Monday, August 31, 2015

Princess Diana

Today is the 18th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana.

I am reminded of how time seems to travel faster the older you get.  If you were born on the day Princess Diana died and you live in New York State, you became a legal adult today.  Happy birthday!

 I recently discovered the blog of a retired woman called "Anything Except Housework".  In her "working" years, she was a professional photographer, and Princess Diana was one of her subjects.

You will enjoy this blog post,  I think, whether or not you are old enough to remember Princess Diana.  I certainly enjoyed her work.  And, when you view these pictures, also remember that these predate digital photography.  This is film photography.  If you wanted to take both black and white and color at the same time, you needed two different cameras.

Film photography.  Remember that?  Time is traveling by so quickly....

I remember exactly where I was when I found out about the tragic auto accident.  In upstate New York, it was late at night, and I had tuned into CNN for no particular reason.  My spouse was working late, and I wanted to catch up with the news.  I wasn't quite ready to go to bed yet.  I was on my living room couch.  A few minutes of news, and I would head to bed, but life had other plans.

I wouldn't go to bed for a while longer.

I was stunned, and stayed up hoping to hear some official word.  At the point I tuned in, the press was still reporting that she had survived the accident.

When I found out the next day that she hadn't survived, I cried.  My son, who was only seven at the time, couldn't understand why I was so sad over someone neither of us knew. 

The United States pressed had extensive coverage of the days after - the outpouring of love, the floral tributes.

I am not a "Royals watcher" (enough people in the States, are, but I am not) but Princess Diana had intrigued me from almost the moment of her engagement to Prince Charles.  I had never envied the Royals.  In fact, I am quite grateful I was not born into their family.   I am about as introverted as you could get.  I would not have lasted a day if she and I had swapped lives.  The riches don't matter.  How many of the Royals, I wonder, are truly happy?

Perhaps Diana found much meaning in her final works, especially her work to get land mines banned.

She could be so relaxed in the middle of her hectic, public life. That takes poise and a special talent.

Princess Diana had a sense of strength, and endurance.  I invite you to go the blog of Gilly Maddison, and look at the pictures.

And then, consider this - her estate is letting her grave go back to nature.

Finally, in death, privacy.

Do you have memories of Princess Diana?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Building 59

Today's post isn't about United States Civil War history, but, rather, history in my own backyard near Johnson City, NY.

My regular readers know that my neighborhood, among others, was flooded in September 2011 - enough that my neighborhood was pictured on the cover of a commemorative flood book published by the local newspaper.

In 1942, a building called Air Force Plant 59 was built in my neighborhood.  At the time, it was built for the war (World War II) effort, and was the largest wood framed structure in the United States.

After the flood of September 2011 it was irreparably damaged.  It has stood vacant ever since, a subject of my photography.  Waiting patiently...

Waiting patiently for its fate, a fate tied in with the future of my neighborhood of almost 30 years.

Yesterday, we received a letter from the United States Air Force, which still owns (sort of) the building.

The demolishing will happen soon. We've already seen people setting up trailers and porta potties on the property.  It will be a long and complicated process, with the possibility of release of various hazardous chemicals.

I live in walking distance of this building and, needless to say, the demolishing process will impact my spouse and me.

I will follow the progress in my blog.

Here's a post from July, 2012, one of many I have made about this building, and its interaction with my community of Westover.

As of today, the long goodbye still continues, as the building still waits.

The Long Goodbye Continues

Last night, I was amazed.  I was watching TV when a commercial came on.

It featured a building.  A very familiar building.  A building I've passed nearly every day these past 25 plus years that I've lived in Westover, near Johnson City, NY.

I've blogged about this building time and time again, since the floods of September 7-8, 2011.

Ruined by the flood, it stands vacant, patiently waiting for the demolition ball.  Snowball bushes bloom near the former entrance.  The day lilies were blooming not that long ago.

The once green lawn, meticulously cared for with a lawn care service, stands brown with wildflowers starting to bloom here and there. (I've been tempted to do a blog post on how nature slowly starts to come back into its own when man stops interfering.  Well, let me qualify that. The county has mowed the grass a couple of times since the flood.  But other than that, nature is starting to reclaim.)

Now, NY State has made a commercial about the former BAE building in Johnson City, NY. (the link is no longer available online as of August, 2015.) 

The flood took 1300 jobs from our neighborhood, and several other employers who will never return. Those buildings lie vacant, too.

But the good news is, the state saved those jobs, at least for five years, and other vacant buildings once owned by IBM, a few miles away, are now buzzing with activity.

It's bittersweet.  And I still wish the building could be saved.  In my daydreams, the building (or at least, a replacement building after the BAE building is torn down) becomes a farmers market.  The location would be so ideal, near to highways and right in back of a bus stop on a major BC Transit line.

Or not.

The long goodbye continues.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Local Saturday - NOLA

You don't live 62 years without experiencing a disaster or two, and seeing a lot more on TV.  When you see disasters on TV, though, it just doesn't begin to communicate what is happening.  You may see it and hear it, but you don't smell it, you don't feel it.

I've never experienced a hurricane (although I know people who have).  This is what I'm told: There's a reason for those hurricane parties, folks.  You don't want to face one sober.

I've never been to New Orleans (although my brother in law, before he retired, traveled there on business frequently).  The locals, by the way, call it NOLA.

I remember Hurricane Katrina, but as a media bystander.  Its 10th anniversary is today.  I saw it from afar, on TV.  To me, it's history.  To others in this country, it changed their lives forever.

More than 1,400 people died.  Sad to say, this is an everyday occurrence in some countries when disasters strike.  For us fortunate enough to live in the United States, it is not.

This is some of what it looked like.


Levees broke, and people drowned in their houses.  Seeing how much the disaster was mishandled, leading to so much death and suffering, still gives me chills. 

In the aftermath of Katrina, the population of New Orleans, a major city, shrunk by nearly half.  Even now, some have not returned.  Of those, some have made new starts; some still miss their NOLA.

If NOLA had been deserted, would there have been a jazz funeral for it?


So, what do bloggers have to say?  Cheryl, at a Pleasant House, had not yet moved to New Orleans, and her post will make you think. Her post is a bit humorous, but there is a lot of serious thought underneath it.

This is how the people of New Orleans are remembering it.

Some things you never miss until they are gone.  New Orleans, ten years ago, came close to being gone.

Would we have missed her?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Falling Friday - Fear

Today, I want to share with you a blog post by a writer and blogger, Amy, who is losing both her vision due to a medical condition called Retinitis pigmentosa (RP). She also has a condition called Usher Syndrome, and is also losing her hearing   She has faced this challenge with her religious faith and with a great sense of humor, but, in this post, she blogs about her elderly mother and her mother's fear of falling.

Amy has increased her mobility with mobility training, but has suffered her share of falls, too.

Amy's mother, who is close in age to my mother in law, has become afraid to go out because of her fear of falling.  She has osteoporosis, too (a condition my mother in law does not have).  Similar to my mother in law though, this woman has children who love her.

Amy tries to find ways to get her mother out and blogs about a successful outing.  Amy has the additional challenge of not being able to drive, and being dependent on others for transit.  But she manages.

In some ways, the experience Amy described reminded me of being in my falls prevention class back in May and June of this year.

We had a vision specialist come and talk to us, and I found that many of the people in my class had Retinitis pigmentosa.  Theirs came on late in life, unlike Amy's, but some were so concerned about falling (everyone in the class, including the instructors, had fallen) that some were prisoners to fear.  Some would not even go out in winter - and our winters here in upstate New York are long and full of ice and snow.

Mobility really matters.  My mother in law has mobility issues due to a stroke and injuries from several falls (and is also recovering from surgery).  Slowly, she is recovering some mobility.  But she has also become comfortable and set in her ways.  Her lift chair, and her TV, have become her friends.

Mobility is something we take for granted until it is gone. 

I hope I can convince my mother in law (with the blessing of her doctor) to go to a falls prevention class similar to the one I took.  And, as for Amy's mother, I hope that other opportunities arise that encourage her Mom to leave the house.

Amy sums it all up:  and if you see yourself or a loved one in her blog, afraid of falling, please seek out help.  Talk to a medical professional.  See if there is a falls prevention program where you or your loved one lives  If you have visual impairments, there is hope, too, as Amy demonstrates in her blog and in her book, Mobility Matters.

As Amy sums up in her post:

Everyone needs to get out sometimes. People need to be refreshed to see their life and themselves in a new way, to know they count. People need to be mobile.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Women's Equality Day

 Yesterday, August 26, was Women's Equality Day in the United States.  On August 26, 1920, the 19th amendment was adopted, giving women nationwide in the United States the constitutional right to vote for the first time.

For that, we need to thank the 19th century, as I did in this post (slightly edited) from earlier in the year.

If you are a woman, do you vote?  Do you exercise your hard earned rights, or do you take them for granted?

 Thanking the 19th Century


100 years ago, in the United States, women could not vote in a national election (that right was granted by the 19th amendment, ratified in 1920) nor in many local/state elections.



 
This building is the Wesleyan Chapel, located in Seneca Falls, New York.  The original building (most of this building was a reconstruction) was built in 1843.

In this building, in  July of 1848, the First Women's Right Convention was held.  Out of this convention a document called the Declaration of Sentiments came, signed by 68 women and 32 men.

I would like to write this letter to all the signers of this document, but especially, the women:

"Dear signers of the Declaration of Sentiments:

"I owe so much to you, as a married woman living in the United States.  Due to your courage:
-I have the right to vote
-I can keep the wages I make
-I have the right to own property and to pass it down, upon my death, to the person or persons I choose
-I have the right to an education.

and I have other rights women in some other countries don't have - the right not to have their bodies mutilated,  the right to marry or not marry, the right to become or not become pregnant, the right to attend school without worrying about being kidnapped and sold into slavery, or being killed, and even the right to drive a car.

If I wanted to write a book, I could do that under my own name.  I wouldn't have to pretend to be a man.

It took so many years for you to win those rights for me.  Instrumental in getting these rights were your efforts in getting women the right to vote.

And now, too many women take these rights for granted.  Many of us don't vote.  We don't take advantage of educational opportunities.  We devalue ourselves.

A sad thing about history is, if you didn't live it, you tend to forget it.  I can remember the days of "Male" and "female" help wanted ads, just as one example.  I can remember when one of my high school teachers became pregnant, and had to leave when she started to show. (This, incidentally, was in 1969.)

You all taught me never to take rights for granted.  Rights taken for granted are rights lost.

Worst of all, there are places where women have never had those rights, and both men and women suffer for it. That's part of women's history, too, the story of the present.

Those once called suffragettes, thank you for your courage.

Thank you for what you did for generations yet unborn. Like mine.

Sincerely,

AM"

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Summer Ramblings - Mosaics and Flowers

Yesterday, I blogged about possible changes to my blog.  One thing that will not change is my love of exploring and taking pictures.

Today, fall is in the air.  But, earlier in August, summer ruled.

Join me on a walk I took with a friend on August 7 along the Chenango River in downtown Binghamton, New York.

Some students spent part of their summer vacation with a local mosaics businessowner in creating these mosaics.

How beautiful is this red and purple spiral?

Or this contrast in color? (Do you want to see more of the mosaics? Let me know.)

And along the riverbank, wildflowers were blooming.

Not only wildflowers, but this stray day lily rewarded our walk.

If I took that walk today, I would find something different.  That is the beauty of nature.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Change is in the Air

Change is in the air.

The garden tells me we are nearing fall.

The weather is turning cooler.

My blog may change.


My blog is a work in progress, just like this mosaic (picture taken earlier in August) in downtown Binghamton, New York, where I work.

I have been blogging daily for four years now (well, since late April of 2011, so it's been more than four years), and blogging since 2009.  Of late, I haven't had the "bandwidth" (an expression a sister in law taught me) to post new posts daily.  I've been including one or two "throwbacks" each week. 

I've also had a somewhat unfocused blog for the years since I started blogging.  My blog's title reflects that: "Ramblin' with AM". Not "Focused with AM".  Not "Predictable with AM".  I do have three weekly features, on Wednesdays, Saturday and Sunday but they've been drifting a bit lately.  My Civil War Sunday, due to lack of time in being able to research, has almost ground to a halt.

More and more I want to talk about my personal life, including my brother in law with a developmental disability called autism. I want to talk more about what it is like to age.  I want to show some of the attitude I am developing.  It's a good thing, this developing attitude - the attitude of "I'm 62 and certain things I am just not going to take anymore, because life has taught me that it is too short."

But I know talking about my personal life  is not going to interest a whole lot of my readers.  This blog is about my readers.  I should be providing content YOU want, not what I want to write.

But it is increasingly hard for me to come up with fresh content.

Yet, I know a lot of my readers enjoy my flower photography, so I will assure them that the photography will continue.

So, I am not sure where I want to go from here.  There's danger if I change what I have been doing with this blog, but also opportunity.

I just don't know how this will resolve, but when I do know, you'll be the first to find out.

And meanwhile, here's a flower.  It's shy, just like me, but waiting for its moment.  Its center looks like an eye playing peek-a-boo.

I wonder what it is envisioning for the future of my blog.

Monday, August 24, 2015

On The Trail

Today, let me take you on a walk on the Vestal Rail Trail, in Vestal, New York (near Binghamton) on a mild late summer day.

The wildflowers are out.
Goldenrod is one of the most distinctive wildflowers of late summer here in upstate New York.  It is a native wildflower, and a member of the aster family.  Contrary to common belief, it does not aggravate hay fever, as its pollen is generally not distributed by wind.

I am told its young shoots are edible.  I've not tried them.

In Germany, it is considered an invasive plant.
Joe Pye weed is finishing up.  This is also a native, and is sweetly scented like vanilla.  There are, in fact, some cultivated varieties, but you need a lot of space - even "dwarfs" grow to some eight feet (2.43m) tall.

Japanese knotweed is not native, and is invasive.  It is blooming almost everywhere, it seems.  I have to admit to a fondness for it, as invasive as it is.  We can blame Frederick Law Olmstead (one of the designers of New York City's Central Park) for introducing it to the United States in the 1800's.

As time permits, I'll publish more photos of my walk later this month.

Nature is all around us, even in urban areas.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Civil War Sunday - Then and Now

I've had to cut back my United States Civil War Sunday posts due to family obligations, as they take a lot of time to research.  But, today, I wanted to share something with you.

Online, recently, there has been a trend - dare I call it a meme? - to recreate photographs of the past. Some take old photos of their childhood and pose, as adults in the same places, in the same positions.  Others take historical photos, and go back to the site to photograph what is there now.

This photographer from the British paper The Guardian  went to Civil War sites (1861-1865) and photographed them as they appear today.

This is how he did it.

As you view each old photo, it dissolves into the photo of the same site today.

I've been to several of these sites - Ft. Sumter (where the war began), Antietam, Washington, DC, Gettysburg.  Viewing these photos, for me, is an emotional experience although none of my ancestors fought in the war.  My ancestors dd not come to the United States until the early 20th century but the Civil War, I sometimes feel, is embedded in my DNA.

Whether you are interested in the Civil War, or just history in general, this site is a must-view.

Have you ever tried to recreate historical photos?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Local Saturday - There's No Place Like Home

After several weeks of having to travel about 150 miles from home every weekend, I am finally home to stay - and savoring every bit of the summer that remains.

For example, I have a couple of day lilies still blooming.  A red one, which I bought last year, is obviously a late variety.

But this yellow one has been blooming, a little at a time, since around July 5.  I can not believe the staying power of this short lily, almost hidden in a patch of oregano, but blooming away.

Some basil, complete with a bee in the upper left hand corner, in a pot in my front yard.

 A pepper plant in my front yard is finally bearing red peppers.

A Burpees bush cucumber plant, growing in my front yard, has already provided me with some cukes for pickles.  Protected by a fence, it is doing quite well despite neglect. But one end of each cuke is skinny - I've never seen this before.  They look like little balloons.  The skin is a tiny bit tough, but the taste is good.

Just about now, I should be offering some recipes to you, my dear readers.  But today, I won't.   Maybe later next week.

It's so good to be home at last.

Friday, August 21, 2015

How I Blew My Chance to See Jimmy Carter

Yesterday, hours after I posted on facing my mortality, a former President, recently diagnosed with cancer, held a news conference yesterday, shortly before he was going to get his first radiation treatment. In fact, he had also started chemo the day before.

He has stage IV melanoma, highly aggressive.  He spoke for almost 40 minutes, dressed in blue jeans and a blazer.

What courage he showed in his news conference.  He even cracked a joke about the greatest failing of his Presidency (1977-1981).

Which leads me to how I blew my chance to see Jimmy Carter back in 2009.

I had gone to Americus, Georgia to visit the nearby Andersonville Civil War POW site and Plains, Georgia, the birthplace of Jimmy Carter.

While staying at a B&B, I was told that Jimmy Carter taught Sunday School every Sunday he was in the area.  He was still doing extensive travel for his charity and foreign relations work, and, when I looked up his schedule, it said online he wasn't going to be at church that Sunday.

I felt a little uncomfortable, being of a different faith, and decided not to go to the service.  The set up was:  service first, then the Sunday School.  You had to go to the service to go to the Sunday School.

If I had gone, I would have seen him, because, as it turns out, he did teach that Sunday.

We had talked about going back to Americus this March.  Jimmy Carter is still teaching Sunday School.  We didn't, and lost our chance.  Although, Jimmy Carter does plan to continue to teach it as long as he can, I also know a little (from a friend's experience) of what radiation treatment to the brain can do.

So the obvious lesson of this moment is:  Grab the moment.  Don't let the discomfort of a new experience keep you from a once in a lifetime opportunity.

But that wasn't all.

But then, at the conference, there was one last surprise.  Yesterday, I had blogged about my family history of pancreatic cancer.  It turns out that Jimmy Carter may have the most extensive pancreatic cancer history of any living person.

Pancreatic cancer killed his father, brother and two sisters (all of his siblings).  His mother died from breast cancer that spread to her pancreas.

But, despite all this, he plans to continue working as long as he can.   

I am in awe of Jimmy Carter and how he faced his mortality in public yesterday.  No matter what your politics, this man deserves our respect.

What a lesson he taught yesterday.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Facing Our Mortality

I hesitated a lot - a lot, before writing this post. 

I suspect that most bloggers practice some degree of self-censorship.  Don't discuss certain topics.  Treat other ones lightly.  But I saw something on Facebook the other day that, as the current saying goes, I can't unsee.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend.  Her husband died from a combination of causes, including stroke and several cancers and spent his final year or so in a nursing home.

Earlier this year, my friend was treated for breast cancer.

We were chatting about "this and that" when I brought up a topic that I normally don't bring up in conversation.  No, instead, I opened my mouth and out it came.

I started to talk to her about an article I had read online yesterday called "How Doctors Die".  It was published a couple of years ago by an online magazine and made it to my Facebook timeline earlier this week. It was written by a doctor.

Doctors don't die like the rest of us, said this doctor.  The difference is extraordinary, according to this article. 

Many doctors, faced with an advanced life threatening illness, choose not to be treated.

What grabbed me was the beginning - a mentor of the author, and a doctor himself, found a lump in his stomach.  It was pancreatic cancer.  This doctor made the decision not to get treatment.

I have thought about pancreatic cancer from time to time over the years.  Three of my relatives died from it.  I don't know what type they had, but I do know the life expectancy statistics are not good.  I also know there is a genetic component.  My doctor has confirmed that, but he has nothing to offer me.

Right now, there is no test - no pap smear, no mammogram, no PSA test, for pancreatic cancer.

Why did this article grab me?  Because one of my three relatives who died from this cancer was a doctor.  I had lost touch with that branch of my family so never knew the details, only the death.  But now, I started to wonder if he had sought treatment. This man was a brilliant doctor, known for his ability to diagnose cases that stumped others.  He must have known the odds.

My aunt, who was in her early 50's, did know her odds of survival, I suspect.  She worked in insurance (I'm not sure if it was life or health but it was one of them) - in claims.  But some other family members were in total denial. "You'll get better", they said, even as she wasted away.  I moved to where she lived (a move planned before her diagnosis) while she was in her final months, and saw her decline. 

My son's pediatrician died several years ago.  I suspect he chose not to be treated for his condition, either.  Instead, there was a party for him, all his former patients invited, and he died not that long after.

This article suggests that Dr. Murray is not alone in his view.

My friend has told me, more than once, that if her cancer returns, and doctors want to give her chemo, she will not do it - except, perhaps, in an experimental program where she can benefit others.  My friend is deeply religious, and is comfortable with her decision.  So when I opened my mouth yesterday - we had a friend to friend talk.

I have other friends who faced a grim diagnosis by undergoing the treatments the medical profession suggested.  In fact, I know several people who survived when the odds were against them.

Treatment is an extremely personal decision and I would never give anyone any advice on facing their mortality.  I haven't had such a diagnosis. My time has not come yet and I have no right to think any less of anyone who takes a path that works for them, whether it is full treatment or no treatment, or something in between. I am not a deeply spiritual person, but knowing a number of people in the past few years who have faced death with dignity has  made me think a lot about what I would do.

There is no easy way to face our mortality, or the mortality of a friend or loved one.

I usually end my blog posts with a question. Not this time.  Because right now I just don't know what to think.

And no, I can't unsee the article.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Summer Ramblings - The Barn

Summertime is fleeting where I live.  Each moment must be enjoyed.  Each flower must be appreciated.  Each landscape must be studied.  For soon, the green season will be over and the chill of fall will take care of the flowers and the green.

This is the cycle of the growing seasons in our four season climate.

I'd like to show you a barn in upstate New York, near Windsor, New York, photographed by the friend I call my "guest photographer".

She travels the rural roads,and fell in love with this barn.  She took some of these pictures on a misty day and another in sunlight.  Which do you like better?

The flowers are beautiful, but the advertising signs are even better.

The morning mists common at this time of year.

The flowers show themselves in this angle.
The roof and an old silo.
And one last misty view.

What kind of summer photos do you like to take or see?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Question of Pants

Those of my readers who know I have a brother in law with a developmental disability called autism may be a little surprised that I haven't mentioned him in the past few months.

There's a reason.

This past week, we completed (let me rephrase - it's far from complete) a downsizing of my elderly mother in law's belongings and a move for her to be closer to us and to another family member and his wife.

My brother in law with autism, whom I call "B" on this blog, lives with my mother in law. That meant he moved, too.

He moved out of the only house he ever knew, a house he's lived in since early childhood.  It would be rough for anyone.  But he doesn't communicate much, and he keeps his thoughts to himself much of the time.

The success of the move (from his point of view) all boiled down to a pair of pants.


People with autism depend on routine.  It helps them feel secure and safe in a world that doesn't always make sense.  The world can be painful, and confusing, to an individual with autism.

"B" wants to know at what time everything will happen.  So many times I've had to tell him "B, I don't know."  What made it worse is when his mother needed surgery, experienced a complication and ended up hospitalized a lot longer than first expected, we couldn't predict the outcome. We couldn't give "B" the timeline he craved.  We couldn't say she would be released on (made up date) July 25 at exactly 1pm.   But he survived.

She still hasn't recovered completely.  But as for "B", that is not how he sees it.

He wants his routine, his safety.  He wants life to be predictable.  He doesn't want change.

Moving is not routine.  Moving is not predictable. His mother's health is not predictable. Moving is not predictable.

Towards the end, we were racing against a moving deadline and things got a bit hectic and disorganized.
 The moving van came first.  "B" and his mother came the next morning.
Crisis when they arrived.  The only pants we could locate for "B" were the pants he was wearing.

You could see the rising panic in his eyes.  He raised his voice.  He was yelling.  He wanted his pants.  And he wanted them now.

Several of us, including his mother, got him calmed. We promised family members would look for them.

We have a lot of boxes and containers stored at our house.  We looked. But we couldn't find the pants.  Perhaps they are in a mislabeled box.  We aren't going to open each and every box. Truthfully, we were tired....so very tired. 

Finally, on his own, he came up with a solution and a deadline.  If we didn't find the pants by today, one of his brothers would take him to the mall and buy him two pairs of pants.  If only all problems were solved that easily.

Well, yesterday, we found them.  Their container was mislabeled.  Crisis avoided.
So that's that....until the next time.

We have a lot to learn.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Flowers of Memory

On August 17, 2003, one of my aunts died suddenly in a car crash.  If she was alive today, she would have been 90 years old.

On August 17, 2012, I devoted a blog post to her memory.  Parts of that post are included in this post below.

Today, I am again thinking of the end of life.

My dear friend from childhood, whom I have known for 52 years, is gravely ill as I write this post.  It remains to be seen if modern medicine, supported by her strong spirit, can pull her through.

On this anniversary, there is always so much that I think about.  I still think of my aunt from time to time. A couple of 2015 updates are in brackets.

The Flowers of Memory

Have you ever planted a flower (or two, or three) for a dearly departed loved one in your life.  I have.  I wonder how many other flower gardeners have.

Two bloggers gave me inspiration for this post. Thank you, Christine at Inspired Life, for the prompt  (the prompt originally came from writing.com):   Imagine a phone conversation with a relative who has died.  And Marisa, who left a post about a leopard lily given to her by her flatmate, who also died. 

On Wednesday, I wrote a blog post talking about a red dahlia I've grown (digging up tubers every fall) that was given to me by a friend who subsequently died from cancer.  And, I mentioned a hibiscus I planted in honor of a late, dear aunt.
The dahlia, 2015
 If I could have talked to my Aunt M. on the phone on the anniversary in August, 2012, what would I have said?

Maybe something like this:

Dear Aunt M:

I want you to know I still think of you often.  I thought of you earlier this month when we had a mini-family reunion.  We talked to two of your children on Skype.  Isn't that amazing?  You never wanted a computer.  We still wrote letters, you and I.  I haven't written a letter for pleasure since the day you died.

I also want you to know that the special hibiscus I planted in my front yard, in your memory, is blooming very nicely. [Since then, it died]. I remember how proud you were of your hibiscus and your small vegetable garden.  You were in your late 70's, and lived alone, but you got a lot of things done.  You were amazing.

I remember one of the things we did the day before you died. We went to the Saturday farmers market in the Iowa city where you lived.  You loved houseplants, and you saw an orchid.  You almost bought it, but changed your mind and told the farmer you would be back Tuesday, at the next market  Of course, you never made it.

I also wanted you to know about the "Aunt M" plant.  It is a euphorbia and you would be amazed how long it took me to find that out.  You didn't know what it was, either but you had grown it for years and years in your house  You would grow it outdoors every summer, then take cuttings, overwinter them indoors, and repeat the process.

You had been doing that for over 20 years. The visit before you died, you gave me a cutting.  In fact, I forgot it and we drove back just to retrieve the cutting.  We drove home with it, almost 900 miles.  My plants from that cutting are still alive, too. [And they are still thriving in 2015.] I don't put them out every summer, but I thought you would be pleased to know how much those cuttings make me think of you, too.

It was great talking with you, Aunt M.  I hope there is gardening where you are living now.  Heaven wouldn't be heaven without gardens, would it? 

2015 postscript:
But right now, I would rather heaven have one less new inhabitant.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The End and the Beginning

A chapter has closed.  Another one is ready to be written.

I stare at the blank pages of today, ready to be written on.

My mother in law and developmentally disabled brother in law now (as of yesterday) live about two miles from us.  We, and my sister in law and her significant other, with help from several family members (you know who you are, and I thank you once again) survived the downsizing and moving process.  My mother in law and the brother in law I call "B" have arrived, and spent the first night in their new home last night.

I can not put myself into the heads of my mother in law or brother in law.  My brother in law has autism, and this process has been hard for him, perhaps harder than for any of us.  He just doesn't show it in the same way.

My mother in law is still recovering from heart valve replacement surgery.  She is trying to gain strength and health back.  It is a battle, at her age.

We all have a lot of adjusting to do. Mother in law and "B" must adjust to a new area, a new home, and apartment living.

We must adjust to them being two miles away and not 150.

It will be a "process".

Now the REAL work begins.  We all have to take it one day, maybe one hour, at a time.

Wish us all luck.  We are all going to need it.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day August 2015 - There's No Place Like Home

Today, on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I am home for only the second Saturday since mid-June.  I had to travel, as my regular readers know, some 150 miles each way back and forth, to help care for an aging mother in law and also helped her to downsize and to move.

It was an ordeal for me, my spouse, and my sister in law but now we are almost (I hope) ready to cross the finish line.  The move was yesterday. She comes up with my sister in law later today.

Now, I can finally enjoy my home garden, just in time for a heat wave.

In my garden in upstate New York, in zone 5b, I know we aren't that far from fall.  I haven't been to my garden in weeks, and will try to get there today. Hoping the sunflowers are in bloom. (If they are, maybe I'll take pictures for tomorrow.)

It rained last night.  I still have lilies blooming.  In addition to this red one, I also have a yellow one that has been blooming since early July.  It has one bloom left to open, but it wasn't open yet this morning.
Tall phlox.  First year I've had this and so far I am happy.

One of my petunias.

Another petunia.
Garlic chives

A container of three geraniums.  I love the leaves of the yellow leafed variety.  Needless to say, I've forgotten the variety name.

Finally, one of my nasturtiums.

Please visit the host of this 15th of the month meme, May Dream Gardens.  From her Indiana blog, you can link to flower gardens all over the world. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Falling Friday - Still Together after All These Years

True love survives.

From August 15 to August 17, 1969, a music festival was held in upstate New York that became one of the most famous music events of the 20th century.
This museum is on the site of the concert, which was not held in Woodstock, New York
Every week for the past eight or so weeks, I passed the exit for where Woodstock took place on the way to my long distance care giving duties in a suburb of New York City.

I remember seeing posters advertising Woodstock on New York City subways in 1969.  I had a summer job in Lower Manhattan, not far from the late World Trade Center, and commuted back and forth on the #5 subway from my home in the Bronx.  It sounded so good and I wanted to go but my father forbade me.  I was 16 and couldn't do much about it.

But a couple who did go to that concert had their picture taken and, on the 40th anniversary of that photo, were still together.
But Nick and Bobbi Ercoline went to Woodstock, and ended up on the cover of its album. They fell in love, married in 1971 and (as of earlier this year) were still married.  They have two grown children.  Bobbi is (or was) a school nurse in Pine Bush, New York, where they live.  Nick worked for the Orange County Department of Community Development until his retirement in 2014.

As of this year, they are still going strong.

I can envy Nick a little for his retirement,but, you know what?  I'm not sorry I didn't make it to Woodstock in 1969.

I hope I can visit the museum one day, though, and experience it in a lot more comfort than the original concert goers ever knew.

Until then, I can enjoy some magical pictures of a couple who were in the right place at the right time.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Throwback Thursday - The Peanut President

I have visited several United States Presidential birthplaces or childhood homes.  The varied backgrounds of our Presidents are always a source of amazement for me.

Yesterday, we in the United States were saddened by the news that a former President, Jimmy Carter, has been diagnosed with cancer.  He had been operated on earlier this month for a mass in his liver.  Wherever the cancer started, it has spread.  The doctors may never find where the cancer originated.

President Carter, 90, has to "rearrange his schedule" for cancer treatment.  That is the kind of age 90 I admire - an age 90 of making a difference in the world with travel, charitable work, and even teaching Sunday School.

Here is a post I wrote on Jimmy Carter in 2010, when I visited his birthplace in Georgia.

They called him....

The Peanut President

Jimmy Carter has always fascinated me.  He came seemingly out of nowhere, seemed to have what it took to be President, but once he got into office he never succeeded.  Yet, in private life, he has succeeded beyond what may have been his wildest dreams.

What in his upbringing, what in his childhood values, what in his education made this man?

And why has this area of Georgia grown organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and others?  What here was so special?

We are visiting the Americus/Plains area to find out. In this blog entry I am concentrating on Jimmy Carter the man.

This is the house that Jimmy Carter grew up in.


Jimmy Carter grew up outside of Plains, GA in a solidly middle class family.  The actual town, which no longer exists, was called Archery.  The realities of rural life in those days created a childhood of lots of hard physical labor.  His father, loving as he was, did not believe in keeping anything on the farm that did not "pay its own way".   And this was hard farming, although the Carters were rich enough to have tenant farmers.  Still, Jimmy worked side by side with area black farmers, performing distasteful chores such as "mopping cotton".

"Miss Lillian", Jimmy's mother, was a nurse who did not turn anyone away, black or white.

Jimmy's father encouraged Jimmy to work and play alongside of the local black farmers.


The Carters grew cotton, peanuts, and sugar cane.  Student farmers still raise these crops at the homestead today.  They kept goats for meat, and mules to plow the fields.

And, in this windmill, is the germ of using "alternate energy".  There is nothing new about windpower.

The Plains High School the Carters attended has been closed (as part of consolidating various school districts).  This is a classroom set up the way it would have looked for Jimmy Carter in the 7th grade. Like so many famous people, Jimmy Carter credits a high school teacher, Miss Julia Coleman, as another great influence on his life.  In 1940 Eleanor Roosevelt invited her to the White House to honor her.  I highly recommend reading about her life.


 This is the outside of the high school.


Plains was the "Big City" for Jimmy Carter.  This is what it looks like today:

Jimmy Carter lives just outside of Plains today, and when he is in town, teaches Sunday School at his church.  This is Jimmy Carter's "Church Home".

When we had first planned our trip, Mr. Carter was not supposed to be in town but this has since changed. We won't be able to change our plans but it certainly would have been interesting.

The Carters also raise a lot of money by auctioning various belongings, momentos, and even paintings.

So, what about this childhood made Jimmy Carter so special?  Didn't many other Georgians had a similar rural childhood?  Not exactly.  There were Jimmy's parents, the hard work ethic instilled in him, his travel in Navy service.  But what else?  The Americus area has something very special, and you can find out more about Americus by reading some of my other posts from 2010.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Summer Ramblings - Down by the River

(With apologies to the Standells) 

Downtown Binghamton, New York is trying to reinvent itself.  For the past several years, it has had a trail along its river, the Chenango. (There is a second river, the Susquehanna, which meets the Chenango at what is called Confluence Park.  Today, I'd like to show you a little of the Chenango.

Growing up, I fell in love with a song about Boston, by a group called the Standells.

If Binghamton, New York, had its own song, it might have lyrics like these:


Down by the river....
Mosaics framing the Chenango River, downtown Binghamton, New York
Down by the banks of the Chenango River in Binghamton, NY.
Joe Pye Weed
That's where you'll find me on a lovely afternoon like last Friday.
Taken by my guest photographer
Binghamton, you're my home. (Not quite, I only work there.)

I have a love/hate relationship with Binghamton, but last Friday, the mood was love.

As for the mosaics in the first picture: as soon as I have time, I will feature more of them in a future post.

Thank you, readers, for keeping me company on a summer's day lunch walk.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Throwback Tuesday - Checkerboard Heaven

I originally posted this in 2009.

Since then, I have visited MacKenzie-Childs twice, once taking a tour.  They have beautiful grounds with gardens (they used to have chickens, too, but I didn't see any last year) and a beautiful house you can tour for free.  Unfortunately for you, my readers, they don't permit photography on the tour.

You either love their style or hate it.

I love it.  I just can't afford it.  The more expensive pieces are made in Aurora and the craftsmanship is impressive.  Better yet, it doesn't cost anything to look.

It's checkerboard heaven.
Here's the original post.

MacKenzie-Childs: Not for the Timid

We went up to Aurora, NY (in the Finger Lakes) to the annual MacKenzie-Childs barn sale.


MacKenzie-Childs is not for everyone. Their pottery, furniture, and other decorative items are...shall we say, quite bold. If you love checkerboard patterns, this is your place.

Here is an example of some of their furniture.
Unfortunately, photography was not permitted inside their "farmhouse" which was decorated in this style: but this will give you some flavor











Outside, there is a "chicken palace" where normally there is a nice collection of rare chickens - to my disappointment the chickens were removed for the occasion. They did leave some geese, who ran up to everyone who came close-I assume waiting for a handout:









Some metal work was featured. Here is a gate showing the detail put into their garden gates plus a little peak into one of their gardens:










Finally, here is a view of one of their gardens.

One day I may afford one of their artisan pieces. Until then, I will feast on the art.

Monday, August 10, 2015

It Doesn't Stop Just Because

For how long are we students of this world?

Yesterday, my mother in law and I met with a social worker who is helping us transfer her home health services up to where we live. She will be moving to our area before the end of the month.

I was raised to believe that learning is a lifelong process.   You never stop learning.  Life always seems to give you new opportunities to learn new things.  Sometimes they are pleasant.

Sometimes, they are not.

For example, life presented my spouse with this life lesson today.  Just because you are in the middle of a cluster of caregiving issues, life does not stop.

Yes, someone tried to break into our car (we are a one car family) this afternoon, while it was parked in a supermarket parking lot. That hole is where our lock used to be.  The lock is gone (it may have fallen into the car door) but, thankfully, the thief didn't get into the car.

 So now, my spouse is chasing around - called the store's security and had a nice chat with them (waiting for a phone call to see if their security cameras picked up the crime in progress), went to the dealer, is filing a police report, and, tomorrow, there will be the call to our car insurance agent.  I only hope it is covered, because the repair is probably not going to be cheap.  And, oh yes, we got an email confirmation from the dealer and they screwed up the time of the appointment - by about 4 hours.

But things could be a lot worse. 

They could have stolen the car.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Feeling Young Again

The most unlikely things can make you feel young again.

Yesterday, I was at my elderly mother in law's, helping her in the final stages of downsizing and moving to be closer to family where I live in upstate New York.  My son was with us.

My son works in a machine shop (dirty, smelly work) and drives an old beat up 1998 Ford Explorer.

He needed gas, and we needed to pick up a couple of pizzas for dinner.  So, away we went.

Such an innocent phase, "away we went".  It's a process for him to have a passenger in his car.  Seat latches are tricky and he has to go through an operation to pull the seat back so a passenger can get in.  There's a huge step up, too, huge at least to a 62 year old woman with an arthritic knee.

I managed the step up the first time, but not the second time.  I landed on my rear end "plop" right on the floor rug.  The dirty floor rug, in a vehicle smelling of machine shop.

And I started to laugh uncontrollably.

I don't know why, but that undignified landing on my rear made me feel young again.  I laughed and giggled for the next few minutes.

My son can drive me crazy (he knows all my buttons and doesn't hesitate to push them) but he has a heart of gold.  (Just don't tell anyone I said so.)

He says I don't laugh enough.  It's true.  Sometimes I feel like all the worries of the world are on my shoulders.

But, for a minute, on the floor of that Ford Explorer, I forgot them.

Incidentally, the pizza was delicious.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Local Saturday - Contrasts

I've written about farmers markets so many times in the past few years, but I now find myself in a situation where I am rarely home (or in a place with a farmer's market) on weekends.  So, instead, I am going to link to a fellow blogger, Vera Linton, who wrote a post called Watermelon and French Bread.

This is a story of contrasts - her childhood, and mine.

This blogger's upbringing was so opposite from mine.  Ms. Linton grew up on a farm in California.  I grew up in a public housing project in the Bronx, in New York City.

Her childhood included a family garden.  I never saw a garden until I was 17 years old, if you don't count the marigolds and lettuce I tried to grow on my city windowsill.
 
She talks about tomato borscht.  My childhood foods included borscht made from beets.

She ate lots of fresh veggies and salads.  In my household, fresh salad veggies rarely darkened our apartment threshold.

Yet, we share some memories - like lamb chops and cabbage rolls.  And we share a love of good food and the garden.

Although, I must admit, my first taste of fresh food wasn't poetic.  I ate too much, and made myself sick.  But I've never looked back.  I hope I am able to grow something (at least more than windowsill lettuce) for the rest of my life.

What memories do food, or farmer's markets, bring back for you?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Falling Friday - Can We Turn the Falling Tide?

The headlines, past and present, produce fear.  Especially if you are a senior citizen or care for one.

"George H.W. Bush [a former United States President, now 91 years old] fell and broke his neck bone", read the headlines in July.  This is a man who parachuted for his 90th birthday.

Actor Robert Culp - dead from a fall at age 79 in 2010. I remember him from a TV series of the 1960's called "I Spy".  The other starring actor became famous, too, but eventually in a different way.

Singer Eddie Arnold, dead after he fell and broke a hip in 2008, just shy of his 90th birthday.

Hillary Clinton, age 67, who is running for President of the United States, has had several well publicized falls.  One ended up as a topic of discussion in her Presidential campaign.

A man by the name of William Bechill, a man famed in the aging advocacy community, died in 2007 after he fell on ice.  He was 78.

Is falling in old age something that can't be prevented?  Is there any hope for seniors as they age?  Do we in the areas of harsh winter weather (I live in one of those areas) have to become prisoners in our homes due to aging?

Many are now trying to turn this around.  And, seniors are ready to listen.

Seniors such as my mother in law's next door neighbor of over 50 years, and good friend.  She is 83 (I hope she doesn't mind me giving out her age) and she and I grew up a mile - and 20 years - apart in the Bronx, a borough of New York City.

This woman, a widow for many years, still leads an active life, and lives in her house of over 50 years.  She walks up to four miles a day.  She travels.  And when I demonstrated the exercises I had learned in my falls prevention class during a recent visit, she was eager to learn them.

Why?  Because she has fallen.  Of course, she said, "I got right up".  She didn't want her companions to see her lying on the cobblestone streets of the city she was visiting.

Except that it was a fall.

Fortunately for this woman, she is not in denial.

If your area has falls prevention classes, don't be shy.  Take them. 

It can't hurt.  I've lost a little on my waist.  I am feeling the difference as I walk my imaginary tightrope.

In just minutes away, you can gain optimism.  Perhaps we, all together, can turn the falling tide.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Nostalgia Ain't What It's Cracked Up to Be

The Throwback Thursday meme brings me to the subject of nostalgia.

Just in the three years since I last wrote this post:
Email?  (replaced, for many of us, by social media)
Cable TV? (replaced, for many of us, by streaming online)

Time (and technology) moves on.

All of us, eventually, succumb to the emotion of nostalgia.  Perhaps, technically, nostalgia is not an emotion. But, when you realize many of the people around you have no knowledge of the technology you grew up with....well, it's a bit humbling. And emotional.

So let's take a nostalgic look at this slightly outdated post from 2012.

Nostalgia Ain't What It's Cracked Up to Be

Pining for the "good old days" is probably as old as humanity is.  But today, we have electronic ways of expressing it - especially, for the last 15 years or so - email.

Anyone over the age of - oh, 45 or so - has gotten these emails. You know "those emails": the emails full of photos of Howdy Doody and church keys and reminiscences of old black and white TV show.  Memories of idyllic childhood straight out of Dick and Jane books try to get you to pine for the "good old days".

Yeah, right.  And that is because there is no such thing as the 'good old days".  Never has been.

If yoiu, gentle reader, are in your 20's and 30's, just wait....in about 20 or so years that nostalgia mosquito is going to bite you.  One day you'll find yourself frustrated with technology that your 10 year old child uses effortlessly.  Or you'll suddenly realize that TV shows (if they even have TV in 20 years) just aren't made the way they used to be.

That "my childhood is a museum" feeling that I used to get talking to my son will be your feeling, too.

And the thing is:  "those days" weren't ideal.   Not everything was great.  Not everything has gone downhill.

So exactly what it is about the "good old days" that I don't miss? . For my younger readers: you get one point for every item where you actually knew what I was talking about without using the link.  Ready?  Let's go!

1.  Coke-bottle eyeglasses.  If you wear glasses and have poor vision (like me) I am thankful daily for ultra light lenses that don't leave permanent sores on your nose and your ears.  And which don't break because the lenses were made of glass.

2. Typewriters.  I learned to type on a manual typewriter in Mrs. Gottlieb's 7th grade typing class.  Mrs. Gottlieb was the most feared teacher in my school.  She put tape on all the keys so you couldn't cheat and find the correct key by glancing down.   Typewriters?  Well, if you didn't have one, you'd have to pay someone to type your term papers.  It was a complex process:  inserting paper into a roller, rolling it into position, setting the margins, typing, and when you heard a bell, you knew you were about 5 spaces from the end.  Time to hypehenate, then return the carriage to where it started, and type your next sentence.


3.  Carbon Paper.   And  onionskin.
If you needed copies, you just didn't tell your word processing software to print multiple copies.  You took special paper, and inserted carbon paper between each sheet - and heaven help you if you made a typo and had to correct all of those pages.  That was an art form in itself.

4.  Old fashioned medicine.  I'm probably going to get an earful about this.  But, let's put it this way.  I have a medical condition, easily treated today for many people with diet, exercise and medication.  My grandmother died from the same condition in 1927 because there was no treatment.  Things wouldn't have been much better in the 1950's.

Modern medicine has a lot of problems, no doubt about it.  But enough of us are walking around right now who may not be on this earth if we hadn't expanded on the medical knowledge of the 1950's.

5.  Pup tents.  My first camping adventure was in a small canvas tent borrowed from a fellow college student.   Guess what.  It rained. Do you know what happens when it is raining and you touch the walls of your canvas pup tent, which, from the weight of the water, has sagged so the entire tent is inches away from you?  What happens is that you spend the rest of the stormy evening in the ladies rest room of the campground.  Which, in this case at least, wasn't a latrine.  Give me a modern tent made of synthetic materials any day.

You'll notice I am talking about technology and not culture, not people's attitudes.  There's enough material there for another blog post.

Do you feel nostalgic for your childhood or teenage years?  What don't you miss about it?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Summer Ramblings - Travel Flowers

In my various travelings to and from my mother in law who lives some 150 miles away from me (I've been there with my spouse almost every weekend since mid-June and sometimes on Fridays and/or Mondays, too), I look forward to seeing my home flower garden when I return.

This is what was waiting for me after my last commute this past weekend.
These are day lilies glowing in the late afternoon light.  I love how this picture came out - taken, like all my other photos, with my iPhone 4S.
Tall Phlox.
Yellow and Red nasturtiums.
And finally, one more picture of my glowing lilies, this time in a group.

For a minute, all my cares and tiredness washed away, to be replaced by a humble amazement.  (And then it returned, but you can't get everything you want.)

What are your favorite flowers?