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Where Words Come From

January 16, 2019

ACADEMY – Where did the word “Academy” come from? The answer is the ancient Greeks from 2,500 years ago. The famous philosopher, Plato (427-347 B.C.), started a school of inquiry and learning. His school, the Academe, or also, Academia, was in a  grove of olive trees near Athens, owned  by a farmer. We  get the name of our prestigious schools the same way Plato did – after that plain, old fruit-tree farmer, Academes.

HAM ACTOR – Where did the word “Ham Actor” come from? The ham actor is one who is pretty far down the scale in acting ability. About 1875, a tenth-rate actor was called a hamfatter in the U.S. The early name derived from the fact that, for economic reasons, these actors used ham-fat instead of cold cream to remove the make-up. With no contempt, it is also applied to the large army of well-equipped amateur radio operators, probably because, in the early days of radio, these opera- tors were fumbling novices.

POTTER’S FIELD – This phrase goes all the way back to the time of Jesus’ death. Judas Iscariot, infamously, betrayed his Master to the Romans was a kiss on the cheek. He received 30 pieces of silver for  his treachery. Unable to live with himself, he threw the silver to the Jewish priests. Not knowing  what to do with such an ill-begotten windfall, the elders found some charitable work they could do with the silver. They purchased a field near Jerusalem which was particularly rich in clay. The craftsmen who made pots used this field for the raw material of their handiwork. The “potter’s field” was turned into Potter’s Field, a graveyard for travelers who died penniless. More than 2000 years later, we still call any such cemetery a Potter’s Field.

Phil & Lois Everett: The Perfect Team

December 18, 2018

As you walk along the halls of Sterling Court, you don’t need to go very far to hear an extraordinary story – or maybe even two. Phil and Lois Everett have been married for 63 years. Even after just one conversation with them, it’s clear they’re just as happy together now as they were when they first met so many years ago.

Phil is an entertainer at heart. Throughout his life, he joined local community theatre troupes and performed in various works, even writing some of his own. It comes as no surprise that he’s a natural storyteller. He immediately dives into the story of how he and Lois met in Staten Island, New York, where they were both born and raised.

“A friend of mine was in a social club,” Phil says, before smiling at his wife. “Lois happened to be in the same club!”

Bowling was one of the activities that the social club participated in. As fate would have it, Phil and Lois wound up being placed on the same bowling team. Lois admits she knew nothing about bowling. But the upside was that Phil was her captain.

“That’s when I fell for him, right then and there,” Lois adds matter-of-factly. While Phil seems more of the jokester between the two, Lois also brings on the humor when speaking of her husband. “I used to stand behind him and think, ‘oh he looks quite nice!’ 

The youngest child in a big family, Lois always did well in school as a girl. Due to financial hardships, however, she was unable to pursue her education after graduating from high school. But a couple of decades after Lois and Phil had married and moved to San Mateo, she admirably continued her education. She first attended the College of San Mateo before getting her Bachelor’s Degree from San Francisco State University, graduating on the same day that their eldest child, Eileen, graduated high school in 1974. Lois went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Accounting from the College of Notre Dame in Belmont. She was in her 30s.

Phil wasted no time praising his wife, crediting her perseverance in continuing her studies and uplifting their family. Lois, in turn, said the same thing about her husband. She credits how his hard work throughout the years helped enable her to continue her education.

Over the years, Phil held various jobs to make a good living for his wife and two children (their son, Mark, lives nearby with his wife). Phil had experience in being a stable hand, a longshore- man, and a custodian. But theatre was always a big part of his life. Evidently, Eileen had shared this trait. Phil and Lois proudly state that in high school, she had a part in a production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

With such adventurous lives, Phil and Lois are both enjoying life at Sterling Court. Even now, they continue to be an amazing team. Phil enjoys cooking, but Lois does not. It’s no problem at all, according to Phil. “I cook and she cleans up.”

Clearly, it’s the perfect deal.

Let’s Play a Game!

December 17, 2018

Games are the perfect topic for this month’s feature article. Sometimes we just need to stay indoors (like recently due to the air quality from the devastating fires), and a game is a great way to make new friends or to pass the time alone. Games provide mental stimulation, which is great for our overall well-being. For some people, playing certain types of games might be beneficial for things like mood, memory, concentration, reasoning, and imagination. Games can be especially helpful for your brain if they require you to learn something new.

With the holidays coming up, a game might be the ideal gift for someone you know (or maybe you want to drop a hint to a family member so you get just what you want ). Any of these can, of course, be ordered online, but with great toy stores like Five Little Monkeys in downtown Burlingame and Talbots Toyland in downtown San Mateo, you can also check many of them out in person. As you know, at Sterling Court we play lots of games. Just check out the calendar and you’ll see some kind of game happening practically every day. Join in! In the meantime, here are 10 games we found online at that you may not know about:

Qwirkle: Mix and match tiles with different shapes and colors, scoring points by completing or adding to lines of the same shapes or colors.

Dixit: Out-bluff your opponents while using your imagination to match stories to beautifully illustrated cards.

Rummikub: Be the first one to play all of your numbered tiles by placing them in consecutive sequences or groups of the same numbers or colors. (We love Rummikub at Sterling Court!)

Dominoes: Play all of your domino tiles before the other players by laying them down end-to-end with matching tiles that have already been played. (Another great game we play here at 7:00 p.m. on Saturdays!)

Ubongo: Race against other players as you try to solve puzzles of interlocking geometric shapes in order to grow your treasure of gems.

Jenga: Beware of gravity as you try not to be the one who pulls out the wooden block that makes the whole tower come crashing down.

Tsuro: Lay your own tiled path while avoiding the paths of other players that can send you the wrong way or off the board completely.

Chronology: Put your historical knowledge to the test by trying to be the first one to build a 10-card timeline based on the correct order of events.

Latice: Play all of your tiles before anyone else by matching them on different sides and strategically using sun squares and wind tiles based on what you think your opponents still have in their possession.

Mahjong: Be the first player to build a winning combination of tiles based on rummy-like groupings of symbols and characters.

Wintergreens and Legends

Homes are often decorated with greenery and ribbons during December, regardless of religious beliefs. Below are some winter plants brought indoors for their scent and aesthetic appeal.

HOLLY – Romans and early Christians believed that holly had pro- tective powers and therefore used as a charm throughout household rooms. Think of the seasonal hymn, “Deck the halls with boughs of holly…”

IVY – Ivy is an ancient symbol of love. In the Middle Ages, the English began twining pliable ivy around berry-laden holly arrangements perhaps to soften the look. Strangely enough, ivy was designated as female and holly as male, so the two plants together symbolized light-hearted gender rivalry.

LAUREL – Ancient Romans believed that the gods of growth and rejuvenation took refuge in greenery, and they often brought trees indoors during winter. By offering the gods shelter and protection, people hoped to share the life-affirming powers.

Laurels were plentiful and can grow up to 50 feet tall in their native Mediterranean climate.

EVERGREENS – Indoor greenery reminded Greeks and Romans of nature’s vitality, and they suspected this fragrant, hardy tree had magical survival capabilities because it remained green no matter how tough the winter. The Victorian era appreciated lavish arrangements of ivy, laurel, bay, hemlock, and yew, particularly at Christmas. Evergreen trees as part of a Christmas celebration date back to Martin Luther in the 16th century. He was supposedly in a snowy forest on Christmas Eve when the stars suggested how the first Christmas sky might have looked. He carried home a snow-covered fir tree to share the experience with his children and they dressed it with candles, to represent starlight. A writer in the Alsace region of France documented in 1605 that apples, wafers, sweets, paper roses and gold foil were used to decorate Christmas fir trees.

Carol Holmes: Just Imagine Knit

December 3, 2018

Imagine all those stories you’ve heard and read about throughout your life – what do they all have in common? Passion. The hero of the story always searches for their calling. Some want to save lives. Others want to find great love. For Carol Holmes, it was simple: spreading joy through the art of knitting.

When Carol let me into her Sterling Court apartment, one of her neighbors, Marge, was making her way out with a bag of yarn. Carol had many more bags – all filled with a variety of colors and textures.

“I’m a knitting instructor,” Carol explains. She had given some yarn to Marge, so that she can knit too. For Carol, knitting wasn’t just her chosen profession; she loved the art form wholeheartedly. But once upon a time, Carol’s life revolved around something completely different.

Sitting comfortably on her couch, Carol tells the first stretch of her story. For 25 years, she made a very successful career for herself as a regional and national sales manager for companies such as ACS Communications, Sprint, and Samsung. But as she entered her 60s, Carol started to really think about her life and what she wanted to do with the rest of it.

This is where knitting gets introduced. “I had an amazing instructor from Sweden,” Carol shares with a big grin. “She opened my eyes to the world of knitting.”

Carol dove into her newfound love: she knitted anything that her mind imagined. Bringing out a thick blue binder, Carol flipped through photos of her work. It was evident how much progress she’s made throughout the years. None of her pieces looked conventional – each piece was unique, drawing a map of her imagination. When we reach a photo of a young boy cocooned in an afghan, she says it was one of her twin grandsons, Alek. “He’s 6 years old here, he’s 17 now.” Carol laughs at the photo, recalling how much Alek loved the afghan. “You should see that thing now, it’s completely worn out!” She has many people to knit for in her very creative and supportive family, including her sons Mark and Chris, daughters-in-law Liz and Melanie, and two more grandsons Max and Asher.

One day, as she was knitting her new creation, Carol came back to the question: what does she want to do for the rest of her life? “The answer was in my hands.” She started a knitting business that quickly grew to include all ages and various sectors including Vi Retirement Community, public and private schools, adult community centers and more.

Sadly, Carol’s business had to be on the back burner when she was diagnosed with cancer. But she remains optimistic. As she recovers, Carol continues to spread the same joy she found with knitting. She invites her neighbors, like Marge, to let her teach them how to knit. She indicates the many bags of yarn in her apartment. “I have plenty to share.”

Before Carol and I part ways, she gives me a warm hug and offers to teach me how to knit. She hands me a business card. In colorful letters are the words that have become her motto: Just Imagine Knit.

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850 N. El Camino Real San Mateo, CA 94401 Phone: (650) 344-8200 Fax: (650) 344-7395