I am a lover of horticulture, gardening and the environment. At age 8, I sent away for a package of Zinnia seeds for 10 cents and I've been hooked ever since. After 25 years of being self-employed, I retired. That only lasted 4 years and I now work in a water conservation program: I buy grass from homeowners who are willing to convert to desert landscaping and lose that thirsty green stuff. I pursue what interests me and you can blame my sister for getting me into this blogging thing.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

I don’t like to write about politics, everyone has their own opinion. I am making an exception today. After I watched “Face the Nation” today I felt like I had to say something. Bob Schieffer had Fuad Siniora, Prime Minister of Lebanon on via satellite from Beirut and Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, who was in New York. The most telling statement was from Peres, he said Israel has no quarrel with Lebanon. They do not want their territory or to influence their politics. He stated that Hezbollah has about 6000 to 8000 men, the Lebanese army numbers 80,000. If the Lebanese government wants a cease-fire, they must order the army to stop Hezbollah forces that are firing over 200 rockets a day into Israel. Prime Minister Siniora has it within his power to stop this terrible fighting. He refused to acknowledge Bob Schieffer’s question about why he wasn’t doing this.

I am not surprised that the Lebanese government cannot or will not stop the fighting. I am sick at heart over all the civilian deaths in Israel and Lebanon. Deep in my heart, I knew 20 years ago that war would plague Israel forever until they overcame each enemy. After 2 wars, Egypt made peace with Israel. After 4 wars, Jordan made peace with Israel. I visited those countries 10 years ago. Their economies were better, they are poor countries without the resources of Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other oil rich countries. I made my first visit to Israel 20 years ago with 12 Christian ministers. Most of them came from black Baptist churches. Several incidents happened made me realize that the Muslim Arabs did not have our values, most were angry, even though they were citizens of Israel. I will say that the Christian Arabs had a different attitude. I think peace will come eventually because nothing stays the same. But the loss of innocents makes me want to do something, I just don’t know how or what. Israel is an awesome place, it's history is in our psyche.
Here are some images I took over 20 years ago on my first visit to Israel. As you can see, the Dome of the Rock is right next to the Western Wall, sometimes called the Wailing Wall. People come to pray, they write prayers on scraps of paper and push them into crevices. The Roman ruin is on the shore of the Sea of Galilee or Kinneret. It is where Jesus walked. We should pray for peace for ourselves, our children and our children's children. I hope this will happen in our lifetime.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Circle of Life

I've been taking a bit of a hiatus from blogging since our 3 oldest grandchildren are here for a visit. We just returned from a trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We enjoyed the trip and it reminds me of the quality time I was fortunate enough to spend with my grandparents. They passed away a long time ago but not before enjoying the pleasures of grandchildren and great grandchildren. Being with our grandkids for an extended period gives us a chance to bond with them. Since they live on Long Island and we're almost a continent away, it's pretty hard to maintain the closeness I had with my grandparents. They lived upstairs from us in a 2-flat when I was 6 and older. The kids are now busy with their own lives so we have to make a real effort to keep up that contact. I want them to tell their grandchildren stories about us and the experiences we had together.

So we plan trips where we aren't distracted by TV, work and life's distractions. Here we are sitting on the porch of our cabin playing Scrabble. I love Scrabble. I have had my set for over 40 years. Would you believe we lost 2 pieces, an e and a u through the floorboards of our cabins? It was worth it. There was much laughter and silliness going on. I beat them 3 games in a row. Did I ever tell you how competitive I am at games? No one wants to play with me. Finally they ganged up on me and won a game.

We went on some nature walks and visited some archaeological ruins left from the time when indigenous natives, the Anasazi, lived in and around the Grand Canyon. It is such an awesome place. You realize how insignificant you are in the scheme of things. Also at 8000 feet above sea level, you realize how out of shape you are. I realize I'm sinking into decrepitude. Nonetheless, experiencing this wondrous place and sharing it with your grandchildren has to make it even more special. The rock formations are breathtaking. It's been over 20 years since we visited this grand park, pun intended. The visions from that prior visit remained in my head and I felt privileged that I had the opportunity for another visit. A lot of the forest on the canyon's rim has been burned in recent years. The drought in the west has affected remote places like the Grand Canyon. We saw acres and acres of burned Ponderosa pines and white fir. The fires are nature's way of managing the landscape.

It was an opportunity to extend my knowledge and interest in wildflowers and photography. The two eldest are taking photography classes in school this year. I didn't develop my interest in photography until my 40's. I pursued my education by studying it for 5 years and having a successful career in it. Never say no to an opportunity. I hope the message that you should pursue what interests you and do it with a passion comes across. I see way too much apathy in people. They make "safe" choices in life. My philosophy is that you only go around once, have the best time you can. I'm having a great time getting this message across to my grandchildren. I hope they are enjoying it as much as I am.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Memories of my Mother

July 13th is the anniversary of my mother’s death and I wanted to reminisce about her. She was a remarkable woman and she was respected and admired by many people. I am honored to be her daughter.

As a child, she was stricken with polio, there was a big epidemic in 1912 when she contracted it. Many children died and she was one of the lucky survivors. As a result of her polio, she had a withered leg and walked with a pronounced limp all of her life. Her parents were immigrants who did as much as they could but there wasn’t much information in those days. Of six children in her family, she was number 4. I think she was born with a kind spirit and catered to everyone in the family, she mended and ironed, cleaned house and cooked. She always gave more than she received. This was the story of her life.

When she was 29, her father arranged a marriage with my father. Men didn’t marry crippled women in those days so I think she felt lucky. I was born a year after their marriage and my sister was born two years later. My father wasn’t much of a prize but he loved her and their marriage endured for over 54 years.

My grandfather set them up in a little corner grocery store and they eked out a living. We lived behind the store in 3 rooms. There was no shower or tub so we had to go next door to bathe at our grandparent’s apartment. My mom sewed our clothes and we were embarrassed because we didn’t have store bought clothes like the rest of the kids. One of my earliest memories of my mother sewing was for a professional ballerina from Chicago. She spent untold hours sewing sequins by hand on costumes that I thought were so exotic. Later in life, I realized what a generous person she was when she mended and sewed for many people. I loved the clothes and dolls she sewed for my sons and my grandchildren. I “lent” her my new Sears sewing machine in 1970 on the condition that she mend my families clothes when we needed something repaired. When she died in 1993, I got it back and couldn’t bear to touch it for almost 5 years. I finally had so much mending to do that I forced myself to open the cabinet and sewed up a storm.

I was a headstrong kid and my mother never tried to break my spirit. When I was 5 and starting school, she arranged for someone to walk me to school. That lasted 2 days. I announced that if I was old enough to go to school, I was old enough to walk alone. I guess she wanted me to be an independent person.

My son’s loved going to Grandma’s house. She had infinite patience. She and her mother taught them to play canasta, kalookie, go fish, war, crazy eights and Scrabble. She imbued them with a love of science fiction that endures to this day. She taught them to sew buttons on their clothes. Everyone was cooked a special breakfast when they stayed the weekend, sometimes she would cook 3 different things so everyone had what they wanted. I don’t think kids ever felt more loved. She was thrilled when our middle son married and had a daughter a year later. My mother made her quilts, clothes and appliquéd wall hangings. She made a gorgeous Raggedy Ann doll that will be a keepsake for Jane’s children. With infinite care she made a book that had all sorts of closings like buttons, zippers, Velcro, I don’t remember what it was called but it had all sorts of things for youngsters to touch and feel. I treasure the photos I took of my mother and my kids, there aren’t nearly enough. I took this photo when I was studying photography at Columbia College while in my 40’s. I thought I should take some portraits of my parents. I had no inkling how much this photo would mean to me.

At age 75 she fell and broke her bad leg. It required surgery with pins and a steel plate. She never walked again and was confined to a wheel chair for the next 7 years. The doctor said she would be in the hospital a month and in a nursing home for 3 months. After just 3 weeks, she told the doctor she was going home, send her a physical therapist. She basically rehabilitated herself as much as possible. Just because she was incapacitated didn’t mean she retired from life. She was a dynamo, sewing, calling, and mailing. Her many acts of loving-kindness extended to friends as well as family. If a calling committee was needed, she volunteered. She was a one woman mailing committee to thank people for their donations or to remember the passing of a loved one. She proudly chaired the kitchen committee for our synagogue.

No one was as determined as she was, she overcame all obstacles except the last one. At 82 she elected to have surgery to replace a valve in her heart. She had congestive heart failure and wanted to feel better. I was opposed to the surgery, I never had a good feeling about it but never voiced my opinion. She was entitled to make the decision on her own. Her last words to me and my sister were "don’t worry, I’ll be alright." She stroked out when they tried to restart her heart and never regained consciousness. After 2 days they did a CAT scan and it was apparent that she wouldn’t recover. We asked her heart surgeon what would he do if it were his mother. He said he would let her go. Those were her wishes. She signed an advanced directive that no life supports were to be used if her surgery didn’t have a good result. My sister and I took turns staying with her 24 hours a day. After 12 days the hospital administrator decided he couldn’t have someone “starve to death in his hospital.” He and 5 administrators marched into her room at 5:30 PM on a Friday and said we had to move her or allow them to start tube feeding her. I told him he would have a problem if they did this to my mother. They came in at 6 AM to start the tube feeding. I was there with the biggest malpractice attorney in the county and a newspaper reporter. We negotiated with them all day that tube feeding was against her wishes, it violated the papers she signed on her admission to the hospital. She gave my sister and me her durable power of attorney. Finally we agreed to let them start the feeding provided they would remove the tube when she would be moved to hospice on Monday. It was a nightmare, she was over hydrated and literally drowned in her own fluids. Her kidneys were shutting down, it was agony to see her die like this. Her death came Monday evening and it was a blessing.
But true to my word, I made a lot of trouble for that hospital. We were on the front page of the paper for 2 days. I asked for a meeting with the president of the board of the hospital. I met with him and the medical ethicist from the hospital several weeks after my mother’s death. He asked what I wanted from the meeting. I asked that the hospital policies should be changed, especially what people were told when they signed the forms. I then asked for a personal apology from the director of the hospital. They agreed to my requests. Eventually, I testified before the Indiana legislature and helped get the living will law changed in the State of Indiana. I vowed that no family would go through what we went through. I think my mother would have been proud of me. Her memory is a blessing, she left a meaningful legacy worth preserving. I’ve always said the only thing that matters in the end is whom you loved and who loves you. Many people loved my mother.

Friday, July 07, 2006


House and Garden Television:
I swear I am addicted to this particular channel. We never had cable or a satellite dish until 10 months ago. Occasionally I would watch HGTV when we visited my cousin in San Diego. Now I watch it incessantly. My favorite shows are Curb Appeal and House Hunters. I also like Landscapers Challenge and What You Get for the Money. This is a perfectly acceptable way of peeking into other people's lives. Come to think of it, this is real reality TV, not those silly shows where people eat worms and let spiders crawl on their faces. This is not my living room but one I hunger to have. No country, no clutter, just sleek modern space and furniture.

HGTV also has a web site and they send out an email newsletter. Once a year they raffle off a dream house. It was pretty neat. I was drooling over that dream house. That's how they hook you, you have to go on line every day and enter. The next home will be in Colorado, you can watch the progress at: They spare no expense building these houses. All I can say is they're making a lot of money from the advertisers on their web site. I'm never lucky, never won anything to speak of. I think I won a fishing rod from a punch board once. So I can vicariously enjoy the thrill of winning when the actual winners are picked. I always say "good for them" and hope it brings them some happiness.

But the best part of HGTV is learning how to remodel things in your house and yard. This is the fireplace I want to do over. I love projects and this station feeds my ideas. The next project is to take the man-made stone off our fireplace and put in real stone. I'd like a mantel too. So far, I've gone to some stone places and brought home several samples. Our ceiling is almost 15 feet tall and even though I'd like to put the stone to the ceiling, it may be overwhelming. Everything has to be coordinated so I drag my floor tile and photos to the stone yards, I visit model houses looking for ideas and eventually we'll get to the real work. We will live a long time with the results of this project. I'm not sure enough research has been done. I savor the project, the planning, the execution and the compliments after it's finished. Anyone have any ideas or suggestions? All suggestions welcome.

Monday, July 03, 2006


I don't think I'm a germophobe, if there is such a word. My friend Gary did a list of 6 things that were weird about himself and the 6th and final weird fact was he didn't touch bathroom door handles. I admit that grosses me out too. I will take my shirt tail out and grip the handle so I don't have to touch it. Mostly I will use my paper towel from washing my hands so I can cover the handle. I started thinking about it and checked it out on Google, here is what I found:

Dirty Door Handles
Claim: The bathroom-door handle on the public restroom is the germiest place.
False. Door handles actually have the least bacteria of any surface in public restrooms, according to a test by Chuck Gerba, PhD, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona in Tucson. 68 percent of people wash their hands before leaving the restroom.

Unclean Office Objects
Claim: Your office desk is way dirtier than a toilet bowl.
True. The average desktop has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet bowl, simply because people usually don't clean their desks on a regular basis, The germiest object: the phone. Viruses such as the flu can survive for two or three days on desktops, phones, and computer keyboards. (By the way, the door handle on the microwave in the office kitchen is also a very germy place. So be sure to wash your hands after heating up your lunch.)

Filthy Floors
Claim: You can get plantar warts and athlete's foot from walking barefoot on the gym floor.
True. Both plantar warts, caused by a virus that produces flat gray or brown bumps on the soles of the feet, and athlete's foot, a fungus that causes flaking and itching between the toes and on the soles of the feet, are often contracted from walking barefoot in the locker room. Always walk around the locker room in flip-flops, and never go barefoot in any public place.

Scuzzy Sponges
Claim: Washing a sponge in the dishwasher removes germs.
True. Running sponges in the dishwasher with detergent gets rid of a lot of germs, but putting the sponge in the microwave for a minute will zap even more, since it gets much hotter in there. Whatever method you use, be sure to do it every other day. It's also wise to rinse sponges well and keep them out of the sink so they can dry out between uses. "Drying kills a lot of germs." You should also change sponges frequently, definitely toss them after three weeks.

Unsanitary Kitchen Sinks
Claim: You need to clean the kitchen sink every day with bleach.
False. Kitchen sinks are brimming with germs, but a daily rinse with soap and water prevents bacteria buildup. If you've been handling raw meat or poultry, however, be sure to wash your hands, then clean your sink with hot soapy water before you touch anything else or place another food or kitchen tool (knife, strainer) in the sink. Also, every now and then pour some diluted bleach down the drain or garbage disposal. Bacteria from the sink can spread throughout the kitchen, including faucets and door handles, if you don't wash your hands after you prepare a meal. If you clean raw chicken in the sink, then touch the faucets, or a sponge drops in there before you wash your hands or the sink, you've potentially contaminated the sponge and the faucet.

Bunking with Bacteria
Claim: If you've had the same pillow for years, you're bunking with billions of bacteria.
True. But don't lose any sleep over it. The organisms found on pillows are normally harmless bacteria that live on your skin. Pillows themselves aren't breeding grounds for germs. Wash pillowcases once a week and pillows regularly (most can go in the washing machine).

Bedbug Elimination
Claim: You must wash your sheets every week in hot water or you'll get bedbugs.
False. Washing sheets will get rid of dust mites, microscopic bugs that live on dead skin cells and other allergens. People often confuse dust mites with bedbugs, which are parasites that feed solely on animal blood. They're spread mainly through luggage (if a hotel room you're staying in has them, for example) and clothing.
Dust mites, on the other hand, are harmful only to those who are allergic to the protein they produce. Otherwise, they're helpful, because they actually remove the dead skin cells that you continuously shed.

Toothbrush Trouble
Claim: Every time you flush the toilet, your toothbrush gets sprayed with bacteria.
Gross but true. Microorganisms are ejected when you flush the toilet and land all over the bathroom, even if you close the lid. But you probably won't get sick from this. "When the toothbrush dries, most of the organisms will die anyway." Just keep your toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible.

Bathroom Bacteria Buildup
Claim: Wash your shower curtain, tiles, and tub once a week to prevent an overgrowth of bacteria.
True. Doing a thorough cleaning once a week prevents the growth of mildew, a fungus that feeds on body oils and soap scum and can cause allergy symptoms including headaches and coughing.

Laundry Mildew
Claim: Letting wet clothes sit in the washer allows mildew to form.
True. But they'd usually have to sit for 24 hours. If your clothes have a funky odor, you'll have to run the washing machine again. Laundry is a significant source of organisms, says Gerba, who swabbed 100 washing machines and found that 44 percent of them contained fecal bacteria. Drying will kill e. coli, but salmonella and viruses can remain. The risk of getting sick is small if you're healthy, but if someone in your home is ill, you may want to wash their clothes separately and then do a bleach cycle. You could transfer a virus by touching the clothes and then rubbing your eyes or nose. It's also a good idea to wash your hands after handling dirty laundry.

Contaminated Makeup
Claim: Your makeup is a breeding ground for bacteria.
True. "Any bacteria on your hands or face contaminates the makeup when they come in contact." Two possible problems can result: pimples, which are caused by bacteria trapped inside pores; and pinkeye, a bacterial infection caused by staphylococcus. And never share makeup; you can easily transfer infections this way.

Dirty Money
Claim: Money is by far the germiest stuff around.
False. In general, because dollar bills are dry, they don't give bacteria a chance to multiply to levels that would make you sick. Plus, the metal in coins actually acts as an antibacterial agent. You certainly don't have to run to the bathroom and wash up after each transaction -- unless you sit down to eat afterward, you should always wash your hands before eating anyway!

Should You Use Antibacterial Products?
Not unless someone in the house is sick. Alcohol- and bleach-based products work best at killing germs without promoting the growth of dangerous "super bugs."

So my friends, this is a list that I discovered and edited. Don't get crazy about it, just be aware of the facts. And WASH YOUR HANDS!