The Little Eyes of Texas

Hiding in plain sight
the little eyes of Texas
suddenly, I see!

When I first moved to San Antonio, I did not realize that I was surrounded by the little eyes of Texas. I actually thought I was alone, until the day that I almost stepped on a black tarantula sitting quietly by my back door. Rather unnerving! I don’t know how long the spider was there, but it was probably wondering how anyone could completely fail to notice something as large as a tarantula.
Thanks to the surprise visit from this spider, I realized that I needed to start paying more attention to the environment around me. Wake up!

With eyes wide open
I can look around and see
a camouflaged lizard in a tree,
silently watching over me.

Now I notice when an anole lizard climbs up a sharp yucca leaf to greet me, and I take the time to stop and say hello.

And look!
Deep within a sago palm,
sheltered by sharp-pointed fronds
a  lovely moth rests quietly
safe from flying predators
searching for a tasty treat. Moth_2When I come across a caterpillar that looks like a porcupine with quills, I am wise and aware enough to keep my distance.  I wish I could say that I know what kind of butterfly or moth the caterpillar in my photo might become; but truth be known, I have no clue!
Caterpillar_2
The leaf-footed bugs that visit our yard when the white yucca flowers bloom, are so prolific that they actually command attention (they look like stink bugs with leaves on their back legs). They don’t play loud music, but the leaf-footed bugs love to suck the juice out of the yucca blooms and party for days with their friends. Doesn’t matter if I repeatedly shake them off of the flowers and tell them to go away, they simply come back. Rather pesky, they are! Since the flowers don’t last that long anyway, I found it easier just to leave them alone–because they leave as soon as the flowers fade. But for those who have citrus trees and other fruit bearing plants that are being damaged, some sort of pest control is usually used.

I must sayI am very happy to see that the praying mantis hangs out in Texas too (I used to see them all the time in Virginia). This amazing insect is fascinating to watch. An image of stamina and precision–a praying mantis can hold the same motionless pose for long periods of time, waiting patiently for an unsuspecting meal to come wandering by. And then, watch out! The mantis is extremely accurate and quick. Praying Mantis
Praying Mantis upside downThe more that I learned about the natural environment of Texas, the more I wanted to know. So last year, when I heard there was a Master Naturalist program (Alamo Area Chapter) here in San Antonio, I signed up for the fall semester (Class #43). The program was everything that I hoped it would be, and it was fun to spend time every week with a group of people whose interests were similar to mine.  The training covered a wide range of topics, which included discussions about native plants, animals, birds, insects, reptiles, fish, geology, water, weather, etc.  To top it all off,  there were various field trips guided by people who knew the San Antonio area. Since I am not from Texas, the field trips opened up a whole new world of places and things that I did not even know existed here!


And so…
Thanks to the little eyes of Texas (especially the black tarantula), I now have the honor of walking through and working with nature as a Texas Master Naturalist–with my eyes wide open.
Mitchell Lake_birdwatching
Snowy Egret

Attached below is a short video created by George and Marcos Ozuna. George Ozuna is a member of the Native Plant Society of Texas and a Texas Master Naturalist, and his son Marcos is an educator. Their work and love of nature is greatly appreciated.

Posted in Birding, Nature, Photo Essay, photography, Texas Master Naturalist, wildlife | Tagged , , , , , | 33 Comments

Good Friends and Auld Lang Syne

As this year comes to an end, I look back at years gone by once again.
And I remember the house I once had in Virginia, where there was a room that belonged specifically to a baby grand piano. It had such a beautiful voice; the glorious sound danced through the air.Piano_1

We lived in that house for 13 years. But time passed by, and one day we had to “downsize’ and move away. Sadly, the piano could not come with me because the house in Texas was going to be much smaller. 

If you read my previous blog, you know that my newly built house in Texas turned out to be a source of major stress.  As a result,  I have not written much since I moved here in 2016. Repeatedly begging the builder for help with construction defects has drained most of the creativity out of my soul. 

Luckily this December (thank God)  music came and threw its loving arms around me. I joined several musical groups for the holiday season, and while we were sharing the joy of Christmas songs with others,  I started to feel the goodness in the world again.

In this very short video of ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ I am singing with Doc (guitarist) and Julie (flutist/ flautist).  There were good friends gathered all around, with the sound of music and joyful voices rising up above the problems of the world.

 Now, as we leave 2018 behind tonight, I hope and pray that 2019 will be a great year for everyone. Listen! Do you hear the sound of fireworks?
it’s 12 midnight here in Texas
Happy New Year!

 

Posted in Happy New Year, New Year, photography | Tagged , , , | 35 Comments

Pulte New Home Nightmare

Our Pulte built home is less than 3 years old—AND—it has cracked and separated exterior brick/mortar, cracked drywall and floor tiles, doors and windows that are out of square (one window is jammed), diagonal cracks in drywall above door and window frames, caulk separating from baseboards, doors, windows, soffit, and siding; a broken roof truss stringer, and numerous cracks in the foundation.
Separating Brick_2018
I know there are many homeowners with problems that are  similar to mine (search online for ‘Pulte Reviews and Complaints’).  However, knowing that other new Pulte homes are falling apart at the seams does not make me feel any better. Since I am not sure how to explain what I am dealing with now, without explaining some of what I have already been through — I will just go back to the beginning and start there.

==============
Pulte New Home Nightmare
March 2016—we bought a new Pulte house in a 55+ Del Webb community. We thought that a newly built house would not have as many problems as an older home, but we were wrong. I have never seen such a poorly built house; the quality of the construction is terrible.

Since I moved into this house a few months before my husband did, I ended up dealing with a long list of issues by myself. Major stress! The first time it rained, the roof began leaking into the front bedroom and the garage. I was upset. It took a few weeks of arguing with Pulte before they sent a roofer out to investigate.

While the roofer was inspecting the valley near the right side of the front arch, he noticed a small metal square sitting on the corner of the flashing. He said, “What is this thing doing here?”
When he lifted the square “thing” up, I could see a big gap in the flashing there (I did not have a ladder, but I did have a camera with zoom lens). Since I wanted to take a few photos, the roofer left the metal square lying on the shingles next to the flashing for a few minutes. Here are 2 of my photos of the flashing on both sides of the front arch:

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On March 21, 2016–our home inspector did note that the flashing in these areas was ‘suspect’ in his final inspection report (he also included a photo). He said that these areas should be inspected by a roofer to ensure that the flashing/counter flashing had been installed properly. We gave the report to the Pulte field manager. Three days later, right before we closed on the house, we were assured that all repairs had been made. However, when the roofer lifted the ‘small metal square’ off the corner of the flashing on June 16, 2016, I could see that the original gap was still there. The small metal square the roofer removed is not in the home inspector’s photo (below).
Roof Inspection

==========
Sigh. For the next hour, I stood on the ground below and watched as the roofer repeatedly tried to close the gaps. In frustration, he complained that it was impossible to make flashing fit correctly around such uneven brickwork. See how the bricks are hanging out beyond the edge of the flashing? What a mess!
Flashing doesn't fit with brickThe roofer kept taking the flashing apart and trying again, but the gap in the flashing reappeared every time he attempted to make it align with the brick. He finally gave up. He said that the bricks in this area needed to be removed and redone correctly by whoever had done the brick and mortar, because dealing with sloppy brickwork is NOT the responsibility of a roofer!
Flashing_3
Because of the bricks, I could see that this was not going to be a quick or easy fix. In spite of hours of work, all that the roofer had been able to do was make the flashing gaps a little smaller. (How he got tar up onto the soffit above, I am not sure).
tarAs I stood there staring up at the nightmare on my roof, I felt totally overwhelmed. The situation had not gotten any better. There was a possibility of more rain in a few days, and I could easily see that the roof was going to leak again. I was extremely concerned about additional rainwater falling into the house. On top of everything else, I am allergic to mold.

About a week later, after a pallet of brick was delivered to my house, Pulte sent out a few of their people to start working on the bricks around the front arch. Soon after they arrived, the workers began pulling bricks out and tossing them from the roof to the ground.
Removing brick A rectangular sheet of particle board was placed over the center of the cement below, but there were also bricks falling down onto the sides where there was no protection at all. I asked them to stop for a few minutes, so I could bring out some broken-down cardboard boxes to cover the rest of the cement.  I didn’t need a damaged walkway.
Throwing bricks from aboveRoof workAt some point during all of this, Zone 3 of the in-ground sprinkler system started to leak underneath the sod on the right side of my yard. This was the 3rd time that a section of the sprinkler system had malfunctioned, but at least a sprinkler leak in the ground is not as frightening as a leaking roof. I turned the water off.
Leaking sprinklerWatching the front of the roof being torn apart and looking at the swamp in my yard, I felt like I was sinking. Adding insult to injury, my front door looked like it had been damaged before it was painted. Why did the builder install a door in this condition on a new house?Front door on new home=========
QUESTION:
WHY, after seeing such a lack of quality and craftmanship, did we buy this house?

ANSWER:
In order to have a new house built, a non-refundable percentage of the final purchase price (‘earnest’ money) has to be paid in advance. After that point, if the prospective buyer decides not to buy the house even for very legitimate reasons, the builder does not have to return the earnest money.
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In regards to the front door, I did notify Pulte of the problem and they sent out a painter with a brush and a small can of mahogany gel stain. However, the mahogany gel stain was so thick that the painter had difficulty trying to spread it evenly on the door. Hard to believe, but the appearance of the door was a little worse by the time the painter left.

I couldn’t take it anymore. In my eyes, the Pulte door began to look like the entrance to homeowner hell.  So I drove down to the local Lowe’s Home Improvement store and bought a front door that didn’t look battered and abused. I paid Lowe’s to install it for me and then I painted the trim. Immediately, the front entry looked much better. Thank you Lowe’s!

A few days after I had the front door replaced,  the French doors at the opening of the office room caught my eye. Oh no! What now?! For some reason, the doors no longer lined up vertically or horizontally with each other. How could this be? The doors were even when we did the final walk-through with the home inspector only 2  1/2 months ago!  I had no clue why they had suddenly shifted so dramatically, until I looked up and saw the strange alignment of the strike plates above the French doors.
Top of French door frame

French doors out of lineI called the Pulte customer service rep (the same one who was handling the roof) and asked him to send someone out to look at the French doors. To make a long story short — I found out that the wall on one side of the French doors was not even with the wall on the other side. So the frame was installed with a ‘twist.’ Then someone must have repositioned the strike plates above the 2 doors in an attempt to align them (instead of moving a wall). After that, the stress of the uneven walls on the twisted frame quickly started to warp and crack the doors. I think it’s a good thing that this defect revealed itself so quickly, because the builder only has a 1 year warranty on doors.

After new French doors (with frame) were delivered, the wall on the left was moved in a little and the frame with both doors easily fell into place. The carpenter had to take off a baseboard, move the wall, put the baseboard back on again, repair the drywall, and then repaint. It would have been easier and less expensive (and less stressful on the homeowner) if all of this had simply been done right while the house was being built.

There was another smaller door upstairs in the furnace/air conditioning room by the attic, and it would not close because it was hanging on a slant. I guess no one had the time to do this door right either. All that it needed was wider and longer screws.  Unbelievable! By this time, I was very annoyed with this Pulte built home. I was tired of dealing with numerous construction issues, big and small, day after day after day. Frustration! Here is a short video that I made while trying to close this little misaligned door. It is easy to hear the growing anger in my voice!
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On June 24, 2016–The repair of the roof flashing and the brick/mortar in the surrounding areas was finally completed. It looked good to me.  I was so relieved! The gaps in the flashing were gone, and rain didn’t leak into the house from that area anymore.  Flashing repairedBUT THEN–

OH NO!
11 months later (on May 23, 2017), I looked up and saw that the brickwork Pulte had done on the left side of the arch was already falling apart. Look at it!
May 25, 2017 disintegrating brickworkGod help the homeowner! When will this nightmare end? Brick/mortar repairs should last longer than 11 months! Unfortunately, the house was 14 months old when this happened. Brick and mortar only have a one year warranty, regardless of any previous repairs.

There was a thunderstorm with strong winds predicted for the weekend, so there was no time to spend arguing with Pulte over faulty workmanship. Once again, my major concern was the possibility of water intrusion, so I quickly found an experienced local brick mason (Everardo Torres) through Home Advisor–and we paid for the repair ourselves. The brickwork that Everardo did was perfect.

People often say that home ownership is the epitome of the great “American Dream.”  I think NOT.  In retrospect, we would have been better off if we had purchased some land and a tent, instead of spending our hard-earned savings on this house.
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I will end this blog here. I’m tired. Someone please send me a smile and a hug! 🙂

Part 2 of my story will be about the foundation problems.  Signs of foundation movement began to appear in August 2016.  Harbingers of things to come!
Gap between wood and brick

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Labrador Retriever Riding in Style

It wasn’t a dream or a figment of my imagination.
I actually saw a goggle-wearing Labrador Retriever sitting proudly in an antique car painted with red flames.  This awesome dog was definitely riding in style and appeared to enjoy the attention of people passing by.

The driver of the car told me that his loyal Labrador used to work as a ‘bomb-sniffer,’ but was forced into early retirement due to hip problems.
Oh wellwho needs to keep working anyway. Let some other younger dogs do the bomb sniffing from now on.  Retirement is working out perfectly, and it doesn’t get better than this!


And then, as I was standing there admiring the car and the dog, an image of my Siamese cat suddenly pounced into my mind:

Yikes!
What would happen if I tried to put goggles on my cat Keona and take him for a ride in a car with no roof?  There would be paws and claws everywhere!  No way would he put goggles on. And if I actually got him into a car like this, he would rip the leather seats to shreds. No. No. No. It would NOT be a good experience! 

I did get permission to hug the Labrador Retriever before they left. So soft and gentle; what a sweetheart!  I waved goodbye as the man drove away from the gas station with his best friend sitting by his sidesurrounded by flames and riding high.
(If anyone knows what type of car this is, please let me know–because I have no clue).

Posted in Animals, Antique Cars, cars, Pets, photography | Tagged , | 37 Comments

Foster Kitten’s Grateful Prayer

Foster Kitten's Grateful Prayer
Dear God,
I can’t see or walk very good yet
and I am too little to take care of myself,
so I am grateful that you gave me a foster mom
and a safe place to stay.
Without her, I don’t know where I would be right now.

Not only did she save my life, she also brought my mom into her home and saved the lives of 3 other baby kittens too.
Foster Kittens with momI intend to repay my foster mom for her kindness as soon as I can. When I am a little bigger, I am going to jump up and sit on her lap and purr as loudly as I can. That way she will know that I love her as much as she has loved me.
Foster Kitten Prayer_2
I do understand that as soon as I get old enough, someone is going to adopt me and take me away to my furever home. I am excited about that, but thinking about moving also makes me feel sad. I will miss my foster mom when I go.

Whatever happens God, I have faith that you will guide me down the right path.
Thank you for listening to my prayer.
Now I have to sleep again, because that’s what baby kittens do.
Sweet dreams all!
Kitten sleeping
***My neighbor is a volunteer with the local animal shelter, and she is currently the foster mom to the mother cat and 4 baby kittens in these photos. Even though I have 2 cats of my own, this is the first time that I have ever seen kittens so small. An  interesting experience!
++ UPDATE ++ July 8, 2018
The 4 kittens are now 10 weeks old, full of curiosity, and learning more about the world around them every day. They are ready to be adopted and have been working hard to perfect their basic cat skills, such as:

STALKING
A cat who knows how to stalk stealthily is guaranteed to keep your house free of unwanted bugs and rodents.  
Hunting Mode

HUGGING and PURRING
These two priceless cat skills have the power to lift and heal a tired soul. Always great to have a little extra love and affection!
Purr and Hug

CELL PHONE CALLING and TEXTING
Definitely not basic cat skills, but it is important to at least attempt to understand how to use a cell phone in this digital age.  Always good to be prepared. Might need to dial 911 one day, and ask the fire department for help getting out of a tree.  Cell phone trained

POSING 
This is a very difficult skill to perfect–especially for a kitten. I have a lot of unusable blurry photos of  gray ‘blurs’ running, jumping, and playing, so I appreciated the ones who decided to stop for a few seconds and pose for the camera. Without a doubt, the next two kittens were practicing their “Please Adopt Me” poses. Absolutely perfect!
Waiting for Adoption
Adopt Me Please
We are waiting with open arms.

Posted in Animals, cats, Family, Pets, Photo Essay, photography | Tagged , , | 26 Comments

On the Path of Wind and Water

Sailing on water
created by winds of thought,
my soul travels on.

Many years ago, in the late 1970s, a 29 foot sailboat carried me around the Hawaiian Islands on a path of wind and water. Although the old photos that I have are fading, I clearly remember the scent of salt water in the air, and the sound of the boat sliding (often pounding) through the waves—as if it was yesterday.

It was an entirely new experience for me, and I learned a lot from those sailing trips: Be aware of your surroundings and do not be complacent (don’t fall asleep at the helm). The environment and life itself is always changing, so take nothing for granted. There are no guarantees.

Personally, I loved the calm days when the ocean slept quietly within itself and the voice of the sea-breeze gently sang as it passed through the rigging. Do you see the diamonds of sparkling sunlight dancing on the water? Joy!
Sailing Hawaii blue sea
But life is unpredictable and Mother Nature can quickly change a gentle breeze into a screaming wind that churns the sea into an angry rage. Sometimes life is not easy, but there is no time to worry or complain when ocean waves are rising.  Reef the mainsail, raise the storm jib, say a prayer, and keep moving forward.

A sea-bird flew along with the sailboat through a storm one day, showing me that it is possible to maintain a calm and steady state of mind even in a bad situation. I watched it glide smoothly through incredibly strong winds for several hours, barely moving its wings—no worries.

It has been 37 years since the last time I have been sailing but, over the years, my life has often resembled a rough sea with all of its ups and downs.

The biggest storm in my life happened in the late 1980s, when my first husband decided to change and go down a completely different path. The new lifestyle he had chosen did not and could not include me. I had to leave. I had to run. No choice.  Suddenly, I found myself adrift on dry land with no anchor and no place to call home. What happened to me after that is a long and almost unbelievable story. There were good things (almost miraculous) that came my way, but there were also days when I was completely exhausted and wanted to give up.

I would like to tell the whole story, but I don’t know if I will ever have the strength to write about all of the strange twists and turns that I went through. In order to write about that portion of my life–I would have to sift through old memories and deal with some painful ones that I have tried to forget. Writer’s block!

For now, I will end with the simple fact that everything in my life has continued to change over the years. Like everything else in this world, I have grown older. But my soul remains the same and travels on with the wisdom of the path of wind and water.

 

Posted in Memories, Nature, ocean, Photo Essay | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments

Christmas Cat on Night Patrol

It was the night before Christmas, and the area directly beneath the sparkling tree was under close surveillance by our two stealthy cats. I could tell by the stern looks on their faces that they were not going to let anything cross into their protected zone—except for humans with prior approval. I can’t explain why they suddenly decided this area needed to be guarded, but there must have been some good cat reason. Perhaps they had seen a wayward spider?

Apparently the male cat Keona decided to volunteer for  the Christmas eve night patrol shift, because he gave his assistant Siri permission to retire to the adjacent bedroom. As soon as she left, he began sniffing around the tree, doing one last check to assure that there were no unwanted creatures attempting to crawl into the paper or under the tree skirt.
After he thoroughly sniffed everything twice and was positive that all was safe and secure, he quietly returned to his secret hiding place at the back of the tree beneath the branches (where he thought he could not be seen).  And there he stood a lonely vigil while time ticked slowly by.

Keona had hoped that he was going to be able to defend the Christmas gifts and prove his catly worth, but absolutely nothing was happening.  Eventually, in spite of his incredible patience, he had to admit to himself that he was getting tired.

It soon got to the point where he could no longer hide the overwhelming fatigue and boredom that he felt inside. Wasn’t exactly the professional thing to do, but he simply had to yawn. Having a job which requires doing nothing is exhausting! Time begins to drag and minutes feel like hours………

With his mouth still wide open in a big cat yawn, he wondered why he had ever decided to take this pointless night patrol job. It certainly wasn’t as exciting as he thought it would be. Feeling rather dejected, he decided there was no purpose in continuing to stand any longer and he sat down.

As soon as he started to relax, he began to realize that he had been focusing on all of the wrong things. There was no danger around him, only beautiful dancing lights coloring him with a warm glow. Because he had only been searching for the negative, he had completely failed to notice the positive. Christmas revelation! He decided to immediately retire from his job as Christmas cat on night patrol–and curled up into sleep until a gentle ray of morning sunlight shone through the kitchen window.

Posted in Animals, Pets, Photo Essay, photography | Tagged , , , | 42 Comments

Marine Corps Reserve ‘Toys for Tots’ Christmas Magic

The spirit of Christmas
put a warm arm around me
and suddenly I believed.Santa Baby_3
This year, the Veteran’s Club in our community coordinated a drive for donations of new, unwrapped toys for the Marine Corps Reserve ‘Toys for Tots’ program. The loving response of the people here was incredible. By the time the representatives from the Marines and Santa Claus arrived in mid-December, there were 11 boxes of toys to give them, and each box was filled to the brim and overflowing. It was easy to see that the true spirit of Christmas had been hard at work!
Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots program_3
To end our Toys for Tots drive, we had a joyful celebration —which included Santa and the Marines (of course), and good music, food, and drink.
Marine Corp Reserves Toys for Tots program
Resort2
Everyone in the room was smiling–because we all knew that, due to all of the donated toys, many less-fortunate children would now awaken to a wonderful Christmas day.  Someone out there even got a unicorn, a magical sight to be sure! 🙂
Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots_2
Merry Christmas to all!

Posted in Children, Christmas, Inspiration, Music, Photo Essay, photography | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Butterfly Love on a Leaf

Intriguing orange
butterfly love on a leaf—
October surprise!

From a distance, I first thought I was looking at one large orange butterfly on a wax myrtle tree branch.  But when I came closer with the camera zoom lens, I suddenly realized there were two butterflies intertwined.

These two lovers are Gulf Fritillary butterflies. In the photo above, the lighter colored female hangs onto a leaf while the bright
orange male dangles in a precarious, provocative position beneath her.

Ah…the glorious thrill of love!
Without warning, he opens his wings, she loses her grasp on the leaf, and they fly off together rather clumsily (still connected). Due to technical difficulties, they don’t fly that far before she reaches out and grabs onto another leaf for support. Why is he making things so difficult?!

There is definitely a special sort of October autumn ‘spring’ going on here in San Antonio, Texas!

Posted in Autumn, Nature, photography, Poetry | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

Hot Texas Summer Sun

Rocks glowing beneath
fire-breathing dragon hot
Texas summer sun.

The temperature for this area is predicted to reach 105 degrees (Fahrenheit) today, and I can already hear the hot sun hissing on the horizon. Luckily, last winter, we had Emilio Ramirez landscape our backyard with rocks and some different types of yuccas, agave,  and cactus (among other things). Rocks don’t wilt, and desert plants are able to tolerate  intense heat much better than grass. We also had Emilio install a 38 head drip system so we can give everything a cool drink when needed.  However, even with the drip system, I still need to use the hose every so oftenbecause trees and bushes require more water than agaves and yuccas. I often walk around my yard and stick my fingers into the ground to test the soil moisture, so I will know if I need to water again.  It might be a little bit easier to maintain than grass, but Xeriscape does not mean no maintenance!  


Of course, when we switched from grass to rocks, the ‘creatures’ that wanted to inhabit the backyard changed too. I never saw a scorpion in Virginia, but I have seen a few here.  Last week around midnight, I heard my Siamese cat talking rather loudly. She never talks like that unless she is communicating with ‘something’ of great interest. So I got out of bed, turned on the light, and saw that she was calmly escorting a scorpion across the tile floor. Oh no!  The scorpion was obviously annoyed, as it was waving its tail over its head while it walked beside her. Of course, I have no picture of the scorpion because I was too worried about saving my catso you will just have to believe me.  I did not get a photo of the black tarantula either. The spider was safely outside, but I was so stunned by its size that I didn’t even think of my camera.  Oh well. It seems that the only creature I managed to photograph this summer was a grasshopper at the Government Canyon State Natural Area a few miles away.  It was meditating like a Zen monk in a small sliver of shade, trying to keep a cool head on a hot afternoon. 
There are others who have no choice but to stand in the heat without water or shade.
Wildflowers along the roadside bow their heads and pray for cooling rain.
Not all will survive the fire-breathing dragon hot Texas summer sun!
Praying-for-Rain
***UPDATE:  July 25, 2018***
Here we are again, a year later at the end of July, with summer temperatures rising up to 105 degrees.  While the rest of us are wilting and hiding inside of air conditioned rooms,  heat and drought resistant native plants continue to grow and bloom outside under the  sizzling Texas sun.  Amazing!
Texas

 

Posted in Haiku, Nature, photography, Poetry, Summer | Tagged , , , , , , | 23 Comments

One Pink Wildflower

Surrounded by jealous weeds,
a pink wildflower
danced in the warm sunlight
for one glorious day
before vanishing from sight.
beautiful-wildflower
Unfortunately—
in the darkness of the night,
‘something’ ate this flower
and the buds below,
leaving nothing behind
but a broken stem
and yesterday’s memory.

Sigh…..
Dear wildflower,
life is unpredictable!
If I had realized
you were leaving so soon,
I would have said goodbye.   ~ms
——————————
It’s true. The lovely pink wildflower only survived for a few hours, but all of the tough weeds that surrounded it are still here and growing strong. All things considered, maybe it’s wiser to go through life as an unattractive  weed—there are not many things that want to endure a mouthful of scratchy, prickly leaves and thorns!
Weed

Posted in Nature, photography, Poetry, Spring | Tagged , | 12 Comments

Cat Warmth and Wisdom

Cat wisdom knows exactly
where to find warmth and comfort
on cold December days.
cat-wisdom_1
Look!
The wise cat knows exactly
how to quickly transform
an inexpensive
insulated shopping bag
into a comfortable bed—
(just don’t sit on the zipper).

Actually—
when a catnap is desired
any soft place is perfect
(especially when there’s room to stretch).
cat-wisdom_3
cat-wisdom_2
And then—
as winter days grow colder
cat wisdom instinctively
seeks sunlit spaces
to warm the fur.
cat-wisdom_4
cat-wisdom_5
Last but not least—
cat wisdom teaches us all
that the best way to create heat
on a cold, dark winter night
is in the kind arms
of a loving friend.   ~ms
cat-wisdom_6

Posted in Animals, Pets, Philosophy, photography, Poetry | Tagged , , | 45 Comments

Autumn Pampas Grass Magic

Summer green has been replaced
with Autumn’s sunlit leaves
sparkling gold and red
colors evoking visions
of magic everywhere.
witch-in-autumn-lights
Like the changing leaves
at the end of October,
Halloween celebrations
give us the opportunity
to boldly imagine and create
new visions of self
with a childlike freedom.

On Halloween day (1999),
I chose to take on the persona
of a gentle witch wearing
a black satin velvet dress.
Standing in my backyard
holding a natural magic wand
made of pampas grass plumes,
I began to conduct sounds
of bird songs, chirping crickets,
and softly falling leaves.

witch-in-autumn-light_2
As I drew circles in the air
with my magical grass wand,
I began to feel a strong
connection with earth,
sky, and the universe itself.
Like a note written in time,
I realized I was an integral part
of a magnificent symphony
written by an unseen
and masterful composer.
And the power of my song
was and is in my own hands!
number-and-music
Note: This is the first time that I have written anything on my blog in 3 months, because when there are problems in lifemy creativity seems to vanish like dust in the wind. Was recently in a car accident and I am currently doing my best to get my feet back on the ground (literally)!
===============================
**I would like to add that, this morning, when I read all of the positive comments, wishes, and hugs being sent my way, I suddenly remembered a post I wrote in 2012—where the ‘bluebird of happiness’ was sitting outside my window reprimanding me for being so sad.  I just read through the post again and the words still apply—made me smile! How did I forget?  I greatly appreciate all of you for jogging my memory!
https://storieswithnobooks.com/2012/10/10/bluebird-of-consternation/
“There is more to life than death,
and more to death than dead.
Every shadow comes from light
not the darkness in your head.
Happiness ……wake up!   ~ms

Posted in Music, Nature, Shamanism | Tagged , , , , , | 41 Comments

Grasshopper Camouflage

Standing motionless
surrounded by old brown grass
baking in the sun,
how did you notice me
and my perfect grasshopper
summer camouflage? ~ms
Texas-Grasshopper
I saw the grasshopper from a distance, in spite of its clever camouflage,  because its long legs were sticking up and pointing in the opposite direction of the grass. So I thought I would come a little closer for a better look.

The grasshopper glared at me and did not move.  I could almost hear it thinking:
“Lady, why don’t you just go away? I’ve been hopping and semi-flying around all morning, so back off and leave me alone!  I’m tired, I’m wearing the equivalent of a suit of armor,  it’s hotter than hot out here, and I am NOT going to move again just because of you.”

Poor thing! It is over 100 degrees here in the Texas Hill Country this afternoon and nothing out here should have to move for no reason. So I took a quick photo and walked away. Maybe I should go back inside anyway, because more hot things (like snakes) might be trying to rest comfortably in the grass or underneath a shady old tree.
Live-Oak-Tree
Even with a bottle of water in  hand, I don’t think I’m going to be able to wander around in the hot sun for long. Yep. There is a possibility that my mind is already starting to melt, because I could swear that one of the branches of a nearby live oak tree is watching me!
Texas-Live-Oak-branch

 

 

Posted in Humor, Nature, Summer | Tagged , , , , | 21 Comments

Virginia to Texas through Hail and High Water

Illuminated
by lightning striking darkness
followed by thunder,
Toad-escaping-rain
Gulf Coast toad shivers
drips falling on the threshold
of an unknown door.

When wild winds blow
and rain falls sideways,
normal vanishes
and new directions appear.   ~ms

Considering everything that I have been through in the past few months, when  I opened the door the other night during a thunderstorm and saw a wet toad sitting on the threshold, trying to avoid the pouring rain—I immediately saw myself in its tired eyes.

My journey from Virginia to Texas began on the morning of March 16. I had never driven such a long distance by myself before, but I thought I could do it—IF I stopped every hour, got out of the car, and walked around for a few minutes. However, there were challenges on the way that I didn’t foresee.

Only 20 minutes after I left home, my windshield got hit hard by a rock that was kicked up by a passing truck. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t even out of the state of Virginia, and suddenly there was a annoying ding on the right side of my windshield. I didn’t have time to get this fixed and I didn’t want the crack in the glass to spread any farther, so I simply smashed some gum over the area. Seemed like the thing to do at the time…made me feel better anyway.

With a sticky wad of gum firmly affixed to my  windshield, I made it through Virginia and crossed over the state line into North Carolina—my first milestone!
Welcome-to-North-Carolina
I walked around for a few minutes enjoying the beautiful scenery, before I continued on to South Carolina.
South-Carolina
I began to notice, as I drove farther south, that winter was magically morphing into spring right before my eyes. By the time I entered the state of Georgia later in the afternoon, the trees there were already blooming with warm and vibrant spring colors.
Georgia-Welcome
Georgia-in-Bloom
The landscaping at the Georgia Welcome Center was soothing, so I wandered around for a little while enjoying the face of spring. In just one day, somehow I had left the cold Virginia wintry weather far behind.

After about 8 hours of driving and numerous breaks, I was too tired to keep going. So I decided to stop and stay the night at the Comfort Suites in Commerce, Georgia (about an hour away from Atlanta). The quality of the hotel was impressive and the price was very reasonable. If anyone is planning to pass through that area, it’s a great place to stay.

The next morning, I awoke to find that life was about to push me in an unexpected direction. The front desk receptionist said the route I had planned to take was no longer viable, because I-10 had been closed between Louisiana and Texas due to bad weather and severe flooding. The possibility of encountering hail and high water along the way was something that I had not taken into consideration.

After looking at a map though, I felt I had found the perfect solution. I could get through Alabama, Mississippi, cross into Texas, and avoid the flooding on I-10 by taking I-20 instead (which would take me a little farther north). I thought it was a great alternate plan. So I got back into my car, and it wasn’t too long before I entered the state of Alabama.
Sweet-Home-Alabama
I totally agree with Alabama’s motto  “We Dare Defend Our Rights.” That is something we all should be doing!
Alabama-Defends
Alabama-beauty
As I stood there in Alabama, admiring the blue skies, green grass, and flowering trees, the flooding that I had heard about in Louisiana and Texas almost seemed like an impossibility.

I was making great time. Didn’t take me too long before I was crossing into the state of Mississippi. Although the spelling of ‘Mississippi’ gave me problems in elementary school, I love the way all of the S’s curl around on this welcome sign.
Mississippi-Welcome-Center
Mississippi-blooms
As I was passing through Mississippi, the weather started to subtly shift. Random clouds were gathering together in small groups, as if contemplating rain. However, when I crossed into the state of Louisiana, most of the sky was still crystal clear.

The first thing that I noticed about Louisiana was that all of the land was incredibly flat. There was not a hill or valley as far as the eye could see.
Louisiana-welcome
I didn’t get that far into Louisiana before the weather dramatically changed. The sky that had been so crystal clear began to fill with thick dark clouds. Thunder rumbled in the distance and occasional flashes of lightning danced on the horizon. Oh no! It was apparent that the sunny, happy ride I had been on was about to take an ominous turn.

I have no photos of the thunderstorms that I went through after that, because I was too busy trying to drive. There were periods when the rain was so intense, I could barely see. In many areas, the road was level with fast-moving water from creeks and rivers that were quickly rising. There was no safe place on the side of the road to pull off and rest, so everyone kept driving in spite of the lack of visibility. Water everywhere! The truck in front of me was only driving about 5 miles per hour and its hazard lights were flashing. Afraid to stop, I did my best to follow those flashing red tail lights that kept appearing and disappearing through the pouring rain. Gripping the steering wheel and shaking with fear, somehow I made it into the next city before the water got too deep on the road.

I parked the car as soon as I could—at a McDonald’s in Monroe, Louisiana. I desperately needed a break! I asked the lady behind the counter if she had seen the fast-moving water rippling over the sides of the road right outside of the city of Monroe. She said (rather nonchalantly), “Oh yeah. That area was closed for a few days because the road was completely flooded. It was just opened again this morning. Where are you from?”
“I came from Virginia and I’m trying to make it to Texas.”
“By yourself?! You’re driving this far by yourself?”
“Yes.”
“Oh you poor thing. Have you ever seen high water like this before? Probably not! Here—have a cup of coffee and sit down for a while.”

I certainly appreciated her kindness and understanding. She was absolutely right. I had never actually seen flooding like this before, except on the news. I was definitely scared. My hair must have been standing on end!

I stayed there for a while, until the sky started to brighten up a little. Then I got back in my car, even though I really didn’t want to, and continued on my journey. Originally, I had wanted to keep driving all day until I crossed the border into Texas.  But, a few hours later, I decided to stay in Louisiana for the night. I don’t even remember where I was when I decided to stop, I just stopped. Too much stress! Give me a pillow and blanket, and let me go to sleep and escape this frightening flooded reality for a few hours.

So many people around this area lost everything they had. This website shows how a compassionate group called “Samaritan’s Purse” stepped in to help the people in Louisiana and Texas recover from  extensive water damage caused by all of the storms. It is very sad that the media and the TV news broadcasts don’t put more focus on wonderful people like this who care and put their helping hands to good use.

The next day when I looked out of the hotel window, I saw that the weather was still quite stormy. Sigh. I had to get where I was going by a specific date though—so I reluctantly got back in my car again, and endured several more thunderstorms in order to make it across the Texas state line.
Texas-Welcome-Center
When I arrived, it was obvious that another storm had recently passed through the Texas Welcome Center parking lot.  I decided to put my raincoat on, because the temperature had dropped and random drops of rain were still drizzling out of the sky.
Texas-Welcome

The sign on the door kindly said, “Welcome to Texas.” In spite of everything, I made it!  I knew then that I was definitely going to get to my destination on time. However, Mother Nature wasn’t done with me. About 15 minutes after I entered the state of Texas, I was welcomed by the biggest thunderstorm of all—complete with hail and more high water.

I’ve been in Texas now for 3 months and I have been  hailed on three more times  (in addition to other things—but that’s another story).
Mary_Mirror-Selfie
Anyway, just wanted you to know, I am still standing (even though this is the first time I have written anything since February). May God continue to bless us all as we travel through this unpredictable adventure called life!

Posted in Nature, Photo Essay, photography, Poetry, Storms, Water | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Disco Disaster

Back in 1989, a friend took me to a night club called Studebaker’s, where there was loud music, swirling disco lights, and wandering eyes searching for the perfect date. I didn’t like it there.

Two years later, in an English class, I wrote a story about that experience.  I thought I had lost what I had written, but I just found it in an old box. Here it is (take it with a grain of salt)!
Back-in-1989
======================
Disco Disaster

Sweaty bodies jumped, wiggled, and hopped in excited frenzy on the crowded dance floor at Studebaker’s disco. Like oily sardines trying to escape from a tin can, they writhed in rhythm to the pounding beat. This peculiar dancing was either a new form of erotic aerobics or a procedure for the ritualistic bonding of desperate middle-aged singles. I wasn’t sure.

Hundreds of eyes searched hungrily around the room for the right victim; the atmosphere was charged with perverse anticipation. My heart sank when I realized that the overweight man at the adjacent table was staring at me, cigarette dangling precariously from his lips. His thinning black hair was plastered to his head; his mustache neatly trimmed. A few curling hairs were strategically pulled out of his open shirt, a testimonial to his hidden masculinity. He winked; I frowned.

Encouraged by my negative response, he decided to take further action. He stood up. The length and width of his entire body loomed before me, inviting inspection. It was worse than I imagined. Like an overblown basketball his stomach hung, concealing his belt and the upper portion of his voluminous black and white striped jeans.

“I’m sitting all alone,” he whined in a high-pitched complaining voice. He coughed several times, adjusted the ostentatious gold bracelet on his left wrist, and continued—
“My name is Eugene. I’m an Aquarius. That’s a water sign. I am fun-loving, creative, and spontaneous.”

The size and condition of his body verified the truth of his last statement. I imagined him waddling into his kitchen late at night, spontaneously consuming the creative contents of his well-stocked refrigerator.

Suddenly, someone bumped into him from behind. He lurched forward. I cringed in horror as Eugene’s shoulders touched mine. His white wine splashed onto my dress, trickling into my purse.

Eugene hadn’t planned on this, but he was prepared to use the incident to his advantage, creative as he was. “I am so sorry, ” he apologized. “I think it would be a good idea if we went up to my house. It isn’t far from here. You could throw your dress into the wash, and we could relax in my kidney-shaped spa for a while. It won’t be so loud there. We could talk.”

He raised one eyebrow and gestured towards the door with a sweep of his hand.
===========================
Oh No! The last page of my story is missing! I know that (in my original story) she told him to go away as kindly as she could, but I can’t remember the exact words that I used.

Oh well. This could be one of those stories with several alternate endings. I’ll have to think about it!

Posted in Alternate endings, Creative Writing, Humor, Relationships | Tagged , , | 47 Comments

Valentine’s Day Wrapped in Memories

Valentines-Day-Waiting
Oh please, don’t be sad!
I was thinking about you and I was going to call, but I accidentally spent the entire day wrapped in memories.

You see—I was going through boxes of  ‘paper clutter’ and throwing things out, because I am about to move. But then, I came across a box that was filled with old letters and cards from the past.  Nostalgia!

I couldn’t help myself—I had to stop and read every wonderful letter and card one more time. Hours went by and I didn’t even know it. I promise I didn’t forget about love while I was reading through all of the kind words and thoughtfully written sentences.

Listen! Do you hear your phone ringing now?

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!

 

Posted in cats, Memories, Pets, photography | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Winter’s Shroud Descending

Birds quickly flew away
through barren earthbound trees,
in hopes of escaping
the coming winter storm.
Winter-Trees
One crow remained behind
like a cold grim reaper
staring down from above
at foolish souls below.
Crow-in-a-Tree
And then the snow appeared
carried on howling winds,
winter’s shroud descending
on everything in sight.   ~ms
Snow-Cars
Today I only took one picture of the snow, because the wind was screaming cold, the snow was blowing sideways, and I couldn’t find the point where the sidewalk ends and the road begins. After about 5 minutes of braving the weather, I decided the best thing to do was to come back inside where it is still warm. Although the sparkling white snow is beautiful, I would much rather live in perpetual summer again (Hawaii).

My 2 children spent their younger years living on the island of Oahu. They never experienced the changing of the seasons on the East Coast of the United States, until one year when we decided to come to Maryland and visit relatives during the month of February.

Of course, since I already knew what winter looked like, I was not concerned about the miles of leafless trees that we passed while driving from the airport to our destination.  However, my 7 year-old daughter, who had never seen winter before, was completely unnerved by the dreary sight. “Mom! Why did we have to come here? I hate this place! Look! Everything is dead! The grass is dead, the trees are dead, and it’s cold.”

“Oh, it’s just winter. Nothing is dead! Don’t worry,” I said. “3 months from now, in the spring, the leaves will grow back on all of the trees, the grass will turn green, and beautiful flowers will pop up out of the ground. It will be beautiful.”

She shook her head, stared at me like I was delusional, and said, “Oh yeah. Right. Sure mom.”

She did not believe me. How could miles and miles of dead trees suddenly come back to life? And flower, birds, and green grass too? No way! Dead is dead. Obviously, this story about ‘spring’ was just another fairy tale, right up there with the Tooth Fairy.

How interesting! It was so easy for me to believe that the dead of winter was temporary, because I had seen it transform into spring many times before. I didn’t even question it. How difficult it must be to believe that ‘death’ can lead to life, when you have never seen the spring!

Posted in Nature, Photo Essay, photography, Poetry, Snow, Storms, Winter | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

WordPress Worldwide Family

Clock 2016
At midnight, 2015 faded away as a freshly pressed new year chimed in and took its place. Hard to believe it’s 2016!

Unfortunately, during 2015, we all saw a sharp rise in terrorism, violence, and fear in our world. Although there are many good people living on this earth, there are some who appear to prefer violence instead of peace, and hate instead of love. A sad situation which is difficult to understand.

Also in 2015, I was confronted by a personal terror known as cancer. In late January, I had major surgery and one lobe was removed from my right lung. Luckily, after I woke up, the doctor said: “It was a home run. We hit it out of the ballpark!” The cancer that was removed had not spread.

Three months after the surgery, I was offered the opportunity to sing ‘God Bless America’ with the Rappahannock Choral Society (RCS) chorus. With all the turmoil in my life and in the world, I wanted to accept this chance to ask for blessings—for everyone.

Because I knew that I was going to have the wonderful support of the 70 voice RCS chorus singing along with me, I did decide to sing—knowing that the strength of their sound would give me the courage to stand strong.

**I sincerely thank Linda Monner, the RCS Conductor and Artistic Director, for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to sing this:

We must not let the  ‘mainstream media’ (with all the constant negative news) give us the impression that there is no good left anywhere. In countries around the world, there are people uniting in impassioned requests for peace, as is exemplified in this post from Turkey (written by a virtual friend known as ‘Uncle Spike’):
https://unclespikes.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/bloggers-unite-for-peace

I pray that 2016 will be a good year for everyone.
And I hope that, regardless of the ongoing turmoil in the world,  my WordPress worldwide (virtual) family will continue to share their experiences with me throughout the coming years. I love reading all of the unique stories from various countries and looking through the wonderful photos. Thank you so much for sharing!

Happy New Year!

Posted in Music, New Year, Singing | Tagged , , , , , | 49 Comments

Car Creativity Unleashed

Rather difficult to explain
parked on the edge of extreme…
car creativity unleashed!
Creative-Car_1
In the summer of 2013, I saw this unique vehicle parked in a rest area on I-95 (south of Fredericksburg and north of Richmond, Virginia). I don’t know that much about cars, but this one definitely captured my attention.
Creative-Car_2
As I stood there staring in disbelief, I wondered why would anyone put so much miscellaneous, extraneous ‘stuff’ on a car? Is there a reason for all of this or no reason at all?
Creative-Car_3
Each time I look at these photos, I see something else. For example: Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW car emblems are located in different places on the roof, along with a few popular hood ornaments.  There is one metal high-heel shoe on the running board beneath the driver’s door (I can’t help but wonder where the other one is). I also see what appears to be a child’s ‘action figure/superhero’ standing behind the middle wheel well.

I know there are many other interesting items on this car that I have not noticed (or figured out) yet!

There is a strong possibility that the true reason for this creative car is in the words that stand proudly above the windshield, underneath the metallic bird face.
Creative-Car_4
Because, whoever built this car was absolutely correct—“Thank you Lord for humor!”  Everyone who stopped by to take a closer look began to smile, laugh, and talk to others.  Complete strangers suddenly became friends. All things considered, creativity and humor are obviously great gifts to those traveling through this troubled world.  Creative-Car_4a

 

 

Posted in Creativity, Humor, Imagination, Photo Essay, photography | Tagged | 35 Comments

My Furry Writer’s Block

Oh no!
My ability to type
and string words together
is currently squished beneath
a furry writer’s block.
Furry-Writer's-Block_1
Look!
I don’t see any letters
and numbers are hidden too,
but my little writer’s block
is purring warm and happy,
I don’t know what to do!
Furry-Writer's-Block_2
I do realize that
I can move my blocking cat
without much trouble
to a more convenient place.
But I didn’t want to see
an unhappy, grumpy face.
One blue cat eye speaks volumes!
Furry-Writer's-Block_6
Truth is—
It might be easier
to accept my fate
and permanently donate
this warm computer laptop
to my heat-seeking friend!   ~ms
Furry-Writer's-Block_4
================
Honestly though, I must admit, this sweet cat is not in the way of  writing at all.  I am the source of my writer’s block. Staring out of winter cold windows, I keep thinking about those who have recently died due to random acts of terrorism. None of this makes any sense to me. I am beyond sad, and there are no words to adequately convey my sadness. God Bless us all…..

Posted in Animals, cats, Computers, photography, Poetry | Tagged , , | 36 Comments

Autumn Leaves Shapeshifting

While I was looking down
into water filled with leaves,
Water-leaves
an old tree with hallowed eyes
opened wide its wooden mouth
and whispered gently
Talking-Tree
Why are you so sad?
In cyclic transformations
nothing ever
dies!

See the autumn leaves
shapeshifting into new life
rising from the ground.New-Life Admittedly, every year when shorter days and cooler weather combine with falling leaves, I always feel a measure of sadness as time slips through my fingers. Gone is the comforting warmth of long summer days!
Autumn-Empty-Chairs

Dog-in-LeavesI know that the chill in autumn air is a harbinger of winter’s frozen breath—Brrrr! My old bones creak and groan at the thought of snow and ice. Give me a pillow and blanket, and kindly wake me up when it’s spring.  🙂
Leaves-in-water

Posted in Fall Colors, photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , , | 20 Comments

Chicken Selfies

If chickens had cell phones with cameras
they could take chicken selfies.
Wouldn’t that be fun?
Chicken-Selfies_5
Chicken-Selfies_1
They could even choose
to spend their free time
chicken photobombing
on the run!
Chicken-Photo-Bombing
But alas!
What if some chickens think
that others who take selfies
are annoying and quite rude?
chicken-selfies_2
Those birds would soon get cranky
and develop ‘attitude.’
Chicken-Coup-Selfies_3
Then those selfie haters
might fight to have their say,
as they poop, snoop,
and loop their way
around the chicken coop
each and every day.
(instead of laying eggs).
Chicken-coup_2
Oh no!
Simple chicken lives
could become stressful
and extremely complicated.
Chicken-Selfies_6
All things considered
(as a precautionary measure),
new coop rules should be
immediately instated:Chicken-Coup-Selfies_1

Posted in birds, Children's stories, Nature, photography, Poetry | Tagged , , | 63 Comments

Seasons at Celebrate Virginia – Beautiful Apartments

Years ago, it was hard to find an apartment with a washer and dryer, much less a dishwasher. Constantly collecting quarters and wasting hours at the laundromat was no fun. Thank goodness thing have changed! Now the newer apartments include all of the appliances that would normally be found in a house, plus additional ‘amenities’—such as swimming pools, exercise equipment, computer/business centers, meeting rooms, etc.

Here in Fredericksburg, Virginia, even though there are many relatively new apartments, I was told that people seem to prefer the Seasons at Celebrate Virginia. Why? What is it about the Seasons apartment complex that makes it stand out from the others? To satisfy my curious mind on a quiet summer morning, I decided to wander over there and take a look for myself.
Seasons-at-Celebrate-Virginia
When I arrived, the first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful landscaping. After a hard day at work and/or sitting for hours in traffic, this is undoubtedly a welcome sight for tired eyes—the grass is cut and edged, the trees and bushes are trimmed to perfection, flowers are blooming, and the buildings are painted in colors that soothe the soul. Since all of the hard work of maintenance is already done, the residents here can simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the view. Nice!
Seasons-at-Celebrate -Virginia-2
Seasons-at-Celebrate-Virginia-3

Seasons-Pool-Landscape-2
In addition to the impeccable landscaping, there are two salt water pools. Awesome! For people who are sensitive to the chemicals in a standard chlorine pool, this is a major plus. No more irritated red eyes, bleached out (green) hair, or quickly fading bathing suits.

Look closely! Can you see it? The privacy provided by the natural ‘green screen’ around this salt water pool is perfect. Have you ever been to a hotel where the pool is totally exposed to a busy road and people passing by? Who wants to be on display? Not me. Truthfully, the first time I walked by this area, I didn’t realize there was a pool hidden behind the ornamental grasses until I saw the tops of the orange umbrellas.
Seasons-Pool-Landscape
Seasons-at-Celebrate-Virginia-4
A few minutes later, when I walked inside the pool area and saw the low-rise chairs sitting in the shallow end next to little waterfalls— I immediately wished I could sit down, close my eyes, and stay there. This would be a great way to cool down on a hot summer day.

One resident told me that each time she sits on her screened-in porch overlooking the pool, she gets the distinct impression that she is on vacation. It is easy to see why!
Seasons-Pool-View
The upkeep of these apartments and the landscaping is impressive!  It is readily apparent that a portion of the money residents pay each month is being invested into making this a great place to live.
Landscapers
And so, after our house was sold,  we decided to move into one of the 3 bedroom apartments here.  Now I can say that I completely understand why people are comparing this to living in a resort area. It’s great! 
Seasons-at-Celebrate-Virginia_1
If you are looking for a place to stay in Fredericksburg, Virginia–I highly recommend the Seasons at Celebrate Virginia. Come check it out for yourself! It is definitely not your average, run-of-the mill apartment complex.
Seasons-Butterfly

Posted in Nature, Photo Essay, photography | Tagged , , , , , | 38 Comments

Early Morning Virginia Beach

Sunrise awakens
early morning
on Virginia Beach.
Rising-Sun
A beautiful sight!
Diamonds of early sunlight
drip onto blue water
dancing a summer delight.
VA-Beach_2
VA-Beach-SurferEarly-Morning-Walk
Anticipating
a busy summer day—
trucks begin raking sand.
Virginia-Beach_raking-sand
After the raking, a solitary man walks along the shoreline hunting for buried treasure
(with seagull supervision—of course).
VA-Beach-Treasure-Hunt
Later in the day, a friend kindly took my photo on the Virginia Beach boardwalk, next to the statue of King Neptune and a giant octopus.  Thanks Judith! As I am usually hiding behind a camera, I seldom have a good photograph of myself to share. This is a warm memory that I will cherish for a long time (especially during the cold winter months).
Profile-Neptune2
The ocean was my first love, so I am happy that I was able to visit before summer’s end. I can’t imagine going an entire year without walking barefoot in a place where rolling ocean waves sigh into the sand.  A necessity of life!
Mary_1956
Mary-Beach
Mary_Beach-1956
Take good care of the ocean for me, King Neptune.
I will be back again one day!
Neptune-Virginia-Beach

Posted in ocean, photography, Summer | Tagged , , , , | 40 Comments