Category Archives: My wise old grandmother

My wise old grandmother taught me to share

My wise old grandmother

I had the need to go to Urgent Care yesterday morning.

There are three within 10 miles of me, two independent and one associated with a hospital, all normally open 24/7 but with reduced hours due to COVID-19.

I went to the closest one but they didn’t have any doctors on premises; they all were at hospitals.

The second one also didn’t have any doctors because they also all were are at hospitals.

The hospital-associated Urgent Care had a long wait because all their doctors were at the hospital. Fortunately, the hospital was right next door, but it does take time to finish with a hospital patient and walk over to Urgent Care.

There was a lady sitting across the aisle from me. Although she was talking on her phone very softly, I heard every word she said since we were the only two waiting.

When she said, “Honey, I really don’t give a flying fuck,” I realized that, after 65 years, one month, and 9 days on this Earth, I never have heard someone give a flying fuck. And I know the reason!

I believe I am the only one who has a flying fuck to give.

Well, no more!

Here you go.

It’s reusable, so give a flying fuck whenever you want!

My wise old grandmother taught me to share. You’re welcome.

Meet Mary Agnes

My wise old grandmother

When I came to San Diego in April 1993, two of the first plants I wanted were Agapanthus africanus and Jacaranda mimosifolia. I never had seen them before. They were beautiful!

I was able to get Agapanthus immediately because it’s a perennial with a rhizomatous root.

Jacaranda is a tree growing up to almost 100 feet tall, so I knew it would be awhile before I got one. That “awhile” turned into 25 years and 3 months….

I got my Jacaranda in July 2018 but I have been keeping it as a bush. I laced it today so I could see its first flowers.

Jacaranda mimosifolia

Jacaranda mimosifolia

Both plants are purple, which was my wise old grandmother’s favorite color.

I have named my Jacaranda “Mary Agnes” in honor of my wise old grandmother, a master gardener before there were master gardeners.

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Saving throwaway pictures

How I Did It

I took a picture this morning of two black tree monitors (Varanus beccari) cuddling in the Reptile House at the San Diego Zoo. Sadly, the picture is focused on the leg of one of the monitors:

Varanus beccari

It’s a poor picture. Many photographers would call it a “throwaway” and promptly delete it. Not me. As my wise old grandmother told me: “Don’t throw anything away! There is no away!”

Hint for taking pictures of wildlife: Focus on the eyes; everything else will fall into place.

Since have so many different picture editing software programs, I decided to see if I could make something “artsy fartsy” out of it.

Here’s the one I like the most (so far!), using Fractalius G4 software by Redfield:

Varanus beccari

Considering what digital photo editing software was available 20 years ago, I wonder what I might be able to do with “throwaway” pictures in another 20 years.

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Gull taking home some food

You can take some home

My wise old grandmother

Whenever my wise old grandmother (MWOG) took me out to eat, inevitably I could not eat everything that the restaurant served me. MWOG often told me, “Just because the restaurant served it to you doesn’t mean you have to eat it all now. You can take some home.”

In her afterlife, I believe she has been counseling some fauna here on Earth:

Squirrel taking home some food

Gull taking home some food

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The food chain in action

My wise old grandmother

I guess as the ground squirrels and rabbits pass on the rumor that I’m a pretty nice guy, more wildlife seems to be visiting me. Yesterday a beautiful California Scrub Jay came to visit and drink.

California Scrub Jay

California Scrub Jay

Today, a Greater Roadrunner came to visit. Sadly, the roadrunner found a large Helix Snail that I had saved earlier in the day because it was trying to cross the asphalt street. I picked it up and brought it over to my side of the street. Just a couple of hours later, I watched the roadrunner find the snail, pick it up in its beak, bring it over to the concrete walkway, and bash that snail until the shell broke open, whence the snail became food for the roadrunner.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Reminds me of my wise old grandmother. When wildlife—spiders, lizards, flies—got into her house, she would catch them in a Mason jar and return them to the outside rather than summarily killing them for invading her house. Her reasoning was that they were a viable part of the food chain.

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From my wise old grandmother: “Practice makes perfect!”

My wise old grandmother

Many decades ago when I was still a teenager and wondering what my place was in the world, Philippe Petit (b. 1949) was walking a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City….. 1,350 feet above the ground…. August 7, 1974. He did it 8 times in 45 minutes.

I thought to myself, “How do you practice for that?”

Well, yesterday, I found the new generation of high wire artists practicing their craft:

Mission Bay, San Diego CA

Mission Bay, San Diego CA So.

There ya go.

You can practice, which is good, because as my wise old grandmother always told me when I was practicing the violin:

“Practice makes perfect!”

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Do not throw things away! There is no away!

My wise old grandmother

My wise old grandmother was the champion of re-purposing. She regularly tell us not to throw something away before she had a chance to examine it. Her motto: “Do not throw things away! There is no away!”

Tin cans became holders for pins, needles, bobby pins, paper clips, buttons, spools of thread. Glass jars, too.

Anything that needed refrigeration came in Mason jars. Once those jars were empty, granddad would drill two holes in the lid, attach it to the underside of a shelf in the garage using two screws, and then screw the jar onto the lid. His jars contained nails, screws of every shape and size, washers and nuts to fit all those screws, bolts, wire….

Re-purposing didn’t end with the small stuff. One weekend granddad replaced the bathroom toilet and bathtub with modern ones. Both the toilet and the old claw-foot bathtub got re-purposed as outdoor container gardens.

Recently I was walking around an older San Diego neighborhood when I came across a re-purposed claw-foot bathtub, just like my wise old grandmother would have done it:

Re-purposed claw-foot bathtub

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Animal rescue and sanctuary support

I livew in my own little world

My wise old grandmother taught me to share.

Second Chance Dog Rescue logoI have decided to share the profits from the sale of my Photographic Art with animal rescue groups and wildlife sanctuaries throughout the United States, as long as they are charitable organizations under Section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code.

I will share in your name if you contact me to let me know when and what Photographic Art you purchased. Email me at

I also will share with your preferred rescue group or sanctuary; again, just let me know. Otherwise, I will share with my preferred rescue groups and sanctuaries.

the cat house on the kingsMy Photographic Art is available at Fine Art America, a print-on-demand site with a 30-day money-back guarantee, no questions asked. So if you don’t like your product for any reason, or no reason at all, simply return it and get your money back. That’s why I located my galleries there.

Lions Tigers & BearsPhotographic Art provides beautiful, unique, long-lasting, personal, and thoughtful gifts that are being used in the real estate industry as close-of-escrow gifts, and as special occasion gifts such as birthdays, marriages, anniversaries, and graduations. Attach a personal note or your business card to the gift and be remembered forever and ever!

Photographic Art has been purchased worldwide (Christchurch, New Zealand, and Paris, France) as well as throughout the United States.

Blind Cat Rescue and SanctuaryThere are many Photographic Art products available at Fine Art America, including prints, throw pillows, greeting cards, and phone cases.

On pillows, greeting cards, and phone cases, I will share 50% of the profits; my profit on your purchase of these items is minimal though.

On prints, regardless of what size or type of print you buy, I will share $40 since my share of your purchase is always $99.

Angels Among Us Pet RescueFine Art America’s money-back guarantee, and the fact that they pay on the 15th of each month, means that I don’t get paid immediately. Thus, there could be a 59-day delay between your purchase and when I get paid, meaning that donations to our animal friends won’t be immediate either. For example, if you buy Photographic Art on August 16, the 30-day money-back guarantee expires on September 16, and I would get paid on October 15.

Each day, over on Facebook, I will feature a rescue group or sanctuary and dedicate any Photographic Art sales that day to that specific organization.

Rescue groups and sanctuaries are invited to send to me a blog post about them for posting here in my blog and to be a featured organization on my Facebook time line.

I also do custom work using YOUR photos. Contact me by email.

Go now to my galleries at Fine Art America.

photograhic art taking pictures making art

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Making a difference begins with me

My wise old grandmother

Perhaps the most important aspect of life that I learned from my wise old grandmother was to care—about people, fauna, flora, and the environment.

Whenever I complained about not having new clothes for the start of the new school year, she would say, “There’s always someone worse off than you.”

When the three-legged alley cat made a pass through our back yard, my wise old grandmother was following it with a bowl of water and a bowl of food, trying to get it to stop for a meal, perhaps make our house its home.

She’s the one who taught me that a weed is something that is growing where you don’t want it to grow, so instead of pulling it and throwing it away, transplant it to where you do want it to grow. If wildlife of any kind gets inside, move it back outside. That included spiders, snakes, rodents, birds….

She was conserving before it was fashionable to conserve. She used to follow us around the house turning off the lights that we had left on (“If it’s on, it’s using electricity!”), knocking on the bathroom door to tell us that we were taking too long in the shower and using too much water. She put a gallon jug of water in the toilet tank so that it would use less water.

I learned from her to keep a five-gallon bucket by the bathtub to save the cold water while waiting for the hot water to arrive. That bucket of water would then be used to water flowers, bushes, and trees around the yard.

11141 Valley Lights Drive, Mount Helix, La Mesa CAWhich reminds me of the time when Jim and I were selling our Mount Helix home (picture►) back in 2001. I had buckets in all the bathrooms to save cold water while waiting on the hot water. I then watered two acres of plants and filled all of our fountains and ponds.

When we went to sell, one of the Realtors walked around the house to see what we were asking her to sell. Once she finished her walk-through, she told us that in order to get the most money for the house we should fix all the roof leaks before putting the house on the market. I asked her, “What roof leaks?” She said, “Well, I see all the buckets in the bathrooms which usually mean roof leaks.” I had to explain to her what water conservation was….

Alpha Phi OmegaThroughout my life I have tried to care for others less fortunate than me, to care for unwanted or injured animals, to care for the flora that use carbon dioxide which humans breathe out for photosynthesis, creating oxygen which humans breathe in, to care for the planet. My journey began with my wise old grandmother, continued in high school with Circle K, and then with Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity at Texas A&M University.

Fire on the freewayAfter college, my involvement included organizations that cared for people (soup kitchens, blood drives, Special Olympics, women & children abuse shelters), fauna (animal shelters, rescue groups, sanctuaries), flora (botanical and community gardens), and the environment (planting trees and native vegetation after natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires).

My wise old grandmother also taught me that making a difference begins with me. If you would like to do something to make a difference, here is a list of 100 things you can do to make a difference.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift?
Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage?
Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

For wise old grandmothers everywhere

My wise old grandmother

My wise old grandmother had the most beautiful yard and gardens, although I have to give myself a little credit because I’m the one who mowed the yard and trimmed the trees and bushes. THAT is why I have never had a grass yard that needed mowing and never had trees and bushes that needed trimming. Whatever is in my yard and gardens gets to grow until it can grow no more.

One of my wise old grandmother’s hanging baskets had a plant in it that I really didn’t like. The plant had no leaves, and its stems and branches were flat. It just looked weird to this 12-year-old, one who was not weird himself, yet.

However, it didn’t need water, fertilizer, or pruning. It simply existed in its hanging basket. So THAT was a plus.

Then one day it bloomed.

I was a fan forever.

The plant is more on the expensive side, so I have never had one. However, when my employee, Julian, and his mom moved last summer, his mom asked me if I wanted any of the plants. ANY? Does ALL count as ANY?

Two of the plants she had were the odd-looking plant that my wise old grandmother had. Yesterday, one of them bloomed. Looks like this:

img_2015 epiphyllum stampPictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That is the flower of an epiphyllum, common name orchid cactus. The flower is about nine inches in diameter. It’s huge! And it’s purple, which was my wise old grandmother’s favorite color.

My wise old grandmother died in June 2003, but I do believe she has come to visit me in my garden. I shall name my epiphyllum Mary since that was my wise old grandmother’s name. You thought her name was “my wise old grandmother,” didn’t you? Nope.

Mary Agnes Hartmann Kirk, this epiphyllum is for you, and for wise old grandmothers everywhere!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift?
Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage?
Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post