Looking Back

Looking back on my life, I wander how in the world I did it. I guess it was one day at a time. When my son started kindergarten in 2003, I decided to go back to school. I was working at the Ground Round Restaurant, full time, pretty much around the clock. At least, it seemed like it.

Shortly after I started school, my mom was diagnosed with leukemia brought on by aplastic anemia. It was a rough time.

My major was art. When I graduated from high school, that’s what I wanted to do. I was planning on going out to the Denver Institute of Art. The day I was to graduate I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. They wanted to operate that day, but mom said no, she is going to walk across that stage. I was supposed to go out to Colorado to tour the facility and all that good stuff before I graduated, but with all the doctor’s appointments and everything else going on, it got postponed. When we found out I had cancer, it was cancelled all together.

high school prom,1995
high school graduation, 1995

My mom didn’t want me to go to prom or any of the parties. She reluctantly let me go, with a little begging from me and reassurance from parents that they would keep an eye on me. I was operated on five days after graduation. I went through chemo that summer and tried to go to the community college that fall. After one semester I dropped out. It was too much. This was in 1995. The doctors told me I probably would never be able to have babies without help.

1995 or 96 – with Luna

We’ve always had a thing for black cats…Samantha was our first black cat. We had Gato (he was a grey white and black cat with a little bit of brown. I’m sure I’ll be including him at some point) – one of her kittens, then we got Luna. After Luna passed away we got Kalimba.

The picture above was taken while I was still going through chemo. I’m not normally that pale. Even during the winter I have a little bit of a tan.

1997

In January 1998, I found out I was pregnant. Or the cancer had come back and it was everywhere. My cancer doctor called and broke the news to me. Imagine my shock!!! I didn’t think I could get pregnant! He had scheduled a sonogram for the next day. The tests they do for this particular cancer is a sort of pregnancy blood test. But instead of checking for pregnancy, they check for cancer. My doctor talked to me a couple of minutes, I hung up the phone and laid back down. What in the world am I going to do?

My mom wanted to know why the cancer doctor had called. I told her “no reason” and rolled over in bed. Her response? “Bull #@*&! He didn’t call for no reason. Why did he call?” “He thinks I’m pregnant or the cancer’s come back and it’s everywhere.” After a slight pause, she said “Let’s hope you’re pregnant.” She went with me to the sonogram. When I was finished, I greeted her as “Grandma!” She didn’t go in with me, she sat in the waiting room. Even though I had gotten pregnant out of wedlock, she was ecstatic.

me and my new born baby boy!

Sept 3, 1998

He was the best thing to ever happen to me. Still is, the joy of my life.

4 generations

So, I did what I had to do. I raised him as a single parent. His dad wasn’t involved at all. That’s why, when he started kindergarten I decided to go back to school. I knew I couldn’t live and survive working at a restaurant.

On the weekends, I went out with a friend of mines band – NOXIT. I didn’t go out every weekend, but some. We had fun and didn’t get into trouble. Or at least we didn’t get caught!

my son, around three years old

2001

So, I’m working part time (nights), going to school part time (days), raising my son and helping my dad out around the house while mom is in the hospital. She was at NIH (National Institute of Health) in Rockville (?), Md. Dad was also working part time, doing what he had to do to get by. Mom eventually succumbed to the cancer in 2007. She struggled from 1993 when she was diagnosed with aplastic anemia (I was 15 1/2, learned to drive going up and down 270 to visit her – my dad taught me to drive) to 2007 when leukemia took her. In 2006 I graduated from the community college with an AA in art. About 6 months after mom passed away my braces came off.

The whole time is a blur to me now and I’m sure in 10 years or so I’ll still be saying “How in the world did I do it?”

ARTWORK FROM HIGH SCHOOL

Pencil drawing

I got an A on this, even though it wasn’t finished. The teacher thought it was. I ran out of time and had to hand it in, as is.

This was done completely with sharpie dots. The teacher even checked the back to make sure we didn’t cheat.

Ink

It’s faded a little bit, and has some discoloration but (in my humble opinion) it’s worth being framed.

ART WORK FROM THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE

Ink, oil and watercolor
Charcoal
Pencil and sharpie

In one of my classes we had to make a drawing using circles…it’s my name abstracted.

Black & white photography, 1st place
Black & white photography, 2nd place

The 2nd place black and white photo was the first one I entered at the community college. When I won 1st place the following year, I knew I should probably get into photography. Even my teachers said I had a good eye.

This is just an example of my artwork and start of photography, and a glimpse of my life when my son (and I) was younger. It wasn’t until my son and I moved back here the second time that I realized that this is probably where I was meant to be. (Before my son started kindergarten we had moved out and back home two times!) These details are a story for another time.

It certainly does not feel like it’s been 24 years since I graduated from high school! My son will be 21 in Sept!

Time sure does fly.

And I will leave you with this… “How did it get so late so soon?” Dr. Seuss

Picking up sticks and my parents 50th wedding anniversary

I was going to make today’s post about my parents 50th wedding anniversary, but I’m not feeling well today. My parents were married April 26, 1969. The first part is pictures of them through the years, the second part is about the yard work we did yesterday.

My Parents

Here are some pictures of my parents. My mom passed away in 2007, my dad in 2017. They were awesome parents.

My mom was in the navy before she met my dad.

My mom has the yellow sweater drapped over her shoulders ( on the right side of the picture). My dad is standing beside her. Some kind of family gathering, I think.

My mom through the years
My mom as a baby and high school graduation
Wedding picture
My dad fishing at Cape Hatteras
My dad hunting

Yesterday was a busy day. It was supposed to rain so my boyfriend was home. He’s a roofer so when it rains he doesn’t work.

My dad’s graduation and baby pictures

Yesterday’s Yardwork

I started out going around the back of the property picking up branches that had come down in storms. While doing this, I was keeping an eye out for logs to put around the pink dogwood.

It didn’t take us too long to get this done. We did have to get the chainsaw out and cut some wood, but that’s okay! We didn’t need to6cut too much. Maybe a wogonload.

We’re using pine for the garden edging. This is because it’s not really a good idea to burn pine in the woodstove. You can, but it has to be super seasoned. All the sap in pine causes more creosote than other seasoned wood.

Below are pictures I took throughout the morning.

Dead blue jay

Don’t know how it died…makes me sad, but it is nature after all. Survival of the fittest!

Mushroom growing on a maple tree

Looks like a huge slug!

Plant growing through the ashes

Wood Ash is good for the yard. You shouldn’t put too much on it at a time, but here it’s ok. We have a berm going across probably about 2/3 of the property. A berm is elevated ground. This helps deter rushing water from washing out the lane and around the house. A berm could probably be made of rock, we use dirt I dig up from any of my gardens. I also pile branches on top, then more dirt as I dug. This dirt would be really rich if I need to use it again for anything else.

I’ve started dumping ash on the berm, I really have nowhere else to dump it. Only wood ash is good for lawn care. If you burn trash, the only good way to dispose of it is to dump it down groundhog holes. (For the most part, we send nothing to the dump. Reduce, reuse, recycle… We are renting a dumpster to get rid of junk soon. I’m sure I’ll be posting about that when the time comes!)

Unknown plant

I need to get a better picture of this. When you touch it, it’s sticky on the underside of the leaves.

Sorry this is short and sweet. Hopefully tomorrow is a better day! I do have the weekend off, so maybe I can get back to my old self by Monday. (I do plan on posting over the weekend.)

Where Things Grow

A crack in the sidewalk

When walking about the property, I never know what I will find. Some things grow in the most peculiar places. Sometimes, I don’t need to go very far! I’ve seen mint grow through a crack like the picture above. But, this is an ordinary weed. It’s a strong thing – and persistent! I got home from work yesterday and saw it. I’m not leaving it there, but I wanted to get a picture of it before I pulled it.

mint growing on concrete

I know you can’t really tell because of the leaves, but this mint plant is growing on concrete.

Holly tree in rose bush

I really need to get this holly out of the rose bush before it gets any bigger. It’s big enough as it is and I hope I can get enough of the root system to transplant it. I know the birds had something to do with it growing where it is.

I have a bunch of babies growing on the property, most of which I have transplanted. I’m starting to have difficulty in transplanting, I’m running out of room.

Oh, the babies!! Did you know that holly trees are male or female? And in order to have babies you need one of each growing near each other. The female is the one that gets the berries. The male gets flowers, but no berries. Robins are the only bird/animal that I have found that eat holly berries. They go crazy for them in the dead of winter. Deer might go after the holly tree, but it needs to be a really rough winter. The leaves and berries are too tough and/or poisonous.

old log growth

I know things will grow on old logs and stumps, especially rotten ones. There’s so much nutrients in the rotting wood, it gives life to new plants. The plants that grow on them makes for interesting photography! (The same with concrete, textures draw me in!)

pine stump with plant growth

If the photograph is cropped in right, it could look like a cave or cavern or something. I left it like it is so you can tell it’s a stump.

I have plants that I didn’t plant or buy. I wouldn’t have bought it! Sage and ornamental grass are two such plants.

sage

This is bee balm sage, I do believe. When I was working in the garden a couple years back, I noticed it. It came from nowhere!!! Squirrels, birds, or deer are to blame. At first, I had no idea what it was, so I clipped it and took it to a local nursery. The guy said it was Russian Sage. When I got home, I looked it up…it’s not Russian sage. I believe it’s Bee Balm. Russian Sage gets a purple flower. This ones blooms start out white and then turn yellow. I’ve got two of them now, and bees absolutely love it.

I will dry the leaves and burn it when I’m feeling stressed and need to relax. The Native Americans did this, but they used a different sage with broader leaves and is more of a small bush. What I have is more like a tree.

ornamental grass

This is the only picture of ornamental grass I have at the moment. Where it’s growing, I wouldn’t have planted it. I didn’t even buy the thing – deer, squirrels or birds brought it in. It’s growing in a garden with a cedar tree, daffodils, and iris’.

mushroom and stick growing in a tree

I know, mushrooms grow where it’s moist! This one grew around the stick, not sure where the stem is…it’s just attached. Kind of looks like a pancake, stuck in a tree.

a different angle
Cunningham State Park, Thurmont, MD

I’ll leave you with this for today. Where ever plants can find the right amount of nutrients and sunlight, they will grow!

Fecthworth State Park, New York

Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

SUNRISE and SUNSET

Very pretty sunrise this morning, thought I’d share!

I’ve kissed the sun good morning or good night plenty of throughout my life. Don’t know which I like better. Mornings are a fresh start, evening is hope for tomorrow.

I didn’t know this but there is a song called “Kissing the Sun” by The Young Gods. It’s a single on their 1995 album ONLY HEAVEN. Don’t know anything about it… I googled “kissing the Sun” and that popped up.

Mornings at the beach are the best, but mountain sunrises are pretty close. Don’t really know which I prefer.

Do you know what makes the sunrise or sunset so pretty? Natural and man made pollution causes the colorful sunrises and sunsets. Water molecules and dust are also to blame. During the day, the effect is minimal due to the amount of atmosphere the sunlight has to travel through.

sunrise in Ocean City, MD
Sunrise in Ocean City, Md
Sunrise on the farm
Sunrise on a snowy day

I have more photos of sunsets than I do sunrises.

“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.”

-Jo Walton

I love this quote and it’s absolutely true!

SUNSETS

Red sky at night, sailors delight

Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.

I think just about everyone has heard this saying. I think it’s true. It means that if the sky is red in the morning it’s going to be a bad day to sail. But if the sky is red at night, it’s going to be good weather.

Photoshop sunset
moon rise over Shawnee Lake, PA (Shawnee State Park)
sunset in Colorado, USA
sunset on the farm
sunset in D.C.
Black Friday, somewhere in MD

“The sky, at sunset, looked like a carnivorous flower.” – Roberto Bolano

“A sunset is the sun’s fiery kiss to the night.” – Crystal Woods

Gardening and Spiders

gardening

I’ve been really busy working in my gardens lately. I got a bunch of flowers from a friend (she just wants a crepe myrtle in return) plus I ordered about 40 bulbs. What was I thinking?!? I’ve been wanting to expand my garden out front, so all is ok! I also put some rock down for my walkway. I can only do a little at a time, but I will get it done!!

Getting started

The rock walkway is to help deter water from pooling at the bottom of the deck steps. For the most part it’s working.I started with the brick alongside the house and at the bottom of the steps. This was, initially, to help with mowing. I soon realized I needed more. The mower kept moving the brick. I added some garden rock and a yucca. The yucca died! It was a transplant, so no big loss!

The whole area to the right of the stone and yucca is eventually going to be filled in. I am slowly but surely working on it. My hope is to have it complete before winter sets in. After all, I have been working on it since 2016.

The plant in the white pot is a grape vine. I’m not sure if it’s alive, but it will be a cool Halloween decoration if it’s not.

It wasn’t doing anything where it was planted along my grape arbor. So I bought another one, dug this one up and put the new one in. If this one is alive, I’ll plant it somewhere near the property line. (I have my doubts!)

strawberries, flowers and stone walkway

I’m also working on the front of the house. I’m kinda surprised the strawberries are blooming, but happy! I will have strawberries!!!! I just transplanted them from a different part of the yard. They weren’t doing too well where they were. (the strawberries are right in front) The bell post is to the left, if you’ve read any of my other posts. Again, the area to the right is going to be filled in with flowers and a stepping stone/pebble walkway. It will be to the right of the strawberries and connect to the walkway near and around the bird feeder (top of picture, almost center).

Logs around the dogwood

I decided to put logs around the dogwood flower patch. Last year, my boyfriend kept mowing some of them down. His defense was that I have plenty of flowers and they will grow back. Well, he mowed over them enough times that they didn’t come back this year. I’m not too happy, but what can I do?

I had gone to Home Depot (I prefer Lowe’s, but didn’t feel like going to the other side of town) today to get some stone for the deck walkway, and looked at different kind of edging. They didn’t really have anything I liked, and everything was way too expensive so I paid for my rock and came home. I would figure out something. As you can tell, I did. Hopefully, it stays there. My boyfriend says it’s nice, so we will see.

something pretty before the ugly stuff

Thought I’d add a picture of some tulips I planted this spring. The rest of the post is about spiders.

spiders

Spiders really aren’t bad creatures. For the most part, like snakes, they just want to survive and be left alone. The only spiders I kill are ones that look like they could be black widows. Those I don’t like, for obvious reasons.

Most spiders eat bugs that we don’t like.

Even ones inside the house I try not to kill. I’ve seen them kill stink bugs, which we had a severe problem with a couple of years ago. (Praying mantis’ and wrens eat stink bugs as well.) So, in my book spiders are good!

Jumping spiders have really good eye sight. The males put on a really good song and dance for the lady spiders. I’ve never heard them sing, or make any kind of noise. I guess humans can’t hear them.

Wolf spiders live in the ground, hunt at night. They don’t spin a web. I couldn’t tell you how many I have dug up when working in one of my gardens. I’ve had them scurry across my hand. This one (above) was about the size of my hand. I know it looks huge, it’s the way I cropped it.

uncropped wolf spider

Female wolf spiders are maternal, from what I’ve read. They will carry the egg sak on their backs and even the babies until they are old enough to hunt on their own.

** I’ve picked up some more hours at my day job, so you may not see as many posts, maybe two or three a week.

BLACK SNAKES

1st black snake of 2019

Yesterday we saw our first black snake this year! We probably wouldn’t have seen it if we didn’t need to run to the store. I love black snakes – don’t know why ( my favorite animal is the wolf). In Chinese astrology I was born in the year of the snake. Maybe that’s why.

This black snake eventually went into the woodpile.

For the most part, they just want to be left alone. One of the best things about black snakes is they eat mice. So, we don’t really have a mouse problem around here. (My cat eats them too, but that’s another story!)

Going after baby birds

They also eat baby birds and eggs. It upset me when I heard the momma bird squawking, but there was nothing I could do! Survival of the fittest, right!? I did take pictures, so it didn’t upset me too much.

Baby snake in the house

This is a small one, probably only about 18 inches long. It wasn’t too hard to get out of the house…it slithered into the vent cover, which I had closed. I threw it and the snake outside.

One night, late last summer, my son woke my boyfriend and I up saying there was a snake in the house! I thought he was joking…he wasn’t. It was right outside my bedroom! Another baby, about a foot long! My boyfriend grabbed a clamp and threw it outside. Later, we found some skin hanging from the basement storm door. He probably fell off, landing on the inside, and slithered into the house when the door was opened.

We had a couple of black snakes living under the front stoop! I concreted up the holes, making sure they weren’t under the stoop when I completely sealed it. I did NOT want dead snakes under there! I did one side, made sure they weren’t under the concrete then sealed the other side!

Took me a couple of days, but there are no more snakes under the stoop or sidewalk. There were a couple other places I concreted up, one in the mint garden and another along the driveway.

I almost sat on this snake!

My dad and I had been working on rebuilding the mower shed. I couldn’t do much because I had just had major surgery, but I helped a little when I could. I decided to take a break and went to sut down in the door of the camper. I heard a little commotion behind me. I stood up (I hadn’t sat down completely) , looked, and there was a snake slithering away from me. A couple seconds later here comes a mouse with her babies still hanging out! (She was giving birth when the snake disturbed her!)

Some facts about black snakes:

Non venomous, constrictor

Can grow up to 8 feet long, usually around 4

Have been known to nest with copperheads

Lay up to 30 eggs, babies are 12 inches long, incubation period is 60 days, adults mate in spring

Lay their eggs in rotten logs, manure, , wood piles, manmade structuresh

Hunt during the day in spring and fall, at night during the summer

Will rattle their tail to make predator think it’s poisonous. Also produce a musk and will bite (story about that in another post)

Odds and ends

I am working on a post about the Morris’…hopefully I’ll have it posted by tonight. In the meantime, here are some photos to enjoy.

Sorry I didn’t post anything yesterday. Life kinda got in the way!