Wednesday, January 27, 2016

January 2016 ... and the year ahead

January is almost over, already.  I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year celebration.  Here, we had neither.  In my last post I mentioned that I had been battling what I thought was a strange "chest cold."  My primary care doctor was not available, so I made an appointment with someone else in his office, but that day, December 22, we decided to visit Bulloch Hall so I could take pictures for a post, and I cancelled the doctor appointment.  After the trip to Bulloch Hall and writing my post it was almost Christmas and by then I was even weaker and could not think of driving to another county, on the freeways, for a doctor's visit (my husband does not drive anymore.)  From then on I was in bed every day including Christmas.  The only decoration I saw was the embroidery on a holiday jacket that I wore in bed as I had severe chills.

On Christmas morning I did get up to make coffee and toast for my husband and me, but went back to bed.  For dinner every night my husband ate Chinese food delivered from a restaurant nearby and I ate Chinese noodle soup.  On New Year's Day I tried to watch the Pasadena Rose Parade on TV and did take a couple of pictures - one of the Armenian float and the other of the Downton Abbey float, but then had to go back to bed.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

At first I had looked up my symptoms on the web and decided that I had acute bronchitis.  After that I did not look at the computer at all.  I would not mention my illness here as I know this is not a fun subject, but I am doing it to avoid someone making the same mistake as I did.  This last week I took my husband to his pulmonary/lung doctor for his sleep apnea check-up.  When the doctor asked me how I had been feeling, I told him I was in bed 3 weeks with bronchitis.  He asked me if this had been the diagnostic from my doctor - I answered that I had self-diagnosed with help from the web.  After listening to my symptoms he said that it sounded not like bronchitis but pneumonia.  He was not happy that I had not gone to a doctor.  He added that with complications it could have been very serious - to life threatening.  Frankly, I never thought about pneumonia, so I did not look it up.  So, if you cough almost continuously until you nearly lose your breath, with chest and abdominal pains and lungs feeling crushed, bloody mucus, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, shaking chills, extreme weakness and fever, lack of appetite and nausea - that could be pneumonia and you better see your doctor.  Apart from being extremely weak and unable to sleep because of the noise from my lungs when I breathed, I was not upset about missing out on the holidays.  There was no one at Christmas time around here I could ask for help, so being optimistic I thought I'd get better soon.  Older daughter was in Pennsylvania and younger daughter was in Paris with her family.  She sent me photos on her cell phone.  I was happy to have Paris on my cell phone in bed with me.  Here are some of her photos (oldest grandson is in front of Notre Dame de Paris on Christmas Eve.)

After Paris they flew to Kochi, South India, to visit son-in-law's relatives.  It sounded like a great trip.  Then they came back through Sri Lanka, Rome and a stop in Venice.  They said that Venice had very few tourists - Piazza San Marco was almost empty.  Take note - the week after New Year is a good time to visit Venice, Italy.

I guess I was lucky that I became better by myself.  In a way if I had known I had pneumonia I might have become sicker, thinking about the consequences.  I think good and bad thoughts affect our health.  I never wish to lose control and always refuse to listen to the blues.  I do not like self-pity as it brings a lack of compassion toward others (as one is more into their own problems.)  I could not control being sick, but I certainly could control my response and attitude to it, don't you think?  In a way I felt lucky to have time to read some books.  One was about France after WWII (but it also included what had happened during the war as well.) Conditions had been terrible there for many people that, in comparison, the pain in my lungs did not seem hard to bear.  Because of his Alzheimer my husband was a bit confused.  He stayed in the kitchen watching TV, then when I came down at night to help him with his Chinese dinner, he always asked me why I coughed so much ... but he never complained about eating Chinese food for 3 weeks!   The cats kept him company but he did not enjoy staying inside alone for so long.

During the holidays the weather here had been warmer than usual - up to 78 degrees F on Christmas Day (25.5 C.)  Even though I could not get out, just looking at the sunshine pouring into my room made me happy.  That made me think of John Denver's song - do you remember?  "Sunshine on my shoulders, make me happy ... Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry ... Sunshine on the water looks so lovely ... Sunshine almost always makes me high."

Last year in January I had written in my post that the Cobb County Water Commission was going to cut many trees along the road including on our property.  See my post here.  They did start the process the second week of January.  I heard their heavy machinery chopping our trees down - it did hurt when another huge pine tree came down and shook the house.  I went out to take some last quick photos of the hemlock we had planted after Christmas so long ago, and the Oregon Ivy near it, that was already blooming.  I told the tree how sorry I was.

I cut some foliage from the hemlock tree and placed it into a vase.  Below is the vase shown in our back yard and inside the house.

The next day, our beloved hemlock was gone - it was about 40 years old.  I took some pictures of what was left.

We walked toward our neighbors' home - her beautiful magnolia was gone, too.  It was so sad looking at all these trees and branches on the ground.  It looked like a tree graveyard.

I tried to find remnants of our cedar tree, but I think it was under pine tree foliage and debris.

Then walking along the road, I did see the remains of our cedar, laying on a ridge.

After the cutting equipment was finished, the heavy machine that mulches trunks and branches came along and pulverized everything.  We watched as the machine came across our driveway - the work was noisy, quick and efficient.

The area looks quite bare now.

Unfortunately, they also cut our cable on Monday 18 January.  For almost a week we had no television or computer access.  We were surprised by the snow last Saturday since we had not watched the weather forecast for many days.  We did get the cable repaired just in time to watch Downton Abbey last Sunday January 24th.  (Actually I forgot to watch the show at 9:00 pm then remembered and watched the rerun that night from midnight to 1:00 am!)  Today is the first day I am back on the computer - have not looked at most blogs since mid-December... The pictures below are on the side and back of the house.  When the sun came up the snow melted rapidly.

My little grey Korat, Mitsuko, was pleased when my iPad worked again as she likes to watch bird videos on youtube.

Cody, our orange cat and Mitsuko were sleeping in an old box (it is warmer.)  I placed a new box next to them so one cat could move and be more comfortable.  But they both moved into the new box and left the old one alone.  They both have nice beds but for some reason they prefer boxes or bags ...

Taking pictures of cats is a special art (that I do not possess.)  There were lovely sun rays coming into the kitchen, but every time I tried to take a picture, the cats would move.  I took more than a dozen and only one is acceptable.

So January is almost over, and now we have to look at the year ahead - many exciting events are sure to come up ...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas in 1845 at Bulloch Hall

We have not been back to Bulloch Hall in winter since 2012 when the theme that year was "Christmas in the White House at Bulloch Hall." In 2010 I had written a post entitled "Bulloch Hall in the Festive Season" because the theme that year was "The Symbols and Traditions of Christmas at Bulloch Hall."  This year the theme is "Christmas with the Bulloch's 1845."  (We also made several trips to Bulloch Hall in the spring for their quilt shows.)  Bulloch Hall, now owned by the City of Roswell, GA., was built circa 1839 for the Bulloch family and their eight children (4 were from previous marriages.)  Each year there is a living history re-enactment of the December 1853 wedding of Mittie Bulloch with Theodore Roosevelt, Sr.  When Mittie had visited her sister in Philadelphia she had met Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. (Thee) there.  Thee fell in love with Mittie, a beautiful Southern Belle, and they were married in the Dining Room of Bulloch Hall.  Re-enactment picture below with pictures of Mittie and Thee in black and white, courtesy Bulloch Hall.

Before I continue I'd like to thank my blogging friends who commented on my two part post, Chalkfest 2015 in Marietta, part two, and the story of US violence.  I appreciate each comment.  Before this Chalkfest post my blog had 290 followers but immediately after it went down to 282.  I guess eight bloggers disliked my post so much that they decided to "un-follow" me.  Earlier I had been advised not to talk about anything that could be taken as a negative about America.  A British friend who has lived here since 1959 told me that if you don't say the US is exceptional people will get upset and think you hate the whole country.  I remember asking him about my blog "how if I research and only state facts?" No, no, he said - no good, they won't like you the messenger, have contempt for you and they'll take it personally, above all because you are a foreigner.  But, I replied, I am not a foreigner, I am a US citizen and have been here since 1961 - or 54 years.  Forget that, he replied, as long as you were not born here and have an accent, and a French one at that, you are and always will be considered a "foreigner."  I certainly did not write the post to upset anyone as I enjoy research, wherever it leads me, and thought people with open minds might enjoy it as well.  I did not think it would make anyone mad at me.

Our house has no decorations or Christmas goodies because for the last week I have been battling a miserable chest cold.  It is a kind I never had before - constant short but hard coughs (as when you clear your throat, but it does not clear) total exhaustion, and lack of appetite.  I was told it is "going around" and usually lasts a couple of weeks or so.  Christmas will be quiet here this year as no visitors will come by, but it is better this way as I would not want to give anyone a gift of a miserable cold.  Eldest daughter, Celine, will be visiting her fiance in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Younger daughter, her husband, and the four grand-children drove to New York City to admire the beautiful holiday decorations there and stopped in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on the way.  Here is a picture of New York at night my daughter sent me via her cell phone.  She said it was very crowded.

This morning, December 23, they arrived in Paris where they will stay 5 or 6 days, and then they will fly to India to visit relatives.  I am happy that the grandchildren will have a chance to see all the great animated windows of the large Paris department stores like the Galeries Lafayette and Le Printemps.  I still remember my mom taking me to see them when I was a wee child.  I think they will remember this, too.  Below are pictures of Les Galeries Lafayette in Paris (Blvd Haussmann.)  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

Le Printemps department store is celebrating their 150th Christmas anniversary this year and their windows are bringing a Christmas fairy tale (written for them in 1909) - a frozen nature awakened by adorable articulated dolls.  Eleven windows, decorated in cooperation with prestigious brands, present idyllic pictures with game illusions, optical effects and blooms.  Click twice on collage of windows below to see better.   Photos courtesy Le Printemps.

Back to Georgia - yesterday, Tuesday December 22, we drove to Roswell to visit Bulloch Hall.  It had been raining that morning and was very foggy, but warm.  We parked by the Museum and Gift Shop and walked up to the main house.

I love taking pictures outside and inside the house.  By now we know the house so well that it is like visiting an old friend.  I remember each room with its furniture and it is fun to see how it has been decorated anew.  Entering the great hall I feel the home is welcoming me back, and the owners are steps away, in the parlor.

After we entered, the docent gave us a page of information about this Christmas.  It said "Welcome to the World of 1845 .... James K. Polk is the President of the growing United States.  Florida has joined the Union as the 27th state and Texas as the 28th."  Well now, when we drove to Columbia, Tennessee, to see the doctors for my knees and foot, I remember seeing a sign directing us to the James K. Polk ancestral home, a couple of blocks away.  James K. Polk (1795-1849) was the 11th President of the United States, a Democrat.  He was born in North Carolina and died in Nashville, Tennessee.  Now for sure when we go back to Columbia, we will visit his home - that is really exciting (I get excited by things like this ...)  Below is a photograph of President Polk.  He was the first President of the United States to be extensively photographed during his tenure.

The leaflet went on "the village of Roswell in Cobb County has one church, one store, and one male and female academy ... residents include the Bullochs, Kings, Dunwoodys, etc..."  "And at Bulloch Hall ... James S. Bulloch, age 52, and his second wife Martha, age 46, are busy raising their blended families.   ...the younger Bulloch girls, Anna, 13, and Mittie 10, are excitedly wrapping gifts for their siblings and the sound of three year old Irvine's feet echo everywhere as he is swept up in the excitement."

The narrative on the page said "In Europe, Monet, Renoir and Rodin are challenging the traditional world of art."  Hmm.  Well, now, I don't want to be picky, but having shown many paintings of Monet, Renoir and sculptures by Rodin on my blog I know that both Monet and Rodin were born in 1840 and Renoir in 1841.  How could these men (?) challenge the traditional world of art in 1845 if they were just toddlers?  Last night, I told my husband that I should call Bulloch Hall so they could correct this error.  No, he said, they won't like it - people don't like to be told they made mistakes and they will be upset with you.  OK I said.  Then as I was writing this post I read this page again and thought that I needed to do something.  I called the contact listed on Bulloch Hall web page and left a message.  A few minutes ago someone called back and said they changed the names of the artists to J. M. W. Turner of England, I believe, and they thanked me.  Maybe they were upset, I don't know.

Going on with our tour - in the Parlor, refreshments are ready for the Bulloch's guests - tea or punch.

Passing into the Dining Room, we see that the table is set.  A couple is talking close to a Christmas tree.

Each room has one or more Christmas tree, from very small to large.  All of them decorated with natural ornaments, candles, corn, fruits, nuts and garlands.

The Pantry has food and drinks waiting.

A sumptuous array of food and sweets is waiting also in the cellar.

Then we went up to the bedrooms - two of them were decorated.

Back down again, we entered the children's bedroom/playroom,

then the Master Bedroom.

A Santa Claus was standing next to a Christmas tree in the Library.  A game of card, with glasses of Port by each player, was started in front of a roaring fire.

Our tour was finished.  We could sit on a bench in the hall and recall all the pretty decorations we had just seen.

Goodbye Bulloch Hall - we'll drive back home now, in the fog.

Now is the time to wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Happy Holidays.  However, I think that this video showing the US Navy Band in Washington, D.C., last year, says it better ... and with a French twist.  Below is the Christmas Can-Can.


 and a Happy New Year!

See you next year ...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Marietta Chalkfest 2015 - part 2, and more ...

This is a continuation of my post on the Marietta Chalkfest, see part one here.  There was a great variety of chalk art, such as Bill McCaffrey's chalk drawing.  Bill was a battalion artist in Vietnam, but now does temporary street paintings.  The theme this year was "Pariotic" but previously he had also drawn himself as a Santa.

I remember Cynthia Kostylo of Carlsbad, California, because at the 2013 Chalkfest she drew a stunning portrait of Ray Charles.  Below are the picture I took then, plus her drawing for this year - a Norman Rockwell painting.  In addition there are two other beautiful women's faces, in the center and bottom right, courtesy C. Kostylo.  (Click collage to enlarge.)

Walking along the street, other artworks, created by Mariettans, were shown on the walls.  A small boy was doing his chalk sign on a pick-up truck.

I did not get all the artists' names but below, on bottom right, is Beth Shistle's group of children singing.  Beth had drawn the owl in 2014, shown in part one of this post.

I wished I had a ladder because the drawings look so much better from up high.  Below are the drawings of Lee Mobley, second on the right, Willie Zin, middle on the left, I am not sure who drew the beautiful aircraft with the ice blue background.  Eduin Rosell drew the aircraft with green background and Hector Diaz is shown, bottom on the right.

Paulette Frontanes drew a memorial picture, on the right below.  Cathy Gallatin-Brown says that she loves the beauty of temporal performing art and for the chalkfest this year she drew a portrait of Marine Lance Corporal Skip Wells as a tribute.   Skip Wells, 21 years old of Marietta, GA, was one of five service members killed by a lone shooter on July 16, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  On the bottom right is a picture of artist Cathy Gallatin-Brown with Cathy Wells, Skip's mother.  Skip was an only child.

There can be many drawings made from a patriotic theme such as historic figures, flags, monuments, aircraft and militaristic subjects.  But firearms can be included, I guess, as shown in the drawing by David Lepore below.  David, from West Palm Beach, Florida, has a flooring business but also takes part in street paintings - he prefers to draw heroes and villains.

I just found out that Nate Baranowski (shown in part one of this post) was awarded the People's Choice Award in the Marietta Chalkfest of 2015.  Jill, his wife, assisted him for the chalk painting "Migrant Mother" - see them below.

This had been another great festival with talented street chalk painters.

Since part two was short, I'll talk about something completely different.  A while back a couple of overseas bloggers sent emails to me wondering why there is so much violence in this country right now (about 3 times more than any other western country.)  They also thought that abortions were totally illegal in the USA.  My blog is not a political or religious blog and I don't often talk on these subjects but since they asked me I'll try to answer them with what I learned and observed since coming into the US in the 1960s.  From my various readings it seems that violence has deep roots in this country from way back, not just in our time.  Trying to learn about the holiday of Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday of November, I realized that most of it is myth and propaganda.  On a site I read "The first day of thanksgiving took place in 1637 amidst the war against the Pequot (branch of the Mohawk people.)  700 men, women, and children of the Pequot tribe were gathered for their annual green corn dance on what is now Groton, Connecticut.  Dutch and English mercenaries surrounded the camp and proceeded to shoot, stab, butcher and burn alive all 700 people.  The next day the Massachusetts Bay Colony held a feast in celebration and the governor declared "a day of Thanksgiving."  Now the American Indians celebrate the day as a National Day of Mourning - read about it here.

In several women diaries, from the mid 1840s, who rode on the overland trail in wagons from the east of the USA to Oregon and California, they described how the American settlers were so scared of the American Indians that they would shoot them on sight.  After a while of course the Indians fought back, but the American western movies depict also a myth as more Indians were killed by American settlers than settlers were killed by Indians.  As the wagons drove on the Indian lands, they also shot the buffaloes, used the grass for their animals leaving the area arid, and also took the Indian land they liked.  These were painful books to read. Below is the Oregon Train painted by William Henry Jackson, American 1843-1942.

But the American colonists and missionaries did more to destroy native cultures than gun did.  In California the American Indians were forced to go into Catholic missions, where they were held prisoner - in fact the Christian missions were coercive religious, force labor camps.  As many as 100,000 Indians perished there from disease, malnutrition, enslavement and murder.  A growing number of scholars have come to view this as mass genocide of California Indians. 

Not to forget the Trail of Tears - President Andrew Jackson's murderous removal of the Indians to Oklahoma where thousands died along the route.  Later there were killing of pro-slavery people against those who wanted to free the slaves.  There is a list of violence in the US, from the 1800s till now and it is a long list.  If you are interested look here.The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was founded in 1866 and by 1870 they were in every Southern US state - they are still active today.  At its peak in 1920, the Klan had 4 million members.  They advocate white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-immigration and are considered a right-wing extremist and Protestant Christian terrorist organization.

As you can see violence has been pervasive in American culture since its colonial past.  They love their guns and if you have a firearm you tend to use it.  Many people here don't like civilized discussions about politics and religion - it is mostly "hate" of the "other."  They do not like to engage in talking about these subjects at all.  There is also the problem with fear - I remember several years ago, a couple of Korean tourists were lost, no far from here.  They knocked at a door to ask directions and the owner of the house came with his gun and shot them as he was afraid of them.   That does not apply to every person here, but still to a large number as you can see from any statistic - gun death is as common as car crashes and there are more guns here than people (357,000,000.)  Domestic violence kills an average of three women each day by their husband, partner, etc.  Children are also victims.  From 1979 to 2013, 119,079 children and teens have been killed by gun violence.  That is more child and youth deaths in America than American battle deaths in World War I (53,402) or in Vietnam (47,434) or in the Korean War (33,739) or in the Iraq War (3,517.)  It looks like guns are the solution to every problem.  But people here do not like to talk about this national penchant for violence.  It is fine to watch violent movies on TV or in theatres, or in video games, or to watch someone being shot in the news, but if a singer has a dress malfunction at a Super Bowl game and her breast is exposed - people are outraged.  Below Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson before wardrobe malfuntion at Super Bowl 2011 - courtesy USA Today.

Abortion in the USA has been legal since 1973.  However a group of white extreme Christian fundamentalists (usually far-right Republicans) would like to change the law and ban all abortions; although a 2012 survey found that 77% of Jewish Republican voters think that abortions should be legal and the percentage of Americans who are "pro-choice" is the highest in the last 7 years.  The radical Christian fundamentalists are a small minority - but very vocal, and they vote en masse.  The media keeps reporting on them and not on the majority of mainstream Christians (as they are afraid of Christian backlash.)  According to a recent Pew data, a majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.  Since 1977 some extreme member of "pro-life" movements have began attacking clinics and personnel.  Doctor and staff have been killed with an additional 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 186 arson attacks and other illegal acts against abortion clinics.  They also try to de-fund Planned Parenthood even though only 3% (out of the nearly 10.6 million total services they provide) has to do with abortion and is not paid by the government.  Many citizens are against this gun violence but not much is done - the members of the US Congress are voted in but it looks like they are appointed - voters could chose other congressmen if they so wished.  Below is the US Congress, courtesy Wikipedia.

Most mainstream Christians are against this violence, but they rest silent.  I remember a co-worker told me that his son worked for a major TV news network (Fox News.) They had been told, at the time, that all newsmen/women in the business should never use the term "Christian terrorist" as it would hurt the networks' ratings.  This was during the Balkan wars.  In the summer of 1995, from July 11 through 13, 1995, the Christian Orthodox Serbs killed 8,373 Bosnian Muslims.  During this war there were over 38,200 civilian Muslim casualties.  But the Serbs were always referred to (at least in the USA) as "ethnic" Serbs, never Christian Orthodox.  The same happened after the Colorado shooting at a Planned Parenthood office, on 27 November 2015, where a Christian extremist killed 3.  Major TV networks made a pact not to call the murderer a Christian extremist (even though his ex-wife said he was a fervent evangelical Christian and admired the Christian terrorist anti-abortion organization "Army of God") but a "deranged" "lone wolf" person.  The media also said the American public only believes religious extremists are from other countries - usually Muslim (there has been a record number of anti-Muslim hate attacks this year.)  Below is the killing field in Srebrenica - courtesy France 24.

The FBI has reported that most of the terrorists' incidents in the last ten years have been perpetrated by white right-wing extremists, extremist Christians and "pro-life" members.  The Justice Dept reported that since 9/11 there has been an average of 377 attacks per year from these groups.  Sister Joan Chittister, a Catholic nun, has exposed the hypocrisy of the Republican White Christian extremists - she said "I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion, that makes you pro-life.  In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed.  And why would I think that you don't?  Because you don't want any tax money to go there.  That's not pro-life.  That's pro-birth ...."  When I was in Nice, France, several years ago, I saw a "pro-life" rally.  I was surprised because everyone was wearing the same pink tee-shirt - it just did not look like a regular French protest.  When digging a bit I found out that it had been organized and paid for, in France, by wealthy US abortion protesters.  Why is the public here not stopping these Christian fundamentalist extremists and all the gun violence?  I think they are cowed and apathetic - hoping if will go away.  They stay silent, just giving their "thoughts and prayers" afterwards to the victims' families.  I don't think it will improve in the near future.

Some of my readers might be upset by these observations, but they are intended to my overseas readers who do not understand the political, the violence and the religious climate here.  I researched it all and am not making it up.  The USA is a great country, but as in other countries, it has its problems.  We cannot always look at it through rose colored glasses and refuse to talk about it.

It is more peaceful to look at nature.  Several mornings ago, I saw this little yellow flower (a small sunflower?) growing from our roof gutter.  I guess it could grow because my husband (unstable on his feet since his Alzheimer disease) has not been able to climb on the roof.

Then two days ago, just about 10 feet from the driveway, we saw this superb hawk.  I did not have my camera and went back into the house to get it.  The bird had not moved and I was able to take several pictures.

Addendum:  After reading some comment I would like to re-emphasize that I was not criticizing the USA - I was answering some friends who asked me why there was so much violence now, social and religious.  I researched it and found out that violence has been in the culture for a long time.  I am not commenting on what is good, bad, or in between in the USA - that was not my subject - the history of social and religious violence was.  Last year, there were 16,000 criminal homicides in the US.  This is three times the number of lives lost in the entire Iraq war; 300 each week, more than 40 every day.  Facts are facts. Below is a graph showing violence in the US against other rich countries.

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