Wednesday, May 6, 2015

eye tests and real glasses

So I went and got my eyes examined Monday and, sigh, I do need glasses to drive. Well, I need glasses so they will let me drive. Exam results were 20/20 in my left eye, 20/50 in my right eye. No sign of glaucoma and the general health of my eyes is good. Basically, my left eye is doing all the seeing while my right eye is giving me clues from my peripheral vision like color and stuff. I considered getting glasses just for distance but as the doc pointed out, it would mean I wouldn't be able to see anything close up while I was driving, like a map (no I don't have Siri telling me where to turn). Since my eyes were dilated, I went back yesterday to pick out frames. I picked 10 pairs to winnow out, choosing heavily from the wire rim selection. I took pictures of each pair as I tried them on but after looking at the pictures after I downloaded them, they all looked pretty much the same.

I finally narrowed it down to two pairs and then to the final one and ordered my glasses. I'm getting the progressive lenses but decided against the transition lenses. I'll just get me a pair of prescription sunglasses later. They have a lot of frames for $20 so it will just basically be the cost of the lenses. In the meantime, I hope my big sunglasses will fit over my new prescription glasses though I don't really wear sunglass very often, mostly just when I am driving or am at the beach.

These are the frames I chose.

They should be ready next week.

Monday, May 4, 2015

birthday week

Last Thursday was my birthday, my 65th. I usually take the day off as a personal day but since I took the day off the previous Monday to hang with my brother and sister and I was planning to take last Friday off to go to Brookwood with my sister and some other ladies, I had to be available for questioning while Marc did the sandblasting on the cabin in the mountains panel. Which we finished.

Brookwood is a residential facility for the mentally challenged. It's a beautiful place and the residents live in group homes with a house mother. They refer to their residents as citizens and strive to give them dignity and worth. Brookwood is supported by donations and by the work of the residents. Their main business is a wholesale nursery. They have large greenhouses where they propagate and raise the plants for sale, a ceramics shop and a concrete shop where they make things to sell in the gift shop and in the retail greenhouse and grounds. 

They also have a very nice restaurant and being appointed to work in the restaurant is a high honor to them. 

They also have, since I was there several years ago on a garden club field trip, a new very nice art gallery. 

It's a very classy place overall and I bought a red hibiscus, a gardenia, a bougainvillea, and my sister bought me a beautiful pot of maidenhair for my birthday which would have cost twice as much at any of the nursery's in the city.

I spent most of Saturday and Sunday working out in the yard though I didn't get anything major accomplished. I mixed up a wheelbarrow full of compost and potting soil and repotted my desert rose which was busting out of it's second pot and got the maidenhair in a bigger pot, collected the gone by poppy seed heads and pulled out the dead plants, dug out the grass and weeds out of another section of the old vegetable garden and planted some tall orange cosmos that bloom in the fall, and got an armload of ferns planted along the shady side of the house. Doesn't seem like much for two days worth of work.

Late afternoon yesterday, my daughter and son-in-law and the three grandgirls (the grandboy was at work) came out to visit. Jade had made me a birthday cake and they had candles and a princess kit with a tiara and a wand and earrings and a banner which was meant for someone much smaller and younger than me but I donned it all anyway.


The other thing I did connected with my birthday this year was apply for Medicare so for the first time in my life, I have health insurance and an affordable supplement.

Well, my eye appointment is in a couple of hours so I guess I'll find out if I need glasses other than the drugstore magnifiers I use to read.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

fear and rage in America

People don't seem to understand the difference between being poor and being oppressed. You can be poor without being oppressed. I have been poor at times in my life but I have never been oppressed and it was easy for me as a white person to find employment (although not as easy as if I were a man) in order to better my circumstances.

Poor means you don't have enough money to pay all your bills and buy food. Poor means the quality of food that you can afford to buy is poor. Poor means you may not own a car and definitely don't own a house. Poor means you work for a pittance and have to have two or three jobs just to make ends meet. Poor means you wear hand me down clothes that you get at the thrift store. Poor means you can't go to the doctor when you get sick and just forget about the dentist. Poor means that you go to schools with no resources. Poor means having to drop out of school so you can get a job to help support your family.

Oppressed means that once you reach middle school, police are stopping you on your way to school to search your backpack. Oppressed means that if you drive through certain neighborhoods, you get pulled over by police. Oppressed means that when the police stop you for no good reason whatsoever, they start being physically abusive so that when you try to protect yourself, they arrest you for resisting arrest and once in police custody they beat the shit out of you. Oppressed means that when you stand up for your rights, the police arrest you. Oppressed means that the police bust into your house on a raid, throw a flash bang into your son's crib burning him severely, terrorize the occupants before finally figuring out that they are at the wrong house and they get away scott-free from all the damage, pain, and medical expenses they caused. Oppressed is being homeless and being shot dead in the back by police. Oppressed is the police arresting you over and over for blown out of proportion offenses or no offense at all in order to create a rap sheet that prevents you from gainful employment. Oppressed is the police not responding to your calls for help or if they do, someone gets killed. Oppressed is having your 14 year old daughter walk to the mailbox to fetch the mail and have police stop and throw her to the ground and arrest her for prostitution. Oppressed is waiting at the bus stop on your way to work and being arrested for prostitution. Oppressed is all the opportunities never even offered to you not because you are not qualified but because your skin is the wrong color or your name sounds black. Oppressed is being called a thug for burning cars and breaking shop windows if you are black but just a college boy letting off steam if you are white. Oppressed is being sent to jail for the same crime that a white person gets away with. Oppressed is being singled out by the police for abuse. Oppressed is the city abandoning any repairs or improvements in your neighborhood. Oppressed is having a peaceful demonstration and the police show up in riot gear with tear gas and batons and start abusing and arresting people. Oppressed is six cops beating you in the head and kicking you as you lay helpless on the ground. Oppressed is having no hope and no future and nothing to lose. Oppressed is being demonized by the press which never shows the good you do. Oppressed is being unarmed and murdered by the police and having them go free to do it again. Oppressed is people being in fear of you or thinking you are a 'taker' just because of the color of your skin.  Oppressed is being judged without anyone taking the trouble to find out what your story is.

These people in Baltimore and Ferguson and LA way before that and in many other communities in this country, they aren't just poor. They are poor and oppressed. That's been their past and is their future. You don't have to condone violence to understand it. But you do have to understand it to fix it.  

And you have to understand that these people are not in this situation from lack of will or effort or because they are lazy or ignorant or because they want to be criminals. These people are in this situation because they were born into it and have been systematically prevented from rising above it.

You can't pull yourself up by your own bootstraps if you don't have any boots and sometimes the rage and frustration at the injustice erupts.

And still, the oppressed will do this.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

siblings, burned things, and eye tests

My brother was here. He came in for a high school reunion. He and I attended a small private school, well, I did through 7th grade after which I begged my parents to let me go to public school like my sister but he went all the way through. St. John's is a small school attached to the Episcopal church we went to. About 60 kids per grade. The social atmosphere was not a good fit for me which was the main problem. I didn't know where I fit and it was giving me an ulcer. Turned out that was something inherent instead of just something I hadn't found yet but I did learn to deal with it better. Also mandatory Wednesday morning church services.

We don't see John very often. He lives up in the Pacific Northwest and has for longer than he lived in Texas which he left after high school for college and then further and then further and then further and then a little closer until he landed up there and stuck. I guess the last time he was here was when he still had part ownership in a small plane and he flew it here and gave us all rides. The last time I was visited them was I guess when mother died. Been a while.

Anyway, my (younger) brother arrived Friday evening and he stayed with our (eldest, for him) sister (I'm the middle child). Marc and I went there for dinner Friday. Saturday I worked at the antique store and that night he drove in to the city for the party. I declined to accompany them into the city for an IKEA excursion on Sunday but after they got back I went over and hung out while he did a few fix-it things for her. A fierce storm blew through with lightning and thunder right on top of us and the street flooded. It lasted about an hour but dumped 4" of rain on my sister's house. 

Monday we went on an excursion to Bastrop, a small town in the hill country with a lively historic downtown with shops and places to eat. It was a nice day and it gave us something to do while we spent time together though being Monday, many of the shops were closed.

Bastrop Forest that burned in 2011 when Texas caught on fire during a severe drought.

A huge field that was solid yellow with flowers.

On our way we stopped in La Grange for gas and when we got back on the highway there was a giant plume of black smoke not very far ahead. Turned out to be a car on fire but we couldn't tell that from where we were. We were about 20 cars back maybe with a gas tanker pulled over onto the shoulder just ahead of us. It held us up for about half an hour as we watched emergency vehicles converge on the scene...police, sheriff, fire department, ambulance.

He headed back home today so I went to get my driver's license renewed which of course I have let go til just about the last minute. It expires on May 1st and this year they won't let me do it on-line. New picture and new eye test required I guess. Also they had to adjust my weight since the last time I renewed it I still weighed a scrawny 106. And of course new fingerprints in case I turn up in a ditch somewhere with no identification.

And for the first time in my life, I failed the eye exam. I'm not surprised though. My right eye is definitely worse than my left eye and as I recall, I squeaked by last time I had to take it. I rattled those first two segments of numbers right off but that third one was totally blurry. I made an attempt and think I got some of them right but there were some I didn't have a clue. She was real nice about it, gave me as much time as I wanted but in the end, I was just guessing and told her so.

So now I have to go get an eye exam and either a pair of glasses or a note from the doctor saying I'm good to go.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day

image via:

I heard on public radio part of a program Monday about how much time children are spending outside. They cited a study that claimed children nowadays spend only an average of 14 minutes a day outside. 14 minutes a day! Most parents specified a fear of abduction for the reason why they don't let their children play outside but research has shown that there are only a little over 100 child abductions per year as opposed to over two thousand child deaths while being in a car with their parents. Latch-key kids are told to come home, stay inside, and lock the door. When children are allowed out to play, they are bundled up in all sorts of protective gear with adults present to mediate any arguments that may come up or to immediately come to the rescue of any child in distress and yet unsupervised play is how children learn leadership skills, problem solving, develop courage and self reliance. It is how we learn to compromise and cooperate, build muscles and lean strong bodies. It is how we learn about the world.

Tuesday I saw an article on FB about how our Western culture is killing off our gut bacteria. Comparisons with indigenous peoples with no exposure to modern medicine, food, and culture show that they have 50% more ecological diversity in their microbiome. Our western guts have lost species that help metabolize carbohydrates, that act as prebiotics, that communicate with our immune system. As cultures become more 'western', they begin to lose gut bacteria species and start suffering from chronic illnesses connected to the immune system. We may be living longer but we aren't living healthy as the long list of pharmaceuticals advertized on TV points out. I've been compiling a list over the last several months...28 and counting.

Our microbiome is acquired by contact with the natural world, not by living in a sterilized environment. Certainly clean water and sanitation is important for healthy life but we develop our immune systems, especially as children, by being exposed to germs and dirt. It's not just our general health that is affected by our lack of contact with the natural world. There are microbes in the soil that have a direct effect on our feelings of well being and general contentment. We are not separate from this earth.

We have insulated ourselves from the outdoors. We make our homes air tight and sterilize them with anti-bacterials, conditioning the air so that it never varies and never lets in fresh air. We have covered the ground with concrete. We don't even let it get dark and the resultant light pollution means there are generations of people that have never seen the Milky Way.

We are animals that evolved in the natural world and yet we are trying to separate ourselves from it. We are the culprits in the largest extinction of life forms on this planet since the dinosaurs. We have poisoned our air, our water, our soil, and our food. Our oceans are full of trash. We have destroyed countless ecosystems and now the planet is heating up at an alarming rate.

What does this mean to us? We may be living longer, but as mentioned before, we are not living healthy. We suffer from depression and obesity and other chronic illnesses from the lack of nutrition in our food and contact with the earth. We have become insane with fear and hatred and suspicion.

So, on this Earth Day, go outside. Take your shoes off and walk barefoot in the dirt and grass. Plant something. Sit by a river or stream and just listen. Establish a brush pile or a wild space in your yard. Nurture nature.

You will feel so much better for it.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

a few firsts

The bluebonnets are fading as are the evening primrose and baby blue eyes and the poppies. The mock dogwood is done as is the wisteria and small red lilies. The larkspur are coming into full bloom though and the clasping coneflowers are starting to open up with the queen anne's lace. It's not summer yet but we are trending that way.

This past week was a week of firsts for the year...

I ate my first peach of the year. It was from Florida. I don't think I've ever eaten a peach from Florida, at least not knowingly.

The first love-in-a-mist opened. Remember last year when I hoped to get them established? Well, they reseeded (though I did throw out some new seeds last November) and the plants this year are so big and full! They are all getting ready to pop.

I picked the first ripe dewberries. These are from a large clump of brambly vines over on the shop property. The ones here in the garden don't get as much sun so they take longer to ripen.

I got my first chigger bites. They will be a constant companion til fall or at least until it's too hot to go outside.

Oh, and the first daylily scapes have emerged. Four varieties so far. They will bloom for months. We had a few last year that bloomed nearly into fall.

Here's another first only it happened a couple of weeks ago. I saw a hooded warbler in the shrub outside my window. He stayed there long enough for me to get some pictures and then he flew off. Haven't seen it again unlike the painted bunting that hung around for a couple of months.

Friday, April 17, 2015

some questions and answers

As you all are no doubt aware, I don't reply to comments much and when I do it is via email and it seems most my commenters don't make an email address available so when you ask a question, I have no way to answer it. My inbox is crushingly full and it is time to delete delete delete but first I thought I would try to winnow out some of the questions and answer them here.

On 'shop work and yard work' glnroz asked: do you do these designs by hand?

Yes, 99% of the time. I will have a design consultation with the client or designer and then do some compositional sketches in 1” to 1' scale. Details get added in as the drawing gets closer to full size. However, in this particular piece, the architect picked a border out of a design book of borders and small frames. We worked out the techniques together (the lace references the owners grandmother as does the diamond motif in the border). I had to figure out how to convert the knot into a series of lines we could work with.

Tabor asked a similar question on the same post: did you do the design or did they ask for this?

The architect knew what look he wanted but I provided the books we looked through for borders and I selected the font for the words. Still I had to do a scale drawing rendered to reflect the decisions we had made to present to the client.

On 'up on a roof' Ms Moon asked: when you are finished there, would you like to come work on our roof?


On 'whites, yellows, and oranges' Tabor asked: is bulbine a lily?

Bulbine is an herb found originally in South Africa. It's also, apparently, a very popular extract with body builders. I had to look it up. While I knew it wasn't a lily, I didn't know what it was. The foliage is very succulent-like though. I have it in two location and they are two different varieties. One of them has just been spectacular this year.

On 'epic battle' Joanne Noragon asked: is that an orb spider?

Well, it's an orb weaver, in that it wove what is called an orb web, the traditional spiderweb that radiates out from a center spot. Lots of different spiders build webs like that though. When I did an image search for 'orb spider', there were lots of pictures that looked like my spider.

Marty Damon asked on the same post: what were the pearls?

Dew drops!

On 'foiled work and finish work', Stephen Hayes asked, well it wasn't really a question: I don't recall seeing the blue one with yellow mushrooms(?)

Not mushrooms but pistal and pollen covered stamens of a blue flower which I don't know what it is. If someone could identify this flower for me I would appreciate it. And yah, it was in a previous post.

On 'a day trip to the Bayou City Art Festival' glnroz asked: where was your booth?

I was not participating, only went to enjoy the art of others. It's seems like fun to do those shows but I have done those shows and it is not fun for me. That's a whole lifestyle, traveling from one show to another to sell your work.

If I went back any further I don't think anyone would remember the post much less that they asked a question. Hell, y'all probably don't remember asking these. I do appreciate all the comments and feedback from the peeps.