Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December Books of the Month

Hypothermia by Annadur Indribason. Scandinavian mysteries have really become popular since Steig Larson's "Girl" books came out. This one is an Icelandic mystery, part of a series, featuring a rather gloomy cop. He's suspicious about a suicide (Might it be murder?) and begins investigating on his own time, meanwhile also looking into some missing persons cases from long ago. This was a book club choice. I enjoyed it but don't think I'd read another of his books. Grade B

The Lazarus Child by Robert Mawson. Picked this up on a whim at Half Price Books. It's about a family whose child is comatose after being hit by a car. They seek an unorthodox treatment. I give it a B.

The Spire by Richard North Patterson. His books are good airplane reads. For me, they are what my book club members call "guilty pleasures." I must admit that all of his heroes are interchangeable, but I still enjoy the stories. This one is about a man who returns to his alma mater to take over the presidency after a scandal involving the former president. He's haunted by a murder during his senior year for which his best friend went to prison. Quick read, fun. A-

Solar by Ian McEwan. An unlikeable hero who is at the end of his fifth marriage because he's been sleeping around. It's hard to believe he's a Nobel laureate; however, he's never accomplished anything since and just lives on his reputation, until... Well, I won't give it away. This isn't my favorite McEwan book. Another B.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gadgets that Should have been on the List but Weren't, IMHO

Here are my choices of gadgets that should have been among the 101 but weren't. What do you think?

Post it notes
Panty hose
Scotch tape
Turn signals for cars
Seat belts
Burglar alarms

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gadgets that Changed the World

Last week I watched the History Channel's 101 Gadgets that Changed the World, so here's a gadget quiz. Answers are in the comments section.

1. With this, you can fix anything.
2. This gadget helped the Sun Belt grow.
3. You’ve felt the sting of this since infancy
4. Back in the day, it was cool to have one of these.
5. This was invented after the tin can.
6. Remember the game “Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?” Now we know.
7. Away from home? Away from the office? No problem if you have one of these.
8. Indispensible for women (except during the heyday of the Women’s Liberation Movement).
9. So many tools in one gadget.
10. #1 gadget—combines all the other techie things.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Memories of Grandma Z

Ralph's mother died a few days ago. Tomorrow I will leave for Iowa for her funeral.

She was a small lady with twinkling eyes and a bright smile. She bore five children and had a huge flock of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One of the great-grandkids called her Grandma Grape because she always offered him grapes when he came to visit. She taught kindergarten, was active in her small community in eastern Iowa, and never met a stranger. When she came for her last visit to Ralph, within hours she knew all the nurses on his hospital floor by name.

After Susan, her third child was born, she came down with rheumatic fever. The doctor told her she couldn't have any more children, but after a few years of good health, he agreed she could get pregnant again and she had two babies in rapid succession. Carol was the older of the last two children, she was Ralph's stem cell donor, and I fully believed she was born to save her brother's life. She would have, too, for the transplant was successful, but other medical accidents depleted whatever reserves of strength he had.

Ralph's favorite story about his mother concerned the summer he, his sister, and some neighborhood kids formed a secret club. They had a clubhouse in the back yard. Suddenly they began finding anonymous notes in the clubhouse. They couldn't figure out who left them. After a couple of weeks, the culprit confessed--it was Mom.

She was a feisty lady, very independent. When her daughters decided it was time for her to stop driving, they knew they were in for a battle, so they insisted that Ralph, who was then in the hospital, call and tell her she had to give up her driver's license. They figured since he was ill, she wouldn't be able to argue with him. They were right.

After she lost her driving privileges, she acquired a little scooter and would zip around town on it. That's how I like to remember her. She will be missed.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Story

I posted this story last year. It's my very favorite. Enjoy, and if you've read it before, enjoy it again.

A guy named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty

apartment window into the chilly December night. His 4-year-old

daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bobs wife, Evelyn,

was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy

could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dads eyes and asked,

"Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's Mommy?" Bob's jaw tightened and his

eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief but also of anger. It

was the story of Bob's life. Life always had to be different for Bob. Being small

when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the

time to compete in sports. He was often called names he'd rather not remember.

From childhood Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. Bob did complete

college and married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter

at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little

girl. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of all

their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room

apartment in the Chicago slums. Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938.

Bob struggled to give hope to his child for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a

Christmas gift. But if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined to make one--a


Bob had created the animal character in his own mind and told the animal's story to

little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again Bob told the story,

embellishing it more with each telling. Who was the character? What was the story

about? The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The

character he created was an outcast like he was. The name of the character? A

little reindeer named Rudolph with a big shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day.

But the story doesn't end there. The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind

of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to

print the book. Wards went on to print the book and distribute it to children

visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed

more than six million copies of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. That same year a

major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version

of the book. In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all

rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller. Many toy and marketing

deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from

the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter.

But the story doesn't end there. Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song

adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as

Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by Gene Autrey. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed

Reindeer" was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records

than any other Christmas song with the exception of "White Christmas." The gift of

love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning to bless

him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend

Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad. In fact, being different can be a


Sunday, December 4, 2011


If you'd like to sign up for a chance at one of two copies I'm giving away of a new anthology: Coping with Transition: Men, Motherhood, Money and Magic, please leave your name and your blog if you have one in the Comments section. You'll find a memoir here that speaks to your own transitons. We chronicle everything from menopause to second chances at love to loss to dealing with a husband's retirement. I'll post the two winners next Monday, December 12.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November Books of trhe Month

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. This was a book club pick. I didn't want to read it. I haven't read a circus book since I read Circus Shoes in elementary school. But I actually enjoyed it, especially the part where the main character is an old man creating havoc in the nursing home. I'd give it a B.

The Orphaned Adult by Mark Angel. I've had this book for years; I bought it after my father died. I read it again because I'm writing an essay about the death of my mother, and I found it even more meaningful than before. Angel tells us all humans are destined to be orphans, then he tells us what those losses mean to us. Beautiful book, thought-provoking.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. An offbeat, delightful book. It won't appeal to everyone, but I loved it. It alternates between the viewpoint of a middle-aged concierge in a fancy Paris apartment building, who hides the fact that she's ultra-intelligent, and a twelve-year-old resident of the building, who plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday. I know it sounds strange, but give it a try.

How We Age by Marc Agronin. I heard the author speak recently. He's a geriatric psychiatrist with a positive view of aging gleaned from years of working with nursing home residents.

Potluck: Community on the Edge of Wilderness by Ana Maria Spagna. This is a collection of essays about the author's life in a tiny village in Washington State. Ana Maria was my memoir teacher at Gotham. She's a marvelous writer and a creative teacher. Her life in the wild couldn't be more different than mine in urban Houston, but I get what she's saying. We all need community. We need people who are there to support us in times of trouble and to encourage us when we're feeling down. Her experiences will intrigue you and her truth will inspire you.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Quote for the Week

Change is the constant, the signal for rebirth, the egg of the phoenix.
Christina Baldwin

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Announcing My Latest Publication

I'm delighted to announce the publication of Coping with Transition: Men, Motherhood, Money and Magic, edited by Susan Briggs Wright. I am honored to be one of the fifteen Houston women featured in this book. Join us as we trudge, glide, stumble, and chuckle through the sorts of transitions women face, some funny, some tragic. Our book is available on Amazon. Search the editor's name, Susan Briggs Wright (for some reason it isn't indexed by title). We think it would make a great holiday gift for women on your list, or treat yourself to one. And if you enjoy it, please leave a review on Amazon--we love publicity.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Wishes

Have a joyous Thanksgiving.

May you have many blessings to count...even the small ones.

May you celebrate the holiday surrounded by loved ones and friends.

May you have peace and joy from this Thanksgiving to the next.

And for all you Longhorns out there, may we beat the Aggies in our last game ever!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Quote for the Week

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. ~W.T. Purkiser

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Author Interview: Heather Andersen, Author of I Nevr Intended to be Brave

Here's my interview with Heather Andersen, author of the inspiring memoir I Never Intended to be Brave:

Tell the readers how you got interested in bike travel.

I was looking for a fun way to spend part of a teenage summer and saw an ad for bike tours. I signed up for one in Maine and got hooked on bike travel as the perfect pace at which to explore the world.

What have been some other interesting bike trips you’ve taken?

Across the U.S., four times. New Zealand. Vietnam. Kerala and Tamil Nadu, India.

What made you decide to write a memoir about your trip through Africa?

My desire to share the Africa I know and love, which is very different from the Africa usually portrayed by the U.S. media.

What is your most lasting memory about Africa?

I can't really say there's just one, but they include looking lions in the eye, the red sand dunes of Namibia, and connecting with so many kind people.

Do you plan to go back to Africa?

Yes, sometime. I'd especially love to see north and west Africa, which I didn't get to at all.

Have you been in contact with your former riding partner? Is he aware that you wrote a book about your journey?

We didn't keep in touch over the years, but I sent him an email letting him know about the book just before it came out.

What biking organizations do you belong to and are there particular magazines devoted to cycling that you recommend?

Adventure Cycling Association (ACA), League of American Bicyclists, East Coast Greenway Alliance, and Transportation Alternatives. Adventure Cyclist (ACA's membership magazine) for information and stories about bicycle touring.

What would you advise someone who was considering a first bicycle trip?

Do it. And remember that one of the joys of bike travel is being able to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and beauty; leave some flexibility in your schedule. Before going on your first self-contained bike tour (carrying all your gear with you on your bike rather than in a support vehicle), go on a practice ride from home with all the gear you're planning to bring with you.

How much weight did you carry on your bike during this trip and was that standard for a long bike trip?

I don't really know for sure, but I'd guess between 30 and 50 lbs., 50 only when I had lots of extra food and water. Some people go lighter, but at least 30 is probably standard for a long tour that includes camping and cooking your own meals.

Your book just came out, but what has been the response so far?

Enthusiastic, with overwhelmingly positive reviews.

For the writers who read this blog, how are you promoting your book?

Contacting reviewers, bike shops, and other outdoor retailers. Scheduling promotional events. Working on getting shorter stories/essays published. Some social networking.

Where is the book available?

On Amazon, Barnes&,, and through bookstores.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers?

To be fully alive, you can't let fear run your life. Following your dreams isn't always easy, but somewhere deep down inside, it's right.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Widowhood Anthology: Call for Submissions

This is a call for submissions to Silver Boomer Books' upcoming anthology on widowhood. If you're widowed or know another writer, or would-be writer, who is a widow or widower, Silver Boomers invites you to submit to an anthology tentatively titled On Our Own: Widowhood for Smarties. Any aspect of widowhood can be covered: grief, memories, glitches, triumphs... Submissions will be read between December 1 and January 31.
I've been trying for half an hour to to the website but blogspot won't let me; however, you can find all the information you need at Click on Call for submissions to learn more.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday Quotes: 25 Quotes about Writing

I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all. ~Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard

What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers. ~Logan Pearsall Smith, "All Trivia," Afterthoughts, 1931

Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. ~James Michener

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster. ~Isaac Asimov

No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous. ~Henry Brooks Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, 1907

Be obscure clearly. ~E.B. White

A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the other one. ~Baltasar Gracián

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing. ~Enrique Jardiel Poncela

Writing comes more easily if you have something to say. ~Sholem Asch

Writing is a struggle against silence. ~Carlos Fuentes

What would there be in a story of happiness? Only what prepares it, only what destroys it can be told. ~André Gide

The road to hell is paved with adverbs. ~Stephen King

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live. ~Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 19 August 1851

Writing is both mask and unveiling. ~E.B. White

Let's hope the institution of marriage survives its detractors, for without it there would be no more adultery and without adultery two thirds of our novelists would stand in line for unemployment checks. ~Peter S. Prescott

It's not plagiarism - I'm recycling words, as any good environmentally conscious writer would do. ~Uniek Swain

An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere. ~Gustave Flaubert

Sit down, and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it. ~Colette, Casual Chance, 1964

Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted. ~Jules Renard, Journal, 10 April 1895

An original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate. ~Chateaubriand, Le Génie du Christianisme, 1802

The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new. ~Samuel Johnson

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wikihow: How to do Everything Can Possibly Imagine, Want (or Don't Want) to Know

My home page on Google has a daily post from Wikihow. I must say I'm fascinated with these posts. Do people really want to know how to do these things? Do you? Or could you figure them out yourself without the benefit of the internet?

Here's a recent sampling of their posts. Feel free to add others in the comments section:

How to get lots of candy on Halloween

How to make clay flowers out of old bread

How to make tea in a coffee pot

How to be a cute genius

How to draw a girl elf

How to unlock a car with string

And my favorite: How to peel a banana (Who would have guessed there are nine, yes nine ways to do it?)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Quote for the Week: November

“Fallen leaves lying on the grass in the November sun bring more happiness than the daffodils” Cyril Connelly

Monday, November 7, 2011

Widowhood: Bouncing Back Guest Post by Stephen Gallup

I have a grown son who is disabled and who inspired me to write a memoir, What About the Boy? Please visit for details on that. I lost my first wife to cancer 17 years ago and later remarried. I’m now trying to be a good parent to a girl who is almost a teenager and a boy who’s still in preschool!

Bouncing Back
By Stephen Gallup
For a period of time after my wife Judy died in 1994, a strange thing kept happening to me. Again and again, I would find myself standing in the middle of a room, with absolutely no idea of what I had been doing, why I had gone there, or what I’d meant to do.
Judy’s long illness had kept me busy. She’d had frequent medical appointments and hospitalizations. I tried to be emotionally supportive, while taking over aspects of family life that had previously been her domain. Suddenly, she was gone. And with her went almost all of my focus. Adrift, I remained in Busy mode, even with no real direction. There were still impulses to go and do something, but each time the notion faded away before I could do it. That was scary.
Fortunately, I did have other responsibilities. Judy and I had a son, who happened to be disabled. Joseph relied on me for his care. I also still had a job, and definitely needed the income. These two concerns distracted me from my grief. They kept me involved with other matters.
Almost two decades have passed since those days, and I look back on them now with wonder. Every time one of my friends loses a loved one, I see that same confusion and doubt. Whether the death was expected or not, the survivor enters a period of stunned bewilderment. Things stop making sense. There seems to be no point to continuing. Then, gradually, out of the fog, questions take form.
Is my life over, too? Can I even make this adjustment? Is any more fun for me even possible? The answers to these questions are no, yes, and emphatically yes. The loss of a spouse, no matter how dear, does indeed close an important phase of one’s life. However, that loss does not mean it’s time to give up. We are still here, and I think it’s safe to say that we’re here for a reason. Reasons tend to become apparent in due course.
In the mean time, there are things a recently widowed individual can do to ease the transition back into an active life. This could be a very detailed list, I think, but for now let’s focus on the high points. I’m sure you will have heard these before. However, I can vouch for them. They worked for me.
Get involved in something.
What sort of activities or causes have been important to you in the past? It’s possible that you may have changed so that they have lost their appeal, but consider those things first. If these activities involve interaction with other people, so much the better. For most if not all of us, this is a time for human contact.
If familiar activities just don’t excite you now, consider stepping out and trying something quite different.
In my case, traveling to China was something I had always imagined doing, although I’d never thought it would actually happen. In the year after Judy died, I resumed a long-discontinued study of the Chinese language. I played language tapes in the car while driving around town, and rented Chinese movies to watch at night. At the end of that year, I actually went to China on a solo vacation. I saw the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, and I had lots of opportunities to find out if I could make myself understood there. It was a great adventure. I felt as if I were suddenly leading another person’s life.
Expect good things. Expect wonderful things.
A lot has been said about the way optimism attracts good outcomes. Emotions like gloom and self-pity might be easier, but they have the opposite effect. And there’s really no justification for them. Yes, we’ve lost someone very, very important, someone who can never be replaced. But would that person want us to spend our remaining days in sorrow? Not likely! Our spouses loved us and surely would have wanted continuing fulfillment in our lives.
My wife Judy died in a November. As the end of that year approached, I got serious about making some new year’s resolutions. As I mentioned above, I had a disabled son and a job to hold down. In addition to my son’s ongoing needs, my employer was making it clear that layoffs were coming. I had to get active and find a new source of income. Those were my top two priorities, but I ended up with a list of five or six objectives that I held in mind as I went about my life every day. That list gave me a purpose.
One item further down the list was the wish to expand my social life. In those days, of course, I had no thought of remarrying. That kind of relationship was beyond my expectations. However, because I did believe good things would come to pass, a new partner came my way. And as a result of that new union, I now find myself, at this late stage in my life, with two more children. I’ve gone from grieving spouse to a dad who helps kids with their homework and school projects. They keep me young and tuned in to this changing world. I’ve been very fortunate, and I believe Judy would be glad.
Everyone who has been widowed has a unique story, but I think these two points figure in most of them. How do we carry on? Let us count the ways.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Book Review: I Never Intended to be Brave by Heather Andersen

Heather Andersen is a woman with heart. A heart strong enough to go on when her plans go awry, a heart big enough to embrace varied lands and cultures.

After her stint in the Peace Corps, she plans a dream trip, cycling through southern Africa. She places an ad in a cyling magazine but only finds one person interested in joining the trip. Unfortunately, he's the wrong person. Almost from the beginning they are an incompatible pair, so when he suggests they split up, she agrees and travels on alone. She says she never intended to be brave, but a woman alone, cycling through unfamiliar terrain in third world countries is spectacularly brave in my opinion. Along the way during her six month trip, she absorbs the culture of the various countries, meets the people, endures bicyle breakdowns, bumpy roads, wind and heat, and marvels at the scenery and wildlife. She spends a night in a camp near a dead ostrich, meets what first appears to be a lion on the road but turns out to be a cow, and reaches the point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.

Here is a book that will inspire you to follow your dreams, whatever they may be. Highly recommended and a great read.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Quote for the Week

"One of these days is none of these days." Henri Tuboch

Monday, October 31, 2011

October Books of the Month

October has been a busy month, but I did find time for reading. Here are summaries of the books I read this month.

A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage. If they didn't exactly change the world, these six liquids played important roles in world history. Want to guess what they are? Answer is in the comments section.

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante. A former orthopedic surgeon suffering from Altzheimers is suspected of murdering her best friend and then cutting off her fingers. Yes, it sounds grisly but it's a fascinating look into the deteriorating mind of a once-brilliant woman. Did she do it? You'll have to read the book to find out.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. Love, terror and an American family in Hitler's Berlin. Great read.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bite of the Big Apple

My sister and I spent a few days last week in New York. I love New York. I wouldn't want to live there, not permanently, but a penthouse near Central Park for a few months would be okay.

The weather was perfect, the traffic was terrible, the food was great. We saw two shows--Memphis (I didn't realize it would be playing in Houston when I got back) and Love, Loss and What I Wore, a "girly" delight. We took a tour of Grand Central--I hadn't been there since I was a kid. We met some cousins for dinner one night at Pescatori's an Italian restaurant that's supposed to be a favorite of Rafa Nadal. Alas, he was not there. Another night we met a different set of cousins at a Cuban restaurant.

Our only disappointment was that we didn't know you have to have a pass to get into the Ground Zero Memorial and we would have had to hang around all day to get in. On-line passes were available for January 2012.

For once, we didn't go shopping because we didn't need to buy any handicrafts because, hey, we were in America and we could get the same things at home.

We went to the Ellis Island museum, where our father's name is listed on the wall honoring immigrants. It was fascinating. I was looking at all the baskets and trunks people brought over and wondering what I would take if I were moving half way across the world and I had limited space to bring something important. What would you bring?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Guest Post by Rohit Naik

Grieving Challenges during Young Widowhood

Thеre wеrе 554,000 widоws аnd wіdоwerѕ 18 tо 44 yеаrѕ оf agе acсоrding tо thе US Cеnsuѕ Burеаu stаtіѕtісѕ fоr 2004-2005. Wіdоwhооd аt аnу аgе iѕ a drаstіс lifе-сhаngіng еvent. Widows аnd widоwerѕ who аrе suddеnly sіnglе раrеntѕ arе fаcеd with еnоrmоus сhаllеngеs. Bеcoming widоwed аs a yоungеr рerѕоn brings up thе questіon оf whаt tо dо with thе rеst оf уour lіfe.

While thеre аre fоur timeѕ аs manу widоwѕ aѕ therе are wіdоwеrs, nevеrthelеss, bеіng wіdоwеd is a drаѕtiс and оftеn devaѕtаtіng evеnt. It iѕ distinct from divоrсe, beсаuѕе moѕt оf thе timе thе grіеvіng widоw dіd nоt want to end hеr marrіаgе. Grіеf іѕ соmрlісаted аnd the hеaling јоurnеу іѕ оftеn lоng, muсh lоngеr thаn fаmilу аnd friendѕ exресt іt tо bе. The wіdоwеr who griеvеs thе losѕ of hіѕ wіfе іs оften enсоurаged tо date аgaіn bу wеll-meаning frіеndѕ who саnnоt begіn tо undеrѕtand thе deрth оf hіѕ pаіn. The lоnеlіnеsѕ аnd dеѕpаir the wіdоw аnd widower exрerіеnсe іs соmрoundеd by thе fаct that tоо mаnу pеoрle сannоt relatе to thіs pаrticulаr lоsѕ.

The wіdowed perѕоn whо іs ѕuddеnlу а sіngle раrеnt hаs another ѕеt of сhаllengеѕ. In addіtiоn tо cоnfrоntіng the раіn оf lоsing а ѕpоuѕe, ѕhе must hеlp hеr childrеn wіth theіr оwn grief. If theу arе verу уоung, ѕhe maу sреnd сountlеsѕ hourѕ еxрlainіng why Daddу іsn't сomіng hоme agaіn. A widоwеr whо іѕ left to rаіse his сhіldrеn without thеir mоther mаy hаvе nо idеа аbout thе infіnіtе dеtaіlѕ and routіneѕ hіѕ lаte wife hаd іn рlacе tо keеp оrder іn hers and thе chіldrеn'ѕ dаy. Hiѕ sensе оf hеlplеѕѕnesѕ tо dеаl with рrоvidіng fоr thе famіly, takіng carе of thе chіldrеn, and helрing thе сhіldrеn grieve may оvеrwhеlm hіm.

If thе wіdоwеd pеrsоn was rеlаtivеly уoung, hе оr ѕhе mау wаnt to find lоvе аgаіn. Thіs іn nо wау imрlіes thаt therе wаѕ lіttlе love fоr thе lаtе ѕpоuѕe. Gоnе аre the dауѕ whеn a wіdоw hаd little сhoісe but tо remаіn а wіdоw until ѕhе died. It іѕ hard to imaginе beіng wіdоwеd at аgе 28 оr еvеn 40 аnd fасіng the рroѕреct оf bеіng аlonе fоr the nеxt 40 оr 50 уеarѕ. It іs іmportаnt that widоws and widоwеrs аllow thеmsеlvеѕ tіmе tо fасе thе griеf, gо thrоugh thе јourneу, and соmе tо а рlасе оf сalm аnd ассeрtаncе. No оne cаn tеll thеm hоw lоng thіѕ wіll tаke. It іs аlsо іmроrtant thаt whеn bеgіnnіng tо datе agaіn thаt widowed pеople undеrѕtаnd that thеу do nоt hаvе tо ѕtoр lоvіng thеіr lаtе spоusе tо find nеw lovе.

Aѕ you саn ѕeе, wіdows аnd wіdоwеrs fасe sоme heаvy chаllеngеѕ. Wоrkіng wіth а theraрiѕt, а ѕuрроrt grоuр, or а coach fаmіlіаr wіth yоur еxpеriеnсе can hеlp yоu to gaіn thе сlаrіty yоu nееd tо bеgіn to heal уоur lіfе аnd stаrt аnеw.

About the Author : This is a Guest Post by Rohit Naik who is a freelance writer and presently blogs on

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quote for the Week

You don't get to choose how you're going to die, or when. You can only decide how you're going to live now.
Joan Baez

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Widowhood: Six Years Today

Six years ago, on Sunday, October 16, 2005 at 9:10 a.m. my husband died. His heart stopped beating, his lungs quit taking in air, his brain waves went flat. A few minutes later, the doctor on call pronounced him dead.

Lives end in such a cold, clinical way. Within an hour, after the chaplain had spoken with me and the children had come to say a last goodbye, the nurse urged me from the room. Another patient would need the space, another battle would be fought…maybe won, maybe lost.

So this is my sixth anniversary of widowhood. People congratulate me for how well I’ve “gotten over” the loss, how I’ve gone on with my life. I had no choice, did I? There was no, “Would you like to go on or would you rather not?”

I didn’t imagine I could ever manage alone. I didn’t think I’d smile again or wake without reaching for Ralph or look forward to the future. I do all those things, but I haven’t gotten over the loss. I’ve just learned to live a different life.

I’ve learned to look forward…and backward. I cherish memories of conversations, laughter, even arguments (Yes, once I socked him in front of his mother. No one in either of our families has forgotten that.) I look back on the times when our children (two mine, one his) were small, when they had their tedious, awful teenage years we thought we’d never live through, the weddings, our granddaughter’s birth and how she loved Ralph, her Popo. We had a good life and I can be glad for that, even if our time together was too short.

Last weekend was the Jewish Day of Atonement. Not only do we pray then to be inscribed for life for the next year, but we take time to remember our loved ones who passed away. So here, in memory of Ralph, is the part of the memorial service that I love the best:

In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
We remember them.

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
We remember them.

In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,
We remember them.

In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of the summer,
We remember them.

In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
We remember them.

In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
We remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength,
We remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart,
We remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share,
We remember them.

So long as we live, they, too, shall live,
For they are part of us,
As we remember them.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Guest Post by Eric Gruber

What to Do After Losing a Loved One – A Financial Checklist for Family & Friends

Losing a loved one is difficult. In fact, I can’t think of anything more devastating than the death of a loved one. The death of anyone especially close to us creates an interruption to the flow of our everyday lives. It takes time to recapture our sense of equilibrium, and our awareness of everyday tasks and responsibilities.

That’s why I created this checklist to help you. As you feel your own life pausing as you grieve your loss, these pointers will help take care of your finances and those of your loved one. This checklist is designed to help you navigate your way through the initial days and early weeks after a loved one has passed.

Here Is Your Financial Checklist of Things to Do Once You Lose a Loved One

1. Did you figure out how you are going to keep track of what needs to be done and when? I suggest creating a calendar to note key events and activities that happen during this time period.

2. Have you notified family members and friends? This might sound obvious, but it is important that family and close friends be notified promptly. If you are unable to make these calls personally, ask someone close to you to assist you in relaying the news and the details. If family and/or friends do not live locally, they may need time to make travel arrangements to arrive in time for the funeral.

3. Did you make final arrangements? Unless your loved one made their own funeral arrangements during life, someone will need to coordinate these details at this time. If you do not already know your loved one’s wishes, you should look among his or her papers to see if he or she left any instructions regarding their wishes regarding their funeral, burial and cremation. You will need to contact the funeral home and, if appropriate, the individual’s clergy. If your loved one was a veteran, you may be eligible for burial and memorial benefits.

4. Did you obtain certified death certificates? The family doctor or medical examiner should complete the death certificates within 24 hours of the death. The funeral home will then complete the form and file it with the state. You will need several certified copies of the death certificate to handle the individual’s estate and to request any benefits payable as a result of the individual’s death (such as life insurance, annuities and qualified retirement plan assets).

5. Have you notified social security and did you contact all financial institutions? Typically, the funeral home will notify Social Security of an individual’s death. However, if they do not handle that for you, you must call them. If your loved one was receiving Social Security benefits via direct deposit, request that the bank return the funds received for the month of death and any subsequent months. Be careful to not cash any social Security checks received by mail. You should return any checks received by mail as soon as possible. Surviving spouses and other family members may be eligible for a one-time $255lump-sum death benefit and/or survivor’s benefit.

You should also contact all financial institutions where your loved one held assets and ask that them to put a freeze on the accounts. Likewise, if your loved one held any credit cards, you should notify all of such companies of his or her death and cancel all such cards.

6. Did you start collecting asset information? Collecting information about your loved one’s financial affairs may or may not prove challenging. If you were not familiar with your loved one’s finances (as many children do not know their parents’ finances), collect the bank statements as they come in each month and each quarter. It may take a few months for you to gather all of this information. Also, you can review your loved one’s tax returns to see what investment assets they may have possessed.

7. Did you look into collecting Life Insurance Benefits? Often, it is important to collect the death benefit of an insurance policy promptly after your loved one’s death so that cash is on hand to pay funeral related expenses. You need not wait to collect the death benefit on an insurance policy until after an estate has been raised.

8. Have you checked to see if you need to raise an estate? You may or may not need to “raise an estate” after a loved one has died. Raising an estate simply describes the probate process by which someone is legally appointed to administer the estate. Whether or not an estate needs to be raised will depend (1) on the size of the estate; (2) the nature of the person’s assets; and (3) who the beneficiaries of the estate are. If there is any question regarding whether or not an estate should be raised, you should consult with an estate attorney.

9. Have you chosen a professional financial planner to help you make important financial decisions regarding your inheritance? The world is full of people who have suggestions on how to spend your money, especially if they believe you've just received an inheritance check or a life insurance check. If you have important decisions to make about money, consider trusting a professional financial planner. And, if you have questions regarding how to choose a financial planner, check out my free consumer guide at: \

This list is a starting point. As you begin to take care of these affairs, others will arise. As difficult as it may be to accept, the outside world will continue to make demands on grieving family members despite your inability to focus. This is not a time to neglect your financial responsibilities. Once your days become more normal again, you will be greatly relieved if you've paid attention to these financial details.

About the Author:
Certified Financial Planner Marty Higgins helps families sort through the financial implications of losing a loved one. Now, he has teamed up with estate and tax planning attorneys Jamie Shuster Morgan and Douglas A. Fendrick to create a FREE Special Report that explains, in detail, the questions you need to ask - right now - to be prepared for what happens when a loved one dies. Get your copy now at:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Guest Post by Wendy Bailey

Wendy Bailey, who posts as Henando Pagan at http://depression is guest-posting this week. Hope you'll check out her other posts and leave your thoughts.
The link to depression symptoms didn't underline but you can point to it with your mouse, click and it will take you there. TZ

Dealing with depression as a widow

Though no one like to think of it, death is a part of life. When it comes at the end of a long, full life well-lived, it is bittersweet. One knows that it was inevitable, and is grateful for the life lived, yet the sadness at the loss of a beloved partner can be overwhelming. There are several ways to deal with depression as a widow.

Recognize that it is going to take time to adjust, and one should allow themselves the space to do that. Often, putting grief on a timetable can contribute to depression, as one tries to adjust to the expectations of others or themselves, without allowing themselves to genuinely mourn their loss. The grieving process is different for everyone, and one should not compare themselves to others. While someone may seem to adapt to widowhood surprisingly quickly, the reality may be different. Regardless, everyone is entitled to their own experience, and judgement by oneself or others should be avoided.

Consider finding a grief support group that allows one to connect with others who are going through a similar process. This will allow one to know that what they are going through is normal. One of the hardest things about losing a spouse is that others may not understand, having not yet experienced it themselves. By connecting directly with those who have, there is a chance for commiseration and healing. If one finds oneself sinking further into depression, seek professional help.

As time passes, begin to think of the future. This may lead to putting away the spouse's possessions, and turning the home to reflect one's individual interests, or perhaps moving to a smaller home. Find some way to honor the deceased by keeping, and displaying some of their favorite things in a creative way, or sharing cherished items with children or grandchildren.

Begin to discover new interests by participating in activities, choosing something that one has always wanted to try, or by picking something at random. This may be difficult for someone who has devoted their life to spouse and family, but it can be a fulfilling experience. And one should not think that activities need to be designed for singles, or widows, or seniors. One can choose experiences that truly reflect their interests.

Facing the end of life for a beloved spouse is a distressing, and unsettling experience. Losing a partner is difficult, and that should not be denied. But, with time, and a determination to live life to the fullest, it is a transition that will be survived successfully.

Tuesday Quote for the Week: Lost Generation

This was the topic of the sermon at our synagogue on the Eve of the New Year.
Read it out loud, all the way through. Don't give up.

LOST GENERATION by Jonathan Reed

I’m a part of Lost Generation
And I refuse to believe that
I can change the world.
I realize this may be a shock, but
“Happiness comes from within”
Is a lie, and
“Money will make me happy”
So in thirty years I’ll tell my children
They are not the most important thin in my life
My employers will know that
I have my priority straight because
Is more important than
I tell you this.
Once upon a time
Families stayed together
But this will not be true in my era
This is a quick fix society
Experts tell me
Thirty years from now I will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of my divorce
I do not concede that
I will live in a country of my own making
In the future
Environmental destruction will be the norm
No longer can it be said that
My peers and I care about this earth
It will evident that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic
It is foolish to presume that
There is hope.

Now read it out loud again from the bottom up.

I'd love to hear what you think.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fun Facts from Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life

Humans and guinea pigs are the only species that are unable to synthesize Vitamin C in their own bodies.

Henry Chadwick, who devised the baseball box score, chose the letter K to symbolize Strike because K is the last letter in the word "struck."

Thomas Jefferson is credited with cutting potatoes into strips and eating them fried.

The main agent for powdering the wigs that were so popular in the 1700's was flour. Benjamin Franklin, when he served as ambassador to France, chose not to confirm to the current fad and did not wear a wig.

A popular nineteenth century etiquette book advised that diners might wipe their lips on the table cloth but not blow their noses on it.

Alexander Graham Bell invented the iron lung.

Bell also invited a metal detector. When President James Garfield was shot, Bell was called to his bedside to help locate the bullet. Unfortunately, Bell's device only detected the presidential bedsprings.

Charles Darwin's father refused his request to travel on the Beagle, and it was only his uncle's intervention that convinced the elder Darwin to allow his son to go.

The word "luncheon" originally meant a lump or a portion and only gradually came to signify the midday meal.

The Book of Household Management by Isabella Beeton, a best seller in the nineteenth century on food: potatoes--"suspicious, a great many are narcotic;" cheese--only for sedentary people "in very small quantities;" mangoes--"liked only by those who have not a prejudice against turpentine;" lobsters--"rather indigestible;" tomato-"its juice subjected to the action of the fire, emits a vapoiur so poiwerful as to cause vertigo and vomiting."

These and hundreds of other facts--both obscure and faxcinating--can be found in Bryson's delightful book.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Guest Post by Alan Jordan

Alan H. Jordan is an accomplished author with six business books, hundreds of articles, poems, and audio books to his credit. His children’s book, The Monster on Top of the Bed, has received superb reviews. His poetry has been published in major poetry journals like Mobius, The Poetry Magazine. Details about his forthcoming books may be found at

The thing about being a widow is that it's not a temporary thing. It's forever. It's not just your past that changes, all of your future dreams are cancelled. Okay, it's quite possible to build new dreams, but all of the dreams that you had for sharing your life with your husband are gone. Worse yet, if you have young children, the passing of their father wipes out their dreams, and can make them concerned about forgetting their father.

There's no easy way to deal with this situation. That's why so many widows seek professional counseling, and turn to books for solace. There are many workbooks that help children to journal about someone who passed over. My favorite ones are I Will Never Forget You, Love Never Stops and Kids Can Cope written by Emilio Parga, the founder of Solace Tree, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children go through the grieving process in a constructive, healthy way. But, if you go into a bookstore and ask the clerk to show you a book to help a child celebrate their deceased father's life, you're likely to be shown picture books that discuss death and Heaven in a gentle way. These books are fine for young children, but what about the 7 to 10 year old who understands that their father is dead, and is turning to you for help in celebrating their Dad's life? Picture books definitely don't work well for tweens and teenagers. These are children who process their grief by blogging, tagging pictures, writing on Facebook, and texting their friends. They seek inspiration, not advice, and they build their lives around a phone or smartphone. What can you do to help them?

I asked myself “What can I do to help?” Being an author, the answer that bubbled up in my mind was, “write a book that can be read on a smartphone, a book that does not tell someone what to think, but instead provides a way for each reader to discover their own answers. The result was four Kindle books. These be downloaded onto any Kindle reader, computer or more importantly for children, tweens and teenagers, onto any iPhone, Droid or smartphone, where it can opened in the click of an icon and viewed instantly, in full color, with just a couple of taps on a screen.

Learning how to use a Kindle book is easy, but you don't have to know how to do it. Your children will know, or be able to figure it out in just a minute or two. This means that they can view the book on their phone, in privacy, or that the book can be viewed on a large screen, and the entire family can discuss it. Poetry and photography are meant to be examined, to be discussed. When you view the book with your children or grandchildren, you're likely to find that it's just about impossible to not get into discussions about the beauty of the universe, the eternal nature of life, the best way to celebrate someone's life, Heaven and the heavens. Kids get this! They like not being told how to think.

I Am Here, Dad costs $.99 It combines a short, potent poem with celestial images from the Hubble Space Telescope, and it empowers children, tweens, teens and adults to celebrate the life of their father. It's a quick read, you can go through the poem and images of nebula, suns, galaxies in less than two minutes. You can also spend hours in contemplation, and for those who are interested in the science behind the pictures, there are footnotes that provide in--depth scientific explanations written by scientists, as well as a brief note explaining why I selected each image.

A companion book (also $.99) is Relax, Rejoice and Rejunvenate, Volume 1. It features an affirmation for every day of the year, an affirmation for everyday use, and spiritual photographs I personally took, on Earth, with a digital camera.

These books may just be the two dollars you've ever spent, and if you're not sure, you can download a preview of them for free from my page on the Amazon’s Kindle Store.

You can easily spend $30 or more in a bookstore, and not score as well with your kids as by buying these two Kindle books for them and yourself.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September Books of the Month

Is September almost over already? It seems to have passed without my realizing. Anyway, I have read some interesting books, and here they are:

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni. This book was chosen by the Houston Public Library as the Houston Reads selection for 2011. Each year readers throughout the city are encouraged to read and discuss the same book. One Amazing Thing is the story of a group of strangers trapped inside a passport office by an earthquake. To distract themselves, they each tell the story of one amazing thing that happened in their life. Almost a book of short stories tied together, it's a quick and, I thought, delightful read. Most of the people in my book group disagreed. It's available on Amazon (isn't everything?) so take a look.

Unmeasured Strength by Lauren Manning. This book received a lot of press around the 9/11 anniversary. The author worked on the 105th floor of the North Tower. She was running just a bit late that morning, and was about to step into the elevator when the first plane hit and a ball of fire rushed through the elevator shaft and engulfed her. This is the inspiring story of her recovery after being burned over 80% of her body. I can only imagine how painful that was. I was inspired by her courage and determination...and disappointed to learn that burn treatment hasn't advanced much since I was burned when I was in college.

John Dollar by Marianne Wiggins. An eerie book about a group of girls stranded on a remote island. A sort of female Lord of the Flies. My book club is reading them together. Personally, I prefer Lord of the Flies; in fact, it's one of my favorite books. But this one will also give you nightmares.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson. This is a pretty long book, but I loved every page. It's a wide-ranging history of anything you can think of in relation to home. Though some of the content has only a slight connection to home (Darwin's voyage on the Beagle, for example), the book kept me engaged and amused. I highly recommend it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Quote for the Week

Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.
Zelda Fitzgerald

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Falling from the Sky

I am considering having a t-shirt made that says I Survived the Falling Satellite. I can't believe someone isn't already selling that one.

Truthfully, the plunging satellite was not in the forefront of my mind. I was much more concerned about the rain that finally arrived after days of drought and splattered right through my roof and into my hallway. I had to put pans up and down the hall. Do you know how gross a panful of rainwater smells? I love the smell of rain...outside. Not on my carpet.

The Houston Chronicle gave scant attention to the space debris hurtling toward Earth. Down here in Texas where football is king, we are much more concerned with the possible implosion of the Big 12. Even though I grew up in Austin and I'm a proud University of Texas graduate, I admit that the Longhorns' greed--having their own sports network, which by the way, seems to be unavailable to the majority of TV owners--caused this debacle. A & M is headed for the SEC. Who will Texas play on Thanksgiving Day? Who will we hate as much as the Aggies? Both schools will have to change their fight songs. Tradition wiped away. So who cares about tons of metal falling on our heads at such a time as this?

I certainly didn't, until I made the mistake of turning on my TV Friday night when I got into bed. There was Anderson Cooper in his cute, tight t-shirt telling us that within hours the satellite would enter Earth's atmosphere, and no one knew where it might hit. OMG, it could crash anywhere, even...right here. In. My. Bedroom. Automatically, I glanced at the ceiling. No help there. My roof would be no protection from shards of metal falling at a gazillion miles an hour. That's not how I want to die. I want a dignifed end, not a splat in the middle of the night. Oh, Anderson, why did you have to bring this up? Couldn't you talk about something more cheerful, like the economy?

Should I stay awake for what could be my last night? I didn't.

When I woke up on Saturday, everything was normal. The satellite had missed me. I hurried outside to get the newspaper. A man in San Antonio reported that he saw shiny things falling from the sky. What if they had landed on the Alamo? Unthinkable.

Actually, the Associated Press said the debris had likely fallen into the Pacific, but no one could say exactly where.

So I've survived a non-crisis. At least until next time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Quote for the Week

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Memory of the Month: When the World Went Black


I love to travel. Ralph did, too, once I talked him into a trip. But in 1991 I didn't have to convince him. The minute he saw the article about the Museum of Natural Science's trip to Oaxaca, Mexico to see the upcoming solar eclipse, he was ready to sign up.

We'd been on a trip with the Museum's astronomy expert before--to Chile to see Haley's Comet--and it was great fun, watching the starry sky from the Chilean desert. Now we'd see another once-in-a-lifetime sight, a total eclipse of the sun.

Oaxaca was crowded with tourists eager for their adventure. We visited the observatory there and heard a lecture on the eclipse and the safe way to view it. Never look directly at the sun, even if it's obscured by the moon, or you're likely to be blinded, so we had special dark glasses for the viewing.

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We traveled to the impressive ruins at Monte Alban, toured the wide plaza and some of the stone buildings, then had a picnic lunch. As the time for the eclipse neared, throngs of people arrived. Nearby was a group with painted faces, drumming as they waited for the sun to disappear. My heart pounded. How had it felt, centuries ago to the Mayans and Aztecs, when suddenly the world went dark?

Gradually the light dimmed and we could see the moon moving across the sun, slowly covering it. An eerie, gray-greenish light surrounded us. We could see Jupiter, Mercury and Venus in line with the moon. A shadow passed over the valley, and the air grew cold. We stood in the dark, the drums pounding in the background, the drummers chanting in time. A minute passed, then two, then three...and the light returned.

It's a memory I'll always cherish and a special day shared with Ralph.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Recommended Site: Gotham Writers Workshop

Here's a site every writer should know about.

I came upon Gotham by chance (Hooray for Google!) when I was searching for a class on memoir writing. I came upon a treasure trove of workshops for writers at any stage in their careers. Want to be a travel writer? Screenwriter? Memoir writer? Blogger? Whatever your goal, Gotham has a workshop to fit your needs. Although some are in New York, the majority are online as well, so you can take a writing class in your pajamas (or in nothing at all if you wish). You'll get lectures, critiques by the instructor, critiques by your fellow class members, entry to a chat room set aside for your class.

I signed up for Memoir Writing I and began a memoir about my husband's last year of life, then took Memoir II and finally Advanced Memoir. Our instructor, Ana Maria Spagna, is amazing. The group of us who took the advanced class stayed in touch, continued to critique each other's work and kept up with news about each other's lives. Next month several of us are meeting in Lake Tahoe for a reuion and a class on essay writing with Ana Maria. Lake Tahoe in late October, personalized writing instruction...what could be better?

I can't promise you a trip to Lake Tahoe, but do stop by and see what Gotham has to offer.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quote for the Week: September

Here's John Updike on September. September in Houston is still pretty much like July and our leaves look like this because there's been no rain all summer, but I like to think of it this way:

"The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze."
- John Updike, September


Thanks to Nancy MacMillan for this award. Check out Nancy at And now I'm passing on this award to the following 5 bloggers:






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5. Have fun blogging!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/11: Remembering

It was an ordinary Tuesday. I woke a little late, so I was hurrying to get ready for work when Ralph came into the bedroom. He'd been working in his home office. His face stern, he strode to the TV. "You have to see this," he said.

"I don't have time; I'm running late."

"You have to watch," his said. His voice sounded strange, so I thought I'd humor him.

The TV clicked on. A New York skyscraper. Plane, fire, smoke. I dropped the shoes I'd been about to put on and stared. This couldn't be some special effects movie, it was real. "What's happening?" I asked.

"Someone's flown planes into the World Trade Center."

"An accident?"

"No." He sank down onto the bed. "Our lives will never be the same."

After a while, I couldn't watch any more. I went to work. At the preschool, parents were rushing in, grabbing their children and taking them home. Teachers were helping with backpacks and lunches. "Someone said they hit the Pentagon."

Who were "they?"

I decided to go back home. In the parking lot, I looked up. The sky was blue and cloudless, a beautiful September morning. But I didn't focus on that. I scanned for planes, listened for engine sounds, glanced fearfully at the buildings around me. I felt like a defenseless animal. What if the next plane headed to Houston?

At home, I called my business partner, then the office manager. We cancelled the rest of the day's appointments. Who would be interested in speech therapy on this day? I spent the rest of the morning in front of the television, mesmerized by scenes of carnage. How could this be happening in America?

Later that day Gayle, the office manager, and I picked up some Chinese food and brought it to a friend's house. Her husband was recuperating from surgery and we'd said we'd bring dinner. We sat together, stunned and confused, and tried to process the events of the day. We couldn't.

What is it about human beings that makes them do such evil things--bomb Pearl Harbor, invade Poland, assassinate a President? Why, when someone thinks differently or occupies a territory we want, do we resort to killing innocent people? Will we ever understand? Can we ever change?

Here's an eerie story from six months later. My partner came into my therapy room carrying a tiny blue plastic TV, part of a set of doll furniture we used with kids. "Look at this," she said and held up something we'd never noticed. The TV had a little picture pasted to the front: the Twin Towers.

I still use that set of furniture. Kids like to "turn on" the TV. And it still makes me feel creepy.

But it reminds me that we musst be vigilant so this never happens again. And that, somehow, people must learn to live and let live.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Quote for the Week...and questions it inspires

If no one knows you, then you are no one.
Dan Chaon

I found this quote at the beginning of One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni and have been pondering over its meaning. In the book, a group of people are trapped in the basement of a building after an earthquake and they spend the time telling stories about themselves.

I wonder if anyone really knows us. We show ourselves by our actions and we tell about our lives, our opinions, our thoughts, but do we ever reveal our inner selves? Don't we all carry secrets? Isn't there a secret self beneath the persona we show to the world? If you were trapped in a situation in which you might die or might be rescued and never see the people you were with again, would you tell your deepest, most personal truth?

The Ambassador of Grief and Whimsy

The Ambassador of Grief and Whimsy is actually a bunny. She belongs to Susan, who blogs at Bunny often acts as Susan's alter ego.

Like me, Susan is a widow and she has a loyal following of widows and widowers who read her blog regularly. Susan often said she wished she could visit her online friends, but that is impossible since they live in such far-flung places as Australia and England. Then she had a brainstorm: she would send Bunny in her place. Followers signed up to have Bunny visit them, and off she went around the world in what is now a well-used postage box. She has been to England, Australia, Alaska, Arizona, and most recently to me in Texas.

As soon as she arrived, in her adorable jeans, embroidered shirt and tiny backpack, I introduced Bunny to my cats. Needless to say, they were not interested in being friends, especially Toby after the night Bunny, wearing her little sleep mask, moved into his space on my bed.

Bunny was cuddly and comforting. Also helpful. She visited my speech therapy sessions and encouraged kids to talk. "She's traveling around the world, like Flat Stanley," I told one of my kids. "Wow," he said, "how does she do it?" I think he was a bit disappointed when I explained she traveled in a box from the post office.

Bunny and I took a trip to the Galleria, where she got a Don't Mess With Texas t-shirt (infant size).

Bunny has created a bond between the widows who have enjoyed her company. My thanks to Susan for her kindness in sharing Bunny with her on-line friends. You can also visit Bunny's Facebook page: look for abandoned souls.

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