Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dance Around the World

Happy New Year!  This you tube video was sent to me by a friend.  It's from last year, but it is still good and makes you smile.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Nathaniel Branden, Ayn Rand and Me

In the days before Depak Chopra and Tony Robbins, there was EST, and other "self-actualization" movements.  I was single, between husbands, and determined to improve myself and meet attractive, single men.  What better way then to go where they might be?  (This was before on-line dating).  Not bars necessarily, not quilting classes, but wine seminars, financial workshops, and. . . a weekend with my then guru, Nathaniel Branden, one of the fathers of the self-esteem movement, and a protege of Ayn Rand.

After reading several of Branden's books, including The Psychology of Self-Esteem, I learned that he would be in town conducting a weekend seminar in Denver.  Perfect, I thought, and I signed up.

I can still visualize some of the scenes of that weekend.  More men than women, (yes!); everyone trying very hard to look confident, wondering what was in store for them.  What the weekend consisted of was a series of what anyone would recognize as psychological exercises.  One scene I remember was this poor guy, up on the stage, with Nathaniel skillfully leading him through some emotional memories which ended up with the "patient" sobbing into a huge teddy bear that was a prop.

The culmination of the weekend was an exercise where we all gathered in the gym, lights very dim, told to lie down on the floor, lift up our pelvises and make whatever sounds or words that came to mind.  What am I doing here I thought, as the man next to me was calling his mother every horrible thing, swearing, swearing, swearing.  There was a tap on my shoulder.  "Natalie,"said one of Branden's assistants, (we were on first-name terms by then).  "You don't seem to be getting into this."

The weekend ended, $300 later, although there were many smart, tall, men (my template), I really did not make any connections, but felt sorry for so many people that seemed deeply troubled.

I came home and called my boyfriend in California and told him about the weekend.  "Honey," he said.  "Anytime you want to feel 'actualized,' come to California and visit me."

I am adding a You Tube interview with Nathaniel Branden.  I was flippant about my experience, but I did read his books.   And he is still with us. I think seeing this You Tube will explain his philosophy, Ayn Rand and her books.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from Haiti, Peru, Mexico, and Indonesia

Merry Christmas to all blog readers and others!

"For to you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be sign unto you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."

"And suddenly there was with the Angel, a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth Peace Among Men."


Please click on the photos for a larger image.  The manger scenes are lovely and a tribute to all those who created them.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bless the Beasts and the Children

Bless the beasts and the children.  A good thing to keep in mind this December.  Animals and children, both innocent and helpless are dependent on us.  This is the time to make a magic time for children, not so much to buy them expensive gifts, but to give them a gift of your time, which is what they will remember long after the electronics get broken or lost.

This year we are following a tradition we began two years ago, and that is to give our children and grandchildren a gift of a special event, a play, a ballet or?  Last year one family went to see a fabulous "Nutcracker" ballet, the other family went to see the amazing play, "Warhorse,"  modeled after the movie.  Warhorse used giant puppets made of pieces of wood, modeled after real horses, but they only showed the "bones" to allow a person inside to manipulate the puppet.  Both families enjoyed the events.  We received crayon drawings, beautifully and carefully done of the Nutcracker ballet as a thank you and photos taken in the lobby during the intermission of Warhorse.

Animals all over the world are at our mercy, especially those in Africa and especially Elephants which are killed for their ivory.  My sister visited Kenya this past year and adopted a baby elephant from The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust:  Nairobi, Kenya.  Once you are on their website, you can see films and stories about their rescue missions.  There are stories there about the baby elephants that are orphaned because their mothers were killed.  The Trust's mission is to care for these babies until they are three years old or so and then they are carefully returned to the wild.  Of course, many adopt each one, but the amount of food, veterinary care and care that is needed can support many parental adoptions.  


There is much need in so many parts of the world and most of us are not in the position to give large amounts of money, but a small donation to the many qualified and deserving causes both human and animal can help. 

The Denver Post, November 2013.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

My Estonian Grandmother, a mystery

Christmas, more than other holidays, brings on so much nostalgia, especially memories of our parents.  My sister and I lost our parents when we were 19, and 26 respectively.  They died within a year and a half of each other.  Although we knew quite a bit about our mother's background, we knew very little about my father's.

I noticed I have a few Estonian readers of this blog and I thought I would write what little I know about my Estonian grandmother.  

When emigres came to the United States, especially in the late 20's, early 30's, many of them wanted to keep their past secret for many reasons: to avoid reprisals, wanting to start fresh, and with new names, after cutting off all ties with regimes that were at the very least, not friendly.

I think my grandmother's name was Mildred or Marina and her last name I heard was Neurman, but I believe she marred again, so this was not my father's last name.  Her last name could have been Kueller.

She was born in Estonia in 1886 and married an Austrian.  They were divorced when my father was five and I think my father went to live with his father who lived in Moscow.  And perhaps he lived part of the time with my grandmother as well.  But I do know he went to school in Moscow, a gymnasium, they were called.  My grandfather had something to do with the Trans-Siberian railway; we have few real facts.  My father changed his name before I was born to Allan French, but his first name was Alexander.

Later, much later, after the Russian Revolution, and a few intervening years spent in Paris, my father came to the United States.  His mother followed later; the 1930 US census, lists her as living in New York with my mother and father.  I do remember that we were told she died of cancer in New York City. It was interesting as he changed my grandmother's name to Millie French.

I know this photograph was taken in Parnu, Estonia, and from the dress, perhaps in 1918 or when dresses were still long, but shoes and hose showed.

I have no photos of my grandfather as his picture was cut out of the few family photos we have.

So, the mystery remains and will probably remain.  I send her picture out in cyberspace in memory of a grandmother my sister and I never knew.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

To Life!

Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Hanukkah.  This year both these celebrations coincide; the last time this happened was in 1888.

Despite troubling and uncertain times, remembering the special celebrations in our lives helps.  Weddings count as special celebrations.  A friend sent me this You Tube video, and just seeing it lifts your spirits.

How the people in the wedding party must have rehearsed these moments, and I must admit, I shed a few tears myself.

To Life!

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 1963 Where were you?

Today marks the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination and yet I know that many reading this post were not born yet. It's hard to realize that 50 years have gone by and all that has happened since.

 I was a young mother working as a lab tech in a Hartford, Connecticut hospital.  My husband was an actuarial student at one of the insurance companies in Hartford and my little son was 7 years old.  At 12:30 PM, someone ran down in hall in our laboratory yelling, "the president has been shot."  At first, it was hard to comprehend the words as we gathered in small groups to try and make sense of what we heard.  We all went home early that Friday, and from that moment on until the funeral was over on Monday, our television set was on, black and white of course which made what we saw even more dramatic and poignant.

I think that day marked the end of innocence of our country, at least from our generations' point of view.  How could this happen here, we thought. And little did we know, more assassinations were to come, Martin Luther King on April 4th, 1968 and Robert Kennedy only two months later, June 5th, 1968.  

Assassinations are not new in history, but to a young country such as ours, they were.  Our immunity from the political turbulence of Europe somehow protected us, even though our country was involved in World War I and II, they were not fought on our soil,  and not-withstanding, Lincoln's assassination, with Kennedy, here was someone we knew, someone we saw on television, in magazines, someone whose voice we heard, whose family we admired, their youth was our youth, and our hopes for a bright future seemed somehow linked with theirs.

And then two more murders of political leaders, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy made our reality complete.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I'm Retired or ? What's in a name?

Cocktail party or any other gathering -- "What do you do?" is a question often asked here in the US, not so much in other countries as it is considered an intrusive question.

And the "R" word comes slipping from your lips.  What images are conjured in the questioners mind?  Nothing positive.  Here is the definition from The American Heritage Dictionary, "to withdraw as for rest, seclusion or shelter; to withdraw from business or public life," etc.  Not a pretty picture, especially the withdraw part.

I have been thinking about this question and I have come up with a different answer and word.  "What do you do?"  asks someone you have just met.  I am on "Sabbatical" will be my answer from now on.  The definition for sabbatical, and I am using the broader term: a period of time devoted to research, travel and rest."  This term usually refers to a university professor who applies for a sabbatical, traditionally every seven years.

But consider how "I am on sabbatical," sounds  compared to "I am retired."  "Research, travel and rest."  Research to find new interests, travel always interesting and a challenge, and rest, of course because you are busy doing the other things.

And of course, many of us are not the vigorous 20 somethings we were, but with the advent of the Internet, there are still many, many things we can do.  And if you answered that you are on a sabbatical, the questioner might say "But I thought sabbatical meant. . ." which would open another line of questioning, 'what's in a word?'

So, what am I doing?  Keeping in touch with grandchildren, friends, starting a new business, and painting, oh yes, writing this blog.  And many afternoons, I do need to take a nap, and of course there are those annoying health issues.

Time is all we have.  Ask me again -- "What is it you do?"  I am on sabbatical!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sicilian Donkeys, and Australian Sheep Farmers

Near us is a horse farm and their latest borders are two Sicilian Donkeys. This is my first opportunity to learn all about these special animals and pretend that I own them and have them on my mythical ranch.

They are two females from Texas, over ten years old, and are Sicilian Donkeys because of their black stripe over their withers and down their back.  The legend is, I learned from their owner, that a donkey followed Christ as he was carrying the cross and the shadow of the cross fell on the donkey and created the crossed black lines on the donkey's back.  And of course, like all legends, there are different versions.

The breed is very old and donkeys are pictured on ancient Egyptian wall paintings. Used to "break" trails for hikers as they seem to know the best trail and are used as the lead animal for camel treks in the near east and elsewhere.  Many ranches use them as companions for skittish horses and to guard sheep.  They will stomp a coyote to death if one crosses their path or gets into the paddock.  Sicilian Donkeys are affectionate and love attention.

In third world countries they are invaluable as a pack and work animal. Unfortunately, they mimic the life of their owners there and are often malnourished and poorly treated.

But here in the states, they are often just pets, as these two.  Besides carrots, we also learned that their special treats are peppermint candies, like those red and white ones one gets from restaurants.  We have so much fun giving those treats, not many at one time of course, to these donkeys.  And they love them, chew them slowly, and half close their eyes to enjoy the whoosh of the peppermint flavor.  At about 7 AM, one brays to get the attention of the barn hands to remind them that it is time for their morning hay.  Not too many brays, just a few, but we can hear them too.  It is very effective.

Next week:  Chickens

The Two Peppermint Eating Donkeys

File:Maler der Grabkammer des Panehsi 001.jpg
From Wikimedia Commons, Thank You!
Post Script from the Wall Street Journal, 10/25.   Australia is using donkeys to protect their sheep against wild Dingo Dogs.  The wild Dingo dog population is increasing in Australia and because of this, the sheep are increasingly at risk.  Enter the amazing donkey!  Feral donkeys were rounded up from Australia's Northern Territory and sold to farmers.  Donkeys attack wild dogs and scare them away and can be very effective once they bond with the sheep.  Apparently they hate canines.  Because Australia is the world's biggest producer of wool this is a huge problem economically.  The numbers tell the story:  42,000 stock, mostly sheep were killed by these wild dogs last year.  Western Australia also offers bounties for every dog killed.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Adieu to a Special Friend

Today it is snowing in Castle Pines, Colorado.  The hummingbirds left two days ago, and yesterday was the funeral of a special friend.

It was a beautiful fall day, leaves just starting to change to yellow, crisp air, blue skies – a day my friend would have enjoyed.

As we walked into the church, saying a sad hello to some of her family, we found our seats.  Oh it was hard to keep the tears back as a wave of memories of my special friend came back.

Special friends are those who you do not see every day or call often, but they are the friends that somehow stay in your life for years, through Christmas cards and occasional calls.  Sometimes you don’t see them for years, but then you reconnect when you are in the same city and it is like you saw them yesterday.  But because of their presence, they enhance your life.

Robin was a Francophile; she admired France, its people and its culture.  And so when her family was grown and gone, she was able to indulge her passion, polishing her French taking lessons over the years,  and traveling, especially to France.  One way that the traveling was made easier was to arrange a house exchange, which she did over the years, not just to France but the UK and other countries.

We were able to share in one of her exchanges.  When I remarried, she, her husband and youngest daughter were staying at the Loire Valley in a remodeled French farmhouse and since, for my wedding trip, my husband, my son, and I were visiting the UK and France, we were invited to come down to the Loire valley and visit them.

In my wedding album, I have a letter from Robin, on lined notebook paper, giving us specific instructions to the place, complete with a little sketch.  I was so excited, so after sightseeing in Paris, we were on our way to the Loire Valley and a farmhouse named “Louvignan,” Could we manage to find our way out of Paris to our destination?

My new husband, who is also a light plane pilot with a pilot’s sure sense of direction, did find “Louvignan” in spite of the many road signs with what seemed like arrows pointing in every direction.

The highlight was a dinner in a nearby village which Robin had arranged.  In my mind all the romantic images of France came together that evening – we ate upstairs in a special room overlooking a cobblestone courtyard.  Robin ordered in French, of course, and even though I do not remember the menu, I remember the feeling I had, of a calm bliss, that here I was a new bride, albeit a second time, in a story-book place.  And of course, when we left, the courtyard was bathed in moonlight.  A magic evening made possible by a very special friend.

So adieu, my friend.  I shall miss you, more than I can say or write.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A World of Super Heroes, Princesses, Knights and Fairies

This blog introduces my sister's new business venture.  As you know I don't generally advertise ads on my blog but am happy to promote books I have read and enjoyed from the authors on this blog site.  But in the case of my sister. . .

My sister has my mother's creative genes.  She sews beautifully, and can plan children's parties that are magical.  For two years she had a brick and mortar children's art studio and birthday party store in the San Bruno, California area, and decided to continue her line of party favors and craft ideas for children on-line.

Her web site introduces her first line of party costumes and crafts for children's parties.  This way, moms who would like to plan a birthday party for their little girls or boys can order party favors like tutus, crowns and magic wands for their daughters and their guests.  The tutus are already made but the guests are given sequins, glue to decorate their tutus.  The kits come with all the craft items that are needed.

The super hero line has the special cape and mask; the knights have felt "armor;" the fairies have exquisite wings that are already made waiting to have those birthday quests add just the right sparkle.  And all these items can be played with after the party.  Many little girls love to wear their tutus everywhere.  These items are handmade by my sister and are of much higher quality than others you may have seen on other web-sites.

But the best way to imagine all this is to visit her web-site.  Ordering is easy and shipping in the United States is free. www.cqsartforkids.com 

I am very proud of my sister and am happy to promote her new venture.  Just wish my mother could be here to see it all.

I have added a photo from one of my sister's parties.  The little girls faces are sunflowers to protect their identities.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Floods Worst in Colorado History

We are having the worst floods in Colorado history, but to look out our windows and without television, radio, social media, etc. we would never know it.  

We live at 6400 feet here near Castle Rock, Colorado and have had hard rain, especially the previous five days, but no flooding and this morning we have blue skies, puffy clouds and emerald green lawns, trees with a few leaves turning yellow, but not the horrific scenes that we see on TV and the newspaper, (yes we still read the actual newspaper).  How can this be happening only 40 miles away from us?  During our fires earlier this year, which were south of us, the fires were about 40-50 miles in the opposite direction.

Quieter weather is forecast for the next few days, but the cleanup and assessment is beginning.  Here are the stats:  6 people are presumed dead and 1253 are unaccounted for; 19,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed.  The area of flooding is the size of Connecticut.  FEMA (The Federal Emergency Management Agency) has personnel here; also search and rescue teams from neighboring states are here.  The rescue personnel are amazing, so many stories of bravery and heroism.  

One story that particularly touched me was this one from The Denver Post, 9/14/13:

"Hero cop gives guide dog the credit for saving man."

Ronnie Web, a seeing-impaired man was knocked over by flood waters while walking his dog on Friday, the 13th of September.  While a Denver police officer was patrolling the area near a drainage culvert,  he noticed a dog was paying particular attention to something in the water.  It was the dog's owner, Mr. Webb.  As the officer approached the scene, Mr. Webb screamed which caused the dog to jump into the water and then both were sucked in the drainage culvert.  But, Officer Del Creason, who grew up in the area knew where the drainage culvert surfaced.  Calling for help, Creason followed the culvert  and both the dog and his owner surfaced a few blocks down.  "He and the dog were in the tunnel for 17 minutes," the officer said.  "I'm sure that he used the dog to keep afloat."  Both owner and dog are fine.  Not all heroes have two legs.

 I am adding the following You Tube -- when you reach the 5 minute mark  there is a story about another hero who rescued many horses and other animals.  It must be heartbreaking to leave your animals behind to save your own life.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Syria, a Tragic Chess Game

"Bon Air, Beaux Sites, Belles Routes, Bons Hotels,"  reads this 1927 Travel Poster, Syria and Lebanon.  Here we are, 86 years later, more than one person's lifetime perhaps --  1927 between WWI and WWII looking at a travel poster depicting interesting and beautiful places to visit in Syria and Lebanon. 

Power shifts, lines drawn and redrawn. Syria is one of the oldest historical/civilized countries on earth and now is in the midst of a civil war.  We here in the United States do not seem to understand and have a grasp of the situation and the ambivalence and shifting positions of our political leaders reflect this.

Chemical weapons are not new to nations.  Syria has one million pounds of chemical weapons (or more) which Russia is offering to dismantle and to remove  from Syria.  This is a checkmate to our plan to use some kind of military force to state our disapproval of the use of chemical weapons.  More meetings, more proposals, as the world's leaders scramble to seem to be the ones with the answers. 

And so it goes, confusing, complex and tragic.

Friday, August 30, 2013

JW Turner. Art and French Cooking with Rachel Khoo

Can you combine art and cooking?  Yes, yes and yes.  Rachel Khoo the star of "Little French Kitchen," shows us how in this You Tube video.

In my last post, I wrote about my new favorite cooking show,  "Little French Kitchen."  She is on the Cooking Channel and if you cannot see it, you might try You Tube where snippets of her show are shown.

In this episode, she combines one of my favorite artists, JW Turner with a cooking lesson, but through the magic of You Tube, you can glimpse a few of Turner's earlier works at the Tate Gallery in London.

His art is amazing and if you are ever in London it is worth the trip by the London tube and bit of a walk.  Years ago my family and I were visiting London and we did visit the Tate, albeit soaking wet.  Yes we ran into a horrific rain storm on our way over to the museum, and even our umbrella's turned inside out.  As we dripped our way inside, no one even looked our way as we paid our fee, checked our umbrellas and made our way to the Turners.  I was freezing, wet and miserable and felt very sorry for myself.  Here I was amidst these magnificent paintings which I had waited for so long to actually see and all I could think of was how wet I was.  But, I told myself, here is your chance, get over it.  And I did.  Looking at the larger paintings, you felt as if you could just keep walking and walk inside the painting.  His colors are wonderful, the sea, the sky, very abstract for his time.

In the talented Ms Khoos segment, you can see a few of his earlier works and enjoy her recipe, "Quick Pickled Sardines." She also sketches food and ideas for her show and makes me appreciate that there is beauty and creativity everywhere. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Little Paris Kitchen

"Little Paris Kitchen" is my favorite food show getaway.  When I watch it, in a few moments I am in Paris with Rachel Khoo, drinking a strong cup of coffee made with a French Press, of course, and watch Ms Rachel cook.  Her apartment is small, very small, with a tiny kitchen, no glamour cooking pots in sight.  And of course talking with her in fluent French about cooking and life in general.

"Little Paris Kitchen" is on the Cooking Channel with all their other remarkable shows but my criteria for food shows is -- no yelling, running around and rushing, rushing, rushing.  I am not a "challenge" fan, there is no winning in my getaway world, just pleasure watching someone cook and enjoy what they are doing, plus learning something.  And of course there is that panache of Paris.

To me the big lesson of "Little Paris Kitchen" is that you don't have to have a giant kitchen with the latest appliances to cook a wonderful meal.  And it underlines what is really important -- the art of cooking for friends (or yourself) and taking time to enjoy being in the moment.

Rachel Khoo has a website rachelkhoo.com/tv where she talks about cooking and places she likes to visit in Paris and elsewhere,  a very personal and friendly blog about food and people.  And sometimes she visits other cities and cooks there with their chefs.

Some of her pots are enamelware with chips, yes just like your grandmother had.  And yes, I realize that some of the show could be staged, but I don't care, the charm of the show is not diminished.

Rachel had a restaurant in her little apartment where she would cook a meal for couples.  A little table, tablecloths, napkins, and a restaurant meal all created in this little space.  She does not do this anymore, no time as she is getting famous with a cook book coming out in the fall and many appearances here and in the United States.  But meanwhile. . .

I hope that "Little Paris Kitchen" does not change, but it probably will, meanwhile, I will take a break on Fridays, from 10:30 to 11 AM and imagine I am in the kitchen with Rachel, talking about food and life in the heart of Paris.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dreams and . . . .

I came across this bit of writing I did a while ago and it seemed to fit my mood today.  I am thinking about my project and getting excited as the steps go forward.

Even Toads Can Dream

Behold the Green Toad
with his rhinestone crown,

Flicking his long red tongue at

every passing gnat,

while dreaming of long-limbed princesses 

with blond hair and luscious red lips.

Who is to say what dreams are out of reach

either by bony fingers or even green-webbed ones?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Everything begins with an idea. . . .

Everything begins with an idea --everything.  And I have been thinking about an idea I had for a business for about a year.  The last few weeks the first steps have fallen in place which is what happens when I feel things are meant to happen.  I have contacted a designer who will help me with my ideas, purchased a domain name, etc.  I am excited.  Cannot divulge the details yet, but I will when there is more to describe.  Meanwhile here are some quotes about creativity which includes all you writers out there.  I think that the process is just as exciting as the result, being part of the unfolding of your idea is all part of the creative process.

This quote by Eric Hoffer is my favorite because my idea began by being unhappy about something and the desire to change it.

Creativity is discontent translated into arts." - Eric Hoffer 

"Capital isn't so important in business. Experience isn't so important. You can get both these things. What is important is ideas. If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and there isn't any limit to what you can do with your business and your life."
— Harvey Firestone
The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. 
-- Linus Pauling

I think that all bloggers have these ideas.  They read or see something and one idea leads to another about what they might want to discuss in their blogs.  Or they want to share a photo, a poem, a new book, a story, an observation.  The list goes on and on.

So here is a toast to all the creative ones out there.  Don't give up.  Make it happen.  It is magic.

What is your favorite quote about creativity?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Passion. What is Your Passion?

I thought about the word "Passion" and what it means a few weeks ago when we were in Park City, Utah.  Our hosts took us to a summer training area for Olympic ski jumpers.  We watched the jumpers ski down specially designed ramps which launched them high in the air, allowing them the room to twist and turn flips on their way down to finish into a bubbling swimming pool, the bubbles providing a target.  I thought about the passion and single-minded dedication it takes to practice their passion -- trying to qualify for the Winter Olympics.

"Fervor, enthusiasm, zeal, ardor" are synonyms.  And of course, there is a dark side to passion, the passion that is used for evil deeds.  

A friend from long ago talked about passion and how she regretted never having an intense passion like her granddaughter who lives and breathes ballet.  She speculated what that would be like.  Of course, there are sacrifices to make in order to be single-minded about these passions, whether they are in the arts, in sports, in politics, writing and more.  But I don't think that most of us have that single mindedness.  I don't.  Years ago I took some kind of test and what it showed was that because I had too many interests, I would not ever have that kind of passion, although I greatly admire those who do.

I am including a video we took of these amazing young men, and perhaps women, but I could not tell due to the padded outfits they were wearing.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Alex Navalny Released Pending Appeal

Alexei Navalny, the Russian activist I wrote about in the previous blog, has been released from jail pending his appeal.  This was a surprise move one day after he was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to five years in prison.  What is unclear is "why"?   One comment in the paper was that it reflects the pattern of Russian politics of alternating between crackdown and reprieve.  Mr. Navalny is still running for mayor of Moscow.  Perhaps the authorities are leaving his candidacy in place to show that opposition candidates are participating.  He will still be subject to arrest once his appeal is ended.

There is an expression in Russian, "Na leva," which means "on the left" but more than that, it means "The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing."  This covers many things in Russia: politics, business, personal matters and "Na Leva" would cover Mr. Navalny's story as well.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bravery, Micro and Macro

Today in the Wall Street Journal, there was an editorial about a brave Russian gentleman, Alexei Navalny, a lawyer and anti-corruption blogger, who is defending himself in a show trial in Kirov, Russia. He is being tried on trumped up charges of embezzlement.  But he is an leading opponent of Russian President, Vladimir Putin, who has adopted draconian new laws to put down protest movements and stifle dissent.  Quoting from the article and Mr. Navalny's comments, "Not one of us has the right to shirk from doing what's necessary to make our world better.  Each time someone thinks, 'Why don't I just step aside and simply everything will happen without me and I'll wait?'" There is more to this quote which you can look up in the Wall Street Journal.  He does not mince words.

Reading the article made me consider bravery in all its forms.  I have never been tested in my lifetime in "Macro Bravery,"  that is public stands that are dangerous or unpopular.  We all have experienced micro bravery, that personal fortitude in our lives when we face illness, our own or our families, making decisions in our relationships, taking physical chances, and all those micro stands that are known only to our family and friends and some outsiders. But to go against a regime which means prison, banishment, or death takes a fortitude that not everyone has.

We have been reading in the paper of Nelson Mandela's imminent death which gives some who really do not know much about his bravery and life, a chance to learn more.  Mr. Mandela went to prison for 27 years for going against the South African political regime at the time, sometimes using violence.  He spoke against Apartheid and other injustices and was given a long prison term.  But when the politics of South Africa changed, he was released and instead of being bitter and seeking asylum elsewhere, he stayed and became president and helped South Africa change to a better form of government.

There are many examples throughout history of brave men and women who took a stand against evil and oppression at the risk of their own lives, in many case their families lives as well.

Here in the United States we have the freedom to dissent, not that there might not be a few ramifications depending on what is said or posted, IRS audits, not-withstanding.

Just a few thoughts, a week after July 4th.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, United States of America, 237 Years Young!

237 Years ago, July 4th, 1776, 

"IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government. . . ."

And here we are 237 years later, just a blink in time and yet what changes we have seen here and in the world.  I included a copy edited by Thomas Jefferson.  This year, I read the Declaration again and was reminded of the power of these words.

Happy Fourth of July!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Victorian Paper House+Creativity with Paper

Years ago while visiting London, I saw a wonderful museum called the Pollock's Toy Museum and if you like toys of all kinds, both new and old and a step back in time, this is the store to visit.  I bought a book which included a Victorian House, furnishings and descriptions.  The idea was to cut out and construct the home.  The book was put away with other memorabilia from the trip.  Recently, I decided to cut and paste the house together.  I did enjoy doing this more than I thought and it brought back memories of doll houses and special toys from my childhood.  What is amazing, is what you can do with paper and I have noticed from time to time advertising using paper sculpture.  Pop-up books are special too and I have a small collection.  Looking at the photos, the back view shows rickety stairs, but you have the idea of the perfect "Upstairs, Downstairs" view of a Victorian home from the expensively furnished family rooms to the tip top rooms of the servants.

You can enlarge the home's two views by clicking on the photo.

You can twist and mold paper, make paper mache, and make all kinds of models. Encourage your kids to think about architecture/design by making their ideal room in miniature.  All you need is paper, pencil, scissors and glue.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sleep, sleep, blissful sleep or not. . . ?

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life 
Is rounded with a sleep.

The Tempest (4.1.168-170) 

Ah yes, something we all do every night, easier for some, difficult for others, sleep -- perchance to dream, we hope.

In my younger days, I loved to sleep, it came easily, I fell asleep in a few minutes.  Not so any more.  Two versions for me --  cannot get to sleep which sometimes seems like hours, or I wake up four or so hours later and cannot get back to sleep.  I sleep fairly well probably one day out of four.  Have tried taking all those over the counter things which left me hung over and light-headed the next morning.  Then the usual remedies, hot milk, get up ans read for a while, etc. etc.  Sometimes they help, sometimes they don't.  Now, I have an overwhelming desire to lie down in the afternoon and nap.  Hate doing this, as then it is probably harder to sleep at night.  This has been going on for a long, long time and affects my energy level which is minuscule and bothers me greatly as I have so many things and projects I want to do but. . . .

But a good nights sleep is very important to your health, I read, so off to the sleep lab at our local health provider, and in order to find out why.  I was given a little gadget to attach to the index finger of my left hand, which is wired to a small computer which records heart rate and oxygen level for one night.  It was tricky to fall asleep, hoping the wire did not fall off, but I did it and I returned everything the next morning.  Have not heard back as yet.

This gave me an idea for a topic for this blog.  How many of you have trouble sleeping and what do you do about it?  This precludes all those moms and dads with babies -- that is a separate issue which, in time, resolves itself.

This is what Hemingway said about sleep:  "I love sleep.  My life has a tendency to fall apart when I'm awake you know."

Do creative people have a harder time sleeping -- too many ideas spinning around in their heads?   Or do they (you) get your best ideas at night which interferes with sleep?

The latest idea I was given was to wear sun glasses two hours or so before bed which cuts down light and technically turns on the melatonin.  I have been doing this, not sure if it helps, but it does add a bit of panache to the pajamas I wear.  Meanwhile --- would love your ideas.  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fire, Fire. Nature is not kind.

Colorado, my home state, is susceptible to forest fires.  We have huge conifer forests which, when conditions are right, can turn a lovely wooded area into a Dante inferno.

Two days ago, in the afternoon, perhaps started by a lightening strike, a forest fire started in the Colorado Springs area called Black Forest.  Because of the hot, dry and windy conditions, it quickly spread.  Now, still not contained, 360 homes have been destroyed so far, 38,000 people have had to evacuate and find shelter.  Two people died.   Countless animals including horses, livestock, pets have had to be rescued and accounted for.  Shelters for animals have been set up as well.  The hardest part would be not knowing if your home is still standing. Their lives will never be the same.

The sky is gray and at the beginning, we could see the smoke plume from our house and as we step outside, we can smell smoke. We are about 40 miles away from the fire.

A few years ago our home, too, was threatened by a much smaller fire, but we did have to evacuate.  Fortunately, the weather changed, the temperature dropped as it was October, and the fire fighters were able to contain it. Our house is the closest to the smoke in the photo.

So we wait, watch television for the latest news, knowing that, if conditions were right, it could happen here.  And hoping we can help in some way.  And we can, perhaps if only financially.  There may be other things we can do to help.  We know that people would do the same for us.

Castle Rock Fire, 2003.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Joy in Restoring Historic in Limerick, Ireland

Have you ever fallen in love with an older home that needed a great deal of work, but somehow spoke to you.  "Help, I am worth saving."  Older homes can be like aging beauties, "Don't look at me as I am, but remember me as I was."  There is so much history within walls of older homes,  both sad and  happy, but in need of care and interest, and this is one of the challenges -- in need of money.

In the June 7th issue of the Wall Street Journal,  there was an article that caught my eye.  "Ireland's Neglected Georgian Gems."  Merritt Bucholz, an American architect, living in Dublin, is slowly restoring a Georgian, five-story house, in a not-so-nice neighborhood on the edge of Limerick's Georgian quarter.

Original Georgian architecture, classically inspired, built during the 18th century, primarily, features a boxy style, symmetrical exterior, paneled front door topped by an elaborate crown top, chimneys on both sides, and multi-paned windows, never paired.  There are many versions and  many row houses built with the same characteristics.  A beautiful example here in the United States is the Westover Plantation, built in 1730 by William Byrd, founder of Richmond, Virginia. The wings of  the home were added much later, but you can see the classical Georgian style in the main house.

Limerick was an 18th-century boom town but has not been included in Ireland's recent booms, although the residents of Limerick are doing what they can to restore some of the Georgian homes.  Mr. Bucholz spends one night a week in Limerick where he is the head of the architecture department at the University of Limerick.  He bought his Georgian home (not the one pictured here, of course) for $288,000 and so far the restoration has cost him another quarter of a million.  The house was gutted almost totally from the inside as he began with the original bricks. "I think of these old buildings as organic things, slowly becoming part of nature."  It does not bother him if cracks appear after reconstruction, as he says the house has to resettle and come together.  His goal is not to create a perfect home but to re-create the essence of the structure.  To appreciate a building that is 300 years old is not for the faint-hearted and takes a certain amount of courage, vision and patience.

Westover Plantation, 1730, Richmond, VA.  Stephen Lea.
Frank McCourt, author of Angels's Ashes grew up in Limerick, Ireland, although he was born in the United States.  And his memories of Limerick are not glowing ones of Georgian homes, but of heart-wrenching poverty.  There is so much sadness in the world, that to find beauty where you can and appreciate long-ago craftsmen, builders, gardeners, architects, to me, is a worthwhile goal.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

D Day, The 6th of June, 1944, A Huge Turning Point

"The world will little note nor long remember,"  Taking a line from the Gettysburg Address.  D Day was a huge turning point in World War II.  There were 10, 000 dead, wounded and missing in action that day.  And here we are 69 years later; a few lines, in some papers, nothing mentioned in most.  This was a cartoon by Rick Detorie, in the Denver Post.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Pinterest, My Version

I have tried to sign up with Pinterest, but no luck, so I am creating my own.  Actually, I have had this bulletin board in my office for several years.  Yes, it is very low tech, but it is fun, and reflects my interests.  Beginning with the upper left corner, a picture of my darling friend Gail who died of Alzheimer's; a photo of Ali Mc Graw with her Scottie (love the Black and White photo); an ad for Autism using a little kid as Tommy Hilfiger who has a child with Autism; a cartoon of Dave Brubeck's jazz group highlighting the empty piano chair when Dave Brubeck died (love"Take Five");  photo of a perfect outfit, French of course; photo of June H. a mom of a friend who was 100 years old on June 2nd (she still plays Bridge with her many friends, what a role model); another black and white photo, an ad for linens made in Italy, read the copy);  Great Dane relaxing (I heard that they are affectionate and love to take naps); Me at Children's Hospital on Dr. Seuss's Birthday; a crush from the past, Omar Shariff, Dr. Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia, (sigh);  a paper sculpture of the Black Hills of South Dakota; photo of a Library; I collect pictures of real libraries; and last but not least, a sketch my wonderful cousin made of her little beach house, herself and her animals, an invitation to a party. You can click on the photos to see details.

Note to adult children:  No pictures of grandchildren because I have so many  properly framed, all over the house.  My BB is selfishly, all about me.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Get Healthy, Blog Hop, 2013

Staying Healthy -- it seems more important as we get (ahem) older.  When I was young, I could get away with little sleep, eating irregular meals and coping with stress; now, not so much.

I think that the main issue for me is how to increase my energy level which is low, low, low, requiring a nap in the afternoon if I am home.  What I have found out during these past few years of health issues, is that we need to pay attention to how our bodies react to medication.  I am unfortunately one of those people who are super sensitive to everything, so most pain meds are too strong.

How often do your doctors ask you what kind of meds are you taking over the counter?  They just go ahead and prescribe more meds.  Perhaps what you so blithely take and pop in your mouth because "pain hurts" and you are desperate is the underlying problem. 

So, after, ten years of taking Ibuprofen for knee pain and after a knee replacement, and two years of little problems, itching, tiredness, lightheadedness, I decided to stop.  After three weeks of no pain meds, it has been interesting, as I do feel better, of course now I have to figure out what to do about my sore knees.  But I am sleeping better, no itching, no brain fog; well almost no brain fog.  This all sounds so grim; it isn't.  It's just being self-aware.  There is so much I still want to do: projects, ideas in the autism realm (see below), and making sure that I pay attention to my family and friends, keeping good connections.

One more thing, which really made me think.  My grandson, Joshua has autism, but he is high functioning and thoughtful.  A few weeks ago we were at a restaurant and he asked me, "So, Grandma Tasha, how old are you?"  On a paper napkin I wrote the year 2013, and under it the year of my birth (I am not publishing my age as I do not want to scare my blogging friends away).  He did the math and then with tears in his eyes, he said, "You are ------?  !  That means you won't always be here."


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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Gifts and the Gift of Giving

Herb Garden from "The Master Gardner"
Some people have the gift of gifts, or the ability to choose just the right thing for someone else.  I think it's genetic.  My adult children are thoughtful and through the years, I have received many special gifts from them.  My oldest son recently just amazed me with a mother's day gift -- a standing garden!  The note that arrived with the box of parts said, "No excuse for not having fresh herbs, Mom."  This is a 3 by 4 foot cedar herb garden which is off the ground which makes it easier to water and weed, and as the description says, easier on the back and the knees.  Also those cute little rabbits cannot reach the plants, but deer can.  We shall see.  I gave up on having roses because the deer would surgically clip the rose buds just before the roses bloomed.

I enjoy choosing just the right gift for others as well.  And I have more pleasure in giving the gift than receiving one.  But these days, the art of receiving gifts is gone.  No more thank you notes, not even an email.  The worst thing is having to ask the person if they received the gift.  Not good.  

I know, I know, how old fashioned; imagine actually writing a note, but even an email is fine with me these days.

Years ago, my eye doctor, who fitted me with contacts, actually wrote thank you notes for referrals.  He has since retired, but I still remember those hand-written notes.

Gifts can be for an event, such as one my husband and I received from my other son and daughter-in-law, tickets to a World War II ball.  We had so much fun.  There were hundreds of people at the ball, many dressed in costume.  The music was great, swing dancing, Frank Sinatra and the Andrew Sisters (impersonators of course), were there.

Looking back, I think the gift thing comes from your family.  My parents made my sister and me feel special by giving us gifts for our birthdays that did not cost very much, sometimes they were hand made, but always given with much love and thought.

One thing my dad would do is to send small gifts with little notes, especially to my son when he was little.  One year, after Christmas, I received a package from him in the mail. It took me a long time to open it, you see he had died two weeks before.  It was the last thing he did before he went into the hospital.

How do you feel about the "gift thing."?