The world is a dangerous place.  That’s why I think it’s a good thing when Donald Trump speaks.  He sounds like the voice of the National Rifle Association.  The NRA was born when a growing nation recognized the need for gun control, especially in urban areas.  Wayne LaPierre is famous for calling federal agents “jack-booted government thugs” who wear “Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms”. He was afraid of monsters when public attacks were unheard of.  Does that make him a visionary?  Now the NRA website and Wayne LaPierre look like an advertisement for Soldier of Fortune, a magazine for mercenaries that promotes military and global adventure. The Gun Lobby has changed the interpretation of the Second Amendment and raised money to put a stranglehold on politicians.  Trump looks like a front page cover.

There was a very sad little death in Florida the other day.  A family went for a walk on a place that looked like a beach and an alligator killed their baby. IMHO the Disney company made a murky marsh look like a nice place to go sun-bathing. The natural landscape of Florida is a saw-grass swamp filled with dangerous wild animals and beautiful poisonous plants.    Florida kills 7000 nuisance alligators each year, but they would rather everyone learn to live with alligators.

An alligator can run 25 mph on land in short bursts.  Alligators can climb trees and fences.  They like getting into swimming pools.  This Alligator wanted to ring the doorbell. Alligators often grow 7-8 feet long but, they can reach over 13 feet long. Naturally, you shouldn’t feed alligators.

I think you should visit a gator and see what Florida really looks like.  Florida is where we ride bikes in the winter.  It’s perfect weather in January and rural areas like Hernando County are cheap.  On the General James Van Fleet State Trail, you can often see an alligator.  I would not take a small child, but a well-behaved 12-year-old child would love the bike ride. We saw wild egrets flying, snakes slithering and alligators warming themselves on the asphalt.  Some locals warned us there was an alligator at the bridge.  When we got there we saw a 13-foot alligator beneath a bridge with two teenagers going after him.  Maybe they will eat him or sell his pelt.  No one protects big alligators and that’s OK with me.  We saw a couple 3-foot alligators. We reached the ranger station at the end of the trail and there was a small dog behind a very high chain link fence.  I thought it was a warning system and the very high fence was to discourage fence climbing alligators.

My favorite trail is the Withlacoochee Trail because it is a beautiful ride and biking distance from Crystal River where the Manatees migrate.  It’s close to salt water marshes and beaches.  I noticed when the locals walk in remote areas they carry a baseball bat.  Alligators are not very brave. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park arranges wildlife encounters for children.  I took a picture of the baby alligators and turtles sleeping together.  I thought it was way cooler and Disney Land.

When I was a child the Seminole Indians would wrestle alligators behind a small fence and we ate swamp cabbage and wild hog barbecue. It was important to educate the public. They would rub the alligator’s stomach and the alligator would fall asleep.  This show at an alligator rescue is more sensational than I would like, but he has some good fun facts.

Trump is like an alligator.  The only way to be safe is to be armed with knowledge. The devil you know is better than the one you don’t know. Be open to good information.



Natural Worlds

Mrs. Fain said there were fairies in the woods.  She was a very down-to-earth older person who chewed tobacco and always seemed to be in a rocking chair.  I never saw fairies, but I’m sure she did.  Your mind creates your world.  Maybe she created fairies or maybe we’ve taught ourselves to not see fairies.

I feel sad today.  It could be a bad reaction to a spider bite or I can’t read the news because something horrible will be reported in Orlando.  I don’t think of myself as a religious person, but I pray.  I don’t think the doctor will do anything about my spider bite, but I made an appointment. Everything you think, everything you touch, feel, hear, see or smell is natural.  Finding the force that causes that natural thing to happen is what makes us human. It helps us make better decisions.

Another blogger posted this religious song by Christina Grimme.  It made me feel better.


Leta Mae

My mother introduced my brother to Leta Mae about 40 years ago. They were married the next day.  I don’t know them well because I moved away, but I visited them last year.

Leta Mae is the youngest of 13 children who were born in a log cabin in the Ozark Mountains where radio and television waves are often blocked by the high mountains.  Her son from a previous marriage was not talking because she was afraid he wouldn’t learn to speak correctly, so, she was trying to teach him to talk by listening to songs by Sesame Street.  I read a description of loading a log cabin once; fitting 15 people into one room at night takes careful planning and everyone has bitter feelings about being put outside on a cold day. Fortunately, there was also room for Leta’s pig who slept with her.  Her sister Bobbie is the oldest and she became a minister.

Bobbie was beaten by her father for attending church but it didn’t stop her.  She went to college and became a minister and learned to speak French.  She traveled everyplace spreading the word of a loving God.  They sent her to New York and gave her an address; she had to find it all by herself.  When she went back home to visit her family her father called all neighbors from two towns to listen to him witness.  For four hours he confessed to every time he struck his children and drank and was abusive.  He was a changed man and gave thanks to his daughter who showed him a better way.  Bobbie is revered in her family.

Leta Mae has a life she never imagined.  She went on a vacation with the senior center to see the Amish Country.  She takes Zumba classes and oil painting.  All of her relatives, a lot of people, are studying their ancestry. Her painting was on display at the library when I visited. It was a jubilant dancing waterfall in the fall.  They asked her to write something about the class and she said, “painting reminds me of the fall leaves giving color to the ground.”  Now she wants to study writing.  Her most embarrassing confession is that, as a child, she kissed her pig.  (A good number of ladies in fashionable circles are doing that, as adults, around here.)

I met several of her brothers and sisters.  I mentioned to Darrel that the trick to walking around in New York City is to leave your jewelry at home because teenagers will pull it off. Darrel shivered and gasped!  Even though he’s in his late 60’s, I think he could still be a linebacker for the Buffalo Bills.  I didn’t mean to scare him.

Bobbie retired and moved back home recently.  She attends my brother’s church, but she doesn’t speak to them at church because she’s clergy. She went to Walmart at 3:00 am and saw a movie about a hostage on TV.  She called 911 and told them Leta Mae was being held hostage.  The ATF showed up at my brother’s door and made everyone go outside at 3:00 am.  After the investigation, they took Bobbie to the hospital and decided she had a loss of kidney function.

My mother told Leta Mae that I was trying to brainwash her into believing in reincarnation because we watched a Disney cartoon about a mermaid when I took her to Oklahoma City.  Leta Mae is afraid to speak to anyone who doesn’t sing the same hymns as those of her church.  I told Leta Mae I thought she would like the book by Stephen King, “On Writing.” My brother bought that book for her. Now, my mother brags about watching cartoons every time I talk to her.

My brother has two Master’s Degrees.  One is in economics and the other is in marketing.  He teaches machine shop.

If you want to go on a wonderful vacation, you should go to Oklahoma City.  You can see the Oklahoma City National Memorial, The Cowboy Museum, The Banjo Museum and the Myriad Botanical Gardens.  Any one of these sites are as fantastic as those in New York City and they are a lot cheaper.  The Cowboy Museum includes paintings from the Hudson River School and has a 5-star restaurant (my rating).

It is hard to explain how walking out into the world takes an act of faith.  It’s confusing, there are scary things, and people sing many different hymns.  I wish it was easier.






Life is always rebuilding


My father painted two pictures the year he died, age 63.  The first picture was a pen and ink of the house he grew up in; – a farmhouse built in the 1800’s.  He bought me an oil painting set and told me I could support myself and my baby by becoming a great artist.

My step-mother said, “this is the only house he wanted, just a cabin in the woods!”

I recognized it.  It’s the house I grew up in. There were no windows in the children’s bedroom.  There was a doorway to our room but no doors or closets on the inside of the house. We weren’t allowed in the house. On hot days, my three siblings and I slept in a tent. In his memoir, he called it a bare shack. It was a pretty happy time until my parents divorced. There were lots of kids in our neighborhood.

The world we would live in, as adults, looked nothing like that picture.

I’m learning to use a complicated camera and the first time I took a picture of the oil painting it looked like this:


You can see the inside of my actual house in the reflection of the glass.  My son became and architect and cut a hole in the ceiling where he added a staircase and finished the attic. There are lots of skylights.  If you look out the back window you can see my garden shed. I think it’s a good picture of the past and present existing together. Now it’s too big and the taxes are crazy.

In a couple years, when my husband retires, we’ll move someplace smaller and plan to spend our days riding our bicycles and walking our dog.


A simple life

Don’t overthink.  There are many paths, but you can only travel one.

I was photographing rocks yesterday and spoke with a man selling jewelry, who said, “I am not materialistic.  I am not owned by my possessions.”

“You should get a bicycle and collect gemstones.”

I was thinking of Margo Polo who bicycles around the world.  She was in Myanmar this April, who knows where she is now.  I didn’t really know exactly where gemstones are in New York  State or this continent, but I’ve seen a lot of quartz, chert and staurolite. e8865623f4e5438ef61016e0e7713cef

It isn’t the stone that’s magic; it’s the story that’s told about the stone.  I felt this man could tell a story, but I didn’t know how to explain that.  He understood.

“I’m going to get a pickup truck.”

That would be hard to fit on a bicycle.  It’s the kind of thing that wants to own you.  I’ve met a lot of people who are nonmaterialistic, but there’s always stuff, even if it’s not yours.  Stuff has rules and wherever you go, whatever you do, it’s all about the rules. If you tell people your story, they will explain the rules.

I had a friend in Ohio who excavated fields with geologists, looking for Indian artifacts.  The Flint River was a huge marketplace a few thousand years ago.  Stone from the Flint River has been found one thousand miles away.  The stones tell you where people lived, where they fought, and what was important to them.

“Hello, I would like to explore history in your cabbage patch.  Do you mind?”

Everything looks simple when you can only take one path. We shook hands.



Mountain Cities

La Rinconada, Peru is the highest city in the world. Bolivia has several mountain cities that grew quickly in recent years. In El Alto water is pumped in from La Paz but in Potosi, the average lifespan is 40 because the dust is deadly.  Tibet also has mountain Mountains seem like proud beautiful places where one could see great distances.  It is easier to see a city in the mountains from far away.  The people who live in the mountains don’t always see the rest of the world.

Breakneck Ridge is the most popular trail in New York, because of the great views.  The trailhead will be on the 7-mile Hudson Highland Fjord Trail.  I think this shared use trail should go all the way up the Hudson River.  cropped-184-e1347716740441

A better world

Technology has caused a transformation of life on earth.

I think the world is a better today than any time in history.  Today we are discussing malnutrition and clean water instead of death by famine.  Today more people go hungry than ever before and more people are obese and both conditions are symptoms of malnutrition. We need a better diet.

I have a garden.  It’s important to grow fresh tomatoes, corn, and peas because they taste better than anything else in the world.  Mostly I grow worms.  If the worms are happy, -the plants are happy.  The soil must be easy to weed and always moist.  The worms know this. Grow an ecosystem.

In Thailand, they have a lot of people and eat more bugs than anyone on earth.  Bugs are a great source of protein and can be produced very efficiently.  Chefs in the USA are working on how to make bug dishes more appealing.  I have never eaten bugs but, but I think my children should.

Jared Diamond believes the world would be improved if people were more labor intensive and traveled less.  We need to behave sustainably.  As long as we can continue to take selfies, it wouldn’t be a big deal.


Were you embarrassed?

I didn’t expect anyone to notice.

People who perform heroic acts don’t always like to be noticed.  It’s embarrassing!  All that attention implies that society knows bad things happen, so they pass out candy canes for damage control.  It implies heroic people just want candy canes.  It turns a decent human act into an awkward theater.  The person receiving the award usually mumbles something like, “Thank you and I want to say hi to my mom.  Hi, Mom!”

People who fail others create embarrassment.  Bill Clinton was a sex addict.  That must have been embarrassing for his daughter, Chelsea, to live with.  She doesn’t talk about it publically.

“If you did something wrong, apologize!  If you didn’t do anything wrong, don’t apologize!”

It isn’t easy to stop doing self-destructive things.  Are you trying to loose weight?  Did you loose your job?  There’s no point in apologizing, but everyone knows your embarrassed.

Hold your head up! Look around!  Don’t make people grovel so you can see them better.

We have to live with social pressure.  Being able to feel is a good thing, being controlled by a feeling is bad.

Do the math

I was a very shy child.  On the first day of school I sat across from Elizabeth as we waited to be taken to our assigned class.  Her eyes were round with terror and her mouth formed an ‘O’ like she wanted to cry out, but there was no sound. I felt like Elizabeth. That year was tough.

The other children cautiously approached my desk and touch me, then they quickly turned and ran with their arm extended and finger pointed, -shrieking, “I’ve got cooties and I’m going to get you !”   The class quickly exploded into riotous children playing chase and touching each other.  Dennis, my best friend, proudly volunteered to take turns being the cootie.  The game seemed friendlier after that.

Some people are shy.  It’s not well accepted.

My family lived in a two room bare shack in a rural wooded area and my parents marriage was failing with lots of drama and violence.  I had to make straight A’s or be beaten.  I was afraid to move.  There was nothing predictable in my life. We had wonderful neighbors who included us in their community, but we lacked basic things.

In school we learned math.  The answer was always the same and it was like a puzzel. I loved the way it felt to know the answer and especially discovering there was a reason these things fit together so neatly.  Math was my safe passage into civilization.


In 1974 women were being trained in job traditionally held by men.  I was still, very shy but sure about my technical abilities.  It was a challenge because women were viewed as taking a job away from a man with a family.  Even though I was a single mother, -it was wrong. One woman told me a man in her department had anchored a chain to the axle of her car, which caused damaged when she tried to drive away.  The customers complained women were not very well trained and they didn’t want us.  I was still very shy and my manager would hold up his fist and pretend to strike my face when I walked in the room.  He wanted to see if I would flinch, -he was well-liked; the secretary said he was just like a father to her.  Then IBM began downsizing and I had the opportunity to train for a new job or get a pink slip.

I was sent to a week long class in North Carolina.  My manager was surprised I passed and my male peer did not.  Then I was sent to a month-long class in Atlanta.  A lot of people failed that class, including managers with college degrees, but the women in the class did not.  I was sent to Dallas for another class, my roomate had a computer science degree.  My new manager said he would only offer jobs to the top 10% of the class. After I was offered a job my manager called him and my new manager hated me after that, so, I refused the job.  Things changed after that.  I had interviews all over the country.  The women I worked with gave me good suggestions, -be a mainframe programmer.  So that’s what I did.

I went to New York and took another month class in programming.  I was getting pretty good at this.  Next I took a class in mainframe internals.  The two years of classes all over the country was hard on my son, but we got through and he eventually graduated from Yale. I survived 32 years of downsizing by working long hours and being a critical resource.  It was never a job that made you feel smart, or improved your self esteem.  My coworkers thought I was weird because I liked to solve problems. I was a high school dropout who didn’t belong in professional ranks.

I always imagined myself knitting.  I had an internal mantra, -Be patient, be percise, follow the pattern.

I received two formal awards and never worked on a project that failed.  I also went to college; after I retired I got an associates degree in science.  One advantage of being a shy person is being your own cheering section, -Yay me!

Elizabeth, the other frightened girl in first grade, got a PhD in statistics.

Susan Cain, wrote the book ‘Quiet, the power of introverts.’  I wish educators would encourage shy children to explore math and sciences.  Shyness is not a disease, it a way of survival that has strength.  Technical fields have a great deal to offer people who find social settings stressful.