Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Quote for the Week

The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.
                             Peter Drucker

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Fun for Seniors

For the past year I've lived in a high rise for independent seniors.  The place is full of interesting, active people, most retired but some, like me, un-retired.  There are many activities to enjoy, but because I still work, I miss some of those that occur during the morning or early afternoon, like the kitchen tour or a trip to the outskirts of Houston  see bluebonnets.  But there is still fun to be had.
On Saturday afternoons I play canasta.  I'd totally forgotten the game, not having played since junior high when my friend Lois and I would spend afternoons playing canasta and listening to country music (then known as hillbilly music.)  I was surprised to find out how much fun it is to play, even when you lose.

And then there's Saturday night bingo, a typical senior pastime.  Ours isn't a high stakes game; it's $1.25 a card.  But over the past year I've won about $50.  I'm saving up and maybe by the time I'm really really old, I can buy myself something wonderful.

Some Wednesday evenings I play Scrabble.  Once my friend and I ended up with the exact same scores...very unusual.  It's good practice for me because when my sister and I get together, we  play Scrabble for MONEY.  ($2 a game...we"re big spenders.)

One of our neighbors has a huge collection of DVD's and he show operas and concerts, and then on Friday  nights we have movies.  Exciting news!  They (whoever "they" are) have decided we can watch R rated movies.  Previously they were banned.  Perhaps we aren't old enough, perhaps such movies would elevate our blood pressure and "they" couldn't take the chance.  Anyway, we're delighted to have access to "those kinds" of hot, or even warm, films.

Something gossip-worthy is always happening.  For instance, the pool.  It opened ten months behind schedule and we had a few months to enjoy it.  Now there's a leak and it's closed until...whenever.

Last week a tree root caused a broken pipe and the dining room flooded.  Not to worry, because we have a nice cafe called The Bistro and the kitchen staff and the wait staff handled  the emergency beautifully and everyone kind of enjoyed eating in a different place for a couple of days.
Note:  The above picture is an exaggeration.  I couldn't find an appropriate picture of a large dining room with soaked carpet.

Once a month we have a Dining Forum and a Round Table.  Both are quite entertaining as they give residents an opportunity to ask questions of the staff and, most of all. to voice complaints about the food, the service, the G rated movies, the...whatever.

Last month most of the complaints were about  what became known as
Avocado-gate.  The high price of avocados has resulted in an additional $1.00 charge if you request avocados on your salad.  You can imagine the furor this caused because we pay a lot of money anyway to live here.  All the fuss was to no avail.  There will still be an extra charge for avocados.  Some people suggested we buy our own and bring them to dinner and even offer them for sale for 50 cents or we could plant avocado bushes in the garden.  No use..  (I am on a no-avocado diet for the foreseeable future.)
You can see it's all, or mostly, fun and games here.  I enjoy my new surroundings and I wouldn't want to go back to living in a house, not ever.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Quote for the Week

Mourners' Kaddish
(The Kaddish is the mourning prayer spoken  at the end of services by those who have lost a loved one.  The prayer is in Hebrew.  This poem is one person's feelings just before she says the prayer.)

New beginnings bring to mind
old and recent endings.
I owe much to the past
and to those who embodied it.
Parents and grandparents,
children and siblings,
teachers and shapers,
friends and loved ones--
all these, living and dead,
add their touch to the person I have become.
To the living, I turn in gratitude and love,
extending my arms in friendship,
offering them renewed love.
To the dead, I turn in memory, 
affirming their lives with the fullness of my own.
In the midst of doubt and hope,
at once alone and in community,
I seek the courage to bear
the fearsome burden of the Unknown
with dignity and grace.  
In honor of those who went before me,
I rise to affirm the eternal cycle of
birth and death with this Kaddish.

I don't know who the author of this beautiful poem is.  The poem was shared with my widows' group by our wonderful leader, Gayle Kamen Weinstein.  Not sure where she found it, but it touched all our hearts.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

My Day in the Friendly Skies

Last summer I flew to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for a reading and book signing for Shifts, an anthology I had contributed to. Then I visited my Zirkelbach family in Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois.  I flew United.  Because my carry-on was filled with books and heavy even to wheel through the airport, I ordered a wheelchair.

The wheelchair attendant wheeled me up to the gate.  The tall,  balding man stationed there refused to take my boarding pass.  (He looked sort of like a prison guard.)  "Can you lift that suitcase up to the overhead bin?" he said.

"No," I answered--I'm so truthful, "but I can get someone to help me."

"No," he said, "our employees are not allowed to do that."

"No problem," I answered.  "I'll just get another passenger to help?"

"Then you'd be relying on the kindness of other customers." he said, not just looking like a prison guard but sounding like one as well.  "You'll have to check it."

"Sir," I argued.  "I have never ever lifted my bag by myself."
That was also the truth.  I just stand, staring up at the overhead bin and looking helpless, and if some kind customer doesn't offer to help, I just ask.  But maybe customers from Houston to Cedar Rapids aren't kind.  I hadn't thought of that.

"Check it," he ordered and grabbed it from the luggage rack behind the wheelchair.  I don't have his picture but this is how he looked.
When I got on the plane, I realized the baggie with my medication was in my suitcase so I told the flight attendant I needed it back.  "It's already on board," she said.

"But I need it."

She said she'd send someone back to see if they could get it.  I sat down and waited...and waited.  I went back to the front and asked for the status of my meds.  "I don't know."

"But the lady said she'd come back and tell me."

Exasperated, the attendant said, "I'll call her.  Go sit down."

I returned to my seat but stood up and glared at the attendant as I waited some more.  She glared back.  Finally, just before take-off, my medication bag arrived.

Lucky they hadn't thrown me off the plane and sent my suitcase off to wherever.  You have to be careful on United.

On the way home I chose not to get a wheelchair.  I walked onto the plane and the United flight attendant said, "May I help you put that bag in the overhead bin?" 

"Sure," I said.  "Thanks."  I guess she didn't know the United rules.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Quotes for the Week: Passover and Easter

Passover affirms the great truth that liberty is the inalienable right of every human being.
                                     Morris Joseph

Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal and new life.
                       Janine di Giovanni

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Kedi: The Cats of Istanbul

Whether you're a cat lover or just on the fence, be sure to see Kedi, a wonderful movie about the street cats of Istanbul.
You may not fall in love with them, but you'll respect these ingenious animals who interact with humans but prefer the freedom of the streets.
You'll see a mother cat beg for morsels at an outdoor cafe and then bring them home to her kittens.
You'll see a cat who earns his keep as a mouser (or rather a ratter).  You'll see two females squabbling over a male.  
And you'll experience the joy and comfort these animals bring to the humans around them.

Here's a summary from Rotten Tomatoes:
"Kedi is not a documentary about house cats or the strays you occasionally see in your back yard.  Kedi is a film about the hundreds of thousands of cats who have roamed the metropolis of Istanbul freely for thousands of years, wandering in and out of people's lives, impacting them in ways only an animal who lives between the world of the wild and the tame can. Cats and their kittens bring joy and purpose to those they choose, giving people an opportunity to reflect on life and their place in it.  In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to ourselves.  "Cats--tabbies, calicos, angoras, Norwegian forest cats, ginger cats, grey cats, black cats, white cats, black and white cats--all kinds of cats roam the city, free, without a human master. Some fend for themselves, scavenging from dumpsters, living in abandoned buildings; others are cared for by communities of people, pampered with the best cat food and given shelter for the cold months.  Cats have been part of the city for thousands of years and so everyone who grows up in Istanbul or lives in Istanbul has a story about a cat. Stories that are memorable, sometimes scary, sometimes spiritual but always very personal.  Street cats are such a big part of the culture that when U.S. President Barack Obama visited Istanbul, part of the tour included a stop at the Hagia Sophia to visit its famous cat, Gil.  Cats are as integral to the identity of Istanbul as its monuments, the Bosporus, tea, raki and fish restaurants."

Rotten Tomatoes gives Kedi a 97% fresh rating.  Peter Keough of the Boston Globe says, "This film lasts only 80 minutes but I could have watched a version three times as long."

My rating:  100%

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Books of March

Since this has been on the best seller list for some time and since I love Greek mythology, I decided to add to my mythological knowledge by reading about Norse mythology.  Didn't like it.  Compared to the Greek gods, the Norse are second best--maybe third best.  You might enjoy the book, but I didn't.

Back to Greek mythology, this is the story of Theseus, one of the legendary Greek heroes, the guy who killed the Minotaur.  An enjoyable book.

Humorous...and sometimes nasty take on the recent election.  Hillary supporter?  Trump supporter?  Doesn't matter.  The author is an equal opportunity, bipartisan critic.
A family embroiled in the world of competitive gymnastics. . Right before national trial the boyfriend of one of the assistant coaches is killed in a hit and run accident...or was it an accident?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Quote for the Week

It wouldn't be March without a basketball quote.  I think this one is attributed to Michael Jordan:

Sunday, March 26, 2017

March Memories

"April is the cruelest month," T.S. Elliot wrote.  He compared the sweet scents and sights of spring with the darkness of loneliness and despair.  

For me, March is the cruelest month of the year.  It's spring in Texas and the fields are filled with bluebonnets, azaleas paint the city in rose and pink and violet...and yet, spring beauty mingles with darkness.

My father died in March.  It was my first loss of someone close to me.  In my childhood I was "Daddy's girl," and I grieved his passing both for the child I had been and the adult I was when he died.  He loved me in spite of my faults and he taught me to be who I am today.

My husband's birthday was March 1.  He was born in a leap year and he always teased that his birthday was really February 29, but his mother insisted he was born just after midnight, so he was truly a March baby. His birthdays were times of celebration...until the last one in March 2005.  Battling leukemia and waiting for a stem cell transplant scheduled the following week, he was tired and wan and we somehow knew that for him, March would not come again.

March 29 is a day I can't forget.  Nineteen years old, a junior at the University of Texas living in the sorority house, I stood before an open window and a gust blew my dress into the gas heater behind me.  Even as I fled screaming into the hall as the fire crackled around me, I knew not to run, but I couldn't stop. 
A heroic girl who lived down the hall saved my life by throwing me to the floor and rolling me in a bedspread, but that was only the beginning.  I endured pain and skin grafts the closeness of death for three months.

The March days were dark, but I learned the value of faith and of resilience and from each tragedy I learned that life goes on and I am stronger than I thought.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Quotes for the Week: Spring

Yesterday was the first day of spring.  Of course, here in Houston we've had spring all winter.  Nevertheless...

"Spring has returned.  The earth is like a child that knows poems."

"The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day He created spring."

"Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment."

Monday, March 20, 2017


Just in case you've been glued to the TV following this story...

Tom Brady's Super Bowl jersey was recovered in Mexico, apparently in the possession of a certified international member of the media.

Sigh of relief!

Sunday, March 19, 2017


The last time I went to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was in 2004.  By this you can tell that I'm not much of a rodeo fan.  But this year my daughter was on a rodeo committee (She had won the Houston Livestock scholarship when she was in vet school and wanted to give back.)  As a committee member she could go to the livestock show and any or all of the rodeo performances free and sit in any empty seat unless someone claimed it.  She could also bring one guest each time she went, so when she asked me if I wanted to go, I thought, "Why not?" Besides, Willie Nelson, my favorite country singer, was performing yesterday so that was another enticement.

Yesterday was not quite what we planned, but it was certainly an adventure.  We decided to take the Metro bus because it would let us off closer to NRG stadium that any other way we could go.  Still a long way, and since I've always been a slow walker (not just in recent years but always)  Lori suggested we rent a wheelchair for me.  It was $25 but we were getting in for free, so why not?  Lori had to leave her driver's license, which made her a little nervous, but not too much.

Riding in the wheelchair was great.  We zoomed across the crowded parking area, the only problem being that, as a novice wheelchair navigator, Lori sometimes couldn't judge how far behind people we were and a couple of times we nicked someone's heel.  

We went to the livestock show first. The bunny area was too crowded so, unfortunately, we missed them but we saw other animals, then bought barbecue for lunch.  People always say you get the best barbecue at the rodeo, but this was awful.  I took a couple of bites and Lori ate some more of it.  Not being true rodeo foodies, we didn't get any of the fried desserts--ice cream, Twinkies, oreos,  pecan pies--yuck.  Who needs batter on all these goodies even if it is standard for rodeo goers.

We went through the shopping area and I was sorely tempted to buy a bracelet at the booth that sells jewelry made of broken china, but it cost $200 and was a little big large for my small wrists so I passed it up.  

Then we walked over to the stadium.  That's when it all went wrong.  The wheelchair couldn't go through the regular gates so we were directed to a service elevator, where a lot of other people were waiting.  We decided to go to the first floor because that would have the best view.  They wouldn't let us in.  Well, not us but me.  She could sit anywhere but I couldn't go into the wheelchair section because I didn't have a ticket, even though I was her guest. I really don't need a wheelchair so we could have abandoned it, but what about Lori's driver's licnese?  We couldn't take a chance.  We tried several entrances, we tried guest services, but there was no where to check the chair and no way for me to get a ticket since the performance was sold out.  We decided to try one more floor and  then go home.

We were in line for an elevator, and as the almost full one was about to close, a woman came rushing by, yelling at the elevator guy, "Do you have room for one more?" She bumped into my chair as she charged by but she was too late for the elevtor.  When she apologized for bumping me, Lori noticed she was wearing a rodeo committee badge and told her our dilemma.  "Oh well," she said, "since I cut in line in front of you, just come with me and I'll take you somewhere you can see the rodeo."  Off we went to the third floor and the Corral Club, which is private, and she said, "You won't be able to sit in the stadium but you can watch the whole thing on the big screen."  She gave us her name and said, "If anyone asks you, just tell them you're my guests."  Great!

The rodeo had started but we got to see most of it--bronc riding, bull riding, calf scramble, wagon race and, most fun of all, mutton busting.  Children of about 5 or 6 years ride across the arena on the back of a sheep.  Of course, some fell off and one little girl cried for the rest of the event, but then they all smiled for the camera, showing missing teeth.

And then, of course, we got to see Willie.  He's getting up in years (I say that because he's older than I am)  and he's lost some range but his tone is still pure Willie. He sang songs I knew like On the Road Again (of course) and Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain.  It was a great show.

We zipped back to the rental place, Lori got her license back, and we didn't have to stand in line very long for the bus.   It was a great day, and oh yes, Lori even brought a bandana for me to wear.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Quote for the Week

Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.
                          Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Books of January and February

What if the company you work for is taking over the world?  A Googlesque company is doing just that in Dave Eggers' book.  B+

This has been at the top of the Times best seller list for months.  The Yale graduate explains the lives of Kentucky and Ohio hillbillies through his own family.  A-

I love listening to John McWhorter's lectures for Great Courses.  This book uses a lot of maertial from them to explain the evolution of language over the centuries.  Fascinating...if you're interested in the history of language as I am.  A-

A fun, Downton Abbey type of book.  A-

A typical Jodi Picoult book built around an issue and a trial--African-American nurse taken off the care of the baby of a white supremacist is charged with murder when the infant dies.  A-

Is the young woman who appears at their door really their long-lost daughter who was kidnapped years ago?  B

A middle-aged woman prone to sleepwalking disappears.  We read to find out if she died by accident, suicide or perhaps murder.  B

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Oscars versus the Super Bowl

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The Super Bowl and the Oscars, the two biggest television events of the year--bigger than the World Series final game, apparently bigger than Election Night viewing.  So which one wins?
Viewership:  Definitely the Super Bowl
Commercials:  Again, the Super Bowl
Fashion:  Definitely the Oscars
Close-ups of celebrities:  Again, the Oscars
Hype:  Probably a tie

A football fan all my life, I love the Super Bowl.  The tension is higher because you never know who's going to walk off with the Lombardi trophy.  Who thought, after the first half, that the Patriots would stage the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.  Oh, the drama.

These days there are so many pre-Oscar award shows that some of the excitement is missing because you sort of know ahead of time who will probably win.  Of course, we can still focus on whether Jimmie Kimmel will out-host Jimmy Fallon, host of the Golden Globes, whose teleprompter didn't work.  Will there be more political speeches or will we just hear a list of thank-you's?  Will Trump tweet during the show or will he wait until tomorrow morning?  Who will be best and worst dressed?
(Football players are all dressed alike except for color--boring.)

To tell the truth, I love both events, so I'm looking forward to tonight as much as I looked forward to the Super Bowl earlier this month.

Note from the trail:  As far as I know, Tom Brady's jersey is still missing.  Approximate value of this piece of Patriot history:  $500,000.
Keep looking, Texas Rangers!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Quotes for the Week: Bookstores

"Alas!  When is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?"
                         Henry Ward Beecher

"When I visit a new bookstore, I demand cleanliness, computer monitors and rigorous alphabetization.  When I visit a second-hand bookstore, I prefer indifferent housekeeping, sleeping cats and sufficient organizational chaos to fuel my fantasies."
                          Anne Fadiman

"There is nothing like the smell of a bookstore.  If you ask me, it's actually a combination of smells:  part library, part new-book smell and part expectation for what you might find."
                           Kathryn Fitzmaurice

"Even an ice cream parlor--a definite advantage--the sorrow I feel for a town lacking a bookstore."
                          Natalie Goldberg

"I love bookstores.  A bookstore is one of the only pieces of physical evidence we have that people are still thinking."
                          Jerry Seinfeld

Monday, February 6, 2017

Super Bowl LI

I love football.  I grew up in Austin, Texas so I guess it's genetic. I love football on any Sunday but especially on Super Sunday. All the hype, the introduction of the players, the National Anthem--it's an American tradition and I love to watch the game.  Of course, this year was special because the game was in Houston.  The city had been getting ready for, it seems like a century.  Everything was spruced up and set to go.

The temporary building that holds 9,000 people was ready for Taylor Swift's performance.  Oh, excuse me--not quite ready.  They didn't have an occupancy permit for the building until Wednesday night.  Imagine if they'd had to cancel the show.

I loved seeing the joy on George H.W. Bush's face when he was wheeled onto the field to do the coin toss.  Barbara was on the field, too, and looked equally happy.  You know the Bushes love football.  He was barely out of the hospital, but he was determined to be there for the game.
Of course the Patriots won even though they were 25 points down at the half.  I thought it was time for a new team to win and was rooting for Atlanta, but, alas, Tom Brady was his usual self and the Patriots won in overtime.  Maybe next year, Falcon fans.

Lady Gaga was amazing.  Who else can move like that?  The halftime show was one of the best I've seen.  Of course, Houston's last Super Bowl featured Janet Jackson and her wardrobe malfunction, so I guess in its own way it was more memorable.

And who doesn't love the commercials?  My favorites were Coca Cola and the secret society of avocado lovers.

Added note:  Someone stole Tom Brady's game shirt.  The Houston police are investigating, but Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has also sent out the Texas Rangers.  Be very afraid, Jersey Thief.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Quotes for the Week

The quotes below are from the book Metaphors Be With You, which contains quotes on 250 different subjects from A-Z. These are about computers.  (Sorry, nothing about IPads.)

A computer terminal is not some clunky old television with a typewriter in front of it.  It is an interface where the mind and body can connect with the universe and move bits of it about
                           Douglas Adams

What a computer is to me is the most remarkable tool that we have ever come up with.  It's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.
                           Steve Jobs

The PC is the LSD of the Nineties.
                           Timothy Leary

With the internet, a computer is a door rather than a box.
                           Clay Shirky

Terrified of being alone, yet afraid of intimacy, we experience
widespread feelings of emptiness, of disconnection, of the unreality of self.  And here the computer, a companion without emotional demands offers a compromise.  You can be a loner but never alone.
                           Sherry Turkle

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Books of December

The Art of Rivalry focuses on four pairs of artists, their relationships, their rivalries, their influence on one another.  Very interesting.  I especially enjoyed the chapter on DeKooning and Pollock.

This book was recommended in a column in the Houston Chronicle of recent great books to read, so I read it, so I read it.  Great?  More like bizarre.  I recommended it to my book club, so I'll see what they think later today.  For now...waste of time.

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