Monday, May 25, 2015


Our veterans, past and present, deserve our thanks, and so much more.  Today, in the United States, it is Memorial Day.

Today, the genealogy website has free access and you can look up military records for anyone in their database.

I looked up my grandfather on my mother's side and found (definitely,because I knew the address) his World War II draft card and (possibly) his World War I draft card.  For the first time in memory, I saw his signature.  And I saw his town of birth - something I never knew - but it doesn't seem to exist -"Altsandas, Poland" - another mystery for a later date. (I am not sure of the country today, but it was Austria-Hungary when he came to this country.

I looked up my father's World War Two enlistment record and found this:  and, in a kind of irony, after the war he worked for several years on Governor's Island, part of New York City.

State of Residence: New York
County or City: Kings(a borough of New York City)
Enlistment Date: 6 Aug 1942
Enlistment State: New York
Enlistment City: Fort Jay Governors Island

Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law
Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
Source: Civil Life
Education: 2 years of high school
Civil Occupation: Semiskilled occupations in manufacture of miscellaneous electrical equipment, n.e.c.
Marital Status: Single, with dependents
Height: 69
Weight: 130

More memories.  My Dad was always tall and thin, so his statistics were no surprise.  But why would my father have been single, with dependents?  Because he helped to raise his youngest brother after his mother died.  Just as he raised me after my mother died.

These documents may not show much, but they can still tell a story.  You just need to be creative to read and understand the story.

In honor of all vets (including my father, who received a head injury in his military service, and my husband, who is a peactime vet) I also offer these local military monuments in our area. 

 Endicott, New York, a few miles down Main Street from where I live.

Veterans Memorial statue.
Plaques commemorating the war dead.  An American flag is kept,fresh, on each one.

The war memorials - World War II, which my father served in (in the Army Air Force) as did one of his brothers, and one of his sisters.

The Korean War. When I grew up it wasn't a "war", it was a "police action". But the people were just as dead.
The forgotten war, Vietnam, where our dead were dishonored and our veterans were mocked - a sad thing I will never forget. Both of my next door neighbor boys (growing up in the Bronx) served in 'Nam, as did other young men I grew up with.

Binghamton - part of the Korean War monument on the Broome County courthouse lawn.

And the Revolutionary War monument, also on the Courthouse lawn.

Are you a vet? Are there vets in your life you wish to honor?  Please leave a comment.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Civil War Sunday - Can Remembering be Toxic?

The United States Civil War is not yet over.

My country, the United States, has just finished four years of remembering an event that took place from April, 1861 to April, 1865 - our very own Civil War, the war that shaped our country and made us the country we are today.

Tomorrow, in our country, it is Memorial Day.   Yesterday, I was looking at some blogs I read, and I saw this:

"Because Nothing Says Memorial Day like a Confederate Flag Burning"?

Yes, it's true.  There is a project called 13 Flag Funeral, which will take place tomorrow at 1pm Eastern Time, where, in 13 former Confederate States, a burning of the Confederate Flag will be held.

A artist by the name of John Sims hopes to start a conversation.  It is going to be a heck of a conversation.  Comments range from "it's overdue" to "it's extremely disrespectful, especially given it is going to take place on Memorial Day, the day our country remembers its war dead."
Taken by AM, March, 2015, in North Carolina
The Confederate flags (there were several) are still flown today, including on the grounds of the capital of South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union in the months leading up to the Civil War.  It even appears on official license plates of former Confederate states.  This Virginia license plate, for example, is available for purchase by members of an organization called the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  This organization, incidentally, is open to all male descendents of those who served honorably in the Confederate military.

The flag pictured on the license plate is a Confederate battle flag.  The cross is known as the "Southern Cross", related to the Cross of St. Andrew that the British use on their flag.

There is an expression "Elephant in the Room".  The Civil War has been an elephant in many American living rooms over the past 150 years.  Even today, things will seem calm, until an event like this is held.  Then feelings come out that we sometimes don't even know dwell deep inside us.  Strong, deep, hateful feelings.

Even the Wall Street Journal, a respected publication, had some interesting comments posted on an article they wrote about tomorrow's event, complete with...well, read it for yourself.

So:  is this event designed to inflame?  Or, to start a useful conversation to draw out toxic thoughts so they can be destroyed?  Will that help our country continue the healing that has taken place, not always in an even fashion, for the past 150 years?

Whatever side you are on, I think we can all agree that we should remember, tomorrow, the people who died for our freedom in all our wars so we can have this kind of national debate.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Local Saturday - Lost But Now Found

For the second time in my life, I have found lost family (or, rather, they have found me).

Last February, I posted something I am repeating below, in part.

In it, I explained that I had not been in touch with anyone on my mother's side of the family in many years (by my count, it must be over 30 years). 

At about the same time, the genealogy website offered a free weekend.  I took advantage of it, and I started to build a family tree of my mother's side of the family, the ____s.  Of course, my memory being limited, I didn't get that far.  After the weekend ended, I decided I didn't have the time to pursue this (as Ancestry is not a free website, I didn't want to waste my money).

Earlier this week I received a generic message in an email from, with a family name I did not recognize but a message saying that she was working on a family tree of the ____s and thought we might be related.  I clicked to respond, and found I had to join Ancestry even to send a message.

Yesterday, I received another email, and I hope this woman doesn't mind me quoting it (with names deleted, of course):

" Hi, I just spoke to my father (let's call him "N"), who told me that you are first cousins. My mom was thrilled that I had found you. Seems like they had been looking to contact you for years and could not find out where you were. They would love to be able to write or call you."

Her father "N" is vague in my memory.  I did some quick research (what I could get for free, because I could not remember his first name), but I sure knew the last name well.   Could I truly have been found by my mother's family by someone, after years of searching? 

I discovered that Ancestry was having another free weekend for our Memorial Day weekend, and I had limited access to the site again! I messaged back, with some more information.  And then I heard back.

The answer is yes.  I have been found by someone on my mother's side of the family.

The woman who sent me the message is my first cousin once removed on my mother's side (her grandmother and my mother were sisters).  Her mother, an aunt who had continued contact with me for a few years after I married, passed away (my newly found cousin told me) in 1998.  And now we have each other's email addresses.

I told my husband and I think he was just as, if even more, excited than I am.
And now, part of the post from February.

The Power of Compassion

I am a private person.

You really have to watch those women from Nebraska.  They sneak up on you.

So, I learned today there was a project called "1000 Voices for Compassion", where bloggers were encouraged to " write posts about compassion, kindness, support, caring for others, non-judgement, care for the environment etc, and ALL PUBLISH ON THE SAME DAY (Feb 20th) to flood the Blogosphere with GOOD!"  

This young woman from Nebraska talked about her fiance.  She is in an interracial relationship.  She talks honestly about some of the "ugly looks" that have been directed in their direction.

So let me tell you a little bit about myself that I have never told my readers about before, and tell you about lessons in compassion that I never fully realized until recently.

In 1970, when I was 17 years old, I started dating a boy who was going to the same college as I was.   We were of different religions.  I am Jewish.  My husband is Catholic.  In 1970, that mattered.

It mattered a lot.

Some members of my family were less than thrilled.  I have had no contact with my mother's side of my family in many, many years.  Some members of my future husband's family were less than thrilled, too.

But there were the many people who had compassion, who saw past the religious differences, who accepted us for who we are, and I owe a great debt of gratitude to every one of them. Until tonight, I've never thanked them publicly.  Some of them, sadly, are no longer with us, having moved on to the next level of existence.  But I want to say to each of them, "Thank you".  My grandfather.  Cousins.  A childhood friend. My husband's next door neighbor. Some Aunts and Uncles on both sides of our family.  And this is just for starters.

Meanwhile, we, my husband and I, have been married for nearly 41 years.  Our love is deep.   I hope that young woman in Nebraska can say the same about her and her Warrior Man, 41 years from now. (Too bad I won't be around to help her celebrate.)

Times have changed tremendously.  I owe a debt to those who went before me, who helped pave the path of compassion that my husband and I walked.   I haven't done enough to extend that path to the generations that have followed me.

You never know what one small act of compassion will do, until you are on the receiving end.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Thirteen Months Later

What a difference 13 months makes between drought and nationally covered floods.

In April of last year, I blogged about Wichita Falls, Texas, which was in an extreme drought emergency.  I had lived there many years ago, and was horrified to discover that they were seriously considering drinking treated toilet water.

Now, Wichita Falls is flooding as I blog this.  They have received over 12 inches of rain this month.  They may receive another seven inches of rain in the coming days.
A month ago, someone I know passed through Wichita Falls and took this picture of the falls Wichita Falls is named after.  Now, parts of the city have been evacuated.  I am familiar with river flooding - I have been through two of them.  I feel for the people of Wichita Falls.

The weather everywhere, including where I live in upstate New York, has been outside the norm.  Now, Wichita Falls is paying the price.

The only bright side of this is that they have dropped from a level 5 drought emergency (the worst) to a level 3.

Here's my post from 2014.

Would You Drink Your Toilet Water?

Today, in the United States, it is Earth Day.  It's the day to think about the environment, and our impact on it.

Years ago, my spouse and I lived (for about eight months) in Wichita Falls, Texas, a city of about 104,000 about 10 miles south of the Texas/Oklahoma border.  It was an interesting experience but I have not been back since.

Today, I turned on the Weather Channel while preparing to go to work, and there was a fascinating discussion about a city so terribly impacted by drought, that they are trying to get state approval to capture and recycle their "potty water" (as they call it) and mix it in with reservoir water.

Turns out that city is Wichita Falls, Texas.

Things are desperate in Wichita Falls. They have been in a drought for some three years. Their reservoirs are hovering around 25% capacity.

So, are you grossed out by the thought of drinking your toilet water?

A couple of interesting thoughts.

I grew up in New York City.  To me, drinking water was something that came out of faucets.  My parents rarely took me out of New York City - for one thing, our family did not own a car. (Back when I grew up, this was not uncommon in New York City.)  In fact, I never saw a garden until I was 17 years old.  Really.

One day I found out our drinking water came from a place called the Croton Reservoir. As a teenager, I got to see this reservoir - a large lake.  And, I suddenly realized, there were FISH in this body of water.  Fish who ate, drank and...pooped.

I was drinking water with FISH POOP in it.

It wasn't long before I found out that was the least of my worries.  Many cities took their drinking water from rivers (such as Binghamton, New York, whose drinking water comes from the Susquehanna River.).  If your drinking water comes from a river, maybe you know that your drinking water contains wastewater (treated, you hope) from every city upriver from you.  And, in turn, the cities downriver of you are drinking your wastewater.

So many of us already drink toilet water indirectly.  The difference is, Wichita Falls wants to use this treated water directly, mixing it in with the fresh reservoir water, to make up about a third of their water usage.

Not a happy thought for Earth Day, is it?

Well, as it happens,  a lot of people are watching the Wichita Falls situation with a lot of interest.  Other cities are thinking of trying to pass legislation to allow direct usage of this formerly dumped resource.

After all, astronauts are already doing it.

The good citizens of Wichita Falls have dropped their water usage from about 40 million gallons a day to about 11-12 million gallons. But that just isn't enough.  So, besides the waste water recycling project, the city is going to try cloud seeding.  And, people are purchasing rainwater collection systems to try to capture whatever rain does fall.   But, to survive, they may be turning to toilet water.

We can't live without water.  Would you drink treated toilet water to survive?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to Save $220

In September of 2011, our neighborhood of Westover, near Johnson City, New York, was flooded during Tropical Storm Lee.  Our basement had several feet of water in it, which caused various problems in our house.  Several thousands of dollars and much effort later, we ended up needing to buy a dehumidifier.  We were told would need to run it constantly except in the heart of winter because once a basement floods, it will have a humidity problem for the rest of the life of the house.

And so we did.

This spring, we turned the dehumidifier on.  Soon, we discovered it was not working.  It turned on, but it didn't wring any water out of the air.

I called the store where we had bought it, hoping there was still some kind of limited warranty on the unit.  There was not.  We tried to find our owner's manual, but we couldn't locate it.

So I asked around, and got several suggestions about where I could purchase a reasonably priced dehumidifier.  But first, we decided to read's product ratings.  The units were running $220 and up, which meant it was time for some bargain shopping.

We quickly found a unit of interest, but we needed a particular feature.  Amazon, helpfully, allowed us to download a user manual.  This was a different brand than the brand that quit on us after three and a half years.

We found the feature we wanted, but I kept reading, and noticed there was a troubleshooting section.  One of the items mentioned checking the filter.  I noted this other brand's unit had a filter that needed to be taken out and cleaned every two weeks.  "Gee", I said.  "How inconvenient.  Our broken unit doesn't have a filter..."

We looked at each other.

Spouse went down to the basement.  Several minutes later, he emerged, holding a filter clogged with dirt. "I had to figure out where it was", he said.  "I had to take the water bucket out and take a guess.  But once I found the filter, it was easy to remove."  Spouse vacuumed and washed the filter, replaced it in the unit, and, an hour or so later, there was water in the water bucket.

When we had bought the unit, we never read the user manual, and never realized the unit had a filter.

I should be impressed that the dehumidifier worked for over three years without the filter being cleaned.

I am even more impressed that we saved $220 by cleaning a filter we didn't even know we have.

So, the moral of the story is:  read the instructions!

Have you ever been embarrassed by not reading the instructions?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Spring Things - Rapidly White

Ah, the freshness of spring.

Foliage is clean, fresh, coming out in many shades of green.  Spring exploded this month in the northeast.  There are so many colors to choose from.

I devote Wednesdays on my blog to the season we are in here in upstate New York.

Today, I decided to pick a color to represent this week of spring.  With viburnums and spireas in full bloom, I decided on white.
Viburnums blooming at the Broome County Pubic Library, Binghamton, on May 18.
White lilacs blooming near my home in Westover, near Johnson City, New York,on May 16.
Spirea, west side of Binghamton, May 18.

Lamium album, or white dead nettle, May 19, Binghamton, New York.

White trees in bloom yesterday in downtown Binghamton.

This spring has passed so quickly.  There are flowers I barely saw before they were gone.  Yesterday, a cold front cooled us down.  I hope spring will slow down briefly, so I can enjoy these blooms for a few days.

What is your favorite color of flower?  Perhaps I will feature that color in my next Spring Things.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Mistaken Invitation

I wasn't surprised when I opened my mailbox yesterday, and the letter was there.

I knew what was in the envelope before I opened it, because I've gotten that letter at this time every year for the past few years.

It begins:

"You are invited!
(date in June)
to Celebrate a World with...."

I am happy to report that, once again, I am not eligible to attend.  The rest of the invite reads:

" Celebrate a World with Less Cancer and More Birthdays".  Why wouldn't I want to attend?

But first, I need to back up a little.

For several years, I participated in the American Cancer Society (ACS) Relay for Life, when my employer had a team. The Relay is a walk where you participate as a team.  One person must be on the track at all times, for about 18 consecutive hours, so many team members (I never did) camp out on the track.  There are giveaways, entertainment, and a lot of high school and college students have a good time as they try to stay awake all night.  They cook dinner - coffee is provided - and breakfast.

 Of course, as a team member, you are expected to fundraise for the ACS.  I would usually donate an afghan to our team to raffle, too.

Many people in my life have been impacted by cancer.  Three of my friends (the first one when I was 13) have died from cancer.  Several others are survivors.  Two dear friends are currently under treatment.

When you register for the Relay for Life, you indicate if you are a cancer survivor or not.  Survivors get a participating T-Shirt of a different color than people who have never been diagnosed.  I always registered as a person who has not had cancer.  I have never received a cancer diagnosis.

I was been a caregiver for someone with cancer, but it wasn't for a long period of time, and that person is no longer in active treatment.  One day, that person may be living up here, and I will pass the invite on to her.

Survivors of cancer are invited to attend a free dinner at the Relay, where they are honored.  A caregiver of their choice can also attend at no charge.

Somehow, I am on the ACS's list as a cancer survivor.  For over five years, I've been getting this invitation letter, long before someone I am a long distance caregiver for received a cancer diagnosis.  I've sometimes passed the letter along (the invite is not personalized) to a local cancer survivor in my life, and I will do the same this year.  And, I suppose, I could contact our ACS chapter and ask them to take my name off their survivors list.  But I'm not going to.

In a way, this invitation reminds me of how fortunate I am to not be able to attend this dinner.  I am grateful for their mistake.

What are you grateful for today?