Posted by: Laura Carter | November 5, 2016

Senior City Dreaming

San Antonio is a great big city. Even though, we hold the dubious distinction of being the least equal city in the nation when it comes to the extreme differences between our more prosperous neighborhoods and our most distressed neighborhoods, I think we have a decent community oriented vision for city governance which includes trying to equalize opportuniies.

Over the past several years there have been district and city-wide calls for San Antonio citizens to come together to share their ideas and visions for the future. As we are imaging of the best way for all of us to enjoy life to the fullest, separate sections of the city, through their district leadership and neighborhood associations have become active in trying to determine their specific needs from budgets to services.

Through a community-wide visioning process in 2010the nonprofit SA2020, created and set goals for eleven different measurable areas from arts to family well-being to economic competitiveness. Now I see that some folks are looking for input for 2040—when I most assuredly will be dead.  But the 2020 goals I believe, God willing, are within my reach. As a senior citizen, I have not been aware that much of this planning or vision making has been aimed at seniors.

However, last Friday there was a good community conversation–Successfully Aging and Living in San Antonio aka SALSA, organized by the SA2020, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and the San Antonio Area Foundation. A decently diverse (maybe there could have been more African-Americans) group came together in a guided discussion about our experiences as a senior citizens in San Antonio. The discussion comprised of three parts: The best of what is, the best of what could be and imagining what might be the best world for successfully aging in our city.

Our table of four women and two men talked about access to health programs, continued educational opportunities, transportation and relationships. The following slide is a complication of all tables’ discussions. They are listed not necessarily in order of importance.

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We agreed that while there may be a good deal of senior resources already in place, communication of their availability is lacking. We think good medical services, including the VA, are abundant.

We dreamed of more home-based assistance for those who need help keeping on track with medications or transitioning from hospital or rehab to home. We envisioned a “Silver Service” bus system specifically for transportation to medical facilities. Or, what about a program to address the many issues that would help us stay in our own home as we and the house age.

Laura McKieran, DrPH, Director of Community Information Now (CINOW) said this on her Facebook page. “We just wrapped up a community event where over 100 people talked about their vision for their future in SA – about what’s good and right, about what a life well-lived looks like, about what we together can make true of our community. So much positive energy – hope, excitement, straight-up-legit *joy* – no election pall in the room at all.” That pretty much sums it up for me.

Here are a few resources I thought were good to share.

The City has nine senior centers.

San Antonio Oasis

Alamo Service Connections

Someone asked me about community gardens. Actually, NOWCastSA has a lot of good information geared toward seniors.

In May 2017, TPR is having a Silver Solutions event.

Call a Ride for Seniors

Successfully Aging and Living in San Antonio (SALSA) is the Area Foundation’s newest initiative to create a community where seniors thrive and are prized as vital citizens. They will use what they learned from our session, along with other information, to create a strategy for action and grant-making.

Everyone who contributed is an agent of change, which suits me just fine.

Posted by: Laura Carter | September 25, 2016

Serpentine Roads and Starry Skies

Our recent trip to Colorado and New Mexico was full of adventure–which I highly recommend, at any age, to stimulate your brain and keep your juices flowing.20160916_143101

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Driving up to Colorado through New Mexico, we were treated to a variety of big and beautiful landscapes. I saw parts of NM I’d never seen before.

Colorado proved to be breathtaking in many ways. Holy cow, the Colorado mountain roads are crazy twisted. Mountains on one side and bottomless valleys on the other, but if you are driving you can hardly take your eyes off the road to look. Highway 141 into Norwood had a 7% grade downhill for eight miles!

Farms and pastures, bright green Cedar and Pine trees, golden Aspens, running rivers and the Blue Mesa reservoir–just some of what Colorado is made of.20160919_093807

In Norwood, granddaughter Eve, her mom Jennifer and I had a wonderful time together at the farmer’s market and talking about our favorite TV shows like Buffy and Farscape. Eve told me all about her high school, total enrollment about 90.

Norwood’s few restaurants served excellent food and they all offered gluten free choices. We had lively family meals every evening. My son drove us down “Norwood Hill” and we all got out and took pictures.20160918_105536

In New Mexico we visited long-time friends Melissa and Henry and their neighbor who I also knew from college. We three ‘gals’ yakked up a storm leaving the guys without a chance to get a word in edge-wise.

Drinking in high places: Henry made delicious margaritas that included a splash of brandy. I had two. Spinning around looking up at the starry, starry sky, my head was buzzing like a beehive all night.

We brought home yummy tomatoes and squash from Melissa’s garden.
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Posted by: Laura Carter | August 24, 2016

An elephant never forgets

According to Mental _Floss website, there is a great truth to the old adage “an elephant never forgets.” However, I seem to be more and more forgetful as time marches on, and my brain cells flicker and die a little at a time.

I missed World Elephant Day which fell on August 12 this year. I had a little story about this hand-carved elephant my dad brought me when he returned home in 1956 from a two year tour in Pakistan.

elephant carving

It came with two beautiful real ivory tusks. They fell out somewhere along our many family moves. I had over the years tried different types of materials to replacement the tusks. But nothing really looked or felt right. Ivory was not a option for ethical reasons. Also for a long time it’s been illegal to import elephant ivory into the US. And, on July 6, 2016, a new rule extended the ban to cover the sale of ivory that’s already in the US.

Then it dawned on me to leave them off as a reminder of the destruction of  thousands of elephants still being slaughtered for their ivory tusks.

Elephant numbers have dropped by 62% over the last decade, and they could be mostly extinct by the end of the next decade. An estimated 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers seeking ivory, meat and body parts, leaving only 400,000 remaining.As of 2016, there are still more African elephants being killed for ivory than are being born. . . elephant populations continue to decline. World Elephant Day.

From Mother Nature Network:

1. Elephants around the world are disappearing. African elephants are classified as vulnerable to extinction, and Asian elephants are classified as endangered. There are only about 40,000-50,000 Asian elephants left in the world today.

2. Since 1950, African elephants have lost over 50 percent of their range. They once roamed the continent, but they are now relegated to a few small areas. Less than 20 percent of this remaining habitat is under formal protection, according to World Wildlife Fund.

3. Poachers killed 100,000 African elephants for their ivory from just 2010 to 2012, National Geographic reported last year. According to a study, roughly one of every 12 African elephants was killed by a poacher in 2011 alone. There were around 1.3 million African elephants alive in 1980. In 2012, there were only an estimated 420,000 to 690,000 elephants left.

4. Most poaching today is not done by poor farmers needing an income for their family. Instead, poaching is done by well-organized and well-funded criminal traffickers. The money gained from poaching and selling ivory funds wars and criminal organizations.

5. Elephants play an important ecological role, including creating trails that work as fire breaks during brush fires, fertilizing the soil with manure, digging holes that create access to water for other animals, and much more. Without elephants, ecosystems are thrown out of balance.

A 2014 article in National Geographic stated:

Ivory-seeking poachers have killed 100,000 African elephants in just three years, according to a new study that provides the first reliable continent-wide estimates of illegal kills. During 2011 alone, roughly one of every twelve African elephants was killed by a poacher.

In central Africa, the hardest-hit part of the continent, the regional elephant population has declined by 64 percent in a decade, a finding of the new study that supports another recent estimate developed from field surveys.  The demand for ivory, most notably in China and elsewhere in Asia, and the confusion caused by a one-time sale of confiscated ivory have helped keep black market prices high in Africa.

The morale of this story is to never forget the elephant and support legislation and those efforts to save these beautiful animals for our planet.

Posted by: Laura Carter | August 6, 2016

So many books, so little time

It’s past time for another list of books I’ve read. And, I have been busy. Earlier this year, I reacquainted myself with our San Antonio Public Library’s availability of Kindle downloadable e-books. It has grown much since I tried using it a few years ago and found it lacking in the books I typically read. Now, it seems they have acquired many more titles and ‘copies’ of titles. Thank goodness, because it was about to come down to food or books, and you have no idea what a hard choice that would be.

galloway booksA friend of mine recommended the Ruth Galloway series of mystery books written by Elly Griffiths. I decided to make sure we read the series from the beginning and in order. We made the mistake of reading all the Louise Penny Inspector Gamache mystery books out of order, mostly because of availability from the library. That kind of sucked because the development of the recurring characters relied on timeline events.

Both the hubby and I read the first Galloway book The Crossing Places and were hooked. Interesting realistic characters, intriguing mysteries, great setting in England. Ruth is an archaeologist so there is some ancient English history thrown in as a bonus. I have always been a sucker for English mystery authors. They solve the crime in a way that pulls you into the story, with rich characters and always a touch of wry British humor.

Now we’ve finished the lot and I’m on to other books on my list created from various “best of“ reads from the internet and magazines.

euphoriaEuphoria by Lily King is an amazing book. I think I read it in about three intensive days. Euphoria is a fictional story based on a 1933 expedition to New Guinea by Margaret Mead. “Told through the eyes of Gregory Bankson, a fellow anthropologist and friend of Nell and Fen Stone, the book describes a fractured marriage under further pressure in a botched field trip. Interspersed with Nell’s journal, the author gives a very realistic characterization of the culture they are studying.” This from a review from The Library Thing

oliveTwo more very good books were Olive Kitterage by Elizabeth Strout, which I found strangely personal. It is a Pulitzer Prize winner, which always means a quality rorchardistead; and a mini-series as well.

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. This is one of those books that makes you sad when it ends. This is a first novel for Coplin, but she must have an old writer’s soul, because it is epic and beautiful.

I just finished a rather long, detailed non-fiction book about Houdini, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mina Crandon and others, titled quite aptly, The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and witch of lime streetHoudini in the Spirit World. If this doesn’t intrigue you and you don’t like long books, it might not appeal. Took me a while to get into it, but once I did, it was very good. Though Houdini adamantly fought against spiritualism, it left me (at least) feeling not so sure there aren’t spirits floating around and someone might be able to channel them. You also learn a thing or two about Houdini and Doyle you probably didn’t know.

Happy reading!

Posted by: Laura Carter | July 3, 2016

Oh, the horror of it all

The exact definition of a scary movie can be frighteningly hard to express. There are hauntings, thrillers and paranormal activity. Movies with sinister classic characters, monsters, sci-fi with monsters; movies with slashers, or just a lot of blood and guts. There’s lots of cross-over, and much discussion and difference of opinion. But for the purposes of my ‘small blog’ suffice it to say “I love scary movies across all genres”

When I was about nine years old and my brother just five, our mom would drop us off at a downtown Columbia, SC movie theater for the Saturday matinee. The house was full of unaccompanied kids watching a creepy 50’s creature flick—good scary fun! Tarantula, The Blob, Fiend without a Face, Invasion of the Body Snatchers were just a few. My little brother and I were terrified. We would scream, hold each other and try to crawl under the seats to hide our eyes from the horror of it all. When I began to have nightmares and walk in my sleep on Saturday nights, Mom finally decided we couldn’t go have the bejeezus scared out of us anymore. I think I was relieved and sad all at the same time.

Ah, but I was already ruined.

I have wondered why we humans like to be frightened. So I asked the almighty internet guru, Google. “There’s also a hormonal component when it comes to fear and enjoyment. The hormonal reaction we get when we are exposed to a threat or crisis can motivate this love of being scared. The moment we feel threatened, we feel increasingly more strong and powerful physically, and more intuitive emotionally.” This was written in a fairly recent article on the ‘science behind the scream.’  The psychoanalyst Dr. Carl Jung believed horror films “tapped into primordial archetypes buried deep in our collective subconscious – images like shadow and mother play important role in the horror genre”. Read more from Psychology Today.

From the article Our fascination with horror, “There’s something about horror that speaks directly and instinctively to the human animal. Millions of years of evolutionary psychology have ingrained in our minds certain fear triggers – a survival instinct.”  Think back to our more primitive days. Everything must have been fairly scary—hunting, fire, animals, anything new or unknown…being scared stimulates the imagination and our brains work on an adrenaline high to figure out how to handle the situation. Scary or adventurous tales told by the fireside and handed down for generations are part of our human cultural.

aliensLater on in my teens, Vincent Price was one of the favorite sons of scary movies. Every Tuesday night, we would make tuna fish sandwiches, gather in the family room and watch “Vincent baby” on our black and white TV.  This was also the era of Alfred Hitchcock, the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits.

Then I saw Psycho. This proved to be somewhat of a milestone in scary movies. It wasn’t even in color! I can tell you it took years before I didn’t at least think of the chilling, shower scene with its eerie little screeching sounds when I took my daily shower. I was eight months pregnant when I saw the Exorcist. I was petrified and couldn’t sleep for days.

Granddaughter Eve and I gave created a somewhat creepy tradition of our own as we gather the snacks and watch scary movies two or three at a time. I must admit I am not crazy about some of the new genre of horror films—the too much blood and gore. And Eve, thinks some classics like The Birds and Rosemary’s Baby were boring. We did agree on The Conjuring, The Grudge, Paranormal Activity (all of them) and The Ring.

Favorites? Oh yes. There is a startling number of favorite scary movies lists on the internet. This is a short list of a few favs of mine:

Aliens –which is probably one of my favorite movies of any genre

Dracula –the PBS series with super sexy Frank Langella

The Fly -Jeff Goldblum—be afraid, be very afraid

Freaks –if you haven’t seen this you should. A 1930’s classic

The Haunting –late night, no lights, home alone, best possible.

Repulsion –Roman Polanski made some great movies.

Penny Dreadful is a very good Showtime series that encompasses all your favorite classic scary characters is one show. Add all the American Horror Story seasons, especially “Hotel” with Lady Gaga.

This is a fun little scary video.

Posted by: Laura Carter | June 30, 2016

Trump on Terrorist – If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em 

Margaret and Helen

Margaret, which voters have their heads farther up their asses, Trump supporters or Brexit voters? Wait a minute. Is it farther or further? I don’t know, but either way the asshats they are now wearing aren’t making anyone great again.

I know I offended some Bernie fans when I posted my support of Hillary. But let’s be clear on how the cow ate the cabbage. We need to get on the same team or we’re gonna end up a lot deeper in the shitter than the Brits. If Donald Trump wins this election, the only Bern anyone will be feeling is heartburn.

Donald thinks the way to handle terrorists is to fight fire with fire. According to him, water boarding is bad but it’s no worse than what the terrorist do. So Donald’s plan to deal with terrorists is to be more like the terrorists? In my book, that’s kind…

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Posted by: Laura Carter | June 1, 2016

May you stay forever young

Me at 6 months

Me at 6 months

This is me with my mother at about six months of age, 68 1/2 years ago. We were living in Germany where my dad was posted for three years. I really don’t remember anything about Germany.  I used to think I’d had this dream about looking down and seeing all these tiny houses, people and trees. But, after talking to my mom about it, I realized it was what I had seen through the airplane window as we were landing back in the good ole USA.

This is a picture of me almost 42 years ago. It’s my son Jack’s, first birthday party and we are at the Besson family’s house in Austin, Texas. As my 69th birthday is Me at 28 years old, Jack at oneright around the corner, I’ve been reflecting, once again, on what an awesome life I’m living. Nah, I’m not rich or famous, but I am for the most part healthy and happy.

I am grateful for the many times in my wilder years God pulled my butt out of a metaphorical fire so that I can continue to enjoy life. I am grateful He gives me the energy to keep on learning. I am blessed to continue to meet and make friends with some smart, creative people—young and old. I’m glad I’m still around to grow older together with my hubby and kids and grandkids.

I know 69 years is not that old in these times.

But, it does feel like it’s down the road a piece.

I extend to you Bob Dylan’s words sung by Joan Baez “May you stay forever young”

May your heart always be joyful

May your song be always sung

May you stay forever young

 

Posted by: Laura Carter | May 29, 2016

Healthy Eating Redux

First let me say, my mother was a superior cook. Every night she cooked a family meal and we all gathered around the kitchen table eating and talking. Many of our family favorites were from the Southern cooking repertoire she learned from her mother. Cornbread dressing, black eyed peas, pecan pie, tomato aspic, etc. She made the best fried chicken ever. So good that when she included a leftover piece in my lunch box the next day, it still tasted awesome. I remember she had a special container on the stove to strain the drippings from the breakfast bacon with which she used to flavor many of her dishes. What horror that sounds now, right? Her Red Velvet cake recipe is what the hubby uses to great raves.

chinese cook book

Lula Belle’s original Chinese cook book

Mom also made it a point to learn how to cook cultural food dishes from wherever we lived with Dad on his Army assignments. In Hawaii, she learned to cook Asian food including wontons and spring rolls and delicious rice dishes. When my dad was stationed in Pakistan, and we couldn’t go, she still learned how to create Pakistani dishes to serve my father when he got home so we could share the food culture.

Another component of my foodie upbringing was through my dad. Everywhere we lived, he had a garden. He loved tilling the dirt and learning the plants that would grow well in whatever climate we were in.

I specifically remember the garden in Hawaii. It was a rather large garden on a hill on one side of the house in which we lived while waiting for base housing. Much to his chagrin, there were many types of tiny beasties that will infect and eat your produce in that climate. While our native Hawaiian landlord gave him some advice, Dad managed to invent a tomato saver using my mom’s old stockings. The result of all this gardening is that we were privy to fresh seasonal veggies on the table most of our growing-up lives. He continued to garden until his last year on this earth.

When I began my life in Austin as a hippie babe, I too became a darn good gardener. In both homes I had there, I maintained a large, prolific garden. I grew squash, potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, beans (scarlet runner were my favorites) melons and more. Our resident neighborhood food guru, Clay, was already a vegan and among other dietary examples, fed his twin baby daughters almond milk after they got too big for nursing. We ate a lot of good fresh produce, turkey eggs, raw milk and other healthy foods. We shopped at Good Foods, the store which was actually the precursor to Whole Foods, and then at Whole Foods original store on Lamar Blvd. I made healthful cookies and other baked goods and stayed away from white sugar.

Somewhere along the way of life, I deterred from this path. Smallish incomes and three kids led the family to make the unhealthy mistakes many people in the same financial situation make—beans, potatoes, bread, pasta are cheap, fresh or organic produce not so much. If your teenager works at Church’s Chicken, you love the free leftovers every night.

Oh and did I mention I married a pastry chef? Most the weight I gained from this era is still with me.

Little by little I got back on the right path. I just started saying “no” to the pastry, cookie, cake stuff. I began eating gluten-free for my intestines’ sake and there went the pasta, crackers etc. The hubby and I shopped at Central Market for the great assortment of fresh and tasty produce.

Delivery produce box

For a year or so we had a weekly box of local, seasonal produce delivered to our door. It stretched our ideas of what exactly is eatable Yes! to beet greens and strange sprouts and big black radishes. We finally cancelled, feeling it was not economically in our favor to continue.

On our back patio, we created a small, but productive, container garden. We’ve had good luck with tomatoes, Japanese eggplant, peppers, chard, herbs and even okra. Plus, the house came with two tangerine trees that keep us in fresh tangerines for about 6 weeks every fall.

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Container garden tomatoes

We tried shopping at some of the latest wave in ‘new’ farmer’s market offerings. I confess we slipped some.

What got me back on track is reading a non-fiction book by Barbara Kingsolver, a terrific fiction writer–Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The author and her family enter a life-changing adventure by moving full time to their farm in Virginia. They committed to eating only local, seasonal, organic, homegrown, homespun…well you get the idea. Albeit, they have a large growing area, already producing fruit and nut trees and a farming communityavm icon that grows, raises or makes all products which fit in the parameters of this foodie life. It’s an interesting and inspiring tale.

Granted, our budget is limited, but we are trying to eat better and cook with more healthy ingredients. So, it’s back to the farmers markets for us for fresh, local, seasonal produce, eggs and other products. Last week, I got some wonderful beets and blackberries. This week a sweet, sweet watermelon and a jar of honey. Semi-retirement is a boon for time to search for healthy, economical food options and hubby is excellent at cooking them into delicious, interesting dishes.

Garden eggplant, pepper, herbs stew/sauce

Garden eggplant, pepper, herbs stew/sauce

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A chard frittata with pear from CM

Posted by: Laura Carter | May 11, 2016

A very bad kitty tale

A few years after we lost our 18-year-old cat, the husband and I decided we needed another kitty in our lives. Cats are cuddly, can be kept indoors easily and we just like them. We went down to the Animal Defense League and adopted a cute little black cat with white paws. The husband thought Lover Boy (the name he was given by the shelter staff) really chose him by putting his little cat paw through the cage and tapping him on the arm. “He looked at me like, ‘boss, get me out of here,’” hubby said.

A deceptively cute looking kity.

A deceptively cute looking kitty.

All went well for the first year or so. We live in a townhome complex. One reason we bought this house is the floor to almost ceiling windows looking out on a common area with lots of big trees. There are also several feral cats who roam the complex. The problem with kitty began when these cats would come right up to the windows and drive our cat nuts by being in his territory. Well, actually, he’s neutered so he doesn’t have nuts. But, unbeknownst to us, he could still spray urine. All over the curtains, the carpet and windows.

It took a while to understand where the stink was coming from. The curtains reeked. So I washed them. But, as many of you know, NOTHING ever gets rid of the smell of cat pee. It may seem to work only because our noses can’t smell it. But the cat can.

Here are some of the things we tried to de-stink the house and stop the cat from marking inside.

Replaced the curtains, with shorter curtains, higher than his butt could reach. Which looks dorky, but so what?

Replaced all the carpet in the house with flooring.

Put furniture over the spots where he frequently went.

Squirted him with a water gun when we saw him peeing in an inappropriate place. (He is very stealthy, though)

Burning copious amounts of incense.

Constantly and vigilantly cleaning up the pee puddles, spending a fortune on ‘guaranteed’ to work chemicals cleaners and sprays.

We starting letting him outside to pee in the early morning, risking the ire of the HOA Nazis. But he continued not peeing in the litter box, only in front of the windows—and occasionally on us.

When he marked my brother’s leg, we decided to take him to the Vet once again for testing.  She was very kind, but told us he was healthy, and if this behavior has been going on for a long time, the odds of changing it was slim to none.

Wonderful!

So, we added an extra litter box and bought $60 bag of “calming” pet food with tryptophan.

Then my brother told us about Crazy Water, bottled water from Mineral Wells, Texas which has a naturally occurring high percentage of  lithium. Lithium is sometimes used to treat anxiety and/or depression. Mineral Wells touts its extremely low rate of murders and aggressive behavior is due to the high level of lithium in the water.

I researched how to make homemade cat repellent. I made several versions of natural sprays and cleaners some with Eucalyptus and Wintergreen essential oils and Mrs. Myers dish soap.

We are having some success with the water, food and Eucalyptus oikitty sittingl (as a deterrent) combination attack. There has been a decrease in the frequency of urination. Lover Boy now only has about three spots in the house he pees, rather than eight. And, he sometimes uses the box.

We think the house in general smells better, but I’m afraid to ask an impartial visitor if they detect Lover Boy’s urinary indiscretions.

Now if we could just keep the damn squirrel out of the birdfeeder.

 

 

Posted by: Laura Carter | March 18, 2016

Jesus loves ALL the little children

Remember that Sunday School song we all used to sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children”? For some reason I started singing it this morning as I was getting ready for work. And, I thinking, “Jesus loves ALL the little children in the world including:

22% of all children in the US living below the federal poverty rate

one in five children suffering with mental illness

62% of Hispanic children in the US living in or near poverty

The estimated 679,000 children who were victims of abuse and neglect

All the Syrian and other refugee children, clinging to their parents, hoping for a chance to live in a better world

The children born to undocumented parents in the US who fear they may be torn from the only life they’ve know and deported.

Let’s remind all the “conservative Christian” politicians and their ilk spreading hate and bigotry, Jesus is not selective about who He loves and that is the model we should strive for. Not how much we can cut the assistance and education programs. Not how fast we can round up all the “undocumented” families or build a wall to keep out all those who do not ascribe to the same faith as they claim to follow.

all the children of the world

Jesus loves the little children All the children of the world Red & yellow, black & white they’re precious in his sight Jesus loves the little children of the world

 

Sing that little song several times today to as a reminder just who does Jesus love. Sing it for your family, your friends and co-workers. Sing it for yourself.

 

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