Thawing out

So here it is.  ‘tis the “season to be jolly” has come ‘round again. I’ve been stuck these past few weeks in the post-election blues and my brain felt frozen. But today I did my “Merry Christmas” phone calls to grandsons and a couple of old friends. It worked somewhat to elevate the spirits without actual spirits, but that will surely come later.

I decided to make a Christmas wish list/New Year’s resolutions:

I wish the next Congress will not slash and burn Medicare and Social Security.

I wish my grandkids won’t end up glowing in the dark.

I wish for the cream of humanity to rise to the top and leave the sour milk behind.

I wish for us to be kind to one another.

Next year:

I will try to experience something new at least once a week.

I will spend less on food and eat healthier.

I will not let social media freak me out and stoke fear.

I will hate the cat a little less, maybe…

This a beautiful Christmas picture I saw today on my daughter-in-law’s Facebook page. I think it came from Realm of the Faerie Garden

christmas-picture

So, Merry Christmas, dammit!

 

 

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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.

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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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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.

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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!

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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.

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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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