Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I belong to an organization that was formed to save the Selma Mansion located in Norristown. The house was built in 1794 and is one of the most important historical structures in the town.  During the late 1980s, the organization was formed because the house was in danger of being razed.  A deal was struck by the original organization members and a builder to erect an apartment complex on the property of the mansion with the plan to renovate the house to be either office space or a community center for the complex. The builder pulled out of the project before the renovations to the house were started and the organization has been trying to obtain rights to the mansion ever since.
Some time ago, someone posted on the group’s Facebook page claiming the apartment complex was built over a graveyard.  Since it was not uncommon in the days when the mansion was young to bury family members in a plot on the property of a large house like Selma, it is extremely possible that such a graveyard existed.  The person making the claim grew up in the area and delivered the local newspaper to the last resident.  He had the opportunity to speak to her on many occasions and was often treated to cookies and iced tea, as well as hearing many stories, when he made his deliveries.  He came out to the mansion shortly after the posting and showed us where the graveyard was reported to be; under the rear drive to one of the buildings and he said he distinctly remembered seeing the workers pulling up the gravestones and putting them in a dump truck along with shrubs and trees not wanted during the construction phase.  If this is indeed true, that area is hallowed ground and paving or building over it is illegal.
Now we have the job of trying to substantiate his claims.  There is much research that is needed up to and including x-raying the ground to see if bones can be seen. Since the county’s historical society has done an exhaustive inventory of all the graves in the county, the research should not take long at all.  If we do find out that there are bodies buried there, then a decision has to be made.  One way or another, a paved over graveyard could really help toward the renovation efforts.  Who knows, maybe those bones will take on a new form.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shaky Prediction

Although not scientific, Spirit Halloween, the country's largest seasonal Halloween retailer has predicted that Obama will win the Presidential race.  They say that the Obama masks are outselling the Romney masks by 20% and the charting of such sales has correctly predicted the election since 1996. 
"A lot of people are going out and supporting their candidate by wearing their masks," said Lisa Barr, senior director of marketing for Spirit Halloween.
While I don’t believe that is necessarily the case, I find it fascinating that such a prediction exists.  But then again it’s the same mindset as betting on the horses using the logic that the horse looked at you when it passed by.
People are going to have crazy ways of making predictions on who is going to win this race, but the real caveat here is if they go out and vote.  Presidential elections do pull out more voters than other years, but still the majority of voter turnout in my area at least is still only 45%.  It is still a dismal showing for such an important event.
Whether the mask sales are correct this time around is anyone’s guess. I only hope that such predictions do not keep people home thinking that their candidate doesn’t need their vote. We will find out after the fat lady has sung on November 7th. Go Vote!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dubious Anniversary

Today is the anniversary of my father’s death.  Last year at this time I was very involved in a local campaign and had even taken a leave of absence from my regular job.  I knew that the end was near and we were waiting for it, but it still didn’t make it any easier when it actually happened.  Things were so crazy at that time that I only got time to go to the funeral and then get right back to the campaign office.  I still kind of forget that he is actually gone when I think of calling him to tell him something.
Losing a parent is hard they say.  I guess but I think it would be harder if I were younger and more dependent on my parents.  Being as old as I am now and away from the house not dealing with them as often as I did back then, makes me a little more removed from the situation.  My father was really good about calling me often and even though we really didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of issues, it made me feel important in his life.  I found out at the funeral that he did that a lot with people he was close to.  I often mean to do that with my friends, but somehow things just get in the way and much time goes by and I suddenly realize that I haven’t spoken to someone who used to be a daily part of my life for a while.  Maybe that part of him didn’t make it into my DNA. 
Since he lived in Delaware I haven’t even made it down to see his grave.  It’s not really important to me to do that though because I don’t need a place like that to remember him.  I have a picture of him on my desk and often one of his selections comes up on my iPod, so I think of him pretty frequently.  I kind of miss him, but I often think I should be missing him more.  Maybe if we were closer it would be more of an issue and in some ways I feel guilty it isn’t.  Then again maybe death doesn’t bother me that much because I believe I will see him again.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Welcome to the USA

Two people with whom I work received their US Citizenship; one just yesterday.  Our team went all out and hung red, white, and blue banners over their desk and arranged a USA Themed lunch.  I asked the most recent one what the process was and he told me that he had to have had his green card for at least 5 years and then take a test.  As a curiosity I looked up the possible questions to see how difficult they were.  There are actually a few sites on the web with information about citizenship and one has a list of all the potential questions (and answers) that could be asked. Ten of these questions are asked and the goal is to get six correct. 
These questions are relatively easy, at least for me because I am pretty well versed in American civics.  But there are few which I don’t know the answer to.  For example I was not sure who said “Give me liberty or give me death” (Patrick Henry).    I also did not remember the name of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (William Rehnquist).  Some of these things are pretty trivial in respect to our daily lives.  I wonder how the average fifth grader would score on these questions.
Being an American is important to many who come here both those who come legally and undocumented.  Knowing our history, pledging allegiance to our flag, and voting is something that people born in this country sometimes take for granted.  No, it is not important for living our daily lives, but it is important if you want to call yourself an American. Check out the questions and see how you score.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It Could Be Worse

There are few things that bother me more than whiners.  There is a person I work with who gets so crabby and unapproachable whenever they are having a bad day.  This person doesn’t actually whine, but they get very nasty.  It affects the team adversely because this person has a far more technical understanding of everything and one cannot approach them when they get this way to ask any kind of a question.  And this person is in this mood a lot.  Because of that situation I have tried to not be that way as much as possible.  It is a challenge but one that I think is important in dealing with people in general. 
This morning, as is my habit, I went over to the cafeteria to get my morning coffee.  The manager over there was running around like a chicken without a head and I asked him if he was having a bad day.  It appears that one of his chefs shattered their ankle, the cashier is sick and probably out for the rest of the week, and a replacement cook that came from another building did not come prepared to work at this building and therefore would not be able to start on time.  Yes, he was having a bad day but unlike my coworker he was able to smile and joke about the whole thing and take things in stride.
My mother loaned me a book named 90 Minutes in Heaven written by a Pastor who was in a horrible automobile accident and apparently died and came back to life.  His body was shattered and his recovery took several years filled with pain and suffering. I can’t think of anything worse and look at that person's story as helping to put my life in perspective whenever I feel as if I can’t handle my problems.  In a flash of an eye, anyone of us could be in that situation and a lot of who we are depends on how we deal with the situation.  We can take everything in stride understanding that there are others who are far worse than we, or whine about how horrible our life is now and make the lives of those around us miserable as well. Which one will you be?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cold Frame


This weekend my husband helped me build a cold frame for the garden.  We got the design from the book Year Round Vegetable Gardener by Nikki Jabbour, who I heard talk at the Flower Show this year.  She lives and gardens in Nova Scotia, so I think she really knows what she is talking about.  I had to do a little re-arranging in my garden to accommodate the new structure and it involved moving two pepper plants which are going to go anyway, but maybe I will get a few more peppers before then. 
With our first estimated frost date looming on October 28th, the cold frame could not have been done any later.  I checked our extended forecast and it indeed shows that we are expecting temperatures in the 30s at the end of the month.  We made the cold frame moveable so that it can sit inside the frame of the raised bed and we can put it on any bed in the garden depending on what I have planted so I can practice crop rotation easily with this. 
This year I did a fall planting of lettuce in the first bed, so we put it over that.  I then planted carrots, radishes, and spinach once the frame was built and in place.  We are expecting temperatures not unlike spring temperatures in the next two weeks so I believe they will grow since they are cool weather crops.  We’ll see.  This whole thing is an experiment because I have never done this kind of thing before.  I hope it works out.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Compost Happens

I came across a website the other day for a company called Philly Compost.  This is a woman owned company that will pick up your food scrapes and create compost from it.  Right now, they offer their service to six zip codes in the Philadelphia area.  I found them after reading a blog entry that referred to Compost Cab, a Washington DC based company.  Compost Cab presented at Green Festival which has summer and fall events in DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. 
Urban settings do not allow many people to do home composting, and these services will help provide that.  They partner with local farmers, create compost from the scraps you give them, and help reduce material being sent to landfills along with excess methane created from those landfills.  It is a win-win situation in my mind but of course is a fee based service. Philly Compost charges $15 a month, and I am not sure what the city charges in fees for waste collection, but if it is based on tonnage allowing Philly Compost to pick up your organic materials it could end up saving you money. 
I know in my house we end up putting out one bag every other week.  We compost our kitchen scraps, recycle our paper and cardboard, recycle our plastics, and save our used batteries to take to the hazardous waste collection offered by the county.  Bear in mind it is only two of us now, but even when our son was living with us, we didn’t produce that much more.  I look around every week on trash day at our street and our neighbors have mounds of stuff on the curb.  It feels good that we are doing our part to reduce greenhouse gases. I think if everyone does what they can we could help reduce the hole in the ozone and produce amazing fertile soil that will grow more food.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


I woke up feeling a little queasy today. It could have been something I ate, or I could have a little stomach bug. Whatever the cause, it was unpleasant. Lying in bed this morning, I debated whether I was going to call out sick but decided against it because that would mean that I was caving into whatever I had and there was a good chance I would feel better later in the day.

I remembered back about 20 years ago to the days when I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Every day was a struggle getting out of bed and going on with my life. Everything hurt and I just wanted to sleep. But there were so many things that needed doing; a small child needing caring for, I had to “bring home the bacon” and maintain my job, I had to cook dinner for my family, and sleep was not an option. I was lucky though. My case was not that bad and I beat it. It took 3 years and a lot of vitamins, but I eventually got better and the effects of the illness faded into the background.

Not all people have that luck. There are some who are sick for years, hanging on until the end. Not much is known about autoimmune illnesses like Epstein Barr, Lupus, MS, Fibromyalgia, and others, and they are not always the kind that make one so sick it is obvious to everyone around them. Even doctors don’t agree that some of them are “real” diseases and dismiss them. I often wonder what the causes are and whether there is some cure out there just waiting to be found, or better yet some way to prevent them. In the meantime, we just have to press on regardless, and we have to be a little more understanding with others because even if they look okay on the outside, they may be suffering on the inside.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Introvert or Extrovert?

I came across a blog entry that linked to a video of Susan Cain talking about introverts and their power in leadership.  For years I have often felt that I am painfully shy because I am so self conscious in a group setting.  But after watching this video I have come to the conclusion that I am actually more of an introvert than I thought I was.  She says that often introverts are uncomfortable in their skin and try to be more outgoing because society chastises those who like to go off by themselves.  She talks about the change in society during the Industrial Revolution where people who were used to being in smaller groups of people had to start to prove themselves in big cities.
She also talks about solitude.  Maybe it’s age and experience but I have felt more and more comfortable with solitude than I used to be. Quite possibly it is also because for a greater part of my adult like I have been a practicing Quaker where the weekly service is all about silence. It is an active silence, however, where we sit and contemplate God and when we feel moved to speak, we rise and do so.  Often the entire meeting is silent, which can unnerve someone if they are not familiar with it.  To me it is similar to the feeling I get when I am reading with a group of people.  However, instead of encoding words on a page, I am deep in thought about whatever comes into my mind.
The bottom line is that it is okay to be an introvert, Cain says.  Those long times of self introspection can often produce marvelous ideas.  Sometimes the documents created from that introspection can be preserved and read by and inspire others.  There will always be those who are extroverted and gregarious and whose bubbly nature balance the quiet times in your life.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Killing Big Bird

There has been a lot of talk about the potential demise of Big Bird if a certain candidate wins office.  This morning I read an article about the funding of public television written by LeVar Burton.  He talks about the importance of PBS and how it is helping to provide education through their various children’s shows.  If PBS was unfunded, he says, much of the local level funding would be cut and there is a potential for rural area PBS affiliate stations to be affected most. 
The most interesting part of reading articles on the web are the remarks afterward. One such commenter talked about the fact that education is not mandated by the constitution and should be administered on the local level.  He cites the creation of the Department of Education as the reason teachers are teaching to the test and the nation wasting money. 
Whether it is constitutional or not, I think as a nation, we have a responsibility to our future.  I believe we need to set a national standard which then can be managed locally.  Administering the standards is better on the local level, but nationally we need to identify the educational expectations of our children and the standards that our schools need to achieve.  Education needs to be kept as a national priority.  Big Bird should remain alive and participating in that expectation.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Smart Phones and Super Humans

A fascinating article appeared in a recent copy of CNN Tech, about mobile phones and the reasons they have taken over our lives.  They have almost become “phantom limbs” being ubiquitously attached to our person and allowing us to capture the world and stay connected.  Many of the phones are actually life changing, like the phones being used in place of textbooks in an African school.
I know that my phone has been a part of my life steadily since I first got one.  I can’t even remember when I got my first phone, but I do remember that having it created such a send of security knowing that I could connect with someone if there was an emergency.  Thinking once that I would only use it when I absolutely had to, I now find that I use it almost every hour of my waking.  Not having it renders me not unlike an addict without their dose. 
Smart phones are now part of our lives and many people, about 6 billion of us worldwide, know that all too well.  It has been stated that even 68% of us sleep with the devices and 3 out of 4 people are constantly connected.  If something was to happen and mobile phones stopped working, there could possibly be a wave of panic all over the world as we reach for our phones to be connected to nothing.

Friday, October 5, 2012


When I was younger I heard about Crones; aged women who were well respected and who knew things. In some stories, she is disagreeable, malicious, or sinister, and often associated with having magical or supernatural powers.  Pictures of crones show wrinkled faces and often long, grey, unkempt hair.  Some pictures show a gentle smile, while others depict a haggard woman with a wart on the end of a long, crooked nose.  Now that I am getting closer to the age of crone-ism, I discount the later description and prefer to aim toward the former.  I want to be respected for the knowledge that I have learned over the years and at the same time, I want to retain some of my former looks, not that I consider myself a raging beauty, but I don’t really think I resemble a witch.  The other “itch” word, maybe.
I appreciate knowledge attained over long years of experiences.  When I was in my teens I didn’t have the time to listen to my elders.  While I was appreciative of the message, I was intolerant with the messenger.  I still am to an extent if that messenger is one who repeats themselves continually and who smells bad.  I hope I never get to that point. 
But as I have gotten older I have been increasingly uncaring of how people perceive my message.  I suppose I am getting to be like my mother who I have often joked views others as being entitled to her opinion.  So if I rant on this blog, take it as my view; raw, uncut, and uncensored.  I make no apologies for them and appreciate your time in reading them. I hope they spark thought and perhaps action.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


I should have taken a picture, but forgive me.  I am pretty sure you all have seen sweet potatoes before.  The other night I was in my garden and looked into the potato box.  The sweet potato vines are immense and as I have never grown sweet potatoes before I was looking to see if there was any way I could tell when to harvest or even if I was going to have a harvest.  In the corner of the box, sticking up was an end of a sweet potato!  I pulled it out eagerly and I suppose I could have waited because it was more like a large carrot than the tuber sized ones I get at the store.  Since I had picked it and it was really not big enough for a meal, I roasted it with other thing; garlic, onion, and eggplant all from my garden along with a store-bought organic carrot.  I sliced them into coins and drizzled a little olive oil on, then added some salt and pepper, and put it in a 400° oven for about 20 minutes.  It was delicious.
I am anxiously waiting for more now.  I still have to research when to harvest.  Most of what I have found says that they take about three to four months after planting the slips, so I have to look through my garden journal and find out when I planted.  I did read that frost and cold weather can hurt sweet potatoes, so they recommend harvesting right before the first frost.  The frost apparently kills and blackens the vines above ground and if you don’t harvest, decay can start in and get below the soil. In this same article, it said that if your sweet potato plants suffer a frost one night, cut the vines off right above the soil first thing the next morning. That way you may be able to leave the potatoes in the ground for a few more days. 
You are supposed to cure them for a while, so I guess my using it as soon as I picked it was not recommended.  They say that curing should be done for 10 to 14 days keeping sweet potatoes in a warm, dark place with some ventilation. The temperature should be 80 degrees with high humidity. Under these conditions, bruises and wounds will heal quickly, sealing out rot organisms.  I don’t have a root cellar so maybe just an open box in the basement will suffice. Bottom line is that now I am really anxious to see what my garden as wrought.  It is another new garden experience.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Okay, then…

Here’s something that should generate a giggle – at least it did in me.  A man was caught masturbating in aisle 10 of the Radnor Giant.  He was charged with indecent exposure.  There were no further details such as where the man was from and how he got caught.  I can’t help but wonder about those details. 
It often makes me take pause as to why someone would do something like that.  They probably wanted to get caught.  I haven’t been to that Giant so I am not sure what is in aisle 10.  Perhaps it was the sight of all those chips that got him going.  Or perhaps it’s the cereal aisle and he was thinking of bananas.  Okay, I will stop now.  That last one was just not right…

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Oldest Trick in the Book

My poor old mother fell for one of the oldest scams there is and I am shocked that she did so.  She has always struck me as a person who was so with it.  As she has aged, and she is over 80 now, she has gotten increasingly frail.  It is a shame to see a woman who was once so vibrant and capable begin to slide into the image I have of an old, frail, woman, tottering along with a cane.
She emailed me yesterday in response to an email I sent her about an event we are going to.  I emailed her because I thought she could print out the email rather than talk to her on the phone and risk her forgetting the details.  It appears that a person, or persons, stalked her on FaceBook and called claiming to be her grandson (not my son but my brother’s) saying that he was in New York City and had been in an accident.  He didn’t want her to call his parents but to wire money to him right away.  She said she questioned him about the sound of his voice but he claimed that a broken nose had changed it.  She wired the money he asked for and then sent more the following day when the person called back to say the hospital needed additional funds.  She apparently has contacted the authorities and they are on the case and apparently have found the suspects.  However, she is unsure if she is going to recover anything.
I told her that for the future, she needs to have a password in place with her grandsons.  If someone calls again, she is to ask them the password and if they don’t know it, or give the wrong one, she is to go to the police immediately.  With FaceBook, these kinds of scams are relatively easy.  One simply searches for women over the age of 70 and then looks at their accounts or people they know until they find a young family member they can claim to be. Then it is a simple cross reference with the phone directory to find the phone number and they are set. 
FaceBook is great, but there are risks.  This situation points to another reason why you really need to review your security settings to make sure that others cannot view anything about you unless they are friends.  Even with that you should not put any of your personal information on your profile unless you are sure there is no way someone can use it against you.  You need to be responsible for your own safety and constantly vigilant in this day and age when your life is an open book in the ether.