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.

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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.

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