Daily Prompt: Bumble

via Daily Prompt: Bumble

I don’t spend as much time in my yard as I need to. I hate it, but I’m single, I work a lot and I run out of time. The people who lived in my home before me were retired and spent countless hours in the yard. They planted so many azalea bushes that in the springtime when they blossom, it’s like an azalea wonderland. They also planted mimosa trees and a variety of flowers. I don’t even know what some of the flowers are. I’ve literally had people come over to visit and admiringly ask, “What kind of flower is that?” to which I have often replied, “I don’t know. It just popped up”.

It’s amazing to me that these flowers keep popping up. I’ve been in this home for over a decade and have planted barely anything new (although I do currently have some marigolds in a pot waiting to go into the ground and I’ve decided I want a pine tree in the back) yet every year flowers continue to blossom in my yard. The soil is dark, I trim things back and sometimes I weed, but that’s it. I’m very fortunate. They are beautiful. Maybe one day I will have the time to give them the care they deserve. Or maybe they are doing just fine with what I’ve been offering.

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Yesterday, I came home from work and glanced over at my shed to notice, once again, something new. Vibrant pink flowers, some dead or dying and some brand new. I snapped a picture and sent it to both a friend of mine and my mother in the hopes that one of them would know what it was. Look, I texted, another new flower. My friend simply commented at the marvelous color but my mother offered the idea that it may be a day lily. I googled it and it appears that I probably do have day lilies. Day lily blossoms live, sadly, for only one day but the flowering stalk produces lots of blossoms which explains why I saw both brand new blossoms and dying flowers on the same stalk.

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In my day lily googling adventure and in an effort to tie this in somehow to the daily post for bumble, I started looking into whether bees like day lilies. They do, but it appears that butterflies like them better.

I did find this adorable article about how bees sleep in flowers, though! I never knew that. I didn’t even know that bees slept. How precious. But of course they do, everything thing sleeps. I’ll be looking for it now.  Stay tuned for pictures of bees sleeping in flowers in the future 🙂

Have a great night all and hang in there, it’s almost Friday!

New Orleans Streetcar

via Daily Prompt: Tender

It has been about 8 months since I visited New Orleans for the first time. One of my friends is a HUGE Keith Urban fan so we traveled to NOLA to attend a concert at the Smoothie King arena downtown.

The wonderful thing about going somewhere for the first time is that it is perfectly acceptable to be a shameless tourist. Besides the concert, we filled our weekend with all of the typical NOLA tourist activities. We took the streetcar to Bourbon Street  where I’m pretty sure I dined on the best shrimp jambalaya I will ever consume in my life, and to Cafe du Monde where I sampled the best beignets I will probably ever taste. We took a bus tour of the Garden District, which was beautiful, then to the 9th Ward where we saw houses and neighborhoods that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

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All of these memories linger in my mind, and now with a base of experience, I have a better idea of what I want to explore further if I go back to New Orleans; but there is another memory from the streetcar that lingers, as well, and it is a simple one.

The streetcars intrigued me. Their charming trademark appearance of wooden seats and exposed light bulbs were distinctly New Orleans. For those who don’t know the mechanics of the streetcars, they run on electricity. They don’t travel quickly, and there are frequent stops. They offer a unique experience but also require some patience. There was a variety of people thrown together on the streetcars: tourists, people going to and from work and residents just running errands.

The first night we were in New Orleans, we took the streetcar to Bourbon St. That is a story in itself. We missed our stop and would not have known except that I started talking to a female passenger who informed me that if we were going to Bourbon St, we had to get off the streetcar quickly. I told the driver and she did stop for us…two blocks out from Bourbon St. She pointed to a stretch of dark road and said, “It’s two blocks that way. Just go straight and you will walk right into it”. We hesitantly got out of the car and stepped into a city that was strange to us then walked down the dark stretch of road to Bourbon St. It didn’t help my nerves when I looked back at the woman on the streetcar and noticed a look of concern on her face. But we made it there okay and it was a lesson learned. When we left, we took a taxi back to the hotel since it was so late.

As I said, there was a diverse group of passengers on the streetcar. I remember one time during our travels when the streetcar stopped for several minutes to pick up another passenger. I glanced out the window, curious to see who was boarding. An older man in a wheelchair sat on the curb. He held a large bottle of water, a cup and a small dog on his lap. I learned that the streetcars are equipped with platforms that can be lowered to the curb for people who use wheelchairs, but there is a process to lowering the platform and it takes a few minutes. I glanced around the car which was relatively full, and noticed that even though we were full and on a delay, no-one seemed impatient. Everyone took the pause in stride. I glanced back down at the man. He poured some water into his cup and shared it with the dog on his lap. For some reason, I was filled with a sense of tenderness. For the man, for the dog and even for the passengers who patiently waited for his arrival inside the car. Shortly thereafter, he wheeled onto the lowered platform and was raised up to join us.

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All in all, it was a really enjoyable trip. I was reminded by a couple of people during the weekend to “be careful” as I explored the city as a tourist, but I was very fortunate. Most of the people I encountered were friendly and patient. Even helpful. And also, in case you are wondering, Keith Urban was great in concert! If you get a chance to see him, you should go.

Have a wonderful weekend, all!

 

 

My brief adventures in Waxhaw, NC

This weekend I took a little road trip to visit some friends. My destination, Waxhaw NC, was not very distant, only 3 hours away. I didn’t explore any hiking trails like I often do or attend a writer’s conference. It was a straight up indulgent, sit-by-the pool and eat trip. Oh, and there was a ballet recital. A friend of mine teaches ballet and I attended a recital for her students who performed a little Spanish piece called “Carmen”.

 

I didn’t think I would find anything to write about this weekend, and truthfully, I didn’t write anything on my computer or on paper during the trip, but I did write some things in my head. The ballet recital reminded me of a couple of things I’m writing for children, one story about a little girl who is learning to pick out her clothes and another about a little girl with crazy hair. After the recital, I conversed with my friend’s mother, who is also a writer, about an idea I have about two boys exploring at the beach.

 

One morning, I woke up early to find the rest of the house still sleeping. I crept into the kitchen to find that someone had gotten up earlier, filled the Keurig with water then gone back to bed. Best hosts ever, I thought as I made a cup of coffee. I crept outside to sit at the table on their back porch. The air was already hot and humid and the sun was beating down on one side of the table. I picked a seat that was still shaded and wondered how long it would take for the sun to catch up with me. As I sat in the serenity of their backyard among the trees, beautiful green lawn and singing birds, this blog started to form in my mind. Sometimes, in order to write or be productive at anything, you have to relax and take a deep breath. Everyone is different, but for me, creativity flows when I have time to sit back and gain perspective.

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The sweet spot of shade and solitude didn’t last very long. People began to rise and soon I was joined on the porch by others with their own cups of coffee. The sun crawled across the table to join us and the quiet morning eased into a happy, social spring afternoon. Eventually, we changed into bathing suits and headed for the pool. I had an opportunity to drive a golf cart to the pool which was a BLAST.

 

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“I’m retiring to a golf community, “I announced. “Even though I don’t play golf…I just want to drive the cart”.  

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Truthfully, I probably won’t have the money to retire to such a community. But that’s ok. It was still a lot of fun driving the cart 🙂

 

I passed a few interesting places when I was in Waxhaw. It looks like they have a small but very quaint downtown area, and I learned that Waxhaw is a major equestrian community. There are horses and rolling hills everywhere. So, who knows, I may go back and explore these things later on. And then I guess that experience will be its own blog.

 

Have a great day all!  

Exploring the Wrightsville Beach Loop, Unmoored

via Daily Prompt: Unmoored

I don’t enjoy housework. I don’t live in filth and I enjoy the finished product of a clean house, I just don’t like the process of getting it that way. It’s overwhelming to me. After working full-time, attempting to stay in shape, keeping up a yard and trying to find time to write, the last thing I want to do is clean house-which is ironic because I have many ideas about things I want to do with my home. I dream of a life where I am unmoored from housework, where I have lots of time to explore and write, to be active and creative. Lately, I’ve started putting some thought into what I can do to solve this problem. How can I have it all? In my own small and humble way, I have found some avenues for “outsourcing” some of my housework. Today, I benefited from taking those avenues and was able to tend to both my domestic duties and my need to get outside and poke around. I did two things: I ordered my groceries online and I offered to pay my cousin to come over for three hours to help me clean.

Did you know that for $5, you can order your groceries online and someone will do your shopping for you? All you have to do, at least for Harris Teeter, is set up an account online, select your groceries and select a time that you would like to pick them up. I ordered my groceries last night and opted to pick them up this afternoon. Earlier this week, I set up a time for my cousin to come over today and help me clean. By doing those two things, I freed up my morning to go for the 2.45 mile walk around  Wrightsville Beach Loop  and to explore Lee’s Nature Park along the way.

Parking for the Loop is located at Wrightsville Beach Park. WB allows two hours of free parking for anyone using the park or the loop. I parked my car, got my parking ticket and set off on my walk. Lee’s Nature Park is located along the Loop. I have walked the Loop many times and just recently noticed the nature park. Today, I detoured off the Loop to slip down the path into the park for a few minutes. It was small but quaint. I could see myself reading a book or eating lunch there. A sign at the entrance of the park states that it was created as a bird sanctuary and is home to egrets, brown pelicans and many types of butterflies. I did not see any of those creatures today. I guess they were either off hunting for food or quietly observing me from the trees. The park overlooks the marsh and is quite peaceful.

After I examined the park, I got back onto the loop. Today was overcast, but there were still plenty of walkers and runners out. When I crossed the bridge over Banks Channel, I saw boats, paddle-boarders and canoes dotting the waterway. I made my way along the back of the loop until I traveled to the opposite side. I looked over and spotted a path leading down to the marsh. I glanced at my phone and confirmed that I had enough time to check it out. Like the park, it was also a quiet excursion from the primary loop. I looked across the marsh and saw a row of canoes which presumably belonged to a business that rented them out. Good to know. Standing on the edge of the marsh, I remembered the Fort Fisher Hermit who lived in the marsh at Fort Fisher. I headed back to the loop but instead of walking on the sidewalk, I took the beaten path which runs parallel to the loop through a row of large swooping trees.

 

After the loop I collected my groceries and came home to meet my cousin. She was an ENORMOUS help to me. We listened to 80s music and chit-chatted while we worked which made the housework so much easier. Together, we thoroughly cleaned several key areas in my house and tonight I am breathing a sigh of relief to have gotten some of my housework done. Plus, I didn’t miss any fun 😉

 

 

Guilty pleasures

via Daily Prompt: Notorious

When I was a teenage girl, I was a Durrannee. My bedroom walls were lined with pictures of Duran Duran, in particular the lead singer, Simon LeBon, who wrote poetry like me. My mother used to say she could never sleep in my room with all of those men looking down at her.  I was 11-years-old in 1981 when MTV was launched and was a full-fledged fan of both Duran Duran and MTV by 1983 when I was 13 and the videos for Hungry Like the Wolf and Rio were being played hourly. I did not have MTV at my house but my friend, Mary, did. I stayed many weekends at her house where we spent hours watching videos by Duran Duran, Spandeau Ballet, The Police, the Eurythmics and more.

 

The 80’s were a unique time. It was a “Romantic” era for pop music when male singers wore pretty clothes and makeup. It was a dream for Mary and I. We could indulge in typical teenage crushes but also admire the makeup and outfits of the artists we were crushing on. When British New Wave hit America, I remembered thinking THIS is the music I’ve been waiting for all my life (you know, all 13 years of it). It was my music.

 

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In April this past year Duran Duran played, for the first time, in my hometown. Mary sent me the link with the announcement and a comment stating, This is thirty years too late for me. I decided it wasn’t too late for me. I thought about what my teenage self would think if she knew I had had the opportunity to see Duran Duran play, and I came to the conclusion that she would never forgive me if I didn’t go.

I easily found another friend, Sandy, to go to the concert with me. We purchased our tickets and I promptly ordered a tee-shirt that said “Hungry like the Wolf” on the front. The day of the show I donned my t-shirt and we arrived shortly after the gates opened to secure a spot front and center. When it was all said and done we would stand in that spot for about five hours. Over one hour waiting for the opening act, another hour waiting for Duran Duran then the actual show.  We made friends with a couple of ladies standing behind us. One of them commented that I must be a true fan because of my shirt.

“I used to be,” I said, “but this is the first time I’ve ever seen them in concert”.

“Oh, I’ve seen them in concert 13 times,” she responded.

She proceeded to tell us about her adventures following Duran Duran, including the time she was traveling with her husband and saw Simon LeBon standing by a car parked in front of her hotel.

“Take my picture,” she had said to her husband, who was playing games on his phone.

Then she flew down three flights of stairs to introduce herself to Simon LeBon. Her husband, apparently, failed to take her picture because he never looked up from his game.

The other woman, a cute, dark-headed lady wearing a t-shirt with the picture of the British flag on the front, told us of how she had tried to get her daughter and husband to come to the show with her, but they had refused.

“My daughter looked at me and said ‘Who is Duran Duran?’ ”, she commented, “But I have to say it’s kind of nice to go to a show where everyone is the same age as you”.

We looked around. The audience was filled with women in their 40’s and 50’s. There was also a decent showing of middle-aged men which surprised me a little (but many of them may have been spouses) and there were some younger people sprinkled in here and there.

“Okay,” I said, looking playfully at Sandy and the ladies behind me, “We have to make a pact. When Duran Duran starts to play, people from the back are going to probably start rushing forward to get close. Can we all agree to create a little barrier in our spot so that we can keep our places? I’ve been standing here for hours and I don’t intend to lose my place.” Everyone agreed.

After the opening act, there was a delay before Duran Duran hit the stage. On several occasions, the audience mistook the testing of the lights for the arrival of the band and erupted into cheers. One time, I saw a bleached blonde person standing to the back left of the stage. I grabbed Sandy’s arm.

“It’s a Duran!” The squeal ruptured from my mouth involuntarily. Then I looked a little closer. “No,” I said, “Scratch that. I think it’s just a woman with the same haircut as Nick,” (Rhodes, the keyboard player). After a few more disappointments, I declared, “That’s it. I’m not squealing again until I definitively see a metrosexual standing on that stage!”

Shortly thereafter, just as I had predicted, a pretty, brash young woman pushed her way through the crowd to the front. She made it through because she caught everyone off guard, but a lady behind her did not. As the second woman tried to edge her way through the crowd, a blonde lady who looked like a soccer mom blocked her way.

“No,” soccer mom said in a firm mom voice, “ I can’t let you do that. These people have been standing here for hours. It’s not fair and you’ll have to find another way”.

“But…”

“I’m sorry but you will have to find another way.”

The woman trying to cut through slipped down the row and attempted to slide past a man who had seen the exchange. He, too, blocked her way. Eventually, she gave up and stayed where she was.

Sandy cut her eyes at me and smiled. “You don’t mess with middle-aged women,” she said, “most of these women are moms”.

I nodded in agreement. “Yep, and mom’s know how to say no”.

Finally, the band started to play. Simon LeBon stepped on stage wearing a pair of white pants, bright green sneakers, a t-shirt and a blue-green jacket. He was cocky but fun. He strutted and they played all the greats, including “Planet Earth” and “Notorious”, as well as some new songs. I’m not going to lie, I thought it was a good show. After the initial squeal, I didn’t really feel any of the pangs of my old crushes. Thank goodness, ha ha!  I guess that one squeal had just been pent up for so many years that it had to come out. But I found that I do still like the music. I like the new stuff. I’m not as enamored with their love of supermodels, it seems a bit shallow, but the music is fun and I like dancing to it. I guess in some ways, I’m still a Durannee. I wonder if I will go to see them again…when I am in my 50’s and they are in their 60’s or I’m in 60’s and they are in their 70’s. Maybe. I guess we’ll see.

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We did our jobs as fans and screamed, danced and sang our way through the show. It closed with “Rio”. Gratuitous beach balls were cast into the audience and we popped them around instinctively. When it was over, Sandy and I said goodbye to our new friends and walked to our cars, hoarse but gushing about how it was a great show and so worth the time and money.

 

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“I think my feet are a still a little asleep, though” Sandy said. “We stood a LONG time.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, “My dogs are barking, too…but I would do it all over again”.

Good times. 

 

 

Better

This week for the first time, I met my new children’s lit critique group. I submitted two pieces for review: a nursery rhyme about a little girl trying to find a matching pair of shoes and a short story about two cats learning to live with one another. My group loved the nursery rhyme but schooled me on stress syllables. They ripped apart the story of the cats but they liked the theme of the story. I came away with hyperlinks to stress syllables, two book suggestions and a reminder of how far I have to go before I craft my stories into the best stories that they can be. My response? I’ve purchased one of the books on Amazon, I’m reading up on the subjects of stress and meter and I’m planning revisions to my stories. In the end, both the stories and I will be better for it.  

So much of our lives, in every area, are spent growing whether we want to grow or not. At work, computer systems are constantly being upgraded and new people always need to be mentored. Once you reach a level where you can mentor someone else, watch out, because that means you qualify for more responsibility. With additional responsibility comes additional correction which is stressful (not to use that word again), but without the correction we cannot get better. I’m learning to think of getting better as growth instead of a sign that I’m not good enough, and I’m learning that no matter how much I grow, there will always be hard work to do.

This morning, I was lazily sitting on the couch drinking my coffee when I heard a vehicle pull into my drive. I looked out the window and it was my father. I wasn’t surprised. On springtime mornings, he frequently arrives unannounced with his pickup truck, trimmers and weedeater in the back, to offer assistance in my yard. I pulled on a robe and walked outside, cup in hand, and smiled.

“I guess this means I have to get dressed,” I said.

We spent a couple of hours working in the yard. I rode my  lawn mower, and he did the weeding and trimming. At lunch, I got us a chicken salad from Zaxby’s, and we sat on the back porch and ate together. The time he spends working in my yard is for both our benefits. I need the help in the yard and he knows it, but it’s also something that we do together. And there is reward in the end. The yard cleans up nice and visually rewards us for our efforts. As for us, well, we are better for it, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Opaque

When I first started thinking about the word “opaque”, snakes kept popping into my head. I guess I was thinking about their eyes. You probably know that snakes shed their skin in one big piece. This process is called ecdysis. Did you know that as a snake gets close to ecdysis, its skin becomes dull and its spectacle, which is a clear scale that covers its eyes, becomes milky? For that reason, when a snake is about to go into ecdysis, it is said to be opaque or pre-ecdysis.  You can learn this by googling the words “snake opaque”. You can also learn that Amazon has snake print footless tights for sale for $11.99. I’m not a big fan of snakes, but I just happen to have a few pictures from a previous visit to the Cape Fear Serpentarium. I’ve already used them to gross out my friends on Facebook so why not share the love and delight you with them, as well? 🙂

Below is a picture of a snake skin I found one day when I was out walking. I would have been running if he were still in it.

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And here are the tights in case you are interested. Very nice.

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Also, as an added bonus, I wrote a six-word story to describe this post:

It’s not tights. It’s a snake! 

 

Pleasing sounds on a spring night

I love the sounds of a spring night. I turn off my TV and sit in the quiet listening to song birds, crickets and the occasional dog as they lift their voices to the sky. Throw in a couple of frogs and I’m in heaven. Lately, the lead singers of my outdoor concerts have been the birds. There are times when the crickets and cicadas rule the night, and in the summer, after a rain, the frogs take the lead and sing their parts. But right now, it’s the birds. I’ve actually pulled out my computer and launched investigations to determine which birds are making the sounds that please me so.  My current suspects are mockingbirds, the whippoorwillblack birds or robins, but I’m not an ornithologist so I’m not completely sure. It could be another species completely. Whoever it is, I find their songs delightful, and thank goodness. If not, I’d be losing my mind trying to rest as they pretty much dominate the acoustics of the sky.  Instead, their songs lull me to sleep.

I’m a girl who digs the sounds of nature. I find them comforting. When birds are singing, crickets are chirping and frogs are croaking, it feels like, at least for the moment, all is right in my world. As long as they don’t sound panicked, I kind of assume that a catastrophe is not immediately at hand. If it was, the animals wouldn’t be singing. They’d either be hunkering down or let’s face it, hauling ass. That’s a bit morbid, but you have to admit, there is usually more peace in chatter when it comes to nature than quiet. Chatter means everything is still operating as usual.

I do have other nocturnal sound makers in my yard besides the birds. There is a feral cat that lets himself into my yard every night. I know because I hear the cling when he squeezes himself through the gate which is always ajar in the morning. His visits are both exciting and antagonizing for my cats who race to the back porch and scan the yard to determine his location.  Every now and then, one of them will spot him in the darkness or he’ll come right up to the porch, and I hear them hiss or spit. Interesting that they challenge him because I feel like he could probably take either of my cats, but perhaps I do not give them enough credit. There is also the fact that they are separated by the screen. I know the feral cat is a he because I’ve seen him out there spraying everything. Otherwise, I’m not sure what he does in my yard , but he comes regularly. Might be trying to catch those birds.

And then there are my neighbor’s roosters, who do not simply crow at dawn, but rather anytime, day or night, whenever they feel the urge; although I have to say that as I write this, they are quiet as little baby mice.

I don’t know why I am so pleased by these sounds. I guess it is because they fill me with peace and a sense of connectedness. I don’t mind them at all whether they be wake-up calls in the mornings or lullabies at night.