Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moon hike

The weather here in Bellingham was predicted to be rainy this afternoon but not raining in the morning, so we Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center (17 of us!) to get an early in-and-out hike. We went to the North Shore of Lake Whatcom, 7 miles out and back on the North Shore trail, and we were done with lunch and back at the trailhead by noon! The lake was unusually smooth and glassy (shown above, click any picture to enlarge), and the weather was in the mid-30s and dry.

We walked faster than usual, since there is no elevation gain, and stopped for a quick lunch a half mile out from the trailhead at a nice beach. That's Linda looking very Blue Moon-ish. She has convinced me that I should join her other walking group tomorrow morning at Lake Padden, where we will celebrate the new year with hot chocolate and (for me) a new group of friends. I'll go, of course. This is where the Polar Bears Club will jump into the lake at noon, and I can't help but think of the picture possibilities!

I'm here at home now, writing this Blue Moon New Years Eve post, and it's raining hard out there. We managed to get back to the Senior Center just ahead of the rain, and now I can hear the rain hitting the roof and making quite a racket. After having caught up on my blogging buddies' New Year's Eve posts, the idea of looking back, a retrospective of the past year, is intriguing.

Last New Year's Eve, I had not met most of you who will be reading this post. I didn't know about all the wonderful friends I would make: Rae, Judy, sas, Connie, Whitney, Nancy, Tiff -- I can't even name them all, but those pop up (oh, and Janine, Lily, Joan). Please don't be miffed if I forgot you since I can't possibly name everyone; in the heat of the moment these bloggers come to mind. All of you, named and unnamed, have enriched my life in ways I could never have predicted a year ago. Thank you again and again! (You too, Lucy and VB, and I am resisting going back and removing all these names for fear of forgetting someone who has changed my life.)

I traveled to Macedonia with my old boss in April, which was a truly wonderful experience, and I met some fantastic people who are now Facebook friends -- oh yes, Facebook came into my life this past year, too! The trip also made me realize how full and meaningful my life in retirement has become, and how little I miss all that international travel. One more Blue Moon picture, this time of my friend Peggy, and I'll call it a post!

I used my handy-dandy fill-in flash to take this picture a few hours ago, Peggy in front of Lake Whatcom, Blue Moon, New Year's Eve 2009.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's Complicated

Last night Judy and I went to see "It's Complicated," with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin. It was definitely a "chick flick" so I went over to Rotten Tomatoes to see what its "freshness" rating is over there. (The link takes you to that page.) Surprisingly, to me, it only has a 50% freshness rating. The way this website works is a positive review gets a fresh tomato, and a negative review gets a splat.

First of all, I will see ANYTHING that Meryl is in, and I have never seen a Nancy Meyers film (she wrote and directed this) that I didn't like. Any woman of a certain age will appreciate the humor in this movie. It's not often that we get to see the older woman pursued by the men in the movie (think "Something's Gotta Give," another Meyers movie). Alec Baldwin was really good as Jane's ex-husband. I read two reviews that pretty much say what I felt about the movie, and one of them is even written by a man. The first is by Lisa Kennedy at the Denver Post. She ends her post with this quote:
Sure, "Up in the Air" is the more ambitiously modern comedy. But this often hysterical romp has a Hollywood Golden Era ease. Simply put, "It's Complicated" is a hoot. Who among us cannot not appreciate that?

Maybe the men who are being made fun of, like the Jakes of the world? My favorite review was written by James Berardinelli over at Reelviews. If you spend much time over at Rotten Tomatoes reading the reviews, you'll see that most guys and quite a few women reviewers felt the movie was too cutesy and not indicative of the real world. Hello? I wanted to see a movie with a scene like this one:
Perhaps no other working director can get as much humor out of the naked human body. Meyers provoked big laughs when Diane Keaton disrobed in Something's Gotta Give. Here, it's Alec Baldwin's turn. The scene is so hilarious that you won't hear a line of dialogue - the rest of the audience will be laughing too loudly. It's Complicated features something increasingly rare in romantic comedies: most of the jokes work. They're funny. And you won't feel embarrassed for having laughed at them because you won't be the only one in the theater doing so.
Yep, this movie kept us both laughing and appreciating the actors. Steve Martin was superb as he underplayed his character. By the end of the movie, I was rooting for him to win Jane's affection, but the movie will keep you guessing till the end. If you see it, I'd love to know what you thought about it. Next up: Judy and I will go to see "Up In the Air" on Saturday!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Seven Deadly Sins

Do you know what the seven deadly sins are? And why they are called that? I didn't, but as I was thinking about my New Year's Resolutions, I wondered about them. I found out some interesting facts on the Wikipedia page, and I thought maybe it would help some other people think about their own resolutions.

First of all, the whole idea of these particular sins started way back during early Christianity, and beginning in the early 14th Century, the Church hierarchy figured it was a good way to teach the common people about how to live a life of grace. They have also morphed quite a bit over the ages. In the Book of Proverbs, it is stated that the Lord regards "six things that he hateth, and the seventh his soul detesteth." They are:
  • Haughty eyes
  • A lying tongue
  • Hands that shed innocent blood
  • A heart that devises wicked plots
  • Feet that are swift to run into mischief
  • A deceitful witness that uttereth lies
  • Him that soweth discord among brethren
Now if you look at the seven sins that are listed on the back of the woman above, you can see that they are different, and the only one being the same is pride (haughty eyes). These sins all keep you from finding serenity, and I'm sure that the sin of pride has earned the right to be known as the one that goes before a fall.

Pride is the one that has been my downfall, for what seems like forever. I know that any time I begin to think I am better than somebody else, my heart hardens towards that person. It's no wonder that humility, one of the Seven Virtues, is also impossible to develop if you are filled with pride. Sometimes I wonder if I was born just to learn humility, as many times as I've been shown the error of my ways.

My New Year's Resolution for 2010: I will learn to be humble without being humiliated. That's probably enough for a decade, don't you think?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Goodbye, aughts

When the twentieth century began, that first decade from 1900-09 was known as the "aughts" as in 30-aught-6 (the only place I ever heard it, some type of gun). Oh, and about that snowman: I saw him while in Leavenworth, and he looked to me like he was sadly saying goodbye. That's the only reason for his picture here.

I went looking on the internet for the name of the decade we are just now leaving, to see if anybody had ever come up with a name for these years with zeros. It was so helpful to all the New Years Eve revelers who wanted to have glasses made out of those zeroes. I would put a picture up but I think I'm glad to see the last of those. There never did seem to be a name for this decade. People are beginning to notice, as they try to decide what to call it. I did find this really cool blogger who writes for the Buffalo News, Anne Neville, and give you a quote from her blog (although the above link gives you the whole post if you are interested):
As the millennium dawned, nobody had an iPod or an iPhone, much less an app. Google, YouTube and blogs were all nonsense words. Texting was unknown; we communicated instantly via IMs while sitting at our computers. Twitter was something a bird might do, not a person. If you bought something on eBay, you paid with a money order -- no PayPal. Imagine life without Facebook -- some 300 million people worldwide can't.
It amazed me to realize the truth of all that: in 2000, our blogosphere was just being born. My mind is boggled at how much the world can change in the space of ten years, and it can't help but make me wonder about ten years from now. Anybody who says they can tell us is either misguided or ready for the loony bin.

Not to mention where I will be. Hopefully, like Abe Lincoln (a favorite blogger) over at Pick a Peck of Pixels, I might still be plugging along at 77. I just can't even imagine what the world of 2020 will be like, but it's fun to think about it. Change does seem to be accelerating in speed as I begin to walk more and more slowly. But at least I'm still walking!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Galbraith Mountain

Today, eight Seniors showed up for a sunny Christmas Eve hike on Galbraith Mountain, which is the common name by which North Lookout Mountain is known. This open space privately owned multiple use land is nestled between Bellingham to the west and Lake Whatcom to the east. There are views of Bellingham Bay, the San Juan Islands, and Mt. Baker. There are bridges and sometimes logs over frequent streams. Click any picture to enlarge.

The many miles of mountain trails (40, to be exact) are used and maintained by a mountain bike coalition known as WHIMPs. (I finally found that it stands for WHatcom Independent Mountain Pedalers! They even have their own website here.) This mountain is covered with logging roads and, today, trails that extend for miles and miles. Most of them have names like "Cheech and Chong's Wild Ride," "Shawn's Aneurism," or "Woopsie Woodle" with ramps and drop-offs to scare even the most experienced mountain biker. It's also a nice place for hiking (which is what we did) or trail running. It is world renowned as a primo place to mountain bike. The owner of the land, Trillium, has installed several sculptures at various places on the mountain, which are great landmarks. Here is the group standing in front of what is known as the leggo blocks.

It was such a nice day, and we shared the trails with other hikers, runners, lots of people on mountain bikes (although not as many as I would have expected; it must have been because it was Christmas Eve and people had other things going on). We hiked just under eight miles and up (and down) just over 1,000 feet in elevation. And in this last picture, I'm standing in front of another sculpture, wearing Judy's new hat (see yesterday's post: I finished it!). It was a wonderful day and a fine way to spend Christmas Eve Day. Now I get to spend the evening and tomorrow with Smart Guy.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Senior freedom

One thing about being retired and not going to work any more is that I can choose what I want to do with each day. Thing is, what might that be? Obviously, lately that has involved knitting. Just look at this array! First it was a scarf (the purple one), and I liked it so much I made another (the pink one, same pattern but longer this time), and then a hat (the purple and blue one), and I liked that one so much I made another (to the left of the first hat).

And now I'm knitting one for a present, since the second hat is too small for my friend's head. (It was originally going to be her Christmas present.) This new one is more like a true toque, with lots of room for her voluminous hair. Now if I like this one as much as I think I will, I may be forced to make even more of them. You can never have too many hats, right? And then there's those homeless people who always need them.

This hat uses three different colors and also has that roll-up brim (see the beginning of it here). You can enlarge any picture if you want to see all the details. The biggest problem for me in knitting in the round is that I have to pay attention to the end of the row, since I am following the pattern according to numbers of completed rows. I've gotten around that with two nifty helpers: markers that tell me when I've come back to the beginning, and a row counter! (My new row counter is that pink plastic thing in the first picture.) That way when I finish a row (by slipping the marker onto the other needle), I just reach over and hit the top of the counter and it gives me a new consecutive number.

The only other problem I have with hats is that they get finished way too quickly, and then I'm forced to sit around and twiddle my thumbs until I get a new pattern. Right now, as you can see, I'm ending up with lots of extra yarn that might force me to make up my own patterns. This appeals to me, because who knows? I might end up making fantastic hats that are sought after all over Bellingham! Well, maybe.

So this senior (me) is free to play with her yarn, her birdies, and look with great anticipation into the near future to see what it might bring. I get lots of ideas from my bloggy-klatch buddies as I sip my coffee. Oh yes, I also wanted to say thank you to my dear sister for having become a follower and actually making comments now and then. Who knows, Norma Jean, you may be moved to become a blogger yourself! But I won't hold my breath.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The conversation

This picture was sent to me by my husband and I couldn't resist sharing it with you. It's entitled "The Conversation," which he discovered on Reddit, a very interesting website that gives people the opportunity to share all kinds of information with others who might be interested. This picture is at first startling, then you realize these two creatures are obviously separated by a pane of glass, but they are definitely communing. I wonder what is going on in those heads?

Which leads me to a question I have for you, my dear readers. You can answer, or not, but I realize that one of the reasons I write is to be able to find out what I think. Judith Warner has written a column for the New York Times for years, called "Domestic Disturbances." She wrote her final column this week, and here's a (to me) relevant quote from it:
Often, writing here, I didn’t know fully what I felt — about things going on in my own life — until I read what I’d written. And very often I didn’t understand what I’d written until I heard it coming back at me.
Well said, Judith. I think this is what blogging is all about for me. I'm trying to understand why I am writing here, why we all are writing here. I think it's important to ask this question now and then, and sometimes I am surprised by the comments you make. We all have such different lives, and I enjoy the variety so much. You often give me a template to understand decisions I've made in a different light.

The conversation we share is personal, within limits, because we are all out there hanging out in cyberspace where anybody can read what we write. I censor myself sometimes and try to keep controversy to a minimum. You don't know my politics, my religion, whether I have ever done anything illegal, or even if I've gone skinny dipping. It's because I am afraid of offense, or worse yet, having it come back to me as it did to Andrew Feldmar in 2007. He is a Canadian psychotherapist who is barred from ever entering the United States again because he used LSD in 1967 (when it was legal). The border guard googled him and a paper he had written came up.
He has been married to Meredith Feldmar, an artist,  for 37 years, and they live in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood. They have two children, Soma, 33, who lives in Denver, and Marcel, 36, a resident of L.A. Highly respected in his field, Feldmar has been travelling to the U.S. for work and to see his family five or six times a year.
Not any more. Here's a link to a fascinating Alternet article that tells the whole story. He tried everything to regain the ability to come into the United States again with no luck. If you have ever admitted to any drug use, and they find out because you wrote about it, well, too bad. So I try hard not to write about anything offensive or remotely controversial.

I know that if the border guard were to google my name, this website would come up, along with several others from the time I was on the Board of Directors of the United States Parachute Association. It's really sad that we here in the United States cannot hold conversations even in our emails that are totally and completely private. I guess we can thank the Department of Homeland Security for that.

Now before I go off on a rant, I just wanted to say this to you: I cherish your comments and am really happy that our conversations are as open and honest as they are. My readers give me a sense of community that would be otherwise lacking in my life. I love to read about your exploits and strive to make my posts interesting. My question: given the parameters laid out, what can I tell you about me that you don't know and want to know? I sometimes wonder that about you, as I try to glean the person behind your own blog posts. Who are you really?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter solstice

I was wondering what I might use as a picture for the winter solstice, and I found this one on line by a fellow Bellinghamster. (I don't know her, but her Flickr site is at hopeisalot, well worth a visit). She took this one today of Bellingham Bay, at the winter solstice and named it "Stormy Sky." The solstice occurred here in the Pacific Northwest at 9:47 this morning, while I was in my exercise class.

You know how some days you wake up and all seems right with the world? That happened to me today. The wind was blowing hard but it was 54 degrees F when I walked out to catch the bus. The weather forecast said the wind was blowing in a cold front and that the temperature would drop all day. It's now 42 and raining, but the wind has stopped. At my workout session, we all seemed a little perkier and happier than usual today, with lots of well wishes for the season and remarks that now the days will start to lengthen. We have reached the nadir of darkness. Funny, I haven't really minded it, but it sure has helped to have those excellent Thursday hikes and good weather during most of them.

When I got home from the gym, I fed the birds and noticed how many there are. I must have close to a hundred of different species who see me as the Bird Lady. The chickadees always talk to me and have no fear when I'm filling the feeders. Sometimes they will even land on the far side of the feeder from me and peer over, with a lot of happy chirps, as I fill it. The other birds all stay away until I'm done, but I notice that the bushtits are getting very used to me also and get a little braver each day.

I feel so incredibly blessed to have my blogging friends, and I notice how often we leave comments at about the same time on the ones we follow. I started following some because I would read a comment left by a (then) stranger and I just had to get to know that person. I would pop over and read the blog. Now many of you feel like family. And although Facebook can be somewhat of a pain to keep up with, my friends and family made my birthday such a pleasure with all the comments. I must have re-read those birthday wishes a half dozen times and filled my cup of joy each time.

So today, the Northern Hemisphere winter solstice, Christmas week and the end of the first decade of the 21st century, there's not a whole lot in my life that I would change. Thank you for being part of my life.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


 Early yesterday morning, my friend Judy and I climbed aboard a Hesselgrave tour bus for an all-day trip to Leavenworth, a pretend Bavarian village in the Cascades. The 49-passenger bus was almost full, and I had been warned that Leavenworth is pretty much of a tourist trap. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it was a good thing to do once and experience... once.

We climbed through small towns with picturesque names like Grotto, Gold Bar, and Skykomish on our way over Stevens pass. This pass through the mountains is at just over 4,000 feet and had a ski lodge at the top, and lots of snow. When we arrived in Leavenworth and were shunted into a secondary parking lot for buses, I looked out and saw quaint Bavarian style houses and... people. Wall to wall people. Apparently they were all there for the final Saturday's lighting of the Christmas lights. Here's a picture of me after we arrived. The crowds grew from this point.

We had been given a tip to find a place for lunch off the main street, which would allow us not to fight the shoulder to shoulder crowds. We found a lovely little place called The Alley Cafe, and sat down to a beer (for Judy) and a glass of wine (for me) and a very good lunch. When we left our little cafe, we found that even MORE people had arrived, and there was little to do but follow from one shop to another, fighting to make your way through the crowds. It's worth enlarging the following picture just to capture the day's feeling.

We did find a bookstore, but even that was impossible to navigate. We thought we could just park ourselves at a bookstore and browse, but there were too many people everywhere to do that. So, after a few hours of difficult crowds, we made our way back to the Alley Cafe and parked ourselves there for a small snack. Once it got dark, we went outside to see the lighting of the town's buildings, listened to Christmas carols and made our way along with the rest of the cattle to our bus.

I left the house yesterday morning at 7:30 am and returned home at 9:30 pm, glad to finally be back home. I got another taste of how different the world is today than it was when I was young, just in sheer population numbers. I thought of an old science fiction movie called "Soylent Green" that showed people shuffling joylessly along from place to place, following the herds of people.

I did have the chance to spend the day with Judy and we talked and reminisced about the old days. All in all, I'm glad I went but I'm also glad I don't have to do that again.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fragrance Lake

Today the Senior Trailblazers went up to Fragrance Lake from the trailhead at Larrabee State Park. There were fifteen of us, and we intended to do a relatively short hike so we could get back early to have our annual Christmas party at Amy's house.

Yesterday here in Bellingham the weather was atrocious. It blew all morning and when the wind began to die down, the rain started. I think we must have had at least three incredible deluges that would have been very uncomfortable if you happened to be out in the weather. But today was gorgeous! The weather gods cooperated by giving us sunshine and clear skies when we started out, which then changed to a few clouds and a light breeze.

The view above is of the bay as we hiked up the more than thousand feet of elevation gain. There were quite a few downed trees, and this tree, which we had to climb over, had the most incredibly brilliant bark and I couldn't resist a picture. (Any picture can be enlarged.)

Although the hike isn't very long, we went about five miles round trip and had quite a bit of uphill in the form of switchbacks at the beginning. Although it rained all day yesterday, it was hardly muddy as we walked through quiet green peacefulness.

When we returned to the trailhead, we made a beeline to the Senior Center to get our cars and head to the potluck at Amy's house. We had pizza, salad, shrimp, and lots and lots of homemade Christmas cookies. It was a wonderful time, and we couldn't have asked for a better day: sunshine, beautiful scenery, and good friends.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009


This post is a review of the movie I saw last night: Invictus. The name comes from a poem written in 1885 by English poet William Ernest Henley. The film is a look at life for Nelson Mandela after the fall of apartheid in South Africa, during his term as president when he campaigned to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup event as an opportunity to unite his countrymen.

Morgan Freeman is absolutely stunning in the role of Mandela. I could never have believed that this man, whom I have seen in such different roles, could step into the skin of Mandela so completely, but he did. (He has just been nominated for a Golden Globe for this role.) And Matt Damon, as usual, had a perfect South African accent and played the captain of the rugby team, Francois Pienaar, perfectly. I learned that Damon bulked up for the part (boy did he; bulging muscles galore) and had to have a stand-in for most of the really grueling scenes. My favorite review of the movie came from the New York Times and I'm giving it to you here.  When I read this review I just had to see the movie.

This is a true story about a man who is still living, who spent several decades in a tiny prison cell (which is actually shown in the movie) and came out of it willing to forgive his jailers and be the great South African president. Clint Eastwood directs it, and he shows how brutal both apartheid and rugby really are. I can still hear and see the rugby scenes in my imagination, a game which I simply don't understand, but I can sure see why it's the main sport of many countries.

And the movie is also about two important things: forgiveness and willingness to change in the face of adversity. The events that happened in this movie are all real, except I learned that Mandela actually didn't give the poem to Francois, but instead an extract from Theodore Roosevelt's speech "Man in the Arena" from 1910. I can see why Eastwood decided to use the poem instead, since it really summarizes Mandela's journey:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

The movie is also based on a book written by John Carlin, Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation. Of course now I will get the book and read it. If you want to see an uplifting movie with quite a bit of grunting and gasping that has nothing to do with sex, go see it. I'd love to know what you think of this movie. I would give it an A+.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Farmer's Market closing

Next Saturday is the last day for the Farmers' Market here in Bellingham. Here's what it looked like this past Saturday. As you can see, it's pretty much just things for Christmas presents and whatnot, but tucked here and there are few vegetables and eggs. And, of course, this fabulous looking honey. That's Gene in his Grinch costume (that's what he calls it). Since I am trying to stay away from heavy sweets right now, I had to reluctantly skip the honey, but it sure does look tasty.

It's hard to realize that we only have a few more weeks in this year, as well as in the first decade of the 21st century. I remember like yesterday the panicky preparations for Y2K -- and now we are here, in the Pacific Northwest, my work life far behind me, and my new life unfolding a little at a time. Two more Christmas parties this coming Thursday and Friday, and me trying to keep the weight gain to a minimum. It certainly helps not to be able to get into my favorite pants. Talk about incentive!

I am almost completely at home with my new iPod Touch. I am now synched with home, the coffee shop, and (today) the bird store. The owner is a Mac aficionado and she was the one salivating over my new toy. We played bird songs, and now I'm wondering: can I get GPS downloaded onto my Touch? Or do you have to buy one with it. She was telling me about some apps that sound really fun, but I'm still a novice with this thing.

In a few minutes I'm heading out to pick up a girlfriend and go to see "Invictus." I see that Morgan Freeman has already been nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Nelson Mandela. Hopefully I'll love it and tomorrow you will know more about it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

New iPod Touch

Oh my! I am behind in my blogging, because I was at the coffee shop yesterday salivating over... no, not anything behind the counter, but a new iPod Touch that someone was showing me. I was so enchanted with it, that during my shopping frenzy, I bought one for myself!

The problem with this is: after hours and hours of reading and experimenting, I am now barely able to figure out how to synch things with my computer. Since I bought this at a Best Buy store and not an Apple store, I had to download the latest version of iTunes to be able to use it (this took more than a half hour), and then I needed to download the latest version of the new operating system for the Touch. Eeek! Then I had to call Apple Care to find out what I was doing wrong...

I have managed to get on the Internet, and now I must learn how to get OUT. I was able to pull up my own page (this one), but it's not as easy as that. I do now have the correct date, stock market quotes, and soon I will learn how to download bird calls and learn how to put new applications on here.

I was just minding my own business, but it seems that without having the phone part of the iPhone, I now have a way to get all the relevant apps that I wanted, and all I have to do is learn how to use it. Oh, what have I gotten myself into? I am now completely overwhelmed, which always happens when I get started with these things.

My blogging buddies might have wondered what happened to me if I didn't at least try to explain. It's almost 3:00 pm and I have only just begun! Those Christmas cards will need to wait until I've got a handle on this. Hang on, I'm almost there...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Santa's visit

Yesterday my friend Gene dressed up as Santa and came to the coffee shop. When I walked in, he had had all the kids sitting on his lap, taking pictures with his own camera held at arm's length. I had to get this one (he's behind the counter here) showing that under those spats he's wearing his usual Birkenstocks. Gene is a fisherman who generously gave us our Thanksgiving salmon for the past two years. He left his usual companion at home, a 20-year-old parrot he calls Poopstain (for obvious reasons).  The small coffee shop is locally owned; Gene says Starbucks doesn't let him bring the parrot in.

I've seen the parrot get his attention by pulling on his beard to make him turn toward him. Poopers also drinks water and takes nuts from Gene's mouth. I talked Gene into taking the bird to a vet not long ago, and it turns out he's still a very healthy bird with maybe another five years of life. I thought you might enjoy seeing some of our local color.

My birdbath is getting more popular with the regulars. Yesterday I saw this scene on the front porch, and just while I was writing this, some jays flew up to partake. I've learned that when it's cold the squirrels use their tails to keep warm, which is why the one eating has it wrapped up over his spine. I've learned so much from my blogging friends!

In a few minutes I'll be heading down to the Farmers' Market, which is only open today and next Saturday, and then it will close for the season and re-open in April with the mayor tossing out the first cabbage, just like last year. I'll be there hoping for good weather. The gorgeous sunny weather is now behind us, and we've got snow coming tomorrow, and then rain for the rest of the week. When the rain returns, it will bring more moderate temperatures. That Rex block was sure nice while it lasted, but I actually look forward to the return of the usual situation here in this part of the world: rain, mist, temperatures above freezing.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Madrone Crest

Today 12 Senior Trailblazers set out to hike up to the Madrone Crest in the Chuckanuts. The hike started out at the same place as last week's hike to Raptor Ridge, but we quickly got off last week's trail to head up the Salal Trail (I wondered about the name; was it named after Sal and Al?), and then we hiked to two places where we could look over the town of Bellingham and see Mt. Baker.

Madrone (or Madrona) is the name of a particular kind of tree that is rapidly become more scarce. I took this picture today and looked it up for information. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it:
Although drought tolerant and relatively fast growing, the Pacific Madrone is currently declining throughout most of its range. One likely cause is fire control: under natural conditions, the madrone depends on intermittent naturally occurring fires to reduce the conifer overstory.

It is a broadleaf evergreen tree with rich orange-red bark that peels away on the mature wood, leaving a greenish, silvery appearance that has a satin sheen and smoothness. The exposed wood sometimes feels cool to the touch. In spring, it bears sprays of small bell-like flowers, and in autumn, red berries. The berries dry up and have hooked barbs that latch onto larger animals for migration.
To me, it's an odd looking tree. It doesn't look much like the other trees around it. Anyway, we found several of them on the Madrone viewpoint. We first hiked over to the Chuckanut Ridge to have a nice place for lunch, which incidentally lengthened the trip by a couple of miles.

It was very cold today, and when we started out the temperature was no more than 20 deg F (-7 C) and the day showed clouds for the first time in several days. The temperature inversion that has been in place for a week, causing the air quality to decrease, is beginning to break down, and snow is forecast in the near future, maybe as early as tomorrow. As you can imagine, we didn't spend lots of time sitting around basking in the nonexistent sun during our lunch break, so we ended up hiking up about 1,500 feet in elevation in a little more than 9 miles round trip. Another good day of exercise, with great friends. Here's the view of Mt. Baker from Madrone Crest:

And oh yes, the moss! Look at these alien beings -- er, trees -- covered with burls covered with moss. I could hardly believe that these trees are still alive and standing, with all the stuff they have accumulated! I took this picture just for you.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

New birds

Since I got that birdbath heater, it's been a regular hangout at the old front porch. I've seen two new birds, along with the regulars (two types of juncos, chickadees, jays, English sparrows, goldfinches, purple finches, nuthatches, woodpeckers, flickers, and squirrels). One new bird is the bushtit. They love the suet feeders and sometimes cover them in massive numbers. I found that they are not very widespread, but are quite common mostly in our area. Here's what they look like:

Isn't that a cute little fuzzy thing? My bird book says, "Hyperactive in everything they do, these tousled, fluffy, gregarious birds are constantly on the move. They bounce from one shrubby perch to another, examining everything of interest, filling the neighborhood with charming, bell-like, tinkling calls, and doing it all with panache." It also says that when it gets really cold (like lately) they huddle together in a tight mass to reduce heat loss. I wonder how they decide who will be on the outside.

Another new bird caught my eye on the birdbath: he knocked all the other birds off, regardless of species, and looked a little like an English sparrow but with a fatter body and shorter beak. I sent this picture to my local birders to discover that it is a song sparrow. This bully of the neighborhood will not let anybody else drink water when he's around. He also just seems to like to guard his territory.

When I see the competition that goes on in the bird world, I wonder if we humans will ever outgrow our need to wage wars with each other. Watching these birds does sometimes make me look up and realize that hours have gone by while I was in a reverie, pondering, thinking about things, watching them peck, eat, drink... and fight.

I have laughed and cried with my blogging buddies this morning. Some are having a hard time, some cause me to snort coffee up my sinuses, and some are showing me pictures of birds, squirrels, and other wildlife that congregate within their camera sites. Some are celebrating the season and sharing pictures. Again, and I hope you don't get tired of hearing this, I am grateful for the wide world that is funneled through my computer screen into my brain, which then widens again into ideas and worlds of possibilities.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Well, I think this might work! Talk about a long journey to this birdbath heater. Yesterday I went to the local hardware store to find they didn't have any birdbath heaters, so I headed over to the Wild Bird Chalet and found that there are really no other ways to get a heater into your birdbath unless you have electricity running out the door. I went to the apartment manager and found that there are no outside electrical options on the front side of the apartment, only the back. 

Back to the hardware store to find a flat (relatively speaking) extension cord that we might be able to get under the door. Smart Guy was extremely reluctant to have all this dubious activity going on (like an extension cord going outside into the rain), so he helped me to find a solution in order to keep me from being electrocuted. This little 45-watt heater sits in the bottom of a shallow birdbath (I can't make it stay on the bottom without that rock on it) and it gently warms the water. I suspect that in extremely cold weather it won't work. Once we got it covered up with electrical tape and I promised to unplug it at night before I go to bed AND also check the tape holding it in place under the front door, we got this solution to water for the birds.

When I came home today from the gym, Smart Guy said he has seen the jays, lots of chickadees and juncos, and of course sparrows drinking from the birdbath. I am really overjoyed. As soon as I sat down to write this post, several birds came to drink and I was able to snap that picture above.

I have thought of several different things I'd like to write about, so I have begun another blog, which I'll tell you about as soon as I get something on there. It is not going to be limited in length (I strive for brevity on this blog), and hopefully I will explore some of the more emotional and controversial issues that I have decided not to post here, since it's not easy to put those ideas into a few paragraphs. This one, D-Jan-ity, I want to remain relevant to the followers I've accumulated and also bring "eye candy" to make it more interesting. I never thought I would be starting another one before a year had passed!

There is no way for me to be amusing like so many of the blogs I follow are, I try and it comes off flat. I can't be Robynn or Rae, I know; I've tried. This venue has opened up worlds I never knew existed, and for that I am grateful. Never did I think that here in retirement my circle of friends would grow so large, so relevant, so... virtual.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Talk about lack of perspective! I certainly lost it. Last night I woke up worrying about the wild birds I feed. They are precious to me, don't get me wrong, but it just doesn't help to lay in bed and listen to the wind, thinking about my birds and how they're doing out there in the extreme cold and wind. They are wild things, after all.

But I do know they benefit from my ministrations, so I keep the feeders filled and spread plenty of seed on the porch for the juncos who don't go up to the hanging feeders. A source of water is very important to their survival also, since they can't digest the birdseed without it. I keep a nice bird bath for them, which kept freezing over all day long yesterday. I fretted about it and got on the internet to see what people do to keep the water from freezing. This pictured bird bath heater is one way, but it requires an extension cord from your house to the bird bath, and I'm not willing to run a cord out the door. They do make solar heated ones, but usually that doesn't make much sense in the Pacific Northwest where we just don't get a lot of sun in the winter.

Okay, what about battery powered ones? They do make them but they must not be very popular because I couldn't find much on line to consider. I'll go over to the Wild Bird Chalet today and see what they have for me. I did find a wonderful idea of putting bricks in the oven and heating them up, and placing one in the middle of the bird bath, which would work for people like me who are willing to spend their day taking care of the birds!

There are so many things to worry about, I don't know why this became so prominent in my mind last night. Maybe it was watching the birds try to drink water yesterday and their little beaks just met hard ice. I would go out and break up the ice but within an hour it was back again.

My grandmother was a champion worrier. She would find things in my life to worry about because she didn't have enough in her own life to fill that void. I remember telling her not to worry about me because I wasn't worried, but she would just look at me and say "that's why I need to; someone has to!" It is easy to find something to worry about: look at all the things that can go wrong with the human body! Look at all the distressed homeless people! (Oh my, now I've done it! What are THEY doing tonight?)

So today I'll fix the problem somehow and make sure my birdies have the best care I can provide. I wish it were so easy to do something for those people huddled under bridges.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Rex block

Working at the National Center for Atmospheric Research for 30 years, and then becoming a skydiver who wanted to know if the weather would be jumpable or not, I have become somewhat of a weather geek. The first thing I learned at NCAR was that meteorologists are very fond of jargon. I heard  people talking together in the halls about models and millibars, worfs and enseps (actually WRF and NCEP). I began watching the weather on TV and tried to understand weather prediction. There was a prediction map room at NCAR where scientists would gather and argue enthusiastically about the weather. The blackboard was full of predictions of precipitation and other contests. But I am not a meteorologist. Today I ran across something new to me:
Short term...a strong Rex block sits along 140w. An upper low over west central Oregon combined with a strong 1060 mb high over northern B.C. is combining to give modified Arctic outflow to the area today. Williams Lake to Bellingham pressure gradients are over 14 mb this morning and will stay strong through this evening.
Long term...the Rex block is established and will take its time to break down. New long term models are generally holding western Washington in the northern stream through about Friday and keep higher pressure to the NE of the area preventing the influx of marine air.
Rex Block is not a person, but rather a weather pattern that, in the USA, is most often found over the West Coast. According to the NWS weather glossary, a Rex block is "a blocking pattern where there is an upper level high located directly north of a closed low." The pattern takes its name from the meteorologist who first identified it. Here's what it looks like (thanks to Jeff Haby's valuable website here):

What this does here in the Pacific Northwest is dry things out.  And the wind! Oh my! Our weather today is predicted to stay windy and the temperature will drop all during the day as that Arctic front moves down. I am sitting here, toasty and warm, listening to the gale force winds outside. With the wind chill it must be in the teens right now. My latte may have to wait.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


This picture of the Earth was taken in December 1968. As the Apollo 8 command module rounded the far side of the Moon, the crew could look toward the lunar horizon and see the Earth appear to rise, due to their spacecraft's orbital motion. Their perspective of the Earth, I am sure, was one they would never forget.

Our problems always look different when we look at them from a different perspective. On that globe in the sky are billions of people, fighting wars and making love, being born and dying. That fragile little planet hanging there in the sky is all we have. It is a beautiful gift.

I began thinking about perspective when I read a post at Recollections of a Vagabonde about her having been in Paris this past Armistice Day, November 11. When she returned to the States, she got sick and spent the time reading some books about World War I, what is called "The Great War." I didn't realize how many millions of people died during that war until I read this post. I knew Veterans Day, as it is called in the US, was to commemorate the end of this war, but I learned a great deal when I read her well researched article.

Even though the population of the Earth was much smaller at the beginning of the last century than it is today, 40 million were dead or injured in the four years this war was waged. When I think of the conflicts going on in the world now, they pale against this number. The fact that I know about every major war in the world today, every newsworthy death that the media finds to tell me about, near and far, distorts my perspective of what is happening in the world. And the media also distorts my perspective because it doesn't focus on the positive, but only on the negative. Rarely do I read any stories anywhere that tell of the magnificent, courageous and meaningful things that humanity is also accomplishing every single day.

When I visit Astronomy Picture of the Day, my perspective begins to change, placing my problems and the world's problems into a different perspective. I can then lift my head, breathe a little easier, and feel my natural optimism begin to return. Then I walk over to my iMac, turn it on, and read all the wonderful things my blogging friends have to say.

I read about my friends all over the world: in India, the Philippines, Scotland, Ireland, Britain, Canada, and all the regions of the United States. They write funny and profound stories, show me pictures of their lives, talk about their concerns and their children, grandchildren, illnesses, fears and coping strategies. I am uplifted and energized, ready to start my day with a positive attitude, with a perspective of hope.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Raptor Ridge

 Things never turn out like we plan them, do they? I was all ready to take off with the other eleven Senior Trailblazers who showed up on this beautiful sunny Thursday, but unfortunately, I locked my car keys into my car by mistake, and with my camera still inside, I reluctantly stayed behind as they all car pooled and headed up to Raptor Ridge. I called Smart Guy, who dressed and quickly drove over to the Senior Center to help me into my car. While I was waiting for him, I figured that since it was such a beautiful day I could drive myself to the trailhead and maybe, just maybe, catch up with them. And that is exactly what I did. The picture above was taken when I first started up the trailhead, with nobody to hurry me along, I was just astounded at all the moss and snapped the picture. (You can click on any of these pictures if you really want to get the full effect.)

I was a half hour behind the others, so I took no breaks and didn't know if I could even catch up with them, much less find the right trail amongst all the others leading off from the Interurban Trail. Fortunately for me, the twists and turns were all well marked, and when I saw a couple of runners coming down the trail they assured me that the group (obviously on the older side, like me) were ahead.
Just before the turnoff to Raptor Ridge, I caught up with them. They were pretty amazed to see me, but they had taken short breaks and I hadn't. We had lunch together, as shown by the above picture, and enjoyed the amazing view from Raptor Ridge. We saw no raptors, and this picture below doesn't really give the full effect of the drop-off to the left of the moss. Notice the hiking boots in the upper right corner. I was as far back as I could get and still not fall off. A few wags suggested that I could just back up a little farther and get a great picture.

On the way back down the trail, we saw this incredible moss-covered rock with a huge tree growing right out of the top of it. This is not an optical illusion, but I am just not sure where that tree got its nourishment. Talk about wringing blood from a turnip...
All in all, we covered 8 miles and went up about 1,600 feet in elevation, and now I'm tired, happy, and very ready for tomorrow's massage after my workout at the gym. My life is pretty good, and I am right here and now giving thanks for having the ability to do these things. It will not always be so; that's the way of life. The quality of our life, however, is not measured in what tomorrow brings, but what we do with today.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Birthday presents

On Tuesdays, I attend a much smaller class, Robin's Strength and Tone at the Y. My Facebook friends have already seen this picture, but I couldn't resist because, as one of my blogging friends tactfully pointed out, I am a HAM! Another participant took this picture yesterday while I hammed it up with some of my friends in the class. The other one in red and the person next to her have been introduced to me but I've forgotten their names. In the dark shirt is Jackie, and then Cheryl, Robin herself, my friend Jean and on the far right is Robin's mother. I think Mom is almost 80. Robin's class is at 9:00 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I am usually hiking with the Seniors on Thursdays.

Now I understand the power of Facebook and blogging. Yesterday I received literally dozens of well wishes for my birthday on Facebook: from family members, skydiving buddies from my past as well as the present, people I've known over the years from my workplace, and people I've met from all over the world. It is truly wonderful. And then there are my new blogging friends who are already very special in my heart. I would name them but I am afraid I'd miss somebody.

Tomorrow I'll be hiking up to Raptor Ridge in the Chuckanuts with the Seniors. It is a new hike for me, and the weather looks like it will be gorgeous, so I'll be posting those pictures on here. In the meantime, I am feeling like one of the luckiest people in the world. And oh yes, I would be remiss if I didn't mention another major blessing in my life: my husband whom I have given the moniker of "Smart Guy" on this blog. It fits.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas elves

One year when I was home visiting my parents and siblings for the holidays, my sister Norma Jean and I went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I think I had been married for some time and away from home for awhile, but I really don't remember when it was for sure. My parents had two distinct families, and the youngest three were all six or under at this time, while Norma Jean and I were adults.

When we went out the door, Mama and Daddy had begun the Christmas Eve preparations for the young ones in the house (my brother and sisters) who had finally gone to bed. They had begun to assemble a bicycle for our brother Buz and had to finish wrapping and putting Santa's gifts under the tree. It was a warm and happy scene. Off we went to Midnight Mass.

When we returned, the scene was anything but happy. The entire living room was scattered with glasses half-covered in salt (from partially consumed margaritas), and the bike was still only half assembled in the living room. The entire scene was, in a word, a nightmare. And our parents had stumbled into their bedroom and crawled into bed. Apparently in the midst of their tasks, some friends had come over to visit and our parents had gotten quite drunk and forgotten what tonight meant to their young children.

We were aghast. For a few minutes we wandered through the living room and kitchen and wondered what to do. We decided that we would be Christmas elves and fix things. Norma Jean set to the task of reading directions on how to assemble the bicycle, and I began to clean things up: we toiled for several hours before inspecting our work and calling it good. Norma Jean had learned how to follow arcane directions and actually put the bike together! (I was more impressed by this than I let on at the time.)

Well, in the morning the kids came downstairs to find that Santa had indeed come during the night, and that his elves had done their work quite well. It is one of the more satisfying Christmas memories that I share with my sister. We still smile about it. I had to write to Norma Jean to see if my memory of the event matched hers, and it pretty much did. She said,
Maybe that's where I got the start of loving the feeling of accomplishment when I read directions and put things together. . . . We cleaned up and set up the living room to be a real Christmas when everyone got up the next morning. It was certainly memorable.
Over the years, Christmas has lost much of its magic for me. I don't like what I see happening to Christmas these days, but I am sure that there are still many parents, and Santas, and elves, making things happen for others.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Going nowhere fast

I've been noticing a lot of my blogging buddies lamenting about the difficulty of exercising in the winter in various parts of the country. There's no doubt it's harder. The picture above was taken from the internet, since I feel embarrassed about actually taking pictures of my fellow YMCA enthusiasts working out. At our local Y, we have a long string of treadmills and elliptical machines like those pictured above. They are not hard to use, but they are so boring!

I notice many people with earphones listening to either music, news, or maybe even learning a foreign language or something similar. It's the only way to make yourself do this solitary exercise. I find it does help to be surrounded by people who are also working out; it gives me incentive. I don't think I could ever ride that treadmill long enough to have that butt. And you wouldn't find me dressed in a bright red clingy outfit, either. For obvious reasons.

For me, I love the camaraderie of the exercise class. The Y has one every weekday at 9:00 am, which works perfectly into my morning routine. I catch the bus at 7:50, quaff my morning latte while reading the local newspaper, and walk the few minutes to the Y in order to change and be ready to work out by then. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we show up for Joanne's class, which has a loyal following of perhaps 40 people, even when it is raining, like today.

Just like in any class, everyone who shows up regularly ends up migrating to the same spot in the room. I like the south side, not very far back. Joanne has a set warm-up routine, and then we bounce around to what is called "low impact" aerobics. Some people barely move their arms and feet, and others are in danger of bouncing off the ceiling. I love to watch in the mirror what others are doing behind me. We do the aerobics part of the class for 40 minutes and then we cool down with some slower music and spend another 15-20 minutes doing floor exercises, working on abdominals, butt muscles, a little light weight stuff, some push-ups, and finish off with maybe five minutes of stretching.

I wear ankle weights and wrist weights, not much, only a pound each, adding an extra four pounds, but it sure makes me sweat a lot more. I also try to maximize the arm and leg movements, since I'm disappointed if I don't work up a bit of a sweat by the end. Our women's shower room has a sauna (which is usually very hot) and a steam bath. I shower and dry my hair and am out of the Y by 10:30, head to the bus terminal and am home by 11:00 am.

On Thursdays, I head up to the hills with the Senior Trailblazers. All summer long we go to the High Country, but during the short rainy days of winter we stay close to town. This Thursday we will hike up to Raptor Ridge, up 1,600 feet elevation and a round trip of about 8 miles. By the end of the day I am spent but very happy and feel a great sense of accomplishment. Our leader just sent an email today saying that the weather report "stinks a little less than usual" because we will most likely not get rained on.

Without this routine I would really not be enjoying myself. I find that on days when I can't get my usual workout, I feel rather depressed and grumpy. Sitting at my computer and watching the birds while I blog is so much more satisfying when I've had my workout. When the holidays close things down, I need to find another outlet.

Today, Monday, everything has returned to normal and I am smiling as I write this. What do you do for exercise? What are your options?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas presents

While busy admiring all the wonderful seasonal banners my fellow bloggers are uploading, I started thinking about Christmas presents, ones I have given and received through the years that have meant more than the usual. It seems like a good time to start telling these stories, as well as hearing some of yours.

Before I do that, though, I checked my blog reader and found a truly amazing story written by a woman in Seattle about her experience of having been struck by lightning (while traveling in her car with her two children). It's on the Cliff Mass Weather Blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (The caption under the first picture has a typo, should say "struck" rather than "stuck.")

Back to Christmas presents. The one I remember the most was actually a lesson in humility. My paternal grandmother, who wouldn't let us call her anything but "Mommy," brooked no nonsense. One year she was visiting us for the holidays, and I remember asking her what she was going to give me for Christmas. I did this to every member of my family; she was no exception. I didn't really want her to tell me but to ask me what I wanted, my crafty way of doing their shopping myself. She told me to stop asking her or I wouldn't get anything but a can of applesauce. I laughed her off, of course, and went around to each person a day or two later with the same question.

One day, under the Christmas tree, we discovered that Mommy had put out her presents. The one labeled for me had the suspicious shape of, well, a can. When I opened it on Christmas Day, thinking she was just playing with me, there was the promised can of applesauce. No attached note saying my real present was elsewhere. I was crushed, but she told me it was my own fault since I wouldn't learn my lesson any other way. Everyone else received "real" presents from her.

All these years later, I remember very few of the presents I have received from anyone, except that can of applesauce, which remains in my memory as the lesson of humility I asked for. It was priceless.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tagging my posts

I have thought about tagging some of my posts so that I can pull them up and read them in a more reasonable way than searching through them. Now that I've got more than a hundred, it seems like a daunting task. I was mulling a post about names, what they mean, how we come by them, but I vaguely remembered writing one already. I just found it here and read it. So I've already done it.

Some of the people I follow use a tag or label cloud. This gives a visual image of which tags are used the most (or least) by having them vary in size. I don't use other people's label clouds, so this is probably not the way to go. But first, you have to LABEL THEM. This seems really a little bit in the same ballpark as filing. When I would try to organize my office when starting a new project, I would put everything in folders according to how I thought they should be categorized. Before the project was over, I would have re-organized all the folders with different naming schemes at least twice or three times until I was able to pull up the correct folder every time. Somehow it seems like labeling or tagging my posts would be similar. And then I need to edit every one I want to tag, right? I notice that some people have gone back and done that, and I'd really be interested in finding out how one decides to tag a post. The internet of course has plenty of information. I found this website helpful, but I'm still stymied at how to begin.

Oh, and just to show how hard it would be to figure out how to label my posts, I want to throw into this post the recipe for the Caribbean Yam Salad shown in my Thanksgiving post! Some people have asked for it, so here it is:
Clean and dice enough yams to make 4 cups; steam until tender but not mushy. Chill. Whisk together 1/4 cup sesame oil, 1/4 cup tamari, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, dash cayenne pepper, 1 tsp each Dijon mustard and honey. Toss dressing with the yams, then add diced 1/2 cup red bell pepper, 1/4 cup dry black currants, 1/4 cup tamari pumpkin seeds, and 2 Tbsp sesame seeds. These are all really according to taste.
 In the picture you can see all the ingredients pretty easily, but I upped the red bell pepper and pumpkin seeds because I like both of those a lot. If you try it, let me know what you think of it. And I'm looking forward to learning what other people have found about tags, and I'd sure like to know if you use them or not, on your site or others. Thanks!