Mark is a pretty talented handyman, and I can always rely on him to know the best way to manage anything that needs fixing around the house and yard. He prides himself on his ability to do quality work, and rightfully so. When friends or family need help with a project, they often call on him.

Every once in a great while, Mark uses his craftsman abilities for fun. There are several birdhouses in the backyard as proof. There are two bluebird houses on the east side of our yard, mounted on the chain link fence. Although, they’ve at times been home to families of bluebirds, the sparrows like them too. This frustrates Mark, but I think that if the sparrows like them, why not let them be?

Last year, he built a couple of smallish bird houses. Kacey thought it would be fun to paint one. Mark thought this was strange.

“Why would you paint a birdhouse?” He asked.

Kacey and I laughed. “What’s strange about it?”

“Birdhouses just shouldn’t be painted,” he said. I don’t know where he gets his ideas sometimes. I argued that colorful birdhouses are artsy and fun. I don’t think my argument won him over, but he ultimately gave in and told Kacey to have at it. So she rounded up some paint and went to work, creating a miniature barn for birds. When it was finished, she asked Mark to mount it somewhere in the yard. It might have gone in the big pine tree, or on the back wooden fence, but moving it to an appealing location for birds is not something that ever got done last summer.

And so the little birdhouse sat on the deck, on a shelf in the corner of the canopy’s frame. And being in such close proximity to humans and a very energetic dog, I imagine the birds just weren’t interested. The birdhouse remained empty and became patio decor. When we retrieved our patio furniture from the shed a few weeks ago, Kacey found the birdhouse and returned it to its position on the shelf. A shame, I thought. Maybe this year we’ll find a more suitable location for it.

2015-04-23One morning this week, while making my lunch before going to work, Mark told me to have a look out on the deck. Imagine my surprise when I saw a little chickadee getting comfortable with our “strange” barn-birdhouse so near to our people-house.

When I woke up this morning, I fed Lucy, then plunked a coffee mug under the Keurig and fetched the hazelnut creamer from the fridge. While waiting for my coffee to finish brewing, I stood in front of the patio door, looking absently out into the neighborhood. I stretched my arms up over my head and yawned, and just as I finished, noticed our bird friend perched on a patio chair just across from me on the other side of the glass. It had a beak full of dried grass and didn’t seem the least alarmed at the sight of me. In one quick motion, it hopped from the chair and flew the short distance to the bird-barn, disappearing inside. Looks like moving the birdhouse to a more suitable location is not necessary for now.

I realized that the bird was my simple pleasure this morning. While the world went on around us last week, it held its usual share of ups and downs. And I am grateful that my ups and downs are manageable enough at the moment to allow a spontaneous smile at the presence of such a tiny and common creature. 2015-04-25

Birds of Calm

Several bird feeders used to adorn our back yard. As long as we remembered to keep them full, the birds would always come visit. Cardinals, Finches, Blue Jays, Blue Birds, even Woodpeckers came to dine. And so did the squirrels. Man, those squirrels could eat a lot! They drove Mark crazy. The location of the feeders made it too easy for the squirrels to get to them. They were constantly draining the bird seed. They even found way to get at the food in the “squirrel proof” feeder. I didn’t mind the squirrels as much as Mark. I’d always take my stale wheat bread out to the back yard for the squirrels. I learned that they much preferred wheat over white bread.

With fall settling in, we’re beginning to prepare for winter. Perennial plants have been trimmed back. The deck furniture has been stored in the shed. And Mark took a look at the bird feeders and remembered how much more challenging it is to keep them filled over the winter, especially the ones that sit high on a post just behind the privacy fence. If we get any amount of snowfall, there’s always an argument over who has to go out in the cold, lugging the bucket of bird seed back to the fence, and climb up to try to fill the feeders.

Mark decided to fix two problems at once. He took the feeders from the back post and moved them to the front of the house. Now there’s no fence or platform for the squirrels to traverse to reach the food. He put the feeders right in front of our family room window where they’ll be easy to fill when the snow falls. The birds don’t mind being so close to the windows. As long as the people on the other side don’t come too close, the birds will come visit. But the squirrels are less inclined to come steal bird seed now. And they can no longer get to the “squirrel proof” feeder.

I love how the feeders are situated now. I can sit in the house and enjoy the birds from my upstairs living room windows, or from my downstairs family room windows.

Sometimes watching the birds just slows down my thoughts and takes me away from all the chaos in my head. They make me feel calm and peaceful. Funny… there was a time in my life, when I gauged the success of a day by whether it brought fun and adventure with it. There was a time when I would never have even stopped to notice the birds.


Hangin’ Out on the Deck

It was a beautiful summer weekend. The humidity finally dropped off for a while and we were able to open windows and let some fresh air inside. Saturday brought plenty of sunshine and a blue sky spotted with the occasional fluffy cloud. Our deck was a great place to be this weekend, and we weren’t the only ones who thought so.


Mark wanted to know why I was spending my time taking pictures of the woodpecker instead of chasing him away!


This toad was hiding on a plastic chair, underneath the canvas grill cover. Mark had neglected to cover the grill back up the last time he used it and Kacey moved the cover as she was searching for a plastic jug with which to water the plants on the deck. She screeched a little as the toad leapt from the chair to the siding on the house. Normally, I wouldn’t too keen on getting close either, but this guy was kinda cute!

“C’mon! Gimme a kiss!”

Sunday morning brought a steady, gentle rain, the kind that’s so good for the flowers and grass. Lucy needed to go outside, but she wasn’t so sure about the rain. She spent a few minutes going outside, sitting under the canopy, then scratching to come back in. She repeated this routine a few time before finally venturing out into the raindrops. When she came back inside, I tried to rub her down with a towel, but she preferred to dry off by rubbing her body against the living room furniture.

Later in the morning, the rain tapered off and the sun came back out again. A few more visitors came to hang out on the deck. These are frequent visitors to our back yard, but they don’t usually sit still for long or pose so well for me.

Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal

Summer Days

We are right in the heart of summer and I’m loving it!

My friend, Kendra invited me to her house last weekend. Her neighborhood is built around a 25-acre lake and she asked if I wanted to come worship the sun with her. (I did.) Mark had gone back to work after having several weekends off. The kids were off doing their own thing. It was perfect timing and turned out to be an absolutely perfect, sun-shiny and hot summer day!

Lake Anne

The lake was so quiet and clear! As we floated out on our rafts, I could look into the water and watch schools of little Bass and Sunfish swimming by. One of them tried to eat my leg, but it didn’t hurt. It just surprised me!  Kendra and I talked and laughed and reminisced together for hours! Kendra has a fabulous summer tan going on, but my skin hasn’t seen much sun yet. I brought my sunscreen and applied it several times, but apparently not often enough for the amount of time I spent in and on the water. I spent the next three days suffering the sting of a decent sunburn but now have a decent tan to show for it.

At home in the back yard, the bird feeders are a busy hang-out for the local creatures. We’re having trouble keeping them filled! The squirrels aren’t helping matters. The little Red Squirrel isn’t making any friends either.

Red Squirrel

… chasing a Grey Squirrel …

… establishing dominance!

And even with weather as beautiful as we’ve had, there is still bowling! Summer league is almost done and it’s been a big challenge. I did well last night though.


The game in the picture above ended with a score of 194 for me! My other games were in the 150s and 170s. I’m always happy to bowl just for the fun of it, but it’s always nice to score well too!

Winter Blues and Reds

The winter is suddenly beginning to wear out its welcome. I’m tired of looking at dirty mountains of snow pushed up along every curb and shivering under multiple layers of clothing. Even when the sun is shining, it feels deceptive because the air outside is so cold. I knew this was coming. This is the mood that January brings.

Thank God, there are reminders that winter also brings its share of beauty that I’d be sure to miss if I didn’t live here.

I would normally consider myself lucky to catch a glimpse of one or two cardinals. This was a rare sight.

I wonder what they’re talking about? Maybe how good the food is in this place?

Where’d all the ladies go?

Fat and sassy…

Dinner’s over…

Damn squirrels!