The Broom ~ did she fly in on it?

The Broom

The broom as a ninja weapon

Every morning like clock-work, I feed my little colony of eight stray cats. A vet tech used to live in one of the condo units near mine and many of them were “trap and release neutered” (T&R). The females have an ear clipped, so that if they’re caught again the rescuers and the vet will know they’ve already been spayed. Our condo is also home to wild Muscovy ducks who are very “food aggressive.” So, I bring “the broom” out with me to ward off the ducks. Trust me, the ducks do not like the broom. When I point it or wave it at them slightly, they waddle away as fast as they can. Hilarious.

My neighbors must think I’m a crazy woman. “Did she fly in on it?”

This morning it was 40 degrees out with the wind coming in off the St. John’s River at about 25 miles per hour. That’s cold in Florida. We think water freezes at 40. It does, doesn’t it? The cats were freaked by the wind, and in a feeding frenzy due to the cold. They know they have to eat up an get some fat on them. I feed them breakfast and a woman in a unit two down from mine feeds them dinner. When they sit, they have that plump shape well-fed house cats have…and that makes my heart happy.

 

hawk

We also have two hawks in the area. I live in a city, not a small one either. Yet, my condo is nestled inside of a wooded area and it sits on a natural pond that is fed and emptied by a creek. There are many natural lakes, ponds, and creeks in Florida…not to mention swampland. Floridians who live in major cities know an alligator may not be far away, or a water moccasin. Florida is pristine beaches, shining resort hotels, surfers, and it’s also untameable. Something I love about the state.

Perhaps due to the cold, the two hawks who hunt the forest area near the pond were circling overhead, above my condo unit. Well, of course…there were eight fat cats eating breakfast right there. And it was cold, so why not snatch an easy meal. Except there’s that crazy woman standing there…and now she’s waving “the broom” in the air in a fighting stance.

Oh, what the neighbors must’ve thought. “Well, in Florida you get all types. You know she writes murder mysteries and writers are strange people anyway.”

 

Christmas Under Wraps (Mullet Harbor Book 1) by Fay Lamb ~ a review

Christmas Under Wraps

Romance, Humor, Christmas

This is such an engaging Christmas story. The cast of quirky, sometimes baffling townsfolk living in Mullet Harbor pull you right in.

English Professor Christian Abrams and his nephew Dylan are on the run and wind up in Mullet Harbor, a unique hamlet in the Florida everglades. Chris is broke, out of gas, and has a child to feed. This is when he meets sweet and compassionate local school teacher Kaylee McFarland who talks him into staying in Mullet Harbor at least until after Christmas. That’s when it starts to get interesting…and when Chris learns the townsfolk really do take care of each other and they rely on their faith.

We meet Herb, the mayor who wears flip-flops…and Abigail, the shy town baker who flits around like a hummingbird. Then throw in a Cajun sheriff not afraid to take a chance on a good man. Stir in a delightful little girl named Sophie who’s had more than her share of sorrow in her short life. Could the icing on the top be a Christmas miracle? Perhaps more than one.

This is a fun, delightful read…a romp through the swamp. There’s also an alligator named Abercrombie.

Purchase On Amazon

The Duck War ~ and I win, barely

 

Muscovy Duck 10.19
Unaltered photo taken with my phone. He got close to me!

This is the most aggressive duck I’ve ever encountered!

We have Muscovy wild ducks living in and around the natural pond behind my condo complex (in NE Florida) and the creek that feeds into the pond. Wild ducks are aggressive creatures. The red markings on this gentleman’s face (and I use the term ‘gentleman’ as sarcasm) are meant to intimidate. Yes, ducks can be cute, or beautiful, or striking in appearance…and wild ducks are also extremely aggressive.

Mostly they are aggressive with each other and it can be hilarious when they form a circle and chase each other around and around. They rarely actually harm each other, but they threaten each other continually. In this photo, this is how close this guy was willing to get to me, a human who towers over him. Why did he do that? What did he want

Cat food! Every morning, when it’s still a little dark and the ducks are still sleeping at the pond and not roaming for food…I feed 7-8 stray cats. If I feed when the sun is up, the ducks will also be up and looking to eat, and they will boldly chase the cats away from the food I put out. I stand there every morning so I can shoo ducks away in case any get there early. However, they are cagey. Two will come from one side and when I chase them, another two will come and get the food from the other side, and the cats will go hungry. The ducks don’t need the food. They get fat eating insects and choice pieces of grass, buds, and seeds. That’s why I feed when it’s a little dark.

This morning this gentleman must have not slept at the pond but rather on the grass just beyond my condo. After I’d put the food out, he aggressively came toward me and flapped his wings effectively chasing the cats away. The felines would try to come back and he’s frighten them again. So, I went inside the house for about 45 seconds to get my broom to chase the duck. When I got out my stoop was a mess with cat food scattered all over and the cats were running in all directions.

I was so mad I started chasing this duck with the broom like a wild woman. Honestly, a few times I nearly swatted hm in the tail feathers with the broom. A good thing my neighbors were not yet leaving their houses to go to work. They would’ve had a good laugh. I must’ve looked like a lunatic. LOL

 

Graffiti Junktion ~ a restaurant review

 

Graffiti Burger Bar

Graffiti Burger Bar, Sports Bar, burger joint

I had business in Jacksonville Beach today, so I drove from my home in Jacksonville to the beach (two different municipalities). After my business was concluded, I drove around a bit…all the way to Atlantic Beach on Third Street and then back to Jacksonville Beach. The day was gorgeous.

I was starving. I hadn’t eaten anything except a couple of pieces of toast with margarine and marmalade for breakfast. So, I pulled into the parking lot of Graffiti Junktion for a burger and fries. The fries were phenomenal. Can’t beat them.

I’d ordered a double cheeseburger which comes with cheddar and I love cheddar. I wanted it grilled medium, and it came exactly medium. I also ordered grilled onion on the burger. It was delish. Needless to say, when I was finished, I was stuffed to the max.

It’s a sports bar and they have a full bar. I sat in the dining room, but some other patrons ate at the bar. There are screens with different games on all over the place but no sound. They’ve got really great classic country-rock and rock playing softly that brought me back to a different time.

I ordered Diet Coke with lemon. My waitress brought me a fresh one when mine was about two-thirds finished. Later she asked me if I wanted one to go. This is the south and that’s hospitality.

Address: 265 5th Ave. N., Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
Phone: (904) 372-9985
Hours: EVERYDAY: 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.

All Things Hurricane Week ~ tips, stories

As storms line up in the Atlantic and stream across the Pacific ~~ this is hurricane week on this blog.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you. ~ Isiaha 43:2, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

Hurricane 2Hurricane Survival Tips ~ the basics

At Least Two Weeks Before The First Anticipated Hurricane:

  • Create an emergency kit for your home for the duration
    • One gallon of drinkable water per person for seven days
    • Pet food and water for seven days, one leash per dog, pet carriers, litter for two weeks
    • Enough non-perishable food for seven days (manual can opener)
      • paper plates, paper towels, plastic cups, antibacterial wipes
    • Battery operated radio, extra batteries
    • Battery operated lanterns, battery operated candles (not match lit)
    • Freezer packs (and freeze them while you have power)
    • Prescriptions medications
    • Sanitation items (moist wipes, plastic bags for garbage)
    • Personal hygiene items
    • If you need to sandbag your doors or garage, purchase early. They will sell out. Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ace Hardware will sell them.
    • In case you have to go even though you thought you wouldn’t
      • In a sturdy backpack(s). Each family member over 13 should carry a sturdy backpack, preferably water resistant.

        • Important documents (identification, insurance policies, bank account records either stored electronically or in a waterproof container), phone chargers, small battery operated radio
        • first aid kit…with all prescription medications, as well as non-prescription, toothbrush, tooth paste, sanitary needs, antibacterial wipes
        • extra underwear and socks in a plastic bag
        • Telephone book with important numbers, personal calendar
        • Pet license and vaccination records
        • A few hundred dollars in cash or traveler’s checks
    • A cooler(s) to load into the car with food, freezer packs packed with above mentioned food for three days. Don’t forget manual can opener

 

Hurricane 5

Days before the hurricane:

  • Trim all trees near the house
  • Park your car in a secure garage or away from trees
  • Know your evacuation route, and if authorities ask you to leave, do so immediately.
  • If evacuating, load all of the above into your vehicle in the order of importance. Make sure you have the emergency-supply backpack(s) you’ve packed for each person who will carry on.
  • Whether leaving or not, turn your refrigerator and freezer to coldest settings, have freezer packs that you leave in the freezer if the power goes off. If evacuating, have additional freezer packs in a cooler with the food you are taking.
  • Bring in all light weight, loose objects from your yard indoors (patio furniture, garbage cans, etc.)

Hurricane 3

What to bring to a shelter:hat to bring to a shelter:

  • A blanket or sleeping bag for each person, pillows
  • Food and water for three days, eating utensils
  • Additional safety and hygiene items
  • Your emergency-supply backpack(s) with prescription and non-prescription meds, important papers, etc.
  • Flashlights and batteries, games, toys, crossword puzzles, books, magazines

Hurricane 6

Pet friendly shelters:

  • Know where they are located. Do not assume all shelters take pets.
  • Bring your vaccination records
  • All dogs must be collared and leashed and you must have enough poop pickup bags for three days, seriously!
  • All cats must be in a carrier and have a litter box and litter, also sturdy plastic bags for three days to scoop out litter and dispose of it, seriously!
  • Bring food, water, bowls, any meds the animals take
  • Note: The stench of pet waste is nausiating and is a health hazard. Bring what you need to take care of it.

 

CD hurricane(1)

On a lighter note…If you’re in search of a good novel to read during or after your hurricane experience.

It’s hurricane season! Check out COURTING DANGER. A murderer is terrorizing a beach town and so does a fierce hurricane. The case has national security implications giving former US Army Ranger, Dr. Dimitri Garmonin a chance to work with the FBI. It could help him gain funds needed to expand his small Behavior Analysis Unit. He’s unmoved by the chic FBI agent but is intrigued by spunky, newly installed Det. Katerina “Kat” Andruko with whom he shares a Slavic heritage. #99cents all summer.

Magnolia StormsConsider MAGNOLIA STORMS. Maggie Marovich couldn’t save her father or her home from Hurricane Katrina and she’s moved inland, away from the sea. Both her single-parent sister and Josh Bergeron, the ship pilot Maggie once loved,  refuse to leave the Coast. Now a hurricane’s heading directly toward them. Being forced to lean on Josh for help washes up the wreckage in Maggie’s faith. Between the hurricane looming in the Gulf and another gale raging in her heart, can Maggie overcome her past and find the trust to truly live?

Facts About Hurricanes:

  • The word “hurricane” comes from the Taino Native American word, hurucane, meaning evil spirit of the wind.
  • A giant tropical storm is classified as a ‘hurricane once winds go up to 74 miles per hour. That would be Category One hurricane. The highest category considered by the US National Hurricane Center is a Cat 5 with sustained wind speeds greater than 157 miles per hour.
  • Hurricanes form over warm ocean waters near the equator. The warm, moist air above the ocean surface rises, causing air from surrounding areas to be “sucked” in and these winds begin to swirl.
  • The Galveston Category 4 storm of 1900 is perhaps the worst ever seen in the US. The storm landed at 140 mph and brought a 16 foot storm surge. An estimated six to eight thousand people perished. The city’s trolley tracks ripped from their moorings and smashed through buildings like battering rams. Perhaps the most heart-breaking story is that despite the desperate and heroic efforts of ten nuns, all of the nuns and 90 of the 93 children in St. Mary’s Orphanage perished.
National_Hurricane_Center_HSU_desk
National Hurricane Center (NOAA) Desk

 

Where to Go For Hurricane Information:

National Hurricane Center (NOAA)

 

 

 

For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand,
Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you. ~  Isaiah 41:13New American Standard Bible [NASB]

 

My Summer Writing Getaway ~ with a friend

This is the second summer local Florida Christian romantic-suspense writer Dalyn Woods and I have embarked on a writer’s retreat for two. We usually don’t go far. The idea is not to spend hours in the car driving to a resort, but to get someplace relatively quickly and so we can write. We also have to find pet-friendly lodging because I travel with Sophie the Wonder Dog who is twelve and 90 percent blind with cataracts. She is dependent upon me and has to go with me. Thankfully, she’s a really good sidekick on the road.

IMG_2978
Dalyn Woods working on her manuscript

This year Dalyn and I spent the week in Titusville where we went to church with Florida Christian fiction writer Fay Lamb, and then went out for brunch at Dixie Crossroads with her husband Marc and her neighbor Annie. Dixie Crossroads is most often rated as the number one restaurant Titusville and it’s got fantastic seafood. Fay also directed us to the Sunrise Bread Company in downtown Titusville. This is a local bakery and coffee shop with free WiFi and comfortable sofas and chairs that are ideal for several hours of writing. We met Fay there one afternoon and spent another afternoon there with our laptops.

Our first night in town it rained, so we decided to eat close to our lodging at a place called The Irish Pub and Eatery. It’s a tiny place that was filled nearly to the max with locals who obviously knew the staff and the menu. Only two seats were left, but all we needed was two. We had the shepherd’s pie which was delish and perfect for a rainy day. They have a deck which would double the seating in good weather. Our last day there, we ate at Mainstreet Philly Cheesesteak which is owned by Annie’s son-n-law. Annie is the neighbor of Fay and Marc Lamb’s who we had brunch with on Sunday after church. Dalyn and I do recommend the sandwiches. Titusville might not be thought of as a destination, but you might rethink that. It has reasonably priced hotels and motels, a good selection of restaurants, is on the Indian River (which lets out on the Atlantic) and has beaches. Two museums to visit are the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum and the American Police Hall of Fame Museum. On it’s western border is St. John’s National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a short drive to Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach.

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Dalyn and I also took a side trip to CoCoa Beach and had lunch on the pier in Pelican’s, a restaurant that my husband Joseph and I had lunch in several years ago. The restaurant sits in the middle of a long pier, and this is the view of the end of the pier. There are several shops on the pier. I bought a coffee mug and a pair of starfish earrings in one of the shops.

I’m looking forward to next summer’s little writer’s retreat. Maybe we’ll go to the westcoast of Florida or to one of Georgia’s islands. The there’s this little place in Florida that has houseboats for the week. That catches my imagination.

A Micro-Duckling ~ fights through with a teensy bit of help

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My condo complex is built next to a natural pond with a creek running into and out of it. So, we have ducks. As you approach my building, there is a sign: Slow: Duck Crossing.

So, one of the female ducks had a brood of six, and one of them was teeny, itsy-bitsy. The mom seemed to pick on it. This seems to be so brutal, but these are wild creatures, not tame…and she is a small new mom and may have been very anxious. So, this little one would sorta hide beneath one of his siblings. He touched my heart with such an huge impact that I began seriously praying for his survival. I mean fervently throughout the day. I didn’t see the gaggle for over a week. When I saw next them, this little one had survived the 8 or 9 days or so, and had grown, but was still the micro-duckling of the group. The mom seemed not to be picking on him so much, but he was still attached to the side of his sibling. Wherever the other duckling went, he went. I began think of this little one as he, a generic kind of he. I’ll find out in another month or so what sex he is by his markings.

We also have a colony of stray cats. A vet tech lived in the condo complex before I moved in and she trapped them and had them neutered. Thus, we don’t have kittens…so far. A few of the residents feed the cats and the ducks cat food. Since I knew they were eating cat food, I’d approach the group of ducklings and toss cat food to them, making sure the itsy one got a good portion of the food, but not overly so. Didn’t want him to gorge and become ill. This goes along with my decision to live more intentionally. To do things with purpose and to stick to it. To be mindful.

Well, he’s grown some and I don’t feed them any more because it’s better that they forage for food in the reeds around the pond and in the grass instead of beg for human food or cat food. Actually, the cat food is better for them than the white bread some people feed them. Commercial white bread has no food value for humans or for ducks…but that’s another blog article.

I do chase the males away from this small mom and her brood ~ yeah, intentionally and with purpose on my part. At this time of year the males tussle and it seems to frighten this new mom. We have traffic at the condo complex and it’s best if things are calm when she’s leading her ducklings to and from the pond. Once, after a rainfall, I caught mom and her younguns splashing in a puddle in the middle of the parking lot. Looked like a lot of fun. Still, I took on the role of killjoy and chased them onto the grass and kept chasing them till they were well away from the asphalt. At any rate, I’m happy to report the little guy is growing and doing well.

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Meanwhile, at my client’s house on another Florida pond (where because I’m semi-retired but too energetic not to work, I do part-time in-home care) we have another duck scenario going on.

There is a grouping for four ducks at one end of the pond. It seems to be one male and three females. A lone female from the other side of the pond is trying to bring herself and and her fairly large duckling (he’s still got the grayish brown duckling feathers, but he’s about to get his adult feathers) into the group. The adult male in the group of four doesn’t want the large duckling. That’s why I’m thinking this duckling is a male. The mother keeps swimming up to the group and without fail, the large male duck viciously (but with no physical contact) chases the duckling away.

At one point, after one of these chases, the duckling wound up on one side of the pond and his mom was on the other. The duckling frantically rushed back and forth along the bank calling for her. She’s a small, new mom with only one duckling and is no match for the male. So, she made her way slowly around the pond while the duckling cried for her. When she got to him, she led him away to the far end. This went on in duckdom for three days. And each time the male rejected the duckling.

On the fourth day, the mom stopped trying to introduce herself and her duckling into the larger group of ducks. I was so proud of her, she chose her duckling. She set up camp for the two of them at the far end of the pond where they stayed all day. They foraged for food together and they nestled together. At one point she gave me a scare. She began pushing the duckling’s head under water and I thought she was trying to drown him. No, she was showing him how to take a bath in the pond. After pushing his head under a few times, she ducked hers under and when she came up, shook her head and flapped her wings. He immediately imitated her.

Life in the wild can be brutal and scary. I guess that’s why it’s called the wild. Many days when I enter my house, I just have to hug my cats and my little doggie and tell them I love them and that I will protect them. Like that small duck mom who chose her baby over the protection for herself of the group, I choose them. It’s stewardship, yes, and love for all creatures large and small.