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Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

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An EF-5 tornado ripped through the town of Moore, Oklahoma on May 20th in the afternoon. Twenty-three people died and hundreds were injured.  Another person died of something related to the tornado.  And as I started writing this, I read in the paper that a 25th person has now died due to injuries related to the tornado.  We are constantly reminded of the tragedies that occurred that day.

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Homes and schools were destroyed. But the town and the courage and resiliency of the people live on. Moore is like so many towns in the Midwest. The people are strong. Nothing will beat them down. I knew this from watching the news and seeing the people helping absolute strangers clear their property that had been destroyed by the tornado.  And I saw it in the eyes of the parents, struggling to comfort their children or the children of others as they awaited news of their own.  It was heart-wrenching.

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Watching the news reports, I felt that I needed to do something.  Yet, who am I?  I am just a single person…no organizations backing what I choose to do.  And I live over 8 hours away in south Texas.  Yet, I still felt I had to DO something.  I didn’t mean donating money.  I always wonder just how much is actually helping those who need help.  And how much is lining the pockets of those running the organizations.  So, I stewed over it and decided there WAS something I could do.  I could donate Pampered Chef products so the families can start making meals again.  Food is comfort.

So I spoke to my mother.  And she said a friend she has in Oklahoma City has a son who lost his home.  And they know other families who’ve lost everything.  I knew then that I was going to send packages to them.  And then it steamrolled!  My mother placed an order and so did I.  The packages arrived at the home of my mother’s friend and they were thrilled to hand over all the goodies inside to those families.  But then I mentioned to other Pampered Chef consultants I know that I was trying to help 3 families.  And they donated extra products they had…cookware, tools, plates, cookbooks…on and on.  And I remembered a full-size afghan I had.  It was thick and plush.  I donated that.  And I found more products in my cabinets.  Suddenly, I realized it was going to cost a fortune to mail all of that.

My sweet husband suggested we drive up on a Saturday and deliver it, spend the night in a hotel and drive back on Sunday.  He gave up his weekend of relaxation to hit the road with me.  We both felt humbled to be able to take all of the wonderful donations my friends had provided and deliver them to Moore.

On July 6th, we left early in the morning and drove all day.  My mother’s friend called us and asked us to come to dinner at her home.  Although I had never met these people, they made us feel so at home, treating us like family.  And after dinner, they took us on a tour of the devastation in Moore.  They showed us the path of the tornado and the freakish destruction.  Houses were demolished on one side of a street and almost fully intact on the other, with just a few shingles missing from the roof.  Businesses were destroyed.  Memorials to the lives lost were everywhere I looked.

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And then we visited the site of the Plaza Towers Elementary School.  My heart broke.

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The memorial grows and grows with each passing day.  And the townspeople of Moore will rebuild.  And their will remains strong.  God bless Moore and the families who were affected in so many ways.  I still feel the need to do more.  And I will.  It makes my heart feel just a tiny bit less broken.

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“Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.” – Unknown

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Almost 14 years ago, in Independence, Missouri, I was on my way to an appointment to see a Persian kitten.  I had recently lost my beautiful cat, Casper, who had lived a full 18 years.  I missed him and was lonely for the whiskery love of a cat.  For years, I had thought Persian cats were gorgeous and was not thinking beyond that.  I wasn’t sure how to get to the lady’s home and this was pre-GPS days, so I took note of the directions and started out early – I don’t like to be late.  I got to the area a full half-hour early, but saw a PetsMart near her home and wanted to look for a few cat toys.

And that decision to stop at PetsMart changed the course of what was to be and began my love affair with my new cat, Rascal.  When I went into the store, I realized they were running an adoption program for pets from the local animal pound.  I saw an adorable litter of kittens with their tuxedo mom.  Wanting a male cat, I asked if there were any males in the litter and they said, “two”.  I started playing with the male tuxedo kitten and all he was interested in was going back to play with his sisters.

I then asked which other one was male and they pointed out the little mackerel tabby sitting in the corner of the litter box, watching the rough and tumble play of his siblings.  I wasn’t sure he was a cat I was interested in, but I said I’d like to see him.  And that was it.  They placed him on the table in front of me and he ran to me, climbed up my shirt and snuggled at my neck.  I laughed and my heart melted.  I set him back on the table and he did the same thing…purring in my ear and snuggling in for life.  I called the lady with the Persian kitten and apologized that I would not be there.  But I knew I had made the right decision.

Rascal was a one-person cat.  He adored me and hissed and growled at almost everyone else, especially the vet – and anyone who worked there.  He purred like a motor-boat if I looked at him.  When I stroked his lovely chin and forehead, he squinted his gorgeous, green eyes and purred louder.  He loved me and I loved him.

My beautiful boy, Rascal.  His nose was reddish brown, with a dark outline.  It almost looked like a heart shape.

My beautiful boy, Rascal. His nose was reddish brown, with a dark outline. It almost looked like a heart shape.

Rascal spent the next two years with me, keeping me company and we were happy to hang out on the couch, curled up with a book or watching television.  His adventurous spirit was limited to hanging out on the windowsill, watching the birds, other cats and some squirrels playing in the yard.  He didn’t like the outdoors at all and if the door opened, he ran to the bedroom, hiding under the bed.

When he was two, my new love, Beau came to visit my house for the first time.  I expected that Rascal would hide until he was gone, but my shock could not have been bigger.  Rascal walked over to him and the doorway, rubbed against his legs and purred.  And when Beau sat down on a chair in the living room, Rascal hopped up behind his head and curled up, content to hang out with him.  My sweet, one-person cat had just become a two-person cat.  And that would last for the rest of Rascal’s life.

Beau and I were married several months later and Rascal and I flew from the United States to Germany to live with my new hubby while he finished the last bit of his 5 years working for the US Government in Germany.  Rascal thrived in Germany!  He loved the marble windowsills and the radiators that heated them in winter.  His favorite places were on those sills, watching the birds, the comings and goings of the neighbors and the distance he maintained from our landlord’s beagle and sitting in front of the balcony door.  But our time in Germany ended and we hopped on another plane, back to the United States and Texas – our new home.

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Rascal’s next nine years were years of love, contentment and his happiness being a two-person cat. His favorite window was in the patio door. He pushed the curtain aside and would stare out – and panic if I was outside. I think he couldn’t quite comprehend why anyone, ever, would want to be outdoors. He’d watch every move I made until I came back inside.

And then he seemed to get hair balls all the time, started losing weight, and I knew that something was wrong.  His frequent visits to the vet began last May.  We dealt with treatments for the hairballs, he had a few bad teeth removed and he seemed to stabilize.  And then he began to lose more weight.  At first, we assumed it was because we had changed his diet to accommodate his fewer teeth, the need to keep his food more moist.

But then six weeks later, he was sick again.  And we returned to the vet…again and again.  Finally, I realized there was something much more wrong with him.  I saw him every day, but even I knew he was losing a lot of weight.  My once fat, fluffy cat who had weighed in at one point over 17 lbs was now at 11 lbs.  And that was when he was diagnosed with an intestinal tumor.

Our wonderful vet removed the tumor and sent it in for a biopsy.  We were told that Rascal’s tumor was cancerous, but that of the two types, it was the lesser and the margins were clean and it had not progressed to lymph nodes.  My optimism returned.  I thought we were going to still keep my baby with us for a few more years.  A month later, we discovered more issues and then the diagnosis that there was likely another mass in his intestines.

At that point, we took him home to enjoy his last days.  To the bitter end, my sweet, loveable Rascal looked at me with love, wanted to be held, snuggled and purred whenever I looked at him or stroked his beautiful face.  I adore him still and miss that face and the love he gave me from that first day at PetsMart.  I will never love a cat the way I loved him.  He was there for me during my time alone and accepted my husband into our life unconditionally…and with no hesitation.

“What greater gift than the love of a cat.” ~ Charles Dickens 

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 We arrived in Skagway for our final stop in Alaska and planned to take a bus out to the Yukon.  Then we were taking the train back to Skagway…yes, the famous White Pass Railway.  We were so excited to see the train as we rode on the bus out of town.

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As we left Skagway, we were shown an old-time style “billboard”.  Advertising used to be painted on the rock side of the hill.

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Our first stop on the bus tour was to see an unusual suspension bridge that spanned a massively deep crevise. 

Then we traveled through the Alaska wilderness that was the death of some of the gold rushers.  Desolation Valley fascinated me.  Dark, stark and unforgiving…and lots of snow in early June.  Brr-rrr-rrr-rrrr. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the Inukshuk (the rock-man) showed us that there was safe passage the way we were traveling! 

 

 

Bear food…bears evidently LOVE dandelions.

      

        

We saw a grizzly bear (looking for dandelions).

             and then we saw a black bear!

Another black bear was spotted on our train-ride back, but he was faster hiding behind bushes and I didn’t get to snap his picture.

The train we were riding as the engines crossed a wooden tressle. Very rustic!

               

This was the end of the rapids in the river that runs alongside the Klondike Highway.  I’m glad I was in the nice, warm (and dry) train looking out at this beautiful sight.

We headed back to the ship (late) and began our trip back to the mainland US (with a detour to Victoria, British Columbia as our final excursion stop).  Alaska left me with the realization that there IS wilderness still out there.  After living in a major US city for so long, it was nice to get away and see wildlife and stunning views that just didn’t translate completely to photographs.  During the gold rush, the men and women who trekked through the landscape we saw from a warm bus and warm train must have been made of sterner stuff than I.

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Ketchikan, Alaska…it was a misty day (yes, it was raining) and the clouds seemed to cling to the mountain tops.

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Snow…at the end of May.  Not a common sight for those of us from south Texas!  🙂  Ketchikan is beautiful, even on a chilly, rainy May day.

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A salmon ladder on the river in Ketchikan.

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The city park in Ketchikan located on the grounds of the old salmon hatchery.

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Dolly’s House…this house cost $800 (see the sign over the door…founded in 1919 and was paid for by Dolly in two weeks.  However, it was not because she struck gold.  She provided a service to the men of Ketchikan and was evidently quite popular!

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A bald eagle, sitting on the rocks in the harbor. Ketchikan is a truly amazing place!

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A seaplane…one of only a few ways to arrive in Ketchikan. 

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We enjoyed our visit to Ketchikan and left feeling glad we had the chance to learn it’s history.  And then we were off to see Juneau!

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

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Recently, I attended the third in a four-part series of one-day retreats on leadership. The series examines the four seasons and how they relate to leadership and to our lives. I must admit, Spring has always been my favorite season and that was reinforced by the retreat’s activities and discussions.  At the end of the session, we were asked how we would like the world to be as we were lying on our death bed.  It may sound gruesome, but it was eye-opening.  So many of us looked for the “perfect” world–kindness toward each other, no discrimination, no starvation or homelessness, no more dependence on oil, no wars.  It was simply a view of utopia.  And it sounded wonderful. 

Strangely, that’s almost how spring makes me feel.  It’s a fresh beginning of hope as plants peek through the earth, leaves and blossoms start to appear in the trees and the sun shines, warm rains fall and the earth is washed clean of the grime and gloom of winter.  Spring is joyful.  Spring is life-affirming.  Spring is a new beginning.  It’s so nice to have a new beginning each year.   

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One of the sure signs that Spring has sprung is the redbud tree in my back yard.  Nothing makes me smile more than redbud trees, daffodils and tulips, and dogwood trees. 

In Texas, though, the sure sign of Spring is bluebonnets.  They are, if we are lucky and it’s been a fairly wet winter and early Spring, everywhere!  Fields and fields of bluebonnets and other wild flowers appear out of nowhere.  And the smell of those wild flowers!  Wow!  It is indescribable!

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When I feel the need to be refreshed, I look at the pictures of the redbuds, dogwoods, and bluebonnets.  And I feel like celebrating again. 
Now I am off to work on my homework from the leadership session.  By May, I need to do something (or several somethings) to work toward that utopia…that world I would like to have when I am on my deathbed.  And no time like the present…when Spring has sprung, my redbud is beautifully in bloom, I feel like celebrating life and everything seems possible.

My redbud tree

‘The year’s at the spring
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven –
All’s right with the world!”
~Robert Browning

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Texas Bluebonnets

We had a bumper crop of bluebonnets this year!

Texas Bluebonnets

“Fair flowers are not left standing along the wayside long.” ~ German Proverb

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This was taken a couple of years ago on Christmas at my mother’s house.

Snow-capped birdbath

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