H-Town Diary: The Pathways of November

I know it seems like civilization is falling to pieces, and that we cannot agree on anything, and that uncertainty can fill up a little too much real estate in your head.

And that even though Houston seems far away from Paris and Beirut and Tel Aviv, that things are so terrible all over, and that perhaps more turmoil is heading our way.  It seems that chaos and pain are as close as a television, or a radio, because in a way, they are.

But sometimes, you can have an adventure, take a break from the debates in our heads, and allow the people who are doing good take center stage, distract you from the tragic, take your breath away.  Fate can lead you upward—it does not always bring you to your knees.

This is what happened to me, in November, when so much pain was in Paris, Beirut, Tel Aviv, well, all over.

So first of all, the weather sent us a message:  that it can be cloudless and sunny and 65 in November, a reminder that we can’t mess up everything here on earth.  Sometimes, things are gorgeous and fantastic and we haven’t done a thing to deserve it.  But we are grateful for the gift.

So I turned off the talking heads, turned off my radio, accepted an invitation to remember that while terrorists get so much press, there are quiet deeds going on all around us in Houston, Texas, America, and we need to make sure those get enough air time to sustain us, let us breathe. Continue reading

A Million Rose Petals: A D-Day Remembrance

This updated essay will run this weekend in the Gray Matters online section of The Houston Chronicle to commemorate the fallen in remembrance of D-Day.

Reflection and Choice

On 6 June 1944 Americans stormed French beaches in the Battle of Normandy under commander Dwight D. Eisenhower.  It was the turning point for World War II, and was decisive for defeating Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler.

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Americans wounded after storming Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944

Yet last year, on my neighborhood street, only one flag other than the one on our house flew in memory of these brave Americans, some of whom gave their lives so that Western Europe, and the West in general, could remain free.

Last year, on television, commemorative profiles of the few veterans remaining alive were overwhelmed by the distressing reports that we had just traded five of the most dangerous terrorists in our own war, the war on terror, in exchange for a soldier who might have deserted, might have collaborated with the enemy.  The White House and journalists in general were okay with…

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Downton Abbey Withdrawal: Not. Pretty.

When I first started watching Downton Abbey, it was an escape from all sorts of things: grading papers, organizing closets, reading books that are really hard and force you to google words that you don’t know.

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You know: stuff you have to do.

Well, one of the first things I noticed was the presence of MAGGIE SMITH in her complete perfection, and she had a few ZINGERS, and they were so great, so funny, that you really did not wish her to stop after JUST ONE….(I have the same problem with tortilla chips and those toll house chocolate chip cookies that take only ELEVEN minutes to bake.  I know: a little TOO easy. Very. Dangerous.)

All she had to do was have some lines like this:

Violet: “I’m so looking forward to seeing your mother again. When I’m with her I’m reminded of the virtues of the English.”
Matthew: “Isn’t she American?”
Violet: “Exactly.”

Or this:  “What is a WEEKEND?”  and of course you are laughing, and IT DOES NOT TAKE MUCH TO BE HOOKED.

I kid you not. Continue reading

Spring Fever

A version of this appeared a year ago…thinking of my friend Joan Donaldson who lost her son this year…she is a wonderful person and writer, and I am so grateful that I know her.

Reflection and Choice

For Joan Donaldson

Today, March 20th, is the first day of Spring.  If you are really in the know, you might call it the Vernal Equinox, and do that little experiment in which you test an egg and see if it shares the equilibrium that is supposed to infuse the day.  This winter was not any colder than usual in Texas, yet I have been longing for everything to warm up, even though I know friends from other parts of the country have had it much rougher.  My friends post messages that lament the snow, even if it does look beautiful.  Rarely have I had to deal with ice on my windshield in Houston, although it was freezing when I visited San Antonio in February. I hadn’t even thought about ice since I lived in North Carolina, but there, I just told everyone I was from Texas and stayed inside…

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