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Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Musings

So, my last post was rather ranty - about immigration, but mostly a response to John Boehner's blatherings about Obama's executive order providing relief to 5 million immigrants who were in danger of deportation.

I'm going to try not to be so ranty and provide a more balanced look at subjects in the coming year (an early resolution).

Of course, the other side of immigration is over-population and the troubles that arise from it - lack of infrastructure, non-insured overwhelming the health care system, not enough books for some schools in areas inundated by children of illegal immigrants, and the list goes on.

Rarely is there an issue that is completely black and white. However, we cannot just solve these issues by ignoring them (i.e. Congress sitting on a bill for over a year) or creating a one-size-fits-all solution to a very complex problem (i.e. the executive action).

The real basis for the bigger problems in the US (I believe) is the refusal of our Congress to work with a Democratic president. The lame-duck approach to government is an affront to ducks. At least ducks seem to get along and get their shit done in a timely matter.

Is there a way to refuse to pay these fools for a job not done? If we all behaved as they did, we'd lose our jobs. We certainly wouldn't get paid and we wouldn't get our pensions and insurance paid for the rest of our days. I certainly don't have all the solutions, but I can identify that unless Congress gets a bit of a fire under their collective asses, we have two more years of this ridiculousness to come.

Ok. I'm done with that (for the moment).

In other world news, my husband is doing MUCH better with his shoulder and biceps. He's able to dress himself and even wash his own hair!! Score for me!

My Dad's wonderful wife just has surgery this morning. Spinal fusion and a laminectomy. Ouch. I spoke with her in the recovery room, and she's in a lot of pain, but doing okay...good thoughts her way are appreciated.

And lastly, my beautiful friend Bob, who lost his partner Marcel to liver cancer last summer - well, his Dad just died on Friday. Again, any good thoughts or prayers you've got laying around waiting on a good cause - well this is a good one. Bob is no less than an angel on earth. One of the most wonderful people I've ever had the pleasure to know. In fact, his whole family sort of adopted me after my divorce - warmly, welcomingly and kindly. They deserve only the best. Much love to them.

Now for something completely different!

I just saw a TED talk this morning about a singer from Australia who struggles with a speech impediment in her daily life. She's a great speaker and makes the case about not judging people. I love these TED talks. Really uplifting. I often get them via a great site called Upworthy - they collect all manner of stories from around the internet that will make you feel better about humans (and sometimes other animals!)...This TED talk is worth the 13 minutes. Click HERE to see it.

Now, to round out the day, a few sillies that have tickled me recently...

My two dogs? Their names are commonly, "Stopitstopitstopit!"
and "Heyheyheyheyheeeeyyyy!"

I adore John Oliver. I would love to be stuck
in a room with John Oliver, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart!
How much fun would THAT be?

World's best photo-bomb EVER!!!


Thanks for reading! Ciao for now.







Saturday, November 22, 2014

Obama IS our POTUS


Lemme pose a quextion. (Misspelled on purpose, FYI.)

So, were your parents born in 'merica?

Were your grandparents born here in the good old U. S. of A.?

Oh, they weren't? 

Hmmm. Well that makes them IMMIGRANTS.

NoBODY has had their entire family line BORN in 'Merica except The NATIVE people. NATIVES. The people you subordinate and claim to be genetically lesser. 

The people who respect our lands and waters and air and who are the TRUE Americans.

So, guess what, jerk face? If you think for ONE moment that you somehow have laid claim to the opportunity and beauty of this great land? Nope. Columbus was a jerk. He didn't "discover" America! It existed well before he mistakenly arrived here thinking it was the East Indies! (Do your research, people! Get informed!)

That "Columbus Day" is celebrated in several states (embarrassingly even in Massachusetts) is a travesty. Ridiculous. Columbus came, he conquered, brought disease and plight to the Native Americans. 

Ridiculous.

When's the last time you read the Constitution? Or learned about your varied ancestral history? Do you think, because you were lucky enough for your ancestors to venture all the way to America that somehow NOW you have the right to refuse anyone else who deems to come here? 

Where do you get off telling others they can't exist here?

What do you think would have happened if your parents or grandparents or great-grandparents had been met with the same disdain and shitty attitude? 

You, my friend, would be up shit creek without a proverbial paddle. 

STOP with the claims of criminality, job-stealing, Ebola-carrying bullshit. 

Our immigrants are just people. Like you and I are just people. There are good ones and there are bad ones. But you cannot justify blaming an entire population because of a few bad seeds. So just stop it

Job-stealing? Really? How many of you wanna pick apples or cherries, one by one by one by one, in the blazing hot sun of summer? Oh, not you? Or you or you? So again, just stop it.

And the Ebola thing? Shut the hell up. You're being ridiculous and probably watching Fox News. A bunch of alarmist, DUMB, ignorant fools. They do NOT know what they're talking about and they CERTAINLY know nothing about science. So just stop it. STOP it. Idiotas.

So, what I'm saying is that unless you've DONE YOUR HOMEWORK, you gotta stop complaining and following the idiots who say they're helping you, but in reality, THEY are only helping themselves. 

Read about the 98%. 

Read about the top .01% who now have 99% of the wealth in this country.

They're not trying to help the average American. Only each other. 

Google that shit!




"INSCRIPTION ON THE STATUE OF LIBERTY"

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Author: Emma Lazarus


Just sayin'...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Homeless Students in the United States

Well, between the news this morning about what happened in Jerusalem and then the ISIS attacks, I'm feeling pretty grim about now.

It sort of makes my fluff about flowers and cooking seem ridiculous.

I was listening to NPR this morning as I was making breakfast and feeding the puppies. A journalist was asking a question about how the people in this certain country view America, as the United States has not responded to help many people who have been under attack recently.

The man being interviewed said that most of his country, at this point, see Americans as stupid and selfish. Stupid and selfish because they seem ignorant to the plight of other people and the government doesn't seem to care about certain countries unless there's oil or some other natural resource at stake.

The interviewer then went on to ask if there was any sense of a normal life for the other people in his country - and the man said "What is that?" and then sort of laughed a sad laugh...

Then the interviewer asked further, "Do people go to work, do the kids go to school?"

And the man being interviewed explained that, of course, there's still "life" there, and makeshift schools when people are able to leave their homes. But then he also explained that when there's no food to eat and you're going hungry, school is about the last thing on your mind.

So, there I was in my nice, warm kitchen, overflowing with food, feeding the dogs their kibble and reindeer sausage.

My dogs, I realized, eat better than probably millions of people in the world.

There is so much suffering elsewhere. We have the luxury of bitching about phone service or the internet being slow.

Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of suffering right here, too. There was an article I read yesterday about the issues facing the homeless here in the United States. The recent recession and policies by our lawmakers have forced thousands of families out of their homes.

I was really saddened when I went to our local homeless shelter to find out they feed thousands in Anchorage per day.

It's called Bean's Cafe and they do an amazing job. There were lots of families there. Little kids. There were older people, middle-aged, too, but I was shocked and disheartened to see the sheer number of families who are clearly living out of their cars or vans.

The stats are all just shocking and expected to get worse:

Here's a link to a piece by PBS about it.

Here's a recent Huffington Post article about the alarming rise in homeless students throughout our country.

National Coalition for the Homeless is a great organization that offers solid solutions and financial aid to help people find affordable or free shelter so that they can get on the road to feeding and clothing themselves and live in dignity instead of going to jail.

Now, on the ranty side:

How can corporations look the other way while children are suffering on a daily basis? 

How can these people fill their pockets with millions of dollars and their corporations don't pay their fair share of taxes? 

How about bailing out the banks that created these sham loans in the first place? Why do the banks get bailed out while families lose their homes? 

How can our government and law enforcement justify confiscating the meager belongings that many of our homeless people have and then send them to jail or just send them along into the cold?

More than 600,000 people are homeless in the United States on any given night. 
On average, in the winter, about 700 people will die of exposure each year.

Now, that's a lot of deaths. We would be outraged if that many people died in one winter at war or after a hurricane or earthquake...

But, because they're homeless, they don't matter. Societal discards.

Most people, I think, have a vision of homeless people as older, 
disheveled people who are dirty and many of whom are drunk. 

The truth is that it's entire families and mostly people suffering from untreated mental illness.

Well, this Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukkah, you might think about one less gift for each of your family members and instead contact your local homeless shelter, women's shelter, fire station or Department of Social Services office to see what you can do to help. A $20 gift to a homeless child or a $20 food donation can make a huge difference.

Peace out. Thanks for reading.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Funday Monday

I'm tired of complaining. I've got bigger fish to fry than to scold our government.

The headlines are disheartening though. Pipeline? Sure. Health care? Who cares about Americans.

See, there I go complaining again.

So, my friend of pun fame has been on a roll of late! I've gotten some doozies from him and I FINALLY have a moment to myself to post some fun stuff! I've also cooked up a storm today. I made a giant pasta and sausage marinara sauce with onion, portobello mushrooms and then a million cheeses from provolone to cheddar to mozzarella to parmesan. All layered up and cooked to perfection:


Then I made a quiche lorraine with some mild herbs - thyme, dill, paprika, celery seed, garlic - and that has a few cheeses in it as well. This has a mushroom, onion, potato flake crust! Decided to fancy it up with rounds of baby red peppers:



Went on a hike with Mr. Big and Tall yesterday - he's doing SO much better after a very tough week last week. (I think it was tougher on me because I wasn't in lala land with the pain meds.) Anywho, here are a few of my favorite pictures from yesterday. We were in a place called the Campbell Tract in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains:
This is a type of lichen called Old Man's Beard.
It's really pretty and feathery.
Beautiful sky in the afternoon.

These little guys are adorable.
Like a tiny forest at the base of many of the trees.


More lichens. Such a lovely array of color. 
Bract fungus on a birch.

After our hike we got a bite to eat and then got back home to watch the New England Patriots beat the Colts! Boy, Brady sure looks good this year!

Now, as promised, onto the funnies from our dear friend, Hank:

I  had amnesia once -- or twice.

    *****
Protons have mass?  I didn't even know they were Catholic.

    *****
I am neither for nor against apathy.

    *****
All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy.

    *****
What is a "free" gift? Aren't all gifts free?

    *****
They told me I was gullible and I believed them.

    *****
Teach a child to be polite and courteous in the home, and when he
grows up, he'll never be able to merge his car onto the freeway.

    ******
Experience is the thing you have left when everything else is gone.

    *****
One nice thing about egotists ... They don't talk about other people.

    *****
I used to be indecisive. Now, I'm not sure.

    *****
The cost of living hasn't affected its popularity.

    *****
Show me a man with both feet firmly on the ground, and
I'll show  you a man who can't get his pants off.

    *****

Is it just me, or do buffalo wings taste like chicken?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After their 11th child, an Alabama couple decided that was enough. So the husband went to the clinic and told them that he and the missus didn't want to have anymore children.

The doctor told him that there was a procedure called a vasectomy that could fix the problem, but that it was expensive.

"A less costly alternative," said the doctor, "is to go home, get a cherry
bomb, (fireworks are legal in Alabama) light it, put 
it in a beer can then hold the can up to your ear and count to 10."

The Alabamian said to the doctor, "I may not be the smartest tool in the 
shed, but I don't see how putting a cherry bomb in 
a beer can next to my ear is going to help me."

"Trust me," said the doctor.

So the man went home, lit a cherry bomb and put it in a beer can. He held the can up to his ear and began to count!
'1'
'2'
'3'
'4'
'5'
At which point he paused, placed the beer can between his legs and continued counting on his other hand.

This procedure also works in Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Arkansas,Mississippi, and parts of Georgia, Missouri, and West 

Virginia.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I LOVE this one:

An elephant was drinking at a riverbank one day, when he spotted a turtle asleep on a log. The elephant ambled over and kicked the turtle across the river.
"Why did you do that?" asked a passing giraffe.
"Because I recognized it as the same turtle that took a nip out of my trunk 53 years ago."
"Wow, you have quite a memory," commented the giraffe.
"Yes," said the elephant, "I have turtle recall."


Ok. That's all for today! Hope you're having a good Monday. Ciao for now.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

About writing...

Some of my friends I know are concerned for my well-being due to living here in Alaska and experiencing my first winter here. The perception is that it's dark 24 hours a day, that no one goes out, that it's a frozen wasteland filled with transient people with guns, that everyone is an alcoholic and that there is nothing to do except build fires and hope the polar bears and moose don't getcha!

Well, the moose part is true.

And the transient people part is partially true.

And the gun part is also partially true.

However, the rest of the overwhelming perceptions of Alaska are just not true. There are people I know who have been born and raised here. And there are a lot of native Alaskans who are Inuit, Inupiat, Aleut, Wolf Clan...There are people from every culture imaginable and subsequently, the food is TO DIE FOR! Awesome Thai food, Mexican, Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Mongolian...There are significant Hawaiian, Russian and Samoan populations and people from different countries in Africa - notably The Sudan and South Africa.

It's an interesting place for sure. And it's NOT DARK ALL THE TIME! We have gorgeous, bright sunlight right now from about 9am to 4:30pm. It will reduce a bit as we head toward the equinox in December. The sun, as my friend Carol Ann noticed in my pictures, is at a different angle up here at this time of year. It's not so high up in the sky, but it's intense and shines against the mountains and ocean in the loveliest way.

The coolest parts of living in Alaska are the mountains and volcanoes and their juxtaposition with the Pacific ocean for sure. They are spectacular and different every day. The critters here are fascinating, as well. Strange and amazing from the whales to the birds to the bears to the moose.

My husband had surgery on Thursday morning (he's doing much better today - yesterday was not so hot) and I came home to prep the house for his arrival and let the dogs out. Well, I noticed some movement in the front yard and jumped about a mile when I looked out our picture window to see a BIG BIG BIG momma moose just a few feet from the window!! She had apparently decided the pumpkins by my front door and the mountain ash and mountain laurel in the front yard were too tasty to pass up!
Pre-surgery at the hospital.

Munching on the small mountain ash in the front yard!
Moving over to the mountain laurel!
Now munching on the pumpkins by Kelly's truck!
Eating shoots in the neighbor's garden. Look how TALL she is!
View of the Chugach from the hospital cafeteria.
It was a lovely morning. I watched the moon set and then the sun rise.
Here's the moon setting - it was a big, full moon called the Beaver Moon or the Full Frost Moon.
It was low and orange like the Harvest moon we see in Massachusetts in October.

So, in the pictures you can clearly see the sun. It rises in the morning just over the Chugach Mountains and then makes its way Westward to set in the early evening. It's not a vast tundra here  - Anchorage has 350,000 people! We've got skyscrapers, roads, schools, churches, two giant Universities, a vibrant food, arts and music scene. Loads of creative, nice people, world-class athletes, adventurers and artists of all varieties. Many of my friends are poets, writers, musicians and service people - restauranteurs, servers, engineers, landscapers. 

There IS frozen tundra but that's in the interior of Alaska and up north. We are about as far south as you can get and still be in Alaska. We're located right there by the Yukon Territory and across the way, not so far, is Russia. There's currently a typhoon barreling its way toward the Bering Sea, and that's a 1000 miles to our North. We'll get some rain and wind, called a Chinook, but we won't see the 45 foot seas that are predicted in its wake.

My friends in Massachusetts are concerned that I sit in the house, with the wind-driven snow piling up outside my door. That I never leave the house and I just sit here with my books and notebooks and journals and sit in front of my computer all day. Well, that's not the case!

I'm out and about every day! I have two dogs, a husband, a 19-year old friend living here (who is very much like my adopted daughter). I do laundry almost every day. I cook loads of goodies, meet friends out for lunch. When Mr. Big and Tall isn't recovering from surgery, we often head out for a drink and appetizers in the evenings or do yard work together. We go for hikes and kayak paddles and go birdwatching and whale watching on the coast. We go out with friends to watch football games on the weekends, we have friends over for dinner at least 2 or 3 times a month. Loads of people do the "pop-in" - so there are lots of impromptu get-togethers with people. My neighbors are very neighborly and everyone exchanges food and conversation. EVERYONE gardens here and has at least one dog. My neighbor next door? She has seven sled dogs! 

Truth be told, I'm more active and go more places and do more things now than I ever did. My go-to in Massachusetts was my beloved boat. And when I got divorced I no longer had boaty to play with, so I resorted to lots of long walks to fill that void. 

So, I appreciate everyone's concern for my well-being. I'm actually really happy here! My trip to Massachusetts was a bittersweet one - bitter in that I miss my friends and Salem and all that is so familiar. It was sweet, as well, in that being there and seeing all those things that are a little too familiar like my ex's real estate signs everywhere and reminders of my life with him and my poor doggies that passed away - it's sweet to be away from those reminders. 

Coming back to Alaska with my husband, my new little doggies, my new friends, my new environment, my new lease on life - it  is completely sweet with no bitter at all. No regrets. Forge ahead. New frontier, new challenges, renewal of spirit.

Thanks for reading!

Here's a wonderful essay about the art of writing. I found it fascinating.

Hasta la vista.




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Message to Adults...BE KIND to yourselves!


That video kind of says it all.

For quite some time I've lived with other women. As a housemate/roommate for five years and then another stint recently for a little over a year.

Women are SO hard on themselves. And it turns out that nearly as many men secretly also sort of despise their bodies. Body dysmorphic disorder is alive and well. Or rather alive and UNwell. I  suffered from it almost my entire life.

Here's a wonderful essay about body dysmorphic disorder if you don't know about it.

I remember even being a child and feeling so huge and fat next to my skinny friend, Karen. I always felt like a moose around her. By 5th grade I was the tallest kid in my class, felt enormous, had boobs and had started my period before any of the other girls. I hid my body as best I could and stayed home when my period would arrive each month.

This feeling of shame about my body continued on into my teens and then into college when I finally became a full on anorexic person. I carefully measured what I ate and I exercised like a fiend. So much so that I developed severe plantar fasciitis in both feet. So bad in my right foot that I have permanent scar tissue. Both of my knees were nearly blown out, as well.

All because I felt fat and hated my beautiful, strong body. My genetics are such that I tend toward being athletically inclined - I have fairly big bones and lots of muscle mass. In my teen years and early 20s I saw this as a flaw. I was unable to be one of those waify, skinny, long-legged women that were in the magazines and also some were my friends. Many of my friends were gazelle-like, skinny and also athletic.

When I get athletic? My muscles respond by getting BIGGER. So, my bike racing and running actually made my thighs bigger. However, I weighed only 113 pounds. On my frame? That's bone thin. I see pictures of me back then and I cannot believe I looked that way - collar bones and ribs showing. My face was gaunt. I remember being constantly hungry.

I am 5 foot 6 and I currently weigh about 160 pounds.

I look good, I feel good, I rarely get sick. I'm fit as a fiddle, have strong, happy muscles (except for the groin pull!) and am very active. Hiking, gardening, kayaking, biking, walking everywhere...So, here I am about 50 pounds heavier, 25 years older and I FINALLY like how I look. Jeez. Took long enough.

I do my utmost to cease comparing my body to others' bodies. Most of the 20-somethings I know are unsatisfied with their bodies. They are "on diets" or go to great lengths to work out at a gym even though they're more active than 90% of the humans on the planet!

My point is that when we turn the tables on ourselves, it actually makes everything better. Instead of me resenting my muscular thighs and big, strong bones, I now celebrate them! I'm so lucky that I will likely not suffer from osteoporosis and that my muscles burn more calories than someone who is skinny but has less muscle mass!

Muscle weighs more than fat. It's a fact, Jack! SO, yeah! I weigh a lot compared to many other 5 foot 6 inch ladies. However, I can eat a lot more and still maintain my weight and shapeliness because of those big muscles of mine. What a gift!

When I became thankful for my strong, healthy (mostly) body, I began to feel different from the inside out. I ate better food to fuel my body, got healthier because of it, became more active because my energy got better...

It doesn't always have to be a "vicious" circle. Sometimes the circle can be kind and self-fulfilling in a good way.

My therapist beat it into my head that it's truly important to be kind to yourself. Be forgiving. If you don't treat yourself well, how on EARTH do you expect others to treat you well? And her main point was:

We surround ourselves with people who treat us the way we feel we deserve to be treated. 

If you are constantly beating yourself up, telling yourself that you're fat and whatever other negative bullshit - well, that's what you're gonna attract. People who don't value you and appreciate the fine qualities that you possess.

So please! Please stop being so harsh on yourselves, people! It doesn't serve any purpose except to keep you down and make you feel shitty.

Ok. I'm done.

Please send good ju-ju our way. My husband is going in for surgery early early tomorrow morning to repair a torn ACL and torn biceps. Gonna be a long day.

Thanks for reading and ciao for now.


I love this!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The FlowerSmith Website

My hydrangeas on the side of the Derby Street house. Yummy.

Angelonia in a pot by the back door.
Eggplant blossom!
I grew these in raised beds in our parking area...
They did very well. Small, sweet eggplants.





Gorgeous butterfly enjoying the nectar on one of the
oversized butterfly bushes in the backyard.








I don't know why this has taken me so long!


Ridiculous!

Anyway, my website is almost done. More photos to load and some tweaking to do here and there, but it's basically allllmost done!

Let me know what you think!

Click here: The FlowerSmith

Fall pretties with bunny tail grass, sweet potato vine, chili peppers and kale.

Purple asters provide a bit of bright color to this arrangement.

Grasses, pumpkins, kale...


Winter doesn't have to be bleak!
A festive wreath, garland and planter for the holidays!