Saturday, August 29, 2015

This and That.....About Bears!

Happy Saturday Everyone!

I hope your week has been happy and you are resting and relaxing this morning with a cup of tea by your side like I am! I'm enjoying some quiet time on my back porch right now looking out at the beautiful woods that surround our home. Mr.thisandthat and I are lucky to live in a place where we have lots of "green" around us. The woods that surround our home are so pretty and provide lots of interesting wildlife for us to enjoy. We get to share our home with birds, squirrels, chipmunks, the occasional deer (not always so good for my flowers!) and....bears!  Won't you join me today as I share stories about these bears and some fun pics we have snapped as the "Bear Family" has visited us?

Now...let me give a little disclaimer for this post. We do not encourage the bears to come to our backyard. We do not purposely place food out for them and we certainly do not go outside to take these pictures. That would be foolish!! People should never purposely put themselves in harms way. And mama bears will protect their cubs! The pics I will share were taken by Mr.thisandthat from inside our house with doors and windows safely shut! 

We have lived in our home for about 13 years now. The first couple of years, I don't recall seeing bears. However, as the years have passed and more and more homes have been built in the area, our yard has become part of a "trail" used by bears as they move up and down the mountain. So, on occasion, we will hear a noise in our backyard, we'll look out the back door, and this is what we'll see!

Sometimes, we have seen just one lone bear. Other times we will see a preganant female heavily lumbering up the mountain. And often, we will see a mama bear with a couple of cubs. But this Spring and Summer, we have seen mama bear and five....yes, five.....cubs!

I'm told that when the food supply is especially good, female bears will give birth to a larger number of cubs. So, the food supply must have been especially good this year! (There really are five bears here, but it is hard to get all five in the picture! You can see that the family is looking back at the fifth cub who is out of camera range but scampering toward his family!) 

One day last Spring, I was truly blessed to look out the door and see mama bear and the five cubs having a "play date" in my backyard. Mama seemed to be tired and lay down in the yard to, hopefully, take a nap while letting the cubs play. The five little cubs looked like Teddy Bears romping about as they climbed trees and shrubs, tackled each other, and generally had a heyday! One little guy (or gal?) kept hiking one leg up trying desparately to climb into our bird bath. Finally, after numerous efforts, the little cub made it and sat happily splashing in the water! Of course, when it came time for the cub to get out of the bird bath he wasn't sure how to do so. He eventually just jumped out, landing on top of poor mama who was awakened from her nap! Isn't that the way it is with moms!? No rest for the weary! Mama Bear took it in good stride, though, and playfully rolled the cub to her and nuzzled him. The little cub then wanted to play "hide and seek" with mama so they playfully poked their noses through the openings on the bird bath. It was so much fun to watch! The play date lasted for about 30 minutes, during which time I was mesmerized and watched everything while standing hidden by a window. Finally, mama took her brood and moved on down the mountain. But before she left the yard, she found a tree and stood up rubbing the whole length of her body against it, having a good long scratch on her back and rump! I chose to just enjoy this "show" and did not get pictures of this playdate. Sometimes, you just have to put the camera down and enjoy!! Here is a pic from awhile ago of a cub climbing one of our trees.

In past summers, we have had a mama visit with cubs as well. At the time this photo was taken, we had an outdoor cat who "adopted" us. The cat just showed up one day and proceeded to live on our back porch for four years. She would not allow us to touch her or bring her inside the house. So we purchased a dog house to put on the back porch so she would have better shelter against the elements. Here is a pic of baby bear "dancing" with a blanket taken from the cat's dog house. (The cat was not at home at the time).

And this bear has sometimes visited us. She is a pretty big bear and at the time this pic was taken, we did have a bird feeder. The bear used the bird feeder like a candy container, happily sitting on the side of our porch, paws dangling down, munching contentedly!

While I have a healthy respect for these animals and would never go outside while they are around, I do appreciate the beauty of being able to enjoy wildlife close up. I hope you have enjoyed "bearing" with me while I have shared these pics with you! Have a great Saturday and as baby bear would say....Keep on dancin'!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

This and That......Galatians 5:22

I'm thinking about Galatians 5:22 this morning: (From The Message)

"But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard--things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely."

I love the part that talks about God bringing gifts into our lives the way fruit grows in an orchard. That got me thinking about orchards this morning.

And how orchards begin with new plantings.

These new plants have to be tended carefully and watered often.

Sometimes, the orchard experiences harsh conditions.

And some trees may even need to be pruned or totally removed from the orchard.

But if the caretaker keeps at it, eventually blossoms begin to appear. And the blossoms turn into fruit.

And there is plenty of fruit to offer to others. 

So it is with the gifts God gives to His children. The gifts of faith must be planted and nurtured over time. Sometimes we encounter difficulties in our faith walk. And we have to prune anything that turns us away from God. But, if we continue to care for the orchard of our faith, then the gifts will blossom into beautiful fruit that we can offer to others.

I love this analogy of the orchard as I think about the gifts God has given me. I look for the serenity that comes as I nurture and use my gifts for God's glory. Today, I embrace the exuberance of life, compassion of heart and the direction of my energies that this scripture speaks of, for the work that God sets before me in my orchard. And, until next time, may your orchard also be blessed with sunshine and growth!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

This and That......About Teachers!


As always, all written comments and opinions are my own. 

Hello Everyone! This post pretty much says it all for me! I have taught for over 34 years now, with 29 of those years spent in Public Schools.The start of a new school year is just around the corner. In fact, for many, it has already started. So today, I am going to write about something that means a lot to me and Mr.thisandthat...the fact that we are teachers.  But, I'm not just going to focus on myself in this post,...but on the many, many teachers I have been blessed to know, work with and interact with over the years. Won't you join me?

I graduated from High School in 1977. I was lucky enough to spend my entire twelve years in the same school system under the guidance of some dedicated and amazing teachers. Not only did they teach me the 3R's, but they inspired me to want to be a teacher as well. 

As I think about a new school year starting I reflect on the many teachers who taught me over the years. Teachers like Mrs. McKown, who taught seventh grade Language Arts. She acted in the local theater and brought dramatic readings to the literature we read. I loved her class! And then there was Mr. Gelber, my orchestra teacher in high school. I also took private violin lessons from him on the weekends. He was a wonderful mixture of musician, encourager and grandfather all rolled up into one. I treasure the memory of learning from him. And how about my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Barlow? She brought literature alive for me by reading aloud from chapter books after lunch every day. It was my favorite time of day at school! I think I began my love affair with books that year!

In case you haven't caught on yet, I think teachers are pretty special people! Three cheers for teachers!

And please don't think I am writing this post just to toot my own horn. I am a teacher and proud to be one. But, this post is for all of the hard working teachers out there who give their lives to the profession every day and don't get a lot of respect in return. You see, I think teachers are some of the hardest working professionals there are in the workforce. And I see the proof of this everyday within the hallways of the schools where I teach. I see teachers arriving early and staying late. I see them tutoring additional time after the school day has ended and spending night time hours at the school to plan, meet with parents or lead student performances. I see Mr.thisandthat staying up until the wee hours of the morning so he can complete grading student papers to give them immediate feedback the next day. I see them putting in hours of their time on the weekend to plan units, write lesson plans and grade papers. And I see teachers doing more and more with less and less. Less materials, less funding, less time, less support.  It's unfortunate that much of what we hear these days about schools and teachers is negative. And, in my opinion, much of the negativity comes from gross misunderstanding about testing that comes from people in leadership who truly know very little about teaching and how students learn and yet they are in positions of power to make decisions that impact student and teacher lives in negative ways. This makes me sad, because I see learning happening in the schools I serve every single day. I see happy students who enjoy learning and teachers who enjoy teaching. I see good things happening in schools...yes, Public Schools...and that makes me happy and proud to be a teacher! 

So, as another school year begins...give a kind thought to the teachers who do the job of educating students every day. It's a tough job, but oh so rewarding! Where would we all be without teachers? How about some applause for them!
They would sure appreciate it!

To summarize....if you can read this.....thank a teacher!

        Happy School Year, Everyone!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

This and That.....Philippians 4

Sharing this morning from Phillipians 4  (The Message)

"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."

We all worry sometimes, don't we?  I can really give in to worry if I'm not careful.  I love how this scripture reassures me that I am not alone in my concerns. God is right there waiting to calm me down, reminding me that He is in control, not me. Praise God for this reassurance on a Saturday morning! Have a great day everyone!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

This and That.....About Cats Part III

Well, we've reached the final post in my series about the cats in my life. So far, I have introduced you to the Tuxedo Cat sister act of Gracie and Groucho and the feisty but adorable Annie. Today, I want to tell you about the Master Cat, the cat who is the very antithesis of what a cat should be....Morris. To say that we hold Morris in high esteem is an exaggeration. We were blessed to have her with us for 18 1/2 years, so the tales about her are many! She even had a magazine article written about her! How did such a special feline come to own us?

It all began in the early 1980's back in West Virginia. A couple at my church mentioned that they had found a grey Tabby cat living in an alley close to their house. They brought the cat home but found it didn't get along with their dog. I was fresh out of college at the time and still living at home with my mom and older sister who were not in favor of my getting a cat. It's hard to believe now that I could be so impetuous, but on a whim one day,  I made the decision to go get the stray without telling my family. Imagine their surprise when they came home from work that day! Not one to stand on ceremony, Morris immediately began to make her presence known in the house by swinging on my sister's clothes hanging on the door of her bedroom and my mother's drapes in the living room. She also stuck her head in the squirrel pot my mother had soaking on the counter (don't even ask!) And this was only the first day I had her! Every day thereafter became an adventure of Morris streaking through the house, getting into things she shouldn't get into, getting in trouble and then racing down the hall to the utility room where she proceeded to jump from the floor straight up into the attic opening whereupon she would peer down at me as if to say, "Thought you were gonna catch me, didn't ya?!"

I never knew Morris' official age when I brought her home, but I estimate that she was less than a year because she went into her first "heat" about a week after I got her. The horrific yowling and howling kept us all awake at night and it wasn't long before we were making a trip to the vet to get her spayed. In spite of her wild antics, though, my family got attached to her and when I married Mr.thisandthat a year later, my sister and mom were sorry to see her go.

We moved the day after we got married, and Morris traveled to our new home in a cardboard box, sleeping peacefully most of the way. Mr.thisandthat had grown quite attached to Morris during our courtship and to this day he tells me he married me for the cat! We lived in a number of different homes the first couple of years and Morris always managed to somehow get into the inner workings of the houses. We would come home to find dirty little paw prints all over the floor where she had tracked dirt after crawling through the substructure of the house. She also developed some curious habits such as playing the piano at night by walking up and down the keyboard and sleeping on top of the aquarium so she could dip her paw into the fish tank. She loved cantaloupe and would sneak into the kitchen to eat the cantaloupe rind if one was left on the counter. And once, she opened a box of donuts and licked the frosting off the tops of all the donuts!

Being that she was an only cat for the first few years of our marriage, Morris was used to getting all the attention, so she was very dismayed when one day she walked into the living room and spied something strange on the living room floor. She stopped in her tracks and circled the rug slowly as she tried to figure out what this strange phenomenon was. It was small, furry, salt and pepper colored and whimpered. Her nose wrinkled as she smelled this furry intruder and realized the awful truth....we had brought a dog home! Thus began the uneasy relationship between Morris and her dog brother, Max the schnauzer. Max tried his best during the next thirteen years to rule the roost, but Morris always had the upper paw and would regularly discipline Max with a good swat if he dared to bother her too much!

The years passed by so quickly with Morris continuing to do her acrobatic antics of leaping on top of doors, chasing me down the hallway grabbing me by the ankles and refusing to drink water from any other source except an aquarium that contained water (but no fish) for her use only. She was stubborn and willful and definitely had ways of letting me know how she felt about things. But, she could also read me like a book and whenever I was feeling down, she would make sure to curl up in my lap and comfort me as only a loving cat can. The day that I learned my mother had died, I came home from work and there was Morris waiting at the door for me. She knew.

I won't belabor the illness that finally took Morris from us, but we'll just say that the last three years of her life were difficult. But through it all she never lost the tenacious quality she always had for life and would rally back from each setback time and time again. But the sad day did come when she just couldn't fight anymore. I held her in my arms that day and rocked her like a baby.

I mentioned earlier that Morris had a magazine article written about her. A few years ago, a local magazine for women published the story of Morris' life in their annual "A Woman's Best Friend" series. I was pleased to be able to write the article that showcased Morris for what she was...a really great cat....and my good furry friend. Somewhere in heaven, there is a cat who is eating her fill of cantaloupe and chocolate donuts!

So, that's it for the cats in my life! I'll be focusing on a new topic in my next post. Until then.....may all the cats in your life be warm and cuddly...and leave your chocolate donuts alone!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

This and That....About Cats...Part II

Hello everyone! I'm excited to continue sharing this and that with you about cats! In my last post, I introduced our current felines, Gracie and Annie to you. Today and tomorrow, I will focus on two wonderful kitties who, unfortunately, are no longer with us: Groucho and Morris. Both of these ladies have amazing stories that will go down in fur history! For today, let's talk about Groucho.

As I mentioned earlier, Groucho was the sister act partner of Gracie. Both girls came to us as 14 week old kittens who were teeny tiny. When we first brought them home, they spent their first few days living in a shoe box. That's how little they were! While Gracie was the feisty acting "older sister" who would pace through the house determinedly looking for her sister, Groucho was the more demure girl, quiet and unassuming. She had the same black and white tuxedo cat markings as Gracie with one important distinction. She had half a moustache! You can see in the picture below the comparison to Groucho Marx...we couldn't resist giving her the name Groucho!

In their early days, both girls were pretty much the same size, but as time went on, Groucho gained a lot of weight. She never appeared to eat more than Gracie, but her body size was definitely on the chubby side! Both Groucho and Gracie had the habit of hanging off counters, stairs and couches. They would literally suspend half their bodies in space with one paw hanging down. This habit seems to be totally unique to them as I have never seen other cats do this. Perhaps they learned to do acrobatics while they were in foster care in a pet shop before we adopted them! At any rate, they were fun loving and full of life and the first couple of Christmases we had them, I probably had to redecorate the Christmas tree a half dozen times because they kept undecorating it at night! In addition to her moustache, Groucho's other distinguishing characteristic was her purr. She had a purr that sounded like an engine running. It sounded like it was vibrating all the way from her belly to her head. We always knew when she was happy and content because there was no mistaking that purr box! It did take awhile for Groucho and Gracie to warm up to us, though. We had been used to a former cat who had lavished love on us and was the very definition of a lap cat. Not so for these girls, especially for Groucho. I estimate that it was a good four years before they truly let us pet them and hold them. That was a long time to wait for cat loving people like us! But those years did pass and eventually both girls developed into lap cats.

With a name like Groucho, you might think her demeanor would have been....well...Grouchie. Not true. Although we lovingly referred to her as "The Grouch" she was actually very kind hearted, especially to other animals like her dog brother, Max. He was a miniature schnauzer who was already with us when we adopted Groucho and Gracie. I will devote a post to Max at another time, but suffice it to say, he was quite the dog!! He became pretty ill when the girls were about three years old and Groucho distinguished herself as his nurse. Many nights I would get up to check on him and find Groucho laying beside him on his dog bed. When he became incontinent and we had to put his bed in the basement, Groucho would stick closely beside him keeping him company. It was as if she knew he didn't feel well and she did all she could to help him feel her own cat way.  She was also kind and accepting to other animals who came into our home. On several occasions we dog sat for friends and before Annie lived full time at our house we would cat sit for her on occasion. While Gracie would hide and show her displeasure at these animal intruders coming into her home, Groucho would accept that they were here and would stay in their vicinity providing a warm welcome. Although, on occasion, I will say that she and Gracie would do their Ninja Warrior routine teaming up to attack Annie. But hey, cats will be cats!

We noticed about two years ago that Groucho was dropping weight rapidly. When we took her to the vet, he ordered several blood tests, and did manual exams. We were overwhelmed to find that she was a diabetic cat and also most likely had a tumor in her abdominal area. Thus began a difficult period of time with trying to regulate her blood sugar while making sure she was eating in order to gain weight. I never thought I would have the courage to give hypodermic shots but, for Groucho, I learned so we could give her insulin at home. Mr.thisandthat and I tried everything we could to try to save our girl but, unfortunately, we were not able to do so. On a sad day in February 2014 I held her while she breathed her last breath.

Let's not end the post with sadness, though. I am so blessed to have known Groucho and to have gotten to enjoy her for 13 years!  Lots of happy memories to recall and whenever Gracie curls up next to me and turns on that throttle of a purr box I can't help but think of the Grouch. And that makes me smile!

And speaking of smiling, I want to thank everyone for stopping by and spending time on my blog. I really appreciate your visiting! I always enjoy hearing from readers, so if you would like to leave a comment, I would enjoy hearing from you!  Tomorrow, I will finish up with my focus on the cats in my life with the final "tale" of a cat named Morris. You'll think I'm lyin' about this feline!! Until then....

Monday, August 3, 2015

This and That...About Cats!

Today, I am beginning a series of posts on cats. Specifically, my cats! I have been "Fur Mama" to several felines over the years and cats remain near and dear to my heart. So, I hope you like cats as much as I do since this may take a few posts! (Or at least two or three!)

We presently are the humans owned by two cats, Gracie and Annie. Gracie came to us as part of a "sister act" with her cat sister, Groucho. Unfortunately, we lost Groucho a year ago in February and I will talk more about our "late" pets on another post. Today, I am focusing on happy things and these two felines definitely bring us happiness...along with some frustration. (Furstration???) If you're a cat owner, you know what I'm talking about!

Gracie is what I guess you would call a "Tuxedo" cat since she has the black and white tuxedo coloring. The vet lists her as a domestic longhair. She is fifteen years old and keeps us hopping with what Mr.thisandthat calls "furiatrics." Since she is an older cat and has gone through some health changes in the last year, we watch her diet carefully and give her the meds for blood pressure she needs each day. Her favorite spots are lounging by our back door and napping on her bed on our kitchen bar counter. (Yes, she does get on the counter!)


Why are you pointing that camera at me?

To say that our cats are spoiled is a bit of an understatement, but we do love them and pamper them quite a bit. Gracie went through a big weight loss a year ago and we had to find ways to coax her to eat. We discovered that she had a connoisseur's appetite for rotisserie chicken prepared at a local upscale grocery store and for tuna with clam juice. Naturally, even though she has gained weight and is also eating an expensive science diet the vet recommends, she still wants her gourmet food!  She demands attention and has this uncanny way of chewing our hair when we are trying to sleep late on a Saturday! She also does a great imitation of a pillow as you can see in the photo below. 

And then we have Annie.  Annie, Annie, Annie, what can I say?  She actually did come to us (or rather my mother-in-law) as an orphan, hence the name she was given. My mother-in-law picked her from a shelter in another state to keep her company in her home after being widowed. The first time I saw Annie I fell in love with her! She was a little orange furball (Tabby) that literally fit in the palm of my hand. She had this mournful look that would just melt my heart! She moved into retirement in our neck of the woods when my mother-in-law moved our way, but unfortunately retirement did not suit her. She developed the habit of roaming the hillsides and the hallways of the retirement village where my mother-in-law now lives and also developed the unlovely habit of nipping my mother-in-law and keeping her awake at night. Since she had stayed with us a few times while my mother-in-law traveled and got along reasonably(?) well with Gracie and Groucho, we decided to take Little Orphan Annie in with us. She is a feisty Tabby and can melt your heart and drive you nuts at the same time. We stopped the nipping by using tough cat love discipline of stern admonishments and time out in our study. She has learned that the "time out" room means she's in trouble and when she has been naughty on occasion she has been known to go racing into the room on her own! Doesn't she look innocent in this photo?!

She is a very loving cat and the second Tabby that has owned us, so we are a little partial to this breed. She gets as close to me as possible in bed or on the couch and squeezes as much of herself as she can against my side. Her purr is hypnotic and so relaxing when I am going to sleep at night. She does have a penchant for plastic of any kind, though, and will lick it until it makes her sick. We try desperately to keep anything plastic far away from her, but she is one determined Tabby and manages to find it anyway. Naturally, we pay the penalty with clean up duty! I have read online that some cats do like plastic. I had never experienced this before Annie! She would like me to tell you that she does not like paparazzi and prefers not to have her picture taken. You can see this from her expression in the next photo!

So, those are our two "girls."  We love them dearly and consider them our fur family!  In my next post, I'll talk more about Gracie's late sister, Groucho, and also introduce you to the Cat of All Cats, Morris! (She even had a magazine article written about her!) Until then, here's hoping the furballs in your life are all soft and cuddly.....and let you sleep!


Sunday, August 2, 2015

This and That...About My Gardens!

Hope everyone is having a fantastic Sunday. The weather in my part of the world is sunny and warm today, but not as hot as it could be, especially for August! Did you notice the color change I made to the blog? I decided to play a little with some of the fun color choices that were available and I like the new look a lot. I hope you do too. As I have said in earlier posts, I am very new to blogging and still have much to learn. But, hey, that's part of the fun isn't it? Learning and growing with something new.

And speaking of growing, I thought I would share today about my flower gardens and update for you how they are growing. I have never actually considered myself a "green thumb" gardener, but I do enjoy messing around in the flower beds each year and trying something new. In past years, I have had pretty good success with planting varieties of Impatiens. They are pretty forgiving with the heat and can take some sun and some shade which makes for a good plant choice for many yards. I especially enjoy seeing them in containers and have used these plants on my front and back porch for eye popping summer color. But, I always have issues with the stone wall garden in my backyard. It's very shady there and for some reason, even plants that do well in shade, like Hostas for example, have not grown well in this spot. So...this year I decided to try mainly Coleus plants with a few other flowers mixed in for variety. And I am so pleased with the results!

The type of Coleus I used are call "Kong Series Coleus" and as you can see they have flourished in this spot!
Here is a close-up of one of the "Kongs" that has really bushed out this summer!

As you can see, I also have a couple pots of Impatiens in the garden to add some more color. But I am so impressed with the colors on the Coleus, as well! I even decided to plant Coleus on the back porch as you see here:  (Love my stone garden squirrel!)

And even planted Coleus on the front porch to add color to my potted ferns. (Sorry for the extension cord in the background. Mr.thisandthat is still working on gutters today!)

I guess you could say I'm a happy gardener with a reasonably green thumb this summer! Here's hoping that your summer gardens are doing well, also. Have a great Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

This and That .....About This and That!

Have you ever had a "piddle" day? That's what I call a day when I do lots of small things that need doing but don't amount to a whole lot. Things like cleaning baseboards and bathrooms, looking for books to trade at the local used bookstore and puttering around in my flower gardens. Plus, there is all the "gopher" work I did for Mr.thisandthat, fetching things he needed to work on our gutters. All of these things needed doing. But, at the end of the day, my house is not showroom ready (and never will be!), and all of the things I did will need doing again before long. Sigh...................this is the stuff of life and it's a really great life, so I'm not complaining one bit! I've enjoyed my life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness and courtesy today and that's pretty awesome! It's been a little bit of this and a whole lot of that.....

This and That....I Timothy

Thinking on some verses from I Timothy 6 this morning. (The Message)

"A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough."

And a little later in the chapter.....

"Pursue a righteous life--a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy."
What a wonderful blessing that we can be ourselves before God! Think about often do I try to be something or someone other than who I am? Authenticity is so important. God already knows everything about me- the good, the bad, the ugly as it were! He loves me and accepts me as I am! And, gives me all I need in life. What peace this gives.   I'm focusing on that life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness and courtesy today!   Happy Day, Everyone!


                                                   A peaceful image from the Rockies.