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

One
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

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

Three
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

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

Five
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.
That's ATTITUDE

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.
 

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