Sunday, March 13, 2016

It's been awhile

It's been awhile since I last posted on this blog. Actually I am more alive than ever, though more and more wrinkled.

Just catching up: months of family visits here and there with the eight grandchildren, many friends, and the incredible continuing experience of living here in a conservation area watching the seasons change, working in the gardens.  Hummingbirds came back today, and yesterday, the swallow tailed kites. The trail margins are once again filled with wildflowers.

I have been consumed with politics and the weirdness of it all. Never, since I first voted for John Kennedy, have I ever seen anything like what goes on now. I can only hold my breath while the next eight months until the general election unfold. Is our electoral process being destroyed?

Sometimes I see the Donald as an eerie reincarnation of Hitler or Mussolini. I imagine 'hate wars' happening in this country that used to have a degree of civility.  Where are we going with this fear and anger from white men? It's so troubling. Will the 'protesters' throw up a genuine leader? Who are those gnats who are the other GOP candidates? What is the hatred of Obama and Hillary about?

We have some interesting months ahead, indeed.

Today we went to see "La Traviata" at Opera Tampa. It was such a wonderful production of the old opera chestnut we all love (and can sing!). It was a full house, mainly old  or very old folks. They came on walkers and in wheel chairs and on the arms of their grandchildren. They came in assorted sizes of lumps and stringiness and retro dress that you might imagine came from the back of closets twenty years ago. They were stooped and white haired and slow to manage their tickets. And we all loved it and there was not a dry eye as Violetta died at the top of her lungs.

There were quite a few young adolescents who came with parents, and they seemed to enjoy it too.

I had been in a strange mood, not quite depressed, but kind of out of body, as the day began. We drove to Tampa with our grandson, 11, who had spent the weekend with us. We were to meet up with his mom outside the Straz Center before our performance. While we waited a few minutes for her to appear I watched this tall child I love so much. He's on the brink of adolescence, at that perfect age of competence, friendliness, and emotional attachment to his family. He's just beautiful, a perfect plum of a boy with thick red hair, perfect skin, wide smile and dimples. I know all this will soon be eclipsed by hormones, and I fear for his safety. I fear for everything for him!

During the weekend we went to purchase puppy stuff at the local pet store. We and our grandson's family have each adopted a puppy, litter mates and we anticipate picking them up in a couple of weeks. Our boy carefully selected puppy toys and we all had such fun thinking about what would be best and funniest. These are the prosaic moments that make life good.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Daylight saving time!

We knew to 'fall back' last night. We would have an extra hour! Our biological clocks need time to adjust, though, so we were awake at the hour we usually do- in the dark. And for the next couple of days we'll be hungry in the middle of the morning and not knowing when to go to bed!

I hate these changes! I wish we could be like the Chinese who have the same time zone throughout that vast country, no daylight saving time, just get used to it wherever you may be.

For several days after we have changed from one time to the other and back, I am always asking myself, "What time is it, actually? And what time was it at this time yesterday?"

Forget it.  Just go around the house and change all the clocks. The cuckoo clock, so low tech, is frantic, waiting for someone to pull the chain.  Our new technology in computers and cars and such do this seamlessly now. No longer do I have to see for months that the current car is an hour off and I must shuffle through the instructions about how to set the clock or not do it and forever more know that the car clock is an hour off. They are smarter than I, these modern car clocks and computers.

Several years ago, we went on a business trip to Arizona, just at the cusp of the change from daylight savings to standard time. We were invited for brunch at a reasonable time as we calculated, knowing that the time had changed, and we arrived at this home in an upscale community. (The boss was coming for brunch.) When we rang the doorbell a sleep disheveled teenager opened the door, OMG!
Lots of scuffling, shoving stuff under the furniture, yelps. I was charmed by the authenticity of Arizona hosting?

It wasn't until we left that I realized that we had probably arrived two hours earlier than we were expected! Arizona did not at this time make the change from Daylight savings time to standard time that most of the other states do.

I like dining by candle light, and with the time change this is possible. Tonight, though, it was so hot we had the fans churning.

So, now, I think it is earlier than I thought- or is it later?? I do know that when in the morning I go out to hear the dawn chorus of birds maybe I'll be able to see some of them.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Games we Play

Old folks like us are constantly doing what we can to maintain our edge. We hate it that we cannot recall that name or that film or that novel or celebrity or that perfect word. In ten seconds they will come back to our brains, but we worry about getting Alzheimers or just going gaga.

So we try to stay sharp by doing crossword puzzles and online brain games. My daily shot of brain boosting is learning another language. Since I live in a community where Spanish is spoken, and where I have to connect with parents and kids, this seemed to be a natural. I love to be in the community here when I have to interact with only Spanish speakers. What I need to say is pretty basic, and what they say to me is also basic.

I make excuses to go to the local Bravo supermarket where I can ask "tiene pimientos secos?" I love to try out my Spanish with the veggie person who guides me on how hot the peppers are. I love connecting with those mammas and their kids at school.

But, in Pimsleur Language, I now can say that when I was in Belize it was unfortunate because we had a flat tire and my cell phone dropped and was broken and my fiancé had a stomach problem, but my mother-in-law fell and injured her knee.

We are making a trip to Cuba in the near future, and I think that all I will need to say is "where is the restroom?"

What I really do to exercise my brain is to walk ten thousand steps every day, go to Tai Chi twice a week and attend Jazzercize every week. And I love to be a caretaker of this magnificent land (and that is hard work!).

Working with kids, growing gardens, maintaining contacts with old friends and making new friends are key to keeping my edge. My volunteer work takes me to interesting places and frames of mind. Every day I work on my artistic things, quilts and such, and I am never bored. Always something new happening.

My life is good. However,  I worry about the future of this country and this planet.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Uneasy with Change

A huge glossy book of a catalog arrived in the mail today. It was for International Expeditions, a travel company I used many years ago, once for a family trip to Belize, and once on a pharmacology trip to the Amazon. I realized that the trips are to all the places I have been- amazing! Central and South America, Africa.

What stunned me was the luxuriousness of adventure travel right now. There are vessels with huge air conditioned suites, known chefs, perfect white tablecloths and jacuzzis in the bathrooms.

Around the turn of this last century (I love to say that!), when I was still teaching, my best friend and I took off for ten days each year to go to Central and South America. The Galapagos, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, The Pantanal, more Peru.. It was such adventure! We cobbled together the trips on a shoestring and it was fantastic just getting there. Small boats driving against giant waves, tiny four seater airplanes, dug out canoes, horseback treks, lots of hiking. We were never in a huge group of other tourists (except in the case of the pharmacy folks with their huge suitcases). We quickly learned that we could hire just the stuff we needed such as the person to help us navigate the Ecuadoran airport during a coup, or the boatman to take us upriver to a biological station or the guide in just a loin cloth to take us on a long and hot hike to see Harpy Eagles. These were not your luxury digs! Not your packaged tour.

The Galapagos boat was spare, 12 passengers, and our room was tiny and cramped. No A/C, but on the back balcony was a wonderful seal lounging about every day.

The lodges where we stayed were always primitive and they always made us so happy. Could we ever forget the bumping around every night of the sally lightfoot crabs that lived under our beds? Or the howler monkeys in Peru who serenaded us nightly as we wrapped up in our bed nets far from any internet. We would not trade those fabulous bathrooms on the upscale tourist boats for the lively experience of having to shoo away a pink toed tarantula from the out house seat, or a tapir from the restaurant. Who could forget a huge cliff thick with every colored parrot? Who could forget happening upon a shaman while hiking alone and it turned out that he wanted to wash my hair? And I let him.

We were hot most of the time as we hiked everywhere in these places. On a trail in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, our first trip together, the guide suddenly stopped, and the two of us stood stock still and we smelled the faint odor of cat! Who could forget such an experience? Or swimming in a black lagoon, totally alone..

We have so many memories that would be impossible if you were in a large guided group. On a horseback ride in the Pantanal with cowboys, a caiman rose up and bit one of the cowboys on the foot. My travel companion (diagnostician manqué) tended to the wound and we were able to get medical help. It could have been me!

No one I know does anything like this anymore (except for one person, Chelsea). These are great memories, better than any things we might have bought or acquired. But these kinds of old things are not so available anymore. It seems that folks need to have their fancy bathrooms, their A/C and their internet. Pink dolphins in the sunset are not a priority.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015


As I find myself deeper and deeper into the retirement years, I am fascinated with how so many people I know are reinventing themselves in small and large ways. This is part of the American character!

Telling you some stories of these folks, I will not name names (the internet being what it is).

Beginning with me, whose name you all know, I imagined myself as an older person who could be quite idiosyncratic and reach out to do some things I was exploring. So, community organizing seemed to be it and I dived into a vision of making one small community come alive. There was, and still is, so much to do and now, every time I look at our new community center my eyes tear up. I love the diverse people I work with every day in the school and in the community garden. I love being an activist embedded with these other people. I love learning from them.

I had a vision, as well, of being able to have the time for the fabric arts I love to do. Sure, I have made hundreds of quilts in the last ten years- all idiosyncratic. All the quilts and rugs and jellies I make are given away. We have enough of everything.

One man I know, an artist and car restorer and racer, reinvented himself by giving up alcohol, tobacco, any drugs. This enabled him to be the father to his kids he really always wanted to be and in the process of reinventing himself is working on some other life changes. This is a reinvention in progress.

Another friend used to be an artist and a potter who produced many lovely and practical works so many people use and love, eat out of and hang on their walls. She just abruptly gave this all up, sold all of her inventory and ceramic tools. Their kids have left to pursue their dreams elsewhere. She sold her large house that she used for all this and she and her husband bought an incredibly beautiful and richly appointed condo with magnificent views of the waterfront. Gone were the traces of an artistic life, gone were the gardens her husband tenderly cared for.

And now, she has reinvented herself as a cracker-jack realtor, a savvy businesswoman in the upscale real estate market. Her husband says he is not sorry to see the garden go. He's now into golf.

They are very happy, maybe more happy than they were before. Seems that this is a reinvention that works.

And then there is Charlene, who regularly reinvents herself over the years. Usually these reinventions are religious. For several years she was intensely Catholic and the images in her art (she is a well-known tile artist) were all about the Virgin Mary and halos. I once took a trip with her to Italy and she was practically catatonic when she viewed the Medieval religious painting in the Ufizzi. A couple of years ago, she walked the whole religious trail from northern Spain to the sea.

Shortly after that she gave up alcohol and that was the most major reinvention of her life so far (as I see it). But, wait! The big reinvention was her complete involvement in Buddhist meditation. This has taken her to Miramar for months and many other places to be in silence.

I salute these folks, these seekers. I love to hear about former students who are exploring psychoactive herbal drugs in South America, I salute the gifted musicians who really wanted to be chefs and now are doing it. I salute the risk-takers of all ages who have the daring to reinvent themselves, and, of whatever age, just go for it!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Incarceration: some questions

Prisons, death row, prison revolts. All of these issues were what I never wanted to read about , hear about and think about. Those indefatigable souls who defended and investigated were off in the ether to me. I have had so much on my plate here outside of jails and prisons to think about and contribute to.

Now, however, thinking about this new Obama initiative to allow prisoners to be able to have access to Pell grants and college, and thinking about the Chicago prison warden who is totally addressing the issues of mental illness in prisons, I am drawn to thinking hard about these things.

We have way too many people in prison in this country, and a high proportion of them are people of color. A high proportion of prisoners are there because of drug offenses and other low level crimes. Many others have serious mental illness, not really addressed in prison.

It seems brilliant to me that we should give prisoners a chance at college. Pragmatically, it will give these folks a shot at success in the world and they will not be tied to the safety net when they emerge from incarceration. This will save us taxpayers so  much. And it is the right thing to do.

It troubles me that most of our conservative representatives in Congress have a negative knee jerk response to anything pragmatic and humanly inclusive. Seems mean spirited to me that those folks in congress always vote against anything that could possibly help folks (especially people of color) and the future of our country. It sometimes seems to me that these conservative GOP folks have never had the opportunity to see real poor people, or Black people, or people who are desperate for health insurance and scratching for everything they can. They are short sighted and ignorant.

So, when our Congress, State and National, meet, they mostly have no idea of what matters to the real people. They don't get it that so many of our citizens are incarcerated in prisons across the land.
And they completely dis anyone who is in prison.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summer Vegetable garden gone crazy

In these days of the summer doldrums with heavy rain each day, I go out to inspect the vegetable garden that has fed us throughout the fall and winter and spring.

Summertime when the days are humid and the sun is punishingly hot, no tomatoes will set fruits, and mostly everything else is past. We still have okra and black-eye peas, neither of which we care enough about to pick. Eggplants, sweet potatoes growing everywhere and peppers strive meekly to produce a few fruits among the weeds that now have taken over everything.

The stalwart volunteer army of the zinnias and cosmos and red sage entice the butterflies by the dozens. Soon enough it will be time to clear out the seminole pumpkin vines and the sweet potato vines, and cut back the sprawling tomatoes. But, for now, we can relax, let the stink bugs have their way and enjoy all the insects that are here in this magical garden.

Skunk vines cling tightly to the deer fence and one early morning I will cut them down.

Meanwhile, the lawn is green and vast, the bromeliad garden and the others are doing well. Rainy season is just about my favorite. I have ordered the fall seeds and bulbs and my husband has begun constructing and installing the new raised beds for the vegetable garden.

The garden spiders are busy depositing their egg cases in each place they call their own, frogs are calling every night in joy after the rains, the hummingbirds are frantic to get enough nectar from our feeders.

I picked several pounds of grapes today - determined to get them before the raccoons do- and tomorrow I will make grape jelly.