Sunday, April 30, 2017

Just Elliot

Just Elliot written by Sue Baer and illustrated by  Pamela Barcita is a book that should be read in every elementary school classroom.  It will open children's eyes and teachers' as well into the world of a child with an autism spectrum disorder.  As a speech pathologist I've worked with many youngsters with this diagnosis and I don't think I've ever read one from a six-year-old's perspective.  Follow Elliot from his first day of school to the day he and his classmates accept him for who he is.
My friend's grandson, now a college student, was the inspiration for this heartwarming and superbly illustrated story.  And note:  The forward is by Temple Grandin, known world over as a spokesperson for those on the spectrum as she is herself. Five stars!

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?


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