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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Musings on the 2016 election, being pro-life, and social safety nets



I  read an article today noting that  many of the people who voted for Trump are now  feeling voter’s remorse. They feel Trump lied to them and misled them.  Too many of the comments and responses from  my fellow liberals amounted to a lot of name-calling and blaming,  implying that  Trump voters were  all  ignorant racists. Some of them may be uninformed or misinformed, and some may  be hate-filled racists, in fact many of  Trump’s supporters  seem to make an effort to prove that point with  hateful  racist comments,  and worse, directed at anyone who   is of a different ethnic group, nationality, or religion.

 But I have met quite a few people who didn’t vote FOR Donald Trump  as much as they voted  AGAINST Hillary Clinton.  The people I’m referring to for the most part are not racists, they are not ignorant, but they are devout Christians, and the reason they give for voting against Clinton is that she “believes in abortion” or is “pro-abortion.” It does little good to point out to them that Clinton is pro-choice, which is very different from being pro-abortion.  Trump made some of these dog-whistle charges in an October  19, 2016 debate, when he said, “I think it's terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying . . . In the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”  Clinton responded to these scare tactics by stating, “You should meet with some of the women that I've met with—women I've known over the course of my life,” she said. “This is one of the worst possible choices that any woman and her family has to make. And I do not believe the government should be making it. . . I’ve been to countries where governments either forced women to have abortions like they used to do in China or forced women to bear children like they used to do in Romania, And I can tell you the government has no business in the decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith, [and] with medical advice and I will stand up for that right.” Despite the rhetoric from her political opponents, she does support a ban  on late-term abortions and has held that position consistently for years. In an Oct. 8, 2000, debate, Clinton said: "I have said many times that I can support a ban on late-term abortions, including partial-birth abortions, so long as the health and life of the mother is protected. I’ve met women who faced this heart-wrenching decision toward the end of a pregnancy. Of course it’s a horrible procedure. No one would argue with that. But if your life is at stake, if your health is at stake, if the potential for having any more children is at stake, this must be a woman’s choice." 

When I tell these people that I wish they were as concerned about protecting children after they’re born as they are in protecting the unborn, they note that rather than being aborted, babies can be adopted by loving families. But information compiled by childrensrights.org indicates that

on any given day, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States.
In 2015, over 670,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care. According to  recent statistics, there are 107,918 foster children eligible for and waiting to be adopted. In 2014 50,644 foster kids were adopted — a number that has stayed roughly consistent for the past five years. The average age of a waiting child is 7.7 years old and 29% of them will spend at least three years in foster care.

Every year, about 23,000 children age out of foster care without finding a  permanent family.  Only 2% of children who age out of foster care will go on to get a college education, and 80% of the prison population comprises adults who were in the foster care system at some point on their childhood. (Source: http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/a35860/adoption-statistics/)

And then there are the children who are abused: In 2012, U.S. state and local child protective services (CPS) received an estimated 3.4 million referrals of children being abused or neglected. CPS estimated that 686,000 children (9.2 per 1,000) were victims of maltreatment.
Of the child victims, 78% were victims of neglect; 18% of physical abuse; 9% of sexual abuse; and 11% were victims of other types of maltreatment, including emotional and threatened abuse, parent’s drug/alcohol abuse, or lack of supervision.
(Source: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childmaltreatment/datasources.html)

Then there are the equally alarming statistics on child hunger and poverty.  13.1 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2015. Twenty percent or more of the child population in 22 states and D.C. lived in food-insecure households in 2015, according to the most recent data available.  In 2015, the top five states with the highest rate of food-insecure children under 18 were Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, Alabama, and Arizona. Most of the time, these families shield children from hunger. The adults will go without meals so the kids can eat. Still, the government says there were about 274,000 households in 2015 in which children went hungry at some point during the year. As bad as that was, it was the lowest level since before the Great Recession and a big decline from 2014 — when 422,000 families reported that their children went hungry at some point.

And yet these voters   put a man into office who, along with other Republicans in Congress, has voiced  an intent to cut the  very services that  provide a safety net to these vulnerable children and their families.  And  those families are not, despite the hateful rhetoric, lazy do-nothings.  Many of those receiving SNAP (food stamp) benefits are   people with disabilities, the elderly, and the working poor. According to the USDA , 55 percent of SNAP recipients, are bringing home wages. The problem is, those wages aren't enough to actually live on. Even more startling is that in 2014 more than $84 million-worth of food stamp benefits were spent at military commissaries, indicating  that there are active and retired military   members who need food stamps in order to make ends meet and feed their families.  This, in a nation with the highest military budget in the world.  

If we’re really pro-life, let’s make sure that we take care of the children already born. Let’s make sure they have enough food to eat, that they have educational opportunities to pursue their dreams, that they have shelter, and clothes to wear, and  medical care, and that they receive love and attention.  There are many who say this is  the responsibility of parents, not the government.  But  in a society where the  middle class has been steadily shrinking, where median income has been declining, where poverty has been growing and where there is a large level of income inequality, it is imperative that the government take steps to combat poverty by providing  a safety net for its citizens.  The Center for American Progress  notes that economist Harry Holzer of Georgetown University found that poverty costs our economy 4 percent of gross domestic product per year, or more than $500 billion as a result of low productivity and earnings, poor health, and high levels of crime and incarceration among adults who grew up poor.  They also report that ,”Similarly, Brandeis University professor Donald Shepard and his colleagues have calculated that hunger costs our nation at least $167.5 billion per year in lost economic productivity, public education costs, avoidable health care costs, and food charity. Public investments in the safety net—specifically, programs that target poor children—have been shown to generate exceptionally high returns that benefit all Americans. For example, University of Virginia professor Chloe Gibbs; University of Chicago economist Jens Ludwig; and University of California, Davis, economist Douglas L. Miller estimate that Head Start produces a benefit-cost ratio of more than 7-to-1”
(Source: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/reports/2014/03/31/86693/the-safety-net-is-good-economic-policy/). Providing that safety net can also help insure that parents  are not so stressed, so overworked and so worried about making ends meet that they don’t have quality time to spend with their children.

And let’s make sure that women  have access to  reliable, affordable birth control. Abortion rates have been steadily declining.  In 2014 the  abortion rate was 19%,  the lowest abortion rate since the supreme court handed down Roe v Wade in 1973,  and the number of abortions between 2011 and 2014 also fell, by 12%.  Researchers have found a strong link between the lower rate of abortions and the wider availability of very effective contraception. If plans to repeal  the Affordable Care Act are successful, that availability will be in peril.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Garden Progress Pics

Nearly a month has gone by since my last post. I have no excuse and make no promises that I'll do better, but I'll try. Although some days, like today, when I really don't have much to say, I may just post pictures of the back yard and my little garden spaces to show how it's progressing.

This is how the  herb/flower garden looked in March as I was weeding and moving things around:
This is how it looks  now- almost finished weeding and mulching may need to move some plants to fill in  bare spots.


Here's the veggie bed as I was beginning to work on weeding and cleaning up in March:
And  here it is now, still need to mulch  the paths and pull more weeds and vines which pop up overnight every night, it seems.
 Here's a pic of the chard-  we had some last night, steamed with ginger and lemon.  Quite  tasty.
Some baby  Tiny Tim tomatoes  that are growing in the container garden on the deck. I may have  planted too many of these- they are all absolutely loaded with tiny tomatoes.
It has gotten too warm  to be out in the middle  of the day so  I'm trying to get  in a few hours in  the mornings and in the evenings when it's cooler, and Mr. G is digging a new bed for me to move some shasta daisies, iris and  other odds and ends to which should keep me busy for awhile.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Beans, Bindweed and Burns' Bonie Bell

Yesterday Mr. G and I celebrated our  forty-fourth wedding anniversary. Actually, celebrated isn't the right word.  Mr. G worked on getting the drip pan off the car so he could see whether the leak that he discovered  the day before was coming from a hose or the radiator.   Unfortunately, it was coming from  the radiator.  At least now we know what  we'll be  getting each other as an anniversary gift.😞

On a happier note,  the  eighteenth bean  seed  finally decided to show itself. We now have 100%  germination! The second piece of good news is that we got a nice soaking rain. You can almost hear the plants  breathing a sigh of relief.  They much prefer rain over tap water and seem to  perk up and stand straighter after a nice rain.  Of course, the weeds also love a  soaking rain- as evidenced by the growth spurt the nasty things put on  during the night.  My nemesis for the last few years  has been  bindweed. It is nigh on impossible to eradicate, and reading  that its roots can extend and run more than 20 feet below the soil and that its seeds can that remain viable for as long as 50 years is not very encouraging. I  avoid using herbicides so have been diligently hoeing and digging it out where I can and cutting  it off at ground level  when it's too close to other plants to cultivate. By cutting it off at soil level I'm hoping  to deprive it of the light necessary  for photosynthesis so it will  eventually weaken and die.  I'm pretty sure, though, that the stuff is so persistent that it will  outlive me by a decade or more!

I'm hoping that once the ground dries a little,  we'll be able to begin  working on the second  herb and flower bed on the  other side of the rose arbor. The plan is to relocate the wood hyacinths to the front yard and replace them with iris and shasta daisies from another section of the back yard, where  they'll be joined with some Mexican and Jerusalem sage and  other ornamental herbs and a few flowers. That's the plan, but it could get scrapped or changed like so many of my schemes and  best laid plans that  as Robert Burns wrote, "gang aft agley."

In homage  both to gardening through the seasons, and to  a relationship that has  endured and flourished for  forty four years, I'll leave you with Burns' poem/song,  Bonie Bell.  It seems appropriate, both for its recognition  of the changing seasons and the constancy of  love.

The smiling spring comes in rejoicing, 
And surly winter grimly flies; 
Now crystal clear are the falling waters, 
And bonny blue are the sunny skies. 
Fresh o'er the mountains breaks forth the morning, 
The ev'ning gilds the Ocean's swell; 
All Creatures joy in the sun's returning, 
And I rejoice in my Bonie Bell. 

The flowery Spring leads sunny Summer, 
The yellow Autumn presses near,
Then in his turn comes gloomy Winter, 
Till smiling Spring again appear. 
Thus seasons dancing, life advancing, 
Old Time and Nature their changes tell; 
But never ranging, still unchanging, 
I adore my Bonie Bell.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Back to Beans, Blooms and Blogging

Back  to blogging after a  ten day break. Yesterday was another chemo treatment day and today is the day  I begin to emerge, steroid flushed red face and all, from yesterday's  afternoon lethargy. I did try to get as much weeding done in the garden as I could before going for treatment, and while it's been very slow going, I may actually get things sorted and in shape before winter!

Today's post will be picture-heavy with some of the exciting developments in the garden. First- the Maxibel French filet bush beans.   I though they would NEVER pop their little heads up, but they finally did- at least seventeen of them did, which gave me a ninety-four percent germination rate. Not bad, but I had hoped for a hundred percent. Here is a pic of  a bean that  popped up and is just beginning to raise its head and look around.

Pretty soon, the others followed and  there were two squares of  beans showing their leaves.  Here are the beans in one square with their marigold next-door neighbors:

 Here's a pic of the three square foot beds so far with the beans, some peppers and tomatoes in the first bed,  Swiss chard, peppers and tomatoes in the middle bed, and  some leeks and herbs in the far bed.  There are a few blueberry  bushes, an asparagus bed and abundant  weeds just out of view. Eggplants,  a zucchini (just one-  I don't want to over-feed the squash bugs again this year) more tomatoes, peppers, parsley, and odds and ends are in containers on the deck along with some herbs, flowers and  tropicals from the greenhouse.  



One of the Tiny Tim tomatoes in one of the the Earthboxes  already has some yellow blooms forming! I always get so excited when seeds I've planted begin  to grow and blossom.
Here are  a few pics of  blooms and blooms-to-be  in the garden  and on the deck, plus a pic of the Danish pastries I  made to celebrate spring!

I hope your spring and your gardens are filled with the promise and hope that exists in a garden.  And that the weeds and plant eating bugs are at a minimum.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Planting Time

The veggies are planted- well most of them, anyway!  We've had lovely weather for the past few days and I have  taken advantage of it by spending most of my time playing in the dirt.  I've  been really disappointed with my seeding this year- for some reason  several things  didn't germinate well at all, and  of the ones that did germinate, they  died  shortly thereafer.  I have no idea what  went wrong,  since I  used the same method that's been successful in past years, and  the tomatoes did do very well, but  everything else was a disappointment-  although  a few of the  Slim Jim eggplants  look pretty good, but none of the  white fingers eggplants   came up.  So yesterday we  drove  to  Julian's Hardware in Sylvan Springs and bought Swiss chard, some pepper plants and a few other odds and ends, including a bale of ProMix.Yesterday and today I've  planted bush beans, set out the chard,  tomatoes (three varieties),   peppers,  eggplant. a squash (again- I never learn-  this is probably yet another sacrifice to the   squash vine borer gods).  Only one squash, though- an heirloom zucchini. I also  set out  some thyme, Greek oregano, purple basil, sweet basil, dill, and weeded the  earthbox  filled with  weeds, sage and chives. Now all three little  square foot beds are planted and  I've used up almost all my containers.

We  brought all the plants out of the greenhouse today, which also involved weeding some pots, repotting  some plants and  some  doing drastic pruning on the  lemon verbena, pineapple sage and some of the   tropical ornamentals. I'm hoping to finish up with the potting and repotting tomorrow and getting the deck all  straightened and spiffed up. Mr. G   used the pressure washer on some sections of deck that had gotten   nasty looking over the winter- primarily from the  leaves that have fallen, leaving stains and debris.

 Maybe tomorrow I'll have some pics to post, but tonight I am happily exhausted and about to turn in for the night.



Thursday, April 06, 2017

Hail? No. To Chemo We Go

I am happy to report that we made it to my chemo treatment without running into any of the really nasty weather. It began thundering and lightning here in the wee hours of the morning followed by  a lot of rain, but thankfully, no hail, and  the rain actually slacked off a little as we drove to the  clinic. Other  places around us weren't so lucky. There was  quite a bit of hail damage, and some trees were blown down in the surrounding areas. Of course, Agatha and Victoria,  having the good sense to come in from the rain, wouldn't venture out into it either before we left.  I finally lifted Agatha  and put her out, but she refused to move  out from the eave of the house. We had visions of  coming home to a stinky mess, but  there was actually little evidence of accidents.

 We left a little early because of the weather and took the back route in case there was any construction or flooding going on  along our usual route. I signed in at the clinic ten minutes early and was called back to the lab almost immediately for my blood tests and vitals. My blood pressure was  a little high, but that's not unusual. My white blood cell count was a little better than it has been and I haven't needed any of the Neupogen shots this go round, maybe because of the shiitake mushrooms I ate Tuesday night. Some research studies have shown that  shiitake mushrooms do boost immunity and I would love to  have  more of those lovely white cells  coursing in my veins so I could  get out  and be around people more often without risking catching something.  I should keep shiitakes on my grocery list. Oh- and I've gained another pound- I now weight a whopping 93 pounds! Maybe it's actually muscle from the gardening I've been doing, and the yoga. I'd much rather think of it as muscle than flab, and I've read that even elderly people can actually  build muscle mass with the proper nutrition and exercise program.

From the lab I was sent over to the infusion room, which had fewer patients  than  normal, probably because of the weather. I took my usual seat near the restroom  and by 9:30 AM was hooked up to the bags hanging from my pole. I always make sure that I have a book or video ready on my Kindle Fire, but so far I've been unable to read or watch anything. I keep dozing off once they hook me up to the diphenhydramine and  don't get really active again until the last bag (the Camptosar/irinotecan), is hooked up a few hours later  when I'm  up and dragging my pole to the restroom every ten minutes it seems, to unload the fluids that have been pumped into me. I will say that   my speech wasn't quite as slurred  yesterday as it usually is.  I keep meaning to ask what the cause is, but I suspect it's a combination of  side-effects from the drugs and the  dry mouth resulting from the atropine injection.

I was finally unhooked around 1:45 PM and we headed home, with the sun brightly shining. I was glad to have my sunglasses with me, especially since it was so  dark and grey  when we left home that I questioned whether I would need them at all.

Once home, Mr G  scrambled an egg for me and brought me a cup of coffee. I went to sleep and slept almost all afternoon and into the evening, waking up to eat some chicken soup and toast. And then I went to bed for the night :-) Today I'm up  but not about much and am having the  red face, hot   steroid flush side effect. Actually the red face is an improvement over   yesterday's color, which was its usual post treatment zombie gray pallor. The wind  was blowing early this morning.  It was whistling around the corners of the house and sounded like a nor'easter. As I gazed out the front door this morning, I saw that the rain yesterday had washed  everything clean, revealing the  myriad shades of green on the  trees as they are donning their spring finery and swaying not so gently in the  wind.



Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Stormy Weather

This will be a short post tonight.  We are expecting some very nasty weather tomorrow with  thunderstorms, possible  baseball size hail, and the possibility of tornadoes. Schools all over the state have already announced that they'll be closed tomorrow, and the governor has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of storm damage. Of course,  Mr. G and I will be on the road  since I have a chemo treatment scheduled for tomorrow morning unless the   clinic decides to cancel, which isn't very likely. Wish us luck- the idea of  driving down the road in heavy rain with lightning flashing  while being pelted with humongous hailstones  is not exactly my idea of fun.  That's one of the things I like most about being retired- not having to drive out in all sorts of  horrid weather.  Well,   not having to drive in it most of the time, anyway, except for days like tomorrow. I'm glad our dogs aren't too terribly upset by storms, and usually hide out under the bed during the worst of them,  but I still hate  the thought of them being here alone for  six hours or so tomorrow, especially with the possibility of  tornadoes.

There are very few  flowers left on the dogwood.
Tomorrow's rough weather should   take care of the remaining few. I mentioned in yesterday's post that  the ground under the tree was  littered with petals.  here's  a pic of the  petal snowfall.
If you're in the path of the storms, stay safe and dry and   if you hear the sirens go off, get to your safe place  quickly.  I hope  things aren't as bad   as  predicted,  but  it's better to be prepared, or as I like to say,  it's a good idea to prepare for the worst but hope for the best. So here's hoping for the best for all of us.