Sunday, November 27, 2011

EMPS: P.S. - About Thanksgiving

Carly's Extra Credit on the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot this week was about a favorite Thanksgiving dessert. I've got enough photos in my entry as it is, so let's do a quick entry as a P.S.:

St. Michael's had its annual Thanksgiving pot luck this week, and that's where I bent my diet for a little dessert. As some of you may know, I'm wild about "Pumpkin Anything." From pumpkin pie to pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, from pumpkin soup to pumpkin tea, I'll  try almost anything pumpkin. This year, since I've been working seriously on my weight, low-carbing it, I've had to be very careful, taking my pumpkin in small, occasional doses. So for Thanksgiving, I had a thin slice of pumpkin pie, no crust or topping. As you can see, parishioners came up with apple pie, pecan pie, cream puffs and more in addition to pumpkin pie. So many people brought pumpkin that they didn't all get served on Thursday, and parishioners were urged today to have the leftovers to eat or take home. This time I had about a tablespoon of pumpkin pie filling, no crust.

At home on Thursday I made the most sensible low-carb meal I could without completely depriving us. We shared an individual side of stuffing from Boston Market to go with my mixed white and dark meat turkey roast. The only potato was a single sweet potato with nothing on it, to share between us, and the rutabagas were just a few tablespoons leftover from the pot luck. Instead we filled up on fresh steamed baby carrots with broccoli and fresh steamed green beans with almond slivers. For dessert I got John a single slice of pecan pie - his favorite. I'd already had mine.


EMPS: Signs of Thankfulness

This week's theme for the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot was "Thankful." I had my doubts about coming up with anything appropriate until I noticed some papers posted outside classrooms this week at St. Michael's Parish Day School. I walk past some of the classrooms every time I go in to work at the church office.

"I am thankful for...." The kids mention friends and family the most, plus love, food and Earth. God, pets and even school are also mentioned.

I suppose as adults we tend to be embarrassed to even think about it, but would our own lists be all that different?

The school just had a canned food drive, which includes a bake sale and raises both food and cash.

The food goes to the church pantry, from which adult volunteers make up bags for the homeless and other needy people. They are always thankful to get something.

No, this isn't food from the food drive. This is my friend Jan, enjoying a deluxe platter of appetizers at our favorite Chinese restaurant (Peking Palace).  Just over a year ago, months after surgery on a broken knee, Jan was hospitalized with an infected leg, the complications from which nearly killed her. It's been a rough year, and Jan found out a week ago that she has breast cancer. Despite all this, she is feeling much, much better. She told me today that this morning, she felt overwhelmed with thankfulness just to have survived the crisis of a year ago, and for how far she's come since then.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

EMPS: The Geese on Barnum Hill

This week's Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot was called "A Walk in he Park." The weather has finally cooled enough, and the dogs' shots are current enough, that I was able to take them to Reid Park for the first time in many months. The tricky part was finding the time. Then my Thursday afternoon computer lesson (teaching, not taking) was postponed, so off we went!

After some fun in the dog park area...

...we headed off for a stroll...

...down by the duck ponds.

The geese at the left of the photo here are coming down from an area called Barnum Hill. They acted as if they ran the place. Cayenne was desperate to show them otherwise, and I had to hold the leashes tight to keep her from getting away as she lunged toward them.

The geese headed down to the second duck pond...

...where a cormorant was already hanging out.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Round Robin: Without Borders

I tried to think of something uplifting and cheerful for the Round Robin Photo Challenge: Gone, and actually took some pictures to show tonight's sunset fading from the sky. But I didn't catch the sky with the colors of sunset completely gone, so I've reverted to my original concept.

From Round Robin Photo Challenges

Two weeks ago when I went for a drive with some friends on the western edge of Tucson, down Gates Pass and into Avra Valley, I took a few minutes to look for a restaurant I used to eat at when I was in travel agent school in 1987. Right at the end of Anklam where it merges with Speedway to become Gates Pass Boulevard, we came upon this Greek restaurant. This would have been handy had it been open, because we had a hungry vegetarian of Greek ancestry in the car. But alas, the restaurant was gone: derelict, empty. There was even a fallen tree in front of the place. I think this was the site of Daisy Mae's Steakhouse back in the 1980s. A very good restaurant it was, too!

You know about this place. This particular Borders was in Park Place Mall, a very busy and successful shopping mall since it was renovated in 1999. Strangely, however, the area immediately around Park Place, particularly on Wilmot Road just south of Broadway, is a hot spot for gone-away businesses.

This one is particularly notable. Immediately adjacent to Park Place in the days when it was called Park Mall, this was a Silo store. You can still see the remains of the lettering that advertised the electronics that were sold there. Silo has been gone for probably 20 years, but you can still tell what the place used to be. Since then it's been a warehouse for World Care (a charity, I think), the temporary home of Wilmot Library, and, most recently, one of those discount Halloween shops that pop up for a month each year. And yet it still looks like a dead Silo store.

The other weird thing about this building is that at one end you can see the remains of another business that was there in the 1980s: a surf shop. In landlocked, desert Tucson. Is it any wonder that's long gone?

Across the street and a few doors down is this place, which has only been gone since June. Do you recognize it?

I could show you several more closed businesses within a block or two of these others, ranging from a family-owned ice cream parlor to a building that was most recently a charter school. But let's finish up with this former Hometown Buffet, which closed around the same time as the restaurant across the street from it. The nice surprise today was seeing the Opening Soon sign out front for U Like Buffet. Okay, it's a terrible name, but I wish them well. I don't want them to be here today, gone tomorrow.


Now let's see what else is gone!

Linking List
As of Sunday

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Jama - Posted!
Sweet Memories

Terri ** Welcome back!** - Posted!
Ways I See the World

Food for Thought

Dave ** Welcome, new participant!** - Posted!
Dave's(old short legs) photo blog

Georgia ** Welcome, new participant!**
Mimi's Place

Tina - Posted!
Tina's PicStory

Sunday, November 13, 2011

EMPS: A Harvest of Hangers

Carly's topic this week for the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot this week was Happy Harvest, and she allowed for metaphorical harvests. That's good, because my photo of John's box of pomegranates would be really boring! Instead let me show you what I've been up to this weekend.

New clothes, one size down.

At the end of July I went on a low carb diet, part of getting my life and health in order while I still have time. For the first time, I had a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, which I didn't have when my weight was lower. I've lost 35 pounds since then, and counting. On Friday I decided that I'd earned the right to get a new, smaller pair of pants and get rid of the ones I was wearing. I also bought a few new tops.

Starting to refill the closet after emptying it out.

But what about the clothes I had already? Surely there was something I'd dieted down into. It was time to take a look!

Friday night I started going through my clothes, sorting into too big and/or stained and/or worn out (get rid), too small (box up in boxes labeled Summer 2012) and stuff that fits now or is about to fit (hang up or put in a drawer). Most of the clothes in my closet, it turned out, were in the category "It was too small but now it fits, just about!" But it had been so long since I'd tried them on that they had dust on top of them!

So I pulled them out and started doing lots of laundry. And you know what I ended up with? Piles of clothes, yes...

...but also a harvest of hangers!

It got even more full of hangers later that evening.

Look! A bushel basket of harvested hangers!


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Occupy Tucson and the Ballot Box

I have to say that I'm rather pleased with the results of today's elections. Elsewhere in the country, the bill that gutted union rights was repealed in Ohio, and a proposition that would have outlawed most birth control was defeated in Mississippi. Up in Phoenix, the arch-Republican behind Arizona's SB 1070 lost his recall election, and in Tucson's Sunnyside school district., the intern who saved Gabby Giffods' life was elected to the school board. Democrat Jonathan Rothschild will be the new mayor of Tucson, and it looks like my Ward Four City Council member, Shirley Scott, has been narrowly reelected.

Meanwhile, in downtown Tucson, members of the Occupy Tucson movement have been living in tents in a city park. One of them got nearly 5% of the vote today as the Green Party candidate for mayor.

The election in Tucson today was kind of weird, though. We've had early voting for quite some time, and ID has been required to vote here for years. But this year the whole process changed, and John and I knew nothing about it until the primary at the end of August. Someone had the bright idea of conducting the whole election by mail, and that's what they did. For 35 years I've been voting in person on Election Day, but this year that was a little harder to do. Instead of dropping in at the neighborhood elementary school, we had to find the ballots that had arrived unnoticed in the mail, mark them, put them in the special envelope, sign the envelope, and, because we didn't mail them back ahead of time (not that I wanted to), drive them over to one of only seven polling places in the entire city and drop them in a box there.

Jan exercises her right to vote.

To be honest, that wasn't terribly onerous for us, once John found the ballots after I failed to do so. John stuck mine in my purse, and I marked it and drove it to the Udall Center a few miles away. I was more concerned about my friend Jan, who rode over with me. Jan, who has voted in every single election since she first became eligible, did not receive a ballot in the mail, as far as we can tell. She's registered at her home, but has been living in a rehab facility with multiple health problems. The ballot apparently did not arrive at the house, and she had not re-registered at what was supposed to be a temporary address. The good news is that she was able to give a sworn statement that she did not receive her ballot, and get a replacement one.

So that was good, but I wonder about the homeless. Where do their ballots get mailed?

Outside the 150 foot limit at Udall Center was a Green Party activist, who was giving out free bumper stickers and chatting people up about the Green Party mayoral candidate, Mary DeCamp. DeCamp conducted her campaign from Occupy Tucson, which I briefly visited last week. I don't agree with absolutely everything said by absolutely everyone down there, but DeCamp sounds pretty cool, and I might have considered voting for her if a) I hadn't also heard good things about the Democrat, Jonathan Rothschild, and b) DeCamp were capable of defeating the Republican this time out.

Unlike in New York, Oakland and elsewhere, the Occupy protesters have not faced any tear gas or police brutality. Both sides have been peaceful, with Occupiers lining up to get citations for occupying a city park after 10:30 PM without a permit. I used to think that Occupy should have gone through channels and gotten the permit, but that turns out to cost a reservation fee of $155 a day and a requirement for liability insurance. That's if the permit was granted at all. I suppose they could pass the hat, but it does seem an unreasonable restriction on the right of assembly. "Your right to expressive activities does not stop at 10:30 p.m.," Occupy Tucson's lawyer said in an interview. They've filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the fines and arrests.

When I stopped by on Friday afternoon, there were lots of tents set up on two small strips of land between Congress St. and Broadway Blvd. downtown, plus an information book, a media tent and a conflict resolution, er, rock.

Although it all looked pretty organized to me, the guy manning the info booth told me that the place was in disarray because the night before, Tucson Police threatened to take people to jail unless they vacated Armory Park, which had been the main Occupy Tucson site. "We finished moving everything at four o'clock this morning," he told me. They not only moved to the other site, peacefully, but cleaned up the park they were leaving on their way out. Now they've filed a lawsuit to step the arrests and fines, and to forestall another incident of the police making them vacate a park or suffer mass arrest. The Thursday night order was purportedly to prepare Armory Park for two scheduled events. Since then the city manager has suggested that they might need to leave& Veinte De Agosto Park to accommodate a veteran's Day parade. However, the parade route doesn't go past that park.

From Occupy Tucson

My favorite shot from my visit is this one, of a woman decorating her Occupy Tucson tent. It quotes Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I'd say the Occupiers are trying very hard to be the change, and we should support them. "It's for all of us, you know. It's for you, it's for me, it's for everyone who doesn't live in the ivory towers," occupier Mike Robbins said in a recent interview. In other words, it's for us, the 99%.


Saturday, November 05, 2011

Round Robin Challenge: The Biggest Scare of All

No guard rail and a long way down: Sentinel Peak (A Mountain).

I initially had nothing in particular in mind for the Round Robin Challenge: Scary, beyond a vague idea of trying to show the real and imagined dangers of what I consider the scariest drive in Tucson: the drive up A Mountain, a.k.a. Sentinel Peak. It wasn't until today that I realized what my experiences on that road have in common with the pretend scares of Halloween and my actual terror on the Tower of Terror attraction at Disney's California Adventure. Ultimately, these scares and others are rooted in the scariest scare of all: the primal fear of death.

A burial today at East Lawn Palms cemetery.

What's interesting to me about the fear of death isn't the evolutionary usefulness of it or the ultimate inescapability of this thing we fear, but the elaborate ways we've developed to deal with that fear. The religious among us, for example, cling to the escape clause provided by our particular faith, such as the promise of resurrection or the cycle of reincarnation on the way to Nirvana. Or do I have that last bit wrong? I'm not criticizing this, by the way. We have our reasons. But beyond that, we speculate on what Heaven is like and exactly when and how we get there, and we develop rituals for how the body is disposed of, and we do afterwards to honor the people we've lost and smooth their way into the next world.

Styrofoam gravestones and a fake ghost.
Click the link below for more photos about deathly scares!

Halloween, beyond the party aspect, the fun of pretending to be someone else and the guilty pleasure of eating too much candy, is all about taming the fear of death. We set up tombstones made of Styrofoam, which unlike the real thing can be removed then the celebration is over. We take away the fear of ghostly spirits by depicting ghosts as nothing more than bedsheets with eye holes. We dress up as vampires and wicked witches and fantasy killers such Freddie or Jason, knowing those characters can be safely put in a box in the closet afterward, and everyone will still be alive.

Tucsonans dine with Dia de los Muertos skeletons at El Charro Restaurant.

Here in Tucson, there is a growing annual celebration of the Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Taking its inspiration from the centuries-old Day of the Dead observances in Mexico, Tucson's All Souls Procession and related events (art shows, concerts etc.) is described in the Phoenix New Times as "a creative and chaotic cornucopia that's equal parts Burning Man, Halloween, and Mardi Gras all rolled into one." The main event is the All Souls Procession, with people in costumes, often carrying icons of deceased relatives, and sometimes even wearing a mask with the loved one's face. I have never made it down to see this, but I'd like to.

An All Souls altar at St. Michael's, containing traditional Dia de Los Muertos icons.

I read somewhere that one purpose of the original Day of the Dead, besides honoring, remembering and praying for the deceased loved ones, is to mock Death itself, not the actual dead people but the idea of death, which is unable to prevent new life beyond this world. Or something. Sounds about right to me, anyway. Day of the Dead decor is full of colorful and generally humorous-looking skulls and skeletons, which can be similar to Danse Macabre imagery in that the skeletons are depicted as being out and about, participating in human activities rather than lying decently in the ground. Children eat candy skulls, and families laugh about that time that Tia Madeleine, before she died, had that funny incident with the family dog (or whatever). Some celebrations are solemn, but many of them are joyful. It's a chance to take our fear of death and laugh at it, and say, "You don't scare me!"

A scary advertisement is all over town.

Of course some of fears associated with death have nothing to do with skeletons or fantasy monsters or an afterlife, and very little to do with a fear of the unknown. Ads like the one above are at bus stops all over Tucson right now. I assume that what Doug McClure (probably not the 1970s tv star) is selling is life insurance, so that at least if you die your family can pay for the funeral, and maybe be a bit less destitute afterward. When I parked to take this photo, two soon-to-be bus passengers offered their take on the subject of death. "We all have to go sometime," an older man said with a shrug. A guy in his thirties had a very different take. He told me that his friend was "dying very slowly," suffering a series of painful conditions that twist his body and subject him to pain. He's had surgeries, and one recent one almost killed him from the anesthesia. The friend told me that the man's stomach was pushed off to the right side of his abdomen and needed surgery, but now the friend was afraid to get it in case he died. Even in those extreme circumstances, the fear of death was a real factor in the man's decision-making.

And on that downer note, let me end this and pass you on to the scary photos of the other Robins!

Linking List
as of Saturday, November 5th
1:35 AM MST

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Jama - Posted!
Sweet Memories

May - Posted!
May Rodrigo

Please note: I am helping out at a conference at church in the morning and early afternoon, so I won't be near a computer to update the linking lists or comment on entries. I'll catch up with all this when I get home later in the day. In the meantime, try to have fun without me!


Thursday, November 03, 2011

EMPS: Happy Halloween Hangover

For Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #148: Sweet Halloween Greetings, Carly wants to see a greeting that depicts Halloween treats. I think it's time we celebrate the days after Halloween, when we have all that leftover candy, and Halloween decorations to clean up. Yes, it's time for Halloween Hangover Days!

We had 22 bags left Halloween night, out of 80. John dug into some of the leftovers for Snickers bars. I had one Starburst fruit chew (not one mini-package, but one chew) on the 30th, one mini-Snickers on the 31st and one mini Almond Joy (10 grams of carbs) on the 1st. That was it for me for candy this year, at least until Christmas. I shouldn't have had that much. The rest went to the work room at the Church office, and I ate a limited quantity of grapes that day instead of more candy.

Either a wind came up overnight or a mischievous ghost went around and knocked down our tombstones, and even my raven, who had been perched on the roof of our old New Yorker. But I got it all packed up tonight, ready for next year.