Saturday, May 30, 2009

Solicitation of Prayers

My father has been in the hospital since Wednesday with renal failure, no doubt due to his advanced cancer. While the insertion of a stint has allowed the kidney (Dad only has one remaining) to empty, restoration of kidney function is now paramount to everything else. A suspicious cyst has been detected on this remaining kidney, but until kidney function is restored the necessary tests to make any determinations on the nature of this cyst are out of the question. In the mean time we wait and we pray for God's will to be done. It is a difficult time for all involved, particularly with my mother's health failing as well. We covet your prayers.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Good Night's Sleep

Troy and I both have bulging discs in our backs and have had trouble sleeping for so long we can't remember getting a really good night's sleep. Part of that just comes from getting older, but we have finally done all we can to help get a good night's rest which we both need. A new bed has been on our list for quite some time and we finally saved up enough to go out and get one. I am so excited about it. We got a King size Serta True Form or something like that. Anyway it is one that is firm and has an air flow system in it to keep me from getting too hot (hope, hope). We finished it off with the companion True Form pillows and a hypo-allergenic (for me again) comforter. It is a type of synthetic down comforter. I can't wait to try out my new bed. It is almost like the night before Christmas when you want to go to bed at noon so Santa will come sooner. God is so good to us.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Brody!

Yesterday, May 24, 2009, Brody turned 1 year old. We don't have an recent pictures of him yet and we were unable to attend his birthday party. He lives in New Hampshire and we miss them very much. So much of his life has past already it seems and we have missed it. It saddens us we are unable to participate in his growing up, but it helps to know Adam and his family are happy with their lives in New Hampshire. Happy Birthday Brody, we love you and miss you all very much.

Memorial Day

What is Memorial Day? For some in this country, it is the day that marks the beginning of the commercial days of summer; for others it is just another three day weekend to partake in holiday travel, picnics, water sports, a round of golf, or the beginning of the summer shopping season. But for the Civil War Confederate widows of May 1866, this day meant something a little more solemn. So moving was their tribute to their fallen husbands, fathers, and sons that a hymn was written by Nella Sweet in 1867 entitled, "Kneel where our Loved Ones are Sleeping" dedicated "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead." This observance (also known as "Decoration Day") soon spread until it was made official by General John A. Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, who ordered flowers to be placed on both the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers in Arlington Cemetery May 30, 1868. Despite the almost sacred origin of this day, we had a group so full of hate and ignorance (60 professors among them, William Ayers) that they petitioned President Obama to refuse to recognize the Confederate Soldiers Memorial in Arlington Cemetery, claiming to do so would, "imply that the humanity of Africans and African-Americans is of no significance" (see story today at MSNBC). This group complained that confederates and neo-confederates, through the monument, deny that slavery was the cause of war (which it was NOT) and that it upholds Confederates as heroes (which if fighting for one's own country makes you a hero than they were heroes). To his credit, Obama sent wreaths to the Confederate and African-American memorials. Why are there always those who want to rewrite our history? It really frightens me as to what the children of the next generation will be taught concerning the history of this nation if these revisionists are allowed to have their way.

It was not until WWI that Memorial Day became unified into a single day recognizing those who died in all wars. It was during this war that one of the most memoriable wartime poems was written by the Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae:

In Flanders Field

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In response to this poem, Moina Michaels wrote a poem of her own:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

She started the tradition of wearing a poppy on Memorial Day and sold poppies to friends and family using the money to benefit servicemen in need. So we all need to pause today and reflect, appreciate, and honor those who paid the ultimate price for this country whether we agreed with the reasons for the wars they fought in or not, these men and women did their duty and gave their lives for us. Let us not forget their sacrifice.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Red Sox in Arkansas?

Red Sox players catching the train out of Hot Springs, AR.

Red Sox (1912) in Hot Springs, AR

I received a magazine the other day that was mass mailed to all the residents of Garland, Hot Spring, and Clark counties. It was actually targeting "new" residents explaining where everything was located (e.g. hospitals, DMV, schools, attractions, etc.) as well as giving a brief history of the area. Well, I thought I knew all there was to know about this area, but to my surprise the magazine listed various major league baseball teams that use to have their spring training camps in Hot Springs, so team members could bath in the hot mineral baths after a long day of practice. I bet my son-in-law wishes one certain team still did come to Hot Springs! The magazine stated that the Red Sox had their spring training camp in Hot Springs from 1912-1918 & 1920-1923.


The blackberries will be ripe within the next week. I love blackberry cobbler. I have two vines I planted a couple of years ago, but this is the first year they are really producing lots of berries. The white netting material I use to cover up the plants to keep the birds out.

Now that the rain has stopped and the strawberry plants are drying out, the berries are looking (and tasting) really good. I still need to transplant them next year to containers that will not have issues with flooding like we had this year.

The hydrangea that Tabitha and Sean got me last year that I transplanted to a more shaded spot this last fall is looking good as well. Of course, the real test will come in July and August. Hopefully, the leaves will not burn like they did last year

Crawdad Castles/Chimneys

Our backyard is a very wet area that is only dry for three months of the year (July, Aug, Sept). Mowing this area is extra challenging because of the crawdad castles or as they are better known in Arkansas, crawdad chimneys. They really dull the lawn mover blades. There are over 300 species of crawdads world wide. Like their relatives, the crabs, these are "edible crustacean," just ask our neighbors to the south, the Cajuns. I have tried eating them (they are served at area buffets), but I don't like the taste of crawdads (a.k.a. mudbugs), but then again I don't like lobster either. I had an old friend whose solution to the mowing issue was to drag an old mattress spring behind his riding mower through the yard to level all the chimneys before mowing. Why do they build chimneys anyway? Their tunnels may extend down into the earth 3 ft or more, sometimes being a single burrow going straight down, but more often being a main tunnel with a couple of side tunnels, each with a room at the end. They are normally full of water. They actually use their legs and mouth parts to dig up mud and make it into a little ball called a pellet. Each pellet is taken to the surface and put on the surface. The next pellet is set beside the first. This continues, much like a brick layer putting bricks on one layer, then making another layer, etc. until a building is totally bricked. The crawfish makes the chimney out of many, many pellets of mud. Take a close look the next time you see one and you will clearly see this neat system.


Nest before snake


Nest after snake

When my next door neighbor held up a 5' black chicken snake she had just killed in our adjoining backyards, I feared the worst and I was right. The nest in my shed that was full of eggs is now empty. Well, that is how nature works. The same type of snake had gotten into my parents garage the day before. Dad took a swing at it with a hoe only to leave it mad and bleeding. It crawled up into their Impala and they haven't seen it since; of course, they left the car outside that night so I imagine it crawled off into the night. While these guys are not poisonous, they will make you hurt yourself. I can remember going out the backdoor one day only to look to my right which put me eye to eye with a chicken snake that had climbed up the brick wall. Needless to say, I fell backwards into the house trying to escape. As a kid collecting eggs (one of my daily chores), I can remember reaching in to a nest only to get a handful of snake! From that day on, I always looked before I reached into the chicken nests.

2009 Arkansas Federal Executive Association Employee of the Year Award

I went with Tabitha yesterday to a luncheon to honor federal employees for outstanding service. Tabitha was part of a team nominated to receive the award. Their nomination was for the high visibility that was attributed to them for their collective GIS Initiatives and Website Mastery during the Super Tuesday Outbreak in letting our Federal/State Constituents, partners, customers, and users find data in a one-stop shop for rescue & recovery efforts. I was unable to get pictures of the presentation of the certificate of nomination but I did get a few of the people at the luncheon representing the team. Although the award went to a team working with homeless veterans we are still very proud of Tabitha, just the nomination is a huge honor. She continues to show outstanding work in her area of expertise. We are very proud of her and Sean for all the work they do with the National Weather Service. Tabitha is the Little Rock focal person for their GIS services. Of course her dad takes all the credit for her GIS abilities. He never lets her forget it was his suggestion she combine GIS training with her meteorology studies. However it is her hard work and dedication that bring it all together. We are very proud of you. Congratulations!

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Good Day

The weather is spectacular. The sun is finally shinning and the temperature is cool and crisp. I went to work in the garden and even Dad got out for a little while to go to the mailbox and to inspect the garden.

The tomatoes (above) are the only thing besides the corn that looks good. We planted 24 tomato plants and 21 survived. The tomatoes, peppers, and squash are planted in a little garden all to itself just west of the big garden. In the larger garden (below) the blue lake green beans are very skimpy; what came up in the two rows combined would not make one complete row. Not pictured here are the two rows of spindly potatoes.

Dad looks over the garden (above) so he can offer advice on what we need to do next.

No mail yet. Dad really enjoys his power wheelchair that once belonged to Debbie's dad. I am glad that both of our dads could make use of the same chair.

Baby? Einstien

While spending some time with Tabitha and Brayden yesterday Tabitha showed us Brayden's baby einstien dvd. I don't know if it was the dvd or the fact Tabitha has been working graveyard shifts for the past week, but she seemed to be enjoying the dvd as much as Brayden. I have to say it made me feel a little better because the first time I watched the dvd with Brayden I think I was as messmerized as he was. These pictures were taken with my phone so are not quite as good as the ones with our other camera but you still get the idea.

Another thing I really enjoyed this week was seeing Brayden find his thumb. It is so cute to watch him suck his thumb. Of course I may not think so several months from now, but for the time being it is adorable.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Blackmail Pics

Yes, we have the goods on Brayden now and we will bide our time over the next 16 or 17 years waiting for just the right time and occasion in
which to blackmail Brayden with these most incriminating and embarrassing
photographs. Oh sure, today they are just adorable photographs, but what about
when the editor of the school year book request baby pictures of all their
graduating seniors to include in the yearbook. What about then? You better be
saving up Brayden, those pictures will be very expensive

Friday, May 15, 2009

Talking with Brayden

This week I have been helping Tabitha out by watching Brayden while she is on graveyard. Brayden and I spent the morning talking to each other. He is so adorable. We have a good time together and I enjoy every minute of it.

Missing Things

I came across some pictures of the Statue of Liberty and the NYC skyline that Tabitha and I took on our way back to Arkansas one year. Look carefully at the NYC skyline; do you notice what is missing from the picture? The world trade towers were already gone along with the thousands of lives of those who worked in them and those who tried to rescue them. I am sorry, but that event is tattooed in my mind and heart. Given the innocent men, women, and children that died that day at the hands of these sworn enemies of America makes me just a bit callous when it comes to the treatment of prisoners that were held at Guantanamo Bay. To be honest, for politicians to be worried about the "harsh" interrogation of detainees is symptomatic of what is wrong with this country. What about the treatment of the citizens of this country? What about our men and women still on the ground in these foreign countries? I know it is asking alot, but could the politicians try to "think" every once and a while? Is it too much to ask that our leaders consider what is best for the United States and act accordingly?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Blast from the Past

While helping Dad go through the contents of his lock box, I came across an old promissory note he had signed for Debbie and me, so we could purchase our very first (used) home in the summer of 1980. Other than the color, the trailer in the pic is not much different than the one we had purchased for the sum of $6,300. Dad gave us the $2,000 down payment (he was and is such a generous person) and we made the $110 payments each month, which was not easy since our combined salaries were around $150 week.
Just one vivid memory of that trailer I can share with you is "the Spring of the Skunks." Yes, a family of skunks had torn through the insulation on the underside of the trailer and had set up house in the duct work. We could hear (and feel) them running up and down the length of the trailer just beneath our feet. Regardless of whether they had sprayed or not, skunks stink 24/7 and the odor was constant. Well, the last straw came when one of the skunks tried coming through the floor in our bedroom which had a hole in the corner covered in duct tape. His paw could be seen reaching through the bedroom floor. So I bought a steel trap and tied one end to the base of the TV antenna next to the trailer; I placed the trap itself under the trailer baited with hamburger meat. It was not long before "SNAP" and "PEEEEWWWW." The skunk was caught; it sprayed; and then ran out from under the trailer trying unsuccessfully to escape into the woods at which point I shot it. This process was repeated SEVEN TIMES before the trailer was skunk-free. Try to imagine how our trailer and everything we owned smelled! The odor permeated everything even my school books stunk. That's right, I would open my book in class and people would ask about the smell.

Ah yes, the good ole days. You can't buy memories like those. But we were happy because we didn't know any better; we just thought life was all about being poor and stinking!

Bird Flu strikes Florida Trailer Park.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Secret Hiding Places

A few days ago I went into my tool shed to retrieve some pots only to notice an unusual pattern was forming in the clump of Spanish Moss I had left in a hanging basket last fall. I had to go back in the shed today and here is what became of that clump of moss. I think these might be bluebird eggs; I haven't seen the owners on the nest yet.

Trouble Brewing in the Shrubs

Adult Sawfly
My infestation

Well if it is not the overabundance of rain, it is the insects. It is a really hard year for gardeners in my area. I don't think it will every dry out enough to plow our garden at my Dad's place. As for my little backyard garden, I have conceded the loss of my strawberries to the slugs and the fungi due to the constant rain. Now my container shrubs are under attack by what appears to be Loblolly Pine Sawfly (Neodiprion taedae) caterpillars or one of the other nearly 100 species of Sawflies.

New Blog

My bird pics have been crowding our family blog site, but I know some of you have expressed an interest in these bird pictures soooooooo . . . I have created a new blog just for my bird pictures. This new blog can be found at so feel free to view and please leave any comments or questions. Or better yet, email me your pics with any information you want to include such as where and when the pic was taken and I will post your entry along with mine. My email address is I know VA and RI must have some really neat birds that I don't see down here, so be sure to email me some of your pictures.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Killdeer, the bird that named itself

Yes, the Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) got its name from the sound it repeats. The two neck bands are a dead give away when it comes to recognizing an adult specimen (a juvenile only has one). I can remember these guys as a kid. I can remember that they would build their nests on the ground and if you got anywhere near these nests the birds would run off acting like they had a hurt wing in hopes of distracting you or any other predator. Killdeer are monogamous and can live to be over 10 years old. Killdeer are highly successful with a range that stretches from Alaska to Peru. These birds will eat about anything, but prefer insects and crustaceans.