Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Father's Loving Gift Gives us an American Christmas Classic

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Yes, it even snowed in Houston.  When I checked the weather on my cell phone on Thursday night, it said "snow."  I couldn't see out the window; I thought something was wrong with my phone, but no.  The next morning the roofs on the next-door apartments were covered in white.  In early December--what a surprise!

Anyway, here's my favorite Christmas story.  I post it every year.

A guy named Bob May, depressed and broken-hearted, stared ou his drafty apartment window into the chilly December night.  His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap, quietly sobbing.  Bob's wife Evelyn was dying of cancer.  Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy could never come home.  Barbara looked up into her dad's eyes and asked, "Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's mommy?" Bob's jaw tightened and his eyes wetted with tears.  Her question brought waves of grief but also of anger.

It was the story of Bob's life.  Life always had to be different for Bob.  Being small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys.  He was too little at the time to compete in sports.  He was often called names he'd rather not remember.

From childhood Bob was different and never seemed to fit in.  Bob did complete college and married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression.  Then he was blessed with his little girl. But his happiness was short-lived.  Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums.  Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938/

Bob struggled to give hope to his child for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a Christmas gift.  But if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined to make one--a storybook.

Bob had created animal characters in his own mind and told the animal's story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope.  Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it with each telling.  Who was the character?  What was the story about?

The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form.  The character he created was an outcast like he was.  The name of the character?  A little reindeer named Rudolph with a big, shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas day.

But the story doesn't end there.  The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the right to print the book.  Wards went on to print the book and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores.  By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  That same year a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book.  In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all the rights back to Bob.

The book became a best seller.  Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created for his daughter.

But the story doesn't end there.  Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation of Rudolph.  Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by Gene Autrey.  "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," was released in 1948 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of "White Christmas."  The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning to bless him again and again.  And Bob May learned the lesson, just like Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad.  In fact, being different can be a blessing.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

QuoXtes for the Week

Cat and Dogs

Dogs are high on life;
Cats need catnip.
                Mary Bly

Dogs will come when called;
Cats will take a message and get back to you.
                Missy Dizick

Dogs want only love,
But cats demand worship.
                 L.M. Montgomery

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Books of November

After I finished reading In a Different Key:  The History of Autism, I remembered reading an excerpt of this book many years ago and wondered if the son had actually been autistic.  He wasn't.  His behavior was very different from autism and he was eventually diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic.  Interesting read.

These two books were listed on the sidebar of the page about This Stranger, My Son.  I read Sybil when it first came out in the 70's and was fascinated, so I read it again.  If you don't remember it, it's the story of a woman badly abused in childhood who developed 16 alternate personalities.  Was the story true? 
Sybil Exposed says no.  After reading the expose of the doctor and author who made Sybil famous, I wondered if either story was true.  You can read them and decide for yourself.

A funny "keeping up with the Jonses, Indian style,"this book is set in Delhi and is the story of a lower middle class family who makes a fortune when the husband sells his website and their adjustment to life in an upper class neighborhood  I enjoyed it until the end when it just sort of petered out.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Gabriella's Birthday

My granddaughter Gabriella is nineteen today.  

On Thanksgiving morning 1998 we woke to learn that our daughter-in-law was in labor.  We dressed and hurried to the hospital.  In the weeks before, friends had asked if I planned to watch the delivery.  I said, "No way."  But on that Thanksgiving day I found myself walking into the delivery room.  I sat on the floor, thinking if I passed out, I wouldn't have far to fall.  

Several hours passed and the labor pains grew steadily closer together, then the pushing began...and with a whoosh, out came a dark-haired baby girl.  Gabriella, my first (and only) grandchild.  I'm so glad I got to see her birth.  It was a miracle to watch a new life emerge and take her first breath.

Ralph and I left and had a Thanksgiving lunch at Luby's.  It was gross.  I've never eaten there again.  I know some people love Luby's but I am definitely not a fan.

We returned to the hospital, and like a true early childhood speech pathologist I asked what her Apgar score was.  It was nine.  

Michael and his wife and Gabriella (Michael said she would never be called Gabby, but he was wrong) came back to our house where they lived for the first year of Gabriella's life while they were building their house.  I got to see her crawl for the first time, hear her first word--cat--not a surprise in our cat-loving household.  I watched her play with toys, interact with our family and grow.  One of her favorite things to do at our house was look at herself in the three-way mirror in the dressing room.

When they moved to their new home, I still shared many memories, some with her family, some with just me and Gabby.  I saw her first Halloween, her first steps, her delight at the butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural Science.  Some years later we adopted a butterfly cocoon and saw the butterfly emerge.  We went to the Children's Museum where Gabby had her face painted.  I remember dance recitals and birthday parties, making green eggs and ham with her (without the ham), watching together as her grandfather carved a jack o' lantern, going to the Nutcracker and the youth symphony, going for afternoon tea, taking her for her first pedicure, visiting the Museum of Natural Science to view and sniff Lois, the smelly flower, taking turns reading Junie B. Jones aloud, hearing about books she read in school, watching her become a teenager and last spring attending her high school graduation.  

I can hardly believe the years have passed and she's now a young lady of nineteen and a college freshman.  She misses her cat, who is living with me this year while she's in a dorm, but she's bought a pet--a fish she named Flounder.  The cat is hoping to meet (and maybe eat) Flounder during winter break.

On this last birthday of her teens I wish her joy.  She's brought me joy, too.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Books of October

I only read two books in October.  My excuse:  they were both very long.

Cora Seaborne is a recent widow who is delighted to be free of her abusive husband.  She is persuaded by friends to visit a village by the sea (This story takes place in England.)  There she finds a small town frightened by the idea that a huge sea serpent is coming to terrorize them.  We meet a huge cast of characters:  Frankie, Cora's son, who probably has Asperger's;
Martha, his nanny and Cora's companion; a doctor who is referred to as the Imp; the man he saves, the village pastor and his dying wife and their three children, and many other characters.  All of them are intertwined in some way and all have some sort of connection to the serpent.  Is there really a serpent?  You won't find out until the last pages.  Meanwhile, the book focuses on other themes:  housing for poverty-stricken Londoners, medical advances, fossils and other things.  I gave it a B.

I found this book fascinating.  I've worked with autistic children and I'm aware of some of the history covered in this book, but I loved the readable style, the clarity of the explanations, and although it's over 500 pages, I finished it in about 10 days.  It covers the era of institutionalizing children who were "different" and "difficult," the early identification of  children with autism, the struggles of parents to raise their children and to find appropriate education for them, the idea prevalent in the mid-20th century that autism was caused by "refrigerator mothers" who rejected their children, the activism by parent organizations, the different methods of working with autistic children, the changing of diagnostic criteria, the vaccine scare, the views of autistic adults, and more.  This is great reading for a lay person or a professional.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Houston Strong...and Joyful

Last year the Chicago Cubs broke a decades-old curse and won the World Series.  This year the Houston Astros won.  It couldn't have come at a better time.

Houston is still reeling from Hurricane Harvey, the worst flood in our history, that happened just over two months ago.  People are traumatized from losing homes, losing possessions, finding shelter, dealing with FEMA, worrying about the future.  The Astros brought a ray of sunshine into our rain-soaked lives.
They brought us together, gave us something everyone could talk about.  Orange and blue t-shirts and Astros caps were the fashion of the week.

When they beat the Red Sox, then the Yankees, then finished off the Dodgers in the seventh game of the World Series, it seemed like Destiny.  The 'Stros were comfortably ahead in that game, 5-0, but the tension in our Event Center where several dozen people sat glued to the television was overwhelming.  We muttered, "9 more outs," then "6 more outs," then "3 more outs" as the final three innings started.  The lady in the front row wiggled her fingers in a voodoo sign each time the Dodgers came to bat. When Jose Altuve snagged the final grounder and tossed it to Yuri Gurriel, the room erupted in cheers.  

In Houston at a watch party in Minute Maid Park, the crowd went crazy.

We watched the players, who seemed to relish every moment of every game, storm the field, World Champions at last.  Houston waited 56 years for that moment and finally it was here.  

On the field, they hoisted the championship trophy, Carlos Correa proposed to his girl friend, and George Springer, who set a record for home runs during a World Series, was named MVP.

On Friday the Houston Independent School District canceled 
classes so kids could attend the victory parade.  Nearly a million people crowded downtown Houston to cheer our heroes.  

We're back to everyday life now, but we won't forget those moments of triumph and joy, not ever.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Doing Without

Y'know that thing that sits on your shelf or maybe is attached to the wall?  You can turn it on with a little thingy in your hand and when you do, you see people playing sports or reading the news or saying things to make you laugh. Everything is in color. It's a modern technological wonder called a television.

I, of course, grew up without one.  Nobody had one.  We got our first television the spring of my senior year in high school.  We spent summer evenings watching wrestling from San Antonio with Gorry Guerrero--he was the good guy.  A lot of the time we just saw "snow."  Like other people, I got addicted to television and since then it's been part of my life.  I turn it on when I come home for lunch to see what's going on in the world.  I won't mention what channel I watch because I don't want to offend anyone.

During Hurricane Harvey our power went out here at Brazos Towers but only for a day.  The lights came on and so did the A/C but the phones, internet and television didn't.  Gradually the phone came back, then the internet, then email...but no TV.  Apparently the equipment was in the basement in one of our buildings and it was thoroughly flooded and had to be rebuilt from scratch somewhere in Ohio (a non-flooded state) and shipped here and then installed and programmed, etc.  

Meanwhile, I got used to checking the news on my cell phone, asking Siri for sports score (She said the Astros are predicted to win the World Series by 1.5 runs.  Not sure what .5 runs are, but she gave me hope.)  I spent a lot of time reading, which I do anyway.  Some people were able to get TV by hooking up rabbit ears, but I live on the wrong side of the building, out of the line of sight of the TV tower, so I went without.

Then last Friday our TV came back on, but each set had to be programmed because the channel numbers were 100 lower.  Last Saturday I got upstairs after the baseball game which most people were able to watch in our Event Center, and I decided to watch Saturday Night Live, but I couldn't find it.  NBC had not been included in our service.  So we had to wait some more days and get that programmed in and now we have regular TV.  I will be able to watch my favorite show, Flea Market Flip on Great American Country!

But guess what?  I've gotten so used to not having TV and it's so blissfully quiet here that I usually forget to turn it on.  It's just like being in high school again.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Quote for the Week

The Patience of Ordinary Things
by Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the teacup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottom of shoes
Or toes.  How soles of feet know
Where they're supposed to be.
I've been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs,
And what is more generous than a window?

I love this poem.  I hope you do, too.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

i Love New York

My sister and I spent 5 days in our favorite go-to place--New York City.  It's exciting to feel we're a part of the city as we walk down the street, hearing the honking of horns; seeing people bustling by, their eyes glued to their phones; inhaling the odors of foods of street vendors.  Houston has tall buildings,  but it's always a shock to look up at NYC buildings and realize why they're called skyscrapers. 

We found a breakfast place a few blocks from our hotel.  I asked for a cranberry muffin and it arrived cut in half and grilled!  The next day I ordered a plain one.  We ate dinner one evening at Latanzi, our favorite restaurant.  After a delicious meal we sat waiting for the check...and waiting and waiting.  Turned out our waiter had left for the evening.  (It was weird; we didn't leave a tip.)  We found several other restaurants that we'll probably go back to another time.  One evening we had dinner with our cousins from Connecticut--great fun.

We spent a morning at Gulliver's Gate, an exhibit with miniatures of cities all around the world.  They have a photo booth that scans your picture from all sides; then you can order a miniature of yourself.

We went to the top of the new World Trade Center, visited the Jewish Heritage Museum which is a Holocaust museum, went to the Museum of Modern Art and saw a fashion exhibit that had everything from the 1930's on, even a wonder bra, a wrap dress, all kinds of jeans, shoes and hats, maternity dresses and "little black dresses" through the years.  We strolled through St. Patrick's Cathedral across the street from our hotel.

Of course we went to Broadway shows:  Come from Away, a musical about people stranded in Newfoundland during 9/11; The Last Match, about a tennis match between a champion near the end of his career and a young Russian phenom; The Terms of My Surrender with Michael Moore, with a "liberal" dose of his views on the state of the country.

As usual, we played Scrabble.  I am currently $10 ahead (We play for $2 a game.)  My sister says we should start from zero every time we travel together, but I say this is a lifetime tournament and I'm ahead.

After a great trip I returned home and got nipped by my cat.  What a welcome!  Cats mouths are full of bacteria so by the next morning my hand was swollen and so painful I could hardly move it.  Bad kitty!  I got a tetanus shot and a dose of antibiotics and I'm better now, but I'm very cautious around the cat. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Quote for the Week: 5 Stories: Anonymous

Once all the villagers decided to pray for rain.
On the day of prayer all the people gathered,
but only one boy came with an umbrella.
That's FAITH

When you throw babies in the air,
they laugh because they know you will catch them.
That's TRUST

Every night we go to bed
without any assurance of being alive the next morning,
but still we set the alarms to wake us up.
That's HOPE

We see the world suffering, 
but we still get married and have children.
That's LOVE

On an old man's shirt was written a sentence:
"I am not 80 years old.
I am sweet 16 with 64 years of experience.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Books of August

A World War II story about three very different women--a New York socialite, a Nazi concentration camp doctor and a young Polish girl.  I enjoyed this book.  I read it during Hurricane Harvey when I had no phone, no TV and no internet and it kept me interested the whole way through.

Another World War II story, this one about Adele, whose famous portrait was painted by Klimpt, and her niece Maria and her experiences during the war and afterward.

No, this is not a war story.  It's about two sisters who vanish one night.  Several years later one returns with a strange story.  Will they find the other sister?  Do we care?  Not a lot, but it beat watching the bayou overflow.

Monday, September 11, 2017

I Understand

I see them everywhere:  in restaurants, elevators, the grocery store.  People scroll busily through their I Phones, even when they're talking to someone else in the real world or turning on their car ignition.  It's as if those devices were glued on and if you didn't turn them on the second you had time, they (or you) might explode.

Now, thanks to Hurricane Harvey, I understand.  

Although I live in a high-rise building and only the basement flooded, the power went out.  No electricity, no TV, no computer and, OMG, no phone. And for a few days, with most of Houston's streets under water, no newspaper. My I Phone became my outlet to the world.  Back in the day, before the storm, I used the phone to make occasional calls and as a camera, but over the last two weeks, besides calling friends, I read the news, the weather reports, listened to late night TV hosts' monologues, followed the Houston Astros and the U.S. Open tennis tournament.  At night I found music on youtube that lulled me to sleep.  I even had Siri tell me jokes--she knows a lot of them.

So I will no longer criticize people whose phones seem to be an extra appendage and who scroll through them as if their lives depended on it.  I get it now.  The I Phone was my lifeline and my fingers were just as busy as those people in elevators who walk out, still scrolling, when the elevator has reached their floor.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


On July 11, 1991 my husband and I stood among people on a on the steps surrounding the central plaza in the ruins of Monte Alban near Oaxaca, Mexico. We were part of a group trip sponsored by the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Hundreds of people in addition to our group lined the plaza.  Near us was a group with painted faces.  As the sky began to darken, the sound of drums added to the anticipation of what was to come.  We had donned special solar glasses so we could watch the moon move across the face of the sun until only the corona was visible.  The temperature dropped and the crowds quieted as darkness fell.  Only the sound of drums continued.  For two minutes we experienced our spiritual connection to the natural world...and then it was over.  The moon gradually moved away and the sun shone again.  That was one of the peak experiences of my life, one I will never forget.

On Monday during this year's eclipse my life was very different.  I could no longer share the partial eclipse we could view in Houston with my husband, who died nearly 12 years ago.  If he had been alive, we would have traveled again with the Museum of Natural Science and seen totality in Wyoming.  
So this time I saw a partial eclipse, but I was surrounded by friends, the fellow residents of my apartment and my dear friend Lynn who came to our eclipse party.  We sat on the patio, wearing our special glasses and gazing in wonder at the sky.  The clouds parted just in time. We watched the moon covering 2/3 of the sun and watched again as it moved away.  In between we feasted on an "eclipse cake." The sight was awe-inspiring and the cake was delicious.  

And by the way, a note from yesterday's Houston Chronicle eclipse article.  A woman whose children attend school in or near Dallas called the school district to complain about the eclipse.  "Monday's the first day of school.  Couldn't they have scheduled the eclipse on the weekend?"  Fake news, or did it really happen?  You decide.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Books of July

I have read all of Daniel's Silva's books and I look forwards to his latest, which usually comes out in July.  Then I devour it.  Gabriel Allon, art restorer, spy, assassin, is now the head of the Israeli secret service and I wondered what he could do from his office, but not to worry.  He is called (or calls himself) back into action to set up and elaborate plot to catch a bad guy who got away.

Curtis Dawkins, who has an MFA, is now serving a life sentence without parole for a murder committed when he was on drugs.  His stories about prison life are fictional but he knows the life well and bases them on his observations and experiences.  I give this book an A.  It introduces the reader to a world s/he has undoubtedly never known and never will.

I read this for my book club.  A child, of course wearing a red coat, goes missing.  We follow her life and that of her frantic mother.  Far-fetched but a quick read.
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Quotes for the Week: The Past

One faces the future with one's past.
                        Pearl Buck

You can live in the past, but there's no future in it.
                        Kalman Packouz

The past is really almost as much a work of the imagination as the future.
                         Jessamyn West

Each had his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart; and his friends could only read the title.
                        Virginia Woolf

Monday, August 14, 2017

Fun For Seniors: Part 2

Well, at last the pool has re-opened much to everyone's delight.  But of course nothing is simple here in Seniorland.  There has been quite a debate over the temperature of the water.  Some complain it is too hot, others say it's too cold.  So a survey was sent out in which people could vote on their preferred temperature so we could have it "just right."  No decision yet.  Perhaps they'll average the suggestions and no one will be satisfied.

The Lettuce Dilemma 
At the last Dining Forum someone remarked that the lettuce in our salad is cut into too small pieces.  "No," countered another resident, "the pieces are too large."  Will there be a change in the cutting routine so the lettuce is "just right."  Who are we--the Three Senior Bears?  

The Ice Cream Shortage
Last Monday at dinner someone at my table ordered vanilla ice cream.  Alas, the kitchen was out.  We were dumbfounded.  No vanilla?  How could that be?
On Wednesday at Candlelight Dinner, our monthly special meal, there was a delicious dessert, so everyone was happy and all is well (for now) at Brazos Towers.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Must Watch Video! 5 Minute Crafts

If you want to know how to separate egg yolks from whites, how to keep your bra straps from showing when you're wearing a sleeveless shell, how to get extra hanger space in your closet, how to refresh smelly shoes or even smelly jeans, how to preserve the color of apples once they are cut, how to fasten a bracelet you just can't get to hook together, how to button jeans that are a bit tight, or how to clean almost anything, take the time to click on the link below and watch 5 Minute Crafts.  You'll be sure to find a tip you never thought of using.

Monday, July 24, 2017

El Gato Cat Cottage

My friend Lynn and I, both cat lovers, visited Houston's first cat cafe last week.  Actually it isn't a cafe because they don't serve food or drinks, but it's a great place for cat fans to visit.  Located in a small yellow cottage at 506 Pecore Street in Houston's Heights area, it houses about 18 cats from the Humane Society, all of them up for adoption for only $25 at least until the end of this month; then it will be $50.  We found  two rooms where cats were snoozing in the sunshine or wandering around among the visitors.  One cat had climbed up to the ceiling high "bridge" and didn't seem interested in coming down.  Visitors can play with the cats--plenty of cat toys are available.  Cats that don't like to be picked up wear orange collars.  

After visiting with the cats, we stopped in the entryway to look at the cat-themed items for sale--t-shirts, bags, stuffed cats, color-coded litter that indicates if a cat is sick (really!) and even some cat-decorated shoes.  I bought a blue stuffed cat to go in my blue bedroom.  When I showed it to my cat Cassie, she was terrified and immediately backed away.  She's gotten braver now and will sniff at it but clearly doesn't approve of its presence in her territory.

Besides just visiting the cats, you can check the schedules for times to view cartoons with the kitties, do yoga with them or bring your knitting--I'm sure they love the yarn.

I'm not in the market for another cat right now.  Being a loving grandmother and a sucker for cats, I'm keeping my granddaughter's cat while she spends her freshman year living on campus at Texas State.  When the new cat has come for a visit, Cassie hides under the bed, but I'm sure they'll learn to get along eventually.

If you happen to be looking for a cat to adopt or if you just enjoy interacting with cats, you can reserve a spot to visit El Gato.  Call 832 966 3006 or google their website to reserve online.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Books of June

In June I had two attacks of bronchitis so I didn't have much to do except read in bed.  Here are my June books:
I suggested this for my book club after reading positive reviews about its story of the immigrant experience.  What a disappointment.  Amazon listed it as one of the best books of the year so far, but I found it boring.  A young couple from an unnamed Middle Eastern country escape their war-torn city through a magic door.  I didn't care for the characters because I never really got to know them other than superficially, and the door (and additional doors) made the story boring for me.
About Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe and their famous rivalry as well as anecdotes about other tennis stars of the Borg-McEnroe era.  Intreresting read if you like tennis, and I do.

Until Roger Federer came along, John McEnroe was my favorite tennis player, and I enjoyed his previous book, You Cannot Be Serious, but this one was a disappointment.  Not well written and not much substance.

On her sixteenth birthday, Teva "hatches" from the body of her fifteen-year-old self and assumes Fifteen's life.  Her house, locked away from the rest of the world, is filled with former versions of herself, younger and younger.  In a year, a new clone of herself will break out, but Teva vows not to let that happen.  Why all these clones?  Why won't her mother explain?  What happened to Teva's father?  Interesting premise.

This is a true storey aboiut Lonnie Sue Johnson whose memory was completely wiped away due to a severe attack of encephalitis.  We learn about her previous life as an artist, pilot, musecian and about how she copes with a life without a past and her case has contributed to medical science.

Very different from Emma Donahue's book Room, this is the light-hearted story of a non-traditional family coping with the addition to the family circle of their grandfather.

Yes, we've had actors as governors and as president but a comedian as a senator?  From Saturday Night Live?  Surprisingly, I learned a lot about how the Senate works and gained some respect for Senator Franken.  Interesting read, currently on the NY Times best seller list.

Sunday, June 18, 2017


I've never been a fan of Anthony Bordain's Parts Unknown series.  The food he raves about sounds barely edible, so I rarely watch.  But when I saw trailers of his trip to Antarctica, I knew I would tune in.  I wondered what he would eat there because for sure there are no restaurants in Antarctica.  So what would it be--penguin sandwiches< seal steak?  I couldn't wait to find out.

He visited most of the bases there and I learned that fresh food was flown in.  Pretty good but nothing as exotic as Bordain's usual fare.  He visited the actual pole--exciting.

For years, visiting Antarctica was #1 on my bucket list.  The far away icy land appealed to me, and for years I suggested to my husband that we do an Antarctic cruise, and for years he would reply, "Next year."  Finally, in 2001 I insisted it was now or never.  So we scheduled a trip on the Marco Polo for January 2002.  I was super-elated.

We bought ski masks, heavy gloves, silk underwear, thick socks.  I borrowed a pair of boots from a cousin.  We bought wrist bands with vibrators to ward off seasickness.  I read the travel book from cover to cover.  Finally we were on our way.

We met our group in Miami, all of us crowding into a conference room.  Most of the people seemed friendly and interesting.  Everyone but one lady expressed their excitement about the cruise.  She said, with a mixture of boredom and condescension , "This will be my seventh continent."  If we were supposed to be impressed, I wasn't.

We flew to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world.  We strolled along the oceanfront and came upon a store selling every kind of fudge you can imagine.  I don't eat chocolate--it triggers migraine--but I could certainly enjoy the chocolate smell.

On our ship we did the usual lifeboat drill, unpacked, ate dinner and headed out to sea.  Each day there were lectures about history, sea birds, penguins, science--all very interesting.  The ship gave out thick orange parkas.  Mine was too big but we eventually got that straightened out.  On deck we watched albatross flying above us.  They are huge.

Our first landing, on Deception Island, was cancelled because of high winds but our second, not a landing but a Zodiac cruise, at Courverville, was great fun.  We watched the gentoo penguins--adorable but smelly.  We saw them stretching their necks, expanding their chests like bellows  and squealing when they were excited or maybe just showing off for the tourists, watched them slide into the water.  Icebergs were all around.  It felt like another world.

That night several British scientists from Port Lockery told about their primitive living conditions.  The next day at Paradise Bay we saw more penguins, glaciers, icebergs (some at least 100,000 years old)  We saw a Weddell seal sleeping on shore.  Later, back on board, we passed a large whale.
At Half Moon Bay we saw chinstrap penguins--sooo cute but also quite smelly.  That was our final landing, and soon the ship was heading north across the Drake Passage.  The trip south was pleasant but the return was miserable.  The ship rocked constantly and you felt as if something was pressing down on your head.  Once we rounded Cape Horn, the water was smooth again.  What a relief.

In Ushuaia we visited the park where we saw the end of the Pan American Highway.  Soon we were on our way back home.  That was one of the most memorable trips of my life.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Books of May

Written by the author of The Emperor of All Maladies, a book about cancer, this book is about the history of our knowledge of genes, beginning with Mendel's pea plants and continuing through the successful mapping of the human genome.  It's very long, but it reads like an adventure story and is well worth the reader's time.

Not long after the publication of her successful book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg's husband died suddenly.  She said, with no more Option A, she was left with Option B, and her book takes us through her grieving process.  As  a long-time widow, I was interested in adding this to my collection of how-to-survive-widowhood books.  It was interesting but it didn't tell me much I didn't already know.  Okay for a new widow but not so much for someone like me, who's been around the block.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

quote for the week

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.
                              Annie Dillard

Monday, May 29, 2017

Who Am I? Guest blogger, Paula Kelman

Paula Kelman is studying to be a yoga teacher with two amazing mentors, Richard Boustany and Sharon Kapp.

Paula is a graphic designer, mother to two amazing children, daughter Anat and son Avi, and grandmother to two precious granddaughters, Noa and Ella.  She lives in Houston, Texas, surrounded by art and wonderful memories and close enough to the grandkids to see them very often!  She no longer runs half marathons or does cross fit because yoga and meditating are better for you.

Her husband, Uri Kelman, passed away May 25, 2015.

Here is Paula's answer to Who Am I?

I am FEARLESS, because the worst thing that I could possibly accept into my life, the loss of my precious husband, has already happened, and I did not break or die.

I am FREE of sadness, only filled with gratitude and memory.

I am CREATING my new self and creating who that person is by releasing practices that no longer serve my higher health, spiritual development and physical preservation of the body.

I ENJOY companionship, including the intimate sexual kind, but I am not interested in sacrificing myself to have a man in my bed.  That may be the biggest part of letting go.

I am creating Moments and Memories and Love, not attachments and possessions.

I am part of the One whole, part of the universe but I can stand on my own.

My thanks to Paula for this inspiring piece.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Quotes for the Week: About Birthdays

Today is my xx birthday.  Enjoy these birthday quotes:

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lillie's Loan by Toby Myers

I'm delighted to have Toby Myers' guest blog this week.  I know you'll enjoy this poignant essay she wrote about her mother.  I loved it when I first heard it and asked if she'd share it here.

Lillie's Loan
Having lived through the depression, many, including my mother Lillie viewed buying anything but a house on credit as a diabolical scheme contrived to put the borrower on a squirrel cage of never-ending indenture. She had to choose the early matriculating high school diploma reserved for those going right to work rather than pursuing further education.  She got the message loud and clear that education was the ticket out of the ghetto albeit reserved for males.  She and her sister, vaccinated with that needle, left school to contribute to their brother's medical school expenses.  Lillie worked hard all of her life.  She was a working mother when, rather than admired and supported, was looked down on because of the aspersions a working wife cast on main breadwinner competency.  She became an incomparable saleswoman.  She worked with my father in his men's clothing store though most of her pre-marital work had been in women's clothes.  An oft repeated legend about her was when a customer took a liking to a too-small-for-him suit in the store, Lillie told him she was not going to sell him that suit unless he made a solemn promise to lose weight.  He put the suit in layaway.  When he finished paying for it, he had lost enough weight to wear it; both fit and looked well.  He related the story whenever he wore his all-time favorite suit.

When my father died suddenly, Lillie was in her 50's and living in Amarillo with no family anywhere near.  Both my sister and I were in Houston.  At our urging, she moved to be closer to us.  Very quickly she landed a job at The Barclay Apartments at Kirby and Bellefontaine as one of their building managers.  She was then very near my Old Braeswood home.  With the job came a free apartment.  Abruptly, some years later, the owners decided no longer to have "mature" women managers, but couples were the way to go.  The rationale was that the man of the couple could help with light maintenance and it would still be only one apartment needed.  The unpaired women managers were let go.  For Lillie this was both hard and humiliating.  Never before had she been let go from a job.  For the first time in her life, she took government money in the form of unemployment.  She had to check in with the Texas Employment Commission regularly to verify her job seeking activities.  On one particular morning, fully dressed for an interview with Foley's in Sharpstown, she stopped by her friend Rose's apartment.  She told Rose she would be back very soon so to put the coffee on in about an hour.  No one, thought Lillie, is going to hire someone over sixty.  She could not have been more wrong.  When the interviewers at Foley's met with her, learned of her experience, and saw how she conducted herself, they were so impressed that she was hired on the spot and did not leave the store but went immediately to work.  Lillie had to call Rose to cancel the coffee and their visit.  She worked from then on in the couture women's clothing department called the Signature Shop.  Her best and most well-known customer was Miss Ima Hogg, who would allow no one but my mother to help her.

Lillie worried about having enough money to live on in retirement.  After my father's death, she received his modest, even for those days, life insurance policy benefit.  Her goal was to live abstemiously, except for getting her hair and nails done, to see if she could grow $30,000 to $100,000,  She figured she could sustain herself with that amount.  By 1984 when she turned 75, she was close.  Interest rates were then, right before the Savings and Loan debacle, inordinately high at 12% per annum which meant on $100,000 the earnings from a jumbo CD would be $1000 a month.  With $1000 a month, her Social Security benefits, and her long practice of frugality, Lillie would be able to retire and be comfortable.

On a typical evening in June, Bob and I were home watching television.  The phone rang and it was my mother Lillie.  I answered.  Inevitably, the conversation turned to how close Lillie was to her goal.  She was now only $2500 shy.  I came up with the idea of her borrowing the $2500 from the savings and loan and then applying it to the $97,500 she had and purchasing the jumbo CD.  Pleased and encouraged by the idea, Lillie would attempt it on her day off.  The evening of her day off, she called.  I could tell by her voice things had not gone well.  Crushed and dejected, she related the savings and loan rejected the plan.  Her disappointment was palpable.  My heart broke for her.  I hurriedly excused myself telling her I needed to go and would call her back in a few minutes.  I did not have that kind of money available.  However Bob always kept surplus cash in his account.  I looked at him and then asked if he had $2500 in his account that I needed immediately, and could I have it for several months.  Dear, wonderful, supportive Bob, without even a questions as to what it was for, he told me he did and I could.  He wrote a check then and there.  I called my mom back and told her I would loan her the money.  Had I told her it was Bob's money, she would not have taken it.  "I am coming right over with the check," I said.  On the way to her place, I deposited his check in the night depository to my account.  When I got to her house, I wrote her a check.  That was around the end of April 1984.  She agreed to repay the loan with the $1000 interest she would get in June and again in July and the last $500 when she got the interest for August.  August was the first month that she would have any of the interest for herself and the debt would be repaid.  Lillie paid the last of the $2500 off early in August.  Her having achieved her goal was a celebratory time.  No longer was she so agitated about retirement and the future.  Bob and I both took great comfort in having helped her realize something that meant so much to her; moreover, it had been pretty easy from our end.

On August 30th, she made dinner, did up the kitchen, and lay down for a rest.  I tried calling her about six in the evening and did not get an answer.  I did not give it too much thought, thinking that it was day off and she probably visiting with one of the neighbors.  Bob and I went to Target to pick up something. There we saw Hakeem Olajuwon. Still no answer.  I called my sister and she too mentioned that she had not heard from nor been able to reach our mother.  We decided to meet at her apartment to see that everything was all right.  While waiting for my sister, Susan, to arrive, I went to my mother's car and felt the hood to see if it was warm.  Maybe she had just come back from being out and now was in the bathroom not able to hear or answer my ring.  The hood was cold.  When Susan got there, we went in to our mom's spotless condo and found that she lay down after dinner and died.  Ever the ideal employee, Lillie conveniently died on her day off.  She looked very peaceful in her bed, above which hung our pictures and our college diplomas that meant so much to her. Susan and I sought and found consolation knowing that our mother died having achieved her important goal and died debt free.  Yet we were sad, knowing how hard she worked and had not gotten to enjoy retirement the way we had hoped she would.  But as we have all hear, it is not the destination but the journey, and maybe the journey was enough.  At least, we like to think so.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Quote for the Week: On Change

None of us knows what the next change is going to be,
What unexpected opportunity is just around the corner,
Waiting to change all the tenor of our lives.
         Kathleen Thompson Norris

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Book of April

I can't believe I'm only reviewing one book for April.  Actually, I've been reading three, but two are so long, it's mid-May and I'm not finished with them.
As current as today's headlines, this is the story of a young African-American girl who is driving home from a party with a friend when they are stopped by the police.  When the young man gets out of the car, the officer shoots him.  What happens afterward is the theme of this book. A great read for young adults and grown-ups, too.

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