New Car, New Husband

Diane Russell

In the summer of 1992, my red 1988 Toyota Tercel started costing hundreds of dollars a month to maintain. Fortunately, I could walk or ride my bike 1.5 miles each way from Oak Ramble Village, my apartment complex, to my job as a Human Resources Coordinator at the University of South Florida (USF). I also was a new part-time graduate student in Counselor Education at USF and could walk to those evening classes.

However, my continued membership and choir participation at St. Mark United Church UCC in Valrico was in question. St. Mark was over 20 miles away from Oak Ramble Village, so it was a 40-mile roundtrip drive. I had two options:  1) leave St. Mark and attend another church or 2) buy a new car and continue worshipping at St. Mark.

I had been a member of St. Mark for five years and was good friends with Rev. Garry and Carolyn Scheuer, the minister and his wife, who also served my hometown church, the First Congregational Church of Des Plaines, Illinois. I had made some friends in the choir and felt comfortable. It would be a tough decision to make.  (More…)

Manhattan Memories

Robert Strozier

I first visited Manhattan in 1953, when I was 13, the guest of Vandy, my godmother. An avid reader of movie magazines, I asked if we could dine at the Stork Club, then one of the most celebrated nightspots in the world where glittering movie stars and celebrities always were being seen. And so, rather than instructing me in the Nicene Creed, Vandy took me to the Stork Club for lunch.

Everything was as I had pictured it, down to the Stork statuette on the table, and—would you believe—sitting at the next table was raven-haired starlet Piper Laurie with a slick-looking power player of some sort. This was the kind of crowd I’d always dreamed of running with, and I resolved then to move to Manhattan one day. Fourteen years later I made it—staying for another 45 years.

When I first arrived, the only people I knew were an uncle and aunt, and sometimes I’d go over in the mornings and watch TV game shows with her, a ritual that included drinking three or four martinis.   (More...)

The Texas Turkey

Neil Harvey

The Christmas season was fast approaching.  The year was 1944, the war in Europe and the Pacific had swung in favor of the Allies, and the holiday mood was upbeat and festive in Dallas, Texas.

In those days, I was the foreman, laborer, and chief chicken plucker and poop scooper for the Harvey family Poultry Enterprises.  My family was going to move into a more fashionable part of Dallas, and our wartime chicken-raising project would not be tolerated in the new neighborhood.  I had butchered and dressed out all the fryers for our customers.  Dad sold off the turkeys, laying hens, and George, the rooster, to a neighbor.

My grandmother, Nanna, who had lost her sight and lived with us, sat in the shade of our willow tree and plucked the feathers from the chickens I had butchered.  Nanna had been raised in the 1880s on the Kansas plains and never shirked the drudgery of any menial job.  She was an expert on all of the household skills like gardening, bread-making, and canning – skills needed to survive on the American Western frontier.  She was an authentic pioneer woman.  (More…)

Abracadabra! “Disappear” Your Old Google Data

Diane White

It’s not something you normally think about – remembering to go in and clear the data Google stores on you. Now Google has options to make your data disappear automatically after a set time.  With these new options, once you set it – you can forget it!

I’ve also included how to take the Google privacy checkup. Just scroll to the end if you want to skip the auto-delete options.

Is setting up auto-deleting right for you?

  • If you are concerned about privacy and Google storing your digital footprint across applications like searches, voice requests, maps and YouTube, consider taking these steps.
  • If you like the personalized recommendations that Google assistant analytics makes for you, like products and ad choices, your interests probably have changed over time. What you were interested in last month, or last year, may no longer be relevant. Why should your Google searches, say for (More…)

A Lesser Known Italy

Catherine Mitchell

There is so much more to Italy than Rome, Florence and Venice. Don’t get me wrong; I love those cities. In fact, Florence is my VERY favorite city – and I’ve traveled to over 100 countries and can’t even begin to count the number of cities.

My most recent trip took me to another Italy – one of fewer world-renowned artistic treasures and more eye-popping landscapes – to new foods and even another language.

The map shows the area traveled.

The first city, Fano, is more central than northern Italy, but it was my first stop. While I went to visit family, there is much to be said for this city on the Adriatic coast. It boasts beautiful white sand beaches, and the historic center is a walled city, with much of the wall and a city gate still standing.  The ancient Roman via Flaminia ended here. Sections of it are still visible. Fano is also home to the oldest Carnevale (Mardi Gras) parade in Italy. And it’s a perfect walking city.  (More…)

The Stranger Diaries

Cindy Knox

‘If you permit me,’ said the Stranger, ‘I’d like to tell you a story. After all, it’s been a long journey and, by the look of those skies, we’re not going to be leaving this carriage for some time. So, why not pass the hours with some story-telling? The perfect thing for a late October evening.’

‘Are you quite comfortable there? Don’t worry about Herbert. He won’t hurt you, It’s just this weather that makes him nervous. Now, where was I? What about some brandy to keep the chill out? You don’t mind a hip flask, do you?

‘Well, this is a story that actually happened. Those are the best kind, don’t you think? Better still, it happened to me when I was a young man. About your age.’

The Stranger Diaries is Elly Griffiths’ delightful homage to Gothic novels. It’s a book within a book, containing a gratifying mix of mystery, suspense, gloomy settings, horror, deaths, supernatural events, a damsel in distress,  (More...)

Why 80 Matters

Don Menzel

In a few weeks I will hit the magic number: 80 years old.  I reckon I can no longer deny that the so-called ”Golden Years” are just a breath away.  “What will be will be” says the great philosopher Doris Day. And so it is. Or, as another modern-day philosopher, Harlem-born Charlie Rangel once said about his age, “I don’t buy green bananas anymore”.   Well, I haven’t reached that stage yet, and I hope I don’t, but I will share a few personal considerations with you.

First, I never ever expected to clock 80 years for two reasons:  Most of my life has been in the fast lane.  Of course, maybe that’s the reason I down 15 pills daily, seven of which target high blood pressure.  And then there’s heredity.  (More…)

The Sin That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Robert Strozier

When I was a boy growing up in Hyde Park, a community on the South Side of Chicago, our family belonged to the Trinity Episcopal Church.  Father Anderson, the rector, was handsome, generous-hearted and kindly, and I wanted more than anything to win his approval. His wife, Elizabeth, was warm and gracious too. My own parents were okay, but they were—you know—parents.

Father Anderson “believed” in me and hoped I’d become a priest one day. He seemed to like my sense of humor too, not that his standards were too high—his favorite comedian was George Gobel of “Well, I’ll be a dirty bird!” fame.

I was both a choirboy and an acolyte, depending on the occasion, and I’m sure I looked positively angelic in my black cassock and white surplice. But I knew I was a pious phony and unworthy to   (More…)

Chautauqua 2019

Linda Schatz

It’s 1874.  I’m a Methodist Sunday School teacher. I travel by steamship on the calm waters of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York and arrive at a small shoreline settlement for a vacation learning experience. I’ll hear speakers on the Bible, teaching methods, science, and social issues. The roads rise gently from the lake and are only wide enough for one horse and carriage.

Wait—it’s 2019, and I’m one of several thousand knowledge and culture seekers arriving by car at Chautauqua Institution. With six of my women friends, it will be a vacation week of thought-provoking lectures, excellent dance, music, vocal and theater performances, and animated political and philosophical discussions.  Oh, and a tap dancing lesson to bring back my fun days of hopping to a beat and flexing my ankles.  (More…)

A Massage to Remember

Diane Russell

My oldest niece said, “We are all going to have a Chinese foot massage at 6 o’clock tonight – my treat!”  It would be a novel way to celebrate my sister’s upcoming wedding near San Diego in four days. What made this event so unexpected was the following back story in the autumn of 2012.

That morning I drove my husband to Chicago’s Midway Airport, so he could fly home to Tampa. He had enough of the dreary November weather and overstayed his planned visit by two weeks. Why?  (More…)