouper and getting at the dry food was a great challenge for her.  She couldn’t eat that even for a short while after the wire came out and it was a constant battle to keep her out of it.

She will push you when given the chance.  Even when she knows she’s doing something that she shouldn’t be doing, like walking on the curtain rods, she just looks mischievously and does it anyway to see what I’ll do.  There seems to be no end to things she comes up with, but I hate to see her grow old too, so I’m glad she’s still very kitten-like.