Sunday, December 29, 2013

My 2013

Best achievement:  Publication of my memoir, Stumbling Through the Dark

Favorite book:  My Beautiful World by Sonia Sotomayor

Favorite movie:  Captain Phillips

Annual Christmas Day Movie:  American Hustle

Favorite art events:  Henry V at Main Street Theater and A Chorus Line at Hermann Park

Most exciting sports event:  Auburn beats Alabama in last second

Most disappointing sports event:  The Houston Texans’ 2 and 14 season

Most disappointing political event:  The rollout of Obamacare

Favorite trips:  Tulip Time in Holland, Portland Oregon to visit my friend Marilyn

Favorite museum visits:  The Van Gogh collection in Amsterdam and the Impressionists in Houston

Favorite nature views:  Tulips in Holland, fall foliage in Oregon

Most fun weekend:  Reunion of 5 high school friends in Dallas

Most notable family event:  Gabriella starts high school

Newest eating experience:  Lunch at a food truck

Best restaurant experience:  Etoille in Houston

Best ongoing experience:  Still working as a speech pathologist

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Quote for the Week

Difficulties break some men but make others.
Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Favorite Christmas Story----I post this every year.

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 copywriterat 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 storybook.

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


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 blessing.

Hope you enjoyed the story.  Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Press Release

The Widowhood Effect: Author Thelma Zirkelbach Believes Grief Should Not Define The Future

Thelma Zirkelbach’s highly acclaimed book, ‘Stumbling Through The Dark’, is a powerful story of love, loss and unexpected courage

A recent Harvard study pinpointed the “widowhood effect,” suggesting that during the early months after the loss of a spouse, the surviving spouse faces a higher risk of dying.  Thelma Zirkelbach, author of ‘Stumbling Through the Dark’, a memoir of her husband’s final year and her early months of widowhood, notes that in 1967 psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, who studied and rated life stressors, found that loss of a spouse is the most stressful event in one’s life and that grieving individuals are at risk for some type of physical illness during the year after their partner’s death.

Is it possible to mitigate the widowhood effect?  Zirkelbach suggests that widowhood results in both emotional stress and stressful events of daily living.  While no one wants to “prepare” for widowhood, the fact is that one member of every couple will be widowed.  After her husband died and she had to cope with searching for his business accounts, IRA, car title and numerous other papers, she bought a small briefcase, filed all her papers in it, labeled it When the Time Comes, and showed her children where to find it. Fortunately for all of us who will face this issue someday, she also decided to write a book.

“The writer in me,” Zirkelbach stated, “compelled me to recount Ralph’s and my final year together with all its anger, beauty and pain.  ‘Stumbling Through the Dark’ is the result. The book begins at the end, with Ralph’s funeral and then circles back to chronicle the year leading up to his death.  That year of his diagnosis and illness begins with fear and hope and ends with grief and loss.  It was a dark time, but there were moments of laughter and shared memories.  I believe, with the poet Wendell Berry, that “dark, too, blooms and sings.”

“I remind myself, and those of you who are reading this, that grief and loss are part of life.  They are as old as time, but every loss is new.  Everyone handles grief in their own way.  In ‘Stumbling Through the Dark’ I talk about finding my own way through grief–twisting, turning, backsliding and forging ahead.”

Zirkelbach wishes she had learned more practical things while her husband was still alive.  She advises spouses to learn to do each other’s usual jobs while the other is still around to teach.  Some things can’t be taught. When Zirkelbach woke alone in the middle of the night and found a large possum in her bathroom, she realized her husband wouldn’t have known what to do any more than she did.  She slammed the door, went back to sleep, and called an animal rescue service the next morning.

Emotional stress is harder to ameliorate.  “I knew in my head that he was dying, but I didn’t really believe it until it happened,” Zirkelbach said.  “Even after the doctor pronounced him dead, I was certain I saw his chest moving.”  Loneliness and grief are difficult to overcome. Having the support of her children and good friends helped.  She never felt uncomfortable about calling when she needed company or a listening ear.  She believes too many widowed people wait for others to make the first move.  “Don’t,” she advises.  She was also fortunate that she and her husband each had their own interests and friends as well as those they shared.

She found reading about how other widowed individuals got through the early months was helpful and seeing a therapist when she was overwhelmed with grief gave her emotional support.  “Everyone grieves differently,” she says, “but you have to believe there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Thelma Zirkelbach is available for media interviews and can be reached using the information below, or by email at All of Thelma Zirkelbach’s works are available at Amazon. More information is available at Zirkelbach’s website at

About Thelma Zirkelbach:

From the time Thelma Zirkelbach was four years old, she knew she wanted to be a writer.  She first became a speech pathologist, a career she still pursues.  She graduated from the University of Texas. She then worked for the Houston Independent School District and retired to become a Fifties homemaker. She had two children, baked cookies, played bridge, drove carpools and lived in suburban Houston.  Divorce sent her out into the wider world.  She went back to school, got a Master’s degree and became a working mom.  Along the way, she met Ralph Zirkelbach, the love of her life, who became her second husband.  Together they raised a family. She continued working and eventually began a second career as a romance novelist, finally fulfilling her dream of becoming a published author. She books can be found on Amazon, one written as Thelma Zirkelbach, several written as Thelma Alexander, and others as Lorna Michaels.


Thelma Zirkelbach

Please visit my website to download a chapter of Stumbling Through the Dark.

If you're reading this on Facebook, please Like it.  Thanks

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Quote for the Week

It's almost time to start making New Year's resolutions, so this could be one of them...or you could think of  this as advice for the few weeks left this year.

Always make new mistakes.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Books of November

This is a book I'd been wanting to read for sometime because I'd heard it was so wonderful.  Truth to tell, I was disappointed.  I expected something much more profound than sore feet, inadequate preparation and a box of condoms on a 1000 mile solo hike.  Her writing was nice but I found the story just okay.

I found this cartoon book very funny.  Other people I showed it to didn't enjoy it as much as I did, so take your choice.

The adventures of a china rabbit who learns about the power of love and hope.  Note:  This is listed as a children's book, but it's not really for children.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Quote for the Week

It seems appropriate this week to post a quote from John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

After Loss: What I'm Still Thankful For

Thanksgiving is often hard for me because it was Ralph's and my favorite holiday.  He always cooked the turkey (I still have never cooked one--guess I never will learn how) and I made everything else.  Our family was together.  We always had to say, "Ralph, this is the best turkey you've ever made."  We laughed about the year I used some spoiled orange rind in the sweet potatoes and everyone was polite about it until my son-in-law spoke up.  Since Ralph has been gone, my daughter-in-law's family always include me in their Thanksgiving plans, and I'm grateful.  I'll forever miss Ralph, but I still have many things to be thankful for.  Here's a partial list:

My children and grandchildren
My friends
My cats
My profession--I love being a speech pathologist
The beauty of nature
Books to read, enjoy and discuss
The pleasure of learning new things
My Women in Transition group and its subgroup, Death, Dying and Dessert
The joy of travel
My memories

Sunday, November 17, 2013

First Grade All Over Again

Friday was the groundbreaking for the high rise I will be moving into in 2015.  Rain was forecast, but it was a beautiful day with sunshine and clear skies.  After the requisite speeches, board members for the high rise dipped their shovels into a pile of sand (That's not them above--it's a generic picture).And then we got in line for a buffet lunch.

 I only knew one couple in the crowd and I didn't see them until after I'd filled my plate, so as the line inched forward, I glanced around.  Suddenly I felt as if I were in first grade all over again, surrounded by people I didn't know..  Which of these current strangers would end up being my friends?  Who would I spend time with, chat with, confide in?  A whole new chapter will be opening up, and I wonder how I will fill the pages.  I'm pretty shy, so the thought is exciting and scary at the same time.  Well, I tell myself I made it through first grade; I'll navigate this change, too, and pretty soon I'll feel at home.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Quote for the Week by Carl Sandburg

Life is like an onion:  you peel it off one layer at a time and sometimes you weep.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Plastic Surgery, Yes or No?

Tomorrow evening my Women in Transition group is discussing plastic surgery.  The question is whether you would choose cosmetic surgery to make yourself look younger.  My answer:  Huh uh.
I have had two experiences with plastic surgery.  The first was when I turned 50.  I decided to give myself a present and get rid of the lines around my mouth.  Ah, how fondly I look back on those lines.  They were so faint, hardly visible.  Today, from years of smiling, of course, they're a lot deeper.  You can't miss them.  Anyway, I went to a dermatologist for collagen injections.  Ouch!  But I figured they were worth it.  I'd be able to pass for 40, maybe younger.  Not exactly.  I was apparently allergic to the collagen and instead of erasing my lines, it caused bright red, ugly marks around my mouth.  The doctor advised leaving them alone.  She assured me they would vanish.  Stubborn little things, they stayed right where they were.  I remember attending a workshop and running into a professor I'd had in graduate school.  She took one look at me and shrieked, "What happened to your faa..ace?"  Now everyone was staring.  I wanted to disappear.  The next week I saw another dermatologist, who solved the problem with steroid injections.  Cosmetic surgery?  Never again.  I will embrace my aging face and tell myself it shows my wisdom (even if I don't believe it).

I did have another experience with plastic surgery, but this one was medically necessary.  I had an eyelid lift to improve my vision.  The doctor, who specialized in  ophthalmic plastic surgery, was writing a mystery and I knew people in his critique group, so we had a nice chat while he worked on my lids.    Afterward, for the first time since I was four years old, I didn't need glasses.

So here's my take: if it's medically necessary, go for it.  If not, don't take the risk.

I'd love some comments.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Books of September and October

A fictionalized version of Edith Wharton's life plus that of her assistant.  I enjoyed it, although as a romance author, I thought Edith was a bit wishy-washy when it came to romance...just saying.

Autism, as explained by a 13-year-old boy with the disorder.  Perhaps this will get me a lot of criticism, but I have spent much time working with autistic youngsters and I found this a bit hard to believe.  It's hit the best seller list, however, so judge for yourself.

What life might have been like for Anne Frank's older sister, had she lived.  I enjoyed this book a lot.

My book club is reading this because the movie about Salinger just came out (Alas, none of us saw it)).  I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it.  Well worth re-reading.

Five people are haunted by an incident that happened in the woods one night long ago.  Enjoyable read.

Why, you may ask, am I reading The Iliad?  Because I love Greek mythology and because I took a course at Rice University's Continuing Ed program on the Iliad.  It was one of the best courses I've taken at Rice and I enjoyed the instructor's interpretation.  Sadly, Hector died this time, too.  I keep hoping the ending will change, but it doesn't.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Quotes for the Week: Halloween (Of Course)

It's said that All Hallows' Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin - and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own. Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright.

I'll bet living in a nudist colony takes all the fun out of Halloween.  ~Author Unknown

As spirits roam the neighborhoods at night,
Let loose upon the Earth till it be light...
~Nicholas Gordon,

Eat, drink and be scary.  ~Author Unknown

I'll bet living in a nudist colony takes all the fun out of Halloween.  ~Author Unknown

As spirits roam the neighborhoods at night,
Let loose upon the Earth till it be light...
~Nicholas Gordon,

Eat, drink and be scary.  ~Author Unknown

Pixie, kobold, elf, and sprite,
All are on their rounds tonight;
In the wan moon's silver ray,
Thrives their helter-skelter play.
~Joel Benton

And my favorite quote.....
A grandmother pretends she doesn't know who you are on Halloween.  Erma Bombeck



Sunday, October 27, 2013


I've been very lazy about blogging the past month.  Sooo not me!  But I am back on track now, with  a new website  plus blog.   Since this blog has become more eclectic, I'll be devoting the other to issues surrounding widowhood, loss, grief--resources, thoughts, feelings, etc.  At the site you can also download a free chapter of my memoir, Stumbling Through the Dark and listen to my podcast on the Author Show.  So I invite you to stop by, browse the content, and say hi in the comment sections.

I'm also going to join other local authors on Tuesday November 5 at 6:30 p.m.  at the Jewish Community Center Book and Arts Fair, 5601 S. Braeswood to talk about my book and sign copies. It's a free event, so if you live in the Houston area, I hope you'll stop by.  It's always fun to learn what local authors are up to.

Back soon.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Alphabet of Living Right (from a birthday card)

Appreciate yourself
Bounce on the bed
Create a poem
Declare world peace
Explode a myth
Flabbergast a neighbor
Get up late
Help yourself to seconds
Imagine it and do it
Jump at the chance
Kindle a flame
Leave your troubles behind
Meet someone new
Nourish your soul
Opt for ice cream
Play all day
Quench your desires
Revel at random
Sing loudly, smile widely
Touch the sky
Uncork the champagne
Watch whatever you want
X-ercise your right not to
Yearn for the best
Zip, zap, zing and zone out.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

I'd Appreciate Your Vote

Hello, Readers:

Just a note to ask for your vote at  Authors with the most votes will be included in Fifty Authors You Should Be Reading, so please stop by their website, look at the right side of the page where it tells about the contest, click there and follow the voting instructions.  Thanks sooo  much.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Books of August

The Mistress's Revenge follows a spurned lover's emotional collapse  as she tries to win her ex-lover back.  I enjoyed it until it got repetitive.  The ending wasn't particularly satisfying, but overall, a fun read.

I've always been a big Nora Robers fan.  This is typical but not one of her best.  The ending seemed to come out of nowhere, but if you like Nora  read it anyway.
A book club choice.  It's gotten rave reviews, but frankly I thought it was incoherent, and I had trouble suspending my disbelief as the story progressed.  In its favor, there are some funny parts, but I give it a C+.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Trip to Yesterday and Tomorrow

This weekend my son and his family and I celebrated my daughter's birthday.  She moved last year to work as attending veterinarian at Scott and White Hospital in Temple, Texas, but she lives in Round Rock.  She comes to Houston often and I don't drive on the highway (That's how I became a romance writer, but that's another post).  Anyway, I had not visited her and this was the perfect time.

In my day Round Rock was a blip in the highway between Austin and Waco,(See picture below of its historic district).  But today Round Rock is a bustling suburb of Austin with restaurants, a minor league baseball team, a premium outlet mall, chain stores and sprawling housing developments.  It's hard to tell where Austin ends and Round Rock begins.

Lori's house is lovely.  It's bright and airy and has a nice backyard and a huge kitchen  (unnecessary for her because she doesn't cook).  We took Lori to dinner at an upscale restaurant.  The waiter brought two little plates with two little crackers each and a cheese spread.  Hmm, four crackers for five people--4/5 cracker for each.  The crackers were delicious, we told him, and he said the restaurant made them themselves.  We asked for more.  Again we got four crackers.  Was this a rule?  Could the waiter not count?  Well, all in all we had 1 and  3/5 apiece.  Surprisingly, the desserts were huge.  Maybe that's a Round Rock tradition.

The next morning Lori and I explored old downtown, all two blocks of it, then we all went to the Saltllick for barbecue.  I'm not a big fan of barbecue but this was prety good.

We bid Lori goodbye and drove into Austin so daughter-in-law Monica and granddaughter Gabby could shop at Tyler's on the drag.  The stores that I grew up with here are gone except for the University Co-op, which is as much a University of Texas institution as Longhorn football, but the drag itself is still the same--students and tourists and a few people who looked like they were homeless but were probably students sitting on the sidewalk taking a break.

 Tyler's is on the same block as the Co-op and features lots of t-shirts and shoes.  I bought 2 t-shirts I didn't need but will use for sleepwear.  Both are burnt orange (In my day UT colors were white and plain ol' orange).  One shirt says Keep Austin Weird and the other says Texas Football.  How could I resist?

We drove home on Highway 290 and to cap off the trip we stopped at Buc'ees, which is new for me.  I had never had the pleasure of visiting a Buc-eer's nor had I even seen one.  I need to get out of town more often.  Anyway, I said we had to stop, so we pullked into their crowded parking lot and stopped at the door to view an enormous Buc--ee, who seems to be a beaver.  I think Buc-ee's only has stores in Texas so I have to wonder why they have a beaver on their logo.  I never knew there were beavers in Texas.

The store if filled with Texas stuff-handicrafts and t-shirts and sportswear and lots of food, which we didn't buy since we'd had so much barbecue for lunch.  It was definitely the high point of the trip and might be worth a return stop another time.

All in all, a fun weekend.  Happy Labor Day, everyone.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

It's (Un)officially Fall

Even though we are roasting here, it's sorta kinda fall.  Houston schools start tomorrow.  It's my granddaughter's first day of high school.  She admits to being a little nervous but not much.  On her first day of kindergarten (which seems like yesterday) her picture was in the Houston Chronicle, holding onto her daddy and crying.  But now she's a young lady, who walks better in high heels than I ever did, and certainly better than I do now. She'll be fine.

And another sign of fall:  It's football season.  Will the University of Texas Longhorns regain their rightful place among elite college football teams?  Will the Houston Texans get to the Super Bowl...or at least past the second round of the playoffs?  We'll see.

Halloween items line store shelves and I actually saw some Christmas items a month ago.

I''m looking forward to a chill in the air and eventually some colored leaves.  Fall is my favorite season.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Interview with Leila Summers, Author of It Rains in February

Q: Can you share a little about your story with us?
A: On the 1st February 2006, my husband, Stuart, arrived home from work and unexpectedly confessed his love for another woman - a married woman whose children were friends with my children. I thought there must be some mistake, a misunderstanding, or perhaps, he was having a midlife crisis. But Stuart spiralled down into depression, becoming obsessed, and my perfect life began to unravel along with his sanity. I spent the following year torn between my own heartache and trying to save him. Every day I treaded lightly, juggling work, children, tears, and threats of suicide. On 24th February 2007, I got the dreaded call. Stuart was dead. His father said, "It's over." But it wasn't over, for me, or for any of us. I was a widow at the age of thirty-seven, with two young daughters, aged six and four.


Q: What inspired you to write down your story?
A: During the traumatic year leading up to Stuart’s death, I kept a journal, a space to simply pour out my pain. After he was gone, I typed up the scribbled tear-stained pages to keep as a record for my daughters so that they would one day know the story. More words poured out as the story expanded until I realized that I had the skeleton of a book. I included all of Stuart's letters and emails leading up to his death. Four years went by as I worked for hours at night, the story growing and evolving as I filled in all the spaces.
Writing became an important part of my healing process. There were many times that I wanted to forget the idea of publishing, but something kept spurring me on. It was as if the telling of my story was as important as putting it out there for the entire world to read. Only after my book was published, and I was forced to officially call myself a writer, did I discover that another part of the process was to find myself.


Q: Is there a message in your book that you hope to share with readers?
A: To be honest, I tried to keep away from including a ‘message’ in my book, and simply shared my story. I believe that stories have the power to heal, not only ourselves, but others who come across them. Not all stories have happy endings. But the depth that comes from within them, the powerful feeling they leave us with, reminds us that we are all connected. Each of us has our own story, our own heartache and our moments of joy. Mine is a story of love and loss, but also hope. Hope because no matter what any of us have been through, we know that someone else has been through hard times too, and has survived. I have survived.


Q: What has been the response to your book? 

A: I have been surprised by the many positive responses to my book. As I mentioned, it wasn't intended as a book with a message. But books have a way of finding readers who relate to certain aspects of a story. As expected, there have been angry readers too; people who do not understand how I could put up with as much as I did. I can appreciate how they feel. I didn’t plan my story, it simply unfolded before my eyes, and I dealt with it in survival mode on a day to day basis. If I hadn't lived it, I might feel the same way. Whatever emotion the book brings up, I am satisfied that, at the very least, I have done what every writer aspires to, and that is to evoke strong emotions within a reader. In retrospect, I have no regrets.


Q: What are you working on now?

A: After I published my memoir at the end of 2011, I moved to a tiny country village in South Africa where I now live happily with my two daughters and our six pets. I have just started writing my second memoir, a story of life after grief.


Q: Where can readers buy your book?

A: It Rains In February: A Wife's Memoir of Love and Loss is free to download on Amazon Kindle today! Visit to get your copy.


Q: How can readers connect with you?








Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Quotes for the Week: Summer

I walk without flinching through the burning cathedral of the summer.  My bank of wild grass is majestic and full of music.  It is a fire that solitude presses against my lips.  ~Violette Leduc, Mad in Pursuit

Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.  ~Russel Baker

A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.  ~James Dent

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Our Vet by Toby and Tiki


Today our vet, Dr. Eckerman, had  a big party to celebrate his 40th anniversary in practice.  We weren't invited of course--only humans.  Our mom went and said it was lovely.
Dr. E. has been taking care of us since we were small kittens.  To tell the truth, we don't like him very much.  He pokes and prods us--very demeaning for a cat.  The vet is about the only place we go, so as soon as our mom puts the cat carrier in the car, Toby knows what's in store and he throws up.
As soon as Dr. E. touches him, Toby growls. 
But he has taken good care of us, saved us from fleas and heartworms and infections and such.  So we sent him a copy of our favorite book, Poetry for Cats.
And here's one of our favorite poems, written by John Donne's cat.  We think it's especially appropriate:
Vet, Be Not Proud
Vet, be not proud though thou canst make cats die.
Thou livest but one life while we have nine,
And if our lives were half as bleak as thine,
We would not seek from thy cold grasp to fly.
We do not slave our daily bread to buy;
Our eyes are blind to gold and silver's shine;
We owe no debt, we pay no tax or fine;
We tremble not when creditors draw nigh.
The sickest animal that thou dost treat
Is weller than a man; in peace we dwell
And know not guilt or sin and fear not hell.
Poor vet, we live in heaven at thy feet.
But do not think that any cat will weep
When Thee a Higher Vet doth put to sleep.
Oh, dear, we don't really mean that.  And by the way, if you'd like to read some more poems by famous cats, look up Poetry for Cats by Henry Beard.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Writing Our Lives: Interview with Joe Pfeiler, Author of Half Italian (and then some)


Describe the book:

Half Italian (and then some) is the story of my Italian family, as seen through my eyes. The humor is unique, like the time my grandmother flushed her dentures down the toilet, later retrieved from a septic tank. The book isn’t just for Italians; it’s for anyone needing a good laugh.

Currently, the book is a finalist in two categories of the Readers’ Favorite 2013 book contest.

What inspired you to write the book?

This came after reading Frances Mayes’ books on Tuscany and Yvone Lenard’s on Provence. Both authors created worlds I couldn’t wait to get home to each afternoon, simply by writing about “what happened.” I found myself wishing I owned something that had “happened” to write about. But all I could think of was two stories on the Italian side of my family: a homemade electric chair (complete with live shock) that my cousins made as a joke, and my family using a still to make booze during Prohibition. Those didn’t seem like much of a start. But my father had recently passed away, and I realized time was precious. So one Saturday morning I sat down at the computer to type those two stories into a document. With that, something in me opened and the rest of the words flew.

I saw on Amazon that you write about your grandmother (sounds hilarious). What other family members do you write about?

A mixture of the immigrants, the American-born generations and the Europeans: my great aunt, my uncle, my mother, a particularly lively cousin, and some of my family who still live in Italy.

My grandmother’s first U.S. experiences have entertained people for many years. She’d never seen a banana, mustard, or a fruit pie until adult age during her migration from Italy to California, and threw them all out the window of her train because she thought they were spoiled. (Mushy fruit? Yellow meat? Wet, squishy stuff, between crusts!?)

Is the book a series of short pieces or one long, connected story?

It’s one connected story, beginning with my family leaving Italy. As they continue their lives in Southern California, I’m always present, commenting. My interest in the old country grows, and the book’s apex is my first visits to Italy.

What’s your favorite part of the book?

The chapter titled “Grandma” is particularly important to me. I hadn’t intended to include her death, but once I began to write about it I realized I’d never processed that loss. That chapter is a turning point, the end of one period of my life. The loss of my great aunt, another life-changing event, is also a section that’s important to me.

I loved writing about the chickens.

What has been your family’s response to the book? Did they know ahead of time you were writing about them?

A few family members knew I was writing the book and couldn’t wait to read it. Then, surprise! They had little to say, once they read it. In fact, one cousin remembered very little about it, when we spoke later. Maybe they’ve just heard those stories too many times.

Enthusiasm at this time is coming from those who don’t know my family, which pleases me greatly – that means I did my job, and wrote a book that’s interesting to a wide audience, not just those who know me.

I particularly like that the book gives new life to a past that’s gone. The loss of my grandmother was devastating, so hearing remarks about her now, from people I don’t know give her a new kind of life. I feel like she’s standing nearby, smiling.

What is your writing background?

Half Italian (and then some) is my first book.

Tell about your writing process:

I write down my thoughts ASAP because some tend to fly away and not come back. On vacations, I carry a tiny notepad and make bullet-points. Doesn’t matter how rough-form the thoughts are, as long as I get them in writing. After that, I try to be patient. Connecting the pieces of even one small story can be challenging. I’ve learned, though, that just a few minutes spent each day on one section can produce a smooth story that seemed impossible to complete when it was nothing more than raw thoughts. Later, when re-reading, I ask myself if things make sense. Have I written about a character before introducing her? Is there a contradiction as to when events took place?

What are you working on now?

I just finished “On the Roads of France,” a collection of three short stories about driving in France, plus one in Italy, all my own experiences.  The liner notes will include, “From the lanes of a medieval village to receiving a speeding ticket, this collection will amuse as well as provide tips on how to supplement and respect a GPS.

I’ll also be continuing with a second memoir, about the other side of my family, called “The Other Half.” This will have some darker moments than Half Italian (and then some).

Any tips for writers, especially memoir writers?

Read your work, and ask why you want to include the material you’ve written. What does it contribute? Does it support your book’s general direction or one of its threads? Would someone who doesn’t know you find the material entertaining?

I recently read a memoir that was presented like an inventory list. This, and limited personal observation from the author made the book a difficult read. Several parts of the book read as if random memories had been recorded on tape and those words were simply transferred from recording onto the book’s pages. The book’s only direction seemed to be linear time, such as who did what and when they did it, with few comments or feelings from the author. One section was simply a roster of who’d lived where, like names poured from a bucket, with no direction or reason.

Make your writing personal. When writing about someone else, share your own experience of that material with your readers, not merely “what happened.”


Kobo link:

BN (Nook) link:

Amazon (Kindle) link:



Memoirs Only link to Half Italian:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Quotes for the Week: Attitude


 If you have nothing to be grateful for check your pulse.  ~Author Unknown
 Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures.  ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Life's Little Instruction Book

Every thought is a seed.  If you plant crab apples, don't count on harvesting Golden Delicious.  ~Bill Meyer

True contentment depends not upon what we have; a tub was large enough for Diogenes, but a world was too little for Alexander.  ~Charles Caleb Colton

To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.  ~Confucius

Monday, August 12, 2013


School starts in a week and it's still summer.  In fact, it's sooo summer that my brains are fried.  I can't think of anything to write about today.  And Saturday night I went with a group of friends to see Shakespeare in the Park at Miller Outdoor Theater.  We chose to see Antony and Cleopatra, which I've never seen before, but who doesn't know about Cleopatra and her famous suicide from the bite of an asp.  A light rain was falling as we settled on the hill behind the theater.  It stopped just as the curtain went up.  When the curtain fell and people headed out, we packed up our chairs and picnic baskets and left, too.  We wondered why the actors did not come out at the end and why, unlike most of Shakespeare's tragedies, Cleopatra and her lover didn't die at the end.  "Oops," as our esteemed governor would say, when I checked the Cliffnotes, I discovered there was no curtain call because the play was not over.  We left at intermission.  All five of us, all of us well educated and familiar with the story.  Too much summer.  Maybe Shakespeare should be watched in cooler weather.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Writing Our Lives: Interview with Katherine Thompson, Author of The Day I Woke Up

Describe your book for readers.

It is the account of the first ten months of my life living with retrograde amnesia. Recording from that very first moment I looked around and realised I had no idea where I was or who I was through to life once settling down. Meeting family and friends at the age of 26 and not knowing who they are, yet these people holding photographs of you and them from only a few weeks previous as well as, not understanding the concept of God when living with a religious family, so much seemed to happen in the first few months, and this book is an open invite for people to share with me the highs and lows of the first ten months.

It is a story that will inspire you, with moments that will make you laugh, and possibly cry, there shall be insights you may never have considered before as well as emotional rides you will recognise within yourself.  

What is retrograde amnesia?

Retrograde amnesia is a loss of memory-access to events that occurred before a specific event or illness; the inability to recall information mainly personal information. 

Psychogenic amnesia (Which is what I have) is defined as having retrograde amnesia (the inability to recall past memories) yet being able to form new long term memories. This is different from organic retrograde amnesia as psychogenic amnesia occurs without damage to the brain. It usually occurs from a traumatic incident. 

What is the treatment for that type of memory loss?

There is no real answer to 'treatment' for amnesia unless you know the cause. If the retrograde amnesia is organic, where there has been damage to the brain or an illness, I.E a lesion on the brain then treating the 'illness' or the 'brain' itself, may cure the amnesia. Whereas trauma induced amnesia usually leaves the person not remembering what happened to them, therefore the trauma can not be treated (which would be through therapy, some try hypnosis as a means to try and recall the information). 

Have you recovered your memory?

No. Three years later and I still have no recall of memory from before the 22nd July 2010.

Why did you decide to write the book?

After I first lost my memory I saw a counsellor who encouraged me to journal, as a manner of coping with the present day life. Towards the end of my counselling Wendy, my counsellor encouraged me to ‘share’ my story with people, to inspire others, and help others who too may be experiencing some of the emotions I had struggled with and overcame, even if there situation was different. One of the ways she suggested was to write a book. I gave it some time, and thought, and decided that actually, I would.

What has been the response to the book?

The response has been very positive indeed. Many people have emailed me or sent me a facebook message to tell me how inspired they have been, and people have found new understanding of different illness. One person who read the book living thousands of miles away from me who I would never have encountered in my walk without the book has a father with dementia; they found themselves a completely new understanding of how their father must be feeling, as well as some helpful tips in how to talk with him. Some others who are in the medical profession have said it is a very insightful book whilst others who have simply read it as an inspirational read have expressed their enjoyment.

What is your writing background?

Well, having lost my memory, I don’t know what my background is but over the last few years it has only been journaling as well as reflective diary / assessments weekly for college.

Are you working on another book now?


Tell us about your writing process.

Once I had decided to compile the journals into a book, I then decided to have the book edited. Whilst this was happening, I looked into ways and manners to have the book published and decided that actually self publishing would be just as complicated as well as easy as finding a publisher to take on my word. Once I had found my way of publishing, it was easy. The process of actually writing the book was in some ways very difficult because I found myself reading and rereading the book over and over. Then there was the idea of my life being exposed in such a manner, this issue didn’t really arise until after I had published it, though I had doubts before hand, once it became available to the world, I found myself some what fearful of what others would both think, and know.

Any tips for writers, especially memoir writers?

The best ‘tip’ I could ever give someone is actually a question; “Why are you writing the book?”

Ensure your motives are from the heart! If you are someone who has a passion for writing, or you feel you have a story that could benefit someone else in the world then I would say don’t give up! Keep going, the hard work (as it is hard work) and the emotional rollercoaster ride is worth it. There shall be days you wonder why you are doing it as well as days you enjoy every step, no matter what kind of day you are having, don’t give up. If you are looking to make money, you could be setting yourself up for a fall.

ENJOY it! If you really are not enjoying what you are doing, don’t do it. 

Katherine's book is available on Amazon.  Take a look.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Quote for the Week: After A While

After a while you learn the subtle difference
between holding a hand and sharing a life.
And you learn that love does not mean possession
and company doesn't mean security
and loneliness is universal
And you learn that kisses aren't contracts
and presents aren't promises,
and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes open,
with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build your hope on today
as the future has a way of falling apart in midflight
because tomorrow's ground can be uncertain for plans.
Yet each step taken in a new direction creates a path
toward the promise of a brighter dawn.
And you learn that even sunshine
Burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and nourish
your own soul instead of waiting
for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that through it all you really can endure,
that you really are strong,
That you do have value.
And you learn and grow-----
with every goodbye you learn.
                       Veronica Shaffstal

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Books of July

I've read more than usual this month, as always a varied group of books.  Here they are:

One of those gossipy books that tells you  the  "inside story" of the women behind the astronauts.  Being from Houston, I especially enjoyed it.  A fun read.

A book club choice.  This is a little known novel by Pearl Buck centering around a bondwoman in a Jewish home and the push-pull of assimilation in China.

I was anxious to read this book.  Its subject matter is timely, given the horrific events in Cleveland, but the book was a total disappointment.  The main character, one of several girls held for years in a basement hideaway,  has been so traumatized by the experience that she has become a virtual recluse, never leaving her apartment, ordering food sent in, working from home, seeing no one.  I could understand that, but then./..  The monster who kidnapped her comes up for parole and suddenly she's traveling around the country, venturing into dangerous areas, ignoring the warning of the FBI man who has handled her case, trying to solve the mystery of how this all got started.  If you like heroines who lack realistic motivation, this is the book for you.  If not, skip it.

A post-apocalyptic novel about a society of people who live in a silo (Yes, a silo).  The author did such a good job of world-building that I believed everything that happened.  Good story.  Check it out.

First of all, you have to overlook the fact that the author is clearly not a writer--maybe he's written medical journal articles but not books.   At any rate, this man was in a coma for seven days and experienced a visit to Heaven.  Did he convince me?  His experience was  so different from other near-death experiences that I've read about that I'm on the fence.  The book has gotten lots of press, so you might want to take a look and form your own opinion.

Cornwell's imagining of how Stonehenge came to be.

Template by: Bright Sunshine Designs by Mary - Affordable Custom Blog Design © 2011