Friday, February 27, 2015

A Wintery Walk

I sometimes don't understand why some of my blog readers seem to have an endless appetite for m me blogging about winter and snow.  Either misery loves company, or some people enjoy my whining about winter.

Or, they are tired of those endless, sunny days some of them experience (at least, my Florida friends on Facebook seem to experience those days) and want a break from their happiness.

Well, folks.  I live to serve.

Sunday it got up to the high 30's F (about 3 C) before it plunged down again to the lowest temperatures in many years.  I donned my snow sneakers (would you like me to blog about them?) and spouse and I headed out to the Vestal Rail Trail in the Triple Cities of upstate New York to enjoy the heat wave.  And trust me, when you've had several nghts plunging into the below zeroes, 38 degrees above feels Florida.
The sumacs are still holding on to their berries.  Have you ever eaten sumac berries in some form?  That could be the subject of another post.
Another nature photo.
A bench, almost buried.
The edge of the trail.  The sign facing the camera invites you to a business at one end of the trail that sells food and drink, saying "Exercise your right to refreshment!"

Finally, icicles have formed on many buildings, including this one.  Not Boston massive, but they can still do enough damage.

Although these pictures look dreary, they were actually taken in early afternoon.

So what keeps me going?
Otsiningo Park, Binghamton on a July day
Knowing that, someday, one day, a walk in the park will look like this, and I can shed my snow sneakers.

We may have a major snowstorm on Sunday.  But after that, I think (I hope) we have finally turned the corner towards spring.

How is your weather today?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

When It Is Good to Complain

Is complaining bad for you? That's our common wisdom.

 Some people say "yes", and add that we should replace complaints with gratitude.  Be positive, and you and your body will both benefit.

 I've been keeping track of some of my complaining recently.  For example, my spouse did me a big favor by taking me to work the other day.  It was wicked cold (as we say, here in the Southern Tier of New York State) and the sidewalks were a bit icy from a thaw the day before.

So, I try to open the car door, and it is blocked by the tall snowpile next to the path leading from our house to the street.  So the first thing my spouse heard, instead of "thank you", was somewhere along the line of "*&#@ snowpile!". It also could have been "*($@ salt!" when I got road salt dust (it is on everything, including cars, trees near highways) on my coat. 

When I got to work, everyone was complaining about the temperature, when people weren't trying to one-up each other about just HOW COLD it was at their house.

So yes, I complain.  And so does everyone I know.

Because I majored in cultural anthropology, I wondered if complaining, in certain circumstance, can be a form of bonding.   (Gossip also is a form of bonding, but we all know how damaging gossip can be, too)

In the midst of my complaining, I found a recent article in The Atlantic of interest.

It turns out that sometimes, complaining may be beneficial.  That is not to say we shouldn't practice gratitude.  But, if complaining is done right (knowing when to complain, knowing who to complain to, and complaining for a purpose - to accomplish a purpose), complaining can be good, even providing us with positive health benefits.  And, some types of complaining can actually improve the light in which others see you.  That one really surprised me.

I can see myself, in a fancy restaurant, complaining about the wine, and people around me being impressed. (Or not, because I don't go to fancy restaurants.  Or, drink wine in any restaurant.)

Complaining, in some circumstances, can provide sympathy (if it is not overdone), and human connection.  The trick is, knowing when to stop, before it turns into whining.

Complaining can help you focus and organize negative feelings.

So complaining, it turns out, can be negative (and often is) but can also be a positive thing, if done right.

Now, about those snow piles...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Winter Wonders Of a Below Zero Sunrise

This is not what you want to wake up to, as my son did yesterday (the bottom temperature is the outside temperature.)

This is -30.8 C, for those outside the United States.

Only the brave throw back the colors to face the day without complaint, when your thermometer reads that low.  In upstate New York, we wonder at people who deal with these temperatures for much of the winter, and admire them.  Then we go back to complaining about the weather.

At my house, it was only -8 F (-22 C).  It hasn't been that cold for us, we figure, in about 15 years.
The birds were singing, as I took a picture of the sunrise.  Birds singing in the early morning is one of the first signs of spring.  At this time of year, bright sunshine usually comes only with ice cold temperatures.  The birds know something we don't know - yet.

Streaks were in the air, as the sun appeared.
Smoke does funny things in the below zero air (this picture taken on a different below zero day).

Spring, right now, is invisible.  But soon, sap will start to flow in the trees again.  The tips of their branches will glow with a bright red.  If we are fortunate, we will have a good maple syruping season as March progresses.

But for now, the only signs of spring are those singing birds.

The rest of nature is still locked in ice and snow.

One day it will be spring, but not just yet.

What is your weather like today?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What A Man Did For His Son

Why must individuals with autism suffer with an unemployment rate of 90%?

Why, indeed. As the sister in law of a man in his 50's with autism, who has spent much of his working life in a sheltered workshop environment, I ask that question a lot.  At some point, my brother in law may be facing unemployment, with the closing of these workshops in New York State due to withdrawal of funding. 

A father and a brother decided to take matters into their own hands.

They caught the Rising Tide.

The son of a friend sent me a link on Facebook a couple of days ago - a link to a video about a car wash in Florida - a car wash called Rising Tide.  

This car wash employs mainly individuals with autism.  In other words, this venture came out of the love of a father for his son, and the love of a brother for his brother with autism.  The two brothers work there together at the business.

I hope that their "CanDo Business Ventures" doesn't mind if I quote from their website, as I feel their message is so important.  People with autism, in the correct environment, have a lot to contribute to our society.  And, why should my brother in law's disability be such that he ends up in a job where he, and his co workers, make less than the minimum wage?  How can someone ever strive towards independence if they are kept down by the inability to earn a living wage?

The owner of Rising Tide asks, on his website:

"Is someone in your family affected by Autism? Have you ever asked yourself the question,“What will my family member with autism do when I am no longer around to take care of them?” If you’re like us, this question has not only crossed your mind but is a concern that keeps you up at night. This simple fact is the inspiration behind CanDo Business Ventures.

John’s son, Tom’s younger brother, Andrew, has autism. ...Although a vibrant, light hearted young man, Andrew’s disability is a clear competitive disadvantage when it comes to securing gainful employment. We believe that Andrew and others like him have difficulty getting a job, not because people don’t want to help, but rather because businesses are simply not set up to accommodate the needs of people like Andrew."
 This is their philosophy:
" More than just a job, our plan is to have the businesses we build be a cornerstone to create supportive communities of individuals with autism where we teach them the skills needed to live independently and self advocate."

I wish them much success, because I believe this father and son duo can help to transform the world of employment for people like my brother in law.  And, we could sure use a good carwash with all of our salt-encrusted cars in New York State.

If you live anywhere near Parkland, Florida - why don't you catch the Rising Tide and give them a try? 

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Six Flag Raisers

You could say it's only a photograph.  But it is also a story, a tragic story, a story that will be getting some attention in the United States today, on the 70th anniversary of the taking of the photo.

On the surface, it's a simple photograph, six men raising an American flag - five Marines and one Navy man - on top of Mt. Suribachi, on the small volcanic island of Iwo Jima.

February 23, 1945.  We are at war with Japan, and are fighting for control of Iwo Jima.

The story of this photograph, which won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for photography, was not without some controversy, but what I want to blog about today is what happened to the six men in the photograph.

Three of them died within a month of the taking of the photo: Franklin Sousley, Michael Strank, and Harlon Block.

The fourth, Ira Hayes, a Native American, drank himself to death at the age of 32, and was immortalized in a song sung by Johnny Cash.

The fifth, Rene Gagnon, died at the age of 54.

Only one man lived into old age - John Bradley, who owned a funeral parlor after the war, married and had eight children, and died at the age of 70 in 1994.  He is buried, perhaps ironically, in a cemetery called "Queen of Peace".

One of my husband's uncles was wounded at Okinawa.  I was born after the war, but the war movies were a staple of weekend movie entertainment on the local TV stations in New York City, where I grew up in the 50's and early 60's.

I could wish we could never have to send 18 or 19 year olds to die on a small volcanic island in the Pacific, but now we are fighting a different kind of war.  We must never forgot what has come before if we are to understand what is happening now.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Civil War Sunday - Slavery's Ellis Island

 Charleston, South Carolina (where the Civil War began in April of 1861) was a center of the slave trade.  It is said that as many of 40% of the enslaved people of the United States entered the United States through Charleston.

If Charleston was the Ellis Island of Slavery, this building (built in 1859) was part of its Castle Garden. The Old Slave Mart building above was part of a complex where slaves were sold in the years immediately before the Civil War started.  Except for this building, the complex no longer exists. 

The Old Slave Mart Museum is a museum of and for African Americans.  Many of the staff are descended from slaves who were bought or sold in the Charleston slave trade.  It is not a museum of artifacts but a museum of facts and requires a lot of reading. It is not a five minute stop.

Which brings us to February 21, 1865, 150 years ago yesterday. the 55th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry, an all-black Union regiment, entered Charleston, with other black regiments.  Charleston, after a long multi-year siege, had been captured by Federal forces.  The soldiers were hailed by the large slave population of Charleston as liberators.

Some of the Union soldiers had, themselves, once lived in Charleston - as enslaved men.

Now they were free.

Fountain in Marion Square, April 2014, with Farmers Market in background
On March 21, 1865, a huge parade was held.  A crowd of about 10,000 gathered at Citadel Green, which today is known as Marion Square, where Charleston's Saturday farmers market is held.
King Street, 2014 - Seeking Indigo is a Day Spa

The parade started around 1pm and went down King Street to the Battery at the tip of Charleston (and then back to Citadel Green).
The Battery, 2014
Celebrations followed, throughout the year 1865.  As the New York Times put it yesterday, "The capital of slavery had become the citadel of freedom."

Looking as a tourist at these scenes of peace today, I feel awe once again, having walked in the footsteps of history.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Local Saturday - The Once Loved Book

The book was lying there, in our library  It was old, stained, and starting to fall apart.  But once, it had been one of our most beloved books.

I had bought it back in the late 1970's, when we used to dream of self sufficiency.  It followed us to Arkansas, where we lived on 34 acres of land in the 1980's.

The recipes were so inspiring.   We learned that the world of pickles was so much broader than those pickled cucumbers we bought in the supermarket.

We had three gardens on our land, and a lot of our summer (when we weren't working at paying jobs) were spent growing, harvesting, and preserving.  Sometimes, at the height of summer, we would be up to midnight, canning, freezing or refrigerating.

We made mustard pickles, pickled eggs (from eggs laid by our hens), jardiniere, marinated mixed vegetables, and carrot pickles.  We made (and still make) salsa. We never did make the pickled fish, though.

Now, it was over 30 years later.

My spouse and I were decluttering - going through our library to see what we should dispose of.

My spouse put the book in a pile for the garbage.  I took it out.  It had been years since we had made any of the recipes, but there were too many recipes in the book.

I don't know if we will ever do anything with the book again, but I did look it up online, hoping to get a better copy.  It turns out the book has been out of print for many years.  I saw some sellers offering the book for $70 (or more), so it is unlikely we will ever be able to replace it.

I don't know if all the recipes would be considered safe, using current canning guidelines.  And, pickling recipes are just an internet search away.

But this book is a part of my life, and I just can't throw it away.


Have you ever thought that way about an object?