Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Ramblings - Purple Photos

Photos taken during June in the Southern Tier of upstate New York, by my guest photographer.
Purple vetch.


A fireweed closeup.

Flowering raspberry (which is not a raspberry)

This more far-away shot of the flowering raspberry shows the tell tale maple like leaves. But, it isn't a maple, either.

Alas, June is almost over.  We had some nasty (for us) weather yesterday. 

This is what it looked like in downtown Binghamton during the storm. (I'll spare you the picture of the dead frog. )

Today is dawning still overcast.  But it's a far cry from the fatal flooding that has hit a lot of our state of West Virginia.

Weather gone wild. Where will the wild weather hit next?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How Do You Prove You are Young at Heart?

Age is just a number, and my number is located in the 60's.  Which puts me into a grey area.  Literally.

That number isn't quite like a Sleep Number on a particular brand of mattress sold here in the United States.  If you figure out your correct sleep number, and you then buy their mattress, you will have the best sleep ever. Or so the advertising goes,

No, sleep numbers aren't the same as ages.  Many women won't even reveal their ages.  I'm past that.  Somewhat. (See above).

Not only that, the dividing line between middle age and being a senior is a blurry line, and not because of middle-aged vision.

But, the other day, I ran into a fascinating survey on a Mid Life blogging group I belong to.  I'm on the far side of midlife, but here I am in that group, and I enjoy reading posts by many of its members.  The survey is not public, so I can't link to it, but I will share (with a slight edit) one of the questions:

"...What kick-ass things are you doing in life that prove "age ain't nothin' but a number"?


Do I REALLY need to do any kick-ass things to prove my age ain't nothing but a number?

I ran down the list of activities I consider to be kick-ass.  And this is what I concluded.  I am not a kick-ass person.  I:

-do not skydive.
-do not jet ski.
-do not mountain climb.
-do not do zip lines.
-do not participate in triathlons.
-do not white-water raft....

Well, you get the picture.

This is what I do, instead.  I think the art of considering age as just a number and being young at heart consists of
1.  Curiosity, and wanting to learn more about the world around you,
2.  Be willing to try new things (and that can be HARD),
3.  Feeling gratitude for being alive, and
4.  Being true to yourself.
Not My Flowers, but still

I love flowers.  I like being around flowers.  They help make me feel grateful that I am alive, as they surround me with their beauty.  I never tire of being around flowers.
Downtown Binghamton, New York

 I like to look at clouds on my lunch hour.  They sometimes make me thing of a song.   I really don't know clouds at all.
Historic House  Bath, New York

I admire old buildings.   I wonder about the stories the walls within have witnessed.
Anthony Road Winery, Penn Yann, New York

I will drink wine and visit wineries (I live a bit more than an hour away from wine country) from time to time.  In fact, learning more about wine had started as a "trying something new" and is slowly evolving into what could be a lifelong learning experience.
Back to clouds.
June 3
I take pictures of sunsets from time to time.

I want to remain physically active, and I exercise each day in hopes of preventing more falls.  I've had several of them already.  I've been lucky.  I haven't hurt myself badly.  The next time, I may not be so lucky.

So, how would I respond to that questionnaire? How do I prove that I am young at heart? That I want to have a zest for life for the rest of my life, but not a kick-ass zest?  Learning something new each day, blogging, taking pictures, and being grateful for being alive, is where I want to be right now.  

Hopefully, I can continue to be among the  young at heart.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to water my flowers and listen to the neighborhood birds.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Why I'm Afraid of Books

Saturday, I signed up for an adult Summer Reading program at the local library in Johnson City, New York.   It runs until August 2, at which time there will be an End of Summer Party.  All I have to do is read a minimum of three books and return my log at the party.

No problem, I thought.  I love to read.

Now, that blank Adult Summer Reading Log is staring me in the face.  Oh, I read.  I read a lot.  I read blogs, Facebook posts, and a lot of books.  But, I don't finish that many books, and that's the problem I am facing.  I  read a lot of books for a few chapters, and discard them.

They didn't move me.  Or I didn't like something.  Maybe it was the lack of good world building, an important element of the genres I enjoy.  Or they just didn't live up to their promise.

You have to be careful with books.  If they are good, they will take over your life until you finish them.  If they are really good, they will stay with you for months or years after, coloring how you look at the world.

If they are masterpieces, they will change your life.

I expect a lot out of books.  And that's why I'm afraid of them.

I'm afraid of books like "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro.  It still hasn't let me go.

Or To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

Then, there are the books that teach, like Blessing's Bead by Debbie Dahl Edwardson or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  Or the various Holocaust memoirs I have read.   Oh yes, especially those memoirs.

Yes, I am afraid of books, and afraid of that blank page, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  Because I have to read books to fill it up.  And who knows what those books will do to me.

I can't live with books.  I can't live without them.

What about you?

Music Monday - Strawberry Letters and Musical Alarm Clocks

It's strawberry season in upstate New York.

I started to think about music, something that becomes a refuge when news is bad.  This has been a month full of tragic news for many.  It's time to enjoy a few minutes of lightness among all the grim moments this month has brought.  Today, I'd like to bring you several favorite songs featuring strawberries.

Strawberry Letter 23 as done by The Brothers Johnson.  I can not tell you for how many years I thought the title of this song was "Strawberry Letter 22". Ig you listen to the lyrics (I guess I didn't - I am so swept away by the the instrumental in this song) the song is about a young man singing about a love letter he has received - Strawberry Letter 22.  He is either responding or hoping for a 23rd letter.  I'm still not sure.

So why the strawberry letters?  Were they written on red paper?  Did his lover scent them with strawberries?  I love the lyrics, but they don't give me a clue.

Nor did I ever know this was actually a cover of a song by Shuggie Otis.  I won't do a battle of the bands here, but you can decide which version you like better. Mr. Otis is still performing and touring.

Strawberry Fields Forever by the Beatles - you won't find a complete version (legally) on You Tube, I suspect, but this will give you part of it.  And the video isn't bad, either.

Incense and Peppermints by the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

Are you wondering why you keep seeing Music Mondays after I had given up this feature?  I had decided there were so many blog posts with music challenges, Battles of the Bands, and so forth, that we didn't need one more.  But now I've decided I was having too much fun.  I may not do it every Monday, but if the mood hits, I will do it.

And a happy strawberry day to you, too.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Church Courtyard

What might you find in a downtown church courtyard?

My guest photographer and I took a walk in downtown Binghamton, New York late last week. 

Binghamton is a small city of about 47,000 people.  But, at one time (back in the 1950's) its population peaked at about 85,000.  Now, looking around, it's hard to imagine that.  People who grew up here (I moved about 30 years ago) tell me the streets of downtown were once packed with people on shopping holidays.

Now, when I walk down Chenango Street on weekday mornings, it is almost deserted.

There are a number of historic churches within easy walking distance of downtown, or in downtown itself.  The courtyard we are about to visit belongs to the  United Presbyterian Church of Binghamton on 42 Chenango Street. (One day, I may post some interior pictures I took during an open house).

There were flowering trees and trees in bloom, as you might expect.

A Kousa dogwood, Cornus kousa, was finishing up.   To show you what they look like at peak, here is a picture of another one taken June 10.  These trees have become quite popular in our area.

There was a mountain laurel, just past peak.
And a Japanese meadow-sweet, Spiraea japonica.
But we weren't finished.

To our delight, we even found a small church garden in the courtyard, with its own compost heap.

That stretch of Chenango Street (actually, a lot of Chenango Street) has seen better days (as has most of this area).  Up to now, I've not spent much time on some of the challenges the part of upstate New York that I love so much faces, but I think it's about time to explore that with my readers.  So I am putting that on the list of future blog posts, in hopes that Binghamton will one day bloom again.

What is blooming in your area today?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Local Saturday - Adventures with Garlic Scapes

Today, the long-awaited indoor year round farmers market finally opened in Binghamton, New York.  We celebrated with garlic scapes.

What are garlic scapes?  Before I tell you, a little about the new market.

Our regional indoor farmers market was years in the planning.  Its original location probably would have forced the closing of the community garden we've gardened in for years.  But, due to the intervention of some long-dead Native Americans, whose relics were found when they started to dig the foundations, another home had to be found.  And it was found, but the find delayed construction a couple of years.

Residents poured in today for the grand opening.

Some beautiful produce awaited them.  In season for us right now are lettuce, kale, swiss chard, and collard greens, along with the garlic scapes, young onions, and strawberries.

So, what are garlic scapes?  They are the flower bud of the garlic plant.  They should be taken off the plant to encourage the developing bulb to develop, rather than diverting energy into flowering and seed making.

In recent years, only gardeners knew the secret of garlic scapes.  Now, they are "in". Many people have learned just how delicious they are.  So farmers markets in our area are full of garlic scapes for sale in mid and late June. 

We have problems growing garlic at our house due to lack of sun, but we can always get a small handful of scapes each June.

You have to harvest them quickly.  Otherwise, they get too woody.

How can they be used? The uses are unlimited: basically, you prepare them by snipping off the touch end (as you would asparagus).  They can be made into pesto, used in hummus instead of garlic, and in double garlic soup.  

Their flavor is delicate compared to garlic bulbs, so you must adjust recipes accordingly.

Nutrition?  Quite nutritious.

Spouse plans to grill our scapes tonight, with the ribs he is also making.

Do you eat garlic scapes?  Do you have a favorite recipe?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Falling Friday - Getting Up Again

One of the most important things to know, if you are susceptible to falling, is how to get up again.

Lying on the floor for just a few hours can be deadly, we were taught in the falls prevention classes I took last year where I live near Binghamton, New York.  To be blunt, the longer you are on the floor or ground after a fall, the less likely it is that you will return to living independently.

Last year, I participated in a falls prevention class called Stepping On.  It was a lot more than just falls prevention, and was well worth my time.

In one "Stepping On" class, two physical therapists came, and showed us exercises to do to make ourselves stronger and less prone to falling.  They also showed us what to do if we fell. 

I've been in that situation more than once.  And perhaps you've been, too.
What I like about this video is that it teaches you what to do if you fall at home.  By using various objects in the typical home, this physical therapist is able to improvise and her household tools help her get up.

Towards the end of the video, she briefly explains a couple of things a senior could do if he or she was injured in the fall.  The key is to try to get up safely, or to a phone, or to a door, to call for help.

I also note that more than one of my falls were outdoors, and several people in my class were injured while walking dogs, so this video does not cover all situations.  But it is still well worth watching.

Learning to recover from a fall is NOT a do it yourself project and we only received a general demonstration.  Your particular circumstances should be evaluated by a physical therapist or other professional.  Experts suggests practicing what to do after a fall on a regular basis.

However painful to think of, the topic of what to do if you do fall is something I believe the falls prevention classes need to spend more time on.  It's great to spend a lot of time on how to prevent a fall.  But, if you fall again, it is even more urgent that you can get up by yourself, especially if you live alone.

Because I was fortunate.  And one day, we will all face this element of aging.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Wake Me Up Before I No-Go

Yesterday, several of my mother in law's relatives and a former neighbor drove about 150 miles (255 km) to visit the area where I live.  Until last August, my mother in law had lived her entire life in the suburbs of New York City.  Now, she is some 150 miles away from her lifetime home, and a lot of people downstate miss her.

Yesterday's visitors range in age from 70 to 83.  My mother in law is in her late 80's.  My spouse and I haven't quite hit 65, but we are heading towards those mid 60's.  So we were the young ones of the group, except for when our grown son joined us for dinner.

I could see the differences even five or ten years could make.  I don't usually like to make generalizations, but there were differences - not in attitude, not in the ability to enjoy life with a great attitude, but with energy level and health.  One person who was supposed to come had to cancel out earlier in the week, because it wasn't going to happen for her.  And then a second person cancelled because the first person cancelled.  The rest of us were a mixed group - cancer survivors, people with other health conditions, people of varying physical abilities.  For one person, getting out of a chair without assistance was an accomplishment.  She couldn't have done it a year ago.

It reminded me of something I read recently in an article about retirement planning.  There were stages of retirement, this article claimed, and spending patterns would change the older you got.

It seems that some retirement planners divide the retirement years into three "eras":
Go-go (on the go all or most of the time) lots of travel, activities, and so forth.
Slow-go (slowing down)
No-go (self explanatory) not only not traveling, but needing assistance to do what you could once do yourself.

There is some truth to this, but I think it is different for everyone.  For example, the 83 year old in the group lives by herself in her home of over 50 years.  She flies out from her home in a New York City suburb to visit a daughter and her family in California several times a year.  In fact, she's making that trip in August, despite having had some surgery earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, I can't tell you the last time I was on a plane.  Oh wait, yes I can.  It was in July of 1996.


While we make car trips each year, the maximum hours in transit we will tolerate without a lot of discomfort seems to shrink yearly.  And it isn't just long trips of hundreds of miles. Other trips we would have considered in our 20's on a day trip (mileage wise) now have morphed into overnights.

In the go-go years, the planners say, you should plan financially for a lot of travel and/or activities.  And then those expenses trend down as you age, while health expenses trend up.  And up.  And, you lose the ability to do things you once could without assistance.  And that assistance costs money.  A lot of money.

Again, this fade away may or may not happen to either me or my spouse.   But, we really don't want to assume that we are going to fade away in the sunset, going through go-go, slow go and no-go, just because a financial planner tells us that is how we should plan our Golden Years.

But, there is some need to try to plan for the unexpected.  I've, sadly, known too many people with cancer diagnoses in the recent past. I doubt that was in their plans.  But perhaps it is better not to try to plan for that, and take it as it comes.

All the more reason why we should go-go (in my humble opinion) while we can, for as long as we can, and enjoy every day of the ride.  And wake up with gratitude that another day of still go-going has been granted us.

What do you think?  Or, have you thought about it yet?