Friday, March 09, 2018

Where did February go?

Last month just flew by and here we are in March. Every month seems to just get shorter and shorter. I sound just like all of my Aunts, who kept saying the same thing when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. And now... my cousins and I are ‘the old guard’ in the family. How in the world did that happen?!

I have been busy with The Magic Wand Book Club.... a good busy. Seems like I am always looking for books, buying books, separating them into the grade levels and then searching for bookmarks. It gets me a little nuts when the kids are picking out books based on the bookmarks inside them, but if that’s what it takes to get them reading and keep them reading, so be it.

The fifth and sixth grade girls are reading Anne Frank’s Diary, and I recently re-read my own copy of that book. Still makes me cry, no matter how many times I read and re-read that book. We have had some good discussions about Anne’s diary, and I hope there will be more to come. Next week is Spring Break for the elementary school, so I just about pleaded with the students yesterday to save some time for reading every day during their week away from school. One of the students asked me if I would be reading during the break also, and I told him that I never take a break from reading. He looked at me skeptically, but I think he knew I was serious.

My husband has begun the After-School Baseball Club, based on the Strat-O-Matic Baseball Game. We both go on Tuesday afternoons for that program.... I help to set up and take note of which students show up. So far, that program is a hit (pardon the pun) and the kids seem to enjoy playing coach and picking out their own players for the teams. We give out peanuts or Cracker Jack at the end of the game, plus baseball cards to each student. An eBay seller in Michigan has donated boxes of baseball cards for the students, in addition to the ones we initially purchased for the program. Such great people in this world... you just have to find them.

The book club kids stretch my patience at times, especially the fourth graders who can lose focus in a heartbeat, but they are also stretching my imagination and compassion. In an area where these students have so little to look forward to, when I see them running into the school library to give me hello hugs, my heart just melts. And expands to the point of bursting. I just love those kids.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


My husband says that I am suffering from PMS... Post Manilow Syndrome. I agree. This always happens after one of Barry's shows... every day following THE DAY is just another day.  I am following Manilow's path along this latest concert tour. He is in Florida now, near the area where the last school shooting occurred... how sad is that... and Barry is donating all of the concert money to the families of the victims of that shooting. And that is exactly why we love Manilow.

Valentine's Day has come and gone, but it continues on with my Book Club group of students. I gave out special treats last week for Valentine's Day, and then when I went to the grocery store this week, they had all of the Valentine candy boxes on sale, the ones in heart-shapes. I bought one for each of the Book Club students. I'm sure they won't mind celebrating Valentine's Day for one more week.

Last week's Book Club got focused on "The Diary of Anne Frank."  I had just one copy of that book and one of the girls asked me if it was a real diary or a made-up diary. I told her that it was very real indeed, and gave the students a bit of history about Anne and her diary. I asked for a show of hands as to how many would be interested in reading that book, and a dozen girls raised their hands.  I went to the local bookstore this week and ordered a box of copies of Anne's diary. The bookstore owner was nice enough to offer a teacher's discount being that the books are going to the students.  I bought the four copies that the bookstore had on the shelves, and I will give those out on Thursday, with the rest of the students getting their copies next week.

The students in the Book Club continue to surprise me. They are interested in the books, the club, and even the 'standards' that I insist upon during the after-school program, and hopefully, beyond that. I expect the Book Club students to be kind to one another, to respect the books and keep them in very good condition, to be aware of how they speak to and act towards each other, and to always remember that they are not the center of this universe and should always think about how their actions may cause ripples in the atmosphere surrounding them. One of the 4th grade girls summed all of that up in just a few words:  "Be po-lite. That's it, just be po-lite."

My husband's After-School Fantasy Baseball League, based on the board game Strat-O-Matic, begins next week at the elementary school. Ten 6th-graders have signed up already, and I know that the number will double before next week is up. The Strat-O-Matic game is still wildly popular, and I have to wonder how many of the 6th graders here had heard of the game before that sign-up sheet was posted in the school.

Our weather has been the pits lately, but at least the cold snaps have disappeared. What we are left with are gray skies filled with clouds and rain and dampness and fog. All of that, all on the same days. The sun has been an infrequent visitor, and it's getting everyone cranky, including and especially, me.  Oh well, this too shall pass. Spring will be here and the wildflowers will be popping up and hopefully after all of this rain, it will be a splendid season for the bluebonnets.

I saw a hand-painted wood sign on Pinterest yesterday.... "The meek shall inherit the earth... the strong will get Texas." 

Friday, February 02, 2018

Barry Manilow in SugarLand....

As I type, it is one o'clock in the morning.... and I am the only one awake in this house. My husband is sound asleep upstairs, and Savannah and Sweet Pea are sleeping in their pillow-beds down here on the first floor. And I am awake, awake, awake... because we went to see Manilow in concert tonight at a venue in SugarLand.

Wonderful show, as always, and what always strikes me at Manilow's concerts are his audiences... they truly connect with him and love him, even though he is right smack in the middle of country-western-music-mania when that Brooklyn-born man comes to Texas.

Just before the show began tonight, the speakers were playing non-Manilow music just to keep the audience entertained while waiting for Barry to come on stage. In the middle of our section, a young man with Down's Syndrome got up from his seat and started to dance. He was enjoying the music, smiling at everyone in the row where his seat was, and we all could see that he was 'in the moment' and loving every second of it.  When the music stopped, the audience around his section began to applaud, and that young man smiled even bigger and then he seriously and ceremoniously took a bow. It was just spectacular to see... and then he went back to his seat and his mother wrapped her arms around her son and gave him the biggest hug, and then she smiled at everyone who was applauding him and you could see by the look in her eyes that she was silently saying 'Thank you!'

Shortly after that, lights in the arena were dimmed, stage lights went on, and Barry came out from the back of the stage and his magic began... everyone singing along with his music... we all know the words, and I'm sure it's a great compliment to Barry that we are so comfortable with him that we are not just sitting there waiting for him to entertain us, we are ready and willing to be part of his music, part of his magic, right along with him.

As always, his audience will stand up when he sings their favorites, so during any song he sings in his concerts, there are pockets of people standing up and singing along and dancing in their places. And then you have the Barry fans who stand up for mostly all of the night, singing along and waving the glow-sticks and hoping the night will just never end. (I will not name names here, to protect the happily guilty.)

At the mid-point of the concert, Barry talked about last year's hurricane and flooding damage in and around the Houston area. Manilow has done so many concerts at Houston venues, and I know he appreciates his fans here. And one fan in particular got a special mention from Barry.... a young man was preparing for a major piano competition when the hurricane hit his Houston area home and destroyed everything in it, including his piano.  Someone in his neighborhood managed to obtain a small keyboard for the boy to practice on... but Barry heard about this boy's lost and beloved piano, and right there on stage tonight, after Manilow called out the boy's name and asked him to come up near the stage.... a big and beautiful grand piano was rolled out and Barry gifted that piano to the young boy.... complete with a huge red bow right on top of that gorgeous instrument. Needless to say, the crowd went wild, and we loved Manilow even more, if that is at all possible.

Beautiful concert... old songs, new songs, Manilow magic from start to finish... with no one coming out on the stage before Barry and his orchestra, and no intermission... just Barry and his outstanding musicians and singers, plus a local Houston choir to sing along with all of us at the end of the night.

I had planned to take my iPad to the concert, but at the last minute, I decided to leave it at home. I didn't want the interruption of taking pictures. I did what I always do at Manilow's concerts... I sang every word to every song, I did not take my eyes off of Barry and his musicians, I stood up for most of the concert and danced by my seat and clapped with a green glow-stick in my hands, and I was lost in the moment, every moment, from the first dimming of the lights to the pop of paper streamers at the end of the night. And yes, I came home with more streamers... trying to bring home a bit of the magic.

I have been to so many Manilow concerts over the years.... in and around Houston, in Las Vegas, in New York City and Long Island, and we would have seen him in London if our plane reservation hadn't been the day before his performance there.  After each concert, I walk away thinking "Tonight was the best one!" 

But tonight.... the audience applauding for the young boy who danced in the aisle, and then the piano with the giant red bow for the young pianist, and then... Barry sang "I Am Your Child" with such a sad and touching poignancy tonight... that song alone was worth twice the price of a seat in the 7th row.  "I Am Your Child" --- Manilow wrote that song for his mother, and when his mother passed away, Barry sang it behind a dark curtain and then waited a few moments before coming out on the stage and standing in front of his audience.

Walking out of the venue tonight, I knew that this was the best Manilow concert ever.  Until the next one, of course. So, Barry.... when are you coming back to town again?!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

At the end of January already...

...another month just flying by.  But at least the weather is warmer, even if today is a rainy drippy day.  My birthday is next week. 66 this year. How in the world is that even possible?  I feel exactly as I did when I turned 40... total disbelief in the number. But I would rather be facing the number 40 instead of the number 66.

The Magic Wand Book Club.... I brought in the "Readability Capes" and the "Thinking Caps" for the students this week.... capes for the girls, caps for the boys. Talk about excitement... the girls were over the moon about the pretty capes, and the boys were excited to pick out their caps.  I just stood there and couldn't stop smiling. These students, most of whom have very little out-of-the-ordinary surprises in their lives, couldn't get over the surprise of their new capes and caps. More than a few of the girls twirled in their seats with their capes draped over their shoulders, and it was just pure joy to watch them. This book club for the students is by far the best thing I have ever accomplished.

Next week, Barry Manilow will be in concert in the Houston area... and we will be there, front and center.  We saw Manilow in Houston a couple of years ago, for his 'One Last Time' tour, supposedly the end of his touring years because he wanted to retire.  That Houston concert was bittersweet because we all thought we wouldn't be seeing him live on stage again. So the announcement of this coming performance was magical.  "We have to go! No doubt about it at all, we just have to be there!"  And so we will be.  The ticket prices for the best seats were astronomical.... I told my husband that he could do all his gift shopping for the entire year with one swipe of his credit card... my birthday, Christmas, anniversary, Valentine's Day, and whatever else comes along. All I want is to see Manilow on stage. Period. The end. I don't need anything else. (And if I do, I'll just buy it myself.)

So cloudy and drippy today. I've checked the weather for next week... it will be a sunny and clear day for the Manilow concert. It's the least Texas can do for Barry... we cannot have him coming here to face a rainy day, because then he would be singing "I made it through the rain...." 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Happy New Year....

...and so far, it's been a busy one. And also a cold one. I can barely wait until our weather gets more Texas-like. These cold fronts that come down from Canada have us dressing in layers and sleeping under heated blankets. As I type this, Savannah is sound asleep on the sofa next to me and she is underneath a blue baby-blanket that my husband just warmed up over the heater. I guess Savannah has forgotten that her favorite color is pink... the blue blanket is nice and warm and she is tucked into it as if she's ready to hibernate till Spring.

Since the first of the year, my Thunderbird spent two days at the dealership because the fan system started making noise as if it were falling apart, which it was. They replaced the entire thing at an exorbitant cost which had the service manager asking me if I wanted to just trade in the car. Are you kidding?  They don't make these small two-seater Thunderbirds anymore and my car has less than 30,000 miles on it. I love this car and have from Day One... and it's not going anywhere without me.

The New Year's gift to our riding lawn mower was a repair job that was fixed free at the tractor supply store where we bought it.  The mower literally caught fire while our handyman was cutting the tall grass out by the barn. He ran to the nearest hose for a bucket of water and managed to put out the fire without being hurt or caught in the flames, and without having an entire dry-grass pasture going up in smoke.

After packing away all the Christmas decorations, I started to move merchandise out of my booth at the antique shop in town. I have decided that my time spent at the elementary school with the kids and The Magic Wand Book Club is more important than selling collectibles in the shop. I packed up three boxes to donate to the thrift store, I gave some items to the girls who work in the shop, and I have a couple of boxes of antique items to sell on eBay as time allows.  The Book Club begins again next week... the kids have been out of school on winter break, and I truly have missed them all since before Christmas.

The New Year has already caused havoc and harm to pets and wildlife in our area of these hills. Two vicious stray dogs have been wandering around the area, nearly killing one friend's dog and possibly killing three baby calves... one belonging to a friend and the other two belonging to her neighbor. We are saying 'possibly killing' those calves because we don't have proof that the dogs were responsible, but the timing is just too much of a coincidence. With my friend's dog, her husband caught both strays attacking their dog and managed to get the strays away before their dog's life was ended right there on their own property. Phone calls were made to all the neighbors, and now everyone is looking for the two strays with the intention of shooting them at first sight.

I am trying to type as Sweet Pea is cuddled up on my lap with his head on my left wrist. Savannah is still sleeping beside me, tucked under her blanket. With the cold weather, living in a 110-yr-old house which was built for Texas heat, not Texas cold, means that the cold air seeps into each and every teeny-tiny crevice in and around this vintage Victorian. I am so tired of dressing in layers and wearing a heavy sweater all day long. However... my cousins in NY are dealing with below freezing temperatures and layers of ice and snow. As of right this minute, I will stop complaining about the weather. Maybe.

It's a New Year. Everyone in this house in healthy and happy. The riding mower didn't burn up the handyman or the pasture... my Thunderbird is purring like a kitten... and warmer weather will be here in a heartbeat. And besides all of that.... Barry Manilow is coming to the Houston area and we will be there to see him. Life is good. Life is great.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas comes...and Christmas goes...

...and I have spent part of the morning packing decorations away till next year. Little by little every day, everything gets put away, and the magic elves aren’t helping. Actually, the elves are still on the little ladder near the big tree, making believe they are hanging ornaments. They won’t have such cute smiles on their faces when I put them back into the box.

The weather has turned cold, raw, windy, cloudy...  very un-Texas-ish. We need some sun here, and the weather gods had better be on their best behavior in early February when Barry Manilow comes to the Houston area for a concert. Be still my Manilow-loving heart.

We had a nice Christmas... lunch with friends, then an afternoon visit from other friends, then a quiet Christmas dinner at night. I called some of my aunts and cousins, eMailed other cousins, and still waiting to hear back from others.... cousins all over the country. Amazing that we all lived on Long Island so many years ago, and now we are scattered all over the place. From NY to AZ, from FL to TX to IL... holidays at the kid’s table in grandma’s house is a distant memory. But we talk about all of that every year at Christmas-time as if it had happened just yesterday.

As I type, Savannah is stretched out on the sofa in the TV room... she is covered up with a blanket, and loving every doggie minute of such pampering. We discovered she likes a blanket on cold days, and she will do her best to stay tucked-in until she positively has to get up. No, this dog is not spoiled.

Speaking of spoiled, Sweet Pea is sleeping in his cat-bed which is right next to the heater. And there he will stay until he gets hungry enough to pop out of his warm comfort zone for a can of Fancy Feast.  One of our friends told us the other day that if she gets to come back to earth for a second life, she would like to be one of my pets, be it cat or dog.

...and the children were nestled all snug in their beds, with visions of Manilow singing in their heads.... (is it February yet?!)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Manilow is coming to town....

...and he’s checking his list to see who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.... and who gets seats closest to the stage....

A Christmas miracle.... after announcing a couple of years ago that he would be retiring from concert tours, Barry Manilow will be in concert in Sugar Land, Texas, this coming February.  What a great way to start the New Year!  My husband has already bought our tickets and I am counting the days till February.

We had gone to see Manilow in Houston two years ago, for what we thought was his last concert in our city... it was a wonderful but bittersweet night, listening to Barry and thinking I wouldn’t be seeing him on stage again. I have lost count of how many times we have gone to his shows... mostly front-row seats... in New York City, on Long Island, at the Hilton in Las Vegas, and so many venues all over the Houston area, and we once missed him by a day in London.

And now Manilow will come back to Texas... yes, Virginia, there is a Santa.

Until then... I sit here with a very bad cold.... I got sick the day after our Christmas party and the coughing and sneezing and what-have-you has been relentless. I hate being sick... such a waste of time... and I am a bad patient because I refuse to give in and it’s hard to just sit still and be sick.

I have been reading Christmas books, one after the other... thinking of Christmases gone by... if you think too much, it gets you sad. So just keep reading.

Think of something else.... such as what to wear for the Manilow concert.....