Friday, July 31, 2015

Only a Day

I've used my six years of blogging to track when I hear the first crickets chirping each year.

The chirp of the crickets is the first sign of fall coming, and it always makes me a little sad.

This year, I heard crickets, for the first time, on July 28.  Here are some cricket milestones:

July 29, 2009
July 25, 2012 (more or less)
August 3, 2014

Along with the crickets, nature keeps marching on its path toward fall.   I am enjoying my late lilies.  This one is a new one for me - I bought it last year, and as usual, its name is lost to the midsts of my mind.  I thought I had it written down somewhere.

More lilies in my backyard.
Blackberry lilies, small but a favorite of mine.  I love their flowers, I love what happens to the flowers after they bloom (see the twisted things on the right upper of the photo) and I love the seed pods after they open - they look exactly like - yes, blackberries.

It's less hot out on this last day of July than it was earlier in the week, but the cold winds of fall are only a couple of calendar pages away.  I am not complaining.

I am trying to enjoy every minute, trying to be in the moment, even as my long distance caregiving schedule the last few weeks wears on me.  Just as a daylily flower and a blackberry lily flower last only a day, our lives are short.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Edgar Rice Burroughs and Cover Art

This Throwback Thursday takes me back to June of 2012.  I was participating in a blogging challenge called the Author Blog Challenge.

One of the topics we were challenged to write about was our dream book's cover.  This brought back a childhood memory.

When I was 10, my mother bought me a book. It was a book that changed my life.

Edgar Rice Burroughs and Cover Art

One of the recent prompts of the Author Blog Challenge brought back a childhood memory.

"Describe your process for choosing and designing your book cover.  Who created your cover?  How did you find him/her?  What do you love about your cover?  What might you do differently next time?"

Book covers - it brings back memories of the first author who influenced my writing.

When I was 10 years old, I broke my leg, and was treated at a hospital in the Bronx (a borough of New York City).  I had to go back to the hospital periodically to see the doctors during my recovery.   On one visit, at the hospital gift store, one of my parents bought me a book to read.  I don't know how or why, but they picked "A Princess of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

It changed my life.

I don't know how many young people have heard of Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Even in my day (I am talking the early 60's) enough children may have known Edgar Rice Burroughs mainly through Tarzan movies.  Reruns of old Tarzan movies featuring Johnny Weissmuller were a staple of weekend movie afternoons on non-network local New York City channels.

But this book my parent bought me was something different.  The cover attracted me immediately - an exotically dressed woman in peril, with a muscular man, holding a sword, defending her.  Although the book started slowly, I very quickly got into the story once the hero, John Carter, reached Mars.  I ended up devouring the other 10 books of the series over the next few years.  Then, I went on to other series written by Burroughs - the Venus books, many of the Tarzan books, one of the Pellucidar books, and a couple of his non-series books.

I loved those book covers on the Ballantine and Ace versions of the Martian books from the 1960's.  In doing research, I found that other Edgar Rice Burroughs books were graced with unforgettable covers.  They really wanted to make you buy and read the contents.    Even after I grew up, the tradition of spectacular book covers continued.

Here, Burroughs himself writes about his experiences with illustrations of his books.

I don't have a book written yet, but if I did, I would like someone like Burroughs as my self-publishing mentor. Something tells me Burroughs would have been right at home in this Challenge and in the world of self-publishing. 

Incidentally, if you are interested in reading the Martian (Barsoom) books of Edgar Rice Burroughs, or some of his other books in the public domain, they are available for free online.

Did you find Edgar Rice Burroughs when growing up?  Are you a fan of "his" cover art/illustrations?  Do you long to visit Barsoom one day?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summer Ramblings - Surprises

Today, an "almost wordless" Wednesday.

We call these weeds.  But in reality, they can be medicines or even food.

And, in their own way, they are beautiful.

Here, a combination Queen Anne's Lace (the white flower) and chicory (blue) by a middle school track.  Chicory has a long history of herbal use (note, I am not a trained herbalist and I am not recommending the website I am linking to.)
Another view of Queen Anne's Lace.  I was surprised to find this is also edible, at least according to this source.

I found a black walnut tree growing nearby- I may devote a separate post to these luscious nuts and my experience with them.
And finally, wild morningglory.  This is not edible - but some are, apparently.

Beauty is all around us.  So is food.  Years ago I experimented with some of the more common (and a couple of the less common) edibles.  Maybe one day I should blog about that.

Have you tried wild edibles?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Why I Am Probably Not Inviting You to My LinkedIn Network

Many of us have accepted some loss of privacy as the price of being on the wonderful, wonderful, Internet.

I belong to LinkedIn, in my work career life.  LinkedIn  is a social network for the business community.

My preference is to keep my business and my blogging life totally separate.  I do not, in fact, normally accept invites from other bloggers who are not in my career field, because I do not earn my living by blogging or writing. (Come to think of it, that is worth a post of its own.)  Nor do I network with people on LinkedIn unless I know them personally, or know of them by reputation.  Even if I know them personally as friends (true friends, not Facebook friends), I also need to know something about their professional lives, and will not "endorse" them unless I am certain of what they do, and how well they do it.

LinkedIn has a feature by which you can ask them to use your email address to find out people you may know on LinkedIn.  So far, I have chosen not to use that feature.

Which is why I was surprised to find an email from LinkedIn suggesting I might want to make networking contacts with some people.  That in itself didn't surprise me; I get those emails from time to time. What did surprise me was the people the LinkedIn email suggested.

The people they suggested are people whose email addresses I have - but not because of my work life.  No, these are contacts from my caregiving life.  A man at the VA (Veterans Administration) I've spoken to a couple of times, and emailed a document to once.  A woman who has done some work for my family, which included me needing to email her.  A couple of more people that, again, I have no professional associations with.  I only had their emails because I needed to communicate with them by email for them to complete a service.

And, oh yes, one of my cousins.  A cousin who is 40 years younger than me and, again, in a totally different career field than I am.

One person may have been a coincidence.  Maybe some people I know in my professional life have one such person in their network.  But several, listed all at once?  Coincidence?  I don't think so.  It looks like LinkedIn has decided it will go through my address book, after all, although I never knowingly gave my consent.

I didn't like it.  But, if I want to stay on LinkedIn, I am going to have to live with it.

And, if you do invite me to network on LinkedIn, please know why I may not.  I don't know if I am being too picky, but I feel this is what I need to do.

If you are on LinkedIn (I promise I won't try to contact you), have you had similar experiences?  Do you welcome anyone to link with you?  Or, do you use certain criteria?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Happy Birthday, Bugs!

Today is the 75th  anniversary of the cartoon character Bugs Bunny.

Did you enjoy cartoons as a child?  One of my favorites was Bugs Bunny, and this cartoon, The Wild Hare, is considered his first appearance with his trademark saying "What's Up, Doc?"

July 26, 1940.

To me, a baby boomer in her 60's, we used to enjoy cartoons on Saturday mornings.  We didn't realize that some of those cartoons were made years before we were born.  Some of those cartoons (including one from 1953 called Southern Fried Rabbit) would not be considered politically correct today.  But many can be enjoyed online, including one I love called Rabbit Rampage.

In real life, rabbits sometimes munch on my garden.  But that habit doesn't prevent me from enjoying the cartoon Bugs getting the better of Elmer Fudd.

What was your favorite childhood cartoon?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Civil War Sunday - The Fort that Defends Home Depot

I wrote this post in 2011.  With many United States Civil War battlefields and other historic places still in danger of development, I feel the post is still timely.

The Fort that Defends Home Depot

Today we, and many other people interested in the Civil War, gathered in Manassas, Virginia for the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of First Bull Run, or First Manassas (depending if you are from the North or the South).  (the actual anniversary was yesterday, but the commemoration continues through the weekend.) I will talk more about about this on my normal Civil War Sunday post this Sunday, but today I wanted to talk about a very serious subject:  the preservation of Civil War battlefields.

We are lucky to have a Manassas National Battlefield Park, because a lot of Civil War battlefields have been swallowed up by progress.

Time Magazine recently did an article on the Civil War.  A very important thing that they did (whether or not you agree with their analysis of "if we are still fighting the Civil War") was highlight, with the use of reinactors, various Civil War battle sites which have been swallowed up by urban neighborhoods and shopping centers.

It happens everywhere.  Last year it almost happened in Virginia, and only in January were the plans to build a Wilderness Wal-Mart on 51 acres near the site (but, beyond the boundaries of the Battlefield) of the Battle of the Wilderness.

The Civil War Trust, a preservation group, estimates that 20% of the "hallowed ground" of the Civil War has already been lost.

And with that, I wanted to mention something I experienced today on the Manassas City Tour.

One of the sites I visited today was Mayfield Fort.

The Fort (or the 11 acres that still exist in an undeveloped situation) was built (along with various other fortifications) to defend the railroad junction at Manassas.  The junction's strategic importance to both sides(and its necessity of not falling into Federal hands) triggered the Battle of First Bull Run.  A Confederate Stars and Bars flag flies over the Fort. (it doesn't look that different from the Union flag of the era if the wind isn't blowing full, which was the case when I took this picture at noon today.)

In the blazing heat, it was hard to walk around, and we stayed in the shade while the reinactors on the left side did an artillery demonstration.  (What you are also seeing are historical plaques, explaining the history of the fort) In fact, while we were there, a person was taken away by ambulance due to being overcome by heat.) What you don't see is what the fort is now defending.  This is on top of a hill, and if you kept walking through the photograph to the edge, you would see beneath it ...housing developments.  And a Home Depot.

This is the other photo I took before we gave up braving the heat, and left the site.  This is a "Quaker gun" i.e. it looks like a cannon and would have been painted black. Various Quaker guns were displayed at the Fort to fool the Federals.  (They were called Quaker guns because Quakers are pacifists, and these guns could never be used to fight a war.)

If you look to the extreme right side of the photo, about 2/3 of the way up, you see one of the apartment houses built around the Fort.

I want to make it clear that I am not against progress and not against development.  What I am against is the trivialization of our history.  Without our history, we lose our identity as a nation.

I am happy that the remains of the Fort was preserved.

And I am even happier that the Home Depot will never have to fear an attack from the Union Army.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Local Saturday - Lilies and Butterfly

Today, a special sight in my back yard.

I wanted to take a picture of some of my day lilies in my upstate New York back yard.  I got a little more than I bargained for.

I've blogged before about how I don't do well with wildlife photography.  So, when I saw this butterfly flitting in the lily patch, I didn't hold out much hope for a photo capture.
Then this happened.  The butterfly settled in the lily's throat.  I took this picture.

Would the butterfly spread its wings out?
Yes, it would!

Then the butterfly flew away.

I know my many readers who know more than I do will know exactly what type of butterfly this is. (I think it's a swallowtail, but I know there are various types.)

Has a butterfly ever made your day brighter?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Falling Friday - Falling Risk

Today, a story about my mother in law, in her late 80's, finishing up her rehab after surgery.

When I entered her rehab room for the first time, I saw a nice sign by the entrance.

It was a beautiful color photograph of autumn leaves with a message printed on it.  But its message wasn't about autumn.

It declared that the occupant of the room (my mother in law) was at risk for falling.

Just in case this message needed to be reinforced, my mother in law was wearing a hospital like bracelet with large lettering.  The lettering said:
Falling Risk.

That is what my mother in law was, to the staff of this rehab - this woman who raised four children, one of them developmentally disabled, cooked, cleaned, did generous things for friends.  The woman who has lived self-sufficiently as a widow for over 15 years. 

Because it's true.  She's fallen many times before.  Falling was a part of growing old.  It couldn't be helped.  One day you would get sick and die.  Or you would fall and die.

Now, my generation wants to prevent falling where we can.

We hope that  falls prevention classes like the one I took helps us avoid that fate.  Doctors do fall assessments on older patients.  Those that are at risk have their needs addressed.

Now, using my knowledge, I hope I can help break the falling cycle with my mother in law.  But first, we'll see what her rehab work has done after she is released today.

Wish us both luck.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Oreos

For today's throwback, I savor a memory of strawberry flavored Oreo cookies.  This post was originally from 2009, my first year of blogging.  If only Oreos would restore this flavor - the fruit flavor they have now (Berry Burst) just isn't the same.

Sadly, the flavor was a "limited edition" and I've never seen it since.

Do you like Oreos, too?  Or cookies in general?  What is your favorite?

Wonderful Canadian Strawberry Milkshake Oreos!

Last summer, traveling in New Brunswick, CA we ran across Strawberry Milkshake Oreos. Oreos in Canada are manufactured by Christie, which is a brand name of Kraft Canada. (And no, I'm not being paid to post this).

For some reason, when I eat the Canadian equivalents of U.S. brands, I always like the Canadian versions better. This includes Special K Cereal, which has changed here in the States but is like what I remember from my childhood in Canada. Also Cadbury bars, which are not the same as the Hershey (sorry, Hershey) versions sold here in the states. And finally, potato chips. Where else can you buy potato chip flavors such as Roasted Chicken and Gravy, Ketchup (a long time favorite of mine), and Curry?

Well, last year, in a store in Saint John, New Brunswick, we hit the jackpot:  Christie Strawberry Milkshake Oreos! What a match made in heaven. Crispy (probably thanks to the trans fats it had-yum!) and...well, I am no fan of artificial flavor, but these were Maximum Strawberry Bliss. I only bought one package. I should have purchased more. Well such are the pleasant surprises of travel.

Fast forward 9 months....

Saturday we were shopping. In fact, I had just purchased several packages of Newman-O's at a very good price. Went into our local supermarket to pick up something for a BBQ and there they were....I blinked and the mirage did not disappear.

Strawberry Milkshake Oreos.

I bought one package. Brought it home. Waited until after supper. Opened the package.


And the best part? We looked at the label and they were made in....Canada.

Nabisco, thank you thank you thank you. But please reconsider on one thing. These are marked "Limited Edition". Please say it ain't so.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Ramblings - The Semi-Neglected Garden

Our garden, for all we are neglecting it during this period where we are commuting back and forth between our house and where my mother in law lives, some 150 miles away, has (once again) a mind of its own.

With us not around, it has decided to be bountiful, unlike the last two years when wild animals took most of what we planted before we could harvest anything.

For example, our earliest ever full sized tomato - July 21.  Not bad for upstate New York.  We think it is a Big Beef.  "Think" because, as usual, we end up not labeling anything.

No, I'm not going to put it into a mayonnaise and bread sandwich - not yet, anyway.  It's a tiny bit underripe, but if we had waited longer, an eager wild animal would have sampled it.

Our zucchinis have developed into war clubs. (Two liter bottle to give a scale.  We aren't growing them.)  Yes, we are going to find a use, and I hope to publish the recipe when things are less hectic.  We are going to welcome my mother in law home from rehab with this "secret recipe", hopefully soon.

Green beans. We planted Maxibel, a filet bean.  They grew bigger than they should have but it didn't matter - the flavor was heavenly.

These picked today, however, are Contender. These are already cut and ready for steaming.

Meanwhile, in our front yard, in a large pot, cucumbers.  We will see what comes of this.   We have problems with groundhogs (which ate my planted-out poinsettias from last Christmas when we were gone last time) so I don't count on anything.  In that way, I'm not disappointed (too much).

Gardens make their own schedule.  Maybe we should neglect our garden more?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Peak Lilies

It is still lily season in upstate New York.

These pictures were taken in the past week at Cutler Botanic Gardens in Binghamton, New York, where the day lilies are at peak.

Once again, I can not give you variety names.  I had contacted Cutler on Facebook earlier in the month and a list was promised, but....alas, no list yet.  The plants only have tags with numbers on them.

So these are identified only by the tags next to the plants.

Maybe tomorrow I will feature some of the lilies blooming in my home garden.
F43, which I call the Creamsicle Lily.
F26.  I love this color, almost like a lavender..
F28, with ruffles.  And flourishes..

Speaking of ruffles:  F104 is about the most ruffly (is that a word) of the lily garden.

There is such beauty in this world.  I can not imagine a world without flowers.

Can you?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Going Home Again

These past few weeks, I have been dividing my time between my home in upstate New York and my mother in law's house in a suburb of New York City, over 150 miles away.  This has become wearing, especially for my spouse, as you can imagine.

But don't feel sorry for us.

Today, I had time to read the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) publication of the first chapter of "Go Set a Watchman" by Harper Lee. I had previously read it online but the WSJ had various pictures of Ms. Lee, past and present, and pictures from the movie.

In one picture Ms. Lee wore stockings with seams down the back, just as my mother did.  I remember her struggles to find those stockings as they went out of style, in the early 60's, for the last time.

It made me think about going home again.  This is what my spouse is doing - returning to his boyhood home, time and again, before his mother moves to be closer to us.  He had grown up in the house we are now packing up.  He had moved there when he was 10, and moved out when we got married in 1974.
I can't go home again.  I think I blogged about why, years ago, and perhaps I should publish that post again.  Maybe.

I thought about going home again after we exercised walked on his middle school track, and saw this sign.

We were walking on "Richard Oakley Blvd."  I turned to my spouse, knowing that when you see things named after people on a school track, many times there is an unhappy reason for it.

"He was in my graduating class", spouse said.

Later, I went online and found that, sadly, I was right.  Richard Oakley passed away in 1999.

I know, as we age, more and more of our classmates will be leaving this world.  Eventually, we will also travel down that path.

But, for now, we are still here. And, my spouse can still go home again, at least until sometime next month, when the house closing occur and someone else owns his boyhood home.

It's bittersweet.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Civil War Sunday - Robert E. Lee 's First Assignment

Today, for Civil War Sunday, I'd like to return to a post from 2013, when I blogged about a man who is now in the news due to the recent tragic events in Charleston - Robert E. Lee.

Hopefully, I will be able to post a new Civil War Sunday in a few weeks.  In the meantime, I thank everyone for their patience during this difficult time for some in my family - I have not been responding to comments but please know that I read them as I moderate my blog, and appreciate your readership.

Civil War Sunday - Robert E. Lee - Engineer

Have you ever wondered what the "main players" in the United States Civil War did before the Civil War?

Some of them were career military people.  Some of them came from unlikely walks of life.

There is also the unlikely first military assignment of General Robert E. Lee.

Not long after his graduation from West Point and the death of his beloved mother, Lee was ordered to Cockspur Island, at the mouth of the Savannah River, in the Georgia low country near Tybee Island.  His mission:  to take this marshy and low-lying island, and do what it would take for a fort to be built there.

Yes, Robert E. Lee was - a civil engineer.  He was also a talented artist.
The drawings on the right of this explanatory sign were made by Robert E. Lee during his Cockspur Island duty and sent to lady friends back in Savannah.

This is one of the engineering drawings made by Lieutenant Robert E. Lee.

And what of the Fort?  Yes, it was built.  Its name is Fort Pulaski, and it still stands today, on Cockspur Island.

This is a picture of Ft.Pulaski in 2013, when I visited it.

Ft. Pulaski played several roles during the Civil War.  It was captured in April of 1862 by the Federals,and remained in their control for the rest of the war.  Towards the end of the Civil War a portion of the fort was used as a POW camp by the Union, which leads to the story of the Immortal 600.  That will be a post for another time. (that's what I promised in 2013 - I will see what I can do to make it a reality.)

A picture of the original door,still in use.

This is Cockspur Island today. Some parts of it look stark, like the picture above.  But other parts are forested - a forest created by the ecological changes produced by the military under the direction of Robert E. Lee.

I visited the fort to see a Civil War fort and came away with a whole lot more.  There were nature trails and other places to explore; it's a wonderful day to spend part of a day if you love history.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Local Saturday - Blueing It Again

Blueberry season is here in upstate New York- a time of wistfulness, because it means that apples, and fall, can't be that far behind.

My spouse and I went blueberry picking recently, after work.  I look forward to U Pick because there are no thorns, and you don't have to crouch - something my arthritic knee appreciates.

Although so much of my time is taken up with long distance (soon to be local) caregiving, we try to find time to feed our souls - and our bellies.

 How to choose a berry to pick?  In the picture above, most of the berries are unripe.  The ripe ones are blue, and have a white "bloom" on them. 

Then what?

The  berries will last for a long time in the refrigerator.  Because of all our rain, the blueberries were just about the largest I have ever seen.  Or, you can read this post for a recipe featuring blueberries.

Health benefits of blueberries?  Where do I begin?

Every time I think about the harsh winters here in upstate New York, I try to balance them out with the wonderful summers full of local foods and vegetables. For now, I push away thoughts of winter and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

Are any local foods in season for you where you live?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Falling Friday - A Collapse

Today, I want to talk about a different kind of fall from the usual type of senior falls (and their prevention) I blog about on Friday.  This was a different, but just as scary, type of fall.

Yesterday evening, returning from Cutler Botanic Gardens (I've featured their lilies before, and plan to, again, soon) in Binghamton, New York, we were passed on the highway by two "State Fire" vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed.

State Fire?

Later last night we found out where they were going.

There is a hospital a bit more than a mile from our house, in Johnson City, New York.  My son was born there.  And, yesterday, a little after 3pm, a parking ramp collapsed.  Minutes later, a co-worker's phone buzzed with a text alert from a news service, and we soon were online reading the news.

At this writing, it appears no one was trapped, although the area immediately around the hospital was put under a state of emergency.  The two vehicles we saw speeding down the highway with lights flashing had a dog with them, a dog trained to sniff out possible victims.

Not only do we have an aging population at risk of falling, but we have an aging infrastructure at risk of collapse.

There are several parking garages in this area that are obviously not in good shape.  People talk about them all the time.  Two of them are in downtown Binghamton.  One of them had two levels closed last month due to safety concerns. 

When we heard the news of a parking ramp collapse, we thought it was one of the downtown ramps.

We were all frightened by the news of the collapse. This ramp is across the street from an emergency room and is, needless to say, heavily used.  One of my coworker's husband sometimes works in a nearby building.  That building was evacuated as a precaution, according to the news.  According to the co-worker's husband, the employees heard and felt the rumble and someone yelled for them to get out quickly.  They did.  None of them was injured.

I wonder if this incident, nearly a tragedy, will wake up our local officials.  Will something be done about our other local crumbling parking ramps?

I doubt it.

I hope I'm wrong.  But if I'm not, what will it take for officials to take notice?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Full Measure of Courage

They say that the full measure of friendship is being able to go long periods without much contact.  Several years ago, when a dear friend was a caregiver for her elderly mother, we had a period like that.  Now, I am moving into that role (her mother is deceased) with my mother in law.

I want to repeat a post I wrote a couple of years ago about that friend.  I've blogged about her several times over the years, have posted pictures of her Brooklyn garden, but have never quite thanked her for her loyal readership.

That friend needs all our thoughts right now, as she is engaged in her own battle with a relentless illness.  Her spouse, who I also wrote about below, has been the most wonderful caregiver to her, both when he battled his own cancer, and now.  Both my friend and her spouse have shown incredible courage in these years of trial for them.

I wanted them to know they are not forgotten, as they both demonstrate the full measure of courage.

 A couple of updates for July of 2015:

The spouse mentioned in this post is in remission.

The person whose grandson is battling pediatric leukemia reports that his son is still undergoing treatment.  It has been a rough road, but the prognosis is good.

So here is a post from the summer of 2013, when my friend was already in her fight for health,  and sent an email to friends and family:
I brought the fruits of my knit/crochet project to the pediatric oncology department today. Grand total was 2 baby blankets 7 hat scarf sets, 2 plain hats, and 9 infant/toddler hats. The nurses were so excited and happy. Some good came out of some bad. I hope some children like the things I made while waiting.

As one of my other friends from childhood said "cancer and children should never be in the same sentence."  In fact, I know someone whose grandson is battling pediatric leukemia right now.  I think what my friend has done is so beautiful and I hope you will send encouragement to her and her husband in the comments. 

My original post follows:

"The spouse of my friend in Brooklyn has to spend a lot of time in doctor's offices to be treated for a medical condition.   My friend normally comes with  him and waits for him while he has his treatment - sometimes waiting an hour (or even more).

Out of boredom, she started to do her needlework while waiting.

She does beautiful crocheting and knitting work - and, recently, has been working on projects for pediatric oncology patients.

I crochet but I do not knit, and I wanted to show off her work because I know quality work when I see it.  I think the work, and the cause, is fantastic. 

A crocheted blanket and some knit hats.
Another crocheted blanket.
And finally, some hats and scarves.

Aren't these beautiful?  (Lately, she has had some yarn donated to her but I suspect enough of these projects were done using her own money.) We have the cliche "lemons out of lemonade" - this is about as lemony as you can get.

I've done a handful of crocheting for charity but never anything like this."

So again: Thank you, dear friend, for allowing me to publish a post  how awesome you are.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - July (Lily Summer) 2015

We have had a wet summer here in my zone 5b garden in the Binghamton area of upstate New York.

April, May, June, July showers have brought lots of flowers.  Unlike the last days of winter, where I scrounge in my house for something, anything, to take a picture of for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I am now flooded (no! don't say the word "flooded"!) with flowers, each begging me to take its picture.
It is the month of daylilies, which I fall in love with more and more each year.  Of course, the names of these varieties are long lost to time and my lack of record keeping.  But isn't she (yes, it is a "she") a beauty?

How about this purple lily?
 A yellow lily, unfurling in the early morning light.
I've had this variety in the front of my yard for many years.  Smaller than my newer plants, it still brings me so much pleasure.

How about one more yellow lily?

One more orange lily.

It isn't just the lilies that are blooming.  My reliable red dahlias, which a work friend (long deceased) gave me some 20 years ago, are in bloom.

Here is an orange geranium, one I managed to overwinter.
How about a cluster of hostas?

Thanks once again go to May Dreams Gardens, which brings us the monthly Garden Bloggers Bloom Day meme.

Now, go to May Dream Gardens and click on the other links, so you can see what is blooming today all over the world.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Birthday Wish

Today, if my father had been alive, he would have turned 101.

What would have happened on his birthday today?

He may have seen this peace lily blooming in my mother in law's front yard yesterday. (That's just my way of sneaking a flower picture into my post.)

He would have seen the publication of Go Set a Watchman, the long-awaited sequel...uh, prequel...uh, whatever, of To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill a Mockingbird - the book that was so perfect, the author somehow knew that nothing she wrote could ever surpass it - so she decided to be satisfied with the one book.  Until now, at the age of 89.

I've read part of the first chapter - and I never finished it.

No, it wasn't because of the surprises revealed in the first chapter (no spoilers here).

It was because....I really don't know.  Perhaps I will return to the book once I can concentrate on it - something that, with my caregiving responsibilities right now, I can't do.

And third - the beloved comic strip Bloom County is back.  Well, it was back yesterday.  But it is back.  It ceased publication on August 6, 1989.  25 long years.  But it is back.

Happy 101st birthday, Dad, whereever you are.  You loved history.  You loved reading.  You loved to read newspapers.  You loved the comics.

You helped make me what I am today.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Throwback Monday - Back in the USSR

I originally posted this back in May of 2009, a month after I started my blog.  I reworked it for a 2013 rerun, which I repeat below.

I love library book sales.  Ithaca, New York holds them only two times a year - but what sales they are.  I've gotten several "vintage" magazines from them .  I so love looking at the advertisements, but sometimes there is an article that I love.  This article wasn't your usual kind of nostalgia, and I realize that some of my readers may not even remember the U.S.S.R. 

Do you like old magazines?

Back to Remembering the U.S.S.R.

One of my favorite pastimes is finding magazines from the World War II and Cold War era (especially World War II). This was a nice find at the Ithaca, NY library book sale in 2009, my first year of blogging.

The Ithaca, New York book sale, held twice a year, is one of the largest in the country.  They usually have some boxes of old Life, Look and other older magazines.  Sometimes they are musty, but they are always a treat for people like me to read.  The next sale is in May, and I hope I can make it up there.

The original post can be found here.  Here is the post, slightly reworked.

Twice a year, I make my pilgrimage to the Ithaca Friends of the Library Book Sale.

If you aren't of a "certain age" you will not remember Life magazine (except maybe in the name "Time-Life" ). If you are of a certain age thinking of this magazine will bring back memories.

In a corner of the sale, I followed the musty smell and found a stack of old Life magazines. Many were heavily damaged but several were still in pretty decent condition. The subscribers (the mailing labels were still on the magazine, and they didn't belong to the same person) seemed to have a common interest in the space program - and in the Soviet Union.

Remember the Soviet Union?  The monolith that was the scariest part of my childhood - and crumbled in time for my son to be born?

The magazines were $1.00 each.  Pretty cheap history.

After some digging I found my little treasure - the March 29, 1943 "Special Issue USSR" with a picture of Joseph Stalin on the cover. Now keep in mind that I grew up during the Cold War, and did my share of Duck and Cover.  To this day, hearing the sirens calling out the volunteer fire department make me cold and scared for a quick second before I reassure myself that they aren't air raid sirens announcing the atomic end of the world as we know it.

Well, my inner historian reminded me that at this point in time the U.S.S.R was our ally (against Hitler). And sure enough I paged through the magazine and saw this article "Red Leaders. They are Tough, Loyal, Capable Administrators". Not exactly the, er, party line I would hear in my growing up. Other articles praised the accomplishments of the Soviet Union, and even the accomplishments of the Russia of the past 1,000. years.

Remember the U.S.S.R? Remember the Reds? Remember Communism? My now 22 year old son doesn't. He wasn't even two years old when the Soviet Union fell on Christmas Day, 1991. As for my generation, the Red Menace dominated our childhoods. What a difference a few years makes.

To my Cold War amazement, there was even an article "The Soviets and the Post-War" subtitled "A Former Ambassador to Moscow Answers Some Perplexing Problems". The author is one Joseph E. Davies, who famously supported the Soviet government even back in the 1930's, before we became allies.

One question asked of Mr. Davies was "Is Russian determined to pursue the cause of world revolution?" His answer began "In my opinion, no."

Seven years later, in the Joseph McCarthy era, this article may have been unprintable. The story of Joseph Davies is quite interesting, if this article is accurate.

For anyone interested in history, this was a great find.

Do you remember the Soviet Union?  Duck and Cover?  The Cold War?  Do you like old magazines for their glimpses of a world now gone?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Civil War Sunday - Crafting Civil War Conversations

I never thought that my Civil War Sunday series would take this kind of turn.

On Friday, the Confederate battle flag was finally taken down from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse.  I saw it flying in March of this year when I visited Columbia, the capital of South Carolina.

One media source described the ceremony as "bizarre".  I wonder how my many foreign readers think about this.

Taking down the flag is something that I wasn't sure I would ever see this happen in my lifetime.  But what it took was a tragic shooting - and the reaction, one of forgiveness, from the families of the slain, now called the "Charleston Nine", to spur this action.  

But then I thought more about some of the other things I saw and experienced in Columbia in March.

And, to the best of my knowledge, a marble plaque with the Orders of Secession of South Carolina (the document published as they became the first state to leave the Union, in December of 1860) still occupy an honored place in the state capital building.  (I highly recommend, by the way, taking the tour of the state house.  It is fantastic.)

But, on the other hand (and there is another hand):

I visited an exhibit at the University of South Carolina called "Crafting Civil War Conversations". So ironic that the exhibit ended in May, right before the shootings.

Quoting from their website:  "The Museum invited artists from across the Southeast who work in what historically have been regarded as craft-based media--clay, fiber, glass, metal and wood--to imagine the Civil War’s end as a scene of reconciliation—not between the North and the South—but between former slaves and former slave owners."

The above maple bust of President Lincoln was part of this exhibit.  I thought I had taken other pictures, but they seem to have disappeared from my photo cache.

The purpose of the exhibit was to start a conversation between the descendents of slaves and the descendents of slave owners.  Sadly, that conversation never took place after the Civil War.  What became known as "Reconstruction", the years after the war's end, took another turn all together.

Could it be possible that we may finally have a real conversation, and face our collective attitudes, about this war that ended 150 years ago this year but still colors our everyday life?  I'm not sure.  I think about this daily, but still can't find the words to write the words I want to write.

Instead, I will go back to a moment in time where I found myself writing a post about hate - early 2012.

Ironically, when I changed where I was going to vacation after this incident, we visited - Charleston, South Carolina.

Civil War Sunday-Hate in Virginia Cancels My Trip

Sorry, but my north is going to be showing today, and big time.  I will keep this short and sweet.  And I am so sorry I have to do this.

I am in the closing stages of planning a vacation in March to visit some Civil War sites.  I had wanted to visit the Newport News area to see the Mariner's Museum but it is closed part of the week, and I just couldn't make it fit.

So I was giving a little thought to going to Richmond, Virginia, which was the capital of the Confederate States of America.  Richmond is a treasure trove of Civil War history, as is Virginia in general. 

Well....that trip is, shall we say, history.

I've blogged before about the fact that, as much as we feel we are one country, the Civil War still lies right underneath the skin of many of us.  What I mean by that (sadly) is, it doesn't take too much to scratch under that skin and have some very ugly things bubble up.

There was one such bubbling up in Richmond, VA yesterday.

It wasn't just the Civil War Memory blog that reported the incident of marchers chanting the following:  The Richmond Times-Dispatch paper also reported this incident of Sons of Confederate Veterans chanting the following during a march:

What do we do?
Kill Yankees
How Many?
All of them

 So....I am still going to make the trip.  I will spend time in the Carolinas, and in Maryland.

The Virginia part of the trip will be cancelled.  I am not welcome there.

This Yank will have no such part of such hate. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Local Saturday - The Medicinal Farm

In September, 2011, my neighborhood (among others in the Southern Tier of New York) was flooded in the aftermath of our wettest summer in record, followed by two tropical storms in about two weeks.  The final blow was dealt by Tropical Storm Lee.

A number of homes were lost, lying vacant until they were demolished in the past few months.  But it wasn't just houses that were lost.  A number of commercial properties still lie vacant.

For one property, a 120,000. square foot building that has been vacant since the flood, there may be a tenant in the near future.  Someone is proposing a business that would have been illegal until recently in every state of the United States.  Yes, we are talking about...oh, let's just say - growing a certain plant that has medicinal uses.  Let's call it a medicinal farm.

Now, an indoor farm growing this plant  may help bring some of my neighborhood back to life.

If these people win their bid, it may be operational by January.

What's even more interesting than the article I've linked to are all the comments, pro and con, made on this article.  Either this is going to be a financial bonanza for our area, or we will all be heading straight to the hotter regions in a hurry.  I have my personal doubts about instant prosperity. And, what if there is another flood?

We have so many ruined buildings in our area.  One of them, some 640,000 square feet - the largest wood framed building in the United States at one time (in walking distance of my house, as is the possible indoor medicinal farm), still patiently waits - waiting for a planned demolition now about three years delayed.

If only....

If only prosperity was that simple.

What would you do if you heard this type of indoor farm was to be located near where you live?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Falling Friday - The Isolation of Winter

For several years, I have dreaded winter because of the increasing difficulty I have on walking on ice and snow.  I know I'm not the only one in their golden years (or close to it) with that concern.

When I took my recent falls prevention class, I found out that a number of the attending seniors don't go out in winter - at all.
Sullivan County, January 10, 2014

Winter, here in the Southern Tier of upstate New York, is not a December through March affair.  It doesn't go by the calendar.  We can have snow in October, and in April.  By February, below zero mornings are not unknown.
My son's house, January 4, 2014 (see middle number)

Bitter winds blow.  We can get over 100 inches (254 cm) of snow in a normal winter.

Winter can be isolating to a senior afraid to go out.  Visits with friends cease.  Boredom becomes an enemy.  I don't want any of that to happen to me.

Neither do the people who teach the "Stepping On" falls prevention class I graduated from last week.

At the falls prevention classes I attended recently, the question of balance, and walking aids, came up more than once.  When I say "walking aids for seniors" what most people would immediately think of is the cane, and the walker.

But those aren't our only choices.

For example, some seniors use walking sticks for balance.  Others use ski poles.  In fact, my instructor suggested, for me, a combination of a product called Yaktrax and ski poles.

Why not?  Terrible as it may be to say, but many, when they look at someone using a cane, pity that person or, worse, think of him or her as disabled.  On the other hand, ski poles or walking sticks make a different statement: "athlete".

Or, perhaps, penguin, as some experts suggest we walk like penguins, leaning forward, with our centers of gravity over our front legs, and - well waddling with short steps and a wide stance, feet pointing out.

I am never going to like winter.  In fact, being able to snowbird (spend the winter in a warmer climate) is one of my retirement dreams.

But I hope I can be more confident in the walking I must do while I am still in upstate New York in the winter.  And, I hope that more can be done to decrease isolation for seniors during our harsh winter months.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Nostalgia Backfire

On County Road 565 in Sussex County, New Jersey, lies an abandoned summer camp that I, and other low income children, attended back in the 20th century.  I first wrote the below post in 2010.  Sadly, this camp still lies abandoned.

No one seems to want to buy it.

Nostalgia sometimes backfires.

Do you have memories of sleepaway camp?

Another Reason Why I Can't Go Home Anymore

One more reason why trying out nostalgia can bite you in the you-know-where.

I sometimes surf around Facebook and type in stuff from my past, just to see what comes up.

Today I decided to type in the name of my sleepaway camp.  It wasn't just any sleepaway camp.  You see, as a child of public housing growing up in the Bronx in the early 60's, the fact that my parents didn't own a car, and their income made me a disadvantaged urban youth.  Luckily, I didn't know that growing up and I wouldn't have cared.

Through a elementary school friend, I found out about a camp in northern NJ called Camp Sussex.  My friend went there.  She lived in a different housing project so was disadvantaged, too. Since she was going, I wanted to also.  Three weeks away from home.  It would be my first time away from home, at this camp for poor kids.  So poor, we weren't even expected to bring our own clothes.  The camp provided them.  The camp provided everything, including transportation from Manhattan.

I went to camp and a couple of things happened that first day.

First, my friend treated me like I didn't exist.
The second was, I was massively homesick.  I ended up in the infirmery overnight, as I had somehow worked myself into a fever.  Literally.

I was shown a lot of kindness there, and reported to my bunk first thing the next morning.  I never looked back.  I survived being snubbed by my "friend" and made other friends.

This camp was located in a then-rural area of northern NJ.  It was surrounded by beautiful hills.  There was a lake.  There were hiking trails (rumored to contain quicksand pits and lethal snakes).  There was the opportunity to put on a camp musical.  Every dinner, before the prayer (yes, there was a religious element to this camp) we sang "Be Kind to Your Web Footed Friends".  I still remember the words.  We woke up to "Reville", made our bunks, had an inspection, watched the American flag raise, and listened to "taps" at Lights Out.

Many of the camp counselors were college students.  I became friends with one in particular, who went to Bryn Mawr.  We wrote to each other for months after that session but lost touch.

I had my first crush at Camp Sussex, and my first "boyfriend".

Years later, my cousin married someone who had gone to Camp Sussex.  And at work, for several years, I sat feet from a former Camp Sussex counselor.  Problem was, she was born the last year I went.  So we didn't speak about it much.  I wish we had.

Anyway, I had known that the camp had never quite changed its mission, but had closed around 2005.  There were hopes to turn it into a sports camp, an "education through sports" camp.  Derek Jeter's father was somehow supposed to be involved.

Well, on Facebook, I found out, as Paul Harvey used to say, "The rest of the story".

The closed camp has been severely vandalized.  It was alleged that the local police had never been too happy about the camp being there (I guess we disadvantaged kids polluted the place?).   Over the years, the rural area had become urbanized and the local youth had their way with my beloved camp.  The camp hadn't been secured, anyone could just walk in, and the police didn't seem to care too much. (in all fairness, I only know one side of the story.)  Bottom line, it would take over a million dollars just to get the camp fixed up enough to even begin about reopening.

There were pictures on Facebook showing the damage. (there's even a 3 minute short on You Tube documenting some of the damage.)  My heart broke, seeing those beautiful hills for the first time in over 40 years. And, on two Facebook sites, discussions among some of over 400 people who belonged to a fraternity of former campers, counselors and even administrators, have taken place.  They loved Camp Sussex.  I loved it in some ways, too, because it showed me there was a lot more to life than the streets of the Bronx.

Know what?  I wish I could find out how all of us "disadvantaged youth"of Camp Sussex turned out.  How many of us are professionals?   People who have made life better for others? (The talented Mel Brooks was one.)  And, for how many of us, did Camp Sussex make a difference?

I wish I didn't know about the vandalism, though.

Like my neighborhood, now a slum, now my beloved sleepaway camp.  Sometimes you just can't go back home.  How I sometimes envy people who can!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Summer Ramblings - Don't Give Up

I haven't had much of a chance to blog about our 2015 garden.  After two years of having our community garden crops end up in the stomachs of a never ending series of garden pests (mostly mammals), we had almost given up.

But the true gardener - my spouse (our garden is really his) - doesn't give up easily.  Even though he has only been able to pay limited attention to his community garden due to a family situation.  So, part of it lies unplanted (but with a thick layer of mulch).  We already have one possible crop failure - onions, normally our "go to" crop.

But the good news is - our other crops are still there.  Uneaten.  Unlike the last two years.

We were told, by a master gardener at the nearby Cutler Botanic Gardens, that it is no accident that we have had fewer animals chowing down on our garden.  We had lost many of our crops in the last two years.   Apparently, the severe winter was also severe for garden eating animals.

We can only hope that the garden continues on without that much input from my spouse.  If all goes well, I may be able to entertain you with some flower pictures soon.  In the meantime:

As of Sunday, this is what his garden looked like.  Winter squash (a variety called Honeynut) and beans.
Carrots.  Don't you love their feathery foliage?
What is a garden without summer squash? (we harvested our first two on Sunday. They sure tasted good.)  Alas, we also found our first squash bug eggs-here is hoping we can keep on top of this pest.
Finally, what would a community garden in the United States be like, on our Independence Day, without flags?

What are you doing this week?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Mystery of Lily 264

Today, another post about our Sunday visit to Cutler Botanic Gardens in Binghamton, New York.

Cutler is famed locally for two things - its antique rose collection and its day lilies.

The day lilies have been blooming for several days now, and should be at peak in a few days.

The only problem is - there is no list of varieties.  Some have tags with numbers.  There was a container with brochures but no brochures.  I get that - we've gotten a lot of rain recently, and printing brochures can get expensive.  But I couldn't find a list online, either.

I would love to know what varieties these are (or might be).  Do any of my readers have enough expertise for possible ID's?  (I've also contacted Cutler on Facebook but I have no way of knowing if they interact with their fans.)

This lovely red lily with yellow throat  is only known to me as "Daylily 264".  I would love to know its name and details, but have no time to search the interwebs.
Daylily 118 - will this beauty remain a mystery?  I love the ruffles.  There are even ridges.
I don't even have a number for this one.

Three totally different day lilies. This is only a sample of the variety available in this type of flower.  So easy to grow up here, too.

Want moreAlso, check out this blog post from 2013.

What is your favorite flower?