BLUEBONNETS AND TAXES


 

  About a week ago Husband and I drove to Freer to visit my brother-in-law on a cold, wet and dreary day.  Winter seemed to be winning over spring in the seasonal tug-of-war that often plays out in South Texas this time of year.  Cardinals were grateful for the treats provided in a bird feeder in the his back yard as we watched from the warmth of the house.  As we left we stopped to enjoy the Texas Bluebonnets that appeared to have been scattered carelessly by the side of the dirt road and clustered together as if to defy the 39 degree temperature.  Perhaps it was a sign of an early spring and a good year for wildflowers.

Yes, it is tax time!  I am volunteering again with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) four mornings a week at the United Way office in Corpus Christi.  The site opened in the middle of January when the government, including the IRS, was partially shut down.  The IRS website used for processing tax returns was up and running, but we could not communicate with our IRS contact as he had been furloughed.  Eventually some employees were called back to handle tax returns.  Getting refunds out was deemed essential!  Even when the government was opened  back up, people who came in were still apprehensive about another shutdown and were anxious to get their tax returns done.  Gratefully, that has been avoided with the compromise passed by both houses of Congress and signed reluctantly by President Trump.  There were some surprises in refunds/taxes due from last year due to changes in the tax laws but that is another story.

                                                               CHEERS!

COLD HUMMER


Last week a slight cool front came in for us – in the low sixties.  I still had a couple of hummingbird feeders up for stragglers that might be hanging around.  I saw one perched on a feeder for quite some time and mentioned it to Husband.  He went out to check it out and took some photos with the hummer still perched and fluffed out.

He was able to get  very close but the visitor never moved.  Usually, they don’t stay put for very long as anyone has tried to photograph them would agree.

He finally went up and picked it up.  It put up no resistance so he brought it into the house and warmed it between his hands.

 

It was a ruby-throated hummingbird and you can see a hint of red.  When they flash it in flight, it is a beautiful iridescent red displayed on their throat area.

It has opened its eyes but still made no movement – unusual for a hummer.   Yet we were afraid it might suddenly take off flying in the house.

I found a small cardboard box, took it outside in the back yard and placed a fluffy towel inside.  Husband brought the tiny bird out and placed it in the box while it glared back at him as if to say, “Were am I?”  Husband now took the camera again and took a photo of it in the box.  With that final flash of the camera, our friend regained his senses and quickly flew out of the box and high into a neighbor’s dense tree.

The next day I saw a ruby-throated come to the one feeder I had left out.  (The other one was becoming cloudy and that is not good for them.)   In the several days since we have only seen one lone hummer visit the feeder.  Was it our cold hummer?  Maybe, maybe not, but I hope we have helped it on his way south and were good hosts to all of them.

The quote below was enclosed in a birthday card to me from Son a couple of weeks ago.  It was timely in many ways.

“Legends say that hummingbird float free of time, carrying our hope for love, joy and celebration.  The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.”

REMEMBERING MY SISTER


Some of you may remember my post that mentioned my sister and her husband losing their home in a fire outside of Freer  the day before Hurricane Harvey hit.  They were able to rebuild and move into their new home in time to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in December.  Sadly,  the effects of Alzheimer’s had already reduced the quality of her life.  Last week she died peacefully at home at the age of 87.

With my son standing beside me I was able to deliver these words of remembrance at her service.

SISTERS: MARIE, BARBARA AND ME

I hate losing one of my big sisters, Marie.  She was thirteen years older so she was like a second mother to me.  My other sister, Barbara, is nine years older.  I wanted to grow up to be just like my big sisters.  They both helped with me when I was little.  When Marie and Clifton got married, I would often stay with them as my mother had some health problems.  She always seemed to be in the kitchen cooking something.  If unexpected guests arrived, she would waltz into the kitchen and whip out a meal from scratch.

As our age gap narrowed, we became adult friends.  She shared her recipes – buttermilk pie, Christmas cookies and casseroles.  And she taught me how to cook deer meat a dozen different ways.  Yet could never teach me how to crochet – my fingers could just not handle a crochet needle and thread.  But she could crochet anything!

For the past several years the three of us could not always get together very often, but when we did, before we left we would join hands and make a circle.  We laughed like kids again.  I am not sure who started this, but I think it was Barbara.  If only two of us were together, we would still join hands and enlist anyone standing nearby – a niece, a nephew, a husband – to join and complete the circle.

Last Sunday Barbara and I went to Freer to see Marie.  As we left we took her frail hands and made our circle.  She opened her eyes.  We wanted to think she understood, but it didn’t matter…we were making our last circle.

I will miss my big sister, Big Daughter, as our father called her.  She had a full life.  She loved Freer, she loved living on the ranch that our grandparents started, she loved her family and most of all she loved Clifton for almost 71 years.

Rest in peace, my sister.

Her a link to her obituary is below.

https://www.holmgreenmortuaryinc.com/services.asp?page=odetail&id=3293&fbclid=IwAR2Pt64cMmojGOApGeUTqWk7lF4bqfrusQyy2iLuSb1oisILbPVdcW7h_K8

 

GEORGE ORWELL’S WORDS


Through wordsmith.org I subscribe to A Word a Day for daily emails with a new word each day with a theme.  Examples are words  that are eponyms or words that sound dirty but aren’t.  A few weeks ago it was words from George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four(published in 1949),  that have become part of our language.   I recall reading  his dark novel in high school and thinking how very far into the future the year 1984 was, why, I’d be an old woman of 40 years.  Today we are 34 years beyond that doomed year,  and I have become a crone.  Below is a photo of my worn copy of the book; I think Daughter used it when it was required reading for a class.

Here are five of Orwell’s words featured and defined for that week:

NEWSPEAK:  Deliberately ambiguous or euphemistic language used for propaganda.

UNPERSON:  A person regarded as nonexistent.

BIG BROTHER:  An authoritarian person, organization, government, etc., that monitors or controls people.

DOUBLETHINK:   An acceptance of two contradictory ideas at the same time.

OLDSPEAK:   Normal English usage, as opposed to propagandist, euphemistic, or obfuscatory language.

My old paperback copy has this afterword by Erich Fromm and begins with this paragraph.

“George Orwell’s 1984 is the expression of a mood, and it is a warning.  the mood it expresses is that of near despair about the future of man, and the warning is that unless the course of history changes, men all over the world will lose the most human qualities, will become soulless automatons, and will not even  be aware of it.”

Fortunately, the soulless world of Winston Smith (main character from the novel) has not become reality.  There have been dark days and some parallels can be drawn from that world and some events even leading up to 2018, but the course of history has surely changed.   Here are some of my humble observations.

Let’s start with the most commonly quoted word from 1984, Big Brother.  Some would think that we already have a Big Brother in the form of federal government imposing rules, regulations and laws and tracking us and  strongly distrust the government.  Internet and social media could be considered as Big Brother the way our smart phones track us as well as Facebook, Twitter, etc. that track our locations, likes, friends and shopping habits.  And what of television?  Can we escape that glowing eye from home or almost anyplace we go?  And security cameras seem to be everywhere.

Newspeak is often used by those who want to put a certain spin on a statement or situation.  Those in power appear to be the most skilled at newspeak.

The unperson could be those without a political voice whether by poverty, circumstances, gender, place of birth or sexual orientation.  The Black Lives Matter movement quickly comes to my mind.

Our current President of the United States of America appears to be skilled in doublethink as he often says one thing and then acts in a completely different way to support, oppose or propose a policy.  There ought to be an Orwellian word for the way he tweets.

Oldspeak was the language of truth and honesty.  Lies were not treated as the norm and truth was not labeled as fake news.

Where did the inspiration for this post come from?  Perhaps I just wanted to write one last 500-word essay on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and convince myself that a negative Utopia did not become a reality in 2018.  Or has it?

TEXAS NAVY 1836-1846


Texas was a republic for almost ten years before it joined the United States in 1845 as the 28nd state and a slave state.  As a new republic fighting Santa Anna as he advanced into Texas, a  Texas Navy was established to protect the coastline by keeping the lines of supply from New Orleans open and keep Mexican ships from delivering supplies to Santa Anna.  Those first four schooners, Invincible, Brutus, Liberty and Independence played an important part in the victory at San Jacinto but the navy’s role is not as well known as most of the glory went to the victories on land.

In March of this year a permanent exhibit honoring the Texas Navy opened on the USS Lexington Museum, a WW II aircraft carrier berthed at Corpus Christi. The ship serves as a naval aviation museum,  education facility and tourist attraction.   Recently I visited  after having lunch with Daughter who works on the Lexington.   The ship has five self-guided tours and offers guided tours for behind the scenes.  The Texas Navy exhibit is on the ” Lower Decks Tour”, tour number four.

NEON ENTRANCE TO EXHIBIT

Visitors are immediately drawn into the 1800s and a different kind of warfare and away from the WWII period.

WORKING SAILORS

These sailors seem to be welcoming you aboard; even the worn wooden flooring feels like the deck of a ship and much different from the metal and steel floors of a WWII ship.

Photos of these two story boards did not come out very well – Husband could have done better had he been along – but they do give information on the importance of the Texas Navy early on and later as it continued to protect the new republic.

BATTLE OF CAMPECHE 1843

NAVAL OFFICER

I don’t know what the white object is on the left.  Perhaps it was one of the rumored ghosts on the Lexington.  It was a weekday afternoon and not very crowded, so I often found myself alone to leisurely view the Texas exhibit and  WWII photos and documents also as I competed the Lower Decks Tour.  OK, it was probably  my finger that got in the way!

SHIP’S WHEEL

Take a turn at the ship’s wheel!

CANNONS AIMED AT MEXICAN SHIPS

Visitors can get the feel of being on a ship in the heat of battle with this replica of a warship; note the Mexican flag on the ship being fired upon.

NAVAL GEAR AND ARTIFACTS

There were several displays like this one.

TEXAS NAVY FLAG

This is the Texas Naval flag.  Texas Flag Park describes it this way:

Created by Charles Hawkins for the Texas Navy in April, 1836 the Lone Star and Stripes Flag was adopted and continued unchanged for the life of the Republic. It carried a single white star in the blue canton, and seven red stripes and six white stripes alternating in color. The stripes represented the original thirteen colonies of the U.S. The flag was deliberately designed to resemble the national flag of the U.S. When the flag hung limp, it could be mistaken for the American flag which gave the underdog Texan fleet the advantage of surprise, and it worked.

There is a small theater inside the exhibit, though I did not take a photo, with an excellent documentary,  How the Texas Navy Saved the Revolution, a Kahunas USA / Texas Navy Association historic documentary.  The film is available to all Texas teachers for free download at texasnavy.org under the “Teachers” button.

When Texas joined the Union the proud Texas Navy was absorbed into the United States Navy.  “Texas Navy 1836-1846” is an excellent addition to the WWII exhibits on the Lexington for anyone who is interested in Texas history.

 

 

 

BOOKS AND BIBELOTS


BEDSIDE READING

Fascism, a Warning,  Madeleine Albright
A Restless Wave, John McCain
Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry
A Higher Loyalty, James Comey

WRITERS I HAVE DISCOVERED VIA THEIR BLOGS:
The Contract, John W. Howell & Gwen M. Plano
Plover Landing, Marie Zhuikov
Dancing with the Sandman, L.T. Garvin
A Cry From the Deep, Diana Stevan
Wish You Were Here, Adventures in Cemetery Travel, Loren Rhoads

********************************

From Wikipedia

From wikipedia

BIBELOTS OF THOUGHTS
About a week after the city of Portland announced Stage I of water restrictions based on the lake levels and where we get our water from, our rain gauge measured almost eleven inches in two days.  We did not get that much rain from Hurricane Harvey!  Perhaps we toasted Chac, the Rain God, one too many times.  My rain barrels and jugs are full but the effects of the rain won’t last long with the summer heat.

Husband ordered a portable solar generator, Goal Zero, and a couple of solar lights.  The generator will power a few things to keep us going  and it is not noisy like a gas generator.  We may have not another hurricane for several years, but we are prepared this time and it will help if we lose power in an electrical storm also.

“Courtesy is contagious.”  That statement (in red letters) was taped inside a cabinet door in our kitchen by my father as I was growing up.  Whether it was meant for his three daughters or my mother, I never knew nor questioned it.  Today it seems that discourtesy has become an epidemic in the United States.  It appears to have its source at the top with a president that began setting the tone as he campaigned.  Winning the highest office in the land did not change that attitude.

Surely we can disagree  strongly, passionately, loudly and truthfully; protest and speak out, yet
display respect and civility!

 

Let us be thankful this Independence Day 2018 for all that we have as Americans.  May we never take for granted the freedoms and rights that we have.