Monday, June 30, 2014

A Star of the (Word) Cloud

It is the last day of the 2014 FLX/Word Count Blogathon. It is time to both look back and look ahead.

One of the traditions of the WordCount Blogathon (this year, the FLX/WordCount Blogathon) is a day devoted to making word clouds.  It's an excellent way to learn something about your blog.

There are a couple of different (free) programs you can find online to make word clouds.  One is Wordle. This year, I tried them and got a message that my Java plug in is outdated.  I didn't want to bother trying to update Java, so instead, I used a program I had last used a couple of years ago - Tagxedo.  There are some other programs out there, too.
Here is a word cloud I made from my blog as of yesterday, June 29, and you can see what has been on my mind the last few days, or, at least, keywords appearing in my blog posts.  Binghamton, the city in upstate New York I work in, has taken a lot of my thinking. Writing (of course), reading, boks, gardening, and even chickens.  Now, why "ago" is prominent, I can't imagine.  Can you?

Now, contrast with a word cloud I made last Sunday.  Just a bit different!

You can change the color, and the positioning of the words.  And, just in a week, see the differences in the cloud.  It was the week I wrote about my brother in law, and it also showed previous posts about cancer, and also showed my love of flowers.

But now for a confession, as we say goodbye to June.

I didn't get as much out of the WordCount Blogathon this year as I have in previous years.  I don't blame the Blogathon or my fellow participants - no, far from it.  I think, rather, that it is my mood this last month or so.  I have a lot on my mind.  But, life goes on, and I want to make the most of the beginning of summer.

And thank you again, my readers, for coming to my blog.  You are the ones who make it fun, and I appreciate each and every one of you.

So, what is in store for my blog in July?

I plan to participate in two blogging challenges in July.  They may be my last ones for a while.  One, which may be ending with the July session, is the Ultimate Blog Challenge.  The other one is
NaBloPoMo, which is celebrating the beginning of its (her?) second decade.
Registration is open until July 5, if you want to join some awesome bloggers (I already read several of these blogs) for the month of July.  I am probably not going to use too many of the prompts, but they are there if you wish to use them.

I am going to resume my normal blog writing in July, after a number of autism-themed post in June.  Those normal themes are a summer theme on Wednesdays, a sustainability theme on Saturdays, and my Civil War Sunday theme.  The rest of the time, anything goes but I promise you a few gardening posts, some peeks at our community garden, at least a couple of farmers market posts, and plenty of flower pictures.  I may still blog about autism - after all, my brother in law "B" will remain a part of my life for years to come.

What are you planning in July?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Why Isn't This Your Average Urban Tree?

When I moved to Binghamton, in upstate New York, in the 1980's, my first residence was an apartment on Linden Street.

I never gave much thought to a street named after a tree.  In fact, I don't know if there are any linden trees on Linden Street.  But, there are some in the Binghamton neighborhood where I do my exercise walking, several miles away.
Tilia americana, Binghamton, NY
When full grown, it is a majestic tree.  But, as infomercials love to say, "But wait!  There's more!"

This tree is known as the linden, or basswood, here in the United States.  Some in Europe call it the lime tree (not our lime citrus tree, whose name is derived from Arabic). Not only is it a beautiful shade tree, and able to survive urban conditions, but it is a multi use tree.
Young linden tree (the red in the picture not part of this tree)

The wood is excellent for hand carving.

The inside of the bark was used by native Americans for making cords and ropes.

The young leaves are edible in salads.  

Its sap was used by the Native Americans the Europeans called Chippewa or Ojibwa in a way similar to maple syrup  The bloom are edible, too, and have medicinal uses.  A tea can be made from them.  And, the bees love them - if you've ever had basswood honey,this is the tree bees make that from.

(Caution: as usual, be careful when foraging any wild plant.  And, some people are allergic to these flowers.  I am not a wild food expert, and my provided links are for your reading pleasure only.)

The leaves are heart shaped.

This past week, the linden trees in Binghamton were in bloom. These are not large blooms, but they are unusual.  See the little, lighter, elongated things near the blooms?
Here's another view.  These are flower bracts.  They look like wings, don't they?  Some people think they look like tongues.

As the trees age (these trees can live to 200 years old, or even longer) they start to decline.  The holes become shelter for various wildlife.

And, if that wasn't enough, foresters use this tree as a tree "canary", a first signal of environmental change.

What more could you want in a tree?

I've never used this tree for food (I don't own one), but I love looking at them - and I enjoy the brief time when they bloom.

Do you have a favorite tree?  Why?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sustainable Saurday - The Sound of Silence

Yesterday and today, I pondered exactly what makes one farmers market succeed, and another, nearby one, fail.

Today, we had the Saturday farmers market at Otsiningo Park in Binghamton, New York. There is ample parking, a setting in a beautiful park next to playgrounds and picnic pavilions, level ground (important for the elderly) - everything except good mass transit.

The people came out, for local:

Kale and chard;


Strawberries (close to the end of the season) and cherries (sold out just as I got to the booth - 45 minutes after the market opened!).  There were also plants, cheese, baked goods, jellies, milk, beef, pork, chcken, and a bakery booth selling breakfast items.

Meanwhile, yesterday, at the downtown Binghamton farmers market, at lunchtime, there were...

...not too many people.  (My apologies to this long time vendor for using her booth to symbolize emptiness. Her baked goods are excellent - and, in the past, I've seen her selling and selling.)

You could say, perhaps, that I hit the market at a bad time.  But I have worked in downtown Binghamton for years, and I've been visiting the market for years, at about the same time each Friday-my lunchtime, and when office workers visit the market.  At lunch, there is also live music during the summer (that's the tent you see below, to the left.)  So, I've seen it in summer, in fall, right before holidays, and over the years.
Downtown Binghamton has so much potential
In the past, I've expressed fears of the market's demise.   This year, that fear (despite several new venders and a management that cares - I know, because I have spoken to the management) is stronger than ever.   I fear that, if things don't turn around soon, a couple of the new vendors may leave - just as the market has made a commitment to use only local vendors.

I so hope that someone local will comment and tell me I'm wrong - that perhaps the hours of busyness have shifted, and business is still good.  Why?

Downtown Binghamton (population about 47,000) NEEDS a market  - nearby neighborhoods are food deserts, it has a lot of low income people living in the area, it has OK mass transit (most bus lines originate in downtown Binghamton, so if you use mass transit, it is easy to visit) but parking is terrible.  Still, lack of parking doesn't keep other downtown markets from succeeding.

Last year, some of my readers made excellent suggestions as to what Binghamton can do to jump start its downtown market, so it can be as successful as the one in Otsiningo Park.

I plan to blog more about this in the coming months, because I do care.

Does your community have a downtown farmers market that succeeds?  If so, does it do anything special?

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Solitary Reader

I am not a book reviewer.  And I am not a book report person.  Never was, in school. And I'm not, now.

Even as a child, I loved to read (when younger, I sometimes read four or five books at a time, effortlessly sliding from one to another as my moods changed).  I read for pleasure, for escape, for the joy of entering worlds of wonder.   I hated English class, where I had to analyze books and write about them.  I was so happy when I graduated from school, because I would never have to write a book report ever again.  And I would read, happily ever after.

Wrong.  Along came Goodreads, and

Now, every time I read, I am invited (nagged, is more like it) to write a review, especially with Goodreads.  Goodreads, if you haven't run across it, is an online social media place for people who love reading.  Recently, Amazon bought it.

You are encouraged to list books you want to read, or are in the process of reading. You can even chart your progress, if you want, with starting and ending dates.  And what happens when you report a book as completed?

You are prompted to rate the book from one to five stars, and - yes, write a book review.

I freeze up when Goodreads asks me write a review of each book I report as finished.


I look at other reviews.  There is a certain language, a certain  - method, shall we say - for writing reviews.  It has its own style, its own vocabulary, its own rules.  It's like another country for me, one I don't care to explore.

I've gotten to the point where I won't even report books I've read, so that I don't get intimidated by the request for a book review.  And I normally don't blog about books I've enjoyed, either. But, I am going to share two books with you, my dear readers, in the coming month.  Both are dystopian novels, my favorite genre.  I enjoyed dystopias long before they became popular, right from the very first one I read in school.

Just don't expect well written reviews.  Or any more status reports on how I've done with my latest book.  My Goodread statuses are seriously outdated, and they are going to stay that way.

I'm avoiding Goodreads more and more.

There are books that entertain, or teach a skill, or keep us occupied on the beach.  And then, there are books that leave you stunned, dazed, not knowing what just happened, wondering what just hit you, and where it went.  Once you recover, you quickly realize your life will never be the same again.

Yes, I enjoy a well-written review in deciding if a book I am thinking of reading may be one of those "stun and amaze" books.

But I'm realizing that reading has always been a solitary thing for me.  I don't belong to book clubs or real time book discussion groups.  I don't go to author talks at the local indie bookstore or the library.  A book and me are a perfect pair.  A book, me, and something or someone else is a crowd.

And now, Amazon is part of that crowd. I can't help but thinking that Amazon is looking over my shoulder, like an impolite straphanger during rush hour on the New York City subway, reading your book or paper over your shoulder.  Compiling statistics for its use.  Turning all my data into statistics.

I still love to read, but I am thinking of abandoning Goodreads.  Maybe I would change my mind if I wasn't nagged about writing reviews.  Goodreads, can't I turn that function off?  Or, is that being anti social?  (are my Goodreads friends really that desperate to read reviews from me?)  Perhaps I am totally missing the point, but I enjoy being an introvert.  Even Amazon's ownership of Goodreads doesn't bother me in the way that being asked to write reviews does.

Does anyone else feel that way about social media sites for readers, such as Goodreads-that they would just rather enjoy a book on their own, rather than making it a social occasion?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chicken Fat

In my 1950's/1960's childhood, chicken fat was something my mother would render out  and make a treat called "gribenes" for me as a childhood treat.  I would accompany my Mom to the butcher, where she would pick out a chicken (already deceased) and I would watch the butcher cut the chicken up. Then she would make the magic happen at home.

I haven't eaten crispy chicken skin (a by product of the chicken fat rendering) with onions in many years, and I am not even sure I would enjoy it today if you fed it to me.  But chicken fat is part of my childhood memories.

Children grow up. There is something we still need to do, as adults-move around. And dare I use a word I hate, exercise.

Speaking of chicken fat, there's another childhood memory I need to disclose.  The first time I watched this iPhone commercial, I was transported back in time.

It was this song.  The Chicken Fat song (here, in its full 6 minute version).

Baby boomers (and even some of subsequent generations) in the United States may well remember this song.  And if you click on the above video, you will soon know the song even if you don't now, because this song is one of the worst earworms ever created.  I will warn you, don't click on either video unless you want to have this song in your head for the rest of the day.

What is so addictive about the Chicken Fat song?  Well, it has everything to do with a physical fitness program created by our President in 1961 to encourage Americans to exercise.

Meredith Wilson, of The Music Man Broadway fame (remember 76 Trombones?)  wrote this song for President Kennedy's physical fitness program in 1961.  It is sung by Robert Preston, who starred in the 1962 movie based on the Broadway show.

Yes, there was trouble in River City, and in the rest of the United States.  There was too much chicken fat, and not enough exercise. Can you believe it - in 1961 we were already too sedentary. This song's purpose was to encourage us all to change that.

The song (the 6 minute version, that is) has explicit instructions for doing various exercises - no app needed.

Thousands, if not millions, of American children have exercised to the full, six plus minute version of the song.  Meanwhile, iPhone/Apple has pared the song down to about a minute, in a commercial called Strength, featuring people exercising with the help of something that didn't exist in 1961- their iPhone apps. And yes, all the apps are for real.

In a strange way, I love the revival of the Chicken Fat song. It drives my spouse crazy, that commercial (he doesn't remember the song) but I love it.  And I love seeing the apps at work.  Most of them are free, too.

Too bad our country holds lots more chicken fat than ever before. And I am one of many Americans who fights it, daily. Just think, what if this revival of the Chicken Fat song caused an old fashioned exercise revival?  Wouldn't it be, as we used to say years ago, awesome?

Go, you chicken fat, go!

Do you remember the Chicken Fat song?  Did you have to exercise to it?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer Ramblings - Old Fashioned Roses

For my first Summer Ramblings post, I'd like to show you some old fashioned type roses. Nothing says "late spring/early summer" like roses.

These pictures were taken  June 14 at Cutler Botanic Garden in Binghamton, New York.

These roses, unlike the Knock Out type roses that seem to be so common now, have a short blooming season.  But in return, they give you scent that is some of the most gorgeous scent on this planet.

I have nothing at all against Knock Out roses, incidentally - they bloom and bloom and are disease resistant.  They bring roses to those who don't have the skill,stamina (or time) to care for some of the old fashioned roses that seem to succumb to any disease that passes by.  Well, perhaps I exaggerate. But, although I love sniffing and admiring them, I do not enjoy growing roses.

But if I could, I would grow this rose.  This lovely rose is called Mme. Hardy.  

What a perfect bloom!

Rosa 'Blanc Double de Coubert'
This is a rugosa rose, but not the wild type that has become an invasive problem in our area.  Don't you love the name-Blanc Double de Coubert?
Shrub Maigold. 
Finally, a rose of history - York and Lancaster.

I quit growing roses years ago.  My house of over 25 years near Johnson City, New York came with a climbing red rose, variety unknown, but it provided a buffet for every Japanese beetle within 10 miles, it seemed - and I just got tired of defending its honor in return for a brief blooming season.  We dug it up years ago, one of the few times we've gotten rid of a healthy, flowering plant.   Nowadays, I have my one wild pink rose, and it doesn't take any care at all.

My fourth summer Wednesday weekly feature started in 2011 with "Wildflower Wednesday".  That is why I publish my summer feature (since expanded to a seasonal weekly feature) on a Wednesday and not on a Saturday or Sunday (for an "s" sound). In 2012, I expanded the Wednesday feature to anything to do with flowers.

This year, I'd like to expand the feature further to include anything that may be related to summer.  But, I have a feeling that I'll still be blogging about flowers most of the time.

Do you like growing roses?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Bloggers don't say "thank you" often enough to our readers.  So:

Thank you, dear readers, for staying with me for this month of constant straying from my normal blogging schedule.  I appreciate each and every one of you!

About a month ago I blogged my goals for June on my blog for the 2014 FLX/WordCount Blogathon.  How have I done?

On May 23 (only a month ago!) I blogged:
"Sometime in June, my spouse's guardianship application to become his brother's guardian will be heard in court.  During that time I will be spending even more time with both an aging my mother in law and the brother in law with autism.

Blogging, and looking into turning some of the posts into a book one day, could be a good first step to consolidate some of my thoughts."
 Last week, the hearing was held. I did spend part of the week with my mother in law (mid 80's), both down where she lives and up here near Binghamton, NY, with a couple of other family members who live locally.  It was an educational week.  What it made me realize is that I really don't want to blog that much about my care giving journey, at least not on this blog.

Why not? Because I am a private person at heart and my family also deserves the protection of that privacy - I feel I've blogged enough about some of our challenges for a while. The Internet is not a private place, as some of us sometimes forget. That doesn't mean I never want to mention my mother in law or "B" in my blog again, or write a book on the topic of my involvement in the life with a relative who has autism one day, but I have concluded it shouldn't be an everyday topic. And, I don't have the time and energy for a second blog - at least right now.

In that May 23 post I also blogged:

"I was hoping to use a 2014 WordCount Blogathon to kickstart this book.  The very first WordCount Blogathon I participated in (2011) made my blog what it is today - through it I found the Ultimate Blog Challenge and the rest is history.  I've also been blogging daily since late April of 2011 and I need a different challenge than just blogging daily.

So, my decision is made.  I am going to test the waters and devote a lot (not all) of my June blog to autism.  Maybe not to a book, but to something that may become a book"

So, in that sense, this exploration has been a success - I know more about where I'm going, or at least, where I'm not going.

I tried it.  That's the important thing.  If I've given information, or encouragement, to any reader, I've succeeded.  So I do not consider this learning as a failure.

I'll just find another way to accomplish what I want.

If you do want me to continue to blog occasionally (occasionally being the key word here) about "B", please feel free to leave a comment.  I may consider doing it if there is enough interest.  Otherwise, it is back to my normal blog programming, with one last theme day for the Blogathon next Monday, starting tomorrow.

So still once again, thank you.  I am grateful that you stopped by.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summertime and the Writing is Haiku

In summer, each breeze
Tells us to enjoy the now
As winter awaits

Saturday, on the first day of summer, I took a picture of this yellow dahlia in my front yard.  It was a day made for poetry, a poem with a 5/7/5 word structure.

In the 2014 FLX/WordCount Blogathon I am participating in this month, a tradition is Haiku Day. I've been writing a haiku each year since 2011 for the Blogathon.  Mine will probably never be ready for glory, but I do have fun.

But, getting back to my haiku for today:  it is not a true haiku.    Nor is a lot of what you find "haiku" true haiku, including the contest I blog further about below. 

Instead, I more tend to write in photography-visual images.

This was my back yard a mere three mere months ago.
March 15.
April 21 (bloodroot in bloom)

May 7 (Daffodils in front yard)

June 3, Yellow Iris in front

June 6, Rhododendron Glow in Last Light of Day

June 15, Brunnera macrophylla Jack Frost
Fleeting beauty, this home planted hanging basket.
As I sit in the yard, on a beautifully sunny first day of summer, gentle breezes blow.  Birds sing.

The birds sing (in my imagination) "Enjoy the day, the hour, as none of us know how much longer we will be here to enjoy this world.  And that is why summer is fleeting.  If summer were year round, would you hold it close?  Or would you think it commonplace and boring?"

I am still an amateur at writing Haiku. Someone I've known for years, though, had a few minutes of fame with a New York Times Haiku Challenge.  

This person reads my blog, so I wanted to give a little shoutout to this person, a lifelong resident of New York City.   I sometimes read haiku on that person's Facebook timeline.  Maybe I should make haiku a habit, too.

Have you ever tried to write haiku?

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Yesterday, the first day of summer, the day length was 15 hours, 15 minutes here in the Binghamton area of upstate New York.

The past couple of days, we have had incredible weather - sunshine, warm (but not overpowering warm), relatively low humidity.  I am not a heat lover, as much as I hate our upstate New York winters.

Yes, this is weather that makes me want to just sit back and listen to the birds.  Or, walk.  So my spouse and I did both (plus worked some in our flower gardens) and took note (and photos) of the first day of summer.

Catalpas, a native tree to our area, are in bloom.
On the Vestal Rail Trail, where my spouse and I do some of our exercise walking, sumac spikes stand up like decorative flowers.  Last year, the sumacs didn't look happy.  This year, they are bursting forth with vigor.
Smoooooth sumac for a smooth day..

Elderberry in bloom.
The animals were out, too.  Groundhogs grow fat and happy (or at least fat) along the Vestal Rail Trail. This one may be drawing plans on my garden, because they always do.
At home, a mourning dove cooed in the late afternoon sunshine.

And, the daylight ended in the glow of a setting sun reflecting off white marigolds.

Tomorrow is Haiku Day in this year's Blogathon I am participating in.  Tuesday, I will summarize my success (or not) in thinking about blogging a book about experiences in advocacy for "B", my brother in law with autism.  Wednesday will be my first Wednesday summer feature of the year.

What are you enjoying today?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sustainable Saturday - Strawberry Summer

The first day of summer in upstate New York.
The strawberry season started last week.  Here, in upstate New York, it is so short.  Our berries are smaller than the supermarket California berries, and sometimes not as sweet.  But people flock to the tables of those selling them.  It's the first fruit of the annual havest.

Many people, here, pair strawberries with rhubarb (right side of picture above).  I personally, have not ever had a rhubarb strawberry pie (or rhubarb strawberry anything, or rhubarb anything) I've ever liked.  But that's me.

But strawberries, freshly picked, are so perishable.  And, picking them is hard on the knees and back.  But they can be a symbol of hope. 

A hope for a bountiful harvest.  Soon, the raspberries will ripen. Our small cherry crop in this area was ruined this year, but we hope for August blueberries.

Winter isn't officially over until the strawberries appear here in the Binghamton, New York area.

Binghamton wild strawberries June 2013
Tiny wild berries can grow on city lots.
On left, Jeff Howell, formerly of Foghat, Owego Strawberry Festival 2013

They can inspire a festival in the small town of Owego, New York, where an annual Strawberry Festival is taking place today.
Strawberry season. So sweet.  So fleeting.

What a way to celebrate the first day of summer.

Friday, June 20, 2014

And The Decision Was....

The big day arrived.  My spouse's petition to gain guardianship of "B", my 50-something brother in law who is developmentally disabled, was heard in Surrogate Court in the New York State county where he lives on Tuesday.

My spouse, his mother (who, although never having been appointed guardian, had cared for "B"'s affairs all her life - except now she's in her mid 80's and has increasing mobility, health, and other issues), my sister in law, were present.  Who wasn't? "B".

He wanted to go to work. 

This, again, applies only in New York State, and guardianship in your state (or country) may differ.  Here, what we filed for was for something called an Article 17A guardianship.  It was up to us to prove that "B" needed this guardianship, which we did through material submitted with the petition. 

The law itself (noting I am not a lawyer, only a layperson) is quite an eyeful to read and wade through.  We needed to prove through evidence provided by people qualified to give this that "B" had a developmental disability called autism and that his disability began before age 22. We needed to show that "B" could not make his own "autonomous" decisions.

In New York, it is important to note, a guardian is an advocate for the disabled person. To use the terminology my then teen son would have used some years ago, "it doesn't make you the boss of him."

There is nothing like being in court for feeling small and intimidated.  That's how I felt, anyway, as we filed into the courtroom. 

The judge asked us all to sit upfront, and asked each of us to identify ourselves.

The Surrogate Court had appointed someone called a guardian ad litem for "B", who represented "B" at the hearing That local attorney had met with both my mother in law and "B"earlier this year. He told the judge he had personally spoken to "B" and thought the petition should be granted. Our attorney attended the hearing by phone, which I was most grateful for the judge permitting, because it would have been costly to have an attorney there in person.

The judge was concerned with my mother in law's renunciation of her rights, although she never filed for formal guardianship ever, because there was missing paperwork she had needed to file. I suspect it came when she was undergoing her cancer surgeries earlier this year and it just got lost in the shuffle. So he asked her if she was indeed wiling to do this, and her "yes" was strong.  The judge asked for the completed paperwork for filing.

The judge asked a few other questions, including if we had any questions.  I think all of us were afraid to ask anything, in fear perhaps that saying the wrong thing might jeopardize the petition.

Well....the guardianship should be finalized in about two weeks.  (Big "whew")

Once this is granted, my spouse can make care decisions, financial decisions, and other decisions on behalf of "B".

Although he didn't realize it on Tuesday,  "B" now has protections under the law if something happens to his mother, as I've blogged about previously.

I know, for my spouse, this is only the beginning, and, of course, we have no idea what the future has in store for us - or for "B".

But now, although he isn't fully aware of it, he (we hope) "B" has a more secure future.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Fairwell to Impatiens?

Will this plant, Impatiens walleriana (impatiens), soon be a plant of the past?

Impatiens were a go-to plant for me for many, many years. My small urban home lot has a lot of shade. I planted impatiens by my front door, on the side of my house, in my back yard.  They provided reliable color in shades of red, white, lavender and salmon.

Impatiens came in single and double flowered varieties - the double flowers looked a lot like roses.  They needed almost no care.  They made nice mounds and also looked great in baskets and containers.  Groundhogs, the bane of my property, didn't touch them. Neither did anything else.

If I got bored, I would grow New Guinea Impatiens, which are a different species, but I don't really like them that much.  I don't know why.  I have a basket of them hanging from my front porch nearly every year.  But they never grabbed my heart the way the regular impatiens did.

Then, my impatiens started dying on me, which is when they broke my heart.

In 2012, my impatiens died, practically overnight.   I came home one day to find nothing but green sticks with yellowing, dropping leaves. They were thriving when I left for work.  They were so stripped, in fact, I thought that an animal had feasted on them.

That winter, a local gardening expert, Kathy Purdy, warned me about a downy mildew that was attacking impatiens.  I had some impatiens (in fact, the plant above was one of them) rooted inside my house.  She recommended that I not plant it outside come spring.

In 2013, I bought impatiens from Burpees, mail order.  They lasted a couple of months.  Then, they died, every last one of them, even ones I had in hanging baskets.  The hanging basket plants lasted longer, but into the void they finally went.

Now what?
This year, I did not buy any impatiens.  No, I take that back.  I did make a basket with New Guinea impatiens for the front of my house.  But I have been depending on other plants to fill the void - for example, begonias.

I miss my impatiens.

I wonder if I will ever be able to grow them again.

If not, I will have to (technical gardening term), suck it up, and find a replacement.
An impatien alternative?

Meantime, I'm looking for replacements that make my heart sing.  I'll blog more about my effortsanother time, once I know how they do for me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Spring Things - Privet and Bees, Scent and Memory

A memory of over 50 years ago.

I grew up in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, in a city housing project.  All green spaces in the project were carefully fenced away behind chain link fences.  We children would get into trouble with the maintenance men who cared for the project if we climbed the fences and dared to play in the greenery.  So, of course, we did it as often as possible.

In June, the privet would bloom.  
The blend of humidity and sweet privet scent would attract bees to the hedges.
It's a scent I love to this day.

The boys would catch the bees in glass jars.  That's not something we girls really got into.  Instead, we would look for ladybugs to catch.

Yesterday, I visited my mother in law, who lives in a suburb of New York City. We needed to attend a court hearing with her. My spouse's petition for the guardianship of my developmentally disabled brother in law, "B", was finally being heard in court.

It was warm, and humid, and privet hedges were blooming in front of her house.

They were swarming with bees.

The heady scent brought me back over 50 years in a matter of seconds.  I was a little girl once again, climbing chain link fences while we looked out for the project maintenance men, so my playmates and I could have a few minutes of interaction with nature.

Scent and memory. A living time machine.

Has scent ever brought you back to a favorite childhood memory?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Day a Year in the Making

On and off this month, I've been blogging about my brother in law, "B",who has autism.  He is in his 50's.  I had intended to blog part of this month about our experiences (my spouse and I) trying to advocate for him, with the possibility of one day writing an e-book to help others in a similar situation..  I ended up blogging more about him personally, so you, my readers, could get to know him a little better.

Now, it's time to return to describing our advocacy efforts.  Some of what follows is a repeat of a blog post from May - May of 2013.  It's taken all of this time to get to where we are today. 

For all his life, "B" has been cared for by his mother.  It's time for the big step of "what comes after his Mom".  She is in her mid-80's, and eventually, will no longer be able to care for him.  Or, worse-the inevitable will happen and she will leave this Earth forever.   Last November, she was diagnosed with cancer. It was caught early, and was considered curable with the proper treatment.  

She received that treatment earlier this year, and the prognosis is good.  Right now, she is in remission.  This could have had such a different outcome.  And, that is what we must think about now.

The fact is: "B" does not have a guardian.

If, heaven forbid, she died tomorrow, this is the future the State of New York has prepared for my brother in law and other disabled individuals without a guardian, according to a knowledgeable person we consulted last year. (Note, this is not legal advise, and this may not happen in states other than New York.  I am not a law professional.)  Because, right now, "B" doesn't have a guardian, the following would happen:
1. He becomes a ward of New York State;
2.  He can't stay where he lives (if his Mom died, he's the only other person living in the house) because he would be alone, and the state will not allow that.  He is deemed to need 24 hour supervision, and the state can't provide 24 hour supervision where he lives now  So housing must be found for him;
3. the court appoints an "advocate" for him, and it is potluck - could be anyone - maybe a person that doesn't know my brother in law at all;
4. Then the State finds emergency housing for him - "first available bed" which could be something not at all appropriate for his disability, but too bad.
And, by refusing the placement, it may be years before another opportunity comes up.

  We found we couldn't help him without someone becoming his guardian. 
People with autism, in the best circumstances, find it difficult to cope with any type of change.  And this, to use a cliche, would be the mother (no pun intended) of all changes.
  Years ago, my mother in law told us last year, she and her husband (dead some 15 years now) were advised to apply for guardianship.  Her husband elected to ignore this advice.  After he died, she saw a lawyer and certain other documents were drawn up but again, guardianship never happened. 
The blessing is, my mother in law is still alive.   "B" is blessed in that he has a family who cares for him. We are finding that a lot of older men and women in that situation are all alone. No one cares.
So, last summer, my spouse and "B"'s other brother saw a lawyer and started the process for my spouse applying for guardianship for his brother.  In New York, the process is not easy, and it took a long time to get all the pieces together.  It's been an adventure, and today, our petition is finally going to be heard by a judge in Surrogate Court, in the county where "B" and my mother in law reside.  This is all with my mother in law's blessing.  In fact, spouse could not have done it without her blessing.

My spouse's next oldest brother will be the guardian if anything happens to my spouse where he can no longer serve as guardian.  Then, one other sibling (the only one younger than "B") will take over if anything happens to both of them.  In this way, my brother in law will have someone helping him throughout his life.  Or, at least, that's the hope.

Let's hope the court hearing goes well today.  Today has literally been a year in the making.  I hope to blog more about the exact process we went through in the near future, and describe whatever happens today.

Tomorrow, my last Spring Things as we prepare further for the future.  Thursday, I will have another gardening post.  Friday, hopefully, I will be able to report good news.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Possible Journey

Today, my friend in Brooklyn I've blogged about from time to time is leaving on a jet plane-destination, Scotland, to visit a dear high school friend of hers.

She's ready to go, with the blessings of her oncologist.  She's waited over two years for this day as she progresses through treatment.  Some people might think this type of journey was impossible in the midst of chemo.  My friend disagrees.  It's possible and it's happening.

Cancer itself is a journey - for each cancer survivor, it differs.  Here's another viewpoint, from a blogger in Alaska now being treated for her third cancer since 2008.

In honor of her trip, I'd like to rerun a post from earlier this year, with some edits.  It is a post that talks about something my friend feels strongly about.  It's part of her journey.

The Ugly Stepsister of Cancer

The original post had a picture of a hyacinth. In the language of flowers, hyacinth can mean consistency.  Or, it can mean "I'm sorry, please forgive me."  Today, I rerun the post with the picture of Kool-Aid irises above.  Iris is the flower that says "Your Friendship Means So Much to Me", according to a site called The Language of Flowers. 

It also means "Faith", "Hope", "Wisdom" and "Valour".

Last week, I got an email from someone I had a lunch date with.  She had been in communication with a woman she knew.  That person had "a cold that wouldn't quit." Finally, the person sought medical help.

It wasn't a cold.  It was lung cancer.  And before that woman could blink twice, she was being put into hospice care.  Her family called my friend and told her the woman was asking for her.

It was, needless to say, overwhelming. What do you do when you go to the doctor and find out you have something you never expected?  Well, my friend broke her date with me (good for her!) and went to her other friend - one who is suddenly making the acquaintance of the Ugly Stepsister of Cancer.

I decided to go to the library, now that I was without a lunch date. I found a wonderful book there, written by a local (well, from Ithaca, but Ithaca is only an hour from where I live in upstate New York) breast cancer survivor, called "When Your Life is Touched by Cancer". The author is Bob Riter. 

Yes, the author is male and is a breast cancer survivor.  Yes, men get breast cancer.  And, in fact, my spouse is at risk due to his family history.

There is one cancer that Bob Riter, who has worked with cancer patients as the executive director of The Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, calls "The Ugly Stepsister of Cancer".  It is lung cancer.

Lung cancer patients bear a burden no other cancer patients bear.  They find themselves required to explain their cancer, over and over.  "Do you smoke?"  "Did you smoke?" they are asked when they tell others of their cancer.

If no, the patient has to explain that yes, some 15% of people who get lung cancer never smoked.

If yes - well, the cancer is their fault.  No support for you!

Why, ever, would we EVER want to blame someone who has cancer for their cancer?  But my friend has been through this, and now my friend's friend will have go to through this, too.

Also, last Tuesday, I gave four trees to a work friend who lives out in the country to plant in honor of a late neighbor, who died while I was on vacation in April.  I can still remember the day he told me, matter of factly, that he had cancer, and how he was trying to make his peace with it.  (And no, I won't describe "his battle", because that's another thing Bob Riter talks about.)

Finally, last Tuesday, my mother in law found out that her cancerous tumor is dead, but she still needs testing to make sure the cancer didn't spread.  And, meanwhile, she has bills coming in.  She's elderly, she does not have boundless energy, and she asked us to help investigate some of the bills.  She seems to be falling through the cracks of help. Wrong cancer. Wrong place of residence.  Wrong wrong wrong.

Cancer has been on my mind a lot lately.  So what I did Bob Riter.

And he emailed me back!

What a marvelous person, and the people of Ithaca, New York are so lucky to have him in their lives.

He gave me some starting points with which to help my mother in law.  And, he recommended that I give my friend with lung cancer a copy of the "Ugly Stepsister of Cancer" essay. He's generously posted it online for any of us to read. (To my friend,  I'm sending her the essay.)

If you have cancer, or have a loved one or friend with cancer, I highly recommend this book.  It is a treasure.  It covers so much, in simple language and in easy to read bites.  Bob Riter has thought of everything.  Well, everything but the line of Hallmark cards I'd REALLY like to see, but that's a blog post for another time.

 And now, I hope I don't have to talk about cancer again for a long, long time. But, sadly, I know that is not going to happen.  So, today, I will say "have the trip of a lifetime" to my friend.  May this trip be the most wonderful of your life.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day June 2014-The Clouds and the Flowers

I was up early this morning, here in my zone 5b garden near Johnson City, New York, because I knew the sun wouldn't be out for long.

We've been having a rainy spell, with little sun.  So here I was trying to get some flower pictures in the early morning sun, to post for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

For example, these heirloom petunias, with an upright growing habit I love.

Our first dahlia.
Chives towards the end of their flowering period, in my herb bed.

Allium bulgaricum.

Pansies and coleus.

But other flowers were not in the sun.  My last Kool Aid iris, which hung on just long enough for GBBD, allowed me the opportunity to take one last sniff of its heady, grape kook aid scent

Our wild rose, never planted by us, started to open its blooms Friday.  Here it was this morning.
In our back yard, our purple columbine still has some blooms. (this picture, taken at its peak, and in better light.)
The yellow bleeding heart, in the background, is still going strong this morning.
And, inside, a couple of flowers, too. One of my african violets, the only one blooming today.
And finally, a new flower for me.  Oncidium, an orchid. I bought this at our local flower show in early spring, with just the beginning of a flower spike.  The flowers came out earlier this week.  Now to see if I can get it to rebloom.  My two palenopsis orchids did re bloom, but one only gave me two flowers, and it didn't last long.  I think both need to be re potted.

I hope sunny weather will come our way again soon. Sure enough, our clouds for the day have gathered, and I'm happy I didn't tarry in my photography.

Please visit other gardeners participating in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, and find out what is blooming all over the world today.