Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Remembering Home

Forty two years ago today, I spent my last evening as a resident of New York City.

I was born in Queens and grew up in the Bronx, both boroughs of New York City.  My neighborhood had rapidly changed (and not in a good way) during my teenaged years. I spent my last evening, as I did with so many late spring and summer nights, listening to gang members gathering to wile away the hours under my apartment building window while I dreamed of escape.

I wasn't the only one who dreamed of escape.

The Bronx holds many memories for me.  But it wasn't what I wanted.

I was never a big city person.  While everyone I grew up with (as far as I know) left the Bronx, some never left the city.  But I did.

Although I've been back to the city,  I've only returned to the Bronx a handful of times, most recently a quick drive-through in 2004 to show it to my then-teenaged son.

Every May 31, though, I think about my old childhood neighborhood.

Thanks to You Tube, I can be transported to my old elevated subway stop, and (starting about 2:36) see the housing project where I grew up. (It also amazes me people love these train videos.)
For all that my childhood neighborhood has changed since the late 1960's (and it has changed a lot) some of the old buildings are still there, and it makes my heart ache just a little to see them in this video. 

Even if you don't play the above video, you see a still of a church.  On weekends, I, with other neighborhood children, used to throw rice at some weddings (when they let us).  One of my cousins, in fact, was married in that church.

The funeral home pictured was there when I was growing up, as was the post office.

Now, living in upstate New York, I think of the green hills surrounding me every morning, and I know I made the right decision.  But, sometimes, the urge to visit the Bronx again comes back. 

One day, when things are safer, I may be back, listening to the rhythms of the #2 train, remembering the old Third Avenue El, and walking the streets of my project once again.

Or, it may just be in my dreams.  Sometimes, you can not go back.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Throwback Monday - Memorial Day

This is a portion of a post I wrote for Memorial Day, 2012, which I've repeated a couple of times since with some new material.  Today, I repeat it, with some editing, as this is the 150th anniversary of the holiday.

Memorial Day is the holiday where we honor our war dead.  In recent years, it has expanded to honor the missing.
Memorial Day in the United States, sadly, has also evolved into a major shopping event for many people.  It misses the element of what it originally stood for.  I must admit, I have taken advantage of those sales from time to time.

It is also thought of as the "unofficial" beginning of summer.  In my area of Binghamton, NY, the area carousels we are famous for open for the season, as do the lakes, and some other recreation areas.

But in memory of my late father, a disabled (non-combat) veteran of World War II, I will also take some time to honor his memory and those of other veterans I know.   Which leads me to a discussion of how this holiday originated here in the United States.

This holiday, in my youth, was celebrated on May 30.  Today, it is the last Monday of May, to allow many to have a three day weekend.

There are several versions of the origin of Memorial Day.  Some of the stories depend on if you were from the Federal side, or the Confederate side, of the United States Civil War (1861-1865.).  What the stories have in common is that Memorial Day, once known as Decoration Day, originated in a desire to honor the sacrifice of those who died in our Civil War.  The Library of Congress lists several stories.  Here are what are perhaps the two main origin stories:

Waterloo, New York, considers itself the birthplace of Memorial Day, and has a federally recognized Memorial Day museum.  According to this story, Henry Wells, a local druggist, suggested a holiday in the fall of 1865 to honor the sacrifice of Civil War dead.  The idea gained traction, and the first Memorial Day was held on May 5, 1866.

But there are other stories. One takes place in Mississippi, a state late a member of the Confederate States of America.  As that story goes, many of the wounded of the bloody battle of Shiloh (1862) were taken to Columbus, Mississippi.  Columbus ended up with its Friendship Cemetery full of Civil War dead of both sides.  Eventually, the Federal dead were relocated to other area cemeteries.

According to Columbus, the first Memorial Day was held on April 5, 1866, as the women of Columbus decorated the graves of both Federal and Confederate soldiers buried in Columbus.

Mental Floss has more interesting perspectives on Memorial Day. 

Some states of the former Confederacy also have separate holidays, called Confederate Memorial Day, or Confederate Heroes Day.

Regardless of what the "true story" of Memorial Day is, I want to leave you with two modern, local stories.  First, the story of a family of a soldier from Pennsylvania lost in the Vietnam War. 

And a story about a war that has come full circle.  My mother in law's brother fought in the Pacific theatre during World War II, and was wounded at Okinawa.  And now, years later, a chance to honor more memories.

May your Memorial Day today be a meaningful one.

If you do not live in the United States, do you have a holiday to honor war dead?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

No Horsing Around with These Trees

At the end of May, the majestic horse chestnuts bloom in the Binghamton, New York area of upstate New York.  This year, they are breath taking.
This tree towers over a two story house
These tall trees feature large, conical shaped, fragrant flowers.
Here is a closeup of the flowers.  These are white; there is also a pink variety grown here, and a yellow variety, which I have never seen.
And another picture.

What are horse chestnuts, exactly?

They are not native to our country, but rather, to the Balkins.  They were introduced into Great Britain in the 1600's.

One thing they are not is edible - in fact, the entire plant, including its chestnuts (in Europe, they are called "conkers") are mildly poisonous.  

Native Americans would make a mash of the nuts and use it to stun fish. They would then have to get rid of the toxins in the fish but it was an effective way to kill fish.

The nuts are edible for horses (and deer); perhaps why they are called "horse chestnuts". Their scientific name is Aesculus (with about 15 species - I don't know which one I took a picture of but I suspect it is hippocastanum).  The trees have an interesting history.

As for conkers, my spouse, growing up near New York City, would play that game.  It was a favorite game at one time in Great Britain.  Now, alas, children entertain themselves in other ways.

But maybe the cell phone-addicted children of today will grow up, and appreciate the majestic splendor of this tree.  I was surprised to learn that the population of these trees, at least in Great Britain, is declining.

And in another couple of days, in our hot weather, these flowers will be gone for another year.

Do you have horse chestnuts where you live?

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Local Saturday - Plant it Forward

I work in downtown Binghamton, New York, a small city of about 47,000 people some 150 miles from New York City.

On nice days, I like to eat lunch at tables set up in a courtyard of a county office building.  They have planters there.  Last year they had ornamental flowers.  This year, I noticed they had all been dug up.

Wednesday, when I arrived for lunch, I found this sign near the courtyard.

I researched it further and found that Plant it Forward is a public/private initiative which has just started up.  And, it seems that the county is participating.

This is what has been planted in downtown Binghamton in this courthouse courtyard:
Tomatoes (ard to see, but I wanted to get the entire planter in the picture).

In other, similar sized, planters were peppers, and squash.

I'm wondering if this program is similar to one also named Plant it Forward in Canada, because this one has a corporate ownership.  Is that a bad thing?  Not necessarily, as corporations need to be good citizens, too.  So, in the meantime, we have a small community garden right here in downtown Binghamton.

It may surprise you that I am not hopeful about these gardens.  We've had vandalism problems in downtown Binghamton before.  I blogged about the vandalism of a beautiful urban art display Binghamton tried in 2010.  They never tried it again.

On the other hand, being so close to the courthouse, I'm sure these will be monitored by security.

Will these planters suffer the same fate?  Or, will this initiative succeed?

This summer will be interesting.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Falling Friday - Fear of Falling

As much as the Stepping On program falls prevention program I participated in last year taught me, there is something that they never touched on.  Not directly, anyway.  My guess is, it isn't part of the official curriculum they must follow.  I think this fear goes hand in hand with balance education, however.

That issue is fear.

Fear of falling.

At one of the first classes, the two instructors asked us "How many of you don't go out during the winter unless you absolutely have to?"  More than half raised their hands.  In upstate New York, winters are cold and harsh, with lots of ice and snow.  We can get over 100 inches of snow (254 cm) in a year.  If you don't go out, you are isolated.

But if you have to go out, there are icy sidewalks to deal with.  We've all fallen on them.

I'm only in my 60's, and I am increasingly afraid of winter.

But it gets worse.  Stepping On teaches strategies, with videos and discussions, of how to deal with various situations that result in balance challenges, and that is all good.

I refuse to accept that becoming fearful is a normal part of aging.

I know a senior much older than I am. She lives far from me, so I only see her a couple of times a year.  She lives with someone, but still was somewhat independent.  She had fallen several times, but had never hurt herself. She was petite, feisty, and mentally active.

"I bounce back up like a rubber ball", she said proudly to me, one day several years ago.

Until she didn't.

Until she broke her hip, falling in her bedroom.

One partial hip replacement later, she has many quality of life issues, but one of the worst is her fear of falling. She no longer has flexibility.  She no longer has balance.  She is terrified of having to leave her house because she might fall.

It shouldn't have to be like this, in your final years.

Experts tell us that fear of falling actually leads to an increased risk of falling.  It doesn't sound right, but it does make sense.  And there are ways of dealing with the fear.

It's great that our part of upstate New York has programs to help seniors with balance.  Falling has become a major concentration of the medical community here, as we have a high population of seniors in our area.

But, I feel, it won't do much good without touching on the psychological issues. What good is teaching balance if people have already developed the fear?  How about a class on dealing with that fear and learning to find ways to make it better?

We will see what the future brings for the seniors in our area.  Hopefully, one day, being elderly will not be the same (in too many cases) as being afraid.  And, I believe educational programs will be an important part of this.

If we can develop them.

Is there a program dealing with the direct fears of falling in the elderly in your area?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Throwback Thursday - Watermelon Oreos

The folks who make Oreo cookies are about to release two new flavors - Blueberry Pie and Fruity Crisp - here in the United States.

This reminded me of my love affair with Oreo Cookies.  Although I have more or less broken the Oreo habit due to being on Weight Watchers (not officially, anymore) I miss them.  Here's a post from 2013 where I talk about Oreos and some of the strange flavors they've made.  Since then, even more limited edition flavors have hit U.S. shelves.

In my childhood, there was only one kind of Oreo.  Now, it seems, there are so many.  Maybe, too many.

But I still wish they would bring back the Strawberry Milkshake ones.

Here's my 2013 post:

Would you eat a watermelon flavored Oreo?   

I haven't tried one yet but this inspires me to blog about my favorite cookie:  the Oreo Cookie.
I am still pining away for the limited edition Strawberry Milkshake Oreo. 

The Strawberry Milkshake Oreo.  The best Oreo ever-strawberry creme, chocolate cookie.  (Nabisco, when will you ever bring it back?  And, is it true that it is still sold in Canada even today?)

Yesterday, someone at work told me about a limited edition lemon Oreo (with blonde cookies).  She let me taste a couple today and they are good.  They would be better with the chocolate cookies, but that's not what Nabisco is marketing. (Note: as always, I do not get compensated from anyone for any product review - not that I do them very often). Not cloyingly sweet, like the birthday cake Oreo (ugh) or the candy corn Oreo (double ugh, but I detest genuine candy corn so what was I doing tasting one of these?) or the "this has to be a joke, right?" chocolate creme Oreo.

So I went online to research the lemon Oreos and read instead about the limited edition Watermelon Oreos just introduced here in the United States.

 Could Oreo be outdoing themselves with new flavors?  I've read several online reviews about the watermelon Oreos (again, with blonde cookie) - and people actually like them.  They are not artificially over-watermelonated (is that a word?).  Why they are both red and green is beyond me - and who needs artificial color like this - but I am intrigued.

Of course, two of these watermelon Oreos are 150 calories and a lot of Weight Watchers points.  Too many, considering that REAL watermelon is zero points and lots of nutrition.

But I am intrigued.  If I can get to a Target soon (it's a Target exclusive) I may be tempted to buy a package. (but don't tell my former Weight Watchers leader.)

There are a lot of Oreo flavors that aren't sold in the United States.  Why not?  Perhaps we aren't ready for Green Tea Oreos (which do appeal to me) but why not the tri-chocolate Oreos they sell in Mexico? Each cookie a different chocolate and the creme a third kind of chocolate?  Or mango/orange Oreos?  Or raspberry Oreos?

Come on, Nabisco.  Bring back the Strawberry Milkshake Oreo and bring on the Mexican chocolate Oreo!  You are missing a marketing opportunity!

Have you had any of the "unusual" (to the United States, that is) Oreos?  What did you think of them?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Spring Things - Dogging It

This year, here in the Binghamton, New York area, the dogwoods have been spectacular.  They are fading now, but they have put on such a beautiful show for so much of May.  No dogging it for them.

So why don't I just let them show you.

In the courtyard of Christ Episcopal Church, downtown Binghamton.  No surprise to find one in a church courtyard; dogwoods have much symbolic significance for Christians.
Pink, May 21, west side of Binghamton.
Pink and white.
And one last closeup.

Our weather is turning hot and the flowers will speed by now.  But what a beautiful spring it has turned out to be.

How is your weather this week?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Impossible Survivor

She doesn't look like much.
May 23
But if you only knew her story, you would know better.  She's a survivor.

Yes, this plant is a "she". Not a botanical "she". Just a she.

 Her name is April Rose, and she is a camilla.

Camillas are plants popular in the Southern United States extending to areas such as Long Island, in New York State.  They are grown in Great Britain, and other parts of the world where it doesn't get much below zero (Celsius, that is) because they can't tolerate too much cold.

I love camillas because they bloom in the winter.  Well, many of them do.  Their flowers are beautiful.  In upstate New York, nothing blooms in the winter, except maybe ice and snow crystals

Never met a camilla? If you drink tea (not herbal tea) you are familiar with one type of camilla, one grown for its leaves.

Living in zone 5b upstate New York, near Binghamton, I despaired of ever being able to have a camilla in my backyard.   Then, last year, we found a nursery in Chapel Hill, North Carolina that specializes in what they call hardy camillas.  They are hardy - for camillas.

Hardy as in being able to survive a winter in Chapel Hill where it went down to -8 (-22C) last year.
So, in 2015, we bought our April Rose and brought it home.  We planted it in a sheltered area in our backyard.  And, lo and behold, we had one of the mildest Decembers and early Januaries on record.
Until, suddenly, it went down to -10 F.  Would the flower buds, already formed, survive?

They did.  The plant, and the buds, survived the rest of the winter.

The buds started to open in April.  But one day, we came home, and the buds were scattered all over the ground.  Heartbroken, we protected the plant, and the few buds it had left, with a fence.
April 23
 No, I didn't blog about that.  I still don't know what animal did that to April Rose.

In the past few days, the remaining buds started to open.  The flowers are smaller than they should be, and it is possible we needed to fertilize the plant (we did so last week).

But my April Rose has done the impossible.

She survived.

She is blooming.

In upstate New York.

She has done the impossible.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Music Monday - Time Waits for No One

This will probably be my last Music Monday, although I may post an occasional music post, depending on my mood.

Allium, West Side of Binghamton, New York
Spring rushes along.  Spring waits for no one at all.

Yesterday, I participated in our community's Sacred Sites Sunday - a New York statewide initiative that has various houses of worship opening their doors for open houses to share their art and history.  What I would like to do, eventually, is devote one day a week to some of the forgotten and (not so forgotten) history of our community.

I learned, at my second Sacred Sites Sunday, that a number of the churches in the Binghamton area community were destroyed by fire at one time or another, yet were rebuilt.  It reminds me of how nothing is permanent. Nothing is forever.

It made me think, too of an 84 year old broadcast journalist, Morley Safer. He retired earlier this month and died just four days after making his final broadcast.

Time waits for no one.  So, on that subject, a couple of songs for my last Music Monday.

Rolling Stones - Time Waits for No One

Driftwood - The Moody Blues (one of my favorite groups).

History, and the human experience.  Time waits for no one at all, not even us.

How do you mark the passage of time?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Bucket List

There have been several variations of this meme, which has been circulating on Facebook for a few months.  Several of my Facebook friends have played along.

I tend to be a private person, and I don't tell that many personal stories about myself.  But yesterday, a blogger in India noticed that, in a post about my father, I mentioned that he had served in the United States Army Air Force in World War II, and was stationed in India for part of that time.  She asked if I had any memories I could share.

What I do remember is some of the stories of his service that he used to tell me when he put me to bed at night.  One day, I will share them, from what I remember.  I don't remember much, and I regret it.   He didn't talk about his service all that much, and I realize, as an adult, that many of his generation ("The Greatest Generation") never shared their experiences.

With his memories, he also shared several items from what we now call a bucket list here in the States - a list of things you want to see, experience, or do before you die - with me.

While in India, my father was fortunate enough to have seen the Taj Mahal, and wanted to see it again before he died.  He never was able to go back, though.

Two other items on his bucket list, both not accomplished, was seeing New Orleans during Mardi Gras and seeing Washington DC during cherry blossom season.  He never accomplished these either.  And, come to think of it, neither have I.

So, just for fun, I am going to share this meme with you (one version of it) along with my responses.  This isn't a bucket list, but it is still fun to see some of the things I've accomplished or experienced.  And, if you could share an item from your bucket list in the comments, I would love to hear it.

"Bucket List - please play along. You'll be surprised at the responses. Put an "X" in the box if you have done it! Just copy and paste to your timeline (or maybe blog).
( )Shot a gun
( )Gone on a blind date
(X) Skipped school
(x) Watched someone die
(x)Visited Canada
( )Visited Hawaii
( ) Visited Cuba
()Visited Europe
() Visited South America
(X)Visited Las Vegas
( ) Visited Central America
() Visited Asia
( )Visited Africa
(X) Visited Florida
(x)Visited Mexico
(X ) Seen the Grand Canyon in person
( )Flown in a helicopter
( ) Served on a jury
(X)Been lost
( X) Traveled to the opposite side of the country
(x)Visited Washington, DC
(X) Swam in the Ocean
(X) Cried yourself to sleep
(X) Played cops and robbers
(X) Played cowboys and Indians (Indians in my youth, now Native Americans).
( ) Recently colored with crayons
( ) Sang karaoke
( )Sang a solo or duet in church
(X)Paid for a meal with coins only
( ) Made prank phone calls
(X) Laughed until some beverage came out of your nose
(X)Caught a snowflake on your tongue
(X)Had children
(X) Had a pet
( )Been skinny-dipping
(X) Been fishing
(X) Been boating
( ) Been Downhill Skiing
( )Been water skiing
( ) Been camping in a trailer/RV
(X) Been camping in a tent
( )Driven a motorcycle
( ) Been bungee-jumping
(X) Gone to a drive-in movie
(X) Done something that could have killed you

 ( )Done something that you will regret for the rest of your life
( ) Rode an elephant
(X)Rode a camel
(X) Eaten just cookies or cake or ice cream for dinner
(X) Been on TV
( )Stolen any traffic signs
(X)Been in a car accident
( )Been in the Hospital in past 24 months
(X) Donated blood
() Gotten a (speeding) or any other type of ticket in the past 12 months
() Gotten a piercing (ears count)
()Gotten a Tattoo
(X) Driven a manual transmission vehicle
( ) Ever owned your dream car
(X)Been Married
( ) Been divorced
(X)Fell in love
(X) Fell out of love
( ) Paid for a strangers meal
( )Driven over 120 mph
( ) Been scuba diving
( ) Written a published book/story/poetry
(X )Eaten snails

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Local Saturday - Armed Forces Day and the Curtain of Shame

Today, in the United States, it is Armed Forces Day, a day "to pay tribute to the men and women who served in our Armed Forces."

It makes me sad and a little wistful when I think of this.

Because it makes me go back in time.  Way back in time, to World War II, before I was born.

My father served in the Armed Forces in World War II.  He was in his mid 20's when war broke out, and had originally been classified 4-F (not physically eligible for military service) when the draft was instituted in 1940.  It may have been the fact that he couldn't hear well in one ear due to his hearing being partially destroyed by a childhood ear infection - that is what happened back before antibiotics were developed.  Or maybe it was his heart murmur.  Or the fact that he had a dependent - a younger brother he was helping to raise after his mother died in 1937.

By 1942, the draft boards weren't so picky.  And his sister, also raising his younger brother, went into the WAVES ("Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service"), the women who served in the United States Navy during World War II.  My father (I'm not sure if he was drafted or he enlisted, knowing he would be drafted - he was 28 by then) went into the United States Army-Air Force.  He served in Arkansas, Mississippi, and in India as a military policeman, and later an airplane mechanic.

In India, a country he loved and always wanted to go back to to visit (he never made it), he suffered a head injury that left him suffering from seizures and other issues for the rest of his life.  Because people didn't speak of these kind of disabilities, we, his family, suffered in silence.  You just did the best you could if you were disabled.  They didn't know much about treating head injuries in those days.  I don't even know how the injury happened, and I didn't even know he had one until I was about eight years old.  Because it just wasn't talked about.  But believe me, the children of these vets knew something was wrong.

There was a curtain of silence and shame.  And it was so wrong.  It still is, today.  Today, on Armed Forces Day, I want to shout from the rooftops:  "Stop the Conspiracy of Silence".  The one that makes our veterans jump through unknowable hoops to get the treatment they deserve.  The job discrimination they (yes, like my father) still suffer.

I know the mothers of two veterans of the Iraq-Afghanistan war. Not everyone is "fine" when they come home.  Some of these vets suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  Others suffer from their physical injuries.  There is nothing glamorous about war.  Nothing heroic, when it comes right down to it.

War, as General Sherman once said, is hell.

I salute everyone who works with our disabled veterans, and, in a future post, will blog about a local woman who works with them. But so much more needs to be done.

My heart goes out to each and every veteran this Armed Forces Day.  I won't say "thank you for your service" because that statement has become a cliche.

Instead I will say "Thank you for helping us stay free.  Thank you for making us understand that the price of freedom is sometimes higher than any of us in the civilian world can imagine."

Do you have family in the military of any nation?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Falling Friday - Fear Prevention


When you are young, it is no big deal.

Frank Sinatra sang about it in the context of failure - pick yourself up, start all over again.

But, as you age, many have vision issues.  Then, you lose muscular strength.  Eventually, you may even lose the ability to pick yourself up if you fall.  Seniors become fearful.  They stop going out.  They lose their independence, sometimes just from fear of falling.

Experts say one of the leading reasons why we become more prone to falling is because we lose muscular strength in certain areas.  That is why so many anti-falling programs emphasize exercise.

This doesn't mean we have to work out at the gym for hours, either.  The program I participated in last year, Stepping On, recommended eight exercises. Four are done daily and four are done every other day (or, three times a week).

As always, a disclaimer:  if you are prone to falls, have a professional teach you the exercises.  I can't emphasize this enough.  This can be done by a trained instructor or a physical therapist. We were taught by trained instructors and two physical therapists.

I am not a qualified falls prevention instructor, so I turned to You Tube, and I found a video that has instructions for two of the exercises I do.  One, the "sit to stand", I was taught to do daily.  The other, the side leg raises, we do three times a week.
Our instructors taught us that many people do exercises too quickly.  For the "sit to stand" she recommended we pretend we were an elevator.  As we rose, she called out:  first floor! (pause briefly). Second floor! (pause briefly).  Third floor!  (Then the same, as we sat.  Slow and pause.  Slow and pause.

Could it be that exercise, which I hated so much when I was young, may just be the Fountain of Youth we have all be looking for?  Maybe not youth, but it may save us from a cause of decline all too common in seniors.  And that fear, which robs us of quality of life.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What's in a Name?

 I'm taking a chance. I may end up in Facebook Jail for using a certain word (things like that have happened to others I know).  But hang on, dear readers, and keep reading, because this post is for real. 

In another year, we in the Binghamton, New York area may not be cheering for the team we call the "B-Mets" anymore.  Instead, we may be cheering for the....

Binghamton StudMuffins.


In case you don't know what that word after "Binghamton" means, here is what the Oxford English Dictionary has to say.  Go check it out.  I'll wait.

Back?   Are you smiling?  Or frowning?  Or daydreaming about one?

Anyway, if that word becomes our minor league baseball team's name, we only have ourselves to blame.  In fact, it seemed that was all certain people I now were talking about yesterday.

Today, it made the front page of our paper.  No, not the front page of the sports section.  The front page.

It came about like this:  this past year, we got a new owner of the team.  Said new owner decided to run a contest to rename the team.  So now, if you go to a website, you will find this (and this is the link you can use to vote):

"Starting May 17, 2016 through June 1, 2016 we are asking you, the fans, to vote on what will be the new name of the 2017 AA-Mets. Please remember we are looking for a new name that embodies what Binghamton, NY is known for - what makes Binghamton different from any other city in the world. The nominees are..."

There are six selections you can vote for.   And if that word after "Binghamton" wasn't one of them, no one would have cared.

Instead, this contest has now been picked up nationally (including on Sports Illustrated's website) and we in Binghamton don't know whether to laugh, cry, say hurray for what may well be a most impressive PR stunt, or hide our faces in embarrassment.

The website where you vote explains the reason for the choice and again, I quote:
"While tipping a cap to the players on the field, the "Stud Muffins" celebrates the collection of carousel horses belonging to Binghamtonians."

Yeah, right.

That new owner is smart, me thinks.  He made the front page.  He made national publications.  Although I don't think he crashed the Internet.

So, I will ask my dear readers:  What do you think?  And while you are at it, have some fun (just not at our expense), and vote.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Spring Things - Five Shades of White

White, white, and more white.  With, perhaps, a splash of pink.  Spring surrounds me as my spouse and I take an exercise walk in the Binghamton area of upstate New York.
We've been doing it for some four years now.

Enjoy this closeup of a dogwood in Binghamton, New York.
Tulips in my front yard (at the end of the walk.)
An ash tree in bloom, back in Binghamton, shows us its creamy white blossoms.

All white late daffodils, Binghamton.  So much white they washed out.
And still more white during our walk.

The last couple of days, I have walked in a coat due to the unseasonable cold.  But I have faith that the warm weather will come.

Enjoy the season, as it will soon be hot and summery.  And for my readers on the Indian subcontinent, I hope this post sends some refreshing breezes your way.

How was your weather yesterday?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

An Old Library Tour

 A question for my readers (and not just in the United States):  do you have a Carnegie library in your town?

You well may.  Funded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie, a total of 2,509 were built between 1883 and 1929.  Many were built in the United States, but some were built overseas.
South Carolina Carnegie Libraries
I remember two of them.  The first, in Fairfield, Iowa was a library I spent hours in during the brief time I lived in Fairfield.  It was built in 1892 and is a museum today.

The other is the former library in Binghamton, New York, built in 1903 and abandoned in October of 2000.  

It languishes, vacant, like so many other historic properties in the Southern Tier of Upstate New York.  (You can see it, just to the right of the tall building, partially blocked by a lamp post).

Recently, a local media outlet took a tour of old Bing public library which I would like to share with you. 

A sign promising development ages, in front of the building, along with the building itself.   Its steps are used by smokers from nearby offices, although they are roped off.

Viburnum, Broome County Public Library, May 16
The new library is much bigger and it has a pretty garden.   The garden is especially beautiful in spring.  But I miss the character of the old Carnegie library.  Even the children's library, which could only hold 12 people at a time due to safety concerns.

In some ways, the old saying is true:  "They don't build them the way they used to."

Monday, May 16, 2016

Music Monday - The Winter of My Life

Greetings, and welcome to another beautiful spring day.  We are under a freeze warning right now, and yesterday I saw some snow flurries.  My spouse, who is interested in the weather, saw streamers of snow in the sky.

Winter tried to return for a day, but failed this time.  But it reminded me (of course) of a song.

One of my favorite groups of childhood was the New York duo Simon and Garfunkel.  The other day, on Facebook, someone posted this video.

The Simon and Garfunkel song "Hazy Shade of Winter" was released in 1966, long before some of my blog readers were born.  But its theme is eternal.

In the song, the singer first declares:

" Look around
The grass is high
The fields are ripe
It's the springtime of my life..."
May 2016 My House

But, dreams unrealized, he laments, later in the song:

"I look around
Leaves are brown, now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter...
There's a patch of snow on the ground"

January 2016 Weedsport, New York
At least we missed the patch of snow this morning.

I wonder how the singer feels, now that he (in real life) is heading towards the winter of his life.

As I am, too.

How was your weather yesterday?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - May 2016

Today, the 15th of May, has dawned cold, sunny, and windy here in the Johnson City area of upstate New York.  We are under a freeze watch for tonight.  But the world around me is in bloom, and that is all that matters this morning.

It's time for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens, named because an Indiana blogger dreams 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."  Well, three out of four isn't bad at all.

Fortunately, we held off and didn't plant any of our tomatoes or coleus.

So, this morning, I ran around my yard taking pictures, refusing to wear a jacket.

My favorite, perhaps, this basket of begonias.  The plants are my Mother's Day gift and I put the basket together.

The last, late, jonquils 

The last of the tulips brighten the front yard.  (they have hung on so long, thanks to cool weather).

Also in the front yard, Euphorbia.

One of our many hanging baskets.

In the back yard,  our phlox is just starting.

Three bleeding hearts.  Pink.


Our lilac. This year the buds are so far up, I couldn't get a good shot.

Inside, a Mother's Day gift last year - this moth orchid has rebloomed and has been in bloom since January.  I don't think I will ever do as well with an orchid ever again.  Some of the flowers (I had 13 at one point) are starting to die.
A Thanksgiving cactus.
An African Violet starting to rebloom.

And finally, my Mother's Day gift to myself this year.  I took this orchid (can you tell I like pink?) outdoors for its photo.

Now that it's May, I can enjoy what remains of spring and look forward to our vegetable garden.  And, now that you have looked at my flowers, please go to May Dreams Gardens and link to flower gardens from all over the world.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Local Saturday - Should Disabled People Vote?

I was going to write a post devoted to spring until I saw this op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, written by the mother of a son with autism called "Why my autistic son must vote."

This is a partisan post (the author supports one particular candidate) but this post is well worth reading.


Because I have a brother in law with autism.  In my blog I call him "B".

To the best of my knowledge, "B" never voted until a handful of years ago.  He was registered where he lived, finally, and voted.

Now that my spouse, his brother, is "B"'s guardian, he made sure "B" was registered to vote.  Last fall, "B" moved to the county where we live.  This spring, "B" registered as a member of the party of his choice.

This spring, in the New York presidential primary, my spouse took "B" to the voting place, and "B" voted.  "B" didn't have any trouble voting.

Some may think that "B" has intellectual disabilities.  However, he watches TV a lot, and made up his mind who he would vote for.  If that process was influenced by the news channel he watches a lot (maybe because his mother does) - well, aren't we all influenced by someone?

Is he less able to vote than a neurotypical voter?

Should his vote count for less?

To both, I say "no".  He did vote - which is more than a lot of us do. 

Some people would say, he does not have intellectual capability to fully understand the issues. Perhaps he did not totally understand the issues - but how many of us vote for logical reasons?  Think about it.

But, to our shame, people with disabilities still find it difficult to vote in the United States.

Thank heavens "B" was able to register without difficulties in our home state of New York.  Shameful that so many with disabilities, who want to vote, find themselves disenfranchised.

It's a national disgrace.  I am proud, meantime of my brother in law, for doing his civic duty.

Can we, the neurotypical, do any less?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Falling Friday - Did My Falls Prevention Class Work?

Falls remain a killer, especially to the senior population.

A little more than a year ago, I took a falls prevention class - a program started up in Australia back in the 1980's. We were taught exercises, heard guest speakers, were taught techniques to get up after a fall by two physical therapists, learned how to walk on uneven surfaces, and listened to each other's falling stories. So, a year later, this is a good time to ask - did the program work?

I don't know the statistics for my fellow attendees, all of whom were older, and many of whom suffered from eye issues such as macular degeneration.

For me, though:

I have continued to do the exercises, although I haven't progressed in them the way I should have (i.e. I am doing fewer reps than I should be doing now.  And, I am not using the weights I purchased for two of the exercises.  Shame on me).  I do wonder at the percentage of people who keep at the exercises.  As they say, "use it or lose it". It's true.

Knock on wood, I have not fallen in the past year, and I think those exercises helped.  Being able to "tightrope walk" is a matter of strength in the lower legs and that has improved.

Because of our mild winter, I don't know if the increase in balance helped with walking with snow and ice on the ground.

I am not testing myself monthly for macular degeneration (now, where is that special refrigerator magnet?  Shame on me again, it takes just seconds a month to test.)

And, I remain fortunate to live in an upstate New York community with a robust set of programs for (although a definite lack of good senior housing) the benefit of its seniors.

I may never walk a real tightrope.

But growing old is an experience in so much, including balance.   I may eventually explore other options for exercise besides my walking, such as yoga.  But for now, I am satisfied that the Stepping On program made a difference in my life.

I would highly recommend a falls prevention program to anyone who has fallen, or has balance issues.

Do you want to see "Falling Friday" start up again?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Remaining Young

Our Binghamton, New York community garden has been plowed and staked.  It is ready for planting.  This year, possibly for the last time, we have two plots.
Our mail order onion plants are ready.

But are we?

For someone whose Twitter handle is "@RamblinGarden", I don't blog a whole lot about gardening, do I?

In recent years, I've not been gardening that much.  My spouse has taken up the main responsibilities for various reasons.  But now, we are torn in several directions and I am not sure either one of us is going to have the energy to make two garden plots successful.  Last year, due to unexpected responsibilities, we never even got much of our garden planted.

No matter what they say about age being a number, that number weighs heavy on each of us. Which is why it is more important than ever to remain young.

Over thirty years ago, we homesteaded in rural Arkansas.  After a 40 hour paid-labor work week and a one hour (each way) commute to my city job, my spouse and I could stay up some nights to midnight and can, freeze, weed, or whatever.  Or do some of the many chores our little homestead demanded.   And somehow, we found the energy.  (Of course, there was no Internet, and no social media.  Coincidence?)

Perhaps, if we had kept up this lifestyle, we still would have had all that energy.  But now, at the end of a workday, I don't want to can or freeze.  I do some flower gardening at home. I blog. I take pictures.  I feel so tired by 7pm.  And my spouse feels the tiredness, too.

But we know we have to keep doing what we like to do.  "Use it or lose it" is truth.

So today, those onion plants are going to go in (today, spouse prepared the ground).  Soon, we will be out there sowing seeds.  If you are traveling north on I-81, just north of Binghamton, and see gardeners located in a park, wave and say "hi".

We'll wave back at'cha.

What do you do to "stay young"?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Spring Things - A Day Told in Flowers

I woke up in the golden sun yesterday,
In the merry, merry month of May.
The tulips were glowing.
Near historic First Congregational Church, Main and Front Sts

At lunch, I went, with my guest photographer, for a walk on the edges of downtown Binghamton, New York. (You'll see some of those pictures later this month.)
We walked along the Chenango River.
Front Street, Binghamton, New York

We passed lilacs on a block where historic houses are being slowly restored.

A dogwood beckoned.

After work, a walk on the West Side.
Westover, near Johnson City, New York
Towards sundown, one last picture of crab apples.

How was your day yesterday?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Willie the Sparrow

Through the imagination of a child, a Hungarian story teller has found a wonderful way to allow us to experience another culture.  Children are children, no matter where they live.

Last month, I participated in a blogging challenge that encouraged participants to publish reflections posts.  One blogger (Angels Bark) posted a list of blogs she had enjoyed during the challenge, including one called MopDog.  MopDog's theme for the challenge was a person from Hungary who blogged about various Hungarian cartoons.

One was a cartoon called Vil (Willie)the Sparrow.  You can see an animated version, with English subtitles, on You Tube, below.

I love birds.  I enjoy learning about other cultures.  This, for me, was a natural to watch.
It seems strange for the first few minutes (the English subtitles are not in the best English) but stick with it, and an amazing thing happens.

You enter the world of a 10 year old boy living in Budapest.  His sister torments the family cat.  The boy  imagines himself quite the hunter but, from his apartment building window, he fires his BB gun at innocent feeding sparrows.  An old woman witnesses the incident.

That woman is actually The Sparrow Fairy, who comes to his room to teach him a lesson.  They argue and he dares her to turn him into an animal. She turns him into a crocodile and then a mouse.  Finally, she turns him into a sparrow.  She tries to undo her spell but her magic spray bottle malfunctions.  Willie, who is now stuck as a sparrow, is at the mercy of that tormented cat and....

You'll just have to see the cartoon, as Willie enters the streets of his native city as a wild sparrow as the Sparrow Fairy leaves to get her spray bottle fixed.  I've read that if you are familiar with Budapest, you will recognize parts of this cartoon.  I've not watched the entire cartoon yet, but I look forward to it.  Vili is a most intriguing boy.

Will he survive his new, sparrow life? (I still have to watch it all the way through, so I don't know, either.)

Are any of you familiar with the Vili stories?

Do you have a favorite cartoon of another culture?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Music Monday - Mothers Day Plus One

Today, a short post, as I rest after Mother's Day. It was a nice family day, spent with my brother in laws, sister in law,  mother in law, spouse, and son.  It was nice that my sister in law was able to travel to see us.  Everything came together well except that we forgot to serve the chocolate covered strawberries (sorry!) my spouse made.

But Mother's Day is always a bittersweet time for me.  My mother passed away over 50 years ago, weeks before I officially became a teenager.  That event has colored the rest of my life.  And now, seeing the mothers of acquaintances and co workers nearing the ends of their lives, it has become even more bittersweet.
Violets - Best year for them I've ever seen
Winter is approaching for our mothers, and its chill makes us, their adult children and caregivers, shiver in the knowledge that we are looking at our future selves.

Here's to mothers everywhere and for their children.

A wish by a mother for her child.  "My Wish" by Rascal Flatts

Beautiful, except I have no idea who sings it.
Now, more in my favorite musical styles:  First, a message no mother ever wants to hear, in one of my favorite songs ever.   "Bohemiam Rhapsody" by Queen.

"Mama, I'm Coming Home" - Ozzy Osbourne.

And now, onward to a new week.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sunday Surprises - Happy Mothers Day

No surprise to regular readers of my blog.  I, with the help of my guest photographer, are about to post some beautiful flower pictures for you.  Enjoy, whether you are a mother, were born of a mother, or care for children, or teach them.

My mother loved to grow things on her Bronx windowsill, including beautiful geraniums.  I dedicate this post.  This will be my 51st Mother's Day without her.
Crabapple tree.

Jonquils.  These smell so nice.
West Side Binghamton, New York
Broome County Public Library, Binghamton, NY
I'm told these are black cherries.  They smell like honey.
My back yard
Rural railroad tracks Broome County, NY
Flowering plum.

Last, but not least, dogwood.

Now that you have enjoyed, go out and make a mother (you, or someone else) happy.