Saturday, March 25, 2017

Local Saturday - April and Ava

Hundreds of thousands of us are captivated by a giraffe (still pregnant as I blog this) living in Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York.

But I am just as captivated by (as a famous journalist once based a long series of broadcasts on) "the rest of the story."

April the Giraffe lives about 30 minutes from where I live.  This park is owned by a man by the name of Jordan Patch, who you will see in this video along with zoologist Allysa and keeper Corey, and a bunch of tortoises. (why tortoises? You'll have to watch the video).

Last year, Jordan Patch and his wife Colleen welcomed the birth of their first daughter, Ava.  But this birth was not your usual birth.  Seven weeks before Colleen's due date, Colleen showed signs of premature labor, and a sonogram was done.  Soon after, doctors gave the couple dire news.

Their unborn baby had an arachnoid cyst — between the surface of the brain and the cranial base or on the arachnoid membrane, one of the three membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord.  The cyst was monitored by neurologists, but, two weeks before her due date, labor had to be induced due to the cyst's rapid growth.

After birth, and a number of health emergencies, a diagnosis emerged.

Ava has a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum, further compounded by infantile spasms.  In layperson's terms, the two hemispheres of Ava's brain are not connected.  This condition probably stemmed from the existence of the cyst.

Doctors don't know Ava's prognosis.  The condition could result in nothing.  Or it could result in Ava being severely disabled.  She may never walk.  She may have severe physical or mental deficits.  The Patch family may not know the entire truth for several years.

The Patch family has not let that uncertainty stop them.  Already, they and Animal Adventure have held a fundraiser for another local family with a baby challenged by a serious condition called "Ava's Little Heroes".  They wanted to take the love their community showed them and "pay it forward".  There will be another fundraiser this summer.

Many watching April did not know about the behind the scenes drama of Ava Patch, the baby whose nursery is decorated in giraffe prints and who helps feed carrots to April and her mate, Oliver.

There will also be an online naming contest when the giraffe calf is born.  With each $1 contribution, you will get a vote, and the proceeds will go to some worthy causes, including an animal conservation foundation in Africa, maintaining the local giraffes at the park, and for "Ava's Little Heroes".

And mark your calendars for May 13, when Animal Adventure Park opens for its fifth season, and show your support of the Patch family, and animal conservation.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Skywatch Friday - Mares Tails

It was the first day of spring in upstate New York, and what did I see?

Clouds my husband (a weather "geek") calls "mares tails".  Quoting from Wikipedia:
"Cirrus uncinus is a type of cirrus cloud. The name cirrus uncinus is derived from Latin, meaning "curly hooks". Also known as mares' tails, these clouds are generally sparse in the sky and very thin."

In sailor's lore, these clouds mean "prepare for a storm".

On this first day of spring, nature was wondering what had happened.  After a mild February, we were covered in a record snowfall.  Afterwards, the temperature had risen and the snow was melting, but winter was getting ready to return.

The trees, already budded out earlier than normal, had no choice but to wait it out.

Be sure to visit other blogs participating in #Skywatch Friday, and see skies from all over the world.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Real Life Hero

On the day after the horrific terrorist attack in London, I feel compelled to look for an example of good in humanity.  It didn't take long to find one.

On last night's evening news, they did a feature on the oldest working nurse in the United States. 

Florence "SeeSee" Rigney has been working as a nurse for over 70 years. She started out as a student in 1946.  Now in her 90's (she will turn 92 in May), she has scaled down to working two days a week.  On her work days, she sometimes walks three miles, and can still set up an operating room with good speed.  She no longer works directly with patients.

She even makes coffee for the break room for her co-workers.

She wouldn't have it any other way.  Her zest for life is obvious.

What an inspiration, to make a career out of caring for other people and doing it for so long.  And, if you want to read even more stories of inspiration next month, tune into the Blogging from A to Z Challenge and the posts of a man in India who will be blogging about "real life heroes".

Do you have an inspiring story to share today?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spring Things - Presto Change-O

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, our area had between two and three feet of snow.

Monday, spring came (and my Wednesday feature transitions into Spring Things.)

Yesterday, after a weekend with some cool weather, it got up into the 50's F (about 11 C), and the snow really started to melt.  It was the first full day of spring, after all.

Today, winter is back, with howling winds, snow, and cold.  The wind chill is about 13 (-10.5).

My bulbs wait patiently for spring to truly begin.

They may look a bit wilted, but they will recover.

I, however, am less patient.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Giving Tree

I am a grown-up crybaby.

I cry at weddings.  I cry through movies.  Some children's books choked me up so much that I couldn't even read them to my then-young son.

Strange how, recently, the memory of gardening led to the memory of a book I was given to read sometimes to my then young son called The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. But I was never able to because the mere thought of that poem makes me cry.

This is a poem you either love or hate.  I think, in a way, that I both love and hate it.

I never understood that poem until I was a mother.

Now, there is a real Giving Tree in Oakland, California.

It still makes me cry.

What am I crying for?  Youth lost?  A son grown?  I really don't know.

Is there a book, a poem, or a movie that makes you cry?

Tree (not an apple tree) Binghamton, New York, October 2016

Monday, March 20, 2017

Traveling Through Time and Space the A to Z Way - #atoztheme reveal #atozchallenge

Picking my A to Z theme for 2017 was difficult, and I don't know why.

At first, I thought, "Oh, nostalgia."  For many of us, nostalgia is a fun pastime.  What would be hard about it?

When you get to a "certain age", your memories become a kind of museum.   A museum of historical events.  A museum of obsolete technology.  A museum of memories that sometimes mean so much to others younger than you.  But sometimes, those memories don't matter at all.

I've accumulated a lot of memories in 64 plus years of living, after all.

Recent memories.  Memories from long ago.  Some happy.  Some not so happy. Memories of travel.  Memories of everyday life.  Times of nostalgia.  All them, I hope, interesting.

But, we have to live in the present, too.

So, my theme for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge is:  Traveling Through Time and Space.  For most of the challenge, I will dust off some of my thousands of iPhone photos and travel once again to places I've been, and memories I've accumulated.  Other days, it will just be memories in writing.

I invite you to join me on my 30 day trip.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Music Sunday - Chuck Berry

Tomorrow, normally my Music Monday, will be my Theme Reveal for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  I am switching my Music post to today.

Today, I offer a tribute today to the late Chuck Berry, who passed away yesterday at the age of 90.

On Twitter, tweets from various music greats flew in - Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and more.  He's been on Rolling Stone magazine's lists of greatest rock and roll musicians of all time.  Three of his songs are on the Rolling Stone list of 500 greatest rock songs.

He was considered one of the greatest rock guitar players of the modern era.

Here are some of my favorite Chuck Berry songs.

From 1956, Roll Over Beethoven.

Johnny B. Goode - a live performance from 1958.

Also from 1958, Sweet Little Sixteen.

You may want to remove the children from the room for this final one.  This song was popular when I was in college, and this live performance - well, let's say it's not suitable for all audiences.  But it was his only #one hit song.

Berry, as late as last year, was still performing live shows.  He was planning to release an album later this year called Chuck.  It would have been his first album in 38 years.  This rock pioneer proved you don't have to be young to rock and roll.

Another rock and roll great gone.

Rest in Peace, Chuck Berry.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Sustainable Saturday - April, Allysa, Animal Support Animals and Snow

It's been an interesting week in the Southern Tier of upstate New York.

At Animal Adventure Park, in nearby Harpursville (about 30 minutes from where I live), a pregnant giraffe, April, continues to attract hundreds of thousands of daily views to her You Tube page.  Meanwhile, both the best and worst in human nature continues to appear in live chats and comments on the park's Facebook page.

I'm watching as I write this blog post, along with about 102,000 other people.  Just think, a reticulated giraffe could unite this country. But, after she gives birth, will anyone pay attention anymore? That remains to be seen.

Around 9pm Eastern Daylight Time each night, you can see one of the park employees coming in and interacting with the giraffes.  My personal favorite is a woman by the name of Allysa.  The interaction between Allysa and April is so heartwarming, as Allysa feeds April romaine lettuce and carrots, and will then give April a quick external exam, a belly rub, and belly kisses.  Upwards of 130,000 or more people will watch that tender moment.

So, why are so many people obsessed (and I do mean, for some, obsessed) with April? Forbes Magazine had an interesting take on the situation - April could be, for some, a virtual emotional support animal. Call it, if you will, virtual animal therapy to relieve stress and anxiety, something many of us are experiencing right now.  Read the article at the link to find out more about emotional support animals.

Meanwhile, Animal Adventure continues to dig out of the snow we all received in this area earlier in the week.  For my readers who live in areas that don't get much, if any, snow, here are some more pictures for you.

Broome County Courthouse (downtown Binghamton, New York) and the moon, March 16, shortly after sunrise.

A downtown Binghamton, New York street the afternoon of March 17.  Yes, after a day or so, snow doesn't look as pretty as it once did.
An area house.  Looks so peaceful, doesn't it?  Those lumps on either side of the small porch are buried bushes.

Happy Saturday, wherever you live.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Skywatch Friday - Record Snowfall Edition

So close to spring, and yet so far.

Here was the sunrise on March 13 in upstate New York.
And then, on March 14, this came along.

They weren't kidding.  Almost three feet later, no one was going anywhere.
And the beautiful sunny sky of the day before was replaced with this.

And then, last night, Nature tried to apologize with a gorgeous sunset.

Because today is St. Patrick's Day, I thought I would end this post with a cute St. Patrick's Day poem by a fellow blogger.

May your St. Patrick's Day be green, and not white (unless you like snow, that is.)

Join others participating at #SkywatchFriday and see skies from all over the world.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

After The Snow

We are clearing out from a record snowstorm in the Binghamton area of upstate New York - officially, 31.8 inches (80.7 cm) of snow dumped out just a few days before the beginning of spring.

Yesterday afternoon, gusty winds were blowing the snow my spouse and others labored so hard to plow back onto the streets and sidewalks.  The Governor of New York came to our area, and National Guard troops were dispatched to help medical personnel get to work and to help with other issues so crews could start the cleanup.

Here are some highlights, for my readers who live in climates with little or no snow.

A bush, and garage roof, with about 22 inches (almost 56 cm) of snow at that point in time.
Me, standing in that same 22 inches.   No one was going anywhere-we were under a state of emergency.
Perhaps it should have been put in the garage.
Our rhododendron.

Near sunrise yesterday morning, it looked like a winter wonderland.

We got more snow yesterday than we got all of last year (which was a record year for least snowfall, strangely.)  Another storm, and we may exceed our snowiest winter on record.

But we won't win the Golden Snowball award, alas (a yearly friendly competition between five cities for the most snowfall).

Let's hope this is winter's last hurrah.  But it doesn't look like it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day March 2017 - Beware

You know what they say:  Beware the Ides of March.

After hoping we would have early spring flowers to show for you (earlier than normal, but that's the kind of year we've had), what we got yesterday, instead, was a major snowstorm and a state of emergency that still exists as of me posting this.  As of about 7pm, we had 24.5 inches (62 cm) of snow.  Officially, it appears we received around 32 inches.

But, before I show you some scenes from that, here's what is blooming for me inside my house.

African violet
One of my three Phalaenopsis.  Another has buds on it - maybe next month.

One of my Thanksgiving cacti is blooming. Another has buds.

But, as for outdoors - about two weeks ago I could have shown you one of my two Lenten Roses.  The other one had buds on it.
February 25 - ah, memories
But today, this is what I would show you, instead.  Spring is on hold.
My back yard at 23 inches of snow-try to find the Lenten Rose under that
Over 23 inches of the white stuff has fallen.  It started about 3am yesterday and we've broken our 24 hour snowfall record here in the Binghamton, New York area.  Officially, over 28 inches fell yesterday.

If not for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, this would have been my final Winter Wednesday post of the year.
My front yard as sun set 3-14
I'll just postpone it until tomorrow.

In the meantime, we wait to see what is happening down South with a freeze coming at a most unfortunate time.

Join Carol at May Dream Gardens for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, and see what is blooming all over the world.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Happy Pi Day 2017 - Weight Watching Shepherd's Pie

Today is Pi Day, so named because, in the American way of writing dates, it is 3-14, which is also the first three digits of the value of Pi.  Here is a brief history of pi, which is the relationship of the radius of a circle to its diameter.  No matter how big or small the circle is, pi is the same.  Additionally, pi never repeats because it is an irrational number.  This, in fact, was first proven in 1761.

Hence, it has become a day for celebrating science, and pie...I mean, pi.

Today, I feature my spouse, the family cook, and his first attempt yesterday at a Weight Watching Shepherd's Pie. This serves two as a main course.  If you aren't weight watching, you may want to make more.

My spouse has been cooking for over 50 years, so he is someone who doesn't measure.  All of this is approximate, so don't blame me if it doesn't come out right.

3/4 lb peeled and cooked (boiled) potatoes
1 oz  butter (yes, butter. Why? Because the rich taste of butter enables the cook to use other calorie-friendly ingredients).
3 medium cloves garlic (or to taste), crushed against the flat edge of a cleaver
1 medium onion, chopped into small cubes
1/4 lb baby carrots, chopped into small cubes
1/2 a large stalk of celery (optional)
1/2 a large sweet pepper, your choice of color, chopped into small cubes
About 1 cup combined almond milk and concentrated turkey bone broth (spouse couldn't estimate how much exactly)
8 oz cooked turkey, chopped into small cubes
The ingredients, assembled
We didn't have peas in the house, but if you wish, you can add 1/2 a cup of frozen peas.  However, on Weight Watchers, you would have to charge points for the peas - we would rather spend the points on the butter.  (Since we use an older Weight Watchers program, we haven't tried to calculate modern Smart Points.)
Raw veggies and garlic, assembled


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

First, you are going to cook the vegetables.  Start by sauteing the garlic in about 1 tbsp of butter, for just a few seconds until it just starts to brown.

Immediately, add onion and celery and cook until they soften. Then, add the peppers and carrots. Let everything saute over medium heat, covered, for about 10 minutes.  Add the peas last, if you have them.

In the meantime, take the cooked potatoes, put in a saucepan with the rest of the butter,  Mash, and keep warm.

Incidentally, if you saw the sprouting eyes on the potatoes, you may want to note that these were German Butterball potatoes, bought at a local farmers market last fall. They showed some pretty good storage qualities!

Now, on medium low heat, make the sauce.

Sprinkle 2 tbsp of white whole wheat flour or plain white flour onto the cooked veggies, and cook about two minutes, letting the flour get incorporated and slightly cooked (so it loses the raw taste it would otherwise have). You want to hear sizzling and see steam, but don't burn anything.  Let cook, uncovered, three to four minutes.

Now add liquid - part almond milk  a little at a time, stir, let thicken, until you have a sauce in the pan which is like a thin pancake batter.  Now, start adding the turkey broth and keep stirring.  You want this to continue to thicken.

Add the turkey.  Stir.

Now, pour the mixture into a pie pan.  Take the mashed potatoes and totally cover the top of the mixture, making sure there are no holes.  You are treating this as an upper crust.

Now bake at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until crust forms on the potato and it is lightly browned.  Let set for several minutes.  It was a good first effort, but again, not highly traditional.

Enjoy, because enjoying food, unlike Pi, is quite rational.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Music Monday - They Were Family

Joni Sledge, founding member of the group "Sister Sledge" composed of four sisters, died Saturday at the age of 60.

So far, there is no word on the cause of death.  Her publicist said Joni had not been ill, and had been found dead in her home in Phoenix, Arizona.

This was the announcement from that Sister Sledge page on Facebook:

"Important Announcement:
Yesterday, numbness fell upon our family. We are saddened to inform you that our dear sister, mother, aunt, niece and cousin, Joni passed away yesterday. Please pray for us as we weep for this loss. We do know that she is now eternally with Our Lord.
We thank you in advance for allowing us the privacy to mourn quietly as a family. We miss her and hurt for her presence, her radiance, and the sincerity with which she loved & embraced life.
We love you; God Bless You all.
The Sledge Family"

We Are Family, from 1979, was perhaps their greatest hit, but they were also known for other anthems of the disco era.  (Much as it was fashionable to hate disco, I enjoyed a lot of that musical style.)

He's the Greatest Dancer.

From 1980, Got To Love Somebody.

Another loss for the music world.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Civil War Sunday - Does Anyone Know What Time it Is?

Today, Daylight Savings Time began in the United States.  

Is this really necessary?
At 2am today, most parts of the United States suddenly lost an hour.  The clocks moved to 3am, and we (except for night workers and late partiers) slept on.  In the mornings may of us felt disoriented as the sunshine outside did not match up to the sun. Now, as I write this close to 6pm in upstate New York, it looks like there is too much light out there.  I'll feel out of balance for another day or so, and I am not the only person.

In fact, more and more of us ask - why do we do this, anyway?

This is the day we in the United States (except in Arizona, Hawaii and some territories and possessions such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) go on Daylight Savings Time.  "Spring ahead, fall back" we remind ourselves. (We will get the "lost" hour back on the first Sunday in November.)

But never mind Daylight Savings Time.  Did you know there was a time when there were no standardized time zones in the United States?  And, that the Civil War was fought during that era?

As important as railroads were to the fighting of the Civil War, even the railroads hadn't yet found a way around coping with possibly up to 8,000 - yes, 8,000 - time zones in the United States. Local cities and towns set their own time, depending on the height of the sun in the sky to tell them when high noon was.  So, New York City might be on a different time than a city an hour away by train.  Just think of writing schedules, when every city had its own version of what time it was.

Each city and town having its own time worked when transportation was by walking or traveling by horse.  But, trains could run much faster.  And, I found something interesting online - a map from 1861, published two months after the Civil War began - something called "Lloyd's Americn Railroad Map, Showing the Whole Seat of War." 

On the map is a device called a Time Dial, which the railroads used to try to keep track of all those different local times, at least for 28 different cities.

Who said people in the 1860's weren't high tech?

Even the Civil War couldn't standardize time.  I had a brief taste of this kind of non-standardization for several years where my spouse and I traveled through Indiana on occasion.  Part of Indiana is on Eastern time. Part is on Central time.  Part was on Daylight time.  Part wasn't. 

Time wove back and forth and back and forth as we traveled from county to county. If we got out of your car to get gas, it was our best guess (in these days before Internet and cell phones) if we were on the same time as our last stop, an hour ahead, an hour behind, or even, the dreaded two hours behind.  (This situation was somewhat fixed in 2006).

Meanwhile, back to the 1800's. The railroads finally decided, in 1883, that they had had enough of local time. If the government wasn't going to standardize time, they would.  And so, on November 18, 1883, nearly twenty years after the Civil War ended, American and Canadian railroads started to use four standard time zones in the continental United States and Canada.  Municipalities and states followed.  And that is why we have "Standard" time zones even today.

Does your county or country go on Daylight Savings Time?
This was originally posted on March 9, 2014.  I made some minor changes.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Local Saturday - Oreo Snow

Dear readers, winter has returned, again, to upstate New York.

It just won't let go.  Never mind perhaps a record warm winter.  Winter just won't let go.

We had a dusting of snow last night, with temperatures down into the single digits (F).

This type of light, powdery snow, combined with low temperatures, is something I like to call "Oreo snow".  Sometimes, I use my imagination, and think I am inhaling a sweetness that is carried by the cold air.

It even sugar-coats bushes.

But it is no fun to be out in, with the sometimes strong winds of March.  Right now, the wind chill is 3 above zero F (-16C).

This is just an appetizer.  By midnight Monday night, we are going to get a powerful nor'easter, and the ones that come in mid-March are sometimes the deadliest.  Even the southern United States may get snow.

An interesting week ahead.

Call it Jack Frost's revenge.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Skywatch Friday - Blown Away

March is living up to its reputation.


We get mild.  Then it gets windy (dangerously windy).  For the second week in a row, dangerous winds (especially in other parts of upstate New York), plunges in temperature, and hard freezes follow each other.  Then it warms up again.

Here are some photos from March 8, ahead of another wind situation.

Right after sunrise.

About half an hour later, I arrived at work and took this picture in the small city downtown where I work.

Later that day.  These look so dramatic, don't they?
March 8, Binghamton, New York
Meanwhile, crocuses are starting to bloom, unseasonably early, along with snowdrops.  Will they survive the big plunge in temperature that starts later today?

Visit other blogs participating in #SkywatchFriday and see how the skies look all over our world.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Throwback Thursday - Library Love

Today is the 100th birthday of Your Home Public Library in Johnson City, New York.  In honor of that birthday, I rerun this post about my love of libraries from last year, when I wrote it for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  But first, a couple of bonus pictures in honor of YHPL's birthday which were not part of the original post.
The children's room.
A historic exhibit in the library.

Happy birthday, YHPL!

Library Love 


No, I'm not doing a post about all the books in my house, although I should.  My son once joked that I had a better selection than some book sales. Well, I think it was a joke.

Rather, I decided to blog about the place I'd rather be than anywhere in the world.  A public library.
Courtesy NYPL Digital Collections, free to use
Growing up in a city housing project in the Bronx of the late 1950's and early 1960's, I wanted to be a librarian.  But not just any librarian.  A bookmobile librarian.

Every Thursday except during the summer, I would visit the bookmobile that stopped by my housing project.  On the last visit before summer vacation, they would allow us to take out as many books as we wanted, and they were not due until September.

For me, Heaven!

Libraries were a haven to me.  They helped me become who I am today.

Now, libraries are in danger, such as another local library in Vestal, New York.

We all take local buildings and institutions for granted.  After all, they are there, we pass them every day, and we take them for granted. Even I do, sometimes.  I  pass this building five days a week, sometimes six.  But I rarely use this particular library.  I should (and, since I first wrote this post, I have started to.)

This is Your Home Library in Johnson City New York, the closest library to where I live in upstate New York

This building was built partly in 1885 and partially in 1920.  It's a small library, but full of local history.  When you enter, in fact, there is a small display of local history - a portrait, newspaper clippings, and other memorabilia.

There is evidence of an earlier era wherever you turn in the small rooms.  It is not an easy library to use, I'll admit.  The Binghamton library, where I work during the week (built in 2000), is modern and spacious.  But Your Home Library has character.  And fireplaces.

Here's another one of the fireplaces.

What a comfy reading room.   If you aren't sure what to read, the display of books along the wall - picks by the staff - will lure you into an afternoon of reading.

And one more view of the building.

Local public libraries face many challenges today.  Their funds are constantly being cut.  People are loathe to vote in the tax increases they need to survive.  But these libraries are, increasingly, so much more than a place where you can walk in with a card and walk out with one or more books to read.  They provide internet access, wi-fi,  computers for those who don't own one, job hunting services, e books, CDs and DVDs, magazines, free tax preparation done by volunteers, free databases, and so much more. One of our local libraries even features yoga classes on Fridays.

In fact, the photo I started this post with is from a digital collection of the New York (City) Public Library, and anyone can down load it, free of charge.

As I used to say in the 60's, "isn't that awesome?"

What is your local library worth to you? 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day 2017 #Womensday2017

Today is International Women's Day, so I am skipping my usual Winter Wonders Wednesday post.

“Do not wait for someone else to come and speak for you. It’s you who can change the world.” – Malala Yousafzai

Today, in the United States,  has been declared "A Day without a Woman".  Some bloggers are going silent today.  I am not.

At one time, this was the fate of many women - an endless round of hard labor for little or no reward.  Many people work to make this a thing of the past.

Women can be our own worst enemies.  We will tear other women down.   Today, let us pledge to support each other.

There is no question that our society could not run without women for more than a few seconds.  In my 64 years, I've seen women make great strides but we have so far to go, here in the United States.  But we have such a far way to go.  This past year has shown us just how far.

This was my post for 2016.

Today, I am taking baby steps to become more politically involved, as the world demands it.  I am also thinking of some type of participation in events related to VoteTilla, celebrating the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in New York State.

Just imagine that - my spouse's 105 year old aunt was born into a world where she could not vote.  She could not help decide who would make decisions on her behalf.

Let's keep the world moving forward.  Let's celebrate strong women, but pledge to lift each other up in an atmosphere of positivism.

Will you join in bettering the lives of women throughout the world?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

180 Pages

This is a reworking and updating of a post I first published in October of 2014. 

I'm looking at 180 pages that try to spell out my neighborhood's future.  As flooding becomes more and more of a threat each year, worldwide, due to changing climate, we all may face this one day. 

What is a neighborhood, anyway?

A website defines neighborhood as follows:
The term neighborhood has many meanings and uses. For example, neighborhood can be used to refer to the small group of houses in the immediate vicinity of one's house or to a larger area with similar housing types and market values.
Neighborhood is also used to describe an area surrounding a local institution patronized by residents, such as a church, school, or social agency. It can also be defined by a political ward or precinct. The concept of neighborhood includes both geographic (place-oriented) and social (people-oriented) components.

On September 7 and 8, 2011, my neighborhood of Westover, near Johnson City, flooded due to two tropical storms just a few days apart, dropping a total of 13 inches of rain.  The flood capped the rainiest summer on record.

Many houses were ruined and abandoned.  In 2014, demolition began, finally, of once cherished houses that were now only rotting eyesores.  By law, the land those houses sit on must remain undeveloped, or developed into something like a park or other green space.

In a meeting I attended in 2013, speakers explained that demolition, if not done right, can ruin a neighborhood.  What will be left, after demolition, is some streets with only several occupied houses, and large gaps in between.  Houses, and neighbors, become isolated.  Ways are being discussed to mitigate that, because a neighborhood is more than just a collection of houses.

One thing I learned from the meeting is that there are ways to handle potential flood damage. Zoning laws where we live, for example, require businesses to have a certain number of parking spaces for cars.  Those spaces are paved, and rain can not penetrate conventional paving.  But there is something called permeable paving, which would allow the movement of storm water into the ground. (There was also discussion of the fact that zoning laws tend to require more parking spaces than are normally needed.)

A neighborhood must be in harmony with the natural world around it.

Along with the residences, there was damage to a building once occupied by some 1200 workers, a building owned by the Air Force and rented to BAE Systems, Inc.  That building (actually several buildings joined together) was some 600,000. square feet, one of the largest wood framed building in the United States.

It awaited its fate after it was announced, in November of 2011 that it could not be repaired.  Without a definite plan, my neighborhood will never be able to move forward into the future.   In 2016, demolition began, and now, it is complete.  A few demolition workers remain, hauling in landfill and leveling the site.  I expect it will be done by this spring.

Then what?

Of course, those 1200 workers will never be returning to my neighborhood.  Right now, they are in buildings a few miles down the road, but BAE may decide to leave our area all together. 

We need businesses to return.  We need their tax dollars.  

A neighborhood needs jobs.
What remains
 So what happens after demolition?

That is where the 180 pages comes in.  There are grand plans for those 30 acres- mixed use residential/commercial use, a movie theatre, ball parks.

The drawing even shows a farmers market.

I have mixed feelings about this plan.  Would I, for example, want to live in a place that, just five and a half years ago, was under several feet of water for a couple of days, no matter how many flood control techniques are used in its building? 

Not many of us get to plan the future of our neighborhood - a plan that, for us, must take climate change into account.  

On the other hand, I fear that what will happen to the former BAE site is what happens to so many projects in New York State - lots of talk, but no action.

A neighborhood needs vision.  But it also needs the implementation of the vision. 

As I look over the large vacant area, I try to be optimistic about the future.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Music Monday - Loneliness

Loneliness is a part of life.  We are all social creatures, and need social contact.  For some of us, getting that contact is easy.

For others, not so much.

The human feeling of loneliness is reflected in many of our songs.

One Is the Loneliest Number - Three Dog Night.  This was their first gold record.

The loneliness of a soldier serving far from home is the subject of 1962's Mr. Lonely - Bobby Vinton.  It was re released as a single in 1973, towards the end of the Vietnam War.
From 1972, a man jilted at the altar.
Alone Again - Gilbert O'Sullivan.

And finally, my favorite song about loneliness - The Beatles' Eleanor Rigby.

Not only do we seem to be more isolated than ever, in the midst of social media, but we are increasingly divided in our country by politics. We seem to be more connected than ever, but also more separated than ever.

Why don't we combat that today, even in a small way.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Civil War Sunday Throwback- The Jackson Women

This month is Women's History Month in the United States.

Today, let us think back on the sacrifices made by women, and how they starred in our history - contributions too often ignored.

Over the years, I've had several blog posts related to Stonewall Jackson, one of the most famous Confederate generals (and perhaps one of the top generals this country has ever seen, although military history is not one of my main interests).

But what about the women in his life?

I wrote this post on Mother's Day in 2013 - and repost it today, in honor of women everywhere.

Civil War Sunday - The Jackson Women

Today, in the United States, it is Mother's Day.

It is important to remember that during the Civil War, life could be short.  Dying during or right after childbirth was common.  Infant mortality was high, as was death from a number of illnesses that are treatable today.

Many casualties of the Civil War came from infection, and illness, not directly from the hazards of the battlefield.  A number of Civil War generals (on both sides) died in action.  Perhaps the most mourned was a Confederate general by the name of Thomas ("Stonewall") Jackson.

150 years ago Friday,"Stonewall") Jackson died from pneumonia.  This followed Jackson's wounding several days earlier, towards the end of the Battle of Chancellorsville, by friendly fire.  His left arm was amputated in a field hospital not long after in an attempt to save his life.  150 years ago today, Jackson's body lay in state.  And in more modern times, candlelight vigils were held on the anniversary of the last night of his life.

But, this made me think of Stonewall Jackson's family, and what their fates were.  What follows is a little slice of 19th century life.  (A genealogy of Thomas Jackson is available online, if you are interested.)  As tragic as Stonewall Jackson's death at the age of 33 was to many, we may want to consider this:

1.  Julia Neele Jackson, Thomas Jackson's mother:  Two years after Thomas (the youngest of her three children) was born, his 6 year old sister and his father died from typhoid fever.  Jackson's mother was 28 and was 9 months pregnant with her fourth child at the time.  The day after Jackson's father died, Julia gave birth to his sister Laura.

A young widow, Julia Jackson supported her three remaining children in various ways, eventually remarrying.  She died from complications of childbirth when she was 33 years old.

2.  Eleanor Junkin Jackson, Thomas Jackson's first wife:  married less than a year to Jackson, she died in childbirth.  A son was stillborn.

3.  Mary Anna Jackson, Thomas Jackson's second wife:  Mary and Thomas had two daughters.  The first daughter died in infancy.  The second daughter, Julia Jackson Christian, was an infant when Jackson died, with Anna (the name she preferred) at his side.

Anna lived into her 80's.  She never remarried and wore clothes of mourning for the rest of her life.  She was a published author of two books.

Julia lived into adulthood, married, and had two children of her own (a boy and a girl) before she died, a young mother, of typhoid fever.  Anna raised her two grandchildren.  The boy, Thomas Jonathan Jackson Christian, died the year I was born.

Julia Preston, Thomas Jackson's granddaughter, lived to 104, passing away  in 1991.

But, in a story so tragic in many ways, there is one more tragedy to explore.  We talk about how the Civil War tore apart so many families. As it happens, Thomas Jackson's family was one such family.  Remember his sister Laura, the sister born a day after their father died?  Her sympathies were with the Union.  And, she paid a huge personal cost for that loyalty.

Laura Jackson Arnold became estranged from her beloved older brother and never reconciled with her family after the war. Her husband divorced her over her Union loyalties.  She died in West Virginia (a part of Virginia that split from that Confederate State and joined the Union on June 20, 1863, the only state to join the Union during the Civil War - in another bit of irony) in 1911.

All civil wars are tragic.  Ours was no exception. As we pay tribute to the mothers in our lives today, let us take a moment to remember the many mothers who suffered (and continue to suffer) in war.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Local Saturday - April and the Rumble Giraffes

Right now, as I blog this, some 70,000 people are avidly watching a webcam at an animal park about 30 minutes from where I live.
April the giraffe, a 15 year old giraffe awaiting the birth of her fourth calf, is quite pregnant, and has become a media sensation. Yesterday, new media, including the New York Times, visited our small area of the world.  Hundreds of thousands of people (I do not exaggerate) log on every day, hoping to catch a birth that may take all of 15 minutes.

Her mate, Oliver, waits in the neighboring stall. Male giraffes are aggressive - to their keepers, to their mates.  Bulls can't be kept together with their mates all the time - they can be a danger to the ones they live with.

We (especially women who have given birth) easily put ourselves in her place.  How uncomfortable is she?  What is she thinking?  She has such trouble getting down on the ground to sleep.  Sound familiar, women, that trouble sleeping?

If you tune in at 9pm Eastern Standard Time, you get to see her interact with her keeper, and it's a beautiful thing.  I've only remembered to do it once.  I've seen a woman come in, clean the stall, spread sawdust on the floor, give April a rub.

April gets treats here and there, too.

Right now, as it is only 17 degrees here (that's -8 for my Celsius readers), they are indoors.  And, the park is closed for the season.  It will reopen May 13.  And something tells me they will be mobbed with visitors.

But, as I've mentioned before, April is teaching us more about us than about her.

Just check out the park's Facebook page. 

Right now, besides a lot of general questions, and some snark here and there, there is a lot of discussion about how Oliver is being treated. Isn't he getting treats?  Isn't his cage being cleaned? (the answer is "yes" to both. But he doesn't need treats as often as April.  And, it's dangerous to enter his pen so cleaning is a process.)

Many people think April will give birth tonight, as she seems increasingly restless and her belly is rumbling a lot. (It's amusing - after having our minor league baseball team renamed the Rumble Ponies, maybe they will need to hurry up and rename them the Rumble Giraffes.)

Thank you, Animal Adventure Park, for all your interactions with your fans.  I am so happy to be able to bring this to you as a Local Saturday post.  We so need this distraction in our lives, knowing a new life is close to arriving in our area.  I realize not everyone supports keeping animals in capitivity,

Why don't you tune in at the You Tube link above, and join the fun?  We all hope for a successful labor and deliver - and it makes me think of my own labor story. (ha, if only it had been 15 minutes!)

What about you?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Skywatch Friday - It's Still Winter

It's spring.  It's winter.  It's spring.  And now, it's back to winter.

Snow is on the ground again.

It's time to watch the sky.

March 1, before sunset, just ahead of a strong cold front that plunged us from the 60's to the 30's.
The sun prepares to set.

The next day, sunset after the wind.

Join other bloggers today, at #SkywatchFriday, to see skies all over our beautiful world.