Monday, November 12, 2018

Books of October

Alas, in October I only read one book, but it was long.
Plantagenets.  I love English history and this one started with the heirs of William the Conqueror and finished with Richard II.  If you love the history of medieval England, this is a great book for you.  If not, never mind.  Wait for the books of November!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Shabbat Service, Friday November 2, 2018


Friday night at my synagogue eleven empty chairs stood in front of the ark where the Torahs are kept.  Each chair had a prayer shawl spread across it and a candle in front of it.  We stood to say the mourners' prayer in memory of those who were killed in the awful masacre in Pittsburgh. And then we sang We Remember Them, which the cantor had set to music.  Usually part of the service on the Day of Atonement, it seemed fitting for this night.  

We Remember Them

In the rising of the sun and at its going down,
We remember them, we remember them.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter
We will remember them, we will remember them.
In the opening buds, and in the rebirth of spring,
We remember them.
In the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer
We remember them.
In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn
We remember them, we remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends
We will remember them, we will remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength, 
We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart,
We will remember them.
When we have joy we yearn to share,
We remember them, we remember them.
As long as we live, they too shall live
For they are now a part of us
As we remember them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Quote for the Week

Happiness comes through doors you didn't even know you left open.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Winner of America's Favorite Novel Announced

After all the votes were counted, the 100 favorite books in order from 100 to #1 were announced Tuesday night and Yay! My favorite came in #1.  Here, in order are the top 10:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird

2. Outlander (Wasn't sure how this was one of the top 5, but apparently there are Outlander fan clubs who are devoted to this book and probably voted every day.  Now I'll have to read it.

3. Harry Potter (I expected this to be #1 but it came close.)

4. Pride and Prejudice 

5. Lord of the Rings

6. Gone with the Wind

7. Charlotte's Web

8. Little Women (Hasn't every girl in America read it?)

9. Chronicles of Narnia

10. Jane Eyre

My predictions last week were pretty close!

Check out the entire list at the PBS website.  Happy reading!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Best American Read: My Guess for Favorite American Novel

I have been following the Best American Read all summer.  The finale is Tuesday night at 7:00 on PBS.  Here are my comments on some of the novels, my guess for the top choices and my prediction for #1.

The OMG, NO! book
Fifty Shades of Gray--my choice for the #1 worst book

Some that I Guess Won't be in the Top 10
Crime and Punishment--too Russian
War and Peace--too long
Moby Dick--too dense
Pilgrim's Progress--too old
Twilight--who wants to fall in love with a vampire?

Some that Should Make the Top 10 but Probably Won't
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hunger Games
1984
The Martian

My Guesses for the Top 10
Catcher in the Rye
Game of Thrones
Gone with the Wind
The Great Gatsby
The Handmaid's Tale
Little Women
Lord of the Rings
Pride and Prejudice
To Kill a Mockingbird (my favorite)
Don Quixote

My Guess for #1
Harry Potter

I'd love to hear your comments.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

13 Years

Ralph, my husband, died on October 16, 2005--13 years ago.
Sometimes it seems like forever since we were together, laughing and loving and arguing and forgiving.  We made a home for our children, supported each other in our individual endeavors, traveled to far away places or spent time at home.
Sometimes it seems like only yesterday when leukemia invaded his bloodstream and conquered it in just one year.  Either way, we had a good marriage, and I still miss him every day.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Books of September

Speaking American.  What do you call a meal you order and bring home from a restaurant?  In some parts of the country it's "take out" and in other parts "carry out."  This book covers all kinds of words and phrases that differ in various parts of the U.S.  It's a book for a language aficinado like me.

Nightingale.  The story of two French sisters during World War II and how they coped with their situations in very different way.  It was on the best seller list for quite some time.

Educated.  My favorite non-fiction book of the year, it's the memoir of a young woman who grew up in Idaho in a survivalist family--no birth certificate, no vaccinations, no doctor visits ever, no schooling except at home.  Unbelievably, she takes the ACT and gets accepted to Brigham Young University, where she is totally out of her depth.  But she persists and eventually earns a PhD. from Cambridge.  Fascinating story and, despite what some Amazon reviewers say, it's true, and isn't truth stranger than fiction?

Monday, October 1, 2018

Shriners Burn Hospital for Children

I am a burn survivor.
When I was 19, my dress caught fire from a gas heater and I nearly burned to death.  Recovery was a long, painful process, but obviously I d.id recover and go on with my life.
A few weeks ago I was delighted to be invited to tour Shriners Burn Hospital for Children in Galveston.  Galveston .has been one of premier center for treatment of burns ever since I can remember.  I was there for three months.  At that time there was no specific hospital for burned children.  The girl in the bed next to me was only 12.
In 1963 the hospital focused on children with burns and other serious skin diseases was founded.  Now it is #1 in the nation in treating such injuries and diseases.  It is a beautiful building and what impressed me most was that it treats, not just the underlying problem, but the whole child. There is counseling for children and families, a play area, even a school so children who are school-aged can keep up with their studies.  It is a warm and welcoming child centered place.  I hope to drive down to Galveston once or twice a month to do volunteer work there.  As a previous burn patient as well as the daughter of a Shriner, I feel this is the place for me to give back.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Books of Augusr

Moving Day.  What would you do if you were moving across country and the movers arrived a day early?  The elderly couple figures they'd gotten the day wrong.  Imagine their shock when the real movers arrive the next morning and they realize all their possessions have been stolen!  Will they get them back?  Read and find out.  I loved this book!

Mrs. Fletcher.  A middle-aged woman re-invents herself.  B-.

Somebody's Daughter.  When his ex-wife appears sobbing that her child, who may be his, is missing and begs him to help find her, he agrees and finds a tangled web of secrets and lies.

The Gatekeepers.  What is the most powerful non-elected, non-Senate confirmed person in Washington?  The President's chief of staff.  He (no she's yet) controls access to the  President, interacts with various factions in the White House and sometimes gives the President his blunt opinion on important matters.  This fascinating book chronicles chiefs of staff from Nixon through Obama.  I highly recommend it.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Books of July

I read a lot in July.  Here's the list:
The Hellfire Club.  I read it because I like to watch The Lead with Jake Tapper.  Didn't care much for the book, which was billed as an inside look at Washington.  The main character seemed to get victimized throughout.  C+

The President is Missing.  I'm not a fan of James Patterson, but I read this book because it was recommended by our librarian.  Another inside Washington book.  It was okay.  B

The Outsiders.  I've never read this book.  I picked it because it was listed as a "favorite book" on PBS Great American Read.  I enjoyed the "outsider" gang but it wouldn't be my favorite book.  B

The Marriage Lie.  My favorite book of July.  Husband flies to Orlando to be the keynote speaker at a conference.  An hour later, wife receives a call from the airline that he died in a crash of a plane bound for Seattle.  I recommend this one.  A

Three Days Missing. By the author of The Marriage Lie.  Mom gets a call that her son is missing from an overnight campout.  But is he?  Another A

The Last Breath.  An earlier book by the same author, Kimberly Belle.  Not as good as the two listed above.  Daughter comes home to care for her father, who is dying.  He's been let out of prison, where he is serving a life sentence, so he can come home to die.  Is he innocent...or guilty?  B+

Heart of Darkness.  Another choice from the PBS list.  Ship captain is obsessed by stories of Mr. Kurtz as he sails upriver to find him.  Again, it wouldn't be my favorite.  B  (I voted for To Kill a Mockingbird)

The Other Woman.  Yes, Daniel's Silva's books about Israeli spy, assassin, art restorer are pretty much alike, but I love 'em and wait expectantly for the annual July release.  A

Wait for August.  Some really good books coming!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Major Life Transition

My freshman year in college I read an article in Seventeen Magazine that would set me on a path that I would follow until this day.  The article was about the relatively new field of speech pathology.  I thought that sounded interesting and the following year when I had to declare a major, I decided on that.  Of course, growing up in the Fifties, I didn't expect to actually have a career.  I wanted a college degree.  That was a secondary goal.  My main goal was to get married, have two children, a nice house, two cars and a dog.  Once I achieved that, I would bid speech pathology goodbye.  

But I didn't.  I worked for the Houston Independent School District for a while, then got married, had two children, etc. 
Then I got a divorce.  I returned to college, got a Master's in speech pathology and audiology and went back to work for the next fifty years.

Choosing speech pathology as a career was one of the luckiest and best choices I ever made.  I've never seen it as a "job" but as a calling.  I've been privileged to hear children's first words, hear their garbled speech become intelligible, watch them learn to read and express themselves in writing.  Along the way, I've shared families' amd children's lives and language.  It's been the perfect profession for me, but now it's time to move on, or as one of my four-year-old students said the other day, "Miss Thelma, now you'll be 'attired.'"  

This is a major turning point for me, but I know the time is right. The road ahead is a little scary but exciting.  I've loved going to work every day and I have so many memories to cherish.

So I'll end with words from "A Chorus Line:"
     "Kiss today goodbye
    And point me toward tomorrow.
    Wish me luck,
    The same to you.
    But I can't regret,
    Won't forget
    What I did for love.

    Love is never gone.
    As we travel on,
    It's love that we remember..."

Just before my husband died, he said, "You'll be all right.  You'll do something good."  I hope so.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Movie RecommendationL

Last week I saw a documentary that I highly recommend:  Three Identical Strangers.  
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to meet a carbon copy of yourself?  That's what happened to triplets separated at birth.  They met at age 19 when one enrolled at the same junior college as another and kept being called by the wrong name.  The two were written up in the newspaper and the third triplet saw the article and realized that these two young men looked exactly like him.  The three became famous and eventually opened a restaurant called Triplets in New York City.
But the story didn't end with their unexpected reunion.  Their families wondered why they were never told the children they adopted were identicals, why they were never told about the other families or why the boys were separated.  It's a dark and fascinating story.  I won't spoil the rest of the story but if you see the movie, you'll be amazed at what happened and why.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Still Together

Several years ago I joined a grief support group.  I'd been a widow longer than the other women who came so I was over the first throes of widowhood, but as they say, grief never goes completely away; it just changes over time.  We met every Tuesday morning.  Over time, some dropped out and others joined.  We shared our grief and our fears and our loneliness but also our steps forward into our "new normal." We began having monthly Friday night dinners, getting together for special events and always having lunch after our meeting.

The formal meetings ended last fall, but we'd formed a bond that has remained unbroken.  We have lunch every other Tuesday, play Mah Jongg each week (yes, I'm learning to play, too) attend events together. Today several of us went to a Celebration of Life for a group member who recently passed away.  On the way home and during lunch at my apartment, we shared personal memories of her.  I'm glad we've kept our friendships intact so that we can share the good time, the sad time and even the lonely times with others who understand.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Questions to Ponder


My book club is reading I Woke Up Dead at the Mall, and in it the newly dead girl has to answer a series of questions about her life.  So at our next meeting we will discuss these questions.  I think they are good ones to consider no matter where you are in life, so here they are:
1. My greatest regret is....
2. Thinking of my most recent birthday
    a. I got everything I wanted
    b. I wanted more
    c. I didn't care about gifts
    d. I didn't celebrate my birthday.
3. Here is what I will/would miss the most
    a. Food
    b. People
    c. Sex
    d. Other.....
4. My favorite place on Earth
5. The worse thing I've done in my life (so far)
6. The best thing I've done in my life (so far)

And here's the other, which is probably a question for the newly dead:
7. I would prefer to 
   a. Return to the kind of life I was living
   b. Start over in a different life
   c. Keep what I want from my life and throw
      the rest away
   d. Undecided

I'm not going to share my answers and you don't have to either but if you like, you could leave a few in the Comment section.
   

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Books of June

Shelter in Place:  After the last one I swore I would never read another Nora Roberts book but I was sick with a chest infection and I thought this one might keep me from coughing so I got it on my Kindle and I really enjoyed it.  It's about various people who were in a mall when a mass shooting took place and how it affected their lives (and don't worry--there's romance, too).

Before We Were Yours:  Based on true events about an orphanage in Memphis that takes children from their families and adopts them out.  Of course the people in the story are fictional but the orphanage and its abusive practices were real.  This one has been on the best seller list for some time.  I enjoyed it.  (And yes, there's romance, too)

I Woke Up Dead at the Mall. Who could skip a book with such an intriguing title?  My book club is reading it.  It was quirky and funny and a fast read.  (Bet you didn't think there'd be romance in a book about dead people but there is)

Humans by Christopher Seddons.  This is a very long book that begins with primates and continues through the rise of civilization.  I love books like this, but the writing was so boring that I slogged through it over several months when I had nothing better to do.  Too bad, because I love reading about the earliest humans.  (No romance here.  I'm sure there was along the way but he skipped that in favor of the square footage of dwellings, etc.)

Happy Reading and Happy Fourth!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Quote for the week

Quote from "Before We Were Yours"

The love of sisters needs no words.  It does not depend on memories or mementos as proof.  It runs as deep as a heartbeat.  It is as ever present as a pulse.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Disney Princesses Reimagined

This morning's Houston Chronicle had a delightful article in the Zest section.  Graphic artist Matt Burt of Simple Thrifty Living has reimagined 13 Disney princesses as successful career women.  Snow White, pictured above, is a psychologist who uses the names of the seven dwarfs to pinpoint her clients' emotions.  "Feeling Grumpy today?  Let's talk about it."  Elsa and Anna are climate scientists.  No surprise there.  Rapunzel is a neurologist.  I love it.  These women can have their princes and careers too.  Why not?

What would you guess are the chosen careers of Belle, Ariel, Cinderella and the others?  To find out, Google Matt Burt.  Enjoy!


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Mah Jongg

I am learning to play Mah Jongg.  I've even surprised myself--I've never had any desire or frankly any time  to learn this game, but everyone in my bi-weekly lunch group plays after lunch.  Some people play several times a week; some play almost every day. I've decided maybe I should play, too.

My mother had a Mah Jongg set and sometimes she and my sister and I would play a few hands.  Usually my sister won.  She still plays Mah Jongg and I imagine she still wins.

Because of that experience X number of years ago, I was somewhat familiar with the various tiles, but everything else about the game was lost in dim memory.  So I'm learning all over again.  Last week I sat in on my friends' game.  A few days later a fellow resident loaned me her old set.  I've ordered a card, a book on Mah Jongg for beginners and signed up at a website called Mah Jongg Mentor.  

Will I like the game?  Who knows?  Will I be a good player?  Again, who knows?  But it seems like a good idea.  We'll see.  Maybe when my sister and I are on vacation together next month, she will give me some tips...but that might cut into our vacation Scrabble tournament.

I will post again next month on the progress of my Mah Jongg journey.  


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Books of May

Summer isn't even here but May was summery, too summery, so what better way to beat the heat than to stay in a nice air-conditioned space and read?  I'm still reading parts of long books so I only finished two books in May.  Here they are:

God Save Texas:  A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State
Pulitzer Prize winning author (The Looming Tower) Lawrence Wright takes readers on a journey through Texas, from the biggest cities to desert-like West Texas.  He says Texas is really two states:  AM Texas and FM Texas.  Find out which you live in by reading this enjoyable book.  Maybe you have to be a native Texan like me to really, really enjoy it, but anyway, give it a try.


Brother of the More Famous Jack
A book group selection.  The heroine is taking a course in philosophy when she happens to visit the quirky family of her philosophy prof. She becomes a frequent guest there, falls in love with the oldest son and the story goes on from there, from her years in Italy, her return to England and so on.  I personally didn't care for the book.  I found the family not just quirky but rude.  If my children spoke to me the way these kids speak to their parents, I'd put them out for adoption.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Books of April and The Great American Read

Aha!  I think I've figured out how to access pictures, so here's my book cover for May.  I only finished one book because the others I'm reading are extremely long.

What if Sherlock Holmes were a woman?  And so was Watson?  In this book, they are.  Interesting, but not the greatest read.


I heard about the Great American Read while listening to the radio in my car and watched the opening on PBS.  This is apparently going on all year.  They showed a list of 100 books that have been nominated for the Best Novel (OMG, the list included Fifty Shades of Gray...could the people who nominated it think this was the Best Smutty Novel?) Anyway, you can go to www.pbs.org where you can find the list of 100 best books and vote once a day for any book you think is best.
The list included Jane Eyre, The Outlanders, Another Country, The Sun Also Rises, The Great Gatsby, Charlotte's Web, Alice in Wonderland, Little Women, Beloved, The Color Purple, and of course Fifty Shades of Gray. (I voted today for To Kill a Mockingbird).  You can also sign up for the Great American Read book club and also the newsletter.
Happy Reading!


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Quote for the Week

Since tomorrow is my birthday, this poem seems an appropriate post:

I am not Old
by Samantha Reynold

I am not old, she said.
I am rare.
I am the standing ovation
At the end of the play.
I am the retrospective
Of my life as art.
I am the hours
Connected like dots
Into good sense.
I am the fullness
Of existing.
You think I am waiting to die...
But I am waiting to be found.
I am a treasure
I am a map,
And these wrinkles are
Imprints of my journey.
Ask me anything.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Book Club: The Movie

Couldn't find a picture--sorry.
I went to see the movie "Book Club" with a friend...from my book club, where else?  I was enthused about seeing actresses who are past their prime--Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen.  They play a group of friends who have been members of a book club for years.  Jane Fonda's character has never married and has been a successful businesswoman who owns a fancy hotel.  Diane Keaton's character is still mourning her husband who died a year ago and whose children treat her as if she's ancient and incompetent.  Candice Bergen is a federal judge whose ex-husband is engaged to a cute young soon-to-be trophy wife.  Mary Steenburgen is married but she and her husband haven't had sex in months because he's apparently lost interest.  Then one day, Jane passes out copies of Fifty Shades of Gray and their lives are transformed, their sexuality reawakened and off they go to have fun in bed.  I thought it was funny and so, apparently, did the group sitting behind us, who absolutely howled with laughter at every funny line.  That pretty much ruined the humor for me because I kept glancing back at these loud laughers.  Anyway, when the show was over, I decided it was rather funny, but now I've changed my mind.  I think it was contrived, and embraced Fifties' views of women.  Spoiler alert: Each woman ended with the man of her dreams--Jane Fonda, whose middle school boyfriend and one true love turns up at her hotel; Diane Keaton, who stumbles over her seat mate on a plane to Arizona.  We see him leering as she tumbles over and soon they are falling in love; (He's a pilot so he can fly anywhere she is.)  Candice Bergen meets a nice man through a dating service, wishes her ex a happy marriage and decides the dating-service guy is just right for her; Mary Steenburgen's husband's interest in sex is suddenly revived and they are on their way, presumably, to have a glorious night in bed.  My problem with the movie's premise:  Is every woman's life fulfilled by a man?  Is that the only real life goal for women in today's world?  I don't think so.  Maybe one of many goals but not the only one.
Note:  I read Fifty Shades and it didn't transform my life.  Not that Ud mind if my middle school boyfriend whose name I can't remember or a charming pilot turned up, but I've been a widow for twelve years now and I think I've managed pretty well.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mother's Day, 2018

Happy Mother's Day!

I hope all the Moms out there had a wonderful day.  I did.  We celebrated with brunch at my daughter's.  (Since I'm the honoree, I got the bring home the leftover half of the strawberry pie.) We had sandwiches and salad and admired my daughter's new living room couch.  

It's nice to be a mother, especially when your children are adults.  I remember being terrified of the responsibility when we brought Lori, our first child, home from the hospital. I remember my first day home with Michael.  My neighbor took Lori to the pool but she insisted on coming home to Mommy.  When she arrived, plumbers were making a hole in my bathroom ceiling to fix some sort of problem in the apartment above us, Michael was screaming and now I had two crying children to quiet.  I remember when Lori, age 4, convinced Michael, age 2, it would be a great idea to draw all over my bedroom walls with lipstick.  I remember story time and charades at night, indoor picnics on the living room floor on rainy days, making green eggs and ham (minus the ham)  in our kitchen and our monthly Surprise Outings.  I'd love to have one of those early childhood days over again.  On the other hand, I would not wish middle school on anyone, nor would I want to go through it again.

I asked my children if I needed to apologize for anything I did during their childhoods and my daughter said, "No, I think we turned out all right."  So do I.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

JR

Joyce Roberta Miller Alper died on May 1 from ovarian cancer.

JR, as she preferred to be called was a friend.  Not a close friend, but I considered her a friend nevertheless.  For the past three years, she and another friend have been my High Holiday companions.  All of us were widowed and had no one to go with--one with children who attended a different synagogue, one with children out of town.  Last fall, when Beth Yeshurun, our congregation, was flooded, JR and I made our way to Landmark Church, the home of Joel Osteen, to celebrate the New Year in a different location but with the same tradidional service we were used to.

JR was a remarkable person.  She was a dedicated teacher who received numerous award, once becoming a finalist for the National Teacher award.  She published, spoke at conferences, and even after she retired from Spring Branch ISD, she continued teaching at the Houston Community College.
She was also involved in politics, friends with people in both parties, active in campaigns, and never uncomfortable about expressing her opinion.  In fact, that was one thing I admired about her.  She was forthright and willing to stand up for what she believed was right.

She was a world traveler.  Her home was filled with items she collected from all over the world.
Last year, after her cancer was in what proved to be a temporary remission, she was awarded a grant to interview Korean War veterans, and she traveled to South Korea to learn more about the country where so many lost their lives.  She even traveled to the DMZ and crossed into North Korea, something that few Americans have done.  I so admire her for that.

She was terrified of needles and of doctors and postponed getting medical attention, probably too long, when her cancer reoccurred this this year.  That fear, unfortunately, was her one major weakness, but I'm sure she died on her own terms, so like JR.

JR was a strong, energetic, vibrant person who will be missed by many, including me.  May she rest
in peace.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Books of March

Not a book for everyone, but recommended reading for those with aging parents or those who are aging themselves.  Lisa Randall recounts her father's last days...months.. when his pacemaker still worked but his mind and body had essentially ceased to function normally.  She points out the dangers of overtreatment when there is no quality of life.  I gave a copy to my daughter (but, no surprise) she hasn't read it yet.

I'm having lots of trouble uploading pictures these days, so here are the next two books with (alas) no cover pictures

Celine by Peter Heller
Middle-aged detective and her husband search for a young girl's missing father.  Is he dead?  Hiding out?  They have to solve the mystery/

A Beautiful Poison
Dont' waste your time with this one.  Cardboard characters, senseless plot.  I forced myself to finish it because it was a book club selection.  We didn't like it.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

5 Wishes

No one likes to think about dying, but, face it, we're all going to do it someday.  So why not be prepared?  Even if you're relatively young, it's always good to let someone know your wishes for end of life care.  The 5 Wishes exercise is a way to accomplish this, and I found, having done it, I feel much more secure about my children's knowledge of what I want.  To do this exercise, go to www.agingwithdignity.org to find the forms to fill out and the instructions.  You can download a form with 5 questions about your wishes for end of life care/treatment, fill them out and then discuss them with family or with a friend who you expect to be there when the time comes.  You explain your wishes, then hand them a blank form and have them fill it out as if they were you.  That way, you can see that they understand your wishes, or if they don't you can clarify for them.

My children absolutely did not want to do this, but my birthday was coming up and I told them that was what I wanted for a birthday present.  So they grudgingly complied, we had our discussion and afterward, my daughter announced, "It wasn't as hard as I expected."

And, by the way, I just finished reading Knocking on Heaven's Door, a woman's memoir about her parents' difficulties during the dying process and a clear message that overtreatment is often worse than undertreatment or no treatment for elderly people.

And on a lighter note, tomorrow is our World Champion Houston Astros's first home game of the new season.  We're hoping for a repeat.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Year of Reading Dangerously

If you guessed the title of the post refers to mysteries/thrillers, you're wrong.  This is a twelve-months' reading of books sponsored by End of Life University, dealing with end of life issues.  I'm enrolled in this reading group, not because I'm old, although I am, but because I've been interested in this topic for many years, and this was an opportunity to join a group with people from around the world reading and discussing books about how people have dealt with life's final days.  

So far we've covered When Breath Becomes Air, which I'd read several years ago and was just as inspired as I was before by the author's courage in the face of a devastating illness at the beginning of a promising career.  

Our February book was Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.  If you've ever wondered what goes behind the scenes at a crematorium, this is the book for you.  I didn't want to read this--I've done the "burning thing" already--I suffered third degree burns when I was 19--but I actually enjoyed this memoir about the author's life in the funeral industry.

This month we read Knocking on Heaven's Door, a book about a family longing for a peaceful death for their husband/father and unable to get doctors to cooperate.  I bought a copy for my daughter and asked her to promise me that she'd read it.  Now is the time, while I'm still healthy and active, not later when my children are struggling with medical decisions.  (I skipped the online chat--okay, I watched Stormy Daniels on 60 Minutes, say nothing she hadn't said before.  I'm sure the book discussion would have been more interesting).

If you're interested in joining the Facebook group for the Year of Reading Dangerously, you still can.  It's a tough topic, but worth your time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Speech Ladies' Lunch




Last Friday three of the four Speech Ladies (#4 was ill with bronchitis) had the best lunch ever at Flo's Cafe on Westheimer.  It was my first visit but certainly not my last.  It's a charming place with black and white plaited chairs, a delicious menu (best quiche I've ever had--I recommend that sun dried tomato and feta cheese), and the most enticing baked goods I've seen in ages.  I was seated facing the slide screen and I wanted to sample everything that flashed by,  The cakes were creatively decorated and I understand the croissants they serve at breakfast are outstanding.  They have award-winning macaroons, all kinds of tarts, jars of preserves for sale.  I was, as usual, the only one who ordered dessert, a lemon tart. 

 While we ate, we caught up on professional news (aka gossip), what's been going on in each other's lives and the books we've been reading.  We plan to go back to Flo's again, (and again!) but we've decided our next lunch will be at Nordstrom's at the Galleria.  We obviously didn't think this through; the traffic is awful there and there's road work all around, but we'll brave the traffic and shop afterward.  But Flo's is my new favorite place.  Check it out.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Books of January and February




The heroine is this story is an agoraphobic woman who spends her time peering out her window at her neighbors.  One day she thinks she sees a murder.  Does she?  Or is she crazy?  I give it a B.

Her husband has left her for another woman.  Why does she keep following the new woman in his life?  Another B.


Yes, another wife.  This one's husband has been accused of having an affair.  She stands by him.  Then the mistress disappears.  You wonder what happened but don't care too much.
A student from liberal Brown University decides to learn about Jerry Falwell's evangelical Liberty University so he enrolls for a semester.  A true story.  Interesting.

Part of the Hogarth Series, taking Shakespeare's plays and setting them in the modern world.  This is Othello in a sixth grade class.  It didn't get great reviews on Amazon, but I really enjoyed it.

You'd think a memoir about a young woman who goes to work in the funeral industry would be depressing, especially since she starts out working in a crematorium, but it's fascinating and often hilarious

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Broadway at the Box


Friday evening a group of us piled on the bus to go to the Music Box Theater.  I won't tell you what our residents' association president named us...oh, never mind, I will.  He calls us the Creeping Herd even though must of us  honestly do not creep.  Some of us call ourselves The Circle of Friends--sounds much better.

The Music Box features five young and enthusiastic singers (pictured above).  They are two married couples and one young lady (shown in the middle), who literally do everything at this little theater--take tickets, serve drinks, direct people to vacant seats, and of course perform.  This month's performance was Broadway at the Box.  It featured songs from well-loved musicals, some old like Oklahoma, some new like Dear Evan Hansen.  Some of the tunes were familiar and we almost wanted to sing and dance along with the performers.  For some we'd shake our heads and whisper that we'd never heard them before. There were songs from Chicago, Camelot, Hamilton, Beauty and the Beast, Fiddler on the Roof and more.

When the show was over, our bux was waiting out front.  It's fun to go out with a group, especially when you don't have to drive.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Winter Olympics

Now that the excitement of the Super Bowl has died down, it's time for the Winter Olympics in South Korea.  Honestly, I didn't know South Korea was a winter site with high mountains.  Sorry that my geography background is so limited.

This Olympics has lots of political implications.  Will combining their athletes lead to peace between the two Koreas?  Did Mike Pence ever interact with Kim Jong Un's sister, or if he's still there, will he?  Given the political climate in today's world, I worry a lot about these things.

Thursday night I watched the figure skating and wondered why it was scheduled before the opening ceremony.  It seemed like most of the men favored to score highest fell down, including Nathan Chen of the U.S. Imagine how it must feel to skate the event of your life and fail.  Of course, they have another chance but still, it must be humiliating to topple over in front of the biggest audience in the world.  The pressure has to be excruciating and maybe that's why things don't go well.

I wanted to watch the opening ceremony but kept falling asleep.  When you think about it, watching dozens of athletes marching into a stadium isn't the most riveting spectacle.  I missed the lighting of the Olympic torch, which I always enjoy.  Oh well.

I watched the snowboarding and wondered who would allow their kid to engage in such a perilous sport.  Those guys jumping into space, twisting and turning themselves into pretzels, was terrifying.  I was happy for the 17 year-old from the U.S. who won gold, but he could have killed himself along the way, and given his age, he'll probably compete again and again.

Today I watched the "skiathlon" a cross-country ski race and cheered for the Norwegian who crashed during the race, got up and kept going and won gold.  What perseverance does that take?  Amazing. 

 I wonder if the silver and bronze medalists in Olympic events are disappointed they didn't win gold.  No one seems to remember #2 and #3.  But worst of all, imagine coming in fourth, so close to the podium but so far.  That must hurt.

I now know the difference between Alpine and Nordic skiing.  Alpine skis are wider and the skier's heel is fixed.  Alpine skiers go downhill. Nordic skiers have longer, narrower skis and their heels aren't fixed so they can lift them.  Also, they go up and downhill both.  Cross country skiing is a Nordic event.  Will I remember this when the next winter Olympics comes up?  Maybe. 

The 5000 meter speed skating event was fun to watch, too.  The Dutch athlete who won is the "king of speedskating."  He's now won 3 gold medals.  He seems like a nice, modest young man, too.

More figure skating to come, more skiing and speedskating.  My TV watching for the next two weeks is set.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Super Sunday

Well, Super Sunday is almost over.  This afternoon, after lunch at the Backstreet, a group of us went to the Alley Theater to see The Great Society, the second play about Lyndon Johnson, this one about his struggle to get the Voting Rights bill and other bills on his domestic agenda passed as the country becomes mired in the Vietnam War.  When I called to make our reservation, the nice guy at the box office said, "You know it's Super Bowl Sunday."  "Yeah," I said, "but I probably won't watch.  I'm tired of seeing the Patriots win."  He agreed and I ordered our tickets.


The play was. amazing.  My friend dropped me off after kickoff in the game I wasn't going to watch.  I went upstairs and turned on the TV.  

The game was being shown in the Event Center downstairs, but I didn't go.  I had bought some guacamole and chips to take just in case, but I didn't even open them.  I'd had an awful stomach bug this week and had been living on ginger ale and crackers, so guacamole?  No, no, no.  It sits unopened in my fridge and I'll probably throw it away tomorrow.

I  missed one of my favorite things on Super Sunday--the Puppy Bowl.  There's a Kitty Bowl, too, and I heard this year there was a Shark Bowl.  Never mind that one.

Another thing I enjoy is NPR's Super Bowl haikus.  Here are some of my favorites:
         Five thousand dollars
         One seat in Minnesota.
         How much are nachos?

        Lone bird swoops earthward
        To see Super Bowl for free!
        Too bad it's indoors.


So anyway, I watched the game.  Couldn't help it.  Nick Foles is my sister's friend's cousin (Got that?) and he's a hometown boy from Austin, so I had to root for the Philadelphia Eagkes, or the Iggles as they say in Philadelphia.  It was a great game, down to the very last seconds.  I'd watch it again if they'd show a replay.  And here's my haiku:
        Nick Foles gets the ring.
        Does Brady have six fingers?
        One win too many.

 
     

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Quotes for the Week

Reading is not an operation performed on something inert
but a relationship entered into with another human being.
                 Clifton Fadiman

To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for youself
a refuge from almost all of the miseries of life.
                 W. Somerset Maughan

It is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily,
often helplessly, into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul.
                Joyce Carol Oates

This little poem was in the library of my elementary school, and it always inspired me:
Books are keys to wisdom's treasure,
Books are gates to lands of pleasure,
Books are paths that upward lead,
Books are friends.
Come, let us read.

I hope you're reading a book this week.
                      Thelma

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Never Too Late; Never Too Old

I am a lousy tennis player but a devoted tennis fan, so devoted that I got up in the middle of the night, two nights in a row to watch the women's and men's finals in the Australian Open.
Caroline Wozniacki, the women's final winner, has been trying and failing for years to win a Grand Slam tournament.  This was her 43rd try!  She lost in two U.S. Open finals and hasn't made a final since.  But she's kept trying, never giving up her dream until it's finally come true.  (By the way, in the midst of her tennis career she trained for and ran a marathon.)  She's an example of perseverance and she's earned a well-deserved reward.

Ho hum, Federer again?  He won his 20th Grand Slam in Australia.  But he's 36 years old, Methuselah-like in tennis years) and last year sportscasters were saying maybe he had one more slam still to come.  Instead, in the past year he's won 3 slams.  Most 36-year-old tennis players are sitting in lawn chairs, nursing their sore muscles and watching tennis matches on TV, but Federer still loves the game and he's still the best ever...and he trains in Dubai in the heat.  He's an inspiration for elderly folks like me, telling us in no uncertain terms that life is still to be enjoyed and there are still goals to set and to meet as long as you're still around.  

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Quotes for the Week: Heroes

Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story.
                                               John Barth
Or her own life story.
                         Thelma Zirkelbach

No man is a hero to his valet.
          Anne-Marie Bigot  

Life, misfortune, isolation, abandonment, poverty  
      are battlefields which have their heroes,
obscure heroes, sometimes greater than the illustrious heroes.
                  Victor Hugo

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Woman Power

Yesterday was a national Women's March.  Crowds of women marched for various causes, but what inspires me is that they marched at all, making their voices heard, demonstrating our power as women.

Today two friends and I saw "The Post."  Meryl Streep as Katherine Graham realizes her power as she is brave enough to order her newspaper to "go ahead" with publishing the Pentagon Papers.  At one point she quotes Samuel Johnson, who said after hearing a woman preach at a Quaker meeting, "A woman preaching is like a dog walking on his hind legs.  It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all."
Disgusting, isn't it?  Johnson would have been flabbergasted to meet Katherine Graham, a woman of today.

When I was a youngster, women stayed home, kept the house spotless and raised the children with little help from their husbands.  Some women of my mother's generation "helped out in the store" but rarely did women have jobs of their own.  Women didn't aspire to professions or higher education.  My mother at one point thought of going to college  at the University of Texas in Austin, but my father nipped that idea in the bud.

Although I finished college with a major in speech pathology and worked for a year, as soon as I got married, I quit my job and got pregnant immediately thereafter.  None of my friends worked or even thought about it.  In our organization directory we were listed as "Mrs. XXX," with our first names in parentheses.  When I was asked to donate to various causes, I always answered, "I'll have to ask my husband."  After I was divorced, I announced to my family, "I'll have to start thinking like a man."  It never occurred to me that women might think about a lifetime career.  I believed I was thrust into a man's way of thinking; however, being female, I was unable to get a charge account and my automobile insurance dropped me because divorced women were "more likely to have accidents."

Not surprisingly, I embraced the women's movement.  I attended the first national women's conference in Houston.  One of my favorite souvenirs was a button that said, "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle."  Yes,  I married again, but I didn't give up my career, and my husband and I shared equally in responsibilities around the house.  I'm proud to say I've never cooked a Thanksgiving turkey; that was his job.

I have watched times change, have seen women become public officials, CEO's, doctors and lawyers.  I have seen women stand up for what they believe in, and this year I've seen women speak up about sexual harassment and march to end sexual abuse.  I'm proud of what we've done and what we're doing.  I'm glad to be a woman of today.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Quote for the Week

The journey between what you once were and what you are becoming is where the dance of life really takes place.
                           Dr. Barbara De Angel

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Books of December

An amusing book about families so rich you couldn't imagine their lifestyle.  A young Chinese American woman visits her boyfriend's family and is overwhelmed.  First of a series.

Who can figure out why a group of people are murdered and the scene has an uncanny resemblance to an unsolved murder years before?

This book was recommended on a list so I bought it.  Thankfully, it was short because I could never figure out who was speaking, where the characters were or much about the plot.  Not recommended.
 

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