Because it happened

Tuesday, April 10, a fire broke out in a row of eight row homes in Hampden, Baltimore, Maryland. Thankfully, there were no injuries. Alas, one of the row homes is our son's and daughter-in-law's. It has been a surreal week, to say the least. I debated about putting this out here, but then, as the post's title says, because it happened…because it happened it needs to be acknowledged. I am learning that from yoga. The article below comes from The Baltimore Sun

The latest news, almost a week later, is the City of Baltimore is going to tear down what remains because the roof no longer exists for any of the eight homes, there is extensive water damage, and there were no fire walls between the homes, this being an 1880 building that was subdivided inside at some point, likely before there was a fire code stipulating the need for fire walls. 

There was a helicopter and news live feed as the fire was burning, and while my husband and I were watching we had to smile at one point because who should be interviewed but our daughter-in-law's father. His presence on film was so unexpected, and he was so true to himself in the interview, that we found a reason for a smile amidst everything that was going on.

And one last comment, thank goodness for homeowner's insurance. At the most pressing moments the assistance is the most needed. Friends (classmate of our granddaughter's) put our son and his family up for the rest of the week so the children could continue attending school. And a representative from the insurance company arrived the evening of the fire, presented our son with a debit card for necessities, found them a short term rental (at Home 2 Suites, which is like a hotel but with some kitchen amenities), and has found them a long term rental where they anticipate moving today or tomorrow.  [4/19/18 UPDATE - After 6 nights in the hotel, today they move into a long term rental that is 1.5 miles from their house.] My heart goes out to the renters who lived in some of the row homes, as my understanding is some did not have renter's insurance. The community of Hampden is rallying around any of the folks who need assistance. 

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Talia RichmanTalia Richman, Contact Reporter, The Baltimore Sun

A two-alarm fire heavily damaged as many as eight rowhouses in Hampden Tuesday.

About 70 first responders with the Baltimore Fire Department arrived at the blaze in the 3900 block of Roland Ave. just before noon, said department spokeswoman Blair Skinner. By 3 p.m., the fire was contained.

The fire started in the area just below the roof in one of the rowhouses and spread down the block. There were no injuries, Skinner said.

"Because of the intensity of the fire and the heavy wind conditions, it just spread down the row," she said.

The investigation into the cause is ongoing, Skinner said.

In aftermath of Hampden fire residents assess loss of some memories revival of others

Roughly an hour after the first call, heavy smoke and fire were visible from the roofs of about a dozen homes. Most residents evacuated on their own, though firefighters had to rescue some people and pets.

Amy Miller and her three siblings grew up on this block, in the rowhouse with octagon windows at the center of the line of burning homes.

Four of her family members still live there, including her 71-year-old mother, who had to be evacuated in her wheelchair with the help of firefighters. Miller rushed to the scene from Dundalk as soon as she heard about it on the news.

"Years and years of memories are gone," she said. "This house was our foundation."

Still, she said, she feels lucky her family members and their puppy made it out of the home without injuries.

"We can get another house," said Miller, 31. "I can't get another mom."

Oscar Decombel, 69, is visiting from Brussels, Belgium, and housesitting for his son-in-law, whose home caught on fire. He stood with his wife and a group of other neighborhood residents behind police caution tape, across the street from his son-in-law's burning home.

He watched as powerful hoses sent water across the smoking roof and into open windows, blasting pieces of the structure into the air. He and his wife had evacuated more than an hour earlier and had begun thinking about where they'll spend the night.

Decombel comes to visit from Brussels a couple times a year, often helping his son-in-law fix up the house. He recently replaced the carpet with hardwood floors.

"That will be ruined," he said. "We'll have to start all over again."

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke stopped by Tuesday evening to survey the damage and meet with residents. Red notices were affixed to several front doors declaring the structures “Condemned.”

“We have a lot of work to do,” Clark said. But at least, she noted, everyone got out safely. “Even the pets.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Christina Tkacik contributed to this article.

#MarchForOurLives

This afternoon, on a gloriously sunny Saturday, we marched in our local neighborhood. Gathering with some 2,000 others at our MS/HS campus, we then trekked to our upper elementary school, followed by walking past our lower elementary school on our way to Florence Park. (image above thanks to mailing list shared by a neighbor)

Unlike the two January marches (2017 and this year), this march had a different vibe, partially because of its size but more so because it was local. It was my husband, our neighbor across the street and her daughter, our neighbors one block away and their children, our neighbor five houses away, our former neighbors (now in another neighborhood), another neighbor from our block and his daughter and their dog, a neighbor "up the hill" a few blocks away…and so on. Like many of the small town marches that took place today around the country, this was a march of regular people in small communities who share a belief that our children should be safe and our politicians should be responsible and take action.

This is not a democrat or republican issue; this is a family, people, human issue.

Students were handing out orange "tickets." Take a look. I asked one student what the $1.05 represented. He responded: That's the amount per student in Florida that Florida State Senator Marco Rubio has received from the NRA. Imagine.

Fond Farewell to Flannels

My flannel lined Land's End jeans have saved me, probably for 15 years, from freezing during long winter walks. Alas, they were bound to wear out. About a year or two ago I tried to replace them, sampling flannel lined jeans from Land's End and LLBean. All were stiff and too high waisted, none were comfortable. I know that denim softens up with repeated washing and wearing, but was not prepared to go through that process again.

This year I had no choice but to finally bid a fond farewell to those flannels. There were too many holes – in both knees, under both rear pockets, and at both sitz bones, along with extensive fraying at the hem of both legs. The first three photos show the truth in my claim!

A few days ago I began the search for new flannel lined jeans, first looking at, and deciding against, Land's End and LLBean. Then a light bulb went off – instead of going with the knowns, just type in a search for womens flannel lined jeans. And look what I found! Eddie Bauer Women's Boyfriend Flannel-Lined Jeans on sale for a substantially lower price than otherwise. You can see them in the last two photos. An added perk is they actually are a whole lot less baggy, indeed they are not baggy at all, than my previous flannels. Am wearing them now as I type this post, and besides being warm and comfortable, for the first time I don't feel like a stuffed panda in them! Yippee for flannels that fit my frame!

First look at the Behomoth

The mighty oak was felled this past Fall. A magnificent tree, close to or just past 100 years old, was cut down to make way for a developer-built home, better known as a spec-house.

Here we are months later, having just entered Spring, and the spec-house is rising. This is the view from one of our living room windows. Yes, Spring was ushered in with snow. This new house will be 4,000 square feet; more than twice the size of our home.

Spring 2018

I know it has snowed in Springs past, having always been on Spring break during the last two weeks of March (that's when independent schools tend to have vacation, rather than one week in February and one in April.) I can recall one Spring taking our young sons to Washington D.C. amidst snow, and one Spring hoping to begin gardening only to be foiled by snow (hmm, just like this one!)

Here, for posterity, is this morning's scene, snow begun yesterday and continued through the night. This is the view from our kitchen window; the colors are a reflection of the light sculpture made by my husband which sits atop a shelf over the refrigerator. Our backyard abuts the Westchester Land Trust property of Otter Creek and surrounding salt marsh (formerly Nature Conservancy property.)

There's about 8 inches on the street side. This photo was taken early in the morning looking diagonally across the street. Our red cars are in the driveway..



In Pursuit of Silence

My husband and I ventured out on a weeknight last night to our local Emelin Theatre for a Larchmont-Mamaroneck Center for Continuing Education screening of the movie In Pursuit of Silence. The film explores the human relationship with and response to silence. It is a film of inspiring images and interesting interviews, which made me think about the beauty and importance of stepping away from the "noise" of a busy life and into the refined silence of the natural world around me. 

Is silence the absence of sound? Or is it the absence of noise? Or something else?

At the conclusion of the screening we were invited to remain seated for approximately 20 minutes and participate in a video chat with the director and producer who were out west in California (we were in New York). Moderated by Cheryl Brause of 2bpresent, we learned that the young man in the film who took a vow of silence and walked across the country from Nashua, NH to San Francisco, CA, was intercepted by the filmmakers during the last portion of his journey. They had heard about the young man thru an acquaintance of the producer and were eager to learn more about him.

The director contacted the young man's family and were told that the young man's father was able to track his son's progress by logging in to his credit card account to see where charges were being made. The father gave the last known contact information to the director, who then headed with his crew to the convenience store. Making inquires at the store led the crew to attempt to track the young man which, somewhat to their amazement, they successfully did in a relatively short time.

The young man, who appears in the film several times, hand wrote his responses (in a lovely print that I admired). The director told us that to be respectful of the young man's vow, the director decided to hand write his questions. Soon thereafter, the young man explained via a note that it was not necessary to hand write questions, that the vow was taken by him and not by the director, and that it would be more expedient for the director to verbally pose the questions.

The audience was curious to know if the director knew what happened after the young man arrived at his journey. It turns out, he decided to rest briefly and then begin his return by walking back home to Nashua.



Quite the Excitement.

My nephew (my brother's son) is a pilot and a flight instructor. Yesterday he had quite the excitement, giving his family quite the excitement. 

That is my nephew in the light gray sweatshirt and that is the plane that he landed after a mechanical failure in the engine. Nobody was injured, which is why there was quite the excitement. Not the "yippee" kind of excitement but the kind that you really don't want to have to have, but if you have to have it at least it has a positive resolution. Whew.

Given the Boot

Given the boot, hmm, well, given the fact that I already had two pairs of boots, perhaps it is a bit over indulgent to now have three pairs of boots. I'm not talking about snow boots or rain boots (I have both of those, as well.) I'm talking about leather boots. I went from 12+ years of non-leather (a $39 purchase) boots that eventually gave out after multiple repairs to within the past year having three pairs of leather boots. It does sound indulgent, I admit.

However, the first pair was purchased upon the demise of the $39 pair, one knee-high substituted for another knee-high. The second pair was purchased in Baltimore this past fall, striking, slightly higher than ankle height, dress boots. And the third pair were a gift, sort of. A colleague at school had purchased them and they turned out to be a size too large. After I complemented the boots, she suggested she should give them to me if they fit me better than they fit her. Well, they did fit me better, so she gave them to me to try out and I wore them for a weekend and decided the fit was perfect and the wearing of them quite comfortable. However, my conscience wouldn't let me just take them since they did cost her money and she was intending to replace them in the proper size. So they became mine for half the original price. Considering they had been worn perhaps five times, it was a win-win for both of us.

Along with the boots, the outfit received several complements, most likely due to the way all the various patterns of blue – in the dress, long sleeve top, leggings, boots and earrings – blended in harmony. 

And the light on the right – that's the newest light sculpture by my husband. It is a prototype for a light he is planning on creating for my Aunt. (Good thing she doesn't know about this blog, so the surprise has not been spilt!)

The C.I.A. (not THAT one, the OTHER one!)

Delightful outing to Poughkeepsie today to meet Ann and Ave at the C.I.A. – the Culinary Institute of America. We had lunch at the American Bounty Restaurant, one of many restaurants operated by the students as part of the C.I.A. Restaurant Group. The meal, service, and ambiance were delicious, friendly, and unhurried, causing us all to agree we would eagerly return to try out another restaurant.

The menus change regularly to reflect seasonal and local offerings. For today's lunch Fred and I had:

Cannellini Ricotta Ravioli - Acorn Squash, Pecan Crumb, Carrot Emulsion

Pan-Seared King Salmon - PEI Mussels, Sunchokes, Baby Artichokes, Saffron Cream

Grilled Meiller Farm Striploin - Sweet Potato Purée, Heirloom Baby Carrots and Turnips, Black Garlic Jus

Pumpkin Panna Cotta - Poached Pears, Spiced Oat Crumble, Pear Sorbe

Spiced Pineapple Napoleon - Coconut Meringues, Rum Ice Cream

Hot Scotch - Hot Chocolate, Kahlua, Dewar’s Scotch Whiskey, Whipped Cream (minus the Whiskey at my request!)

The first image is the Napoleon (Fred's), the second is a Chocolate Tart (Ann's) and the third is the Panna Cotta (mine).

And now for the people pictures, with thanks to Ann for the one of Fred and me with our desserts!

Afterwards we perused the gift shop and then headed off to visit The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar. We were all quite bowled over at the gallery's impressive art collection and particularly appreciated the lightness and brightness of the gallery, and the manner in which the various works of art were grouped together. The art was varied and included a large number of well known artists that we hadn't anticipated seeing. Much like the restaurant at the C.I.A., the gallery offered a relaxed and friendly atmosphere that added to the positive experience of the space. (Again, thanks to Ann for these pictures.)

Just a few steps away was the Main Library, another interior that wowed us both for the extensive collection as well as for the interior layout and light, bright settings. We four all found it interesting that in our many years of living just 90 minutes away, and in having college age children at one point in our lives, Vassar never crossed our line of reference. The college was a pleasant discovery as adults in our 60s! (Yup, thanks to Ann for this collection of photos from the Library!)

I leave you with this photo of Spring from one of the pieces at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center.


2018 Women's March

Last year's hat, this year's March! (And this year's best marching buddy ever!)

Last January I marched in the 2017 NYC Women's March. Fast forward to this January, where just this past Saturday Fred and I marched in the 2018 NYC Women's March. Both marches were blessed with glorious weather, calm crowds, upbeat feelings, and an amazing sense of camaraderie and purpose.

Fred and I took the 9:37 morning train into the city and had ample time to stroll our way from 42nd Street northwest to 68th Street and Columbus Avenue. Along the way we marveled at the ultra-tall, ultra-thin towers that have been, or are in the midst of being built along 57th Street; it's been awhile since we had walked in this part of the city. With plenty of time till the 11:30 start of speeches, we decided that rather than continue walking for what could be many blocks and a limited view of the happenings, we would turn around and head into Central Park, eventually finding a sunny bench across from 61st Street where the stage was set up. Turns out we made a good decision as the marchers were spread north from 61st to 86th, and the speeches took approximately 90 minutes, making our seats a nice respite in between the walk we had already done and the march we would soon do.

The highlight for Fred was Batala New York, an awesome all-female drumming band that began the March and led it all the way to its conclusion at Bryant Park. You can see videos here of them performing and learn more about them and their music here

An absolute delight and surprise for me was the final performer MILCK. Her song Quiet was the break-out anthem of last year's March in Washington D.C. I first heard it on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and then went down the rabbit hole watching numerous videos since then, including this one and this one. This page has a number of the videos plus the lyrics and a kid-friendly version that swaps two lines.

I Can't Keep Quiet is also the name of the site (and fund) that MILCK created to champion the rights of others or, as the site states:

The #ICantKeepQuiet Global Community is made up of Gentle Rebels who bravely express themselves on behalf of the Misfits, the Survivors, and the Dreamers. We are dedicated to celebrating our unique voices and identities, in an effort to break the cycles of oppression and fear perpetuated by today’s state of affairs and media.

The video below is of the entire speaker set from the 2018 NYC March, and MILCK begins her performance at the 1:35 mark. (In case the video doesn't embed, you can view it here.)