Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Dreaded Phone Call

There's one thing every caregiver dreads, and knows she or he may get one day.  I thought about that a lot today, at the end of an interesting January.

The Dreaded Phone Call.

I can remember back in my 30's, when I lived about 1400 miles away from my father.  My father was in his early 70's and suffered from various health problems.  I was fortunate because his younger sister was his caregiver.  Still, I feared for the day I would receive The Dreaded Phone Call.

And one evening, in January of 1986, it came.

I'm only at the beginning of my present long distance care giving journey with my mother in law, and I've already found so many "fellow travelers"in co workers and people I meet in other settings. (I will note here that when I was growing up in the 50's and 60's, "fellow traveler" meant something completely different.  Maybe it still does.)  Some of them have already received The Dreaded Phone Call.  Others await it.

It isn't necessarily a "someone has died" phone call at 10pm, as you prepare for bed.

For one fellow traveler, it came right before Christmas when she got a phone call telling her that her fiercely independent 90 plus year old mother in law had broken her collar bone in a fall.  It would be the end of the in law's independence and the beginning of countless hours of stress for this fellow traveler.

For another fellow traveler, it came today in the early morning, when a relative called to say her mother had fallen, and he couldn't get her up by himself. Between the two of them, they finally got her up.

But then, she fell again.

The fellow traveler was realistic.  She knew she would get these calls again and again, until one day, when she knew she would get the true Dreaded Phone Call.

I am one of several long distance care givers for my mother in law.  We are quite aware that we may be watching what will happen to us in 20 or so years.  And we wonder, why does it have to be that way?  We all - all of us - have to make it up as we go along. There are no manuals.

Our aging parents, so many times, haven't made plans for this day.  And you know what?  They were care givers for their parents.  They should have known better, right?  Well, will we know better?  Will we remember what our parents put us through and not put our own children through it?

Or will the cycle continue, generation after generation?

When will each of us generate our own Dreaded Phone Call?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Winter Wednesday - What Season Is It Now, Anyway?

Here is a quiz for my loyal readers.

Here in upstate New York, this has been the recent weather:

Monday: started with snow, changed to freezing rain, still had a little ice on the ground when I left work in late afternoon, almost slid exiting the building.

Tuesday: still ice on the sidewalks in the morning. Then it melted.  Then it got really dark and poured.  Then a warm front came through.

Today: Started at 43 degrees, got up to 60 degrees (the record was 52 - goodbye!), now it is raining and 53 degrees.  It's 9pm and it's still warmer than the former record high!

Tomorrow:  should be near 40 at 6am but should be in the 20's by sunset.

Friday: low of 19?  (that is above normal for us for February 1.)

So the question is:  Is this winter?  Is this spring?  Is this a new season called Sprinter?  What season is it now, anyway?

Is this happening where you live, too?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Secrets of Aging Well

The Spanish explorers of Florida were looking in the wrong place for the Fountain of Youth.

The Fountain of Youth may be just around the corner.  We may pass it on our daily rounds.  We just don't recognize it when we see it.  The Fountain may be hiding in a health club, or in a local park, or on a walking path.  It may be in a garden, or a library.

I haven't met anyone who can grant me immortality, but I talked Saturday with a woman who has worked with the elderly to improve the quality of their lives for some 40 years.  She shared with me the two key things she has found that people who age well do.  These are the two things all of us must do to age well.

1.  Socialize
2.  Exercise. Keep moving but especially, concentrate on exercises that build balance.

It's as easy as that.  And as difficult.

As we get older, our friends move away, perhaps to seek warmer climates or to be closer to their grown children.  And, eventually, if we live long enough, our same-age friends die.

It becomes like high school again.  We need people but it is so hard to approach them.  Where do you do it?  How?  Will you be laughed at?  Rejected?  Even people who were once extroverts find themselves isolated, finding their only companionship in the TV set.  They become depressed.

If we do not move enough, movement becomes more difficult.  We decline, first little by little, and then it starts to accelerate.  One day we realize we don't have much balance anymore.  We slip on a throw rug.  We fall in the bathtub.  We hurt ourselves.  We gain weight.  We become even more inactive.

According to this expert, the vicious cycle of isolation and lack of movement can be broken.  We are hoping that this cycle, which has taken hold with my elderly mother in law, can be stopped and reversed. Muscle and balance can be improved, even in the mid-80's.  With that, my mother in law might be able to once again enjoy activities she used to do with friends.  She may never be able to participate in a bowling league again, but there are other possibilities.

It does take a lot of work, once the cycle takes hold, to break it.  So, in my self-study on how to age well, I now know I can never let the cycle take hold.  At 60, it isn't too early to start wondering how I will make and keep friends once I retire.  These are my challenges:

1. I am an introvert. But I must make the effort now to reach out to people. And some of these people must be young people - people in their 20's, 30's and 40's. It sounds morbid, but I need friends who will outlive me.  I don't need to force friendship and I won't.  I have never been a joiner, but it is time to join with people to share some of my interests, and see if friendship develops.

2.  I think I may be exercising enough, but I really am not.  It is time to add something such as tai chi to my routine.  Or even, develop my own program of balance exercise.  Walking and water zumba are not enough.

I must find my fountain of youth.  I know it is possible.

Have you found your Fountain?  Where did you find it?

Monday, January 28, 2013

In Case of Disaster

The full moon.  It fascinates all of us.  So hard to believe that mankind last walked on the moon nearly 40 years ago, and may not return in my lifetime.

So hard to believe we are no longer running a manned space program, when it was such a part of my childhood growing up in the 1950's and 1960's.

The moon.

(Full Wolf Moon, taken yesterday in Putnam County, New York, courtesy of RamblinwithAM).

On January 28, 1986 the shuttle Challenger exploded approximately 73 seconds after its liftoff from Cape Kennedy, Florida. All seven astronauts aboard perished, including a  high school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, the first civilian scheduled to go into space.

The space shuttles were grounded for two years.  Of course now, the program is over.  Dead.

I sometimes wonder if the Challenger explosion, 27 years ago today, somehow was the beginning of the end of the United States manned space effort.  It was a pivotal moment for an entire generation, who remembered where they were and what they were doing the same way my generation remembered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

But, in 1969, we did something more dangerous than sending up a space shuttle.  We sent three astronauts to the moon for the first time, using technology more primitive than that of 1986.  Especially of some concern was the moon lander, which also needed to launch the two moon landing astronauts back to the mother ship.  Obviously, it had never received a full manned field test on the moon.

What would have happened, if the mission had failed and the astronauts had been stranded on the moon?  Have you ever wondered?

It turns out that our government was prepared, with instructions on how to proceed, and a speech was even written for the President - written by someone who went to my high school,  the late William Safire.

It's a sobering speech, and one that was not needed.

But when I look at the moon - I still wonder - had the Challenger not exploded, would man have returned by now?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Civil War Sunday - The Uncovered Wreck

The naval aspect of the United States Civil War tends to be ignored by many people, as readers of my Civil War Sunday posts know.  It isn't easy to walk on the sites of naval battles, or to visit the sunken results of these battles.

Ships aren't always destroyed in battle. Some sink in bad weather. Sometimes no one knows exactly why.

I am fascinated by shipwrecks.

There is the H.L Hunley, a Confederate submarine wrecked in 1864 for reasons still unknown.  I was able to visit what is left of it in North Charleston, South Carolina last year, where the wreckage is being studied and, as much as possible, being restored.

There is the ironclad USS  Monitor, a portion of which was built from materials harvested near where I live in upstate New York. (It was the Monitor that started me on this fascination, so many years ago, when I learned about the "Battle of the Ironclads" in elementary school.)

But now, we are being given an unprecedented opportunity, thanks to 3-D sonar, to view the wreck of the USS Hatteras, sunk in the Gulf of Mexico 150 years ago this month.  The wreck wasn't discovered until the 1970's.  Now, recent storms have shifted the sea bottom mud off the wreck.  It could be covered again at any moment.  Time is of the essence.

The Hatteras was part of a naval blockade waged by the Union to cut off an important supply chain of the Confederacy. It was unlucky enough to be the only Federal ship sunk in the Gulf of Mexico, much of its crew taken prisoner.

Now, online, we can view a piece of history.

In my youth, I would have said "how cool is that?"

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - The Gardening Hot Stove League

It is a cold, sunny winter day in New York State.  Time for some garden hot stove leaguing.

Back when I grew up, baseball fans described their off-season fantasies as the "Hot Stove League".

Most of us haven't heated with wood or coal in years (the "Hot Stove") but winter gives us, in colder climates, the pleasure of rerunning our last garden in our mind, analyzing its successes and its failures.  So, why not a Gardening Hot Stove League.

Dream of the garden to come.  The garden that will be perfect.  Everything we plant will come up.  Nothing will be eaten by insects, rabbits, groundhogs, or deer.  The soil will be fertile, the pests nonexistant, and the yields bumper.

Yeah, right.

But, since hope is a strong emotion, we sit with the seed catalogs, old and new.

One of the new catalogs I ordered was from a company in Kansas which imports seeds from Italy.

The company is called Seeds from Italy. They are a seed catalog company offering vegetable seeds, herb seeds, and flower seeds imported from Italy from the seed company Franchi Sementi.  Of course, I had never heard of Franchi Sementi, but apparently they are Italy's largest family owned seed company.  More impressive, they have signed the Safe Seed Pledge. 

They pledge not to sell seed from genetically modified plants.

The Hot Stove League is not only a time to dream about spring and our next garden.  It is a time to put beliefs into practice.  

Will you join me in the Gardening Hot Stove League? (If you are in a warmer or summer clime, feel free to join in, too.)

Have you found any new seed or plant catalogs this year that fascinate you?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Happy 101st Birthday

Happy 101st birthday, Aunt T!

One of my spouse's aunts celebrates her 101st birthday at an Irish pub near where she lives in downstate New York.

Last week I started to blog about aging and my using my mother in law (who is in her 80's) as an example for both the good and the bad things she did that have led to her challenges in aging.  Some of her mistakes were not intentional - medicine of the time just didn't know better.  And, despite trying to "eat right and exercise", there were no warnings to seniors 25 years ago about working on their balance.  I hope I can learn from her mistakes - and the things she did do right.

But if I really want to know about aging, I don't have to look any further than her sister in law.

Our family birthday woman is a sharp senior who, until the last few months, enjoyed relatively good health free of prescription meds.  I wish I had her memory. 

Much of her life was not easy, and was full of physical work.    She's always been active.  That might explain how, until a few months ago, she kept house and cooked for herself and her son, himself a "senior.

She's been a widow for almost 40 years, but that never stopped her.

She believes in fresh vegetables, and lots of them.  She's told me stories of gathering wild broccoli, and eating violets.

She keeps up with current events, and very much lives in the present.  She loves a good discussion.  She is loud, and vocal, in defending her opinions.

She's just as quick to tell you how much she loves you.  And I love her so, too.

She has a wonderful zest for life.

Sadly, physically, things could be a lot better for her. She has lost almost all of her teeth.  She is severely stooped over from osteoporosis.  And now, health issue are cropping up. She's been hospitalized twice in the last several months, and now needs home health care.  Physically, she can be called "frail" but in the mind - where it counts - she is a powerhouse.

I will continue to use her as one of my role models, along with my mother in law.  Their lives have become lessons in how to age (for good or for not good.)

Happy 101st birthday, dear aunt in law.  I love you.  Did I mention that?

Do you have a special elderly person in your life?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Word That Dares Not Speak Its Name

I apologize to my readers.  I have let fear of not being "politically correct" affect some of my blog posting.  There is a word I must use, and yet, I fear to, because of the power it had over so many people.  That power must be destroyed.  Many have been working towards its destruction, and I must "get real" (as a blogger named Michelle who co-runs the Ultimate Blog Challenge tells us) and add my efforts.

I rarely write about one person who is important in my life.  That man is one of my brother in laws.  He is in his 50's, yet has been almost invisible to most people for much of his life.

He has a developmental disability called autism.

Back when he was born, the term "autism" was unknown to most people.  I know that I had never heard of it although one of my favorite aunts, unknown to me, acted as an advocate for another relative who had a child with autism. I never knew that, in fact, until the aunt was eulogized at her funeral.

Meanwhile, I never dreamed I would marry a man who had a brother with a developmental disability.  But I did. I learned, later on, that there were siblings who never married.  Either prospective mates were scared off, or, worse, the sibs were afraid to give birth to a child with the same disability.  Sadly, enough of those feelings still exist.

When my brother in law was young, there was a place in New York State called Willowbrook.   To anyone of my generation who grew up in the New York metropolitan area, the mention of Willowbrook brings chills.  Feelings of disgust.

Willowbrook was a "state school" for people with mental disabilities.

No, that isn't quite right.  I am going to take a deep breath and type in my blog, a word so loathsome, that many do not dare utter it today.  But the word was common in 1972, the year a local WABC-TV reporter by the name of Geraldo Rivera did an expose on the place called Willowbrook.  It was a common word when I grew up.  It was the word I was taught, by a type of societal osmosis, to use to describe people like my brother in law.

The word was "retarded".

Willowbrook was a place where "retarded" people lived, and, basically, underwent state-sanctioned torture.  There is no better way to speak this terrible truth.

Thank the good Lord that my brother in law was not sent there.  Did it ever cross my in laws' mind?  I tend to doubt it.

But my brother in law did receive services from an organization called the "Association for Retarded Children" (later, the "Association for Retarded Citizens". And the state agency that served people like my brother in law?  Until a handful of years ago, it was called OMRDD, or the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

No more, no more.  The name "Association for Retarded Citizens" was abandoned years ago. OMRDD is now OPWDD, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.  Amazingly, that name change happened less than three years ago.

A society that allowed those who are intellectually challenged to be called "retarded" also permitted a place like Willowbrook to exist.  In fact, Willowbrook existed until 1987.  Many of its former residents are in their 50's and 60's now.  Parts of their lives were stolen from them.

But the word "retard" lives on.  Young people still insult and bully others with that term.  And yes, there are those who will condemn me for even daring to use the word at all.  Yes, its use is that charged with negative meaning. But I must be real, and I must use that word.

My brother in law is not "a retard". In fact, he is far from stupid.  I have a feeling he knows more than any of us will ever realize.  Part of his disability is his difficulty in communicating with others.

I bet he knows he does not want to go back to the "good old days", the days of "retards" and Willowbrook.

We must go forward in our understanding, forward in our acceptance of those with autism and others different from us.  We must never hide them away again.  They are a part of us.

And we must make sure a place like Willowbrook never, ever exists again.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Winter Wednesday - Blooms and Winter

In certain places, flowers bloom, and people are happy. 
Here's why I am happy tonight:

For only the second time in my life, I have succeeded in getting an orchid plant to rebloom.

Right now there is only one bloom, and I am holding my breath.  It's been cold outside - lows in single numbers and highs in the teens cold - with wind - but we are shielding the plant, and another bud looks almost ready to open.

Meanwhile, baby, it is cold outside. In my house near Johnson City, New York, my spouse fixed a wonderful pot of turkey broth soup (turkey necks on sale) with veggies and some noodles, and a hint of hot pepper.  We are trying to beat a cold wave that has descended on us, like many other parts of the country.

Here's one photo I took back on January 13, before the cold hit, but I would be surprised if this brook was frozen over.  That's the kind of winter we've had.

Meanwhile, despite the cold, we have little snow cover here in the valley.  If you've heard of places in upstate New York that have received over two feet of snow recently - well, it wasn't us.

So, I end this Winter Wednesday with this little decoration I found in a restaurant. 

I don't want to walk in it, I don't want to shovel it, and I certainly don't want to travel in it.  But snow is necessary to our ecology here in New York and a little more snow this winter wouldn't hurt.  But no ice, please.

Just snow.

Have you accomplished something recently that you are proud of?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Nostalgia Still Isn't What it is Cracked up to Be

A summer evening in Brooklyn.  I am visiting a childhood friend.  We've known each other for 50 years.  You can't get more nostalgic than that.

A familiar bell rings in the distance.

It's the Mr. Softee truck!

Mr. Softee was one of the staples of growing up in New York City, along with the Good Humor man.   But I hadn't had a Mr. Softee in - oh, 50 years?

I didn't even know they existed any more.

I had to have a Mr. Softee.  My friend's husband bought me my favorite, a soft vanilla cone. No sprinkles, no gunk, just pure vanilla pleasure.

Do you know what happened?  I had already eaten dinner, and I ended up with a stomach ache.

Sometimes, that's what happens when you try to relive your childhood.

No, nostalgia sometimes isn't what it's cracked up to be.

What is nostalgia?  One definition I found (Wikipedia) says:
The term nostalgia describes a sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations
As we age, we find ourselves slipping into nostalgia more and more.  Just today, I was part of a conversation that turned to encyclopedias.  Remember encyclopedias?

As a 20-something participant in the conversation listened in amazement, the others in the conversations (mostly people in their 50's) talked about parents scrimping and saving so we could have a set in our homes.  By the time they were paid off, (even before that!) they were obsolete.  Then, our parents would have to buy yearbook supplements so they would be up to date. Until the next year.

The 20-something mused "And now we have the Internet."

Yes, we do.  We hold the greatest library man ever created in our hands, and on our laps.

I can miss many things about my childhood.  I engage in nostalgic thinking.  But when it comes down to it, the present, in many ways, isn't so bad after all.  The Internet.  Modern medicine (I wouldn't be alive without it.)  Thin and light eyeglasses.  Whole grains, and organic produce, available in the local market.

Would you rather live in the "good old days"?

Monday, January 21, 2013

An Ordinary Day in 1986

Could I ever live a day like January 21, 1986 again?

I remember so many details of that day because my father died suddenly that evening.  When bad things happen, small details stick in your mind, never to vanish.

It was an unusually warm day.  The high temperature where I lived in Arkansas for the month of January, 1986 was 75.  It may not have been on January 21 but it may have been.  It was sunny, and wonderfully warm.

At lunch, I sat outside, near the office where I worked, and - wrote a letter.

Such an ordinary thing.  This was before the age of the Internet.  People wrote letters to each other  As I recall, the letter was to an aunt, an aunt who never did buy a computer, and who wrote letters to the last day of her life in 2003.

That evening, I got a phone call from my aunt back in Brooklyn that my Dad had been brought to a hospital, he had died in the emergency room and "no one knew why".

That's how you got hold of someone in a hurry in those days. No cell phones, no texting.  You picked up a landline, wired to your home, and called.  In those days, long distance wasn't cheap, either, but it was cheaper than when I was growing up in the 50's and 60's.

I called the airline I knew served our area - on a landline, of course-and booked the next flight to New York City.  I got the number from something called The Yellow Pages.

There was no other way to book a flight, short of turning up at the ticket counter at the airport.

In those days, there was little security on airlines.  You packed your bag, not worried about the contents, got a paper ticket, maybe went through a metal detector after emptying your pockets, and boarded.  I packed, numbly, after calling my boss.  The next day, I flew from Arkansas to New York.

It was such an ordinary day, January 21, 1986.

Today, it would be extraordinary.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Civil War Sunday - The Most Dangerous Military Rank

Could you imagine an American general leading his troops into battle today?

It might happen, but certainly not to the extent it did in the Civil War.  In fact, I read a statistic (true or not) saying that a general had a 50% greater chance of dying in a Civil War battle than a private did.

I bought myself a Civil War calendar at the beginning of this year. Each day lists a fact, not just facts for 1863, but for all years of the war.  The fact for January 17 was this:

"Seventy-seven Confederate generals and forty-seven Union generals were killed or mortally wounded in action, meaning 18 percent of Confederate generals and 8 percent of Union generals died from battle wounds."

This is the list of Confederate generals who died (73 by my counting, which differs from the calendar page quote above).

This is the list of Union generals (38 in total, again differing from the calendar page quote.)

Whether the calendar is right or the online lists are right, it is sobering.  When I visited Antietam last September for its 150th anniversary, one of the facts presented to us by the historical reenactors was that six generals died in that one battle alone.

Another two died at South Mountain, a battle not long before, whose battlefield I also visited on the 150th anniversary of the battle.

As it happens, the number of generals killed in those two battles were - four from each side.

This is just a fraction of the over 620,000. people who died in the Civil War, of course.

Once again, this makes us ponder just how horrible those four years in our American history were, as are all wars.

And, one ironic fact.  Who was the first American general to die in World War II?  It was Nathan Bedford Forrest III, the great grandson of a Confederate general.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - Deciphering The Messages of Nature

A Saturday, just before a cold spell of weather supposed to be coming our way.

Part of the sustainable lifestyle is paying attention to the messages Nature is trying to send us.  Nature does communicate with us (I won't want to get all woo-woo here) and we do not listen to Nature at our peril.

Here it is, January 19 in upstate NY.  It is in the 40's (again, after it cooled down and we got snow a couple of times this week) and the snow is melting.

So, spouse and I came home from our food shopping, and what did I see as I walked to our front door but a flying insect. (!)  It looked like a large mosquito.

We do have something we call snow bugs that used to come out in the February snow, but I haven't seen them in a few years.  This hopefully, was not a termite.

When I went to the back yard to see if we did have snow bugs, I first looked around, at the beauty of the view of the creek behind our house, near its merge point with the Susquehanna River:

And then, I saw this, on the steps to my back door:
A January fly! In upstate NY! Even in last year's mild winter I never saw one, although, of course, that doesn't mean they weren't there.

Then I looked a little closer.  In the melting snow, the garlic foliage was still green, and I saw something sprouting.  Not a winter bulb - could have been an onion missed from last year, or more garlic.
But sprouting it was, nevertheless.

I am trying to figure out this message from Nature.  I do know those early insects may have a short life.  By Tuesday we are going to have highs in the teens F. (the minus teens, for those using Celsius).

What are your messages from Nature where you live?  Are things "out of whack"?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Not Repeating Her Mistakes Part 1

My 80-something mother in law is showing me the way.

She may not realize it, but I intend to learn from her.  I intend to learn both the things she did right, and the things she did wrong, in preparing to grow old.

The world now differs from the world that existed when she was my age.  Information is readily available online.  Communication, in a lot of ways, is easier.  But she never could have foreseen some of the challenges she faces now.

These are  my "Resolutions of Aging":  Now, at 60, I want to write these things down, so I can remember them and refer to them.   I will devote some posts over the next few weeks/months to this issue, one "resolution" at a time.

The first mistake was not paying attention to balance.

My mother in law taught me that walking is not enough for exercise.  She loved to walk.  She walked with her late husband.  She walked with her friends. But, even while younger, she was prone to falling.  She's had balance problems for years.  Now it has become deadly.  She can no longer walk for long.  She is overweight. She struggles with the stairs that are throughout her split level.  A small stroke several years ago only compounded the problem, and it came despite the great care she paid to her nutrition.

I walk.  I do water aerobics and water zumba.  But that is not enough.  I've seen deterioration in my own balance just this year, with our first major snowfall - the first in two years- and my ability to navigate snow piled at curbs, for example.  An intervention is called for - balance exercises, or even yoga or tai chi.  These resources weren't available to my mother in law when she was my age.  I, however, have no excuse.

My first step is losing weight (I've now lost 11 pounds thanks to Weight Watchers - the true challenge will be keeping it off) to help out my right knee. From there.....

Next Friday - another Resolution.

If you are of an age where you have to be concerned about your aging - have you taken steps to plan long term care, or physical issues?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Three Women in Their 90's

I was going to write about a woman in her 90s today.  I don't know the woman.  I do know her daughter in law, not well, but I do know her. 

Today, these things happened here in the United States.

1.  Betty White turned 91.
2.  Dear Abby, 94, died.
3.  My acquaintance went to DSS to apply for Medicaid for her mother in law.  The mother in law had refused to make plans for long term care, to the despair of her children. Last month, the mother in law fell and now needs 24 hour care, at least for the next few weeks. The lack of planning has turned into a family nightmare and my acquaintance bears the brunt of it.

In a way, these stories all have something in common.

Betty White:  she is one of the most beloved American actresses.  She has been in show business for over 70 years, and I have loved her since the 1960's.  My first memories of her were her starring on the game show Password, hosted by a man, Allen Ludden.

Betty ended up marrying her host, who died too young. Betty never remarried.

So many of us baby boomers remember Betty White as Sue Ann Nivens on the Mary Tyler Moore show.
And, there was Betty White's classic "Muffin" sketch on Saturday Night Live just a couple of years ago.  I saw it, and it was so funny.  I don't dare post it on this PG blog.  Even today, at 91, Betty White still appears on TV and has her own TV series.  She is incredible, and I love her.  She is what all of us dream for if we make it into our 90's.

But not all age 90 stories end well.

On this happy Betty White birthday, we also received news that "Dear Abby", Pauline Phillips, had died, at the age of 94.   

Phillips gave up her column of many years in 2002, due to Alzheimer's.   It is now written by her daughter.  Alzhemier's is everybody's nightmare, no matter where in the world we live. Let us remember Dear Abby for what she accomplished, not how she died.

To young people, I can't quite explain just how important the advice columnist Dear Abby was in our lives back in the 60's.   The letters people wrote her, and her responses, were classics. 

There was no Internet back then, no texting, no Facebook.  How quaint, to write a letter to someone you didn't know, for advice.  But millions of people did it, and lived by that advice.

And finally, there's the mother in law of my acquaintance.  She wanted to be independent.  But she would not work with her children.  She didn't want to face what might eventually happen.

So many of us baby boomers today celebrate with Betty White, mourn with the family and fans of Pauline Phillips, and try to be the best caretakers we can be to our elderly family members.  We can wish for the 90's of Betty White but sometimes we end up with the 90's of Dear Abby - or, my acquaintance's mother. 

Do you have memories of Betty White and Dear Abby?  Or find yourselves a caregiver to elderly parents?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Winter Wednesday - The Snowy Walk

My boots were made for walking, on this snowy day in the "Triple Cities" of upstate New York.

Join me...

My journey begins before sunrise as snow comes down. (The ball is glare from a street light.)

An urban park in downtown Binghamton, NY.

Snow covered plant.

In my home neighborhood, a snow covered rhodie.

Finally, the sun sets near Johnson City, New York.

For those of us in the North, has winter returned to your neighborhood?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day-Snowpause January 2013

Gardeners and non-gardeners alike, welcome to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, a monthly meme (my chance to use that word!) hosted by the blog May Dreams Gardens.

Readers...head on over to find links to gardens from all over the world.  You'll see the loveliest flowers, both outdoors (from those lucky folks who still have warm weather) and outdoors.

The May Dreams blogger, who lives in Central Indiana, reported one crocus in bloom (!) and also a snowdrop.  No such luck here in upstate New York.  Altough our snow cover melted off last week, except for some snow piles here and there, no bulbs braved the warm weather.  Around here, they know we do get January thaws.  We are cold once again, and are scheduled to have at least an inch of snow tonight.

I do have one plant in bloom - because I bought it recently.

Jacob Lenten Rose is supposed to start blooming in November.  I bought this in a supermarket (!). My one Lenten Rose never bloomed after I bought it two years ago, so I decided to try again.  The flowers won't be this color if it reblooms next year - this is a color if plants bloom in warm weather.  The blooms, next time, should be more of a pink shade.

We planted this out on Sunday (during our thaw) after hardening it off, and so far it is still looking good.

Meanwhile, my kalanchoe is starting to bloom.  This is a plant that a neighbor received while sick in the hospital about two years ago and gave to me.  I am crossing my fingers that it doesn't get white flies, which happened to me the one other time I tried to keep a kalanchoe.  I've never completely gotten rid of them.

Next, knocking on lots of wood, one of my two phalaenopsis orchids has put out buds.  I'm thrilled, first, because I have an extensive track record of killing orchids and second, because I saved this from said white flies.
Two of my three African Violets.

Last, but not least, my Persian Shield.  This is a houseplant in my zone 5a climate.  The camera doesn't capture the silvery glint of the leaves. I bought this after our September 2011 devestating flood from Tropical Storm Lee from a nursery that had flooded severely, and was selling salvaged plants at 75% off.

It's no wonder it survived the flood.  This plant is supposed to be drought tolerant.  Well, not in a dry house it isn't. 

It's hard to see, but this plant is starting to bloom. (It has grown substantially since last fall).  The flowers are indistinct.  I should have pinched the plant more  I wonder if I take a few inches off the top (and put it in water) if I will get the cutting to root, and in the meantime will have a plant that branches out more.

What's blooming in your garden or house?

Monday, January 14, 2013

And I Thought I was Directionally Challenged

(Thank you, The Things We Think, Say and Do, for blogging about this Biggest GPS Fail Ever).

Picture this. A 67 year old woman starts to drive from her home in Belgium, intending to pick up her friend at a train station, some 38 (or maybe 43) miles away, also in Belgium.   She programs her GPS and off she goes. 

Following her GPS, she drives.....and drives....and drives....

Across borders.  Into countries where different languages are spoken.  She notices the languages of the traffic signs are changing, but "she was distracted". Hours pass.

Needless to say, she wasn't in Belgium anymore.  Or in Germany, or Austria, or the Czech Republic, or....  She travels some 900 miles before she realizes Something Is Seriously Wrong.  By that time she is in Croatia.

So, what does she do? Casually, she drives back home, in time to stop a major manhunt for her.

My fellow blogger at The Things We Think, Say and Do described it so humorously, you have to read his description. Don't take my word for it.

I have never been off the North American continent.  But, I thought about it this way:  if I got into my car and started to drive 900 miles from my home in upstate New York, I would end up (going west) in Iowa.  Heading north, I would be in Canada somewhere in the Great White North.  South, I would arrive somewhere in South Carolina (and since they are having record warm weather there right now, that sounds like a pretty good idea.)  East, I would be swimming in the Atlantic Ocean.

How could I not realize that I had gone slightly more than 43 miles?

Someone, please tell me this is a hoax.  Or that this was an early release of a BBC April Fools production.

And if this woman offers to pick you up at the train station....don't accept her offer.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Civil War Sunday - Battlefield Rehab

It may surprise you to know that when you visit an American Civil War battlefield, it may not look very much like how it did when the battle was fought.

Obviously, there were no monuments - a staple of many Civil War battlefields, monuments pay tribute to the fallen, or, generally, to the subdivisions of armies that fought there.

And, there were no cemetaries full of the casualties.

But, with the passage of time, other things happen.  Many battles were fought on farmland.  If the battlefield is not farmed, it starts to grow back into forest. Historians tell us that visitors can not fully understand the battle if the battlefield doesn't look like it did on the day of the battlefield.  Landmarks get obscured.  You don't see exactly what the soldiers saw on the day of battlefield.

There is now a movement, controversial to some, to "rehab" some important battlefields of the Civil War.  This is not the same thing as a restoration, and there is some confusion over the terminology used.

At least one battlefield, Gettysburg (the three day battle in southern Pennsylvania that represented the  maximum advance of Confederate troops, is being "rehabbed", using historical records from the 1863 period.

For example, the many monuments that have been erected at Gettysburg (you could probably spend an entire day just studying those, never mind the battlefield) would need to be removed in a true restoration.

As part of that rehab, a building long a landmark at the battlefield is being torn down.  That building is the Gettysburg Cyclorama Building, which contained an artistic rendering of Pickett's Charge.

Many people say "good riddance" to this building, considered by many an eyesore.  The painting, one of four versions, and of historical interest is still being exhibited.  It is just the building that used to house it which is being torn down.

I visited Gettysburg years ago, and decided I would rather spend my time at the battlefield.  I hope to be able to return this year (although, probably, not during the 150th anniversary commemoration).  I'm eager to see what the rehab of the battlefield has accomplished.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sustainable Saturday-Winter Thaw Surprises

Our back yard near Johnson City, in upstate New York, is a small yard, and a lot of it is shaded.  We only have a small spot with sun, which is mainly in an area occupied by a patio.  So, if we want to grow anything in our back yard in full sun, it has to be in pots.

We do grow geraniums, petunias, and a handful of veggies. (most of our gardening is done in a community garden.)

A few years ago, we bought two Earth Boxes.  The company is located near Scranton, PA (about an hour south of us) and I can highly recommend this product (noting that I am getting no compensation whatsoever for this.).  A lot of their business seems to be with schools, and I can applaud any company that brings gardening to young students.  As for our experience:

 This is a self-contained system - there is a pipe where you add water once a week or so, and it waters itself.  Behind the soil mix they sell and refill kits, you don't even have to add fertilizer.  Kits are available for both organic and non organic gardeners.

We have grown some nice peppers and eggplant, with less luck (for some reason) with spinach and with tomatoes.  Our peas this fall were planted too late and we got hardly any harvest at all, but that wasn't the Earth Box's fault.

 We do need to get a refill kit though - this last gardening season didn't work well for us.

Our snow is melting - it got to 49 degrees F (9.4 Celsius) today (!).  We have corn salad (mache) growing in one of the Earth Boxes - we had three plants survive down to 6 degrees above zero (-14.4 Celsius) without any protection other than snow.  This is the first time we've ever grown this green, and are curious to know how it will do the rest of the winter.  Maybe, with some protection (the box is right up against the house) it will be a good overwintering crop for us.

Not only did the corn salad surprise us, but also what we found in another pot -

Parsley.  Not enough to use, but I'm sure it will start growing a bit in early spring before starting to bolt. (Parsley is a bi-annual).

You don't need a big area to garden.  You don't even need to have a back yard with soil to garden. There are a lot of online sources of information for container gardening.  Start small, get comfortable, and you'll be surprised at what you can harvest.

Even in the middle of winter.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Is It Time to Shed My Secret Identify?

I refer to myself as Bookworm (I am one), Ramblin Garden (I do ramble, and I sometimes help my spouse garden) and AM.  But, nowhere on my blog will you find my true name (hint: it isn't Bookworm, contrary to popular opinion) or my photo.

And, that's deliberate.  I like my privacy and I've hear horror stories about bloggers being harassed outline.

In fact, when I started out I didn't even mention where in the Triple Cities of Upstate New York I lived.  But when a good part of my neighborhood flooded thanks to Tropical Storm Lee in September of 2011, the flood recovery became part of my blogging.  So I did, and still occasionally do, discuss my neighborhood and the issues we still face, 16 months after our flood.

But, my name was linked to my blog on a blog post and interview done last year (with my consent) by someone who runs a yearly blog challenge.  And, when I post blog comments using Twitter, my true name appears.

So, the time has come to ask my blog fans:  would it help make a better connection with me if I had a photo and used my real name on the blog? (it's a somewhat unusual name, and I don't think there are too many people with my name in the United States - so, I would be revealing myself.) 

I still hesitate to reveal myself so completely - at this point in time, this blog does not promote a book, or a business, or a newsletter.  It is my exercise in writing and in photography.

Let's see what my fans say and then - I'll go from there.

Should I shed my secret identity?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Fungus Between Us

You never know when the urge to grow mushrooms will hit.

Seriously, I have never thought about it - until today.

Today, I got a mailing from The American Gardener.  The mailing consists of a mailer full of postcards.  The postcards invite you to order a catalog or to buy various products.

I've gotten this mailing the last several years, and I read the postcards for entertainment.  There is rarely something that interests me enough to order- well, there was the Earth Box, but that's a story for another post.  If something does interest me, I go to the website and check it out  Why spend postage or ask a merchant to send a catalog unless I know I am truly interested?

Usually, there are one or two solicitations for mushroom growing kits.  In the past, I've ignored these. But this year was different.

When I was growing up in the 1950's and 1960's, mushrooms were button mushrooms.  Now, there are tens of varieties sold at markets: shitake, blue oyster, pom pom, royal trumpet, king oyster, portabello, beech.  We don't buy many of these varieties - some of them are quite pricey.  But they do intrigue me.

Long ago, I had morel mushrooms - picked wild by an aunt who lived in Iowa, when I visited during morel season - and I have never forgotten the experience.

One of the catalog companies in today's mailer was offering morel mushroom kits.  These were outdoor kits but most of the others were indoor kits.

"All you have to do is water them!" It has to be more complicated than that.

But experiences are good for the senior brain.  And, while we used to have a supermarket here that offered morels during late April and early May, they haven't offered them in a couple of years.

So now we are wondering if we should spend the money on a morel kit, or maybe one of the other kits.  I did some reading online, and it may take a few years to get a morel bed established.  So, maybe one of the other kits might be better.

Have you ever grown mushrooms?  I'd love to hear your experiences.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Winter Wednesday - Art For the Birds

I love birds.  I am not a birder, but I've thought about getting into what, when I was younger, was called "bird watching".

I love live birds, and I love birds in art.  Here are some examples of bird art I've seen this winter season.

In Owego, New York, the "coolest small town in America" is a store called the Hand of Man.  It is crammed with thousands of gift items, including a line of peacock decorated items that are imported from England.
I could spend an entire afternoon in there.

More of the peacock gift items.  Could you imagine decorating your house in Peacock?
And finally, at a museum called Hanukah House in Binghamton, open only during the holiday season, I found this bird wall hanging.  Is it a peacock?  I don't know, but it was lovely.

Indeed, winter art can be for the birds.

Do you like birds in art?  What do you think the prettiest bird is?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

To Sleep Perchance Not To Dream

In the NaBloPoMo blgging challenge, we are given an optional prompt every day. This month's theme is energy, and today's prompt is:

If you could be given the option to never sleep and also never be tired, would you take it if it meant you'd also never dream again?

While I would love to have extra hours in the day, I would miss dreaming tremendously.  Despite the occasional nightmare, I find dreams can range from entertaining to enlightening.  I've also had some very deep, realistic dreams that, with some more writing skill than I have, might have had the potential of being turned into stories or books.

I remember dreams from my childhood, especially the dreams where I lived in a place where it was light at midnight.  Or it was constantly dark, with strange constellations that somehow scared me.

I've had dreams, some in childhood, some in adulthood, where I feel so powerful.  And others where others could fly without technology, but I never could.  As an author, I could explore those themes, too.

I've traveled to other countries in my dreams, while in reality I've never left the North American continent.

I don't think I would want to give this all up, just to have some extra hours added to my busy days.

I have a feeling I'm not the only one who has thought about life without sleep.

The theme of people who do not need sleep is explored in depth in a four book set by the native New York State science fiction writer Nancy Kress.  Years ago, when I subscribed to the science fiction monthly Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction magazine, I read the novella that led to the Sleepless series.

Thanks to genetic engineering, babies who did not need sleep were - can I use the term created?  The original novella explored what happened next.  These children grew up well adjusted, with high IQ's and with a special ability no one had expected.  But, in the meantime, society had to adjust to the presence of, as these adults were called, Sleepless.  To put it mildly, the adjustment was traumatic.

I've only read the original novella, and hope to catch up with the rest of the series when I am less busy.  Or maybe when I have more time because I no longer need to sleep.

Have you turned your dreams into stories?  Would you thrive, or wither, without your dreams?

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Promises of the Birdsong of January

Normally, birdsong is not part of January in upstate New York.

Sometime, during the transition between fall and winter, bird song disappears.  Then, around the second week of February you notice, one day, that you are hearing bird song again.

It's one of the first signs of spring.  Spring is still (weather wise) a good two to three months away at the point of the first bird song but the bird song gives you hope that one day, the snow will melt, the warm breezes will blow, the first flowers will bloom and the sleeping buds on the trees will unfurl into green leaves.

It isn't uncommon to have a short "January thaw" here, with weather mild enough to melt the snow, but the birds don't sing for that.  Perhaps they know that it is a false spring and that winter will return - no sense straining their vocal cords.

Which was why it was so odd to hear bird song last Friday.

Was it mild? No, it was in the teens. There was nearly a foot of snow on the ground.

But there were several birds singing. I am not a birder, and I don't know what birds they were, but there they were.

I couldn't believe it.

I wonder if the birds are trying to tell me something.  Are we going to have an early spring?

Or are they just playing with a blogger who hates winter?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Civil War Sunday - Today's Snapshot of the Civil War

Thank you, friends and relatives, who gave me United States Civil War related books for both my birthday and Christmas - I promise I am looking at these books (little by little) and will feature them (eventually) in my blog.

For today, I am keeping a promise to feature the "west" more in my blogs.  So much attention seems to be paid to the Southeast (especially Virginia)and I am guilty of it because I grew up in, and live in, New York State.  However, we must keep in mind that the Civil War was far ranging, a lot more far ranging than many people realize.

Virginia had the greatest number of battles - but Tennessee was second.

The best way to learn about the Civil War is source material - including newspapers of the area.

You may be interested in these exerpts from a Memphis, Tennessee newspaper, the Memphis Daily Appeal from December, 1862 and January, 1863.  These include

  • -reactions, from the Confederate viewpoint, of the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln of the United States on January 1, 1863;
  • news from Vicksburg, Mississippi, which the Federals were attempting to take so the North could take control of the Mississippi River - a river still immensely important to our national commerce;
  •  and, an article about women suffering from "lack of snuff" (a tobacco product) due to the war.
But sadly, the same, modern, Memphis paper (now called the Commercial Appeal) reported, as one of their news items:  "KKK [the Ku Klux Klan]Flyers Hit Memphis Area Driveways."

The Ku Klux Klan is post-Civil War and beyond the scope of this Civil War Sunday feature of my blog.  But, the Klan was an outgrowth of the Civil War and deserves mention.  I've blogged before that we are still fighting the Civil War almost 150 years after it ended- and, sadly, the Klan trying to recruit membership in its native Tennessee on Friday helps to prove that I am correct.

How sad.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - Graft

No, not the graft of political corruption.  But rather, the sudden trend of grafting tomato and pepper (and even eggplant) starts.

Grafting, of course, is a time honored practice in agriculture. In grafting, tissue from one plant is joined to tissue of another plant.  Usually, one plant is used for its roots and one plant is used for its upper parts (i.e. fruits).   The technique has been used for hundreds of years to allow European grape plants to be grown in the United States, for fruit trees to be dwarfed, and for certain fruit trees with a long maturity period to bear when young. A hardy rootstock can be grafted to a less hardy fruiting or flowering variety, and voila - a plant that is more hardy. (How I would love to grow camellias in upstate New York.....)

Another use of grafting is related to pollination.  Most apple trees require cross pollination, and two different types of apple trees can be grafted onto one root to produce what is, in effect, a self pollinating tree.  This is useful in limited space situations, such as those commonly found in cities.

And now, we have grafted tomato plants - once available only to commercial growers, they are now available to the average gardener.

So what is there not to like?

A number of seed catalogs, this year, are selling grafted heirloom tomato and pepper plants.  I did some research and, apparently, tomato grafting has been done for years in Japan.  The resulting plants are disease resistant thanks to selected rootstocks, and pesticide use can be minimized.

Heirloom tomatoes, as delicious as they are, are prone to disease. In our area of New York, for example, late blight is a major problem.  Several years ago, we were hit hard by the same blight as caused the "Irish potato famine" (it infects tomatoes, also .Most everyone, including us, lost all of our tomato plants before they could bear more than a couple of tomatoes. 

We just haven't had good luck with heirloom tomatoes.  We still grow them, but we have gravitated back to...gulp, more mainstream varieties that do well in our area - especially a grape variety called Juliet, a beefsteak called Big Beef,  and an "old time" hybrid tomato called Better Boy. Although a hybrid, Better Boy has been around for more than 50 years.

But, of course, there's a catch to grafting.

Grafting is labor intensive.  Hence, grafted tomato plants are expensive - for example, three grafted tomato plants cost $22.95 at Burpees.  Three heirloom non-grafted tomato plants are $14.95. 

The average gardener would struggle enough (if they don't have sunny enough windows to grow as many tomato plants as they need, or don't have the money to get grow lights) with $14.95 for the non-grafted varieties.

Still, I am intrigued - just not intrigued enough to spend the money this year.  Next year, maybe?

Friday, January 4, 2013

I Picked the Wrong Week to Give Up Stress Eating

I love the film Airplane.  I saw it in the movies, I had the VHS tape and I've seen it on TV several times.  I rarely give films the "watch over and over" treatment but this film only gets funnier with each viewing.

My favorite character was Steve McCroskey, the control tower supervisor, who was played by the late Lloyd Bridges.  Steve McCroskey was having a bad week, and, as the emergency situation on the airplane progressed, his lines became more and more anguished:

"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking!", he growled.

"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking!" he cried, a few minutes later.

A while later, looking disheveled,  "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue!"

(And yes, Michelle, this is a PG movie).

OK, I don't smoke or sniff glue.  My drug of choice is food.  I am a stress eater.  I self-medicate with chocolate and peanut butter stuffed pretzels.  If I am under stress, anything that is edible and not nailed down is in danger of ending up in my tummy.  After one of those binges I berate myself and say "why the heck did I even do that?  What was I thinking?"  Ironic, for someone who blogs about local food and farmer's markets, and takes pictures while exercise walking.

My growth to the brink of obesity began about 15 years ago, when I was under a great deal of stress.
And, except for a brief few months when I participated in a program called Mission Meltaway, it seemed nothing would stop the upward march of the scale.

Until I found Weight Watchers in early November, that is.   I decided that yes, it is expensive, but I knew people it worked for, and a possible looming diagnosis with diabetes (my Dad was diabetic so I have an idea what it entails) scared me into finally trying it.  So far for me, it is working.

As of today, I've shed (I don't want to say "lost") just under nine pounds, and that was during the holiday season.

Now, I need their support more than ever, because I am entering a period of my life that may be stressful in a way I've never experienced before.  So my personal goal will have to be "Can I conquer stress eating? Can I continue to shed the weight?"  And then, when (I'm saying "when", not "if") my weight goal is reached, "Can I keep it off?"

Lots of challenges ahead in my life.  Wish me luck!

Are you also a fan of the movie Airplane?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Thing We Dread The Most

This was not a good day for those who are caregivers for their elderly relatives.

Someone I know returned from some time off and told me that her mother in law, who is in her 90's, fell and broke her collarbone right before Christmas.  This fiercely independent woman now requires 24 hour care.  The family had to scramble to find this care, with no idea how they are going to pay for it.

Today, several of us, mostly single, got into a discussion concerning how we would be taken care of when we grow old.  We hope so we won't give our caregivers the same heartburn as our elderly give us, but we know that won't be true.

And, my brother and sister in law called.  They visited my mother in law over New Years.  We had visited over Christmas, but had to leave earlier than expected due to a winter storm bearing down on us.  My in laws had more time to visit and interact with my mother in law on their visit than we did the week before.  Their report expanded on some things (not good things) we had observed. (My brother and law and I live about 1/2 hour from each other, and my mother in law is about 3 hours away from us.  It can be an impossible distance when the weather is bad.)  Action is needed.

What is the thing we dread the most?  I don't think many of us in our 50's and 60's dread death itself as much as we dread the dying process.  Some of us are fortunate enough to be raised by loving parents, or find in laws we grow to love as much as our natural parents.  Some of us come to this stage out of duty.  Either way, so many of us, during our lives, will be caregiving for elderly parents or in laws.  Or both.  We see how once energetic, involved, vital, people fade away physically.  Or mentally.  Or, worst of all, both.

For me and my spouse, there is another involved party.  His brother, my brother in law, is developmentally disabled with a condition called autism.  He's lived with his mother all this time because my mother in law wanted it that way. And now, his future is up in the air, too.

Up to now, I haven't blogged much about this part of my life, because I've felt that younger readers would not be interested.  But, this is part of my life and I now need to share it with my readers.  I had thought of starting a different blog just for this part of my life, but caregivers don't have time for two blogs, much less one.   So I have decided to report on this the same way I report on gardening, post my photography, and discuss and other things in my life.

I hope you will join me on this new, double journey - increased caregiving to my mother in law, and increased involvement with my brother in law.

Have you had the experience of caregiving for your elderly parents or in laws yet?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Winter Wednesday - The Return of Snow

After a strange, almost snowless (for us) winter last year here in upstate New York, winter has returned.

Today, when I left for work, it was 9 degrees (about minus 13 Celsius) above zero.

Here are some pictures of my neighborhood of Westover, near Johnson City, New York, mostly taken on Saturday.
One of our side streets.
Down by the Susquehanna River, in a small local park.  It was snowing at the time, hence the fuzziness of the photo.

Snow on conifers.

And, icicles on a clothes line. 

Some people here love winter and the snow it brings.  Many contractors depend on snowplowing during outside construction's off season.  Other residents love to ski, snowshoe, or ice skate.

Not me.

Spring can't come quickly enough!

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, how is this winter going for your area so far?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Oh the Places I'll Go When the Sidewalks are Cleaned

Welcome,old friends and new blog visitors.  I am a 60 year old blogger living in upstate New York, in the United States.  I am participating in two blog challenges this January, NaBloPoMo and the Ulitmate Blog Challenge.  I hope you like what you read here and return for more.

Usually I write about whatever strikes me that day, but I do have several theme days:

1. Wednesdays - Winter Wednesday (anything connected to winter), many of which include my photos.

Here's a sneak preview of what you will see tomorrow- a tree in my neighborhood.  I enjoy photography, and may make it a retirement hobby (if I can ever retire).

2. Saturdays - Sustainable Saturdays - Farmers Markets, Gardening, Community Gardening, an "ecological" lifestyle (whatever that means to me, that is)

3.  Sundays - Civil War Sunday - I am not a Civil War "buff" but I enjoy learning about history. During the 10th anniversary of our United States Civil War,  I am blogging about  both the well known and lesser known aspects of this war that shaped what we are today in this country.

4.  The 15th of the Month: Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, an event wher plant lovers from all over the world post what is blooming in their world (inside or out) on that day.

Today's NaBloPoMo prompt (I will only follow them occasionally, by the way) is:  From Where Do You Draw Your Energy?

In this, my 60th year, I am drawing my energy from being a pain in the neck.  I'm an introvert, but I've decided I am going to be one of those Grandmas Who Change Their World For the Better.  Except, I'm not a grandma yet, but that will come eventually. 

I want to make my little mark on the world.

My arre of upstate New York gets up to 80 to 100 inches of snow in a winter.  So clean sidewalks become a necessity - especially for the disabled, the elderly, and other people who don't feel like slipping on 3 or 4 months worth of ice and snow.

In September of 2011, my neighborhood of Westover, near Johnson City, NY was flooded by Tropical Storm Lee. One of the casualties was a 800,000 square foot building formerly occupied by BAE Systems.  1350 jobs left our neighborhood and moved down the road. (To put this in perspective, our Town of Union's population is about 56,000.)  The Air Force owned the building, and it was eventually transferred over to our county.  I took this picture on November 12.

Our county is electing not to plow the sidewalks in a timely manner, making it difficult for people (including shoppers from a supermarket across the street) to get to the bus stop.  I use that bus to get to work and a night worker from a nearby convenience store sometimes joins me when he goes off shift.

My balance isn't what it used to be, and I have a bad back. And, I have to get to work.

So, I've been contacting local officials.  And contacting them.  And will continue to contact them  One, Tom Augostini, a Town of Union councilman, has been responsive and gave me his cell phone number. I even got a phone call from the Town of Union Supervisor, Rose Sotak.  Kudos to them.  Mr. Augostini and I had a phone conversation yesterday and I hope it was productive. 

But who hasn't been responsive?  County officials.  I tried contacting the County Supervisor, Debra Preston, without success.

I hope the Town can help me and the other elderly/disabled/young/working poor and others who use that bus stop.  It was bad enough part of Westover was destroyed by the flood.  Houses still stand vacant, and will eventually be torn down.  The former BAE building will stand vacant and ruined, though, perhaps for years.

Uncaring government isn't going to destroy our spirit.

Have you fought "City Hall"?  Have you advocated for the people in your community who need help?