What does the nut in doughnut refer to?
Why is there not a national chain of organic doughnut shops?
Do healthy people not eat doughnuts?
What is wrong with them?
Why would anyone drink coffee black when you can drink it with cream or half n half?
Why does imported cherry syrup from Italy not taste like Robitussin?
Why does cherry syrup, (or cherry anything) made in the USA taste like Robitussin?
Why aren’t cannoli as widely available as cheese cake?
Does anybody really like low fat ice cream?
If not, why even make it?
Is there any correlation between the statement that “life is short” and our propensity for fast food?
Is the latter somehow responsible for the former?
What does: “In physics, spacetime is any mathematical model that fuses the three dimensions of space and the one dimension of time into a single four-dimensional continuum” mean? Wikipedia
Is it possible to speed up time and project the world into the year 2020?
If so, how?
Can the POTUS also be an astronaut?
If so, can he be the first man sent to Mars? Please…
How can a grown man watch Perry Mason three times a day and Svengoolie every Saturday?
©2018 by Ilona Elliott
I spend a fair amount of time reading other people’s blogs. I have a nice little collection of blogs that I follow that interest me or make me laugh or encourage me to think. I enjoy reading and commenting on the posts. I feel a certain kinship with the writers.
Plus, it’s a lot easier than writing posts of my own.
Before I started blogging five or six years ago, I took a free on-line course through my library on creating a website. Then I took five additional writing courses which I thoroughly enjoyed and learned from and that complimented my short but illustrious career as a writing student at Blue Mountain Community College.
I also took a music reading course, which ruined me for trying to learn to play the mandolin I had recently acquired. I hated it. It was like high school and college algebra all over again. AGONY! I completed the course work, open book of course, but in the end I had not learned a thing about how to actually make music that floats through the ear and stimulates memory, passion, longing, booty shaking and all the other lovely things music stimulates in your every day run of the mill savage beast. It might have worked better if I had a keyboard to translate all of that book learning onto, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it on the mandolin.
It was demoralizing. It was like learning that before I could eat a piece of cake, I had to know how to convert the recipe into metric, understand the physics of combining liquids, carbohydrates and fats under the application of heat, and figure out how to grow, harvest and mill the wheat for the flour…before taking a bite.
It was a lot like watching Alton Brown cook just about anything.
I never picked up that mandolin again.
But I did start writing my blog.
I was pretty ignorant of what a blog’s purpose was or was not, or could or should be.
I was familiar with bloggers who wrote about specific activities or pursuits such as cooking, decorating, child rearing, fashion, and how to save enough money to buy a Maserati by clipping coupons.
I wasn’t as familiar with blogs that were not trying to advise or instruct or report but were mainly interested in communicating thoughts and experiences in a meaningful or artful manner.
I did know that I wanted to write essays and poems and memoir, the things I had enjoyed writing in my course work and that lent themselves to the kind of things I wanted to communicate. So that’s what I did.
And it’s been good. I’ve done alright. I’ve written a few posts that I’m proud of. I’ve communicated some thoughts on important and sometimes delicate issues that seemed to strike a chord with folks.
And I’ve found a community of other like minded writers.
A casual friend of mine who recently started reading the blog told me that she thought I was a good writer and that I wrote with conviction and she liked that. It felt really good to hear that from someone other than a relative or a loved one. I appreciated her praise more than she knows.
I don’t know what the purpose of my blog is. I know that it is a place to write, and that my writing is an exercise in trying to understand things, and that writing things down and putting thoughts into words and organizing them into cogent form helps me to work through the issues and emotions and experiences I describe.
I guess that’s enough.
I don’t have to make money–and I don’t. I’ve always sucked at that.
I don’t have to reach a huge audience–and I don’t. I know a few people who will remain unnamed with audiences in the millions whose words and ideas are completely incoherent to me.
I don’t have to have a degree to do this. I don’t have to write to a deadline. I don’t have to be an expert. I don’t have to follow the rules.
I don’t have to please anyone but myself.
Writing this has made me realize something about the music course that derailed my hopes of learning to play that mandolin.
I don’t have to strive to learn how to read music. I just have to enjoy making it.
It’s not like I’m planning on composing a symphony. I just want to jam along to my CD’s and with my brother.
I think I’m ready to pick it up again and do just that.
©2018 by Ilona Elliott
I just finished reading My Beloved World by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
It’s a delightfully readable and inspirational book by a woman who admittedly struggled with writing cogently well into her college years.
Sotomayor grew up in the projects in the Bronx. She contracted juvenile diabetes as a child, and because her parents were too squeamish to learn how to properly give her the insulin injections that were necessary to sustain her young life, she learned to do so herself at the tender age of seven.
Sotomayor’s father died when she was nine. Her mother, a native of Puerto Rico, came to the US mainland as a young woman, herself orphaned, when she signed up for the Women’s Army Corps during WWII. She worked hard all her life, and even as a widow managed to provide her two children with a private Catholic school education. She preached to her children continuously about the importance of getting an education.
Justice Sotomayor’s Puerto Rican heritage insured that she had a rich community and family life nurtured by the love and support of her parent’s extended families. It also helped to insure that she received the best education available in the United States due to affirmative action admissions policies at the Ivy League institutions she attended–Princeton and Yale.
But when Sonia began her education at Princeton, she was at an academic and cultural disadvantage. Her knowledge of the wider world outside of her home in the Bronx was limited. She was not familiar with higher forms of literature and had never attended an advanced learning class or had a private tutor, like so many of her more privileged classmates had. She struggled with writing essays due to a lack of schooling in proper grammar and syntax and the colloquialism of her humble upbringing.
But what Sonia lacked in schooling and cultural development, she more than made up for in determination and intelligence. She may have had a slow start at Princeton, but her excellent academic performance and her civic engagement in the school earned her membership in Phi Beta Kappa and the coveted Pyne Prize for “excellent scholarship, strength of character and effective leadership”, at Princeton, and a spot on the Yale Law Review later on. She graduated Princeton summa cum laude in 1976 and went on to complete her law degree at Yale.
The trajectory of Sonia Sotomayor’s law career was not typical of a Yale graduate but was indeed indicative of her commitment to public service and the greater good. She worked primarily in small law firms before accepting a position in the DA’s office in New York. There she honed her skills at interpreting the finer points of criminal law along with her propensity for understanding how the law actually affects individual lives, a critical skill for someone who would one day be administering justice at the highest level of the U. S. judicial system.
Sonia Sotomayor dreamed about being a judge from the time she was a young girl watching Perry Mason on television. Her autobiography describes the measured, intuitive and methodical path she took to achieve her private dream. That and the personal nature of her narrative gives us a window into the steadiness of character and the agility of mind she possesses that has served her so well throughout her life and esteemed career.
In 1992 her appointment to the U.S. district court under the G.W. Bush administration was a major accomplishment for a 38 year old Latina woman from the Bronx. In 1998 she took a seat on the US Second District Court of Appeals.
In 2009, Sotomayor was nominated by President Barak Obama for a seat on the Supreme Court. Upon her acceptance, she became the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history.
The story of Sonia Sotomayor is the story of America. It is a testament to the American ideal of equal rights and opportunities for everyone.
When I was a young woman, working as a contracts administrator in a construction firm, the owner of the business quizzed me if I would be uncomfortable if he hired a black man who had applied to fill an opening in the accounting office. I was shocked that such a question would even be raised, that a persons skin color would even be considered to be a potential disqualification for his or her employment. It was then that I realized the absolute necessity of programs that insured equal opportunity in the workplace for people of color.
I believe stories like Sotomayor’s need to remain part of any discussion or debate for programs of affirmative action or equal opportunity. We hear so much from the opponents of such programs about the unfairness of them and how they convey special benefits upon people simply because of their race.
I can’t help but wonder how many of those opponents have ever had first hand knowledge of what race discrimination feels like. Have their ancestors ever had to fight to use a public restroom, sit where they chose to on a bus, or attend the school of their choice?
I do believe that affirmative action should always be expansive enough to consider economic disadvantage under it’s umbrella of protection and should not be based solely on a persons minority status.
The last words in My Beloved World are these:
I am blessed. In this life, I am truly blessed.
That same grateful attitude prevails throughout Justice Sotomayor’s book. I perceive that it has propelled her forward each step of her way. She did not take affirmative action and the opportunity it provided to her for granted, she took it and ran with it, and through her own diligence and hard work, she multiplied it’s blessing in her life exponentially.
Americans are blessed. Truly. And yet in these times of ever widening income inequality and re-emergent racial tensions, who can deny that some of us are most assuredly more blessed than others? Are the blessings that America conveys to her children abundant enough to be shared with those among us who would aspire to things normally outside the realm of practical possibility?
I believe that they are.
©2018 by Ilona Elliott
Copyright © 2013 by Sonia Sotomayor
Often people are moved to tears by sadness, but occasionally people are moved to tears by goodness. That’s what happens to the audiences of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” the new documentary about Fred Rogers. The documentary demonstrates how Rogers’s children’s show got started and how he used it over 30 years to teach and accompany children. […]
Thanks to David at Live & Learn for this post and it’s inspiring content.
Last night I watched a re-run of Blue Planet II on BBC America.
I love that program.
There is not a lot of quality documentary style programming on Television anymore. Much of it is so dumbed down it has become most tiresome to watch.
Nobody got time for that shit.
But Blue Planet on BBC is so beautifully filmed and so full of fascinating creatures. It’s like a really good book, a walk through an incredible art gallery, and a biology class rolled into one gorgeous package.
Someone compared it to nature porn, which I guess is a thing (?), but I had never heard of it. And yes, it was a seductively beautiful production. But it was also full of new and exciting discoveries and never before seen footage of plants and animals doing astonishing things.
The episode last night featured all kinds of wonderful creatures that inhabit the oceans.
A school of bottle nose dolphins was filmed rubbing themselves on a gorgonian, which is an aquatic plant that grows on the floor of the Red Sea. Research has shown that gorgonians have certain anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties in the mucus layer that covers their branches. The adults appeared to be demonstrating to the babies in the school this important practice in proper dolphin hygiene. Amazing!
Then there was the tusk fish, an unfortunate looking fish with a wicked under bite and pointy, funky little teeth who digs up clams and uses the hard edges of the reef to crack them open before gobbling them up. Resourceful!
And there were Charlie Tuna looking trevally fish launching themselves out of the water, flying really, to catch birds in flight above the water. The filming of this particular phenomenon was spell binding and heart stopping as a little baby tern, new to flying, narrowly escapes being dined on by these macho, but resourceful, fish. Whew. He made it!
There was so much amazing footage and so many interesting creatures, like the schools of dolphins filmed surfing the big waves, apparently, just for the sheer joy of it.
I’ve seen this particular episode of Blue Planet II before, but I never get tired of watching it and sitting open mouthed at how awesome this planet we inhabit is.
Think about it, in one episode there were fish practicing and teaching intuitive medicine, fish using tools to perfect their culinary skills, flying fish fly-fishing…for birds, but still, and surfer dude fish enjoying a little recreational activity, just for the hell of it.
Which all had me wondering: Are we really the most intelligent creatures on the planet, or are we just the most well adapted?
What do you think?
If you haven’t checked out Blue Planet or Blue Planet II, I highly recommend them.
I think we could all, always, use a little more schooling in, or just a reminder of, the things that make life on earth so incredible.
I was rummaging around in my purse the other day and found a little glass pebble. My grand niece gave it to me the day I left Connecticut for home.
She was “helping” me pack for my flight. She has made three trips down to Walt Disney World with her family so she’s an expert packer.
Lyza gave me four glass pebbles that day. “Here are some gemstones for you to remember me and Emma by” she said. She also gave me several rubber gloves from the box in Steve’s garage. And a bubble stick.
She’s almost seven years old and has seen me enough times by now to finally treat me like a relative. I don’t have many opportunities to engage with children, so it’s nice to be treated like the auntie that I am. Her cousin Emma has been doing it since day one, but she is so much more outgoing than Lyza.
Lyza is shy. She takes her time getting to know you. She checks you out. I guess I finally passed muster.
Also, she is old enough now to fully understand that I am Grandma’s sister, which accounts for a lot I guess. It does for me too.
We had an interesting conversation sitting out on Judy’s deck.
She asked me if I had a husband: Yes, I have a husband.
Do you have any kids?: No, I don’t have any kids.
But if you have a husband, then you have to have kids:. No, you don’t.
Yes, you do: No, you don’t.
Yes you do. First you get a husband and then you get a kid.
Okay, I’ll talk to my husband about it.
I didn’t know if the TSA would wonder what a sixty year old lady was doing boarding a plane with glass pebbles, a bubble stick and a handful of rubber gloves and since she stole the gloves from Grandpa Steve’s garage anyways, I sneaked around and put everything back that she had given me.
Except for one little glass pebble. Which I found the other day. Which made me sad and lonely because she’s so far away.
But I have this little gemstone to remember her and Emma by.
Kid’s are so awesome.
©2018 by Ilona Elliott
This post is about suicide and mental health issues. I was listening to the live stream of Roxane Gay speaking in New York last night at the PEN World Voices Festival. She said “When you write and gain attention for it, it can be really overwhelming because everyone thinks they know you when they do […]
I’ve written before about beauty and pain. I wrote about the pain inherent in a woman’s personal pursuit to reaching an acceptable level of our societal standards of beauty. The waxing, the plucking, the dyeing…all of that crap.
The beauty I’m thinking of today is the universal beauty of the world. The pain is the gut reaction I sometimes feel in response to that beauty.
I am so often taken aback by the world that surrounds me. Living in the Pacific Northwest will do that to you.
Who wouldn’t be stopped in their tracks by the profundity of the Cascade Mountain range, or the lush soft light of the forests at her feet?
Who could stand unmoved on the precipice of the Columbia River Gorge looking down on it’s namesake waterway as it snakes it’s way to the sea?
From the east it is all blue skies and golden hills and rocks that shimmer in the arid heat, punctuated by banks of white windmills and terraced vineyards.
Farther west it is often cloaked in mists and fogs and rainbows, the landscape softening into vivid juxtapositions of towering rocks clothed in green forests and threaded with white ribbons of waterfalls…like a Japanese landscape painting.
And the beauty of the small things is no less profound:
The bunnies with soft brown eyes and ears that cry out for stroking as they nibble dandelions in the lawn.
The palette of birds at the feeder–flashy yellow Goldfinch, bright blue Stellars Jays, red eyed Towhees, and buff colored doves.
The flora and fauna that clothe my world are, to me, both instruments of joy and a source of sorrow.
This yin and yang pull provides the inspiration to be a better steward of the earth.
At times, I’m moved to tears and the beauty fills my throat with remorse and longing.
Remorse for the damage man has done to the planet.
Longing for a more just and equitable arrangement between man and the environment.
This longing, this sense of sorrow, this inexplicable tug of something that dwells so deep within me and is so connected to nature would leave me to believe that I am more animal than human, more earth than flesh and bone, more natural being than spiritual.
All manner of experience elicits the response:
The recorded song of a pod of humpbacks that can reach a thousand miles;
The sight of a bald eagle gliding effortlessly overhead at the beach;
The rustle of wind as it plays across the tops of ancient trees so far above my head.
The timidity and innocence of a fawn peeking around it’s mother’s legs as we pass by with the dog on our morning walk.
This is the stuff of life that astounds me.
I am unmoved by the infamous, the outspoken, the movers and the shakers of the society of man.
I am frustrated by their fame.
I am concerned with their self focus.
I am witnessing the pain that is the result of their machinations, their illusions of grandeur and their empire building.
I am an Earth child. It is a citizenship that requires much of me emotionally, as I move through the world with appreciation for the beauty of, and acceptance of the pain, of this life.
I pledge allegiance to the Earth,
the home of the United States of America,
and to her foundations,
on which we stand,
one planet, under God,
with liberty and justice for all creation.
©2018 by Ilona Elliott
In the foreword to the children’s classic The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame wrote:
Every animal, by instinct, lives according to his nature. Thereby he lives wisely, and betters the tradition of mankind. No animal is ever tempted to belie his nature. No animal, in other words, knows how to tell a lie.
Blue jays are boisterous, bombastic creatures. The loudest and biggest bullies of all the birds that frequent the feeder. I confess they are not my favorite birds. To be truthful, they are my least favorite birds in the yard–most of the time.
Every Spring, in the Rhody bush outside the living room window, they attempt to nest.
Two Springs ago we tore their nest apart a couple of times before they could get established and they moved on. I felt like a heathen for doing that, although it was the old man who physically went out there and brutalized it, but I was the one who informed him of it’s existence.
Last year he was inclined to do the same, but I asked him to let it be. Once, in Port Orchard, the Jays had built a nest in the eaves of the wrap around porch, just outside the back door. I was amazed at how quiet they were on the nest and even more surprised at how silent the babies were once they hatched.
How stealthily the parents went about the business of child rearing, from building the impressive nest to persistently and patiently sitting on the eggs, to feeding their brood until they were big enough to fly the coop.
It was fascinating, when you consider how jarring the sounds escaping from their big black beaks can be.
It was the same last year in the Rhody beside the house here: Quiet, quiet; stealthy, stealthy: stoic, stoic: barely a peep was heard.
This year it was my pleasure to accommodate them. I watched and wondered as the birds began to build two nests, just a few inches from one another, and commented to Glenn that they seemed to be rather undecided, like a young couple looking for their dream home site. Eventually they chose the southern exposure. Maybe it was warmer.
They didn’t waste any time moving in, and I watched Mama sitting on the eggs stoically during the wind and driving rain storms that shook the branches and drenched the leaves for most of April. It was so wet and cold, I worried that the eggs would not survive, or the hatchlings not thrive once they emerged. At one point, I observed the male hanging around the nest and chattering at her in annoyed tones, which was uncharacteristic. I thought maybe the eggs had succumbed and she was refusing to leave the nest.
Soon after she did leave the nest unattended and I was sure then that there would be no chicks this spring.
I needed to know. I crept up to the bush with a step stool, climbed up and parted the branches ever so carefully. I stuck my head in far enough to see into the nest. Eight little beady eyes stared out at me. The chicks were alive! They made not a sound as I quickly retreated.
Since then, I’ve been watching them grow, observing their heads looming higher and higher in the nest as things progressed. Only three birds left though. I wonder where the fourth went?
For the last couple of days two of them took to sitting on the edges of the nest or in the closest branches, obviously preparing to fledge. Last night as I watered the potted plants nearby, they startled and moved around in the bush, reeling clumsily from branch to branch and flapping their wings. I made another hasty retreat.
This morning, they are gone. The nest is empty. There is no sign of the babies or their dedicated parents. Where did they go?
Maybe they will be at the feeder soon, all crackling caws, jerky movements, and bullying postures. How odd that they are so smart, to know to be silent when they are the most vulnerable. Most other baby birds sing like sirens while on the nest.
Perhaps that is why they are such loud, obnoxious birds as adults–survival of the fittest and all. They know they are bigger than the chickadees, the juncos and even the grosbeaks. The genteel doves are no match for them. They use their enormous size and their loathsome, loud voices to subdue the lesser birds. I have watched some of the larger wood peckers take them on at the feeder though, and win. Take that blue meanies!
These little nature dramas unfolding outside my door are a never ending source of inspiration to me. How intricately woven are the threads of the natural world. How strong is the tapestry. And yet, we see how deeply it can be wrent if we disregard it’s rhythms.
It’s a jungle out there. You have to work smart, not just hard, to survive. It’s something we might all need to take to heart, and soon.
The blue jays know how to survive. I guess you’ve got to give them that. The big bullies.
Every animal is honest. Every animal is straightforward. Every animal is true–and is, therefore, according to his nature, both beautiful and good.
©2018 by Ilona Elliott