Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Winter Wonders - February Has Finally Arrived

February is the month that you can depend on, here in the Northeast.  It will be relentlessly cold.  There will be snow on the ground.

Until today, that wasn't true.  This has been the strangest February in my memory.

But finally, there is snow on the ground.  The cold is coming to my part of upstate New York.  Saturday the forecast high is 6 F (-14.4) Saturday night, they predict a low of -5 (-20.5 C).

As much as I hate winter, I must admit there are some things about winter I don't mind.

Beautiful January and February sunsets.
The opportunity to crochet.   I've been working on this washable wool blanket for my son since August of 2013 - so long, in fact, that neither color of yarn above is being made any more.

Snow?  Remember snow?  It's back.  Too bad I have to go out in it.
And, orchids. A Mother's Day orchid purchased by my spouse is reblooming.
Coal House, Vestal Rail Trail, Vestal, NY 2-7-15

Goodbye, mild weather.  Hopefully, the next few cold days will be temporary, and we will be back to our unusually warm winter.

I just hope that my experimental camilla survives the coming cold blast.

Is your weather seasonal, or strange?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

I've Come a Long Way, Baby

This year is a Presidential election year in our country. One of our two major political parties has two candidates running for the party nomination. One is a 68 year old woman.  We have never had a female president, or Vice-President, in our country.

So, I should vote for her, right? We women must stick together, right?

At one time, I would have felt that way.

I grew up in a country where help wanted ads had "Male" and "Female" categories.   Where, in a typing class, I was taught to aspire to the highest level - being an executive secretary.  Where pregnant teachers had to quit once they were "showing". Where, if I walked down the street, I could expect comments, whistles and other open displays of appreciation for being...well, young, or pretty, or (as they said back then) "stacked". Where someone suggested to me, as a teen, that I hide my books because being perceived as intelligent would scare men away.

I refused to hide those books.

Hillary Clinton, who is five years older than me, grew up in much the same world.  If we met each other, we might find we had a lot in common.

I lived in Arkansas in the early and mid 1980's, and Hillary was the wife of Arkansas' governor for part of that time.  Before Bill Clinton became Governor, Hillary and  Bill rented a house in Fayetteville about two miles from where my husband and I lived several years later.  Hillary's Mom bought Hillary's wedding gown in a department store in the Northwest Arkansas Mall where I shopped for my clothes.  Hillary and Bill may have walked on the same streets I did and bought food at the same stores.  I'll never know.

I can remember all the heat she got for keeping her maiden name, Rodham.

Meanwhile, when I lived in neighboring Springdale, Arkansas, I could not get a library card showing my own first name because I was married.

I have so much more to say but it would make my post too long. Suffice it to say I agree that women still have a ways to go to attain true equality in our country. 

Thankfully, though, it is better than in the 1970's, where our only equality seemed to exist in cigarette commercials.

I rarely get political in my blogs.  The fact that I have readers from outside the United States makes it even harder. But some things are universal in any democracy.

In the end, we must individually make up our minds and vote for the candidates (local and Federal) we feel will do the best job for our community, our state, and for our country.

When the New York State primary is held, I will have two choices as a Democrat:  Hillary (now a former Secretary of State and former First Lady when her husband was President in the 1990's), and a man by the name of Bernie Sanders.

I am going to vote for the person I feel can do the job of President best.  It may be Hillary.  It may not.

I will use various factors in my decision.  The candidate being a woman will not be one of them.  And, because I am not the only woman feeling that way, gender issues have hit our news in the past few days in a big way.  Some hateful things have been said.

I don't care. I may have when I was younger.  And, I have voted for women before - many times.

If my decision leads me to vote for Sanders, then I guess I will go out and buy clothes suitable for the special place in hell I will end up in.

Isn't that, after all, the type of choice women have worked hard for all those years?

A Streetcar Named the Past

About five years ago, a video (no, actually, a film) went, as we say today, viral.  It was a film taken from the front of a San Francisco, California, street car in 1906 - days before an earthquake destroyed much of the city.

It is so mesmerizing, watching this video.  This was a time when automobiles were replacing horses as the main method of travel, and was filmed before the traffic light is invented.  People and vehicles scurry everywhere, and, miraculously, no one is hit or killed.

What is sobering is realizing that many of the people in this film may have been injured or killed mere days/weeks after it was taken.  In fact, there is a "side by side" film on You Tube that shows this film on the left, and newsreel film taken not long after the earthquake, so you can see the devastation.

It is probably true that everyone in the film has since died.  It was made nearly 100 years ago, after all.

We should not be surprised, however to discover that there are other "streetcar" films made from about this time.
The link above takes you to a 1906 film made in Boston, Massachusetts.

There is even (poor quality) a 1903 film taken from a streetcar in Boston.  
But look at the crowded, narrow sidewalks of Boston - some things never change.
There is even a film from an unfamiliar (I grew up there) New York City.

What a difference 100 years makes.

These make me think of my spouse's aunt, who is 104 - she was only born about six years after some of these films were made.  She grew up in this world, although, by then, the transition from horses to internal combustion engines may have been more complete.

How different do we think the world will be for our children or grandchildren?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Music Monday - Say You Do Remember

It's sad, in a way, that my Music Monday blog series seems to have become a weekly tribute to people whose music I have enjoyed - and now, those people are no longer with us.

Joining that list this week, two musicians.  The better known one:  Maurice White, dead at 74.  He was the leader of a band called Earth, Wind and Fire - and did I love to dance to their music back in the 1970's.

I still do.

Maurice White was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1992. He had to stop touring in 1995.  One of my cousins, who I have not seen in many years, also has Parkinson's.  It's a terrible illness, a central nervous system disorder which sometimes is inherited.

Lenny Kravitz said, on Instagram:  "King. Genius. Leader. Teacher. Producer. Arranger. Writer. Multi-instrumentalist. Motivator. Mystic. Through his music and artistic expression, he taught me a lifetime's worth of knowledge. He is at the top of the list of all of the greatest masters. The music he left behind as Earth Wind and Fire, mixed with his messages of love, will live on forever."

Of their songs "September" is my favorite.  How can you not get up and dance?

Another favorite is Fantasy.

Not so well known was Dan Hicks, who died yesterday at the age of 74 from liver cancer.  What can you say about a man who named one of his songs "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away?"  Here is a live performance from 1972.  I will leave it to the music experts (I am not - I only like to listen to music) to figure out his style.

Do you remember either of these groups?

Next Monday is the 15th of the month, when I participate in the monthly Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, so Music Monday will continue on February 22.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Weekly Blog Roundup #4

Today is the 4th in my Sunday series of a Blog Roundup (always organic) - some of the best posts of the week that I collected for those of you wanting to read new or different blogs.

Shall we get started?

A beautiful post on love, loss, memory, and writing, blogged by a widow.

One way for a successful blogger to think of some of the comments she receives- if profanity isn't your cup of tea, skip it - and if it is, click on over!

Nicole blogs about how famous authors conquer writer's block 

Leanne - Life isn't always pretty

Beautiful pictures of the symbol of the United States - nature at its best - American Bald Eagles (don't be fooled by the name of the website linked to).

I am trying to introduce different blogs each week, but this blogger deserves a rerun in her post about the link between the legendary golfer Arnold Palmer and how he saved us from alien zucchini.

And finally, from a woman looking back on her life, a teacher's regrets.

Next Sunday is Valentine's Day- I will therefore have my weekly roundup on Saturday.

Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Local Saturday - Is Winter Going the Way of Dinosaurs?

Are we in upstate New York witnessing the death of winter?
Dinosaur Toy Planted with Thyme, Binghamton Farmers Market 2-6-16

Will winter eventually go the way of the dinosaurs?
There is still no snow on the ground.  Last year, at this time, we had over 16 inches of snow cover and it seemed like the temperatures were going below zero (which, in Fahrenheit, is way below the freezing point) nearly every night.
Like this reading(-23.6 F equals -30.8C) temperature February 24 of last year at my son's house, about 20 minutes from me.

Instead, this year, we have a bountiful farmers market indoors twice a month in downtown Binghamton, New York.  Farmers are still growing greens under high tunnels.  There is plentiful garlic (though a bit dried out) and winter squash.

Baked goods beckon.
As do onions and potatoes.

This year, instead of us, other parts of the United States are feeling the harsh lash of winter.  In fact, Charleston, South Carolina, my beloved Charleston so green, may get snow this evening.
Sailboats in Charleston Harbor, March 2015
Not having a true upstate New York winter is not cause for celebration.  The cold temperatures prevent us from being overrun with harmful insects.  Snowfall helps cleanse the air.  People with allergies have been having trouble this winter.  The snow protects the roots of perennials.

But it is sure nice not to have to worry about slipping on ice, or shoveling snow.

How has the season treated you?

Friday, February 5, 2016

World Cancer Day 2016

Yesterday was World Cancer Day, an international effort to "raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment."

Well, yes.

Few of us don't need to have our awareness of cancer raised any more than it is already raised.  I would dare say this of each and everyone of my readers.  Dear reader, I would be willing to bet that one or more of these is true:
1.  You have or had had cancer;
2.  You have a loved one who has or has been treated for cancer; 
3.  Same for a friend; and
4.  Sadly, you probably know someone no longer with us due to cancer.

How much more aware can any of us be of cancer?

The prevention, detection and treatment part is something else entirely.  

For example, right now, there is no test for early detection of pancreatic cancer, the cancer that took an aunt, an uncle and a great uncle.  The man possibly most at risk of pancreatic cancer in the United States is currently battling a different type of cancer - former President Jimmy Carter.

Just speaking for myself, I don't know what strikes more fear into my heart - thinking of cancer and the nature of this disease that hijacks your very cells and turns your body against itself, or thinking of how cancer is treated and what it does to you.

All of our hearts have been broken by cancer.  A couple of weeks ago, I found some photographs from 2008, when I still had printed photos.  I looked at a group of me, some friends and neighbors, and thought of those who have had cancer since that day.  It was chilling.  Two of the group are no longer with us.  Three more survived their cancers.

 Today, I reread a post from 2012, wishing my best friend from childhood a happy 60th birthday. That girlfriend I blogged about below passed away this past September from cancer, and one of the bloggers who commented on that post passed away, also from cancer, last month.

It is said that cancer is a word, not a sentence.  Neither my childhood friend, or my blogging friend,would put up with an instant of self pity from me.  Instead, if they were here, they might have said:

"Let's get out there and treat life as the miracle it is - each and every day.  And let's do whatever we can to whip cancer's butt."

The people who do the cancer research, who work long hours in labs, whose pictures never get on the cover of celebrity magazines, are our true everyday heroes.  Perhaps you know one of those people.  If you do, I welcome your comments.

Today, in this blog post, I honor them.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Many Shades of Sunset

There is something about an early February sunset on a warm February day. But this was no ordinary sunset.  It was something that never happens in upstate New York.

Except yesterday, it happened.

It happened with no snow on the ground.  It happened in 50 degree (10 Celsius) temperatures.  It happened without me wearing boots.  I didn't even have a coat on.

I didn't even have a coat on.  Imagine that.

As the sunset unfolded, I took my iPhone out.  Snap first, evaluate later.  Be in the moment.

This impossible sunset may never happen again, so enjoy these moments of extreme beauty near Johnson City, New York.
The sun sets, bathed in golden fire, behind the former BAE plant, one of the largest wood framed structures in the United States. 
The after sunset period has begun, as the sunlight still reflects off a local creek.
Neighborhood trees.

The same stream as above, a few minutes later.
Time to go inside.

There is just something about a February sunset.