Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Chinese barbecue …

…on the campus of the school where my friend Lisa and her husband Glen have taught this past year. It’s a festive way to say farewell but it won’t be for long. They have made the decision to go back for another year !

Lisa writes that she has no regrets about going to China but that it’s been a long year with it’s share of problems. However they have lots of ideas and plans for making next year go more smoothly. One change will be the addition of two new staff members, both women. One is from Albania and the other from the U.S.

The Chinese school officials were hesitant about the woman from the U.S. because she is black. Evidently there is not one other black person in all of Pinghu but Glen convinced them that they should be more concerned about the quality of their teachers than the color of their skin. Lisa is excited that she was hired because she will now have an English speaking friend to converse with.

So my series of Lisa in China ends for the school year…with this picture that she took in a local market. I’d love to think that someone will buy the poor bird for a pet … but it’s more likely that he’ll be Crispy Roast Duck for dinner !


Monday, June 23, 2014

With apologies to the author …

…Elizabeth Gilbert.

When her book “Eat, Pray, Love” came out and was quickly grabbed up by Hollywood and turned into a movie I was annoyed. It was so similar to one of my favorite books, “Female Nomad” by Rita Golden Gelman published in 2001 that it seemed unfair to me that her story had not been the one chosen for the film. Silly, I know, but that’s how I felt.

So, when I saw “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert at the library I figured it would just be another frothy tale that would annoy me further and I decided I would not read it. However I started to hear good reviews of the book and when a close friend took me to task for my intolerance and stupidity I gave in and was mightily surprised to find that I enjoyed her book more than any that I’ve read in a long time.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel is an extraordinary story that takes place in the 19th century. It follows the fortunes of Alma Whittaker, the daughter of an itinerant and self made man who claws his way to the top as a botanical explorer. Alma is self-willed and brilliant but she does not fit into the rigid female mold of that age. She does, however, come into her own within the world of plants and science and it’s fascinating to follow her journey as she spans the globe from Philadelphia to Tahiti and finally to Amsterdam.

Although “The Signature of All Things” is fiction it is replete with historical facts that must have taken extensive research to authenticate. Because of this I not only enjoyed her story but learned so much about the fascinating world of botany in the 19th century. I hope you will enjoy her story as much as I did.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Introducing another granddaughter …Faye

Here is my beautiful granddaughter Faye who just turned 12 and has had her hair cut short for her role as an Owlet …details to follow !

Faye is my oldest son’s daughter and she has some pretty heavy burdens on her young shoulders. She is a Type 1 juvenile diabetic and also has Asperger’s syndrome but none of that holds her back. She has an amazing memory and will often amuse us with her spot on imitations of her favorite TV and movie characters…often enhanced with dance steps.

She is fortunate to live in Chapel Hill, NC where there are so many resources available for children with special needs. One of those is the “Acting Is Awesome” program put on by the Town Parks Dept. It utilizes the skills used in acting as effective ways to increase social awareness and is run by Amy Elliott, PhD, a registered Drama Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor.

Faye has blossomed in this fun environment and even wrote a theater adaptation from one of her favorite animated films, “Legends of the Guardians” which was presented last Saturday by the “Acting is Awesome” group. Faye’s play centered around the Owls of Ga-hoole who live in the forest so the woods behind the Chapel Hill Library were a perfect setting for the performance. A large gathering of family members, friends and teachers followed along the path as Soren (Faye) and her owlet friend escaped the grasps of the evil Pure Ones.

You see them here with their drama counselor Amy…

Can you tell which owls are naughty and which are nice? They all look pretty nice to me

Friday, June 13, 2014

No time for a support group?

Recently I listened to an Oncologist being interviewed. She was talking about terminal patients and how their care-givers could gain comfort and relief from attending support groups. However, she said, she was saddened that there was one particular segment of the population that was resistant to this. It was the elderly male.

She went on to say that they were reluctant to join a support group because they claimed they couldn’t take the time away from their loved one…most usually a spouse of many years. Besides they didn’t feel comfortable talking in groups and many had the stoical attitude of “I’m doing fine. I don’t need a support group to tell me how to feel.”

This made me think of my brother-in-law. He and my sister were married just shy of 60 years and when her last 3 years were spent in a nursing home he was by her side every day. Of course I was worried about my sister but I was concerned about him too and wondered if he ever took time for himself.

So you can imagine how happy I was when I last visited and he introduced me to the Romeos … 5 elderly men with loved ones in the same facility. I doubt if you could get them to a “support group” but a good meal out once a week with the guys was OK. They were the Retired Old Men Eating Out and they’d forged a trusting relationship over the years. They would compare notes, share stories about managing the difficulties of living alone and, best of all, they never had to feel alone.

In other words …(Shhh, don’t tell) … a support group!


Sunday, June 08, 2014

A blogger friend‘s “Stand Uppity Garden”

One of the perks of blogging is getting to know people that I would never have met otherwise. One of these is from the neighboring state of Virginia and you know her as Possum of “My Little Corner of the World”. A friend and I actually visited her a few years back and were in awe of her gardening expertise.

She was in a severe auto accident back in the 70’s and was told that she would never walk again but she didn‘t accept that verdict. Now she needs a wheelchair on long ventures but for the rest of the time she stands and walks on her own two feet.

Her great love is gardening but bending over or sitting on the ground, or even on a low stool, is almost impossible for her so, with the help of some friends, she built her first “Stand Uppity Garden” in 2009.

However they didn’t use treated wood as it would have affected the produce so it didn‘t stand the test of time. She still loved the idea though and last year she mightily improved her idea of a standing high garden by using a 100 gallon Big Bag Bed from Smart Pots. They come in a variety of sizes and can be used for any and all of the projects in her amazing garden. The largest bag opens to a diameter of 4 feet and holds as much potting soil as a 4x4 garden. It is extremely sturdy and she can make as many “uppity” gardens as she wants by just putting a Big Bag Bed on top of a sturdy base.

And the smaller bags? They come with the complete endorsement of the many cats who roam and relax in this outdoor paradise !



Wednesday, June 04, 2014

I knew the answer ….!!!

Here’s “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek with Julia Collins. She is the contestant who recently earned $428,000 after 20 consecutive winning games.

“Jeopardy” has been a favorite of mine for many years and I rarely miss it. However I usually feel pretty dumb after a half hour of trying to answer the questions and that was certainly the case as I watched Julia win night after night and when it came to the final question she was usually so far ahead of the other contestants that it would have been impossible to beat her even if she didn‘t know the answer … but that was not the case last Friday night.

She and a fellow contestant were neck and neck money-wise so it really did come down to being able to correctly answer the final question which was: “The name of the New England writer who in 1999 became the last person to win an Oscar for adapting his own novel as a screenplay?"

“Who is John Irving?” I yelled at the screen as I watched the perplexed look on Julia’s face. After all, she’d said at one point that literature was her best subject and I couldn’t believe that she’d miss such an easy one…but she did and her reign was over.

As I was patting myself on the back for getting the right answer I had to remind myself that “Cider House Rules” is one of my favorite books and I was thrilled when it became a movie …so no wonder it was easy for me. But how about all the other questions that stump me night after night? I have to admit that putting things in perspective like that stopped my gloating … but it still felt good to get the right answer for once!