Saturday, April 05, 2014

Where is Tabor?

Lots of them all over the place.
Some are even new to me.

They do not move.  They ache.
Yes, THOSE joints.  I have washed dock benches, washed patio chairs, washed all the bird poop from the deck railings, moved all (well, 90%) of the leaves hiding in the corners of the patio and under the stairs and around the container pots and behind the air conditioner back into the woods. 

I have pruned the pomegranate tree.  One sucker was 6 feet high!

I have weeded two flower beds and pruned back shrubs and roses in those beds.  Now I wait to see what survived this difficult winter.  I lost my large rosemary plant and perhaps the four new shrubs I planted this fall on the retaining wall and certainly a rose or two.

I have taken away the firewood rack and replaced it with the metal bench for the front porch.

Hubby and I took down two bird houses that had rotted and put up three new ones.

I have bleached the bird bath and removed the covers on the outside tables.  I put up all the hoses and found those hiding hose nozzles.

My indoor plants (some) are now outside and I cleaned out the plant corner in the kitchen that was covered in millions of white petals from the citrus trees.

I ache.   I can barely move.  Just turning my head is an effort.  My hands are dried prunes even though I wore gloves.  I am lying like a melted gumby on the couch as I write this.  (I still have lots of stuff to do in the coming days...if I am still here.)

Oh...and there were two birthday parties and a concert by Keb Mo that were squeezed in last week!    Ehhhh!  That is where Tabor has been hiding.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


I used to feel I wanted to be touched.
I waited for not only the physical whispering touch
on the palm of my hand,
but the sweeping touch on my heart,
and the powerful touch on my mind.

The touch that would make me swallow my breath,
give me flight
to soar over the universe
and see all and conquer all
and understand all.

The touch that made me into


The touch 
Kindling a fire that never failed to
burn bright and white hot
for its brief time.

The touch that reduced the impossible
to possible.

The years now trail politely behind me
offering only faint memories of smoke and ash
and little warmth, with a few glowing coals
as I walk away
to meet the not so distant future.

This is the time in my exploration
of the universe
I realize that
I want to be that touch.

I want to electrify,
to be the contingency in others before I die.

I want to punch potency
into others hearts and minds.
I want to send them up on a
spiraling cloud of heat rising
to see the universe with new eyes
and new possibilities.

My ego
Wants them to remember my touch
when they face their not so distant future.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

On the Turn of a Dime!

Spring began to venture into our neck of the woods this weekend.  On the turn of a dime it went from 40F to 70F in a matter of hours.  And with that dime still turning, I persuaded hubby to go on a small hike with me.  We selected a nature preserve that was a long drive from home, but we like looking out the car window, anyway.  Below is where we sat, at the end of a small 1.5 mile hike, at the end of the trail to eat our lunch of granola bars, jerky and apples that had been thrown carelessly into the back pack.  Yes, the ground was prickly and stickery, but I managed to enjoy the first real day of a spring hike in spite of the pine needle floor.

The hike back was quick so we decided to also stop at nearby state park on the bay.  There were others with dogs and kids and all other enjoying this first spring day.  The two in the photo below were probably looking for sharks teeth.

This beach walk was also short so we headed into the seaside town for a Thai-French dinner at an award winning restaurant we had discovered a few years ago.  It was never a disappointment.  I had red curry and hubby had a shrimp noodle special.  We started with wine and spring rolls and glowed like two lovers on a spring day chatting away with three other diners at the next table.

As we left the restaurant, I decided on the turn of a dime, to drive around the little town.  We followed a small road past the central church toward the waters edge where an old dock had not survived the test of time.  An osprey had returned to build his nest and the sun glowed through the clouds with such loving reward, I took more photos.

Then since it was late and we had almost two hours to get back home we regretfully got back in the car and set out GPS for home.  As often happens with technology leading the way, we tend to daydream more than hurry.  About an hour into our trip we had to slow down as several cars were pulled to the side of the road and the cars ahead of us, those that did not pull over, were pumping their brakes and flashing brakes lights.   A young couple were sauntering beside the road, the girl on the phone and the man carrying her purse and other items.  From their demeanor, one figured they had not a care in the world.

Once the cars ahead of us moved past below is what we saw.

We did not stop to assist as so many before had already lined the road.  We hurried by so that we would not be involved in some tank explosion.  The young couple had their day completely changed, on the turn of a dime yesterday.  And, yet, they have much to be thankful for.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Horse is Now Dead

Not to beat a dead horse on women's rights but...regarding equal pay for equal work:

"...Beth Cubriel, executive director of the Texas Republican Party weighed in further on the issue. “Men are better negotiators, and I would encourage women, instead of pursuing the courts for action, to become better negotiators,” I agree with Ms. Cubriel that women need to be better negotiators as our culture does not make it easy for a woman to take a more aggressive stance at the table, but that is NOT the reason for the pay disparity in the early years of a woman's career.  I think women are excellent negotiators, but they do it far more well for others than for themselves.

"You don't deserve equal pay on the merits, you just need to find out you're being discriminated against, then argue your way into equal pay. That is totally a sustainable solution that in no way privileges a certain class of women who can negotiate their wages or even find out they're being discriminated against and is way more efficient and effective than just paying workers the same amount for the same job regardless of their sex!"  I think this was the counter argument.

A most recent study proved that across ALL professions except for humanities, women are 20% behind in pay after their FIRST year of employment right after getting their college degree.  This is before they get married, have babies, and even have time to negotiate for a raise which are the various reasons given for not paying women as much.  This gap increases from 80 cents on the dollar to 70 cents on the dollar in some professions as the years go by even after controlling for variables such as part time work, lack of experience, etc..  Women are left struggling to pay their college loans with less income and permanently behind the economic spectrum and being blamed for not really negotiating well?

This reminds me of my friend who was a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy decades ago.  He felt that women did not belong in the Navy because the minute they show up aboard ship they affect morale and command because they flirt.  Really?  Female engineers graduating from the Academy have a flirting problem?  Well, men harass sexually and even rape, which I do feel affects morale and command structure, so that makes it even in my book.  (Not really, just trying to be snide.)  

This war is ongoing and women (and their men) are going to have to stand up and demand fair treatment, whether it is a promotion or an honest criticism of their work, but it has to be fair and transparent.   Thank goodness I am married to a fair and hard working man that agrees with me and sees this disparity and wants his daughter to get a fair chance in her career.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Maybe a Rerun?

I have just spent the better part of this early morning (4:30 A.M.) looking through my past posts to see if I ever blogged about my last day of junior high school.  I am sure that I wrote about this, but being rather casual about blog labels and being more cryptic than necessary with blog post titles, I could not find it.  Therefore, today you are in for a re-run.

I was reminded of my last day of junior school because of some of the comments in my prior post.  Some readers wondered why I was so passive in those situations.  Perhaps, some of it had to do with my being brain tired at the time, maybe I was a little intimidated by the elevated position of each of these rude men, but I actually think it was a more practical decision,  a decision of picking ones battles carefully.  I would not have changed them or the world much by a female outburst.  Remember those scenes in the bar where one man gets accidentally bumped by another and then the bumped man confronts the other man with a snarl and in-your-face response?  Well, the snarling one is the one who always comes off looking like the idiot or the ego-centric oaf while the person who did the bumping comes off as being apologetically distracted.  These men did not impact my job or my family...just that brief time at that moment.  I did not let them ruin my day either.

While I am not one of those in-your-face feminists, I have held my ground on issues when necessary and have tried to give that philosophy to my daughter.  OK...what does this have to do with my last day of junior high school and perhaps my very first feminist protest?

I went to school in the mid-1960's.  This was the first decade of drugs, sex and rock and roll.  It was also a decade of the beginning of the women's liberation movement.  Liberation from dishes and babies to working 50 hour weeks and then coming home to dishes and babies.  I went to a tiny school in a farming community in the mid-west, which was pretty much sheltered from all of this.  An out-of-wedlock pregnancy was the most shocking thing that happened there.  Pot had not moved into the small town culture and we had sock hops in the new gymnasium for our rock and roll experience.  Girls danced with girls and the guys stood around trying to look cool except for the bad boys who would sneak outside the gym for a smoke. 

The last day of school was only half a day and there were no formal classes.  We cleaned out our lockers, cleaned out various classrooms, ran errands for teachers, got our annuals and spent time getting them signed by classmates and talking about about starting high school in the fall.  The day was really a wash, and perhaps, that was why two of my best friends and I decided to shake it up a little.  We were thirteen and thus just becoming rebellious teenagers and women.   I wish that I could say I was the ring-leader, but one of the other girls has instituted the idea.  We had decided to wear jeans on the last day of school!  I felt it was a very practical idea since we had to spend time clean up dusty shelves and lockers.  But I also knew that it was against the school rules for girls to wear pants to school.  We lived in jeans on weekends, because we all lived on farms and had chores, but this public school required skirts or dresses.

I don't think my parents had a clue, because they said nothing when I left the house in neat dark blue jeans, white tennis shoes and a shirt.

We didn't make it past first period when the Home Economics teacher, a tremendously prim and proper little tornado standing 5 feet and weighing 100 pounds, came huffily into the classroom and announced that we would have to leave the school building!  When we asked her where we were supposed to go, she said to wait outside until "they" decided what they were going to do with us.  She glared and fussed and indicated that "This was going to go on our school record" as we carefully hid our smirking.  I do not think we knew what a quandary we had them in, because we were all top students and had held various leadership positions in the school.  But we were certainly having fun being rebellious, something that as "good" girls we had not considered before.

We sat on the lawn on a lovely June morning for about 20 minutes talking and defending our position to ourselves. We could see the principal and the Home Ec teacher standing at the office window looking at us and talking and we somehow knew that we had the upper hand.  The whole thing seemed more than ludicrous to us and that is probably what won the argument, the total idiocy of the idea.  I do not know if they called our parents, but I am sure that my friend's mother would have given them a real piece of her mind over being interrupted by something so insignificant.

While I am sure they had considered sending us home to change as the very least of what they could do, we finally were allowed to go back inside.  Within an hour we had forgotten we were in jeans as had all the other students and the last day of school continued without further event.  I wish I could say that this changed the dress code for the school, but it did not.  I don't think I was allowed to wear pants to class until college where crossing a snow filled campus pretty much demanded better leg cover.

Anyway, that was my first but not my last feminist protest movement.  (Chuckle.)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

That Small Feeling

A number of years ago I was crossing the lobby in a fancy hotel in Cairo, Egypt, to see if our reservation was ready.  It had been a rough airplane trip, a hot and sticky and dusty cab ride and I was already feeling jet lag.  I had almost approached the check-in desk with my last bit of energy when two tall men in white thobes covered by the traditional bisht trimmed in gold moved in front of me only inches from my face and called the clerk over.  They made no apology or even gave recognition that someone, a woman - me, had been brushed aside by their rude behavior.  They completely turned their broad backs to my face and began the check-in process.  I could have given them the benefit of the doubt, except I have been given the impression that Saudi men treat women as a much lower class and make all kinds of pretend excuses for the way the culture makes women behave and dress.  Clearly I was a level lower than their well-dressed women in my Western dress.  They wore shiny large watches and talked in firm voices and did not once look my way as they walked away to the elevators.  I could have been a potted plant.  They really did not see me!  How can you be rude to a potted plant?

A few years later my husband and I had been invited to a reception in the South Pacific to celebrate the completion of a large bridge.  There were drinks and hors d'oeuvres.  Hubby and I had our brief chat with one of the high chiefs and every single time I made a comment during the conversation I was totally ignored while the Chief turned to my husband to talk.  The third time that this happened I walked away and got more wine and perused the table until hubby was done.

A few years later my daughter and I had just finished a special tour of the catacombs and St. Peter's resting place beneath the Vatican (my daughter's MIL is Catholic and this tour was for her).  Once again I was tired from having been in an area with little oxygen and listening to rather dry history and having to stand for over an hour in close quarters.  We had walked up stairs into one of the many alcoves of St Peters church, and I was just turning to view but one more tomb of one more saint when two Cardinals dressed in crisp black robes and blood red sashes and red head cover walked right in front of me at a deliberate and slow saunter.  ONCE AGAIN I had become the potted plant.  The area was not filled with tourists and there was plenty of room for them to move away from me.  They walked so closely I lost my balance for just an instant and felt the robe of one against my ankle.  Not once did they apologize or act as if they had seen me.  They were deeply involved in some miraculous thought I am guessing, and when you are planning miracles how can you bother with a low level tourist.  If I had been Catholic I might have been forgiving and even a little honored, but because I have long had black issues with this church, I just frowned and turned away looking for fresh air and less gilded stuff.

I could list other times like this happening at work or at meetings.  I am a women and for some reason on this planet the other gender does try to keep us feeling small.  Well, times are changing all over, if ever so slowly both by men and women to a fairer world.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Too Many People

  1. There are too many poor people in this world.
  2. There are too many people with physical and mental challenges.
  3. There are too many ignored artists.
  4. There are too many parent-less children.
  5. There are too many homeless people.
  6. There are too many billionaires.
  7. There are too many obese people.
  8. There are too many couples searching for children.
  9. There are too many underpaid hard workers.
  10. There are too many people who do not like their reflection in the mirror.
  11. There are too many people who call names instead of suggest specific plans and ideas.
  12. There are too many people waiting in line for the next best thing. (photo)
  13. There are too many people staying at Yellowstone in August!!
(The black arrow in the photo above points to the guard who was letting people into the Apple store very slowly this past December as they waited to spend money.  #11 is what I gathered from my painful watching of CPAC as I tried hard to understand their ideas.  #13 is about my plans to share the geological west with grandson this summer and being forcedto stay in a much more expensive room!  I am guessing that you think there are too many people of some sort or other.)

Saturday, March 08, 2014

The Ripples

What I posted a few days ago did stir a ripple or two among my readers and that is perfect, because what in the heck is blogging all about if not a communal mind meld...aka Spock now and again? 

The prior post may have sounded more down than I wanted.  I AM a happy person.  I am in the prime of my life just like Jean Brody, but I also feel the ups and down of this roller coaster ride that I am on and I do feel I am missing something.

One of my readers made a comment in response to my last post that among her goals she had hoped her blog would be more powerful, would reach more readers, would affect more minds.  What a really cool idea.  I had never thunk that!  I probably would not have even started writing this blog if my goal had been that interesting and powerful.  I would have been way too intimidated thinking I might reach hundreds or thousands of readers.  I had the mind set that if a few read it and no one commented, that was jolly fine with me.  I was writing for myself anyway.  I would re-read posts and check over my shoulder at past ideas and learn something from my digital musings.  (Besides in the very beginning of blogging when everyone, not just writers, was out there testing the waters, I had a few brief cross-postings with some rather 'liberal' young people and their subject matter was, well, I had long ago left that place in my life, so I quietly shut the door on that and assumed their blogging was more about shocking and testing the shocks than thinking.  I even got to the point where I linked them to some "safety" products.)

But, other readers did show up as the year moved on!  Readers did comment!  And when I ventured out and commented on others' blogs I got even more comments.  I started to write for my readers and not for me so much.  But I soon learned that I had not entered this medium just to comment and write and then see what people said back.  It is too important to treat it so shallowly.  I have come to realize the personalities of some of the other bloggers and find that my feelings force me to comment on their blogs. I think that is much of the key, getting the essence of the blogger's soul. 

I decided to review the history of my posts and the two top ones which each got thousands of views were titled:  "Did You Know...any of these Thursday 13? #37 in a Boring Series" and "Bloody Murder at Tabor's Yard."

Besides being very poorly written titles, I am not sure why they were viewed at all, except for the bloody murder.  I am sure if I had put s*x in any of the post titles that would have been really popular.

I have found when people get very personal, discovered a serious illness, have some tragedy in their family or with themselves, the comments do soar for a bit.  This does not mean that the good writers fail to get comments in the three figures almost always and do not have to be fighting cancer to do that.  But blogging is a crap shoot.   I mean you have to be funny, sexy, and at least a little youthful to draw a crowd these days.

My readers also suggested in response to the prior post that should I make a list of what I want to change or do.  I am working on that.  And if it gets solidified I will share.  Even if it fails, I will share that also, because then the replies will grow in number ;-)

Anyway, today is very spring-like so I should at least clean the deck.  I, sometimes always the realist, am hoping it lasts and we do not have the hot weather by the end of April, because this HAS been the warmest year globally in history and those of us in the Northern hemisphere are going to get our share soon.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Rat a Tat Tat

One of my volunteer groups had its beginning planning meeting yesterday.  Some of us had not seen each other for months during the winter hiatus.  We are 8 little old ladies of similar cultural, educational and economic backgrounds.  The main part of the meeting had little substance as we all knew what we were going to do and just had to detail the when and where.

Instead we discussed several of the ladies winter trips, one to India, another around the world and another to visit relatives up north.  The the jewelry beader among us discussed buying beads in India that were more expensive than here while showing off her newly made earrings and the lady with the doctorate in forestry talked about her graduate school alumni around-the-world trip where they hired a converted jet that seated 80 and thus everyone flew first class!  We all talked briefly about our health and the awful weather.  Then we departed into the cold to head home or to run errands.

I was somewhat dismayed when I got home and dropped the mail on my desk.  I am a full-fledged cliche.  I am that person I promised I would never become.  I am ego-centric enough to have never seen myself as one of the "ladies who lunch."   There is nothing wrong with that group, but I always wanted to be the edgier one, the one who was REALLY making a difference, the one whom others liked but also looked a little askance at since I marched to my own drummer and they could not hear the beat of that drum.  I wanted to be the one that accomplished something special.  I wanted to be the one that was warmed deep inside by what I had accomplished, what I had given or helped complete.

I guess I am going to have to think harder about how I am running this last part of my life!

Monday, March 03, 2014

What I Learned

For the first time in decades I watched the Oscar program from beginning to end.  We had a pending snow storm with a predicted start big time at midnight and therefore it gave me another reason to stay up.  (If you did not see the Oscar show, you can totally skip this post!)

I learned 13 things and it is not yet Thursday:

  1. Weathermen get it wrong all the time.  The real snow did not start falling until 6:00 A.M. the next day.
  2. Staying up until midnight did not change my (lack of) need for sleep, therefore, I was up by 5:30 A.M. to see the weather change.
  3. The Red Carpet segment of the program is more than sleep inducing.
  4. For the first time I saw Ellen Degeneres in a dress and know why she does not wear dresses.
  5. All that stuff one injects into ones skin does something scary to the brain and turns old actors and actresses into really scary things.  (I was terrified of both Kim Novak and Liza Minelli.)
  6. Bette Midler should not take Valium before a performance.
  7. These people love each other as there were MANY standing ovations.
  8. Jennifer Lawrence can act but she cannot walk.
  9. Keven Spacey has charisma in spades.
  10. Jared Leto can not only act but he can give a great acceptance speech.
  11. Many actors say stupid and inane things, because after all, they have no script.
  12. Idena Menzel has a huge mouth and a lovely voice.
  13. Unfortunately the show was not worth 4 hours of my life.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Talking About Others

A number of years ago when I worked, we had a secretary that was a gentle old soul.  She was usually upbeat even though her personal life was a disaster (two broken marriages where the last dude tried to kill her and then at the most recent being a devout Christian and living with a Jewish man who others told her must be gay).  She was the kind of person who would take in every animal or small child if she could.  She was also the kind of person who could not get her work done unless there was a looming deadline and nothing else to fill the time.  She was endlessly distracted by things such a livecam polar bears or email chain letters and memes on the Internet.  I rarely asked her to do anything for me, because it was much faster to do it myself.

She wore her heart on her sleeve and I loved her and hated her at the same time!

We are both now retired and I made the mistake of befriending her on FB.  I guess I thought  I would see a better side of her when we were just friends and not colleagues.

She posts up to 30 posts a day on FB.  I have to scroll through them endlessly.  She has not posted an original comment or thought since I befriended her via FB over two years ago.  She instead "shares" a lot!  She shares religious statements from celebreties, photos from sites such as Style Genie, Traveling Dogs,  various animal rescue sites, FamilyShare, something called "Silly Stupid Statuses and Stuff" and other "uplifting" or "humorous" links.

A recent "share" was a graphic which said "I am a fruit loop and the world is full of cheerios."   I almost commented with a snarky reply on that one.

When I complained in bed one evening of her clutter on FB which was like the clutter she used to email to me  at work, hubby replied:  "Tabor, you must know by now that she has not had an original thought ever in her life."

The trouble is, she makes me feel like I am a cranky old bitch and I think I am just an intellectural, discerning person.

There.  Got that off my chest and did not hurt anyone's feelings...did I?

(Today...almost immediately after writing this post...she posted on FB that she had just won $1,000 in the lottery!  Is this a message to me from God?)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Notebook

Why do the most interesting conversations or events which grow into the most interesting ideas happen when I am driving my car, exercising, or getting ready for bed and when I have no desire or ability to write them down?

I fall into bed with the trail of a pure thought, perhaps from a joke or conversation I have had with my spouse, and I massage that idea and tease it and dissect it, finding lots of other questions and ideas emerging as I lay with my head on the pillow in the dark room.  I tell myself that this is something I should post on my blog, because I have a (small) group of followers who seem to be somewhat eclectic in ages, tastes and philosophies.  If I post the idea what a rich treasure trove of discussion might ensue...!

When I arise just before the sun and I find that the idea and the web of connections have melted like the snow on the steps, and I am left with ... nothing...but dampness which is vague and truly uninteresting.

I know, a notebook, I must keep and use a notebook!  The problem with this habit (which I have tried before) is I usually discover upon reading the notes later that the ideas are skeletons which can never carry any meat or I have notes that make absolutely no sense at all in the cold light of day.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

2 + 2 = a number under 5

Sometimes I feel so odd.  I may have a disease they have not yet named.  People who mix up letters and words are dyslexic.  What about people who find that numbers and dates drift into some gray hole and are barely retrievable.

I was a good student in school and got A's and B's in math.  I took two years of algebra, one year of geometry and a partial year of advanced algebra with an intro to calculus.  I was happy to find that I never used any of this knowledge once I left school.  For me, it was like working with puzzles and finding solutions.  I was uncomfortable in math classes and worked hard, probably harder than I needed to, because of my fear of failure.

Numbers sometimes elude me.  I keep close watch on my calendar as I usually know the month and sometimes the day of the week but rarely the number of the day.  But since I have a calendar booklet and a computer calendar I really do not care.

I frequently can be a year off on my age, and the same with my husband's age.  I know approximately the age of the grandchildren, but once they pass 6 it has become harder for me to guess as they do not show their age so easily.   I always need to ask my own children how old they are even though I do remember the years and dates of their birth and could do the math in my head.  I only remember my wedding anniversary because I have been shamed over the years by my husband for forgetting.

I cannot remember the date that my father or my mother died.  I cannot remember the date my younger sister died or her exact age at the time of her death even though this was a tragic time for me.  I feel badly that I do not know the anniversaries of these deaths but I will have to ask someone, write them down and review them for a time before they are in my memory.

I have always been this way so I know it is not forgetfulness in old age.  Is anyone else as handicapped with dates and numbers such as I?  Is this a syndrome or medical condition, or is it just me and my subconscious denial of the passage of time? 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Benefit of the Doubt

Benefit of the Doubt

(Taken at Bonaventure Cemetery 2014)

the elephant in the room
don't talk about it
carefully move around
without touching
get past it
pretend there is no shadow
ghosts of lives past
cry in your ears
but they are distant
and perhaps the
voices are singing
not crying
instead singing an anthem -
a rhythmic work chant
keep the peace
look another way
listen to another music
sing another song
a song whose teeth
are not so white
a song with less
sweat and tears
a song that rhymes
give yourself
and others
the benefit of the doubt

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tic Toc

The battery operated clock hangs on my wall in the TV room and is the rhythm section for such a quiet sunny morning.  It is the only way I know the time unless I am on my computer.  The refrigerator kicks on and brings up the rest of the chorus background sighing.  And, if I really listen, I can hear one of the birds, the soprano, outside singing in this very quiet house.  All the shows/snows have melted and if we get more they will be so little and last such a short time, I may sleep through it all. It is still bitterly cold, so I will not venture out today.  The river has been frozen over all month.

I am alone this week.  Hubby is off on a fly fishing trip to Andros Island.  This was my very expensive  Christmas gift for him.  I have no desire to stay at fishing camp with fishing addicts even if the food is all provided and good!

I have caught up on all the small and easy stuff and still putting off the income tax data collection, the dusting in the cooler basement, and the travel planning for the summer.  Taxes...everyone over 65 should be exempt from this task; they should just assess us a flat something!  I am avoiding the basement because I will see the weights and elliptical machine down there and be reminded that it is today that I should be using both.  The summer trip with grandson will include touristy stuff, visits with relatives, a visit to where my parents ashes were distributed, a class reunion where a good chunk of us have already passed on...thus I am putting it off that planning as well since there will be too much to think about.

Hubby left early in the morning yesterday and I blew off that day watching a marathon of detective programs on TV.  Something I have only done before when I was ill.  I watched a little of the Olympics, but it has become so jaded since I watched it as a kid.  It now has fancy training, fancy uniforms, fancy gear and stupid over-chatter bordering on a soap opera of their lives.

I am angry at myself for now having days ahead of peace and quiet and not much demand, and yet, I sit wasting time!  The seconds float away never to return.  Why does it seem guiltless to waste time with others but guilt-full to waste time on ones own?  Tic Toc.  Tic Toc.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What Are You Thinking?

That roller coaster of Valentine's Day is over.  Aren't you glad?  When we lived overseas there were no stores or Internet orders and I usually cooked something special for hubby and he mostly even forgot there was such a day.  (One could not accuse him of being a romantic!)

As his son and son-in-law have fallen in love and shown how it is done, he usually at least buys flowers and sometimes plans dinner somewhere special and gives me a well selected card.  This year with the snow and ice we stayed home and ate something ... nothing special but looked at a pink and red bouquet as we ate.  We have been married long enough to not feel bad about this.

For some women this would be a deal breaker, but he does show his love in so many other less traditionally romantic ways.  He brags about me and my interests to others, he kisses me goodbye, he makes sure there is gas in my car, he tries to be quiet when he crawls into bed at night after I have fallen asleep, he cooks great meals when I don't want to cook, he helps with housecleaning, he fills the bird feeders when I don't want to go out into the cold, he listens to me...well he USED to!

With the daily connection of FB, Valentine's Day must make it hard for some people.  Not only do you have to see someone getting flowers and candy at the office, but now those other ones post photos of what they got at home - that diamond pendant, or post photos of the fancy dinner at the expensive restaurant!  They gleefully line up their Valentine's day cards on their kitchen table and let you know how many people love them.

Personally I think this is so inappropriate and thoughtless and borders on bragging.  I am happy for your joy, but I wonder how it makes those who have no one special feel, I wonder how it makes that young man on a budget feel, I wonder how it makes that woman who just broke up feel, I wonder how it makes the widow or widower feel.

I think your Valentine's gifts and plans should be downplayed.  It is a private matter.  If you want to post an accolade to the someone or all the someones special in your life, then that is a different story.  Go ahead and share the love.

What do you think?

Friday, February 14, 2014

For You

Taken in Passau, Germany last year.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thursday 13 on the 13th of the month---Who Lives in Florida, Anyway?

Canaveral National Seashore
Apologies for stereotyping, but when viewed superficially we all seem to be either round pegs fitting into round holes or square pegs that enjoy our surprise at the snug fit.
  1. While crossing a theater lobby in Orlando we passed a young man in a suit (he seemed to work there) who weighed easily 400+ pounds. He had so many chins he was forced to hold his head way back.  He smiled and warmly greeted us as he moved past.  I wanted so much to grab his hand and find some way to help him live longer.  With his open attitude he deserved better luck. 
  2. On another day, while eating in a Perkins restaurant in central Florida, I gazed around at the customers:  There were grandmas and grandpas that were so fat their bellies rested against the table as they ate and they were not shy about putting away their 2,000 calorie breakfast.
  3. Also there, were hairy men in plaid shirts with lengthy beards that looked like cast members of Duck Dynasty, 
  4. There were two attractive women in heavy mascara, with large breasts and lots of jewelry and long dark hair who could have been rejects from one of the "Housewives of..." television shows,
  5. There were a few tourists blending in muted grayish colors who looked shell-shocked at the cold weather they had not expected, 
  6. And there were casually dressed middle-aged men who talked about their golf game and wore shiny watches.
  7. At another place, the Villages, (a Stepford-like conclave for middle class people who retire and want to live in an environment where everything is cotton candy perfect,) population 83,000 and currently lobbying for their own county status,  I saw old white people dressed so fine for a country club day.  But the only people of color that I saw there were the wait staff.
  8. While driving through Lake Wales past its version of Bates Hotel, which used to be a gentle tourist retreat, I saw people walking into one of three Bail Bond's stores, people with hunched shoulders waiting in line outside a second-hand clothing shop for their 70% off Thursday sale, and two skinny girls walking down the sidewalk arguing who appeared to be on drugs and were later stopped by local Police officers.
  9. At Celebration, an aging Disney version of the "perfectly" planned hometown, I saw happy children, well-dressed elderly, and teenagers in resort wear.  I talked briefly with an elderly man from London who lived there six months of the year walking his huge dog.  He said many of the homes here were upside down on their mortgages because of the recession.
  10. At Marco Island I saw tourists with cameras and binoculars not at all interested in their fancy condos but instead watching waves and birds with glee and asking us botanical and ornithological questions (as if we knew anything).
  11. Also at Marco Island I saw two young Latino men live-bait fishing and trying to avoid Hubby's questions on their catch since they probably had added fish that were too small to the stringer that was hidden under the waves and they suspected very much his claim that he was not with the fisheries office.
  12. At almost all of the restaurants I saw at least two beautiful blonde waitresses working their way through college.
  13. At the beach near Cape Canaveral I saw not one but two older men sun-bathing naked, one thin and gray and one a chunky-monkey,...not the kind of image one wants to retain on vacation.  I had been using our binoculars to look at the highrises in the salt spray distance (photo above)... when something bobbing back and forth ...yes you KNOW exactly what...came into sharp focus!  I am not a prude, but was not prepared, I must admit.  (Take note that parking lot #13 is the one leading to the beach for the free spirits!)

Yes, I did not have to leave home to see much of this, but I am not as observant at home.

    Monday, February 10, 2014


    They appear
    Like soldiers
    Blue or black
    In neat dress
    Standing sharp
    Ready to
    Hit their mark

    Lined up
    In perfect rows
    Leaving space
    Both below
    And above
    At attention
    Until I dismiss

    They wait
    For my command
    Mixed officers
    And privates
    Watching intensely
    To see who
    Will be chosen

    Who's first and
    Who is last

    I cannot
    Live without them
    And they live
    Only for me
    Waiting, waiting
    For their time
    Their call

    In boxes
    On calendars
    And on scraps
    Of paper
    Hoping they
    Do not outlive
    Their use-by date

    Hoping they
    will not
    be forgotten
    Hoping they
    Get a check
    And some
    A star

    Before they
    Are discharged
    With a single
    Hard line
    across their chests.

    Saturday, February 08, 2014

    Best Laid Plans

    My daughter had taken time for a girls' get-away to Florida two winters before and came back just furious that the weather had not been warm and sunny each time.  She has limited leave and it requires lots of organization to plan a brief vacation with her girl friends away from family and career.   Goodness, they could not even use their swim suits!

    I used to be like her.  Vacations were expensive in both time and money and infrequent, and when they did not work out to 80% perfection, I was dismayed.  Now that I am retired, I am thankful for the smallest things, such as feeling energetic enough on a vacation morning to take a brief walk.   I am thankful that Hubby is by my side with his enthusiasm for everything, even though I do sometimes find that exhausting  I am thankful that I usually see something new and different.  I am thankful that I can still take vacations!

    This photo is our view from our room at the expensive Marco Island hotel on the early evening of our arrival.  A cold and foreboding sunset was leaving its footprint on the Gulf of Mexico.

    Here was the view after breakfast that greeted us the next morning.  Notice how many tourists are enjoying the beach?  I pulled out the wind-breaker I had packed.

    Cold and rainy weather chased us all over the state during the two-plus weeks we were there.  Mid-week we drove to the Atlantic side and while half the day was full of sunny warm weather, by mid-afternoon...

    Still one must remember, that for beautiful sunsets you must have some clouds!

    Wednesday, February 05, 2014

    A Bit of Paradise

    We are fortunate enough to have friends that live in a small portion of the state of Florida that is still pristine.  Well, sort of...

    We stayed at the former home of  Captain J.J. Dickison, "Swamp Fox," and confederate soldier during the war between the States. Go to this link for more info:  "Although he served as a captain for most of the war, he often commanded battalion sized groups of men and proved a formidable foe to Union forces in East and Central Florida.  Dickison and his men captured soldiers, officers, steamboats and even a Union general during the war.  Although he was promoted to colonel at the end of the conflict, he did not learn of the promotion until after he had been paroled by Union forces."

    This is a private guest house and will be released to the U.S. Navy in the decade ahead as the owners have sold the amazing spring nearby to the Navy that has been doing sonar testing for many years.  I will post on my other blog photos of a canoe trip as we started at the head waters of this lovely spring one afternoon.  This land has been in the family for at least two generations.  

    The interior of the guest house, which appears rustic from the outside, is filled with many memories of the owners' trips and adventures during their lives and those of their parents.  I felt as if I was staying at my great grandma's house, with newer appliances and wireless access!  The house was so solidly built with sappy pine that after all these years the floors do NOT creak.

    This modern artwork above the fireplace is a "finger painting" from their young grandson!

    This location provided a quiet step back in time when we stayed there.  At the end of our visit, Hubby was off on a week-long canoe camping trip in the Everglades with the owner and I stayed on a few days longer with his wife, a good friend.  During the days when I walked between the guest house and the main home after breakfast I was able to observe about 30 wild turkeys walking across the yard and patio, a blue heron walking the edge of the spring, and on another visit a bobcat sauntering down the edge of the woods.  It is paradise.  

    I do want to mention that I was sure I had heard an alligator's hollow growl outside my window one evening as I snuggled into bed.  It was their mating season!  Just realize that alligators, for the most part, are more frightened of humans than we are of them, unless you are an idiot and feed them!

    I hate the thought that this bit of paradise will be turned over to the Federal Government, because they will not see the romance and nature in the place and will run it based on uneven annual appropriations. 

    Friday, January 31, 2014

    The Business Side of Living in Paradise

    Florida has over 1300 miles of coastline with beaches and a semi-tropical to tropical climate.  This is the draw for much of America and the globe when they want a vacation break from snow and ice.  This is where you can golf, swim, and play tennis year round. (Except many of the days we were here were cold and wet!) And this is where snow birds and frogs descend to escape the winter weather up north.  Snow birds come just for the winter and then return back home each summer.  Frogs come to stay until they croak.  Demographically in Florida, 18.2% of people are over 66, which is not as large a segment as one might think although it is higher than the national average.  Mean household salary is about $47,000.00.  I wonder if this is a typical working salary or a retiree's salary?  (All photos taken at Marco Island, some blurred -  taken from a canoe.)

    Got beach??

    Paddling off into the mangroves.
    My husband was raised in southern Florida, so he is familiar with the entire state and can really see the changes that have happened over the decades.   He remembers hunting on vast acres of pine woods and palmetto scrub as a teenager.  Those acres are pretty much what the city of Orlando is today.  Back then Orlando was a small cattle town with a few orange groves and large cattle ranches and undeveloped land.  Today Orlando is theme parks, time-shares and anything else that caters to the tourist industry.  We spent a few days on Marco Island to the southwest and the geography from their to Naples above which used to be mosquito heaven is now the land of the very wealthy.  Castles that are homes on the beach and condos that cost a million dollars and hotel rooms over $300.00 a night are available, unless you want a water view and those hotel rooms are twice as much.  Further inland, as is the theme in most of  Florida, are less expensive condos, retirement homes and finally trailer communities on small lakes.  There are  more than 30,000 lakes that cover a little more than 3 million acres of land in the state, most natural but some are rock pits created from development and phosphate mining. The lakes range from very small to the nation's fourth-largest natural lake, 448,000-acre Lake Okeechobee. The temperature difference can be more than 10 degress warmer when you leave the beach areas and head inland during the summer and 10 degrees colder in winter.  Toward the Southeast lies Miami which is much like any city except that there are more flamboyant colorful types walking the streets.  Above Miami is Fort Lauderdale which struggles to survive as an old florida town now city.  They have built a riverwalk and culture area that is rather nice in downtown.

    There were lots of people not in as good shape as this dude.

    The very center of the state still has horse farms, cattles ranches, and orange groves (although I was told 80% of the citrus industry has collapsed due to "green disease.")  I actually received a gift of clementine oranges in a bag...that came from California!  This part of the state along with suburbs outside the above mentioned cities have communities struggling with poverty, drugs and illegal immigation.  Not unlike much of the rest of parts of the U.S.

    Rick Scott, the current governor, has been against the Affordable Health Care act from the beginning, but that does not stop him from taking advantage of its Federal dollars.  Prior to his becoming governor his company was involved in a nasty health care lawsuit.  He took the 5th amendment over 70 times during the lawsuit.  He now has awarded his largest campaign donor a huge medicare/medicaid contract which most believe will result in much higher health care costs for those using it since it promotes for-profit health care which means a shaving of services to make a profit although much of this will be in the health care system in prisons paid for by tax dollars to profit this company.  His HCA company was reported on in a Wall Street (August 15, 2012)  article which reported that it used the profit profile to increase certain private hospitals' bottom lines while slashing medical care to many.  My advice is to not retire in Florida unless you are a millionare.

    Yes, if the weather had been better, we would have had a great vacation, but we did have a nice time and staying indoors on a rainy day gave me time to blog.

    Tuesday, January 28, 2014

    Granny Alice in Wonderland

    What had possessed us to stay in this area?  It was a coupon for a free week, of course.  We had spent money on a wedding and other things this year, and this resulted in us getting lots of points and the offer of a "free" stay in a condo.  The condo is in the heart of busy, traffic-congested, fast-food-filled, gift shop rip-off Kissimmee, Florida.  This is the center of the state and as if to test our vacation spirit even more, the very ridge of that famous solar vortex has edged here making the weather very cool and unpredictable with sun then rain then sun.  The condo where we are staying is a little larger than a postage stamp.  The swimming pool is even smaller.  We have a view of the large dumpster in the parking lot where they are currently dumping the building restoration materials from the other building that they are upgrading.  No shopping or restaurants are within walking distance, and the kitchenette is amenable only to cooking food via microwave.  At least it IS quiet at night and free!

    We had spent a long weekend at a lovely hotel (expensive) on Marco Island and then another week's visit with friends near Ocala prior to this, so this wrap-up week is a bit of a downer.

    Kissimmee, for those who do not know, is near three thousand (well a bunch of!) theme parks and shows and good and bad restaurants in Orlando.  You can visit Disney (3 theme parks), Universal Studios (2 theme parks), the Holy Land, Busch Gardens, Dinosaur World, and Cypress Gardens now LegoLand...just to name the most obvious.  You can visit Sea World and take a ride past penguins, blast off in a Jetlev personal flying machine, take a gater filled airboat ride, off-road somewhere in the jungle, swim with dolphins, zip line at the zoo or get tickets for their paint-ball shoot experience.  There are all kinds of Las Vegas type shows to fill your rainy afternoons and evenings.  If you have the money and time, you can do it all and stroll through the many outlet stores!

    We have 'been there-done that' with our children and grandchildren over the years, and while we have not visited every single theme park or seen every single show, we are life-time satiated.  We are also here without young ones and have no need to maintain a check-off the list.  (If you are young, I am sure this sounds depressing to you, but when you get to be our age, you will not find it depressing.)

    So, yesterday we drove to a state park, put in our canoe and paddled down a river to a lake.  I took a ton of bird photos (will share a few later on my other blog), saw deer, my first wild pig, and enjoyed a misty day.  The day before we visited the Orlando Zoo and a Florida spring, both which were nice if not thrilling.  Today they predict rain, so we may head to a shopping mall in the morning and then search out a show or movie later in the day.  Since we live in the country, it takes so little to please us.

    Thursday and Friday are supposed to be sunny and warm, so we will flip a coin and drive the hour and a half to the Gulf shore or the hour to the Atlantic and beach it for a day.

    I do NOT miss the weather that is happening where I live, but I am hoping my pipes did not freeze while I was gone!!

    Saturday, January 18, 2014

    Searching for Just the Right Symbol

    There were three of them, two men one younger and one older and a young woman.  Two did not want to be there; they were never big on symbolism or ceremony.  The young woman knew that she had to be the one to take the lead.  She firmly pushed her foot forward sliding into soft and impressionable sand out across the long beach toward the water and they dutifully followed.  The walk seemed longer than it had ever been.  Such a vast emptiness in front of them.

    Weather was moderate.  Wind was gentle.  Air temperature was innocuous.  It was as if Mother Earth was napping today, or more likely, holding her breath to see if they got through this.

    Was it just last year that the old woman had been sifting through these sands for shells and fossils?  Was it just last summer that they had to help her to her feet after a long afternoon sitting and crawling in the sand?  They gathered the plastic bags of finds, the water bottles and her small red cooler.  Then the young man had to find her wooden cane.  It was almost impossible to see it leaning against the pile of driftwood, already melding itself into oblivion, perhaps realizing that soon it would be cast out with all the other dusty and faded things which were no longer needed on this earth, those things that did not provide the warm memories needed for sustenance, those things that do not become interesting fossils returning after millions of years.

    Today, they just had to find one fossil.  That was the challenge they had set for themselves.  One simple petrified tooth of a shark, perhaps, would suffice.

    They were surprised at how therapeutic the sifting of sand through ones fingers felt after a while of the sun warming their backsides.  Like sugar it fell aside, just a few granules sticking to the inside of the fingers and leaving larger bits of flotsam and jetsam in hand.  How the old lady had loved this exercise.  Her eyes would light up with glee when she found something unusual or particularly lovely.  She would tuck it into her jacket pocket.  When her pockets got too full they would transfer the bounty to a large plastic storage container, to be further sorted and discussed at home for the rest of the afternoon until dinner.

    They had never enjoyed it as much as she did, and usually, they played cards on the blanket, walked the shoreline, took photos of water birds, or played with the baby after its nap.  She would recognize compatriot collectors on the beach.  They would smile and nod and then come over and show her their finds or pull out a special tooth from their pocket and discuss whether it was from a sand shark or actually an Otodus.  Since this creature had no bones, all that was left for man to view after unimaginable years was its many teeth.

    The young woman found the the first one, small but completely shaped and in two shades.  The men, minutes later, each found a tooth, almost at the same time, one larger than the other.  Three fossils and in excellent shape.  The old woman would have squealed in delight and would have ordered them to be careful and not lose them before placing them in the container.

    Tomorrow they would visit her grave and each would have a special gift to place at the stone.  And they would feel her smile, from whatever sandy shore she now rested her soul no longer needing a cane or plastic holder or help in standing.

    (Two photos completed with a skeleton of a story.)

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

    How Do You Feel?

    So, tell me...what do you think about travel?  Something to look forward to?  Something to be endured?  Something to be avoided?  What about modes of travel?  Which is your favorite?  Cruising?  Train?  Plane?  Automobile?  (I would include biking or walking, but I am talking about cross country right now.)  How do you feel about packing?  I have a routine and am OK with it except when I have to pack for cold weather, moderate weather and warm weather all at once.  OK with it except when I have to pack hiking wear, swimming wear, and dinner wear for the same trip as I am doing this time.

    I used to love getting on an airplane, but with all the stupid restrictions, the tightening of space, the awful food, and the long security lines, I actually dread getting on a plane.  I do like train travel but have not done much of it, and so cannot really tell you if I would like it as a permanent selection.  Cruising on a large ship is my absolutely least favorite way to get somewhere.  I hate the fact that I am stuck on a manufactured moving island with too many people.  Eating, drinking high caloric substances and enduring manufactured fun are on the agenda and then you are allowed to disgorge somewhere for the day and fight everyone else to the museums, tourist shops and restaurants.  (I am not talking about the small cruise ships because they have much to recommend them.)

    Anyway, this trip is by automobile.  Heading down to Georgia (Savannah) for a few days and then to Kissimmee, Marco Island and Ocala before heading home.  Husband is staying on for a half week canoe trip into the wilderness (and yes I do have thoughts of widowhood as I send him off to do his favorite things) and I will catch a plane out of Orlando back home to my daughter's house where I will have left my car. 

    Will there be posts along the way? go back and answer my questions in the first paragraph in your comments.  Oh, yes, those were prehistoric sharks teeth in the last post.)

    Saturday, January 11, 2014

    The Gathering Place

    Last month in between bouts of cold weather, we took two of our loved ones and headed out to the nearby "beach".  It is not on the ocean and the water remains shallow a long way out, but it is a nice pretense when one needs an open water type day.  It is a great place for a fossil hunt or beach glass find, and my son has married a gem of a girl who thinks something like this is actually a fun thing to do, explore vast amounts of sand.  (His last girlfriend had issues with a manicure.)

    There were strollers, in the photo below two each both with long witches manes deep in some philosophical conversation as they took their constitutional.  I would have loved to have kept up a bit and listened in as you know very much what a nosy people watcher I am.

    In stark contrast were two young ladies who had found some treasure on the beach and were eager to share with their mother.  How much would you pay to be that age again for just the day?  Maybe if you click on the photo, you can see their loyal best friend in the middle waiting for them to pass him so that he can once again catch up.

    There are those who come with everything but the kitchen sink pushed on a small trailer to stay for a full day and enjoy the cool (58 degrees F)  but pleasant weather.  I cannot help but think his wife is at home enjoying a peaceful afternoon ;-)

    Then there are the real solitary types for whom this communion with waves caressing the sand is a necessary or a greatly enjoyed restorative experience.  You can just see him in the far left.  I would give more than a penny for his thoughts.

    And we did find a few fossil and beach glass treasures as a reward at the end of the day.

    As person who loves stories, I wish I was creative enough to write one for each of these photos.

    Wednesday, January 08, 2014

    Hungry? Let's Play!

    I saw the second installment of  a movie, The Hunger Games, over the holidays.  I had read the book trilogy a few years ago, and wondered why it was such an easy read, because it was pretty good.  Then I learned that it was written as a Young Adult series.  When I was reading I felt that it seemed not that far-fetched, and then I saw the two movies and felt that it was not really the was the present.


    If you have not read The Hunger Games you can go here for a Cliff's Notes Summary.  Or you can read my quick summary which leaves a lot out. or you can read the books.

    Summary:  The books reflect a society that is under the control of the privileged few.  The privileged dress exotically, have exotic eating habits and hobbies, can indulge in almost anything and are happily ignorant of the fact that they are surviving on the backs of the various districts that produce food and products for them and keep the country going.  Each of these districts has a skill level, an important product or resource for the country, and in most cases a bare survival life style for its citizens.  They get money and food based on their contributions to the country and get additional bonuses if they have a winner in the hunger games.  The rich and powerful government tightly controls everything, has technological eyes everywhere, and finding out what is really going on is information only for the privileged few.   The games themselves involve an annual contest where children are "reaped" by lottery from each district and placed in a televised battle to the death with lots of science fiction animals, weather, and weapons and against each other.  It is a contest that reminds the citizens that a revolution against the Capital can result in annihilation.  I do not do the book justice with such a short summary, but it is a good (not great) read.

    Now, back to my premise that we are in a society much like the one above and getting closer every year:

    We have two societies already in this country:  1) The very wealthy and upper middle class  2) The rapidly shrinking middle class living on the edge and the growing poor.  Following are even more clues that we are strangely close to this story.  Our wars are not far from being battles to the death for our young (mostly) which we honor if they return, even missing pieces.

    1)  The NSA scandal which indicates they watch us more than we know
    2)  Fashion shows---I mean really have you seen anything more exotic than the parade of costumes the rich wear?
    3)  News stories on men who dress as inflated dolls!
    4)  Digital grieving and lighting virtual memory candles via computer for the departed.
    5)  Edible packaging of foods
    6)  The woman who had plastic surgery to look like a Barbie Doll.
    7)  Clearly visible plastic surgery and Botox injections on male and female newscasters giving them the oddest places for wrinkles and dimples when they lift an eyebrow or grin.  Go ahead and check a few talking heads next time.
    8)  The legalization of marijuana which has resulted in pot hotels with pot smoking lounges, a surge in buildings that are designed for growing the weed, and a new Wall Street fund for pot that is growing like madness.
    9).  While the U.S. poverty level has been reduced in this country since the war was declared by President Johnson, world poverty is growing very fast.
    10)  One citizen worries about their next meal while another citizen buys the fancy package for their new car that will not only heat the seats in the winter but also cool those same seats in the summer. 

    And lastly...3-D printers that can print pets that do not need to be fed or cleaned up after......yes, maybe that one is made up, but do you really think that is very far away?

    Half of us get lazier and half of us work so much harder.  It is the Hunger Games.

    Friday, January 03, 2014

    Contrasts and Missed Opportunties or the Downside of the Holidays.

    A series of pre-holiday incidents that made me think and wonder when I will get it right:

    In early December, when we were setting up our Christmas tree, the 'Thin Man' who had felled those large trees this summer knocked at our door for a reason we never finally understood.  He seemed to think we wanted more mulch, but perhaps that was Hubby's comment because the Thin Man never said that.  He began in a fitful fashion to explain about the recent theft of most of his equipment from his storage yard which resulted in  letting go all the staff but two for economic reasons, and a further ramble about police, his exploration of the 'hood' (a term which he apologized for using), and other tails of his activities in his pursuit of the missing saws and a generator.  Later he confused the story even more by saying that two of his workers had up and quit for no reason, and that he suspected them of the theft.  We surmised he had been drinking due to his glazed red eyes, although his manner was polite and his voice clear.  After lengthy anecdotes on his part and our sympathetic responses, he finally left us standing with tree ornaments still in hand in the open doorway and unformed questions.  There was no offer of a bonus holiday gift from us, as he claimed to have $1800 in his pocket (?) and there did not seem to be a way to help him without belittling him in some way.  He left us with a rather dour feeling in our hearts for days after.  There are so many people in this world that seem to be the victims of their own mistakes and behavior, but who are basically not bad people.

    The following week we headed up to Philadelphia to attend a 50th wedding anniversary of friends.  We spent a day layover to enjoy the city, and as luck would have it, we were there to enjoy a small and lovely wet snow.  Big sloppy flakes fell everywhere.  Within minutes struggling cities are transformed into postcard scenery after such wet snowfalls.  We slogged through the streets to look at holiday window displays, shopped at their famous downtown market center with breakfast crepes to die for,

    and watched the Macy's Christmas light show in the shoe department...yes, it is a family tradition here as we met a three generation example listening to Julie Andrews voice host the singing.

    We also thought we saw the Pie in the Sky guy...just an inside joke for British readers.

    By the time we returned to the outside, several ambulances were stopped at various intersections for various reasons.  We crossed the street only to see a large man fall to the sidewalk while crossing an icy patch just ahead of us.  He did not move after that.  Several people tried to help him up, but he did not respond and was too heavy for them to lift.  We hailed a nearby ambulance driver, who responded that he could not stop because he was on a call, but finally, at our insistence, exited the vehicle to check on the fallen pedestrian.  (Drunk, drugged, elderly, homeless hoping for shelter?)  Who could tell with all the bundled clothing and snow-covered face.

    We then trundled into a pub down the alleyway and watched an afternoon wintery football game over a lunch of mussels and pasta and wine under lots of holiday glitter before a foul-mouthed ardent Eagles fan made us return to our hotel room with our holiday purchases to watch the second half of the game in peace and quiet.  Then it was back out to dinner at a place recommended by the hotel.  One of those places where the servings are small (you order various tapas) and the seating is miniscule.  The only thing large, are the prices, of course.  We had become good friends of the young couple seated just to the side of us (another story for another day) before we had even ordered dessert since we were seated close enough to cut each others food!

    It was late, dark, and very cold as we departed the restaurant for our two block walk back to our hotel.  The streets were no longer busy with shoppers or automobiles.  We passed one homeless person bundled like a wrapped mummy in the shadowy shelter of an entryway to one of the stores.  I did not stare, only glanced, still focused on my walking and not falling.  The person's face was covered in scarfs and tucked down, never noticing the outside world in his struggle to stay warm.

    I was concentrating on walking carefully across the icy sidewalk and while I had finished only one glass of wine, I was not feeling as coordinated as I would have liked.  Hubby and I did not hold hands or take each others arms or take our eyes off of the treacherous terrain ahead for very long.  It was every person for him/herself!  Life can be like that sometimes.

    Then out of the shadows a man without head cover but in a warm winter coat and holding the hand of a small bundled boy approached us asking if we lived in the area and knew about it.  We glanced up, apologized that we did not know the area at all, looked down again and we continued to carefully make our way forward.  The man started to cross the street and then turned back to us explaining he was looking for a shelter where he could get a hot meal.  I took him at his word and pointed to the Catholic church down the block, because I had seen it lit for mass earlier when we went to our dinner.  He headed in that direction and we continued on our way.

    Stupidly, it did not occur to us to give him money for food.  Although the restaurants in that area were all very expensive and mostly took reservations at that late time of night.  The incident and my casualness haunted me all evening.  Was that a test from God?  Was that an angel in disguise?  Was I so focused on not falling and finding warmth that I let a child go hungry that night?  Later when I was inside and warm I wondered why did I not offer to take him to our hotel coffee shop?  ( I had written a check to a church with a winter homeless shelter just the week before, but it was a church far, far away from here and that in no way eased my conscience.)

    Homelessness has a long history in our wealthy country.  Philadelphia's first pan-handling ordinances were passed in the 1820's, so disenfranchisement is historic to this area.  It is a very complicated issue.  Many of our homeless are veterans and families of veterans.  Approximately two-thirds of our homeless are disabled in some way.  Mental patients were released from state run hospitals in the 1970s with a cut in Federal spending and these people ended up on the streets creating our first bump in homelessness.  Bigger cuts to housing subsidies, low-income mortgages, and HUD agency budget cuts happened in the 1980's.  That is when I saw more homeless people when I went into the cities.  “people who are sleeping on the grates…the homeless…are homeless, you might say, by choice.”  A quote from one of our former presidents who actually believed that and most likely never interviewed a homeless person in his wealthy life or lived in a northern climate. 

    "According to the United States Conference of Mayors, in 2008, the three most commonly cited causes of homelessness for persons and families were a lack of affordable housing, cited by 72 percent, poverty (52%), and unemployment (44%).  The suggestions to alleviate homelessness included providing more housing for persons with disabilities (72%), creating more employment opportunities (68%), and building more assisted housing units (64%)."  (Wikipedia)  We do not have affordable housing but we do have empty houses abandoned by the banks who wrote obscene mortgages.  Abandoned houses that no longer make the banks any money, but blight the neighborhood.  What if the banks wrote them off, and taking those not purchased by those fancy real estate flippers, found some way to sell the leftovers to the newly homeless?  I live on a street where a house, that might have garnered $700,000 to $800,000 dollars during the boom, has sat idle for years and is now falling apart.  Yes it is too far into the country for an unemployed family, so perhaps not the best example...just an example of the write-it-off mentality of mortgage brokers.

    This December Congress cut food stamps (which mostly go to feed poor children) and did not extend long term unemployment insurance with the view that it would encourage people to look for jobs.  No one ever cites a survey or study on how starving people makes them look harder for a job, so in my book, that is what they are, opinions to ease guilt of lawmakers doing this.  The few people I know who have used unemployment benefits are certainly not happy about it, and would take a job if they could find one.  But job creation is another very complicated issue.

    Thanks to this pathetic, disengaged Congress, there will be more homeless and hungry on our streets in the coming months and throughout the year.  There will be more sleeping bodies on the streets for my grandchildren to pass on their way to the museum.  One U.S. Congressman suggested we put children to work as janitors if we are going to give them a free/subsidized school breakfast.  (Then we could fire the working father janitor and get cheaper child labor?)  At least we haven't completed the grand immorality that Japan has.   Japan has a solution for their homeless people...! 

    Wednesday, January 01, 2014

    Knock, Knock...Who's there?

    My house is clean, my decorations packed away, my refrigerator and freezer being slowly emptied over the weeks ahead to use up all the "old" food.  (What a blessing to write that I have old food when many have little food.)  My floors are vacuumed and/or mopped, my laundry done, and the guest bedrooms' sheets all changed.  I ran my 3 and a quarter miles on the elliptical today and lifted some free weights...none of these were New Year's resolutions, because that makes them dangerous and confining.  I just like to start with a clean slate and hopefulness and find some way to justify that glass of wine or plate of dessert.

    2014 welcomes us anal-retentives, just as she does those who are celebratory rather than Puritanic in nature and those who slouch, still half- asleep on the sofa, trying to watch the Rose Bowl game and trying to not think about their dread of the work day ahead. (Been there and done that!)

    2014 also welcomes those who rise from a tangle of ribbons and partially cleaned food plates and watch little children that have way too much energy as they greet the first day of this year.  She smiles at those who gaze at piles of laundry and wonder if they will start the sorting before they run out of underwear.

    2014 also welcomes those who spent the day at the hospital/rest home/therapeutic foster home holding a hand and trying to smile more and trying to remember gentle and humorous anecdotes for someone they love.  2014 comes with a ray of promise and a pat on the shoulder.

    2014 welcomes those who have seen many new years come and go, and who now wonder how many they will see in the future.   2014 takes their shoulders in her forceful hands and says, "One day at a time, my not stare at the future.  Savor today!"

    But 2014 is especially happy to greet those who took that leap, changed that habit, headed down that new and very different trail, made that big decision and changed their life forever for the better.