Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015 in Review

Best day of the year (for me)  May 23:  Milestone Birthday (I'm not saying what milestone.)

Worst day of the year (for me)  May 26:  Waking up and stepping into ankle deep water.  My house flooded in the Memorial Day Flood, a day that will be remembered ever after in Houston's Meyerland community. Nearly every home in our neighborhood was flooded.

Favorite birthday gift:  A scrapbook from my children.  I invited friends, lifelong and new, to send memories to go in the scrapbook along with some of my favorite pictures.  (Note:  We're still working on it, but it's coming along).

Nicest surprises:  Calls from old friends, wanting to re-connect.

Favorite book:  Non-Fiction:  Another Great Day at Sea
                          Fiction:  Our Souls at Night
                          Essays:  Gratitude

Favorite movies:  Room, Spotlight

Favorite TV:  The Voice (My sister got me hooked.)

Favorite sports stories:  Patriots win the Super Bowl in the last seconds
                                       American Pharoah wins the Triple Crown
                                       Astros come from nowhere almost to the World Series

Best writing experience:  Essay called "End and Beginning" included in Shifts anthology, finalist for best book of personal essays in 2015.

Vacation memory:  Cruise with my sister. Alas, she is now one game ahead of me in our ongoing vacation Scrabble tournament

Weird holidays:  Turkeyless Thanksgiving
                             Candleless Chanukah (My menorah is in storage.)

Moves of the year:  From house sold in August to one bedroom apartment to guest apartment at Brazos Tower because rain kept them from pouring the driveway, so they couldn't get a permit from the city for occupancy.  Hopefully, I'll be in my permanent apartment in a week, or a month, or sometime in 2016.

Sad moment:  Seeing an empty lot where my house once stood.

Wishing you a new year filled with rainbows, Thelma

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Father's Loving Gift Gives Us an American Christmas Classic

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 dad's 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 of 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.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Quote for the Week

Sometimes the holidays can be the loneliest time, so here's a quote to think about:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Widows/Widowers: Managing the Holidays

We're knee deep (actually waist deep) in the holiday season.  Sunday was the last night of Chanukah; Christmas is less than two weeks away and New Year's a week after.

So, Happy Holidays!  

But for many of us, suffering the pain of loss of a loved one, the holidays are anything but happy. Longing for the one who's gone and never coming back overwhelms us.  The sound of a holiday song, the sight of families laughing together (even arguing( drives us to tears.

What can we do?

We can cry...and we probably will.

We can volunteer during the holidays, helping bring happiness and gratitude to others.

We can invite another lonely widow/widower to spend a holiday evening.

If we're at a family gathering, perhaps we can ask for a few minutes for everyone to share a memory of the one who isn't there.

 We might plan a visit to the graveside to "talk" to our spouse.

After my husband died, I kept his voice on our answering machine, and at midnight on New Year's, I played his message and somehow felt we were spending the holiday together.  You, too, can think of a new tradition and make it part of your life.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Quote for the Week



Author Unknown

What about you?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Books of November

Read this after seeing glowing reviews on Amazon.  Mistake.  Reviews must have come from friends and family.  This book was awful!  Improbable plot, many grammatic errors, including my pet peeve, misplaced modifiers.  Don't read this!

I like Naomi Ragen's books.  This wasn't one of her best, but I finished it in a day.  Beware--it's not for the weak of stomach-lots of torture.

This was a book club selection so I read it again and loved it just as much as I did the first time.  Beautiful writing, engaging characters.  This gets an A+.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Quotes for the Week: 5 quotes about strength


Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Fishy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving my family went turkeyless (or should I say "cold turkey?").  Nobody really likes turkey; yet we've always felt compelled to uphold the Thanksgiving tradition.  This year my daughter asked, "Why?" and on the spot, we decided to have a non-traditional holiday.  We decided to go to Central Market and buy whatever.  We chose salmon, almond-crusted tilapia and some kind of chicken breast my daughter liked.  For sides we bought a cranberry and kale salad, a fruit salad and green beans with  carrots and chestnuts.  And my son contributed a pecan pie.  And know what?  The meal was delicious and we were just as thankful as ever.  I imagine we'll continue our new tradition in years to come.

Anyone have a quirky Thanksgiving food you'd like to share?  Feel free to comment.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Quotes for the Week: About Thanksgiving

  As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

 Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day. ~Robert Caspar Lintner

  Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence. ~Erma Bombeck

  Ah! on Thanksgiving day....
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before.
What moistens the lips and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?
~John Greenleaf Whittier

Thanksgiving comes to us out of the prehistoric dimness, universal to all ages and all faiths. At whatever straws we must grasp, there is always a time for gratitude and new beginnings. ~J. Robert Moskin

On Thanksgiving Day all over America, families sit down to dinner at the same moment--halftime.  Author Unknown
Forever on Thanksgiving Day the heart will find the pathway home. Wilbur D. Nesbit

For what I give, not what I take,
For battle, not for victory,
My prayer of thanks I make.
~Odell Shepard

  Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don't unravel. ~Author Unknown

  God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say "thank you?" ~William A. Waething

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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Giving Thanks

As the holiday approaches, I am pausing to give thanks for the past year.  It's been a time of ups and downs, but I think I've survived the downs and cherished the ups. 

I reached a milestone birthday on May 23, and my birthday weekend was one of the best I've ever had, with family and friends and lots of cake.

Monday after my birthday was Memorial Day.  I went to bed while outside thunder rolled. Then early in the morning my doorbell rang and I stepped into water.  My house was flooded and I was in shock.  But I was lucky.  I didn't lose anything valuable or treasured and friends called to offer support, and the neighbors banded together as we all assessed our damages and commiserated with one another. 

I'm thankful I was able to sell my house "as is" without much trouble and to move to a comfy apartment only a few blocks away. (The one drawback is that my cat has to pay pet rent, and he just lies around and expects me to support him with food and money.)  I'm looking forward to moving to Brazos Tower at the end of December--well, not to the actual moving part but to my new, permanent home.  The cat, of course, is coming, too, and since he's not a dog, he is not required to have an interview to be okayed to move in.

I'm thankful for old friends who reappeared in my life and for new friends, especially my widows' group, which has bonded and supported one another.

I'm thankful my kids and I are healthy, that I still enjoy my professional life as a speech pathologist.  And thank goodness I had a great adjuster after the flood and have finally gotten my insurance check...and, with the move to Brazos Tower, I will never have to buy flood insurance again

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Quotes for the Week

Since I've just come back from a sisters' cruise, I thought this week I'd post quotes about sisters:

And, of course this one:

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Biggest Ship in the World

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas is one of the two biggest ships in the world.  Yes, big enough to hold 5,000 passengers, big enough for 16 decks, over a dozen restaurants, a theater that shows a complete Broadway musical, and certainly big enough to get lost on.

My sister and I did a cruise to the western Caribbean for our yearly vacation.  We visited Nassau (way too hot), St. Thomas and St. Martin where we took a tour around both the Dutch and French sides of the island. 

We lost at Bingo, went to Comedy Live, saw a diving show, a show with singers dancing and acrobats called Blue Planet (amazing staging) bypassed the casino and the art auction, and saw Mama Mia.  Of course we continued our ongoing Scrabble tournament (She is now one game ahead.), giggled like the kids we once were and had two fabulous meals at specialty restaurants 150 Central Park and Giovanni's Table.

Home again with nice memories and probably five extra pounds.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Books of October

I loved Moyes's book Me Before You in which our heroine falls in love with a quadriplegic she is hired to care for.  This is the sequel that follows her through the twists and turns of her life afterward.  Not as compelling as the first book but still a pretty good read.  A-

 The story of Estebanico, a young Moor who sells himself into slavery to help his desperate family.  The story follows him and his master through the exploration of Florida and beyond.  B+

A young children's librarian and her journey with a young boy who is stifled by his rigid, domineering mother.  B+

Geraldine Brooks, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for "March," focuses on the life of King David as seen by his prophet Natan.  As always, her style is lovely but I had two complaints:  1)  Why on earth didn't she use the English names of the characters.  It would have been so much easier to read "Saul" and "Samuel" instead of "Shaul" and "Shlomo."  2.  We only see David from the outside, never from his point of view.  Perhaps Brooks felt it would be presumptuous to give voice to the thoughts and emotions of such an iconic character, but as a reader, I would have appreciated them.  I'd love to hear other readers' opinions on this.  A-

Happy reading!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Quote for the Week

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.  The man who never reads lives only one.

And, I ask, what about adding woman?  person?  Or do only men read?  Whoever wrote this was so 18th? 12th? century.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

"The Other Place"

If you have a chance to see this play, please do.  Beautifully acted, emotional and funny at times, it's one you shouldn't miss.  Juliana, the main character is a smart, assertive, successful researcher who has made a medical breakthrough.  We meet her as she's addressing a conference with news of her significant research when she suddenly suffers an "episode."  Gradually we learn what this episode is and how her life is unraveling.  We aren't sure what's real and what's not until the end, but along the way we become suspicious. 

I saw this play at Houston's recently remodeled Alley Theater.  If you live somewhere else, hopefully you'll get a chance to see it, too.  And if you live in Houston, buy your tickets.  You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Quote for the Week

Fall has arrived in Houston.  Although the leaves won't turn until Thanksgiving, the sun is shining, the air is crisp and the breeze at night is sweet.  Happy autumn, everyone.

Sunday, October 25, 2015



I think everyone who lived through the Memorial Day flood has ptsd to some extent.  I know I do, even though I'm no longer in my house and am currently living  up on the third floor of an apartment complex.  Still, when I learned that the remnants of Hurricane Patricia were headed toward Houston, I was nervous.  I mean, the largest hurricane in history should have some pretty big remnants. 

As early as Friday evening, people were getting hourly updates on the approaching heavy rains.  Saturday I was signed up for an all-day workshop, but it was on the far west side of Houston, about an hour from my apartment.  I decided it was better to be safe than sorry and stayed home.  The rain was supposed to come at noon, then at 2:00, then at 4:00 and finally it began.  I might have been home from the workshop by then, but I was glad I didn't take a chance.

Although it's certainly not going to flood on the third floor, I spent the evening listening to severe weather alerts and checking the Internet for the water level of Brays Bayou.  Fortunately, no one got flooded, at least not in our neighborhood.  I'm sure everyone there, especially those who are rebuilding or rehabbing their homes, breathed a sigh of relief. 

Still, I wonder how long ptsd lasts? 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Quote for the Week

Last weekend my sister-in-law was here from San Francisco.  We hadn't seen each other in about eight years.  She and a friend of hers and my kids and I got together for lunch on Saturday and it was wonderful.  This quote seemed appropriate.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

You Can't Go Home Again

On Saturday my daughter Lori met a woman who does watercolors of houses.  "Maybe we could have her paint one of our house," I said, thinking it would be nice to have a picture of our home of 44 years that I sold after the flood.  I had promised myself I would never drive down our old street, that it would be painful, but I thought the plants in the front yard might be dead and would spoil the picture.
"Let's drive over and take a look," Lori said.  I was hesitant but I did want the picture.  So off we went. 
"I'm closing my eyes," I said when we turned down our street.  "Tell me if it looks okay."
"Oh. My. God!" Lori said.  "It's gone."
Logically I knew the builder who bought the house would tear it down and build a newer, bigger one.  But so soon?  I opened my eyes and there was an empty space.  Only the redbud tree and the crape myrtle and a few sad looking plants near the street still stood.
It made no sense, but I was in shock.  I dropped my head into my hands and clamped my eyes shut again.  Yes, I was glad to sell the house so quickly.  No, I didn't really miss it.  Still I sighed, "It's like 44 years of my life have been bulldozed away."
So we won't have the watercolor, but we do have photographs and no matter what, the house is still here in my head...and in my heart.
P.S. No, that's not a picture of the lot--it's one from Google Images. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

October 16, 2015: Ten Years a Widow

End and Beginning
October sun streamed across your face
As you took your last breath
Trapped in a hospital bed, surrounded by rails, unable to walk--
You were free at last,
And I was left behind.
When I shuffled toward the exit, the nurses barely glanced at me.
The room where you fought your last battle needed cleaning,
The ground prepared for another fight for life.
Patients are interchangeable.
I trudged into the sunlight,
Into the dark,
Along the rocky path of widowhood,
Ringed by ghosts,
Pierced by memories.
Five years now I've walked alone,
Maneuvered twists and turns,
Learned to stand upright.
Sturdier now, muscles forged in fire
And in ice.
I wrote this poem five years ago, entered it in the New Hampshire Poetry Contest and won first place.  It was also published in On Our Own:  Widowhood for Smarties.  I still feel the emotion of the lines I wrote, wonder how ten whole years have passed.  Sometimes our years together seem a dream, Ralph's illness a nightmare. 
He was an easy going man.  Nothing seemed to faze him, not even leukemia.  He supported me in everything I did, teased me endlessly, canceled out my vote in every election, local or national.  We raised out kids together,
(survived three teenagers, traveled as a ménage a trois (Ralph, his laptop and me)and made thirty-five years of memories.  I'll always treasure them...and him.
Ralph Zirkelbach   1940-2005

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Widows' Path: Walking Together

The widow's path is a lonely one, but walking it together with other widows eases the pain. 

 When my friend Gayle informed me she was starting a grief group at my synagogue and encouraged me to come, I was hesitant.  I was coming up on my tenth year of widowhood.  I was doing pretty well so why join a grief group now?  Still, I went, and I'm glad I did.  There's something profoundly comforting about being with others who also have loved and lost.  Even though I'm much farther along in my journey than the others in the group, I was surprised to find how much I've gained from being with these women.  Of course, women.  We're more likely to be the surviving spouse in a marriage and, I think, more likely to seek solace from engaging with other women in the same situation. 

These women have bonded and I have bonded along with them. Besides attending group meetings, we've had meals together,  attended services during the High Holidays and supported one another, even if it's just by listening.  So I'm glad I went to that first meeting and I hope to continue spending time with my "widowhood sisters" in the future.


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