Taking Flight

8/21/2014

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The nest of swallows tucked under eaves of my office building was in transition last week. The four birds were various stages of leaving the safety of the daub brown nest for the wild blue yonder. The bravest fledgling had flown to a nearby tree. One was still firmly seated in the nest, watching two siblings inch their way from under the roof. Another took a test flight and came back, contemplating the next move. The other ledge-sitter dithered, not quite ready to take the leap. But, by the next morning the nest was empty. 

Each had overcome fears and uncertainties. The timing was a little different for each of them, one apparently fearless, while the others had a few issues leaving the familiar and secure. There was no future huddling in an overcrowded and undoubtedly smelly nest. The parents were ready for them to leave. It was time. The birds were meant to take wing.

We were were meant for flight too. Stepping out in faith, leaving the familiar behind, trusting God to lead us in a whole new life in Christ. Our decision to trust Jesus and receive forgiveness of our sins is really just the beginning. God has a grand adventure for us. It's not about riches, fame, or power. It's trusting that God tells the truth in His Word and us obeying that truth in how we live.  We do like the safety of old habits, comfortable sins, the familiar, refusing to step out with God. We prefer to be babies as the writer of Hebrews penned.


For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn't know how to do what is right. Hebrews 5:13 NLT.

God offers us a real life, but we must trust in Him alone just like Abraham, Daniel, Peter, and Paul. Who knows what God will do in our lives if we simply trust and obey. This new life is counter-cultural, with a totally different way of thinking. It's not popular. Daniel can affirm that as can many others.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV

The authentic Christian life is outlined in Romans 12. I encourage you to read that chapter in its entirety. It's a definitive passage on living by faith. It's not nest living, but soaring on the journey to where we really belong.

 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:16 NIV







Humming Right Along

8/09/2014

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That signature buzzing a/k/a humming wings and the flash of iridescence darting in and out of my salvias, red yucca, and agastache (hummingbird mint) provides endless entertainment while sipping a cup of coffee in the morning. Living helicopters which are extremely aggressive, these little birds are amazing creatures. Because we live directly on a super highway of migration, thanks to the San Pedro River, we are treated to all sorts of unique bird visitors. On our hikes in the mountains or just watching our feeders we've identified the Rufous, Broad-bill, Broad-tail, Magnificent, Black-chinned, Costa's, and Anna's hummingbirds. Interestingly, we have no Ruby-throated hummers in Arizona. That particular bird is the only one who migrates from Mexico to east of the Mississippi. The rest prefer western climes. 

The Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory (SABO) does excellent work in recording data that helps us understand more about these flying jewels. Over the course of the summer, SABO conducts weekly hummingbird banding in several different areas around Casa Wallace. I joined the banding party this week at the Casa de San Pedro B & B to watch the experienced volunteers do the work of collecting valuable data on the hummers.  I was privileged to meet Sheri Williamson who is licensed by the National  Bird Banding Laboratory to attach tiny metal rings to tiny hummer legs. Sheri has a great website which I encourage you to visit. She is a naturalist, ornithologist, author, and much more. (Link to Sheri's Website.) You'll find a treasure trove of all things feathery. It's worth the visit and you'll find out the do's and don'ts of feeding hummers which is very important.

Sheri holding a Rufous male
The Casa de San Pedro is a beautiful setting for capturing hummers and we found places to sit while a handful of men intently watched the traps hung over the feeders. One had a remote (which is why a man is in charge of this) to spring the trap once the hummer is under the netting. Another quickly caged it in a small, soft net enclosure and delivered it to the crew of women who were ready for the next phase. 

Susan with a caged hummer
Teeny Tiny Bands
Sheri expertly removed the hummer from the cage and made measurements from beak to tail which were entered by Kathy, the data collector. Beak length, tail and wing length were taken. The minuscule band was quickly attached, the number recorded. Sheri then took a straw and blew at the chest feathers, determining whether it was a juvenile or adult, amount of fat, looking for pollen and louse eggs. A lot of information is collected within minutes. Each bird has a distinct personality. Some are quite docile, accepting human handling with barely a wiggle, but others have real attitudes and are not pleased to have their afternoon feeding disrupted. Each bird was weighed, held securely in a bit of fine mesh, clipped to the scale. A Black-chinned female weighed in at 3.8 grams. After that, Susan the volunteer who releases the birds, gently held her disgruntled captives and offered each the opportunity to stick their beak in the feeder on the table. Most were greedy and sucked down the nectar until they were full. 

Highlight of the Day!
Now, here's the best part. Observers get to help release the birds. I was fortunate to release a young male Broad-bill who was content to stay in my hand for probably a full minute before he buzzed away. It is considered good luck if they pee in your hand and I was also blessed with abundant good luck. Susan comes prepared with tissues.

This is the 19th season of collecting hummingbird data on the San Pedro. Much has been learned about about their travels and their lifespans through this study. One of the birds caught on Friday was already banded. Kathy quickly found his data from the band number. A young male Rufous, he had been caught just two weeks prior. When measurements and weight were taken again, his checkup showed he was growing normally and he continued to be a bit of a grump. The ladies shared that  birds may be caught multiple times over the years. One female was caught approximately 20 times over a ten year period. The typical lifespan is 4-5 years, but data is now showing longer lives for some. Year around feeding and favorable garden habitats may contribute to that. 

I continue to be amazed by God's incredible creation. Birds with extraordinary jewel-tone colors, who hover, fly up, down, sideways, backwards--even upside down. Delicate, fierce, and beautiful birds who brighten my garden with their presence. 
Checking out the heartbeat.
It sounds like a rushing wind!
Over 1200 beats per minute.






The Trap

















One of the trails around Casa de San Pedro






Amble to Albuquerque

7/28/2014

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SimplyLife has been on hiatus due to the press of revisions on the third Gracie Andersen mystery. We did manage a quick trip to Albuquerque during that period however. Heretofore our only visit there was speeding through it on our way to relocate in Arizona. We weren't desperate to journey to this iconic Southwestern city, but the opportunity to visit our youngest daughter and son-in-law, who were there courtesy of Uncle Sam for some training was the real draw. 

An uneventful and dreadfully boring road trip(there is only so much desert one can handle in a day along the I-10) brought us to the city limits in seven hours. We jumped into tourist mode to jam in as much sightseeing as we could in two days. Since our daughter was in charge of finding restaurants, she insisted that we eat "local" and franchises were not allowed. This entailed some exploration of downtown ABQ which proved entertaining. The eateries had excellent fare and one even had the distinction of a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives visit. My favorite was the Slate Street Cafe which was tucked away on a side street. Check out my Trip Advisor review here. In fact, you can check out all my reviews on Trip Advisor.


Even though we've lived in the Southwest for over a decade, ABQ has a different flavor than Arizona. There is a strong Pueblo Indian influence that dominates rather than the Mexican culture in AZ. We decided to take the trip up the side of Sandia Peak to enjoy the tram ride and the views at the top. It was a perfect day, but lots of people were smushed into the tram with us. One gets to know the other tourists up close and personal when it's crowded. However, the views were fabulous, but the disappointment was that the Forest Service had closed the hiking trails. Not enough rain had fallen yet. We were relegated to an extensive boardwalk around the tram area. The ticket price was a little high without the trails to explore, but it was a good time for conversation and soaking up the high altitude views above Albuquerque. 

Since it was the 4th of July weekend, we took the bus to Balloon Fiesta Park to join thousands in celebrating our country's independence. The city does an excellent job of transporting people on buses to alleviate some of the traffic. At a $1 for a round trip, it couldn't be beat. Once we arrived in Fiesta Park, lo and behold, our favorite food vendor from the Prescott Highland Games was there serving up Messy Nessies and shepherd's pie. We ate Scottish, and sat on the grass to view a stunning fireworks display. We even saw the Rio Ranchos fireworks from afar which set the stage.


The pièce de résistance of the trip was the train ride to Santa Fe. The Railrunner was a cheap and comfortable alternative to driving. I haven't been on a train in many years, and this was relaxing and fun. We rode the rails for about a 90 minute trip to Santa Fe, alternately napping, talking, and watching the beautiful countryside go by. Then it was a short walk to Old Town which is filled with galleries, restaurants, and all sorts of shops. We ate in the park, purchasing our lunch from a street vendor who made killer carnitas. David had carne and I went with pollo. There's nothing like homemade tortillas. Apache and Anasazi vendors spread their jewelry on blankets, all beautifully handcrafted and at a fraction of the price in the stores. The last visit of the day was to the Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi. However, a wedding was in progress and we were unable to slip inside for a peek. We did see the happy bride and groom emerge from the front doors.


A quick trip, but full of good family times and a bit of an adventure rolled into one. A serendipitous blessing mid-year.  

The blessing of the LORD makes rich,

and he adds no sorrow with it. Proverbs 10:22




In the Highlands

5/20/2014

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A couple of weeks ago, my Scotsman husband and I headed for Prescott, AZ to enjoy the annual Highland Games. It seemed entirely appropriate to celebrate our anniversary with bagpipe bands and watching men throw heavy objects. After all what do good plaid-wearers do for special occasions? Watson Lake Park was the perfect venue. Its unique rock formations were a gorgeous backdrop for the multitude of events.

The good news right at the admission table was that we were both eligible for the senior discounts. What a boon for my husband who's a pro at pinching pennies. We checked in at the Clan Wallace booth to meet the kin and swap family histories. Then it was on to the herding dog demonstrations with border collies showing off their skills. Rather than sheep, which is standard fare, we were treated to a  flock of cranky domestic ducks. The dogs manipulated the fowl every which way and finally into their pens. The ducks seemed to prefer the pen to running willy nilly around the arena. They didn't seem to be in favor of canines.

Duck Herding
After that, the field games grabbed our attention. It seems that any self-respecting Scotsman must heave rocks, hammers, and even large poles called cabers. The sign around the field cautioned bystanders that they were free to move if any flying object came their way. I did step back a time or two when a caber landing seemed a little uncertain. Women joined in the fun and I give them a bucket of credit for tossing a small telephone pole. The tossing of the caber has a lot to do with balance and finesse rather than brute strength. The brutes were over throwing small boulders in another section.

Wallace Plaid on a Good Dog

Throwing weights over a bar
The music was absolutely fantastic. I'm telling you there's nothing like three, yes three topnotch bagpipe bands playing Amazing Grace, America, the Beautiful, and the traditional Scottish marches.That music stirs the heart. Then there were the funky bagpipers -- California Celts and The Wicked Tinkers. Jigs, folk songs, a little Robert Burns, pirate tunes, and some calypso was thrown in for good measure. Excellent musicians and entertainers all around.

My husband enjoyed a Messy Nessie which was a banger (sausage) with cabbage and ground beef over the top. Very high in protein. I had a shepherd's pie which is vegetables and meat under a layer of mashed potatoes. Haggis was available, but neither of us were willing to get that authentic. As you might expect whisky tasting was very popular, but we rambled to the vendors who offered plaids, knives, swords, and all manner of Highland garb.

The Highland Games have been around for a thousand years at least and were brought back to popularity by Queen Victoria who was enamored of all things Scottish. She became the patron of The Gathering. Some interesting history can be found at this link: http://www.royal-deeside.org.uk/brhistory/gathering.htm.

The folks who put the Prescott Highland Games on do an excellent job. Parking was a breeze. There were tractors and wagons carrying folks who declined the walk to admission. The layout and ease of taking in all the sights was well done. Enjoy the photos and video of our little excursion to Prescott. If you're considering a visit next year, visit their website at www.prescotthighlandgames.com.




Choosing a caber - Notice the name on far caber.
Bonnie Lass and the Caber
video

Choosing a Puppy for Your Children

4/27/2014

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"But, Mom the puppies are really cute. I'll take care of it. Honest. We need a dog. I'll walk him and feed him. Pleeeeeese, can't we get a puppy?"

The age old parent-child exchange about getting a puppy. The big decision to bring a baby canine into your family. How the passionate promises of feeding, walking, and cleaning up after the puppy pour so easily from your child's lips. You know, however, you'll be the one doing all of the above and more.  Of course, puppies are adorable, soft, cuddly, entertaining, annoying, labor intensive, and sleep disrupting. But, most likely you'll cave and get one anyway.

Companion dogs are members of the family, and the puppy you add to the mix needs to be a good fit. Emotions run high over that furry, roly-poly critter whose antics can melt the heart of the stone. Take a deep breath and do your homework before making the commitment. Don't get a puppy at Christmastime. The excitement of the holiday will make it a very difficult time for the puppy and your family. Wait until the holidays are past and you can focus on introducing a new family member correctly.

Here's a puppy picking list for you that will help in selecting just the right one for your situation whether you go to a breeder or a shelter.

1. Beware of puppy mills, backyard breeders, and pet stores. A healthy puppy is paramount to a great experience in adding a dog to your family. A reputable breeder and shelters who make sure the dogs are given their shots, and have been vet-checked are your best choices.

2. Be realistic about the size of dog to choose. Too big and too little are the same problem. Look at your home, yard, and the age of your children. Young children aren't going to be able to walk a Great Dane when it reaches 8-9 months of age. A teacup-size dog may be cute for you to carry in your purse, but a young child can easily, albeit, unintentionally injure a small dog.

3. A purebred dog can be quite an investment, depending on the breed. If that's out of reach, many shelters offer excellent programs that include all shots, spaying, neutering, microchipping, and more. At either a breeder's kennel or a shelter, runs should be clean, the dogs well cared for, and records available.

4. Like a baby, a puppy needs a lot of equipment - a crate (yes, it's a necessity), a bed, collar, puppy food, toys, and a leash for starters. Regular vet visits during the first year are important too. They need shots, and health checks as they mature. Count the cost of responsible dog ownership before proceeding.

If you get the through the first list and decide to continue, let's check out the next step--selecting a puppy.  I've gotten both puppies and adult dogs. We've gone to shelters and breeders with successful adoptions. The puppy personality test can be used successfully with adult dogs, as well as pups. Every dog has a distinct personality, just like people. Breeds are distinct in their pluses and minuses for your particular situation. Collies are beautiful dogs, but are you prepared for high maintenance hair?  Males and females are different too.  There are lots of things to consider.

The puppy personality test will show you how social, dominant, submissive, and how sensitive the dog is. These are extremely important in how quickly and easily your furry bundle of joy will adapt to his or her new home. Remember humans are the alpha dogs in the house, and you want a dog that easily accepts the proper position in the household.

1. Place the puppy a few feet from you. Then kneel down and call him/her, clapping your hands, and gently coaxing. The puppy may charge at you and lick or bite at your face and hands, or some may cautiously approach you, or not at all.  You'll be able to quickly assess how confident, and how social the dog is. A puppy who comes to you readily with tail up, is an ideal response. If the puppy jumps or bites at you when he comes, shows aggressive behavior, while the dog who is hesitant or cowers with tail down is a fearful, shy dog.

2. Kneel down and gently roll the dog on his/her back, and hold for about 30 seconds. Does the dog struggle the entire time? Maybe he/she doesn't struggle at all or the puppy may struggle for a few seconds and then settle.  This little exercise shows the dominance tendencies of the dog in a social situation. The more the dog struggles, the more dominant and aggressive he is. One who struggles and then settles is ideal. He's willing to accept restraint. The puppy who doesn't struggle or avoids eye contact is overly submissive and fearful.

3. Another dominance test is bending over the puppy and interlacing your fingers under the dog's belly. Lift it gently off the floor for 30 seconds.  Does the puppy bite at you, struggle, lick your hands?  The response will tell you how the dog accepts dominance while he/she has no control.

4. Sensitivity to touch is tested by pressing a finger and thumb on the webbing of a front foot. Exert increasing pressure on the webbing until you get a response while counting to 10. Stop immediately if the puppy shows any discomfort. If a dog responds before you can count to five or six, its sensitivity is high. Think about kids pulling on ears, or a tail, or tugging at loose skin.  A highly sensitive dog may react by snapping or biting.

5. Homes with children are noisy places. Check out the puppy's sensitivity to sound by hitting a large metal spoon on a pot a couple of times. If the dog listens, walks toward you, or appears curious, he/she is't overly sensitive and isn't deaf. If a dog cringes or hides from the noise, he/she may not be right for your family. If there is no reaction at all, the dog may be deaf.

6. Retrieving a ball is a test to see if the dog is willing to work with a two-legged alpha dog. If the dog doesn't cooperate and willingly participate, don't expect that to change.

Now is not the time to rescue a sick or poorly socialized puppy. A home with children needs a well-adjusted and healthy dog who's a willing learner. You may like the "spunk" in a nippy puppy, but that's a behavior that will take time, consistent training, and patience to change. A shaking, shy one may tug at everyone's heartstrings, but the dog needs the same training as the dominant personality. Fear biters, and piddlers come from this group. Piddling and nippy dogs aren't fun as they get older. That behavior can be changed, but only through consistent training as is needed for the overly spunky puppy.

A nice, balanced personality is the best choice. House training, and adjusting to home life is quite enough for a puppy to handle, and for you too. A special needs puppy is best left to owners with experience, and the right home environment.

A puppy can be a great addition to your family. Sophie, the black Lab our daughters grew up with came from the county shelter and was a terrific companion for 10 years. She waited everyday for them to come home from school, napping in the shade of the maple in our driveway. She also surreptitiously gobbled a pound of hamburger out of a grocery bag while I unloaded the car. Life with dogs is always interesting.

Resource Link:  American Kennel Club

Ready to Go

4/15/2014

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There's a fire in mountains to the west of our house. The smoke is billowing out of the canyons on the other side. It's gone from four acres on Sunday to over 300 acres this afternoon, and it's zero percent contained. With tinder dry conditions, very rugged terrain, 11 per cent humidity, and 20 mile an hour winds, it's a challenging environment to try and control the fire. Some areas west of us are under pre-evacuation advisories, but I'm praying that the extra fire crews and equipment coming in tonight will be able to get the fire under control.Three years ago we went through an evacuation because of a horrific wildfire. We were evacuated for five days and we were thankful the fire was stopped less than a mile from our house. Evacuation is not a lot of fun and is scary, but I learned about the importance of the "Go Bag." I'll share some tips to get organized in case you ever have to evacuate for any reason--hurricane, flood, tornado, fire, earthquake, etc. 

Here’s a breakdown of necessities for evacuation:

Documents
·         Insurance policies (house, car, life)
·         Wills, trust documents (originals)
·         Vehicle titles
·         Real estate documents
·         Birth certificates, marriage license, passports
·         Pet documents

Photo: The Sierra Vista Herald
Brown Fire on April 14, 2014
Although some of the documents aren't irreplaceable, some are a real pain to replace and can be expensive. If you have originals of wills and trust documents, they are irreplaceable and you’ll have the expense of redoing them if they’re lost. Maintaining a good filing system where these important papers are categorized properly in file folders will make your life a lot simpler if you have to grab them and run.

Personal Items
  • Prescription medications
  • Chargers for electronics
  • Cell phones
  • Cash
  • Toiletries
  • Clothes for a few days and an extra pair of shoes
  • Pet Food and Equipment
  • Laptops/Flash drive
 Don’t forget about any pets and their supplies. Crates, food, meds, and leashes are a must if your pets are relegated to a shelter. Keeping a plastic gallon size bag of basic toiletry items stashed can help too. A lot of financial records and personal information is stored on home computers. Don’t forget chargers for laptops and iPads. A flash drive that has your pictures or other records as a backup is a good idea if you’re unable to take computers.

We were fortunate to stay with friends while we were evacuated, so we didn't stay in a shelter like hundreds of others. If a shelter is your only option and you have a few more minutes to prepare the list below will help ease the stress:

Supplies
  • Bottled water for several days
  • Individually packaged snacks
  • Deck of cards
  • Handheld video games/batteries
  • Flashlight
  • First Aid kit
If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, floods, wildfires, or other natural disasters it’s well worth the time to take stock of what you need to organize to throw together a Go Bag. Advance preparation is crucial to a safe evacuation. Don’t stick your head in the sand and decide evacuation can’t ever happen. No one is exempt. Being ready and organized will help your family in a high stress and dangerous situation.


The above lists aren’t exhaustive, but they give you the basics of preparation. Other sources are the FEMA (fema.gov) and American Red Cross (redcross.org) websites. Check with your local sheriff’s department or emergency services department for more information unique to your location. 

Everyday Writing - Social Media

4/12/2014

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A lot of time can be spent or lost, depending on your perspective on social media. It's interesting to note that most people spend less than 30 seconds on the homepage of any website, but they spend an average of 20 minutes at a time on Face Book. Okay--I'm guilty of spending too much time on FB, but with family and friends spread literally around the world, it's a great tool for staying in touch. However, the abundance of social media has numbed many of us to what's really appropriate to share. The safety of virtual reality allows us to be rude, way too opinionated, downright foolish in what we write on our walls and the comments we leave on friends' posts. I've witnessed some ugly verbal brawls on Face Book which are disappointing and hurtful. Here are some tips to consider before pressing the "post" button on Face Book.

1. Learn about the security features of Face Book and make sure you check them from time to time. Face Book loves to change the options on a regular basis. If you only want friends to see what you're doing on FB, make sure you've selected the correct privacy setting. There are other options as well, so take the time to learn to ensure you understand how to protect your privacy.

2. Exercise self-control.  Over-sharing is a huge temptation. Whether it's a constant update of what you're doing every moment of the day or countless photos of every activity, try to hold back. Your friends will thank you.

3. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that growing up. But, it's true. Of what value are ugly, rude comments on a "friend's" wall? Just because you don't agree with someone doesn't give you the right to tear them from limb to limb verbally. If you feel strongly about something that's in direct conflict with their comment, for heaven's sake use the private message feature if you must comment at all.

4. Be positive and funny.  Who doesn't love encouraging words and a little humor? People who share life's embarrassing moments, happy events, or a good word for the day are at the top of my list. I really don't have time for people who constantly gripe about life----oh the great injustice of it all. Good grief! Get a grip! Negative comments suck the joy out of life, so find something good to share.

5. Stay away from politics. One of the biggest downers on social media is the constant barrage of political comments. First of all, politics has never solved anything or made the world better. Period. Talking politics online or in your living room usually leads to heated discussions and hurt feelings. It's an important topic and politics certainly affects our lives, but let's be congenial and respectful. If you can't, start a blog and share all you want. Who knows? You might get a huge following.

6. Control your wall. Sometimes we make a comment that spirals into an out-of-control discussion. Don't be a pushover and let it continue. You have the power to delete the post, private message the offender and tell him or her to cease and desist. Words are powerful and can do a great deal of harm before you know it. Why would you want to promote that?

7. Be safe. Don't announce your travel plans. Women, don't announce that your husband will be out of town. Don't post your street address, social security number, or other identifying information. Face Book is not a secure environment. There are plenty of bad guys trolling for that kind of information.

8.  Options. We all probably have a few people we wish weren't our friends on Face Book. So what's the right thing to do? You do have the option to "unfriend." If you want to be more discreet, you can simply unsubscribe from their postings. To stop seeing a person's posts in your newsfeed, click on the  "v" at the right of one of their posts and simply choose to "unfollow." Within minutes, you won't see any more posts from that person. You can also report abusive or offensive posts as well.

Used correctly, Face Book can be an excellent way to stay in touch. The ability to show support for friends going through a tough time, to celebrate weddings, the birth of grandchild, or the host of other good things in life is wonderful. The bottom line is to use your verbal powers for good and not for evil. Happy posting!

SimplyLife

Positively encouraging

8/21/2014

Taking Flight

The nest of swallows tucked under eaves of my office building was in transition last week. The four birds were various stages of leaving the safety of the daub brown nest for the wild blue yonder. The bravest fledgling had flown to a nearby tree. One was still firmly seated in the nest, watching two siblings inch their way from under the roof. Another took a test flight and came back, contemplating the next move. The other ledge-sitter dithered, not quite ready to take the leap. But, by the next morning the nest was empty. 

Each had overcome fears and uncertainties. The timing was a little different for each of them, one apparently fearless, while the others had a few issues leaving the familiar and secure. There was no future huddling in an overcrowded and undoubtedly smelly nest. The parents were ready for them to leave. It was time. The birds were meant to take wing.

We were were meant for flight too. Stepping out in faith, leaving the familiar behind, trusting God to lead us in a whole new life in Christ. Our decision to trust Jesus and receive forgiveness of our sins is really just the beginning. God has a grand adventure for us. It's not about riches, fame, or power. It's trusting that God tells the truth in His Word and us obeying that truth in how we live.  We do like the safety of old habits, comfortable sins, the familiar, refusing to step out with God. We prefer to be babies as the writer of Hebrews penned.


For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn't know how to do what is right. Hebrews 5:13 NLT.

God offers us a real life, but we must trust in Him alone just like Abraham, Daniel, Peter, and Paul. Who knows what God will do in our lives if we simply trust and obey. This new life is counter-cultural, with a totally different way of thinking. It's not popular. Daniel can affirm that as can many others.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV

The authentic Christian life is outlined in Romans 12. I encourage you to read that chapter in its entirety. It's a definitive passage on living by faith. It's not nest living, but soaring on the journey to where we really belong.

 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:16 NIV







8/09/2014

Humming Right Along


That signature buzzing a/k/a humming wings and the flash of iridescence darting in and out of my salvias, red yucca, and agastache (hummingbird mint) provides endless entertainment while sipping a cup of coffee in the morning. Living helicopters which are extremely aggressive, these little birds are amazing creatures. Because we live directly on a super highway of migration, thanks to the San Pedro River, we are treated to all sorts of unique bird visitors. On our hikes in the mountains or just watching our feeders we've identified the Rufous, Broad-bill, Broad-tail, Magnificent, Black-chinned, Costa's, and Anna's hummingbirds. Interestingly, we have no Ruby-throated hummers in Arizona. That particular bird is the only one who migrates from Mexico to east of the Mississippi. The rest prefer western climes. 

The Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory (SABO) does excellent work in recording data that helps us understand more about these flying jewels. Over the course of the summer, SABO conducts weekly hummingbird banding in several different areas around Casa Wallace. I joined the banding party this week at the Casa de San Pedro B & B to watch the experienced volunteers do the work of collecting valuable data on the hummers.  I was privileged to meet Sheri Williamson who is licensed by the National  Bird Banding Laboratory to attach tiny metal rings to tiny hummer legs. Sheri has a great website which I encourage you to visit. She is a naturalist, ornithologist, author, and much more. (Link to Sheri's Website.) You'll find a treasure trove of all things feathery. It's worth the visit and you'll find out the do's and don'ts of feeding hummers which is very important.

Sheri holding a Rufous male
The Casa de San Pedro is a beautiful setting for capturing hummers and we found places to sit while a handful of men intently watched the traps hung over the feeders. One had a remote (which is why a man is in charge of this) to spring the trap once the hummer is under the netting. Another quickly caged it in a small, soft net enclosure and delivered it to the crew of women who were ready for the next phase. 

Susan with a caged hummer
Teeny Tiny Bands
Sheri expertly removed the hummer from the cage and made measurements from beak to tail which were entered by Kathy, the data collector. Beak length, tail and wing length were taken. The minuscule band was quickly attached, the number recorded. Sheri then took a straw and blew at the chest feathers, determining whether it was a juvenile or adult, amount of fat, looking for pollen and louse eggs. A lot of information is collected within minutes. Each bird has a distinct personality. Some are quite docile, accepting human handling with barely a wiggle, but others have real attitudes and are not pleased to have their afternoon feeding disrupted. Each bird was weighed, held securely in a bit of fine mesh, clipped to the scale. A Black-chinned female weighed in at 3.8 grams. After that, Susan the volunteer who releases the birds, gently held her disgruntled captives and offered each the opportunity to stick their beak in the feeder on the table. Most were greedy and sucked down the nectar until they were full. 

Highlight of the Day!
Now, here's the best part. Observers get to help release the birds. I was fortunate to release a young male Broad-bill who was content to stay in my hand for probably a full minute before he buzzed away. It is considered good luck if they pee in your hand and I was also blessed with abundant good luck. Susan comes prepared with tissues.

This is the 19th season of collecting hummingbird data on the San Pedro. Much has been learned about about their travels and their lifespans through this study. One of the birds caught on Friday was already banded. Kathy quickly found his data from the band number. A young male Rufous, he had been caught just two weeks prior. When measurements and weight were taken again, his checkup showed he was growing normally and he continued to be a bit of a grump. The ladies shared that  birds may be caught multiple times over the years. One female was caught approximately 20 times over a ten year period. The typical lifespan is 4-5 years, but data is now showing longer lives for some. Year around feeding and favorable garden habitats may contribute to that. 

I continue to be amazed by God's incredible creation. Birds with extraordinary jewel-tone colors, who hover, fly up, down, sideways, backwards--even upside down. Delicate, fierce, and beautiful birds who brighten my garden with their presence. 
Checking out the heartbeat.
It sounds like a rushing wind!
Over 1200 beats per minute.






The Trap

















One of the trails around Casa de San Pedro






7/28/2014

Amble to Albuquerque

SimplyLife has been on hiatus due to the press of revisions on the third Gracie Andersen mystery. We did manage a quick trip to Albuquerque during that period however. Heretofore our only visit there was speeding through it on our way to relocate in Arizona. We weren't desperate to journey to this iconic Southwestern city, but the opportunity to visit our youngest daughter and son-in-law, who were there courtesy of Uncle Sam for some training was the real draw. 

An uneventful and dreadfully boring road trip(there is only so much desert one can handle in a day along the I-10) brought us to the city limits in seven hours. We jumped into tourist mode to jam in as much sightseeing as we could in two days. Since our daughter was in charge of finding restaurants, she insisted that we eat "local" and franchises were not allowed. This entailed some exploration of downtown ABQ which proved entertaining. The eateries had excellent fare and one even had the distinction of a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives visit. My favorite was the Slate Street Cafe which was tucked away on a side street. Check out my Trip Advisor review here. In fact, you can check out all my reviews on Trip Advisor.


Even though we've lived in the Southwest for over a decade, ABQ has a different flavor than Arizona. There is a strong Pueblo Indian influence that dominates rather than the Mexican culture in AZ. We decided to take the trip up the side of Sandia Peak to enjoy the tram ride and the views at the top. It was a perfect day, but lots of people were smushed into the tram with us. One gets to know the other tourists up close and personal when it's crowded. However, the views were fabulous, but the disappointment was that the Forest Service had closed the hiking trails. Not enough rain had fallen yet. We were relegated to an extensive boardwalk around the tram area. The ticket price was a little high without the trails to explore, but it was a good time for conversation and soaking up the high altitude views above Albuquerque. 

Since it was the 4th of July weekend, we took the bus to Balloon Fiesta Park to join thousands in celebrating our country's independence. The city does an excellent job of transporting people on buses to alleviate some of the traffic. At a $1 for a round trip, it couldn't be beat. Once we arrived in Fiesta Park, lo and behold, our favorite food vendor from the Prescott Highland Games was there serving up Messy Nessies and shepherd's pie. We ate Scottish, and sat on the grass to view a stunning fireworks display. We even saw the Rio Ranchos fireworks from afar which set the stage.


The pièce de résistance of the trip was the train ride to Santa Fe. The Railrunner was a cheap and comfortable alternative to driving. I haven't been on a train in many years, and this was relaxing and fun. We rode the rails for about a 90 minute trip to Santa Fe, alternately napping, talking, and watching the beautiful countryside go by. Then it was a short walk to Old Town which is filled with galleries, restaurants, and all sorts of shops. We ate in the park, purchasing our lunch from a street vendor who made killer carnitas. David had carne and I went with pollo. There's nothing like homemade tortillas. Apache and Anasazi vendors spread their jewelry on blankets, all beautifully handcrafted and at a fraction of the price in the stores. The last visit of the day was to the Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi. However, a wedding was in progress and we were unable to slip inside for a peek. We did see the happy bride and groom emerge from the front doors.


A quick trip, but full of good family times and a bit of an adventure rolled into one. A serendipitous blessing mid-year.  

The blessing of the LORD makes rich,

and he adds no sorrow with it. Proverbs 10:22




5/20/2014

In the Highlands

A couple of weeks ago, my Scotsman husband and I headed for Prescott, AZ to enjoy the annual Highland Games. It seemed entirely appropriate to celebrate our anniversary with bagpipe bands and watching men throw heavy objects. After all what do good plaid-wearers do for special occasions? Watson Lake Park was the perfect venue. Its unique rock formations were a gorgeous backdrop for the multitude of events.

The good news right at the admission table was that we were both eligible for the senior discounts. What a boon for my husband who's a pro at pinching pennies. We checked in at the Clan Wallace booth to meet the kin and swap family histories. Then it was on to the herding dog demonstrations with border collies showing off their skills. Rather than sheep, which is standard fare, we were treated to a  flock of cranky domestic ducks. The dogs manipulated the fowl every which way and finally into their pens. The ducks seemed to prefer the pen to running willy nilly around the arena. They didn't seem to be in favor of canines.

Duck Herding
After that, the field games grabbed our attention. It seems that any self-respecting Scotsman must heave rocks, hammers, and even large poles called cabers. The sign around the field cautioned bystanders that they were free to move if any flying object came their way. I did step back a time or two when a caber landing seemed a little uncertain. Women joined in the fun and I give them a bucket of credit for tossing a small telephone pole. The tossing of the caber has a lot to do with balance and finesse rather than brute strength. The brutes were over throwing small boulders in another section.

Wallace Plaid on a Good Dog

Throwing weights over a bar
The music was absolutely fantastic. I'm telling you there's nothing like three, yes three topnotch bagpipe bands playing Amazing Grace, America, the Beautiful, and the traditional Scottish marches.That music stirs the heart. Then there were the funky bagpipers -- California Celts and The Wicked Tinkers. Jigs, folk songs, a little Robert Burns, pirate tunes, and some calypso was thrown in for good measure. Excellent musicians and entertainers all around.

My husband enjoyed a Messy Nessie which was a banger (sausage) with cabbage and ground beef over the top. Very high in protein. I had a shepherd's pie which is vegetables and meat under a layer of mashed potatoes. Haggis was available, but neither of us were willing to get that authentic. As you might expect whisky tasting was very popular, but we rambled to the vendors who offered plaids, knives, swords, and all manner of Highland garb.

The Highland Games have been around for a thousand years at least and were brought back to popularity by Queen Victoria who was enamored of all things Scottish. She became the patron of The Gathering. Some interesting history can be found at this link: http://www.royal-deeside.org.uk/brhistory/gathering.htm.

The folks who put the Prescott Highland Games on do an excellent job. Parking was a breeze. There were tractors and wagons carrying folks who declined the walk to admission. The layout and ease of taking in all the sights was well done. Enjoy the photos and video of our little excursion to Prescott. If you're considering a visit next year, visit their website at www.prescotthighlandgames.com.




Choosing a caber - Notice the name on far caber.
Bonnie Lass and the Caber
video

4/27/2014

Choosing a Puppy for Your Children

"But, Mom the puppies are really cute. I'll take care of it. Honest. We need a dog. I'll walk him and feed him. Pleeeeeese, can't we get a puppy?"

The age old parent-child exchange about getting a puppy. The big decision to bring a baby canine into your family. How the passionate promises of feeding, walking, and cleaning up after the puppy pour so easily from your child's lips. You know, however, you'll be the one doing all of the above and more.  Of course, puppies are adorable, soft, cuddly, entertaining, annoying, labor intensive, and sleep disrupting. But, most likely you'll cave and get one anyway.

Companion dogs are members of the family, and the puppy you add to the mix needs to be a good fit. Emotions run high over that furry, roly-poly critter whose antics can melt the heart of the stone. Take a deep breath and do your homework before making the commitment. Don't get a puppy at Christmastime. The excitement of the holiday will make it a very difficult time for the puppy and your family. Wait until the holidays are past and you can focus on introducing a new family member correctly.

Here's a puppy picking list for you that will help in selecting just the right one for your situation whether you go to a breeder or a shelter.

1. Beware of puppy mills, backyard breeders, and pet stores. A healthy puppy is paramount to a great experience in adding a dog to your family. A reputable breeder and shelters who make sure the dogs are given their shots, and have been vet-checked are your best choices.

2. Be realistic about the size of dog to choose. Too big and too little are the same problem. Look at your home, yard, and the age of your children. Young children aren't going to be able to walk a Great Dane when it reaches 8-9 months of age. A teacup-size dog may be cute for you to carry in your purse, but a young child can easily, albeit, unintentionally injure a small dog.

3. A purebred dog can be quite an investment, depending on the breed. If that's out of reach, many shelters offer excellent programs that include all shots, spaying, neutering, microchipping, and more. At either a breeder's kennel or a shelter, runs should be clean, the dogs well cared for, and records available.

4. Like a baby, a puppy needs a lot of equipment - a crate (yes, it's a necessity), a bed, collar, puppy food, toys, and a leash for starters. Regular vet visits during the first year are important too. They need shots, and health checks as they mature. Count the cost of responsible dog ownership before proceeding.

If you get the through the first list and decide to continue, let's check out the next step--selecting a puppy.  I've gotten both puppies and adult dogs. We've gone to shelters and breeders with successful adoptions. The puppy personality test can be used successfully with adult dogs, as well as pups. Every dog has a distinct personality, just like people. Breeds are distinct in their pluses and minuses for your particular situation. Collies are beautiful dogs, but are you prepared for high maintenance hair?  Males and females are different too.  There are lots of things to consider.

The puppy personality test will show you how social, dominant, submissive, and how sensitive the dog is. These are extremely important in how quickly and easily your furry bundle of joy will adapt to his or her new home. Remember humans are the alpha dogs in the house, and you want a dog that easily accepts the proper position in the household.

1. Place the puppy a few feet from you. Then kneel down and call him/her, clapping your hands, and gently coaxing. The puppy may charge at you and lick or bite at your face and hands, or some may cautiously approach you, or not at all.  You'll be able to quickly assess how confident, and how social the dog is. A puppy who comes to you readily with tail up, is an ideal response. If the puppy jumps or bites at you when he comes, shows aggressive behavior, while the dog who is hesitant or cowers with tail down is a fearful, shy dog.

2. Kneel down and gently roll the dog on his/her back, and hold for about 30 seconds. Does the dog struggle the entire time? Maybe he/she doesn't struggle at all or the puppy may struggle for a few seconds and then settle.  This little exercise shows the dominance tendencies of the dog in a social situation. The more the dog struggles, the more dominant and aggressive he is. One who struggles and then settles is ideal. He's willing to accept restraint. The puppy who doesn't struggle or avoids eye contact is overly submissive and fearful.

3. Another dominance test is bending over the puppy and interlacing your fingers under the dog's belly. Lift it gently off the floor for 30 seconds.  Does the puppy bite at you, struggle, lick your hands?  The response will tell you how the dog accepts dominance while he/she has no control.

4. Sensitivity to touch is tested by pressing a finger and thumb on the webbing of a front foot. Exert increasing pressure on the webbing until you get a response while counting to 10. Stop immediately if the puppy shows any discomfort. If a dog responds before you can count to five or six, its sensitivity is high. Think about kids pulling on ears, or a tail, or tugging at loose skin.  A highly sensitive dog may react by snapping or biting.

5. Homes with children are noisy places. Check out the puppy's sensitivity to sound by hitting a large metal spoon on a pot a couple of times. If the dog listens, walks toward you, or appears curious, he/she is't overly sensitive and isn't deaf. If a dog cringes or hides from the noise, he/she may not be right for your family. If there is no reaction at all, the dog may be deaf.

6. Retrieving a ball is a test to see if the dog is willing to work with a two-legged alpha dog. If the dog doesn't cooperate and willingly participate, don't expect that to change.

Now is not the time to rescue a sick or poorly socialized puppy. A home with children needs a well-adjusted and healthy dog who's a willing learner. You may like the "spunk" in a nippy puppy, but that's a behavior that will take time, consistent training, and patience to change. A shaking, shy one may tug at everyone's heartstrings, but the dog needs the same training as the dominant personality. Fear biters, and piddlers come from this group. Piddling and nippy dogs aren't fun as they get older. That behavior can be changed, but only through consistent training as is needed for the overly spunky puppy.

A nice, balanced personality is the best choice. House training, and adjusting to home life is quite enough for a puppy to handle, and for you too. A special needs puppy is best left to owners with experience, and the right home environment.

A puppy can be a great addition to your family. Sophie, the black Lab our daughters grew up with came from the county shelter and was a terrific companion for 10 years. She waited everyday for them to come home from school, napping in the shade of the maple in our driveway. She also surreptitiously gobbled a pound of hamburger out of a grocery bag while I unloaded the car. Life with dogs is always interesting.

Resource Link:  American Kennel Club

4/15/2014

Ready to Go

There's a fire in mountains to the west of our house. The smoke is billowing out of the canyons on the other side. It's gone from four acres on Sunday to over 300 acres this afternoon, and it's zero percent contained. With tinder dry conditions, very rugged terrain, 11 per cent humidity, and 20 mile an hour winds, it's a challenging environment to try and control the fire. Some areas west of us are under pre-evacuation advisories, but I'm praying that the extra fire crews and equipment coming in tonight will be able to get the fire under control.Three years ago we went through an evacuation because of a horrific wildfire. We were evacuated for five days and we were thankful the fire was stopped less than a mile from our house. Evacuation is not a lot of fun and is scary, but I learned about the importance of the "Go Bag." I'll share some tips to get organized in case you ever have to evacuate for any reason--hurricane, flood, tornado, fire, earthquake, etc. 

Here’s a breakdown of necessities for evacuation:

Documents
·         Insurance policies (house, car, life)
·         Wills, trust documents (originals)
·         Vehicle titles
·         Real estate documents
·         Birth certificates, marriage license, passports
·         Pet documents

Photo: The Sierra Vista Herald
Brown Fire on April 14, 2014
Although some of the documents aren't irreplaceable, some are a real pain to replace and can be expensive. If you have originals of wills and trust documents, they are irreplaceable and you’ll have the expense of redoing them if they’re lost. Maintaining a good filing system where these important papers are categorized properly in file folders will make your life a lot simpler if you have to grab them and run.

Personal Items
  • Prescription medications
  • Chargers for electronics
  • Cell phones
  • Cash
  • Toiletries
  • Clothes for a few days and an extra pair of shoes
  • Pet Food and Equipment
  • Laptops/Flash drive
 Don’t forget about any pets and their supplies. Crates, food, meds, and leashes are a must if your pets are relegated to a shelter. Keeping a plastic gallon size bag of basic toiletry items stashed can help too. A lot of financial records and personal information is stored on home computers. Don’t forget chargers for laptops and iPads. A flash drive that has your pictures or other records as a backup is a good idea if you’re unable to take computers.

We were fortunate to stay with friends while we were evacuated, so we didn't stay in a shelter like hundreds of others. If a shelter is your only option and you have a few more minutes to prepare the list below will help ease the stress:

Supplies
  • Bottled water for several days
  • Individually packaged snacks
  • Deck of cards
  • Handheld video games/batteries
  • Flashlight
  • First Aid kit
If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, floods, wildfires, or other natural disasters it’s well worth the time to take stock of what you need to organize to throw together a Go Bag. Advance preparation is crucial to a safe evacuation. Don’t stick your head in the sand and decide evacuation can’t ever happen. No one is exempt. Being ready and organized will help your family in a high stress and dangerous situation.


The above lists aren’t exhaustive, but they give you the basics of preparation. Other sources are the FEMA (fema.gov) and American Red Cross (redcross.org) websites. Check with your local sheriff’s department or emergency services department for more information unique to your location. 

4/12/2014

Everyday Writing - Social Media

A lot of time can be spent or lost, depending on your perspective on social media. It's interesting to note that most people spend less than 30 seconds on the homepage of any website, but they spend an average of 20 minutes at a time on Face Book. Okay--I'm guilty of spending too much time on FB, but with family and friends spread literally around the world, it's a great tool for staying in touch. However, the abundance of social media has numbed many of us to what's really appropriate to share. The safety of virtual reality allows us to be rude, way too opinionated, downright foolish in what we write on our walls and the comments we leave on friends' posts. I've witnessed some ugly verbal brawls on Face Book which are disappointing and hurtful. Here are some tips to consider before pressing the "post" button on Face Book.

1. Learn about the security features of Face Book and make sure you check them from time to time. Face Book loves to change the options on a regular basis. If you only want friends to see what you're doing on FB, make sure you've selected the correct privacy setting. There are other options as well, so take the time to learn to ensure you understand how to protect your privacy.

2. Exercise self-control.  Over-sharing is a huge temptation. Whether it's a constant update of what you're doing every moment of the day or countless photos of every activity, try to hold back. Your friends will thank you.

3. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that growing up. But, it's true. Of what value are ugly, rude comments on a "friend's" wall? Just because you don't agree with someone doesn't give you the right to tear them from limb to limb verbally. If you feel strongly about something that's in direct conflict with their comment, for heaven's sake use the private message feature if you must comment at all.

4. Be positive and funny.  Who doesn't love encouraging words and a little humor? People who share life's embarrassing moments, happy events, or a good word for the day are at the top of my list. I really don't have time for people who constantly gripe about life----oh the great injustice of it all. Good grief! Get a grip! Negative comments suck the joy out of life, so find something good to share.

5. Stay away from politics. One of the biggest downers on social media is the constant barrage of political comments. First of all, politics has never solved anything or made the world better. Period. Talking politics online or in your living room usually leads to heated discussions and hurt feelings. It's an important topic and politics certainly affects our lives, but let's be congenial and respectful. If you can't, start a blog and share all you want. Who knows? You might get a huge following.

6. Control your wall. Sometimes we make a comment that spirals into an out-of-control discussion. Don't be a pushover and let it continue. You have the power to delete the post, private message the offender and tell him or her to cease and desist. Words are powerful and can do a great deal of harm before you know it. Why would you want to promote that?

7. Be safe. Don't announce your travel plans. Women, don't announce that your husband will be out of town. Don't post your street address, social security number, or other identifying information. Face Book is not a secure environment. There are plenty of bad guys trolling for that kind of information.

8.  Options. We all probably have a few people we wish weren't our friends on Face Book. So what's the right thing to do? You do have the option to "unfriend." If you want to be more discreet, you can simply unsubscribe from their postings. To stop seeing a person's posts in your newsfeed, click on the  "v" at the right of one of their posts and simply choose to "unfollow." Within minutes, you won't see any more posts from that person. You can also report abusive or offensive posts as well.

Used correctly, Face Book can be an excellent way to stay in touch. The ability to show support for friends going through a tough time, to celebrate weddings, the birth of grandchild, or the host of other good things in life is wonderful. The bottom line is to use your verbal powers for good and not for evil. Happy posting!