Ibis in the Neighborhood

Flock of Ibis Outside the House

I know, more about birds. The thing though is that there are moments here when you just can’t help being fascinated with the bird and wildlife. We have two what I call ponds and real estate agents call lakes where you can see herons, egrets, etc., on a daily basis. Both are fairly close to the house, but not within direct view, although one of them is on my regular walking route. Anyway, that means that we also get those birds transiting often, with one occasionally landing in the back yard to check out the pool in case it’s a body of water of interest. Unlike the frogs that tend to fall in and can’t get back out, the birds quickly understand that the chlorine (even the mild level that we use) is not to their liking.

We have two different flocks of tropical birds that regularly come over or around the house; one of green parrots and then the ibis. The parrots streak by so quickly that I have never been able to get a shot of them and the ibis roam from yard to yard. Until the other day, their roaming and my ability to snap a shot didn’t coincide. Granted, I didn’t get as close to them as I would have liked, but then they might have taken flight and for sure I wouldn’t have gotten that shot. I love these guys as they meander around, poking their beaks into grass and shrubs. I have no idea how long we will have them in the neighborhood. Since they certainly seem to have plenty to eat and no danger of predators, maybe they will take up permanent residence. They have been here for several months, but I don’t know if that has any significance. So, if there is an ibis expert out there, what are the odds that we’ll get to keep them around?


Deadly Doubloons and Geography……

Someone asked me the other day why I didn’t get Deadly Doubloons out in mid-summer like I planned. The truth is that I was delayed in trying to work through a few details. Although we’ve been diving in lovely Grand Bahama, I needed to put part of the story in the Out Islands. I originally chose Long Island, then mentioned something about it to a dear friend who has spent many years in and around the Bahamas. As I discussed a particular plot point, he said, “Long Island doesn’t really make sense for that.” Oh dear, and okay, back to the map.

I had a similar problem with a tricky part in killing off one character as the same friend and my husband persuaded me that what I wanted to do was far too complicated. A simpler approach would be just as effective and more manageable. I have also learned, however, that when one is contemplating how to murder a character, one should be cautious about having the discussion in public. I was engaged in such a conversation at lunch one day and my companion indicated the table within hearing distance where four policemen were lunching. “You have gotten a couple of odd looks,” she said in a low voice. Yes well, I can see how certain words and phrases would have raised an eye brow or two.

I have also been asked where I get ideas and the answer is, “Everywhere.” I certainly watch more true crime shows than I did in the past and I pick up bits and pieces from different stories that people tell. The beauty of fiction is you can blend characters and modify actions, although I go to a great deal of trouble when addressing certain technical details in a plot. For example, way back when I did Orchids in the Snow, I had to change a scene because I discovered that an event at the core of the scene was historically inaccurate. Ah well, it wasn’t that difficult to change.

I do appreciate friends, and sometimes total strangers that I contact through Internet searches, who help keep me straight on details that I have questions about. On the other hand, there are times in my fiction when I definitely stretch the envelope for the sake of a story. I do usually include an Author’s Note when I do that though. At other times, whether or not I stretch the envelope is a matter of perspective. One of the most amusing along those lines was when I had a situation where I had a character engage in a one-night stand and some relationship complications emerged from that. I was told by one reader that, “Really, no one has one night stands anymore – it just wasn’t believable.” Well, maybe people in her world don’t do that….

Quilting as a Craft……

For reasons that I can’t completely explain right now, I have recently become somewhat involved with the craft of quilting. Although I am not a quilter, I have been around quilts all my life and it is a popular craft for Army wives. The reason is quite simple. Many Army posts were in remote locations and no one had any money to speak of. Gathering to quilt was practical and social in nature and the tradition has carried on. Anyway, my skills in sewing and needlework have always been rather anemic compared to my sister and I let it go by the wayside rather than pursue it. However, in the past two months as I have spoken with quilters, observed them, viewed a number of web sites, and learned more, I can literally feel myself being drawn into both the craft and the companionship.

There is a great deal to learn about quilting with some incredibly intricate levels that you can achieve. Fortunately, it appears that you can also begin at a novice level and still produce quilts or quilted articles with rudimentary skills. I don’t yet know how deeply I will go into what seems to be an enjoyable endeavor, but I will keep you posted. So, all you experienced and fledgling quilters out there – drop into Charlie’s Corner Cafe and tell us about your experiences.

The Freedom of Education…..

This is another of those posts that is not intended to be political in nature, but probably brushes up against that in some sense. Many years ago when I was working on my master’s degree, I took a course in the sociology of education as part of the Interdisciplinary program I was in (Organizational Development). Although I do not profess to be a teacher, I am a trainer at multiple levels and I have been involved in the training of literally hundreds of soldiers during my career. I have always had an interest in education and I recently joined a committee to work with local schools and businesses to see how we as a community can help high school and even middle school students prepare for the workplace.

There have also been recent developments in improving local schools that are showing measurable benefits. Those are all good things, but sadly, there are still families who either do not or will not take an interest in their child/children’s education as is seen in delinquiency and drop out rates. While I am a big proponent of trade education as well as college education, completion of high school is an important building block no matter which route is taken after that. When a student cannot understand this point for whatever that reason may be, he or she is already facing a life with restricted choices. While yes, a student might have a rebellious nature or be intensley authority-adverse, in most cases there is family influence at work. Overcoming this influence to try and help a student understand the importance of a high school education is one of the reasons that I urge mentor programs. It can make a diffference in whether a student stays in school or drops out.

There is rarely a one-size-fits-all solution and knowing what resources are available within your community to assist “at-risk” youth is important. So if you are looking for volunteer opportunities, this is something to consider.


Deadly Doubloons Is Ready……

Ah, I had hoped to have this one out for summer reading and I suppose technically it is still summer. At any rate, Deadly Doubloons is now available. For those who are familiar with some of my characters, Chris Green first appeared in Shades of Truth, then had a more prominent role in Shades of Gold. She is the main character in Deadly Doubloons and her first adventure is one that I trust will be both intriguing and fun. Someone asked me the other day where I get my ideas. I think that like most authors, they come from bits of conversations, something you see and say, “Hmmm, what if I did such-and-such…

In the case of Deadly Doubloons, a friend who is an avid underwater photographer wanted me to feature a shady banker who was also semi-obesssed with treasure hunting. That was a good foundation that I then built upon. The end result is something that I hope others will enjoy as well.

A Couple Enjoying Retirement…..

When my husband and I set ourselves up to walk away from “regular” jobs and pursue the “fun” jobs, we did so through careful planning and making some trade-offs, particularly with the house we purchased. That then led to a decision to perhaps not stay in South Florida permanently, although there are still one or two events that could occur to alter that plan. However, this post is not about us, but about some friends who are down visiting in their RV. This is a couple who is genuinely enjoying retirement, their life spent traveling for now with the full knowledge that they will have to tuck in one of these days or turn the driving over to someone else. They both had careers they liked, a daughter with whom they certainly seem to have a loving relationship, and a pragmatic view about their aging. As we talk with other Baby Boomers, we often hear a refrain of not knowing what to do “when I grow up”, or “I wouldn’t know what to do if I retired”.

If you, or someone you know, is wrestling with this, perhaps the first thing is to think about what you mean by “retire”. If the word for you equates to sitting around listlessly, then who does want to retire? For many of us, however, it means pursuing a fun career where money isn’t the key, volunteering more, or traveling. Yes, traveling takes money, but there are also bargains to be had. Finding the bargains takes time, but then again, if you’re “retired”, time is something that you have. (As an aside, I don’t mean to make light of economic downturns that have decimated retirement for some individuals, but that is most definitely a different subject.) What I have thus far seen from those who are in a position to launch out on a new, or perhaps regain an old direction, it is taking the time to ask what is it that you do enjoy? And it doesn’t have to be only one thing, although especially if you start volunteering, you can find yourself in big demand. There is indeed a whole world out there for “retirement” and the sitting on the front porch idly rocking doesn’t have to come until much, much later.

Flying Greyhounds……

No, not the dogs. In this case I am referring to Greyhounds as in the bus system. A friend posted on Facebook about the intense frustration of a trip where there were terrible delays in getting home and poor service from the airline. That brought to mind a trip where my outlook about airlines modified somewhat. I need to digress for a moment in the event that some readers are too young to remember the days before air travel was “available to the masses”. In reality, for a long time air travel was for the upper class – those period pieces when you see mostly men in business suits and women dressed in heels, cute hats, and pearls. Everyone else went by bus or perhaps train. There were two-three major transcontinental bus lines and regional ones all over the place. There were a few “express” lines, but mostly, you made many stops if you were going a long distance and you got on and off  at bus stops that were all pretty much the same  – bathrooms, a diner, a tiny shop, a waiting room. Increased airline availability drove some of the bus lines out of business and for a long time, the airlines not only offered quicker travel, but nice amenities that you couldn’t get on a bus.

Which brings me to the conversation I had with a gentleman one afternoon as we encountered flight delays, although we were on different flights. We were in the sports bar and as he prepared to go, he made the comment of, “Flying used to be special. Now it’s like taking a Greyhound with wings.” That was an aha! moment. Please do not take this remark as disparaging to Greyhound or any other bus line because that is not the intent. The point is that for many airlines, despite what they claim, they have policies, procedures, and practices that do not make travel special. It is a functional means to get from Spot A to Spot B. As someone who traveled by bus in my younger years, it was a perfect comparison. And as someone who has made the Florida to Maine trip by car, in moments of sheer aggravation, I remember that even with delays, it is a shorter trip than by car. Mind you, that doesn’t mean I tolerate rude bhavior, but that’s another post.

It’s Never About What You Pay…….

I was having drinks yesterday afternoon with a friend who is well-versed in the Miami restaurant scene. I mean well-versed as in having written for multiple news and periodical sources at one point. We got onto the subject of trendy and very expensive restaurants and the “Emperor With No Clothes” syndrome. I have indeed eaten in expensive restaurants that were fabulous and worth every penny that we paid. I have also walked out from having paid a large sum of money for a meal and been disappointed with the food selection, the preparation, the service, and occasionally the ambience. I don’t pretend to know how a restaurant actually gets labeled as “trendy” or “hot”, but I do know that the label can obviously be applied using standards other than what I use.

To begin with, I am paying money for a service – I am not a supplicant requesting to be allowed the privilege of dining with Chef So-and-So. I’m not sure how much the price is set to accommodate having Chef So-and So, but I do realize there will be one. That’s a reasonable assumption as is the fact that a restaurant in a high cost location will need to cover their expenses for owning or leasing in that particular spot. Lovely dinnerware, fresh flowers, real tableclothes – all of those things add to the cost. Since we are not “trend-chasers”, the very reason we go to expensive restaurants for special occasions is to have those surroundigs and we expect to pay more.

However, we also expect the full package – not merely the trappings with lackidasical or inept service, or food that is obviously prepeared from lesser ingredients. By “food”, I mean all the food, from the bread and salad to the side dishes if that is applicable. As I told my friend last night, I have no problem with expressing my true opinion of a place if we are disappointed no matter who has declared it to be otherwise. Again, it’s not about the price – it’s about value for what you pay. And that, of couse, can apply to many things in life.

Gift Giving Thoughts…..

You seriously reach an age when being given more “stuff” to include food, becomes a ritual rather than an expression of true affection. As much as I enjoy giving food and/or booze, as people age, they may very well have to either cut back on what they eat or drink and what was once a welcome delicacy might no longer be practical. Someone who is trying to downsize definitely doesn’t need extra “stuff”, and how many ties/pins can a person wear?

Now, special treats like restaurant gift cards might still be okay, but again, at some point you tend to cut back on that as well. Most people have chartiable causes they support whether it’s a church or a specific non-profit organization. A thoughtful card with a note or letter and notice of a charity you have given to (not one that you support and think they should) may be the best gift you can give as people age. A gift of time is another good idea such as a trip to a salon for someone who doesn’t get out as much as before. Time, however, can be a very precious commodity in our busy lives, so that might not be feasible.

With the holidays only a few months away, maybe this is the year that members of the family should broach the subject and see how people feel about it. Now, there should also be sensitivity in case some family members are experiencing financial difficulty and giving a sum of money would be a problem. That’s why suggesting cards or worthy causes is important. By doing this, you don’t put someone in a potentially embarrassing situation. In truth, the individuals who no longer wish to receive “stuff” are the ones who should initiate the discussion, and for all of you out there that this applies to, give it some thought.

Five, Five, Not Just One…..

I have posted before about the wonderful native and migtatory bird population that we have in the area. A couple of days ago, a friend and I went for lunch at the Bayfront Park which is adjacent to Biscayne National Park. When we went in, we’d passed a large flock of ibis as well as a sprinkling of egrets and herons.

When we came back out and passed that same stretch, my friend, who is still a newcomer to the area, made a comment about the “pink ibis”. I hit the brakes. “No,” I said, “ibis are white or brown.” With no one behind me, I went into reverse and there it was – a roseatte spoonbill. Wait, two, no, three, hey, four and one more you could hardly see. Since my friend is a wonderful photographer (www.shortstackphoto.com), she had her camera with her and jumped out as I practically babbled. Of course we were on the opposite side of the road now and she had to wait for the truck pulling the boat on a trailer to pass, then the cars queued up behind it. And naturally, the sound of that many vehicles caused the birds to move a bit further from the road. That was okay though.

I explained my excitement; that the spoonbills normally hung in the Everglades and in the time we had lived here I had only seen a total of two. It was also a little early in the year for them. I always enjoy ibis anyway, but having roseatte spoonbills mixed in with them was a real treat. Yeah, I know, but hey… if you like cool birds, it was a lovely little moment.