Sunday, June 29, 2008

Puzzle Share

Click to Mix and Solve

Just got finished working this puzzle. When I saw it I knew right away I'd want to share it. This reminds me of some of David's photos. Whoever took it saw something, got up close, and made it interesting. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Minor Changes & Great Explorations!

Wandering through people who commented on David's latest poem I rediscovered Aggie who has a blog which unites music with art. When I first came across Muse2Art I sent San that way. She seemed to think it was interesting. Now that I've been back, I find it a bit on the fascinating side and want to keep track of it. So, I've added a new link section called "Great Explorations". The purpose of that list is to contain links of places I don't visit daily, yet, but want to keep in touch with. Thank you, Blogger, for creating the bit of html that allows me to know when these sites update.

Of course, once I added the first link to Great Explorations, I had to add a couple more. I now have a grand total of 3 that I want to keep track of. They are Aggie's, Jenni's and Merisi's. (Ummm...make that 4, I just added in Raven's Nest, author of the wonderful Wordzzle) How could I not want to stay in touch with these wonderfully creative women? And I'm sure that more explorations are to come.

After adding the new link category, I did a little switching around of things on the sidebars and relabeled a few things. Then I headed over to Sandi's place and perused her blog roll because I knew she had blogs I wanted to gather in. While linking through one blog too many, I discovered Twilight blogs. And that's all the fault of Nancy at SmilnSigh. I hadn't realized the books were becoming that much of a phenomena. Thank you, Nancy! Now I'm going to have to read them. Not just because they are so popular but because they seem to be popular with Harry Potter fans of which I am one. Darn! There goes the reading budget! Thank goodness I discovered that I can get further discounts through an association I have. Yep, Borders doesn't charge you to join their rewards program but I find better discounts at Barnes & Noble. However, because I'm a member of AARP, I can get 10% off at Borders now. Yay!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sandi Liked This One!

Because my good friend Sandi likes this one, and I knew I'd be going to You Tube to find something of George's to embed for you, here's his "Stuff" routine. It's totally funny! Enjoy!

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin is Gone

Just after I posted the Trip Report post, I checked the news and discovered that George Carlin had passed away. I really liked him as a comedian. He was smart, funny, and said intelligent things in ways that made you think while enjoying the whole thing. I remember some of his "how many different names for..." routines. Those were so funny. Maybe I should go and read the books he wrote. The world is gonna be a lesser place now that he's left it. Does anyone besides me miss him? Is there someone else you would like to not see leave this world?

Peace! & Hope...that George is in a better place!

Trip Report

Well the trip down went fine although I hated the price of gas that I paid when I filled up. I know it isn't as high in San Antonio as it is in other places, but that doesn't make it any less horrific.

On the drive down I took a route that I thought was practical. It turned out I went through a few miles of construction on one of our highways in town. For a little bit I was driving with the rest of the cars at a measly 10 mph. It was also sort of a business highway. It went through several small towns and of course you had to slow down while going through them. I made sure to go a different route on the way back.

It took a little over 2 hours to get to Alice, TX. The Whataburger that Dad and I met at was easy to find. I got there 20 minutes before him so I worked a sudoku while I waited. When he got there we had lunch and then got around the business of swapping out bits of computer gear.

The monitor I gave him is a lot heavier than the one I got in return. It's an old CRT type display. This newer one is a flat LCD panel. Wow, what a difference! The colors are brighter, the image goes all the way to the edge of the screen, and I could turn down the brightness on it once I figure out how to do that.

The computer he gave me to go with this new used monitor is going to be hooked up in a few days to take a look. I'll want to transfer my photo images to the new machine along with my address book. Then I'll have to go through the laborious process of installing all the software that I have and like to use. Hope I can find all my discs.

The drive back was by a better highway which didn't go through a lot of small towns. While that isn't as interesting a drive it was much faster. I got home and slept for a good bit the rest of the afternoon. Before I did that of course I set up the new monitor and turned my computer back on. It took two restarts before things worked out but I'm up and running. Yay!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Day Tripping

"Day Tripper"! Don't you just love The Beatles? They were all the rage when I was growing up. While the lyrics of the song have little to do with actually taking a trip someplace, at least in the physical world, they do bring back memories and when I think about weekends that song sometimes comes to mind.

Tomorrow morning, after I perform Morning Prayer, I'm driving down to Alice, TX. Dad and I are going to meet there and swap out my 10 year old, working monitor for the used computer we bought from another resident at his retirement community. My monitor will work on Dad's old Gateway so that Mom still has a machine that she is used to and can play games on. The pre-owned computer will be a replacement for my Future Star one which is about 5 years old. Once I've got the data and software swapped out between the two I'll go down to the Rio Grande Valley and give the Future Star to Dad so that Mom's computer will be a newer and faster machine. It's more powerful than she needs but Dad won't have to upgrade it anytime soon and it's nice to have a spare just in case.

Today, I stared looking for directions on how to find the Whataburger on Hwy 281 Bypass at Alice, TX. A couple of weeks ago, I downloaded Google Earth. Initially I did it because my friend, Susan, had found it helpful and raved about it. Once I started playing with it I realized why she liked it so much. It's like taking one of the Terra servers and putting it on your desktop. Too cool!

Using the software isn't as intuitive as one might think. If you have an address you can locate someplace pretty easily. I quickly located my parents retirement community in Weslaco, TX. But today I'm having problems with it. I'm trying to get driving directions because it will give me an idea of how long it will take me to get there. There seems to be a problem with the addresses because when I put in both mine and the one for Whataburger and do a search I get an error message. This is possibly a problem with my address because for some reason the San Antonio mapping data has my address as something other than an apartment complex and I often have trouble using Yahoo Maps to get directions from it to someplace else. Since I can't get straight forward directions from Google Earth, I'll email Dad for a little more detailed set of directions tonight.

The drive down shouldn't take me more than 2 hours and we will meet and eat at the Whataburger. I was hoping to see Mom there too but it seems that when I suggest someplace closer and more doable for her I get an argument from Dad about not being fair in the driving distances. When we set Alice for the location to meet it becomes too far for Mom to go and the car is old and...well you get the idea. I really, really want to see Mom. So, since I can't get that to work this time, when I get ready to give Dad the rest of my old machine I'll drive all the way to the Valley and see her for one night and drive back up.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Picking Up Raven's Wordzzle Challenge

Bouncing around blog land, I came across Raven's blog and her weekly meme, "Wordzzle" challenge. It sounded like an easy enough thing to do so I picked up the glove and self tagged. I don't promise to keep this up weekly as I don't know how much I'll enjoy it. Or how much time I'll have later on. Until then, here's the skinny on the Wordzzle.

It's week 16 of the Saturday Wordzzle challenge. Anyone new to the process can refer back here to find out how it works.
The woman who started this is Raven. What she does is give us a bunch of random words and phrases to make into a SHORT paragraph. It's great fun and a good challenge for your creativity.

The words for this week's
ten word challenge were: spaghetti, larkspur, Prilosec, roaring lion, adamant, green green grass of home, paradox, filibuster, face cream, trout fishing And for the Mini Challenge (designed after a request for fewer words): jury of ones peers, barking dog, a wing and a prayer, liver, sprained ankle.

Raven put some guidelines up on week two to help handle things:
1) If there is a word or phrase which seem like the most difficult to use, try to get it out of the way first.

2) Sometimes especially outrageous words can be turned into the name of a character, e.g. given the words Bambi and bonanza on one occasion, I created a character named Bambi Bonanza, thus eliminating two really hard to use words in one easy stroke. Try to keep the names plausible, though. Nothing like teddy bear toothbrush. That's just cheating.

3) If you come across a word whose meaning you don't know or can't quite remember, there are a number of solutions. One very simple one is to have a character tell you that they don't know what it means. Make it part of the title of a book. Put it on a flag or poster. If you think you can get away with it, use it to name the cat or dog, a company or a castle.

4) Let your imagination play. It is not necessary to write the Great American Paragraph, to be profound, to make perfect logical sense or to write with total scientific or historic accuracy. The idea is to have a good time and to stimulate your creativity.

5) Don't work too hard. I seldom spend more than 20-30 minutes on these exercises. But it's up to you. If you want to spend time crafting a masterpiece why not? As long as you enjoy the process. If you aren't enjoying it then it is probably doing your creative juices more harm than good and you might want to find another way to entertain yourself.

That's about all the hints I can offer. This is an art, not a science, a game, not a chore.

So here's my effort on the Ten Word Challenge:

Trying to deny the existence of her Prilosec headache, Samantha decided to go ahead with the longer but delicious version of her grandmother's spaghetti sauce for the gathering of friends she was hosting. She didn't really feel like cooking this evening. Lord knows it was hot enough, but if she didn't start on the sauce tonight there wouldn't be time to complete the rest of the menu tomorrow. In the back yard she could hear her husband giving their son, Jason, his fly casting lessons in preparation for the planned trout fishing trip to the rivers of North Carolina. She was looking forward to the trip and spending time with her childhood friend Joann and others from school. She didn't know if there'd be much to talk about. The flat lands and distances of the great plains had definitely taken their toll on her life. Living under the unshaded sun of their Oklahoma ranch she felt like she'd become as aged and uninteresting as the crumbling bank of the dead creek that was just a stepping stone away from their back fence and the reason for John's being adamant on a fishing trip. He wanted their son to be able to see mountains and know the joy of bringing in a fighting demon before he headed off to law school. Yes, the green, green grass of home was definitely calling her. "Why did I even put up a fight?" she asked herself. Then she remembered their "discussion" on where to stay. John had wanted to camp along the rivers while she wanted to stay in a nice bed and breakfast in town. "How could I have forgotten?" she wondered. The argument had lasted for days. John knew she didn't like camping. Laughing, she remembered how she'd almost called off the wedding when he suggested it for their honeymoon. But the paradox created by their at odds vacation expectations had defeated him till he agreed that she needn't accompany the men on their overnight treks. It bothered her, not doing things together as a family should. With the scent of dried mown lawn and larkspur on the evening breeze aggravating her headache she pushed her worry down as she gathered her ingredients. Knowing she'd be up late till the sauce completed its 5 hour cooking process, she figured if she didn't get rid of the headache it would be so bad by the time she got to bed that she would have to sleep in another room so that her crying didn't disturb John. Hating that she did so, Samantha downed a hydrocodone in the hopes that the drug would create a filibuster in her system preventing the headache's progression to migraine status. And it was finally working when Jason and John came racing in hollering about the upcoming storm which was blowing in. She could hear the wind coming growling through the sparse trees like a roaring lion. The change in weather hadn't dimmed their excitement at Jason's putting the training fly in the target ring seven times in a row. She congratulated her men and reminded them it was almost dinner time. That being done she got back to her sauce which had now taken on the consistency of lumpy face cream, meaning she needed to add more water to the pot.

Ok, that wasn't a quick exercise. Hopefully I'll get faster if I practice. And it actually feels like more of a story than a paragraph. It seems to want breaking up at several points. Considering the length of time it took me to do the 10 word challenge I understand the request for the mini challenge. If I do this again I may tackle the mini instead. In fact it may be a requirement that I do the mini instead. See that list below? They looked good until I tried to use my dictionary to find out one of their meanings. It wasn't in there. It wasn't on the Oxford web site either. So can anyone tell me please, "What does prenomial mean?"

Next Week's Ten Word Challenge will be: prenomial, inexplicable, tangerine, masks, chocolate cake, panorama, librarian, Stonehenge, meek, florid

And for the Mini Challenge: vituperative, bunny rabbit, house warming, sanitation, triangular

Since my group shares memes and of course, we write a lot, I'd like to invite Paschal, JS, San, Sandi, and Anne to join in.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Slightly Parallel

If you're a Kim Harrison fan, as I am, then you've probably read her books set in the Hollows. The last one I read was, "For A Few Demons More" which is moving her main characters along in fantastic fashion. The picture on the left is the cover of the first book in the series, "Dead Witch Walking".

One of the things about the Hollows series is how the Hollows came to be. In this version of Cincinnati there are fairies, elves, trolls, werewolves, and vampires all living out in the regular world. See, they had to come out of hiding when most of the human population was killed off. Now they live side by side, although in somewhat segregated neighborhoods (a.k.a. the Hollows), and they have their own police force competing with the human one for investigative rights on cases that involve both humans and magical beings.

What killed most of the humans you ask? Well, that's what's interesting...and sort of eerie recently. It was a tomatoes. Now nobody in their right minds eats tomatoes in her books. Sounds familiar doesn't it? While I don't believe in parallels between real life and fiction being portents of the future, stranger things have probably happened. And I can't quite kick the similarities out of my head. So today, when I read or hear that 17 states have been taken off the "safe to eat" producers of tomatoes list, it gets kind of "They're here"-ish. What fun! I wonder if Harrison's sales will rise because of this odd similarity. I know Harrison is hoping it will. She's accepting photos of signs about the tomato ban for her website with promises to post them. Guess that means I need to put her latest, "The Outlaw Demon Wails", which is still in hard back on my books to purchase list. Wonder if I can use on of the new Borders coupons I acquired this week. (G)

Postscript to the books and tomato subject:
Paschal reminded me of the nightshades tag that tomatoes have. When I went researching the origin of the label I discovered a fascinating article published in New Life Journal in 2003 titled, "All About Nightshades". It's a fascinating read into the origin of the label, what else is in the nightshade family, and how these plants affect our bodies. Hope you can make time to read it.

That New Blog Roll

Thought I'd write a new post today about books. Guess that's gonna happen later. Instead I found myself checking out the new features that Blogger is adding. I liked the idea of the new Blog Roll. It lets you link to blogs you read. There are some pretty nice features too. Right on your side bar you can see if they have updated, how long ago they did it, what the title of the latest post is, and if you want you can even show a snippet of their post. Sounds like fun. So, I'm trying it out. It's installed on the left sidebar where the old Friend's Blogs used to sit. It's got the same name because well I figured that was what I'd put there. And it works! It even picked up the link to my Dad's memories. He has a new one up too for those of you who like his stories.

Monday, June 09, 2008

So Many Collars

This past Wednesday our diocese, the Diocese of West Texas, held the first ordination of a deacon in many years. The previous bishop hadn't felt the need of having deacons. The present has it under consideration. If Bishop Lillibridge comes to full approval of having deacons ordained and active in our diocese it will take a lot of his time because he is one of those responsible for their training. Deacon is a level of service that you can seek as a solo purpose. It is also a stepping stone towards ordination as a priest. The latter makes me wonder why someone would not want deacons if the seminary graduate was worthy. Surely the energy of some of those graduates as they move along their career path towards becoming priests would be a benefit to any church or diocese that is growing.

Last summer, our church had as its "summer seminarian" Matt Wise. He is a likable young man whose energy and zest for community made the rest of us remember how to have fun in each others company. This is the young man who was ordained as a deacon. And we are so blessed! He is now OUR DEACON! Matt was so popular among the Episcopal churches here in San Antonio that several of them were vying for his service. As a church community we started pushing Robert, our priest, to get this young man back during his deaconcy before he had even finished his summer with us. This is the same man who gave me guitar lessons. Everyone is excited about seeing him again and helping him move forward in his career.

The service for Matt's ordination was very beautiful and elaborate. I asked Robert if it was "high church". He implied that there were higher types of services but this one was much more so than the ones we hold at Reconciliation. And no wonder. It had more peole working as active participants in the performing of the service than I've ever seen. There were 2 bishops, 4 priests, 1 deacon, 4 Lay Ministers, 2 Lay Readers, a full choir and orchestra plus a special doctor of divinity to give the sermon. There was even a thurmatist (hope I spelled that right) who is someone that spreads the incense around. From what I heard later, that guy was really good and doing all kinds of fancy swings and twirls of the censor. Communion was served at two locations in the sactuary to support the number of recipients. In addition to the regular chalice there were intincting cups being brought around in case you preferred to dip your bread in the wine rather than take a sip. Every one of those serving was wearing red. There were red and orange ribbons hanging from the ceiling and they fluttered in the breeze of the air conditioning. The music was wonderful! Everyone had a chance to see Matt, promise to support him in his service, and tell him congratulations during the peace or just after the service. It was a wonderful experience.

The reception afterwards was very nice too. The presenting church, St. Thomas, had gone out of its way to provide us with nice food. There were the usual array of cookies, crackers, cheeses, and fruits. There was also sushi being served and something that looked like a cheese cake but tasted more like a cheese and crab mousse. Wine was served in two colors as well as the usual tea and fruit punch. When looking around and greeting faces I knew I ran into more priests among the friendly gatherers. Reconciliation has had a lot of local priests teach classes for us and also sometimes step in for Robert on the days he needs to go out of town for one reason or another. At one point, when I was just standing still looking around to see who I hadn't said hi to, I noticed that it seemed as if most of the people in my vicinity had on collars. That told me how special they felt this service and the young man who was honored at it was. How cool is that?! One of the nice things for me was that I recognized most of them. I don't consider myself to be especially great at making connections with people I don't run into frequently, so it felt really good to have most of them smile in recognition when I stepped towards them in greeting.

Needless to say, a lot of our church was in attendance. Robert was one of the priest serving at the altar. I wish I had pictures of the service and location but I think we were all too busy watching and wondering at this glorious celebration of a young man's advancement. I did manage to find the heraldic symbol for a deacon. That is what the image above is. Now I have something new to research. I hadn't thought about heraldry for the church but of course since we affiliate with the Church of England there would be a long history of symbolism attached to the Episcopal church. How neat! And I can't wait to find out all the things a deacon does or how Matt affects our community.

Peace! Hope! & Joy!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Why Would You Want to Forget?

In response to David's Weekend Wandering, which asks the question, "Do you believe in forgive and forget?" I ask, "Why would you want to forget?" or even, "Should you forget?"

Reading other people's responses I found that many feel forgiveness is good, and I totally agree. It is good for you, good for your relationship, and good for the world in general. Forgiving fosters peace in everyone concerned. And peace is good.

Forgetting is a different matter. Lots of folk admitted they had a hard time forgetting. Well that's understandable. When we experience something we are supposed to learn from it, right? Remember this one? "Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me!!"? You need to remember in order to process and that puts the event in permanent memory. It also helps you set the lesson learned into place thus modifying your behavior should the experience happen again. To me it seems practical to hold on to memories, even unpleasant ones. They just shouldn't take center stage after you've forgiven.

Suppose that I wanted someone to do something. I ask nicely and get a, "Ok, I'll get to it later." I patiently wait a week and ask politely again. I get the same response. I wait another week and ask a third time. This time I'm accused of nagging. Eek! Nagging can be done long term? Okay! Now I know this person's limits. Do I want to forget that? No way! Especially if I'm interested in maintaining a harmonious relationship. Knowing that also gives me a way to measure other relationships, which can come in handy.

Now, I suspect that the part about forgetting in this adage is meant to say that one should not hold grudges. Well I'm sorry but I think that not holding grudges comes from learning your lesson well and then, because you are now stronger, truly forgiving the other person. If you are holding grudges then you haven't forgiven, you aren't happy, and the relationship isn't truly back on track. My ex used to hold grudges. He held in his anger too until the situation took on a tone of doom to our marriage. And Lord help me if I had anything other than apologies to tender in response to his accusations. Do I want to forget that kind of behavior? No! I want to remember so that I can make sure the next person I choose to attach myself to emotionally doesn't do the same thing. Lesson learned.

Have I forgiven my ex? Well, pretty much. I know that it was his way and suspect it ran in his family. It's part of what caused him to leave and I'm better for that. It's partly because of that treatment that I became so determined to not be the passive, meek person I was in that marriage. I'm stronger now. Anything that makes you stronger can't be all bad. So yes, I want to forgive him. But, like the others who responded to this question, remembering does indeed make forgiveness hard. Maybe part of the forgiving comes when you experience the strength you've gained from it being effective. Then you know you're strong enough for it to no longer matter. And at that point you can probably set the experience aside and focus your life on other things.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Plenty of Activity

Life's been looking up this past week. I've been doing things I haven't done for a while. I'm starting to feel normal and back to my old self. One of the things that has caused this, and probably the most significant, is that I'm changing medications.

My medicine chest includes the usual battery of pills for those who are starting to get on in years and two of them are prescribed by a psychiatrist. For several years I've taken antidepressants off and on. The ADD meds I've been on since I was diagnosed with it in 2000. When my career plans blew up this past spring, I decided to try a different antidepressant at the advice of my sister who's a psychiatrist. She recommended one I'd tried before and it had been ok then, but as I've aged it is no longer good for me. Instead it creates an apathy that leaves me unmotivated and ineffective at home. I can still work but there is no zest or energy in it. The ADD med I was on for a few years was a version of Ritalin. That's a controlled substance so my doctor, and my sis, suggested I try out strattera. I agreed thinking that it might help me deal with motivation which I thought came from depression and not the medication. Wrong! Strattera doesn't work for me. After a month of being on it I found myself daydreaming at work and not being aware of time passing. That's not a good situation. So two weeks ago, when I forgot to take the meds before heading off to work, I decided it was a good time to take myself off strattera and research antidepressants. Here's what I learned.

There are 3 major groups of antidepressants. SSRI's work with serotonin and that is helpful for women because without it they aren't very social. Another group works with norepinephrine which affects motivation and energy. The third group works on dopamine and that's for people who have psychotic episodes. Then there's a set of meds which don't affect any of those neurochemicals and doctors don't really know how they work, but they do. The med I was on affected serotonin, and norepinephrine once the dosage reached a certain level. Strattera also works on norepinephrine but it isn't effective as an antidepressant. Between the two meds I was taking I should have been covered on two of the major neurochemicals. Since they weren't having the desired effect I decided to take myself off the antidepressant too and go back on the one I'd been on before which didn't cause apathy. Since I couldn't see my doctor quickly (VA medical system) I called my sister for instructions on how to get off of Effexor. Following her directions I'm now off that and back on Wellbutrin which does work. Yay! I'm feeling so much better. My energy is up and so is my creativity. In fact I'm sort of going in all kinds of directions mentally because I've been so long with out creative mental stimulation. This past week I got to exercise that creativity and energy. So, there's lots of nice stuff to report.

Saturday I was LEM for Morning Prayer. I spent lots of extra time on that service. I found myself praying for people I knew needed it but weren't on the official church prayer list. I also found myself just talking to God about my life. This was so rewarding. I felt really close to Him and it's really special there in the sanctuary. That set the tone for the rest of the morning. I even found myself singing part of the Office because I'd learned the melody to one of the songs used in it when I attended late service recently.

When I was done with the prayers I went outside and noticed the small garden at the back of the sanctuary was in full bloom. This isn't one of our landscaped gardens but someone's special project. It is beautiful, not large and tenderly cared for. Every plant in this garden is different. So I spent some quality time with the camera and that garden. Not being a horticulturalist I've no idea what the names of the flowers I photographed are but I got quite a few shots and some of them I really like. Some of these flowers are Texas natives and used for xeroscaping. If you know the names of the ones I don't (I really only know the roses) please comment and let me know so that I can update the post with correct names. Thanks!

The garden has several vines along the wall that it sits against. This is one of them. I took several pictures of these intensely colored trumpet type flowers. This is the best one.

Everyone knows a nice rose when they see it. This was first of the flowers I photographed. I'm sorry to say that I was so enthralled with the color that I didn't notice the aging look of the rose. It's gotten pretty hot here in S. Texas and I guess the flowers are going to fade pretty quickly.

This is such a lovely bright color that it excites me. These roses don't have many petals. Their simplicity of form seems to go well with the intense color.

Once I wrote a poem about the garden of my heart. In it I mentioned a blue flower whose name I didn't recall. This was that flower. It is popular here in S. Texas. A huge bush of it was growing at the house I lived in up until fifth grade.

When I lived in Corpus Christie, I used to have a window box of begonias on the edge of my patio. They were a more intense color than these but they grow well in both garden and pots if you give them water and some room for their roots. I don't know the name of the small intensely red flower next to them. It too is good down here in the Texas heat. Can you tell bright colors attract me?
This one is definitely a xeroscape flower. Again, I don't know the name of it but I like the orange coloring of it.

This flowering vine abounds throughout the south. When I got married my soon to be Aunt-in-law helped me manage the wedding arrangements. This was the flower she brought from her own garden to put on the tables at the reception. Wish I remembered the name of it. I love the bright pink flowers and when I again have a yard of my own it will be one of the first plants I get.

This too is xeroscaping. I don't know this flowers name either. This shade of purple is one of my favorites. It reminds me of the choke bush although I know that isn't the name for this flower. But that's how I know it's a native to Texas, or has adapted so well you wouldn't know the difference.

This one must be a cultured wildflower. It reminds me of the flowering weeds that used to grow on the playground of my first elementary school in Mercedes, TX. I'm glad they kept this or put it in. It grows low to the ground in a straggling manner.

Here's a shot of the corner of this garden. You can see the amazing variety of plants and color that this gardener has established here.

Here's the same garden from the other end. It isn't a large plot, runs along the wall of the sanctuary, and wraps around.

This is the view of part of the church from the end of the garden. In the background you can see some of our Sunday school classrooms. The slab in the center of it is our labyrinth. That has turned out to be such a blessing. Almost everyone in the church either walks it or sits on the seating risers around it. Children who are having trouble sitting still through the service are often allowed to go outside by their parents to walk or play on it. I'm pretty sure that one of the reasons this is so often permitted is that you can see the entire labyrinth through the windows that make up the entire wall of the sanctuary, so the kids are never out of their parent's sight. We have two walls, one on each side of the sanctuary, of nothing but glass with the structures holding them in place providing framing. It really is a beautiful church.

At some point, probably when I was starting to go home, I stopped and took a picture of the leaves of this oak tree. Our grounds have lots of trees and this one shelters the rear entrance to the church.

On Monday I got out of the apartment early to drop the rent check off. It was about 7:30 in the morning and pretty windy. The sky wasn't really bright with the sun which was still climbing up from the horizon. So I thought it would be a good time to park by the lake and take some more pictures of it. The lack of recent rain had the water level down really low or I'd probably never have known we had a new type of water fowl living there.

Here's our old but faithful swan. I think it is one of the original because the first pair I saw were this black and when this one's mate died the pair we bought to replace them weren't as beautiful. That pair produced two hatching all of which eventually died and then they too passed on. So this is the only swan we have now. I hope he isn't too lonely.

After he finished grooming he started feeding. Pictures of swans with their heads buried in water don't look as interesting as they do with their long necks up and showing off their beautiful carriage. I titled this one Narcissus because he looks like he's admiring himself in his reflection on the water.

For as long as I've lived at this place I knew we had a white crane living at the back of the lake. What I didn't know was that we also had these long legged water fowl also residing there. If anyone knows the name of this bird please let me know. I've got several pictures of them because they looked so fascinating and were moving around in a very paired fashion that makes me think they must be mated.

The birds are clearer in this one because the focus is better and the light had brightened enough to show their colors. My camera only has 4x optical zoom and then a bit more of digital zoom. I was at the max for some of the pictures here but I think this one was at 7x.

This one is included because it shows the color on the top of the breast of one of the birds. You can't see that in the other shots. I'm hoping that will help with identification. Sorry if some of these pictures come out grainy. Digital zoom doesn't seem to give the same quality as optical zoom does.
Here's the last of the bird images. This was the one my PC liked the best and I do admit that it shows off their long legs really well.

Tonight our new deacon-to-be is getting ordained and I'll be attending. We are really glad to have Matt with us at Reconciliation. This is the same guy who taught me guitar lessons last summer. He is young and full of creative ideas. Everyone likes him and we are just thrilled that he is back. Our pastor is also relieved that he now has an official assistant to help him manage some of his many responsibilities.

On Sunday I'll be attending the 2nd of my "Dinners for 6 to 8" gatherings. This is a great program that our church put together to help people mingle more off campus and make friends. I think it's working and the food and fellowship I've experienced through it are great.

And there you go. The most recent bits of life I've had and the near future. Much better all around!