Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Friday in Texas

Oh yeah, I went home for an extended weekend. Here's what Friday entailed:

"Wheels" (dear friend Amy) picked me up at the airport - isn't that awesome?! What a jewel of a friend. I use her to cart me all over God's green earth, and she doesn't mind!!! I highly recommend having your very own "Wheels" of a friend. (She received this nickname from Dad last fall when she carted me to College Station. She in turn pointed to a bottle of wine and said it was the perfect name for my dad).

Got to spend a lot of time with Granmary at her swanky crib in H-town, the Hallmark (an assisted living high-rise). I really enjoyed seeing Granmary. Patsy came over and the three of us had dinner together at the Houston Country Club-esque (I kid you not) dining room. Despite being joined by Mr. Pollock, a cantankerous old man that I'll quote later, the crisp white tablecloths and ample waitstaff and snooty old biddies at tables nearby and Granmary transforming into the belle of the ball reeked of the HCC.

At the Club, when Granmary's friends (the ones she cared to acknowledge) passed by, she politely beckoned for them to come over and meet me, drawling, "This is Emily, mah grand daw-ta. This is Anne's daw-tah." The ladies would then coo and say how much I've grown up, insert proper Southern small talk, then they were off. Fast forward to the present. From her wheelchair at the table, Granmary beckons her friends to be wheeled over by their assistants. She drawls, "I wawunt you to meet my gran daw-ta. This is Anne's daw-ta, Emily." Oh, how they cooed and showed me that I was "this big" (about 12" tall) the last time they saw me. Some things never change.

Met Mr. Stimson, an old family friend who a) taught Mom and her siblings' Sunday School class at St. Francis Episcopal and b) summered with my family at Inks Lake near Austin. Phenomenally kind and sharp man, he is. I love elderly people.

Ok, now for Mr. Pollock. What a character! We were at a table for 4, and he ambled up with his walker, gruffly asking if the seat was taken, all the while eyeing the bottle of white wine Patsy had just placed on the table (it's BYOB. Not very Country Club, but I think enough Suggestion cards were filled out that the management obliged). Mr. Pollock's pants hit his upper chest, and his Mr. Magoo glasses made his eyes much larger than they actually were. He eagerly obliged Patsy's offer of a glass of wine, and quickly blurted, "nice aroma," a statement I don't think he really meant, as his sight and hearing left much to be desired.

I took Granmary to the powder room during dinner, and when I wheeled her back to her seat, Mr. Pollock barked, "You can't sit there! That seat is taken!" A couple of awkward seconds passed, then he mutters, "Oh. It's you."

The fare for dinner was fried or baked catfish with french fries or asparagus (it's really entertaining to see the residents feel so powerful with their menu sheets and the ability to choose precisely what they want for supper). Dessert came on a cart, with Mr. Pollock stealing a piece of cheesecake from a passing cart, then throwing a tantrum when what was on his plate was in fact angel food cake and not the cookie he'd requested. He furiously scribbled on a Suggestion card, as did Granmary (because they'd apparently left skin on one side of her fried fish).

After we got Granmary up to her apartment and visited for awhile, it was past her bedtime (dinner had been a good 2 hour ordeal) so she was off to bed. Patsy and I said our goodbyes and headed downstairs. It was really great to see Granmary and Patsy - I've missed them big time. Amy and Courtney and Sheridan picked me up and carted me off to "What's up, Cupcake?" the cutest little Airstream trailer parked in an old car lot, selling delicious individual cupcakes. Random. I love it.

We later went to Cedar Creek (where I usually run into old college boyfriends), but it was bone dry Friday night. Amy spewed her drink all over me, Sheridan, and the table when Sher pretended to wind up her (invisible) hearing aid. You had to have been there. It was AWESOME.

Next stop was Taco C for Fats McGillicutty, yours truly. Sher and Amy meowed at me while I scarfed down a beef fajita taco. Thankfully they hadn't pinned creepy cat photos to the bed like they did last time I stayed at Amy's. Courtney is uber-classy, as always. She just got into grad school (woohoo!) for speech pathology.

So in summary, Texas is just as great as I left it. Wheels navigated around the dreadful traffic (second only to Austin), and I found myself totally capable of one day moving back to HOUSTON. Holy Toledo. The DC rat race does crazy things to a person.

And next time boys and girls, it's going to the the tale of Saturday!! Fasten your seatbelts.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Social Security Statement

Things learned when reading my SS statement:
  • What in the world did I do in 1997 that accounted for $12 in social security earnings? Why did I report that?!
  • If I become disabled right now, I could get $1217 a month.
  • If I die this year, certain members of your family MAY qualify for the following benefits: your child $1087 a month (well, that's out of the equation).... your spouse who reaches full retirement age: $1449 a month (rats, nonexistent child has no retirement-reached dad); total family benefits cannot be more than $2692 a month (what's the point of having more than one kid?? Oh yeah - the ability to choose which one gets the SS benefits!)
And now, for some light reading material:
  • Survivors: When you die, certain members of your family may be eligible for benefits:
  • 1. Your spouse age 60 or older (50 or older if disabled, or any age if caring for your children younger than age 16); and
  • 2. Your children if unmarried and younger than age 18, still in school and younger than 19 years old, or adult children disabled before age 22.
  • If you are divorced, your ex-spouse could be eligible for a widow's or widower's benefit on your record when you die.
  • Studies show that a 20 year old worker has a 3 in 10 chance of qualifying for disability benefits before reaching retirement age.
What the heck?!? My ex-husband could get benefits before my children disabled after age 22? And how in the WORLD do they come up with these ages?

And lastly, a bit of good news from the "What young workers should know about Social Security and saving:"

Will Social Security be around when I retire?
Yes. The Social Security taxes you now pay go into the Social Security Trust Funds* and are used to pay benefits to current beneficiaries.** The Social Security Board of Trustees*** now estimates that based on current law, in 2037, the Trust Funds will be depleted. Because people are living longer and the birth rate is low, the ratio of workers to beneficiaries is falling.**** Therefore, taxes that are paid by workers will not be enough to pay the full benefit amounts scheduled.

However, this does not mean that Social Security benefit payments would disappear. Even if modifications to the program are not made, there would still be enough funds in 2037 from taxes paid by workers to pay for about $760 for every $1000 in benefits scheduled.*****


* Gee, I'm a trust fund baby after all!
**It's good when benefits are given to beneficiaries. This is how things are supposed to be.
***How does one become a SS Trustee, pray tell?
****At last: a way to selfishly appeal to all the people getting abortions and thus lowering our birth rate: Let the kid live!! He/She will foot the bill for your SS!! (sorry, probably cross the line on this one).
*****So quitcherbellyachin' about things running out. Depletion it is not. 76% of what you should get it is.

So the moral of the story is summed up quite nicely on the back of the newsletter:

"Social Security is a financial foundation.....But you should also save and invest....So start saving today."

Thanks, dude. I'll do that.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Really?

And now for the latest installment of..... "Really!?"

Really, lady? Your goal is to become the world's fattest woman? One thousand pounds? Will you then let the millions in the world who are starving to death feast on your gluttonous derriere? Really - you should consider it. At least make the calories count for something. And chasing your daughter really burns enough calories for you to be worried about losing weight? Your hubbie supports you because he's a "belly man?" REALLY??

"Drizzle for Shizzle." Really, Washington Post? Can you be so unashamedly unprofessional in your article headings? Is this what you call journalism? Is this why you're going bankrupt? Really?

Really, Kate Gosselin? I quit watching your show because a) I was disgusted with your metamorphosis into a TV drama queen and b) I hoped that I could singlehandedly lower your ratings so you'd get off the air and raise your children out of the spotlight and BE NICE TO YOUR HUSBAND FOR ONCE. Alas, it was too late. And now you've gone and joined Dancing with the Stars. Yes, I saw you on the cover of some magazine while I was in line at the grocery store. I saw your Winnie the Pooh tattoo complete with a pot of honey. REALLY?!? Who gets a Winnie the Pooh tattoo on one's ankle and FLAUNTS IT?!? Who are you?! Really!

Uh oh. I dared to go to the Fox News website and now I'm riled up. I'd better stop while I'm ahead/civil. Really.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Things that are making me smile right now

Tulips on my bedside table... tulips are so great.



The random framed photo of people I don't know... the guy is taking an oath and behind him there's a huge glob that just says "Soviet Bloc"...


Compared to this portion of the massive map in my room....


I'm really excited about decorating eggs. I need to have a party.


I caved last time I was at Target. What's Easter without Dubble Bubble Eggs?!?!*

*I realize there is FAR more to Easter than dyeing eggs and chewing bubble gum, and I'll address this is later posts, but for now, this is what's making me smile.

Gorgeous orchid plant New York bought.... displayed in the living room... (I give it 2 weeks)


And lastly...what's this?!?! It's 6:30pm and it's still light outside!! I'm going out for a walk!! Drizzle Smizzle. This puny weather won't keep me cooped up any longer.... (although the house has benefited from my presence this weekend.... except for Texas and New York's Curtain Rod Dilemma That Will No Longer Be Mentioned (it involves high blood pressure, tacky curtain rods, frayed drill bits, and metal/cement/the devil inside the wall, thus preventing the hanging of semi-classy curtain rods to aid in the Ongoing Beautification of the Formal Living Room).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Psalm 65: Creation was made for this.

Reading over The Message's version of Psalm 65 this morning... what a treasure. Read on! (My favorite portions are noted....)

Silence is praise to you, Zion-dwelling God,
And also obedience.
You hear the prayer in it all.
We all arrive at your doorstep sooner
or later, loaded with guilt,
Our sins too much for us—
but you get rid of them once and for all.
Blessed are the chosen! Blessed the guest
at home in your place!
We expect our fill of good things
in your house, your heavenly manse.
All your salvation wonders
are on display in your trophy room.
Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer,
Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser,
Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash,
of mobs in noisy riot—
Far and wide they'll come to a stop,
they'll stare in awe, in wonder.
Dawn and dusk take turns
calling, "Come and worship."


Oh, visit the earth,
ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
fill the God-River with living water.
Paint the wheat fields golden.
Creation was made for this!
Drench the plowed fields,
soak the dirt clods
With rainfall as harrow and rake
bring her to blossom and fruit.
Snow-crown the peaks with splendor,
scatter rose petals down your paths,
All through the wild meadows, rose petals.
Set the hills to dancing,
Dress the canyon walls with live sheep,
a drape of flax across the valleys.
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
Oh, oh, let them sing!

Thanks for the reminder. I am going to spend as much of the weekend as possible OUTSIDE.

Happy Friday, ladies and gents!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lame.

Latest disappointment from Facebook. Not cool, Zuckerburg. Not cool.

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Franciscan Monastery

Yesterday, for IJM's quarterly staff prayer retreat, we were SUPER fortunate to go to Mount Saint Sepulchre, the Franciscan Monastery in DC. The Franciscan Order, named for St. Francis of Assisi, celebrated its 800th year in 2009.

Instead of having an awesome speaker for our morning instructional time as we usually do, we instead spent 2.5 hours in solitude and reflection. It was AWESOME. they say the Pope spends 4 hours a day in prayer. After 2.5 hours of prayer and reading the Scriptures and serious meditation on the provision of God, I was feeling pretty special, too. We got a really quick tour of the grounds, so these photos are a motley crew of walking shots.




I spy a disco ball.... this was in St. Francis Hall (very similar to St. Joseph's Halle of FBG) where we were headquartered for the day.







I'm a big fan of their symbol: the big square cross with the 4 little crosses surrounding it



This monastery has a big theme of pilgrimages, specifically pilgrimages to the Holy Land... I think that's where the statues are going.



GORGEOUS interior of the church. This is where I spent my 2.5 hours.



One of many altars set up on the perimeter of the church.



Isn't this fantastic? Dome of the center of the church.



Candles near an altar...



Symbol again



My Christmas card for this year (so hard to find cards that don't have Santa Claus or snowmen! Separate rant for another day)...



Walkway on the edge of the monastery



I'm not quite sure what this represents....



Did you know St. Francis received the stigmata in 1224 and died 2 years later? He did.



St. Francis and baby Jesus. Don't worry about the math.



I spy... a cross atop every flagpole!



Someone carrying baby Jesus.... not sure who.



Absolutely beautiful. I want to attend a Mass in Spanish - anyone in?? Also, I'm going to start listening to Gregorian chants. Epitome of awesome.

These are a few of my favorite things...

I have discovered the secret to good cooking: BUTTER!

This salmon was excellent if I do say so myself... and much butter (and Tony's and capers and artichoke hearts) contributed to its success. Sometimes it's really fun to be a grown up.



Also, I love wasabi.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Days with My Father

Well, here's a real tear-jerker for you: Days with My Father by Philip Toledano. (Thanks, Annie - I got this off your blog!)

What a sweet, sweet time father and son were able to share together. My heart breaks for how confused his father could be - his worried scribbles, his glances in the mirror at a man he didn't recognize. Toledano is a fantastic photographer and chronicles a smidgen of the last 3 years they spent together, capturing the bleariness, dreariness, confusion, connection, and glimmers of hope so beautifully.

My grandmother will turn 85 next week, and she's afraid to die. She believes in God and knows she's going to heaven, but it helps when she's reminded that it will be alright. It helps when someone can be there to calm her spirit. She told my Mom this weekend (in her thick Georgia drawl), "I sure-ah hope my dahlins Charles and Weldon will be they-ah in Heaven..." (Charles was her first husband, my grandfather who died of cancer before I was born; Weldon was her second husband, the grandfather I knew, who died of cancer 5 years ago). What a consolation to know that they are they-ah, waitin' for their Mary Alice. How comforting to know that they ah they-ah. There is strength in being able to stand on this truth.

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, 'Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.'

And the one sitting on the throne said, 'Look, I am making everything new!' And then he said to me, 'Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.' And he also said, 'It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.

~Revelation 21:1-7