Friday, June 30, 2017

July 4th Weekend

 I shall kick off the last day of June with a start to the July 4th weekend. My co-workers and I managed to talk our boss into giving us Monday off too, so July 1 thru 4 shall be grand.  Do I have plans?  Well, catching up with various friends for brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Possibly go to a movie on Monday. In between, enjoy lazy pool time and finish up on Tuesday with fireworks. Ray and I just have to drag our chairs to the front sidewalk and watch Bedford light up the sky.
Here's my patriotic tablescape. Tough to beat the red, white, and blue for pizzazz.  I included my British cup that says Keep Calm and Carry On. What the heck, this American experiment is still working out some kinks since 1776.

Patriotism...applies to true love of one's country and a code of conduct that echoes such love -
Howard Fast 1991

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots - Barbara Ehrenreich  1988

Have a safe and Happy 4th of July........loooonnnnnnng weeekend

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Having Our Say was presented at the Jubilee Theater in downtown Fort Worth. It's an intimate setting, and perfect for this story of two sisters. Bessie (Marjorie Johnson) and Sadie (Perri Gaffney) Delaney were sisters. At age 101 and 103, they shared the first 100 years of their lives. There's a remarkable book and also this play.

Born as daughters of a former slave, they grew up in the Jim Crow South, and ultimately moved to New York, living in Harlem at a renaissance time. Well-educated, they had careers - teaching and dentistry.  Never married, they stuck together through thick and thin.

The actors gave a stunning performance as they chatted to the audience as if we were interviewing them. Bessie and Sadie welcomed us in to their living room and kitchen, telling stories, reflecting on history, and finishing each other's sentences. Having Our Say was rich in history and character. The Delaney Sisters were remarkable women who exemplified a piece of the American fabric of dreams and common sense.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Moment

This year  our crepe myrtle took its sweet time to build up for mass blooming glory.  And then overnight, every bud burst. This is one of the best years ever. I took the picture last Thursday.

Alas,  rain and wind this weekend pummels the pink petals.  It will be pretty for the rest of the summer, but not spectacular.

Good luck with your week. Try to not get pummeled by life.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Fortunate Family

 Let's call this late Happy Father's Day to my Dad.  Here he is with my Uncle Rick.  My uncle is crazy surprised because my cousins threw a 50th wedding anniversary party and all the cousins were there from all over the U.S.  This is actually my mom's side of the family - the Shutters clan.
 L to R - Heather and Jen Shutters - they threw the party and are the daughters. Jen came in from Nevada. Heather lives in Quakertown PA near her folks.  Then Lori (DE) peaks over Uncle Rick's shoulder (he's my mom's younger brother age 78), then my brother David (nearby in Sellersville), Gary (MA) behind Aunt Connie. Then Mark (OR), me (I'm 4 days older than Mark), and Sandy (PA) is the elder cousin.  Quite a troupe.  Dad is front and center - he was the oldest person there and represents my Mom.  Oh it was a glorious gathering - we are fortunate - tons of laughs, no issues or family feuds.  It's great to get together for a happy occasion, since we all are getting older.
 Jeff and Jen,  Aunt Connie and Uncle Rick, Heather and Jeff.   Heather is quite the spitting image of my mother as a young girl.  It's uncanny.
50 years.  I attended their wedding at age 8. It was my first wedding and I thought she looked like a princess.  Through thick and thin, some health issues, etc. - a good marriage.

And we are all a fortunate family.

Book Review - A House of My Own by Sandra Cisneros

Sandra Cisneros is best known for The House on Mango Street. Now A House of My Own is a book of  a richly illustrated compilation of true stories and nonfiction pieces that taken together form a jigsaw autobiography – an intimate album of a beloved literary legend.  (from cover blurb)

She grew up poor in Chicago, but rich in family life. She traveled the world, worked hard at her craft, honed her voice, and sought to make that voice heard through her words. She sought roots and yet stayed restless. Now living in Mexico, back to her ancestral roots, Sandra Cisneros, with this collection – spanning three decades and including never before published work – has come home at last. (from cover blurb)

I think this paragraph in her introduction exemplifies Sandra Cisneros’ style and the reason to read this book:
So I’m gathering up my stray lambs that have wandered out of sight and am herding them under one roof, not so much for the reader’s sake, but my own. Where are you, my little loves, and where have you gone? Who wrote these and why? I have a need to know,  so that I can understand my life.

Another welcoming example of her writing – P. 40.  I look for my kin in fellow writers. Those I know in person and those I know on the page. I feel fortunate at least to open books, and be invited to step in. If that book shelters me and keeps me warm, I know I’ve come home.

Her profiles of other writers. Her travel essays. Her growth as a writer. All are documented here. Her thoughts as an Hispanic woman who left home to get an education, to teach, and to write – all to the chagrin of her family. Why are you not married? How can you leave and be on your own without a husband? She shrugged and moved forward ever reaching, ever seeking meaning as a woman and a writer – in essays, poetry, and stories.

A House of My Own – Stories From My Life by Sandra Cisneros is like inviting a friend in for a chat. This is such a pleasant read. When I finished it, I was ready to start it over again – eager to glean more from her writing. Style, grace, and heart.  Welcome home, Ms.Cisneros. Welcome home.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Solstice Birthday

An oldie picture, but I don't have many of my mother. I've written this before - she always dodged the camera, ever elusive.  This is back in the 1980s -  Lori's early years in college and we were visiting her. I was in from TX. My brother is missing. So young and vibrant.

Today - June 21st is my mother's birthday. She's been gone twenty five years now.
Happy Birthday Mom!  I'll eat some chocolate cake in her honor.

I liked this quote by Russell Baker:
Children rarely want to know who their parents were
before they were parents, and when age
finally stirs their curiosity, there is no parent left to tell them

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Moment - Clarity

This interview caught my eye in the June 12th issue of Time Magazine. Q&A with Sir Harold Evans, a longtime editor and author.  Sir Harold on writing evils:

Writing that is deliberately designed to deceive - insurance  policies, political statements. Business verbosity wastes money, confuses millions. I find myself getting much more angry about the moral question of obligation of fairness than I do about a misplaced semicolon. 

other good quotes:
The language police are a bloody nuisance, some linguists in particular

on Twitter
Twitter's wonderful for assertion. It's absolutely useless for argument.

All food for thought.  Let's have a decent week, everyone.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Book Review - Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is a young adult novel that was also made into a movie.  It is well written, current without being obnoxiously hip, and provides some lessons learned for the heroine. From the cover blurb – Samantha Kingston has it all: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12 should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning.

Yes, this is a variation on Groundhog Day, except it’s Cupid Day. Samantha and her crew are the girls with the most roses. They are prepping all day to go to the hot party. Samantha is preparing to lose her virginity to Rob that night. Oh there’s alcohol, icy roads, and a crash. Then Samantha wakes up and relives the day over and over with an ever jaded eye on her behavior, on her friend’  behavior, and on the shallowness of high school. She tries to vary the routines, but something always goes awry. She tries to fix a bullying situation that she was a willing participant early on. However, after several “deaths and rebirths” she recognizes her wrongs.  She sees how Kent is thoughtful, kind, and actually looks out for her versus Rob, her boyfriend, who’s actually quite a jerk.

The book isn’t all sugar and spice and perfect redemption. However, Oliver develops her characters well and shows growth. She definitely captures the cliques of high school and the need to fit in well, the need to keep popularity and image intact. She also goes below the surface and shows the underlying angst of teenage life.

A friend lent this book to me and it was a quick read. I recommend checking it out of the library, and I’ll probably keep my eye out for the movie on Netflix. Before I Fall  - you’ll find a piece of your young self  somewhere in this book.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

New Kid in Town

There's a new Faries in town - Dakota Lynn. She was born on 5/25/17 at 8 am. She's going to need that attitude face to keep up with older sisters - Skylar (2), and Makyla (8).  And poor parents, Kevin and Maria, are now outnumbered.

Good luck kid!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Movie Review Madness - Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot absolutely leaps from the screen. She is stunning, smart, and is the perfect Diana/Wonder Woman. I loved this movie. It is sharp, slick, moves along with an actual plot, is visually arresting, and Wonder Woman has a lot of character.  Am I gushing? Sure. So many of the Marvel and DC Comic movies are over-the-top fights moving to more over-the-top fights. Sometimes it’s too big of an assault to the senses.  (I like the films, don’t get me wrong, but…)

Wonder Woman has better pacing as an origin story.  We meet young Diana as a girl living with the Amazons on a shrouded island. This place filled with strong women is idyllic and yet prepared for the worst. Unfortunately, Chris Pine as Captain Steve Trevor, pilot in WWI, crashes into the nearby waters. Diana saves him and the island is invaded by German soldiers. Needless to say, Diana saves her people, unleashing more powers than she ever knew she had. She is special and in her naïve way, wants to find Ares – the God of War – to stop this mess. Trevor is a spy who needs to escape and get back to England. Diana says farewell to her world, she’s destined for bigger things, and joins Trevor on his mission.

Once in England, this Amazon fish out of water proves resourceful. Again, Gadot shows trust, heart, and worry – it flashes across her face, even as she’s using her golden lariat, her magnificent sword, and her ever increasing skills. Chris Pine is also quite good with a light comedic touch at times and then true stolid hero bearing. They work together to find the German plant preparing to unleash killer poisons. They find the horrific scientist creating chemical weapons of mass destruction. Oh, there’s plenty of action and blow-em up. But through it all, Diana/Wonder Woman is a towering presence.

Wonder Woman is a winner in so many ways. A strong female heroine with principles and heart. I do believe that Gal Gadot was created from clay and blessed by Zeus. And I look forward to future films from this actress. I want her to save OUR world!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Book Review - A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

Cover blurb – Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden.

Christina Baker Kline, author of A Piece of the World, deftly brings us a fictional version of life behind the iconic Andrew Wyeth painting Christina’s World.  The writing is lovely and the story is interesting. Christina Olson lived her life at her family’s remote farm in Cushing, Maine. Crippled as a child by illness, her ability to move grew more limited as the years went by. But for twenty years, a piece of the world came to her. Through a friend, Andrew Wyeth arrived as a visitor one day. Curious about the house, he asked if he could come and paint. Paint the house, the farm, the landscape, the view, the brother Al going about his daily chores, and then ultimately Christina in her habitat.

Kline weaves fact and fiction into a “powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of American history. She brings focus to the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait. Artist and muse come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.”

p. 288  There are traces of Andy everywhere, even when he’s gone. The smell of eggs, splatters of tempera. A dry, splayed paintbrush. A wooden board pocked with color..
the weather cools. He’s still working. He doesn’t leave for Pennsylvania as usual at the end of August. I don’t ask why, half afraid that if I speak the words aloud, they’ll remind him that it is past time for him to return home.

Excellent read. I’ve always liked the Wyeths – Nathaniel, Andrew, and Jamie. I’ve been to the Brandywine Museum and Chadd’s Ford area where they lived in Pennsylvania. And the painting, Christina’s World, is haunting.  Christina Baker Kline’s A Piece of the World gives it and the story its due.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Movie Review Madness - Baywatch

Baywatch is truly silly with no redeeming value whatsoever. As long as you know that going in, you’ll be amused. We were. We paid for cheap tickets - $5 each and chortled throughout. Consider the source material – the television show was rather stupid. So, Mitch (Dwayne Johnson) is head lifeguard and takes his job very seriously. No fooling around. It’s time to get some new recruits and he’s not happy that a new guy is being shoved down his throat. Matt Brody (Zac Efron) is an Olympic gold medalist who’s now doing community service. He’s a pretty boy hotshot with attitude. Gee, do you think he’ll get his comeuppance?

It takes a bit, but Matt slowly learns that  there’s more to lifeguarding than getting a tan. Especially if our gorgeous villain, Priyanka Chopra is trying to take over all of the real estate. And for what reason other than drug smuggling. Mitch and his team are focused on bringing her down. But the local cop, the local councilman, etc all seem to be blocking him at every turn. But no one stops The Rock.

Muscles, swimsuits, young ladies in slow motion, the one “fatter dude” as comic foil – there’s every stereotype in the book for a summer movie based on a tv series. C’mon. But Johnson and Efron have good chemistry with zinger lines. The girls are pretty, Zac is pretty, and Johnson exudes comic charm. It’s just stupid FUN.  Hang on for the Hasselhoff appearance, and the Pamela Anderson sighting. Wink. Wink.  Plus some funny blooper scenes during the credits. Summer movie season has begun with a splash.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Book Review - Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance is a nonfiction piece that is very pertinent for today’s troubled world. This is a man who escaped extreme poverty and a very closed world, and yet his reflections are poignant and striking. They give a picture of a segment of America that most of us cannot fathom. But it’s there and factors into today’s political landscape, today’s economic realities, and is a world that we need to acknowledge and consider as we move forward with health care, budgets, etc.

You will like J.D. and can picture him as a young boy – lots of energy, enthusiasm, and intelligence. His naïve charm will conquer a lot. And the key – he had a grandmother and grandfather who had faith in him, who supported him, and knew it was best that he leave their world in rural Kentucky.  They knew to build his world and push him to better. No matter what – he lives in California now – a successful financial dude. Yet, his roots are in Kentucky and Ohio and it keeps him humble.

From the cover blurb – A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of the country.

p. 213  The rest of the evening was uneventful. I chatted politely and remembered admonitions to chew with my mouth closed.  (a recruiter meal – clothes, chat, etc. all meant a lot and he was in a different world. He did get the job offer)

p. 221  Social capital is all around us. Those who capture into it and use it to prosper. Those who don’t are running life’s race with a major handicap. This is a serious problem for kids like me. Here’s a partial list of things I did not know but learned.   1. Wear a suit to a job interview.   2. Butter knives are to be used for a reason    3. Shoes and belt should match  4. Certain cities and states had better job prospects.  5. Going to a better college brought benefits outside of bragging rights (He made it into Yale!).    I was remarkably ignorant of how to get ahead.

I recommend Hillbilly Elegy to broaden your horizons on social issues. It’s serious and yet well written with a light touch. You will chuckle at parts and cringe at others, feel sad, and question hope.

Excellent read!!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Fore Friday

 Back on May 20th, Ray and I were lucky enough to have free tickets (including FREE parking) for the Byron Nelson golf tournament at the Four Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas. Sounds swanky, I know.

 I'm not keen on golf on TV - boring!  But I kept an open mind about seeing it live, and I came away duly impressed. Plus I saw Sergio Garcia in his bright red pants. He's quite popular and is a fun player to watch - very enthusiastic.  Alas, he fell apart on Sunday and did not come close to winning.
 Aussie, Jason Day caught my eye. Very spiffy and the man could whack that ball hard. Hearing it live, watching it zing far, and joining in the oohs and aahs of the crowd was very amusing. Jason ended up in second place on Sunday.
 More Jason plotting strategy
Placing the ball and ready to swing.   Fore!!

So, golf live gave me a new perspective and appreciation for the athletes. Always good to try new things. (Plus we walked over 10,000 steps - not too shabby).