Friday, April 29, 2011

Touching Baby Birds Is Okay When Necessary

This is an important topic at this time of year when birds are nesting and reproducing.  The following is an updated post that I did a few years back.  I think it's time to share the information again.

The old myth that you can't touch birds is wrong, but you also need to know when to leave it alone and when to put it back in the nest.  If you have predators (neighborhood cats, hawks, etc.) you will want to get it back in the nest ASAP.

Touching Baby Birds Is Okay
by Donna L. Watkins

© Donna L. Watkins - Great-crested Flycatcher
I grew up being told you couldn't touch a bird or its mother would no longer feed it. I'm sure there was good intent in that statement so that children wouldn't go around messing with baby birds. However, it's not true.

Although usually true for mammals because they have such a strong sense of smell, most birds have a poor sense of smell and will even accept "foster babies" in their nests.

Take the cowbird for example. This bird lays its eggs in other birds' nests and lets them raise its young. Sadly, because it lays its eggs in birds that are smaller than the cowbird, the bird's own nestlings sometimes die for lack of food while trying to keep up with the bigger appetite of the cowbird.

I've put baby birds back in the nest after they've fallen out and the parents continue to feed them. It's always best to place the baby back where the parents can feed it. Even if you have to construct a different kind of nest for them. They will resume feeding so the birds can fledge. It's not easy trying to foster a baby bird and unless you've got a wildlife rehabilitator nearby, there's much chance for success since they need to eat every 20 minutes.

For reference sake, here's a few links on more information on this topic:

What To Do If You Find a Baby Bird
Baby Birds On The Ground - Are They In Need of Rescuing?
Top Five Myths About Rescuing Baby Birds

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Being 60, Dreams Do Come True #46-50

by Donna L. Watkins

When I began this idea of finding 60 new adventures to focus on for my 60th year of life, I didn't know how easy it would be.  It caused me to stay more alert to what was around me, looking for new species, since that's the ultimate adventure ... getting to see another piece of art created by my Heavenly Father, and the majestic representation of Him that it gives to me as I view it.

My focus on seeing the new helps me to leave the old behind also, and that's a good thing to do in life.  Always looking ahead makes you wonder what God has in store every day.  It's important to live for the present and the future, not the past.

Now I'm nearing the 60 mark and I will definitely have months before my next birthday in September to continue seeking new adventures, but I'll have to consider whether I keep counting ... or wait for another birthday to begin again.  And should I begin again at all with these posts?  I don't think I will stop looking for adventures whether I write about them or not.  What would you do?  What are your thoughts?  Let me know.

And now ... here's the continued journey.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Sunrise Over The Ocean
Myrtle Beach, SC
#46 of 60 - Myrtle Beach, SC - Compass Cove Resort - We are not beach folks so we've never had any desire to go to the popular Myrtle Beach area, although I'd always wanted to see Brookgreen Gardens which was a half hour south of there.

When I saw a travel deal for one of the resorts in Myrtle Beach for March, the perfect season for us and the beach, I grabbed a unit at $38 a night and we began to look forward to a dream fulfilled and a few new adventures to add to my list for this year.

When I was growing up and as a single woman I had loved the beach, islands, oceans, water of any form that I could be in. My granddaddy used to say I was part fish. At 26 I was diagnosed with vitiligo and told to stay out of the sun.  Thanks to that, I fell in love with forests, which for me, far surpass the value of the ocean.  After all the Bible says there will be no seas in Heaven (Rev. 21:1), but there will be trees.

We checked into the resort not sure what to expect for such a low rate, but the room was great and the balcony was ocean view. It was on the side of one of the buildings of the Compass Cove Resort so we had a city view and a beach view with the sunrise aiming right at us. View photo album for Myrtle Beach.

© 2011 Randal J. Watkins - Donna at Peace Fountain
Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, SC
#47 of 60 - Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, SC, was more marvelous and amazing than I ever imagined.  The sculpture garden and facilities portion of Brookgreen is over 300 acres and is considered a wildlife preserve also.  We walked it for 6 hours and loved every minute, but I had to Tei Fu down before I left and when I got back so I wouldn't have screaming joints.

Filled with over 1400 sculptures, from over 350 sculptors, tucked here, there and everywhere from small to building size, we were delighted at every twist and turn of the multitudes of paths, garden gates and arbors as we strolled about imagining being left here to live for the rest of our lives ... walking with God.  There was also poems and prose etched in various stones, but my favorite was one I viewed on the video shown in the Welcome Center:

"Pause friend, and strip from out your heart all vanity, all bitterness, all hate; Quench for this hour the fever of your fears.  Then, treading softly, pass within this gate.  There, where the ancient trees wait, hushed and dim, May you find God, and walk awhile with Him. " -- Pearl C. Hiatt

The photos are titled with detailed information on the sculptures and garden features, along with information on the historical plantation life of the land. Read my article about Brookgreen Gardens and the couple who created it and/or view the photo album of Brookgreen Gardens.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Common Yellowthroat Warbler,
Immature Male - Brookgreen Gardens, Myrtle Beach, SC
#48 of 60Immature Male Common Yellowthroat Warbler - While visiting Brookgreen Gardens we came upon a group of birds foraging on the ground that looked like cardinals since most were the same shade and there were a few red birds also.

They were probably tanagers thinking back, but my eye caught one in a tree nearby so I focused on getting a few photographs of that one, which turned out not to be the same as the ones on the ground at all.

After seeing the bird in the photo program I knew I'd never seen this bird before and eventually figured out what it was with a friend sending me the Sibley Bird Guide page number and getting emails confirming it from a bird identification forum.  How excited I was to add a new adventure of a bird God made that I've not seen before.  I delight in seeing every new artistic work He has made that I have never seen.

As if once wasn't enough, we did an overnight stay near the Virginia coast for our 34th anniversary so we could visit the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.  The only unknown bird we saw there was a male Common Yellowthroat Warbler flittering about near the water in the thicket.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Pond Overlook
Myrtle Beach State Park, SC
#49 of 60 - Myrtle Beach State Park is one of South Carolina’s last stands of easily-accessible, oceanfront maritime forest. It has a nature center with programs and natural history displays which wasn't open while we were there but we spent some time in the wildlife habitat area watching the birds.

We chose the Sculptured Oak Trail to experience the woodlands through a forest of oaks, wax myrtles, hollies, poplars, and magnolias, and walked out to the pond overlook but didn't see any alligators. The Red Maples were gorgeous since they were "blooming" and brightly colored. It's a swamp species of maple, so it was new to me. Read more about Myrtle Beach State Park and/or view the Myrtle Beach State Park photo album.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Juvenile Double-crested Cormorant
Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet, SC
#50 of 60 - Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet, SC has 2500 acres and is also the site of the Spanish-style castle, Atalaya, mentioned above. The park is land donated by the Huntington's and the parcel is adjacent to Brookgreen Gardens which was my ultimate adventure on this trip.

More than 300 species of birds have been recorded at this park. The boardwalk on the salt marsh was great. Our first wildlife encounter after we headed down the paved trail to the lagoons was to see a snake across the path. Later I found out it was a Yellow Rat Snake which was very exciting since I'd never seen one so it added another adventure to my list. Read more about Yellow Rat Snakes. Read more about Huntington Beach State Park and Atalaya Castle with links to photo albums.

Continue the adventure journey with me .....

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by Pastor Henry Wright

When we feel rejected, we are agreeing with Satan's kingdom. An unloving spirit is right there and says there's a good reason that we are rejected. We must be evil and unclean and no good. We find justification for our rejection. We fear we are going to fail. We fear what others may think. We fear they won't love us. Going under rejection brings bitterness, jealousy, envy, fear, unloving spirits and ultimately disease.

Love and acceptance is the antidote to Rejection. The reversal of Rejection is accepting God's love and acceptance without exception. According to the word of God, you are designed and created on purpose for His pleasure because He foreknew you before the very foundation of the world.

Know who you are in Christ. Knowing who you are in Christ is of prime importance. This is the antidote to an identity crisis. The Father has accepted you, but have you accepted yourself? Rejection will not allow you to accept yourself. Self -Rejection, Self-Hatred, Guilt, Unloving spirits, images, impressions and emotions will tell you that you are not the "fairest of them all". Jesus dealt with that in Isaiah 53. It said very clearly that He was not a man that you would desire Him after the flesh. He was not comely, and there was nothing in His physical appearance that would appeal to you.

Isaiah 53:2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

You have get rid of Self-Rejection. If God be for you, who can be against you? You have no right to reject yourself if God has accepted you. He has accepted you through Jesus Christ.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The Lord had to deal with Rejection. He showed it was possible to defeat it and not make it part of His life. In His strength, as a work of the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Father and the Holy Spirit will be there to meet you and remove Rejection from your life so that you can be free from it and have your peace.

The prerequisites for freedom from Rejection are:
1) Making peace with God once and for all.
2) Making peace with yourself once and for all.
3) Making peace with your brother once and for all (even if it is 70 times 7 in your relationship of forgiveness).

Visit the Be In Health website.

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Flowers & Plants to Use in Water Area

When you have a water feature like a stream and waterfall area in your garden, it is important to choose plants and flowers that match it. Not only do the plants have to be highly water tolerant, they need to withstand the constant mild spray from the water.

There are many plants and flowers that suit a stream and waterfall. Here's 4 Good Choices.

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Our Migratory Birds Returning

It's migration time and it's so exciting getting to see "our" migratory birds return. The Brown Thrasher seemed to arrive with his mate which made me Google to see if they mate for life. Can't find that they do. They sure tanked down the suet upon arrival. Not that they had very far to go since they winter in the southeastern states.

We also have our Gray Catbirds back, who also winter over in the southeastern states. Seems two males arrived with one female being chased by both. The situation is now settled and the pair have been feeding at the front porch suet feeders also. Funny ... there are two feeders there, but they like to be on the same feeder. How romantic!  Last year we got to see the Catbird babies as they left the nest since it was at eye level.

Here's a great article from National Wildlife Federation about birds that are migratory marvels:

Last year, an international team used geolocators to trace the impressive migratory journey of the Arctic tern, confirming that these birds migrate the longest distance of any animal—close to 50,000 miles a year (with stops), or the equivalent of 3 journeys to the moon and back over a tern’s roughly 30-year lifetime.

Today lightweight devices such as geolocators are revolutionizing the tracking of migratory birds and, in the process, documenting astonishing new records for distance and endurance. The first surprising discovery came in 2007, when wildlife biologists used surgically implanted satellite transmitters to show that migrating bar-tailed godwits fly from Alaska to New Zealand without once stopping to refuel. At 7,100 miles in just over 8 days, the migration was, and remains, the longest nonstop flight ever recorded. Read the entire article.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Joy of Letting Go

If you've been following The Nature In Us for long, you know that God has had us outside of most of our comfort zones for almost a year and a half. We committed to "coming apart" and we will stay committed and follow God where ever He leads us.

Our world is groaning with earthquakes, floods, droughts, starvation, and more Christians being martyred than ever before.  We soberly seek His will for our lives, as we "lose our lives to save them" in this troubled world.

©2011 Donna L. Watkins - Which Road Did You Choose?
Dismal Swamp, Suffolk, VA
The Joy of Letting Go
By Wayne Jacobsen
(From BodyLife - Lifestream Ministries)

When my daughter Julie invited me to go kayaking with her around the Channel Islands Harbor, I thought it would be a leisurely afternoon. As soon as I crawled off of the dock into the kayak for the first time, however, I realized I might have been a bit optimistic. Bobbing on top of the water, the little craft felt horribly unstable.

The slightest shift of weight caused it to start rolling, threatening to dump me into the cold waters of the harbor. When I adjusted my weight to compensate, I overcorrected and the boat would begin to roll in the opposite direction. As I shifted and reshifted multiple times in a few seconds my kayak quivered like a bowl of Jello in a California earthquake.

I honestly wondered if this had been such good idea. If I was having so much trouble in the calm waters by the dock how would I ever fare in the chop of the open water? Julie was already rowing around the dock. I only had a few seconds to choose whether or not to let go and sort it out in the going or stay holding on to the dock, looking like a wimp and missing out on the last special father-daughter day I would have with Julie before she got married.

Uncertain though I was about my ability to stay dry, I pushed away from the dock and learned how to stabilize the kayak and guide it into the open water. It took a while. Every move in the boat felt awkward until I got used to it. Even reaching for the paddle sent my kayak quivering again. I never regretted it, though. Eventually I learned how to row the kayak and we had a joyful afternoon cruising the harbor together - racing, splashing, laughing and enjoying the sights and the conversation.

I've thought about that day many times since because it mirrored so much of my life over the last decade. For so long I've sought a relationship with Jesus that fulfilled the promise and example of Scripture. Though I'd had tastes of it from time to time, the reality always seemed to fade away just as I got closer. I didn't realize it at the time, but looking back, I know I was holding on to the dock. Afraid to follow his invitation to the open water, I clung to that which gave me temporary stability and security.

I had no idea that serving my desire for security and trying to follow Jesus were at odds with each other. No wonder my faith seemed so temporary and fruitless. Life in him can't be lived holding on to the dock because of our insecurities. At some point we have to push away and only then can we learn how to live this incredible life in Jesus.

Missed Opportunity
I first met him almost eight years ago, and though we had exchanged some emails from time to time we had not had an opportunity to catch up in many years. Last month I ended up among a group of believers just beginning to sort out what it might mean to journey together. They wanted to ask me some questions about relational Christianity and how they might experience it in their newfound life together.

What an evening! We talked about how the institutional pressures they were already feeling were at cross-purposes with the priorities of the kingdom. To live in his fullness we have to learn how to enjoy God's working rather than trying to control it. That's not easy for any of us. After that evening I finally got the chance to sit down with my friend. Somehow our discussion that evening had disturbed him at a far deeper level than I would have guessed. He told me that seven years before our relationship had touched a deep hunger in him to walk closely with the Lord.

As he set out to do that, however, he noticed not too many others shared his hunger. What if he missed God in his pursuit and how would that affect his young family?

Eventually he ended up getting involved in a 'nice', 'safe' fellowship of believers. It seemed they preferred to talk on the dock rather than climb in their kayaks, because in that fellowship his hunger for the life of God quickly waned. He hadn't even noticed it until that evening when his old passion had been reawakened.

"I'm not going to miss it again," he said looking up at me. "I came so close last time and this time I'm going to follow him no matter what it takes."

His story is not unique. I've known many people who have had a deep passion to live the fullness of God's life, but few of those actually ended up finding out how. The risk of riding the waves with him sends them scurrying back on the dock. Jesus warned us about that. "Any one who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal." (John 12:25, The Message)
It seems our desire for security in temporal things is enemy number one to the very life we desire to find in him.

I realize it isn't an easy lesson to learn, but Jesus knew it was the key to life in him. In one of my favorite passages from The Message, Jesus wants them to learn how to let go of their anxieties and find out how richly God cares for them:

"What I'm trying to do here is get you to relax, not to be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You'll find your everyday human concerns will be met. Don't be afraid of missing out. You're my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself!" (Luke 12:29-32)

I have found that to be so true. When I was preoccupied with getting the things I thought I needed to be a successful believer, I got further and further from it. When I finally gave up trying to get what I wanted from God and started just enjoying what God was bringing into my life, everything changed. I'm no longer frustrated by what God hasn't yet done in my life, but blessed at every glimpse of mercy he shares with me. The joy of this life cannot be reached by our attempts to grab hold of God or his blessings, because we only end up grabbing those things that make us secure in ourselves. God wants us to find our security in the only place it really counts, in him!

Notice how that trust is deeply rooted in how his Father feels about us. Jesus wanted us to know that he does not withhold his glory or make us earn his favor. We're his dearest friends! He wants us to experience the fullness of his life, and the best way we do that is to be learning to relax and let go of our need to control our own lives and define security on our own terms.

People who fuss, grab and manipulate simply don't understand how God works. What a statement! I had no idea that my anxieties were the best evidence that I had simply not learned how God works. Because I didn't trust him to bring into my life all that I needed to walk in him, I had to scheme and labor to try and get it for myself. And even when that doesn't work, we don't consider that our approach to God is flawed, only that we're not working hard enough. So instead of giving up and learning to let go, we have to try even harder.

Of Systems and Spirit
Jesus is inviting a new generation of his followers to learn how to live dependent on the awesome love of his incredible Father. Isn't it interesting that we have built most of our religious institutions on the fear that we can't trust him to lead his people and therefore must provide programs and rituals to make people feel secure? Unfortunately we end up spending more energy building substitutes for people to trust in instead of equipping them to fully trust him.

A number of years ago I had begun to write a book as a follow-up to The Naked Church about New Testament approaches to church life. The working title was, "A New System". I quiver now to think about that, but that was a kayak of a different color. I was teaching groups all over the world how to do church differently and gave them what I'm still convinced were Biblical priorities, but they were also laced with human methodologies that could not produce what they promised.

Only after the system I had helped build imploded due to competing agendas among believers, did I come to realize that my system of doing church was just another system to add to all the systems men and women have devised since the earliest days of Christendom.

A friend from Australia helped me see that as powerful as my passions might have been we were being under cut by the methods we employed. "Jesus did not leave us with a system," he said, "but his Spirit." Then he asked me an eye-opening question. "Wayne, how much of your method of church was built because you were afraid someone would fall through the cracks, go off into error, or misuse others in the body?"

"About 90% of it," I answered half joking.

But he knew better. "Then what you're saying is that 90% of your view of church was based on fear not on trust." Exactly. That's why it could not contain the fullness of Christ's work. The lesson he wants us to learn is how to trust him and let go of our own ingenuity and wisdom.

Letting Go!
The best decision I've made in the last decade was also the most painful. Brothers and sisters I had worked with for nearly fifteen years were using half-truths, rumor and gossip to discredit me because I refused to conform to their authoritative view of leadership in the body of Christ. When the plot finally unraveled, I had them. It would have been so easy to expose their lives and reassert my place in that fellowship.

But God told me to let go. He asked me to walk away from people I loved and the fellowship I had helped to build. I've always been a competitor and to walk away from a fight I knew I could win was the hardest thing God ever asked me to do. And even when I did it, I thought it would last a few weeks before everyone would come to their senses and love each other again.

But it wasn't to be! In those days, letting go of the dock meant giving up the only vocation I had known, the salary I depended upon, and control of my reputation to those who had chosen to spread malicious gossip about me. I cannot describe to you the pain of those days and how disoriented I felt. Nothing worked out like I thought it would to guarantee my success and security. I had other job offers to run to but I turned them down because of a nagging sense in my heart that God had given me an amazing opportunity to sail away from a dock of my own security and find out what life in his kingdom really meant.

I would not trade one lesson learned in the last seven years for my old position or reputation. It took me a number of months to learn how to keep the 'kayak' from quivering and to paddle in the open waters God had beckoned me to enjoy with him. I've never regretted it. I've found God's life and his character to be everything he said he was. I've found relationships with other believers filled with joy and depth that I never thought possible.

Now finding my security in him instead of things, systems and other believers has become almost second nature. I am so grateful I chose not to grab for what I wanted most and have discovered that his generosity and presence is the safest place. Every night as I settle down in bed somewhere in this world, I am truly amazed at how he touched my life on that day. I no longer live with the enduring frustration with what God isn't doing in my life, but with overwhelming joy of what he is doing.

There is no greater peace.

Living Openhandedly
I've come to realize that seeking after possessions, popularity, or influence are not beacons on the path to life, but traps that rob our freedom. John the Baptist said as much when people suggested that Jesus was becoming more popular than he was. "A man can only receive what is given him from heaven." (John 3:27)

Paul echoed those same words. Frustrated that believers in Corinth were missing God's life because of constant comparing themselves to each other and boasting in their efforts, Paul wrote, "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not?" (I Corinthians 4:7) When you realize that all of your life is in the Father's hand, then you can really live free.

Both John and Paul kept their dependency centered on Christ. When others tried to put their focus on things the world uses to measure security or success, they rebuffed it. They knew that real freedom is not found in how much you have, but only in the joy of following him.

When you no longer need to grab on to anything for security you will find yourself living with an open hand with others as well. Living in the joy of God's life means that in every situation we don't have to protect ourselves or look out for our best interests, because God will and he is so much better at it than we are. We tend to self-destruct when we get grabby and are more gracious when we're not.

When you are really free in him you can walk into any situation with nothing to lose, nothing to gain, and nothing to prove. That's what it means to live openhandedly and when we do that we are in a much better place to see what God is doing and flow along with him. You'll find others gravitating towards you because the people who are free enough to genuinely take an interest in others are few and far between.

So I Do Nothing?
Letting go is probably the most crucial choice we make when God invites us further into his life. I know it's scary, and I know it is difficult sometimes to see what that means. I've shared this lesson with many people who are struggling with their own need to let go of something they have found security in and invariably they ask me the same question. "So I just trust God and do nothing?"

Isn't it interesting that we are so driven by our anxieties that we only see two options? Either I struggle in my own flesh in some fruitless attempt to find my own security, or I live in the presumption of doing nothing. Isn't that proof that the only effort we know is driven by anxiety? If we give that up we don't know what else will motivate us.

Believe me, letting go of those things that provide momentary security for us and finding out just how secure this Father can be, is not sitting back and doing nothing. Jesus didn't tell us to relax so we could become spiritual couch potatoes, but so that we could be free enough to follow him into the glory of his life.

Seeking first his kingdom, trusting that God will provide whatever he chooses to provide, open whatever door he needs to open and sustain me through any trauma is not a complacent existence. Every day it challenges me to the core of my being, and asks me to choose against the path of least resistance. Following him still requires my effort, but it is energy directed his way, instead of channeled by my own limited wisdom or insecurities.

I Hope you Dance
The days of letting go are not over for me. Every day I find fresh opportunities to choose God's presence over temporal illusions of security. I can't even begin to imagine what letting go means for you. I'm pretty sure, however, for most of you that it doesn't mean quitting your job and sitting in a kayak hoping God will touch you. It doesn't mean you have to leave your fellowship.

Learning to let go is not a method to force God's hand, but wisdom to help you live free enough to follow when he calls you onward. Don't let the risk to your ego, security or comfort provide the excuse for you to miss the greater journey.

A song making the rounds today sums up wonderfully what I'm trying to say:

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances but they're worth taking...
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance...
I hope you dance.

I had never danced in public before my daughter's wedding, but I wanted to dance with her that day. I knew I'd risk some good-natured abuse from my friends and knew no one would mistake me for Fred Astaire, but what a moment! I'm glad I danced then, and I'm glad I pushed away from the dock a month earlier.

And I pray when God next invites you to come follow, that you won't let your fear of the unknown rob you of life's greatest adventure. I hope you shove away from the dock instead of scurrying back onto it as an illusion of security. Don't miss the chance to ride with him in the open waters. You'll find nothing more secure, and no journey more filled with awesome joy.

Isn't it time you found out just how real and incredible this Christian life can really be?

Living Loved is published periodically by Lifestream Ministries and is sent free of charge to anyone who requests it. For those with email we recommend our web-based version so that we can hold down costs and get it to you much more quickly. This is especially important for international subscribers.

© Copyright 2011 Lifestream Ministries
Permission is herby granted to anyone wishing to make copies for free distribution.

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Contribute To Holocaust Archives

May 1st will be the day in 2011 for the Jewish holiday of Yom HaShoah, which is an annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. Google is doing something great for commemoration of the Holocaust. Here's an intro on a Charisma article about it:

In line with Google’s mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, the search engine giant has partnered with Yad Vashem to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day with a new project that aims to preserve the world’s largest historical collection on the Holocaust.

Yad Vashem, a Jerusalem-based archive, is devoted to the documentation, research, education and commemoration of the Holocaust. With the Google partnership, its photo collection will be easier to search and encourage visitors to share personal stories and thoughts. Sharing is a key word in the Google partnership. By making the photos more accessible, Yad Vashem expects people around the world to contribute more stories behind the photos and add their knowledge to the site.
Read the entire article.

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New Research on Outdoor Cats

I'm a cat person. Never owned a dog, although I love all animals. I started out with cats and simply never switched or added in a dog. So, I love cats! But, I love wildlife too and new research is really grim on their affect on native wildlife.

The domestic cat is the most popular pet in the United States, with numbers ranging between 148 and 188 million individuals. Originally bred from wild cats in the Near East approximately 10,000 years ago, domestic cats are now considered a distinct species.

As a domesticated animal it has no native range so they are a non-native species in natural systems worldwide. In addition, native prey species often have no evolved defenses against this exotic predator, making the domestic cat a potential threat wherever it is introduced.

If you allow your cat(s) to roam outdoors, please consider this information. Don't be in denial that "YOUR" cat doesn't kill anything. Well-fed cats don't kill for food, they kill from instinct. Please read the article.

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Good and Bad News For The Earth

by Sierra Club - March/April Magazine

• California regulators OK a new carcinogenic pesticide for strawberries to replace the old carcinogenic pesticide they outlawed.

• For the third time, the EPA puts off strengthening standards for ground-level ozone.

• Unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County bans plastic bags in unincorporated areas.

• The hormone-disrupting chemical BPA is found on half of all cash register receipts and nearly all dollar bills.

• There's not enough ozone in the upper atmosphere, so whales in the Gulf of California are getting sunburned.

• Many beached dolphins turn out to be deaf.

• Scientists discover an all-female species of lizard in India that reproduces by cloning.

• A pair of endangered short-tailed albatross, once thought extinct, has started nesting on the U.S. territory of Midway Atoll.

• South Korea is building a 500-turbine, 2,500-megawatt offshore wind farm, more than twice the size of China's 1,000-megawatt Bohai Bay farm.

• In the United States, low prices for natural gas scuttle or delay many wind farms and solar installations.

Get more at the website.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

34th Wedding Anniversary Celebration in Virginia

by Donna L. Watkins

Since we rarely come up with any gift ideas for our anniversary, we usually choose to "make memories" instead with a trip somewhere. This year we took an overnight trip to the coastal area of Virginia. We've often talked about visiting the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Suffolk, Virginia, so that was our main target.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Devil's Walking Stick Tree
We left very early and visited there first at the end of our 3 hour trip over. It was a bit chilly and overcast with a breeze. They had a really nice boardwalk trail through the swamp area and we walked on two other trails also. We found a couple of owl pellets on one trail which was very exciting, along with numerous Devil's Walking Stick trees.

The Great Dismal Swamp NWR has been designated as a site in the National Underground Railway Network to Freedom, so there was a bit of history on that. My photo descriptions give an account of all we saw and read about.

View The Great Dismal Swamp photo album.

After we had enough chill, we headed for downtown area of Suffolk, Virginia. Planters Peanuts was "born" in Suffolk and the original building of 1889 is still there and being used to sell peanuts. Being privately owned, they still sell peanuts and have a 1936 roaster to roast the peanuts in the shell. The downtown area of Suffolk was very nice with a beautiful wall mural and many historic churches, a train station, and a historic cemetery. It's nice to see a clean downtown that can be strolled. We also visited Sleepy Hole Park in Suffolk where we caught a glimpse of the founder of Planters Peanuts home. The Obici House was a 1870 farmhouse that was relocated and expanded to a 1920's Art Nouveau-style mansion along the Nansemond River. Amedeo Obici was an Italian immigrant. Since the home was being renovated they were not taking visitors.

View the Suffolk, Virginia photo album.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Camellia at Chesapeake Arboretum, VA
We then checked into the hotel in Chesapeake, Virginia, and had dinner at a nearby family-owned Italian restaurant. Randal loves manicotti when he can get it and I had checked out the vegetarian dining options ahead of time to find one less than a mile away from the hotel. I wish I could say it was absolutely wonderful, but it was the worst Italian meal that I can remember. Since we don't eat out very often, that's a long-term memory.

The next day we visited the Chesapeake Arboretum which included an old farm house with gardens and also a woodland wetland trail of trees. The trees were nicely marked with signs, but they had a real invasive plant problem. I took a photo of my hand on the bottom part of a vine and my hand only went half way around it. It was amazing! I liked a sign that had a quote from Anne Frank, ""I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles." Near the end of our stay I was able to photograph a rabbit while he was in the midst of running away with his rear legs up in the air. So cute! My friend, Robin, in Atlanta said it was the Easter bunny, but I had to tell her that there is no Easter bunny.

View the Chesapeake Arboretum photo album.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Fresnel Lens - Portsmouth, VA
Leaving the arboretum, we drove to the downtown historic seaport of Portsmouth, Virginia. Randal loves to see ships and they had one that helicopters landed on in for repair. They also had a fine example of a lightship. They were floating lighthouses, so the history on them is very interesting and is included on my photos. They had a fresnel lens from a lighthouse on Hog Island (Virginia) in a pavilion built for it. It used hundreds of prisms to bend and concentrate light in a powerful beam. There's more information on that in the photo descriptions also.

View Portsmouth, Virginia photo album.

We had a full 30 hours of celebration time and wanted to get back home to enjoy our screened porch and review the many blessings we have which includes having each other. That's something we can celebrate every day!

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Save African Cats - See New Release Movie

What a great movie opening for Earth Day, April 22.  DisneyNature's doing something great!  Seeing it will allow YOU to do something great also!

If you go to this movie during it's first week of release, Disney will contribute to an African wildlife fund that works to keep the wild lands of Africa wild forever.

View the video trailer.  Read the story line, meet the characters, download educational materials for the children .. all on the African Cats Movie Website.

Saving the Savanna Can Save African Cats:
The Amboseli ecosystem stretches between Mt. Kilimanjaro, Chyulu Hills and Tsavo West National Parks in Kenya.  Field research over many years has documented that wildlife frequently use the community lands outside the Park boundaries and travel through the corridor that connects Amboseli with the Chyulu Mountains (see map).  Protecting this area, the Amboseli Wildlife Corridor, is critical to the future of lions and other animals such as elephant, cheetah, zebra, giraffe and eland.  We encourage you to join with AWF, Disneynature and the people that live in the Amboseli region to make this project a success - and take pride in helping to see that Africa's lions and other imperiled wildlife will survive and thrive.

About AWF:
The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), together with the people of Africa, works to ensure the wildlife and wild lands of Africa will endure forever.  Celebrating its 50th anniversary, AWF is a credible and well respected conservation leader in Africa.

Program Details:
Disneynature will contribute $0.20 per ticket to the African Wildlife Foundation for the Amboseli Corridor project for everyone who sees Disneynature AFRICAN CATS during the opening week (April 22-April 28) with a minimum of $100,000 pledged to this program.

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Bruised Apples and Jesus

A few years ago a group of salesmen went to a regional sales convention in Chicago. They had assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Friday night's dinner. Well, as such things go, one thing led to another. The sales manager went longer than anticipated and the meeting ran overtime. Their flights were scheduled to leave out of Chicago's O'Hare Airport, and they had to race frantically to the airport.

With tickets in hand, they barged through the terminal to catch their flight back home. In their rush, with tickets and brief cases, one of these salesmen inadvertently kicked over a table which held a display of baskets of apples. Apples flew everywhere. Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the plane in time for their nearly-missed boarding. All but one.

He paused, took a deep breath, got in touch with his feelings, and experienced a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple stand had been overturned. He told his buddies to go on without him, waved goodbye, told one of them to call his wife when they arrived at their home destination and explain his taking a later flight. Then he returned to the terminal where the apples were all over the terminal floor.

He was glad he did. The 16 year old girl was totally blind! She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks in frustration, and at the same time helplessly groping for her spilled produce as the crowd swirled about her; no one stopping, and no one to care for her plight.

The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them into the baskets, and helped set the display up once more. As he did this he noticed that many of them had become battered and bruised; these he set aside in another basket. When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, "Here, please take this $20 for the damage we did. Are you okay?" She nodded through her tears. He continued on with, "I hope we didn't spoil your day too badly."

As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl called out to him, "Mister...." He paused and turned to look back into those blind eyes. She continued, "Are you Jesus?"  He stopped in mid-stride, and he wondered. Then slowly he made his way to catch the later flight with that question burning and bouncing about in his soul: "Are you Jesus?"

Do people mistake you for Jesus? That's our destiny, is it not? To be so much like Jesus that people cannot tell the difference as we live and interact with a world that is blind to His love, life and grace. If we claim to know Him, we should live, walk and act as He would. Knowing Him is more than simply quoting Scripture and going to church. It's actually living the Word as life unfolds day to day.

You are the apple of His eye even though we, too, have been bruised by a fall. He stopped what He was doing and picked you and me up on a hill called Calvary and paid in full for our damaged fruit. Let's start living like we are worth the price He paid.

~Author Unknown~

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Yellow Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata)

by Donna L. Watkins

Our first wildlife encounter after we headed down the trail at Huntington Beach State Park to the lagoons was to see this snake across the concrete pathway. We thought it was dead, but I hoped it wasn't. Thinking it was a garter snake I readily approached to talk to it. Surely my voice would bring it back to life, right?

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Yellow Rat Snake
(Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata) - Huntington
Beach State Park - Murrells Inlet, SC
It seemed he had been run over by a bicycle at one part of his body (view the video to see this). His eyes were open and upon inspection, he moved. Yeah!

He then decided he'd feel a whole lot better in the woods and headed that way. They are large constricting snakes, although not venomous, but if handled carelessly might bite. They very much like to climb in trees.

Yellow Rat Snakes are found in the coastal areas of South Carolina with the adult size being in the range of 42 to 72 inches. This snake was about 42 inches, so a young and thin adult.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Yellow Rat Snake
(Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata) - Huntington
Beach State Park - Murrells Inlet, SC
Adults are distinguished by four (4) dark stripes against a lighter yellow background. Young rat snakes look totally different, being strongly blotched against a gray background, which makes them easily misidentified for a different subspecies.

Rat snakes are relatively slow moving snakes and will most often freeze when encountering danger. This is why many of them are killed on our roads and highways. While freezing they often take a rippled posture, looking like a large crinkled ribbon. That's exactly what he was doing when we first saw him.

This was a first sighting of this snake for me so I was very excited to have it identified as a new experience when I got back home. Here in Central Virginia our property has Black Rat Snakes so I felt like I'd met a cousin. The Yellow Rat Snake is known to interbreed with Black Rat Snakes which are also found in South Carolina.

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A Vet Speaks on Feline Hyperthyroidism

In this episode of Pet Talk, Dr. Sarah weighs in on the rise of feline hyperthyroidism over the course of the last few decades.

What’s the culprit? What are the symptoms? And what can you, as a caring pet parent, do about this condition?

If your family includes a cat, don’t miss this important video!

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Newsletter - 4/15/11

Read the entire article.

Hello Dear Friends!

Thank you to all who prayed for Squeek and for your kind emails of concern. She's back to normal and doing great. Don't know what the problem was, but she's back to normal. As an FIV kitty, she has done so well. FIV is the equivalent of human HIV, so keeping her immune system supported is our best prevention program for her. She will be 15 in July so she's a little miracle kitty.

Squeek aka Kitty Girl
She's been a precious cat, the first feral we've ever had. All of our cats were strays, but we never converted a feral to a house kitty. We sing/song a phrase to her since we moved her from the woods of Alabama to Virginia over ten years ago: "You're a happy, healthy house kitty!" She seems to have taken it to heart.

We didn't know she was FIV until years after moving when she had her first super infection and the vet told us she wouldn't live through the weekend. This cat is definitely working on making sure she gets all nine lives. She's certainly stolen our hearts.

We celebrated our 34th anniversary with an overnight trip to eastern coastal Virginia. Another place we've always wanted to go was the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. It was a bit chilly the day we were there and we were a bit early for the onslaught of migrant birds that come through there, but it was lovely walking around knowing I had made another dream come true. I'll get a post and album link out next week.

Donna at Great Dismal Swamp, Suffolk, VA
One thing rheumatoid arthritis has done for me is that it has made me realize that setting priorities is important and the day-to-day stuff that we get wrapped up in actually has an exit door. Not that we don't work hard in our businesses, but we've found that we work and enjoy work more by making our leisure time a priority also.  Since we work from home we have to be extra diligent to separate our work and play time.

I heard a teaching on honoring the Sabbath by taking a day each week to rest as God did from His labors because it's a time for RE-creation. A time to recharge our bodies and minds and enjoy the fruits of our labors. A study was mentioned that was done in Russia when the government mandated that people work seven days a week instead of the six they were already working. They found that production was greatly reduced. When they went back to a six-day work week, the production increased again. Our bodies and minds were never meant to focus on work all the time. That was a hard lesson for this workaholic perfectionist to learn, but I'm grateful that God doesn't give up on teaching us and guiding us in the right direction.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Brown Thrasher at Suet Feeder
The leaves are greening out on our trees here in Central Virginia and the birds, squirrels and everything else are busy getting mates and making babies to keep Creation moving along. The sounds are music to my ears and the sights as luscious as strawberry shortcake. Oh, yeah! We're also buying a lot of strawberries for our morning smoothies. I'd say it's one of my favorite fruits, but I love fruit, so they're all my favorites in one way or another.

The Brown Thrashers are back and the first I saw of them was seeing the pair eating from the hanging suet feeder. They're usually quite secretive birds so they looked very funny swinging around and around on those feeders, but I'm sure they were tired and hungry at arrival, so I'm so glad we have that front porch buffet available so I can see who's coming and going. Now ... where are the catbirds? I've been looking for them also.

Have a grand and glorious Spring!

Love and Hugs,

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The photo(s) and article are copyrighted. You may use either of them if you include the following credit and active link back to this website: © 2010 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission from The link to use is:

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