Monday, December 31, 2018

New Year's Eve - #MusicMovesMe

It's Monday and time for another episode of Music Moves Me.  And it's also New Years Eve.

Who are the #MusicMovesMe bloggers? We are bloggers (and perhaps also musical elves) who blog about music each Monday and if you have music to share with us, you are most welcome to join! (Music Posts Only on this music train, please!)   First, there is XmasDolly,   Her co-conductors are:  Callie of JAmerican Spice,  and ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥   Also, co-conducting  is  Cathy from Curious as a Cathy .  And finally, there's me. 

This is a day of endings.  Guy Lombardo was a fixture of my youth, as he and his orchestra would ring out the old year.  This is an early recording of the song that would become the standard for ringing in the old, back then.

And, speaking of parties:

Parties. (Prince, 1999).

At a party Friday night, spouse and I became reacquainted with a man we hadn't  talked to in several years.  He is a 74 year old man (still working!) who is a drummer in a local band.  He and spouse talked about music of the 60's and 70's.  Soon enough, other people at our table joined into the discussion.

Music unites all of us as humans.  And the New Year is a day for new beginnings.  U2 and "New Year's Day".

The Byrd's Turn Turn Turn, and its biblical lyrics, sing of a season for everything, and everything in its time.  What time will 2019 reveal itself to be?

I wish all my readers and listeners, all over the world, Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Civil War Sunday - Frederick Douglass

I firmly believe that if we don't remember the lessons of history, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes that past generations did.

A man by the name of Frederick Douglass died on February 20, 1895.  Our country could use him today.  Hence, I repeat a post from February of 2017:

On February 1, 2017, someone in high office said something that seemed to imply that Douglass was still alive.  His descendants decided to turn that into a teachable moment. 

It is my pleasure to introduce you, my reader (knowing that some of you are not from the United States) to this most remarkable man who had many ties with my native New York State.

Frederick Douglass never knew his exact birth date.  He was born into slavery in Maryland sometime during February of 1818. His original name was Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey.  He barely knew his mother, whom he was separated from at an early age (not uncommon with slaves in that area) and was raised by his grandmother. His birth mother died when Douglass was 10.

At around the age of 12, the young Douglass was hired out to a man living in Baltimore, Hugh Auld, brother of Douglass's owner Thomas Auld. Hugh Auld and his wife were not experienced slave keepers, which may explain what happened next.

Hugh Auld's wife started to teach Douglass the alphabet.  I can not emphasize here the importance of this act - slaves were not permitted literacy, and in many places, teaching a slave to read or write was a crime.  Any slave, in turn, who was literate had to hide that fact or risk heavy punishment or even death.

Imagine that your love of reading must be kept secret, as you have no right to be literate.

Soon enough, Hugh Auld convinced his wife that teaching Douglass was a mistake.  But it was too late.  In secret, Douglass taught himself to read and write, using various resources, including a school primer owned by Hugh Auld's son, and the Bible.  Later, as a teenager, he was hired out to another man and started an underground slave school for the other neighborhood slaves.  He was caught and brutally punished by being hired out to a known "slave breaker".  Almost psychologically broken, he still managed to survive the experience.

Eventually, in 1838, Douglass was able to escape to the free state of Pennsylvania and then onward to free New York City.  He married (he and his first wife were together for 44 years) and they settled in Massachusetts, another free state.

Douglass eventually took the last name of "Douglass" from a poem, The Lady of the Lake, by Walter Scott.  While still living in Massachusetts, he joined the abolitionist movement - a movement to abolish slavery.  By the early 1840's, Douglass was traveling frequently and giving the most eloquent speeches many had ever heard.

Some people didn't even believe he had ever been a slave, so Douglass decided to write the first of several autobiographies to educate the public about his origins and early life story.  This book, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (published in 1845), is in the public domain here and in most countries.  If you look online, and it is legal, you will find PDFs of it on many websites.  It is about 108 pages.

Keep in mind that Douglass, at this point, is still an escaped slave.  It was quite possible his owner, Thomas Auld, could hire people to capture him and bring him back to slavery.  After all, he was Auld's property.  So, also in 1845, just as the Irish Potato Famine was starting, Douglass traveled to Ireland and Britain, and spent the next two years there.  There are several historical plaques in Britain and Ireland commemorating that visit.  More importantly, British supporters raised enough money  and Douglass was able to purchase his freedom from Thomas Auld.

Returning to the United States in 1845, he began his association with upstate New York, particularly the upstate New York cities of Seneca Falls and Rochester. If you are interested in learning more about Douglass, many of his other writings are online, free to read.

During the Civil War (1861-1865), three of Douglass's sons served in the military.  One became a First Sargent and anther a Sargent-Major.  The third was a recruiter. 

Douglass fought for many causes, including improving the lot of the nation's former slaves (they were all freed after the Civil War), education, and women's right to vote.  He used words, not violence, to advance the causes he believed in.  I must also point out that his beliefs were sometimes complicated, and contradictory.

Douglass believed in the young art of photography, and was the most photographed man, it is said, of the 19th century.

Politically, Douglass was the first African American to be nominated for Vice-President (he did not support this, and did not campaign) and the first African American man to receive a vote for President.

In addition to his work in the abolitionist movement, Douglass also did much work in the women's suffrage movement.  If you are a woman in the United States, you owe much to Frederick Douglass.

Here is another part of this amazing life story: In 1877, knowing his former owner Thomas Auld was dying, Frederick Douglass traveled to Auld's side and they reconciled.  I don't know if I could ever have done that if I had been a former slave.  Could you have?

Which brings me to these statues.

Douglass lived for about 25 years in Rochester, New York, also the home of suffragist Susan B. Anthony.  Near Anthony's home is a small park, and there, you will find this statue, called "Let's Have Tea".  Here, Anthony and Douglass's statues...well, they have tea.  A black former slave and a white school teacher having tea as equals?  That, in itself, would have been a revolutionary act.

Douglass died on February 20, 1895, in Washington, DC, shortly after visiting a meeting of the National Council of Women, and receiving the last standing ovation of his life.

Douglass is buried in Rochester, New York.  Here is his grave in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
Mural of the Douglass-Anthony Bridge, Trader Joes, Pittsford, New York
Also in Rochester is the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Bridge.

Although our nation's leader may have incorrectly implied that Douglass was still alive, he was right in one respect.  The vision of Frederick Douglass is alive.  His courage in learning to read and escaping slavery still inspires us.  His supporting the rights of minorities and the rights of women continue to be carried forward by those who still believe in his vision. He taught that protest must always be peaceful, and that we must never give up when protesting for a just cause.

This year (2018) marks the 200th anniversary of Douglass's unknown birthday.

Come to think of it - yes, in a way, maybe Frederick Douglass is still alive - in all of us.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Throwback Saturday - The Non Persistance of Vision

Back in 2015, I wrote several blog posts on what I had been learning in a falls prevention class.  As my regular readers know, I have fallen several times in the past few years.

Last night, my spouse and I went to the retirement party for my "guest photographer", a friend who has provided photos for my blogs from time to time.  One of her former co workers is legally blind, and is a client of a local organization called AVRE.

I am extremely nearsighted, and I learned about the importance of vision at an early age. I've been wearing glasses since I was four.  Since the age of around eight, my non corrected vision has been in the realm of what the State of New York considers legal blindness.  Fortunately (at least up to now), it has been correctable with glasses.

At one class I attended in 2015, we were treated to a talk by Diane McMillan of AVRE in Binghamton, New York.  Diane is dual-certified as a low vision therapist and a vision rehab therapist, and personally suffers from a couple of disabling eye diseases.  So, not only can she talk the talk, she also knows, from personal experience, what "it is like".  Hence, my information from 2015:

What is AVRE?
"AVRE is a private, non-profit organization that serves people with sustained and severe vision loss. People of all ages, from infants to seniors, can and do benefit from our services. We offer a range of learning. living, and working options for people with sustained and severe vision loss."

There are many eye diseases that can affect vision. Anyone suffering from these conditions becomes more prone to falling.  In fact, a blogger I enjoy, Amy Bovaird , has blogged at length about her life with a vision disability, her adventures (if I can call them that) in falling and how her life has strengthened her faith.  Amy's blog is Christian faith-centered but there are other bloggers with vision impairments who blog from a more secular viewpoint.

It turned out that a couple of people in my class suffer from macular degeneration.  Diane explained it so well, complete with pictures taken that show the way people with macular degeneration will see a particular picture vs. people with healthy eyes, that I understand it better now.  Amy Bovaird's blog has a lot of information about macular degeneration.

We also learned about glaucoma.

Diane's message was a message of hope.  She taught us (noting I am not a medical professional, or vision professional, and you should have annual eye exams, always):

1.  Be self aware.  Test yourself monthly (it only takes a couple of minutes) with something called an Amsler Grid.  Diane told us that you have any problems (the website describes what you are looking for when you use the grid) consider this an emergency and contact an eye care professional immediately.  In general, if anything is amiss, err on the side of caution and report it to your eye care professional immediately.  Sometimes, a timely exam can be the difference between a good outcome, and the opposite.  (Since 2015, a close family member learned about this through experience.)

2.  Have that annual eye exam!  The eye cancer someone I know made a full recovery from was detected on an annual eye exam.

3.  If you are diagnosed with an eye disease, all is not lost.  Some conditions can be treated.  Other conditions may not respond to treatment, but with proper training, and assistance, you can still lead a worthwhile life.  The two women in my class with macular degeneration were proof of that.

#3, especially, resonated with me, because I have always dreaded the day the eye doctor will say "we no longer have a prescription for you."  I hope that day never comes.

Going into the New Year, please protect your vision!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Mild #SkywatchFriday

Friday, December 21 at noontime in downtown Binghamton, New York.  Fall was giving way to winter.  It was mild.

I left my office building and was amazed at the cloud show that awaited me as I walked towards a historic office building to listen to some caroling.

Broome County Courthouse, silhouetted against the sky.

A slightly different angle.
To the left, the old city hall.  I used to work, many many years ago, in the red and white brick building directly to its right.  I don't know what is in there now.

And that evening, after taking a short after-work walk...the sunset.

What a way to start winter.  Now that it's winter, it's raining.  Go figure.

Join Yogi and the other bloggers who watch the sky each Friday on #SkywatchFriday.

Happy New Year (almost) to my fellow sky watchers.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Sixteen Sycamores - #ThursdayTreeLove

Even in the largest city in the United States, you can find and enjoy trees.

In a Brookyn (part of New York City) neighborhood called Boerum Hill, adjoining downtown Brooklyn, we found this small oasis on Schermerhorn St. between Nevins St. and 3 Ave while walking to the subway on Christmas Eve.

It was called "Sixteen Sycamores"

Sycamores, also known as plane trees, are a tree native to the New York City area, identifiable by the white and brown patchy bark.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that New York City is only a city of skyscrapers.  Yes, there are plenty of those, but you can find the most delightful things if you keep your eyes on where you walk.

This is the final Tree Love post of the year and I am so happy to end this with pictures taken in New York City, the city of my birth.

Join Parul and other bloggers on the second and fourth Thursday of the year for #ThursdayTreeLove.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Traditions End Traditions Begin

House decorated for Christmas, December 2014, Yonkers, NY
For several years, I spent every Christmas in Yonkers, New York, with some of my husband's family.  Now, my mother in law is gone, and the woman who hosted this dinner can not do so this year.  We wouldn't have been able to come, anyway.  This year, neither of us had the heart to do anything related to Christmas.

Yet, I do have some precious memories of the years when, after dinner, my spouse, sister in law and I would walk to Cross County Shopping Center.

In Yonkers, New York, there is an outdoor shopping center. Both my spouse and I shopped there (well, our parents did - we were just along for the ride) when we were small.

Back in the early 1960's this outdoor mall, the first in Westchester County, New York, contained large and small stores, a play area, and even a hospital.

It was called Cross County Center then, and Cross County Shopping Center now.  It opened in 1954 and is still going strong, unlike many other malls of the era. 

My parents would take two buses from our apartment in the Bronx (the northern borough of New York City, which borders Yonkers) to Cross County just to shop there.  I loved those outings.

Several years ago, I was chatting with a co worker where I work in Binghamton, in upstate New York.  I don't remember how we got on the topic of our childhoods, but I discovered that she had been born in the Cross County Hospital, and spent her early childhood in Yonkers, before moving away, eventually to Binghamton.

Small world.

Then, when I shared the fact that I had Christmas dinner every year in walking distance of that same shopping center, she asked me a favor: would I take a picture of the hospital for her?

I had to break the news to her that the hospital had closed in the 1980's.  The good news was, the building was still there.  I told her I would do my best to get a picture.

So, in 2014, after Christmas dinner, my spouse, my son and I walked to Cross County.

Red and white building on the right, once a hospital, was being renovated into a hotel
 I took the picture she asked for.

Can you imagine, one day visiting the city of your birth and staying in the building where you were born in?  In a small way, I envy her.

My mother in law's passing on Black Friday, in a way, has made us realize how much of an anchor she was in our lives.  For us, we have to discard some old traditions now, but we know new ones will replace them.  Perhaps what we did this year (which I may blog about in January) will start new holiday traditions - and, in some ways, change is good.

We'll hope.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Throwback for Christmas - A Christmas Carol

Classics are classics because they are timeless. Today's throwback post (except for the picture, which is from last week) is one from 2016.

No matter what your nationality or religion, a story written over 100 years ago still teaches us eternal truths.

"A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas" by the British author Charles Dickens, was published on December 19, 1843.  It had an autobiographical element but also combines various Christmas legends and traditions.

If you call a miserly person "Scrooge", or declare "Bah, humbug!" you are channeling Ebenezer Scrooge, the main character in this story.  The character of Tiny Tim, a minor character in the novella, lives on in our collective memories. 

In the story, Scrooge, a successful businessman lacking the most basic emotions of humanity such as love or kindness is visited by his dead business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley's ghost has a warning for his former partner - the ghost, who was a lot like Scrooge while alive, has been walking the Earth these past seven years, unable to atone for his sins.  It is too late for Marley but it isn't too late for Scrooge.  Scrooge, said Marley's ghost, would be visited by several ghosts and given his last chance to develop the best in human qualities.

Three ghosts follow Marley's ghost - the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come, to instruct Scrooge.

At the end of the experience, Scrooge is a changed man.

Here is a quote from the book:

“No space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused”

The book, more commonly known as "A Christmas Carol",  was an immediate success, and has never been out of print.

In these times we are entering, the story of A Christmas Carol is more important than it has been in years.  As Dickens said, so many years ago:

“They are Man's and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.” Some things about our world never change.
But, perhaps, like in the story, there is hope. Scrooge changed for good, and did not return to his old ways.  Rather, the book ended like this:

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”

May the chaotic times we are living in now resolve themselves - in the best of ways.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve #MusicMovesMe

Welcome! It's Monday and time for another episode of Music Moves Me.  And it's also Christmas Eve, so of course this post will be all Christmas music.

Who are the #MusicMovesMe bloggers? We are bloggers (and perhaps also musical elves) who blog about music each Monday and if you have music to share with us, you are most welcome to join! (Music Posts Only on this music train, please!)   First, there is XmasDolly,   Her co-conductors are:  Callie of JAmerican Spice,  and ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥   Also, co-conducting  is  Cathy from Curious as a Cathy .  And finally, there's me. 

To set the mood, a clip of a childhood memory from my growing up in New York City in the 50's and 60's:  the WPIX YuleLog. (and no, you don't have to listen to all two hours).  On Christmas Eve, WPIX (then an independent station on channel 11) would preempt programming and bring you a clip of a log burning at the Mayor's residence (Gracie Mansion) with Christmas carols playing in the background. Enjoy!

I love a group called Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and would like to bring you some of their music for this Christmas Eve.

The Lost Christmas Eve, from the album (their fourth) of the same name.

Christmas Eve/Sarajevo, the song that introduced me to this group.

And finally, first, a warning that if you suffer from seizures, you might not want to watch this next video. 

Although it doesn't mention Christmas Eve, this song has been used so many times by people who set their house Christmas decorations to music, that I couldn't resist one of those videos.

My final selection is  "What Child is This", possibly my favorite of all their songs.  The power of this song is amazing.

To all my Christian readers, may you all have the happiest of Christmases, one full of happiness - and music.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Last Farmers Market of the Year

On Friday, we got up to 64 degrees in Binghamton, New York.  By Saturday morning, it was snowing lightly, the warmth and sun of the previous day already a distant memory.

Our local farmers market is a year round indoor market, and on days like this, people flock there to buy seasonal items.  For us, it was eggs and brisket.  For others, Christmas cookies and other holiday goods.

For sale were mushrooms...

Potatoes and beets....

and celeriac.  Not shown, someone selling local romaine lettuce.  Baked goods, honey, and meat rounded out the market.

Across the parking lot, there is a "Taste New York" store that shares space with the headquarters for the local organic farming association.

Perhaps one day soon, the sun will come out again.

So hard to believe that there's only one week left to the year.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Local Saturday - The Annual Downtown Binghamton Historic Caroling

I spent some of last night looking at photos taken by people I know who live or work in New York City.  Such beauty - decorated store windows, office buildings, and even (yes) ships.

And then, some 180 miles away, there's downtown Binghamton, New York, where I work.

We have our own beauty here, especially on a December 21 day when it is in the 60's and the sun is shining.  It was unbelievable and the walk was a pleasure.  This just doesn't often happen on the first day of winter.

In a building built in 1904, a local insurance company has held caroling in their lobby for many years now.  This year, the caroling by their employees was yesterday.  As I entered the packed lobby, this was my view.

More close up.  The murals on the walls, I understand, date from the 1980's.  And yes, what you see on the staircase is is marble.

What a beautiful ceiling.

The singers and musicians assembled.

And sang Silver Bells.

Frosty the Snowman.

And O Christmas Tree.

Enjoy the season.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Is it Fall or Is It Winter? #SkywatchFriday

Today is the last Skywatch Friday post of the fall and the first of winter.

We have no idea if it is fall or winter.  Today, we are supposed to get a lot of rain, with record highs.  Yet, a couple of days ago, it got down to 14 degrees F (-10C).
There is something magical about the time around sunrise, whenever the sky is clear here in upstate New York.  Those days are precious and few, and are celebrated, such as this sunrise yesterday.

I wasn't in time for sunset, and didn't get the best of it.
A few minutes later, the red had faded to yellow (the light in the middle is a streetlight).

But sometimes, when it is almost night in a major city, the sky can be just as fascinating.   Not only that, cityscapes can be the most fascinating of all.

Even in New York City, you can get fascinating sky shots.  Maybe, especially, in New York City.

These two photos of the Empire State Building in fog were taken by a blogger, Bonnie, who blogs at a blog called Frogma, and I use these photos with her permission.  I grew up in New York City but haven't seen Manhattan at night in many years.
I invite you to read the Frogma blog to see different views of New York City that the average tourist would never dream of.  Like the post featuring these photos.

Maybe one day I'll see New York City in the holiday dark once again. Until then, I'll enjoy the skies of upstate New York just fine.

Join Yogi and the other bloggers who watch the sky each Friday at #SkywatchFriday.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Christmas Season Birthdays

Were you fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to be born in the week or two before Christmas?
Not celebrating me
I was.  My late mother in law was.  My sister in law was. One of my grandfathers was.

It's an interesting experience, having a birthday just before Christmas.  You learn, at an early age, that your birthday is going to be swallowed up in the greater festivities.  In other words, you learn to share.  Your birthday.  Attention paid to you.  That kind of thing.

One of my managers at work was born on the fourth of July (our Independence Day).  She was in elementary school before she realized that the parades and the fireworks on July 4th were not meant to celebrate her birthday.

A near-Christmas child learns early that most people get presents on their birthday and on Christmas.  We - well, we are lucky if we even get noticed.  Not quite the same situation as the person in the last paragraph, but it's similar in some ways.

Even born and raised in a Jewish household, I was not immune from the Great Christmas Takeover. (Also, back when I was young, Hanukkah was not the "major" holiday it is now.)

In a way, when I married into my (Christian) spouse's family and became related to two people in the same boat (so to speak) as I was in, I met other fellow sufferers.  We'd been there, done (or not done) that.  We always made sure we gave each other separate presents and cards for both occasions.

We learned to live with it, the three of us.  Maybe even, a bit (a little bit?) enjoy it?

Do you or another family member share a near-birthday or birthday with Christmas?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Running Posters #WordlessWednesday

I was cleaning out photos on my camera and came across these three running posters.

I don't run, but don't these posters make it sound like fun?  (VINES is a local organization that supports urban farms and community gardens in less advantaged areas of Binghamton, New York, and nearby communities.)

For Lyme Disease awareness.


It sounds like fun but I wouldn't want to do the training - just the partying.

Join Esha at #WordlessWednesday.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Bitter Food

It is fascinating how we differ in our perceptions, due to the differing way our senses work.  I am revisiting a post from December 19, 2010, one that has (no pun intended) aged well.

I was reminded the other day about how my spouse finds the smell of paperwhites very pleasant while I find it very unpleasant.  The owner of a Bed and Breakfast we stayed in back in 2010 told me about the fact that some people find that the herb cilantro tastes like soap.

Neither my spouse nor I find that cilantro tastes like soap but again, we have two reactions to the smell.  My husband rarely uses cilantro in his food preparation because he can't stand the odor.  On the other hand, I have no problem with it. (I do find the taste somewhat complex, but the first time I tried it it smelled to me like dirty socks would taste, if you were crazy enough to eat one.  It did eventually grow on me.)

So what else do my spouse and I differ on, as far as food taste?

1. The taste of broccoli rabe, a staple of my spouse's childhood (I'm of a totally different ethnic group) is heavenly to spouse, but I can't stand it.  To me it is so bitter I just can't eat it.  Even when it is prepared in a way that reduces the bitterness, I still taste it.  I'm not the only one; one of my spouses' cousins actually "feel guilty" about disliking her ethnic staple.

2.  Strong, mold-type cheeses such as bleu cheese and Gorgonzola:  again, I find these so bitter I can't stand them.  My spouse loves them.  His autistic brother can be persuaded to eat veggies if you sprinkle blue cheese on them.  Go figure.

When I had an aunt living in Iowa, we made trips a couple of times to the Maytag Dairy Farms near Newton, Iowa just so spouse could buy their blue cheese.  This was before their blue cheese became a "foodie classic".  But it is no classic cheese for me.

I grew up with smoked fish.  It was an ethnic staple for me.  I work with someone who can't even stand the thought of smoked fish.

There is one other classic reaction to food that I should mention, which is the smell of people's "pee" after eating certain foods.  The classic food causing that is asparagus, but there are some other foods that cause pee to smell unpleasant and/or strong.  I'm told that asparagus affects everyone's pee, but not everyone can smell it.  Fortunately, because both of us love asparagus, neither of us smell it.

Since foods are chemical in nature, should any of this be surprising?

Are you sensitive to bitter food tastes?

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Novelty of Christmas #MusicMovesMe

It's Monday and it's a special day for me for several reasons - among them, it's time for Music Moves Me!

Who are the #MusicMovesMe bloggers? We are bloggers (and perhaps also musical elves) who blog about music each Monday and if you have music to share with us, you are most welcome to join! (Music Posts Only on this music train, please!)   First, there is XmasDolly,   Her co-conductors are:  Callie of JAmerican Spice,  and ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥   Also, co-conducting  is  Cathy from Curious as a Cathy .  And finally, there's me. 

We all need a good laugh (or chuckle) from time to time, and I'm adding in a couple of my favorite Christmas rock tunes.

I was introduced to my first selection by Cathy at Curious As a Cathy, one of our co-elves and I have to admit that I enjoyed it so much, I played it several times.  I hope you enjoy it, too.

Straight No Chaser and The Twelve Days of Christmas (sort of.....)

The Waitresses and Christmas Wrapping, a favorite of mine from the 1980's.

Father Christmas - The Kinks.

From my childhood (1958, to be exact) Augie Rios and Donde Esta Santa Claus.

You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.  How can I resist?  He's as charming as an eel!  I wouldn't touch him with a 39 1/2 foot pole!  The Ultimate putdown song!  I LOVE the half hour cartoon (thank you, Dr. Seuss!)

And finally, since I gotta be offensive every once in a while (you can skip this one if you want, but I happen to be a fan of Bob Rivers) is Bob Rivers and Walking Round in Women's Underwear, from 1993.  (No, I decided against Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire).

So, that's a wrap - a Christmas wrap, and I hope I brought a smile to you today.  I have to admit to you, my reader, that this has been a difficult time for myself and my family, but I hope I bring a few minutes of joy to you.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Throwback - General Order 11

Today,  I repeat a post from December 9, 2012.  Sometimes, the more things change....

Today, my thoughts go back to the first day of Hanukkah in 1862.

We think we are so safe in our homes, but history teaches us that situation can change in seconds. Hatred of certain minorities, including Jews, is on the rise in our country.  We can always learn from history, but we also have to heed its lessons.

On that day, December 17, 1862, General Ulysses S. Grant issued General Order 11, which ordered all Jews living in parts of three states under Federal military control to vacate their homes and leave those states within 24 hours.  It is a sad, and not well known, incident of the United States Civil War.

A copy of the order can be viewed online.

The history of why Grant issued this order can be read at the links above, but to summarize, some Jewish merchants (and Christian merchants also) were engaged in the sale of black market cotton, which benefited the Confederacy.

 This is the order:

  1. "The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department [of the Tennessee] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.
  2. Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters.
  3.   No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits."
The order affected Jews living in parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi.  And there was no appeal.  Some Jews living in Holly Springs, Mississippi ended up walking 40 miles to Memphis, Tennessee.

What happened next? Newspapers all over the country (thanks to the Associated Press)  took up the cause of the displaced Jews.  Others felt it was a correct decision. Some Jews decided to visit Lincoln in person to plead their cause.  Quoting from the Sun Sentinel article above:

"A Jewish merchant from Paducah named Cesar Kaskel traveled to Washington on a mission to have the order overturned. Upon arrival he was able to arrange through an Ohio congressman a meeting with the president."

When Lincoln hard about the order, he immediately countermanded it.  Please keep in mind that during this period, Lincoln was getting ready to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which would free slaves in states in active rebellion against the United States - while meanwhile, General Grant was expelling another minority from their homes.

And what about Grant?  He repented this order both publically and privately, but it followed him for the rest of his life.  As students of history know, after the War ended, General Grant ran for President in 1868.  General Order 11 was a campaign issue. In his defense, Grant (after the fact, of course) said:

"I have no prejudice against sect or race, but want each individual to be judged by his own merit. Orders No. 11 does not sustain this statement, I admit, but then I do not sustain that order. It never would have been issued if it had not been telegraphed the moment it was penned, and without reflection."

Could Jews vote for Grant?  They could, and they did.  Grant won the election.
History teaches us many things.  With the recent shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue and other hate crimes of the past several years, this 1862 chapter of our history still has relevance to us today.


Saturday, December 15, 2018

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day December 2018

Welcome (I think) to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day in my zone 5b garden near Binghamton, New York.

December has been a strange month, as have so many recent months.  On Black Friday (November 23) it got down to four above zero.  We've had snow, enough to totally jam everything up.

Snow is usual for us in November and December, but now, we have temperatures in the low 40's and everything has melted.

Because of personal events in the last month, I haven't been able to care for my plants as I normally would, and today's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day will be sparse.

My Thanksgiving Cactus, though, have exploded into bloom.

Another plant.

I did buy an African Violet to cheer me up.  Now, if I can only remember to water it.  I've already lost several houseplants in the past couple of months.
I almost forgot.   My amaryllis plant is blooming.  Well, almost.

Outside?  After it's gotten down to four above zero (-15.5 C) already this fall?  Well, actually, now that the snow has melted, this has been revealed - buds on my early blooming Lenten Rose.  Enough times it is caught by a January cold wave, but maybe not this year.

And, wonder of wonders, my April Rose camilla plant (yes, a camilla in upstate New York!) is hanging on for another year, but there is no sign that it will ever bloom again.

Want more?  Head on over to Carol at May Dreams Gardens, who hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day every 15th of the month. 

Merry Christmas (almost) to all my readers who celebrate.  And Happy Holidays to all.

See you next month!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Sunrises of Almost Winter #SkywatchFriday

Sunrise in downtown Binghamton, New York on a rare morning when the clouds don't dominate.

Reflections in a window.

What kind of day will this be?

Later that day, the clouds returned.

One more fall Skywatch next Friday and then winter will close in.

Join Yogi and the crew of bloggers who watch the sky each Friday at #SkywatchFriday.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Brown is Beautiful #ThursdayTreeLove

"I'm going to be different" said the tree as I walked past it on a rare sunny December day. "Different is beautiful."

"Most trees either turn colors and shed their leaves when the first traces of winter are felt.", the tree told me.  "Other trees, the evergreens, stay green all winter.

But me, my leaves will turn brown and I will keep them for a while.  No bare branches for me. I'm not afraid to be brown.  I'm not afraid to stand out, to be different.

If I'm not afraid, you shouldn't be, either."

Join Parul and other bloggers who love trees every second and fourth Thursdays at #ThursdayTreeLove.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


In 2015, I blogged about the fact that for the first time in many, many years, we would not be having Christmas with relatives in Yonkers, New York.  Earlier that year, due to health and other issues, we had to move my mother in law up here, and about 150 more miles (approximately 241 km) away from those relatives.  And, as my readers know, my mother in law passed away the day after Thanksgiving.

One of the relatives down there will be 107 years old early next year.  She lived with her son, who took care of her.

Yesterday, the son, who was in his early 70's, died suddenly.  We had last seen him at my mother in law's funeral.

Now, he's gone, too.

And at the funeral home, I spoke to one of my husband's cousins, who had cared for her recently deceased husband (dementia) for years, and wrecked her health in the process.

I know so many people who have lost loved ones in the last two or three weeks.  A co worker lost her father. An acquaintance of many years lost his elderly aunt (he helped take care of her), while trying to raise three young children as a single father.

The path of a caregiver is a hard one.  The caregiver doesn't take care of him or herself, sometimes with tragic results.

Recently, our office of aging reached out to me because I had been unable to attend a "focus group" on what caregivers in our community need.  I really need to answer that email.  But, instead of answering their questions directly, perhaps I should just describe what is happening around me.

It scares me, thinking about who else might not survive this winter.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Darker Side of Humanity

Earlier this year, two blog posts caught my eye:

First: What Happened to Kindness?  It's a good question.

Next: Scammers (one man's experience with scammers trying to trick him).  After reading this post, you may never trust anyone again.

What depths are some of our fellow humans capable of sinking to, preying on the elderly and other vulnerable populations (among other crimes against our own species)?  We've been warned, with the recent death of my mother in law, about scammers who will try to send us bills "she owes" or try other tricks to benefit from our loss.

We were told about obituaries that gave out "too much information" - but identity thieves love them.

Why? Because there are  people who use obituaries to steal from the dead and their families.

It's not just the old "burglarize the house of loved ones while they are at the funeral" but outright identity theft.  One of the first things we had to do after getting home from the funeral was contact credit bureaus to make sure her credit was frozen and she was marked as "deceased".

Do you need to fill your car's gas tank?  A skimmer may steal your credit or debit card information.

Can you depend on anyone, anymore?  Even the government warns us about scams (a warning well worth reading, by the way.)

Is this what has happened to kindness?  We can't trust anyone in everyday interactions anymore.  Even phone numbers and emails aren't what they seem.

My late mother in law was scammed at least once in her life (by a "driveway repairman") and saw through an IRS scam several years ago only because they insisted on her paying "the IRS" with Rite-Aid gift cards.  The "IRS agent" knew enough about her late husband to scare her.

I work with someone who witnessed a family member trying to deal with the "grandson" scam - it was so realistic. Turns out the scammers have ways of finding out personal information.  That is what happened with my mother in law and the "IRS" - they had personal information on my father in law, who (at that time) had been dead over 10 years.

There are the new Medicare card scams.  

Scams targeting those who are victims of recent natural disasters.  And it goes on and on.

If you think you are smart, and it can't happen to you - well, it can.  I received a scam call from someone pretending to be from my insurance company shortly after my spouse was injured in an accident (perhaps I should blog about that one day).  Fortunately, I decided to check into the phone call (it was a message left on my machine) with the insurance company, using their normal customer service number - and their reaction was pretty interesting, too.

Back to the blogger who asked "what happened to kindness" - she now tries to look out for acts of kindness in her everyday life.

Maybe that is what we need to do, too - if not out of self defense, then something enabling us to reconnect with our fellow human beings.

Don't let the bottom dwellers defeat us.

Easier said than done.

Has anyone you know been scammed?

Monday, December 10, 2018

Christmas Music by Jewish Composers - #MusicMovesMe

Welcome! It's Monday and time for another episode of Music Moves Me.

Who are the #MusicMovesMe bloggers? We are bloggers (and perhaps also musical elves) who blog about music each Monday and if you have music to share with us, you are most welcome to join! (Music Posts Only on this music train, please!)   First, there is XmasDolly,   Her co-conductors are:  Callie of JAmerican Spice,  and ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥   Also, co-conducting  is  Cathy from Curious as a Cathy .  And finally, there's me. 

What follows has become one of my favorite seasonal blog posts, which I update a little each year.

Why do Christians in the United States dream of a White Christmas?  Why is it so important that snow is on the ground?

Why does White Christmas have its own official website?

It could be because White Christmas (the song, as sung by Bing Crosby) is the best selling single of all time.

It may surprise you that White Christmas was written by a Jewish song writer.

It may also surprise you that Jews are responsible for many other beloved Christmas songs.

My quest to find out more started in 2010, reading a NY Times Op Ed.  There are a number of these songs, and other bloggers and writers have done the research for me:  I thank them, including the  this article. (a must read, based on extensive research).

Some may argue that these are NOT Christmas songs, but rather songs about what I would now call the "secular Christmas". True, these are not hymns.  But it is true that the American celebration of Christmas incorporates many aspects of non-religious symbolism - this ground has been covered by other writers.

I consider them Christmas songs.  I think, in particular, few would argue that "I'll be Home for Christmas" isn't one of the most heartfelt Christmas songs every written.

(Note, I have not done any of this research myself.  I am not a musician or a music expert, just someone who likes to listen to well written music.  So if I end up spreading wrong information, I apologize.  I did try more than one source, but - as you well know- you can't trust everything you read on the Internet.)

1.  White ChristmasIrving Berlin lived to 101, married a Catholic woman back when that type of intermarriage was extremely scandalous (to both families) and defined Christmas for entire generations of American Christians.  (Incidentally, he also wrote "Easter Parade" and "God Bless America".)

The next time you wonder if you will be having a white Christmas, and if you can't figure out exactly why that should be so important, well....blame Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin.  This is the original version from 1942.

 2.  Winter Wonderland: the author of this song was Dick Smith, who wrote this song in 1934, a year before he died (the day before his 34th birthday) from the tuberculosis that had plagued him for much of his life.  The man who set this poem to music, Felix Bernard, was Jewish.  

This song was originally intended for Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.  This cover is sung by Dean Martin.

3.  The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire):  The Nat King Cole version is one of my favorite songs, ever.  This brings back so many memories of the holiday season in the late 60's in midtown Manhattan and the vendors who would sell roasted chestnuts.  The fragrance carried for blocks.

For this song, we thank the Jewish songwriters Robert Wells and Mel Torme.  The song was actually written in 1944 but this recording is from 1961.

4.  I chose Andy Williams' cover of Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!, which was written during a 1945 summer heat wave in Chicago by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne. (Cahn's birth last name was Cohen and Jule Styne's birth name was Julius Stein).

5.  I'll be Home for Christmas.  As an almost-history major in college, this song makes me think of my aunts and uncles who served during World War II. 

This song dates from 1943 (World War II), written by Walter Kent (who was Jewish) and Kim Gannon, and was originally sung by Bing Crosby, but I chose a later version from 1957 as covered by Elvis Presley.

5. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Ralph Blaine and Hugh Martin, has been featured in a number of movies over the years. This comes from the 1942 movie "Meet Me in St. Louis" and is sung by Judy Garland.

Last but not least, something I picked up in my research:  remember Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?  It would seem that Johnny Marks, the author of that song (and also "Rockin' Round the Christmas Tree" and "A Holly Jolly Christmas")  was Jewish.

So here we are with "Rockin' Round the Christmas Tree"  as sung by Brenda Lee.

And "A Holly Jolly Christmas", sung by Burl Ives, from the classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer TV special that is still shown.

Here is another list for your enjoyment.

Think of the themes of these songs:  Missing your home.  Childhood nostalgia.  Enjoying a season of lights and happiness. The different child (or reindeer), scorned by others, who becomes the best of all.  These are universal themes, and this is why these songs, I think, are so appealing, no matter who wrote them.  I also find it interesting that so many of these songs were written in the 1940's.

Join me next week for more holiday magic at #MusicMovesMe.