Pixels and Prose
What can I say? I love small towns! I am not a city girl as I grew up in a small town where you knew many of the people by name and a trip to town meant you might be delayed as you conversed with acquaintances along the way. And then, early in my adult life, I moved to the country... total peace, with nature all around... and I really loved that. It was a fit! I lived according to the seasons, enjoyed my trips into town but was always glad to get back to the country. Thankfully, I raised my children there and they will always have the memories of going outside to play in the brook and in the woods, walk down the country road, ice skate on the little pond and all without fear. To my mind, it was an idyllic childhood.
Then I moved to Texas. Yes... I came kicking and screaming so my husband could take a job here. Left behind my friends, my home, and a job that I loved. With time, I adjusted but could never adjust to the traffic, strip malls, and living in a housing development where I could almost reach out my window and shake hands with my neighbor. Where are the deer, the woods, the babbling brook and the stars in the sky... GONE! I see a glow in the night sky from the strip malls just down the road. I hear the roar of traffic on the interstate. Dallas is 14 miles to the west but I seldom go as I want to see less congestion, fewer buildings, fewer people, less traffic, and more of nature. No... this is not my choice of how to live, so I grab my camera and become immersed in the moment! Yes... photography is a lifesaver!
When my friend Sheila invited me and a mutual friend to visit with her in Bowie, Texas, I jumped at the chance. I love a new adventure and this was to be one in "small town Texas". So many times "small town" equates to "quirky"! Each little town has it's own personality as opposed to the big city/suburbs with just more of the same. Before long, everything will look alike with the same fast food joints and big box stores on every corner. I rather like the "mom and pop" establishments, each with a unique difference.
So... a couple hours away, I had left the city and suburbs behind and it felt good traveling through the countryside with my friend Linda.
Linda and Sheila
Sheila treated us to a wine festival at the Blue Ostrich Vineyard and Winery. We pulled up and were greeted by the most friendly parking person I have ever met. He was so personable and after a brief chat he directed us as to where to park. We sheltered from the brutal Texas sun under a tent and sipped our wine and snacked on cheese, salami, olives and bread while listening to the music. I had a sparkling wine that was light and refreshing on such a hot day. What a way to begin our visit! The vineyard actually reminded me of vineyards in France... and not a strip mall in sight! Thank you Sheila for such a delightful beginning to our stay!
This trip was all about catching up on what has been happening in our lives as well as touring the small towns in the area. Each morning we would get up, have breakfast and then head out with Sheila at the wheel. I do love to do "drive-by" shooting. If I get my shutterspeed fast enough, I can shoot on-the-fly and it is a great exercise in improving quick response time. On several occasions as we would "oooo" or "ahhhhh" at something we saw, Sheila would slow her speed, sometimes stop and on one occasion, she did a U-turn when I was sure I spotted an owl on the top of a sign... or at least that is what I thought! So we U-turned and parked in a parking lot to get a better view when I realized the owl was precisely at the middle of the top of the sign. The joke was on me! It was a decoy! I had been fooled and I would not live this down for the rest of the trip!
As we were going down the road I spotted a dilapidated garage with an American flag and a confederate flag along with a truck that had seen better days. I shot it on-the-fly in hopes that I could edit it later to improve the shot. When I got home and put it on the computer I noticed a young John Wayne looking out from the window and that car setting on wheels... it's a Delorean! I love surprises and this was certainly one of them!
So we are back on the road looking for more quirky shots and we sure did find them!
I will share some of my photos in a slideshow. Certainly one of the highlights of the trip was when we were invited into the local bootmaker's shop to see how cowboy boots are made. The two master bootmakers were giving a class in bootmaking. It is expensive to take the class but when you are done, you will have your own custom-made pair of boots... handmade by you! Bootmaking is becoming a lost art and I was so impressed with the quality of the boots!
The slideshow is best viewed full screen...
Thank you Sheila for the wonderful getaway! Lots of laughs and a genuinely good time! Can't wait to see what you do with the bed springs you salvaged from that house that was being demolished! Knowing you... it will end up being a unique piece of art from a quirky little town in Texas!
Have you noticed? Are more and more of us dying of "orange face" syndrome or is this just my imagination playing tricks on me? Last Sunday in the obits in the Dallas Morning News, 14 out of 25 people had "orange face" syndrome.
And do you do it? Read obituaries in your local newspaper?
It all started innocently enough. I have read obituaries for years. When living back in New Jersey, it was a small town, and more than likely you knew the person who had died or someone related to him or her. And then I moved to the Dallas area. I would sit at the breakfast table with my cup of coffee and peruse the obits... not because I would know anyone but because every once in a while I would stumble across an interesting obit... something a bit out of the ordinary. And you know I love quirky, even in death!
Being a critical care nurse, life and death was a part of my everyday routine but it never became routine. I loved hearing life stories, for each of us is unique and the printed obituary is our last chance to tell our story; although, I would always prefer to hear the story when that person is alive.
There was one obit that caught my attention and I will never forget it. It was a young fella who died, perhaps in his late 20's or early 30's. It said... "There will be no services. If you wished to see me, you would have seen me while I was alive." And that was the end of the obit! I felt the bitterness and I felt the isolation in those few sentences, and I wondered what had happened. My first thought... had this fella died of AIDS? Was he left to die a lonely death? And what was the rest of his story? I never learned the rest of his story and still to this day, his obituary haunts me.
I did not clip that obit but I suddenly began to read the obits with increased interest and then I started clipping the ones that caught my attention for whatever reason. Some were touching and made me wish I had known the person. Some were especially sad with death coming at what should have been the peak of life with so many dreams yet to be attained, and some were just plain funny and would make me laugh! Honestly!
And then there were those that were just quirky, like the guy who was laid out at the funeral home in his favorite recliner partially covered with a Dallas Cowboys blanket, wearing a Dallas Cowboys baseball cap and holding a can of beer in his hand. Yes... that was how he wanted to be remembered. (Ya just can't make this stuff up, and I have the obit to prove it!)
I had also clipped the obit of Jack Kilby. Do you know who he was? No... nor did I, until I read his obit and then wondered why I had never heard his name mentioned. After all, he was from Dallas, worked at TI and had even won the Nobel Prize, yet few people know his name! How could that be? So let me tell you the rest of the story and how his death impacted my life.
I loved going to estate sales and happened on one where it said to make checks payable to "Jack Kilby Estate". WOW! I had clipped Jack Kilby's obit, so I said to the lady at the table, is that "The" Jack Kilby? Oh yes... he worked at TI. OMG!!! I was so excited to be in his house and looking through his belongings and I wanted a momento of his life. That is when I saw his old typewriter... you know, the really old ones with the round metal keys. I remembered in his obit that it said he seldom used e-mail and the reason that struck me as odd was because... (are you ready for this?)... it was Jack Kilby who worked at TI who invented the micro-chip! And because it said he seldom used e-mail, I knew I had to have his typewriter as it represented a drastic switch in how we would communicate through electronic media. The price was $35 and I went home with a treasure!
The typewriter sits in my living room and my little grandson would come into the house and immediately go over to the typewriter and put his fingers on the keys... those same keys that Jack Kilby used. He knew to be gentle with it, and then I would ask... "Lucas, whose typewriter is that?" and he would answer... "That's Jack's typewriter, Lala!" Someday he will come to appreciate who Jack was and how his invention changed our lives in a most unique way... not only lives here in Dallas but all over the world. Suddenly we can instantly share photos and conversations and the world seems to be a much smaller place.
Jack has changed the world we live in more than anyone else I know, and we can use that for good or for bad, but I am sure he would want to see his invention bring us together rather than tear us apart. He was not a boastful man from what I have read and was quite low key in spite of his brilliance and perhaps that is why most people will not recognize his name... but we should!
To read Jack Kilby's fascinating obituary: http://www.dallasnews.com/obituary-headlines/20140523-jack-kilby-1923-2005----longtime-ti-engineer-s-semiconductor-paved-way-for-computer-revolution.ece
I do wish I had known him rather than known "of him"!
But as is so often the case... I have strayed off course. This was to be about "orange face" syndrome. Not all that long ago, the DMN started printing their obits in color in the Sunday section of the paper. On weekdays they are in black and white. What struck me as odd was how many of the color photos had orange faces, thus the thought that perhaps more people are dying of "orange face syndrome"! HA! But no, I do believe it is a case of the photo being taken in artificial tungsten light causing a shift in color to yellowish orange. Photographers understand white balance and how the camera sees as opposed to how our eyes see. Tungsten light will give a yellow-orange cast but can easily be corrected in the computer. And who can we thank for this wonderful digital invention... well, Jack Kilby, of course!
So for the exorbitant price that an obit costs to have in the newspaper, why can't the newspaper color-correct these photos, as an orange face is hardly complimentary to the deceased, nor how they would want to be remembered. In black-and-white, the difference is not noticeable.
I will continue to clip the obits that catch my attention and love the ones that truly tell something about why that person was unique. In my collection, I have the inventor of the hula hoop, the Frisbee, the smiley face, and Mr. Tupper who invented "Tupperware". And then there was the biker whose ashes were mixed with paint and his bike repainted. The remainder of his ashes were strewn on the highway by his biker friends as they cruised down the highway with his wife who was riding his bike.
So many stories and so many lives lost. When it is over, it is over. Your last story will be your obit. Think about how you want to live your life and how you would want to be remembered. The time is now! You are NOT "just like everyone else" because YOU are UNIQUE! There will never be another you!
Write your story and tell people who you really are and let those stories go down in history for your family to cherish! We have much to learn from those who have gone before us. Do it and do it now, before it is too late! And while you are at it, why not write your own obituary? You are so much more than... born, died, worked at, related to! A good obituary tells so much more than just "the facts" and I know you have a story to tell!
This was my second year to go down to Santa Clara Ranch in McCook, Texas (South Texas) and as before, it was a fun experience shared with 7 other photographers from the Heard Nature Photography Club. I met up with Terri and Mary and we loaded our gear into Terri's truck and took off to meet Catherine who would follow us down. We had hoped to shoot wildflowers on the way but traveled most of the time in rain.
We did take a ride through Bastrop State Park. According to their website, "In September 2011, Bastrop State Park and the surrounding pine forest were stricken by wildfire that affected 96 percent of the park. However, firefighters were able to save the historic cabins and facilities constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The park is recovering from the fire, and most trails, campsites and facilities have reopened to the public."
We spent the night in Sequin and then traveled to the ranch the following day. The sun was shining brightly and we could see a mirage of "water" on the roadway and could even see the reflection of headlights in the mirage. My traveling companions dared me to shoot it as they doubted that I could capture it... after all, it really wasn't there. So, is it possible to shoot something that really isn't there?
I will let you be the judge. Did I capture the mirage? Crazy, huh? The road was totally dry!
We finally arrived at the ranch and what were the chances that we should all pull up to the gate at the same time? The guys in the last car made the trip in one day.
So... which way to the ranch?
The ranch house has 4 bedrooms (sleeps 8) with 2 baths, a living room, dining area and a fully equipped kitchen.
Santa Clara Ranch consists of about 300 acres... all land untouched by a plow... totally wild. There are two morning blinds (positioned for the best morning light) and two evening blinds. These blinds are dug into the ground and we have the luxury of sitting on folding metal chairs with cushions while we aim our cameras out the opening that is shrouded with camouflage netting. We are literally shooting at ground level. Each of these blinds is placed next to a watering hole and being that South Texas is hot and dry, the water attracts the critters. There are also two raptor blinds and a blind at Dorothy's Pond. This is my kind of photography. Get set up, have a cold drink in my hand and wait for the critters to arrive. We try our best to be quiet so as not to deter the wild visitors but every so often there would be a giggle and some whispering.
We sit and listen and can usually hear the birds calling before we actually see them. It is so exciting as birds come to feed on the seed we have tossed on the log and then we watch as the birds splash in the water.
The rabbits are such fun to watch as they jump and scamper around.
Desert Cottontail Rabbit
And what's not to love about the little ground squirrels? This one seems to be eating a "cookie" of dirt and then he proceeded to "slurp" the algae floating in the water. (Hmmmm... is that gourmet food to a ground squirrel? The equivalent of fiber and veggies, no doubt!)
We had arranged for our meals to be prepared for us at the ranch to save us the shopping and preparation; thereby, giving us time between shooting to play with our photos on our laptops and ID the critters.
We would rise at 6AM and try to be in the blinds by 06:45. Mid-morning we would take a break and go back to the ranch house for breakfast. Later in the afternoon following a late lunch, we would head back to the blinds and stay until the sun was going down and then have a late dinner. It was all about photography and sharing a fun time together.
Check out the slideshow of some of the critters seen at the ranch...
With the news that Rowlett has purchased Robertson Park at I-30/Dalrock from Dallas, there is great concern that the Donahue development company will totally ruin this scenic green area which Rowlett wants to make the "gateway" to the city. I posted a blog about keeping Robertson Park green but sadly, the area has already been de-parked and now it seems the best we can do is salvage a little bit of land for recreational purposes and I wholeheartedly support saving some area for kiteboarding and water sports.
I have been photographing the kiteboarders for a couple years now and I can tell you that they are not only great athletes but genuinely good people. They have taken it upon themselves to show up several times at the Rowlett City Council meetings to make their wishes known... to keep an area available at the park for kiteboarders as it provides the wind they need and a safe place to launch their kites.
It is entertaining to watch them as they pull up and unload their kites, pump air into them and prepare for a launch. If the wind is right... they will be there! They make their way over the rocks and to the water and in no time they are sailing with the wind across the lake doing dare-devil jumps and coming down with a huge splash! They are strong, fit and a bit crazy, if you ask me, but they love it and I love taking their photos.
The photography itself is a challenge as the light many times is coming more from behind, causing their faces to be in shadow and of course you need a fast shutterspeed to capture the action. Some shots are better than others but then again, no one said it is easy!
So if the wind is blowing, pack a bite to eat and come to the lake and prepare to be entertained!
Check out the slide show here...
White Rock Lake... my "happy place"! I go there and instantly forget my troubles and immerse myself in nature. My favorite place at the lake is Sunset Bay as there is always activity with the multitude of birds visiting the area. For the past two years, there has been a mute swan that someone named Katie. She is the only swan at the lake. I no sooner arrive and I see her swimming with the coots. She is so beautiful and graceful and a very gentle bird.
I had taken this photo of Katie in March... March 7, to be exact. I did not notice a problem with her at that time. Several days later, I read a message from Don Huddy on Capture Dallas that Katie was taken to Rogers Rehab Center for treatment of a swollen area in her neck. I immediately thought about J.R. Compton's blog as he goes to White Rock Lake nearly every day and documents the activities of the birds, and sure enough, there was a photo of Katie with a large swelling of her neck. This was less than a week after I had taken this photograph.
To follow along with J.R.'s blog: http://www.jrcompton.com/photos/The_Birds/J/#details
J.R. had called a friend of his to catch Katie and take her to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for treatment. http://www.rogerswildlife.org/
It seems that the rehab center has been having financial difficulty and they are entering their busy season as baby animals are found and brought in during the springtime. A plea went out for donations to not only help Katie but to keep the facility operating. They are located south of Dallas and are the only such facility in the area. Money came pouring in and the internet was abuzz with Katie updates.
It was touch-and-go for a bit as she had a feeding tube and was getting weaker and had a fever. She was treated with antibiotics and slowly but surely, she started to improve and the swelling was going down. How exciting to see a photo of her standing in a little kiddie pool of water with her wings spread! That was definitely a good sign. If she continued to improve by the end of her round of antibiotics, she would be returned to the lake.
Word spread that she would be returned to Sunset Bay on March 26 at 11AM and I was determined to be there to welcome her home; however, there was a glitsch. Evidently someone was very upset that she would be returned to the lake as she is not a native species. I can tell you that she seemed happy and content living there and she has many "people friends" who watch over her. This negative response about returning her to the lake caused Kathy Rogers, head of the rehab center to write this comment on facebook in response...
"Usually I don't waste my time responding to narrow minded, ignorant comments, but seeing as this is MY page, I will in this case. Jose, I have been doing this work for over 35 years, and I can assure you that I weigh very carefully what is in the best interest of the creatures and the environment before releasing anything. In this case, the best scenario was to put this swan back where she has been successfully coexisting with all the other waterfowl for years. I would suggest...to you, and all others of your ilk, that you spend your time and effort on making this world a much better place for all living things and less time worrying about things you clearly know nothing about. Perhaps you should move to New York where they exterminate swans by the thousands. I'm more than comforted that I can sleep at night knowing that I save lives instead of trying to be judge and jury about a living beings' worthiness to live or die. In the grand scheme of things, that's the universe's decision, not ours anyway. I hope you and your cronies can one day see the true beauty nature allows us to see and not be blinded by personal bias. That is all. In the future, please post your ridiculous comments on sites where someone actually cares what you think. We are here to make a difference!"
WOW! What a passionate response... and I loved it! More people should be this passionate about the creatures on this earth!
I arrived at the lake at about 10:30AM on the day of her return and found several others milling about, waiting for Katie. And then more people came. And then the police arrived. Was there a fear that protestors might try to disrupt Katie's return home? It was cold and the wind was kicking up and the sky was gray. I was delighted to see my three photo friends show up... Deanna, Liz and Robin... nature lovers and photographers!
Before long, a white car pulls up and written on the dusty, dirty back of the car... "Katie on board".
Then we see a news guy with a video camera position himself to catch the action. Kathy Rogers ever so gently scoops Katie into her arms and lifts her up and out of the car.
Katie is calm and allows people to touch her. I had never touched a swan before and she was so soft. I said... "Katie you are so beautiful" and it was caught on the newscast! http://www.wfaa.com/story/news/features/2015/03/26/rogers-wildlife-rehab-swan-fundraising/70510630/
The clouds had cleared and the sun was shining brightly as Kathy carried Katie to the edge of Sunset Bay. As she got closer to the lake, Katie's left foot started to move as though she was paddling in the water. Kathy put her down at the edge of the water. She stood still for a moment and then swam off to the far side of the bay where it was peaceful and quiet. It was a special moment for everyone who attended and there were some tears of joy to see her back home where she belongs.
WELCOME HOME KATIE!
Thank you Kathy for being there for injured wildlife! I appreciate what you do and am thankful for Katie's return to Sunset Bay and thank you to those who joined me in donating to this worthy cause!
Noooo... I did not get here as fast as I could! As a matter of fact, I came here kicking and screaming! I know you Texans can't quite believe that, but I really did like where I was from, but when a job opportunity presented itself to my husband, I was not going to stand in his way of advancing his career. After all, life is an adventure!
I never had a dream of living in the "wild west" and it is now becoming a nightmare as every "cowboy and cowgirl" wants to strap a handgun onto their hip and take the law into their own hands. Something about a "God-given right" to protect yourself. So... God said that? Seriously? The NRA is loving this and you gun lovers are eating it up as well. And with all the other issues confronting our state, Governor Abbott is right in there pushing this along!
I am horrified when every day there is more news of someone being killed by a gun. Oh yeah... that's right! It's not the gun that is the problem, it is the person behind the gun. Well, quite frankly, there are too many hot heads out there who would love to intimidate others by wearing a gun and just might use it in the heat of the moment.
And where do the police figure into all of this?
I thought it was their job to protect us and keep us safe. How does anyone have a chance when any cowboy can strap on a pistol and play cop? I cannot help but think that all of this will make a policeman's job that much more difficult but this is the world we live in today.
And yes we hear of the police using their guns and killing innocent people and that too is a problem in today's world. So... do they do it because of heightened fear? Have they seen so many officers killed in the line of duty that they cannot take a chance of being the next fatality? But then again... why do they not use their tasers more often? This, to my mind seems like the weapon of choice.
For anyone who wants to own a gun, I think there is a responsibility to own it legally and to be trained in it's proper use and safety. I also think that every gun owner should be fingerprinted and be prevented from ownership if they have a mental health problem.
I do not want to live in a world where I go to the store, the school, the playground, the park and have to see people brandishing a weapon. Guns are frightening and even more frightening when in the wrong hands.
More guns do not make us safer! Think of the possibility... no guns... no gun deaths. Plain and simple! But those days are long gone when guns and ammo are so easily accessible to law abiding citizens as well as the criminal element.
Soooo... what color holster should I get? Pink? Noooo... I wear a lot of black so maybe a black holster with rhinestones! Just kidding! BAD joke!
To read more about all this craziness... http://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/headlines/20150316-senate-republicans-pass-open-carry-bill-for-handguns-in-texas1.ece
It appears that the city of Rowlett will finalize it's plan to purchase Elgin B. Robertson park on the shores of Lake Ray Hubbard from Dallas. This has been in the works for several years and will become final sometime in April of this year... and what do they want to do with those 257 acres of land costing $31.8 million that butt up to I-30 and Dalrock Road? They want to develop it, of course! You know... high end residential and retail! Just what we need... more stores and more people (she says sarcastically!). This will be the "gateway" to our non-descript bedroom community.
Rowlett is nothing more than strip malls, traffic, housing developments and a main street where nothing happens and no one goes except for the occasional parade. And why is that, you ask? Quite simply because it is nothing more than a street. If it weren't for city hall, the library, and maybe one restaurant, there would be no reason to go there.
Someone got the brilliant idea to put a tiny circle in the roadway of Main Street with a clock tower in the middle. A terrible waste of money, imo, when the basic upkeep to roads and alleys is not being done in a timely manner. Oh well, at least I can go "downtown" and see what time it is and to tell myself it is a great time to be in Rowlett! And they thought when the DART transit train came to Rowlett and the George Bush tollway came through that business would be booming. Well, guess what... didn't happen! All of the commerce takes place in the strip malls.
And scenic? Hardly! But wait... there are big plans to turn the center of Rowlett into a bustling community with apartment buildings and a park. I say... go for it, and leave the lake property alone! Let SOMETHING in this community be green!!! But that's not how big business works. You must build and people must buy! This is the Texas way. That's exactly why no place here has any character. It is just one bedroom community sprawling to the next with the usual strip malls, fast food joints, and chain stores. Every corner looks the same with a glut of gas stations to fuel the glut of cars, a drug store or two at nearly every intersection, grocery stores, McDonalds, Taco Bueno, Wendy's, Jack-in-the-Box... you get the idea!
Some housing developments are high-end gated communities but most consist of brick cookie-cutter houses that are put up in no time at all, thanks to the cheap Mexican laborers who work their butts off for little wages so the rich can get richer. The houses are crowded together on small lots. Yes, the builder makes more money that way! After 15 or 20 years, your housing investment will start to crack apart thanks to the black gumbo/clay soil as the land dries rock hard in the drought of summer. Water is a big deal in the southwest and the more people who move in, the more water that is required and all of those people want to grow green grass and plants that require incredible amounts of water, not to mention all the private pools that need to be filled. And then they drench the properties with pesticides to keep their grass green and fend off critters. We need less grass, more native plants and more prairies. We need a balance... we need nature!
My one escape from all of this mayhem was to go to the lake... Lake Ray Hubbard, a huge reservoir where I could find some open land and green space at Robertson Park.
Just across the highway where the park continues, in the spring you can find an abundance of wildflowers in bloom as well as a gravel road that goes into a "hidden" woodland area where you will often times see hawks in the trees. But... only a few of us appreciate this as everyone is out whizzing past the area in their quest for anything but solitude in nature. And what a great place it would be for biking and walking trails.
The lake area is used for picnics, boating, fishing, walking, jogging, biking, flying kites, flying remote-controlled planes, kiteboarding, and some of us like doing photography there. Nature abounds. I have photographed herons, egrets, cormorants, geese, gulls, sandpipers, butterflies, songbirds, snakes and even a mink with a big fish in it's mouth. There are also feral cats that call this area home. But none of these things bring in money so as a result they will be taken over by big business and big development.
There is big business across the lake where Bass Pro Shop is located. There are restaurants too and all of it is ugly and the lakefront is a second thought, for sure. Just more stores and parking lots. Is that really what we want here?
Rockwall built "The Harbor" with it's faux lighthouse. How appropriate! The Hilton Hotel moved in and upscale shops and restaurants set up business. A huge fountain was erected as well as a spray park for the kids. A lot of work went into building this and was beautifully done but now, several years later, most of the stores are empty and the restaurants have closed their doors except for a few. Unfortunately the whole area was developed with no green space left! Gone! And now there is little reason to go there except for the movie theater which still draws people and maybe a bite to eat.
We need open space. We need a place in nature where children can run free and let their imaginations soar as they climb amongst the rocks by the edge of the lake rather than on man-made contraptions or explore the wildflowers in search of butterflies or ride their bikes. We need to maintain the park for the activities that it is already used for and we need to tout the fact that Rowlett is looking to the future by maintaining a green area for both the humans and the creatures that inhabit this area. For once... let's "err" on the side of simplicity. This is indeed unique in our over-built world in the metroplex. Let it speak loud and clear that Rowlett supports balance and respects nature.
But sadly, the powers that be, have other ideas, and the natural beauty that we have at the gateway to our city will be destroyed in the name of "progress" in order to make a few movers and shakers a little richer.
Thank goodness I can still escape to White Rock Lake in Dallas... a jewel of an oasis maintained for the wildlife... pelicans, coots, cormorants, ducks, geese, gulls, pigeons, monk parakeets, hawks, eagles, egrets, herons, song birds, snakes, coyotes, bobcats, possums, raccoons and the like. This beautiful area is shared with boaters, fishermen, birders, runners, bikers, walkers, dog walkers, rollerbladers and photographers. The fields of wildflowers all around the lake are incredibly beautiful and attract more wildlife. And as much as I love the Dallas Arboretum, the people of White Rock Lake stood up to the arboretum and refused to have a parking garage built on the prairie at Winfrey Pointe and also refused to have restaurants built as they wanted to keep the area as natural as possible. There are picnic areas, benches and biking trails around the entire lake. Too bad Rowlett cannot have the foresight to do the same.
This is the latest that I have read about the plans to "de-park" Robertson Park: "Development plans for the area include high-end residential single-family and multifamily properties as well as commercial properties including restaurants and hotels."
Before long, the bulldozers will come in, the concrete will be poured, houses will go up, restaurants will be built, and parking lots will abound, and shops selling things that no one really needs will take up precious space. The rich will get richer and those with the big bucks might have a view of the lake. It is all about money! Nature will be an after-thought.
While you are at it, you might as well put up another clock so we can see the precious time ticking away as we lose more and more open green space in the name of progress. This is far from progress, in my mind. As for me, I say... KEEP ROBERTSON PARK GREEN!
A howling good time was had by all the dogs and their humans at the annual Krewe of Barkus Mardi Gras parade in McKinney, Texas on February 15, 2015. Yes... the celebration has gone to the dogs, all shapes and sizes decked out in hats, beads, bows and other frills! And their humans were dressed "to the nines" as well!
The theme this year was "Tour de France - A Salute to All Things French".
Now the difficulty comes when you try to separate the subject of the photo from the chaotic background, and what you often times must contend with is unwanted butts and legs of both dogs and humans in your shot as well as cars and bright orange traffic cones. So... I took my 862 photos and tried to cull them down to the best of the lot after a bunch of editing.
The Best of Show winner was "Let Them Eat Cake" starring Kate Peabody (age 7) as Marie Antoinette and her two little dogs, Twinkle and Cricket, who were dressed as pieces of cake. Mom and Grandma were the bakers. At the end of the parade and judging, they won the trophy! What a lot of work went into this entry. The faux cake was a marvel to behold as well!
Now the problem was the fact that when I photographed them with their cake, they were in the parking lot amidst cars and orange traffic cones as well as other contestants all around. Not conducive to the photo I wanted. I chose to isolate Marie Antoinette and her little doggie and this was my attempt at the before and after image. You will see more of them in the slideshow.
I doubt there is any way you can attend this event without coming home with a smile on your face! Not sure who was having more fun, the dogs or their humans! Bravo to all the entrants for their ingenuity and for the love of their dogs!
If you missed this year's festivities, mark your calendar for 2016... February 7 and the theme will be "Barkus Does Books", celebrating your favorite characters from literature. Start now to plan your entry for next year!
And now, take some time to enjoy the slideshow...
Click lower right side of slide show screen to see full screen if you wish.
If you want music, have your sound on.
This is not even a question in my mind... science undoubtedly points to evolution. There is no way that I think some mystical being made everything in this world some 6,000 years ago! The science does not begin to support this theory, so it is on this day that I celebrate International Darwin Day in honor of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution which has been proven by scientists time and time again as life as we know it evolves.
INTERNATIONAL DARWIN DAY
February 12, 2015
My life has been based on science. As a nurse, I depended on science on a daily basis to understand and to be able to treat a variety of diseases and illnesses. It was not a magic spell/curse that was cast on these human beings like was thought in years past. Bad things do happen to good people. We have since learned to peer into a microscope and see what was previously invisible to the human eye. Through education and technology we can now diagnose conditions that were previously unknown and untreatable. What amazing discoveries have been made thanks to science and the inquisitive minds of intelligent human beings.
In my lifetime I can remember the fear of polio and then the polio vaccine came along thanks to Jonas Salk. Immunizations have freed us of the major childhood illnesses, but sadly measles is resurfacing as more and more people have doubted the proven benefit of the vaccine. I was in the midst of my career when HIV/AIDS surfaced. There was great fear initially as we did not understand the disease and it's transmission and people were dying with no treatment available. The scientists and doctors have made great strides and quality of life has been improved but there is not yet a cure or vaccine to prevent it's spread. We look to science to provide the answers. And now we face ebola. And whose family has not been touched by cancer? You can pray to your god that these people get well but only science will develop a cure.
Though some steadfastly insist that it is God who controls all of this, I simply do not believe that concept. Religion is instilled at a very young age. Some will never question or doubt what they have been taught as a child... to do so would be blasphemy. And once again... which god is the "right" god? You certainly have your right to believe as you choose as I too have the right to believe as I choose, but I personally cannot discount the facts as we know them. Do we have all the answers? Of course not, but science will point us in the right direction.
It is vital in today's world that our children be educated in the proven science so that we may progress and discover yet more fascinating things about planet earth and the universe we live in. I certainly hope that with a strong education in science, that children today will come to question religion and learn to ask "why" and "does this make factual sense?" as they immerse themselves in nature and the world as we know it today. Geology, astronomy, biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics and the study of evolution work together to help us to understand our world and the creatures in it. It will take a curiosity and an understanding of scientific facts to move us forward.
Bill Nye, the Science Guy has written a fascinating book:
In 2015, I would like to think we are more sophisticated and capable of evaluating the science that relates to the age of the earth and the evolution that has taken place to better understand our own place in the world. We are but a small speck of protoplasm in the scheme of things. We, as humans, have the ability to think and to reason but that does not make us better than the other creatures in the world. We simply have different attributes. To quote Marc Bekoff (biologist and behavioral ecologist)... "Although other animals may be different than us, it does not make them LESS than us."
I choose fact rather than fiction and today I wholeheartedly support Darwin Day!
Click here to celebrate Darwin Day.
If you have been reading this blog, you will know that our much loved pug, Barnum, died just before Christmas.
He was the perfect companion and a good friend to our little black pug, Mollie Sue. We miss him so much and made the decision to contact DFW Pug Rescue for another fawn pug. It is a big decision as we know there will never be another Barnum but we missed having two dogs as they were such good company for each other.
Shortly after making contact with the organization, we found a 6-year old pug that we thought might have a good temperament to be a part of our family. Mollie Sue You see... Mollie Sue is a very gentle and laid back little girl. She herself is a rescue pug from DFW Pug Rescue. She had a difficult beginning to her life and spent the first two years of her life in a cage and was used for breeding and was rescued from a puppymill. She has adapted beautifully and is such a sweet dog. I would never want to bring a dog in the house that is aggressive.
So... we went to see Baskie. He was surrendered by a family that was moving and he had the good fortune to be fostered by Cheryl and Brandon in Dallas. We took Mollie Sue with us to meet him as Mollie Sue would most definitely have the final say. As we walked in the door, we were greeted by Cheryl, Brandon and Baskie. "Baskie" evidently was the name given by the rescue organization. He immediately went over to Mollie Sue and gave her the "sniff test" and all seemed well. He was calm, as was she, so we sat down to talk about him. In the foster home he was also living with two other dogs and they all got along so well. This was very positive. It did not take us long to make the decision to adopt him.
We thanked Cheryl and Brandon for fostering him. Actually, he was their sixth pug to foster and I cannot say enough good things about people who do this for the dogs. We piled in the bright yellow "pugbug" VW for our ride home. He was so good riding in the car and taught Mollie Sue how to sit down in the car. Normally, she stands and cannot seem to sit or lie down.
When we arrived home, he explored the house with Mollie Sue and was a bit startled to see yet another pug in several mirrors in the house that extend from ceiling to floor. From the loft he would look through the bannister as if wondering how to get down to the kitchen without having wings.
He has acclimated so well and in such a short length of time. He and Mollie Sue nap together on my chair near my computer.He was very quiet at first but then found his "barker" which he uses on occasion and his is a low deep soft-sounding bark, much different than Mollie Sue's bark.
My husband wanted to name him "Digger"... not because he digs but because my husband's hobby is metal detecting. Since the dog did not respond to his new name of Baskie... we changed his name to Digger.
Digger is housebroken so that in itself is a big plus! And what do the puggies get when they are good? They get green beans! Mollie LOVES green beans. I boil fresh green beans and put them in a special container in the fridge, and now Digger loves them too!
LIFE IS ALWAYS BETTER WITH GREEN BEANS!
And how did I get Digger to pose with the puggies? With a green bean, of course!
As I sit down to wish all my friends a very Happy New Year 2015, I choose this photo to embellish and turn into a greeting card. This was taken at my "happy place"... White Rock Lake in Dallas. I call it my happy place because it is my get-away fairly close to home. It is here where I can forget all my worries as I become engrossed in photographing the many birds that gather at Sunset Bay, and so it was the day when I photographed this pelican doing a happy dance on a log. It just made me laugh to see him!
I was there shooting with my friend Tess and we were awaiting the arrival of Robin to join us. (Robin the friend, not the bird!) As we stood on the dock, I struck up a conversation with another photographer who was telling me about an incident that evidently occurred at the end of November when a guy allegedly had a gun and was shooting at the birds there at Sunset Bay. I was horrified when he told me this! How could this possibly be? He thought the guy was apprehended by the police and was put in jail.
We wandered over to another area to get a bit closer to the pelicans and by that time, our friend Robin had joined us. I first met Robin on a meetup with the Capture Dallas gang. As we stood there chit-chatting and watching the birds, suddenly Tess cried out... "Look Lala! (She calls me Lala.) That bird is all bloody!" I looked to where she was pointing, and indeed, the bird had a large wound to it's upper neck area and had blood smeared on his upper back. Was this possibly one of the birds that was shot?
I started shooting the bird... NO!... bad choice of words! Let me rephrase that. I started photographing the bird and my heart went out to the innocent creature. I wanted to know more about how he got those wounds. The bird acted OK as he preened his feathers. Immediately next to him was another pelican that did not leave his side.
When I arrived home, the first thing I did was to go to the computer to see if I could find more information about the alleged shooting and this is what I found on the Audubon Dallas website: http://www.audubondallas.org/forum/showthread.php?t=3917
As was written on the site: "Dallas Police now have an individual in custody for disorderly conduct/firearm with a scoped rifle who was at White Rock Lake on Saturday. I have his mugshot and lengthy criminal record. I won't post it since the suspect is innocent until proven guilty.
I have been so upset about this incident and about this poor pelican. Interestingly enough, I met a wildlife vet and biologist at the lake on Christmas day and photographed Dr. Amol and his family. He is very much into the rescue and rehabilitation of injured animals in the wild. I have posted his story in my 100 Strangers Project on flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/88326925@N08/15935908869/
I sent off an e-mail to Amol about this injured bird along with a photo. He was aware of this incident as reported. I had also posted the pelican photo to Capture Dallas and there are others on that site who will be keeping an eye on the pelican. I certainly hope that this bird will heal without complications.
For anyone following this blog, you know that my life has been very much influenced by the writing of Marc Bekoff. His books, "The Emotional Lives of Animals" and "The Animal Manifesto... Six Reasons for Expanding Our Compassion Footprint" have touched my heart in a special way. Yes... animals do feel pain, they do have emotional feelings and they deserve to be treated well. It angers me to think that anyone would harm an animal. I will continue to follow this story and will update this post as more information comes available.
I wish you all a happy and healthy 2015.
Gentle, loving, faithful, devoted, happy, loyal, friendly, good natured, kindhearted, joyful, handsome and occasionally whiny and once in a while, just a little naughty... these are all words to describe our fawn pug, Barnum. We lost our Barnum yesterday following emergency surgery to remove his spleen for what was suspected to be cancer. They removed the spleen and two tumors but sadly Barnum died from complications the following day. We have lost our best friend of many years... but not nearly enough years.
Barnum was 13 years old and as he aged he became blind and deaf but that never dampened his spirit or caused him to draw away. He was still able to navigate the house and garden as well as go up and down the steps; however, he was unable to jump on or off the bed. When he was a puppy we laughed because we jokingly said he was a cross between a pug and a bull mastiff as his legs seemed inordinately long... like a pug on stilts, but eventually, he grew into them. With age, his jowls became more pronounced and he would shed enough hair to knit a sweater. How can you not fall in love with a dog as gentle and loving as he was? And he always seemed to be having a "good tail day"!
Barnum having another "good tail day"!
When Barnum was a baby, we asked the vet what kind of toy he might like. She advised us to get a stuffed toy that was bigger than he was so we went out and bought a stuffed floppy fawn dog just about the same color as he was. We named her Mama Dog and he would carry her around, shake her and at night curl up with his head on top of her. He continued to cuddle with Mama Dog his entire life.
Barnum welcomed Ms. Bailey Bentwhiskers, a little black pug (daughter of Pistol Pete!), into the house as a companion. She was a feisty little pug and Barnum soon found out that girls rule, but he was OK with that. Yes, it was the "Barnum and Bailey Circus" in our house! They would have such fun and then would curl up together and fall asleep. Ms. Bailey kept everyone safe as she would lay on the top of the couch and do homeland security. Her bark was a bit arresting for such a little dog! She was definitely a pug with attitude! She also taught Barnum how to pull on the end of the toilet paper and unroll a nice long piece of it and he was quite proud of his accomplishment! Though he was a very smart dog, he would have never thought to do that himself! Ms. Bailey was definitely an instigator!
Barnum and Ms. Bailey Bentwhiskers on Valentine's Day
We took them to dog obedience classes. Barnum caught on quickly. Ms. Bailey... not so much. Barnum not only knew his commands but he could also jump through a hoop, and I had great hopes that he might be a therapy dog. We did a trial run at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. He was doing well as the wheelchairs whizzed by and people walked past with crutches but his downfall came when I had to take his leash off and leave the room. There was silence as all the dogs were in the down position and then from out in the hall, I could hear the tinkling of his "medals'" on his collar. I peeked in, and there was Barnum, ever so slowly, crawling towards the door on his belly. And no... he was not chosen to be a therapy dog, and on the way home in the car, he had a seizure. Perhaps too much stress, and we never tried that again. He did have a seizure disorder as a puppy which he fortunately outgrew with age.
We lost Ms. Bailey unexpectedly when she was having her nails clipped at the vet. She had a cardiac arrest and was not able to be revived. She was only 7 years old and I was devastated. I cannot remember ever crying as much as after I lost her. It was as though my world came crashing in.
A couple months later I decided to look for another little black pug and found Mollie Sue at DFW Pug Rescue. She was a wee bit of a thing... had been kept in a cage for 2 years and was used for breeding at a puppy mill in Oklahoma when she was rescued. We took Barnum with us as we knew that he would have to approve of his new companion. Immediately, they took a liking to each other. Both were very calm and gentle towards each other and they soon became best of friends.
Mollie Sue and Barnum
Mollie would follow Barnum all over the house and they each had their favorite places to lay. Barnum liked his bed in my husband's computer room and Mollie Sue would be in the chair in my room or on the wicker couch at the top of the stairs. It was just the perfect size for her.
They both loved green beans for a treat and Barnum had an internal clock and would awaken about 6AM and bark to get up and eat and then he would bark about 3:30PM for more "puppy stew". The day that he became ill, he was his normal self in the morning and then suddenly became very lethargic in the afternoon. That prompted a visit to our vet where they found a tumor in his spleen and sent us to the 24-hour veterinary clinic in Mesquite for emergency surgery as his blood count was dropping.
He survived the surgery but then started to rebleed. They had found two tumors when they removed his spleen. We immediately went to his side. They brought him out on a small stretcher with a soft blanket covering him. He was laying on his side with a little pillow under his head. His eyes were open but he was not responsive and his breathing was shallow. We gently touched him and told him we loved him but we knew that the time had come to make a decision. He quietly moaned as we would talk to him. His clotting time was prolonged and we could not put him through more pain and suffering. He never deserved any of this. We made our decision and stayed by his side until the end.
He had a good life but a dog's life is never long enough. He gave us so much love and was such a good companion to Ms. Bailey and Mollie Sue. We will miss him dearly and he will always be in our heart. Thank you Barnum for all your love through the years! You are the best!
Love you "big dog"!
A special thank you to the Animal Hospital of Rowlett and Lake Ray Hubbard Emergency Pet Care for being there for us in our time of need. Your professionalism, sensitivity, and skills are greatly appreciated in the care of our "baby"!
"It has been reported that Big Foot has been spotted on the shores of Lake Ray Hubbard. The woman who reported the sighting heard rustling in the weeds around the dried lakebed as she was walking her little dog and then was shocked to see a large hairy ape that was moving towards her at a steady pace. She screamed for help and then immediately ran to her car and called 911. Police, fire and ambulance showed up at the scene but the creature could not be found... only some large footprints near the water's edge and an area of matted vegetation where he may have been sleeping. All residents are warned to be on the look out for Big Foot and to call authorities immediately if spotted. Keep all pets and children under cover until this issue can be resolved. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated."
Certainly gives new meaning to a "selfie"!
You should have seen the looks on the faces of the two fishermen who were driving down the rutted path on the dry lakebed to discover Big Foot emerging from the vegetation!
There was also a gal on a bicycle that started down the path heading to the lake but when she took one look at Big Foot she immediately did a U-turn and headed the other way!
Exactly what was I thinking when I hatched this crazy plan? After all... this is Texas, and who knows what nut might be out there with a gun just looking for a trophy kill!
Oh well, life's too short not to have fun!
The year was 2011, and as I had done every year since moving to Texas (well, every year except for those that I had to work), I was preparing Thanksgiving dinner for our family. The family consisted of... my husband, two daughters and their husbands and three grandchildren. Oh... and how could I forget Lucy? You know, the mannequin! Lucy was a bit befuddled as she saw me running around early in the day setting the table, chopping the veggies, and doing the last minute preparations for "the big dinner"!
But this year... I was going to have some fun of my own with the turkey. I always thought it a bit gross reaching into that bird and pulling out the neck and giblets before stuffing it and putting it in the oven, so why not fix the turkey... with a twist! I was alone in the kitchen, the radio was on and of course there was last minute talk of how to cook a turkey, what to do if your turkey isn't thawed (my answer to that is to eat out!), and what to do with Uncle Albert when he starts his political rant.
I took a lemon and cut it in half, and then, carefully slid it under the skin of the turkey breast... one on each side. Yeah! You get the idea! I really wasn't sure this would work, but what the heck, it was worth a try. I stuffed the bird, set "her" on a bed of carrots, celery and onions, slathered "her" with melted butter and sprinkled "her" with herbs and a bit of salt. I tucked "her" in the oven to roast until golden brown and that little plastic thingy popped out indicating she was done... and that's when the fun was to begin!
Now seriously, how difficult is it to roast a turkey?
Everyone was seated at the table when I brought the roasted turkey in on a silver platter garnished with grapes and rosemary. You should have heard the screech of laughter when they saw "the bird"! You see, this was no ordinary bird! This one had BOOBS! BIG BOOBS!
Lots of laughter all around and that's when my daughter, Missy, pulled out her cell phone and got this photo.
Yes... I have gone zonkers in my old age! Just like to laugh and have fun!
The following years my daughter Molly has graciously hosted Thanksgiving dinner at her house. Actually, it is much easier to have it there as her house is more spacious than mine and the kids have a huge playroom to keep them occupied. But... I secretly wonder if she feared that I might be playful again in the kitchen! After all, I did entertain thoughts of preparing a "Tom Turkey" using a carrot and a couple small potatoes! Hahahahaha!!!
But alas... I have become vegetarian, so there will be no turkey coming out of my kitchen as I would so much rather see them alive than to suffer the assault of the slaughter house. Not sure why it took me so many years to have a conscience about what I eat. I suppose it is because I grew up eating meat and never gave a thought to what happens to these poor animals before they end up on our table. As for me, I will fill up on the appetizers, sides and dessert! After all... they really are the best part of Thanksgiving dinner.
I do love Thanksgiving simply because it is family time and no gifts involved. It's a time to sit together, share funny stories, remember the ones who are no longer at the table and to share good food and be thankful for all the good things in our life.
I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving and I am posting this a bit early just in case you too might like to play in the kitchen!
05:28AM... the phone rings and rouses me from my sleep. I have done it once again and forgotten to bring the phone from the kitchen into the bedroom at night, so I fly out of bed and run to the kitchen to get the call. Now it used to be that a call at some ungodly hour as that meant that there was a family emergency. After all, why would anyone be calling at that hour?
But nooooo... life has changed and technology has changed and suddenly the phone rings at all hours of the night from none other than our "friendly", "keep-you-safe" city of Rowlett. This has been happening so often, that many of the calls have gone ignored. Please... call me if something is imminent (like a tornado) but otherwise, stop crying wolf!
But, how could I lay in bed and ignore the phone ringing at this hour? By the time I got to the phone, there was no message, so dutiful husband goes to the computer to find this message from Rowlett: "A Severe Thunderstorm Watch has been issued for your area", and then the attachment lists blah, blah, blah, blah counties!
Seriously? You are waking me for this? I think I will hear when the thunder rumbles and can figure this out, but they are bound and determined to keep me safe. And then, come to find out... there has been a screw-up!
"Pete Delkus just posted that the server at the NWS is malfunctioning and sending out error watches and warnings. He said no watches or warnings are in effect for North Texas at this time."
Sure enough, the sun is beginning to shine in spite of the warning! And so my day begins!
So much for technology keeping us safe! And if they really want to keep us safe, how come we did not get calls from the city when a couple schools were just recently in lockdown after receiving a bomb threat? And why are the citizens of the Rowlett/Rockwall area not called when the white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi skinheads and open-carry people are in the midst of an aggressive confrontation at the Rockwall courthouse?
Do these not warrant a warning to be vigilant and act accordingly? To me, this is more frightening than a thunderstorm!
I am thankful it was not a family emergency but have lost faith in the system to "keep us safe".