THE INQUISITIVE EYE... Photography by Fay Stout: Blog en-us (C) Fay Stout (THE INQUISITIVE EYE... Photography by Fay Stout) Sun, 23 May 2021 00:45:00 GMT Sun, 23 May 2021 00:45:00 GMT THE INQUISITIVE EYE... Photography by Fay Stout: Blog 120 80 The years are flying by... Can it really be two years since posting to this blog?  Surely, something eventful has happened during that time.


Today I sit here contemplating how much I want to get into my little cottage garden and do some planting of bright flowers, but I am recuperating from a right knee replacement that was done the end of February.  Old age has crept in unexpectedly and the osteoarthritis has taken it's toll on my knees.  When the right knee became painful to walk due to bone-on-bone and multiple bone spurs, I knew the time had come to have the surgery.


The surgery was done in the late afternoon and by 11PM, I was walking the halls with a walker without pain and thinking... this is a "piece of cake"!  Oh!  How wrong I was!  When the nerve block wore off in about 24 hours, the pain started in earnest!  I had no idea it would be so painful!  I became dependent on my husband to drive me around and do the grocery shopping and help with meals.  I started going to rehab twice a week, and the simplest maneuvers would bring a scowl to my face as the pain was intense, but I blundered along knowing it was so important to my recovery.


I would frequently ice my knee with a bag of frozen peas to decrease swelling and inflammation and I watched way too much TV.  I was becoming depressed and  frustrated with the situation as I like to be up and about and independent.  My little "therapy dog" Mollie Sue, the black pug, was always by my side and she gave me great comfort.


But gradually I started feeling better, thanks to the pain med, and I was walking with my walker.  One day when I was going to rehab, my sense of humor was once again kicking in... and that's a good thing!  I decided to put my spare license plate (yes, my grandchildren call me "Lala") on the front of my walker.  After all... I wanted to be legal!  You should have heard the laughter when I walked into the waiting area at rehab.  Laughter is indeed good medicine!

User comments

Before long, I had no need for the walker or those elastic stockings which are a b**** to get on. 


But wait... there is more to this story!  When I started getting these "electrical shocks" to my knee as it was healing, in my demented brain, I knew what it was all about!  My doctor... "Dr. B", being forward thinking , was indeed using me as his test subject for a SELF-DRIVING KNEE.  How cool is that?  And... he had a GPS implanted in the knee so that he could monitor my whereabouts from his phone! 


So, if you see a 73 year old woman using a walker suddenly veer from a parking lot to a major roadway... have no fear.  It is just me!  I am being monitored and my self-driving knee will immediately change course and hopefully keep me safe!  (Just a little more craziness!)


knee replacement Wed, 17 Apr 2019 13:35:00 GMT
El Gato and the Impatient Gardener Spring has sprung and so has my little cottage garden.  This will be the second year for the garden and of course, the question comes... what has survived from the previous year, and will I recognize it?  I go out each morning after breakfast to check on the progress.

The birds are chirping and fluttering from feeder to feeder.  They bring such simple joy to my life as I watch them.  They are getting braver as they see me so often and are becoming a bit more trusting but there is no bird like my Lucky, the mourning dove.  Lucky and I developed a relationship last year when he would walk up to me within arm's reach and we would talk.  He showed no signs of fear and this interaction happened again and again.


There are a myriad of birds visiting... the mourning doves, a white winged dove, a Eurasian dove (last year), purple finches, a chickadee, a robin, cardinals, blue jays, and grackles.  And of course there is a squirrel.  I have named him "Quirrel" and he too is becoming braver when I am in the garden.  Last year we had a toad and there are several little lizards (anoles) that call my garden home.  And I get especially excited when the butterflies, moths and dragonflies visit.

Purple Finches at the Feeder "Quirrel" in a Group Hug"Quirrel" in a Group Hug

There is also a cat who hides in the tall plants.  I never know when he is there as he makes no noise.  He always sees me before I see him, and he gets spooked when he sees me, and jumps out of the garden and runs to the fence.  Once at the top of the fence he will pause and watch me for a bit and then go down the other side.  I call him El Gato.  He is an "illegal alien" from the neighborhood and in spite of the wall/privacy fence, he gets in and out without difficulty.  I worry that he will harm a bird.

Gardening in Texas is difficult.  The heat is intense in the summer months and along with that comes the drought.  This spring, the wind has been frequent and strong but at least we have gotten occasional rain.  I am impatient to fill in the "holes" in my garden and have it look complete and consequently, I am impulsive when buying plants.  Mine is not a manicured garden but what I call a "cottage garden" filled with both natives, and perennials that hopefully will proliferate and return year after year, and then there are annuals for immediate satisfaction.  But... I want to learn more so what better way than to go to the FREE classes offered by North Haven Gardens in Dallas.  I love this nursery.  They have a huge selection of plants, a café, an art gallery and all of the employees are extremely knowledgeable and helpful.  Oh... and did I fail to mention their plant lists?  They are excellent!


I have attended classes on butterfly gardening, native plants, passionvines, and perennials.  The class on Tried and True Natives and Perennials was given by Rusty Allen.  There was uproarious laughter when he introduced himself and said "My name is Rusty and I have killed mint!"  Now, everyone knows it is next to impossible to kill mint!


When you have a very small garden, you must be careful of what you plant.  I do not want to deal with invasive plants.  Early in the season I went to a local nursery and came home with several plants, one of them being broom.  It had delicate little leaves and the most beautiful yellow flowers.  It was an impulsive buy and I had the perfect place for it, but before planting it, I checked it out on the internet.  Oh no!  What have I done?  It is extremely invasive and is highly toxic and is known to have killed cows!  Now, I don't have any cows in my little back yard but I do have two dogs.  I immediately returned it to the store and got my money back when I explained why I could not keep it.










Last year, an unknown plant popped up in my garden.  I had no idea what it was but it was green, had nice leaves and looked so healthy.  I watched it grow... and grow... and grow.  It was nearly as tall as me!  I was intrigued as to what it was.  Finally it bloomed and much to my dismay... it was goldenrod, but it really gave a pop of yellow color to the garden at a time when some plants were stressed by the heat and drought.

This year, in the same general area, I again saw a plant growing that I wasn't sure I recognized as one I had planted.  And then it was popping up in a couple more areas of the garden.  It got taller and taller.  I became suspicious.  Had the goldenrod reseeded?  I was not about to wait for it to bloom as it might take over my entire garden, so I donned my gardening gloves and started pulling it out.  The roots were huge and it took all my strength to pull them out. 

As I kept pulling, I suddenly saw feathers on the ground and then the remains of a grackle with only the head remaining.

I was so sad to see this and assumed that it was El Gato, hunkered down in the vegetation, who surprised the bird.  And in that same area of the garden I had a metal sculpture of a cat with some birdseed in it.  Little did I know that this was only adding to the problem bringing the birds into a cat's reach .  So I have pulled all the goldenrod and now will replant the area within the next week.

I love all animals and wish the cat no harm, but will watch for him as I do not want the birds put in jeopardy.


There is lots of trial and error in gardening.  My biggest mistake last year was planting sweet potato vine.  I love that bright chartreuse color in the garden and it actually grew very well... maybe too well, as I would fill half a garbage bin weekly with trimmed sweet potato vine just to keep it in bounds and prevent it from choking out the other plants.  I certainly made myself a lot of extra work!


So to all of you out there... Happy Gardening!  It is always an adventure!


Check out my two favorite nurseries:

North Haven Gardens in Dallas:

Covington's Nursery in Rowlett:

annuals cat cottage garden covington nursery el gato goldenrod invasive native plants north haven gardens perennials Sat, 06 May 2017 20:14:51 GMT
Old People Should Not Be Left Alone in the Garden! I cannot believe I am even entering this in my blog, but in retrospect, it is too funny not to!

My days often begin in my little garden.  I wander out in my nightgown (well, we do have a high fence!) and sit on my covered patio with camera in hand, and settle into my favorite chair and wait for the action to happen.  It is closer to 9AM when the garden becomes more active as that is when the butterflies start to flutter about.

I had not sat down for more than a minute when I saw some activity by the herb barrel.  A skipper butterfly had landed on the broken sun ornament.

From beneath the herbs, out comes the little anole in search of a good meal.  He sat there very still watching the butterfly before making his move, and then he suddenly lurched towards the butterfly, but the butterfly was quick and flew off, and the lizard scampered back into hiding amongst the herbs.

This scenario played out again, and that is when I got the "brilliant" idea of sitting on the little stool that was on the patio.  I moved it to the stone walkway in the garden to get a better perspective of the action and patiently waited... and then... it happened again!  But again, the butterfly got away and the lizard went into hiding.

While I sat there waiting for the next encounter, I looked around for another photo op and suddenly saw a wee tiny baby lizard on the head of the pug dog sculpture.  How cute he was!  I leaned a bit to get him in focus as I had my long lens on the camera and was really quite close, snapped the photo, and as I did so, the little stool suddenly gave way and threw me to the ground!  I was still holding my camera and had no way of catching myself!  HOLY CRAP!

Now, to a young person this is not a big deal, but as you get older and osteoarthritis sets in, it is difficult to put pressure on your knees to get up due to the excruciating pain.  As I lay there on my back with my camera still in my hands, I had no idea how I would get up.  I rolled to my side, knowing full well that I would have to somehow land on my knees.  As I lay there, I see the fireants coming my way!  Oh no!  I've got to do something... and quickly!  I called out to my husband for help, but little did I know that he was taking a shower and heard nothing!

So, I proceeded to position my knees on the grassy area between the stones and with much frustration and pain, finally got up and hobbled to the safety of my chair.  I lifted my camera and took a shot but it was totally whited out! 

Panic sets in!  Did I break my camera in the fall?  I repeat the action two more times with the same results, and then I realized that somehow the dial must have gotten turned to manual from the aperture setting in the fall.  I corrected the setting, took a shot of my poor stool, and it was sharp and appropriately exposed. 

Whew!  So glad I saved the camera!  Life is about priorities, you know!

I am now nursing sore knees, but in retrospect, it was a funny scenario.  My left knee used to be my "good" knee... but no more!  Getting old is not for sissies!

My lovely little stool with the honeybees on the seat is beyond repair, so I take the seat and place it on the mantel for now.  Yes, just another memory in the adventure of life!  It is good to be able to laugh at your own antics.  Laughter is good medicine... it helps the pain go away! 


adventure anole butterfly camera fall garden herbs old people photography skipper stool Sun, 30 Oct 2016 13:59:39 GMT
The Tornado Just Keeps on Giving I am a collector... of sorts!  I have collected bits and pieces of things I have loved or things that have held memories from the time I was a young girl.  After all... that is what a proper attic is for!  But in the newer houses in Texas, there is little storage space and the attic is nothing like the attic that I grew up knowing.  Our attic was nearly the full size of the house and was reached by permanent stairs behind a closed door. 

I loved to play in the attic as a child... so many cool things to discover.  I would dress up in old clothes that my mother had squirreled away.  Some were dressy and made of beautiful fabrics with rhinestone buttons and I would model them in front of the dusty mirror with boxes and pieces of furniture all around.  And my favorite piece of furniture was our old victrola.  As a matter of fact, I took it apart one rainy Saturday and then realized I could not put it back together.  Hmmm... I wonder what happened to it and what it might be worth today?

Once a year my mother would clean the attic... usually in August, probably the hottest month of the year in New Jersey.  And, of course, the attic had no air circulation and would feel like you were only seconds from landing on the sun!  Never once did I think to say to my mother that perhaps we should clean the attic in the spring.  We would sort through things, donate some things, repurpose others and what we didn't want, would go in a small bonfire.  That's how you did it back then.

Fast forward about 60 years and it brings us to today... almost a year, post tornado.  I was thankful for all the help from friends and family to salvage what could be salvaged from the debris of the tornado and now, when I look at what is in our two storage areas, I know that I never stopped collecting.  I have always loved glassware and tabletop collectibles, as well as photos, bits and pieces of paper treasures and those wonderful finds at garage sales and estate sales.  Oh!  And did I forget to mention my collection of rubber rats?  So many memories!

Yesterday I was going through another box of stuff and found  3 "nested" faux books decorated with flowers and butterflies.  As I un-nested the books, I found in the smallest one a little wallet of old photos from years ago that held photos of my classmates.  Most had a little something written by that person on the back.  Stuffed inside the plastic sleeves were also ticket stubs and a lock of someone's hair!  Yes... I was a collector... of sorts, even back then!  And then I pulled out a folded piece of paper that read "Ghost Town Menu". 

Cue up the scary music! 

I had no recollection of saving this, but how appropriate that I am finding this just before Halloween.  I thought it was terribly clever and well written and decided to add a few of my photos to go with it.  It is totally worthless except for the giggles it gives me so many years later.  And isn't that the joy of saving things... you can enjoy them again in years to come!  The top photo is the "tornado pasta" that I found in the hot refrigerator in the remains of the blown apart house, and then we have my friend "Mr. Bones" in his spaceship ready for take-off and then sitting in the cemetery.  Mr. Bones was saved from the tornado as he rode it out in the front passenger seat of my car (the "lalamobile").  You just can't make this stuff up!



Bones Halloween Rowlett, Texas collector ghost menu spaceship tornado town Wed, 26 Oct 2016 05:35:00 GMT
To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow... Thanks to the tornado... we have downsized from a two story home with soaring ceilings and light flooding into each room to a modest little cottage (as I call it), to end our days.  It is on one level with a living room, small dining area,  kitchen, bedroom, two baths, two computer rooms and a laundry room.  Just enough space... and not too much.  Oh... and did I forget to mention, a very small backyard with privacy fence?  This is the suburbs of Dallas, you know.

We are now in our 70's... a scary thought!  Where did the years go?  Life is different now.  Body parts ache that never ached before and I find that I tire more easily.  The hopes and dreams of younger days are gone.  Time is not on my side and I have come to see life differently.  I am thankful for each morning I can put my feet on the floor, stand up and enjoy the simple things in life.

But... I still need to "believe in tomorrow"!  I need something to look forward to.  I am not talking about expensive trips, or extravagant shopping forays, but simply, something to hold my interest on a daily basis.  I have become very frugal in my old age. 

The house we bought has a simple rustic stone path curving across the back and the side yard, behind an 8-foot privacy fence.  It is a shallow yard area with nothing planted and to the side of the house... a huge cottonwood tree.  Initially, I loved that tree until I found out that a cottonwood is one of the fastest growing trees and has menacing roots that had already infiltrated the foundation of the house.  Not good!  When the wind blew... the leaves sounded like the tinkling of rain, but I worried that the tree might fall on our house or the neighbor's house in a bad wind storm. It should have never been planted there.  It was a disaster waiting to happen... and I have had enough of disasters!  It was a spring day when I decided to eat lunch outside and found bits of "cotton" floating in the air, directly onto my lunch.  That's when I decided that the tree had to go!  Thanks to Danny and his crew from Arborworks, that tree became history in just a few hours!

My next plan was to have a flower garden.  This lousy clay soil is dreadful to dig in and there was no way I could physically do the digging, so I hired Covington's nursery to plant a Natchez crape myrtle and to dig a flowerbed along part of the pathway.  They amended the soil and dug me a proper garden... a lot of hard work in the heat of the unrelenting Texas sun and they did a marvelous job!

I watered the crape myrtle tree as instructed but suddenly, after a 107-degree day, the leaves were scorched and the tree looked to be dying.  So... was it transplant shock, and would it survive?  Very much like the tornado did to me... initial shock but then, a will to survive.  I did not give up hope and in a few weeks I saw some new green leaves emerging and even a few blooms and now the tree looks robust and healthy again!  Yes... to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow!

But wait... here is the problem.  I love nature.  I used to live in the country in New Jersey on nearly 3 wooded acres.  I loved it there!  It was quiet, peaceful and wildlife and wildflowers were outside my back door as well as a little brook and pond area.  Why did I ever move to Texas?  I still ask myself that on a daily basis!  I needed a bit of nature now, more than ever in my life, and I was determined to make my little flower garden my tiny oasis... my getaway... my escape.  I started planting a few perennials along with some annuals, things that I knew could survive the Texas scorching heat.  Summers are incredibly long and hot here and not all plants adapt and now, with the tree gone, I had no shade!  This would be a garden of trial and error.  A huge learning curve!

Did I have a plan?  No, not really... just flying by the seat of my pants.  If I liked it, it got planted, and very slowly my little garden was taking shape.  Those delphiniums that were so beautiful when planted, suddenly were looking sad as the summer heat wore on.  I do love blue in the garden, but was it a mistake to try to grow them here?  I don't know.  Only time will tell.  Some things lived and some things died.  My sunflowers that I planted from seed gave me great joy as they stood tall and faced the sun and I will definitely plant more next year.

And then I had a brilliant idea of planting some sweet potato vine to help fill out the garden and give it a pop of chartreuse color.  But... would they survive in the heat and sun?  I planted a few, and then planted a few more.  They not only survived but proliferated.  They were running rampant and trying to strangle the plants that were already there.  A couple times a week I would go out and clip them back and filled half a garbage bin on a weekly basis with the trimmings.  Yikes!  What had I done?  I sure made myself a lot more work and if I stood in one spot for any length of time, they might even strangle me!!

Each morning I start my day with my little black pug, Mollie Sue at my side, and we sit quietly in the garden together.  Living here is not like living in the country.  There is constant noise!  I have to tune out the drone of air conditioners, cars going by, dogs barking, children playing, planes flying overhead and the sound of sirens in the distance.  This is the price you pay for the convenience of shopping close-by, medical care nearly on your doorstep, and being close to family.  So many trade offs!

But suddenly, my attention is on the birds coming to the feeders... purple finches, cardinals, doves (Eurasian collared doves, white winged doves and mourning doves) and an occasional blue jay.

 And then unexpectedly I will see a shadow fly by and see a butterfly flitting amongst the flowers or a dragonfly perching on top of a stem. 

 How excited I was when I discovered a little green lizard.  I named him "Andy" Anole and before long there was another and I named her "Andrea" Anole.  And now, there are babies.  The one I call "Anatole" Anole and I have not yet named the other one. I sit and talk to them and they sit quietly as I ramble on. 

We play a game called "Spin the Lizard".  Here's the technique...

"Anatole" tries to hide in amongst the flowers in the hanging basket.. 
I am holding my camera and macro lens with my right hand.
My left hand is beneath the basket giving it a gentle spin.
"Anatole" pops his head up.
I stop the spinning basket and take a photo.

He hides... and we do it again!
Now, that's CrAzY!


I have had a similar experience with a mourning dove that comes each evening and sits with me and does not seem the least bit afraid.  He will come within arm's reach and we have a one-sided conversation but he will occasionally cock his head as though he is listening to me.  I have named him Lucky.  The one day he visited in the afternoon and was not about to let me out the back gate to pick up my grandson from school.  He would not budge until finally he saw me opening the gate and he took off.

And then there is the garden clown.  I call him "Quirrel".  He is a bit skittish but will go through all kinds of antics to get to the bird feeder and devour all the sunflower seeds.  And when he sees me... there is no time for small talk.  He takes off and climbs the fence holding on with his sharp little claws.

As I sit in my little cottage garden, I have my camera in my hands to document the activity in my urban oasis.  My biggest surprise came when I was shooting the fritillary caterpillars on the passionflower vine.  I was using my macro lens and concentrating on getting the caterpillar in focus and when I put the photo on the screen of the computer, there was a huge surprise!  Near the caterpillar was the one-and-only Andy Anole!  I shrieked with joy when I saw him and could not believe that he was right there and I never saw him as I was taking the photo. 

Honestly!  Photography is better than therapy!  It just keeps me happy.

It seems that each day there is a new adventure.  I look forward to my time spent in the garden and it has given me reason to believe in tomorrow!.       I invite you to come into my garden, sit for a while, smell the flowers and watch as the wildlife in my garden plays out.  There is never a boring day, but sometimes you must take the time to look a bit more closely for the beauty and drama as it unfolds. 

Yes... to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow!          



future garden hope Sat, 17 Sep 2016 16:58:29 GMT

It has been a little over 6 months since the tornado struck and destroyed our home.  Through the kindness of family, friends and strangers we have managed to see our way through a complicated maze in an attempt to put our lives in some kind of order.  There are no words to thank you enough for the help in retrieving belongings from the rubble left by the storm, for the gift cards and donations at a time when we were so overwhelmed that just going to the store to buy some underwear seemed a daunting task.

A caring e-mail meant so much and an invitation to have a simple breakfast or lunch at a local restaurant helped break the monotony of list-making and planning.  Every day another list of things to do, people to call and paperwork to fill out.  Each night I would fall into bed exhausted but still could not sleep as my mind was going 24/7, searching the remains of the house (in my mind), looking for things I had lost and wondering if they might have been found.  And rather than feeling refreshed in the morning, I was tired beyond belief... physically and emotionally exhausted.

Finding a place to live was of utmost importance.  Each morning I would pore over the real estate available as we had decided to buy rather than rebuild.  The long drawn out ordeal of rebuilding and all the decisions necessary were more than we felt we could handle at this stage of our lives and we certainly did not want to end up in debt.  We simply wanted to downsize to a single level home and return to some kind of normal... whatever that is!

So, to make a long story short, we found a house to buy and are now settling in.  It is nothing like our other home, and I will admit that I miss the architecture of the other house and all the light that filled each room but this house is considerably smaller, easy to live in, and I hope to make it a cozy place to end our days.

I crave normal.  Something as simple as fixing dinner takes my mind off of the ongoing to-do list, so yesterday I decided to make a Mexican Chopped Salad.  I love to cook and I love to try new recipes.  Most of my cookbooks are gone but there is no shortage of recipes on the internet and I like tweaking them a bit to make them my own.  I started by making the dressing.  Oil, lime juice, honey, and cumin.  A simple but tasty combination.  I then started chopping and tossing the veggies into a bowl.  Tomatoes, peppers, jicama, cucumber, romaine, onions, corn cut from the cob, cilantro and black beans.  But wait!  Where is my can opener?  I was sure I had it here.  But... there was no can opener to be found.  Probably in another box somewhere.

My dinner was nearly ready but I wanted those black beans in my salad, so off I go to the Neighborhood Market to buy a can opener.  I wonder to myself why beans cannot come in a container that does not require a special opener.  So... do the homeless have can openers?  After all... beans are cheap and you can eat them cold or hot and they are high in protein.

As I entered the market, an employee who I always see when I visit was standing there and I explained my dilemma and asked her if they sold can openers.  "Well, of course we do", she replied.  We headed off to find them and suddenly there at the end of an aisle were cans of beans and can openers!!  We got a good laugh out of that and she apologized that they did not have fancy can openers... you know... electric ones.  Heck... I just needed something to open the stupid can and this opener was ergonomically correct and had black handles... and you know I like black!  How lucky could I be!

I took off for home with can opener in hand and proceeded to finish fixing my dinner. 

Yes... that tornado just keeps on "giving" when you might least expect it.

For the recipe:


Mexican Chopped Salad National Eat Your Beans Day black beans can opener Sun, 03 Jul 2016 14:12:02 GMT
"D" Day... Demolition Day The tornado struck the day after Christmas at about 6:45PM and in a matter of 15 seconds we lost our home.  Our lives were turned upside down but the good news is... we and our two dogs survived as we took shelter in the bedroom closet.

It has been a long and arduous journey to reach "D" Day.  I have experienced every emotion possible in dealing with this disaster... tears, anger, frustration, impatience, thankfulness and even some levity to help me through it all.  I have seen the kindness of both friends and strangers who have come forward to help us pick up (literally) the remains of our lives and help us along our way to recovery, not to mention the ongoing support and hard work by our daughters and their husbands.  We could not have done it without each and every one of you! 


For those who know me, I often say that photography has saved my life so many times.  It takes me to a better place, helps me to focus on the moment and is a great stress reliever.  I have not been able to do as much photography as I would like since the tornado struck but am thankful that my son-in-law, Anthony climbed the ladder to the second floor of what remained of the house and found my camera amongst the debris.  He took a long piece of wood and picked the camera up by it's strap and lifted it to safety.  The camera was partially under debris and was covered with insulation but miracle of miracles... it still works!  Canon makes a tough product!  They have made a believer out of me!

Yay!  My camera was found!Yay! My camera was found!My son-in-law climbed a ladder to peer into my computer room on the second floor. The roof was gone and part of the room had dropped down into the bedroom and masterbath below. Along with it went almost 1,000 cookbooks and magazines. But he saw my Canon 5D Mark ll and pulled it to safety with a 2x4! And it still works!!! Canon makes a tough product, that's for sure!

Nearly every day, I would go to the remains of the house and find another bit of my life to salvage.  I became obsessed with finding what I could and could not sleep at night as, in my mind, I would still be searching and wondering if certain items had been found.  Each day that I would return to the house, more of the structure would have caved in and it was becoming more dangerous to enter some areas.  I could see things but could not safely get to them.


It was almost a relief when "D" Day came as it would mark the end to my searching and hopefully bring closure to this part of my life.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted.  Interestingly enough, demolition came on a day exactly 28 years from the day when we moved into the house.  My husband moved to Texas ahead of us and rented an apartment.  Our youngest daughter Missy and I came to Texas on Valentine's Day in 1988, stayed in the apartment that night and then moved into the house the day after Valentine's Day.  Who knew at that time how things would eventually play out 28 years later?


As painful as it was, I was there when the demolition took place.  I had my camera in my hands to help me stay focused.  I watched with tears in my eyes as the remaining walls came down with a thud and the dust of debris flew into the air.  As the monster machine pushed the debris into a pile, I thought about what a photo friend's daughter had written when she saw the house for the first time.  I actually only knew Rajesh from the photos he would post on-line but I got to meet him and his two lovely daughters when they came to "the house" on New Year's Day, 2016, to help pick through the debris to help salvage and box what might be found.  

Rajesh wrote... "I spent this New Year's day afternoon visiting and trying to help a photographer/blogger friend in Rowlett, Texas. My kids joined me and here is the experience narrated by Nayana, my 12 year old. The destruction is mind boggling. It was heart warming to see friends help each other out including total strangers."  In my 6th Grader Nayana's words...


"As we entered the house, I pulled my jacket up over my nose. Glass crunched under my shoes and dust particles and debris littered the ground. I looked up to see what used to be the roof. The beams were exposed, and it looked like an angry giant had punched through the ceiling. “So, this is what happens in a tornado” I murmured.

I walked out to the driveway where dozens of boxes were being packed with trinkets, posters and other things that had survived the tornado. So many people were busily moving about, packing, cleaning and helping. I wasn’t sure if there was anything I could do to help.

“How do we know Fay again?” my sister Anika asked. “Well, she is with me in the Rowlett Photography Group on Facebook and she needed help” my dad replied. “There she is”. He was looking towards a lady wearing a black coat, holding a cardboard box. Despite the fact that we were surrounded by destruction, she was smiling and laughing. She told us how she and her husband along with their two dogs had 15 seconds to take cover in the closet. Looking at the destruction all around us, it was a miracle there were no injuries to them.

There were still a lot of things visible inside the house and the garage that have not been retrieved. Perhaps it was unsafe to go into those areas. There were hard hats available and every one there including us wore masks, gloves and other protection. We spent the next hour or so trying to help loading some boxes and trying to stay out of the way of other people helping. We prepared to leave as the trucks were loaded up with Fay’s belongings headed to the storage facility in Royse City because all the storage facilities in Rowlett were full.

Since we had never seen such a calamity and we were in the area, we went to the car and took out my dad’s camera and walked around the neighborhood taking pictures of the incredibly sad scenes.  As we went around the road, I noticed how one house would be intact maybe with some roof shingles ripped off, and the next would completely be destroyed.

A man across the street had put some boxes of food, cups, boxes of soda and other things under a tent. The house behind him had only one fourth of it left standing. We walked across the rubble and crossed the hardwood floors now covered with dust. Everything was gone except a small part of a staircase which we found out later was where the three teenage boys in the house took shelter when the tornado hit. All of them miraculously escaped.

My dad asked the man if it was his house that was rubble now. He replied, “It is my sister’s house and her kids were in the house when the tornado hit. They stayed in the closet. That’s what kept them alive. One of them has cut on his arm and is in the hospital. But it could have been a lot worse”. The rest of the house that wasn’t standing was blown over and was sitting on its side.

We crossed the road to the other side where was similar destruction that was left behind by the tornado. We saw a stop sign that was turned 180 degrees and lay flat on the ground. I could look through the crushed sides of some houses and find myself staring out of another giant hole in the back.

We were about to leave and head home when my dad stopped. He looked across the street. “That” he said “is a symbol of the Texas spirit”. He was pointing to a flag that was attached to a tree. It was slightly battered, but its colors were bright. And the Lone Star stood defiantly in the midst of the destruction."



]]> Thu, 03 Mar 2016 18:13:03 GMT
The Rest of the Story The traffic was bumper-to -bumper as I headed to the local Target store a couple days post-tornado.  I needed to pick up some basic items but also needed underwear.  Oh... the things we take for granted until we have none!  It was the first time since the disaster that I felt just a bit "normal" as I drove to the store.  For a few minutes, in my mind, I put the immediate concerns aside and delighted in the normalcy of the drive. 


It didn't take me long in the store.  I was tired and hungry and looked for the shortest aisle to check out.  It was there that I saw an African American woman at the cash register.  She had such a kind and beautiful face and her earrings caught my eye as they were huge silver crosses.  As I loaded my things on the conveyer belt, she lightheartedly said... "How are you today?"  I could have simply said fine but instead, I said that I could be better, and told her that we had lost our home in the tornado.  With that she said that God had brought me to her aisle to check out.


I know she meant well but at that moment, I was hardly in the mood to hear the "God-thing".  I just wanted to get "home" and curl up in my cozy quilt and have some dinner.  So, I gently broke the news to her that I am an atheist.  I really did not want anyone trying to convert me in the midst of dealing with our loss.  She went on to tell me that she is an ordained minister and that she wished I did believe, but told me that God loves me anyway.  She said that she knows I have a good heart.  OK... so I have to admit, that response threw me.  I fully expected a negative response from her or more proselytizing.  At this point, I noticed that other people standing in adjacent aisles seemed to be listening in on the conversation.


She then told me that she had been in Katrina in New Orleans and lost everything including her brother and could empathize with my loss.  Suddenly the gal behind me interrupted and asked to buy a gift card.  She bought the gift card and handed it to me and said she wanted me to have it and told me how sorry she was for the loss of my home.  I was dumbfounded!  She was a complete stranger to me!  I said that I simply could not accept it as there were others in a far worse situation than I, but she insisted and gave me a big hug.  


With that, the cashier came out and gave me a big hug as well and held my hands as she talked to me telling me she was thankful I lived through the tornado and that the experience would make me stronger and that I would get through it just as she had done in the aftermath of Katrina.  Tears came to my eyes as I knew she understood how overwhelming it is when disaster strikes. 


I thought of that quote by Maya Angelou...  "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."


The random acts of kindness shown to me by Althea, the sales clerk, and Stephanie, the gal who bought the gift card, made me feel cared for at a time when I needed it the most.  I cannot thank them enough for their kindness on a day when I was feeling down and tired and just wanting to feel like my ordinary self again, bumbling through life.


I did write about their kindness on facebook and there were many complimentary comments on what they did that day; however, I did not include the part about my lack of belief and the discussion pertaining to that as I have seen much hatred and negativity in this community towards those of us who do not believe.  To my mind... religion is a very personal thing and we all must be tolerant of others' beliefs, and although Althea is a devout believer, she respected my right to not believe and did not force her religion on me, but rather she could empathize with my plight in my recovery from the tornado. 


My friend Troy wrote a beautiful entry in his blog about the Nature of God or the God of Nature:


A sincere thank you to you both for how you made me feel that day!  I will never forget you and will certainly pass it forward!

A special thank you to my daughter Missy for getting these photos with her cell phone following the tornado showing the damage to our home.


Maya Angelou quote Rowlett, Texas Target atheist caring random acts of kindness religion tornado Thu, 07 Jan 2016 14:36:20 GMT
A House is Not a Home Ahhh... I remember it well.  Our first "home"... an apartment in an old Victorian house at the top of a hill in Stockton, New Jersey.  We were newly married with dreams and aspirations of raising a family and of facing the future together.  With each new purchase to "feather the nest" our identity was forming.  And then, a baby was born and we named her Molly.


As life went on we moved to a rent house in the country.  I was a small town girl... grew up in Flemington, New Jersey, and grew up in the same house for my entire life.  My family home spoke of permanence and I liked a small town atmosphere as I knew so many people there.  It all had intimacy and meaning.  But this little  rent house in the country spoke to me, as I could walk through the woods to a little trout stream and I could marvel as the leaves changed colors.  There was little traffic on the road and I was at peace each time I would drive down the lane to home.


When my mother suddenly died in her sleep, my essence of home changed.  That house, my childhood home, would no longer be a safe haven.  I was looking for permanence and we chose to  buy a home in the country just outside of Frenchtown, New Jersey in Kingwood township.  This was still in my beloved Hunterdon County, so I was still "home", so to speak.  I wanted a place to raise our family, and then another daughter, Missy, was born.


Life growing up in the country was idyllic.  The girls could play in the brook that babbled through our few acres and we even had a small pond with frogs, minnows, tadpoles and occasional wildlife that would visit.  It was quiet and peaceful and the night sky was inky black with stars in abundance.  This was to be our forever home.  We had dogs and cats and throughout the years I continued to work as a critical care nurse to sustain our lifestyle and to grow in my career.  I watched the seasons change and over time, we all changed.


The year was 1988 when my husband was offered a job in marketing for the Garrett metal detecting company.  He had always been in retail sales and I had hoped this would be a major accomplishment for him to take the job that was offered because of his passion for his hobby of metal detecting.  It was Christmas time... the lights were still glowing on the Christmas tree, I could smell the wood smoke from the fireplace and he packed his bags and left for the great state of Texas and we were to follow a couple months later. 


Molly was in college at Penn State and Missy was a junior in high school.  It would be a move from the only home they had known.  I was left with the daunting task of packing up a house of collectibles and paring down to make the big move thousands of miles across country.  I was not excited but rather, in tears, as I did not in any way want to leave this place that had become home to our family.  It was here that we had memories of our lives as a family.  It was here that I felt safe and insulated from the outside world.  This is where our lives had played out.


You see... home is more than just a place to hang your hat.  A home is a place where you make love, and yes, sometimes war... a place that feels safe and secure.. a place to welcome friends and family.  A place where you can be where nothing else matters.  It speaks to routine on a daily basis.  It's where you come after a long and hard day at work.  It is where you laugh, you cry, and you are at peace with the world.  I was losing all of this to travel to a "strange new land" called Texas that I had never even wanted to visit, let alone, move to, but I was not going to be the one to hold him back from what was hoped to be a bright future.


We moved to a brand new home that was extravagant compared to where we had lived in New Jersey.  Housing is much cheaper in Texas.  We proceeded to set down roots and form a new life here in the land of guns and cowboys, BBQ and jalapenos, and people who really did talk differently.  If I heard the term "fixin' to" one more time, I thought I would scream, but I did pick up on the phrase "y'all" as opposed to "you guys"!


Several years later my husband lost his job and was back in retail, this time at a bookstore.  Texas had become our new home and the thoughts of once again packing up and moving was more than I could bear.  I had settled into my job as a critical care nurse in my new hospital close to home, Molly graduated from college and went on to get her CPA and Missy would be going to the University of North Texas to pursue an education in music.


For 13 years I gave the ICU Christmas party and would have about 40 guests.  Some years it came complete with a Santa (thank you Wayne) as well as an Elf (thank you Sheila).  We entertained new found friends and memories once again developed.  Our girls married and had lives of their own.  I continued to have a passion for cooking and my photography became more than just documenting family happenings, it became a burning passion that continues to carry me into my life today.  Our home had once again become a place of memories but it has always distressed me to live in suburbia with traffic and strip malls rather than nature outside of my window.


For the past couple years since retiring from 45 years of critical care nursing,  I had not put up a Christmas tree.  It seemed like too much work as we would only pass it on our way to our computers.  We no longer entertained and life was indeed changing in so many ways as we entered our 7th decade of life.  We have three amazing grandchildren and enjoy watching our daughters and their families as they begin their own family traditions in their homes.  This time in our lives was about following our passions and simplifying our lives to our own expectations and no one elses!


The sky was getting dark and I flipped on the weather to see what was happening.  After all... this is Texas and storms can be a big deal.  A threat of a tornado south of Dallas in Ellis county.  I continued to watch the path of the storm and initially it looked like it would go west of us but as it drew closer to Dallas we were indeed in the path of the storm.  What we were seeing outside was grey skies and thunder, lightning and some rain, but it was unsually warm for Texas, the day after Christmas... about 80 degrees and there was a cold front butting up to this causing rotation which can spawn tornados.  Suddenly, the sirens went off signaling to take cover in a "safe place".  No... we do not have basements and few have tornado shelters so we did what we always do with one of these alerts, we retreated to the bedroom closet with both dogs on their leashes, flashlights, phones, radio and TV blaring so we could hear the updates. 


Suddenly our phone rang and it was a friend from long ago.  Bill was the head of the southwestern weather service out of Fort Worth and was calling to say we were in the direct path of the storm and to take cover.  There was no time for chit chat and moments later it hit!  Suddenly we heard wood splitting, glass shattering, walls caving and rain and wind and noises like we had never heard before as treasures collected over a lifetime went crashing to the floor and the roof caved in.  Thankfully, the closet proved to be the safest place in the house. 


And then suddenly it went totally silent!  I asked my husband if he thought it would be safe to open the door and then ever so cautiously I opened it a crack.  It was pitch black as we had lost power.  I shined my flashlight out into the bedroom to see broken glass everywhere, beams and roofing all over the bedroom floor along with fractured memories.  The bedding had been stripped off the mattress and there was what at first looked like sawdust flying in the air but it had a strange smell.  I later determined that it was insulation from the attic that had been treated with boric acid to keep the rats from building a home in our house in lieu of an outside home.  Yes, we are ALL looking for a safe place to call home and though I love all animals, I battled them tooth-and-nail to keep them from calling our home, their home. 


We could hear screams in the neighborhood and soon heard some voices outside.  We called out and waved our flashlight and two fellas stepped... yes, literally stepped into our now wide open house as there were no walls to hinder them and little left of the roof except for over our heads in the closet and assisted us in navigating the debris to leave our home.  My little black pug, Mollie Sue was so frightened and was unable to walk over the rubble and broken glass so one of the fellas gently lifted her into his arms and carried her as he held onto my hand to steady me as we walked through broken memories.  I was in total disbelief as the flashlight only showed more and more devastation as we picked our way to the door.  But the front door was jammed and we were afraid that if we dislodged it, the small amount of roof remaining might come crashing down on our heads.  Two of the walls in the living room were entirely gone but there was too much debris to climb over to get out.  But... there in the rocking chair sat my "special friend" Lucy.  The tornado had blown her wig off but she was intact but definitely speechless. 


We proceeded to the dining room where I saw my mother-in-law's silverplated sugar spoon on the floor amidst rubble.  The hutch had toppled over with all it's glassware and was blocking our path to get out.  The one fella lifted it out of the way and we proceeded to the kitchen and out the back door.  No need to open the door as the glass was gone.  The fence was gone from our tiny backyard and our cars were still intact (miraculously) in the driveway.  I jokingly said that it looked like all my bumperstickers were in place and Mr. Bones sat quietly inside.  (My husband later expressed shock that I would put a humorous spin to it all, but humor has served me well through the years.)


The smell of gas was oppressive and I could hear it hissing from the gas line.  Fire trucks with flashing lights were out front and they were rescuing injured neighbors.  Our neighbor, Diane approached with blood on her shirt from helping the injured and traumatized.  We stood in awe to see what was once "the neighborhood".  The house across the street had no walls standing... just rubble on the ground.  Thankfully only one person at home and he got out safely.  Other homes severely damaged as was ours.  That majestic live oak that towered over our house that I had personally planted and watched grow through the years was now nothing more than a broken stump.  I stood there looking in disbelief.  The smell of gas was strong, there were wires down and our son-in-law, Anthony had arrived in response to our call saying the house was destroyed.  We evacuated the area in fear that there might be a gas explosion and were given safe haven at their home, also in Rowlett.


On the way out of the house, my old digital camera had been sitting on the table with a 50mm lens attached and I grabbed it.  Seemed like a crazy thing to do but I couldn't help myself.  I lifted the camera to my eye but between low light and shaking from the trauma of the event, every quick photo was nothing but a blur... but then again, how appropriate... as that is exactly how my life felt at that moment... all the while looking through a lens that is supposed to depict life as the human eye sees it, however horrible that might be.


We returned the next day in a cold downpour of rain to retrieve a couple personal items and wallets that we had left behind.  It was mind numbing what we saw.   The wall by the fireplace was completely gone but the large green glass jug that I loved so much had toppled over but was still intact.  Two walls of the living room gone and from outside the rubble, the coffee table still sat there with all the decorative items as if nothing had taken place, though the couch was flipped over.  And our glass dining room table with both glass top and glass supports with only little brass brackets that held the glass supports together... that was also intact with no breakage on initial quick inspection.  But out to the side of the house I found my friend Lucy.  Broken at the torso, with an arm missing as she lay in the mud with rain in her face.  There must have been another gust of wind that propelled her there after the initial tornado.  Nature works in strange ways.


In the kitchen, the wind had forced open kitchen drawers and the kitchen table had been picked up and moved and the glass top was now only shards of glass scattered all over.  Our little back privacy fence was totally gone and looking up at the house from behind... the upstairs area where we spent so many happy hours on our computers was obliterated and precariously hanging together but destroyed and unable to get to the area safely to see what might be retrieved, if anything.


And now... the daunting task of where to begin and what happens next?  We emerged from this tragedy with our lives intact and with our pets at our side.  This was definitely not how I planned to downsize in my old age.  It was not until this morning that the reality has struck and the tears have started to flow.  My most precious loss is of my photos that I may well never retrieve except for in my mind.  I had just begun to digitize old slides and negatives and now they are gone... destroyed by wind and rain, never to be seen again. 


I have a friend who would never think of posting a photo of hers on the internet... too public, someone might steal the photo or, worse yet, make money from it.  And granted, that is very wrong and not ethical, but if I had not posted my myriad of photos and memories on the internet, they would be totally gone forever except for in my mind.  I proudly say that I do have a presence in cyberspace and if you google my name, various photo sites will come up.  And now, I can only wish I had posted more and wish I had put photos in the cloud as I have no idea if I will find my hard drives and old DVD's in what is left of life as I knew it.


So today I will revisit the disaster area with camera in hand to take a few photos of what was once my life... a lifetime of collecting, a lifetime of memories.  People say... it is only "stuff" but to some (like me), that stuff held incredible memories.  I was a decorator's nightmare as I loved my "stuff" displayed all over the house.  There was little bare wall space and lots of things to look at.  My stuff was comforting to have around me.  Each item recalled a story or a memory.  This sentimentality began when my mother died without my having a chance to say good-bye or "I love you".  The things she touched in her every day life became treasures to hold onto. 


So over the next weeks I will sift through the rubble, salvaging what I can and parting with some of my remaining treasures.  It is a painful process but it must be done before the bulldozer takes the remains of our house to a landfill.  I am so thankful for all the friends and family who have given their support over these harrowing days and who have offered to help in the process.  You are indeed helping me to "hold it together" and even new found photo friends that I have made on the internet have given support.  You have only made me more passionate for the hobby... if that is even possible.


I will have to be selective as to the photos I take, for I have no computer to post them to and one photo card available at this point.  Sort of reminiscent of film days, don't you think? 


My life at the moment will go on, but my house is gone.  My home is gone.  But... the memories linger.   Where life will take me from here, I do not know.  We do not write the script but live each day as it is given to us.  One day at a time... I learned that from a friend who has battled cancer now for the fourth time in his life... a pillar of strength and positive thinking, and I personally need to muster up as much of that as I possibly can.  For now I will try to remain calm as worrying won't help matters,  and I must be content that I am still here and hopefully things can only get better.    

Rowlett, Texas debris heartache home loss sentimentality tornado Mon, 28 Dec 2015 13:41:53 GMT
Quirky is Good Have you ever been to a place that speaks to your heart? A simple place? A bit of a quirky place? A place where you feel at home; although, it is nothing like the home you remember? 

And so it was as we entered the main street of Medicine Park, Oklahoma. This was my very first view of Main Street while doing some "drive-by" shooting. Tiny cobblestone buildings painted in a rainbow of bright colors, ducks and geese walking the street, welcoming chairs at the entrance to the shops. No strip malls, no fast food, minimal traffic and a river runs behind it (Medicine Creek)! And just down the road... the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

Medicine Park is the epitome of quirky.  On the way into the little town, I had to shoot the huge praying mantis sculpture on the front lawn with a man reading a book near the doorway of his home.  Now that's quirky!  Town consists of a few stores along one side of the street with an assortment of eclectic items for sale... probably none of which anyone truly needs but interesting, none the less.

My friend Mary and I were traveling together and as we came into town, the Plantation Inn where we would be staying, was on our right but we had to go on down to the Plantation Inn Restaurant to check in.  It was a good thing we got our reservations when we did as there was an Art Show in town for the weekend.  Mary requested two keys so that we could both come and go as we wished.  Well... they demanded a $50 cash deposit for the second key which would be returned when the key was returned.  That is crazy but she paid the $50 and then, there was difficulty getting the second key to work in the door anyway.

The Heard Nature Photography Club had planned this outing to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.  I have actually been there previously and had a marvelous time and wanted to return in hopes of shooting more wildlife and some scenic vistas. 

The day was overcast but it felt good to be out of the Texas heat and there was a stiff breeze blowing.  We headed to the top of Mount Scott.  On the way up, we stopped to take some photos and marveled at the biker with legs strong enough to pedal to the top.  We definitely will not be trying that anytime soon!  Here is the view from Mount Scott.

From there, we took a drive through the refuge.  We saw some areas that had been burned previously and did not see as many animals as I had seen on my previous springtime visit.  Everything looked very brown but I was excited when I got this shot of a buffalo.

We met up with some other members of the club and photographed a few of the prairie dogs that are always such fun to watch as they dig furiously and occasionally will give a call of distress to warn the others of possible imminent danger.  And when in danger, they duck into their holes/tunnels for safety.  Some of the prairie dogs looked exceptionally fat, like they might explode at any minute and we laughed as we watched them.

The next morning a group of photogs were going out to shoot sunrise.  I opted to shoot the river instead and to sleep in a bit longer.  Unfortunately, sunrise was a bust as it was clouded over.  I met up with my friend Deanna on the river and we had fun shooting together.  The river runs along the back side of the little stores in town and there is a bit of a rickety bridge for car and pedestrian traffic to cross and in the distance you can see what I dubbed the "Twin Towers"... actually, the Comanche County Rural Water District towers.  These could be seen far off in the distance when we were on the top of Mount Scott.

 We also wandered the Art Festival.  I talked with Brent, a fella who makes Native American flutes.  He was originally studying to be a chemical engineer when his nephew bought him a flute and that prompted him to research it further and then he started making flutes out of various woods and embellishing them as well.  When I went to his website, I was overwhelmed with the sound of the double flute.  To read more of his story... 

And then there was Reian,  a portrait painter.  His portraits exhibited such emotion and I could not help but be drawn in by the eyes and all the realistic details that he had captured.  He was delightful to talk to and I could feel the intense love that he has for his art. 

And I will never forget the woman who had a food truck at the festival.  She told me she had worked in an Emergency Room as an LVN but when the hospital told her she would have to get her RN to maintain her nursing position, she felt it was too late in life to pursue that goal and not only that but she was fighting breast cancer.  She was working during the week and taking her food truck out on weekends.  It was a big turning point in her life and she was pleased to report that she is doing well following her chemo treatments and I wish her well!  

And then I met a fella who has a little shop that he feels fortunate to have found when he did.  As we were chatting, my back was aching and he offered me his cane.  He reached out and handed it to me, saying he really didn't need it any more and to take it... it was mine.  It seems that he had a back injury about 6 months ago but is now doing much better and not needing that cane.  He said when he was coming into town on weekends to run his shop, that he was sleeping in his car, and because of this, the police had a warrant for his arrest and that pushed him to get a trailer to sleep in.  He was so friendly and I wished we could have talked longer.

A stranger approached me as he saw two cameras around my neck.  His name was Kris.  It seems he loves photography as well but was recuperating from a brain infection which caused him problems in walking and general motor skills as well as his speech.  He credits Chinese herbs for overcoming these disabilities following a hospitalization and he is now able to walk and speak appropriately.  Previously he had loved doing strenuous hikes and worked in places so he could visit the national parks on his off-days.  He loves nature and still shoots film but he has recently started taking digital photos with a small Canon camera.  He pulled it out of his pocket and shared his photos with me and they were excellent!  He said his father was so worried when he was sick as he had already lost a son to a heart attack and another to AIDS.  How sad for that family!

And have you heard the story about the dog that goes into the bar?  Be sure to read Jamie and Sean's story... 

As I was walking down the steps from our room at the Plantation Inn, a woman spoke out and said hi and asked how I was.  I jokingly said that I would be better if they would put a handrail by the steps.  Following that, we chatted for a bit.  Her name is Kathy and she has a shop in Medicine Park called Kathy's Caravan of Beads.

All the people I met were fun-loving, open, talkative, welcoming and seemed in tune with the simple things in life.  What a magical combination of serendipity!  Is it any wonder that I fell in love with Medicine Park?  And each time I would "disappear", my patient traveling companion, Mary, would immediately know that I was in deep conversation with a stranger.

We had difficulty returning our $50 key as when we were ready to check out Sunday morning, the Plantation Inn Restaurant was locked up and dark inside.  We frittered away some time driving through the refuge in pouring down rain but seeing no animals, we decided to grab some breakfast after making a call to find out that perhaps someone would be available around 10AM to return our key deposit, so, Mary and I went to Cock-Eyed Bob's for breakfast and we no sooner walked in and I heard someone say... "Hi Fay!"  Now who could that be?  And then I realized it was Kathy!  Now honestly... would that ever happen in Dallas?  I very much doubt it.  She invited us to sit at her table and we had a nice chat.

Following breakfast we were attempting to drive to the Plantation Inn Restaurant to return the key but the main street was blocked for the art festival.  One kind vendor pulled aside the barrier in an attempt to help us get to our destination in the torrential rain but before we knew it, a cop appeared and that ended that.  We finally had to park back at the Plantation Inn and fortunately, Mary had a very large umbrella and hoofed-it through town and finally got her $50 back and we were "home free" after that little snafu! 

All in all, it was a fun weekend with photo friends and was made even better thanks to all the wonderful strangers I met along the way!


Art Festival Cock-Eyed Bobs Medicine Creek Medicine Park Native Amercan flute Oklahoma Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge artists buffalo killdeer painting portrait Mon, 28 Sep 2015 15:54:56 GMT
Just a Big Bully! POOCH PLUNGE 2015 

They say summer is winding down but you sure couldn't prove it by me as the Texas heat remains brutal but school is starting this next week in Texas and that definitely marks the end to summer as we know it.  Not only that, but the community pools close down as well.  It has become a tradition, on the last day of pool season, to open the pool to dogs and their humans.  Being an avid dog-lover, there was no way I was about to let this pass me by, so I grabbed my camera and went to the Wet Zone in Rowlett to do some photography.

Pooch Plunge 20015 would take place from 4PM until 7PM.  It cost $10/dog and their humans got in for free.  All dogs had to have proof of rabies vaccination.  When I arrived, the dogs and their humans were lining up waiting to get checked in.

Being a human with no dog (I left mine at home), I moved to the front of the line and had immediate access.  I no sooner arrived and I could feel the sweat beginning to trickle down my face, so I pulled up a chair in the shade of the building and started shooting.

Shooting an event such as this is such a challenge.  Most of the dogs are off-leash and running and playing in and out of the water.  There is no time to plan a shot, you simply grab what you can.  There were way too many butt shots... both dogs and humans and lots of deletes!  I decided to shoot with my 100-400mm lens in an attempt to isolate bits and pieces of the activity. 

Before long I ran into my friend Chris from the Rowlett Photography Club and she was there to shoot as well.

I wandered around the pool area to find a mother and her two children and little dog in the water.  They were in a quiet part of a shallow pool area and I was thinking to myself it would have been fun to see how my little black pug, Mollie Sue, would have responded to being in water and this would have been a good introduction as it was away from the crowded main pool and the frenzy of dogs and people. 

I was getting ready to photograph this family as they were in the water with their little dog when suddenly this big bulldog came diving into the water making a huge splash to the surprise of everyone... his humans as well as those already in the water.  With a quick click of the shutter button, this is what I captured. 

So I caught the mother looking up in amazement, the little boy protecting himself from the splash and the little girl cuddling/protecting her little dog and looking like she might burst into tears as her hand protects them from the water-crazy bulldog!  

In the next frame, I captured the bulldog's human reaching out to pull him out of the water, which was no easy feat as that dog was hefty!  He was probably having the time of his life and I couldn't help but laugh at his antics!  I am definitely partial to any dog with a smooshed looking face and I do love bulldogs. pugs, Bostons and Frenchies!

Little snippets of fun were playing out as I watched the activity.  Every time I saw this poodle, she had this little toy in her mouth.

And then, the bulldog approached her with some words of wisdom...

Most of the dogs were having so much fun you could almost hear them laughing but then I saw this befuddled little dog...

To see more of the fun, check out the slideshow!  All breeds and sizes of dogs playing, swimming and having fun!  Life is good when you're a dog!

Pooch Plunge 2015 Rowlett, Texas Wet Zone bulldog bully dogs pool summer water Sun, 23 Aug 2015 02:39:36 GMT
"Hey Lady! You Can't Do That!"

Several years ago I went to Central Market in Dallas for their Hatch Chile Festival.  I pulled into the parking lot and I was in luck... they were roasting the peppers right outside of the door and it smelled wonderful!  I brought my camera along as I was hoping to get a shot of them roasting the peppers.  I could see the flames licking around the roasting peppers and lifted my camera to my eye and suddenly heard someone yell... "Hey Lady!  You can't do that!"  Say what?  I took the camera away from my face to see a hefty security guard getting out of his little vehicle with a flashing light on top, and he looked like he meant business!  HOLY CRAP!  Now what have I done?  I could just see the headlines:  "Woman Jailed for Shooting Hatch Chiles"

He came over to me and explained that "NO PHOTOGRAPHY" is allowed!  OK... so let me get this straight.  I am living in Texas where people can carry guns but I am not allowed to shoot peppers with a camera in a parking lot.  Something is very wrong here!  And no... I did not get the shot and proceeded to leave before he pulled out handcuffs and hauled me away or perhaps, confiscated my camera!

Fast forward to one year later.  I am determined I am going to shoot the peppers and decided to try my luck at the "legal" way to do it, so I called Central Market and told them that I would like to get permission to shoot the roasting of the Hatch chile peppers outside of the store.  The gal was very pleasant and immediately connected me with someone who might help... and help she did!  After explaining my dilemma trying to shoot the peppers the previous year, she said she could definitely help me.  First she wanted a "shot list".  Now, I did explain that I was just an amateur photographer and, by no means, a professional and would not make money from these photos.  So... I played by the rules and sent a shot list showing interest in shooting the roasting of the peppers outside of the store as well as the little display of a yellow truck with boxes of peppers that was also outside the front door, and maybe a close-up shot of the peppers as well.

And the answer to my request... yes, it would be possible but she would have to be with me at the time.  OK... so, no problem.  We arranged a date and time and I showed up at the store with camera in hand and met my contact person.  She stayed with me while I got multiple shots (and no security or flashing lights interrupted the photo shoot!).

And what she said next just blew me away!  She asked if I would like to shoot inside the store as well.  HOLY CRAP!  YES!  You see... I love Central Market!  I love food, I love to cook and yes, I love photography!

We proceeded into the store and she introduced me to the produce manager who was such a pleasant guy.  As she walked me through the store, we chatted and I quickly got some more shots as I did not want to take up her time.  I really did appreciate her allowing me to do this.

So once again, the Hatch Chile Festival is in full swing and I am craving the smell of the roasting peppers and will head off to get some to cook with.  I decided to put together this blog post but what I realized is... that all the photos I had taken were not edited to my liking, so I returned to the editing process, and I guess that is a good thing!  It shows growth and a better understanding of what can be done when editing the raw files.

A special thank you to Central Market for allowing me to photograph the chiles!  This year's festivities will be from August 5-18, 2015.  Head on over there and pick up some Hatch Chiles from New Mexico before they are gone.  Check out: for more information about Hatch chile peppers and to get some recipes.  

Central Market Dallas Hatch Chiles Hatch Fest Hatch Festival New Mexico No Photography Allowed Scoville Scale chile peppers Thu, 13 Aug 2015 17:10:57 GMT
They're everywhere! They're everywhere! THE SPIDER WEB CAPER

7/25/2015... It was a lovely weekend morning when I grabbed my camera and headed to Lake Ray Hubbard to photograph the kayakers.  It was hot... after all, this is Texas and we are in the middle of the summer, but I just wanted to get out to shoot something.


After spending about 30 minutes shooting at Paddle Point, I could feel the sweat trickling down my face.  It was at that point that I decided to drive across the road to the other area of the lake to see if there might be a few birds to shoot before heading home to the coolness of the house.

I looked out to the lake where sometimes there are birds but only saw a couple ducks.  Prospects were not good.  I scanned the area for any other possible photo ops when I suddenly saw a huge... like ginormous, humongous spider web right across the road that was enveloping the trees.  This was no ordinary spider web!  This was more like the web I had photographed back in 2007 at Lake Tawakoni except that one was even bigger than this one and had drawn entomologists from all over the country to study it and the spiders that made it. 

The web was so creepy looking that I had to go over and get a better look. 


It went to the tree tops and included many trees.  It was so thick that you could not walk between the trees unless you wanted to become tangled in the web. 

I started taking photos.  A biker came along and saw me shooting the web and remarked that he had been by there just a few days before and never saw the web.  So did they build it that quickly or was he just not paying attention?  A young family gawked from the other side of the road and they were spooked by it, as were the children.  They said it looked like Halloween!  (Agreed!)

At first I did not see the spiders.  I got closer and then I saw them... all sizes!  Some inside of the web and some outside of the web.  They were all busy doing what spiders do and I could see little bugs caught in the web.  A delectable spider dinner, no doubt!  I continued to shoot photos trying to get macro shots of the spiders for an ID.  The most prominent spider appeared to be the same as was at the Tawakoni web... a long jawed spider, possibly a Guatemalan long jawed spider, but there were other spiders too.

Spider Patrol Long Jawed Spider  














At this point I am dripping with sweat and feeling lightheaded and decided to call it a day.  As I turned, there was a large piece of the spider web that had broken free from a branch and was floating in the air and I could feel it hit my face.  For anyone watching from afar it was probably a funny scene to watch me flailing about swatting the web off my face and fluffing my hair with my hands and then dancing around brushing my clothing in hopes that there were no spiders on me.  Definitely time to go home!! 

I arrived home, got out of the car to find a grasshopper on the window screen.  He did not seem one bit afraid of this sweaty human being who had been battling spiders, and I mustered up what strength I had left to get some shots of him before he jumped away.


The next evening I decided to return to the web and try to use my off-camera flash with my macro lens on a tripod to see if I could get a better spider shot.  Well, I failed miserably.  The original hand held shots were actually better.  I became interested in watching a wasp caught in the web and then only about 12 inches from where I was shooting, I saw a cicada caught in the web, upside down and twirling on a strand of the web.  Every once in a while I could see him attempt to get free but without success.  I repositioned my flash and lens to catch the drama taking place.  I was quite sure he was about to become "Thanksgiving dinner" for the spiders.  He had twirled to a bad angle and I gently blew on the bug to get him to turn in better position to shoot.  I fired off a bunch of shots and then tried it again and got a few more shots.  The next time I blew much harder and to my amazement, it was just enough to free him and he went flying off!  Free at last!  I was ecstatic... as was he!  And to think that I almost missed the drama that was only a foot from where I had been shooting.  With that, I called it a day and took my sweaty self home. 

It was not until a couple days later that the bites started to appear.  No... not spider bites but chigger bites!  The chiggers had gotten me!  I never thought to spray myself before entering the weedy area.  The joys of living in Texas!  At least the spiders did not mummify me in their web! 

So much for the Spider Web Caper!

Lake Ray Hubbard Rowlett, Texas cicada humongous spider web lake long jawed spider nature spider spider web Sun, 09 Aug 2015 15:27:10 GMT
On Death and Dying

A Strange Way To Celebrate... Or Is It?

No... none of us can get out alive.  This may sound morbid, but it is true.  At some point it will all come to an end.  For some, it happens all too soon and for others, the process of dying can be long, drawn out and painful.  It is something we seldom talk about.  Death is far removed from our everyday life until it strikes a friend or family member.  It is at times such as this that we more seriously contemplate our own mortality and put life in perspective.

The statistics are telling us that we are living longer than ever before.  We now have medications and treatments that were never before possible, but when that time comes... what are your wishes?  Have you discussed your wishes with your family?  Have you filled out an Advanced Directive telling what your wishes are?  Does your doctor know what your wishes are?  And then, what if you change your mind?  (Yes... you always have the right to change your mind.)  These are all important questions to ask, as I truly believe that each of us should have a say as to how our life will end, when possible .

Having worked as a critical care nurse for 45 years at the bedside, I have seen death up close and personal.  I have talked with patients and their families about their wishes.  I have been there to prepare the families as well as when patients have taken their last breath and I have been there to comfort the families.  As a professional, it is important to be objective and non-judgemental.  Never would I impose my own personal beliefs at a time like this but rather, I would be supportive to the beliefs of the patient and family.  This is so very important.

You see, I do not believe in a heaven or hell.  When life is over... it is over; however, I have seen religion comfort families believing their loved one is going to heaven to be with someone else who they loved.  This comforts many families at such a difficult time in their lives.  There are a multitude of cultural implications at the time of death and many ways to handle it.  As a nurse, I was there to comfort the family and to provide pain relief to the terminally ill patient and to respect their wishes and never to interject my own beliefs.

Most of the time, the patient would be put on a morphine drip and the rate of the drip would be titrated to comfort.  I always explained that it may indeed hasten death in that it might drop the blood pressure further or diminish the respirations but it would promote relief of pain and anxiety.  The family would express understanding as they sat at the bedside watching the drug take effect.  This was no doubt a time of reflection, thinking of their loved one in years past as well as reflecting on their own mortality.

Compare a death such as this with one where there is a cardiac arrest and the patient is suddenly unresponsive.   In the hospital, alarms sound and doctors and nurses begin CPR, putting tubes in your throat, and needles in your veins to give emergency medications in an attempt to restore life; however, not all patients would want this.  I think if there is a reasonable chance of survival, most people would want to take that chance but for many, their past history with debilitating illness may cause them not to want this aggressive approach. 

But who makes the decision as to how aggressive treatment should be?  Each individual person needs to make his own decisions, and these decisions can be made long before the time comes in the form of an advanced directive.  This is quite simply, a document (known as an Advanced Directive or Living Will) telling your wishes to both your doctors and your family when you are faced with a terminal condition.  It also lists who you would choose to make these decisions if you were incapable of making them based on the contents of your Advanced Directive.   It does not require a lawyer to fill out but rather two witnesses to your signature who would not benefit in any way from your demise.  No money changes hands when you fill out such a document.  I personally filled one out years ago before having an ablation procedure to my heart. 

The problem comes because few people talk with their families or fill out such a form.  It is not until faced with a critical situation that this may come up and for this reason we are again hearing about physicians talking with patients about their wishes and Medicare is now going to reimburse doctors for their time to do so.  Medical care is very different from years ago.  The human body can be kept alive for extended periods of time thanks to drugs and what we call life support, such as ventilators and dialysis.  Technology is amazing!  

Unfortunately patients do not have a full comprehension of what this may entail.  It may be beneficial to some or it may prolong their misery and pain without quality of life and this is where the doctor must provide guidance as well as information.  To not do that, would be ethically wrong in all due respect to their patients.  Do you want to be resuscitated or do you want to be a "DNR" (do not resuscitate)?  Do you want a feeding tube?  Would you want to be an organ donor and what does that entail?  So many questions! 

I guess the thing that troubles me a bit, is that doctors will be getting paid for this conversation and my understanding is that each time it is brought up, they can charge again and be paid by medicare or the insurance company.  To my mind, it should simply be a part of quality care for the patient.  I do understand that time is money, but somehow it does not seem right to bill for this.  It is quite simply, the ethical and right thing to do.  We will hear much more about this in the coming months.

If I could choose how I would want to die, I would want to be at home in my own bed covered with a special quilt, with my little dog by my side,  and my loved ones in attendance.  I would want drugs to help me pass on as peacefully as possible as opposed to being in a hospital connected to a multitude of tubes and wires with strange noises and alarms in the background.

If the time came when I knew I was terminal and chose to end my life, I would personally want the opportunity to make that decision and choose euthanasia.  Of course, the laws have not yet caught up with this scenario.  I truly believe we all have a tolerance level and it is a very personal decision that only that individual could make for himself/herself. 

In my career I have seen both good deaths and bad deaths... and when I say bad, I refer to those where the patient or the family wanted everything done but in so doing, the dying process was simply prolonged making it so much harder on the patient and family alike.  I have also seen deaths that in spite of being in the hospital, honored that person's wishes and gave the family private time at the bedside. 

There was a teenage son that sat by his mother's bed.  She was dying of cancer and he strummed the guitar softly as she was taking her last breaths.  Or the family that sang hymns together at the bedside.  Or the mother who cuddled her dead toddler in her arms and rocked and sang to her for nearly 30 minutes.     

And then there was the older man who married a younger woman and they had their first baby who was just a few months old.  His dying wish was to hold his baby again.  He knew that his prognosis was not good as he was in cardiogenic shock with many wires and IV's maintaining his life minute to minute.  It was against the policy of the ICU to allow babies in the unit.  I pleaded with my supervisor to allow his wife to bring the baby in.  She conceded.  I put a soft towel over his chest to cover the wires and his wife brought the baby in and laid her on his chest.  He put his arms around her and a few tears moistened his cheeks.  His breathing became a bit less labored and both he and the baby fell asleep.  It was a few hours after his wife took the baby back to the waiting room that he lost his battle to survive but I knew that we had done the right thing.  Sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

I suppose the purpose of this blog entry is to say... make your choices wisely knowing that you can change your mind at any time, and then go out and enjoy your life. 

To read more about Advanced Directives/Living Wills:  Keep your advanced directive in a place at home where your family can find it if needed and each time you enter the hospital, have it with you so a copy can be made.  A new copy should be made with each admission.  This is where I keep mine amongst my collection of cookbooks.

    "May the spirit of nature bring you peace and joy."

Make the most of each day!  Live one day at a time.  Spread happiness to those you meet along the path of life.  Something as simple as a cheerful "hello" and a smile can be uplifting.   We have no idea what that other person might be dealing with in his life on that particular day. 

Today... I celebrate 70 years on planet Earth.  It is certainly the decades that stop you in your tracks and give you pause as to where you have been and where you are going.  I truly believe it is the simple things in life that are most important.  Be thankful for the time you have been given and enjoy something out of every day.  Don't get bogged down in the details.  Live each day like it is your last.  Well... just don't eat ALL the ice cream!


Advanced Directive CPR DNR Living Will Medicare death end of life euthanasia terminal condition Tue, 28 Jul 2015 12:48:40 GMT
Man's Best Friend Throughout my lifetime, I have had a dog as my best friend.  Growing up, there was the little Boston Terrier named Chummy and then later in life there was the one-eyed Boston named Mr. Willoughby.  Pugs have been my most recent best friends... POOH, Barnum, Ms. Bailey Bentwhiskers and now Mollie Sue and Digger.  What is it about a dog that I love so much?  Is it their kind gentle manner, their devotion, their inquisitive nature, their playful spirit, their intuitive knowledge of when something is not right?  Quite simply... I cannot imagine going through life without a dog at my side.

And what I find to be so sad is the fact that their lives are never long enough.  The heartbreak of losing a best friend is so painful and then I realize that without them, I would have missed out on some of the happiest times in my life.  Whether it is the riding in the car together, taking a walk by the lake or just hanging out together... all make for special memories.

It makes me particularly sad to see so many animals abused, homeless or unwanted.  The shelters are full of them.  There are far too many humans who are irresponsible pet owners and allow their animals to run loose and breed with no thought of what will happen to the offspring.  And then there are the dogs that are left to live outside in the extreme heat or bitter cold and those that are kept tied or chained.  This is cruel... and the animals deserve so much better.  Some are infected with heartworm, infested with fleas or have some medical issues. 

Another problem are the puppymills.  And that is a whole other story!  My sweet and loving Mollie Sue, the little black pug, was rescued from a puppy mill by DFW Pug Rescue ( 

She spent the first two years of her life in a cage and was used for breeding.  When I adopted her, she did not know how to go up and down steps, did not understand what toys or treats were and was frightened of men.  I am thrilled to say she is now a well adjusted little girl with a good life.  I adopted her at a particularly difficult time in my life after losing my 7-year old black pug, Ms. Bailey Bentwhiskers, who had a cardiac arrest and died while having her nails clipped at the vet's.  Needless to say, I could not return to that vet.  I tell Mollie Sue that she saved my life and I saved hers!       

When the dogs come into a shelter, they are bathed, groomed, inoculated, chipped and neutered before being placed for adoption.  Some need to be socialized, they all need to be loved and some need to learn basic obedience training.  With the proper care, they can become loving members of your family.  There should be more humans locked up behind bars for what they do to these innocent animals, in my most humble opinion!

The beginning of June, Nicolette Work from the Rowlett Photography Club said that the Rockwall Animal Adoption Center ( was in need of some photographers to take photos of the shelter animals.  I was so excited with the possibility of doing this.  When I arrived at the shelter I saw many little faces "behind bars" just waiting for a loving home. 

Some barked, some shied away, and some were just excited as I approached their cages.  They were clean and appeared well cared for.  I read their names, approximate age, their temperament, their history.  I wanted to take them all home, but of course that is not possible, but if I could take a cute photo of them, then maybe they would find a home sooner.

So the gal said... do you want to shoot inside or outside?  Inside is definitely preferable, especially in the Texas heat.  She led me into a room with a backdrop, flooring and a huge softbox to light the staged area.  This was so cool!  I was nervous and excited at the same time.  Was I up to this challenge?

One by one, they brought the dogs in on a leash.  Some were hyperactive and some were frightened.  None were aggressive towards me or the handler.  They would introduce the dog by name and many times would tell me something about the dog's story and how they came to end up at the shelter.  I started shooting trying to get a full body view, sitting, a close-up of the face or whatever the dog would allow.  Sometimes a treat was in order to encourage the dog's behavior.  And the little dogs looked so cute with a flower or kerchief around their neck.  I was ripping through the pixels as I wanted to be sure to get photos they could use.  I took way too many photos but pixels are cheap.

I was there shooting for about 3 hours and photographed 19 dogs... all sizes and breeds and many mixed breeds.  So many cute dogs!  I thanked them for the opportunity to photograph at the shelter and headed home to see what I got. 

Yes... there were lots of deletes but there were also a lot of keepers.  I culled the best and exported them to dropbox and it seemed that in no time they posted the photos of the dogs to their site.  It happened so fast and I was so thankful for that... to know that someone cared enough to expedite the process.

I frequently return to the adoption page on their website to see whose picture has been taken down as they are adopted.  I can only hope these animals find good homes and adapt to their new surroundings.  A thank you to the other photographers who also share in taking photos of the "homeless".  Hopefully we can do our small part in helping to turn these lives around!

Recently I featured a fella and his dog on my 100 Strangers Project on flickr.  His name is Robert and he was taking Morgan, the dog, out for a bike ride around the lake.  Morgan had terminal liver cancer and Robert was giving her some good days before the end of her life.

To read the rest of this touching story:

Sadly, just this past week, Morgan died.  I was thankful to have met Robert and Morgan and to have had the opportunity to photograph them.  A special thank you to Apollo Support and Rescue  ( )  for their care of Morgan until a home could be found for her.  From what I understand, she was with them for two years!

Please... if you are looking for a friend... open your heart and go to your local shelter and adopt.

I love this quote on the Rockwall Animal Adoption Center's site:


Apollo Support and Rescue Rockwall Animal Adoption Center adoption animal shelter dog homeless man's best friend stray Sat, 18 Jul 2015 20:39:55 GMT
Breadhead! I suppose you could call me a "breadhead" as I cannot imagine a day without bread.  It is how I have started my day since I was a little girl.  I always preferred bread toasted for breakfast rather than cereal, fruit, yogurt or eggs.  And yes, there was the time when I was growing up that I liked squishy white bread for making sandwiches but as I grew up, my taste changed. 

I loved making bread as my children were growing up but only made it sporadically.  Then when I traveled to France, I really fell in love with a baguette with nice crispy crunchy exterior and soft within.  It had a good chew.  Good bread is a part of life in France and is never taken for granted.  Some of the best bread in Dallas can be found at the Village Baking Company and they also sell at several of the farmers' markets.

Living in Texas, it is sometimes a challenge to find good bread.  Some of the artisan breads in the grocery stores are quite good and that is usually what I resort to, as there are a variety of choices for a reasonable price, but not long ago I was looking through the bread section when I stumbled upon Dave's Killer Blues Bread.  The name stopped me in my tracks! 

"Killer Blues Bread"?  What was that all about? 

And there was Dave on the loaf, strumming his guitar.  The bread was loaded with seeds...  and I do like lots of seeds in my bread (perhaps I should come back as a bird in my next life!), so I thought I would give it a try.  It was a bit pricey... $6 for a loaf but I've wasted $6 on worse things.

So the next morning I toasted a piece of Dave's bread, put some butter on top and sat down for breakfast with my cup of coffee.  It was incredibly good... and then, I popped a second slice in the toaster.  Such a satisfying breakfast!  As I went about my day, I kept thinking of the bread and wanting another piece.  What a great tomato sandwich it would make... or a grilled cheese sandwich.  I had another slice of bread with my dinner.  Now I am thinking that this could be habit forming!

Out of curiosity, I checked to see if they have a website... and they do! 

And what makes this bread so good... and so good for you... 

Why Dave's Killer Bread is Powerfully Different:

ALWAYS power-packed with whole grain nutrition


ALWAYS Non-GMO Project Verified

ALWAYS killer taste and texture

NO high fructose corn syrup

NO artificial preservatives

NO artificial ingredients

That is all well and good but it was their story that really caught my attention!

So... they are not only making "killer" bread but they are also employing felons and giving them a second chance at life!  According to the website, 30% of their employees have been in prison and now have a second chance by working in the bread company!  Now that's POWERFUL!

I do not make it a habit of writing to companies to tell them how much I like what they are doing and like their product but on this particular day, I became passionate about the bread as well as their mission to improve lives and I sat down and sent them an e-mail telling them how I felt.  And wait 'til you hear this... I got a personal response back... you know, like a real person on the other end, as opposed to an auto response.  She thanked me, and also said she shared my comments with the employees as well!  I like the way they do business!  And not only that, she is sending me a coupon for a free loaf of bread!  Life is good!

They are having a recipe contest for burgers on their Million Dollar Burger Buns but unfortunately, Tom Thumb does not carry the buns and the deadline is today.  When I went to the store to buy more bread, I ran into Amanda who works in the bakery department.  I start to tell her about this bread and what I learned about how the company is changing lives and I could see that this was touching her heart as well, and we both stood there with tears in our eyes thinking about how this will impact lives.  Amanda said she will see if they might be able to get the buns included in their inventory and she is anxious to try the bread, as well!

From there, I met Felix in produce, and Luis in the meat department and I told them about the company, the product and their mission.  Honestly... this is powerful and now they want to try the bread and support the company too.

So get the word out that it really is excellent and healthy bread! 

Here is the most recent lunch I prepared using Dave's Killer Blues Bread.


This is quite simple, but delicious!  Toast the Killer Blues Bread.  Spread with whipped cream cheese, ricotta cheese, or goat cheese.  Top with sliced scallions and sliced cherry tomatoes that have been tossed with some seasoned rice vinegar.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a variety of coarsely chopped fresh herbs.  Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  Honestly... this is "to die for"!  Delicious on it's own or with a cup of soup!

A big thank you to Dave and all the employees for the work they do!  I love the thoughts of a loaf of bread turning lives around!  And every time I reach for a slice of Dave's Killer Bread, I will not only enjoy the bread but will think of your mission!  Now that's powerful! 

blue cornmeal crust bread breadhead dave's killer blues bread felon organic bread tom thumb grocery Fri, 03 Jul 2015 13:29:27 GMT
The Deadliest Animals Here we are beginning the summer of 2015 and commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the movie Jaws by Steven Spielberg and the book by the same name, written by Peter Benchley (  Then we read about two teens in North Carolina recently losing their left arms to a shark and another child, age 10, being attacked off the coast of Florida by a shark.  Frightening indeed!  One minute you are having fun splashing in the water, just being a kid on summer vacation and the next thing you know, you are attacked by a shark and never saw it coming.  Thanks to the quick thinking of people on the beach and EMS, the boys lived to tell the story but this incident will change their lives forever.  Initially there was word on the news that authorities would surround the area and shoot the sharks.  But wait a minute... are we not invading their territory?  After all, if we want to swim and splash in the water with less risk, we can go to a pool free of sea creatures.


Just the other day, in the Dallas Morning News, I see an article on "Killer Animals... (maybe we should focus less on sharks, more on... cows?)".  Say what?  What am I missing?  And this report comes from none other than the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  You know I had to read what they had to say!

The first paragraph reads: "Whenever there's a shark attack in the news, somebody inevitably tries to minimize fear with big numbers such as ... heart disease kills 611,000 people a year" and then goes on to tell us not to worry about the sharks and to worry more about our eating habits.  So I read on to learn more about these killers in our midst and this is what I find:

So when you see a bee... you had best panic and run away as fast as you can!  But wait a minute... the article in the paper goes on to say that there are 33,000 motor vehicle deaths each year, yet everyday we get in our cars and go about our business with little fear.

And then I think... what about the other animal out there... we human beings?  Where do we fit into this puzzle?  And yes... we are an animal.  In the words of Marc Bekoff (former Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society and a past Guggenheim Fellow)...

"Although other animals may be different than us, it does not make them less than us." 

I do some of my own searching to find... 

More than 100,000 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, accidents, or by police intervention. 
31,537 people die from gun violence.
2,829 kids die from gun violence.

282 people are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, accidents, and police intervention.
86 people die from gun violence: 32 are murdered; 51 kill themselves; 2 die accidentally; 1, intent unknown.
196 are shot and survive: 140 shot in an assault; 10 survive a suicide attempt; 43 are shot accidentally, 2 are shot in a police intervention.

When will it ever end?  Or won't it?  We are our own worst enemy!  How can people not see this?  Of course I mourn for anyone attacked by a shark and killed or maimed while enjoying the ocean but what about the people gunned down on our streets every day?  I guess we are just numb to that as it happens so frequently in America, the beautiful.

And this is what is seen riding through small town Texas...

Come January 2016, open-carry of handguns will go into effect in Texas.  There is a serious need for mental health intervention as well as strict gun laws.  Sadly, there are a lot of hot-heads on the loose who want to create havoc and perhaps have their names go down in history for terroristic activity.  There is lots of hate and lots of anger.  What is the answer to this insanity?

It seems to me that human beings are most definitely the deadliest animals!

It's a dangerous world out there!

So... is this how I must go through life to feel just a bit more safe?


Marc Bekoff deadly animals gun laws guns hot head jaws mental health issues open carry shark Wed, 24 Jun 2015 15:33:56 GMT
Small Town Texas 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!


Blue Ostrich Vineyard and Winery Bowie Forestburg Montague Nokoma Saint Jo Texas winery cowboy cowboy boots small town Texas Sat, 20 Jun 2015 01:55:32 GMT
"Orange Face" Syndrome 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:

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!  

Dallas Morning News Jack Kilby microchip obituary Tue, 19 May 2015 00:20:06 GMT
Just Another Day at the Ranch 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 RabbitDesert 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!)

Ground SquirrelGround Squirrel  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...


McCook, Texas Santa Clara Ranch armadillo cardinal cow bird ground squirrel javelina lesser yellow legs photography rabbit thrasher wildlife Thu, 07 May 2015 21:03:47 GMT
Kiteboarding Lake Ray Hubbard 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...


Elgin B. Robertson Park Gateway to Rowlett Keep Robertson Park Green Kiteboarding Lake Ray Hubbard Rowlett green space Thu, 16 Apr 2015 19:51:22 GMT
Katie... You Are Loved! 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:

J.R. had called a friend of his to catch Katie and take her to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for treatment. 

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 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! 

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.


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!


Dallas, Texas J.R. Compton Katie Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center Sunset Bay WFAA White Rock Lake swan Fri, 03 Apr 2015 15:16:11 GMT
So... will more guns make us safer? 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...       

Texas gun laws crazytown gun laws gun safety guns open carry for handguns in Texas wild west Thu, 19 Mar 2015 14:28:01 GMT
It's All About Money 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!   



Keep Robertson Park Green Kiteboarding Lake Ray Hubbard Recreation Robertson Park Rowlett White Rock Lake Mon, 02 Mar 2015 01:50:01 GMT
Krewe of Barkus Parade... 2015 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.




Dog Parade Dogs Krewe of Barkus McKinney, Texas Thu, 19 Feb 2015 17:37:33 GMT
Evolution or Creationism? 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.



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:

"Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation"


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.

Charles Darwin Darwin Day creationism evolution reason science Thu, 12 Feb 2015 15:12:22 GMT
Life is Always Better with Green Beans Barnum

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! 



   And how did I get Digger to pose with the puggies?  With a green bean, of course!

Barnum Baskie DFW Pug Rescue Mollie Sue black pug fawn pug Tue, 03 Feb 2015 22:17:42 GMT
Happy New Year 2015 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:


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. 
He is currently in the Kays Tower of the Dallas County Jail for the gun charge at the lake, numerous warrants out of Richardson and violation of his probation on a felony assault charge.  Tying him to the wounded pelican would be a far leap (not really) but the caliber of rifle and the fact that he was shooting wildlife when arrested is something that is a little more that coincidence in my opinion.  Big thanks to the Dallas Police officers who work the patrols at the lake!"


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:

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.


Audubon Dallas Happy New Year Marc Beckoff The Animal Manifesto The Emotional Lives of Animals White Rock Lake biologist injured pelican pelican shooting birds wildlife vet Thu, 01 Jan 2015 00:42:53 GMT
A Sad Farewell... 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"!


Animal Hospital of Rowlett Barnum Lake Ray Hubbard Emergency Pet Care Mollie Sue Ms. Bailey Bentwhiskers black pug fawn pug good tail day pug Sat, 20 Dec 2014 03:39:24 GMT
Emergency Alert Activated ROWLETT, TEXAS


"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!




Big Foot Emergency Alert Lake Ray Hubbard selfie Sun, 07 Dec 2014 15:56:52 GMT
The Last Turkey 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!


Lucy the mannequin Thanksgiving boobs family fun in the kitchen slaughter house turkey vegetarian Mon, 17 Nov 2014 16:57:02 GMT
05:28AM... the phone rings

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".      


KKK Neo Nazi Rockwall Rowlett bomb threat emergency alert system lockdown open carry thunderstorm weather warning Wed, 12 Nov 2014 14:41:06 GMT
Nature in My Life "I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order." 

(John Burroughs)


There are times when I crave nature.  I tire of seeing houses, highways, strip malls and traffic. I want to feel the ebb and tide of the seasons.  My life very much revolved around the seasons when I lived in New Jersey.  Living in the country in a wooded area with a brook, a small pond and an unpaved road, life seemed to stand still.  The evil parts of the world seemed eons away and I could immerse myself in the plants, critters and changes in season.  And that is exactly what I was craving today.

My closest escape is Lake Ray Hubbard, a huge man-made reservoir.  As many times as I have been there, I am always discovering something new.  I have seen pelicans, cormorants, ducks, hawks, snakes, minks, feral cats, and common birds of the area, but because it is such a wide open area, there is not a proliferation of these.  So today I traveled across the two-mile bridge to the Rockwall side of the lake.  People bike, walk or run on the protected area of the bridge but today was a weekday and there was little activity.


It had been a while since I had been down by the water but the water has disappeared due to the ongoing drought.  I have never seen the lake so low.  Where I used to walk out to the edge of the pier with the grandchildren to watch the ducks in the water... there is no water.    There will be no fishing from the dock today... or for many days to come!

There is a wide path carved out of the dry lakebed by trucks perhaps heading to the water to fish.  It looks to be about 3/4 of a mile long before you finally get to the water and on each side, there is vegetation growing higher than I am tall.  The sun is warm on my back as I walk along and there is a cool breeze that feels so refreshing after the long hot Texas summer.  I am all alone but sadly, I can hear the constant din of traffic crossing the bridge.  It never stops.  Seldom do I hear total silence living in the metroplex.  There is always something... planes, sirens, cars, kids.  I do not want to hear this.  I want the silence of nature.  I want to hear the birds singing without interruption.

I watch for snakes as I make my way to the water.  Every once in a while I hear something rustling in the dried weeds.  Perhaps it is just the overactive grasshoppers, or maybe a little bunny or some other critter, but I see nothing.  At the end of the "road" there is a beautiful egret standing in the water and two cormorants on the remains of a couple trees in the lake.  I take a few steps forward and the egret is forever watchful and moves accordingly.  Soon the cormorants take off. Two ducks swim away to safety.  Along the edge of the water I see several sandpipers running around, dipping their beaks in the water.  I take a few steps and they watch to be sure I don't get too close.

I look down to see that "the Marlboro Man" has been here.  It appears that he had a beer while he was fishing and left his trash behind.  Humans are such pigs.  They come to enjoy the outdoors and then leave their litter behind and totally ignore the refuse containers! 

In spite of the drought, life goes on. The little buckeye butterfly lands on the packed soil, the grasshopper devours the drying vegetation, the stalks change colors as the days cool, a few tough wildflowers still bloom, the lady bug clings to a plant and there is almost a beauty in the abstract cracks in the compacted soil below my feet.

I say goodbye to the sandpiper that has become a little more accustomed to my being there and promise to return soon. I see his little footprints in the wet muck along the edge of the lake.

These are some of the things that make me the happiest. None of them cost money... just time to stop and appreciate the beauty in nature and the resilience of the wildlife in spite of global warming and the uncaring ways of some of the human species.


We need to do better for all life on this beautiful planet before it is too late.  As for me, I am thankful to have this little escape close to home.

John Burroughs quote Lake Ray Hubbard Texas buckeye butterfly global warming grasshopper litter nature sandpiper Fri, 31 Oct 2014 03:20:36 GMT
"A stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet." It's spontaneous... not preplanned, when you make a comment, out of the blue, to a total stranger.  It happens quite often in my life and I'm not sure why, but I do like the interaction.  I have friends who would never think of doing something like that and find it quite peculiar that I do it so often.  I do remember when I was very young, I was more on the shy side and did not like talking with strangers but then it all changed. 


Perhaps it happened in nursing school when nearly every day during our clinical rotations, I had to talk with my patients who I had never met before.  Not only that, but I had to do it while I performed a treatment, took vital signs or gave medications, and in doing so, I could see how it put the patient at ease as I went about my job and before I knew it, I became fascinated with what they were saying.  We all have a story to tell and that is what makes each person so unique.  After all, if you know nothing about a person, how can you ever develop empathy for what they might be going through?


Since retiring, this happens most often when I go to the grocery store or when I am out looking for a photo op with my camera.  The one day I ran to the store to pick up just a few things and decided to get several ears of corn.  As I have always done, I pull back the husk just enough to be sure that the kernels are plump and fresh as opposed to dried out.  Soon another fella came up and started doing the same thing and I nonchalantly mentioned that I thought I was the only person to check the corn in this manner.  With that he started to laugh and a conversation ensued.  He was somewhere close to my age and obviously had time on his hands so we stood and chatted.

Well, we chatted so long that I saw people coming in with empty grocery carts and leaving with them filled.  We hit on a common love of the Northwest, but neither of us could remember the name of the huge mountain/volcano that is so elusive behind cloud cover and can only be seen on a clear day. And no... it was not Mt. St. Helens.   I guess we were both having a senior moment. 


We shared how we each ended up in Texas... and neither by choice.  He told me about his various occupations, his family, and some adventures that he has had through the years.  It was thoroughly enjoyable for each of us and as we picked up our corn and prepared to go our separate ways he said to me that this has never happened to him before.  I had no idea what he was talking about, and then he clarified... talking with a total stranger like this!  I could not believe what I was hearing.  He was so relaxed and such a good raconteur.  He went on to say that the only people he would have such a conversation with would be his family or the people in his church.  I laughed and said I talk with strangers all the time!  We introduced ourselves by name, shook hands and he said he could not wait to go home and tell his wife about our conversation and that he hoped to run into me again sometime to continue the conversation!  His name was Bernie.


So... as I approach the check-out area, who should I run into but my husband.  He thought perhaps I had "gotten kidnapped" as I was only going for a few things, but then again, he knows how I am.  With that, I asked him the name of the big mountain in Washington state and he too could not remember the name.  So what do you do when that happens... find someone with an iphone!  We asked a fella who was working there if he knew the name of the mountain and sure enough within a minute's time he pulled out his phone and gave us the name of the mountain... Mt. Rainier!  About that time I looked up to see Bernie and called him over to meet my husband and told him about the fella helping us figure out the name of the mountain.  And then we talked with that fella who said he came to this country from Japan when he was 8 years old and could remember the volcano near where they lived in Japan.

Sometimes you can inadvertently touch on a very sensitive subject quite innocently.  There was a woman in the grocery store on another day and she had so many bananas in her cart!  I couldn't imagine anyone eating so many bananas so I lightheartedly said... "WOW!  You must really like bananas!"  Now... she could have ignored me, or just smiled or laughed and walked away but she stopped and started to talk with me.  She was probably in her 70's and said that she takes all of her pills with a banana and it seems to help her to swallow them.  After a bit of idle chatter she went on to say that her boyfriend just died and that she is feeling so very sad.  Tears welled up in her eyes as she shared this with me.  I told her how sorry I was to hear that.  She thanked me for talking with her saying that she enjoyed our conversation and it seemed to make her feel a little better.  I just never would have expected such a conversation with a total stranger in the middle of the produce aisle.


And how can I forget the woman I talked with in the parking lot as I headed towards my car on that same day.  She apologized for how she looked as she had been painting.  I had assumed painting a room perhaps but she told me she is an artist, lives across the lake and cares for her elderly mother.  We talked about art and photography and then I came to find out that her son is a photographer also.  As we were about to go our separate ways, I said that she would know I was shopping in the store if she saw my car, and I pointed to the "Lalalmobile" with all the bumperstickers.  She started to laugh and said she has seen the car before and always wondered whose car it was... and now she knows!                      

Mt. Rainier friend northwest senior moment stranger Tue, 21 Oct 2014 00:44:26 GMT
Ebola Virus is Here in Dallas! Yes... the unthinkable has happened!  The first case of ebola to develop in our country happened right here in Dallas, Texas.  Ebola is a frightening, deadly disease that is spread through contact with body secretions as opposed to casual contact. 


I can tell you that it was just a matter of time.  With air travel today, we are only hours away from whatever epidemic might be happening anywhere in this world and to think otherwise would be foolhardy.  We are not immune from these things being brought into our country.  It is virtually impossible to check every passenger adequately to be sure they are not harboring some dreadful disease.


Please know, that my heart goes out to Thomas Duncan and his family and friends.  Right now he lays in critical condition at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, a well respected hospital in the area.  From the news reports, they say that he is on life support (as, on a ventilator), in a coma (I am assuming perhaps a drug-induced coma) and undergoing kidney dialysis and has liver failure.  These are all ominous signs but these are medical interventions that many there in Africa do not have at their disposal.  He has also been started on an experimental drug in hopes of turning this around; however, we have no idea if this will help and there is a very good possibility that he may die as a result of the disease.  Sometimes even the best of care cannot change the course of a deadly virus such as this. 


The initial snafu at the hospital occurred when the nurse did not pick up on the link between his symptoms and his travel history; although, she did illicit that information but evidently it did not get passed on to the doctor and the doctor evidently did not pick up on that fact when doing his history and physical.  You see... I was a critical care nurse for 45 years, and very few times do I remember a doctor actually reading my notes.  There is much repetition in medicine.  The nurse asks her questions and the doctor asks his questions and many will overlap.  Communication is vital. 


As far as a computerized program is concerned, it would be ideal if a ringing bell would go off questioning ebola when in a history and physical the words "recent travel", "Africa", "Liberia", "diarrhea", "vomiting", "abdominal pain", or "fever" were typed in the computer but we are not there yet!  And I can only imagine that both the nurse and doctor involved would wish they could go back and do it all again, knowing what they know now.  So... based on his symptoms, he was sent home.  I cannot tell you how many patients are seen with mild non-specific symptoms who show up in the ER simply because they feel badly... or they may show up at their doctor's office with similar complaints.


The CDC travels to Dallas and helps disperse information to the public in hopes of not causing panic.  The family and those who had been in close contact with the patient were to not leave their apartment or come in contact with others until the allotted time to be sure that they had not contracted the disease but evidently these instructions were not followed causing the need for an armed guard outside of the apartment.  All potential contacts were being tracked.  And interestingly enough, you are not considered contagious until you start to show symptoms which may take up to 21 days.


From what I have read. everything in the apartment was discarded and the occupants were relocated.  The apartment was thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.  I saw a news clip today with someone on the cleaning crew in his hazmat suit holding onto the metal bannister with gloved hands and I did wonder if those gloves were clean or contaminated.  The discarded items were being stored in a truck in an undisclosed location with an armed guard until they could be incinerated. 


Every medical worker must know universal precautions (protecting yourself from body secretions) and must wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) when deemed appropriate.  For ebola, this consists of a non-permeable gown, boots, gloves, and hood.  All of this is very hot to wear and requires frequent breaks and each time, everything must be thrown away to be incinerated.  And just today I was hearing that there is a shortage of supplies, not to mention a severe shortage in west Africa.

And if all of that isn't enough... Jesse Jackson is on the scene in Dallas talking with the patient's family as they feel the patient is not getting proper treatment.  And then Jesse Jackson starts fanning the flames with the suggestion that Thomas Duncan was initially sent home from the ER because he did not have medical insurance or perhaps due to a racial bias.  Quite frankly... I think he needs to butt out and let the doctors and nurses do their job.  


Late this afternoon he led a prayer vigil outside of the hospital.  He can pray all he wants but he better respect science as the doctors try to cure the patient and the CDC tries to prevent the spread of disease in our community, state and country.  Exactly why did God let this disease happen anyway and why is God not curing these people afflicted with this deadly disease?  I'm sure the preachers will come up with an answer for that one!


And now another case of ebola in Spain.  This time a healthcare worker and not only that, but they are fearing that her dog may also carry the disease and have euthanized the dog before proving that the dog was infected.


I worry about our healthcare workers as well.  All it takes is a break in technique or a needlestick to have someone exposed.  The stress of working under these conditions is tremendous and the importance of adequate staffing at a time like this is essential!


So where all of this will lead, we do not know.  We take it a day at a time.  I certainly hope that Thomas Duncan survives this ordeal and the drug companies soon find a cure.  I would also hope that everyone be vigilant and supportive of those dealing with this horrible disease.


Educate yourself about ebola:


An update: Sadly, Thomas Duncan died today 10/08/14.  I extend my sympathy to the family and all of those whose lives have been impacted by this catastrophic disease.  A cure cannot come soon enough!

Dallas PPE Presbyterian of Dallas Hospital Spanish nurse Texas Thomas Duncan West Africa ebola science virus Tue, 07 Oct 2014 23:25:27 GMT
Ewwwwww! Spider! (Photos by Mary) One of the best parts about photography is the fact that you can do it alone or do it with other photographers... and I like it both ways.  Sometimes it feels good to just go out alone with your camera and immerse yourself in your surroundings and get lost in the moment.  Yet, at other times, it is fun to share the day with someone who also loves photography.


And so it is when I go out with my friend Mary.  I met Mary through Capture Dallas and then came to realize that she too is a member of the Heard Nature Photo Club in McKinney.  I like shooting with Mary because we both have about the same physical limitations in the brutal Texas heat.  We have been known to try out many benches as we wander the Dallas Arboretum... and they are all good!  She also talked me into buying a little portable stool which I now have in my car at all times.  It is perfect for shooting macro shots and wildflowers in comfort.


Now you must understand that I lug around a heavy Canon camera and lenses and Mary is currently using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ 1000 which weighs about 1.83 lb.  Besides being lightweight, it has a Leica lens, 20.1 megapixels and shoots ISO 125-12,800, and check out the zoom lens! She is definitely making me consider trying this camera for those days when I do not feel up to lugging a bunch of gear!  As you get older, it does take it's toll.


I recently got an e-mail from her about a spider she had photographed at the Heard Nature Preserve and I loved the story so much that I wanted to share it with you.  She was shooting the spider and noticed two boys nearby.  She talked to the one boy (probably about 10 or 11 years old) who was excited about the spider too.  He was trying to get a picture with his dad's cell phone.  He commented that her camera would take a much better picture... like National Geographic!  Mary got his father's email address and sent him two of her spider photos.

And surprise, surprise.. she got a nice thank you in an e-mail!

"Thank you so much for sharing your BIG spider photos with us.  We really enjoyed them and we each printed 4x6 photos for our rooms!"


It really made her day!  And what is even funnier, is the fact that Mary will seldom strike up a conversation with a stranger and laughs as I will so often do just that!  Somehow, I have the feeling she might be doing a bit more chattering in the future!


So here are the photos of the BIG spider she e-mailed to the boys.  I have the feeling those boys might be hooked on photography after seeing her spider and will always remember her kindness in sharing her photos with them.  Technology has changed photography in so many ways and how special to be able to share photos so easily in today's world and to impact another person's life in the process!


Garden Spider Heard Nature Preserve Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ 1000 Tue, 23 Sep 2014 14:38:03 GMT
The Happy Atheist This is all quite simple... an atheist does not believe in God, does not believe in heaven and hell and does not live life in fear that God is going to punish them in some way.  An atheist believes in the here and now and prefers to depend on science to base their decisions as opposed to a mythical being.  Atheists are not bad people... on the contrary, they very much believe in doing good and living life to the fullest as there will be no reward in heaven.  Their reward is in the here and now!


Sadly, there are many who are too timid to "come out" as an atheist for fear of the consequences.  We have all heard of atheists who have been shunned, disowned by religious family members, lost jobs... you get the idea, and unfortunately, it is still true, even in this day and age.  And this is the part I do not understand.  How is my disbelief in a god (and exactly which is the "real" God?) of any interest or any threat to you, who believes in a god?  Must we all be alike?  This is a big world we live in and there are many different beliefs in the world.  Why can't we get along even though we may believe differently?  Is that really too much to expect?  I will respect you to believe as you choose and you will respect me to believe as I choose.


Even though I do not believe what you believe, I do respect your right to believe as you wish.  And furthermore... I would not come knocking on your door pushing my atheist beliefs in your face as some "good Christians" have done to me.  We each come to our personal ideology through a long and sometimes tortuous path.  And let's face it... most people are brought up to believe as their families believed.  Life leads each of us down different paths and along the way we find what is meaningful in our lives.  


The tug-of-war between the Christians and other people of faith as well as atheists is playing out in our little city of Rowlett.  In fact, this should not be a tug-of-war at all, but rather a respect for each other's core values.  We can all be good people whether we believe or do not believe in a god.  We need to live together and work together for the good of all people. 


It seems that Rowlett wants to be seen as a Christian community as that is the majority here.  We do not have temples or synagogues and the atheists are in the minority.  That does not mean that we do not have Jews and Muslims living amongst us or other religious sects.   Before each city council meeting there is a prayer... a Christian prayer.  The local atheists have requested the right to give a Humanist invocation at some time during the year but we have been refused.  It seems the mayor is intent on denying us the opportunity.  Exactly what is he so afraid of?  Shouldn't our city government stand up for all the citizens in the community... minority as well as the majority?


Quite frankly... I am very much in favor of separation of church and state and would prefer they do away with a prayer/invocation and simply get on with business or have a moment of silence.    


Chad Aldridge who heads up the Atheists of Rowlett explains the present issue:

"The city of Rowlett has rejected our request for a local atheist resident to give an invocation at a city council meeting. They're now hiding behind Liberty Institute, a far right Christian pro bono legal entity that defends religion sponsored by the government. This rejection flies in the face of the Greece NY vs Galloway Supreme Court decision last May that legalized sectarian prayer to open government meetings, as long as there is no discrimination regarding who gets to give the invocation. Greece NY has allowed non-Christians to give the invocation, including an atheist since this case was ruled on."
So... on September 16, 2014, the Rowlett Atheists with the support of the Metroplex Atheists staged a protest outside of City Hall prior to the city council meeting.  There were several news organizations there as well.
Following the protest we  sat through the meeting until it was opened to public comment.  You may see what was said by the atheists as well as an irate citizen who felt that...  "if they (the atheists) do not believe in these Christian things, they have no place in society.  They have no morals.  They have no character."  It is quite obvious that this man has no understanding at all of who we are and what we stand for.  I challenge him to sit down with me and tell me that I have not done good ethical work in my lifetime with integrity and respect for my fellow man.  His comments come from ignorance and total lack of understanding.   
I thank Ms. Ann Dotson, a minister from a local church who spoke up on our behalf saying that she hoped she would not be excommunicated by the Christians for saying that she believes we do have a right to deliver an invocation.  Thank you Ms. Dotson for your fortitude in supporting us and accepting our quest to give an invocation on behalf of those with a different belief system.
Another local minister was so irate that he was nearly yelling to get his points across.  He was so loud that I wanted to cover my ears as he spoke.   This just shows the anger in our community and why many are so reluctant to verbalize their true beliefs due to the intolerance of some. 
To hear the comments by the atheists as well as others, click on the link and then click on "Citizens' Input".


And you ask why this is entitled "The Happy Atheist"?  Because I am a happy person.  I choose to live life joyously, and to reach out to those in need and to celebrate each day.  I am just a speck of protoplasm on this huge beautiful planet called Earth and my time here is ever so brief.  I am quite fascinated by the things that make us different... different cultures, different beliefs, different customs.  This is what makes each of us a unique human being and if you cannot accept me for who I am... so be it.  That is YOUR issue and not mine! 


I can only hope that with time,  non-believers will be accepted into our community without hostility and retribution so that we can all come together in peace and in support of each other.  That is the kind of world I choose to live in.  Reach out and get to know your neighbors without the labels that may skew your viewpoint and let's make Rowlett a role model of good will to all.  Imagine all of the citizens standing in a long line, joining hands... believers and non-believers alike... young and old... showing our community support and tolerance for each other's differing viewpoints! How far might that line stretch?  What a powerful image that would make, and we would all be better for it!

Atheist Christian Humanist Rowlett city council democracy discrimination invocation non-believer peace prayer protest theocracy tolerance Thu, 18 Sep 2014 04:26:10 GMT
My Friend Bob Today is National Read a Book Day and it reminded me of my friend Bob.


July 21, 2008... page 876... a hand-written xeroxed letter arrives in the mail from Yasnaya Polyana Plantation, Shannon, Mississippi.  It's from my friend Bob.


Bob lived life in his own unique way.  I had lost touch with Bob after high school until a few years ago when a fellow classmate told me that Bob had written some books of short stories and indeed I was in one of his stories entitled "St. Valentine's Day".  Some of his stories were about the people from our home town.  Names were changed but often times rhymed with the actual name which made for interesting reading to figure out who these characters were.  The next thing I knew, a stack of Bob's books was mailed to my house.  I also came to find out that Bob had a mailing list of friends to whom he would send letters with consecutively numbered pages about once a month or as the spirit moved him and of course I wanted to be on his mailing list.

Bob was what I would call eccentric.  He had his share of demons to fight in life but he had a gift for writing, was passionate about books, was a history buff and had a soft spot in his heart for animals as well as people who were down and out.  Quite exemplary, I would say.  Bob lived on a plantation and grew sunflowers and soybeans and had a rent house on the property.  He had spent his early years in the military and now lived in Mississippi. Now this was the amazing thing... he had no tv, no computer, had lost his license to driving under the influence but still periodically would drive his car into Tupelo on occasion.  Otherwise, he rode his bike to where he had to go.  He wrote books.  He wrote letters, and would expound on whatever was happening or on his mind at the time.  Sometimes his words were "in your face" explicit and not always politically correct, and other times his writing would tug at your heart strings.  Each letter would arrive with several interesting stamps on the envelope and each envelope was sealed with exactly 9 pieces of tape. 

I bring all of this up now as I came across a few more of his letters as I was tidying my computer room, and this particular letter told about his love for his "small cat with golden tail and golden ears, weighing only 5 lbs., youngest daughter of Portia."  Her name was Whitenik.  After recently losing my feral cat OC, I sat down to reread his letter and tears came to my eyes.  He wrote: "I was with Whitenik when she came into the world and I was with her when she went out."  And it seems that Whitenik was born on Friday the 13th.  Bob had a knack for documenting the details.


In essence... this letter was an obituary to honor Whitenik's life.  You see, she had a bout with a respiratory illness, was "medevacked to Tupelo Small Animal Hospital in the cat taxi", and received antibiotics and IV's, was force fed and received eye drops and her situation improved to the point that she could return home ("given her discharge papers") on June 25, 2008 ("the 132 anniversary of Custer's Last Stand").  On the 26th, she ran out the front door.  "Hippety-hop she went out to greet the world, all green below and all blue above.  She must have been really happy just then."  She returned late evening but  alas, on the 28th, she took a turn for the worse and subsequently died. 


She spent some time in the freezer and then her remains were placed in her final casket on a "nice mattress and a little silken pillow with flowers embroidered into it.  Atop the casket I placed the Stars and Bars.  And in the small hours of the 29th, I went out to lower the Mississippi flag to half staff.  I expect a fair number of guests at her funeral where there will be a reading of Christopher Smart's (1722-1770) poem: For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry.  This poem was not published until 1954, almost 200 years after it's composition.  It is a work of great genius and insight."


"She leaves behind her five sisters and three brothers.  They are Polkovnik, Dounia, Jackson, Nitchevo, Pearl, Posner, Jeff Davis, and Georgia Boy."  He included the dates of their birth.


His final words of tribute: "And I hope that Whitenik's last walk in the world the day she scooted out the door was a wonderful one.  That she met a flower, a tree, a kindly fair breeze and that the sun made her rejoice again."


He added a PS to his letter by saying... "This letter will go with Whitenik in the casket.  Then 10,000 years from now someone may learn her story."


Sadly, Bob unexpectedly died two years ago this month of a heart attack.  I had taken a photo of my grandchildren looking at the stamps on the envelopes of his letters with a magnifying glass and was planning on sending him a photo as I thought he would enjoy it, but it was too late.  And I thought it was sad that Bob never used a computer to share his work, his thoughts and his talent with the world, but then again, his way was more personal.  

Bob was a quirky and kind-hearted person in his own unique way.  My sympathy to his brother Jim and all his friends who will miss his writing and his monthly updates.  

May you rest in peace...            

National Read a Book Day Robert E. Wadin Shannon, Mississippi author Sat, 06 Sep 2014 20:34:36 GMT
When a feral cat captures your heart... I write this today with a heavy heart and in tribute to my friend OC (Orange Cat). 

I am sad to report that OC died yesterday.


The saga of OC started back in June when my neighbors had baby birds in their vent, high on the side of their house.  As I tried to get a photo, mama bird would take off, and not only that, but I saw an orange cat wandering alongside the house and I worried about the safety of the baby birds. 

To read about the baby birds:


In an effort to get a photograph of mama bird feeding her babies, I went into my backyard and into the "secret garden" behind the fence and as I entered, I suddenly saw a flash of orange and it was the orange cat! I'm not sure who scared who more! There was a gap in the fence next to the house and that was his escape route. I say "his" as I did not know the sex of the cat but somehow assumed it was a male.



Shortly after this incident, I would again see the orange cat in the secret garden but it was obvious he was very frightened of me and would take off when he saw me.  I assumed that for a cat to be that frightened of a human, he must be feral.  I placed a board between the backyard and the entrance to the secret garden to keep my pug dogs out of his area.  He continued to hang around and I felt bad for him and bought a bag of cat food and would go out each morning and evening and give him fresh food and ice water.    I would call him... "Here kitty, kitty, kitty"... and I would hear him meow in response.  Ever so slowly he would sneak in through the gap in the fence and hide behind the chair or the flower pot and poke his little head out to see what was going on. 


Eventually he got braver and would wait for me beneath the chair.  He was still frightened but knew I was bringing something good... and we would talk.  I would talk softly to him and he would meow and every once-in-a-while he would give a hiss.  Well... we can't always agree on everything, you know.  He also had a habit of going beneath our deck through a tiny crawl space.  It was all quite handy as it was a good place to hide and with a few steps through the broken trellis, he could be in his secret garden where he also felt safe.  At night I would go out to say goodnight and would hear him give a gentle meow from under the deck.  I knew all was well and I could go to bed.



And yes, of course he needed a name, so I chose to call him OC for "Orange Cat".  Not very inventive, but it worked.  I was also able to get a quick photo of him as he peered out from around the chair.  It was not until I put the photo on the computer that I realized he had a mosquito on his nose.  Poor Baby!



Since I had to take my little pug Mollie Sue to the vet for her annual exam, I spoke with Dr. Clary about OC and if she had heard of Alley Cat Allies who have a trap-neuter-return program for feral cats.  Sadly, they are not located in this immediate area.  She mentioned a local group in Garland called KittiCo that offer a spay/neuter program for feral cats.  They also will give the innoculations and take a nip out of one ear and that way at a glance you can tell the feral cat has been neutered and innoculated.  So... this is my plan.  I will ask around in the neighborhood just to be sure he does not belong to someone and as OC becomes more accustomed to me and a bit less fearful, I will borrow a trap and take him in and then, after treatment, return him to "the wild" and continue to be his caretaker.  Without this intervention, the cat population will only expand causing more issues with feral cats.




And then we had our trees trimmed in the backyard and the sound of the saws must have frightened poor OC and he disappeared for two days.  I worried about him, and called him repeatedly throughout the day.  On day #2, I called and heard a meow.  I thought he had returned.  I was excited!  I called again and heard another meow, and then I saw a hand raised above the fence and I heard giggling.  The imposter was  none other than my daughter!  She stopped by to visit and said she could hear me calling the cat from the street. 

Sadly, OC is still missing!


Photography has gotten me through some difficult times in my life and why should it be any different now?  I had time on my hands and put OC's photo on a milk carton and shared it with my friends both near and far and appreciated their support while I awaited his return.



On day #3, I called and miraculously heard a real feline response and sure enough, here comes OC through the fence but once again hiding behind the big flower pot, and I was so happy to see him and ran to get him food and water! 


He seemed to spend a lot of time beneath the deck.  I just assumed perhaps it was cooler under there for him... and then I heard a tiny weak meow.  That wasn't OC!!!  And I heard it again.  I leaned over to peek into the narrow space beneath the deck and saw a tiny little kitten and saw OC's tail.  That's when I knew that OC was really a girl... and a mother!  I was shocked! How could he/she have kept this from me???  So... my best laid plans to trap-neuter-release were for naught!  Now what do I do?



It was a couple days after this discovery that OC seemed weak and not herself and was laying in the main part of the garden which is something she did not do.  She would try to stand and was wobbly, but then again, it was so hot out and she had just recently given birth.  Eventually she got up and retreated to beneath the deck.  By the next morning she was again laying in the main part of the garden and she was barely moving and breathing rapidly, and shallowly.  I gently stroked her with a broom.  She could barely lift her head when I talked to her and there was no meow, no hiss... nothing in response.  She looked like she was dying.  I called to the kitten beneath the deck and there was no sound from there.


I called the Animal Hospital of Rowlett and spoke with Griselle and shared my story with her, asking if I might bring OC in to be seen.  She was so sympathetic on the phone, that I felt I had a friend to help me.  She called Brittany, the nurse, to the phone and she too was so kind and supportive and said to bring OC in.  The doctors were having a busy day but they would have Dr. Hurley see her ASAP.


I delivered OC in a pet carrier that I had prepared with a piece of plastic, newspapers and then a soft towel for her to lay on and left her there and would await the doctor's call about the plan of care.  She seemed a bit more alert when I left her but still extremely lethargic... definitely not herself.  Dr. Hurley called and discussed the plan of care... to get bloodwork, a physical exam and perhaps an x-ray.  She suspected poisoning, a viral disease, or very possibly a retained fetus in the uterus causing her to be septic.  It was going to be expensive and treatment, depending on the cause, would also be very expensive, but I wanted to give OC a reasonable chance to live.  After all, I love animals.  She said she would call when she had more information so we could discuss the plan of care. 


I returned home and pryed up the board of the deck where I thought she might have had the kitten and there I found not one, but three very tiny kittens, smaller than the palm of my hand but all were dead and covered with fireants.  It was so sad.  No wonder she was no longer retreating to beneath the deck.  Now it all made sense.



It was mid-afternoon when I got Dr. Hurley's call and indeed we had a major problem.  OC had a retained fetus and she was septic.  The outlook was not good to survive this and the stress of a feral cat going through extended as well as expensive treatment with a very questionable outcome was of great concern.  I cried as I made my decision as to whether to treat or to euthanize.  I couldn't believe all of this was happening.  Just a few days ago she was a feisty feral cat and now this. 


As a critical care nurse I have cared for human patients with sepsis and was well aware of the seriousness of the diagnosis and the resulting multiple organ failure that is all too common.  After much thought about how fearful OC was of human contact and the need for extended treatment, I made the decision to not prolong her suffering.  Being that she was already sedated from her exam the doctor assured me that she would go peacefully.  I told her to be gentle with OC and she said she would. I could not have asked for a more professional, compassionate and supportive doctor.  Brittany, the nurse witnessed my phone consent and I also told her to be gentle with OC.  She told me she would talk quietly to her and I told her to tell OC that I loved her. 


I hung up the phone and cried some more.  It was a difficult decision but I felt it was the right decision to make for OC.  And it was all about what was best for OC... the little feral cat that stole my heart.  It was hard to let her go.  May she rest in peace. 



A special thank you to Dr. Hurley, Brittany and Griselle as well as my friends and family for your support during this sad time.        




Alley Cat Allies Animal Hospital of Rowlett Brittany Dr. Clary Dr. Hurley Feral Cat Griselle KittiCo OC Orange Cat Sat, 16 Aug 2014 00:47:53 GMT
To market... to market... With grocery list in hand, I took off for the Asian grocery store. 


Now for anyone who likes to cook, trying a new recipe equates to an adventure... sometimes good and sometimes bad, but an adventure none-the-less!  Those of us who live in the Dallas area are fortunate to have a number of Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern markets available to us.  Some are large and some are small mom-and-pop kinds of grocery stores.  Each time I go, I marvel at the variety of foods that I have never tasted and have no idea what they are.  


So on this particular day I was in the market for the following products:

Black Vinegar - slightly sweet with a rich, malty flavor made from fermented rice, wheat, barley and sorghum 

Shiro (white) miso - fermented soybean paste (very salty to my taste)

Mirin - a kind of rice wine with lower alcohol content and higher sugar content

Shiso - an herb in the mint family

Japanese Eggplants - long thin bright purple eggplants


I found everything except for the shiso.  I figured it was an herb but did not look it up ahead of time assuming that it would be labeled as such.  I searched the herbs but to no avail.  It is interesting to note that all of the herbs looked very fresh and came in large bunches and at a very cheap price compared to the regular chain grocery store prices.


Where is the Shiso?

So I turned to an Asian woman shopping next to me and asked her if she knew what it was.  She had me spell it and she still did not know and suggested I ask the produce guy.  So, I went over and asked the produce guy and he scratched his head and had no idea what I was talking about, but said he would go find out and physically went running to the back to find the answer.  While he was gone several women who had overheard the conversation came over to try to figure out what it was I was looking for... and still no answers.


Soon the produce guy returns bringing another employee with him and I explain to her what I am looking for and she too has no idea.  Hmmmm... what to do?    Then another woman spoke up and she thought it might be cilantro.  Being that I like cilantro, I decided I would get that and give up on the quest.  Come to find out, shiso is in the mint family, but I do think the cilantro worked just as well in this recipe.


It is not the first time I have been in an Asian market and had people more than willing to help me, and I like that.  Perhaps it is because I have this forlorn look trying to figure out what things are and how to use them.


Fish in a Tank

So I walked throughout the store but cringed when going through the meat and fish area.  They have fresh fish swimming in tanks... well, barely swimming as they are crammed in so tightly.  I had to turn away.  It made me feel sick knowing that in a few hours they would probably be dinner on someone's plate.  I wanted to buy them all and let them free to live their lives.  And then there was the table of crabs on ice trying to crawl away.  And all of this just confirmed why I choose to be a vegetarian.  This consciousness came to me late in life but I am so glad that I finally saw the light, so to speak.


Are You a Vegetarian?

It was interesting the last time I took my little dog to the vet and I happened to mention to her about being vegetarian, and I was curious how a vet would respond to this, being that she must love animals and works to save their lives on a daily basis.  She told me that several of her staff are vegetarians but she is not and then went on to say that God made animals so we could eat.  Not exactly the response I was anticipating!  And once again, I cannot get away from religion seeping into my life. 


So here is... 

Miso-Roasted Eggplants with Tomatoes, Dill, Cilantro and Black Vinegar

For the recipe:

Asian Market Black Vinegar Cilantro Dill Heirloom Tomatoes Japanese Eggplant Mirin Shiro Miso Vegetarian Tue, 05 Aug 2014 19:30:15 GMT
Who is YOUR Hero? Super Man?  Wonder Woman? 

Nooooo.. who REALLY is your hero?


I have personally known the answer to that question for many years now but it was not until I had won Caregiver of the Year in 2008 at my place of employment, Lake Pointe Medical Center, that I seriously gave it more thought.  The Tenet Healthcare Corporation, in honor of this achievement, would donate money in my name to a favorite cause, and when my supervisor asked what cause that would be, I immediately said, Doctors Without Borders.


MSF... Médecins Sans Frontières 


In my mind, Doctors Without Borders is the epitome of what I believe in.  Actually I like to think of it as Doctors and Nurses Without Borders!!!  These medical professionals as well as lay people offer their services around the world in times of war, famine, disease, natural disaster, poverty, and political upheaval and they do it for ALL people as a truly humanitarian effort.  It makes no difference your politics or your religion.  It is based on need and each person who goes on a mission, many times puts his or her own life in danger to help others.


Doctors Without Borders is like a beacon in the night reaching out to save lives.


Imagine the logistics of going into a war-torn area, setting up a portable hospital to do emergency surgery and to  treat and care for the sick, wounded and dying.  What does it take for someone to get up off their butt, turn off the TV, and prepare to go to a foreign country to care for those less fortunate without anything in return except for the satisfaction of doing the right thing for your fellow human beings?


Many, many years ago when I was entering the nursing profession, I had a dream of sailing on the hospital ship, the S.S. Hope and traveling to far away places to deliver care to those who did not have, but desperately needed, medical care.  But then life got in the way... marriage, children, and my dream was not realized but the spirit of the endeavor lived on.  And perhaps that is why bedside nursing always appealed to me more than being in administration.  I truly wanted the hands-on experience.  I wanted the satisfaction of being there when someone was in need.  I wanted to look in their eyes and say... "I am here for you."  I wanted the feeling that I could be depended on in their time of need.  And I don't care how many smart and talented doctors there are in the world, if there isn't someone to deliver the care, people will die.  And it is those people who are the heart and soul of this organization!   


It is frightening to be sick.  It is frightening to be alone.  It is frightening to not understand what is happening to your body when you are ill.  If there was any way I could make it a little easier, then that was how I wanted to live my life.  The people who work with MSF have taken that desire one huge step further... to leave the comfort of their home and their country to serve others in need.  Yes, these are the people who are my heroes.


As a nurse, I remember the fear that went through the community as well as the hospital staff back in the 1980's when the AIDS epidemic erupted.  Initially we had no idea what we were dealing with.  It was heartbreaking to see those tested to be HIV positive shunned, sometimes by those who loved them the most and the gay community was hit the hardest.  


That was when "universal precautions" came into being... when you became more aware of protecting yourself from bodily secretions and  donned gowns, gloves, goggles and masks as protection assuming that anyone could indeed harbor dangerous pathogens.  As a bedside nurse, you are exposed to these every day of your career.  And is there any nurse working at the bedside who has not been the victim of a splash or a needle stick?  I would say, very few!  Accidents happen to the best of us in spite of the precautions we may take.


Here are some of my favorite books on photography as well as Doctors Without Borders.


And then came the "super bugs"... those nasty infections that had developed a resistance to our life-saving antibiotics.  We were also dealing with drug-resistant tuberculosis.  Suddenly we were vulnerable again.  We were isolating more and more patients on a daily basis.  Our TB patients would be put in a "negative pressure" room so that the air they breathed would not be shared with the rest of the hospital in an attempt to prevent spread of the disease and special masks would need to be worn by anyone in close proximity to the patient.


Now today as I read of the Ebola virus in Africa, I relive the fears of the past and remember what it was like.  Ignorance about the Ebola virus is causing families to actually fear the hospitals preferring to care for patients at home and praying for their cure, many times not realizing that without quarantine, they are simply at risk of getting as well as spreading the disease.  And what happens to these bodies if they should die?   Until a cure can be found, there is no choice but to isolate to help stop the spread.  And in our modern world, it is easier than ever to spread unwanted organisms... it is no more than a plane flight away... literally, hours away.


In spite of the risk, there are those heroes who are working to care for the victims of Ebola and several workers have come down with the disease.  A doctor from Fort Worth,  Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were infected with Ebola while working for the aid group Samaritan's Purse in Liberia.  Samaritan's Purse has described them as being in grave but stable condition and there are plans underway to possibly fly them home to the U.S. for care.


We all wait, watch and listen as more news comes our way.  If you can possibly do so, support  these brave men and women who put their lives on the line in hopes that others may live.  I donate to Doctors Without Borders on a regular basis, for you are my heroes! 

Thank you for what you do in the world!  Your work matters to so many!     

AIDS Africa Doctors Without Borders Dr. Kent Brantly Ebola MSF Nancy Writebol Quarantine Samaritan's Purse Super Bugs Tuberculosis Fri, 01 Aug 2014 21:05:01 GMT


Years ago when the children were young, I loved to bake but as I have gotten older, I have actually lost my "sweet tooth" and seldom bake.  Anyway... if it is there, I will eat it!


I had come across a recipe for a bourbon cake and it had raisins in it and for some reason, it just sounded good... something nice to have with a cup of tea in the afternoon or evening.  So, I gathered my ingredients and poked around in the pantry and sure enough, there was the box of raisins.


As I was sifting the flour and measuring the ingredients, I popped open the box of raisins and started munching on them.  They were so good!  You know... sweet and chewy, and not only that, but they are good for you!  Why don't I think to eat raisins more often?  They make for an easy portable snack that I could put in my camera bag when I go out to shoot. 

Note to self:  buy small individual boxes of raisins to have on hand..

When it came time to measure out the raisins, I took a spoon and dug deeper into the box and as the raisins spilled into the measuring cup, I could not believe my eyes!!  What the heck is that?  Lots of wiggly white worm-looking things!  OMG!!!  And I was eating raisins out of that box!  Quick!  Check the expiration date.  They were still "good".


Now I am a nurse and I know the emergency room doctors and nurses see lots of things and might even giggle about some "emergencies" they see.  Was I really to go to my local hospital with my box of raisins with "added protein" for a thorough examination or what? 

First line of defense... call the Sun Maid raisin company!


I looked on the side of the box and found a comment number.  Now I truly expected to get an automated message and not a human being but low and behold my call was transferred to a very nice fella named David and this is how the conversation went...


"Hello.  My name is David.  How may I help you?"


"David... my name is Fay and I am not having a good day! 

I have bought your raisins many, many times in the past.  I even ate them as a wee little girl and I really do like raisins!  Today I was making a cake that called for raisins.  I couldn't help myself and was snacking on them as I was preparing the cake and they really were good but then I saw what looked like small white wiggly worms in my raisins!  I'm definitely not having a good day!  So David, does that mean I am going to have worms?  Am I going to die or something?  David... I don't like worms with my raisins!!  Ahhhhhhhhh!" 


Poor David!  At this point, he too was probably not having a good day having to talk to this CrAzY woman.  But!!  I think he has had this conversation before.  Perhaps many times, as he did not hesitate when he told me that it was the larval stage of the Indian Meal Moth.  Seriously?  I might have been eating larvae?  (I was not comforted!) 


The good news... I would not be harmed. 

(I might even metamorphosize into a moth!  No, my thoughts only!) 

It seems that these are inherent in raisins and for that reason it is important to consume raisins as soon as possible after purchase or to keep them in the refrigerator rather than the pantry shelf.


Needless to say that cake did not get made and I chose to have a stiff drink of bourbon instead!


And my prize for sharing my revelation with David... a slew of coupons for none else than...



Bourbon Cake Indian Meal Moth Sun Maid Raisins larvae Wed, 30 Jul 2014 16:59:07 GMT
"Hello... My name is Nancy!" It was another one of those wickedly hot days in Texas but, nonetheless, my passion for photography got the best of me and I just had to go out and shoot something. 

My go-to "happy place" is White Rock Lake as there is always something to photograph and I can be certain of finding a variety of birds at Sunset Bay.  Being a weekday and the thermometer soaring to the triple digits, there were not many people there when I arrived.


I proceeded to the dock and shot way too many images of a young egret fishing.  But then again, it is hard to know what will and will not work based on shutter speed and timing.  Yes, I got lots of deletes but thought this was fun as he plunged his head into the water. 

I saw some children along the shoreline feeding the ducks, so I headed that way.  Not only were there ducks and geese and the lonely swan but there was also a coot and luck must have been on my side as I got this shot... one of my better coot photos.

Pretty soon I hear a voice say... "Hello!  My name is Nancy.  What are you doing?" 

I turned away from my camera to meet this lovely young girl who just introduced herself and I then introduced myself and told her I was taking pictures of the birds.  By then the rest of the kids had gathered round and she introduced me to her little brother, sister and also her friend. 


It was apparent that Nancy loves nature... and loves animals, in general.  She even made the comment to me that she wished everyone would appreciate nature.  I instantly liked her and had such respect for her feelings!  How is it that she has become so sensitive to the beauty around us at such a young age?  This was actually the first time she has been to White Rock Lake and it was quite obvious that she was enjoying every minute of it and seemed quite knowledgable about animals she has seen and read about.  She even reminded her little brother not to litter.  I was so impressed!  What an ambassador for all the critters out there, and for the earth.

We sat on a stone at the side of the lake chatting and watched the egret, ducks, dragonflies, minnows, geese, swan, pigeons and coot.  Her friend called out in excitement when she saw a turtle poke his head out of the water.  What good eyes to have caught that and it took a bit of looking before Nancy and I saw him too.


I asked the children how to say butterfly in Spanish... mariposa.  And bird... pájaro.  Turtle... tortuga.  They laughed as I tried to repeat the words and as I attempted to "roll" my "r's"!  How fortunate that they are growing up biliingual.  It will serve them well in life.  


Her little brother sat on the ground by the side of the lake and was folding a couple leaves together and in his eyes... he saw a dragon!  With that he pushes it towards me and makes a loud roar, and we all laughed!  And yes... it definitely did resemble a dragon! 

(No batteries required!)

 I told Nancy about the nature shows on KERA and she became so excited saying that she watches them too!  She has been to the Dallas Zoo several times when they had Dollar Day and loves seeing the animals there.  Once again I marveled at her passion for the animals.


It was then that I told her about the plaque imbedded in the concrete by the bench near where we were sitting.  I told her about Robert Renfro... and how he liked to come to the lake nearly every day to feed the ducks and how he had died and this plaque and bench were put there in his honor.  I also told her about Wilbur the Goose who was also remembered on that plaque.  Poor Wilbur somehow mysteriously disappeared and was never seen again.  With that, the children ran to the bench to read the plaque and then sit on the bench.  Suddenly this bench had so much more meaning to them... and they were so respectful!

As I was preparing to leave for the day, I went over to Nancy's mother and told her how much I enjoyed visiting with the children and that she was to be commended for raising children so sensitive and appreciative of the beauty in nature.  I asked if I might take a photo of the children and as she fixed the little sister's hat, I asked if she too would like to be in the photo... and yes, she would.  I tried to keep them out of the glaring sun and got a couple shots.  Nancy is in the middle, back row. 

With that, Nancy's mom asked if she might take a photo of me with the children.  She pulled out her cell phone and was nearly ready to snap the photo when she realized my hat was shading my face and asked me to take it off.  When I did, my sweaty head of hair must have been a bit unruly and to much laughter, Nancy put it in place!  Hahaha!  The children gathered round and we got a photo taken of our special day at the lake and our new found friendship.


I gave them my card and said if they could have someone in the family with a computer e-mail me, that I would be more than happy to send some photos their way.  Sadly, I do not believe that they have a computer as Nancy said she uses the one at the library.  Bravo to the library for this service!  I will post my favorites here in hopes that someone might get in touch with me and I can share our story.


I waved good-bye and thanked them for a nice day and with that Nancy runs over and gives me a big hug!  You all made my day out in the heat so extra special!         

Coot Dallas, Texas Egret Nancy Robert Renfro White Rock Lake Wilbur the Goose Fri, 25 Jul 2014 19:18:48 GMT


I do love to read books about photography, and most recently finished reading "Photographs Not Taken"... a collection of photographer's essays edited by Will Steacy.  It was quite fascinating to read why certain photos were not taken by professional photographers and it started me thinking about photos that I did not take and why, and several came to mind.

There are many photos I did not take in the past, and in retrospect, I wish I had... but most recently I experienced "a photograph not taken" on Mother's Day of this year.  Our Mother's Day celebration was to be postponed for a week as my daughters had previous engagements, so I took off for White Rock Lake with camera in hand for a relaxing day out.  The weather couldn't have been better as I watched families having fun, playing games, sharing a picnic lunch and laughing together.   There were moms walking hand in hand with their husbands or with their children.  A delightful day for them to remember. 


After doing some nature photography, I headed home.  As Buckner Road meets I-30, it is necessary to come to a stop and take turns entering the roadway leading onto I-30 east and nearly every time there has been one or two homeless people holding a cup out asking for money or holding a sign asking for dinner or "will work for food", and today was no different.


I have often wondered about this, and if I should be giving money but I never have.  Will it be used for food or will it buy alcohol, cigarettes or drugs?  It is awkward for the brief time you are stopped as your eyes meet... and then you go on... and then you forget.


On Mother's Day there was a woman begging at the side of the road.  I have seen her before.  On a number of occasions I had thought about taking her photo as she could be "the poster child" for the homeless... matted dirty hair, coarse skin that has been ravaged by years in the sun with thick wrinkles probably making her look years older than her actual age, thin and somewhat feeble looking and dressed in clothes that are filthy and tattered.  Her hands are covered with dirt and she does not smile and what teeth she has are in poor condition.  And today, I had my camera sitting right next to me but the thoughts of taking her photo just didn't seem right.  It seemed offensive and disrespectful to a woman whose life situation is so dire.


I reached in my little cubby hole in the car where I keep a few dollars and pulled out a $5 bill and handed it to her.  She looked at me and then said... "God Bless You".  It was then my turn to move into traffic and as I did so, I wondered how she came to be homeless.  I wondered if she was an alcoholic, on drugs or mentally ill?  I wondered where she slept at night, if she had any other clothes to wear and if she was able to bathe.  I wondered about her health and doubted she was getting enough food to eat.  So many questions and so few answers.  I wanted to know more.  My $5 was not about to change her situation though it might buy her a big Mac and a cold drink. 


I looked across an expanse of grass that extended beneath the freeway and in the distance I could see a couple garbage bags and what appeared to be clothing and sheets or blankets on the ground.  So was that where she spent the night?  Are there other homeless people sleeping beneath the roadway as well?  It was all so sad and tears came to my eyes as I wondered if she had children or a family.  The plight of the homeless is a difficult one and I do not know the answer.   It is reported that 80% have no contact with family or children.


Facts Regarding Chronic Homelessness in Dallas

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Those Who Are Chronically Homeless

48% reported chronic mental illness

49% reported chronic substance abuse

51% reported criminal histories

51% reported serious medical problems

23% reported having AIDS


In reading more about this, I found it interesting that many safe havens require the homeless to attend religious services as a condition for housing and as a result, many homeless refuse to comply with these conditions and refuse shelter.  WWJD?

For many... it is the end of the line and they will die on the streets of disease, hunger, exposure to the elements or as a result of drugs, alcohol or the victim of murder or suicide.

This is an ongoing problem and there are more questions than answers.


Dallas Homeless Stew Pot Sat, 19 Jul 2014 21:23:30 GMT
Food Matters Food... I have always been passionate about food, but I never had a conscience, until recently.  Being one who loves to cook and smell good aromas drifting from the kitchen, I simply find it comforting.  It can be as simple as a salad and a cup of soup or an elaborate meal that takes hours to prepare.  I enjoy the process as well as the reward.  


But let me digress for a moment.  Years ago, I liked to go out and shoot with my friend Bobbie from the Mesquite Photo Club.  It was the perfect match... Bobbie liked to drive and I liked to ride.  She had a sense of adventure and had photographic experience far above mine.  You see, she freelanced for the newspaper and had a knack for capturing the moment.  She even got a double page spread in Texas Monthly magazine following the tornado that ripped through Lancaster.  I will never forget that shot of the little doll laying amidst all the rubble left by the tornado.  It was a haunting image and I saved the magazine and it is somewhere in my room filled with memories and cookbooks.


Bobbie and I went to the stock show in Fort Worth one year.  I loved watching her shoot and talk to the people she was photographing.  That's what she did so well.  She captured a moment that others would overlook and that is exactly what she did in this image.  She got a shot of me looking into the eyes of a cow and the cow looking a bit fearful.  I have looked at this photo nearly every day since she gave it to me back in 1997.  It is displayed prominently in my chaos of a computer room but it was not until recently that the full meaning of this photo took hold. 

I will always remember that day at the stock show in Fort Worth.  They were having a Cook Off and one of the fellas was dressed in shorts and tee shirt wearing an apron that said "I Cook Better Naked".  Bobbie and I both started to giggle especially when he had two "naked" chickens in his hands, preparing to put them in the smoker.  Yes... "great minds" work alike and she suggested to him that he remove his tee shirt and let us get a shot of him with the chickens in his hands so that indeed he appeared to be "naked" beneath the apron.  And he, being a crazy contestant, thought it would be a great idea and took off his shirt and posed for us! 


Sadly, Bobbie moved to the east coast and that ended our fun photo jaunts together but in this photo of me and the cow, she captured a moment that would transcend time. 


Following a trip to the Texas Hill Country I began a long and somewhat complicated journey on my way to becoming vegetarian.


As we go through life, we change.  We are made up of bits and pieces of all the experiences throughout our lives and are influenced by those who have touched our lives in a special way, and so it is in this case.  My journey in life is definitely effected by photography and the friends I have made through the hobby as well as the books I have read... for example, "The Emotional Lives of Animals" and other books by Marc Bekoff.  And then there is the cookbook "The Food Matters Cookbook" by Mark Bittman.


Mark Bittman, though not a vegetarian, has come to the realization that "our current consumption of animals is simply not sustainable" and advocates eating less meat and more fruits, vegetables and grains in our diets.  His cookbook celebrates food as well as taste as we become less and less dependent on animals to make up our diet.


I think back to a recipe I used to make.  It was called "Crying Lamb".  Honest!  That's what it was called.  You put a leg of lamb over sliced potatoes and the lamb drips fat on the potatoes as they roast together in the oven.  And now... it makes me cringe.  I will do my small part so that those lambs may continue to frolick in the meadow.  That is where they belong!  


So... in the latter years of my life, I have a new conscience and feel I do not need to kill and eat animals to survive and this has been an abrupt change as I have been a meat-eater all my life.  After all, that is how I was brought up.  I did not think of the horror that goes into slaughtering animals.  Our meat is "santitized" in the market.  We do not see a carcass hanging from a hook nor do we see the fear and panic as an animal is put to death.  And now... finally, it all comes together, and that photo that Bobbie took of me and the cow once again becomes relevant.  No... I would not hurt you in order to have that burger or steak!  I want you to live and to be happy.  Your life matters as much as my own and as much as those I love.


In the words of Marc Bekoff...

“Human beings are a part of the animal kingdom, not apart from it. The separation of "us" and "them" creates a false picture and is responsible for much suffering. It is part of the in-group/out-group mentality that leads to human oppression of the weak by the strong as in ethic, religious, political, and social conflicts.” 


 “Although other animals may be different from us, this does not make them LESS than us.”
Marc Bekoff, Animals Matter: A Biologist Explains Why We Should Treat Animals with Compassion and Respect


And with that in mind, I continue on my journey to better eating.  It is a challenge to be sure, but food does matter and I thank every person who has pointed me in this direction and for the support in making such a change in my life.


So tonight for dinner I will have a meat substitute along with veggies in a Mandarin orange sauce and I will not feel deprived and will know that no animal was harmed in the preparation of this meal so that I may live.


I invite you to join me on this journey one meal at a time... for the animals, for the earth and for your health.

Animal Rights Food Matters Marc Bekoff Mark Bittman Vegetarian Sat, 12 Jul 2014 15:53:22 GMT
Religion in the Produce Aisle? July 4, 2014... 

So today I decide I am in the mood for pasta.  Nooooo... I will not be fixing burgers on the grill even though it is Independence Day.  Having turned vegetarian, I suppose I could grill a veggie burger but I really feel like a pasta dish, so I find a recipe for pasta with oven-roasted butternut squash and cheddar and blue cheese.  Sounds like something I would like.  I go to the store.  Aha!  Looks like they must be having a party 'cause there are so many cars in the parking lot.

I have my list in hand... a short one but I don't want to forget anything.  I pick up a butternut squash and happen to look at the label to see the name of a company and beneath that... a Christian fish symbol and reference to a Bible verse!  Holy crap!  I can't even buy a stupid squash without religion entering into it!  I can't help myself!  I break out in hysterical laughter when I see it and show it to a gentleman who is shopping nearby as I am sure he was wondering what caused the commotion.  He was very polite and gave me a big smile in response!  Thank you sir, I appreciate that!  I do wonder how the Christian consumer would relate to a veggie with a Darwin fish sticker on it.


I  look for another squash, maybe from a different company, but no such luck!  I am stuck with it as I do not feel like running to yet another store.  Down deep... I really want to find a company that sells a squash with a spaghetti monster on it!  I throw up my hands in frustration and end up buying it.  I am still irritated... can you tell?


So here is the Christian Butternut Squash!  Do you think it is more pure... like, better than any other squash?  It must be, as we "know" their God is the right God... the only God!  By chance... do ya think they have any Muslim tomatoes, or Atheist lettuce?  Now wouldn't that create some furor in the produce aisle in Texas!!!  Seriously... is this necessary?  I did go to the J and J Southern Farms website and did not see any "fish" there.  Oh, that's right, they sell produce! 

And I bet they take anyone's money too!

John 14:6

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."


So... here we have the Pasta with Christian Butternut Squash with Cheddar and Blue Cheese.

Hey... ya just can't make this stuff up!

For the recipe, please go to:

Christian Christian Fish Symbol Darwin Fish J and J Southern Farms Pasta with Butternut Squash, Cheddar and Blue Cheese Spaghetti Monster Sun, 06 Jul 2014 02:36:54 GMT
Believe in Good... Such a simple but profound statement... Believe in Good.


I do believe in good and wouldn't it be wonderful if the whole world believed in good.  I believe in the goodness of humanitarian efforts to help our fellow man, as well as animals, be it one on one or as a group. 


Look around you... who is hurting, who needs help, and who can you reach out to in their time of need?  Sometimes it is the little things in life that can make a difference in someone's life and that reminds me of the quote by Leo Buscaglia...

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."

It does not take that much time, and money need not be involved... it is simply the act of caring.  With the technology of today, it seems we are more connected than ever, but are we really?  We pose as "anonymous" and say things we might never say to someone's face.  There is anger and hatred that is played out every day.   Are we becoming numb to the simple act of caring  and overlooking the basic needs of those around us?


Do your small part to bring a smile to someone's face or perform an unexpected deed. 

Go ahead... make someone's day!  Make that a priority in your life... today, and every day!


A good friend shared a video with me some time ago, and it is powerful.  I have watched it numerous times and never tire of the message... and no words required!  It touches my heart in a special way and never fails to bring tears to my eyes.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Believe in Good Caring Humanitarian Effort Leo Buscaglia Mon, 30 Jun 2014 14:56:26 GMT
There was a knock at the door... EATING WELL... FEELING GOOD... LOVING LIFE!


It was mid-morning when I assessed the light from the dining room window.  Aha!  Perfect!  Time to get busy before the light changes.


You see, the corner of my dining room table is where I do most of my food photography.  And yes... it would be wonderful to have a big studio devoted just to photography, but that's not going to happen.  I use all natural light so it is important to choose the right time of day by assessing the light coming through the large window.  There are sheer curtains that I can leave in place or pull back.  It is from this site that I choose to shoot with back, side or front lighting and for the most part, it is diffused.


So... into the kitchen to pat the sweet potato mixture into nice rounds and dredge them in panko crumbs.  I could hear them sizzle as I gently placed them in the hot oil in the frying pan.  They would be done in just a few minutes, so I proceeded to prepare a simple salad to adorn the plate. 


I had already chosen the background as I stepped out of my morning shower and saw a decorative antique wooden sign.  I flipped it over and discovered it had the right rough, textural patina I was looking for.  You just never know what might make a good background!  I positioned the background and chosen plate on the corner of the table and prepared my camera with the 100mm macro and also had available the 50mm lens.  I decided to shoot with both.


I plated the potato cakes and piled the salad on the plate looking for the best greens to show off color and crispness.  A sprinkling of coarse salt, a little sour cream, and a few chopped scallions and the plate was ready to shoot.  As I placed the plate on the board, it was obvious I needed a little light reflected onto the subject so I grabbed a white serving dish that was on the table and propped it up against the oil and vinegar cruets.  Not exactly how a professional would do it, but it worked!


I always tend to take too many photos when doing food photography but it is amazing how little things change depending on angle of view, composition, reflections, as well as changing of props.  I shot with the macro and then switched to the 50mm and it was at that point that I thought I needed a pepper to fill in a space, so I reshot again with the 50mm.  


I proceeded upstairs to the computer and in LR, I uploaded my photos and then used the survey mode to choose the best of the lot.  About that time, there was a knock at the door.  Now who could that possibly be at this time of day?  I looked down from the loft to see a cowboy hat and lots of glitzy jewelry.  Hmmmm... this seems strange.  Certainly not someone trying to sell us on a lawn service!


I go to the door and there is a woman in what appears to be ostentatious faux diamonds peering out from under her western hat.  She seemed friendly enough and launched into her introduction... something about God controlling the world.  I am thinking... what is this about?  She continued to babble and I looked down at the brochure in her hands and read "Jehovah's Witness".  Ahhhhh!  Why me????  And I was having such a good day... up until now!


I interrupted and politely but firmly told her that we are atheists and are not interested in what she is "selling".  Did she not hear me or did she not understand?  You see... the babble continued on as she was telling me about God this and God that.  Or maybe she was just determined to save my sorry soul.  With that I interrupted again and told her that I do not believe anything she is saying and proceeded to close the door as she continued to babble on.  Yes... she was on a mission but it fell on deaf ears.  I wonder how she would like it if I knocked on her door and tried to profess my lack of belief to her in an effort to get her to see the truth?


Please understand... I feel very strongly that we each have a right to believe as we choose... but in no way do I want you pushing your beliefs on me.   I would never push my beliefs on you.  That is not my style!  All I ask is equal respect to believe as I choose.  Sadly, in today's world, if you are not "one of them", you become the enemy and someone will be out to demonize you or try to coerce you to change your beliefs.  It is, quite simply, a personal choice.  Exactly why should it matter to you what I do and do not believe in, anyway?  And quite frankly, if you want to believe in the tooth fairy... that is fine with me, as long as you are not hurting anyone in the process.  That is your choice. 


Too bad that there are so many people who are still afraid and reluctant to speak out in opposition to the "believers".  For years we have been reluctant to voice our opinions, and I was one of them, for fear of retaliation, but the time has come to speak out... to be recognized as good people but with a different point of view.  As many of you know... all the important things I believe are posted on my humble little Honda to give you some interesting reading material while stuck in Dallas traffic and here are a few that seem to apply to this blog entry.

 I later came to find out that the Jehovah's Witnesses were having a big international convention in nearby Arlington!


Back to the computer and this is the final image I chose of Spicy Sweet Potato Cakes shot with the "nifty 50"mm lens.  For the recipe, please go to:


"Life is too short to eat crummy food!"

50mm lens Atheist Food Phtography Foodie Humanism Jehovah's Witness Sweet Potato Sat, 28 Jun 2014 14:37:10 GMT
Tweeting... As I was working in my little garden to the side of the house, I kept hearing a lot of tweeting.  I looked around and saw nothing but the tweeting persisted and then I saw a sparrow fly up to the vent on my neighbor's house and miraculously the vents opened and out popped three little mouths begging for food and one after one she fed them a morsel and then flew off to gather more eats.  Back and forth she flew and the little birds would poke their heads out of the louvers looking for lunch and she did not disappoint them.


With that, I decided to try to get their photo, and with my long lens, I stood under the crepe myrtle tree under cover and waited, but she must have known I was there and kept her distance from her brood, so that demanded another strategy.  I went into my fenced backyard area and into what I call my "secret garden" at the side of the house and as I entered, I'm not sure who scared who more... the stray orange cat or me!  I had never seen him before and I suppose he had never seen me and he clamored on anything he could climb on to try to jump the fence but to no avail.  I tried to talk to him in a soothing voice to calm him down but he wanted nothing to do with it and desperately wanted out.  Miraculously he found an opening between the fence and the house and was able to slide his body through to freedom.


From my protected area I was able to shoot the birdies without mama bird being aware that they were under surveillance.  I proceeded to send this greeting to my neighbor to let them know of the new family in the neighborhood.

The following day I was again watching mama bird deliver the food but what a surprise when I saw four little heads pop out of the louvers.

I posted this to Capture Dallas and people wondered if it was a dryer vent.  It was quite high up on the house and when I spoke with my neighbor, it was indeed their dryer vent.


This morning when I awoke, I checked for the babies and I did not see them.  Mama bird entered the louvers but I did not see any babies and I wondered what had happened to them.  I again heard tweeting but it was coming from my crepe myrtle tree at the corner of the house and when I looked, I saw one tiny baby bird.  I still do not know what happened to the others and I certainly hope the cat did not get them.


I miss living in the country and seeing nature on a regular basis and I suppose that is why I like to go to the Dallas Arboretum and White Rock Lake as it brings me closer to the things I love.


House Sparrows Stray Cat Tweeting Sun, 15 Jun 2014 01:57:20 GMT

What may seem like a tiny garden that could be tamed in hours has become a major project.


In New Jersey, I loved to garden.  I would spend all day outside digging new flower beds, planting, dividing plants, building stone walls from the rocks that would protrude through the earth and transplanting the native ferns and jack-in-the pulpits that would grow wild on the property that was filled with cedar trees and wild dogwood.  Our cats, dogs and children played in and around the brook.  I did not hear cars or neighbors but only the birds chirping and the breeze rustling the leaves.  It was peaceful and it brought me great happiness.  And was there anything nicer than sitting on our screened deck in the evening and hearing the rain and feeling a cool breeze? 


And I loved the wildlife that visited my gardens... the birds, deer, bunnies, squirrels, possums, pheasants, my neighbor's guinea hens and peacocks, the bats and the skunk that I did my best to avoid.


My perennial garden was filled with plants from friends' gardens and I shared mine as well.  The backbone of my garden were plants from a couple I had met when on vacation in Vermont and Mrs. Smith sent home bits and pieces of her garden divided in little baggies with names attached.  And my favorite plant of all was the plumbago with fuzzy speckled leaves and the most delightful blue flowers and the plant formed huge round clumps.  Back then, I spent many happy hours in my greenhouse starting seedlings and tending my tropical plants.


 I now live in Texas.  This is my 26th year in Texas and you would think I would have adapted but I still long for beautiful Hunterdon County where I lived all my life. 

In Texas I have the black gumbo clay soil to contend with.  If it dries, it almost takes a pick ax to get through it.  Forget about soft dirt sifting through your fingers... this is more like clods of concrete.  We spend a small fortune just trying to put additives in the soil to loosen it enough to let roots push through in an attempt to live and survive.


And then there is the unrelenting heat of summer. The best times of the year are the months of April, May and October, but come June... the heat bears down, there is little rain and the temperatures soar into the triple digits, and all those beautiful plants that I planted in the spring begin to wither and die. Why has it taken me so long to learn to plant the tough native plants that seem to survive in spite of the challenges of Mother Nature?  Back east, life revolved around the seasons but here, not so much.  


The drought has forced us into water conservation as our lakes are drying up and now we can only water twice a month. Our trees have grown tall and tower over the house and provide shade, which is a good thing, but the roots suck the moisture out of the soil; therefore, much of my gardening is done in pots.  


An hour of gardening is about all I can do at one time as the sweat trickles down my face, my back starts to ache and I get progressively more lightheaded.  This is not fun!  So each day, I do just a little more. 


The deck on the back of the house needs to be replaced but that will wait until another year; thus, it has become what I like to call my "shabby chic" deck.  It is too hot to sit outside now and the mosquitos will eat you alive but come October, I will sit on the deck and remember my garden in New Jersey as it was preparing to go to sleep for the winter. 

My small backyard garden is enclosed by a privacy fence.  By the gate, next to the driveway, I grow herbs.  The Mexican workers come once a week to mow.  Three of them jump out of the truck with mower, weed wacker and a blower and within 10 minutes, they are done and then head to their next job.  They are efficient and hard workers and I appreciate the work they do.  


So... I go to the Dallas Arboretum to enjoy the beautiful flowers.  I make it a point to thank the gardeners for making "my garden" so beautiful, with no work required on my part! 


Black Gumbo Soil Drought Garden Escape Shabby chic Texas Gardening Mon, 09 Jun 2014 20:18:15 GMT
Off to the Races It was my husband's 73rd birthday and our girls suggested going to Lone Star Park to watch the horse races. As an added surprise, his sister flew in from the east coast for the weekend. Now on a scale of 0-10, my enthusiasm for going to the races probably hovers around a "2-3" but the thoughts of taking my camera along brings it up to an "8-9". And isn't that the great part of photography... you can enjoy something that otherwise you might not have much interest in.


I can see how people get caught up in horse racing, especially if they follow a particular horse, jockey, owner or whatever... or if they have placed a bet and won a sizable chunk of change in the past. But for me, each race takes such a brief length of time, and quite frankly, you only get to see the horses as they take off and then approach the finish line... otherwise, you are watching on the big screen. And not being a betting woman, I do not have a vested interest.


Now if I was a betting woman, how would I choose who to place a bet on? No reading the stats for me, as I would probably "vote" (as my grand-daughter would say) on the prettiest horse (definitely the grey one) or the jockey with the best butt. Oops! They don't have butts... too skinny! They do have to weigh in, so let's change that to the jockey with the nicest smile. No... probably not the best strategy, so I think I will save my money and just go do some photography. But then again... that is a crap shoot too, as I know nothing about shooting the races. Note to self: check out racing photography before going to the track again.

I guess I'm just a slow learner!


My number one desire was to get a shot of the bugle player, who I later found out is Jay Ellsmore as I discovered a youtube video featuring him playing at the racetrack:

I am definitely a people-watcher and had fun capturing some of the people I was seeing. 

The bets are in and the race begins and only minutes until they cross the finishing line.   

A fun time was had by all!

Bettor Bugler Grand Prairie, Texas Horse Racing Jay Ellsmore Jockey Lone Star Park Tue, 03 Jun 2014 23:26:43 GMT
Raptors and Chiggers... Blackland Prairie Raptor Center I love shooting birds... with a camera, that is!  That does not necessarily mean that I do it well, but rather, that I like the challenge of trying to get the shot, particularly when shooting flying birds.  Actually, I never attempted it very often until I started visiting White Rock Lake and it was there that I have gotten the most practice as there is a proliferation of birds on a regular basis... pelicans, coots, ducks, geese, pigeons, common backyard birds as well as the occasional green monk parakeet.  And what could be more fun than shooting the seagulls flying by to catch a piece of bread?


So when I heard about the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center in Lucas, Texas, having a Photo Day, I was on it!!  Once a year, in May, they invite photographers to come and photograph the birds.  Your donation of $20 gets you "in the door" and helps to support their work.  It is particularly helpful that they will put the birds in the tree or on a log mindful of choosing a spot with good light so that we may get the best photo possible.  You are literally as close as an arm's reach to the birds.  They are very thoughtful and protective of the birds to prevent them from getting stressed or too hot.


My friend Tess and I arrived a little after 7:30AM and met up with Mary, Robin, Joanna and her friend Leslie.  There were other familiar faces there from the Heard Nature Photography Club as well.  The volunteers were spread out around the pond with the various raptors and they were most knowledgable and willing to share the bird's story.  Registration is limited to 200 photographers and you can wander from bird to bird and shoot throughout the morning.  What a great opportunity to get a shot that might not otherwise have been possible in the wild.

This was actually my 3rd year to attend... and yes, you see many of the same birds as they are imprints and cannot be released in the wild and are now used for teaching purposes.


My first year to attend, I was eaten alive by chiggers!


I'm a Jersey girl... what do I know about chiggers? I strolled through the knee-high prairie grass shooting and having a marvelous time. Two days later I am sitting at breakfast and scratching at a bite (initially thought to be a mosquito bite) on my leg. I go to work and by noontime my dime size "mosquito" bite is now red and angry looking and is about 4-inches in diameter. One of the nurses looked at it and questioned if it was a brown recluse spider bite. Yikes! That is nothing to mess around with! Fortunately the ICU was not busy that day so I went down to the ER to get it checked out.


The final verdict... the doctor was not sure what caused the bite but it was infected and needed to be drained and packed! So... 45 minutes later I was back at work after getting treated and had a hospital bill of nearly $1500! And who says you don't need health insurance?


As the day wore on... more bites were popping up all over my body and some places I would rather not mention! I was itching like crazy and so afraid of more infection. After further consultation with Texans in the know, I determined I was covered with chigger bites. I stopped counting when I got to 200!


I tried dabbing them with the clear nail polish as I had read and doubt that did any good and then went to an over-the-counter anti-itch ointment and also took benadryl. Two weeks later, they were beginning to subside. And that was my introduction to those mean and nasty chiggers!


This is an all out war now when I enter prairie grass and "OFF" is my best friend.


I always keep a bottle of it in my car and am more than willing to share!


So... in spite of my first experience in the prairie shooting raptors, I have returned each year since, after spraying with OFF, and I am pleased to report it does a great job!  


A special thank-you to the BPRC and all the volunteers who make Photo Day possible and to those beautiful raptors that keep me coming back year after year.

To read more about their good work:


Blackland Prairie Raptor Center Chiggers Heard Nature Photography Club Raptors Thu, 29 May 2014 02:08:50 GMT
How God Made the Pug It was a beautiful Saturday morning so my little black pug, Mollie Sue and I made our weekly trek to the Rockwall Farmer's Market.  She knows the words... market, bye-bye car, walk and gets herself all excited.  We always park in about the same place just off the square and there is a nice out of the way grassy area for her to "do it" before we get to the market.  And if she does something "really serious",  I promptly pick up after her.  We always want to be good neighbors.


It's a busy intersection and we wait for the light to change before crossing the street.  We no sooner arrive and I hear friends call out Mollie's name.  She is well loved and Bob, the fish guy, sets out a little dish with fresh water for the doggies visiting the market.  We stop and chat with the vendors along the way and invariably people will come up to Mollie Sue and want to pet her.  She is so good with people... extremely calm and gentle but still a bit intimidated around strangers as she does not curl her tail as usual.  We call it "having a bad tail day"!


I explain to them that she is a rescue pug and spent the first two years of her life in a cage at a puppy mill and was used for breeding.  When I adopted her, she did not know how to go up and down stairs, did not know about toys or treats, and was afraid of all men.  DFW Pug Rescue saved her and many other pugs that day.  They found cages stacked on top of cages and many of the dogs had eye infections and Mollie had lost most of the sight in her right eye.  She now has a good home and thanks to all the kind people at the market she will now allow men to approach her as she knows they will no longer hurt her.  


Last week these two little sisters were walking towards us and the one little girl squealed with delight when she saw Mollie Sue and exclaimed, "I just LOVE pugs!  May I pet her?"  She has been trained well in doggie etiquette.  And then her little sister spoke up and said that Mommy and Daddy think pugs are ugly.  (Well, obviously, they are misinformed!)

So as the girl bends down to pet Mollie, her younger sister asks me... "Do you know how God made pugs?"  Well, without going into the intricacies of God and evolution and all, I simply said... "No.  How?"  And that is when she said that "First God made a dog."  And then I saw her make a fist and say... "BAM! He punched the dog in the face and he made a pug!"   She had me laughing so hard and before long, Mom and Dad came along and saved their girls from that ugly little pug with the crooked teeth and the blind eye! 


Mollie Sue is definitely my baby and I love her dearly.  She saved me and I saved her at critical times in both of our lives.  We are best friends forever!         

DFW Pug Rescue God Mollie Sue Pug Rockwall Farmer's Market Sun, 18 May 2014 20:22:02 GMT
Dilemma: A Tooth or a Lens?

Anyone who knows me understands that I just love Blue Bell ice cream.  I'm not too fussy.  Vanilla is great especially with something to drizzle on top and maybe a little whipped cream and nuts.  Well, my husband brought home a container of Moo-llenium Crunch. 

Blue Bell Moo-llenium Crunch Ice Cream

Vanilla ice cream with chocolate and caramel chunks, pecans, almonds, and walnuts.   Oh yeah!  Sooo good! 


I have the feeling it might have been the Moollenium that did the damage but I did not realize it until the next day when I was eating a salad and suddenly I heard something go crunch and then felt this hard thing in my mouth.  Been there.  Done that.  Another broken tooth!


I had been putting off calling the dentist to have some work done, but now I had no choice.


So... yesterday I got a cap for my broken molar!  "Only" cost me $972 (that was with the 10% discount!).  Sheesh!  $972 and it is the top back molar.  Hell!  No one can even see it!  I can't even see it! 


Before the dentist started work, he told me the price, knowing I do not now have dental insurance since retiring.  I told him I could buy a nice lens for that kind of money!  (That's how photographers think!)  Everything relates to a new toy you can buy and we all have a wish list. 


So... he patiently sat there and waited while I made my decision.  Lens or Tooth?  Geez, it was a tough decision!  Still not sure if I made the right choice and I sure didn't want what was left of the tooth to break further, so I opted for it to be capped.


As you get older, life is all about basics and as long as I can smile and laugh and can eat some good food, and have shelter and warmth... I'm good!  So... ya wanna see my tooth?  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  Could ya see it?


Today I went out with my macro lens to shoot some wildflowers and discovered that I really do not need another lens.  I've got the basics and that's all that matters.  Wide... telephoto... macro... zoom.  Honestly, that covers it.  As photographers, we need to use what we have and stop thinking that another lens will make us a better photographer.  It's all in your vision and creativity to get the shot.


Now... please pass the Moo-llenium!

Blue Bell Ice Cream Lens Moo-llenium Crunch Tooth Fri, 16 May 2014 14:26:02 GMT
Happy Mother's Day! On this special day, I remember my mother who died unexpectedly in her sleep of a heart attack.  I was only 23 years old at the time.  Sadly, she only got to know her first grand-daughter ever so briefly and I never got to say good-bye.  I loved her dearly.   


Missy and I As I look back on my life, two of the happiest days were when my daughters were born and I got to hold them for the first time.  Nothing can take the place of those special moments.  They were both born with a full head of dark hair and seemed so small and vulnerable.  The responsibility of raising them became daunting.  After all, motherhood never came with an instruction book!


And that was when I got my first 35mm Mamiya camera.  Little did I know at the time that photography would play such an important role in my life.  I would take photos of the children growing up, marveling at how quickly the years were passing, but many fewer photos were taken back then compared to now, for those were the days of 24 or 36 exposure film, and I would send the film off and wait a week to get it back.  The photos were not all that good but back then, unless you did your own darkroom work, it was the best there was to offer.  And the photos were hidden away in a box or an album.  Computers were unheard of!  But those photos are no less precious than the photos of today.  And perhaps, they are even more precious.  You can never go back in time to recapture your youth.

L-R Missy, Me and Molly

The girls had the good fortune to grow up in the countryside in New Jersey.  We lived on a rural gravel road on several acres with cedar and dogwood trees, a brook and a pond.  Their days were spent playing in the brook, walking down our country road and marveling at the beauty of nature and the change of seasons.  The world felt safer then and life seemed much simpler... no batteries required!


Perhaps my favorite Mother's Day memory was the day we packed up a picnic lunch and went into the woods on the other side of the road.  The property was owned by a local farmer and we followed the little brook until we found a lovely place to spread a quilt and enjoy our picnic lunch.  My youngest daughter Missy had brought her flute along and we sat by the brook and she played beautiful music that reverberated throughout the woods.  And otherwise... there was silence except for the gurgling of the water as it flowed past. 


I remember I had to go to work that afternoon.  I worked the 3-11 shift in ICU and on Mother's Day, members of the local Elk's Club would come through and give every mother a flower to wear.


Funny how the best memories did not entail spending a lot of money.  It was the simple things that always seemed to touch my heart.  These are the things I remember the most.  I cannot remember if I took my camera that day or not.  I will have to sift through the old photos and slides that have been packed away for years... and wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a photo to remember it by.


But as I look back, there were few photos of myself as I was always the one behind the camera.  I suppose I preferred it that way but as years pass, it is always nice to have photos to remember "the good old days".  It was partly my doing as I never thought to hand my camera over and say, "Here... take a photo of me with the girls."  I also have only a couple of photos of myself with my mother. 


Today the girls are grown with families of their own. 

Molly is an accountant, married to Anthony and they have two children... Lucas and Alaina. 

Molly and I

     Missy is a middle school band director, married to  Ken and they have a son, Evan.

Missy and I

And even today, I find that I have few photos of all of us together. 


So let this be a lesson to those of you who enjoy photography.  As much as we prefer to be behind the camera, hand it over to someone else and get a few photos of yourself for posterity.  


And you know how you look at a photo of yourself and you say... "Oh, I don't like how I look"... well, wait a few years and you will look back and think you looked pretty darn good!




Mother's Day Sun, 11 May 2014 01:51:38 GMT
Santa Clara Ranch It has been over two years since retiring and I have been nowhere.  Well, I have been to the grocery store (multiple times), White Rock Lake (30 minutes away) and Fort Worth to visit my daughter.  Not exactly away... away!  So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to my trip to Santa Clara Ranch in south Texas with my friend Mary, from the nature photo club.  We would meet 6 other photographers at the ranch to photograph the local wildlife.


On the way, we stopped off in Ennis to shoot some wildflowers and then stopped by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  We stayed overnight in Seguin where we met up with Nita and Jen and from there we headed south. 

Finally we arrived and our adventure began.  We did not know all the participants so introductions were made and I had the feeling it was going to be a fun venture.

; name="caption"

Shooting from a blind was a new experience for me but this was definitely not roughing it, as the blinds were built into the ground, so that you could shoot at ground level (my joints were most thankful) and we could sit on a chair and sip a cool drink while we waited for the critters to arrive at the watering hole.  Not such a bad way to do photography, particularly for the older photographer. 

Each morning we were up at the crack of dawn, grabbed our gear and headed off to another blind.  Some blinds were best for morning shooting and others were set up to catch the evening light.  Obviously, a lot of thought had gone into the planning.  There were 5 blinds and a raptor blind as well and that one had two levels. 

So... when we arrived at the blind, we would take down the bird feeder and scatter some seed by a log next to the watering hole.  We would top off the water with a hose and rake the adjacent ground to get rid of our footprints and then we would retreat to the blind to wait.  We did have one surprise when we smelled a really bad smell.  Hmmmmm... what could it be? 


As we were taking the cushions out of the plastic bin, Mary found the problem.  A dead mouse!  He's gotta go!  But Mary kept saying "he looks so peaceful".  Right Mary!  He is peaceful!  He is dead!  So she lifted him on the cushion and Jen did the honors of tossing him into the scrub.  Perhaps we should have had a little funeral and marked his grave with a stone but we were not that forward thinking.  Anyway... we wanted to start shooting.  May he R.I.P..

Nita, being the clever techy in the group, brought her phone with the bird call app.  She really fooled me when she played the gobble, gobble of the turkey but no turkeys were seen that day but she did get a great shot of mama turkey and a bunch of babies on another day.

In the process of shooting, I was looking for sharp eyes, a soft background, and it is always a plus when you can capture some interesting action shots.  I primarily used my crop sensor camera with a 100-400mm lens for the extra reach but did get some noise from boosting up the ISO to attain a faster shutter speed and tried to correct that in LR.  All in all, it was a fun time with lots of sightings depending on the time of day and the particular blind we were shooting from.  Unfortunately, no one saw the bobcat and Mabel, the Harris hawk, was not herself as she evidently had lost her babies from what we heard.  And how appropriate that I am reading the book "The Emotional Lives of Animals" by Marc Bekoff.  Yes, animals do have feelings too!  And these animals would only be "shot" with a camera!

One night after dinner, we got to meet Beto and Clare Guiterrez who own the ranch.  He is a physician and she is a retired nurse and a published author.  They are both great storytellers and they had us laughing until I had tears in my eyes.  What a fun couple and Beto is quite a talented photographer. 


We thank you for building this ranch with the photographer in mind.  Beto did warn us though that the rattlesnakes sometimes like to curl up in the blinds... so BEWARE!  Yikes!  He got my attention!  Fortunately, I don't think any of us ran into any rattlers! 


We decided to spend some extra money to have someone cook for us to save us the planning, shopping and the work.  Maria served us 3 meals each day.  All we had to do was  show up and eat!  What a deal!  Thank you Maria for keeping us well fed!

(L-R: Jen, Nita, Ken, Steve, Larry, Rocky, Mary) 

When we had some down time we would sit around and work on our photos, talk photography and ID the various critters of the day.  And of course, lots of laughter! 

I think we all had a great time and I would love to return and do it again!

Santa Clara Ranch Website:

To see more photos from my trip:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Santa Clara Ranch Texas Wildflowers Texas Wildlife Sun, 04 May 2014 21:35:23 GMT
Turtle Creek Easter Parade, Dallas, Texas Every year on Easter, there is a pooch parade with both dog and owner dressed to-the-nines in celebration and what a fun event it is!  It is a family friendly parade with lots of good looking and very patient dogs accompanied by their fanatical owners and the emcee will have you rolling in the street with laughter as he comments on each dog and owner as the parade passes by.  I cannot think of a better way to spend the day as I love people, dogs, and love to laugh! 


Pooch Parade 2013

Pooch Parade 2014

Dallas, Texas Easter Pooch Parade Turtle Creek Fri, 18 Apr 2014 13:39:22 GMT
Vote for Crazy Rick! Funny how photography can take us to places unknown and to meet new and interesting people.  I first met "Crazy Rick" at the Rockwall Farmer's Market.  Every Saturday he was there selling his organic produce and unusual vegetables with his long bushy beard, his ponytail tied with a piece of string and his 100% organic tee shirt on.  He always made me laugh and brightened my market day and even sent me home with a misshapened tomato that I turned into "Mr. Tomato" and then proceeded to photograph.  It was a special treat when he would grow arugula as that is my very favorite salad green!  And it was he who introduced me to the black radish.  You never know what Crazy Rick might be growing.  In addition to that, he raises goats... lots of goats!


I had a request from Rick to get a head shot as he is running for Agriculture Commissioner for the state of Texas in the Libertarian party.  He speaks out for what he believes in and that is evident by his bumperstickers.  His stickers always give me a laugh and a reason to think.  And I too have bumperstickers on my car.  We both laugh reading each other's stickers and even though we may differ in our politics at times, it has not spoiled our friendship... after all, we all have a vote!


So, on the appointed day I headed over to the courthouse on the square in Rockwall for a photo shoot.  The weather was most agreeable as it was overcast, giving a soft light but it was a bit chilly.  Basically we were just looking for a plain background and we found that in the outside walls of the courthouse.  I arrived about five minutes before Rick and then I saw him and Vicki pull into the parking area, and it was at that point that the adventure began!  I was wondering what Rick might look like in the typical politician's suit but he did not disappoint me, because he showed up in camouflage shirt and jacket with his hat with buttons adorning it, jeans and boots!  Hahaha!  He looked like he was coming directly from Duck Dynasty!


We set up on the front steps of the courthouse and Vicki was so helpful in holding the reflector or holding the off-camera flash while I experimented with my settings.  Rick showed such patience for this bumbling photographer as I tried to prevent glare on his glasses, get a catchlight in his eyes and prevent the brim of his hat from shadowing his face too much.  I'm not good at this, but I think he understood it was a learning curve. 


And then it happened... cars were slowing down in traffic past the courthouse, people were getting out of their cars with camera phones in hand to get a photo of who they thought was Uncle Si from the series Duck Dynasty.  And indeed, from what they said, Uncle Si was in Dallas this weekend, so it all made sense that just maybe Uncle Si was visiting Rockwall for a photo shoot!  Hahahahaha!!!  Joke's on them!

Like Rick says... "I don't look like Uncle Si!  Uncle Si looks like ME!"  And with that he would introduce himself as himself and tell them that he is running for Agriculture Commissioner and he would appreciate their vote. 

Everyone had to get their photo with Crazy Rick... men, women, and kids alike. 

One fella and his wife had been having lunch at The Fatted Calf restaurant when she spied "Uncle Si" and her husband said she kept telling him to hurry up and eat so she could get his photo.  After Rick had crossed the street to see some more admirers, a guy driving a truck nearly ran over the curb as he was gawking at Crazy Rick, no doubt thinking that Duck Dynasty had arrived in Rockwall.

Lots of laughs all around.  Who knew a photoshoot could be such fun?  And not only that, but Crazy Rick brought me a big bag of arugula and a black radish from his farm!  And yes there were a couple little critters on the leaves, but it is organic!  No pesticides involved!


Thank you Rick and Vicki for the photo op and good luck with your campaign and continue to have fun with the Uncle Si sightings!  Play it for all it's worth!  Happy!  Happy!  Happy!     


Agriculture Commissioner of Texas Crazy Rick Duck Dynasty Happy! Happy! Happy! Organic Produce Rick Donaldson Rockwall Farmer's Market Rockwall, Texas The Fatted Calf Restaurant Uncle Si Sun, 06 Apr 2014 17:34:58 GMT
Garden Gnome It is that time of year again when I become a "garden gnome"!  Nice weather causes me to want to be out in nature, to see the trees in bud and the flowers blooming.  For quite a few years I have had a membership to the Dallas Arboretum.  This is my escape to see something beautiful in Dallas... and no work required.  My favorite seasons are spring and fall and I make sure to thank the gardeners and volunteers for their hard work to make "my garden" so very lovely.

And how can anyone possibly go to the garden without a camera?  It changes from week to week and you never know what critters you might encounter.  I've seen egrets, herons, hawks, a variety of songbirds, snakes, frogs, koi and anoles.  And just beyond the boundary of the arboretum, you can see beautiful White Rock Lake in the distance... another favorite haunt.

On this particular day, I was shooting the flowers just inside the entrance when I looked up to see Deanna... a photo friend who posts to Capture Dallas.  What a pleasant surprise!  She is such fun and shoots some amazing images.  We walked the garden together and she got this photo of me sitting on a rock. There is another rock that I routinely like to sit on and my grandchildren refer to it as "Lala's Rock" but that area of the garden is now under construction.

Deanna shoots the flowers...

Deanna shoots the flowers...

Evidently with the most recent weather report of possible storms on the way (rain, wind and possible hail), it brought other photogs to the garden as well.  It was good to see Larry and his wife Mary and Peter and his wife Nancy and their son (members of the Heard Nature Photo Club) taking advantage of the world acting like one large soft box of diffused light.  No harsh sun and shadows today!  The garden was magnificent!

So... why not plan a day out at the arboretum with your family? 

Pack a picnic, enjoy the beautiful spring weather and don't forget your camera! 

Dallas Arboretum Dallas Blooms Garden Gnome Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:36:16 GMT
My Quest to be Vegetarian It all started back in 2010, about this time of year, when I went to the Texas Hill Country with some photo friends to shoot the bluebonnets and wildflowers.  One of the fellas had gone ahead of the group and scouted out the best areas to explore and passed out maps with possible routes to follow, so that made our trip all that much easier as the best places for viewing can change from year to year and is very dependent on the drought conditions of the previous year which is becoming more and more of an issue.


We wandered the back roads and ended up on a dirt road.  Had I been alone, I would have never traveled this road as it was very lonely out there but then again... there is safety in numbers and we had our cell phones.  (Hmmmm... in retrospect, I wonder if there was cell service).  We would stop along the way to shoot whatever caught our eye and then we abruptly stopped because there were cows coming out from the wooded area and obstructing our passage, so we started to shoot the cows. 


One of the cows stayed on the edge of the woods looking perhaps a bit afraid of this car filled with women aiming things that went click.  I instantly felt an affection for this gentle cow.  He was beautiful as he stood in the bluebonnets with his big brown eyes focused on me.  I wanted to go out and touch him and tell him it was OK... that we would not hurt him.  As the other cows cleared the roadway, we meandered on down the road looking for more photo ops, but the image of that cow in the bluebonnets kept coming back to me.

So our long weekend was over and I was back in the usual routine shopping for some groceries.  I had planned on fixing a couple steaks, baked potato and a salad for dinner.  I stood at the meat counter and reached for a package of steaks when, in my mind, I saw this beautiful white cow in the bluebonnets looking back at me.  It rather freaked me out and I pulled my hand back.  I stood there for a minute wondering what to do.  No... I could not buy that steak, but... we like pork chops.  I will get a package of pork chops.  Once again I reached for the package of meat and this time, in my mind's eye, I saw a pig looking back at me and I could not bring myself to purchase the meat.  So that night we had a baked potato and salad for dinner, much to the dismay of my husband.

Suddenly the thoughts of eating meat was becoming a bit disturbing and that had never happened before in my life.  I was brought up as a meat eater and ate meat every day in some form or another.  Why suddenly was this happening?  Was it that chicken truck that I would sometimes see on I-30 taking the chickens crammed into cages to slaughter?  Was it the horrendous videos I had seen taken undercover in slaughter houses?  And it seems that it was all sparked by this beautiful gentle cow with the big brown eyes standing in the bluebonnets.

I started reading... and yes, animals do have feelings (that did not surprise me).  Animals do feel fear and pain.  Was it really necessary to slaughter these animals so I can live?  No, I think not.  I love vegetables and I love to cook.  And... I love animals.  Why not try to change my eating habits and move towards a vegetarian diet?  This decision was not taken lightly and please know that after a lifetime of eating meat, it is a difficult decision to make and it does not happen overnight. 


I do not crave a thick, juicy steak but sometimes I crave bacon, sausage and hot dogs.  Go figure!  And the smell of fried chicken is still enticing.  I started out by using meat more as a condiment or flavoring agent and then gradually cut it out almost entirely from my diet.  With the encouragement of a friend, I very seldom eat meat.  It has been nearly six months since I have made the transition and now in the grocery store I go whizzing past the meat counter  to the veggie aisle.


Friends ask... so, do you feel better since switching to a vegetarian diet?  No... I feel no different, and I am not doing it for health reasons but rather because I simply love animals.  If only we would all cut down on our meat consumption, even if it is just one day a week.


“A reduction of meat consumption by only 10% would result in about 12 million more tons of grain for human consumption. This additional grain could feed all of the humans across the world who starve to death each year- about 60 million people!”

“Human beings are a part of the animal kingdom, not apart from it. The separation of "us" and "them" creates a false picture and is responsible for much suffering. It is part of the in-group/out-group mentality that leads to human oppression of the weak by the strong as in ethic, religious, political, and social conflicts.”

Marc Bekoff, Animals Matter: A Biologist Explains Why We Should Treat Animals with Compassion and Respect


Bluebonnets Marc Bekoff Texas Hill Country Vegetarian Wed, 26 Mar 2014 15:24:17 GMT
To be or not to be...  


That is the question! Will Dallas be the site of the Republican National Convention in 2016?


From what I am reading in the Dallas Morning News, the leaders have already lined up two-thirds of the $60,000,000 (yes, that is millions of dollars) needed and would have it all a year ahead of time.  There are seven other cities vying for the brass ring, so to speak, and it seems that Las Vegas may be an archrival in the quest. 


Why not Dallas.... after all, this is the state of Texas, home of George W. Bush, Rick Perry, Greg Abbot, Ted Cruz... and the like.  And in true form, it is pro-Christian, pro-gun, pro-death penalty, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-fair pay, and anti-healthcare for those who have no health care insurance.  Not my choice but hopefully, we all have a vote. 

So... bring it on!


Now mind you, this will take place in August and our brutally hot weather is not exactly friendly at that time of the year and not only that, Dallas is not a pedestrian friendly city.  Yes... we do have lots of hotel space but only 58% of the 16,000 rooms within a 1.6 mile area that the GOP seeks according to the article.  Quite frankly, I cannot imagine walking that distance in the heat of summer.  Surely they would have to plan alternative methods to transport people in a timely manner to the American Airlines Center where the convention would take place.


And then there is the issue of having adequate time to plan and prepare for the security and revamp the venue for the convention.  It seems that the basketball and hockey playoffs might leave only 3.5 weeks of preparation time and the GOP would prefer 6 weeks of time.


Traffic is already a tangle coming into and out of Dallas and I cannot imagine what added headaches this might involve in logistics, not to mention the added responsibility of the police in an effort to have adequate security and emergency services.  It seems they barely have enough in everyday life let alone with such a huge event and the potential issues that must be faced.  The convention will undoubtedly bring protestors to the area as well.  This is a lot to deal with.  Of course the thought is, that it will bring in big bucks to the Dallas area and will bring lots of media attention to Dallas.


So the quest is on to see who will be "the winner" of the site of the GOP convention.


Update: July 8, 2014... And the winner is... CLEVELAND!  Sorry Dallas!  You are a loser this time in spite of bringing on the party atmosphere, the Dallas Cowboy's cheerleaders and a couple elephants to entertain the visiting GOP!

American Airlines Center Dallas, Texas GOP Convention Republican National Convention Sat, 22 Mar 2014 15:21:34 GMT
Random Acts of Kindness Photography is addictive and the great part is the fact that you can do it alone or you can do it with others.  I have met so many great people through this hobby and so it is with the Capture Dallas group.  Funny how you at first get to know people through the photos they post and their comments and then it is a special delight to get to meet them.


This particular day we had arranged to meet in Deep Ellum to do some street photography.  It's a fun place to shoot as there are many murals as well as funky places of business.  There was lots of laughter as we wandered the streets with cameras in hand and then we ended our morning by having lunch at the Twisted Root.  But... that was not the end to my fun day out!


When lunch was done, I headed to my car and was deep in thought trying to figure out the best way to find my way home.  I navigated the city streets until I was on I-30 heading home and that was when I noticed that there was something under my passenger side windshield wiper!  How could I not have seen that when I got in the car?


I could not imagine what it was and slowed as much as I could to prevent them from blowing off the car.  As soon as I found a safe place to pull off the road, I got out of the car and retrieved a note and a magic wand!!!  What the heck is this all about?  And you know I had to shoot it!

Hahahahahaha!!!!  Who would ever expect that anyone would put a magic wand and a note on my car (the "lalamobile")?  You see, my car is covered with bumperstickers.  This is called freedom of speech as well as a way to express my sense of humor.  At a glance, anyone will know what I stand for.  My car speaks loud and clear but other than that I am non-confrontational as I believe we all have a vote and we all should have the right to believe as we choose.


My stickers cover politics, religion (pro Humanism), and my love for my pugs!  There are funny stickers such as: "My life is based on a true story", "I'm not crazy.  My mother had me tested", "Outrageous Older Woman" and stickers noting my love of photography and cooking as well as my attempt to be a vegetarian.  Whatever I feel strongly about, it is posted!  Lots of reading!


You see, I drive a 2001 Honda CRV.  I love my little car as it has served me well.  It is not fancy and shiny, nor does it have all the latest gadgets.  I plan on driving it until it will not go anymore, so why not make it more interesting with "a few" stickers.  I've gotten a variety of responses but for those who know me, I think they probably just giggle and refer to me as just another outrageous and CrAzY woman.  What a great way to be remembered!  But never did I expect to receive a magic wand and a note.  Heck!!  Who can't use a magic wand... and it lights up!  So there I stood by the side of the road laughing my butt off as I turned my magic wand on and waved it in the air and was most appreciative of the kind note!!


That magic wand goes with me in the Lalamobile and the note made my day so of course it is displayed on my car!  I would love to know who did this random act of kindness but I suppose I will never know.  It sure made my day and I thank you for giving me a good laugh!


A random act of kindness can be so uplifting.  Just like the day I went to the grocery store.  I was feeling a bit down and as I approached the store front an older gentleman came out, looked at me and said... "Hello Princess!"  He instantly brought a smile to my face and I was still chuckling about his greeting as I entered the store.  Such a simple, silly greeting but such fun!


There was another day when I had come out of the store and was nearly to my car when I heard a man calling to another lady asking if that was her cucumber that had dropped out of her cart.  I turned to look to see a man waving one of those extra long English cucumbers in the air.  The woman said it was not hers and then I realized it was mine and it had fallen out of my shopping bag.  Lots of laughter as I ran across the parking lot to retrieve my cucumber and to thank the kind man!  Just another random act of kindness.


Take the time to bring a smile to a stranger's face.  I guarantee you will help make this world a kinder and gentler place one smile at a time.


I now have a bumpersticker on my car that says: "Practice Random Acts of Kindness"        

Bumperstickers Capture Dallas Lalamobile Magic Wand Outrageous Older Woman Pug Random Acts of Kindness Mon, 17 Mar 2014 17:33:18 GMT
The Antique Lady

I went to the farmer's market on a Saturday morning and ran into this woman who owns a pug and used to run an antique store.  She said she is having an estate sale at her home which is in a strictly gated community.  She added that they would not allow her to do it on a Sunday but she was doing it anyway and invited Mollie Sue (my little black pug) and I to come and visit.  I was embarrassed as I had forgotten her name and she gave it to me along with the flyer she was handing out.  So, I thought it might be a nice day out to take Mollie and go visit with her and her little pug.


We arrived in a drenching thunderstorm, stopped at the gate and spoke with the guard asking permission to enter.  She asked if I was going to her estate sale.  Knowing what I was told about that, I said no, I was invited to visit her with my little pug dog.  Of course, that was suspicious and she would have to call the lady for an OK to let me enter.  (And she hadn't even seen the back of my car at that point with all the bumperstickers!)  Or... then again... maybe she had.  Who knows?  They may well have surveillance cameras looking from all angles.  So... after some conversation on the phone, she granted me access to the community and the barrier lifted so I could drive through!


We were pleasantly welcomed into the antique lady's home.  After I looked at some of her items for sale (Way too expensive for me!  I like bargains!), we sat down and were having a nice chat and the dogs were getting along so well.  In the meantime some other people, friends and neighbors came in to browse.


The one fella evidently sells things at Canton and said he had just purchased one of those antique bikes with the big front wheel and a small back wheel.  He had it in his truck.  Would we like to see it?  Of course we would!  The rain had stopped by then and we went out to his truck parked behind my car on the street.


Well... you should have seen the expression on the antique lady's face when she saw the stickers on my car!  OMG!!  She lit into me... surely I didn't support Obama!  I stood tall and proudly said "I certainly do!"  She started calling him a Muslim, socialist, not born in this country... you know the routine!  Well, that sent the "nice antique lady" off on a tangent!


She started reading my other stickers.  Now you must understand... some stickers are political, some are in support of Humanism and some are just plain funny, but she was really becoming incensed!  She started spouting God this and God that!  I swear she was not taking a breath between sentences and the more she went on, the louder she got!


As she was doing the "god thing", the fella spoke up and said to her that none of what she was saying about God would mean anything to me.  With that he pointed to the Darwin fish on my car and in a calm voice said... "You're an atheist, aren't you?"  Once again I stood tall and proud and said "Yes I am!"


And then she lit into me yelling that I would burn in hell for what I believed (or should that read... what I didn't believe?).


So with that, I turned to Mollie Sue and calmly said that I think it is time we go.  We got in the car and drove off.  And that was my "lovely" visit with the "nice antique lady" who had invited me to spend some time with her and her little dog on a Sunday afternoon.  


And this is what we are dealing with!  If you are not one of "them"... then you do not deserve to exist!  What a "christian" way to act and think.  WWJD?


My personal thoughts:  Will the day ever come when the world will be tolerant of people who may think and believe differently?  Are we really so myopic that we cannot see beyond our own beliefs and realize it is a big world out there?  Though I do not share in the belief of a supreme being, I have lived my life as a good person, helping others through my work as a critical care nurse.  Quite simply... I love people.  I have supported those who clung to their religious beliefs because I have seen how that can be helpful to those who believe in times of crisis.  I simply do not share in the belief, but would never push my beliefs on someone else.  NEVER!  I have respected their right to believe as they choose and would like the same respect in return.  Is that really too much to ask?  We all have the right to vote and we all have the right to our own beliefs.  It is a free country.  And what a shame that we cannot be tolerant of each other and act in a civil and respectful way.


I am hopeful that the younger generation may see things differently and with time, that all people may speak out freely and be accepted in our society without the hatred that I have seen exhibited by those who feel they are "holier than thou"!  When we accept our place in a huge world and not just in our little microcosm... only then will we become a more humanitarian and caring world to all people and promote peace on earth. 

Antique Lady Atheist Darwin Fish Humanism Peace Tolerance WWJD Fri, 14 Mar 2014 14:38:40 GMT
Ethics... just do what is right!

Albert Schweitzer was a wise man and respected life... both human and animal. His words of wisdom do not go out of style, but instead are words to live by. 


Having worked as a nurse for 45 years in critical care, ethics was an everyday part of my life.  How could I possibly care for a person's life without being ethical?  I was there to care for them to the very best of my ability, to gain their trust and promote comfort and to do no harm.  It is a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly for anyone in healthcare.  Our patients are vulnerable and depend on our expertise regardless if you are a technician, a therapist, a social worker, nurse, doctor or administrator.  And it is our responsibility to uphold that trust.


Part of that ethical responsibility is to assure that those you work with also give care in an ethical manner.  There is a chain of command in any hospital that addresses this specific issue and it behooves anyone who witnesses unethical behaviour to report it in a timely fashion for the protection of our patients.  And not only that, it is imperative that patients and families also be able to report what they might see as unethical behaviour.  Out of these concerns, ethics committees have been developed to deal with such issues, and I doubt they are used as much as they should be.


This morning in the Dallas Morning News, on the front page was an article that immediately caught my attention.  Never before have I seen them use a headline in both black and red type.  This was the headline:


A colleague called him a sociopath and a "clear and present danger" to patients. Another doctor compared him to a serial killer.


Here is the article from the newspaper:


This will and has created great furor.  Some say this is sensationalizing the issue, but I say it is the public's right to know.  These things need to be made public so that we are all more aware of the potential risks and react accordingly if we ever suspect there is a problem.  The thoughts of him having his license to practice medicine reinstated scares the hell out of me... and it should you too.  It will be interesting to watch this case as it unfolds. 


My heart goes out to all the patients and their families whose lives were affected by this unscrupulous and unethical doctor.  We all need to stand up for what is right and just and we need to do whatever we can to protect each other from unethical behaviour at all costs before it is too late.   We need to speak out loud and clear for what is right! 




(With a special thank you to the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center for allowing me to photograph this beautiful owl!)  


Accountability Albert Schweitzer Christopher Duntsch Ethics Healthcare Mon, 03 Mar 2014 02:10:16 GMT
Drug waste... what is the answer? Unfortunately, as we age we become more dependent on prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter drugs to improve our quality of life but these come at a cost... both out of pocket as well as to the environment.  This particularly hit home when I missed the date to turn in drugs for disposal last year and am now still sitting here with my drugs bagged up and needing a place to be disposed safely.


And the reason for drugs going unused... side-effects to the drug, a change in prescriptions, expired drugs, sample drugs not used, or ultimately death of the patient.  It is unfortunate that  there are people in need of the drugs you are discarding but there is no safe way to share the unused drugs due to the liability issue.  Once a drug leaves the pharmacy, it is yours until it is completed or until it is disposed of.  Some states have made provision to accept back unopened drugs from health facilities and prisons but that does not account for the mountains of drugs discarded each year by the average healthcare consumer. 


What is even more frightening is the fact that drugs are still being dumped down drains and toilets thinking this is the safe way to dispose of them, when in fact, it is not, and traces of drugs are showing up in our water supplies as a result of that as well as through human waste.  Many communities have a collection of unused medications yearly so that you may dispose of your drugs in a safe and regulated manner.  There is also the issue of controlled substances/drugs being resold on the black market.


The cost of drugs is astronomical.  Though I was in healthcare for many years, the reality of it all did not hit home until I was in need of medication myself.  Just finding a drug plan can be a daunting challenge and without it, the cost can be prohibitive.  I remember so many patients who would end up in the hospital with complications because they simply could not afford their drugs.  And how many doctors take the time to offer the most affordable option when prescribing medications? 

For those of us who must take drugs,  the side effects alone can make us leary of taking any more than absolutely necessary.  Every drug I am on lists dizziness as a side effect... and what happens when all these drugs interact in the body?  To my mind, it is essential to work with your doctor to minimize the number of drugs you must take while getting the optimum benefit as well as maintaining quality of life.


I have no idea what the answer is, but I can personally attest to the fact that I am sitting here with several bags of drugs in need of disposal and I will mark my calendar for the next date to turn them in.

Drug Costs Drug Disposal Drug Waste Wed, 19 Feb 2014 20:11:55 GMT
Beware of Woman With Big Stick When I was a little girl with my Brownie camera, I can always remember the basic rule that my mother taught me when taking a photo...  always have the sun to your back, and I stuck with this rule for many, many years.  Of course those were the days when the average person would shoot a few photos and then send them off to be developed.  And yes, the sun would throw light onto your subject's face and you would get a recognizable photo in return. 


Today, I many times do the exact opposite as I search for backlighting or interesting side-light to bring out depth and textures.  How fortunate we are to have editing tools to help us with our exposures and to make adjustments within minutes. 


One thing that has not changed is the basic advice to be aware of the background of the photo.  Often times we become so involved in the subject matter that we do not look beyond that and get a surprise when viewing the final image, and so it was when I took this particular photo. 


I was at the Mesquite Moonlight Meander.  This is a yearly event where the local theater group portrays citizens who lived in Mesquite many years ago and subsequently died and are buried in the local cemetery.  The actors are dressed in period costume, stand by the tombstone of the person they are portraying and tell the story of that person.  It makes for a fascinating evening for anyone who enjoys local history or who likes to frequent the old graveyards.


As you begin the tour of the cemetery, a woman with a lantern leads you to the first tombstone.  I thought this would make a nice shot as she was walking into the cemetery with lantern in hand but when I reviewed my photos on the computer, I realized that in a split second she must have turned just enough that the lantern was no longer visible in her right hand and instead, it looked like she was holding a big stick.  I was nearly ready to delete the photo, but thought it was too amusing to discard and have kept it to remind myself how important the background really is.  Sort of like those old photos where Uncle John would have a water fountain spouting out of his head! 

So for your amusement... here is the photo:


Big Stick Mesquite Moonlight Meander Mon, 10 Feb 2014 15:10:33 GMT
Drought in Texas... and Conservation Photography begins as a pursuit of capturing happy family gatherings and documenting the good times in our lives, and then for those of us who have embraced photography as a nearly every day pursuit, it becomes so much more.  We start shooting things we may not have thought of shooting before, we experiment with new techniques, we share with those who share the same passion, and some enter into the professional realm, but photography can go one step further.   It can be a form of activism... a way to enact social change.  


This past year I was fortunate enough to attend a photography presentation by Michael "Nick" Nichols at the Angelika Theater in Dallas.  This was sponsored by the Dallas Zoo.  Nick is a National Geographic photographer who has extensively photographed the plight of the elephants in central Africa as poachers have slaughtered the animals for their ivory tusks... all because of greed as ivory brings a lot of money on the black market.  The photos are powerful and it has brought attention to the dire situation in an attempt to save the elephants.  His book "Earth to Sky" is a testimony to the plight of the elephants and he is passionate to save them.


We, in Texas, are in our own conservation dilemma as global warming has decreased the availability in the southwest of a basic requirement for life... water.  We take it for granted as we water our green lawns, plant vegetation that requires incredible amounts of water to survive, wash our cars, take long showers, fill our pools, pollute the waterways and then suddenly we see our reservoirs at lower water levels.  We continue to build more homes, the population expands and more water is required.  We tend to think that water is an inexhaustable resource... but it is not and I think we need to look to the future and make changes now so that we will have water to live, before it's too late.  And to that end, I think it is time to halt the sprawling suburbs that are taking over the area.  Too many houses on small lots and the sprawl just continues ad nauseum.  When will we say "enough is enough"?  When will we all become pro-active in protecting one of our most precious resources?


Photography can play an important part in the documentation of the severity of it all.  This first photo was taken in 2011... the year of one of the worst Texas droughts.  This was taken close to home at Lake Ray Hubbard.  These tree stumps are normally underwater and now they are exposed with cracking earth all around as the sun beats down causing further evaporation.  Communities take steps to limit watering of lawns, but is it enough?  

Where boats once launched, it is now high and dry in 2013.

Where you see dry scrub... all of that used to be filled with lake water.  This is January 2014, and the drought persists.  There will be no boats leaving from that boat house.

It is time to take action in any way we can.  This has happened over a time span of 3 short years.  Will there even be a lake in years to come?


I found this bit of blue debris on the arid ground.  This is just as I found it in an area that would normally be underwater.  I added the text to dramatize how dire this water issue is. 

Vote your conscience and do all you can to protect our water, for without it, we cannot live!

Conservation Dallas Zoo Drought Earth to Sky Global Warming Lake Ray Hubbard Michael Nick Nichols Texas Water Rationing Sun, 26 Jan 2014 17:00:04 GMT
100 Strangers Project I love a challenge to push me to shoot something different.  Though I have been trying to improve on my "street photography", I have not been doing it on a regular basis.  Not long ago, I became aware of the 100 Strangers Project on flickr.  I found myself fascinated looking at all of these "strangers" and reading their stories.  The concept of walking up to a stranger and asking to take their photo intrigued me.  I've done this on several occasions prior to knowing about this project and I always thought the worst that could happen would be that the person would say "no", but then again, it is another challenge to say you will post to this site with a little story about them.


Along this same line is the wildly popular site called Humans of New York (HONY) by Brandon Stanton which is similar to this project but he is making money doing it as he just put out a book by the same name and it quickly sold out during the holidays.  I bought my copy just prior to that.  I love the book and the concept!  I check his website every day as he posts more portraits daily.  Check it out:


People are fascinating, and let's face it, we all have a story to tell!  Each life is unique but in our busy world, how many people really take the time to ask and then to listen?  When I started posting to the 100 Stranger Project, I used a photo that I call Cowboy Love.  I was at the lake and the sun had just gone down but there was still a lingering color in the sky.  I was about ready to pack up my gear when I saw this couple approaching me.  They appeared in silhouette and I was taken by his cowboy hat.  I took a deep breath and approached them, asking if I might take their photo and they immediately said yes.  I did not want to hold them up and only took a couple photos hoping that something would turn out.  As I prepared to shoot they struck this pose, and I liked it.  Unfortunately, since it was nearly dark, I did not get their e-mail and I did not think to give them my card.  I have since had special cards made up specifically for this purpose of shooting strangers and am always happy to e-mail a copy if they send me their e-mail address.


Here are a few images of the fascinating people I have met in my quest to meet and photograph 100 Strangers.  To follow along with the strangers I meet and their stories, here is the link to my project:

 To follow the 100 Strangers Project on flickr:

100 Strangers Project Eric Jennifer Lou Precious Starman Tommy Tony Wed, 15 Jan 2014 16:55:53 GMT
Find-a-Grave Photography can send you in so many directions, and that is probably one of the reasons I enjoy it so much.  It can be a solitary activity or you can do it with other photo fanatics.  There are always more laughs when you can share it with a photo friend, and so it is with my friend Tess. 


We had been wanting to plan an outing for the Crazy Women's Photography Club but the weather was not particularly conducive and we were having difficult choosing an indoor site.  On the spur of the moment I mentioned to Tess that I needed to find a grave.  Being the crazy friend that she is... she was in!


I joined Find-a-Grave as a volunteer to shoot tombstones that people are looking for to complete their ancestry searches. This is rather fun and I had just acquired another grave to find, so I asked Tess last minute if she might be interested… and Crazy Tess said “yes”!


Crazy Tess shows up wearing a t-shirt that her husband had gotten her for Christmas and it said “I Shoot People!” Fortunately, it had a graphic of a camera and not a gun! Oh… why did I not think to get that photo of her? Next time for sure!!! And of course, I was wearing my t-shirt that said “Find-a-Grave” with old tombstones on the back. A strange combo of t-shirts, for sure!


So off we go in search of Sam’s tombstone. Brrrr… it was cold and misty and we drove around the cemetery without seeing it. We did get out of the car to investigate an older part of the cemetery but still did not find “Sam I Am”, and not only that, but we were getting chilled!

From there we took a detour to the Asian Market. Now believe it or not, Tess had never been there before and the place is huge. Being that it is a grocery store we did not attempt to take photos but it would have been fun if allowed.


As we are looking at the herbs, there is an Asian gal stocking the cooler and I asked what herb it was as I did not recognize it. She told me she did not know… that she only knows the name in Chinese, and that was of no help to me. Then she takes off running down the aisle to show us some special eggs that people cook with the herb. Those eggs are specially marked as they have a baby chick in them, but she did say that they are not to her liking. I kind of shuddered and thanked her for the information and made a mental note not to buy any of those eggs!


The most difficult time came as we were walking through the fish department. Live fish… pick the one you want, and it is yours! Can’t get much fresher than that, but… I’ll pass! And then we saw the live frogs.  Oh… no! no! no!  Can’t handle that!!!


As we rounded the corner I heard a workman yell out at us… “Watch out!” I turned to look and here he comes running with tongs in his hand in hot pursuit of a crab that had escaped and was scurrying past me on the floor. I gave a bit of a scream out of sheer surprise. He laughed and picked up the crab with his tongs and put it back up on the table with ice and hundreds of other squirming crabs. Much laughter ensued as I told the man he was my hero for saving me from the runaway crab. Just more craziness!!!


So Tess got her kimchee to try and lots of noodles and we bought some veggies and then went for Mediterranean buffet at Afrah!


I think the moral of this story is… when you need a fun day out, just grab a friend and your camera and see what happens next! Sometimes impromptu fun is the best… and all it costs is the price of lunch!

Happy New Year!




Asian Market Find-a-Grave Tombstone Sun, 12 Jan 2014 02:51:59 GMT
And so my year begins...

So... I come out of the grocery store and there is a big Hummer parked next to my special little car with all the bumperstickers and there is a fella sitting in the Hummer wearing a big black cowboy hat.  As I am about to reach for my car door, I looked over and smiled and with that he leans over and says... "I have something for you".   My response: "Huh?  You talking to me?"


Now he sounded friendly and all, and I didn't see a gun and with that he reaches down (and I'm thinking do I duck and cover?) and then he hands me a CD.


I said... "What is this?"  He said... "That's for you. Happy New Year!" I looked at the CD and saw that it said ""... so you see, I "knew" God was watching over me in a very special way through this gift from a parking lot cowboy. He must have known that my sorry a** needed saving after seeing my multitude of bumperstickers for humanism and reason.


Being the non-confrontational person that I am, I thanked him, got in the car, had a little giggle and went on my way. Definitely the most amusing part of my day!


I can only hope that I live to see the day when we secular beings can live life in the open and be accepted and respected as good people... good without God.  For 45 years in critical care nursing, I did not bring my religious views into the workplace or to the bedside.  It did not belong there.  I respected my patients and their families and supported their right to believe as they chose and would not hesitate to call their clergy when needed.  I was there 100% for all of my patients regardless of their beliefs.  It was quite simply, the right thing to do.  I have seen how religion can help people get through difficult times. 


Just as I have given my respect through the years and done good work, I now ask that you respect me for my beliefs.  I would never try to convert you to my beliefs and would appreciate it if you would do the same. 


So to you, the parking lot cowboy, I understand that you thought you were doing good, but our world is made up of many good people with different backgrounds, cultures, and religious beliefs.  It is quite simply called freedom... freedom to believe as you choose and I can only hope the day will come when we will all respect each other's beliefs even if they are very different than our own in promoting a more peaceful world. 


"Be the Change You Wish to See in the World" 

(Mahatma Gandhi)

Be the change you wish to see in the world Freedom Good without God Humanism Mahatma Gandhi Parking Lot Cowboy Peace Reason Fri, 03 Jan 2014 21:12:57 GMT
Just Another Game?

The rest of the story... this photo was taken in a fun place where all ages congregate for a good time and parties... from toddlers to teens to adults. I found it hard to believe that there wasn't a child-friendly game that could take the place of this in light of what has been happening in our country. I wasn't going to shoot it at first but then felt it was important to do. How much longer do we wait before we talk in earnest to our friends, our families, our kids and do something positive to stop all the senseless deaths from guns?


I'm not talking about taking away guns but I am talking about responsible gun ownership, not glorifiying them and desensitizing human beings to the havoc, pain and death that irresponsible gun ownership can cause. How many more Sandy Hooks or Columbines will there be? And just as horrifying are the gun deaths that do not command headlines in the Dallas Morning News but rather end up as a little blurb in the metro section. People dying in our own city of Dallas almost on a daily basis. Where is the outrage for the lives lost? I cannot sit by quietly and watch this happen.


For those of you who do not know me, I collect interesting obituaries and I just clipped one for Mikhail Kalashnikov, the designer of the AK-47 assault rifle, the world's most popular firearm favored by guerrillas, terrorists and the soldiers of many armies.  It is estimated that 100 million of these guns are spread worldwide.  Because he never patented his invention, he did not get rich off of royalties.  When asked if he felt troubled by his contribution to bloodshed he replied... "I sleep well.  It's the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence."


How many of these assault weapons ended up under Christmas trees this year, 2013?  Why?  Why is this happening?  This is not the path to peace. 


A photo friend commented on this photo:

"Does violence stop violence?  What is the proper response to violence?   Give me Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon... any day."   


Photography is a powerful tool. It is more than a pretty picture and I understand that some may feel uncomfortable from this entry but I can only hope that you will think about what is happening and do your small part by talking with your family, your children, buying responsibly, locking up your firearms and seeking medical help for those who are emotionally disturbed. Please... do your part to help save a life, and it may well be the life of a loved one.

AK-47 Assault Rifle Columbine Gun Control Mikhail Kalashnikov Sandy Hook Sat, 28 Dec 2013 16:41:25 GMT
Dear Santa...

Dear Santa...


I am all grown up now and there are very few things that I want or need.  You have brought much joy into my life when I was a little girl as you always stopped at my house and left several presents under the tree.  I would get up very early and would run to the Christmas tree... and sure enough, you had been there making your deliveries.  And I thank you for leaving a nice note for the cookies and milk.  Not to worry... I cleaned up all the crumbs before opening my presents and I hope your reindeer enjoyed the carrots.


You also brought much happiness to my children as they were growing up and now my grandchildren squeal with delight to see that you have not forgotten them.  You have brought magic to so many children throughout the world.


I feel badly, asking for more, but I do have a request, and I doubt there is much you can actually do to help, but I will ask anyway. 


My wish is for peace amongst all people so that my grandchildren do not have to grow up in a world of fear and hatred. 


If only people could look beyond their myopic view of the world and live their lives to benefit our beautiful planet earth and be kind and caring to each other.  I'm not sure I understand why that is so hard to achieve.  Of course, it begins with the children and how they are taught.  It begins at home.  It all seems so simple in my mind.  It's a big world out there but quite honestly, I think we all want to be loved and cared for.  We would all like a nice warm place to live and take shelter from the storm, healthy food to eat, an education so we can follow our passions and the skills so we can work to make a difference, a healthcare system to keep us healthy as well as to treat us when we are sick, and the ability to communicate with people all over this world.  We seek equality and the respect and freedom to believe as we choose.  To my mind, these are all very basic needs. 


I do think it begins one person at a time and I wish for that time to be now.  We are all stronger when we work together to make it happen.  Put down the guns and end the political rhetoric and live life one day at a time.  Be the change you wish to see in the world.  Reach out to help your fellow man.   Reach out to a child in need.  Look beyond race, religion, and sexual preference.  We are all human beings trying to survive as best we can.  Stop the war.  Stop the hatred.  Peace is possible... one person at a time.  Choose to live your life by doing what is right and just... for all mankind.


There is no mythical being that can fix this and I can only hope that more people will make peace a priority from this day on in their lives and teach the children from a young age to love their fellow man and live their lives accordingly.   


Thank you Santa for listening to me.  Continue to spread good cheer to children all over this world.  Sometimes we could all use a little magic in our lives.     


Dear Santa Hope Love Peace Tolerance Wed, 25 Dec 2013 14:17:23 GMT
Holiday Family Photos Last year my oldest daughter graciously offered to host Christmas dinner.  Now you must understand that Christmas has always been a bit of a disjointed affair in our family.  Having worked in critical care for 45 years, I seldom got Christmas off.  The one thing that was constant, I always wore the same outfit for Christmas Eve and Christmas... a long red skirt, red turtleneck and long white apron.  It's a bit tighter now but I still wear it.   


When the children were young, I worked the 3-11 shift which was fortunate as I could always be home to see the children's amazement when they would squeal with delight to find that Santa had indeed delivered presents under the tree while they were sleeping, eaten his cookies, drank his milk, and gave the carrots to his reindeer.  Pure magic to a child!  No parent should miss that excitement.


Once the children were grown, I actually preferred to work Christmas so that the younger nurses could be home with their children.  I always felt that this was one of the most difficult times for anyone to be in the hospital and I would do everything in my power to make their day a little brighter and to support the families.  It was the most important gift I could give.


Since being retired, I now have the time to spend with the family so when Molly offered to have Christmas at her house, I was delighted.  That equates to less work and all the fun!  She has a large playroom and that makes it easy for the children to play while the rest of us can talk.  But there was a catch when she said... "You can bring Lucy, but under no circumstance is she to be in the family photo."


You see... I have this "special" friend.  Her name is Lucy and she is a mannequin.  Lucy and I have been best of friends for quite some time ever since I "met" her at an estate sale.  One day I looked at her sitting so forlorn in the living room and decided I really needed to take her out for some fun and to meet people.  We have traveled the Dallas metroplex and met so many wonderful new friends.  So... how could she  not be included in the family portrait?   Not wanting to offend my daughter, I promised not to include her in the family picture and hoped that Lucy would understand and I think she was just thankful that she could be a part of the family gathering on Christmas.


So I got the family photo while Lucy watched from the sidelines.  She didn't say a word!

I was telling my friends Lorraine and Mike about this family drama.  Well, it seems that Mike is quite handy with photoshop and imagine my shock when he returned my family photo and there in the middle of the family was none other than Lucy herself!  I laughed hysterically when I saw it!  I had no idea he was going to do this, and it just happened that there was a big enough gap that he was able to fit her in very nicely!  Isn't photography grand!

Poor Molly was mortified when she first saw it, but I think by now she knows that her mother is a bit "crazy" and not about to improve with age!

To read about Lucy's adventures, please go to her gallery "Where's Lucy?"...


Happy Holidays to all my friends... from my family to yours!   

Family Portrait Happy Holidays Where's Lucy? Tue, 24 Dec 2013 03:19:51 GMT
Winter Solstice 2013 Today we celebrate Winter Solstice 2013... the shortest day and longest night of the year.  Interestingly enough, it coincides with National Flashlight Day to help light our way to the new year.


Take the time to spread peace and good cheer to all you meet along the way in life.  Something as simple as a smile and a pleasant greeting can be uplifting and I recently had such an occurence.  I was feeling a bit down as I was heading into the grocery store.  There was an elderly gentleman exiting the store.  I smiled and said hello and his response was... "Hello Princess"!  He broadened my smile and as I entered the store, I started to chuckle.  What a fun and unexpected greeting.  Suddenly, my day was a whole lot brighter!


I also had another less than uplifting experience as I sat at a red light yesterday in traffic  when a woman pulled up behind me and I could see she was starting to read my bumperstickers.  Well, they must have irritated her because the next thing I know, I see her giving me the one finger salute and getting angrier as she is doing it.  Her male passenger companion is reaching over trying to get her to stop and at that point she is apparently screaming at me with her hands in the air.   So... is this how we spread Christmas cheer?  Ya know how I had at one time said I wanted a digital screen on the back of my car and from inside the car I could type a message and flash it on, in an instant?   Well, I wanted it at that moment and I simply would have typed "Merry Christmas!" 


I wish you all a Happy Winter Solstice and Happy Holidays regardless of your political, religious or socio-economic status.  Sending peace and good cheer your way...



Compassion Hope Humanist Reason Winter Solstice 2013 Sat, 21 Dec 2013 16:11:27 GMT

Black and White

I do not see the world in black and white with shades of grey but rather I see a kaleidoscope of color that sings to my heart in vibrant pinks, reds, golds, greens and all the colors in between. I see more than form and structure... I see and feel the emotion of the colors that reflect in my eyes, for it is all of these colors and what they represent that are a part of my world... from the somber black to the fiery, passionate red.


What a lackluster world if we could not see in color and worse yet, imagine not being able to see at all. For anyone who lives life through the viewfinder of a camera that would certainly be the hardest challenge of all. We take our senses for granted yet as photographers, I truly feel that we celebrate life when we put the camera to our eye to capture that moment that speaks to us. And when I say "photographer", I do not only refer to a photographer who uses this medium to make a living, but all photographers who get joy from the click of the shutter button and the resulting image regardless of expertise or the equipment being used.


All of this came to mind as I set up these shots in my upstairs bathroom.  This is the only room in the house where I can achieve total darkness as there are no windows... pitch black when I shut the door and turn off the lights.  Yes... this is my "darkroom"! With the camera on a tripod and set to "bulb" and a cable release attached, I set up my autumn leaves on a piece of black foam core.  I set my ISO to 100, f-stop to f/11 and manually focused.  Once that was done,  I turned on my LED flashlight, turned off the bathroom lights and aimed my flashlight at the leaves as I opened my shutter with the cable release and then moved the flashlight beam over the leaves, sometimes lingering a little longer in one area or another. I moved the light to overhead and then from the right side and the left side. Even tried it from the back. I left the shutter open for about 2 seconds for each shot. Lots of trial and error. It is no wonder that I never tried this with film. I would have gone broke! After each exposure, I would check my viewing screen to see if I was anywhere close to what I wanted to capture.


In Lightroom I tweaked the clarity, the contrast, the darks and shadows,  and vibrance until I found what I was looking for. Once I had the color photo,  I converted the photo to black and white and though I liked the shapes and textures of the leaves, it was the color that spoke to me the most.

And then my mind wandered as I thought of other things I might try shooting as I experiment with light painting.


So I sit here in an ice storm in Texas with the last leaves of autumn... a tribute to a beautiful time of year and the change of seasons. As we enter the winter season... so do I, in my own personal life, as the years pass by all too quickly. But for now, I choose to hang onto the colors that bring joy and good cheer and stave off the brutal winter that awaits, for it is through photography that I live my life, and love having the capability of sharing this simple life with you, one image at a time.


Live a colorful life and don’t let a moment pass you by!  Every second and every minute counts. Make the most of what you are given and never take it for granted.


Capture it... celebrate it... and share it!

Autumn Leaves Black and White Photography Color Photography Light Painting Sat, 07 Dec 2013 01:26:10 GMT
Eat... Laugh... Shoot! The Great Art of Multitasking!

One of the best parts of photography is the fact that it gets you out of the house, and you can do it alone or with friends.  I like it both ways but there sure are a lot more laughs when you do it with friends.


My friend Tess and I have been shooting together now for almost 2 years.  She was new to photography back then but in that span of time she has excelled beyond belief.  We have a lot in common... we both like to cook and shoot food, we like to eat, love photography and we like to laugh.  And yes, we are both a bit crazy!  A dangerous combo!


Tess was so supportive when the Crazy Women's Photography Club was started and you could always count on a lot of laughter on our outings if Tess was there!  My smile muscles would be aching by the end of the day.


So one day when I was feeling a bit down, I e-mailed her lamenting my aching joints, my recent episode with gout, my rotator cuff injury and how frustrating it is to not always be able to do what I used to do, but in her own unique way, she boosted my spirits by saying that I am still able to multitask: "Eat... laugh... and shoot!".  All of a sudden life seemed more fun and I started to laugh thinking about the crazy good times we have had together as we would "eat, laugh and shoot"!  


That was when she suggested a trip to the Fort Worth Japanese Garden.  Sounded like a plan... not a lot of walking, a peaceful pretty place and lunch at Terra Grill (our favorite!).  

 We chatted with four photographers from Austin and shot this feeding frenzy...

And to me, that's what photography is all about.  Every day is a new day and a reason to share good times with good friends.  You have all changed my life in many different ways as we share our photos on the internet, through Capture Dallas, and on various photo sites.  I have met so many wonderful photogs and have learned so much from you.  Though I love to capture memories, photography is about today.  It is about living each day to the fullest and seeing the little things in life that so many may miss or simply may not appreciate.  You do not have to go far or have a lot of money for photography to impact your life in a very special way!      


As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday... I give thanks for my photo friends and all the wonderful times we have shared together.  Who else would be willing to haul a mannequin (my special friend, Lucy) around the metroplex or end up being eaten alive by chiggers while shooting raptors?  And then there was the attack of the geese at White Rock Lake.  One bloody finger and a bite on the butt... and more laughter!  And what do you do at the end of the day... go eat and share more laughter!

So to Tess and all my photography friends... I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and as you gather around the Thanksgiving table, do not forget to multitask!  Eat... laugh... and shoot! 

Tess, Lucy and Fay at the Dallas Arboretum


Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all!


Capture Dallas Crazy Women's Photography Club Dallas Arboretum Fort Worth Japanese Garden Happy Thanksgiving Tess White Rock Lake Sun, 24 Nov 2013 18:24:23 GMT
Murder in the Produce Aisle Not long ago I was in the grocery store looking for the arugula. It is hard to find as most stores do not carry it. The produce guy asked if he could help me and I said I was looking for the arugula and told him I would "kill" for arugula. He very quickly lead me to it and then commented something about he hoped there would be no murders in the produce aisle today.

The next time I visited and was once again in search of arugula, he wanted to know if he needed to call the police.  I just love that guy's sense of humor!

So... here we have a Soybean, Arugula and Feta salad.

To see the recipe, go to: 

Arugula Feta Salad Soybean Mon, 11 Nov 2013 01:20:09 GMT
Cat Man This story begins about a year ago when I went to the lake and found a painted message on the side of a derelict building that was once used for boat inspections.  It read... "Do not feed cats. We are trying to trap them."

So I wondered what that was all about and then when I looked beneath the crawl space of the building, I could see a couple cats hunkered down far underneath seeking protection from the human predator, and it was evident that someone had been feeding them as there was an empty styrofoam plate.  Not wanting to frighten the cats any more, I left but each time I would visit the lake I would see a couple hanging around the building and was able to get a few shots of a black one and what appeared to be a Siamese.

The demolition date was changed a couple times and then, the next time I returned to the lake, the building was gone and I wondered what happened to the cats.  I was feeling bad.  Should I have tried to capture them and see if they might be adopted but then again, feral cats can be a problem to tame and more than likely might just end up being euthanized.

So I was again at the lake just the other day and saw a car pulled up to where the old building used to be and there were a bunch of cats running to the car!  I saw a man with a jug of water and what appeared to be maybe plates of food.  I watched from afar and sure enough, he headed to one of the big trees and put out food and water and the cats were obviously unafraid of him and considered him a friend.  And then I saw him look up into the tree. Were there cats up there too?

This is one of the shots I took that day and of course, I had to go meet the fella.  Evidently he has been doing this every day for a couple years.  Comes out twice a day to check on them and give them food and water.  He says there are somewhere close to 20 cats as people drop cats at the lake and unfortunately, they have also started to breed.  He makes his rounds to all the different areas of the lake to give food and water.

Evidently a "rookie cop" had told him one day that he couldn't do that... feed the cats.   His response was... "What should I do, let them die?"  He then said... "People come out here to picnic... right?  Well, I'm picnicking with the cats."

He does worry what would happen if he were not able to do his daily duties.  And yes, I said I would help and gave him my card.  So I have dubbed this kind soul... Cat Man. He means no harm.  He loves the cats and simply wants to make their lives better. 

As a result of this, I have become aware of the organization Alley Cat Allies that is a proponent for "Trap-Neuter-Return" in support of feral cats.  Something definitely needs to be done to keep these animals from continuing to breed and this seems like the humane thing to do.      To read more about this program:

Alley Cat Allies Cat Man Feral Cats Tue, 05 Nov 2013 17:04:34 GMT
Photography and Humor I do love to pair photography with humor.  Who can deny that laughter is a good thing?  It simply feels good to laugh and I venture to say, that most of us do not do enough of it.  So many tensions in everyday living and a good laugh can ease some of those tensions and make you look at the world in a less critical way.

Now sometimes the photo itself can be funny but sometimes it is the story that accompanies the photo that is funny, and so it was when I e-mailed my friend Barbara after receiving an unexpected gift through the mail of her homemade apple butter.  So... this is the photograph and the story that evolved which brought a bit of laughter into our lives.

My friend Barbara and I both share a love for cooking and I discovered that she is also a quilter, like my daughter. 
You cannot imagine my surprise when I received a present through the mail from her.  She had told me how she had picked about 45 pounds of apples recently and some of those apples went into a huge batch of homemade apple butter.  This brought back fond memories from the past as I loved it as a child and young adult and have not had it in years.  It's sort of like an extra thick spicy applesauce to be eaten on toast, bread or even on top of cottage cheese, and I am sure there are lots of other uses for it.  So... this is my correspondence with Barbara after getting the package in the mail:
"The good news is... I got a present! The bad news is... I sliced my hand trying to use a knife to cut through the tape to get to it!  The blood was flowing pretty good when I called 911 and then I don't remember anything else but was told that they broke in the door to come to my assistance.  I heard the police and fire department also arrived as they thought perhaps a murder had occurred due to the extreme amount of blood on the kitchen floor.
The good news is... they were able to fly me to the closest trauma center where the hand surgeon was miraculously able to find a hand donor on short notice and immediately took me to the OR.  I understand the surgery took about 19 hours of tedious work on his part.

So I write this note with my left hand to thank you for being so kind.  They tell me I should be able to begin eating tomorrow so my first meal of the day will be breakfast enjoying your apple butter!  It looks delicious and came through unscathed wrapped in the quilt batting.  I will add the batting to the dressing on my new hand to provide added protection!"

I should have known better than to think that the story would end there and knowing how much I love photography... this was Barbara's response...

"So... did you manage to grab your camera just before you passed out to 'shoot' the excitement - the look of horror on the EMT's faces when they came upon the macabre scene, the whoop whoop of the helicopter as it took off from the front lawn, the daring flight across the city, the dangerous landing on the hospital roof with a hurricane approaching, the mad dash directly to the OR only to find that they had grafted a left hand onto your right arm!! Nothing like 2 left hands!

Yes, I know I put a lot of tape on packages. I would never make it in the shipping department at Amazon!
I should buy stock in 3M, except that I buy the cheap Staples stuff."

Thank you Barbara for the apple butter and for putting some laughter into my life! 
And of course, I had to shoot the apple butter!      
Apple Butter Friendship Humor Photography Sun, 03 Nov 2013 15:03:27 GMT
Celebrate the Season... and a Political Statement Finally there has been a break in the unrelenting Texas heat as we head into autumn.  Having grown up and lived most of my life on the east coast, my life has very much been guided by the seasons of the year.  The weather changes, the wardrobe changes, I eat different foods, and rejoice in the change of seasons, but in Texas... not so much.  The changes are much more subtle here... after all, you drink iced tea and eat potato salad all year round.  Now to a Yankee, that sounds crazy.  Potato salad is picnic food for the hot weather and who ever heard of drinking iced tea in the winter?


Nature has a way of reminding us of the seasons and one of the prime examples here in Texas is the migration of the butterflies to Mexico, and with this in mind, I headed to the Dallas Arboretum to see if I might "catch" a few.  I do love the arboretum!  So much beauty and none of the work!  As I walk through the gardens, I often stop and thank those who are working in the gardens for making "my garden" so beautiful in spite of the summer heat and drought.  I always get a big smile in return. 


The garden continues to expand and improve and just this year, the Children's Garden was opened.  Unfortunately, the little conclave of playhouses known as the Pioneeer Village has been moved to the Heard Museum in McKinney.  This indeed saddened me as I loved this concept as did every child who visited.  My grandchildren would squeal with delight each time we would visit and they would have to run in and out of each little house and peek out the windows and play with the little cups and teapots inside.  It quite simply ignited their imagination.  And some of my favorite photos were taken of the children looking out the windows of those tiny houses.  I truly mourn the loss of the wooden houses.

On arrival to the arboretum, the sun was shining brightly and I had no sooner arrived when a flash of light caught my eye and then it was gone.  I looked again, and realized it was coming through a hole in a big leaf.  Normally, I try not to shoot flowers or leaves that are grossly damaged as I do not find them to be the least bit photogenic; however, this damaged leaf was different and I decided to see if I might work with it to capture that flash of light as well as the beautiful backlighting that emphasized the veins in the leaf.  By positioning myself to catch the sun directly in the path of the hole and by stopping down my lens to F-20, I was able to create a sun star. 

It did not take long before I spotted a few monarchs fluttering amongst the flowers.

  I ventured to the far end of the garden and that is where I found most of the monarchs sipping nectar from the flowers for their long journey ahead.

I anticipated that one might land on the Turk's Cap and changed my point of view in that direction and suddenly through the viewfinder I see a hummingbird ever so briefly as it entered the frame and just as quickly as he came, he left.  There were three little girls standing next to me and they were so excited to see the butterflies.  I said to them that I had just seen a little hummingbird over by the red flowers but he disappeared and I have not seen him again. 


The one little girl looked up at me and said... "Maybe someone shooted him!"  It was said innocently enough but to my mind, it was a sad political statement of the times.  How is it that a little girl enjoying the butterflies in the garden should think of guns killing the beauty surrounding us?  I found it sad and disturbing.  Maybe I am reading too much into this but guns have permeated our lives and perhaps taken away the innocence of childhood. 

  Guns are everywhere today... tv, video games, movies.  They are in your homes and on the streets.  They kill.  They maim.  They kill people and animals.  They cause incredible heartache and loss.  Remember when school was one of the safest areas where your child could be?  I am not speaking out to take away your guns for self protection but it is beyond that.  There must be sensible gun control in an attempt to prevent the horrendous acts of violence we see today.  No longer in Dallas does a gun related killing make the front page headlines but instead, it is buried in the Metro section of the Dallas Morning News... just a little blurb... another murder... another police investigation... just more of the same.  And then you read of a young child finding a gun under the cushion of a couch and playfully aiming it towards his brother not knowing that it is loaded.  Another dead child and more heartache.  How can people not be outraged at what we are seeing?   Where is the responsibility?  And why does a little girl playing in the garden think of guns when a little hummingbird goes missing? 

Dallas Arboretum Gun Control Hummingbird Monarch Butterfly Pioneer Village Sat, 26 Oct 2013 13:24:17 GMT
The Element of Surprise in Photography Just because you are going to shoot a BBQ cookoff, don't assume those will be your best photos of the day.  Had you told me this early on the morning of the Rockwall Rib, Rub, Run BBQ Cookoff, I might have doubted those words.


A warm and muggy morning and I took off across the lake to shoot the annual Rockwall Rib, Rub, Run and Roll festivities.  Well, I missed the run... that was just too early for me, but I was looking forward to the cookoff as I had shot the same festivities the two previous years.  Lots of crazy people firing up their smokers and lots of photo ops, not to mention the musical entertainment.  My battery was charged, my card was cleared and I was prepared to do some serious shooting.


I was early enough to snag a decent parking place but on my way to the square, I found two photo ops: an old looking urn with an autumn display of a pumpkin with flowers...


And just across the street a window with the "Open" sign lit up that caught my eye.

The smell of the wood smoke was strong... so strong that my nose could have led me to the square with my eyes closed.  Glad I didn't try it!  That intersection crossing the street could be deadly... even with my eyes open!  The square was filled with smoke as well as the smell of meat cooking.  This is a tough event to cover when you were raised as a meat eater and then suddenly in old age you decide to try to be vegetarian but I perserveered on.


I saw several familiar faces from previous years but I was seeing a lot of new faces too.  Seems that there are more entrants this year... but as I rounded the corner, I wondered where Larry Newberry was.  He had always been in the same spot but now there was someone else in his place.  So I wandered the square and occasionally glanced up at the sky as it was getting darker and more threatening.  And then the wind kicked up and it felt like the temperature suddenly dropped 10 degrees.  Brrrrr!  It was just a day or so ago that I went out to shoot with sweat dripping down my face.  Welcome to Texas, y'all! 


And then to my surprise... off in a corner of the square I found Larry, his wife Julie  and his son.  OK... now I was feeling better.  I just love his BBQ rig and shoot it every year and l so much enjoy chatting with him and hearing about his BBQ adventures.   As we were chatting a light rain started to fall.


I fondly remember the story of Larry and his BBQ place.  It was after a tornado  ripped through the area that he opened up his BBQ restaurant to offer free food and drink to those in the path of the fearsome tornado.  He is a good man with a kind heart and sadly today I learned that due to financial concerns he was no longer able to continue in his business.  But the good news is... his son won first prize recently in a bean competition and it looks like he might be following in his dad's footsteps learning to make some mean BBQ!! 


 I continued to walk around the square, shooting.  The music was just getting ready to begin but at that point I was chilled and headed back to my car.  On the way, I encountered a busload of kids and when they saw my camera, they gave me yet another photo op. 




Before reaching my car, there was a shop sign that I rather liked and thought it worked well in B&W.



Last year at the BBQ Cookoff I shot over 1000 frames but this year, only 187 and none of the cookoff shots were my favorites except for the shot of Larry Newberry and his lovely family!  But then again... isn't that the joy of photography.  You never know what you might shoot and it is that element of surprise that keeps you engaged and looking for your next shot.     


BBQ Cookoff Larry Newberry Rockwall Rib, Rub, Run and Roll Rockwall, Texas Tue, 15 Oct 2013 14:57:31 GMT
Free Advice! So, have you ever needed some advice... free advice?  Come to White Rock Lake, pull up a lawn chair and pour your heart out and the free advice guys will help you out.


Now I had read about this before and actually went looking for "free advice" one day some time back but never found him. Maybe it was a short advice day, but last Sunday as I was wandering around the lake, I not only found him but sat down for a most interesting afternoon as people would stop and share their troubles looking for some free advice. 

Roderick MacElwain, one of the two advice guys has a gentle, loving spirit as he helps people along the path of life in his own special way.  He and another fella have been doing this nearly every Sunday for the past 18 years.  When he introduced himself, he explained that he has the body of a man, the heart of a woman and the curiosity of a child. What a wonderful introduction to this unique soul!   He goes on to explain that this is all about what comes from the heart.  If you want to talk business, politics, or whatever, there is a separate group of chairs off to the side but when talking with Roddy, it is truly a conversation from the heart as he speaks eloquently giving pause for introspection. 

In spite of the heat, we sat under a shade tree as strangers were welcome to pull up a chair and share their stories while seeking free advice. I'm not so sure that explicit advice was given, but rather he seems to pick up on people's vibes and explores their strengths and weaknesses giving them pause to better understand themselves in the act of seeking free advice.  I think everyone who came seeking advice left knowing there is always someone to talk to as you sort out life's intricacies and he made everyone feel better for having spent the time talking by the side of the lake.


I sat there for nearly four hours listening to his gentle voice as he explored life with those who stopped by for some free advice.  The conversation is between him and the person seeking advice but everyone is welcome to listen in.  There is utmost respect and tolerance as he listens attentively and then expresses himself from his heart.  It is a gentle, caring conversation with many metaphors and words of wisdom.

While he listens, he chomps on a banana and no sooner does he finish one, then he is reaching for another.  He says he eats about 20 bananas a day but is trying to cut down.  I find this all rather humorous.  It seems he is a vegetarian for many, many years and now eats a raw diet of fruits and vegetables with many turned into smoothies. 


As we sat in the shade, bikers and joggers would stop by with problems or perhaps just curious to see what it was all about. And then there was the jogger who had lost his car keys. Unfortunately, there was no answer as to where he had lost them but there were suggestions of people to contact.

Cars honked as they went by and bikers and joggers called out to the advice guy. It was apparent that he has made many friends along the way. Even the cops patrolling the lake would call out as they went past.  


And before I left, Roddy insisted on giving me this sign to take with me. I mentioned to the fella sitting next to me that I felt so awkward taking this, but he told me that this is what the "advice guy" does. He gives in so many ways... so many unexpected ways in this crazy world we live in.  I truly think this world is a better place thanks to the advice guys.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for being there for so many people over the years.


Just imagine the stories he must have to tell...


To read more about the Free Advice Guys go to:

Free Advice Roderick MacElwain White Rock Lake Thu, 29 Aug 2013 21:23:35 GMT
Happy World Photography Day!

Strange how photography can play such a major part in our lives and take us to places we have never been and people we have never before met. And so it was yesterday as I took off for White Rock Lake with camera in hand and a collection of some little people.


I wandered the lake looking for potential photo ops and stumbled upon the Free Advice guy! This fella has been dispensing free advice on the west side of the lake every Sunday for the past 18 years. And you know me… I like free and stopped by to see what he had to say. That’s when I spied this world emerging from the concrete and the little dog looking on. Yes! Bring out the little people!


And then this morning from the other side of the world… India to be exact, comes a message from a photo friend who shares the love of food photography, wishing everyone a Happy World Photography Day!


Who knew? And why not?


Thank you Gaurav and the same back at ya! To visit Gaurav’s photography blog, please go to:


So I wish all my photo friends a Happy World Photography Day! 

Now get out there and do what you love… shoot the world, make friends and have fun!

Free Advice Happy World Photography Day Little People White Rock Lake Mon, 19 Aug 2013 16:05:57 GMT
Gotta go shoot something... I have been going through withdrawal.  The unrelenting Texas heat has squelched my ability to go out and shoot.  I don't think I will ever get used to the persistent temps of 100° or greater in July and August and crave a good rain and a nice cool breeze.


In desperation, I decide to head to the Dallas Arboretum.  The sky is overcast with actual reports of scattered showers but the heat and now the humidity make it almost unbearable.  No longer can I think of carrying all my gear in this heat, so I choose to take only my macro lens to lighten my load and I will do it hand-held and leave the tripod at home as well.


On my way to the arboretum I run into torrential rain that lasts for about a mile and then, just cloudy skies.


I arrive about 10AM and easily find a parking place.  It is obvious that not too many others find this the best time of year to visit the garden.  I do believe I chose the correct lens for today as the gardens are looking well manicured but a bit tired from the incessant heat.  All the more reason to plant drought tolerant native plants in Texas... and save on some watering along the way! 


And yes... there are shots that I will miss.  I cannot shoot the birds in the trees or the bunny off at a distance so I concentrate on the little things that I might have missed otherwise.  It's like a game trying to find insects camouflaged against the foliage and then I think about how many people visit the gardens and never see these things because they are looking at the "big picture".


I find what I think is a katydid and later, on the computer,  I am able to identify it as a female katydid.   

This bug is just begging for a close-up portrait so I crop in more closely...

Sometimes a photo will be amusing when you least expect it, and so it was with this wasp.

I was wanting to get a shot of a honey bee but they were proving to be too fast for me but I was able to get this bee as he sat on a flower.

I was also hoping to find more butterflies. They seemed a bit sparse and I may have made out better shooting them if I had my longer lens.

And then, of course, there is the fun of trying to identify what you have shot. Now with the internet there are so many avenues available to us as we search for information and images to help in the identification.  I am thinking this butterfly might be a Cloudless Sulphur and that is yet to be determined and confirmed.

Bee Cloudless Sulphur Dallas Arboretum Katydid Macro Wasp Thu, 15 Aug 2013 14:04:48 GMT
Cowboy Love This was one of the few times that I approached anyone to ask to take a photo.  The sun had already set and there was this wonderful glow still in the sky and off in the distance I saw a fella and his girl walking together.  I was taken by the silhouette of his hat against the night sky and as they approached I had this sudden desire to take their photo.  So... when I asked, I figured if it was not OK, all they had to say was no, but to my surprise they agreed. 


The light was fading quickly and I didn't know if they might be on a schedule so I asked them to stand close to one another and to simply look at each other as I wanted their silhouette against the sky.  I think they were a bit amused by this and they immediately assumed this pose.  I took a few quick shots as I was already set up on my tripod since I had been previously shooting the sunset.  When I was finished I thanked them for posing for me but never thought to give them a card with my e-mail address so that I might send them a copy.  Actually, I wasn't even sure I got anything worth keeping.

I just recently had some cards made up using this photo to hand out when I again take a portrait in my travels.  On the flip side, it thanks the recipient for allowing me to take their photo and if they would e-mail me, I would be more than happy to send them a copy.   I have done this prior to having this specific card made up and asked people to e-mail me for their photo and it is surprising how many people will not e-mail.  Perhaps they lost the card or perhaps they think there is money involved... and there is not.  It is simply a fun thing to do to help me improve my photography and to give them an everyday memory.  We never know what photos we may take that will be special in some way in years to come.    

Cowboy Love Silhouette Sun, 11 Aug 2013 22:27:08 GMT
To Crop or Not to Crop... It is always refreshing to revisit a photo, even if it has been taken a while in the past.  As our editing skills and technology improves, we may well be able to edit and improve an image and we also may find new uses for an image by cropping.  This is a powerful tool that we sometimes overlook in the scheme of things.


Just today I got thinking about a video that was sent my way about empathy and my thoughts returned to "Lover Boy" who I wrote about just recently here on this blog .  The quote at the beginning of the video was so beautiful and I decided to try to incorporate that into a cropped image... and I think it works.


Here is the video:


Here is the quote:  “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”  - Henry David Thoreau

I experienced and embraced empathy every day of my life as a nurse and was so humbled to be a part of so many lives through the good times and the bad.


If only we lived in a kinder, gentler world where compassion and empathy for our fellow man superceded all else, where we set aside the anger and hatred and worked together for a better, more peaceful world filled with love and caring for each other.


I suppose I'm a dreamer. It can only happen one person at a time. I wish that time to be now. Please pass this on...

Cropping Empathy Tue, 06 Aug 2013 01:28:08 GMT
May I take your photo Monsieur? Is there any photographer who does not have a story to tell? 

Sometimes a photograph will speak for itself and then other times it needs a story to bring out the inner meaning, and so it is with this photograph.  The quality of the photo is poor for several reasons but in no way does that decrease the value in my mind.  This was taken before shooting digital and it is a scanned image.  It was taken on one of our trips to France.     

We were walking along the Champs-Elysées in Paris.  As usual, my husband was twenty paces ahead of me, occasionally looking back to see if I was moving along and I, in turn, was simply looking for my next shot.  That was when I saw this fella with his baguette in hand.  I looked at him and our eyes met and he gave me a big smile.  I indicated by lifting my camera and speaking in my fractured French that I wanted to take his photograph... and would it be OK?  He seemed surprised and flattered as he said "Moi?"  And then he said "Oui!" and struck this pose.  I took only one photograph.  Remember, these were the days of film and I had a limited number of frames I could shoot.  "Merci beaucoup, Monsieur!" I called out, we both laughed, and with that,  I was on my way to catch up with my husband.


After returning home, I had my photos developed and was pleased with the image I had captured.


Fast forward a year later and we are returning to France and I decided to get an 8x10 print made and then see if I might find this fella to give him a copy.  I could only remember that his kiosk was not far from the McDonalds on the Champs-Elysées.  The photograph was wrapped in plain brown paper and tucked under my arm and we walked, and walked and walked and were nearly to the McDonalds but I did not see him.  Finally I decided to stop and ask someone as surely all the vendors must know each other.  I waited in line and when it was my turn, I asked the woman tending the kiosk if she might help me.  She indicated she spoke little English so with a bit of French and English and lots of hand gestures I explained that a year ago I had taken this photograph while on vacation and would like to give this fella a copy.


I opened the brown wrapper and put the photograph in front of her and suddenly her hands went to her face and she instantly had tears in her eyes and said to me in French...   "Il est décédé."  (He is deceased.)  I was stunned!  How could that be?  He was a young man and looked to be in good health just the year before.   She stopped what she was doing even though there was a line of people waiting to buy their papers, and walked with me to the middle of the sidewalk and pointed to a kiosk just a bit further down the street and helped me to understand that his wife should be there.  If by chance she was not there, then to bring the photo back to her and she would be sure to give it to the wife.


This is all so awkward but in the back of my mind, I am thinking she would like to have the photograph as a remembrance.  I approach the kiosk and see an Asian woman.  On questioning, she says she speaks some English so I am now thinking it will all be a bit easier.  I explain that my husband and I had been on vacation the year before and I had taken this photo and then went on to explain how I came to speak with the other vendor and how she sent me here, and how sorry I am to hear of her husband's demise.  I open the photograph and set it in front of her.   Her eyes lock on the photo and then she leans forward on her elbows and stares me in the eyes and says in a deep gruff voice... "So... how do you know my husband?"

This was definitely not the response I had expected to get.  I reitereated the story again but was still looked at with great suspicion.   I once again indicated how sorry I was and walked away feeling ill-at-ease about the situation.


Before leaving for the airport to return home, we were waiting in the hotel lobby for the shuttle and struck up a conversation with the fella at the desk who was British.  Of course I had my camera slung over my shoulder and I was telling him the story of the ill-fated photograph and then he looks at my camera and says in a  very serious voice... "Please, whatever you do... do not take my photo!"       

Champs-Elysées France Fri, 02 Aug 2013 22:05:41 GMT
Photography at the Farmers' Market Nearly every Saturday morning during market season, I cross the lake to Rockwall to visit the market on the square and often times my faithful companion, Mollie Sue, the little black pug goes along.  This is the third year of quite regular visits to the market and it is a simple joy in my life.  I look forward to picking up some veggies and bread and just wandering the aisles to see what is in season.  But I must admit, the best part of it all is meeting new friends along the way.


I look forward to chatting with the vendors as well as strangers that I run into. Nothing starts a conversation like a dog, a baby, cute little kids or whatever.  It is definitely a social affair and to my mind, that is part of the allure of a local market.  Usually, they will also have some music performed by a local artist which makes it especially festive.


So on this particular day I was wandering the market when I came upon these children sitting behind the family's market stand having some breakfast.  I was taking a few shots when mom came checking on them.  I said I hope she didn't mind if I took a few shots and that I would be more than happy to give her a print and she gave me the go-ahead.  I took quite a few shots but was having difficulty getting them to both look at the camera until I grabbed this shot.  I was taken by his amusement of the situation and her inquisitive look.  

In the heat of the summer, I do not stay as long as I would like but on this particular day there was a slight breeze and cloud cover which made it especially nice for photography.  As I was leaving the market, I stopped before crossing the street and noticed a fella on a Harley.  Yep!  I wanted his photo!  He was stopped at a red light and I had just enough time to gesture to him, asking if I might take his photo.  He gave a quick nod, the shutter was clicked and then with a roar, he was off down the road.  It is these spontaneous surprise moments that fascinate me.  I do not have to travel far from home in an attempt to hone my skills and turn a simple day into something special.

I do thank everyone who has allowed me to aim my camera in their direction and am most happy to send a copy whenever I can. 


To see more of the Rockwall Farmers' Market... check out my book on Blurb:  

Rockwall Farmers' Market Rockwall Farmers'Market Book on Blurb Sun, 28 Jul 2013 15:29:37 GMT
"And don't forget your macro..." What are friends for, if not to remind you of what gear you need to be sure to take along? 

And so it was on this day as I met with a group of photogs from the nature club I belong to.


We were meeting very early morning at a nature preserve that was at a bit of a jaunt from where I live, but I thought that by meeting at 07:00AM, we might beat the heat.  Then again... this is Texas and the heat does not go away in July and August and rarely do we see rain.  A photo friend had said... "Be sure to take your macro"... and I did heed those words!


When I arrived I had my 24-105mm lens on the camera and took a few "I am here" shots.  These left a lot to be desired and the sky at that time of day was somewhat clouded over and lackluster.  We walked as a group down the concrete path as runners huffed and puffed past us and an occasional biker would go whizzing by.  Already the sweat was trickling down my face and I could feel my hair was wet under my hat.  I've never liked the Texas heat and guess I will never get used to it.   I was not the least bit inspired by what I was seeing so I lagged behind trying to find something to shoot, and then those words rang true... "don't forget your macro!"   Yes, it was time to switch to the macro, for sure!


Suddenly things took a turn for the better as I lost the view of the "big picture" and focused on the smaller things.  The excitement was back when I discovered a grasshopper clinging to vegetation and I stalked him around this leaf and he obliged by sitting quite still and watching me in the process.   I'm not sure who was more intrigued... me or him.  This was a handheld shot as I do prefer not to lug my tripod.  The less weight the better and more than likely by the time I would have gotten set up and gotten him in range, he may have well taken off with one mighty jump.

At this point, I had lost view of the group and continued to shoot in this little area.  There were passionflowers blooming... both purple and white.  I had never seen white passionflowers before but had better success capturing the purple ones, and I wondered if these had indeed been planted at one time as I have not seen them occuring randomly in nature.  Regardless, their wild, frenzied look pleased me and I took quite a number of shots.

Before long one of the members came back to check on me, to be sure all was well.  By that time, my joints were aching from arthritis and I was becoming lightheaded from the heat and made the decision to call it a day as I still had a trek back to the car.  In spite of not being able to continue the entire hike, I came back with some photos that I liked, and was so glad I remembered to take my macro! 




Grasshopper Macro Passion Flower Mon, 22 Jul 2013 14:56:23 GMT
Portrait Photography on the Fly In writing about my quest to do more street photography, I got thinking about this photo I took several years ago in Louisiana.  I was with a small group of photogs sitting in a little bakery/cafe eating doughnuts when an elderly man rode past the window on his bike with his black dog running behind.  No one else much noticed him but I spoke up and said that we just missed a photo op.  With that, the fella who owns the bakery said... "Oh, he will be back.  He stops in nearly every morning for a jelly doughnut."  And sure enough, a short time later, here he comes on his bike and he's coming in for his doughnut.  They refer to him as "Lover Boy" in the bakery and he is quite well known around this little town.


My back was to the doughnut case as he was getting his doughnut but I then heard some crying and turned to find him in tears talking to the gal at the counter.  Evidently this happens often.  Seems that he lost his elderly wife from a rape/murder and when he talks about her, he breaks down in tears.  He even named his dog Shirley... after his wife.  It was so heartbreaking to hear of his story.  So with doughnut in hand he says goodbye to his friends at the bakery and goes out on the sidewalk. 


I wanted his portrait so bad but could not imagine approaching him to ask for the opportunity; however, the fella who had organized the photo workshop has lots of experience doing just that and I saw him get up with his camera and go out to talk with the fella.  After a bit, I saw that he was taking a few photos and I went out to join him.  The fella said it was OK that we take his photo and actually seemed a bit amused that anyone would be interested in doing so.  By then the dog was gone... probably headed on home.


In the midst of shooting, our fearless leader asked if that was a bit of blood on his face and Lover Boy reached up and wiped his face to find a glob of strawberry jelly!  We all laughed, and it broke any lingering tension of photographing this fella.


While shooting, I also got a few shots of his hands as he was holding his pipe.  I've always liked hand shots as they seem to tell a lot about the person.


So when I got home and put the photos on the computer... I was disappointed.  They did not have the same intensity that I had remembered when shooting and then wondered if they might look better as a black and white image.  When I converted them to black and white, it totally changed the feel of the image and I felt they so much better represented the man I remembered.


I post this as a tribute to "Lover Boy" as well as to our fearless leader, Jeremy, for teaching me a bit more about street/portrait  photography on the fly.

Louisiana Lover Boy Street Photography Tue, 16 Jul 2013 15:24:10 GMT
My Tree at the Lake The first of the year I gave the "crazy women" from the Crazy Women's Photography Club a challenge to undertake for the entire year, the challenge being to shoot the same thing throughout the year in different weather, different times of day, different seasons, different angles, and with different compositions.  The purpose of this exercise is to get them to go out and shoot on a regular basis, to see how the same subject may look very different depending on when it is shot.  And ideally, this should be someplace close to home to make the exercise a bit easier.  We don't all have the luxury of traveling off to far away lands and I want them to understand that there can be many shooting opportunities close to home but it may require visiting more than once to get the best shot. 


So for my challenge, I chose a tree at the lake.  The lake is nearby making it an easy go-to destination.  I chose this tree because of it's graceful form and because it sits on a small piece of land that juts out into the lake making for a bit more interesting view.  At the end of the year, I will ask each gal to make a collage using her subject choosing those photos that best show the differences that have been captured.


Here is "My Tree at the Lake"...

Note how the lens flare points directly to my chosen tree!   

Midway through the year, I have probably taken about 200 photos of "my tree" and already I am appreciating the variation as the tree and sky change from month to month and shot to shot.


Crazy Women's Photography Club Lake Ray Hubbard My Tree Fri, 12 Jul 2013 15:34:57 GMT
Street Photography Cameras are everywhere today. Privacy? Is there really such a thing in today's world? No matter where you turn there is someone shooting with a camera, an iphone or an ipad. We are being watched constantly by surveillance cameras. And where does a photographer stand legally if he takes a photograph of a person in a public venue and then posts it somewhere? My understanding is that it is OK to do that if they are in a public place. Of course there can always be complicating factors to all of this.


We have all done it in the interest of photography, to tell a story or to document a happening.  Certainly if someone does not want their photo  taken or does not want a photo posted, I would respect their wishes.  I am not here to alienate people and perhaps that is why it has taken me so long to come around to street photography.  We are all voyeurs to some extent and what is more fascinating than watching people going about their everyday lives?  I have always been a people watcher, particularly in airports and train stations.  I have been brought to tears on a number of occasions watching people say their goodbyes.  To my mind, I always want to know the rest of the story.  After all, each of us has a story to tell.  But with street photography, you do not get the story.  You are left to wonder.  Catching people unaware is an art especially if it illicits an emotion from the viewer. 


And then there are those times when you see someone on the street and you simply would love to take a portrait of them.   It takes guts to go up to a stranger and tell them you would like to take their portrait and would they mind and I would be happy to send you a copy.  Sometimes it is the way they are dressed or maybe they have one of those faces that shows such character.   I am actually getting a little braver at doing this.  After all, the worst they can say is "no"!


And then there is the wrong way to do it... and I have done that just recently, simply because the young fella took me by surprise.  I was with some photog friends in a fast food eatery waiting to place our order and we had our cameras in hand and I turned to look behind me and there is this young cowboy, nice looking, tall, slim, wearing a cowboy hat, tight jeans, and a big silver cross hanging around his neck.  Without thinking I blurted out... "OMG!  I would love to shoot you!"  Not exactly subtle, was it?  Obviously I was nowhere near getting his portrait but it did give us all a good laugh and he made sure to say good-bye to us when we left.  He was probably relieved to see us go!  Hey... you have to have a sense of humor about these things!


There has recently been a story in the news about a nanny who did street photography for years.  All of her photos were put in a storage unit and when she could no longer afford to pay the fee to maintain the unit, all her things were sold.  Her name was Vivian Maier.  She was an unknown who had a passion for photography and this was long before digital!  Her thousands of photographs have been bought by several people who are now discovering they are holding a treasure trove of street photography done by an extremely talented woman who never lived to know the fame that will be hers in death.

To see Vivian Maier's story, check out Part 1 of this documentary by the BBC:

When Part 2 becomes available, I will add it to this post.


I shared this with some photo friends and one gal sent me a video about using a 50mm lens for street photography.  That particular morning I was heading to the local farmers' market and decided to give it a try with my 50mm lens which I do not use as often as I should.  Now I will admit that I did miss the ability to zoom and it took a bit to get used to shooting with a prime lens.  I only came away with one keeper and it was a pleasant surprise because I did not remember the lady in the photo as I was concentrating on the guy with the umbrella warding off the searing Texas sun.  Nor did I notice the rusted toy truck in the photo, and now that I look at it, I find it somewhat comical.   


                                                                                      "Sun-Day" at the Market

For a wonderful look back at 19th century London street photography by John Thomson:

50mm lens Street Photography Vivian Maier Mon, 08 Jul 2013 02:24:58 GMT
Why shoot food? Food has always been a fascination for me. It tells so much about who we are.


I was but a young girl when my interest turned to food.  I can remember listening to the television when I was about 10 or 11 years old and sitting on the floor cutting out recipes from magazines... things that looked good that I wanted to make.  I have always been a clipper of things and a saver and from a young age I liked working in the kitchen.  Those were the days of counting 150 "stirs" rather than using a mixer.


My mother never claimed to be a good cook yet I can remember that she made the most wonderful peach pies with a crumb topping and pumpkin pies.  But back then, meals were repititious and the ingredients we have today were not available to the average household. 


It was always an event when my father would bring home fresh oysters for my mother to make oyster stew.  One day he offered me a raw oyster to eat, which I did... and as quickly as it went down, it came right back up!  It was not until years later in France that I came to love oysters in any form.


I suppose my mother was a bit of a romantic.  If dinner only consisted of scrambled eggs and something to go with them, she would always set the table and light the candles and make it feel special.  The simplest food became not just a meal, but a memory.  And when I married, I continued this tradition and my quest to experiment with food took off.


My mother never cooked with garlic or mushrooms and suddenly I fell in love with these ingredients.  The grocers were now carrying more "exotic" ingredients and my palate was expanding.  I collected a huge library of cookbooks as well as all the cooking magazines.  I loved looking at the photographs but back in film days, I never even considered shooting food.  It was not until digital came along, and quite frankly, I never did much until the unrelenting heat in Texas, two years ago, drove me to shoot food in the cool of the house.


Just this year I took a challenge on-line to improve my food photography thanks to Neel at Learn Food Photography and Styling.

Here is the link:


My chosen food to work with for the month was tomatoes and nearly everyday my assignment was to shoot tomatoes.  I learned more about light, composition, props, and backgrounds through this challenge.  I can slowly see my food photography improving.  I have vowed not to use some common tricks of adulterating food for the photograph.  I shoot what I cook.  Everything that I shoot, I can and will eat!  And many nights our dinner has been put on hold until I get the shot... and then we can eat.


I did a poster in the food challenge for tomatoes that I rather liked... simply a variety of red tomatoes and a few herbs. Tomatoes and Herbs

By the end of the month, I didn't think I wanted to see another tomato for quite a long time as I was eating them daily.


So my food adventures continue and yesterday I made a simple cornbread recipe, and of course I shot it.  I have great hopes of putting together a cookbook for our daughters of some of my favorite recipes.

Piquant Cornbread

Cornbread Food Photography Tomatoes Fri, 05 Jul 2013 02:44:11 GMT
Super Moon Lots of hype about the "super moon" so of course I put it on my calendar of things to do.  After all, I have never gotten a decent shot of the moon... the reason being that I am too lazy to lug and set up my tripod and I mistakenly think I can simply let the camera make the decisions as far as camera settings are concerned and how wrong I am!


When the camera sees all of the dark, dark sky, it immediately wants to turn it to gray and blow out the moon.  We simply do not realize how bright the moon actually is... after all, it is reflecting the sun!  So in preparation to shoot the moon, I contact my trusty and talented photographer friend for some advice and he confirms what I have read and my initial settings, and then based on my results, I can tweak the settings as need be.


So I head to the lake where I will have an unencumbered view of the moon and I wait to see it peek over the horizon... and I wait some more.  It is a bit hazy and difficult to see as there is still light in the sky and then I spot it and begin to shoot intermittently.  


As darkness approaches I adjust my settings to Manual, ISO 125, F 11, Shutter 1/125 and turn my IS off and am using a tripod as well as a cable release.  It is quite windy with rarely a lull in the wind.  I tried including something else in the photo to add interest but was unable to do so without the moon looking like... a dot in the sky.  Tonight I simply wanted to get a shot of the moon, knowing I would still have to crop it to get the image I am looking for.  I try to wait for a bit of a lull in the wind before shooting.


So... I have many shots and they all look about the same.  I work with them in Lightroom and pick the best of the lot and then decide to pair a quote with the photo.    

And then I decide to play some more and photoshop my super moon into my sunrise shot of the other day.  I obviously have a little too much time on my hands!


Super Moon Rising...

Now that's what I call a SUPER MOON!

Lake Ray Hubbard Photoshop Super Moon Sun, 23 Jun 2013 18:45:33 GMT
When close is not close enough! How many times have you wished for a bigger, better lens?  We have this innate desire as photographers to get as close to our subject as possible... up close and personal, if you will.  We know when we need this lens but either we don't have the right lens on our camera at that particular moment or maybe we don't own a powerful telephoto or a macro lens.   And then let's face it...  even if we do have the chosen lens, the subject is way too flighty to shoot close up and you make the best of the tools at hand and in this case it is the ability to crop your image.


Now granted, a cropped image may not be the best when it comes to printing but, seriously, how many of your images do you print?  I have run out of wall space as I am addicted to hanging things (not just photographs) on my walls.  A blank wall makes me crazy!  For the most part, our images are viewed on computer screens and shared on photo sites.


Several days ago I found myself riding with my friend Mary as we visited the Hagerman Wildlife Refuge in Sherman, Texas.  What a spectacular place... talk about getting back to nature!  It is wide open on Lake Texoma and is well known for attracting birds of all kinds.  And the best part is... you can travel by car on the gravel roads and stop at any point when you see a photo op, and the day we visited, there were lots of them!  And the other thing I liked was that it is not necessary to hike to see things of interest.  As a matter of fact, the animals seem more tolerant of a car than a walking human being.  We not only saw a myriad of birds that day but there were wildflowers in bloom and they attracted butterflies.


As we rode along looking for photo ops, we came upon this group of thistles that were attracting butterflies as well as a hummingbird hawk moth directly outside of the passenger side  window.  Now I have tried on many occasions to shoot these little flying critters but they have proven too quick for me and would dart off as I approached or I would have too slow a shutterspeed to capture them.  On this particular day I had my 100-400mm lens on the camera anticipating shooting birds so when we stopped opposite the thistles, I started shooting before the little guy took off, but still I was not close enough for the photo I had envisioned... and then he was gone.  Faithful shooting partner, Mary, did not get a shot of him or the butterfly and I'm afraid I will not live this guilt trip down.  But in good humor, she was glad I might have gotten the shot.


So... this was my original shot: 

 Yes... I got him but not nearly as close as I had desired.  This was taken with the lens at about 380mm.  If I had my macro lens on the camera, I doubt that I could have gotten anything much better as I am quite certain he might have taken off as I got him in close range.


With a severe cropping of the image as well as some sharpening, this was the final result:

Hummingbird Hawk Moth And right next to this hawk moth was a swallowtail butterfly and once again by cropping my image, this was the result:


Cropped Image Hagerman Wildlife Refuge Hummingbird Hawk Moth Swallowtail Butterfly Thu, 20 Jun 2013 14:58:37 GMT
Wake up and smell the coffee!  

06:10  I wake up... roll over and look at the clock... Oh No!... What time is sunrise?  I smell the coffee brewing, and I had best get up as there is already some light in the sky.  Why do I not plan ahead?


You see, I have given the "Crazy Women" the monthly challenge of shooting a sunrise.  What the heck was I thinking?  This makes no sense at all and being the procrastinator that I am, I wait until the last minute to shoot my own sunrise.


Grab the paper.  Sunrise is 06:19AM!  Yikes, I have a max of 10 minutes to get my sorry a** out of bed and to the lake.  I throw on clothes, grab the camera and my keys and take off for the lake.  And yes, there really is life at this time of morning as cars whiz by on their way to work.  Once I arrive at the lake, I find several people and dogs walking before the heat of the day sets in and several boats have already launched.


I start shooting as I watch for the sun from the comfort of my car.  Birds are flying and I see a squirrel running through the grass... but where is the sun?  I do see a bright patch but it is primarily an overcast sky.  A few shots later I realize that the best photos are the ones that include mostly sky and very little of the land, but instead of getting brighter and having the sun break through, it is getting to be a deeper tone of gray.  With that, I give up and I head to home for some breakfast.  Definitely not the most interesting sunrise photo!


I share my photo with a friend who suggests perhaps adding a touch of orange using the Lightroom slider.  Well... that's easy enough... and then I decide to use that photo and play around with the white balance in LR and these are the images I have ended up with.

Original Image (as shot)Original Photo "as shot"

                                                               Original image... "as shot"

Color added with orange slider in Lightroom

                                                Image after using orange slider in Lightroom

Auto White Balance

                                                            Image using Auto White Balance

                                                                      Daylight White Balance

                                                                       Cloudy White Balance

                                                                        Shade White Balance

                                                                       Tungsten White Balance

                                                                     Fluorescent White Balance

Lake Ray Hubbard Sunrise White Balance Wed, 19 Jun 2013 14:43:08 GMT
When Photography Causes Us to React and Act

It was a beautiful spring day when I went to one of my favorite venues to shoot birds... White Rock Lake.  My friend Tess and I love to go there to improve our bird photography as well as to enjoy the natural beauty of the lake.  And how exciting to be able to "shoot" Mama Duck and her little ducklings swimming at the edge of the water but each time we would frame the shot, there was garbage everywhere and there was simply too much garbage to clone out.


So I lifted my camera to the sky as I saw a gull approaching but this was the shot that I got!  This poor gull had a fish hook in his foot and attached to the hook was a lure and attached to that, a fishing line.  I was angry!  I was sad!  And I was feeling so helpless to do something for this bird.


I posted the photo to Capture Dallas and there was an outpouring of sympathy for the gull.  I called the rehab people of Dallas and they told me that if I could catch the gull, they could take the hook out.  DUH!  I have never caught a wild bird in my life but a fellow photographer, Edward from Capture Dallas and I hatched a plan and went to the lake in hopes of finding the bird, but I have not seen him since, and I wonder what happened to him.


The anger did not go away but rather, it intensified and I knew I would have to channel this to do my small part in helping the environment as well as the wildlife.  I joined the volunteers "For the Love of the Lake" to clean up garbage at White Rock Lake on the second Saturday of each month.


In addition I now carry long rubber gloves and garbage bags in my car and am picking up garbage also at Lake Ray Hubbard as this is close to home and I love to shoot there as well.  So in all essence... I have become a bag lady picking up other people's trash! 


Thanks Edward Berard for getting this shot of me as a bag lady!


Do I like to do this... no, I do not.  I wish each person who comes to enjoy our lakes would be responsible and pick up after themselves!  You would not believe the things I have found and to get the word out I have also posted a gallery to my Pbase site entitled "Don't Mess with Texas!"  My photos on this site have been viewed by 118 countries thus far and evidently the litter is not just here in this country.  And if these photos embarrass you... good!  They should!  We should be better than this!

It is time to become responsible to our environment as well as to the wildlife that share this amazing planet of ours.  All I ask is that you do your part and save me some work!  And teach the children to pick up and discard or recycle their trash too and hopefully, with time, we will learn to do the right thing.      



For the Love of the Lake Garbage Gull Hook Recycle White Rock Lake Tue, 11 Jun 2013 15:52:52 GMT
Gracias Miguel!

I had spent the morning at the Dallas Arboretum shooting flowers and bugs. The heat of summer is upon us and though I wanted to do the rest of the garden, my body could not do it.
My joints ached and I was a bit lightheaded in the heat, so I called it a day and went to my favorite little spot to eat... Zuzu's for Tex-Mex.

I can always count on a good meal and friendly service and they always ask about how Lucy is doing.  They were so good to my "special friend" Lucy when she visited.

I no sooner sat down and this fella who serves the food and cleans the tables comes over to me and we begin to chat and I must have said something about it being difficult getting old and not being able to do what I used to do.
And with that he said...

"The body can get old but never the heart. It always stays young."

I thought to myself... what a beautiful thing to say. This special moment caught me off guard and it brought tears to my eyes.
"And what is your name", I asked.

"Miguel", he said.

(I was embarrassed to never have known as he is always there whenever I visit and is always so pleasant.)

I thanked him for the lovely remark and told him... it made my day (and it did!)

We talked some more and I was particularly struck by his upbeat attitude and his zest for life.  He understands about how short and how precious life is. I told him I am a retired nurse.  He then told me he visited with his friend who is very ill in the hospital and that all of the nurses were so good to him and his friend.  It made me feel proud that they treated them so well and I was sad for his friend.

I wrote down what Miguel said because I knew I wanted to pair it with a photo and I chose this photo that was taken in a Mexican market in San Miguel.

Thank you Miguel for your heartfelt sentiments.

You will never know how much that meant to me.

Mexico Roses Tue, 04 Jun 2013 15:19:32 GMT
Imagine life without photography... Photography has become a way of life.  It is no longer something that I only do on special occasions or to document a vacation... I do it nearly every day and this has come about for several reasons.


Being retired, now for the first time in my life, I have time to delve into the things I truly love.  No longer do I have to set my alarm for 04:30AM to go to work... I can get up when I choose.   And I purposely retired while I am still able to be physically active.  I remember one of our physicians years ago who retired at age 66.  He said he wanted to retire while he was still at the top of his game and he simply wanted to go to Maine and fish.  I can relate to this reasoning.  I could have worked longer but I wanted to do something else.   I wanted less stress in my life and I wanted time to do the things I love.  We never know what the future may hold.


I started the Crazy Women's Photography Club to share the joy of photography with my co-workers who expressed a desire to learn photography and to buy cameras and I thought that I could help them do that.  It would be a non-competitive, fun club of women learning their cameras while doing photography.  Due to everyone's crazy schedules, I came to realize that meetings would be out of the question, so instead we go on outings.   Our club presently has 35 members but not everyone is active.  Some observe from the sidelines but to truly benefit from the club you must be active.  Photography is doing, sharing, and learning.  Until you have a camera in your hands and learn about f-stops, composition, light, focus, color, texture, lines... it is impossible to comprehend all that goes into making a photograph.


Never before have I seen a group of women (of all ages) have so much fun together and be so supportive of each other.  We now number 35 members.  Some are beginners and some have an extensive knowledge base.  We learn, we laugh, we experiment and we find ourselves in a better place and living in the moment.  So many times I have heard them say how much they are enjoying the club and how they look forward to going out with their cameras, especially when I announce a new monthly challenge.  It is important to get out and shoot a variety of subjects.  I never in my wildest dreams thought it would be so successful and I have the gals to thank for the momentum.


To see the Crazy Women's Photography Club blog...





Crazy Women's Photography Club Tue, 28 May 2013 02:32:47 GMT
How I See the World Photography is very personal to me.  I first ventured into photography when my first daughter was born, 46 years ago...  wanting simply to document our family but soon it became so much more than that.  With a 35mm camera in hand I could take photos that previously I was unable to take by adjusting manually my settings to choose my depth of field and this propelled me to look a little closer at what I was shooting; however, those were the days of film and money was tight.  Photos were stored in albums or boxes and rarely saw the light of day except for occasional views by our family. 


Fast forward to 2005 when I obtained my first digital camera and suddenly photography took on a bold new meaning.  No longer would photos be stashed in a box or in an album but rather, I could put them on a computer and share them with family, friends, and yes... the world.  But then again, who would really care about seeing what interests me?


I started posting to Pbase in 2008 and the world became a smaller place.  I was now seeing a new friend's dog in Ireland, the view of a kookaburra from a kitchen window in Australia, sunrises and sunsets all over the world, close-ups of bugs, birds,  butterflies, and so many beautiful places that I will never see in my lifetime.  And interestingly enough, people around the world were looking at my photos and leaving comments which only spurred me on to do more.  As of now, 122 countries have visited that site.  Seems impossible, to be quite honest, and I continue to like the interaction on the site. 

To visit my pbase galleries:


With this stimulus, I started to see differently and shoot differently.  Now there was a reason to shoot that butterfly, or to shoot an abstract image, or share a photo with a feeling attached.  Now I could tell a story and share a bit of who I am and what is important in my life at that particular moment in time, and that brings me to today.


Photography has brought me friendships with photographers, both near and far, that I never imagined could happen.  And I have found that I truly like to hang out with photographers.  I enjoy living in the moment and sharing in their photographic efforts.  They push me to do better as I look at their images.  And if I do not understand a concept, there is always someone to ask.   I value their critiques of my work in an effort to improve.


I have retired from nursing with the thought in mind of pursuing photography for personal pleasure.  Through the years, I have found that I am happiest when I have a camera in my hands as I look through the viewfinder to capture a moment that is meaningful, amusing, or intriguing. .. or sometimes simply to document an occurence.  And now I find myself building this website/blog to share my photography with you in yet a different format.


I thank you for visiting this site and I would very much appreciate if you would sign my guest book or leave a comment.


Fay Stout Pbase Thu, 31 Jan 2013 02:01:05 GMT