Thursday, April 30, 2009

Here, Piggy Piggy!

Okay, so now the Swine Flu is to be known as the H1N1 virus. Every time I look at that it reads (for a split second) and the "Hiney Virus". As in, you know, kiss your hiney good bye...

While part of me is glad that people who make the decisions are taking this seriously, and the possibility of a pandemic is a serious thing, so they should be concerned, the other part of me is rolling its eyes and groaning.

That's the peril of living through several scares like this, one becomes a little...weary...of hyperbole.

It doesn't help that this was known as the Swine Flu. I was 16 in 1976, and went through that panic with some trepidation. In the end, of course, the pandemic didn't occur and more people ended up dying from the vaccine (rushed through without proper testing by the government), than died of that particular strain of flu.

Is it just me, or do crises seem to be as common as Mesothelioma lawyers on late night TV lately?

People die from flu every year. I wish we would get as proactive and concerned about their deaths as we seem to be over the possibility of this flu strain. 1918 was a long time ago, and we've a few things in our favor that should help ensure that a pandemic like the one in 1918 will not be as deadly or perhaps as wide spread as that terrible plague. (Y'all, more people, esp soldiers died of the flu than in any battle of the first World War.) First, there's TV, radio and the Internet to make sure everyone knows about what's going on (and what's not going on), and secondly, our medical options are a lot more potent and effective.

Be cautious, yes. Some of us have to be cautious all the time, as we'd be susceptible to even common strains. Don't be panicky. This is (Oh dear God, I hope) a natural foe of humanity, one that we've been battling for many, many human lifetimes.

Wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. Be mindful. Stay at home if you're sick (none of us wants your cold, much less the flu), and take care of yourself.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Swine Flu

I remember when I was in High School, when Gerald Ford was in office, there were dire warnings of a possible Swine Flu epidemic that people were afraid would shut down just about everything. There was a big push to find a vaccine and ultimately...nothing came of it.

So, imagine the deja vue I feel now. Yep, Swine Flu is back and this time, it means business. Mexico City is now pretty much closed down and they're passing out masks. Schools and businesses and churches are shut for the time being.

In San Antonio, they've closed down the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City Independent School District, for at least a week, and they're sanitizing the buses, probably cleaning classrooms and trying to figure out how to finish testing. This isn't gonna be fun for the teachers, even if they don't get the flu.

So far, there have been no deaths in the US, and it's unlikely that this strain will kill any faster or surer than any other strain of flu. People should call their doc if they feel symptoms of flu, but other than that...rest, fluids, Tylenol...the usual routine.

Getting sick is never fun, no matter what the strain. Keep your hands washed.

Roads That Might Have Been

Ever wish you'd had access to something twenty years ago?

When I started teaching, some school districts paid extra for a Master's Degree. Not all did, and one that I taught in for fifteen years didn't, and as I would have had to have driven into Houston from another county, I wasn't about to get a degree that I'd never be monetarily compensated for getting.

Enter the computer. Suddenly, it's easy to get a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction, or in Administration, and more and more school districts are rewarding the teachers who have those degrees.

I had planned on pursuing a Masters once I moved to Houston. Unfortunately, between health and stress issues....it didn't get to happen.

Now, I wonder. I wouldn't be compensated for doing it, at least not by a public school system not interested in hiring someone who has to sit for most of the day. However, there may be other ways to use this. MS Instruction and a Master's degree might be a good selling point for employment in a private school. It's something to think about.

It's not like the subject matter wouldn't interest me. I like teaching. A program with a focus on literacy, diversity, and integration of technology would fit right into what I'm most interested in. The learning center I work for has a lot of its program centered around computer access, and seeing as how I'm on the computer a lot anyway... this might fit. I like that the School of Education is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), and has a flexible class schedule. The flexible class schedule is a must, as weeds must be pulled when weeds must be pulled...

Enhancing our... income stream...for 'Pup and I has become a little more important lately. For one thing, I want to be able to afford to travel, attend conferences and blogmeets and just go see things I've not seen yet. The other side is that 'Pup's company is trying very hard not to have to lay anyone off, even though they are hurting. They've reduced their workforce through normal attrition, and by offering retirement packages. The next step they're currently implementing is an across the board salary reduction. Those who make the most will be taking a 10% decrease (including the CEO), and anyone making below a certain amount will not be taking a pay cut.

I've told 'Pup that, although it was painful for him to have been laid off from the company he worked at for 18 years, it turned out to be a blessing in the end. He's now with a company that cares about and values the knowledge and experience of its workforce and is able to look forward to the time when the economy will pick up, and they'll need those experienced individuals. They're looking past a short term bottom line and into the future. They've been through times like this before, and made it through. I think they'll make it through this time as well.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Food and NOT Food

I got an email from Discover magazine the other day. I've been a subscriber for a while, but this was the first email/e-posting version I'd ever seen. The links to the articles they sent were interesting in general, but one caught my attention like no other.

It seems that there are actually "scientists" out there who think that you don't really need food to survive, oh, no! Instead, they're advocating better living through chemicals. They've made a complete "meal" that has no real food in it at all.

Seriously, y'all. Click the link. You are not going to believe what they came up with...

McDonald's suddenly looks like health food. Talk about an appetite suppressant, I think I've found the ultimate one. I could not live on something that had NO connection with anything grown. It is just...insane.

The only way this synthetic food could be any realistically acceptable alternative to.. well, REAL FOOD, is if you're stuck on a space ship with nothing else to eat. Even then, I suspect a crew on this kind of diet would probably have a high suicide rate. That is, if the "food" didn't kill them first.

Pardon me while I get the shudders out...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I Can Do It MYSELF

I've been a bad blogger the last few days, as I've been out and about. Then again, when I've managed to come inside I've been online doing...other things.

Next month, at this time, I'll be packing to go to the Spring Fling in Chicago. The hard part will be figuring out how to carry what and how much to pack and what I can manage while maneuvering in a wheelchair.

I wish they made Samsonite luggage specifically for pulling along with a wheel chair. I need something that I can "hitch" to the back so I can pull it along while negotiating the airports.

"Why not ask someone for help?", you ask...and I know you do.

Well, you see, there are some things that a two and three year old child have in common. We all want "DO IT MYSELF".

Last night is a prime example. I went grocery shopping after work. Usually, the HEB I go to has some carts in good working order. Last night, they didn't and the cart I got died in the middle of the store. With some help, I got the dang thing back up front and plugged in, and there was a supervisor who was volunteering a nice, tall young man to push me in their wheel chair and another to push my cart.

Uhm... no. I still had to go down to the...personal hygiene areas of the store and I didn't want two teen age boys with me.

So, shoot me, I've got issues, okay?

That's when I realized what I should have done in the first place. I needed MY wheelchair and a cart and I could do it myself.

I asked them to keep an eye on my stuff, and transfer it into a regular shopping cart. I went to the truck and rolled out my chair, came back in, hooked my feet into the area under the cart, and pushed it around myself. I can maneuver a cart pretty well that way. It's actually easier than an electric cart, I think, because I can leave the basket and get to things faster and easier.

From now on, that's the way I'm going to do it.

All. By. My. Self.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Another Surprise

Never, ever, judge a book by its cover.

Watch this: If you've ever had a dream..

Watch one come true.

Holding On To and Sharing Memories

I don't know about you, but recently more and more of my...peers... have lost parents or partners or both. It makes you think. When my dad died, the household he and my mom shared stayed intact, with my mom holding onto everything. When 'Pup's mom died, his father sold almost everything and moved into a smallish senior apartment.

The only thing that was...discussed with some fervor, was the family pictures. Who got which ones and why and who got to choose or make the decision.

I think I'm going to get this for both my mom and my Pa-in-law. We need to scan the pictures into a digital format while we have our surviving parents to identify them (if they can), and thus, share the whole bunch of photos with everyone. No fighting, no fuss.

I even found one on sale on buy.com. I think it's worth the money for peace in the family. 'Cause, Lord knows, I have a feeling that logic won't be in my sibling's vocabulary. Reason and reasonableness will probably take a vacation as well. It ain't gonna be pretty, folks.

Even with my mom having already discussed what she wants and who is going to be executor, and all that, I've at least two other siblings that are going to go out of their way to cause drama. Oh well, two out of five isn't too bad, I guess.

Still, I'm going to push for the pictures to be scanned, sooner, rather than later.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, April 2009

I hardly know where to start with this month's Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. Carole at May Dreams Garden hosts this monthly tour around the world, looking at everything going on in our gardens.

The overwhelmingly predominant color this month is Green. Note: that is GREEN with capitals, 'cause ya'll...it's GREEN!

The nasturtiums kinda...exploded in size with a little more rain and a little fertilizer. And yet, that one, stubborn petunia from last spring is still hanging in there and blooming. Bless it's little heart.

I'm trying to grow squash in the front yard again, this time some patty pan, and they're growing in some pots, in hopes that it will lessen the chance of squash borer..

The morning glories are the only thing bluer than the sky today.
The Angel Wing Jasmine is blooming profusely and has a wonderful scent.


The day lilies are putting up scapes and it won't be long till they're all blooming. Yes, these are growing in the end of the bed that I've NOT been able to weed yet, and I'm dreading going there. But, it will need to be done. Soon.

In the other end of that same bed, I've got three bluebonnet plants growing. I bought them. I couldn't resist. Yes, I'm a plantaholic.


Another acquisition is three Indian Blanket plants...they'll be perennials.

'Pup picked out some dahlias at Wal*mart. We'll see how long it takes me to kill them. Dahlia's are one of those plants that don't seem to do well for me.
Is this not a glorious rose? Fragrance Delight is what the tag says it's called. It's just the shade of pink my niece and grandnieces adore.

I like this pink better. But both have a nice scent, and the Belinda's Dream is near a place I have to sit outside. Humm.. I'm going to have to do a post on sitting spots...


The Blue Eyes are blue.

The salvia is red, and the allysium is white. I'll have more flowers in that theme in that bed soon.

My little winter flowers (here), violas are perking up again after the nice deluges we have had recently.

A nice surprise is that the bougainvillea is blooming better than it's bloomed in years. Half of the stems have regressed to solid green, but as they're the ones that will bloom, I'll let them stay and it just looks like I have two plants there, one solid green leafed one and one variegated.

My citrus trees are blooming. They're all rather tiny trees as of yet. It will be a few years before they're of any size for any really good fruiting. Till then, I'll enjoy the flowers and the rare fruit I do get.

The tag on the plant below claims that it is an "Origami Columbine". I don't really know what it is, but it looks like something a hummingbird might be attracted to, so I snagged it as well.



Any ideas?

The Hyacinth bean is blooming, but growing very slowly. When I broke the main stem, I think it damaged the somewhat elderly vine's vigor. Still, my money is on the vine.

Behind it, you saw this canna. It's the first canna bloom of the season for me.


'Pup also picked out the New Guinea impatiens. I like them too...sigh...I hope it lives.


A few weeks ago, I woke up from a bad dream in which snails had eaten all my peas and beans. The next morning, I went outside to check and all was well. It didn't stay that way. But, look.. one little green bean. Time to plant some more in a sunnier spot. The pot of mesclun lettuce behind it was raided yesterday for a salad and looks a little sad.. but it will perk up again.


Some type of kolanche is blooming here, but dang if I know what it is...


The Citronella pelargonium is so pretty. The flowers are tiny, but perfect.


Viola odorata... I bought it because it promised to be a good shady ground cover, but I'm not ready to put it in the ground yet...oh well, it is pretty.


The Chenille plant is waking up from a winter's slumber and filling out slowly.


I have several of these Maid d'Orleans jasmine plants and they all have buds. I know they bloom, but like my four o'clocks (which have also come back this year! With Flowers!), I can't actually CATCH it with open blooms.


My sage is in bloom though! I've never had sage do so well. I think I finally found it's perfect spot.

This is actually a miniature rose, about the size of a dollar coin.

The hibiscus is still blooming, as it has all winter.

Another acquisition, one I couldn't resist. This is a "Songbird(?)" columbine.

AND the nicotiana hasn't died yet! Yeah, ME!


Those big, fat banana looking things are buds of the flower of the split leaved philodendron. It's the plant I call monster. It's about 6 1/2 feet tall now.


And hope is in bloom in my back yard and in the front yard as well.

The Pinata climbing rose is blooming, as is the climbing Golden Showers. The pink jasmine has finished it's bloom for this year. I miss it already.


I end this post with an update on the tomato plants that I overwintered. They are getting huge and have put on a heavy load of tomatoes.


The vines are bend from their weight, but seem able to support them so far.

I do not know why this plant is putting on such odd looking fruit. They seem to be doubled and tripled fruits. Is there a virus that causes this? They taste good when they get red, and that's all that matters. But I do seem to have a shot at ugliest tomatoes...
Now, I'm off to go travel around the world, looking at what's blooming!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

From Boy to Man

I was outside re potting some plants, and plotting where to put them, when I heard a familiar voice say: "Hey, Miss Nancy!"

I was confused for a moment because 1) the voice had bounced around some walls and had been hard to locate from direction and 2) the voice belonged to a young man I thought would have been in school at this time of the day (about noon).

Turns out, the voice was from behind me, and it was the young man...West Neighbor Jr, hereafter to be known as Future Marine.

He came up and greeted me with a smile and a handshake and said he was about to run some errands but he'd be back soon, could I use any help.

"Well, yes, I can and could and do. Uhmmm don't you have to stop by school?"

"No ma'am, I graduated early so I could work full time, but I don't have a full time job yet."

"Did you graduate in December? I wish we'd known!"

"No, ma'am, it was just a few days ago, I worked it out with the school and finished."

Fair enough, thinks I.

"Anyway, I woke up this morning and felt like it was a day to get something DONE and I looked around and thought, Miss Nancy could find me something to do."

God Bless'm...I sure could.

We talked a little more about what I could use help with, mostly moving stuff and stacking stuff and raking stuff... all nice muscle using stuff.

He goes into basic in July. He's already working out, running and walking, with about 30 lbs in a backpack, going to the gym, and I can see the beginnings of a strong man's form emerging from the young teen guy body. His face is changing too. He's becoming more...thoughtful. He's going to be a good man, a good Marine.

He is a remarkable person, already.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

I am in training. I've been using my wheelchair everyday, to roll myself farther and farther. When I go to Chicago, I want to be independent....or at least, as independent as possible. I may have overdone it today, as I'm feeling a little stiff.

Still, I don't mind tired, I don't mind a little stiff (well, mostly), I feel pretty good. I have been able, today, to move MYSELF, by myself, not dependent on a scooter's motor. The other upside is that the chair can go into smaller places than the scooter.

I suppose, if I continue, I'll actually be exercising. Me. Exercising! I'm actually exerting myself, to the point of being tired, without screaming (inside my head, mostly). I don't hurt. Tired is good. I like tired. Pain is bad. It makes me tired without actually letting me do anything. Pain is not my friend.

Next thing you know, I'll be losing weight. A bit far fetched, I admit, but not totally out of the realm of possibility.

Okay, not very far off the realm of possibility.

At least, it's not diet pills. I am doing this with my own muscle power and I'm not crying from pain, so this is a win, win, win, win, situation.

PS: I love going DOWN ramps...Wheeeeeeee!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Even Commercials Can Be Beautiful

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking.

You'd be wrong.

Go see this, especially if you're feeling a little down.

Pantene commercial

Eating Spring.

It is a beautiful day outside. The temperatures are in the 70's and there are just enough wispy clouds to highlight how very blue the sky is above us. The new leaves on the trees and the new grass look good enough to eat.
Golden Shower's climbing up and over, and blooming like crazy.
A scented pelargonium, I think this one is citronella.


My little fig is filling up with leaves. I never did get to eat the figs. The squirrels or birds got them all.
My overwintered tomato plants are so heavy with tomatoes that they're drooping.
If you look closely, you can see the tomatoes.
I don't know what it IS about this plant, but it seems to enjoy setting some really funky looking tomatoes. They taste good though, and that's all I care about.

My radish and carrots are doing pretty well. I've picked some of the radish a couple of days ago, very tiny, but yummy. The carrots are up, but just about ready to thin, but not to eat. Can one eat young carrot leaves?
So I picked some more of the bigger radish, still not very big, but ready to munch.

Now there's a Spring bouquet that can't be beat.

I picked some baby greens from the mesclun mix in one pot. A big double handful should do nicely.
And they did, indeed, do nicely. I even put some of the radish in with a bread and butter sandwich. I dressed the greens very simply, with a squeeze of lemon juice and a little salt and white pepper.
I finished off the lunch with a mango.
I do like Spring.