Don’t blink; you might miss Winter this year

The calm after the storm.
The calm after the storm.

Although you’d never know by the weather (not including Winter Storm Jonas, which iced us all in for a bit), it’s two days away from February. It’s been a very mild winter, so far, and I want to keep up with my walking.

It was mid-afternoon by the time I made it out, and the wind was brisk, but I had bundled up. I headed over to the park, where I walked past a dog-training class, several kite-flyers, a flock of robins, and scores of dogs, happily walking their humans.

Sleet and freezing rain made walking last weekend a risky proposition.
Sleet and freezing rain made walking last weekend a risky proposition.

It was quite different than last Sunday, when I ventured out into the still-icy neighborhood to get some air.

The roads had been brined in anticipation of snow, but after a pelting of sleet and freezing rain had frozen over, I had to step carefully. By the time I made it to the pond, I decided to head back. Never mind the jogger that kept running cheerily by.

Today, the wind was nippy, but the sun shone, and I had an enjoyable hour-long walk. As I walked to my front door, I saw dark green spears shooting up from the front of my flowerbed, signalling the arrival of crocus blooms.

We may have more unpleasant weather before Winter’s over, but Spring is on the way.

The pecan grove at E. Carroll Joyner Park.
The pecan grove at E. Carroll Joyner Park.

Reflections on the Infinity Dreams Award

One of my favorite bloggers, the author of  DearLilyJune, was sweet enough to nominate me for the Infinity Dreams Award late last year, and I have been slack about fulfilling my obligations to accept it. I was thrilled to be recognized, as I started my blog just last year. Thank you, LilyJune’s Mama, for your kind words and nomination. I have been a slacker long enough, so here is my reply:

img_0468The rules for the Infinity Dreams Award are:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back.
  • Post the award badge and rules.
  • Tell 11 facts about yourself.
  • Answer the questions that were set for you to answer.
  • Nominate 11 other bloggers and set questions for them.

11 Facts About Me

  1. I have been writing most of my life. The reason most of my elementary school teachers wrote, “Debbie is SO quiet!” on my report card, is I was busy drafting four-line poems, sketching, or devouring my latest book order those teachers were silly enough to give me mid-morning instead of waiting until just before school let out.
  2. I love taking pictures, and think capturing something on film, or digitally, and being able to share it with others is almost magical.
  3. If I had been any kind of smart in math, I would have been a scientist. My first choice was to be a biologist, but I really think I would have been happier as a geologist. If I had been really good at math, though, I might have been an astrophysicist. I also find quantum mechanics fascinating, although trying to actually understand it kind of makes my brain hurt.
  4. In preparation for my non-existent career as a scientist, I took Latin in college. I do wish, however, I had learned a language I could actually use. (My apologies to my Latin professor and her G.A.)
  5. My ideal vacation/trip would be exploring Yellowstone National Park. I do realize Yellowstone has a huge magma chamber beneath it, just biding its time. I will be sure to plan my trip around any suspicious, larger-than-usual rumblings.
  6. I used to be a night owl, but having to work for lo, these many years, cured me of that. I did spend the better part of the last five years working evenings, which has totally messed up my sleep schedule/circadian clock/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. Some mornings I get up at 6; others, “Well, hey! Is it lunchtime already?!”
  7. When I was young, I loved horses, and asked for one just about every Christmas. I got horse books, horse collectibles, and many other nice gifts, but never a real, live horse. I have, however, forgiven my parents for this, because, I am sure I would have been allergic to horses anyway.
  8. I absolutely love cats: big ones, small ones, wild ones, tame ones. Snow leopards are at the top of the list, followed closely by tigers. And, of course, house cats, of which I will likely have no more, because, after spending so much time with them, I am now allergic.
  9. If I had a choice between getting cured of allergies and having perfect vision, eyesight would win, hands down. Why? Because I really like to see.
  10. It’s kind of difficult to think of 11 random questions I want to answer.
  11. I really, really, can’t think of another question to ask myself right now.

8 Questions I Have Been Tasked by DearLilyJune to Answer

  1. What are your feelings about infinity? Do they scare you? Excite you? Annoy you? Or do they create a combination of those feelings? Infinity is both exciting and confounding, as I have only been here x amount of years, and infinity is, well, forever.
  2. What is the biggest irony of your life? I have worked for newspapers off and on for years, and each time I leave, I say I will never go back. Guess where I’m working now.
  3. In the battle between pizza and coffee, which wins? If I could actually eat pizza or drink coffee with no problems, it would be pizza, no contest. But, since I can’t, I’m substituting hot chocolate. Life without chocolate is awful.
  4. What do you worry about? I don’t worry nearly as much as I used to. But I do worry about my family.
  5. Who do you love? See Question 4.
  6. What do you fear? If you stand me up to speak in front of a crowd, you will probably hear my knees knocking.
  7. How would you complete, No matter how old I am, I am still? Skittish.
  8. No matter my current age, I will always . . . Be curious.

My 5 nominees (yes, I chose only five) for the Infinity Dreams Award are, in no particular order, as follows:

  1. theseeds4life.com, for ongoing encouragement and inspiration.
  2. writescience.com, for communicating scienc-ey topics to everyday people like me.
  3. theanxiousgardener.com, for its feel-good posts about gardening, and those beautiful pictures.
  4. incidentalnaturalist.com, a nature blog with great info and stunning photos.
  5. rockbottomreminders.com, for the author’s skill in writing, humor and our shared fear of Excel spreadsheets.

My questions for the nominees are:

  1. If you didn’t have to work for a living, you would . . .
  2. What is something even your friends wouldn’t guess about you?
  3. What do you do best?
  4. Describe yourself in three words or phrases.
  5. What do you like about blogging?
  6. What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
  7. If you could go back and change anything about your life, what would it be?
  8. How many books do you read each year?
  9. Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
  10. If the new ninth planet turns out to exist, what would you name it?

Squirrels: still on my bad list

The only squirrel I really want around.
The only squirrel I really want around.

I have an aversion to squirrels. I didn’t always. When I used to sit in church with my Mam-maw, too young to pay attention to the sermon, but too old for the nursery, she kept me occupied by drawing cute pictures of squirrels and rabbits all over the worship bulletin.

When I was older, she gave me a squirrel statue, which is pretty cute, but lacking the space for it, and not wanting it to break, I keep it safely in a drawer.

When I grew up and had my third baby, the neighborhood squirrels moved in. They lived in the attic, had parties each night and invited their friends. The landlord didn’t think it was top priority to get rid of them, so I spent several agonizing months without sleep. Squirrels have been on my bad list ever since.

I like the shade trees. But, then again, so do the squirrels.
I like the shade trees. But, then again, so do the squirrels.

I went outside today to check on my birds. As I suspected, the bird bath was frozen solid, and the one bird feeder most of the birds can access was not only empty, but icy.

I chipped the ice away from the bird-sized tray that circles the feeder with a butter knife, put about half a cup of black oil sunflower seeds inside, and replaced the lid before putting it back on its hanger. The hanger that is supposed to discourage critters like squirrel from raiding the bird feeders, but doesn’t. So, I never fill the feeders.

Caught in the act.
Caught in the act.

I tossed more seeds onto the ice and snow-covered ground for the juncos and the doves that were out there yesterday, dumped the ice out of the bird bath and put some water in the plastic topper (it’s made to catch the water coming out of a planter, but I figure it’s freeze-proof), and came back inside.

Probably not 10 minutes passed before those pesky squirrels appeared. They know I don’t want them out there. When I open the door, they usually scatter, tails twitching. This time, probably knowing it’s below my comfort threshold outside and I’d have to put my shoes on to chase them, they froze like deer in headlights, then sat there stuffing their cheeks with seeds and taunting me.

A glimpse around the yard told me they had knocked over the bird bath. Again. I made Scat! noises at them from the front door, shook the snow shovel threateningly, and, aggravated, took off after them. They scooted, bound for the safety of the trees. I about broke my neck running back into the house as I was still wearing my comfy (but slick) house shoes.

After that, I gave up, and picked up my camera. They’re cute, squirrels are, I admit. But they’d better leave some of those seeds for the birds.

My Not-So-New-Year’s List

The blank slate of a new year
The blank slate of a new year

It was a roller-coaster year, 2015. Job changes, health issues, threats abroad and at home, too much time spent brooding about what is, and not enough effort put forth on what could be . . . I’m sort of glad it’s over.

Both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were more exciting when I was young. There were the nights my brother and sister and I talked my mother into letting us borrow pots and pans to clang noisily after we stood under the streetlight in front of the house chanting, “. . . five, four, three, two, ONE!!!”

Probably 30 to 40 seconds in, she would open the screen door and laughingly say, “Shhhhhhh, that’s enough, get back in here!”

And, for a few years, the neighborhood girls and I planned a slumber party where we stayed up all night watching black-and-white horror movies to usher in the New Year. By 1 or 2 a.m., my brain was fuzzy and it was all I could do to keep my mind on whatever threat was stalking the terrified actors on TV. One year, I managed to prolonged my misery until 4 or 5 a.m. before succumbing to slumber.

I’ve never been good about making New Year’s resolutions. And . . . I’m a bit of a procrastinator (note today’s date). But making lists and crossing items off gives me a sense of accomplishment.

So, inspired by the many changes, fears and uncertainties wrought by 2015, the new positions my husband and I both start this week (and also the brilliant sunshine extremely welcome after what seems like months of rain), I will make myself an agenda for the newly minted year. (Like most rough drafts, it will be big on ideas and short on specifics.)

Item 1 Keep moving

My passion for exercise dwindled over the past few years, as I spent all my time at work on my feet. In 2016, I’ll try to do something every day, whether it’s walking, working out, or furiously cleaning the house (I’m sure my husband is laughing at that last bit).

Item 2 Keep learning

I made it through Word 2013 and PowerPoint last year, and drafted a family newsletter and cookbook. I started this blog. I’m big on acquiring knowledge, but lax about putting it all into practice. This year, I’ll try to weed out some of the interesting in favor of mastering things I can do to improve things for myself and those I love.

Item 3 Keep investing in family

My husband and I have talked about relocating if necessary, because we aren’t yet ready (or able) to retire. Because of his current work situation, he travels more than he’d like. Because of mine, I have a fair amount of free time. Last year I was able to make several trips to see him while he completed assignments out of state. I enjoyed some of our grand kids for days at a time, and sought out conversations with our children. I made a trip to see my Mom. This year, I plan to do more of the same.

2016 is still young, but time, like a conveyor belt, keeps moving along. I’ve taken the jump, and my goals are in motion. We’ll see what the new year will bring.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Are you good at keeping them?