Friday, September 11, 2015


Eryngo is an oddball wildflower I usually see in late summer here in Texas. The purple and blue are quite eye-popping. And the honeybees love them.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Piano lessons always make me feel better

After yet another unbearably hot afternoon bus route (they claim my bus is air-conditioned, but the only A/Cs that seem to work are the ones back in the back blowing on the students... the one that's supposed to cool down the DRIVER don't seem to do a blessed thing), I got back home, grabbed a three-minute rinse-off shower, and dashed over to the church for a couple of hours of piano lessons.

Honestly, doing piano lessons is like therapy for me. Not only do I get to be encouraging, I get to pass along helpful knowledge like how to count dotted quarter notes.

I don't feel quite as heavily despondent as I did earlier. I'm hoping that means I'll actually get SLEEP tonight, as opposed to last night.

Rick had been scheduled to work until eight o'clock tonight, which is about four hours of overtime, because the casino has been having their World Poker Tour tournament stuff, and they need the accountants there to process the big jackpots that come through. Tonight, though, we were all glad to see that he'd gotten to leave at five-thirty... and he brought home absolutely awesome news. Employees have little "awards" that they're able to dole out to one another when they see someone doing something "above and beyond" the call of duty. Rick had about twenty of these saved up, and every so often the employees are able to put all these "merits" into a drawing for something they might want (concert tickets, restaurant dinners, etc). This month, Rick put all twenty of his merits into the pool to get tickets to see Larry the Cable Guy. AND HE ACTUALLY WON TWO TICKETS! A week from this Friday night, he and I are going to get to go see Larry the Cable Guy. We absolutely NEVER go anywhere and do anything together, so this is going to be a huge treat. I'm actually kind-of giddy about the prospect.

And now? I need SLEEP.

Oh, joy

How much more heartbreak do I have to endure today? One of my best art and choir students suddenly dropped both of my classes saying she was too busy. Now I get to spend my afternoon bus route fighting tears just like I spent the morning bus route. Why I left myself get upset by this stuff is beyond my ken at the moment.

Explanation and apology

I often make handmade greeting cards and Christmas cards; if I need to send a card, I prefer it to be personally FROM ME.

To the left is a card I had made for a friend who had given me an exquisitely lovely gift; I wanted to thank her and tell her how much she means to me.

Before I could even get it in the mail, however, she suddenly ended our friendship.

When someone assumes ill intent on my part, it hurts... especially when I've tried always to be kind. As snarky as I can be, down deep I really do have an inner Pollyanna who believes that there's always always ALWAYS something to be glad about. I suppose that level of sincerity on my part is easily misconstrued by some as fakery or flattery... but it isn't. I really AM that way. I really do love people, even when they're unkind or harsh back to me. In fact, I often feel that abrasiveness in a person is a "challenge" on my part to find out why and to love them in a way that they will genuinely receive that love in the spirit I intended.

I won't ever stop loving my friend, regardless... but the hurt is also instructive, and forces me to back away and give myself time to recover. I may still send the card. I may not. Or I may wait and do it another time. I don't know. Grief over a lost friendship seems so very, very minuscule and insignificant in the face of the trials and struggles of others... which makes me ashamed of myself for grieving... so my usual instant response is to retreat into silence.

Hence my retreat from most social media, at least for a while until I feel more able to cope. I may go back to it tonight. Or tomorrow. Or it may be a long time. People who know me well also know what my telephone number and e-mail address are, so I'm not unreachable. And in the meantime I will continue to drive the school bus, teach art and music, and I'll blog here as my outlet.

In the past, I've been told that my Facebook posts are evidence of my need for affirmation. I'm going to spend this time considering that, and doing some self-evaluation. I don't want to seek admiration and back-pats simply for the sake of boosting my ego, but if that's how I come across, then I need to change something somewhere. I don't ever want to seem that way, and if that's truly what it appears to be, I am sorry.

Psalm 62:5 reads, "Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him." It's time for me to be quiet for a while and be certain that my validation comes ONLY from Him.

Bye, Facebook.

For anyone who might possibly be checking here for an explanation for my disappearance from Facebook (I know there really are only about two people who still check here occasionally, and that's fine by me)... I'm just done. 

I'm going to be combing through the posts here in the next few days if I can get the time, deleting any that I think need deleting, and then I'll start using the blog to post pictures of school events, since I know that some parents enjoy being able to see them. I'll probably disable comments, though. 

You know how sometimes you "just can't even" ? Yeah, well that whole "even" business is overrated. I really can't. Not today. Probably not tomorrow. Maybe not ever again.

Thanks for understanding.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Aundrea has a boyfriend!

A few days ago, Aundrea moved of her own volition up to the corner of the porch, which is the perfect spot for her. She's out of the way, but I still get to see her.  And this morning I saw that she was entertaining a handsome (albeit diminutive) visitor!  The male Argiope aurantia is much smaller than the female, as you can clearly see. Looks like maybe we'll get an egg sac this fall!

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

My pet spider now has a name.

My niece Ava, age seven, has declared that my spider's name should be:


which I believe is lovely and befits her.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

My pet spider

The lovely Argiope aurantia is looking much more filled-out and healthy after a few days of feeding her grasshoppers that I catch and put in her web for her. The webs that she's made even look nicer and neater, with the characteristic zipper-pattern and everything.

At the moment, she's enjoying a delicious feast for her dinner:

It's fascinating to watch her spring into action when I put the grasshopper into the web. This particular hopper is about twice the size of the ones I put in before; on the first day, I tried to put one of the great big hoppers into her web and it kept breaking it because it was just too enormous. Plus, I think that she was kind-of weak and was in no condition to subdue and wrap up a hopper that big. So I caught little ones for her. Today I nabbed this guy, who's not quite the size of the gigantic hoppers, but definitely more substantial that the little ones. I watched as she turned on the wrapping-silk-nozzle and quickly encased him and envenomed him. Then she rested for a couple of minutes, and went to work transferring the package to a less-damaged section of web where she could safely feast on his juicy innards.

When she finishes off her meal, I'm going to have to move the box of cow bones because it's kind-of in the way... which means I've got to rig up something else for her to anchor her web to. I'm hoping to keep her on the porch where I can observe her.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Argiope aurantia

Yesterday, one of my colleagues brought me a big box of cow bones. Of course, this delights me... bones make EXCELLENT drawing subjects in art class.

But the big box had apparently been sitting out in her barn, because it also houses a lovely Argiope aurantia:

I'm delighted by her presence; tomorrow I plan to catch a fat, juicy grasshopper and pitch it into her web. These lovely black-and-yellow ladies are some of our very best outdoor friends. She's not interested in biting you; not in the least. Obviously, if someone were to grab her, she'd probably defensively bite, but her venom is less harmful to a human than a bee's.

I used to be as terrified as could be of all spiders. I really did. Even seeing a tiny spider sent me into extreme anxiety. But in my thirties, I was hanging out at a friend's house while our young children were playing together, and she spotted one of those little black fuzzy jumping spiders (you know, the ones with white spots and bright green eyes) (Phidippus audax, to be precise), and she offhandedly mentioned how cute they were and how much she liked them. At the time, I didn't want to shriek or make a scene because my kids were there and because I was at her house. But the entire scenario made me think... maybe I really didn't need to be violently afraid of something so small... so I decided that the thing I feared most about spiders was that I didn't UNDERSTAND them well enough.

I studied online diagrams of spiders. I read articles and books about them. And I gradually found that I didn't react irrationally about them anymore. Sure, there are some spiders that are very dangerous... and I studied them, too. Enough that I knew what to look for and how to identify them, and then how to eradicate them from my house. But I also grew to understand that not all spiders are dangerous, and that, in fact, most of them serve a very valuable purpose.

So now, whenever I find a new one I don't recognize, I try to identify it and find out about it instead of reflexively smooshing it first. Sometimes they need to get smooshed... but more often than not, they're marvelous creatures who keep the nasty bug population in check for me. Argiope aurantia is one of the most marvelous ones living in our midst.

[editor's note on the next day: I caught a couple of small grasshoppers and dropped them into her web; she seemed rather pleased. I shall continue to contribute to her food stores, since I'd really like to encourage more of her offspring to take up residence here next season]

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Texas Chicken & Rice

I regularly "invent" recipes around here; most of the time they're MEH and not particularly noteworthy. But tonight I whipped one up that made everyone quite happy, so I wanted to write it down here for future reference.


1/3 cup Ranch Dressing powder
3 cups milk, half-and-half or heavy cream (I prefer the heavy cream, myself)
4-5 cups cooked white rice
3 cups diced cooked chicken
2 cups salsa
3 cups shredded cheese
1 T adobo seasoning

Whisk the milk and the Ranch powder together, then stir in the cooked rice. Pour this mixture into a 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle 1 cup of the shredded cheese over it, then distribute the diced chicken over the cheese. Sprinkle the adobo seasoning over the chicken. Spread the salsa over this, then distribute the rest of the shredded cheese over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.


This was very spicy and delicious. I have the distinct feeling the leftovers will keep being eaten until they're gone instead of getting tossed next week when the trash goes out.

If you're low-carbing, you could use riced cauliflower in place of the rice.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Stuff I saw today

I decided to take a short drive around some of the smaller county roads near my house today and I took the camera to record anything interesting I came upon.

A lovely chestnut mule...

This chestnut tobiano paint turned to face me as I drove past, and had absolutely no intention of running or shying. In fact, I got the distinct impression that I was being surveyed and found wanting.

Since it was midday, most of the cows were resting in the shade.

This mama was carefully monitoring her resting calf, and right after I got this picture, she snorted a warning and the baby leapt to its feet, and they both trotted rapidly in the opposite direction.

Our local Cowboy Church. I know the pastor and his wife very well; they're awesome folks.

And then I happened upon a committee of Coragyps atratus (American black vultures).
Interestingly, everyone I know around here grew up calling these "buzzards"... but when I came back home and began processing the pictures, I decided to look up the scientific name for buzzards, and discovered that buzzards are actually more hawk-like. These birds are actually vultures, just not the ones with the red heads and the white ruff collar.

Want to know something super-gross about these birds? Besides the fact that they consume roadkill?

They urinate down their own legs. This serves two purposes -- it's like a natural antibacterial agent, since they tend to walk around in super-germy rotting carcasses -- and it evaporates, helping the bird cool down.

You're welcome.

They're not particular attractive birds. But they do serve a useful purpose.

The view from a little bridge.

Common wild sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

This plant is a fascinating one. It's commonly known as dodder (Cuscuta californica).

Dodder is a parasitic plant which used to be classified as the only species in the Cuscutaceae family, but which has been genetically determined to belong to the morning-glory (Convolvulaceae) family.

It actually reaches and wraps itself around whatever is growing nearby. It sends out these teeny-tiny little "syringes" that suck the nutrients straight out of it. Kind of like a vampire weed. It can be a terrible pest if it gets out of hand.

And then a windmill, because I love American windmills.

I also love Cooke County, Texas. There's so much beauty here if you open your eyes to see it.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Baby birds

One particular corner of our back porch has a barn swallow nest that stays there year after year. Each spring/summer, five or more clutches of baby swallows emerge from that nest. This year I decided that I would put my brand-new selfie-stick to use in extending my phone up high in order to photograph the babies down in their nest from the time they were still just eggs up until they left the nest.

June 19. Five speckled eggs.

June 23. I missed the first hatchling yesterday, but there are now two.

June 24. Third hatchling has successfully emerged.

June 25, and now there are four.

On June 27, it appears that all five have hatched. It sure is easy to tell which one came out first!

June 28th, and they're still coming right along. I decided to call them The Five Fuzzbutts because they're just fuzzy little dragons at this point.

June 29th, and they're eagerly looking for something to eat.

June 30th.

And one day later, they look WAY more developed! On July 1, I can see pinfeathers!

July 4th

July 7th

And today, on July 10th, I captured this remarkable series of the Five Fuzzbutts actually getting fed by one of their parents!

Hey... wait a minute... someone's standing in that doorway!


Awww, c'mon!

It's fun to be able to document this little family on an ongoing basis. I'll add more pics as I take them, until they're out of the nest.

[NOTE 7/12: It was a good thing I got those last pictures when I did. They're all already flown away and gone!]