Lemonade 2.0

Wow.

Last week was a doozie for many of us in Western Howard County, Maryland. And that may be an understatement.

At my house we started last Sunday with a visit from a rabid raccoon on our driveway. Tuesday, the tornado hit. (See my last post.) And now this Sunday, a black bear wandered through our yard!

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(Yes. You read that right. A black bear. IN. MY. YARD….. in Maryland.) This is not a typical sighting for our area….and thus VERY exciting for this nature girl! ūüôā

I just can’t make this stuff up.

Well, after all the drama and devastation,  this week we’re finding plenty of silver linings…. or rather… They seem to be finding us. ūüôā

Some of you who have been following along on the blog may recall a post entitled “Lemonade” that I published during “snowzilla” when I was stuck in Florida in January.  Well, this past week I was given my second BIG opportunity during Mom’s Big Year to exercise my lemonade approach to a not-going-as-planned situation.

 

My post-tornado heavy heart is much lighter and happier this week as I see our wonderful community (and beyond) coming together like never before. At any given time, neighbors, some who haven’t seen each other in months or years, can be seen outside trading their raccoon/tornado/bear stories, shaking their heads in sympathy, hugging, and even sharing laugh or two.

I can’t help but smile.

As for our home, we’re getting things back in place.  But it would have taken us years to do it ourselves. I have to give a shout out to Ben Wolff and his entire crew at Wolff Tree and Landscape (http://wolfftreeandlandscape.com/)  for their professional approach and for the highly-technical work they did to make our home safe for our family again. They went above and beyond and were somehow able to return our entire yard to a new post-storm beauty. As part of the cleanup, they removed 4,  150-foot tall trees that were hanging high and leaning OVER the top of our house. Eeeeek!  Amazing!  Ben even so kindly granted my request to cut some beautiful pieces for me from the fallen trees, so I could set up some unique ‘tree cookie’ tables in our yard. I’ve always wanted to do that, so needless to say, I’m a very happy camper. Thank you, Ben! 

 

Now, after 3 hours of sleep (you just knew that would happen in Mom’s Big Year, didn’t you? ūüėČ ) , I headed out on an early flight this morning to Boston en route to Bar Harbor to do some ‘guerrilla’ birding with dear friends, Erin and Chris, Thurs-Sat. Wish us luck!

Puffins are on the agenda and I’m just a TAD excited.

And you already know how I feel about combining dear friends and birds.. So this is gonna be GREAT!

When I return home, why don’t you join me in my backyard at my new ‘tree table’ for a nice, tall, cold glass of lemonade…  ūüôā 

Cheers!

 

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Photo credit: http://www.al.com

 

 

 

At that moment, I knew…

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It’s very sobering for me to write this post,¬†as we are all still pretty shaken up about the whole thing. What happened this week¬†was certainly not on the agenda for Mom’s Big Year nor¬†on my ‘to-do’ list¬†for this week, that’s for sure.

I’m a mom. ¬†And many of you know, a very thankful one, often counting my blessings. Now, I’m more thankful than ever. ¬†This week, I was given the gift of clarity, through an experience that reminded me of the fragility of life and of what really¬†matters.

IMG_8137It happened in Howard County, Maryland Tuesday afternoon around 1:40pm and the National Weather Service later confirmed that the 500 yard path traveled right through my yard. See map below.

I was alerted to pick up my son from the nearby cub scout day camp early due to the impeding severe storms.. but we had NO idea what was in store for us.

I saw a deep dark¬†curtain of charcoal blue hanging in the sky over the camp as I approached and my ‘mother bear’ instinct kicked in. At that moment, I¬†KNEW I had¬†to get to my 10 year old son. Like now.

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My view as I approached camp at 1:35pm. I had no idea at that time, the tornado had already touched down and was heading in this direction.

When I arrived in the parking area and raced out of my car,¬†my feet slipped in the wet grass as I rushed from the vehicle. Once I got up some speed and bolted toward the camp building,¬†¬†I was stopped dead in my tracks by the shouts of a camp official instructing me to¬†‘shelter in place’ in my car IMMEDIATELY. Our cars were¬†parked about a 5 minute walk away from the campers. But at that moment, I knew .. no matter what..I needed¬†to get to my son. If we were going to ‘shelter in place’ to brace for a tornado, he and I¬†were going to do it together.

Now those of you who know me, know I’m a rule-follower. ¬†But at this¬†moment, rules meant nothing to me.¬†Against the direction of the staff,¬†I drove right up to¬†that building and ran through¬†the barricade of administration monitoring¬†the doorway. The¬†power was out, and I¬†searched for my son in the sea of 900 children sitting orderly yet scared in the warehouse-type building. ¬†Using my ‘mother bear’ superpowers, I navigated that huge, dark building, spotted my son, and within seconds was holding him¬†in my arms,¬†squeezing him¬†so tight he squealed. ¬†Scared, yet so very relieved to be in my¬†arms, he sobbed. ¬†I would have cried too, but I was pumped full of¬†adrenaline. As the storm blew harder, I knew I had to make some quick decisions about what to¬†do next.

Winds from the nearby tornado roared overhead and made the building shake. In my mind,¬†I was plotting our escape from the lockdown, to get us far away from the ‘I’m certain it’s not tornado-proof’ aluminum structure. But there was no need to execute my getaway plan.¬†Within¬†5 minutes, the skies began to brighten and we were released from lockdown. We sped out of there, anxious to get home to my daughter who had confined¬†herself to the basement bathroom after getting the tornado warnings on her phone. She was alone and did everything exactly right. That’s my girl! We are so very proud of her! ūüôā

tornado mapThe usual 7-minute drive home to my daughter took 2 hours due to flooding and trees and wires down. The roads were not even closed by police yet.. It all had just happened and looked like a war zone.

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scene en route trying to get home post storm
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trees sheared off near our home
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flooding just minutes from home prevented access to our community
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flooding close up
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Neighbors working together to open the only accessible road into our community
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150-200 foot trees toppled at a nearby manor house
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My view as I entered our street
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wires down the next day all over nearby roads
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trees hanging on wires over nearby roads, unreal!

The damage to our property is surreal.. The destruction is very localized and it’s truly amazing no one was injured or killed. Fortunately, our house is intact with some water damage in the basement. We have approximately 20, 150 foot trees that were sheared off or knocked down by the 80 mph winds.

These two photos below were taken in our backyard almost exactly 24 hours apart Monday-Tuesday of this week.

Here’s a photo tour of the damage in our yard.

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in the backyard
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view of our house from next door
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pulled up to house to find this
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about 20 of these on our lot
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lots of great memories here!
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backyard
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game over for this ball

Seeing the extent of the damage, we are counting our blessings. Every. Single. One.

I¬†am so impressed and deeply indebted to the cub scout camp administrative staff for handing the whole situation so professionally; to my son’s exceptional¬†den leaders this week, James & Alice Johnson, who treated the boys as their own, especially in such a scary situation: to the countless neighbors, friends and strangers, who have offered their assistance, support, calls and messages of encouragement and prayers; to those strangers-turned-friends who have hugged me on the side of the road; to my kids and hubby for being so brave and strong through this whole ordeal; as well as¬†to our community leaders and local emergency management officials for navigating our county through this extreme weather event and its aftermath. ¬†Everyone has worked together throughout¬†this entire situation to keep each other safe and lift each other’s spirits. ¬†My heart is full.

After dropping my little guy off at scout camp this morning, I’ll admit, I finally had a good cry. The adrenaline rush is¬†over, and the reality of the massive scale of the clean up is starting to hit hard.

However, I just recalled the morning after it all happened. The beams of the sunrise radiated through my window, prying my eyelids open. I kicked off the covers and jumped out of bed. As I peeked up out the window at the beautiful light filtering through the forest in front of me, my heart sank as I looked down out at the devastation surrounding me. I gasped as I recalled the life changing events that I had somehow temporarily forgotten from the day before.

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I cracked open the window to catch a sense of the¬†morning air and to soak in this new and strange world around me. ¬†As I did, the “teacher-teacher-teacher” song of the Ovenbird rang out loud and clear nearby in the debris. The ‘”peet-zah!” call of the Acadian Flycatcher followed. And then I heard the melodic & beautiful “ee-o-lay” song of the Wood Thrush.

It was the same exact repertoire as the morning before this had all happened.

And at that moment, I knew…

everything was going to be alright.

 

 

 

 

Wide open spaces…

Sorry everyone.. looks like my last post may not have gone through with the link.. Let’s try that again! ūüôā

This song by the Dixie Chicks keeps coming to mind as I think about the great time Uncle David and I had as we headed deep into West Texas.  Next stop is Big Bend!

But now¬†it’s time for this momma¬†to get her kiddos¬†ready for scout camps and a youth group trip starting this week! ¬†Packing packing packing is the word of the day.

More posts on my final days in Texas coming soon!

But don’t worry, Texas..

I’ll be back! ūüėČ

Wide Open Spaces

Who doesn’t know what I’m talking about
Who’s never left home, who’s never struck out
To find a dream and a life of their own
A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone

Many precede and many will follow
A young girl’s dreams no longer hollow
It takes the shape of a place out west
But what it holds for her, she hasn’t yet guessed

She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes

She traveled this road as a child
Wide eyed and grinning, she never tired
But now she won’t be coming back with the rest
If these are life’s lessons, she’ll take this test

She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes

She knows the high stakes

As her folks drive away, her dad yells, “Check the oil!”
Mom stares out the window and says, “I’m leaving my girl”
She said, “It didn’t seem like that long ago”
When she stood there and let her own folks know

She needed wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes

She knows the high stakes
She knows the highest stakes
She knows the highest stakes
She knows the highest stakes

Alpine & the Davis Mountains ~ Texas Day 5

Day 5 provided a fantastic opportunity to¬†soak in breathtaking views high up in the¬†Davis Mountains of West Texas and add some more birds to the list. As always, the pictures don’t do this place justice. You’ve just gotta GO!

We connected with our new friend, Bill Sain, in Alpine the night before, ran over to ‘The Post’ in Marathon for Elf Owl and then headed to the Davis Mountains first thing on Thursday. (A shout out to Martin Hagne for putting us in touch with him!) Special thanks to Bill as he¬†SO very kindly¬†set aside Wednesday night and all day Thursday for us. ¬†We share LOTS of mutual friends in the birding world, but hadn’t had the opportunity to¬†bird together until now. ¬† Bill’s such a sweet and fascinating¬†person. I’m certain it’s not our last birding adventure together! ūüôā

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Bill and David, birding in the Davis Mountains
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Always FUN to run into fellow guides!  Simon and Emilie (left) with their tour from NC.
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My son might be disappointed fishing in this river ūüėõ , Madera Canyon
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Madera Canyon Trail
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Wild Turkey
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McDonald Observatory
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Impromptu tour of the inside of the Hobby-Eberly telescope from one of its mirror specialists
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The Hobby-Eberly Telescope

We missed a couple targets, but just enjoying our time high up in the picturesque Davis Mountains MORE than made up for that!

We even got an impromptu tour of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope from a telescope mirror specialist at the McDonald Observatory.¬†(You KNOW that tour was a real treat for all of us, especially this science teacher!) The telescope is¬†currently being updated to perform world-wide collaborative research on……….

****cue background Twilight Zone music now***

Dark Energy.

Yes, if you’re in the hard sciences.. It’s a thing.¬†VERY cool!

Here are the new year birds we had in the Davis Mountains. # 350 is within reach! :

325 Say’s Phoebe – Sayornis saya
326 Cactus Wren – Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus
327 Curve-billed Thrasher – Toxostoma curvirostre
328 Cassin’s Kingbird – Tyrannus vociferans
329 Acorn Woodpecker – Melanerpes formicivorus
330 Hepatic Tanager – Piranga flava
331 Black-headed Grosbeak – Pheucticus melanocephalus
332 Western Wood-Pewee – Contopus sordidulus
333 Plumbeous Vireo – Vireo plumbeus
334 Western Bluebird – Sialia mexicana
335 Phainopepla – Phainopepla nitens

 

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The Saddle Club in Alpine, TX

We ended the day with a lovely dinner of tapas at The Saddle Club in Alpine¬†with Bill’s wife, Marian and mother, Gwen. You can probably tell from the picture above, this Yankee just KNEW¬†she was¬†NOT¬†in Maryland anymore! ūüôā ¬†Fun!

As I reflect on our day with Bill, this quote keeps coming to mind.

Yes’m, old friends is always best, ‘less you can catch a new one that’s fit to make an old one out of. ¬†~Sarah Orne JewettIMG_7093

Marian, Bill, Gwen and Nancy

 

Break in the birding

I’ll get back to the report on the Texas trip soon! But this weekend was reserved for some overdue family fun¬†time. ¬†While Mom’s Big Year includes a ton of birding (of course), it also includes a ton of “mommying”. ¬†And this weekend it was all about the mommy¬†stuff.¬† Continue reading

Texas Day 3 ~ Love Creek Preserve

Those of you who know me, know that BIRDS and FRIENDS¬†are my two favorite things. ūüôā So, if you put good birds and good company¬†together in¬†a great¬†PLACE, then, in my book…. it’s *magic*! Continue reading