Glimpses of Autumn

Nobody around here really expects this Fall to be very colorful.

Too little rain. Too much heat.

But on my Saturday afternoon walk — minus the Sheltie, who doesn’t cotton to my carrying a camera and posing shots! — I found a few tiny glimmers that Mother Nature is preparing for Fall regardless.

A peek of color here. A hint of things to come there.

See if you agree:

Starting to show some yellows

Crimson beginning to show

Some fabulous reds

Golds and bronzes

Brilliant yellows

Dogwood leaves up close

Yellows and oranges

Squirrels scurrying around gathering food for Winter

Evergreens stripped of their needles by Summer’s drought (probably won’t recover, either)

Corn (such as it was) has been harvested; fields resting

Just a few of the arborvitae shrubs we lost this summer — maybe because of drought, maybe because of pests or disease

I couldn’t resist ending with these purple beauties!

Trying to Eat in Peace

I think it’s one of the mysteries of parenting that, as our kids grow up, we forget all the headaches associated with rearing young children.

One of those headaches slapped me full force Saturday.

I’d spent a pretty uncomfortable hour or so in Mass — thanks, in part, to whiny, fidgety, coughing children around me. With my nerves already frayed, I felt the need to relax over a nice dinner out.

Mom and I went to a local Mexican restaurant, were seated, and awaiting our order when I noticed escalating noises from the booth behind us.

I peered around and immediately located the source of the noise.

A young mom and dad, accompanied by grandma, were trying to entertain two little children, both obviously under the age of four or five.

And they weren’t succeeding.

The boy (the older one) was chattering loudly about anything and everything, in an effort (I suppose) to keep the adults’ attention focused on him, not his sister.

The girl (a toddler in a high chair) was squealing in protest, banging on the table, and trying to get more attention for herself.

I thought they’d ease up when their food arrived.

But I thought wrong.

The noise only escalated.

Perhaps the kids didn’t really want tacos and such. Perhaps they’d have preferred McDonald’s.

Maybe the parents hadn’t really wanted to take them out. Maybe they couldn’t find a sitter.

But it seems to me that the adults out-numbered the kids, and somebody should have done a better job disciplining. Maintaining order. And quiet.

Not drill sergeant order. But consideration of other diners.

I realize that’s a tall order nowadays, but it saddens me to think these children one day will be in school, where they will be expected to behave.

And if home is a free-for-all, what will school be like?

Attracting Hummers

Not so long ago, I was visiting at a friend’s house, and her backyard was abuzz.

Hummer after hummer flew toward her feeder, sucking greedily from the slots, then spinning off. They chased one another, hovered suspended in the air, chirped, and put on a fascinating show.

I was hooked. I had to have a feeder of my own.

So the next time I was in WalMart, I browsed through the garden and outdoors section, finally deciding on a hummingbird feeder.

With nectar to go inside.

The nectar was red when I bought it, though the hummers don’t seem to care one way or another!

I took my prize home, followed the directions for making the “food,” and hung the feeder right outside the kitchen window.

Where, I hoped, every time I washed my hands at the sink, I’d be able to watch the tiny creatures.

I waited. And prayed for the arrival of some hungry “guests.”

At last, I was rewarded! Hummers have found my feeder, and they’re coming often to eat.

I’ve since learned that these tiny birds (about 3.5 inches in length), flap their wings approximately 80 times per second (thus, the humming sound!). Unlike some other birds, they don’t mate for life; the mama birds handle all the nest-building and baby-raising. The nest is about the size of a ping-pong ball; the eggs, the size of a jelly bean.

Hummers migrate annually, spending winter in the warm southern climates. Prior to their trip, they must “fatten up,” nearly doubling their body weight. People can help by setting out feeders (1/4 c. sugar, 1 c. water, NO red food coloring!); if temperatures are predicted to dip in the evening, bring the feeder in so the birds don’t have to drink cold food.

For more hummingbird facts, check this out.

Teachers Union Strike in Chicago

You’d have to be Rip Van Winkle not to have heard of the strike — currently entering its second week — by some 26,000 Chicago Public Schools teachers.

The walkout was supposed to have been resolved over the weekend, and 350,000 kids were supposed to be back in class today. That didn’t happen.

So once again, parents are scrambling to find child care, juggling their own work schedules, bringing kids to work, working from home, etc. — all because these teachers who say they want what’s best for the kids really want what’s best for themselves.

Now, I don’t live in Chicago. I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’ve never been a teacher, nor a union member. I’ve never had teachers in my area go on strike, either when I was a kid or when My Favorite Domer was in public school.

So while I’d like to be fair to both sides, I’m finding my patience stretched to the snapping point.

On what planet does the CPS Teachers Union exist?

Statistics show Chicago teachers currently average $76,000 a year, for nine months of work. By contrast, the average Chicagoan makes $40,000 a year, for a full year. Yet teachers want a 16 percent pay raise over four years.

You’ve gotta be kidding. In this economy?? When the parents of the kids they teach are cutting way back and scrimping on everything but necessities?

I don’t deny teachers have a tough job, especially in Chicago. And I’d never be one to withhold wages from anyone who does his/her job.

But it’s one thing to get paid a fair wage and another to demand more, more, MORE!

Chicago doesn’t have a money tree in its back yard. And Illinois, frankly, is flat broke. So where do CPS Teachers Union members expect this kind of money to come from?

Of course there are other sticking points, too many to go into here. But there’s a bottom line, too — teachers say they want to go back to work.

Well, if that’s the case, they need to concede on some points. Stop acting like greedy brats. Be grateful they have good jobs. Accept that no job is perfect, no working conditions are ideal.

That’s what it means to negotiate. You give a little, you get a little.

Every school kid learns that in Kindergarten, assuming their teachers aren’t carrying a picket sign and they get to go to Kindergarten.

Where’s Waldo? Or Debbie?

Today I’m over at my friend Oma’s Blurt blog, doing a guest post.

Actually, I was supposed to be over there last week while he was keeping the streets safe during the DNC, but technology had other ideas.

I was crushed hurt disappointed when all the popular kids got to “play Oma for a day” and I didn’t.

Despite my having a popular name like Debbie.

But life goes on.

Eventually, Oma saw the error of his ways and relinquished his digs to me, providing I don’t leave pumpkins around.

Or slugs.

So won’t you please drop by and leave a comment? Not that I’m begging or anything, but we bloggers are a needy bunch.

We can chat a bit. Get to know one another.

Maybe share a pizza and a cold drink.

Shoot, let’s us have a party on Oma’s dime!

Wouldn’t want him to think I wasn’t as popular as my name indicates.

Take a look around while you’re at it and catch up on some of his past posts.

He has a way with words. You’ll probably learn something. And enjoy yourself.

I’ll see you back here next week.

Now get clicking, friends!

Quick Trip to Notre Dame and Back

On Saturday, I went up to Notre Dame (at Domer’s request) for the Band’s annual “Plaiding Ceremony.”

I didn’t stay for the game — didn’t have a ticket.

I didn’t spend the night — hadn’t booked a hotel.

But he wanted me there, and it would be my first chance to see him since he returned to the States from Ireland, so I went.

And I’m glad I did!

Before the ceremony, I wandered around campus, taking in the familiar sights and sounds.

People milling around, eating, tossing footballs, laughing:

I made my way into the student union and saw this cool T-shirt (it’s already personalized with Domer’s name, too!):

After I got back outside, I fell in love with this tree. Doesn’t it look like Cousin Itt from the Addams Family??:

When time neared for the Plaiding Ceremony, I caught up with Domer and we walked over to Bond Hall, the architecture building. That’s the site for the Band’s Concert on the Steps prior to every home football game, and it’s got a ginormous stairway — big enough to accommodate the entire Band.

Though they’re packed in like sardines! (If you follow the Photos tab on the Bond Hall link, you’ll see what I mean).

Anyway, the Plaiding Ceremony is one of the Band’s traditions. During Band Camp in August, students receive their uniforms, but the first-years don’t get a plaid.

Prior to the first home game, they’re called to the steps and welcomed. The upperclassmen, wearing the plaid of the freshman they’ve been assigned, climb the steps, find their freshman, remove the plaid, and affix it to the freshman’s uniform.

After pictures and hugs, everyone except the seniors vacates the steps, making way for the person the senior has selected to affix their plaid.

Which looks somewhat different from the underclassman’s plaid.

It’s got more “flash” and gold roping. It’s also theirs, purchased by them to keep forever.

You’re probably wondering what the plaid looks like. Well, excuse the sorry state of Domer’s dorm room door, but here it is:

It was specially designed for Notre Dame and is trademarked and copyrighted. It incorporates the school colors of blue and gold, green for the Irish, red for the Church and the Holy Cross Fathers, and black to tie it all together.

The plaid is outlined in gold and has the senior Band student’s name embroidered on the inside. It buttons to the epaulets on the left shoulder and drapes behind the student, providing an eye-catching shimmer when the Band spins and moves.

The ND Band is the oldest university band in continuous existence in the United States. Its traditions go way back, with even legendary football Coach Knute Rockne having been a flute player and former AD Moose Krause a clarinet player.

As I hugged Domer and headed for home, I took one more shot, over the lake toward the Golden Dome and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart:

Isaac Inspired Me to Create

The remnants of Hurricane Isaac blew through my area over Labor Day weekend, giving us some much-needed rain.

Not what the old-timers call a drought-buster, but we’ll take what we can get.

It’s the “side effects” we can do without — you know, the lightning and thunder, tornadoes and wind.

Have you ever been in Church and heard the tornado warning go off? I hadn’t either, until Saturday evening. What better place to be during wicked weather?

Anyway, with a holiday weekend and bad weather roaming around, I powered down the laptop and turned to some beading. Without further ado, I present some of my new creations (and the stories that go with them!):

1) These dangly earrings each feature three 6mm denim blue cat’s eye beads, interspersed with a 4mm hematite bead, antique round silver beads, and an antique silver tube bead in the middle. They remind me of summer — denim usually does — and what better way to celebrate the end of summertime than with beads?

2) This pair is made of seven 4mm rose bicones, interspersed with silver spacers and a silver circle spacer in the middle. This color is just so flattering to most skin tones! They’re light and delicate, and I imagine they’d look perfect worn with shades of blue or black.

3) Native American cultures have long hung dreamcatchers over beds to catch bad dreams in the net and filter good dreams down through feathers to the sleeper. That lovely tradition is what this pair of earrings is based on. I used two faceted turquoise Czech glass beads with a silver spacer in each one and a leverback closure for increased security.

4) More feathers! I saw these silver “feather” dangles at Hobby Lobby one day and they spoke to me. These chandelier earrings are the result. They might look heavy, but they’re incredibly light and make the most delicate whispering sound in your ears when you move your head.

5) A bracelet/earring set in Hematite. This stone is incredibly slick to the touch and is the gem form of iron. When cut or ground, Hematite gives off red dust that runs like blood when mixed with water. People have used this “red ochre” for thousands of years to paint caves and tombs. Here, I separated the Hematite stones with 4mm silver beads on the bracelet and used a toggle clasp. Trust me, it’s heavier than it looks — that’s why the earrings are shorter than I’d usually make!

6) Can you tell the Fighting Irish have been on my mind this weekend?? This pair mixes several different shades and sizes of green beads, silver spacers, and of course, a lucky four-leaf clover dangle. They must have worked because the Irish beat the Navy in Dublin on Saturday, 50-10!