Thursday, August 31, 2017

Challenging Times

The people of Texas are undergoing epic flooding.  It's not the first flood event in our country this year, or the second or the third.  But I think few of us can imagine getting over 50 inches of rain in a matter of days.  One city that has flooded (Houston, Texas) is larger than the states of Connecticut or New Jersey.

Once again a fellowship assembles, a fellowship of those thrown together by circumstance, but heroic nevertheless.

In a blog post from 2011, I called that fellowship 'The Fellowship of the Flood'.  It's a club that you don't ever want to join.  Membership is automatic when you have experienced a flood.

The fellowship is millions strong, and growing.

But, for those who are members of the Fellowship, you know that the experience of being in a flood never leaves you completely.


There are two groups of people you can talk to about your flood experiences.

Those who know.

And those who can't imagine.

I belong to several blogging support groups.  Some of their members are directly in this event.  My heart goes out to you all.

I can't imagine what their area is going through, because I know just enough (from personal experience) to know that I can't imagine what they are going through.  My flood was not their flood.  Photos don't do a disaster of this magnitude much justice, anymore than a photo can express what it is like to experience a total eclipse of the sun.

That's the first thing to admit.  You DON'T know what those in Texas, or Louisiana, or Mumbai (yes, India is going through this at the same time we are) are going through, unless you are there.

In September of 2011, after widespread flooding impacted many areas of my state, New York,  I find (going through those posts) of my feeling of gratitude.  That may or may not surprise you.

It is hard to tell people how to support others who are going through a disaster of this magnitude, but just being there to listen is important.

There are some of the things you should know to do if you go through a flood.

There are the strange things, the sad things, the terrible things, you see.  Those sights never leave you.  Trust me on that.

Right now, I suspect it's the everyday things people in the flood zones need.  Clean drinking water.  A place to wash their clothes.

Oh, how I missed having a place to wash my clothes. 

I missed a place to feel human again.

What they don't need are flood tourists.  If you aren't a trained helper, or belong to an organization that knows what they are doing, you will do those people a favor by staying home.

Meanwhile, those flooded look around and see life going on, and wonder when their lives will get better.  You must know it will be a long process.

You may find you need professional help to move on.  You should not hesitate to seek it.  Even a year later.  Even more than that later.  It's not weakness.

For those not affected physically but want to help, this is my advice - be very careful, if you are moved to give for flood relief.  Be careful who you give to.  So many scammers out there.

I also fear, in a way I haven't before, that we may temporarily draw together in the aftermath of this disaster, but before we know it, we in the United States will be at each other's throats again.

With our changing climate, we must learn how to live with floods.

Floods or no floods, we must learn to live with ourselves and our differences.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sunflower Wednesday

Houston, in my United StatesMumbai (with a terrible death toll), in India.  Weather gone wild in two major world cities.

The next few days, I am going to concentrate on nature and/or gardening in my blogging posts because we all need a spot of beauty in our lives.

How about some sunflowers?

We've had volunteer sunflowers in our (OK, my spouse's) community garden plot for years.  This year, the plots were plowed late, and we thought we had lost the sunflowers.

But when we returned Friday after a week gone traveling to see the total eclipse of the sun, this is what greeted us.
Two large, beautiful bushes full of flowers.
Smiling faces, saying "nature still is beautiful".

And, finally, a sunflower from the west side of Binghamton, saying "the sun will shine again one day".

I hope the flowers are right as we not in the path of these storms continue to watch the news reports.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Top Five Ways Not To Help People After Disasters

This is a repeat of a post from July 2012, with some editing.

Watching the reports of flooding in the state of Texas, something seems so familiar.  The post-Harvey flooding is epic.  So historic.  Thousands and thousands, including a handful of my Facebook friends, affected.  So why does it seem so familiar?
Because, on a smaller scale (a MUCH smaller scale), it happened to my part of upstate New York in August and September of 2011.  It seems like natural disasters strike almost every week, all around the world.  The fickle finger of fate has now landed on Houston, Texas.

Houston has been in my thoughts.  Three of my cousins were born in College Station, Texas and one of them lived in Texas for many years.
I hope you, my dear readers, never have to learn the lessons of disasters first hand the way the residents of Houston are learning.  But I suspect more and more of us will, in the coming days and months.

My post from 2012:
There's a huge market, isn't there, for the "everything was horrible but I/my city/my country overcame, and now everything is hunky-dory" story.

Except, sometimes it just isn't so.

Disasters bring out the best in us but, too often, it also brings out the worst.

What I am about to say may not be popular but it is what I have learned out of the truths of what my neighborhood, my town, my area, went through during a natural disaster in September of 2011.  So again, this is just my personal experience and opinion.

We have been conditioned to think that it is so easy to help those in need.  Just text '12345' (or whatever) and presto, you have helped!

Not necessarily.

But, dear reader, there are other ways you CAN help.  I compiled this list not that long after the flood that hit my area of upstate New York  in September (of 2011).  I don't want to presume, but I have a feeling this may be of help to others who truly want to help, but don't know how. They feel they have to do SOMETHING.  It does need to be the right "something".

5.  Don't come out to see us.  No, really, don't.  First, we aren't animals in a zoo, to be stared at.  Please, give us space.  At first we are in shock but then that shock wears off - and really, we don't want you to see our tears, or some of the things we do that may seem bizarre to some, but actually make sense in context.  If you aren't an emergency worker or with a charity that knows what it is doing, STAY HOME.

4.  Don't take pictures of us.  We aren't one of those commercials where charities use pictures of sad, beaten dogs or starving children to get your sympathy and your dollars.  I got so upset at a cousin (at a family event, no less) a couple of months ago when he told me how he wasn't impacted by the flood but he had gone around and taken pictures where his city did flood.  No Kodak moments, please.  Not unless you are a journalist or a historian.

3.  Don't send clothes.  Well, sometimes we do need clothes but not the clothes that get sent so many times - clothes full of stains, holes, and rips.  If you wouldn't wear it, don't send it.

So many people sent clothes after the flood, and charities were overwhelmed with them.

2.  Don't trash our neighborhood.  We aren't your garbage dump, either.  If you carry in cigarettes, coffee, and sandwiches, please take out what they came in.   Respect us.

1.  Don't call us victims.  We are not victims!  And while I am on the topic of victimization, I hope there is a special place in hell for those who went to charities for help that they didn't need (and literally took food out of the mouths of those who needed it).  Or the "contractors" who showed up, but were really scam artists. 

After our disaster, the people in my neighborhood were very grateful to the volunteer firefighters, who came on September 11, 2011 to pump out basements, the Salvation Army, who served meals, and the many people who did really help: who showed up out of nowhere and started to help with the filthiest of chores or to set up tents and serve meals.  More times than you would think they had been impacted themselves.  Or, they found their workplace closed and just decided to see where nearby the need was greatest.

THAT was true help.  It will not be forgotten.  For many, the road back is long, and they may never be in the same place as they were before.

Today, in 2017,  I would add one other item:  a donation to a major organization experienced in disaster relief might be an excellent way to help, if you are moved by the TV stories.  I will never forget how some of my neighbors depended on the Salvation Army for meals.  Or the Red Cross for infant formula.  The relief organizations need money to operate, and have resources to use donations to buy the goods that are truly needed.  There are many excellent local organizations, too, but you have to do research to find them.  Be careful of scammers!

Just don't exploit us in our hour, day, or year of need. I suspect that is what someone impacted by any disaster would say.

If you have anything to add through your expertise or experience, I welcome your comments.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Music Moves Me - Songs With Dance Moves

It's Monday, and it's time for Music Moves Me!
Today's theme:  songs with dance moves.  Gosh, so many to choose from, but I need to go back to my 1960's roots.

From 1962, I present Joey Dee and the Starliters with their Peppermint Twist.  I love the beginning of this music video - in fact, the entire video is a trip through nostalgia.

For those who grew up in the late 50's/early 60's in New York City, as I did, this song has a special meaning.  It was the last song played on radio station WMGM on February 28, 1962 as the station switched from a rock format to easy listening WHN. (Why and how do I remember this stuff?)

How about Bobby Pickett and "Monster Mash"?  This is an American Bandstand from October of 1964.  Anyone remember American Bandstand or Dick Clark?

Dee Dee Sharp - Mashed Potato Time, which bears just an (ahem) slight resemblance to Please Mr. Postman by the Marvelettes.  I'll let the true masters of music on this blog hop expound on that, if they wish.  I'm too busy dancing.

I am going to end with this classic from 1975 (OK, it isn't the 60's.  But still.)  You can't do much better classic dancing than the Time Warp from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

Come join this blog hop -it's almost as much fun as dancing!

Join this #MusicMovesMe blog hop every Monday - here are the people responsible for it:
X mas Dolly is the Conductor of this trip, and the other Conductors are her fellow bloggers Callie of JAmerican Spice, ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥  and Cathy from Curious as a Cathy !

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Binghamton Porchfest 2017

How can a neighborhood band together (pun intended) and have fun on a beautiful Sunday afternoon?

By having a Porchfest.

The very first Porchfest took place in Ithaca, New York (about an hour to the northwest of us) in 2007.  I don't think anyone dreamed of how the concept has caught on, but it is now nationwide.  In fact, there are several in Canada, including Montreal and Ottawa.

From noon to seven o clock today, the "Abel Bennett" historical neighborhood on the West Side of Binghamton, New York (a small city of about 47,000 population) is enjoying "Porchfest", where residents open their porches to bands, who play for free in a celebration of friendship, music, and neighborhood pride.  Although most streets remain open, it's a block party type atmosphere, and family friendly.

Many people hold parties in their back yards.  One host (the first concert we went to) provided water for visitors, and even some lawn chairs.  
Here are some highlights. 

A group called Next of Kin entertained here.

Crowds gather near a house as they hear a band play.
This yard was so shady.

Here are a couple of videos I took.  The first one, of Next of Kin, features my finger (sorry).

And here, a band called Pool, a winner of various Battle of the Bands.

This is Binghamton's third Porchfest.  As for Ithaca, their 11th will take place on September 24.  One day, I may just show up for theirs, too.

Has your town or village started to participate in this tradition?  If so, please share!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Mother and Son Journey

I rarely blog about my son (his request), but today I want to make an exception.

My spouse and I took our first vacation with our grown son in 10 years.  We traveled from upstate New York to Columbia South Carolina (in two cars because he had to get back before we did) to see the total eclipse of the sun. 

It was a voyage of  discovery.

Pride, in seeing the young man my son has become. 

Happiness, in listening to his experiences.  Taking back roads in Virginia due to extensive traffic jams on the Interstate, he experienced kindness when he was flagged down to be told his gas cap wasn't on right. 

Total joy, in watching the eclipse together, and watching his reactions.

The contentment of knowing that our roles are changed, and that we can be adult friends.

And, in a way, sadness, in seeing the coming reversal of our roles.  I compare the ways he thinks and I think, and I see how set in my thoughts I can be.  His nimbleness helped us complete the trip in a way I never expected.

And there was even a dash of getting on each other's nerves, as we found ourselves together in a small motel room in Columbia, a bit overwhelmed by the unusual (for us) heat.  But we worked through it.

I don't know if we will ever take a joint trip again, but a part of me hopes the answer is "yes".

I won't post our picture, as my son values his privacy (as do I) but I want to thank him for an amazing journey.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Day It Went Dark #SkywatchFriday

The sun.  It's ordinary.  We take it for granted, although our lives depend on it.  It rises in the east every day, and sets in the west, ho hum.  Sunrises and sunsets excite us who participate in Skywatch Friday because of their beauty - but 2:41 pm?  Yawn.

Not on August 21.

At 2:41 in the afternoon in August, the sun is usually shining hard and hot in South Carolina. But on Monday, the ordinary became extraordinary.

I had to travel some 800 miles to see The Great American eclipse.  It was a two day journel from my home in upstate New York, to Columbia, South Carolina.  Because I don't post about my travels publically on social media, I had to keep my followers in the dark.  But now, I can tell you about the day the sun went dark.

The trip was not easy.  The build up to the eclipse had become a type of hysteria, fueled by social media. By the time we reached Virginia on Saturday afternoon, parts of I-81 had become a massive parking lot.  Our son, driving separately (his choice) about an hour ahead of us, forged the way for us, finding secondary roads and calling us periodically.   I will admit that we had thoughts about giving up, but he said "I'm not" and we didn't either.  By Sunday, we were in South Carolina, and the traffic had eased up.

We had bought tickets to view the eclipse at the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, which is the state capital.  The tickets were a bit expensive, but there was air conditioning, a lot of exhibits to keep us busy (the museum is a combined history and science museum), bathrooms (yes!) and, best of all, we would get free eclipse viewing glasses and free drinking water during the eclipse.  With 95 degree weather, the free water was essential.

I hadn't planned to take pictures.  I wasn't going to take pictures.  I swore I would not waste a minute in taking pictures.  All I had was my iPhone.  I had left my camera home.

But then, I got swept up in the moment.  Right before 1:13 pm, when the eclipse was going to start, we gathered on the front lawn of the museum.  A drone flew overhead (more on that later) and media was there to interview people in the crowd.

I took this picture at 1:11 pm, two minutes before the eclipse started.  When we saw the first tiny chunk taken out of the sun, the crowd cheered.

Outdoor vendors gave out free water, kept on ice, and those booths were constantly replenished with water and ice as we spectators, under our sun hats and suntan lotion (another must), sweltered.  The temperature was 96 degrees.  Clouds had puffed up and some clouds drifted across the sun.

At some point, I forget when, it suddenly occurred to me that I was no longer sweltering.  It was like someone had attached a dimmer switch to the sun.  It was losing its strength.  And, stranger, the clouds were shrinking away from the sun.
Not the same view, I took this at 2:12 pm.  The sky, by then, was definitely showing a different shade but it doesn't show in my picture. My son told me my iPhone was correcting for the difference, and there was no way to turn that off.
By 2:22 pm (19 minutes before totality) my phone finally gave up on auto correcting.  By then, some foliage was taking on a sort-of golden hour (but not quite) hew. And I was spending a lot of time looking at the sun through my glasses.  Remember my "no photos" vow?

2:38 pm.  Three minutes before totality.  The wind had picked up strongly and cicadas were crying out loudly.

And then a shadow swept in from the west, blowing cold on us. In the sky, a diamond ring sparkled on the left side of the sun for a split second, and the sun, high up in the 2:41 pm sky, suddenly was surrounded by a ring of pure white light.  Glasses off.

People in the crowd were yelling, were crying, were pointing, were shivering, as it felt like time was suspended.  This is the part I can't put into words and I won't try.  I was there screaming.  It felt like the right thing to do.

You can click here for a news paper video of totality at the museum where I was watching, and experience it "live".
At 2:42 I tried to take a picture, but it doesn't show totality at all, nor the darkness. I will leave the sun pictures to the more professionals among us.

So I took these pictures instead.
2:42 pm, western horizon.

An apartment building across the street, also at 2:42 pm. (Sorry for the blur).

2:43 pm, western horizon, showing streetlight turned on.

Shortly before the total part of the eclipse ended, I took this picture (same building and trees as the third picture).

 Seconds after totality ended, I took this picture.  You can see the last remnants of the "sunset", noting that the sunset effect would have been all around the horizon, although the building above blocked my 360 degree view.  But look just to the left and the right to the red object in the lower left - you can see several eclipse reflections (they look like smiles).  In fact, I never noticed them until uploading this photo, and I therefore am publishing it larger than the other photos.  I have no idea what these were reflecting off.

This photo, taken shortly after the eclipse ended, still shows some of the colors in the clouds.

And then, things returned to normal.

At #SkywatchFriday, you'll see eclipse and non eclipse photos on other blogs - come check them out!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Ordinary Things

We don't tend to notice the everyday things around us.  But when we are on vacation, the usual becomes unusual.

These are an assortment of pictures taken on a recent trip.  For some, they are usual sights.  For me, they were something out of my ordinary.
A hisbiscus.  They can grow where I live, but aren't one of the more common flowers..
Crepe myrtle, a flower that does not grow where I live in upstate New York.
A soda machine.  The Carolinas are so proud of their Pepsi, and I admit a fondness for Diet Cherry Pepsi.  I normally wouldn't give a soda ad a second glance, but in the Carolinas....
A roadside market.  Inside, for sale, were several types of crowder peas (something not commonly grown where I live) and muscadine grapes (a grape that is not hardy where I live).
Seeing the sun is usual. But this vacation also featured an event that happens rarely where I live.  This headline in a local paper gives you a hint about what I will blog about tomorrow.

I can't wait to tell you about the day it got dark.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Falling Wednesday - Finding Time for Anti-Falling Exercises

I originally posted this in November of 2015.

I'm sitting here, 7pm on a Thursday night, and realizing that I have not done all of today's balance exercises.

"I'm too busy", we all say to ourselves.

One day, we won't be too busy to sit in a rehab center, or in a hospital room, or even worse, lie in a nursing home, if we injure ourselves one too many times by falling.  Hit your head, and life as you know it may be over, as it is for the mother of one of my in laws. Broken hips equal a low life expectancy in a senior, and my spouse's 103 year old aunt broke a hip last year.  Falls can break bones in any of us.

I've been lucky - so far.  I am 62 years old.  I have fallen several times already with resulting bruises but no broken bones.  Yet.  This past May, I decided to take matters in my own hands and attend a falls prevention class.  Here in the Binghamton, New York area, we are fortunate because of our large senior population, to have a number of these programs.  They are inexpensive and well worth your time.

So, how do we find the time in our busy lives to practice falls prevention?  Here are four ways to balance time with balance exercises to help our balance. (Remember, consult a doctor first if you have any health or mobility issues.)

1.  Exercise first thing in the morning, right when we get up.  That works for me - sometimes.
2.  If we take mass transit, exercise at the bus stop.  Some exercises can be done holding a bus stop pole, for example, heel stands.
3.  Do you work?  If possible, devote 10 minutes of your lunch to the exercises.  If you have a desk job, you can do two of the exercises sitting down (sit to stand, and leg raises).  In fact, the sit to stand exercise can be one of the most important exercises you ever do.
4.  At home, do you watch TV? Several of the exercises can be done while watching TV - for example, raising your legs while in a sitting position, and rotating them.

It's all about practice.  (And remember, it's best to learn these exercises from a professional who teaches balance/fall prevention. )

Practice your balance today.  Your life may depend on it.

Do you have problems with falls?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Three Red Dots

I'm seeing red dots today, and it isn't because of yesterday's solar eclipse.

In the United States, each of the 50 states controls sales of alcoholic beverages.  Hence, you have a collection of conflicting laws for the sales and even consumption of alcohol.

One of the (sometimes) pleasures of travel is seeing some of those different laws in action.

My resident state of New York, for example, does not allow sales of either wine or liquor (hard spirits) in supermarkets.  Beer is sold in supermarkets and groceries.  Wine and liquor are sold in liquor stores (wineries can also sell their own wine).  A person can only own one liquor store, so there are no chain liquor stores in New York State (although people are trying to get around that in imaginative ways beyond the scope of this blog.)

In the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, wine and spirits are sold through state run liquor stores.

And then there is South Carolina.

When you visit South Carolina, you will think certain stores have broken out in three red dots, like liquor measles.  In fact,  you see signs advertising stores in shopping centers, and there will be no store name - only those three red dots.

Here's your answer. Those red dots signify a store selling hard liquor.  But why?  I've never seen the dots anywhere else in the United States.

I did some research on this back in 2015, when I first noticed this on a vacation.  Turns out it dates back to 1945 when South Carolina changed a law concerning signage permitted for liquor stores to prohibit advertising.  They decided not to permit liquor stores to have signs with letters more than six inches high and four inches wide.  Bigger than that and you would have an advertisement for liquor.  So, what to do (other than own super magnifying glasses?)

An enterprising sign man in Charleston was hired to do a sign for a Charleston liquor store owner.  He painted large red dots around the letters to highlight them.

It caught on at a time when liquor stores were called "ABC" stores (three red dots needed) for Alcohol Beverage Commission stores.   South Carolina may have had state run liquor stores at one time (I didn't research that).  But even today, you'll see some of the liquor stores have "A" "B" "C" in each of the dots. (And sometimes, the stores will advertise themselves as "party stores". I've also seen that in Georgia, without dots.)

But now, the three red dots are just plain custom.   And those dots are so easy to see when you are traveling in South Carolina and need a drink. (Thank you, South Carolina, for making it so easy to find those stores-unintended consequences?)

There's another theory, too, involving an older law prohibiting liquor sales between sundown and sunup but I like the "large red dot around the letters" theory.

Oh, and one other thing.  What happens if a store sells, wine, beer and liquor (which is permitted in South Carolina? The wine/beer part, and the liquor part, have to have two separate entrances.    The beer and wine part may even sell food, including mixers, crackers and cheese.  And, oh yes, T-Shirts from local breweries.

Something they could never, ever, do in New York State because all liquor stores can sell is - well, liquor and wine.  No food. No T-Shirts. (recently, they have been allowed to sell items such as gift bags for the liquor or wine bottle (and I believe they must be sold at cost), but not much else.)

Does your area have special liquor laws (including prohibiting sales)?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Music Moves Me - Eclipse Songs

This Monday, what is moving me is the upcoming Great American Eclipse happening later today.

Will you be in its path?

What I won't be doing this afternoon is listening to music.  But, just in case seeing the eclipse fails me, I've put together a small playlist of eclipse type music - music with "Eclipse" in the title, or in the lyrics.  This week, for "Music Moves Me", our theme is a FREEBIE.  Anything goes!
This is the song Eclipse from the 1973 album by Pink Floyd "The Dark Side of the Moon". This album was on a "top 200 best selling album" chart for 736 consecutive weeks.  Yes, from March 17, 1973 through July of 1988.  And that wasn't all, as the album picked itself up (so to speak) and then appeared back on the charts for another, much shorter run.

There is not a song on this album that I don't love.

You're So Vain - Carly Simon (in concert) talks about the March, 1970 total solar eclipse - the first of two total eclipses of the sun I've been fortunate enough to witness.

Bonnie Tyler - Total Eclipse of the Heart, from 1983 (a song many incorrectly know as "Bright Eyes").

There's a dance version on You Tube I can enjoy, although I must warn you that there are flashing colors in this video.

Speaking of a Total Eclipse of the Heart, Warby Parker has created this parody just in time for today's eclipse.

Finally, speaking of Bright Eyes, be sure to wear proper protection if you are watching the eclipse today.

Come join this blog hop -it's almost as much fun as an eclipse!

Join this #MusicMovesMe blog hop every Monday - here are the people responsible for it:
X mas Dolly is the Conductor of this trip, and the other Conductors are her fellow bloggers Callie of JAmerican Spice, ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥  and Cathy from Curious as a Cathy !

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Fade to Black

It's everywhere.  Everyone is talking about it.

The Great American eclipse.

Total eclipses of the sun are feared by many cultures, but not by mainstream Americans, who are currently (as I blog this) traveling to the closest spot that will experience totality.

My native New York is nowhere near the 70 mile wide band that will experience totality.  In fact, we would have to travel almost 800 miles to see totality.  Lucky us.

The only eclipse we will get to see here is Eclipse Tools.  Actually, we will experience about 75% totality where I live.  Unfortunately, not much happens with 75% totality.

Seriously, why would anyone travel 800 miles to see an eclipse?  Well, I've done it twice in my life.  In fact, one time, I traveled nearly 1800 miles to see an eclipse (Wichita, Kansas, where I lived at the time, to just outside Portland, Oregon, in February of 1979.)  And, for my first one, I traveled some 500 miles, from New York City to the campus of Eastern Carolina University in North Carolina, in March of 1970.  I was in high school then, and I will never forget what I saw.

How do words describe such total awe?

The sky darkening. A sunset effect in the west.  Birds who stop singing.    A wind blowing, and it suddenly getting cold as a shadow sweeps across you.

I think that is what I remember the most from 1970 (the 1979 eclipse was spent frantically driving, trying to outrun clouds enveloping Portland and the general area around it, and we had to pull off the highway just before totality occurred.  Not recommended.)  The moonshadow and the quality of the remaining light, which is like nothing you have ever seen before.  The sun disappears and a curtain comes down before you. 

The memory can still make me weep.

This is a nice description of what you will see if you are so lucky.

There's more.  The diamond ring of the sun in the last seconds before the eclipse becomes total.  And then, totality, the only time you can look at the sun without protection.  Heed those warnings, dear readers, if you want to have operational eyes after the eclipse is over.

No wonder many cultures think the world is about to end, and still fear the eclipse.

There are no words to describe totality.  Only feelings.  Only...something that I would travel and suffer for, to see once again before I die.

Thank the sun (well really, the moon), while you are at it, and be grateful for the opportunity.  Record every moment in your mind.

I won't be taking pictures tomorrow - I don't have the proper equipment, and I don't want to be distracted.  But I may try to document what I do see.

And maybe, later this week, I'll be able to show you "something".

Don't fear the eclipse tomorrow.  Celebrate it.

I will.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Local Saturday - Farmers Market

Two August farmers markets in the Binghamton, New York area.

We are deep into corn season.  So sweet, so good.
Carrots and beets.
Squash and even eggplants.
And cabbage (including the yellowed leaves that supermarkets trim off.

In three months this will be a distant memory.

For today, we enjoy.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Charlottesville Glow - #SkywatchFriday

January, 2017, Charlottesville, Virginia.

Golden hour light against a "Gold's Gym" building, with clouds above, The Meadows in Charlottesville.

Join other bloggers weekly at #SkywatchFriday, taking pictures of the sky from all over the world.

Yogi, who runs the Skywatch blog, expects lots of solar eclipse pictures next Friday.  I'm not sure I can indulge him, but I will try to post....something related to it.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Strap In For Turbulence

This is a political post.  If you would rather experience a spot of floral beauty, click here.

Living through history is not an easy thing. I've lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Vietnam.  Watergate.  9/11.  And much, much more. My Dad lived through World War I and World War II (and served in World War II, sustaining a head injury that impacted him for the rest of his life).

We live in exciting, but dangerous, times.  

In January of this year, I visited Charlottesville, Virginia and spent several days there.  It was my second visit. 

Between Friday and Saturday, Charlottesville became the focus of our country.

In January, walking downtown, I took this picture. 

Yesterday, the marquee had a different message: That one read "C'Ville Strong" ("C'Ville" is what locals call Charlottesville.).  The longer marque at the front read  "Heather Heyer Gone But Not Forgotten".

Until Saturday, few in this country had ever heard of Heather Heyer.  Now, her name in on the lips of many.   Heather Heyer, age 32, participating in a demonstration against white supremists, was run down in cold blood, allegedly (the accused driver has not yet been tried and is presumed innocent until proven guilty) by a domestic terrorist.  19 others were injured, some seriously.

But wait..there was more, earlier that day, at the local synagogue.

Three white supremists, armed with semi-automatic weapons,  had tried to intimidate congregants of the local synagogue during its Sabbath services by standing a block away, in plain sight.  There are pictures taken by congregants of neo-Nazis marching past the synagogue, holding Nazi flags, chanting Nazi slogans I refuse to quote here.  Someone said that if those pictures had been taken in black and white, one may have thought they were looking at a Nazi demonstration from the 1930's.

But the march was here in the United States.  And a simple Google search will reveal hate crime after hate crime, against various minorities.  This incident that took the life of Heather is only the latest one.

The mother of Heather Heyer, at a memorial service yesterday, urged mourners to “make my daughter’s death worthwhile” by confronting injustice and channeling “anger into righteous action.”

Heed her words, spoken from the deepest pain a mother can know.

You may well already be speaking out.  If so, I thank you.  As a member of a religious minority, I thank you with all my being.

It is quite possible, on the other hand, that you feel this does not impact you.

If you feel you are not threatened by this wave of "alt-right" hate, I have a question for you.  Did your parent, or grandparent, fight in World War II or work in a domestic support factory (like my mother did)?  If so, how would they feel today about what is happening?   Would they have rested easy knowing their sacrifices were apparently in vain?

Nazi Germany did not happen in a day.  Or in a month.  Or in a year.  And many living there did nothing, thinking it would never get "that bad".  It could never happen "here".  Until it did, and they were trapped.

We have this one chance to fight tyranny.  So know this: Tyrants come into power because people let them have the power.  They watch, with each action they take, to see how people react.  If there is little reaction, they do something more drastic. And more drastic.  And one day....

We must react, and not just today.  This is not "take part in a march, high five each other go the afterparty, and then go about your life."

I wish I could be more elegant.  I wish I could channel the tears and the anguish I've felt since I turned my computer on Saturday afternoon and read what had happened in Charlottesville, in the ways others more elegant with words have done.

 It can happen here.  It already has.  The followers of hate have come out of the shadows.  They paraded Friday night in the light of tiki torches, pretending that what they cared about was the heritage of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. That statue was their excuse.  They know what they are doing.  They use their symbols and imagery consciously.  And they are not trailer park yahoos.  Don't ever think that.  You would be wrong.

They are educated.  They are angry.  You may not know them, but they know you.  They are no longer in hiding.

They could be your co worker.  Or next door neighbor.  Or relative.  Or friend.

If we don't speak up, and speak up daily, the hatred will only spread.  They have the ear of power.

Nor can we allow it to go back into the shadows to hide and wait for their next opportunity.

Don't be distracted  We have a small window of opportunity.

Strap in for turbulence.

Three Surprises

Three surprises awaited me when I came home from work yesterday.

A final day lily, when I thought they were all gone.

A cosmos, buried in some dahlias.  This was a volunteer - I had grown cosmos last year.

And, a tall phlox blooming.  The plant was ailing, and I never expected it to bloom.  I had given up on it.

Nature has taught me a lesson today.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Falling Wednesday - Can We Turn the Falling Tide?

This is a post from 2015.  I've edited it slightly, including updating ages of various people mentioned.

I also wanted to add one example I found last night.  David Freeman, the author of the book "One Hundred Things You Need to Do Before You Die" (inspiration for the movie "The Bucket List") died, at age 47, after a fall.  So, it isn't the elderly.  It's all of us.

Here's the post:

The headlines, past and present, produce fear.  Especially if you are a senior citizen or care for one.

"George H.W. Bush [a former United States President, now 93 years old] fell and broke his neck bone", read the headlines in July.  This is a man who parachuted for his 90th birthday.

Actor Robert Culp - dead from a fall at age 79 in 2010. I remember him from a TV series of the 1960's called "I Spy".  The other starring actor became famous, too, but eventually in a different way.

Singer Eddie Arnold, dead after he fell and broke a hip in 2008, just shy of his 90th birthday.

Hillary Clinton, age 69, who ran for President of the United States, has had several well publicized falls.  One ended up as a topic of discussion in her Presidential campaign.

A man by the name of William Bechill, a man famed in the aging advocacy community, died in 2007 after he fell on ice.  He was 78.

Is falling in old age something that can't be prevented?  Is there any hope for seniors as they age?  Do we in the areas of harsh winter weather (I live in one of those areas) have to become prisoners in our homes due to aging?

Many are now trying to turn this around.  And, seniors are ready to listen.

Seniors such as my mother in law's former next door neighbor of over 50 years, and good friend, is one of them.  She is 85 (I hope she doesn't mind me giving out her age) and she and I grew up a mile - and 20 years - apart in the Bronx, a borough of New York City.

This woman, a widow for many years, still leads an active life, and has lived in the same house for over 50 years.  She walks up to four miles a day.  She travels.  And when I demonstrated the exercises I had learned in my falls prevention class during a recent visit, she was eager to learn them.

Why?  Because she has fallen.  Of course, she said, "I got right up".  She didn't want her companions to see her lying on the cobblestone streets of the city she was visiting.

Except that it was a fall.

Fortunately for this woman, she is not in denial.

If your area has falls prevention classes, don't be shy.  Take them. 

It can't hurt.  I've lost a little on my waist.  I am feeling the difference as I walk my imaginary tightrope.

In just minutes away, you can gain optimism.  Perhaps we, all together, can turn the falling tide.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - August 2017

In times like these, we need our flowers more than ever.  To the rescue comes Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, a 15th of each month meme where gardeners from all over the world come to show the beautiful in their yards and homes,

My zone 5b upstate New York August garden is delivering.  It's a bit sad to realize that, in about three months, this flower garden will be a distant memory.

But, for now, the crickets are chirping and the flowers are thriving.

Here's a small sample.

Pink gladiolus.  This year, we decided to grow them and they are thriving in our rainy weather.

Yellow gladiolus.


I am growing "regular" impatiens again, after several years "off" due to the blight that infects them (I had that blight for two years, not knowing why I would go to work with healthy impatiens and come home to find all my impatiens dead - yes, it's that bad) and, knock on wood, they are thriving.
In fact, I decided to do a collage of impatiens and geraniums in bloom.

My "false sunflower" has come back for a third year, stronger than ever.

A begonia basket.

And finally, one of my zinnias.

Cross fingers that we don't get much more rain than we have already have. 

Thanks once again go to Carol at May Dreams Gardens, the Indiana gardener who links us to each other.  And speaking of linking, why not visit May Dreams Gardens now, and see what other gardeners have to show you?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Songs With Men's Names - Music Moves Me

Tunes with men's names in them would normally not be much of a challenge to any participant in the weekly music meme "Music Moves Me".  But this isn't just any week.

On August 8, Glen Campbell finally succumbed to Alzheimer's at the age of 81.

Born in Arkansas, the 7th son of a 7th son, Campbell was an instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and  an actor.

I loved some of his greatest hits - Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, and more.   I decided to take today's theme and try to work in a little tribute to Glen as a bonus.  So, please consider this a two-part post today.  The first part, a tribute to Glen Campbell, using some of his songs with men's names in them.

William Tell Overture

Jesus and Me (as "Jesus" is used as a male name in certain cultures) - one of many Christian songs Campbell did.

Bonaparte's Retreat (yes, it's rare, but "Bonaparte" has been used as a first name) - a 1949 song by Pee Wee King, released in 1950, covered by many artists including, in 1974, Glen Campbell, reaching #3 on the country music charts.

Turning to other artists, here is the remainder of my "men mentioned in songs" post.

Sue Thompson - Norman. Why? Because I am experiencing this as an earworm.

Ben - Michael Jackson.  This was the theme song of a 1972 horror movie about a boy who befriended a rat named Ben.  Michael Jackson's song was performed over the closing credits of the movie.

Jessie's Girl - Rick Springfield

Sloop John B - Beach Boys

And finally, "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?", a 1993 song by R.E.M. inspired by (but not a retelling of) a true story of the newscaster Dan Rather being assaulted on the streets of Manhattan in October of 1986 by two men near his home.  One ma screamed "Kenneth, what's the frequency?" as he beat Rather.  The crime was not solved until 1994, after a bizarre murder.

Join this #MusicMovesMe blog hop every Monday - here are the conductors of this musical train:
X mas Dolly is the Conductor of this train, and the other Conductors are her fellow bloggers Callie of JAmerican Spice, ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥  and Cathy from Curious as a Cathy !

Rock on!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Civil War Sunday - Charlottesville

Civil War Sunday, 2017 edition???

For four years, from 2011 to 2015, I (most Sundays) blogged about the United States Civil War, which took place from 1861 to 1865.

Except that I believe the war never ended.  The nature of the fight changed.

Yesterday, another battle of the war was fought in Charlottesville, Virginia, home of the University of Virginia.

Because this is not a political blog, I will not discuss the events in Charlottesville yesterday, August 12, except to explain that an occasion of hate became even more tragic when a man, driving a car, rammed into a crowd of counterprotesters near a white nationalist rally in this Virginia college town.  At the time I write this, one person is dead, and 19 others injured, 5 critically..

In a related incident, a police helicopter crashed (they had been monitoring the protests from the year), killing two.

This car ramming is the latest incident after this city, once in the Confederate State of America, decided to take down an equestrian monument honoring the Confederate General (and native Virginia son) Robert E. Lee.

Hatred.  Division. We still struggle with the racial divide.   Even our President's remarks after the incident sparked controversy.
Outside of Charlottesville, January 2017
The mayor of Charlottesville said he was "broken hearted".
Downtown Charlottesville, before April the Giraffe became famous
I have visited Charlottesville three times in the last eighteen months.  I will come within 30 miles of it later this month.  It is a city that, for many reasons, I have grown to enjoy.  In fact, I was going to visit it later this month, although my plans changed (several weeks ago) due to circumstances.

Nothing in our history is simple.  If only it could be simple. If only we could say our Civil War was over.
Downtown Cutout

When you don't face issues head on, and let them simmer for year after year, it never ends well.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Local Saturday - Fixing the World with Ava's Little Heroes

Today, it is time for the little heroes of the world to shine-the children who fight for every breath, or who have to undergo constant doctors visits in faraway places or terrible treatments for dread conditions that affect every moment of their lives.

Childhood should not be a time of pain.

Parents of ailing children shouldn't have to spend their days fundraising.
April - who else?
A giraffe who went viral has come to the rescue.
Oliver, April's mate
Well, several giraffes.

Today was a day of celebrating Super Heroes - and, although I was not present physically at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York (home of the Internet famed giraffe family of Oliver, April and Tajiri), I was there in spirit.

If the then-pregnant April hadn't gone viral in February, things may have been different.  But she did (among how many thousands or millions of animal web cams), and the owners of Animal Adventure Park seized on the opportunity.

The owners of Animal Adventure Park, Jordan and Colleen Patch, have a young daughter, Ava, who was born with a rare medical condition.  Even before birth, the medical bills and worry started.

Although they were able to pay the medical and transportation bills, they knew other families struggled, and, last August, they had their first Ava's Little Heroes event.  With the money raised, they were able to help one family.

Today, due to the power of viral, they were able to help five families.

In their "spare time",Jordan, Colleen and employees have been helping giraffes and animal conservation in general with more of the money raised through the webcam prior to, and right after, April giving birth.
AM (to the left of April) and April
So many of us wonder how we can do more to fix our world.  Jordan and Colleen don't wonder - they just do it.  They don't turn away from the challenge.

I think to myself:  can I do any less, in some little way?