Thursday, March 30, 2017

My Telenovela Season

There is a reason that one's instinct should be honed.  It is a tool that we often ignore in this chaotic world of multiple stimuli.   When something lingers in the back of your mind, you should invite it on in and offer it some coffee and pick its mind.  Then you can make a pro and con list before you do something or decide something.

But what if you have conflicting instincts?

I do have two conflicting instincts.  One tells me to hibernate  at home with my forest and my birds and my garden and stay safe.  These activities rarely disappoint.  They often reward.  The other instinct tells me that hibernation means the mind and spirit will become sterile and stale and may just eventually die.  Therefore, I am routinely battling with these two noises in my brain.

I fought the instinct to just veg because I do that a LOT of time in my retirement days.  I read, I cook experimentally, I play with photography, I garden, I watch TV, I download courses on my laptop, I blog, all of which allows me to remain in my cave and face challenges at a snail's pace.

Master Gardening activities do force me to go to meetings, participate in events and work on projects with others.  My family is just near enough that I am called upon to babysit or share an activity with grandchildren who will, all too  soon, be young adults themselves.  I force myself to offer dinner to friends a few times a year.  It  is work and I  get nervous (odd at my age), but it always ends up being time well spent.

My instinct told me that volunteering with the Adult Basic Education office would be both a challenge and a reward.  The reward has been in inspiring people to bring their best to the table.  Another reward has been re-learning all that I forgot!  The challenge has been  in taking the time to prepare lessons and work through the clunky library computer software to schedule a study room and then to find this was all for naught as my students, who have their own challenging adult lives, cancel on the day of the lesson.

I am  currently working with a woman from Peru who has passed her high school equivalency but still  finds everyday English an effort.  She wants to go to community college, but her lack of command of English would hold her back.   She also is still saving money for this from her  full-time job.  One recent afternoon we met for a lesson after she had cancelled the prior week.  She  had said that her husband had  a "cholesterol emergency."  She had to  take him to the hospital.

Once we had settled in and spread out our work, I asked her how her husband  was.  Her face fell and she said he was just fine and back home.  She  looked very tired and claimed she was fighting a cold. I opened the vocabulary book and looked at our lesson and asked her the first question.  She fumbled a bit and when I looked up her face had collapsed into pure  misery as she tried to hide her weeping.  Suddenly the lesson was forgotten as I reached out to hug her and asked what was wrong.

I never expected the "Telanovela" episodes she was going to bring forth.  It seems that along with PTSD her husband has a cholesterol problem, yes, but more significantly he has a serious drinking problem and that is what brought him to the hospital.  He  tells his therapist that he is going to quit drinking and like many with addictions goes home and starts drinking, and as many know, the turn away from alcoholism has to really begin with  the alcoholic.  When in the Navy he was very physically fit,  but now a knee injury and an arm injury have left him far less able to be as active as he would like.  He is retired but did some work with a construction company and had a falling out with the boss.  I am sure he sees his life as useless.  He  has lots of excuses.

Well, this is only one of  the issues as her concern for his drinking has made him violent and threatening  to her.  She grew up in an abusive home watching her father abuse her mother, and perhaps without knowing it, she has returned to something familiar here, and she is frightened. 

Then there is the Telanovela episode of her not being able to stay in  the  country if she divorces him.  She is about nine months and $1000.00 away from getting permanent residency and the immigration officials are already suspicious that her marriage was one of convenience and not love, and perhaps it was.  
When one is living in a country filled with crime and poverty and daily dangers an inroad to that golden America is hard to pass up.

If you do not think this story could get any more complicated, she is living  with him and his ex-wife!  According to my student the ex-wife is very kind  to her and the point of buying her a car for her to get to work.  The ex-wife still works full time at a good paying job for Navy intelligence but has severe arthritis problems and is looking forward to her own retirement.  The ex-wife is still on the husband's retirement pension.  I know,  it is all very strange.

I am  certain that a psychotherapist could complete a research paper on all three of these people.  I, on the other had, could only recommend  she walk on eggs for now, call an abuse hotline and make an appointment with a legal aid lawyer.   (I  did offer to pay a legal aid fee, if there was one.)  I was terrified for her but knew I was in no position to really give advice and knew all these problems were taking their toll on her.  For me it was a dangerous and tragic story, and I was not naive enough to think I had the whole story.  For her it was her daily life.  She works in retail and  it reminded me to be  ever so nice to  those workers as we have no idea what their daily life may be like.

Well, if that does not inspire your week and encourage you to listen to your instincts, I do not know what will.

Monday, March 27, 2017

This is Political, So You Can Move On

I have been paralyzed by politics. I have been a "snowflake" being held over a candle. The fact that the far right held their ground and stopped millions (more) from losing health care has given me hope.  I have tried really hard to understand those who voted for a man whose speeches sound like an angry grade school bully.  He has claimed he graduated at the top of his class, but this is certainly not reflected in any of his rhetoric or his endless golf.  He has no favorite books, interesting American history quotes, or rich pals that are intellectual businessmen.  He has no detailed vision of how to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.   He has no plan of how to spend the increase in budget for the Defense Department which even the Generals agree they do not want now.

He claims he is a good businessman, but my broker (whom I just called to adjust my investments to make them less risky as this market adjusts) just told me that according to their experts (this is one of the largest brokerage firms in the country) he did worse than possible based on his investment and all his bailouts from his dad over the last two/three decades.  If he had taken that money and just invested it, he would be worth far more than even he could imagine.  But he did not beat the market in 3 decades with the money he was given!

But just being wealthy would not give him the endless visibility he demands.  Watch almost any popular New York TV show and he was walk-on over the years.  He finally had to create his own shows.  He demands attention.  

He is not a Republican or a Democrat and I keep thinking this is some wry God's humor as he will use this President to bring both parties together on at least a few functional bits of legislation.  Far stranger things have happened this year.

Imagine a Congress that actually meets, compromises, and SLOWLY get stuff done!!

OK.  No more political rants.  Next post is about my Peruvian English student...not necessarily much happier though.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Keeping My Fingers Crossed

My daughter is an amazing woman. I wish I would have been more like her when I was a young working mother. She has a very demanding job with a consulting industry, works with some good people, is active with a women's legal organization, and also has to deal with some male chauvinist pigs in the company. Yet she has managed to hold her own while raising three children and running the household activities. This past week she came down with the flu on Monday after nursing her oldest who had contracted the flu the prior week.

She rarely calls us for help but she had to as she had scheduled a last minute fly-out to Chicago for just the day (an important luncheon with a group where one of the leaders, a cyber security expert, wanted her there for various reasons)  She also felt the meeting was important for her career.  Due to snow delays the week before, a repairman and a furniture deliveryman were scheduled for the day she was to fly out. We were happy to head up and house-sit since we had planned on driving up that weekend anyway for a Smithsonian lecture.

She made us an amazing Thai shrimp dinner the night before she caught her plane.

As luck would have it, the youngest son came down with the flu the afternoon before she left, so we did nurse duty, took him to the doctor's, and completed our house-sit duty for the next two days.  He seemed to weather the illness as children sometimes do.  Periods of rest...

 followed by creating a magic show for his granddad.

Hubby had been nursing a mild sore throat the day before we went up, so he was a bit compromised already.   Here we are four and a half days later, and back at home, and neither of us has gotten sick! We did get our flu shots this fall, but were told that they are only 50% effective this year.  Maybe we dodged the bullet?  I am still keeping my fingers crossed.

Daughter did not cancel the dog-walker which was good as I had not brought snow boots and the sidewalks were pretty slushy.  (Yes, some people call this a dog...).

I do not know how young parents juggled all that comes their way and I try not to think about it.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Fling Back

I have been thinking and thinking and trying to be nicer and more polite, but I am still in warrior mode.  I just cannot seem to find a safe place to put down the armor so....I will link to this post long ago and hope it gives you strength, as it did me when I re-read it.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Shrink Wrap it

The news each morning is just too depressing. I find my brain has fried and once I get it re-hydrated, I will return. I am waiting for those mornings when I do not think "What fresh new hell..."

Thursday, March 02, 2017


March 20 (2?) is the spring equinox, and I guess I missed it.  This roller coaster ride of days pushing 80 F followed by tornado warnings and then days with threatening snow, (and that was just THIS WEEK) it is no wonder that we are a bit confused about the seasons.

Bravely and with marshmallow faces
daffodils thrust through brown leaves
confused by the applause of the wind
with a boldness that only a newcomer would have.

Innocent of their subordinate role
in Nature's ambivalent plunge forward in time
we can pretend this immature spring
is just an anomaly in proportion.

Daffodils entered stage left before their cue
with that eagerness of innocence
and that silliness of a daffy down dilly.

Above with stage make-up.

(Yes, this should have been posted on my other bad.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Suspending Logic

Pretend with me a minute.  Let us say that a group of workers, perhaps they cut down redwoods, or capture rare owls, or make their living harvesting areas of rare algae, are finding their work more and more difficult as their resource dwindles.  They are following in the footsteps of their ancestors for generations, and therefore, politicians have given them a percentage (>70%) of the area that the resource is in to continue their work and feed their families.  The other 23 or so percent is set aside to keep the environmentalists happy and is put in sanctuary where only scientists can collect data for research and allow the resource to improve the environment.  Now imagine that pollution, climate change, and disease is shrinking living redwoods, flying owls or nutritional algae in both the harvest areas and the protected areas.  The workers are having a difficult time making a living and must take a second job.  They think this is unfair.  They feel the land owes them this harvest as it did their forefathers and they go to the politicians and say they realize that they must rotate their harvest to allow the product to replace itself, but they feel the politicians must also allow them a legal permit to harvest a rotational portion of the sanctuary part as well---up to 10% for now.  The environmentalists see this as a slippery slope to total extinction in a decade as the wild resource is at 1% of what it was 50 years ago.  In the state next door many of the citizens have sold their industry harvest tools and some have taken to growing the redwoods, owls, or algae as farmers.  The result being that they have actually turned the situation around and are making money and increasing the tax base substantially by farming and increasing the availability of the resource in farmed areas.  Unfortunately, the harvesters see this as a "cop-out."

One wonders why the "harvesters" in my state cannot see the light.  This in reality is about oysters.  Hubby testified at the State House building last week to keep the sanctuaries as sanctuaries and hopefully the delegates will see the light.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Though the Mind's Eye

We had this strange couple over to our house the other day.  They appeared to be in their seventies but  were rather gregarious and energetic for that age.  It was a bit exhausting, and a little bit annoying on my weekend off from work as they seemed to be talking all the time and they had enthusiasm for anything and everything.  Maybe they did not have many friends and had all that pent up stuff to share.  Yet, in all honesty, it was somewhat our fault, as we had initiated the call to visit their yard.  A friend had suggested that they also had some hillside erosion issues when they built their house and that we might get some ideas for our yard.

It was a three day weekend for my husband and I.  I was glad to be out of the city and back into our newly purchased get-away on the river.  The house is over 70 years in age tucked against the trees, but has been well maintained.   It was not large and still needed a lot of superficial work as a son of the prior owners had lived there a year and repaired nothing.  The rooms with contemporary high ceilings and track lighting and the wide windows overlooking the river on the left side and overlooking the backyard with a view across the river and the softer view of the marsh on the right from our rise of land were what I looked forward to soaking in with a cup of tea each Friday.  Each view was a painting.  Everything at the CIA had been tense these last weeks, and even though I was in the history section of the department writing biographies, I could feel the confusion and craziness just outside our section.  Warden, my husband, could shut everything out while he worked on his computer code, but I was in a room of people separated only by cubicles and could feel the distraction.  I was working on a detailed biography of Sarandji of the Central African Republic which had not been all that intriguing.

Anyway, Warden had called this elderly couple for a tour of their yard on the river.  They did sit on a bit of a hill, but the slope down to their tributary of the river was much softer.  It was hard trying to keep up with the couple, casually dressed in jeans and hoodies, on what was our warmest day of the new year thus far.  They showed us every single tree they had ever planted in their ten years of living there.  They pointed out various birds in the woods, the vegetable and flower gardens, and finally we got to the side of the hill where they had placed retention walled supports that we were interested in studying and the river where they had put in rocked reefs to deflect the waves from eroding more shoreline.  

The couple talked over each other and corrected each other like long term married couples do.  I decided that the best method was to divide and conquer.  So Warden took the husband for a while and I followed the wife.  Then mid-way we switched.  When we finished, we of course had to invite them back to our house to get their advice on our land challenge.  They were like happy dogs, covering paths and identifying plants and suggesting reinforcements in our yard while we tried to keep up.  By the time they left at 1:00 PM I was both hungry and ready for a lie down.  I was also wondering with some trepidation if our paths would cross more often when we fully moved down here.

(P.S.  The above is mostly true and happened last weekend.  We are the elderly couple, of course, so I have no idea what was running through the younger couple's minds, although I wrote this as if I did.  But I do know we (hubby) talked way too much.)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Fourth and Last on Photo Lying

This will be the last in my series of "adulterated" photo editing posts. The photo below is not one I took, but something my daughter-in-law took a few years ago when we were out exploring a state park. She took it with her phone which had an effect included that put the "grunge" filter on it. It includes my son and his nephew and niece (my grandson and my granddaughter).  It has that almost fisheye look as well.

Note the hand in the frame on the lower left. This is a better example of how hard it is to clone certain elements out of the photo. I tried to pay attention to detail, but it becomes obvious when you repeat a pattern from somewhere else in the photo over the part you want to clone out, particularly when there is not much background to choose from.  I also took out my sweet granddaughter but just left the light color of her clothing and it looks like a jacket or backpack, perhaps.

As a follow up to my prior post I had given up on getting the geese as the focal point of my photo.  I could have cropped it down, but the focus was too poor to be useful.  I just removed my neighbors for the heck of it to show how photos can lie.

Errol Morris in his book that I am reading wrote: "It is an error engendered by photography and perpetuated by us.  And it comes from a desire for "the ocular proof," a proof that turns out to be no proof at all.  What we see is not independent of our beliefs.  Photographs provide evidence, but no shortcut to reality.  It is often said that seeing is believing.   But we do not form our beliefs on the basis of what we see; rather, what we see is often determined by our beliefs.  Believing is seeing, not the other way around."

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Lying Through the Lens

This is the view from my side of the river from my deck looking across the river. I lightened it a bit and sharpened it but did nothing else. I was trying to get a photo of our bunches of geese that were resting before take off. But they are too far away to hold the attention of the viewer.

This is the view that is falsified which makes it look much more rural. If a printing company took a magnifying glass to this they would see my edits, because I used shortcuts and was not careful. But to the untrained eye, I think the edits are hard to see and it makes it look as if I have no neighbors. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Follow Up to Before

Spending time "faking" the photos with change in style and not content.  My hellebores (Lenten roses) are blooming very nicely this week under my bare sugar maple.  They have become the subject of this experiment in photography.  The first is the original with a little change to exposure to lighten it.  Then each photo below has a layer which changes the original in a different way.  This is not a change in content, just lighting and tone.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Is It Fake?

These colder days have given me time to focus (and I do mean that as a pun) on photography.  I am reading a book titled "The Mercury Vision of Louis Daguerre by Dominic Smith."   I am also reading a book titled "Believing is Seeing (Observations on the Mysteries of Photography)" by Errol Morris.

While both books are about photography they could not be more different in tone or focus or era.  The first is a biographical fiction written with the prose of a poet or a romantic or a photographer.  Paris in the 1800's is seen through light angled scenes and colors and scents that makes it easy for me to think I am there. The city is dirty and ugly, marred by revolution and class separation, but still filled with lovers and artists and lamplight.  The fictional theme of the book is Daguerre's search for the love of his life at the end of his life while becoming mentally compromised by the cloud of mercury poisoning from his years of photographic work.  While it is fictional, it is done very consistently.  A series of nude photos are taken by Daguerre of an important figure in his life and we see how he decides to pose them and why and how photography began to change the society.  He asks one elderly woman whether she wants to have a daguerreotype made of her and she scolds photographers for trying to capture "death."  It is a frightening new technology and considered as a sin among many religious people at that time.

Daguerre talks in the book about how the person changes the minute the camera lens is upon them, and therefore, it is impossible to get an honest essence of the person in a picture.  At that time a person may have to sit for several minutes in front of the camera, and candid shots were unknown.

In the second book I am only 30 percent through the 300+ pages.  It is a discussion of the truth of photography and the accuracy of interpretation of a photograph by others when viewed years later.  The writing is a bit tedious and forces the reader to question almost everything in what we see and how we come to conclusions about what we see. "We may know the order of the photographs but that doesn't mean we know whether they were authentic or deliberately posed."  This struck me as certainly important today with the magic of digital painting.  Some of you may remember the photo of the dusty and bloody Syrian boy sitting shocked in an orange ambulance chair after an Assad/Russian bombing of his home.  Assad claims the photo was fake, even though witnesses attest to its reality.  There are so many photos of children in pain and maimed after the war, one wonders why the Syrian President claims this one was fake?  Is it because it truly captures the emotional horror of this war?

This taken from Wikipedia on the truth of photography:  "Charles Peirce's term 'indexicality' refers to the physical relationship between the object photographed and the resulting image.[2] Paul Levinson emphasizes the ability of photography to capture or reflect "a literal energy configuration from the real world" through a chemical process.[3] Light sensitive emulsion on the photographic negative is transformed by light passing through the lens and diaphragm of a camera.[4] Levinson relates this characteristic of the photograph to its objectivity and reliability, echoing Andre Bazin's belief that photography is free from the "sin" of subjectivity.[5]"  So much is covered in the preceding sentences that one could talk all night about it.

Another person who writes about photography, "Sontag also describes the inability of a photograph to capture enough information about its subject to be considered a representation of reality. She states, "The camera's rendering of reality must always hide more than it discloses…only what which narrates can make us understand."[25]"  This is clear to me as I frequently frame the photo to leave out distracting or extraneous stuff and may later photoshop to erase it.

There are lots of photos on social media sites where celebrities state one thing or another about life or politics.  Almost all of them are fake, their images being used without their permission.  There are other photos that have clearly been enhanced with romantic mist or fake snow or something to make them softer and more beautiful than the original.

This seems to be a theme these days.  Viewers are being duped everywhere.  How do you know something that was shown is real or not?  You can search online for testing fake news and a number of sites will come up with guidelines. and Snopes are reliable sources for analyzing something written or said, but they do not usually focus on photos.  You can find a reverse source search for some photos here.  This is sometimes used by photographers to see if their image has been stolen and used elsewhere.

Fake stuff has been around for a long time and will be around, perhaps forever.  (Apologies for my very poor photoshopping of the image above.  I was too lazy, and perhaps too low on technique, to present something more believable.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

What is in Common?

My neighborhood is not as quiet as someone would think if they came down the side road into the neighborhood.  About half of us are retired and so busy in our yards or coming and going during the day.  The other half are still working and one has a nearby business office, so his workers driving heavy equipment go up and down the road at least a half dozen times during the week.  

This is the road after the last snow.

My  next door neighbor on the right (his house is above across the ravine) is an elder guy who can fix almost anything.  He is pretty much the go-to guy for that stuff in his church that needs fixing.  He and his wife are very religious in that they attend evangelical conferences at least once a a year and sometimes more in Florida.  He votes conservative and thinks climate warming is an unproven theory, and therefore, blows his yard every other day so that it remains neat as a pin.  He has two daughters and a son, none who live in this state.  Two of his children have divorced.  The son has a family in the Philippines although he is not married to the mother.  The son, a commercial pilot, also has an estranged ex-wife and son in South America that he was finally able to see at age 6 for the first time in as many years.  The divorced daughter is raising two girls on her own.  The other daughter has married for the first time at age 40 and has recently given birth to her first child which means they take more trips down to Florida to see the new little one.  They have a comfortable retirement as you can see from above.

My neighbor who lives on the left across the other ravine (their winter home in the photo above sadly empty this month) has lots more money.  I have written about them before.  They have had an expensive motor boat which they recently sold since they do not use it enough.  They also have a fancy sailboat that cost somewhere in the six figures and they take it out a few times a year.  They have a large huge home and even have an elevator in their house!  She started a church under one of those rather liberal religious sects in this community.  She and her husband vote liberal.  They now spend most of the winter months at their condominium in a snazzy area of Florida.  This is a second marriage for him and a first for her, so she holds Christmas holidays for his son's family before they head south.  His son is some genius engineer inventing materials for space.

All of these neighbors are really nice and kind and we help collect mail on travel and exchange tomato plants or baked food.  We go out to dinner with the liberal neighbors several times a year.  Both neighbors are very different from us.  We are comfortable middle class bureaucrats with no religious affiliation or interest in such and do not have the money that they have.  We do have grandchildren or step grand-children in common.  We share gardening with the neighbors on the right and food-eating with the neighbors on the left.  We all live in harmony and we support each other after hurricanes with removing trees and storing food in freezers if electricity is on or in the case of my neighbor on the right assist after recuperating from triple-by pass.  We are all college educated.  

I think about my neighbors when the craziness of the social news trolls starts getting to me.  We do have more in common that not and I keep hoping that we will see some middle ground on much of this soon.  I also realize that this is a rose-colored demographic and not how most of the U.S. lives.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017


Once again here is a navel gazing post all about me.

I am thinking there are various types of attention disorder that can be seen in people besides that which can be medically diagnosed.  I think I have a mild variation of ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity disorder).  Something that is not so demanding  that I cannot function in this  dysfunctional  society.  This is something new for me as my life has been pretty much filled with the ability to compartmentalize and focus.  I have been both high energy and high functioning in my past life but rarely hyper.

Why do I think I have trouble with attention.  I can follow a conversation, a TV show or a recipe.  I  can focus.  But I also find I sometimes have to re-focus on something else at the same time.  I have a compulsion to be doing two things.  I cannot exercise without some distraction to get me through the routine.

For example, as I am writing  this blog I am listening to the NYT broadcast on my laptop "Will Shortz:  Meet the Puzzle Master."   It seems when I get  distracted I have to fill the time with something other than a pause in thinking.  I  frequently play solitaire on my lap top while watching television, or if it is the depressing news which I watch with hubby, I go between  listening to the world circus and listening to an online course from Harvard on photography on my laptop with my earphones.  I may miss much of the news, but it is  an ever present annoyance that pops up later in the day in so many ways.   I also cook and  watch television at the same time.

Currently I  am reading all of  the books in  the photo below (not at the exact same time, of course) as well as also reading "Leaving Blythe River" on my Kindle.  I  have a dozen half read magazines scattered on my coffee table.

I certainly am losing my ability to focus for long periods of time on any one thing and I am just sitting and wondering if  the aging process has something  to do with that.  My mother-in-law lost her ability to read a magazine and just flipped through the pages in her elder years.   Maybe I should Google this phenomenon while I am doing the NYT mini crossword puzzle this morning?

I am wondering if meditation exercises will slow this restless mind?  Are there other physical or mental exercises I should be doing...while not  blogging,  of  course?  Or is this just a normal personality disorder?

How is your attention span these days?

Monday, February 06, 2017

Just Do It, It's Good for You!

The photo above is my amaryllis pushing through the hard earth to the sun which, while it is stressful, it is good for the plant and will result in a beautiful blossom. 

I sort of thought, in the back of my mind---not consciously, that when I was an old retired f**t, most of the anxieties of my life would dwindle away into the level of stress that a rain storm on a picnic afternoon might cause.  I had run my finances and felt that I could pay for my late years.  I kind of worried that my days would be gray and boring and sometimes full of guilty waste but certainly less stressful.  Sure, in the distance I could see the challenges of aging and health, but not the Monday through Friday anxieties of raising a family or tending to a job and career that I had previously survived.  There would be no more dreadful Monday mornings of heading out in the gloom of a cold gray day to an office or leaving early in the day to tend to a very sick child as I fought rush hour traffic.

Well, those of you who are my age and sitting in your chair reading this know that I was wrong.  Life goes on and gets in your way and you get in its way if you are still breathing and talking and not hiding in a closet or sitting  on the side of  a mountain far away from civilization being a hermit.

The point I am wandering toward, and I do have a dull one as we climb this switchback, is every decision you make impacts your life in some way and sometimes that way is a little more annoying than you anticipated.

This morning I am on a new schedule.  My student from Peru, a woman in her early 40's (married to a retired Navy intelligence officer with PTSD and in his late 50's) is trying to improve her English and I am the next tail of a rocket that she has grabbed after passing her high school equivalency test through our county program.  She is sweetly pushy and demanding in her plans for this trip and she is eager for the rocket to continue at break neck speed.  Because her temporary jobs in this area require flexibility in my setting classes I must keep moving with a watchful eye on my calendar.  This month the classes are on Mondays at 11:00 A.M.!

I kind of dread this having to head out and having to be on my toes at this time of day.  I am a hard person to please.  I know this is both good for her and certainly good for me to get back into remembering digraphs, graphemes, irregular verbs and whatever.  This is a free wheeling project in that the county has done its job and I have no hard curriculum to follow.  As you may remember from a prior post, I have PILES of books to choose from and am trying to hone my focus and create some structure to this journey.

She wants success yesterday and I have explained to her that there is no magic wand that she or I can wave.  But I keep thinking to myself, am I focusing enough in the right areas.

Anyway, while I feel full of satisfied hope at the end of each class, I do feel a bit of tension as I plan each lesson and as I head out to each class.

I do know that this is probably good for me and I hope it is good for her and I will continue to stick my courage to the sticking place and just do it!

Sunday, February 05, 2017

A Sunday Sermon

I am not a Christian or even very religious.  But today is Sunday, a Christian day of prayer and worship.  I heard this sermon on the radio a few days ago and it certainly touched my soul, so I will share, now that churches are being told they can have more freedom of political speech by this White House.

Christianity and this President

We teach our children not to be bullies. He is a bully.
We teach our children to tell the truth. He openly lies and repeats those lies with greater and greater insistence, until they become truth in his own mind. For example, "Obama was born in Kenya."
Related: "Trump's pledge to Catholics: 'I'll be there for you' " (Oct. 7, 2016)
We teach our children to be kind and respectful of others. He openly mocks the disabled and belittles his opponents, e.g., "Little Marco" for Sen. Marco Rubio and "Lying Ted" for Sen. Ted Cruz.
We teach our children to be generous with the poor and the needy. He is selfish in the extreme and gives little or nothing to charity.
We teach our children not to be prejudiced on the basis of race or ethnicity or looks. He ranks women by their looks. He speaks with open racism. He stereotypes Latinos and African-Americans. Remember his remarks about Judge Gonzalo Curiel. Remember his characterizations of African-American culture and living conditions.
Jesus began his public ministry with a proclamation of the need for repentance, that is, "re-thinking" our lives. Trump has said he isn't sure that he has ever asked God for forgiveness.
In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus called on us to repent as he began his ministry. Immediately afterward, he gave us the Beatitudes. In those eight couplets, Jesus gave us the formula for Christian life.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Generally, we take this to mean we should be "detached" from worldly goods. We don't have to dwell in poverty, but we don't measure the value of life or people by their wealth. Trump brags about his wealth. He lives ostentatiously. He sees such enormous wealth as perfectly OK, even laudatory. He does not think he needs to contribute even the socially required minimum to the commonweal, the common good, by paying his taxes. He ignores the needs of the poor.
"Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted."
Jesus meant for his followers to be empathetic, sharing in the joys and sufferings of others. If we want to be comforted by others we must mourn with them in their sorrow.
Empathy is a part of the Christian life. Donald Trump mocks people for their looks and handicaps. He mocks those who are empathetic. When Jeb Bush said, immigrants come here out of love for their families whom they support, Trump mocked him.
Narcissism is the antithesis of one who mourns with others. Narcissism is a preoccupation with self. You cannot share in the sorrow of others because you are only focused on yourself. Only you count. Trump is a textbook narcissist. He is so busy bragging about himself and the size of his crowds, so busy obsessing over every slight, that he cannot mourn with others.
Jesus also said "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
When we think of "meekness" Donald Trump does not spring to mind. Meekness is an aspect of the virtue of humility. It is the quality of deferring to others and being open to learning from others. Humility means not arrogant, but teachable. Meekness requires that we admit when we are wrong. Meek people are not puffed up with themselves.
"Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice or righteousness, for they will be satisfied."
Justice or righteousness in the Scriptures was a right relationship with God and others. It was being zadok, righteous like St. Joseph. It means we should humbly seek to conform our lives to God's commandments and not our own will.
At a minimum, it means that we should treat others fairly and keep our commitments. A man who cheated his contractors and repeatedly evades his creditors in bankruptcy is not righteous. A man who defrauds people enrolled in his so-called "university" by taking money and not delivering training is not zadok.
A righteous man is more than just doing the minimum. He goes beyond justice to mercy. He upholds the widow and the orphan and defends the alien and the stranger.
"Blessed are the merciful," says Jesus, "for they shall be shown mercy."
Can a man who advocates torture and extreme interrogation techniques be considered merciful? Can a man who advocates beating up people at his rallies be called merciful?
"Blessed are the pure of heart, or the clean of heart, for they shall see God."
Everyone struggles with this, to be clean of heart. Lust and greed cloud our judgment and become competing "deities."
But a man who admits to and brags about groping women cannot be called pure of heart. A man who objectifies women, by assigning "numbers," is not pure of heart.
What does he worship? Physical beauty and superficial attributes? He owned the Miss Universe pageant. Such a superficial and degrading view of women is not pure of heart.
Can we imagine Mother Teresa or Dorothy Day in a beauty contest? What number would Trump assign to Mother Teresa? What does he see when he looks at virtue and goodness?
Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."
Can a man who would deliberately target the civilian families of terrorists, in violation of the law of war, be called a peacemaker? Can a man who is so thin-skinned, that every slight, every disrespect, every implied insult, must be answered by a full frontal Twitter storm be called a peacemaker? How does he make peace with others?
He never apologizes. He never backs down or lets up. He does not do what peacemakers must do: listen. He does not see the other side's point of view. He does not credit his opponent with good will.
He sees every opponent as someone to be shouted down or roughed up. He is not a peacemaker.
Finally, Jesus says, "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and speak ill of you for my sake, for your reward will be great in heaven."
In other words, we don't have to win every argument and answer every insult. We don't live for the praise of others. We live for the approbation of God. Him alone do we seek to please. When we are insulted, we should offer it up and let it go. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors.
Repentance is not an option for a Christian. It is the essential beginning of our Christian life. Every follower of Jesus must at some point repent.
The gospel Trump is preaching absolutely contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We who stand in the real pulpit should be willing to say so.

[Fr. Peter Daly is the pastor of St. John Vianney parish in Prince Frederick, Md.]

Thursday, February 02, 2017

She's Baaaack!

Not sure what I tweaked as I was changing very little these days on templates and settings for this blog, but some one thing must have done it!   I am back on the blog rolls of my readers and what better gift can that be?  Both of my blogs appear on my blogroll which I set up as a test, and then when other's said my new posts were appearing on their lists, I felt as if someone had let me out of a very stuffy closet back to the outside.

My post updates failed right after I had posted my first nasty political post and I thought maybe that was a warning.  Then my computer crashed...for the second time after a year of repair...then trying to set up my new PC took days...and then I found the repair person failed to load scanner drivers, so I worked for an hour and got those two loaded.  It has been a rough month.

Enough of this!  I am back.

I have been going through old photos and taking a nostalgia trip being glad that I lost only a very few things with the crash.  Below is my Maxfield Parrish (one of my favorite Art Deco painters) version of the mountains in Breckenridge Colorado which I took  a few years ago!  (I am so glad I am back!!)

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The Guts of the Beast

Perception is one thing, and yet, our experience cannot help but color perception in some ways. Is the photo below (generously manipulated) a view of an industrial park from some high perspective? Is it an architect's model of a future business development? Is it the cover of a science fiction book?  Does it remind you of something that you cannot quite put your "finger" on?  Please note that while the shapes and focus have been manipulated, the colors are pretty true from the original.

Done guessing? Below is the original before and after the cropping.

It is the guts of the beast that I smashed with a heavy mallet a few days ago.  It represents a few years of my life, a bit of which was saved and much which was not.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Sorry, But the Truth Sometimes Hurts.

"This post concerns Donald Trump's elevation of Bannon to leading roles within the National Security Council. To review: the National Security Council (NSC) comprises important high-level government officials including the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Director of National Intelligence. Its main job is to use this broad expertise to advise the President on national security matters and assist in carrying out security directives.
Yesterday, the President reduced the involvement of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence from the NSC. He replaced them with Steve Bannon. Bannon has no government, intelligence, or high-level military experience; his experience is leading a propaganda outlet (Breitbart News) that peddles nationalist and white nationalist viewpoints.

This would be deeply concerning in and of itself. But one of the jobs of the NSC is to oversee a secret panel that authorizes the assassination of “enemies of the United States Government” – including American citizens. These targeted killings are fully authorized by law under the Congressional military authorization act following 9/11. There is no trial, no due process, and no public record of the decision or the assassination itself.

Just to recap the absurdity: the President of the United States has appointed a known propagandist, nationalist, and white supremacist to replace the highest military adviser in the country on a council that authorizes secret, legal, targeted killings of American citizens (and others) without due process.

What You Can Do:
- Call your Senators and Congressperson this week and demand that they publicly and legislatively oppose Trump’s appointment of Steven Bannon to the NSC.
- Spread the word about this news to your networks, since this is not getting a lot of coverage right now."

This was cut from a FB post.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Looking Over My Shoulder

One of my blogging friends is going through something similar to what I went through years ago...December 2004 to be exact.  I re-read the post on that day and I am amazed at how cold and practical I sounded.  Maybe that IS me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Finally Feeling the Groove

The primary problem with my PC was that I had plugged the HDMI (monitor) into the wrong HDMI port. The one I was supposed to use was way down at the bottom of the back hidden under a tiny ledge. Since the PC did not come with any graphics or icons, this was an honest mistake. Still it cost me money to have a nice man, retired from the Air Force, come fix the plug-in. He was also able to install drivers for my scanner and newest printer. When looking for drivers for the Canon printer, a few years old, he found that Canon said it was NOT updating any drivers for any of its hardware for Windows 10!! Therefore I once again have an obsolete printer, as well as one unopened packet of printer ink! The printer was free to me, but the ink was very expensive. I only used it to print photos, which was rare. You get better quality product from the professionals in the Internet.  At least my wireless printer works!

I am only writing this to hope that others will not be surprised when their digital baby dies unexpectedly.  I was told that this solid-state should last much longer...of course, time will tell.

As you can see it already has fingerprints all over the impractical shiny top part.  It also has red racing stripes that glow dim and then brighten like a sport car revving up for a race around the track.  It could have been designed by Steve Jobs, who you may remember was more about form than function.

It runs very quietly with no rattle of a fan.  It has multiple intakes for air.  It also seems to process a tiny bit faster, but since I am not playing a high graphics game on this machine, I really am not testing its full potential.

I had learned from my earlier crash to gather all the software license numbers, disks, serial numbers and whatever was needed to bring the opening screen back to something I recognized. I am embarrassed to say I could not find how to open the DVD driver for many minutes. I could find all the info on it and the place...but the only eject button W10 seems to use is under the File Explorer's icon! Yes, it makes sense if you think about it.

Well, enough boring information that most likely means nothing to both computer wizards and all the rest of the world.  So, I will leave you with a photo from my new gallery that I just loaded on this baby.  These guys are here regularly certain times of the day.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Road is Paved but Still Bumpy

I bit the bullet and ordered a new desktop computer. I researched online at various sites and put together the things I wanted and when I went to the computer store, they explained it would have to be ordered. I got a solid state drive as the last time my PC was repaired, last year, they explained to me that it would last longer...and it is, of course, more expensive.

Well it arrived in the store yesterday and they said as part of the service they would remove "bloatware" and "set it up." The young man was drooling over the speed of the processor and some other technical stuff I can barely understand, so clearly I bought something way out of my league. I cannot remember the last tme a 20-something chatted with me!

Anyway, I picked it up and brought it home. It is an ASUS, which is a brand now under the DELL umbrella and Consumer Reports said it was well made and their repair response was reliable. It took me some time to clean out the old PC, dust, remove cables, etc. Then I got the new tower out of it foam snug box and took out the directions (6 sentences in English) on how to get it running. I miraculously found all the ports for the two monitors, the new keyboard, the mouse and the electricity. I wisely left the two old printers and Scanner on the other table alone.

I finally plug in the power cord and turn it on! I get the most beautiful red racing stripes lit across the sides and front as it hummed very quietly. I waited. The monitors showed nothing except that they had electricity from the PC and then they went to sleep. Nothing. No old-fashioned DOS prompt, no screen with blinking lines, nothing. I was going to load the one CD I found for the newer monitor, but the disk drive does not open except by computer command, so that is a null and void process.

I have finally given up and scheduled an appointment for a home visit as I am not hauling all this equipment back. He/she is coming tomorrow afternoon and I am going to watch closely what he does, because this is a real mystery...unless the PC is broken in some way!! I do not ever remember having difficulty getting a PC running.

Life is never easy even when you dip into the bank account to pave the road.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Belated Attempt at a Challenge

Grannie, who primary talent is drawing, also has a great talent for manipulating words.  I have been intimidated by this but decided to play in her recent Weds. Words challenge.  You can go here to find out more about it.  I posted my work to her blog site in the comments section, but also decided to share it here since my precious little mind cannot come up with anything else.

You have a list of words and must use the first ones and can select an choose from the second set to create a  story or word poem.  Then you link to the Wednesday Word  site.  The words are below.

Honest, worth, another, parallel, fan, intention


Blue, electricity, cash, outrage, potential, memory:

What is honesty worth?
Another misplaced intention
In a parallel universe
Of  outrage?
In an era of memory loss?
Most of us are no longer fans
By the blue electricity
Of digital cash
In a click-bait  world
Of  dishonesty.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

UGH!! It died.

My tower PC gave me the blue screen of death today. I had recently backed up most of my stuff and since my tower PC is a HP after several reboots it gave me the opportunity to do a full back up on my removable drive. I am doing that now  and it is taking hours and hours.  

I had paid over $100 last year to repair this computer when Windows 10 forced an installation  and crashed the machine.  I am more than depressed as a replacement for this will cost much more than $100.

Perhaps the chaotic news that I read on the machine broke  its heart?

My hardworking friends who have given their lives to handling jobs in research and security are depressed as they are criticized in the public without proof or a chance to defend their side of the issues.  We are returning to a society where intellectualism and education are liabilities.  Fear and opinion carry more weight than fact.  Maybe my PC is just tremendously depressed  as it relies on data to work.

I am pro entertainment industry, pro science research, pro academia, pro public schools, pro public libraries and pro journalistic voice.  I am smart enough to follow  the trail of a news story to see if it holds water and do not  need to  reduce the press corps to the 6 who agree with the leader as Putin has done.  I am pro transparency except when our country's security is involved as I do trust those who have been trained to analyze our threats from other countries.  Are some people in these fields power hungry, liars, stupid?  Of course, just  like  some real estate moguls.  But I continue to think  this is the minority and most public servants enter the field to serve the public because they are not going to get rich  doing these jobs.  No wonder my computer is confused and committed suicide! 

I just re-booted and the PC is gone, gone, gone.

Sorry, but this is a BAD day for me.   I hope to be more moderate in my next post if my bank statement is flush enough for a new computer and I  feel that I have  the energy to do this.  (Thank goodness that  this old laptop  is still working.)

Monday, January 09, 2017

Compromise and Acceptance

I am a novice of this being alone for days on end. Coupled with a snowstorm that has prevented me from seeing anyone for days, and being a person who is not crazy about talking on the phone, I have lived in a very hollow echo tunnel it seems. I am surprised when I say something out loud and it fills the room.  A simple bump of the pipes has me listening for something wrong.  I have had the TV on more than usual and played the Christmas music until I became tired of that nostalgia and had to turn it off.  I am reading Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations" out loud in bed, which might otherwise annoy my husband.

There are people in this world (I have friends) that live alone and work alone, but also have a calendar filled with coffee dates, exercise dates and dinner dates. I do wish I was that type of a person, but I am not.  I have a calendar filled with a few hobbies and am blessed with children who see me now and again.  I can go for several days in a row and never talk to anyone, and miss people, but not really miss people.  It is hard to explain.

I do think about what habits I would absolutely have to change if my husband passed on before me. He is in excellent health for someone in his mid-seventies (swims a mile once or twice a week, runs four to six miles on the elliptical every now and then and is far more active in general than I) and both his parents, who were not in excellent health lived into their late 80's and early 90's.  He is becoming more forgetful.  This is hard to measure because he always has been a bit scattered on details and location of things.  Still, even now he admits his memory is not as good as it used to be.  He called today and complained about how he forgotten his backpack when loading the boat, lost his phone on a hike, but while both were later retrieved, he is having fun and does not let the annoyance get to him.  When he is home I do spend more time than I would like looking for something he set down somewhere.  It is what it is.

Could I live out here in the woods all alone?  I read a blogger, actually a few bloggers,  who live alone in the country and relish the quiet and beauty.  I think I would have to find some compromise...not the city or the suburbs...some community that is rural but has amenities and a sense of community for the less agile.  My children have said that I could come live with them, but they both live in the suburbs which means I would have to be able to drive to get anywhere and I would be in a neighborhood that is empty during most of the day.  

I must admit, what a luxury to be able to think about this, to not be forced into some least for now.  It is wise to be willing to admit that compromise is in the future of most of elders.  Compromise and acceptance or you do battle with the inevitable.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Unwritten and Unstudied

The days are growing longer and have been since December 22. Our skies are so gray and gloomy and rainy that I barely notice unless I am sitting inside and a bit of sun finally breaks through at the time of sunset and I, with some surprise, notice that the sunset is still out there but a bit later.

For those who work nights or who, like my relative, work in a very dark office without windows and much light during the day and have had to actually order a full spectrum light to sit near their desk, I feel you deserve better.  I do not know how they can keep their spirits up. They go for much of their lives without sunlight.   It is SAD (Seasonal Adjustment Syndrome).

I do like that I can light the candles earlier in the evening and start a cozy fire in the fireplace and have an excuse for doing cozy rather than energetic things.

I have finished reading Upstream by Mary Oliver, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, but could not finish the Book of Kells as it seem a bit of a slog.

I am now reading some light, silly romance whose title escapes me.  It takes place in the South and the heroine is overweight and insecure but has marvelous inner strength which she calls upon in her divorce. 

The Christmas Decorations are re-packed except for two little wooden houses I had forgotten.  I do think there is an unwritten rule of nature that you must always forget to put away a decoration or two!

Monday, January 02, 2017

Rain Makes My Brain Soggy

Not sure why all of a sudden my other blog appears on my readers' (virtual friends) posts, but I have just compared the settings for both Blogs and made sure they are identical--as much as possible. Maybe the Google search gods have put down the eggnog and are back indexing bloggers posts and recognized my reset.  I had been feeling like the decayed mushroom above and was wondering if I should just stop blogging for a while and do all those things I have been procrastinating about for a few years.  Now it seems I have a brief reprieve with at least one blog being revived.

As most of you know, and many some of you agree, this new year will be a big challenge for those of us who love and support gender equality, education and access to that for others as well as ourselves, the free press and journalistic excellence in helping us understand what is going on (thinking about the movie Spotlight for example), the precious and fragile environment, labor laws and labor negotiations to empower the worker, access to healthcare for everyone---already in every major country, political humor that is satire, broadway (all theater actually), religious tolerance, acceptance of strange cultural foods and dress in this country, and trying to understand why polite behavior is no longer the norm but being PC is so yesterday.  And what the hell is alt-truth?  Is this snowflake being too sensitive?  

Within the last two months there have been FIVE rope nooses hung at the liquid natural gas construction site and our Sheriff  seems to be at a loss to find out who is doing this, and we wonder if this clearly racist act to some of us is looked upon as just a joke by our county government who thinks voters are too stupid to understand their policies.  Maybe next we will see the Star of David painted in blood?   This site has all kinds of security and cameras and limited access in part because it is next door to the nuclear power plant.  We all wonder why the culprit has not been caught and why they have all this expensive security if it can be breached so often.  I mean, even if you work there, you cannot drive onto the construction site, you must take a shuttle bus from the parking lot across the highway.  So this freedom to threaten hate is now at my door.  They have been required to bring in the Feds finally, but who can trust the FBI after our President-elect has pointed out their incompetence.

Anyway, my immediate challenge is a long list for the New Year and I am actually going through it pretty fast already.  Therefore, I can ADD to it if I get energetic.  Hubby is leaving tomorrow for a camping fishing trip to Florida which means I will be alone for two weeks.  It will be a good challenge for me to be on my own, but I am guessing the TV will be on more in the afternoons for background noise.

Today is a rainy and cold day and so gloomy outside and I am sure that is contribution to the mood of this post.  I promise to be more mellow next time.