Sunday, August 31, 2008

Disaster Awareness and Disability

Today the victims of hurricane Katrina are being remembered even as the residents of the same area so devastated by that storm get out of the way of nature's new menace, Gustav.

I have always been glad that I do not live in that area, first for the heat and humidity, and then because of the preponderance of hurricanes. Wind and water are such a devastating combination. I wish the hurricane would fizzle out, but that isn't the way that they work over the warm water south of our southern coast.

This area is so important to our economy because of the trade up and down the Mississippi and the oil rigs that sit in the hurricane's path. Oil prices may again rise to the stratosphere both in anticipation of this storm and it's actual aftermath.

I am glad to see people fleeing this time. The image from three years ago that has never left my memory or my heart is that of a blanket thrown over the corpse of someone who died in his/her wheelchair in the Super Dome. I could so easily have been that person.

What has changed since then? A better emergency plan does seem to exist, but does it include the disabled? Will the poor, disabled simply be left behind?

So far as I can see nothing has changed for the disabled per se. This is due, in large measure, in my opinion because we, the disabled, ourselves are never asked what our needs are. We are never included, except in kluge government programs that serve the originator of the programs as well as other bureaucrats and not those of us who need to be included in our nation's economy.

Last week we had several days of excessive heat warning in our area. Nothing is said about checking on the disabled, it's always the elderly and pets. (Well, I nearly qualify in the first category, but not in the second.)

While the heat was bearing down on me and making daily life difficult, I received a telemarketing call from the Social Security Administration about the "ticket to work". So far as I could tell when the program was inaugurated eight or so years ago, it was not going to do me any good. They are finally getting to me now--just before my 61st birthday and one year before I should be old enough to retire. Sigh.

I am one of those millions of people who watched and listened to Obama accept the nomination for the Presidency of the United States. Just as in Kerry's speech four years earlier all kinds of people where mentioned as people who will be helped if he is elected. I hope that he will be elected, but just as four years ago one group was left out--Americans with disabilities. Where are we? When will we be included? When will our talents be recognized? When will we be able to bring our gifts to the table and join in the feast and the celebration?

As I did four years ago, I cried while listening to the acceptance speech. What has changed? Not much. I hope that no people are being left behind in the evacuation of the Gulf region who will be found drowned in their wheelchairs after the disaster passes. I hope there will be no disabled missing because they were left waiting, as they were in the World Trade Center, until the able-bodied could be evacuated ahead of them.

This country has miles to go before we meet the needs of all of our citizens. I have a dream, as Martin Luther King did, and I hope that I will live long enough to see it met, that disabled people will no longer be forced to live in poverty simply because we are disabled. That the disabled will no longer comprise a large percentage of the homeless population in our major cities. Let us eliminate poverty and make sure that the plans include the disabled. Please.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tomatoes Like Heat

The plants that have been transplanted into grow bags are thriving. They like heat much more than this old gardener does. Still it is rather thrilling to see what they can do when they are given good soil and sufficient room.

Tomatoes seem to grow exponentially while other things take more time. Roses, for instance have a slower tempo and even the herbs are not exploding out of their pots right now (except for the basils).

I am starting to plan a fall and winter garden--with only about three weeks of summer left. Carrots, radishes and green onions will grow in a long narrow container that a friend gave me last year. I need to find another like it, for I think that "cut and come again lettuces" would also grow in one of these at least for a short while. Those plants would greatly improve my diet.

Monday I came in from an almost perfect afternoon in the garden with my friend and the hummingbird to discover ants in the kitchen. Clean up the ants with 409. Wait. They find another spot. Clean some more. Switch to vinegar in water. Keep cleaning. This morning, nary an ant. The upside is that I now have areas of counter that I haven't seen in years (well months). The downside is that wasn't the way that I was planning to spend my time. Oh well.

Ordering vitamins and other things on line this morning was an eye-opener. The prices for the items aren't too bad but the shipping charges! I think that they are way higher than the actual and that what we really pay for is to get the package into queue fast enough to receive it in timely fashion. Note to self--plan ahead. This is part of the organizational skills of being independent without being able to drive.

It occurred to me that in the interest of getting people out of their cars and saving more costly fuel, we might consider seeing if we could get Congress to legislate a tax deduction for shipping charges. Retailers would hate this. Shippers would love it. People like me would find it most useful

Well, this is straying from the subject of tomatoes. Still I am grateful that my house is still comfortable, that the days are shorter than they were at the beginning of July when it was so hot in my house that I could smell the heat and that paint peeled and that the tomatoes are growing. The object is to have tomatoes in October and November.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Gardening with the Best Assistance--Friends

Today my dear friend who has adopted my yard work came and moved piles of pavers around so that the plants can be put on top of them. I now have a sort of rose arbor going down my ramp and the big, Mr. Lincoln is spotted where it will get more sun. The tomatoes and one basil are in 9 gallon grow bags, which I bought from Plant-It-Earth a few weeks ago. These look like they are going to work. The basil was just transplanted three weeks ago and was already root-bound. I would like to have this basil again next year and plant it in something deep--an old trash can comes to mind--to see how big it would become. Basil tree, anyone?

While my friend and I chatted a hummingbird came to my bower, sipping first on a rose and then a purple malva and finally on the blooming basil flowers. I was going to cut those off, but now I realize that I will need to be sparing so that I do not deprive this lovely creature of scarce food. She was so close that I could see her markings and her feet drawn up under her and hear the clicking of her wings; so close that I could nearly have touched her and so small that I could nearly hold her in the palm of my hand. Exquisite and beautiful, she reminded me to come sit outside just for the joy of it.

My young friend who is going back to school tomorrow came by just long enough to tell me her plans and water my plants.

Yesterday I ordered bulbs online with the hope of having more flowers to photograph in the spring. If the bulbs come, if I get them planted, if the squirrels don't dig them up and eat them!

I can tell when I am playing in the dirt and even more when I am looking at gardening catalogs and web-sites that my ancestors where farmers! I can usually plan enough for at least an acre. I imagine what my ancestors with farms near Adrian, in Michigan and Huntington, in Indiana would make of the web with all the glorious pictures and too many choices, not to mention of me, gardening in the wheelchair with the help of friends.

I am grateful today and looking forward to the evening when it will be cooler.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Gardening with Assistive Technology--the Low-Tech Way

Today I have been playing in the dirt with happiness that I was able too. My helpers are going back to college; the plants need transplanting and the potting soil is stacked up in the patio. I took a flat box and went to the soil with doubled trash bags to hold it and a small pot to scoop it up with. Then I pushed and pulled and tugged and went backwards up my ramp, sometimes with my foot in the box to pull it. It was a thorough workout. Officially, this probably doesn't count as assistive technology, but I have always have had the attitude, if it works, use it.

Two tomato plants are transplanted into grow bags full of this wonderful dirt that looks and feels and smells like it would be absolutely yummy for plants--somewhere between steak and chocolate, or maybe a combination of both. It seemed to my eye that the tomatoes had grown between morning and early evening when I went outside to water them again.

I have been watering by hauling refilled water bottles from the kitchen sink to the outdoors. As I was doing it, I was reminded of one of those movies about life on the prairie and how the women carefully hauled water and dolloped it out to their beloved flowers. A connection to my pioneer foremothers was established here.

Tonight I am grateful for the physical work, the time outdoors and the dirt under my fingernails. Even more, I am grateful for Ibuprofen!

Tomorrow I hope to take pictuers.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Land Ho!

My friend who is out sailing called today from her cell phone to say that land was in sight! It was so wonderful to hear her voice and then she was practically screaming with excitement as a dolphin surfaced nearby. What fun! Vicariously, I was there and could almost see the dolphin myself through her excitement. She has been sending "sail mails" and these are a cool, cool form of communication; technology that unites land and sea.

I am hoping that I can keep my basil plants thriving until she returns and can share a meal of pesto with me. I also hope that the tomatoes will somehow get transplanted and that I will have fruit to share. I suspect that she will be headed to a Farmer's Market in Port Townsend this weekend after weeks of eating things from plastic bags and tins.

She said that as they were sailing toward land, they were being passed by container ships going away. I said, "then commerce is thriving in spite of the economy." She answered, "It seems to be." I can hardly wait to see her blog posts once she has settled into a place that has a connection for her to upload them.

It is good to know that they are safe--and by now ashore. Praise the Lord!

Her blog is linked to the right.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Technology is Here to Stay!

Watching the news last night and watching the buzz building about Barack Obama's choice to announce his running mate by text messages via cell phones left me amused, agog and a little left out since I am maybe the only person on the planet who doesn't own a cell phone! Well, I know that is an exaggeration.

Still it brings up the issue of how the polls are going to be skewed unless they figure out some way to bring in all those people who don't have "land lines", not to mention all those who rarely answer those phones. Obviously, if the poll companies asked people to sign up for text messages that wouldn't mean all that much either since all the most eager supporters of each candidate would sign up. Of course, I have thought for decades that we ought to scrap polls all together and let the process take place. Reporting on it after it happens is news, shaping it by taking polls and reporting on them as though they were news that has always seemed to me to be influencing elections.

Still the "smart phones" are here to stay. I watched someone Google, use a map finder for directions and take phone calls on her new phone last week and was amused by how much I want one just because it so cute! (I couldn't work the keyboard and I couldn't read the screen so this isn't a serious want. It's sort of like infatuation.)

What I want is an automated house. They exist, I know. I already have a marvelous remote controlled honeycomb blind on one window. Now I would like to have the drapes in my bedroom wired so that I can open and close them with a remote. The blinds, unlike all the "instant on" appliances, are controlled by batteries. Now if the batteries could be solar rechargeable,I would be even happier.

A small flashlight that a friend gave me recharges by shaking it. It is a totally different mechanism than anything else I have seen. My father would have loved it! I would like the cordless phone to work this way. Wouldn't it also be lovely if the laptop battery could be rechargeable? (Maybe these already exist.)

I am not really a survivalist, but I do like the idea of technologies that make us independent from monolithic companies and allow us to take better care of ourselves. My friend who is sailing will have a good deal to contribute to this discussion when she returns. Maybe the place to start looking for the kinds of technologies I am wanting are businesses that serve campers and sailors. I found MRE's on a website last fall from a company that specializes in disaster preparedness supplies.

Maybe we should take some of the things that are designed for that use and integrate them into our daily lives. Hand-shaken flashlights, hand-cranked radios and solar-charged batteries.

I'd like a cistern too and then of course, the disaster preparedness kit should have filters to make the water potable.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Power Outage and What to Do in One

Friday night at a few minutes after 5:00 pm the power went out. Four hours and fifteen minutes later the power came back on.

What to do with no power and a warm house getting darker?

Cuss at the PG and E (our local utility). This does not bring the power back on but it lets off enough steam so that when the phone call is made the caller (me) can be polite.

Call the utility company. 8000 households are affected. A large portion of my city. Wow! I am not alone, but that doesn't make it better. No word as to what is causing the outage. Should be back on in less than two hours. Do you want a call to let you know when power is restored? This is not as redundant as it sounds, since it includes the option to get more help if the power has not been restored. I say yes and then realize after hanging up that the answering machine is not going to pick up. It's electric.

Wait. Wait some more. Water plants outside. Outside there are no clocks and time is irrelevant and I can enjoy the plants. Talk to my sister and listen to the ticking of the battery clock. Not even the refrigerator is running.

Need batteries for the battery operated lantern to work and the thing is out of my reach anyway. Give it a better spot and buy batteries. In the meantime, it is getting dark outside. Close sliding screen doors, gather together flashlights and a few other things. It is better to go to the bathroom in the dusk than use flashlights in the dark. Crawl into bed and wait. Now it is too dark to see the clock--should have luminescent battery operated clock--so turn on flashlight to see what time it is. Notice that cordless phone does not work--it is connected to an electric power base. Solar rechargeable batteries would make so much more sense here.

Want to fall asleep and wake up when small night stand lamp comes on and the thrum of the refrigerator running wakes me up. No such luck. No sleep. That is what I get for drinking four cups of coffee in one day--twice as much as usual. Wish I had bought a battery operated clip on light so that I could be reading the book I am reading, Mary Stewart's, The Hollow Hills, book two of her Arthurian saga.

Toss and turn. Realize how boring the power outage is, but give thanks that it is not a heat wave or the middle of winter. Almost fall asleep when something changes and I realize the light is on and the refrigerator running.

Do we take power for granted? Oh, my yes we do! Should we? NO. We should indeed be looking for energy independence, not only for our country, but for areas and individuals as well.

The power outage lasted four and one-quarter hours, much longer than was necessary. I believe that first we waited for the crew to come through rush hour traffic. They should be empowered to use sirens and flashing lights just like other emergency vehicles--they are emergency vehicles. This would have cut the initial waiting time. I am sure the next segment of waiting was due to the fact that the new transformer had to be driven from Sacramento, a two and one-half hour drive, if they made good time. These things should be closer. Profit driven utility companies endanger public safety. Let's change this and take back the economy for the people.

Neighbors posted on the list today that their solar panels give them nine hours of battery back-up. This is at the top of my want list. Next is a gas wall heater in my bedroom. I can dream.

Tonight I am grateful for the lights and the power that allows me to sit here and type and blow of steam. I also hope that my desktop computer survived. I think the surge protector is old. The clock was wrong when I booted it up last night to see if everything was all right.

All in all it was an adventure that I truly did not need and could have done without. I am still here though, so that is good. I guess.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday too soon

This week has evaporated. I have had the magnificent blessing of helpers for hours at a time. My living room is starting to emerge from clutter. Soon it will no longer look like a gigantic sorting shed and will start to look and function like a living room again. I can hardly wait.

Two closets were cleared in one day and more things are ready to give away or sell at a yard sale and some just plain junk is gone. The "big room", aka, master bedroom, is starting to take shape as the sewing/crafts space I imagined it would be at the end of last summer.

The dining room table, a family heirloom that is at the heart of my home, is visible and clothed with a new albeit, plastic, tablecloth and stands ready for guests.

A young friend, who is about to start her college years at UC Berkeley, has been helping me by translating part of my Cafepress site into Spanish. This is so exciting and I am eager to get to work on posting her translations into a separate section, "Nuevo, en Espanol". I took one semester of Spanish in college and wish that I had never stopped! Is sixty too old to learn a new language?

I am also remembering a friend who died this week. A wonderful, beautiful woman with a voice like honey and the Tennessee accent to match it, who devoted her life to her family. She was intelligent, quick-witted, loving and full of common-sense and she lived to be ninety-seven. She will be missed by the entire community who knew her. Requiescat in Pace, dear friend. I hope that you are rejoicing in heaven.

So it has been a full week without the number of blog posts I planned, but so much is being accomplished here. Earlier in the week my sister and I came up with this little ditty (and my friend who just died would have laughed with us at it, I think)

Throw, throw, throw your junk, merrily out the door. Merrily, merrily, merrily keep on throwing more. The tune, I think, is obvious.

I am grateful for the week that is past, the week that is ahead and the life of my friend, whom I will not forget.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday Silence

As I face the blank screen I am aware of the blessing of silence so apt for a Sunday morning. No whine of air compressors, roar of leaf blowers (that is a week day activity)or even vroom vroom of my neighbors five vehicles being sequentially started and primed through some testing sequence that he knows, but I do not.

Silence is a blessing. My friend who is sailing sent a sail-mail this week about how wonderful it was to be able to see a gazillion of stars, a phenomenon that is usually lost to us because of the artificial light all around us. That email prompted me to remember camping in the high Sierras when I was in my teens. My family went with another family and the silence that summer night was palpable, a quiet so deep that when I ponder it now, I can understand why people are called to be hermits, why they prize being able to move noiselessly through the woods almost as though they are not there.

Big Sur and Point Lobos are two more places where the silence was like a cloak, a gentle presence of its own, inviting us to seek the Presence whom we look for in church. Once in a great while I have experienced that deep silence in church, but usually there is a bustle there as people come in and ready for a service or the sounds of the city impinge on the quiet interior of the church.

Liturgists have argued fiercely about the role of silence in the services they arrange. Those arguments definitely broke the silence in a manner that argued for the silence in themselves! I have always been on the side of those seeking silence. The most sacred moments of the liturgy convey themselves best if we are not asked to "participate" by making some noise--or even gestures. But then, I am "old school"--keep silence in church, keep silence in the halls while passing from one class to the next, or risk detention, keep silent if you don't have anything good or kind to say about someone else. (Silence here can speak louder than words, too.)

I give thanks today for silence and am blessed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

August 6, 2008

It has been sixty-three years since the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. A terrible thing and a tragedy, truly. I grew up in the shadow of that bomb. If you are a baby boomer, like me, you probably remember dropping under your school desk when the air alert siren sounded. It was only a drill, but it scared us.

Still, we are a long way from a world at peace. We still have to worry about weapons--nuclear and street--in our lives. We have not tempered our aggressive instincts or re-channeled them sufficiently and we have a long way to go. I remember reading that classic book, On Aggression, but I can't at the moment remember the author. (Google will tell me in a bit, I am sure.)(Two days later: Konrad Lorenz, and I probably still have a copy somewhere in the house.)

Peace requires respect, I think, for others. It requires as well prosperity and a different way of organizing our economy in a global world so that no one is left out. It is more than time for that. It is overdue.

I am glad to see that Americans have been driving less this summer and that oil prices are easing. We have a long way to go though before we get ourselves out of the oil trap. Some folks have become very wealthy while we drove and drove. The rest of us have been providing that wealth. There are probably other areas of our economy that would yield the same analysis if we scrutinized them a bit.

Today is also the Feast of the Transfiguration, one of those lesser celebrated feasts that is worth noting because it is about the last things and the expectation of the after life. It means more to me today than it did twenty years ago. To be free of the body, transfigured or transmogrified, is something I am beginning to look forward to. Not ready yet, but thinking of not having to worry about weather or food, housekeeping or watering the plants; never to worry about money again. Not ready yet, but looking forward.

In the mean time, I will pause to look at my little Peace banner hanging on the wall of my front entrance and take a few moments to get out the peace cranes that a friend and I made last year and ponder this anniversary, the need for peace and how friendship also enters into it.

I am grateful today that we have not used the atomic bomb again since WWII. I am grateful to be alive today and hoping for real peace.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Of Basil and Moths

The first part, the basil is the yummy part. The basils were transplanted to new eight inch pots on Friday and seem to be happy there. Saturday I topped them by snipping a bag full from the leggy parts of each plant. One plant is now on the deck because there isn't enough room on the potting shelf. That one was tipping over in such a way that each time I wheeled up to it a lovely bunch came into my lap, like a puppy greeting me and saying hello. The snipped bunches filled my kitchen colander and looked like an amazing amount. I rummaged around and found the delightful mincing gadget that is part of the Braun "stick blender". Chop, chop, whir, whir. This too, is not a toy, even though it looks like one, but a real, useful tool. The basil whirled down to one small container that will feed me pesto for three nights.

All summer and even earlier, I had noticed an up tick in the the flitter bug population. These are small, almost translucent moths that seem to whirl and whirl just out of my reach. In fact, Friday night, I even sprained my thumb trying to whack one by clapping my hands. Instead of hitting the moth, I walloped my right (and sore) thumb by slamming the heel of my left hand against it. Pain throughout the hand. Try wheeling one handed. Doesn't work well.

Sunday I discovered the source of the bugs. A nasty infestation of cocoons in a blanket that had been left too long on the living room couch. I usually use the couch as a kind of extended shelf for holding things to be sorted. Won't be doing that any more. The blanket is past salvage and now in a trash bag. The sofa needs vacuuming--and then on a regular basis. Housekeeping clearly isn't my forte!

In fact, while I garden with passion and joy, I keep house like a geek. I have laughed about that from time to time with friends, who I suspect do the same. It is funny until it gets to the point where it is negligent, as in the couch with the moths. So I suppose that it is never too late to grow up and take responsibility even for the housekeeping. Resolve: less clutter so that the cleaning can be accomplished.

I am grateful for the basil harvest and that it was only moths and not mice infesting my couch.

Friday, August 1, 2008

To do, to do and it is Friday Already!

How can this be? The pots for the basil plants arrived today and so transplanting is on my afternoon list.

Yesterday I happened to log on to a Cafepress chat and then realized it had been ages since I updated, so that is done. Part of the thing still doesn't work though and that is maddening, since it is something I have wasted time on before (over and over again and following the instructions doesn't work).

I have a new Squidoo that I launched yesterday called "we should stay at home on labor day and save gas". Very unwieldy. Will try to search for it to see if it comes up in Google and post a link later in the evening.

  • I do believe that we can and should take back the economy. Analysts do not rule our actions. WE Do! We are not going to see the $5 per gallon gas that was being predicted in June, simply because people are driving less. Let's keep it up! Let's see if we can bring the price down to a more manageable level by staying home on Labor Day and other long weekends. We can fix things around the house, get to know our neighbors, read, watch movies, sleep in--all kinds of things that don't require gas or going anywhere to buy anything. Let's do it! We can.

    Wouldn't it be great if we could also give thanks at home on Thanksgiving instead of having the mass exodus into massive holiday traffic jams that too often marks the beginning of this holiday? Wouldn't it be even better if we ignored Black Friday and stayed at home and began making our presents, writing our cards and generally having a saner and more economical holiday season? It isn't too early to plan for this too.

    I would like to start a movement to take back the economy. It is ours. We make it. Let's shape it too. Let's not be afraid to regulate ourselves. It is in the Constitution that we are supposed to, so what if we did and we had a stable economy to show for our efforts? I believe this is part of stewardship of our resources and that we are called to do so. You can see my design for this at my Cafepress store and in the squidoo lens, Take Back the Economy for the People.

    Well, that is a little off track from my to do list. But I wasn't doing that anyway. Happy weekend every one. Please drive as little as you can and help restore sanity to our economy. All of us will be grateful.