Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Impossible Survivor

She doesn't look like much.
May 23
But if you only knew her story, you would know better.  She's a survivor.

Yes, this plant is a "she". Not a botanical "she". Just a she.

 Her name is April Rose, and she is a camilla.

Camillas are plants popular in the Southern United States extending to areas such as Long Island, in New York State.  They are grown in Great Britain, and other parts of the world where it doesn't get much below zero (Celsius, that is) because they can't tolerate too much cold.

I love camillas because they bloom in the winter.  Well, many of them do.  Their flowers are beautiful.  In upstate New York, nothing blooms in the winter, except maybe ice and snow crystals

Never met a camilla? If you drink tea (not herbal tea) you are familiar with one type of camilla, one grown for its leaves.

Living in zone 5b upstate New York, near Binghamton, I despaired of ever being able to have a camilla in my backyard.   Then, last year, we found a nursery in Chapel Hill, North Carolina that specializes in what they call hardy camillas.  They are hardy - for camillas.

Hardy as in being able to survive a winter in Chapel Hill where it went down to -8 (-22C) last year.
So, in 2015, we bought our April Rose and brought it home.  We planted it in a sheltered area in our backyard.  And, lo and behold, we had one of the mildest Decembers and early Januaries on record.
Until, suddenly, it went down to -10 F.  Would the flower buds, already formed, survive?

They did.  The plant, and the buds, survived the rest of the winter.

The buds started to open in April.  But one day, we came home, and the buds were scattered all over the ground.  Heartbroken, we protected the plant, and the few buds it had left, with a fence.
April 23
 No, I didn't blog about that.  I still don't know what animal did that to April Rose.

In the past few days, the remaining buds started to open.  The flowers are smaller than they should be, and it is possible we needed to fertilize the plant (we did so last week).

But my April Rose has done the impossible.

She survived.

She is blooming.

In upstate New York.

She has done the impossible.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Music Monday - Time Waits for No One

This will probably be my last Music Monday, although I may post an occasional music post, depending on my mood.

Allium, West Side of Binghamton, New York
Spring rushes along.  Spring waits for no one at all.

Yesterday, I participated in our community's Sacred Sites Sunday - a New York statewide initiative that has various houses of worship opening their doors for open houses to share their art and history.  What I would like to do, eventually, is devote one day a week to some of the forgotten and (not so forgotten) history of our community.

I learned, at my second Sacred Sites Sunday, that a number of the churches in the Binghamton area community were destroyed by fire at one time or another, yet were rebuilt.  It reminds me of how nothing is permanent. Nothing is forever.

It made me think, too of an 84 year old broadcast journalist, Morley Safer. He retired earlier this month and died just four days after making his final broadcast.

Time waits for no one.  So, on that subject, a couple of songs for my last Music Monday.

Rolling Stones - Time Waits for No One

Driftwood - The Moody Blues (one of my favorite groups).

History, and the human experience.  Time waits for no one at all, not even us.

How do you mark the passage of time?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Bucket List

There have been several variations of this meme, which has been circulating on Facebook for a few months.  Several of my Facebook friends have played along.

I tend to be a private person, and I don't tell that many personal stories about myself.  But yesterday, a blogger in India noticed that, in a post about my father, I mentioned that he had served in the United States Army Air Force in World War II, and was stationed in India for part of that time.  She asked if I had any memories I could share.

What I do remember is some of the stories of his service that he used to tell me when he put me to bed at night.  One day, I will share them, from what I remember.  I don't remember much, and I regret it.   He didn't talk about his service all that much, and I realize, as an adult, that many of his generation ("The Greatest Generation") never shared their experiences.

With his memories, he also shared several items from what we now call a bucket list here in the States - a list of things you want to see, experience, or do before you die - with me.

While in India, my father was fortunate enough to have seen the Taj Mahal, and wanted to see it again before he died.  He never was able to go back, though.

Two other items on his bucket list, both not accomplished, was seeing New Orleans during Mardi Gras and seeing Washington DC during cherry blossom season.  He never accomplished these either.  And, come to think of it, neither have I.

So, just for fun, I am going to share this meme with you (one version of it) along with my responses.  This isn't a bucket list, but it is still fun to see some of the things I've accomplished or experienced.  And, if you could share an item from your bucket list in the comments, I would love to hear it.

"Bucket List - please play along. You'll be surprised at the responses. Put an "X" in the box if you have done it! Just copy and paste to your timeline (or maybe blog).
( )Shot a gun
( )Gone on a blind date
(X) Skipped school
(x) Watched someone die
(x)Visited Canada
( )Visited Hawaii
( ) Visited Cuba
()Visited Europe
() Visited South America
(X)Visited Las Vegas
( ) Visited Central America
() Visited Asia
( )Visited Africa
(X) Visited Florida
(x)Visited Mexico
(X ) Seen the Grand Canyon in person
( )Flown in a helicopter
( ) Served on a jury
(X)Been lost
( X) Traveled to the opposite side of the country
(x)Visited Washington, DC
(X) Swam in the Ocean
(X) Cried yourself to sleep
(X) Played cops and robbers
(X) Played cowboys and Indians (Indians in my youth, now Native Americans).
( ) Recently colored with crayons
( ) Sang karaoke
( )Sang a solo or duet in church
(X)Paid for a meal with coins only
( ) Made prank phone calls
(X) Laughed until some beverage came out of your nose
(X)Caught a snowflake on your tongue
(X)Had children
(X) Had a pet
( )Been skinny-dipping
(X) Been fishing
(X) Been boating
( ) Been Downhill Skiing
( )Been water skiing
( ) Been camping in a trailer/RV
(X) Been camping in a tent
( )Driven a motorcycle
( ) Been bungee-jumping
(X) Gone to a drive-in movie
(X) Done something that could have killed you

 ( )Done something that you will regret for the rest of your life
( ) Rode an elephant
(X)Rode a camel
(X) Eaten just cookies or cake or ice cream for dinner
(X) Been on TV
( )Stolen any traffic signs
(X)Been in a car accident
( )Been in the Hospital in past 24 months
(X) Donated blood
() Gotten a (speeding) or any other type of ticket in the past 12 months
() Gotten a piercing (ears count)
()Gotten a Tattoo
(X) Driven a manual transmission vehicle
( ) Ever owned your dream car
(X)Been Married
( ) Been divorced
(X)Fell in love
(X) Fell out of love
( ) Paid for a strangers meal
( )Driven over 120 mph
( ) Been scuba diving
( ) Written a published book/story/poetry
(X )Eaten snails

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Local Saturday - Armed Forces Day and the Curtain of Shame

Today, in the United States, it is Armed Forces Day, a day "to pay tribute to the men and women who served in our Armed Forces."

It makes me sad and a little wistful when I think of this.

Because it makes me go back in time.  Way back in time, to World War II, before I was born.

My father served in the Armed Forces in World War II.  He was in his mid 20's when war broke out, and had originally been classified 4-F (not physically eligible for military service) when the draft was instituted in 1940.  It may have been the fact that he couldn't hear well in one ear due to his hearing being partially destroyed by a childhood ear infection - that is what happened back before antibiotics were developed.  Or maybe it was his heart murmur.  Or the fact that he had a dependent - a younger brother he was helping to raise after his mother died in 1937.

By 1942, the draft boards weren't so picky.  And his sister, also raising his younger brother, went into the WAVES ("Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service"), the women who served in the United States Navy during World War II.  My father (I'm not sure if he was drafted or he enlisted, knowing he would be drafted - he was 28 by then) went into the United States Army-Air Force.  He served in Arkansas, Mississippi, and in India as a military policeman, and later an airplane mechanic.

In India, a country he loved and always wanted to go back to to visit (he never made it), he suffered a head injury that left him suffering from seizures and other issues for the rest of his life.  Because people didn't speak of these kind of disabilities, we, his family, suffered in silence.  You just did the best you could if you were disabled.  They didn't know much about treating head injuries in those days.  I don't even know how the injury happened, and I didn't even know he had one until I was about eight years old.  Because it just wasn't talked about.  But believe me, the children of these vets knew something was wrong.

There was a curtain of silence and shame.  And it was so wrong.  It still is, today.  Today, on Armed Forces Day, I want to shout from the rooftops:  "Stop the Conspiracy of Silence".  The one that makes our veterans jump through unknowable hoops to get the treatment they deserve.  The job discrimination they (yes, like my father) still suffer.

I know the mothers of two veterans of the Iraq-Afghanistan war. Not everyone is "fine" when they come home.  Some of these vets suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  Others suffer from their physical injuries.  There is nothing glamorous about war.  Nothing heroic, when it comes right down to it.

War, as General Sherman once said, is hell.

I salute everyone who works with our disabled veterans, and, in a future post, will blog about a local woman who works with them. But so much more needs to be done.

My heart goes out to each and every veteran this Armed Forces Day.  I won't say "thank you for your service" because that statement has become a cliche.

Instead I will say "Thank you for helping us stay free.  Thank you for making us understand that the price of freedom is sometimes higher than any of us in the civilian world can imagine."

Do you have family in the military of any nation?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Falling Friday - Fear Prevention


When you are young, it is no big deal.

Frank Sinatra sang about it in the context of failure - pick yourself up, start all over again.

But, as you age, many have vision issues.  Then, you lose muscular strength.  Eventually, you may even lose the ability to pick yourself up if you fall.  Seniors become fearful.  They stop going out.  They lose their independence, sometimes just from fear of falling.

Experts say one of the leading reasons why we become more prone to falling is because we lose muscular strength in certain areas.  That is why so many anti-falling programs emphasize exercise.

This doesn't mean we have to work out at the gym for hours, either.  The program I participated in last year, Stepping On, recommended eight exercises. Four are done daily and four are done every other day (or, three times a week).

As always, a disclaimer:  if you are prone to falls, have a professional teach you the exercises.  I can't emphasize this enough.  This can be done by a trained instructor or a physical therapist. We were taught by trained instructors and two physical therapists.

I am not a qualified falls prevention instructor, so I turned to You Tube, and I found a video that has instructions for two of the exercises I do.  One, the "sit to stand", I was taught to do daily.  The other, the side leg raises, we do three times a week.
Our instructors taught us that many people do exercises too quickly.  For the "sit to stand" she recommended we pretend we were an elevator.  As we rose, she called out:  first floor! (pause briefly). Second floor! (pause briefly).  Third floor!  (Then the same, as we sat.  Slow and pause.  Slow and pause.

Could it be that exercise, which I hated so much when I was young, may just be the Fountain of Youth we have all be looking for?  Maybe not youth, but it may save us from a cause of decline all too common in seniors.  And that fear, which robs us of quality of life.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What's in a Name?

 I'm taking a chance. I may end up in Facebook Jail for using a certain word (things like that have happened to others I know).  But hang on, dear readers, and keep reading, because this post is for real. 

In another year, we in the Binghamton, New York area may not be cheering for the team we call the "B-Mets" anymore.  Instead, we may be cheering for the....

Binghamton StudMuffins.


In case you don't know what that word after "Binghamton" means, here is what the Oxford English Dictionary has to say.  Go check it out.  I'll wait.

Back?   Are you smiling?  Or frowning?  Or daydreaming about one?

Anyway, if that word becomes our minor league baseball team's name, we only have ourselves to blame.  In fact, it seemed that was all certain people I now were talking about yesterday.

Today, it made the front page of our paper.  No, not the front page of the sports section.  The front page.

It came about like this:  this past year, we got a new owner of the team.  Said new owner decided to run a contest to rename the team.  So now, if you go to a website, you will find this (and this is the link you can use to vote):

"Starting May 17, 2016 through June 1, 2016 we are asking you, the fans, to vote on what will be the new name of the 2017 AA-Mets. Please remember we are looking for a new name that embodies what Binghamton, NY is known for - what makes Binghamton different from any other city in the world. The nominees are..."

There are six selections you can vote for.   And if that word after "Binghamton" wasn't one of them, no one would have cared.

Instead, this contest has now been picked up nationally (including on Sports Illustrated's website) and we in Binghamton don't know whether to laugh, cry, say hurray for what may well be a most impressive PR stunt, or hide our faces in embarrassment.

The website where you vote explains the reason for the choice and again, I quote:
"While tipping a cap to the players on the field, the "Stud Muffins" celebrates the collection of carousel horses belonging to Binghamtonians."

Yeah, right.

That new owner is smart, me thinks.  He made the front page.  He made national publications.  Although I don't think he crashed the Internet.

So, I will ask my dear readers:  What do you think?  And while you are at it, have some fun (just not at our expense), and vote.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Spring Things - Five Shades of White

White, white, and more white.  With, perhaps, a splash of pink.  Spring surrounds me as my spouse and I take an exercise walk in the Binghamton area of upstate New York.
We've been doing it for some four years now.

Enjoy this closeup of a dogwood in Binghamton, New York.
Tulips in my front yard (at the end of the walk.)
An ash tree in bloom, back in Binghamton, shows us its creamy white blossoms.

All white late daffodils, Binghamton.  So much white they washed out.
And still more white during our walk.

The last couple of days, I have walked in a coat due to the unseasonable cold.  But I have faith that the warm weather will come.

Enjoy the season, as it will soon be hot and summery.  And for my readers on the Indian subcontinent, I hope this post sends some refreshing breezes your way.

How was your weather yesterday?