Sunday, May 31, 2015

Civil War Sunday- The End or the Beginning?

The 150th anniversary commemorations for the United States Civil War have (for the most part) come and gone.  Even Disunion, the New York Times Civil War blog (well worth reading), will cease publishing after one more blog post in June.

So now what?  I have had a Civil War Sunday feature on my blog for the last four years.  Should I join the New York Times and quit?

I'm not sure.  I would like you, my blog readers, to help me decide.

A number of my readers are outside the United States, or live in the United States and enjoy history.  They tell me in the comments of my Civil War posts that they enjoy reading some of the history stories I tell.

Yes, "history stories".  History, after all, is not a boring collection of facts and dates you must suffer through to get a high school or college diploma.  It is the living story of the human race.  For me, the stories of the Civil War are interesting.  Battles, yes, but also some stories of those who participated in the war.  People we never would have heard of except for this war, which almost split our country apart.

I still have some photos on my iPhone that need to see the light of blog.  And there are the human stories - what happened to all those iconic figures of the Civil War after the war?  Jefferson Davis?  Robert E. Lee?  Ulysses S. Grant? (hint, he became a United States President, and he wasn't the only Civil War vet to become President, either).   Joshua Chamberlain, the quiet college professor who became a Civil War hero at Gettysburg? 

Did Captain Oliver Wendell Holmes really save Lincoln's life at a battle and call his President a "dammed fool" in the process?  (we don't know for sure, but we do know he later became an honored Supreme Court justice.) And what about the missing gold of the Confederacy?

I'd still like to write about the war, just because.  Perhaps not every Sunday, but I do want to continue.

The only question remaining is:  do you want to read about it?  Please comment below.

Starting tomorrow, incidentally, I will be participating in the 2015 FLX/Wordcount Blogathon.  This is the current incarnation of the first blogging challenge I participated in, in 2011.  Without that first Blogathon, I don't think I would be blogging today.

I encourage you to sign up.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Local Saturday - Mindful Lesson of a Grancy Greybeard

It hurts.  It damages.  It kills.  Literally.

It's falling. Have you ever fallen?  If not, do you know someone who has? 

As my regular readers know, I am attending a falling prevention class.  Our teachers held class #2 on Wednesday, and one of the two facilitators brought up a topic I never would have expected in a class teaching falling prevention.  I expected there to be exercises, and there are four daily exercises and four additional exercises we are supposed to do three times a week.  I expected someone teaching us what to do if we fall, and, indeed, physical therapists came into the class to show us.  In this class, they even talked about canes, walking sticks, and walkers, and how to use them properly.

But I didn't expect a short talk about mindfulness.

Mindfulness.  It's such a simple concept when you are introduced to it, but hard to practice.  Yes, just taking time out to appreciate everything around us can help prevent falls.  It's taking the time to notice our surroundings.  Paying attention to what we are doing.  If we are outside, how does the air feel around us?  Do we hear birds singing?  What is blooming?  Is there a sidewalk crack in front of us?  Are we out walking the dog and about to place our ankle into a gopher hole?

The facilitator said that as she grows older (she is a retired RN) she becomes more mindful.  She said many elders do, and we must become mindful, too, if we are to survive into a healthy old age.

I am starting to practice mindfulness.  My thoughts tend to be scattered, hopping from one branch to another like a agitated finch.  Nothing happens as I churn and churn without purpose. Not only does that lack of mindfulness make me more prone to falling, but it stifles my creativity.

So, at lunch yesterday, I went out to the Broome County Courthouse.  There is a little area with benches where employees eat lunch, but I did something different.

I went up to a tree.  It had strange, fascinating white blooms that looked like angel hair pasta.
Fringe Tree, Chionanthus virginicus
I found out from a flower expert I know that many call this tree a Grancy Greybeard.  What a fascinating name!  Better yet, it is a native tree, just perfect for a Local Saturday.

The flowers smelled nice. I have some problems with smelling since a wisdom tooth extraction with complications last year, but I knew this one had a lovely fragrance.  I had never noticed this tree before. So, I stood there, feeling the breeze on my arms, listening to birdsong, and enjoying the warmth of the sun shining down on me.

Yes, even in the middle of urban Binghamton, New York, you can practice mindfulness. Thank you for the lesson, Grancy Greybeard.

Just coincidentally, that meshes with a challenge I am participating in this week, the Write Tribe Festival of Words #4.  Today we are challenged: " Today, pledge to be aware of every moment. Focus. Appreciate."

Let your creativity flow.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Coloring Paradise

Before I begin, I want to thank everyone who commented, and showed support, on yesterday's blog post.  There is a writing competition, NaNoWriMo, that has a July "summer camp".  The timing isn't the best due to a family situation, but I may see what happens if I put some of my thoughts down in a computer document, and participate in the "Camp".  The confirmation of facts and possible blogging can come later, if I get that far.  So, thank you again!!

Do you like to color?  I do.  But not all of us have the inclination to make drawings from scratch.

Back in the 1950's and 1960's, paint and color by number were popular with both children and adults.  Yesterday, a blogger blogged about Adult Coloring Pages.  Seems that coloring for adults is a relaxing hobby that has been rediscovered.

Many adults could use a form of relaxation.  Our lives are hectic.

Adults can take art classes and learn how to draw.  But for some of us, including me, it would be nice if we could buy a kit  Something, perhaps, like a modern, updated version of something dear to those of us who grew up in the 1950's and 1960's.

The adult coloring blog post reminded me of one of my favorite blog posts of all time.  I originally posted it in August of 2011 and it remains true today. Imagine - women are even forming coloring clubs (although, apparently, with freestyle coloring, not coloring kits).  Here's how to form your own club.

Here's part of my post from 2011.

I loved Venus Paradise coloring sets, 

Yesterday evening, the sky reminded me of the sky of a color by number painting.  All those shades of blue and light purple.  And, with that, I will repeat portions of my original 2011 post.  Enjoy!

Do you remember color by number?  It was popular in the 1950's and early 1960's, when I was growing up.   You can still find color by number in paint today.  But what my family loved was the Venus Paradise sets.  They were color pencil color by numbers.  They had sets geared to all ages - from children old enough to color to adults.

The pencils were numbered, and you got the pencils you needed for your set with the set.  My favorite was #7, Peacock Blue. You can even find the list of colors online (except for two "mystery colors").  It would seem that some older artists miss them, too - they were high quality but as a child, I just took them for granted.

My Dad and I would color together.  I would have my child's set and he an adult set.  I remember one in particular, set with famous buildings.  I remember him in particular working on a Taj Mahal picture.  I looked at him color with great concentration.  He put wax paper on top of the part of the picture he had completed so it would not smear.

His picture had so much detail.  You could barely make out some of the numbers in the small portions.  But I would grow up one day and be able to do complicated pictures just like my Dad!

Except I lost interest, until my son was born.

I went to all the stores (when he was old enough to color) and no one had them.  In fact, I couldn't find any kind of color by number pencil art set, period.

Venus Paradise is out of business.  And, I couldn't even find a set on eBay (I did find a couple of auctions for the pencils.)

The good news is that there is a pencil color by number set out there now. Better yet, the people who own the business remember Venus Paradise.  So perhaps a new generation of children will remember pencil by number sets fondly.

In writing this post, I find my spouse remembers the sets too.  He thinks when he retires, it might be fun to buy one.  But sadly, this is something I'm not sure will ever return to favor for the general population. you remember Venus Paradise?

Or, would you consider participating in a coloring club?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Facing Fear

Does your fear block your creativity?  This is a question being asked in the Write Tribe Festival of Words #4.  And, for once, I am going to admit my fear on the Internet, which is like admitting your fear in front of about 1 billion people.  Gulp.

For the longest time, I admit, fear has blocked my creativity.  I can not take a first step I've wanted to take for several years now. 

I am about as introverted as one can get (if I believe quizzes and online personality tests) but I tend to be a lot less introverted on my blog than I am in "real life".  I do fine with blogging, Facebook, and email.  But if you called me on the phone, I would hide under the table.

Public speaking?  Nope. (I've done it before small groups where I know everyone, but that's it.)  Meet someone I don't know?  Attend a gathering where I don't know anyone?  No. No. No.

But I'm not talking about phone fear or fear of groups.  I'm talking about writing fear, and the fear of taking action.

I've wanted to write a book for several years.  It isn't a memoir.  I don't quite know how to describe it.

What I have to say would anger some people, because I want to tell a story about a system in our great country, the United States, that is broken.  Seriously broken, as this country deals with an epidemic that is growing all the time.    This broken system is making thousands and thousands of people suffer.  Some have lost their homes trying to help their loved ones. 

Worse, such people without families who love them find themselves caught in a nightmare.  For some, there is little future.  And more of them are becoming adults every day.  When they become adults, many lose all the supports they had for the first years of their lives.

I have seen a couple of bloggers trying to tackle this topic.  They've received so many hateful comments that they have stopped.  Attracting trolls is something I do not need, and I don't have the personality to deal with it.

If you don't take risks, you are not truly alive.
Or so they say.

If people like me do not speak out, this terrible system will never be changed.  Perhaps it is the story I am meant to tell because I can use my experiences and my emotions to help others.

Do I dare take up this challenge?  Do I move past my fear?  Do I permit myself to grow?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Spring Things - Countryside in the Mist

Sometimes, I wonder why I keep living in upstate New York.  The taxes are high.  The regulations are ridiculous.  The winters stretch on forever.  

I say to myself, why not move?  Other places are hot, but you don't have to shovel hot.  You can't slip on humid.  It would be nice to have a winter that doesn't last from November to April.

But then, I get a batch of photos from the friend I call my "guest photographer".  She lives out in the countryside near Binghamton, New York, in the foothills of the Catskills.

She takes photos of her land and her drives to and from work.

Then I know why I stay.  It's because of the rest of the year, especially once spring comes.

Because, just as you get so angry with nature and the weather, she shows you scenery like this.
So many shades of spring, capped with a mountain fog.
A rural road, with the fog burning off.
Finally, more fog.  And, note the colors of the trees.

Sometimes, when you look at the trees of spring, it is almost like a second autumn.  So many shades of green and even red.

There is so much more to show you.  Wildflowers.  Fragrant shrubs.  Maple earrings. Maypops.  But first, we must wait for the morning mist to disappear.

Too many people think of New York City when they think of New York State.  But there is so much more to New York than its biggest city.

Spring is gone too soon in upstate New York.  But while it is here....look quickly, and savor.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

When Is A Fall Not A Fall?

When is a fall not a fall?

Last week, I blogged about how I had signed up for a falling prevention course because - well, I've fallen several times in the past four years.  I am only 62 years old and I know what this can mean down the road.

My spouse had a relative who died from complications of a fall. My brother in law's mother in law has been hospitalized or in rehab since March after a fall in her bathtub resulted in a head injury.  Even my spouse's aunt, who is 103, has not escaped falling.  A fall when she was 102 (it wasn't her first fall, either) led to a partial hip replacement.  She will never be independent again, although (for now) she still lives at home.

Falling, for a senior, can be a death sentence at worst.  At best, it can result in broken bones, a trip to the Emergency Room, and/or the loss of independence.  So, if you are reading this post, and haven't fallen, you may still have elderly relatives to think about. Or, your taxes may be paying the medical bills of those who have fallen.  This is a problem that impacts all of us.

So, that's how I found myself sitting last Wednesday in a circle with six other women, and one man, and two facilitators.  The facilitators, both women, were retired RN's.  And, both had fallen.  We were all in good company.

We went around the circle, introducing ourselves, and telling our falling stories. So many of them seemed to involve walking dogs and uneven ground or gopher holes but there were some pretty nasty in-home falls, too.

Then the facilitators asked how many in the group had had joint replacements.  Almost everyone had had at least one, if not more.  In other words, I was sitting in a group of Bionic Seniors.

The program I am taking is evidence based and was developed in Australia.

Next, two physical therapists joined the class to teach us exercises we would do to build up our balance and strength, to prevent future falls.  Four exercises for balance, to be done daily.  Four exercises for strength, to be done three times a week.

I didn't feel out of place at all.  Certainly no one was giving me funny looks or wondering why a young senior was sitting in the class.

I talked to one of the RN's after class and she told me a person at risk of falling, no matter what their age, could take the class. 
The youngest person to take this class locally was in her mid 40's.  The oldest was 103 - she is 106 now.  So, it is never too early (if you have the need), or too late.  As we were told, age is an attitude.  There are people in their 90's who think more youthfully than people in their 60's.  I want to be one of those people.

As for the question "when is a fall not a fall?"  One of the RN's explained that when someone calls to register, she always asks, "have you fallen?" Many times, her question is met with several moments of silence, as the person on the other end of thephone thinks about it.  Was their fall a fall? 

Too many people think, the RN explained, a fall doesn't "count" if it doesn't result in a trip to the ER or a broken bone.  But, the RN went on, "it's like being a little bit pregnant.  You did or you didn't. You either fell or you didn't."

So, I've been doing my exercises.  In the future classes, we will learn about vision problems, medication issues, and even what to do next if we do fall.

I'm looking forward to the next class.

Monday, May 25, 2015


Our veterans, past and present, deserve our thanks, and so much more.  Today, in the United States, it is Memorial Day.

Today, the genealogy website has free access and you can look up military records for anyone in their database.

I looked up my grandfather on my mother's side and found (definitely) his World War II draft registration and (possibly) his World War I draft registration.  For the first time in my memory, I saw his signature on the World War II document.  More intriguing, I found his town of birth - something I never knew - but it doesn't seem to exist -"Altsandas, Austria" - another mystery for a later date. (I am not sure what country it is in today, but it was Austria-Hungary when he came to this country around 1903).

I then looked up my father's World War Two enlistment record and found this.  After the war he worked for several years on Governor's Island, part of New York City, where his enlistment took place.  What I know of his enlistment is that he was already considered disabled (a childhood illness destroyed his hearing in one ear) and had tried to enlist without success.  But, by 1942, we needed anyone who could serve.

State of Residence: New York
County or City: Kings[Brooklyn]
Enlistment Date: 6 Aug 1942
Enlistment State: New York
Enlistment City: Fort Jay Governors Island

Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law
Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
Source: Civil Life
Education: 2 years of high school
Civil Occupation: Semiskilled occupations in manufacture of miscellaneous electrical equipment, n.e.c.
Marital Status: Single, with dependents
Height: 69
Weight: 130

More memories.  Why would my father have been single, with dependents?  Because he helped to raise his youngest brother after his mother died.  Just as he raised me after my mother died.

These documents may not show much, but they can still tell a story.  You just need to be creative to read and understand the story.

In honor of all vets (including my father, who received a head injury in his military service, and my husband, who is a peacetime vet) I also offer these local military monuments in our area.  

Endicott, New York, a few miles down Main Street from where I live.

Veterans Memorial statue.
Plaques commemorating the war dead.  An American flag is kept,fresh, on each one.

The war memorials - World War II, which my father served in (in the Army Air Force) as did one of his brothers, and one of his sisters.

The Korean War. When I grew up it wasn't a "war", it was a "police action". But the people were just as dead.
The forgotten war, Vietnam, where our dead were dishonored and our veterans were mocked - a sad thing I will never forget. Both of my next door neighbor boys (growing up in the Bronx) served in 'Nam, as did other young men I grew up with.

Binghamton - part of the Korean War monument on the Broome County courthouse lawn.

Finally, the Revolutionary War monument, also on the Courthouse lawn.

Are you a vet? Are there vets in your life you wish to honor, no matter which country?  Please leave a comment.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Civil War Sunday - Can Remembering be Toxic?

The United States Civil War is not yet over.

My country, the United States, has just finished four years of remembering an event that took place from April, 1861 to April, 1865 - our very own Civil War, the war that shaped our country and made us the country we are today.

Tomorrow, in our country, it is Memorial Day.   Yesterday, I was looking at some blogs I read, and I saw this:

"Because Nothing Says Memorial Day like a Confederate Flag Burning"?

Yes, it's true.  There is a project called 13 Flag Funeral, which will take place tomorrow at 1pm Eastern Time, where, in 13 former Confederate States, a burning of the Confederate Flag will be held.

A artist by the name of John Sims hopes to start a conversation.  It is going to be a heck of a conversation.  Comments range from "it's overdue" to "it's extremely disrespectful, especially given it is going to take place on Memorial Day, the day our country remembers its war dead."
Taken by AM, March, 2015, in North Carolina
The Confederate flags (there were several) are still flown today, including on the grounds of the capital of South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union in the months leading up to the Civil War.  It even appears on official license plates of former Confederate states.  This Virginia license plate, for example, is available for purchase by members of an organization called the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  This organization, incidentally, is open to all male descendents of those who served honorably in the Confederate military.

The flag pictured on the license plate is a Confederate battle flag.  The cross is known as the "Southern Cross", related to the Cross of St. Andrew that the British use on their flag.

There is an expression "Elephant in the Room".  The Civil War has been an elephant in many American living rooms over the past 150 years.  Even today, things will seem calm, until an event like this is held.  Then feelings come out that we sometimes don't even know dwell deep inside us.  Strong, deep, hateful feelings.

Even the Wall Street Journal, a respected publication, had some interesting comments posted on an article they wrote about tomorrow's event, complete with...well, read it for yourself.

So:  is this event designed to inflame?  Or, to start a useful conversation to draw out toxic thoughts so they can be destroyed?  Will that help our country continue the healing that has taken place, not always in an even fashion, for the past 150 years?

Whatever side you are on, I think we can all agree that we should remember, tomorrow, the people who died for our freedom in all our wars so we can have this kind of national debate.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Local Saturday - Lost But Now Found

For the second time in my life, I have found lost family (or, rather, they have found me).

Last February, I posted something I am repeating below, in part.

In it, I explained that I had not been in touch with anyone on my mother's side of the family in many years (by my count, it must be over 30 years). 

At about the same time, the genealogy website offered a free weekend.  I took advantage of it, and I started to build a family tree of my mother's side of the family, the ____s.  Of course, my memory being limited, I didn't get that far.  After the weekend ended, I decided I didn't have the time to pursue this (as Ancestry is not a free website, I didn't want to waste my money).

Earlier this week I received a generic message in an email from, with a family name I did not recognize but a message saying that she was working on a family tree of the ____s and thought we might be related.  I clicked to respond, and found I had to join Ancestry even to send a message.

Yesterday, I received another email, and I hope this woman doesn't mind me quoting it (with names deleted, of course):

" Hi, I just spoke to my father (let's call him "N"), who told me that you are first cousins. My mom was thrilled that I had found you. Seems like they had been looking to contact you for years and could not find out where you were. They would love to be able to write or call you."

Her father "N" is vague in my memory.  I did some quick research (what I could get for free, because I could not remember his first name), but I sure knew the last name well.   Could I truly have been found by my mother's family by someone, after years of searching? 

I discovered that Ancestry was having another free weekend for our Memorial Day weekend, and I had limited access to the site again! I messaged back, with some more information.  And then I heard back.

The answer is yes.  I have been found by someone on my mother's side of the family.

The woman who sent me the message is my first cousin once removed on my mother's side (her grandmother and my mother were sisters).  Her mother, an aunt who had continued contact with me for a few years after I married, passed away (my newly found cousin told me) in 1998.  And now we have each other's email addresses.

I told my husband and I think he was just as, if even more, excited than I am.
And now, part of the post from February.

The Power of Compassion

I am a private person.

You really have to watch those women from Nebraska.  They sneak up on you.

So, I learned today there was a project called "1000 Voices for Compassion", where bloggers were encouraged to " write posts about compassion, kindness, support, caring for others, non-judgement, care for the environment etc, and ALL PUBLISH ON THE SAME DAY (Feb 20th) to flood the Blogosphere with GOOD!"  

This young woman from Nebraska talked about her fiance.  She is in an interracial relationship.  She talks honestly about some of the "ugly looks" that have been directed in their direction.

So let me tell you a little bit about myself that I have never told my readers about before, and tell you about lessons in compassion that I never fully realized until recently.

In 1970, when I was 17 years old, I started dating a boy who was going to the same college as I was.   We were of different religions.  I am Jewish.  My husband is Catholic.  In 1970, that mattered.

It mattered a lot.

Some members of my family were less than thrilled.  I have had no contact with my mother's side of my family in many, many years.  Some members of my future husband's family were less than thrilled, too.

But there were the many people who had compassion, who saw past the religious differences, who accepted us for who we are, and I owe a great debt of gratitude to every one of them. Until tonight, I've never thanked them publicly.  Some of them, sadly, are no longer with us, having moved on to the next level of existence.  But I want to say to each of them, "Thank you".  My grandfather.  Cousins.  A childhood friend. My husband's next door neighbor. Some Aunts and Uncles on both sides of our family.  And this is just for starters.

Meanwhile, we, my husband and I, have been married for nearly 41 years.  Our love is deep.   I hope that young woman in Nebraska can say the same about her and her Warrior Man, 41 years from now. (Too bad I won't be around to help her celebrate.)

Times have changed tremendously.  I owe a debt to those who went before me, who helped pave the path of compassion that my husband and I walked.   I haven't done enough to extend that path to the generations that have followed me.

You never know what one small act of compassion will do, until you are on the receiving end.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Thirteen Months Later

What a difference 13 months makes between drought and nationally covered floods.

In April of last year, I blogged about Wichita Falls, Texas, which was in an extreme drought emergency.  I had lived there many years ago, and was horrified to discover that they were seriously considering drinking treated toilet water.

Now, Wichita Falls is flooding as I blog this.  They have received over 12 inches of rain this month.  They may receive another seven inches of rain in the coming days.
A month ago, someone I know passed through Wichita Falls and took this picture of the falls Wichita Falls is named after.  Now, parts of the city have been evacuated.  I am familiar with river flooding - I have been through two of them.  I feel for the people of Wichita Falls.

The weather everywhere, including where I live in upstate New York, has been outside the norm.  Now, Wichita Falls is paying the price.

The only bright side of this is that they have dropped from a level 5 drought emergency (the worst) to a level 3.

Here's my post from 2014.

Would You Drink Your Toilet Water?

Today, in the United States, it is Earth Day.  It's the day to think about the environment, and our impact on it.

Years ago, my spouse and I lived (for about eight months) in Wichita Falls, Texas, a city of about 104,000 about 10 miles south of the Texas/Oklahoma border.  It was an interesting experience but I have not been back since.

Today, I turned on the Weather Channel while preparing to go to work, and there was a fascinating discussion about a city so terribly impacted by drought, that they are trying to get state approval to capture and recycle their "potty water" (as they call it) and mix it in with reservoir water.

Turns out that city is Wichita Falls, Texas.

Things are desperate in Wichita Falls. They have been in a drought for some three years. Their reservoirs are hovering around 25% capacity.

So, are you grossed out by the thought of drinking your toilet water?

A couple of interesting thoughts.

I grew up in New York City.  To me, drinking water was something that came out of faucets.  My parents rarely took me out of New York City - for one thing, our family did not own a car. (Back when I grew up, this was not uncommon in New York City.)  In fact, I never saw a garden until I was 17 years old.  Really.

One day I found out our drinking water came from a place called the Croton Reservoir. As a teenager, I got to see this reservoir - a large lake.  And, I suddenly realized, there were FISH in this body of water.  Fish who ate, drank and...pooped.

I was drinking water with FISH POOP in it.

It wasn't long before I found out that was the least of my worries.  Many cities took their drinking water from rivers (such as Binghamton, New York, whose drinking water comes from the Susquehanna River.).  If your drinking water comes from a river, maybe you know that your drinking water contains wastewater (treated, you hope) from every city upriver from you.  And, in turn, the cities downriver of you are drinking your wastewater.

So many of us already drink toilet water indirectly.  The difference is, Wichita Falls wants to use this treated water directly, mixing it in with the fresh reservoir water, to make up about a third of their water usage.

Not a happy thought for Earth Day, is it?

Well, as it happens,  a lot of people are watching the Wichita Falls situation with a lot of interest.  Other cities are thinking of trying to pass legislation to allow direct usage of this formerly dumped resource.

After all, astronauts are already doing it.

The good citizens of Wichita Falls have dropped their water usage from about 40 million gallons a day to about 11-12 million gallons. But that just isn't enough.  So, besides the waste water recycling project, the city is going to try cloud seeding.  And, people are purchasing rainwater collection systems to try to capture whatever rain does fall.   But, to survive, they may be turning to toilet water.

We can't live without water.  Would you drink treated toilet water to survive?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to Save $220

In September of 2011, our neighborhood of Westover, near Johnson City, New York, was flooded during Tropical Storm Lee.  Our basement had several feet of water in it, which caused various problems in our house.  Several thousands of dollars and much effort later, we ended up needing to buy a dehumidifier.  We were told would need to run it constantly except in the heart of winter because once a basement floods, it will have a humidity problem for the rest of the life of the house.

And so we did.

This spring, we turned the dehumidifier on.  Soon, we discovered it was not working.  It turned on, but it didn't wring any water out of the air.

I called the store where we had bought it, hoping there was still some kind of limited warranty on the unit.  There was not.  We tried to find our owner's manual, but we couldn't locate it.

So I asked around, and got several suggestions about where I could purchase a reasonably priced dehumidifier.  But first, we decided to read's product ratings.  The units were running $220 and up, which meant it was time for some bargain shopping.

We quickly found a unit of interest, but we needed a particular feature.  Amazon, helpfully, allowed us to download a user manual.  This was a different brand than the brand that quit on us after three and a half years.

We found the feature we wanted, but I kept reading, and noticed there was a troubleshooting section.  One of the items mentioned checking the filter.  I noted this other brand's unit had a filter that needed to be taken out and cleaned every two weeks.  "Gee", I said.  "How inconvenient.  Our broken unit doesn't have a filter..."

We looked at each other.

Spouse went down to the basement.  Several minutes later, he emerged, holding a filter clogged with dirt. "I had to figure out where it was", he said.  "I had to take the water bucket out and take a guess.  But once I found the filter, it was easy to remove."  Spouse vacuumed and washed the filter, replaced it in the unit, and, an hour or so later, there was water in the water bucket.

When we had bought the unit, we never read the user manual, and never realized the unit had a filter.

I should be impressed that the dehumidifier worked for over three years without the filter being cleaned.

I am even more impressed that we saved $220 by cleaning a filter we didn't even know we have.

So, the moral of the story is:  read the instructions!

Have you ever been embarrassed by not reading the instructions?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Spring Things - Rapidly White

Ah, the freshness of spring.

Foliage is clean, fresh, coming out in many shades of green.  Spring exploded this month in the northeast.  There are so many colors to choose from.

I devote Wednesdays on my blog to the season we are in here in upstate New York.

Today, I decided to pick a color to represent this week of spring.  With viburnums and spireas in full bloom, I decided on white.
Viburnums blooming at the Broome County Pubic Library, Binghamton, on May 18.
White lilacs blooming near my home in Westover, near Johnson City, New York,on May 16.
Spirea, west side of Binghamton, May 18.

Lamium album, or white dead nettle, May 19, Binghamton, New York.

White trees in bloom yesterday in downtown Binghamton.

This spring has passed so quickly.  There are flowers I barely saw before they were gone.  Yesterday, a cold front cooled us down.  I hope spring will slow down briefly, so I can enjoy these blooms for a few days.

What is your favorite color of flower?  Perhaps I will feature that color in my next Spring Things.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Mistaken Invitation

I wasn't surprised when I opened my mailbox yesterday, and the letter was there.

I knew what was in the envelope before I opened it, because I've gotten that letter at this time every year for the past few years.

It begins:

"You are invited!
(date in June)
to Celebrate a World with...."

I am happy to report that, once again, I am not eligible to attend.  The rest of the invite reads:

" Celebrate a World with Less Cancer and More Birthdays".  Why wouldn't I want to attend?

But first, I need to back up a little.

For several years, I participated in the American Cancer Society (ACS) Relay for Life, when my employer had a team. The Relay is a walk where you participate as a team.  One person must be on the track at all times, for about 18 consecutive hours, so many team members (I never did) camp out on the track.  There are giveaways, entertainment, and a lot of high school and college students have a good time as they try to stay awake all night.  They cook dinner - coffee is provided - and breakfast.

 Of course, as a team member, you are expected to fundraise for the ACS.  I would usually donate an afghan to our team to raffle, too.

Many people in my life have been impacted by cancer.  Three of my friends (the first one when I was 13) have died from cancer.  Several others are survivors.  Two dear friends are currently under treatment.

When you register for the Relay for Life, you indicate if you are a cancer survivor or not.  Survivors get a participating T-Shirt of a different color than people who have never been diagnosed.  I always registered as a person who has not had cancer.  I have never received a cancer diagnosis.

I was been a caregiver for someone with cancer, but it wasn't for a long period of time, and that person is no longer in active treatment.  One day, that person may be living up here, and I will pass the invite on to her.

Survivors of cancer are invited to attend a free dinner at the Relay, where they are honored.  A caregiver of their choice can also attend at no charge.

Somehow, I am on the ACS's list as a cancer survivor.  For over five years, I've been getting this invitation letter, long before someone I am a long distance caregiver for received a cancer diagnosis.  I've sometimes passed the letter along (the invite is not personalized) to a local cancer survivor in my life, and I will do the same this year.  And, I suppose, I could contact our ACS chapter and ask them to take my name off their survivors list.  But I'm not going to.

In a way, this invitation reminds me of how fortunate I am to not be able to attend this dinner.  I am grateful for their mistake.

What are you grateful for today?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Thoughts of Failing a Falling Class

Back in mid-March, I called a number published in our county's Senior News.  A woman answered.


"Hi", I responded. " I am calling about the Stepping On Falls Prevention Class."

We chatted a couple of minutes.  She wanted to know where I had heard about the class. She talked briefly about the program - seven weeks, one class a week, a falling assessment on the first and last classes, guest speakers. They would teach exercises to help prevent falls, and would have several guest speakers talking about medication and balance, eyesight issues, and more.  The cost was reasonable - $35 for seven sessions, and I would get a workbook, too.

Then came the question.

"How old are you?"

The class was advertised for seniors 60 and over.

"62", I responded.

There was a pause at the other end - a pause that made me a little uncomfortable.

"Have you fallen yet?", she finally asked.

(For more on my interest in this class, check out this post).

Fast forward a week.

Just before St. Patrick's Day, an in law's mother in law fell in the bathtub and hit her head. It was not her first fall.  This 82 year old woman, who was living independently with her husband of many years, was rushed to the ER later that day with symptoms of a head injury.  Things did not go well from there.

The CDC has some sobering statistics about falling in older adults.  And now, this in law's mother in law is just that - a statistic.

Governments and agencies serving senior populations are recognizing the problem, and trying to take steps.  You don't have to be a senior to care about the issue.  The children and grandchildren of the woman who fell are not seniors.  This has impacted an entire family, a large, close knit family.

So, about the question "have you fallen?"

I told the woman yes, that I have fallen.  I've fallen in my house twice in the past year, in addition to a fall while exercising on the Vestal Rail Trail (this one due to a trick ankle from an old injury) and another walk with a fall in 2011.  The trick ankle didn't cause the home fall, though.  It was a balance problem.  I fell due to a throw rug that slid when I stepped on it.  And still another time, a shoe gripped the floor in the wrong way and I started to fall, but managed to recover.

I have problems with my balance. My spouse took me to work several times this winter because it was icy and I was frightened of falling. If I wear ice treads that are sold to slip onto boots, I feel like I'm totally unbalanced. I don't know if my near falls were caused by medication (I am on several) but I have to do something now.  I don't want to wait until I'm 82 and it's too late.

What I am concerned about the most, though, is that I am going to show up, and be in a class of 80 year olds.  Then, everyone will look at me and think "why is she here?"  Dare I call this reverse ageism, that I am not old enough to have any of the problems of a senior citizen?

In other words, is it possible in our elder society to be too young?

The first class is this Wednesday, and then I will know.

Have you taken any of these fall prevention classes?  Am I right or wrong to feel self conscious about my attendance?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Civil War Sunday - True Children

I call them living wormholes - they are a direct link to our past.  (This term, incidentally, is not original to me.)  If you don't like that term, just consider them as living treasures.

I've blogged about some of these treasured people - for example, my husband's aunt, who is now 103 years old.  She was born three months before the Titanic sank.  Through her memories (and she is still fully with us mentally) we are linked to our past.

Another example is Harrison Tyler, a grandson of President John Tyler.  President Tyler was born in 1790.  As of February, 2015, this grandson was still alive and still living on the family homestead.

These people are vitally important to our society, in my view.  History is not something dead in a book.  It is the story of you, me, and people who were born before us.  When they pass, memories are lost forever.

Now, I have become aware of another living wormhole (or treasure, if you will):  Nellie Appling Wylie, of Mt. Airy, North Carolina.  You may be familiar with Mt. Airy if you ever watched The Andy Griffith Show.  Mt. Airy was where Andy Griffith grew up, and Mayberry was based on the Mt. Airy of his childhood.

Ms. Wylie just turned 100.  Her father fought in the Civil War, which was fought 150 years ago.  How could that be?

Her father was born in April of 1848.  He was 19 when the war ended in 1865.  She was his last child, born when he was 67 years old.  He died in 1937.

Watch the remarkable interview with this treasured woman. Her children are all deceased, but her grandchildren work to preserve her memories.

To think I may have walked in her footsteps in the several times I've visited Mt. Airy thrills me.

She is what historians call "true children" of our Civil War.  To them, the Civil War is not some set of dead facts in a boring textbook.  It was part of stories told them in their childhood.  They knew, and loved, those veterans of the war.  And it is good to know they were given places of honor at sesquicentennial commemorations of the war.

There are not too many "true children" of the United States Civil War left.  There are, perhaps, 35 (or fewer), most in their 90's or 100's.

By the time we reach the 175th anniversary of the 1861 start of the war, they will all be gone.

Do you have a treasured relative or family friend who is a link to history?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Local Saturday - The Community Gardening Hour

It's been a while since I've blogged about our plots at the Community Garden in Otsiningo Park, just to the north of Binghamton, New York.

What is a community garden, anyway? 

It's simple: "Any piece of land gardened by a group of people."

We rent plots by the season from an association. We are given a marked out plot, and the right to garden on it, and access to water.  We also get our plots plowed in the spring.  We can't begin until early May (late even for our climate) and must be out by the end of October.

 Our gardening must be done by various rules.  The hope was to have the gardens fully organic by now, but I believe that has been put on hold. We are also allowed to keep our own plots year after year if we register before a certain date.  We've had one gardening neighbor, a skilled gardener, for many years.  He is an immigrant from Asia, and I am amazed at the work he puts into his plot.

We came close to not having a community garden this year but, at least for now, we are here.  The garden was supposed to be taken for parking for a new year round farmers market, but the farmers market is going to have to be built elsewhere.  Win one, lose one.

So, we are here with two garden plots for this year.

And, what is "here"?

"Here" are volunteer sunflower seedlings. We could practically start a commercial sunflower business, if it was permitted.  Something eats sunflowers at our house.  At our community garden, we don't even have to plant them.

"Here" are something that looks like weeds but they aren't. This past week, spouse (who does about 95% of the gardening work) has put in onion plants.  Our garden is perfect for onions. Hopefully we will have another bumper crop this year.

Another bumper crop we grow is rocks, and if anyone needs rocks or stones, please email me and I'll tell you where our plot is.
Today, spouse turned soil over, raked it out, removed the bigger rocks, smoothed it, and created raised beds.

Meantime, the gardening neighbor drove up, parked, and came over offering a number of lettuce seedlings.  He starts his own, and, sometimes, shares with us.  This year we will enjoy his bounty of lettuce.

We both planted the lettuce.

Do you want to learn more about our community garden?  Feel free to comment below.  If there is any related gardening topic you want to learn more about, I'll be happy to share our knowledge from almost forty years of gardening.

Gardening can be frustrating and sweaty but it can also be so rewarding.  If you don't have a plot of land, community gardening may be your answer. 

Do you garden?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day May 2015-Fast & Furious

I never imagined May would be like this.

As winter ended, I was down to ransacking my house for something - anything, that was blooming, just to save myself from blogging shame.  I dreamed for May to please come.  I would finally have outdoor flowers.  I would be able to fill my Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post with daffodils and tulips and all sorts of spring flowers.

Or would I?  Well, like all gardeners in the Northeast, we don't quite know what hit us in the last 10 days or so.  Welcome to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, hosted the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens in Indiana.

We had a late April snowfall here in the Binghamton area of upstate New York (zone 5b).  Then, the temperature suddenly rose into the 80's.  Instead of spring flowers blooming in an organized manner, spring was kicked in the rear end and ran down the street, shedding flowers as she passed.  Last Friday, I saw a forsythia blooming side by side with an early lilac.  The Bradford pears came and went in a flash. The crabapples went by in an even shorter flash.

I took pictures of Bradfords on May 5. Magnolias in full bloom on May 6. Crabapples on May 7. A chokecherry on May 8.  Some lilacs in full bloom by May 12.   I took pictures of dogwoods in bloom yesterday.  I have buds on my bearded irises.  Main season azalea blooms are opening in neighborhoods.

Then, suddenly, we were under a frost advisory yesterday morning.  We did escape a frost, and, right now, it is 45 degrees.  (7.2 Celsius).

So, what am I left with on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day after Fast and Furious spring? Actually, plenty.  Not just what I thought I would be showing you.
Like lilacs.  On May 15.  A vase full of lilacs is perfuming my living room as I blog.

But there are more "normal" things blooming in my garden, too.

Variegated euphorbia.
Dead nettle.
Primrose (these are red, but somehow came out violet.)
Pansies and violas
Then, there are my hanging baskets.  I'm only showing you a couple - perhaps I'll show you some more next GBBD.
Begonia.  I got this one on clearance at Aldi for $3.99.  I couldn't resist saving it from the garbage heap just because it had some brown leaves.

Daffodils? In a sheltered location, the last of my late daffodils barely made it to GBBD.

Another euphorbia.
Finally, a large pot full of geraniums.  I love these fancy leaved geraniums.

Before you go off to see what else is blooming all over the world, ponder what Carol at May Dreams Gardens has to say about May:

"All year I dream of the days of May when the sun is warm, the sky is blue, the grass is green, and the garden is all new again!"

What's blooming for you today?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

One Last Time

Today, everyone in the northeast United States must be wondering what happened to spring.

Just as spring got going, so did our temperatures.  In the sudden heat, spring kicked into high gear.

We went from crocuses on April 7 to snow on April 24, and then it was back to spring.

West side of Binghamton
We went from anemones on April 28

to late blooming daffodils on May 7.... Bradford pears, which lasted about four days and then - poof! the flowers were gone.  Same for the crabapples that line my street.

My irises have buds.  My lilacs are in full bloom. (Hopefully they will last long enough for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day tomorrow.

And now, this morning, we are under a frost advisory.  Parts of our area are flirting with frost producing temperatures.  Our tender plants are under cover this morning.

You have to understand winter withdrawal.  After month after month of snow, everything was blooming at once.  Last Friday, I came close to taking a picture of a forsythia blooming next to an early lilac, but my iPhone was too full of photos.  You would have to be a flower gardener to understand that forsythias and lilacs don't usually bloom together - at least, they don't here in upstate New York.

The golden rays of sun and the warm temperatures make you want to dance, and to forget there was ever such a thing as below zero temperatures.

Now, cold weather says "one last time!"  This teaches us that nothing in life is permanent. (And, that you shouldn't plant your tomatoes too early - which we didn't.)

How is your weather?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Spring Things -Yogi

I delayed the beginning of my Spring Things Wednesday feature because of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  I was all ready to post some flower pictures until I found out, too late for yesterday's post, that Yogi Berra had turned 90 yesterday.

Yogi Berra was a major league baseball player back when I was growing up. But he is best known for his kindness, and for what are called "Yogi-isms", expressions that don't seem to make sense - until you really think about them, and then you realize they are profound in a strange sort of way.

But first, a little about Yogi the man.  Lawrence Berra grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of poor Italian immigrant parents.  He had to quit school in 8th grade to help his family, and always regretted not being able to complete his education.  He served during World War II, fighting on D-Day.  When his team, the New York Yankees, wanted to honor him in 1959, he asked that a scholarship for disadvantaged students be established.  It was.

He has done many things for disadvantaged children and teens.

I remember him when he still played baseball (he was a catcher) but later he became a manager.  I was in attendance with my then-fiance at game three of the 1973 National League playoffs.  Yogi (who was the manager of the New York Mets at the time) was one of several members of the Mets who went out to calm down fans after a fight broke out on the field.  The fans were so enraged over the incident that their behavior almost caused the Mets to forfeit the game, but Yogi and the others managed to restore peace.  (I suspect that afternoon was one of the highlights of my spouse's life.)

Now, at 90, Yogi lives in assisted living.  The past few years have not been kind to him, and he may not be able to make this year's Yankee Old Timer's game.

Now, for some Yogi-isms.
"You can observe a lot by watching."
"Nobody goes there anymore because it's too crowded."
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
"If the people don't want to come out to the park, nobody is going to stop them."
"You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't come to yours."

And, possibly the favorite one:  "It's deja vu all over again."

This is the first time I've had a Spring Thing about a person.  Some call baseball players "the boys of summer", and our spring weather, the last few days, has been summer like.  So perhaps it is appropriate to write about a boy of summer after all.

Happy belated birthday, Yogi.  You are a national treasure.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Update on Yesterday's Post

Thank you to my readers who expressed concern about a transformer fire at a nuclear power plant about 16 miles from where I was visiting in laws on Saturday night, and their safety.

The power plant, Indian Point, provides power to millions of people in New York City and Westchester County, a county just to the north of New York City.

I want to assure everyone that the power plant did not explode.  A transformer (a device that takes electricity manufactured by the plant and converts it to a level usable by the public)  failed and caught on fire.  The fire was extinguished but reunited, was extinguished again, and chemicals from the fire were released into the Hudson River. Now, there are pollution concerns.

There was no release of radiation, according to authorities, but, again, there are concerns about the release of this fluid into the Hudson River.  Also, according to authorities, there have been other incidents.

Quoting from the New York Times: 
"Mr. Cuomo [NY's governor] said there had been too many emergencies recently involving Indian Point. Unit 3 was shut down Thursday morning for an unrelated issue — a water leak on the nonnuclear side of the plant.
“We have to get to the bottom of this,” the governor said."

In the meantime, the plant remains offline.

If there had been an incident Saturday night, we would have been there to help evacuate my mother in law and developmentally disabled brother in law.  But we wouldn't even have known the evacuation route to use.  Would there have been buses available?  My mother in law no longer drives at night.

Just another aspect of long distance caregiving.