Kindness, Courage, Love

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” -Mark Twain

In the aftermath of a storm like “Harvey” that my fellow Americans in Texas have recently experienced….the losses, the grief, the pain, one could easily ask, where is the beauty in this?  As with all natural disasters, there is beauty to be found in the kindness, courage, and the love of strangers reaching out to help those in need. That kind of beauty takes precedent over any nature photos I may share this week. I hope you are inspired by the images, reminded to pray for the families affected, and continue to spread kindness and love in your own little corner of the world.♥

 

Love helps the young…

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Man rescues mom with baby

Love helps the elderly, weak and frail….

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Neighbors helping elderly man to safety, photo credit Fox News
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Lady in wheelchair helped to safety

 

Love sees no color…
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Love sees neither male nor female….

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Man rescues lady from home, photo credit CBS News

Love rescues the helpless, human or beast….

And sadly, sometimes love gives the ultimate, one’s own life…

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Police Sgt. Steve Perez 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor. 13:13

∼ Jen

Nest Stirrings…

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Wren with food in beak for young

“A bird is safe in its nest – but that is not what its wings are made for.”
― Amit Ray

So, today’s post was going to be an update on the wren nest, a Little Flying Thieves sequel, but there are rufflings in my own nest, and that has dominated my thoughts for this day.

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Wren building first nest it ousted chickadees from

 

For the second time, my nest has experienced stirrings of things to come. Our youngest began his first day of his senior year…and as I watched him getting in his car, the reality of that and all it signals slowly began to sink in.

I finished my cup of coffee, then, too antsy to stay in the house, I was actually glad there were weeds to pull….I needed something to do with my hands and fresh air to linger in with my thoughts.

As with every milestone reached in our children’s lives, we ask ourselves the question, “Where did the time go?” In the words of a popular song when my oldest was graduating middle school, “it happens in a blink.”

I think of the little wren family-the young have flown their own way.  Mama and Papa wren gave them all they needed to survive and hopefully thrive, and then it is left in the hands of nature.  So too, of course, with our own children.  We give our all, we love them as best we humans are capable of, then we leave it in the hands of a very capable and loving Father, Who, after all, loves them way more than we ever could.

They are His Masterpiece .

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Wren’s final nesting choice, hanging fuchsia
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Ever watchful parent
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Newly hatched wrens

Psalm 139 reminds me that God knew my children before they were ever born, and He has a plan for their lives beyond what I am able to see….

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

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Photo taken day before wrens left nest

So today, as our journey as parents continues to bring us one step closer to a true “empty nest” I look back over our sons’ lives so far, and I am thankful….thankful that I have been blessed with two sons to call my own; thankful for a husband who supported me in my desire to be a stay-at-home parent; thankful for our homeschooling years and the days they were able to spend in nature doing their lessons; thankful for the teachers who continued those lessons and further impacted their lives; and thankful mostly for knowing they will not walk this road of life alone but will be guided by the One whose “eyes saw their unformed bodies and has all their days written in His book before one of them came to be.”

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Picking Rose of Sharon blooms for me when very young
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summer before senior year

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph. 2:10

∼ Jen

“Almost Heaven, West Virginia….

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Dolly Sods

Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River…

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Blackwater River trail

Life is old there, older than the trees,

Younger than the mountains, Blowin’ like the breeze.”

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Lindy Point

The above lyrics are from the song “Country Roads” by John Denver, and if ever a state deserved to have a song written about it for its beauty, West Virginia is certainly deserving of that honor.

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Blackwater Falls

My younger son and I were blessed to have a week to explore some of its beautiful trails, gorgeous in their own right, and leading to breathtaking views at the end. Pictures will never do it justice, but I will attempt to share bits of the beauty we enjoyed.

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Picturesque trail leading to Blackwater falls

Although Blackwater Falls (pictured above) is probably the biggest attraction, we preferred the idyllic views of:

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Not far into the hike, it felt as if we had stepped onto the set of a magical Disney film or a Lord of the Rings set.  From the moss-covered rocks and trees to the abundance of ferns, blooming rhododendrons, mushrooms, and the babbling brook leading to the waterfalls, it was truly like stepping into another world.

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Rhododendron blooms above the falls

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Large rock-island serves as a “planter” to trees, ferns, and rhododendron bushes
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Elakala Falls

Lindy Point was another place we explored. Hiking this trail was like taking a stroll through the jungle….rhododendrons hugged the path as we made our way to the top where we were met with this view:

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In the Monogahela National Forest we hiked part of the Dolly Sods Wilderness.  It boasts incredible views from the top and has terrain of bog and heath ecotypes more commonly found in southern Canada.

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The rocks are extremely fun to navigate, and the scenery is simply spectacular.  While resting on a large rock formation taking in the views, I looked to a nearby evergreen and was delighted with a sighting of one of my favorite birds, the Cedar waxwing.

It was the first time I had ever been on equal altitude with this beauty!

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The red markings on the wing tips look like melted wax, thus the name, Cedar waxwing

The drive up to Dolly Sods is quite long, but the beauty along the way makes the journey as enjoyable as the destination.  A variety of wildflowers, butterflies, and a scenic creek adorn the trek, making a non-stop drive all but impossible to a camera-wielding, nature enthusiast.

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Bristle Thistle Carduus nutans

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And, of course, what drive in the country would be complete without a good ol’ barn-sighting…or a house that looks like a barn, not sure, but charming, nonetheless.

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After a hike at dusk one evening, we saw this adorable woodland creature…

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Fawn with mother near Blackwater Falls

Growing up near the shore I will always be a fan of the ocean, but I am always grateful for a trip to the mountains where I can hike and relish a different kind of beauty…all a part of this glorious gift we have been given called nature.

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Elakala Falls

This post is dedicated to our dear friends Ed and Denise….thank you for introducing us to the beauty of this often overlooked state, but mostly for your gift of friendship!

 

For your listening pleasure, the song behind the post:

I hope you find your own country road to explore and take in the wonders around!

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∼ Jen

Kayaking at Dusk… Carpe Diem!

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The part of the creek I refer to as “Rivendell”… no elf sightings yet though:)

“Why not seize the pleasure at once? — How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!”
― Jane Austen, Emma

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Finding pathways through the lily pads…

It was 7:30 at night, the after-dinner mess was mostly cleaned up, and I was joining my younger son on the porch for conversation and relaxation.  After that, my big plans for the night were pajamas and maybe an HGTV recording.  Then, out of the blue he asks, “Want to go for a kayak ride?”

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My son with his river companion “creekdog”

That was the last thing I expected to come out of his mouth, and truthfully one of the last things I wanted to do.  It had been a busy day, and my pajamas were calling my name!  I could think of other reasons as well….like dusk was smorgasbord time for mosquitos and, well, I had just downed about 10 ounces of vegetable juice, enough said.

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It took me all of about three seconds, though, to dismiss those thoughts and head for the paddles!  Many of my fondest memories have been spur-of-the-moment ideas with those I love…so many memories I would have missed had I reacted “logically” or dismissed because of not wanting to leave my momentary comfort.

With that in mind, I rounded up Princess-who does love a good paddleboard ride-grabbed the camera, fortified the mosquito spray with extra cedarwood and lavender, and off we went!

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Pure Bliss.

As someone once said, “Spontaneity is the best kind of adventure,” and I, for one, wholeheartedly agree!

∼ Jen

Where the Wild Ponies Roam

Nobody could capture the Phantom. She was the wildest mare on Assateague Island. They said she was like the wind, that the white “map” on her shoulders was her mark of freedom.  

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

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Saturday was a wonderful day here on the Delmarva Peninsula to escape the 90+ degree heat and head to one of our glorious beaches.  The escape was real…I was actually cool with my beach chair pulled just close enough to the ocean for my feet to catch the refreshing waves.  The ponies evidently had the same idea and provided the show most tourists come to see and one I never get bored with.

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There are two theories about how the wild horses came to be on Assateague Island, which spans 48,000 acres of Virginia and Maryland’s eastern shore. One theory is that they arrived with the early colonial settlers and the other is that they swam to shore after escaping a Spanish galleon cargo shipwreck, of which they were the cargo. I think the latter is a much more exciting theory, and with the discovery of a sunken Spanish ship off the coast in 1997, it is the more credible one as well.

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Sweet family picture…a young foal nursing, stallion in background.

The ponies, officially named “Chincoteague Ponies” for the nearby island off of Assateague, VA, survive eating the wild grasses, bayberry twigs, rosehips and persimmons.  They drink fresh or brackish water found in the lower lying areas of the island. They became famous largely because of the book Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry.

 Though there are signs posted everywhere to stay at least 100 ft. away from the ponies, the ponies, and most people, don’t quite adhere to that warning.  They have been known to bite and kick, so I have a respectful fear of them as I do the ocean.  Apparently, they have also been fed “people” food over the years, also despite the signs, and have developed quite the taste for it. It is common to see them come up to the belongings of beachgoers and rummage through their bags in search of tasty treats…we have been among those beachgoers! They have become quite adept at stomping bags of chips to get to the forbidden contents inside.

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As the afternoon grew late, the ponies started heading down the beach…

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Fires began to be built….

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And by nightfall the campfires burned all around, illuminating the fun gatherings of families and friends, while the ponies slept nearby under the spectacular starry sky.

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∼ Jen

 

‹My apologies to the ponies, as cell phone pictures don’t do their beauty  justice.›

Confessions from the Garden

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Russian sage in front of Black-eyed Susan

It’s said that confession is good for the soul, so here goes…

I am guilty of a crime, and I committed this crime/sin with the full knowledge that what I was about to do could quite possibly kill, or at the very least, temporarily wound the innocent and unsuspecting.  I, however, could not help myself-much like a man armed with a chainsaw can’t stop until every last branch within eyesight is maimed “pruned,” I, too, was on a mission.

My crime? Transplanting a very happy plant in the dead of summer….in fact, in the middle of the worst heat wave so far this year.  What was I thinking….well, that’s just it, I wasn’t.  Much like a spoiled, rebellious, impatient child, I didn’t care about the rules-I simply defied all authority in the transplanting laws of nature. That plant simply was not where it needed to be and I wanted it elsewhere, heat wave or not. Waiting for fall was not an option.

The innocent? The one and only, beautiful beyond words, Russian Sage.

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Russian Sage

This gorgeous plant has been my favorite perennial since I planted my first flower garden way back when.  In my previous garden, I had abundant sunshine and it thrived and returned yearly like a faithful friend.  Because I am still trying to find the right spot for these to thrive at our new home, they lack the abundance of stems seen in the above picture. Mine boasts only several per plant as seen in the first picture.  For that reason, the victimized plant was moved to a much sunnier location where it will hopefully flourish and return next year to let me know all is forgiven and it is loving its new abode.

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My favorite garden picture…my then 3 year-old son, Daniel, chasing butterflies amidst the flowers- Russian Sage in the back.

In spite of the heat, or maybe even because of it, my little Russian Sage looks like it may make it after all:) In the first hour after it was transported away from its buddies, it looked very sad and wilted indeed. I watered it, of course, but then because of the intense heat, upper 90’s to be exact, I watered it two more times that day and three times a day since.

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Little sage is much perkier now with all the extra, tender-loving care, and its bounce back, despite my initial offense, reminds me of a particular verse…love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Happy Gardening!

∼ Jen

PS….I have a new temptation in the form of a wayward Autumn Sedum. I am desperately trying to resist, but the promise of rain in the coming days may lure me towards my shovel yet!  😉

 

Morning Memories…June

“No price is set on the lavish summer;
June may be had by the poorest comer.”
–  James Russell Lowell, The Vision of Sir Launfal

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Early morning drink

Dust from the fireworks has settled, Princess survived yet another year of booms and bangs, sure “they” were after her, and once again, like every year, I wonder how it’s possible that so much of summer has already gone by.

As I enjoyed looking back on my morning pictures from May once June arrived, I have done the same for my morning times in June. I love looking back at photos taken and relive some of the moments and memories of my early, quiet times on the porch and beyond.

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Comfy seating upon a lily pad
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June daylilies greet the morning sun

The turtles were out in full force this month. I like them a little more when they stay in the creek, if they happen to be snapping turtles that is. I have not seen our pond visitor again up close as I did in May, but I spotted it’s relative sunning on this log with a friend….DSC_0595

and another duo with the same idea further out…DSC_0765

I always love the way the early morning sun highlights the ferns and glistens on the waterfall…and the moss on the rocks, well, that’s just the icing on the cake.DSC_0964

The American bullfrog in our pond that we have dubbed “cave-frog” still occupies his cave and was seen peeking out beyond the water grass one morning between croaks.

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“cave-frog”

He is loud, but I had no idea just how loud till my neighbor across the street told me she could hear him! She is a nature enthusiast herself, so it was an appreciation not a complaint:)

As for flying creatures, our little hummingbirds have been enjoying their new feeders……..

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Ruby-throated hummingbird

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And “Harold” was observed on several breakfast hunts…

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Upon arising one morning I was greeted with our first hydrangea bloom of the summer, and by evening the same bush boasted several more blooms.

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Replenishing my morning cup of coffee on another morning, I heard scratching on our porch, screen door. I looked to see a real cutie, who upon seeing me quickly ran off.  I captured him resting his very visibly pounding heart before ascending the tree. The poor guy was beyond shaken.

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Eastern gray squirrel

I have no idea why he was intent on entering the house….I would say he was drawn by the aroma of coffee, but it was more likely that he was running from our cat, “Gladiator Gabby.”

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The large trees in our back yard are a wonderful habitat for birds, especially the woodpeckers, but it was the sunlight streaming through the hole in the above tree that caught my eye on this particular morning.

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Blooming Fuchsia, a hummingbird favorite

Leaving a hotel one morning after a weekend trip, my son pointed out some adorable ducklings enjoying a morning swim.  It was the mother with one of the ducklings near a blooming lily, that, of course, captured my attention the most…

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And lastly, I have  Princess to thank for the following picture taken at the end of June.  Her morning vigil by the front door resulted in a sight I am ever so glad to have seen…

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White-Tailed deer 

and kudos to the deer for allowing me to photograph her in front of such a lovely, blooming backdrop. She seemed to enjoy her morning stroll through the neighborhood, so I may see her again in the future.

Until next time!

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∼ Jen

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…Psalm 143:8

Beach Days

“I could never stay long enough on the shore; the tang of the untainted, fresh, and free sea air was like a cool, quieting thought. ”     Helen Keller

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The above quote could very well be mine…..there is never enough time spent on the beach. I usually leave the shore most reluctantly, the last to ever want to start packing up to go, as if, somehow, I’ll never be back again.  There simply is nothing quite like the feeling one gets on the beach or the myriad of memories to be made there!

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Brothers making beachy memories

Not having to keep an eye on little ones of my own anymore on beach outings, I find my eye is drawn to the antics of other children on the beach. The two boys in the foreground of the above picture were so much fun to watch. They were about the same age difference apart as my own two sons, and brought back so many wonderful memories of our own beach days, gone too quickly by.

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“wave-jumping”

The larger group of boys in the picture were having the absolute time of their life! The squeals from them jumping the waves together as they came rolling in one after another quickly caught my attention and provided amusement to anyone watching.

I love the freedom and joy kids have to just be kids on a beach….laughing, squealing, jumping, running, playing, splashing….the sand and waves make for the most wonderful playground of all!

Add a bucket or a giant hole in the sand and what kid could ask for anything more!

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Taking a walk down the beach we came upon this royal work of art. I can only imagine the fun had building this sand castle…I do hope they got pictures of their wonderful masterpiece!

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Drip castle building on Jekyll Island, Georgia

My favorite sandcastle picture of all-time, however, is this picture taken years ago of my own two boys creating their ever favorite “drip castles.” There is a beautiful story behind this picture, but I will simply say, it is a tangible reminder to me of the love and care the very Creator of the waves and sand Himself  has for me, and indeed, each of us.

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Brown Pelican

I don’t remember seeing Brown pelicans on the beaches around here growing up, only seagulls. Perhaps I was too busy building my own sand castles to notice back then, but either way, I enjoy watching them now as an adult.

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Bottom brown pelican with fish in its pouch

I can tell you pelicans don’t sneak in and steal your fries from under your nose when you least expect like the rascals below have been known to do! And as more than a few members of my family will attest to, they also have habits a little more annoying and messy than simply stealing your fries! Still, the beach would not be the same without the sounds of gulls in the background.

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“Laughing Gull”
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remnants of a beautiful day at the beach

By far, the best way to end any beach day is sitting around a bon-fire with family and friends…a true highlight of any summertime memory.

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I wish you and yours many wonderful summer moments, beachside or not:)

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∼ Jen

In Memory of our Bearded Buddy, Randall

If anyone ever told me I could get attached to a reptile with a snake-looking tail, I would have laughed at them….then along came Randall.

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Awaiting his masters return from AZ

 My older son had always wanted a lizard, and when he was younger, my answer was always “no way.” That’s because they looked so cold and sneaky, and well, snake-like.  I had absolutely no idea how fun and lovable certain kinds of lizards could be.

 After we moved into our new house, we were out enjoying our local pet store, just for fun, and to my utter disbelief my husband pointed out this Bearded Dragon lizard to my son and suggested we buy it for his room!!  I gave him one of “those” looks, but it didn’t matter…an hour later we were driving home with a new member of the family.

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Enjoying a crawl up the fireplace

His sleeping quarters were in my son’s room, but that didn’t stop him from exploring the house! I really didn’t mind, I could see he was gentle and my son obviously loved him…and more importantly, he wasn’t prone to having “accidents” outside of his cage, whew!

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Not intimidated in the least by “Miss Kitea”

He did cause a little mischief on one of his early explorations when he somehow managed to crawl behind the kick-board in the kitchen and get stuck under the cabinets. Of course, this happened when we were due to meet up shortly with friends…but we couldn’t very well leave a dragon under the cabinets while we were away. My husband finally had to pull out the crowbar, ripping a piece of the kick-board to extract Randall, but the important thing was, Randall was safe and we would not have to keep our friends waiting.

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In the beginning I managed to pet Randall on the head, he liked that, but I was not too keen on the idea of holding him.  I just couldn’t get past that his skin looked so snakelike, especially his belly, and his tail, well, that looked just like a snake minus the head.

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With his special buddy
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On a guided house tour
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Enjoying his bath

I was slightly horrified when my son asked if I would be Randall’s caregiver while he took a senior trip to Arizona for a week, oh dear.  The training began.  I had to get used to holding Randall, not just tossing lettuce and crickets into the cage and checking his lights.

Well, it was wintertime, and for the week his master was gone, Randall and I became Hallmark-watching, fireside companions!

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I would hold him in the evenings against my fuzzy red robe, and he would “snuggle” in till the movie ended.  I would then, reluctantly (can you believe) go put him back in his cage for the night.  Yes, Randall and I were now buddies:)

Of course, I couldn’t be in charge of Randall for a week without giving his cage a little make-over….a woman’s touch so to say:

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Cage before make-over
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Randall suspiciously eyeing “decorated” pillar

We enjoyed Randall for close to four years. During those years, he endured many tail-chasing episodes from our cat, but never allowed himself to trust our dog, Princess.  If she entered the room, he would at times turn partly black, indicating anger or stress, and kept a wary eye on her till she finally left his presence.

We will always miss our little buddy, especially my son, but we have many fond, loving memories of the lizard who crawled into all of our hearts to stay.♥

Randall and Miss Kitea enjoying a “fireside chat.”

♥Jen

 

http://www.thebeardeddragon.org/

Wedding by the Bay

Few things in life rival the beauty of a bride on her wedding day.

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That beauty combined with all the laughter, love and joy-set amid the landscape of the Chesapeake Bay, made for a very memorable “all things beautiful” kind of day.

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After several, unseasonably hot days on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Saturday was a mild 70 degrees-a perfect temperature for an outdoor wedding.

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The scenery was spectacular…sailboats, ducks, seabirds, sand, even the infamous…

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…Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  Dwarfed only by the bay itself, it rose in the distance, a rock-solid symbol of strength and support-a very fitting backdrop to the culmination of a relationship that had already stood the test of time.

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The very handsome groom is my nephew, Joe.  He was the first grandson, first nephew. Needless to say, I think we drove his very patient parents a little crazy in the beginning with our baby-loving frenzy!  He is named after my brother, Joseph III, so that would, of course, make him Joseph IV.  That information, however, was not relayed till after a few pranks had been played on my dad, allowing him to believe his first grandson’s name was actually… “Henry!”

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My family remembers well, I’m sure, the t-shirt my ever-comical brother, Steve, bought for him with the phrase “Don’t call me Henry” printed across the front! I don’t recall if the t-shirt was given before or after the real name was revealed….I only remember the huge relief that shone on my dad’s face after finding out his first grandson would indeed bear his name and not some guy named Henry!

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Thirty  years and many out-grown t-shirts later, my first nephew said “I Do” to his gorgeous high-school sweetheart. They are an absolutely perfect couple and we are so thrilled to welcome his beautiful bride, Valerie, into our family!

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Here’s wishing them a long, happy life together…and maybe, some day, a little  “Henry” of their own!

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Modeling the famous “Henry” t-shirt

 

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And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

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♥ Jen