Sunday, September 24, 2017

Thankful Sunday--September 24, 2017

I am thankful for time with Sarah.

You may remember Sarah, my special needs buddy, whom I spend Sunday mornings with while we navigate different Sunday School programs. Sarah is very tuned into nature and has shown me a lot in that area. This last Sunday was no exception.

After eating our fill of bacon and eggs with the youth group, we made our way to the other building for singing. Well, we almost made it to the other building. Along the way we found too many things to explore to leave time for singing. We noticed leaves that were just starting to change and a picnic table that was upside down. We saw big bugs and little bugs and the flowers that were still blooming. She also found "helicopters" (winged maple tree seeds).  Instead of going inside to sing, we decided to stay outside at another picnic table and examine the things she had collected along the way.

A normal two winged seed group, and the unusual three winged
And do you know what we found when we examined them? A triple seed group of maple seeds! They usually come in a pair. Sarah has been picking seeds and leaves from this tree for years, but we have never seen anything like this. In fact, I haven't seen triple seeds among the thousands of winged seeds I've seen over the years. I couldn't even find a reference to them on the internet. To say the least, I was excited.

If you look really hard, on the back of Sarah's hand,
you can see the tiny insect we watched.
I also got another lesson from Sarah about slowing down and being in the moment. A very tiny green bug landed on her arm and she watched it for several minutes. She was careful with her arm movements, so she wouldn't disturb it. We watched as it crawled around her arm and she described the sensations she was feeling to me. When it was time for her to leave, she carefully transferred the bug to a leaf and left it in the grass where she found it. Quite frankly, I'm not sure that I would have even noticed the bug if she hadn't showed it to me. But with her coaching, we had a slow, calm, interesting few minutes of just being in the moment with the bug. Something I need to do more often.

So for getting to spend another morning with Sarah, I am thankful.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Visit to the Fair

In case you haven't figured it out, I'm a small town girl at heart. I have lived in large cities, small cities, suburbs, and small towns, and the thing that feels the most comfortable to me is the small town. I think that is because that's how I grew up. I now live in the urban sprawl between two large cities, but within that sprawl are pockets of small towns trying to preserve their way of life and I am lucky to be close to two of them. Last weekend one of them had one of those small town events that made me feel at home--the community fair. It's free and fun and close; the perfect combination. If you've been reading here a while, you know that the fair is something I try to participate in every year.
These goats were happy to be petted.

The fair in some ways feels like it is from another time. It's small enough that there's enough room for parking, but big enough that you're bound to see several people you know at any one visit.  The very young to the very old enter things to compete for ribbons. You see vegetables, quilts, photos, Lego creations, eggs, livestock, baked goods, canned goods, etc. all hoping for a ribbon that comes with a cash prize. You can also enter a tractor pull, veggie vehicle races, a pet show, and an ice cream making contest among other things. You can enjoy music from local bands as well as craft demonstrations and a fashion show of homemade outfits. Just picture yourself back with Andy, Opie, and Aunt Bee going to the Mayberry Fair and I think you'll get the idea.

I didn't get many pictures, but here are a few of the things that I enjoyed this year at the fair.

The fair opens Friday morning to school groups. I worked this year with the children's librarian during their visits.  The kids loved her Man-in-the-Yellow-Hat costume from the Curious George books as well as her monkey puppet.

The inside exhibits are in the Fire Department's activities buildings. I entered green beans, herbs, flowers, and a photo. I got a variety of  ribbons from these entries as well as no ribbons on some. If you squint, you can see my basil in the background that got a second place.

Uncle Billy was on vacation, but he told me it was okay if I entered some onions for him.

I always like looking at the needlework section. In the past I've won ribbons in this department for some of my knitting and x-stitch but this year I did make anything that I could enter. 

The fire department always has a truck or two there for kids to explore until there's a call. Then they're off!

However, the giant John Deere tractor doesn't go anywhere. Most of the people in this crowd are waiting on their kids who are exploring the tractor. They are also looking at the jazz band playing to the right and some are talking to neighbors. This is a fairly typical scene. Later that night it was more crowded, but never uncomfortably so.

I always find the chickens on display interesting because of the variety of bright colors they have.

There were several baby animals on display. Among them were a lamb and its mother.

As well as a donkey foal and its mother.

So there is a brief visit to the fair with me. Maybe next year, I'll show you some of the food traditions. In the meantime, I should get busy making things I can enter next year.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Thankful Sunday, September 10, 2017

I am thankful for shelter.

The hurricane activity this season has been a good reminder of how very lucky I am to be safe and dry with a roof over my head. As we have seen, not all are so lucky. The last few days I have been hearing the story of one of those unlucky families and I've shared some of it below. Communication has been very difficult since the hurricane, so some of the details are sketchy.
Melanie and her sister at my wedding. 

Melanie is the daughter of friends and I was her constant babysitter when I was in college. She was adorable and we had a lot of fun together. Now Melanie is all grown up and married with with 4 children of her own. She lives in the U.S Virgin Islands on St. John. Or she used to. Irma wiped away everything she and her family had. Luckily, no one was hurt, but they had no where to go after the storm except into a van that some how had miraculously survived.

The main concern for them is to get off the island before Jose comes barreling through. Easier said than done. The local airport had some damage making flying iffy at best. The first flight they could possibly get out would be on Tuesday. In the meantime, the family got on a chartered boat with others to Puerto Rico hoping to fly to the US from there. However, Puerto Rico is having enough problems of their own and refused to let them enter. The boat had to turn around in the middle of the night for a 3 hour trip to St. Croix. There they got a hotel room and it was the first time they had a place to sleep and bathe since the hurricane hit. Now they have tickets to fly out of St. Croix on Friday to Texas where her in-laws live. Here's hoping for the best that that actually happens.

What you don't get from my telling of Melanie's story above is the desperation that you hear in her families' pleas for information. The anger and panic you hear when plan after plan falls through. And imagining what it must be like for those four children ages 8 months to 11 years old as they are going through this very scary, difficult situation.

Melanie and her family have survived and will be able to move forward with the good family and friend support they have.*  It's going to be a long road, but they will make it.

So for the shelter I am so lucky to have and the shelter that Melanie and her family found last night, I am thankful.

*Presently, there's a Go Fund Me drive to help buy plane tickets for them. The tickets are about $2-3000 each.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


We are hearing a lot these days about disasters around our country and the help that is needed as a result of them. Front and center are the fires in the west and the hurricanes in the Gulf and Atlantic. The devastation of it all is overwhelming to see and hear about.

A few of the supplies I'm collecting for the hygiene kits.
But that's not all that is catching my attention. I look around and see local children who need things for school and animal shelters that need help to care for abandoned animals. When I turn on the radio, I hear about people around the world dying by the thousands in earthquakes and typhoons, as well as losing their life trying to escape corrupt governments. At home, I see a neighbor who has just lost her husband and the child who needs attention that they aren't getting at home. I see the nursing home residents who could use a visit.

The needs of the world are endless and this overwhelms me. So what do I do when I'm inundated with all of these cries for help? I try to just do something. Tune out the rest and focus on one thing at a time. If I don't do this, I become immobilized and don't do anything.

My current focus is on Hurricane Harvey. I lived in Houston for ten years before moving to Maryland and I still have several friends there. I watched as Harvey wreaked havoc on familiar areas and felt that I needed to help in some way. There are many ways to do that, but I have chosen something concrete.

I am making, with friends and family's help, hygiene kits that have been requested by my church's relief organization, UMCOR. These are standard kits with soap, toothbrush, towel, etc. that are given out around the world and are much needed in the Houston and surrounding areas. I hope there will not be a great need for them with Hurricane Irma, but the kits can also help there.

So besides trying to be kind and respectful to others in every day life, focusing on one thing at a time is how I try to help in my small way. Sometimes it is putting together hygiene kits, sometimes it's making a monetary donation, and sometimes it may be writing a letter to an elderly relative. I try not to overthink things, which is my normal mode of operation. and just take some kind of action. That's what works for me. How do you handle the overwhelming needs of others that surround you?

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Second Look--August 31, 2017

This yard is a little less wild than the last one, so on the surface it seems as if it's not as interesting. But all I have to do is look and sometimes take a Second Look, and there are interesting bits of nature everywhere.

Here are a few of those things that I saw recently in my yard.

After taking a break during the heat, the osteospormum are blooming again.

Besides the purple, I have two other colors of them.

This sedum came from a small volunteer that was in the middle of some lily of the valley a friend gave me. I planted it and the sedum has established itself and started to bloom.

And speaking of volunteers, this dill plant came seemingly out of nowhere. I'm hoping to collect the seeds and have several plants next year.

As far as herbs go, the basil is doing very well. You can see the variegated plant is pretty tall and the globe one is growing well, also. (I trimmed all of the blossoms off of it after I took this picture.) Some of the other herbs are just barely surviving. I think it's all due to location, location, location. I'll have some better ideas where to plant them next year. 
Note: The blue yard stick is approximately 1 meter long. 

While cleaning out one of the beds, I uncovered some day lilies enough for one of them to bloom.

The purple sage has started to bloom again and the skipper butterflies are enjoying them. Notice the butterfly's proboscis arching out of its head into the flower for a drink of nectar.

And in this picture you can see actually where it's coming out in the front.

I find it interesting that bumble bee's proboscis is shaped very differently from the butterfly's. It has a shorter, stouter one that can not get into as many flowers. However, it has somewhat made up for this by having a triangular shaped head that will go further into the blossoms.
You may remember this picture from another Second Look. In that one, I noted the yellow pollen baskets on the bee's back legs.