Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve Wisdom

Sign seen in a store window at the Houston Galleria:

He who procrastinates
gets the best deals.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

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

Note:  My favorite holiday story--I post this every year.  Enjoy!

A guy named Bob May, depressed and broken-hearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilly December night. His 4 year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap, quietly sobbing.  Bob's 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 copywriter at Montgomery 
Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl. But his happiness was short-lived.  Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of 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 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 right 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 the rights back to Bob.

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Introducing Myself

My name is Cassie.  I'm seven months old.  My mom tells me I was a replacement for her orange cat, Mango, but now she loves me for myself.  Everyone said she should get a new cat after Mango died, and one afternoon her friend Jeanne called to say she'd seen me at Petsmart, so that's where I came from.  I'm not sure where I was from originally, but who cares? 
I spent my first week barricaded behind the toilet but now I go all over.  Mostly I follow my mom around when she's home because she's the one who feeds me.  At night I sleep with my head on her shoulder.  I'm a very affectionate kitten.  I weigh seven pounds and I like to eat so I'm growing fast.
Facts about me:

Original name:  Tootsie.  Thank goodness my mom changed it.  Not classy enough for me.

Favorite book:  Felines of New York

Favorite food:  Anything, but I usually dine on Iams Kitten food.

Favorite star:  Henri, Le Chat Noir.  I watch him on Youtube.  He speaks French, but there are subtitles on his videos.

Favorite poem:  From Poetry for Cats
To a Vase, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Cat

How do I break thee?  Let me count the ways.
I break thee if thou art at any height
My paws can reach, when smarting from some        slight,
I sulk or have one of my crazy days.
I break thee with an accidental graze
Or twitch of tail, if I should take a fright.
I break thee out of pure and simple spite
The way I broke the jar of mayonnaise.
I break thee if a bug upon thee sits.
I break thee if I'm in a playful mood,
And then I wrestle with the shiny bits.
I break thee if I do not like my food
Or if someone thy shards together fits,
I'll break thee once again if thou art glued.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Books of November

A book by Margret Atwood that is part of the Hogarth Series, modern takes on Shakespeare's plays, this one based on The Tempest.  A failed director stages his own take on The Tempest in a prison with prisoners as actors to get revenge on the people who deprived him of his job.  B+.

A beautiful and inspiring book about the author's experiences as a hospice chaplain.  I bought a hard copy after I read it on Kindle.

The blurb on Amazon called it emotional thrilled..  I thought it was disgusting, my pick for the gross book of the year.  Don't waste your time.

A true crime story about the Yogurt Shop murders that took place in Austin in the Nineties.  The first part was engrossing, the second part about the trials of the alleged killers was boring, and the conclusion is that no one knows what really happened.  My interest lasted for about 1/3 of the book.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Widowhood and the Holidays

Thanksgiving is over and hopefully everyone has finished the leftovers.  December is almost upon us.  No matter whether we celebrate Chanukah or Christmas, this is a difficult time for many of us who are widows.  How do we manage?

Of course we're all different.  Everyone faces grief in their own way.  There isn't a time table or a specific series of steps that everyone goes through in lockstep.  When my husband had been dead for about a year, I remember people asking, "How long did it take you to get over it?"  The answer is, I didn't.  I just learned to live in a different way, in what I called The World of Re: Re-flect, Re-vive, Re-frame, Re-invent, Re-emerge.

Which brings me back to the holidays.  Which makes you feel better--celebrating the holidays as you and your spouse always did or Re-inventing them with new traditions.  You could get together with others who might be alone for a holiday dinner out or at home.  You could Re-member your loved on with a gift to a favorite charity.  You could spread holiday joy by bringing small gifts to a nursing home, homeless shelter or by volunteering at a hospital on the day when most people are home with families,  It's amazing how spending time with others can Re-invigorate you.  \

If you're invited to a party, should you go?  To be honest, I have to force myself, but, again, we're all different.  Getting out and about may be just what you need to Re-charge.  The important thing is not to worry about what other people think or what advice they give.  It's your own personal decision.

Several years ago I attended Camp Widow, a gathering sponsored by Soaring Spirits, an organization for widows of all ages.  The keynote speech was given by the founder of the organization.  She wore a somber black dress as she told us about her husband's unexpected and tragic death n an accident.  She said that everything she wore during the first awful days was black, down to black underwear.  But when she decided she'd try getting out again, she thought a change of color would help her feel braver.  Then, right there on the stage, she slipped off her black dress and underneath it, she wore a bright red outfit!.  Everyone applauded.  So there's a thought.  Wear something bright.  It will brighten your mood.

May your holidays be filled with peace and friendship.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


I hope all of you have friends or family to celebrate with and I wish you the blessing of peace at your table and in your life.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Houston: Parts Unknown

Recently Anthony Bordain visited Houston for his Parts Unknown TV show.  A chef, he focused on food and cooking.  But I thought today I'd point out some sights of Hidden Houston that visitors and even residents may not know.  People don't think of Houston as a destination city, but it has unknown wonders for those who choose to visit. Here are 5 and if you want to add more, please do.
Built in 1927, the Cistern was an underground drinking water reservoir.  It was forgotten until recently when it was rediscovered and is now a tourist mecca with tours of the beautiful underground structure.  
A huge bat colony lives beneath the Waugh Street Bridge and emerges each evening around sunset.  Quite a sight.  Okay, Austin has a bat colony, too, but I bet ours is better.

Ever heard of a house completely covered with beer cans?  You can visit the Beer Can House in Houston and brag about seeing it to your unbelieving friends.
Who ever heard of building a monument to a fruit?  You can visit one in Houston, the quirky Orange Show.
Houston has many museums and so do other cities, but a museum devoted to funerals?  Yes, Houston's Museum of Funeral History is probably the one and only such museum in the world.

You might also want to visit the Art Car Museum, David Addicks' huge statues of the Beatles, the "big bubble" beneath a downtown bridge and as you're exploring the city, drive past the Astrodome, America's first domed stadium, now languishing in disrepair.

Have fun!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Quote for the Week

Life is like a 
You focus on what's
capture the
develop from the
and if things don't work out,

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Books of October

If you google Hogarth, you will see that it is a series of novels based on Shakespeare, with modern takes.  Vinegar Girl is a contemporary Taming of the Shrew.  It's a bit cartoonish but quite funny.  A quick read.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


A sign I saw on a lawn yesterday:

BUT VOTE ANYWAY (This line is mine.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016

My Choice for Hero of the Year

Each year CNN presents  an award to one person among thousands who have been nominated for Hero of the Year.  Out of that huge group, ten finalists are chosen and viewers can vote for their choice.  Carrie Meghie didn't make the top ten, but she's my choice for Hero of the Year.

Often it's the seemingly trivial things that are overlooked when a family is in crisis. Trivial things, like getting to the hospital or even if you do, the high cost of parking.  When Carrie's infant son spent the ten short months of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, she was with him
every day, but she noticed that many other parents weren't able to visit their infants because of the high costs of transportation and parking.  So to honor her child's memory, she vowed to help parents meet those needs.  She and her husband started the Jackson Chance Foundation and have raised over $1.5 million dollars to pay transportation expenses or parking fees for parents of infants in the NICU.
How many people would have thought of this small yet large way to ease the worries of parents who long to spend time with their babies but can't afford to do so?

Why did I choose Carrie, even though she isn't a finalist?  When my husband Ralph was in the hospital battling leukemia, I spent over $2000 parking in the Texas Medical Center even though I bought monthly parking passes at a reduced rate.  So I know first hand how parking fees can eat up funds.  That's one reason why Carrie is my Hero of the Year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Books of September

 Crossing to Safety, which was written some time ago, follows the lives of two couples who meet when they're beginning their careers (well, the men are) and follows them as their lives intertwine.  Careers, births, tragedies and so on.  The best part of the book is Stegners's vivid descriptions of the landscapes.

Suspenseful story of a mission to get a famous scientist out of Auschwitz.

I picked this up at the Atlanta airport when I ran out of books on my Kindle.  I enjoyed it.  Another World War 2 story, this time of a young Jeiwish woman who poses as a Christian and goes to work for the Kommandant of the Krakow occupying forces.  

Sunday, October 16, 2016

October 16: Remembering

My husband died eleven years ago today on a bright October morning after a courageous battle with leukemia.  Sometimes it seems like yesterday; sometimes it seems like an eternity since I've been without him.

The following poem is sometimes included in the memorial service on Yom Kippur.  I think it speaks to anyone who has lost a loved one:

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 the buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of 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 now a part of us, as we remember them.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Reunion, Reflection, Repentance, Remembrance

At sunset last Sunday Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, began.  This Tuesday evening Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins.  Unlike the secular New Year in January with parties and balloons, the Jewish New Year  is a time of reunion, reflection, repentance and remembrance.

Families reunite to celebrate the coming year, always sharing apples and honey to symbolize a sweet year.  I always spend one of the High Holidays with my sister and her family in Atlanta and this year it was the New Year.  This will be an important milestone year in her family when three of her grandchildren celebrate their Bar Mitzvahs, their entry into adulthood with their first time to read from the Torah.  My sister's family belongs to a small congregation in suburban Atlanta.  During the Rosh Hashanah service, the ram's horn, the Shofar, is blown.  With a sound like no other, it calls us together as a people.  This year a dozen or so young men stood before the congregation and blew their Shofars all together.  It was a lovely service.

Reflection is part of the change of years, of seasons.  Who am I?  What is my goal, my purpose? What can I do in the coming year to be a better, more ethical, more generous person?  Even though we look forward to the next 365 days, there is something about autumn that invites reflection.  The falling leaves and the shorter days remind us that life is fleeting and that each of us should live the best life we can.

Repentance is the theme of Yom Kippur, the day in which we communally confess our sins and ask forgiveness, not just from God but from people we have offended, hurt or overlooked during the past 12 months.  Hardest of all, I think, is to forgive ourselves, but we should try.

Remembrance is another Yom Kippur theme.  During the holidays we recall those who are no longer with us and, we have a special service called Yizkor to remember loved ones who were part of our lives.  This week's quote will be my favorite Remembrance poem.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Books of August

One of the best books I've read this year.  Of course I'd heard about the determent
camps for Japanese on the West Coast but I'd never heard of the family camp at Crystal City, a small town south of San Antonio, where Japanese, German and Italian families were kept behind barbed wire for years.  Most of the children there were born in America.  The stories of these families were fascinating and heartbreaking.  A must read.

A private plane crashes this novel tells what happened before.  What...or who really caused the plane to crash?  A late season beach read.

A lifelong love story between a Jew and an Arab in Jerusalem.  I especially liked the writing style.

About seven famous skeletons, one of them a hoax, and how they furthered our knowledge of early humans and how they influenced our culture.  I'm always fascinated by such information but somehow this book didn't bring it together as well as I'd hoped.  I'd give the author a couple of stars for trying but that's about it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Quote for the Week

Because I'm a speech-language pathologist, this is one of my favorite quotes:

"The limits of my language are the limits of my world."
                                      Ludwig Wittengenstein

Monday, September 5, 2016

A Success Story

Once upon a time there was a young mom, my niece Joy, whose baby daughter's skin was so  sensitive that she could hardly tolerate disposal diapers.  What could be done?  Joy looked into cloth diapers, enlisted her mother Carol's help and began designing cloth diapers herself.  They were not just the old-fashioned white diapers that my children wore when they when they were babies, not just cutesy pink or blue diapers for infants, but bright-colored, cleverly designed diapers that looked like pants.  She and Carol decided to market them on-line, and Ragababe was born.  To me this seemed like a risky endeavor.  Who would pay a lot of money to buy a cloth diaper when you could buy a package of disposable ones for much less.  But Joy and Carol tapped into something--families who wanted to go green, who liked the idea of diapers that would last and that looked adorable besides.  Ragababe began to grow.  Now they have 15 employees; they have a Facebook page and devoted cloth-diaper fans who post frequently, who chat and give each other advice about how best to use the diapers.  Recently some of the customers asked to visit the shop and had a Ragaconference where they met one another, had a chance to visit the company and design a diaper of their own.  Now Joy has five children and another on the way.  There's a play area for the little ones so they can have fun while Joy and Carol and Joy's husband Andy and Carol's husband Dave run the shop.  Here's a picture of their current designs--they change frequently 
Below is a picture of their shop.
And here's Joy's car with her personalized license plate:  Ragamom.  Of course.
I'm so impressed with their creativity and their determination to create product that benefits both babies and the environment.  You can read more at www.ragababe.com 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Quote for the Week

It's the time of year Texans live for--football season is about to start, so here are two football quote for all the fans out there:

"Gentlemen, it is better to have died a small boy than to fumble the football."
     John Heisman (Recognize the name?)

"A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall."
     Frank Leahy, Notre Dame

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Books of July

Oh, my goodness!  Here it is, the end of August and I'm just getting to my July summaries. 

 Daniel Silva's books about Gabriel Allon, Israeli spy, assassin, art restorer are my favorite guilty pleasures.  This is his latest.  Just before Allon is about to take over as head of "The Office," a woman in France is killed in an explosion and off he goes to find the culprits.  He is aided by an Israeli doctor who goes undercover.  Great read!

The story of Adele, whose portrait was painted by Klimpt, and of her circle in Vienna and the long battle to get the portrait returned to her family after World War II.  Helen Mirren starred in the movie version.  Very interesting.  

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