Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It happens for the best

Edgar's grandmother had two sayings that have served us well. The first is: "No one is any better than you are." The second is: "Everything happens for the best."

We found it difficult to accept "the best" saying when our Christmas trip to Hawaii with our daughter and our grandchildren was cancelled by the Christmas blizzard. And then, we thought about going to Hawaii during the President's Day vacation times. But thought that, it might snow in February too. Well, it did. But, not only did it snow here, preceded by high winds and delayed airplane flights, but Haawaii is experiencing a case of "vog" which happens when the trade winds stop blowing and the volcanic fumes from the Big Island drift over the other Hawaiian Islands. The vog brings trouble for anybody who has breathing difficulties and people are warned not to go outside and "if you have to go outside, at least don't breathe." And, it's raining and pouring and flash flood warnings are posted for all the Hawiian islands. That would have been some terrible trip.

So, now, we're talking about going in August and hope that hurricanes don't interfere.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Budget - national, not local

It appears that some of the Republicans are taking a hard line stand when it comes to raising the debt ceiling so that the US government can continue business as usual until the new budget is passed. In addition to everything else, this means that Social Security checks will not go out. We old guys depend on our Social Security checks (or direct deposits into our bank accounts).

What are our PA Senators and Representatives doing, personally, to help reduce the deficit. How much money are you giving back, Senators and Representatives? You are expecting us to live on less, how about you? We still have our bills to pay - utilities, food, rent and/or mortgage, and our taxes. Our Lower Merion commissioners thought nothing about raising our taxes - a LOT.

Let us talk about health care now. You Senators and Representatives have gold-plated health care policies. You don't want everyone in the US to have similar policies and yet, you refuse to turn down the policies that are presented to you. What kind of two-faced, hypocritical people are you?

How many of those tax loopholes do you take advantage of? And how often do you get paid by others, lobbyists and other interest groups, for doing the work that we the taxpayers pay you. Give the taxpayers back their money. Nobody takes us to lunch or to play golf or gives us tickets to the super bowl, or to the Phillies, or the Eagles, or on vacations. We never even ever received a vicuna coat.

Barack Obama is the President. Get over it. Accept it. If you block him at every move, you will never be returned to Washington.

Monday, February 14, 2011

cheating - ethical and/or practical reasons not to

The other day, I overheard several third grade girls talking about cheating and copying test answers from other people. Their conversations ranged from ethical reasons - it's not right to take another person's ideas as your own - to practical reasons - the answers could be wrong.

This reminded me of a book "Life Links" that was written by one of my mother's distant relatives. He was a very smart child and received a coveted spot in the Gymnasium in Russia but there was a proviso - he had to let two Russian princes, Prince Ivan and Prince Igor, copy his test papers. The situation worked out fine for everyone concerned. The relative got outstanding marks, 100's on all his papers and Prince Igor and Prince Ivan also got 100's. On one test, the relative performed less than his stellar work and received an 88. He looked at the papers that the princes received, with their marks, and saw 100's on both. He asked the teacher what happened. "I got an 88; Prince Igor and Prince Ivan got 100's. How is that possible?" The teacher explained. "Your answers were not 100% correct. That's why you got an 88. Prince Ivan and Prince Igor copied your paper exactly. That was their job. That is why they got 100."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Gilda Ellis

Gilda Mann Ellis, a daughter of privilege (Fredric R. Mann was her father) and multiple opportunities (has been on all 7 continents) maintains her enthusiasm for life and adventure.

Wife, married to Dr. Richard Ellis for 62 years, mother of 4, and grandmother of 3, Gilda Ellis spends her time with golf, art, and friends. Her enthusiasm for art emerged during her college years. "I was thrown out of the art room in 8th grade at Friends Select," she said one chilly afteernoon as we chatted in her beautiful and sunny Bala Cynwyd home. "My teacher was deaf, saw my mouth moving, and thought I was talking. I wasn't. I was chewing gum. I tried to explain and was told that that was just as bad. So, I never had art in school. But I didn't care. I went to Plays and Players every weekend, during my teen years."

Gilda Ellis was the firsst studio art major at West Hampton College at the University of Richmond in Virginia. "Girls were not allowed to wear jeans, but I did. I wore a very long raincoat over my clothes every day." She led the way for women's independence, defying authority, and foreshadowing the hippies.

When she could, she studied acryllic painting with Sam Feinstein in his Philadelphia studio.

A replacement hip and knee do not interfere with her current activities. But macular degeneration has slowed her down because "I can't see." Then she stopped herself. "I can see colors. I hope the stem cell research will provide a cure very soon." She takes classes in pastels at the Main Line Art Center and goes to New York once in a while for paper making classes. Gilda Ellis studied paper making in China, Japan, Burma, and Thailand, "with the master." She described the process of starting with fibers, cooking them, turning them into a mash, putting them through a sieve, then on a mold and coloring them with liquid paper colors.

During the 70's and 80's Gilda Ellis had major administrative positions with Artists Equity, the Rosenbach Museum, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Philadelphia Art Commission, and Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority Fine Arts Committee. The importance of art in education received a prominent position in her lectures, and TV and radio appearances. When asked, she recommended artists to help developers fulfil their obligation to provide purlbic art. She was costume judge of the string bands at the Mummers Parade for 13 years. She judged the costumes on aesthetics and how the costumes reflected the overall theme.

Gilda Ellis won trophies as a tennis player. "I was never as good as my daughter Eve who was on the pro tour but when I lost my vision, I could no longeer see the tennis ball, so I took up golf. I never played golf before, but I took lessons."

She discovered the Blind Golfers Association, took lessons, learned how to play golf, got a coach and enjoys the game. The coach sets up the ball, describes where the hole is and where to aim. "Putting is the easiest part of the game for me. I used to play miniature golf as a kid and with my children when they were kids." The Blind Golfers Association is a volunteer organization. "They're always asking for money."

She met many famous and talented musicians. Fredric Mann entertained Artur Rubenstein, Zubin Mehta, Robert Merrill, Jasha Heifetz, etc. and Gilda Ellis knew them all. "One night, Lenny Bernstein was performing and during dinner before his performance, he noticed a button was missing on his dress white shirt. I sewed it on for him."

Her many trips to foreign lands almost always were for educational purposes - either architectural or art. She visited Yemen and Jordan by saying she was a Quaker when asked her religion. "I did go to a Quaker school," she said, "and we live on what used to be part of the Roberts' Estate and he got the deed from that famous Quaker William Penn. We were eating lunch at the Queen of Sheba's home in Yemen when our guides told us to get up, get our cameras, and get in the jeeps. We listened and took off just as a group of men with AK47's showed up." She laughed. "We made it out OK, as you can see."

Gilda and Richard Ellis are regular attendees at the Mann Music Center summer programs. "My daughter, Jane Ellis Gitomer, is chair of the Guild of the Mann Music Center and I pay for my own tickets."

Her photographs tell stories. A giant African elephant seems to be walking right out of the photo. The white hippo., with Richard Ellis, looks like a family pet. The bluefooted boobies from the Galapagos sparkle with colors. "The turtles at the Galapagos are guarded 24 hours a day." Her fondest memory of Tahiti is the grapefruit. "I never tasted anything like that," she said. And Green Island Australia has an undersea observatory so those who do not snorkel can enjoy the beautiful underwater inhabitants in their colorful environment.

Although her limited eye sight slows her down a bit, she is an example of the indomitable human spirit. "My other knee hurts me now. I'm probably going to have to have that one done too. Meanwhile, I take an Aleve, and go right on doing what I want."

Gilda Ellis exemplifies the indomitable human spirit.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

1961 - has it really been 50 years?

I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1961, Phi Beta Kappa, with a BA and received my MA in 1962. Hard for me to grab hold of the 50 years but, when I look around, at my husband, Edgar, of 48 years; our 3 marvelous, accomplished, and successful children; and our 7 outstanding grandchildren, time takes on a physical look.
In 1961, I received an NIMF fellowship for graduate school, and my parents rewarded me with a summer in Europe. I have specific and also vague memories about that trip. I remember attending the Eichmann trial in Israel. A wrinkled, evil, little man enclosed in a glass box. On the day I was there, he was asked if he ever signed an order for the death of hundreds of people. He said no. Then the authenticated paper was produced and he was asked to confirm that his signature was on the bottom and he mumbled and affirmative.
I attended "Oliver" in London; spoke French in Paris; struggled with Italian in Rome; ate junk food from vendors in Amsterdam; and admired the statue of the Little Mermaid in Denmark. I returned home on the luxurious and brand new SS United States which is now just sullking on the Delaware River.

"It pays to be ignorant"

Back in the glory days of radio, "It Pays to Be Ignorant" brought laughs, chuckles and outright guffaws to the listeners. The master of ceremonies asked a question, like "who is the Lincoln car named after?" and someone on the panel of comedians would say, "Mr. moderator, Mr. Moderator - 2-door or 4-door?"
We thought we were listening to reruns when we heard Andy Reid's press conference. He introduced Juan Castillo, and praised him as the great offensive line coach of this year's Philadelphia Eagles. This is the same offensive line that had Michael Vick running for his life when he wasn't suffering a concussion. This is the same offensive line that permitted Kevin Kolb to get concussed. In fairness, the Chicago quarterback, Cutler, received the most sacks in the league but Vick received the most hits.
It must have been in the air. While speaking to one of our neighbors, I said that I had to call AAA's twice to get our car off the ice and out of our driveway. She almost said, 2-door or 4-door. What she did say was, which way was your car facing? She is the same neighbor who did not notice any storms on Wednesday and could not imagine trees down and power outages. However, she did say that she read that the Super Bowl had been cancelled. I warned her not to say that to anyone else because she would be thought of as an idiot. "So what?" she asked. And then to compound her foolishness, she said that the Dallas airport is closed and no one can get in or out and they had to cancel the game because of weather.
Another time, while talking about different places, she brought up her extensive knowledge of the neighborhood by, totally inappropriately, remarking that "there used to be a victory garden there, during the war," and by proferring her vast knowledge that a woman who used to own a store was killed by a motor boat accident in Ventnor over the summer. I was waiting for the moderator to interrupt her.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow, ice, and money

We have survived, so far, the major snow and ice storms of this winter. The Christmas storm ruined our family (7 of us) trip to Hawaii and the next 2 storms just ruined our good dispositions. After each storm, we paid younger people to snow blow and shovel us out. They cleared our sidewalks, steps, and driveway. They even removed the snow from the apron of our driveway, to give our car access to the street. They should have saved their energy. The snow plows must have been lurking in the distance and waited for our paths to be snow free when they came barrelliung down the street and threw the snow and ice back on our paths and barricaded in our driveway. It turns out that we paid for this inconvenience too - our tax dollars pay the townshbip drivers who indiscriminately pile snow out of their way.

After a week and a half in the house, our larder headed to emptiness and we needed to replenish the food stuffs with a trip to the grocery store. Easier said than done as our car refused to move. The tires whirred and whirred and the car went no where. A call to AAA promised help within 30 minutes and the two truck driver showed up in 10. It looked deceptively simple. "I'll push you out," he said. "Are you sure?" "Oh, yes. Just get in the car, take off the brake, put the car in reverse, and give it some gas." Ten minutes later, he took out his winch and pulled the car out.

Did our shopping, remarkably uneventful, and came home. And the problem created by the snow plow trucks hit us again. We turned into the driveway and got stuck, again, blocking the entire street. A worker at a neighbor's house offered to push. Again, "are you sure?" "Just keep the wheels straight, step on the gas, and don't stop until you get in." He must have been considerably stronger than the tow truck driver because our car is now safely ensconced in the driveway. Fortunately, we don't have to move it and we can try and wait out this ice storm until the streets are clear and it is safe to walk again.

We keep hoping that our tax dollars will be put to use to finish clearing our street of snow and not blocking our driveway.