Thursday, March 31, 2016

Breakfast with Nancy Pelosi

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Nancy Pelosi launched the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston’s For Women, By Women series with a conversation highlighting the on-going global struggle for women’s rights and her experience at the nexus of political and social progress on Capitol Hill.

The breakfast event took place at the Omni Hotel and was attended by nearly 300 of our city's most politically savvy professionals. I was delighted to be among them.

Pelosi is the Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives in the 114th Congress. From 2007 to 2011, she served as the first woman Speaker of the House. Pelosi has led House Democrats for more than a decade and has represented California's 12th District for 28 years. In 2013, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Seneca Falls, the birthplace of the American women’s rights movement. Under Pelosi’s leadership, the 111th Congress was heralded as “one of the most productive Congresses in history” by Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein.

Of course, I am quite familiar with Pelosi's impressive resume; I have been watching (albeit on television) her lead the Democrats for a very long time. Most often, the positions she has taken on key issues differed from my own. Even so, I admire this woman. For her patriotism, strong beliefs and exceptional ability to lead. 

So, I was eager to attend today's event and be among those who welcomed her to our city. And, at the same time, sit quietly and listen.

I found Pelosi to be attractive - in a number of ways.

She's a pretty woman. Prettier than she appears on TV. She smiled a lot. More so than I've seen her do on TV. She was friendly, and she engaged with her audience (knowing well a Houston audience can, sometimes, be tough for a Democrat). 

I learned this morning that Pelosi has a daughter living in Houston and that she's in and out of our city visiting her from time to time. My hope is, of course, there will be an opportunity down the road to visit with Pelosi one-on-one, for an interview, perhaps.

I know Nancy Pelosi's remarks, like those she made today, would inspire the readers of my magazine, Houston Woman Magazine. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Future of Leadership Luncheon

This afternoon, I attended the Future of Leadership Luncheon at the Hilton Americas, a signature fundraising event of the Center for Houston's Future. As a graduate of the CFH's 2014 Fall Leadership Forum, it was a pleasure to be there to support the region's official Think Tank.

I truly enjoyed the "networking" time prior to the luncheon; the room was filled with many familiar faces from the business and civic communities. It was fun running into people I haven't seen in awhile and playing a quick round of catch-up. It was fun too when some of those folks introduced me to other interesting and highly engaged Houstonians. I exchanged business cards with several of those new acquaintances, and made plans to re-connect soon. Like I said, it was fun!
I enjoyed too being invited to sit at a table hosted by Rice University and my friend, Y. Ping Sun, attorney wife of Rice President David Leebron. There I got to chat with Ping, as well as several other old friends, including Houston City Council Member Ellen Cohen, Mandy Kao of Titan Management, Susan Boggio, Dr. Xifeng Wu of MD Anderson Cancer Center and Dr. Stephen Klineberg of Rice University. 
Laura Arnold

The featured highlight of the luncheon was the presentation by the keynote speaker, Laura Arnold -- philanthropist and co-chair of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. 

Arnold's talk centered on the need for reform in our criminal justice system and the work of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation's Criminal Justice Initiative. The project aims to "reduce crime, increase public safety and ensure the criminal justice system operates as fairly and cost-effectively as possible."

In order to achieve these goals, the Foundation "develops, incubates and spreads innovative solutions to criminal justice challenges. The Foundation assembles teams of experts from both inside and outside the criminal justice field to conduct research projects, create tools for practitioners and partner with local jurisdictions to pilot and test new policies and practices."
Another highlight of the day was seeing Kelly Frels receive the 2016 Eugene H. Vaughan Civic Leadership Award for his lifelong advocacy in education and quality of life. Frels is a retired partner and now senior counsel at Bracewell and Giuliani, LLP. He is also a former president of the Texas Bar. And, in my opinion, very deserving of this special recognition!

Sometimes, it's hard to get away from the office and the work at hand to attend a special event like this. However, when I do, I always benefit from the experience. Today was no exception!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Getting My Shingles Shot

Years ago, my mother got Shingles, and she suffered greatly.

I remember it vividly; it was the only time my dear, sweet mother complained about her health or anything else for that matter. 

As I've aged, I've thought often about Shingles and worried about getting the painful rash, as well. When I found out a vaccine for Shingles was available, I couldn't wait to get it.

On the appointed day, I showed up at Kelsey-Seybold to get the shot. My son, Matt, drove me over and promised to hang out in the waiting room while I connected with the nurse with the loaded syringe. 

I had asked Matt to tag along - just in case I had a negative reaction to the vaccine. I worried, because that is what I do, about having a major allergy attack, breaking out in hives, not being able to breathe, dying of a heart attack! 

Matt was nice about taking me, but he did express an opinion.

He said, "I am happy to take you, Mom, if it makes you feel better, but I really don't think it's necessary. You'll be in a major medical facility, with a nurse and doctors nearby. If anything goes wrong, you'll be with people who can help you - much better than I can."

Still, I wanted him to be there.

Eventually, the nurse and I finally meet. She pulls out a needle (one much smaller than expected) and, does the deed. She was so good at the task; I really didn't feel anything. Not the prick of the skin, not the sting of the vaccine.

"Wow," I said. "That was easy!"

But, before I could rejoice in that and rejoin Matt in the waiting room, the nurse stopped me.

"Here," she said, handing me a white sheet of paper. "This is an instruction sheet - in case you have a negative reaction to the shot. Take this with you and look it over. Then, sit in the waiting room for the next 20 minutes - until you're sure you are going to be OK."

Okay, so much for me worrying for nothing!

Walking back towards Matt, I handed him the instruction sheet and asked him to read it for the both of us.

First, he reads the symptoms of a bad reaction. They pretty much reflected my fears. Then, as he gets to the "steps to take if a reaction occurs," he begins to shake his head.

"What are you doing that for, Matt," I asked.

"Look," he replied, "It tells you right here: If you experience any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately."

Then, with a smile, he added, "It does not say: If you experience any of these symptoms, call your SON immediately!"

Ha ha ha!

The good news is nothing bad happened. I got the shot (which should be effective for the next six years) and I got to spend time with my son. 

And, thanks to Matt, 9-1-1 has since been programmed into my iPhone!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Fearless Females

The number of fearless females who live and work in Houston is a blessing to our city. Being able to spotlight many of them, in the pages of Houston Woman Magazine, has been a distinct pleasure and honor.

Over the past many years, we have "talked" about dozens and dozens of successful female business owners and corporate executives, attorneys and lawmakers, doctors and nurses, teachers and administrators, talented artists, musicians and performers.

We appreciate the accomplishments and contributions of Houston’s fearless females and believe they deserve attention! Admittedly, and with pride, we have served as cheerleaders for them. We have held the megaphone, so to speak, so the message of their magnificence could get out.

Houston’s fearless females come in all shapes and sizes, from different generations and different backgrounds. Even so, when these beautiful, brave souls are brought together, they connect instantly, and view each other as kindred spirits with much in common — the kinds of things that make them role models for the rest of us.

Alas, if only all of us could follow their examples:

Speak up. Fearless females speak up and speak out. They are candidly open when telling us what they think and downright eloquent when opining about issues for which they are passionate. Many times, their contemplations inform and inspire us, call us to action and cause us to be courageous too.

Yet, fearless females tell us they are often “ criticized for being too outspoken, too opinionated, too strong.” More easily than most of us, they shrug off the belittling and stay authentically themselves. So should we!

Take chances.
Fearless females are risk-takers. They opt for non-traditional careers, switch jobs or start new businesses. Sometimes, they take part-time jobs or quit working outside the home altogether — to volunteer, write, paint, study another language or learn new moves on the dance floor! 

When they are bombarded by negativity and/or the protestations of others, they are able to shrug them off and move on without wasting time and energy without second-guessing themselves. Fearless females do what they are called to do — no matter what! So should we!

Stay strong. When faced with adversity, fearless females stay strong. They have learned that obstacles can be overcome and setbacks can be dealt with. They view life as a journey. They expect some bumpy roads and having to shift gears often. They adjust and adapt — with gusto and continued optimism. Fearless females often surprise themselves. They make amazing things happen. 

Most often, they start a project without knowing “for sure” if they can finish. Still, they flex their muscles and begin.

Fearlessly, so should we! 

This article appeared in Houston Woman Magazine in April 2006.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Sculpted in Steel

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston's new exhibition, Sculpted in Steel: Art Deco Automobiles and Motorcycles (1929-1940), opened with grand fanfare and great reviews on February 21. Since then, I've been more than a tiny bit eager to see the innovative designs for myself. 

Sculpted in Steel showcases 14 cars and three motorcycles, along with historical images and videos. The vehicles featured display the classic grace and modern luxury of Art Deco design — the innovative, machine-inspired style that developed between the two World Wars.

According to information provided by MFAH, "The Art Deco movement began in France in the early 1910s, but its development was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I. The style reemerged across Europe after the war and was propelled to international prominence with the success of the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris in 1925.

"During this period, automakers embraced the sleek iconography of streamlining and introduced industrial materials to present aircraft-inspired body styles. Grilles and hood ornaments, headlamps, windows and instrument panels are just some of the elements that were transformed through the use of chrome detailing and innovative aerodynamics."

Gary Tinterow, director of MFAH, said, “The 1920s to 1930s proved to be one of the most creative eras for international design in all mediums, and Art Deco styling influenced everything from fashion and fine art to architecture and autos. Sculpted in Steel includes rare and one-of-a-kind examples that epitomize the artful approach to industry employed by the leading auto designers of the day. These dramatic automobiles and motorcycles are truly works of art.”

While at the museum today, I discovered Sculpted in Steel Is being complemented by an exhibition of Art Deco objects from the museum’s permanent collection. So, I stayed to check it out, as well.

Deco Nights: Evenings in the Jazz Age
 features costumes, accessories, furniture, metalwork and glass, along with photographs, books, and works on paper that reflect entertaining in the 1920s and 1930s.

Both exhibitions are truly amazing. Each is fun to view. Fun enough to see again.