Hints for the Holidays

…Helpful hints for the holidays.

Fall dining table

Thanksgiving Table

As I thought about the November issue of Roving Ruth, I wondered how my friends cope with the chaos and pace of the holidays. How can we look serene when people arrive at the Thanksgiving and Christmas tables? Rather than research what others say online, I polled 25 of my friends to see what they would suggest to improve the holiday cheer.

I received ten responses: some sent short replies, all contained serious thought, and one response arrived from a male.  I’m sharing the best comments from each participant. The responses show kindness, wisdom, and humor devoted to our celebrations.

Themes

1) Buy a smaller tree which requires no help from others to trim.

2) Potluck parties.

3) Be kind to yourself; enjoy “time off” to relax.

4) Donate and volunteer.

I asked for two or three sentences and I received enough words for a short story or article.  I was stunned, pleased, and overwhelmed with how to use the insight wisely. Only one person responded with three sentences. I am sending her a small gift of appreciation for the ability to follow directions.

Best Christmas Poll Hints (in random order, slightly edited)

~Several years ago we decided in our extended family of twenty-four, to economize by starting one of those crazy gift exchanges. We created guidelines for letting each person bring one gift to exchange three times before the final stop. We use a pie tin and dice to keep things rolling with laughter and fun.

 ~I do not have family to celebrate with so I decorate the house early and invite my friends for a holiday party the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I am grateful I created my “family.” It sets the tone for the entire season.

 ~One thing I do each year is attend a holiday concert, play or other event with my immediate family or just my husband and I. It’s a brief respite from the chaos that otherwise ensues, and it gives us a few short hours to really enjoy each other’s company in the midst of a hectic time.

 ~I send relatives and friends a Christmas letter telling them we want their presence in our life, not presents.   

 ~I buy boxes of peppermint candy canes and keep them in my purse.  I give them to waitresses, cashiers, postal workers, or anyone I come in contact with…to remind them of the love and care that people still have in this world.  

 ~Now if you are Jewish this is a no brainer.  My sister and family would go to the malls and watch the people hurrying around and just enjoy the view!

 ~Buy a book for everyone on your shopping list or give them your book if they haven’t already read it.  It is so enjoyable. (My favorite, for some reason.)

The Winner of the Christmas Poll Hints

Wagon Wheel Antiques & Gifts Christmas Pole in Calico Rock, Arkansas

Wagon Wheel Antiques & Gifts
Christmas Pole in Calico Rock, Arkansas

Dale Wiley, long-time friend who lives in Florida, is the only man who took the time to answer the following question I posed in the email. In the email to my friends, I asked how to seek help from the spouse. His response resonates for all of us.

~It must be a guy thing about that Christmas tree and not being helpful. It’s not that we don’t want to see a nicely decorated Christmas tree or we don’t want to help. It is what a Christmas tree represents; that the Christmas season is really here again and in our minds it was here not that long ago. We are rarely ready for it to come again. Translation: Now we have to go shopping and there is no way out of this.

 The quote by Edna Ferber just might keep you and the rest of us sane. Christmas isn’t a season. It’s a feeling.

 Thank you, Dale Wiley. Your Gift of the Suitcase (my latest book) is in the mail.

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year!

The December issue of Roving Ruth is in process.

No Ghosts Allowed

 

Monied Casket

Photo by R. Glover

 

Don’t expect a display of ghosts and goblins at this Houston Museum. As you enter the National Museum of Funeral History, your eyes gaze at an indoor parking lot of unusual hearses. Some with wooden wheels. Another looks like someone spent years carving the hearse into a spectacular sculpture, but it is a long station wagon to carry bodies. The caskets tip the scales of innovation. Do I want a casket decorated with encased money on it when I die? I think not!

Everyone must cope with death. We live and then we die. We have celebrations for “All Hallows Eve” or Halloween Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and All Saints Day throughout the world.

In the US,  many take dying for granted until a loved one surprises us with an untimely death or lingering longer than expected. Death is frightening to many people. Coping with the death of a loved one, or an unloved one, is an emotional experience. Reactions range from dreadful nightmare to possible relief.

The National Museum of Funeral History, established in 1992, seeks to increase and improve our knowledge of how we care for the deceased. With “the largest collection of authentic historical funeral items in America” this exceptional Museum offers many educational displays.

As I stared at a replica of Abe Lincoln in his coffin, I pondered how his death affected history. The extensive Papal exhibit, “Celebrating the Lives & Deaths of the Popes,” shares a story of the popes throughout ages and the traditions behind their burials. Frankly, the extent of the information stunned me.

The President and COO of the museum, Genevieve Keeney, started her career at the museum in 2007 about the time the Papal exhibit began to evolve. Robert Boetticher, the museum’s CEO, became interested in what occurred behind the scenes when Pope John Paul II died. The project snow-balled from a 10×10 foot space into a thorough history of the popes for a “celebration of life with pride and respect.”  Ms. Keeney urges visitors to, “come with an open mind and realize each person responds in a different way.”

I appreciated the diversity of information.  The “Thanks for the Memories” exhibit showcases numerous pictures and objects from people such as Dale Earnhardt, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, and Prince. People who are curious about the embalming industry find worthwhile information in the “History of Embalming” exhibit. Others might prefer the style show of antique apparel for funerals, as seen in the “19th Century Mourning” exhibit. Both adults and children find fascinating objects and historical scenes, plus a few bizarre novelties.

October at the Museum gives visitors a special October Haunted House with a Classic Car Show on October 22. Try an educational experience that’s a little on the unusual side and offers enormous insight into how we care for our deceased, which offers a little something for everyone, nothing macabre at all.

Kneeling pop

Photo Courtesy of the Museum

Donations, a large annual golf tournament and ticket sales supply funding. Their website is an excellent resource to prepare for a  visit. This 30,000 square foot museum is located at 415 Barren Springs Dr., Houston, TX 77090, which is near Interstate 45 and FM 1960. I suggest allowing  a minimum of two hours to view this fabulous array of artifacts and historical information.

I’m sure no ghosts are allowed, but listen carefully. The figures look real. Maybe you can hear what the Pope is whispering in the photo.

A big thanks to Monica Rhodes and Genevieve Keeney for their assistance with this article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dignity in Death

Genevieve-headshot

Genevieve Keeney-President of the National Museum of Funeral History
Photo Courtesy of the Museum

Little Genevieve Keeney’s curiosity focused frequently on death and dying. Her mother, a bit incredulous, encouraged her questions. Fearless at age seven, Genevieve never lost her fascination with how we care for our loved ones during death.

Genevieve thought about medical school but money for additional education was scarce. So, instead she joined the Army. While in the military she worked in the medical field managing life and death situations. Her basic medical training led to a career path as a Non-Commissioned Officer and Senior Medic.

When she left the Army after 12 years, she researched what offered decent pay, fit her skills, and matched her interests. Smart lady!  Her new, part time job at the Veterans Administration Medical Center steered her to become an expert in palliative care, helping patients and families during their final chapter in life.  Returning to college became reality. She completed a Masters in Science in Non-Profit Organizational Management in 2015. Long hours and hard work are a way of life for her.

Originally wanting to be a coroner, her studies and profound experience led her to become a funeral director. During her studies for the license, she volunteered at the nearby National Museum of Funeral History. The staff recognized her diligence and passion for helping with whatever needed to be accomplished.

Soon after she began her volunteer work, Museum leaders decided to build a small tribute to the passing of the Popes. The plan started small but when others saw Genevieve’s creative talent in helping with the project, they hired her full time, beginning in 2007. She has a gift for creating thought provoking exhibits that support the Museum’s mission and make an often difficult subject more tolerable for visitors. She has truly helped take the museum to the next level, helping grow awareness, change perception and increase attendance. Innovation and willingness to speak with diplomacy suggest the perfect match for her talents. Her quiet demeanor and empathy on the job soothes the souls of her listeners. Yet, when she needs to be direct, watch out!

Whether speaking to a group of children about death and dying or working with the issues that confront the Board of Directors, her communication skills aid in her countless duties. The newest special exhibit she created, in remembrance of the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, offers memorial books signed by a grieving nation and pictures drawn and colored by children to honor those who perished that fateful day.

When I interviewed her, we talked some about Halloween. The main goal at the Museum is to honor the compassion and dedication of the funeral services industry, enlighten visitors on one of man’s oldest cultural rituals and celebrate the heritage of the funeral services industry. The museum takes great care to present information in a respectful and tasteful way. Genevieve is not a big fan of people who disrespect the customs of others. She assures the Halloween displays, like the annual family-friendly Haunted House, epitomize, not ridicule or mock, the unique ways others celebrate the end of life.

When you visit the museum, you may see her wandering throughout the facility, making sure the exhibits and displays are well-lit and shiny clean or talking with the gift shop manager, where all items are tastefully displayed; she might even be leading a tour or visiting with museum goers. She tries to circulate but much of her time is devoted to speaking and coordinating events. She also still holds her job at the local veterans’ hospital. I loved her comment, “I continue to work at the VA where I am honored when I hold the hand of a dying Veteran. I get to use all of my skills every day, both at the VA and the Museum. Who would have thought when I was young, I’d be a part of such an elegant, thoughtful career?”

I, too, am honored to meet and write about this gifted lady. Marathon runner, mother, new grandma, and lifelong learner—she understands the joy of life and preserves dignity in death.

A big thanks to Monica Rhoades and Genevieve Keeney for their assistance with this article.

 

 

 

How to Become Uncommon

 

Implement ideas

Take time to develop your ideas.

What ideas are you not sharing with others? Are you a fourth grade teacher with a system for keeping your students organized? Are you a retired gentleman with an idea for a duck call you know works? Are you passionate enough about the baby toy you created for your child that you would like to be on Shark Tank? Are you uncommon?

To write I must read and listen carefully to others. To prepare my articles about uncommon people today, I watched several YouTube videos. I read Chris Anderson’s book titled TED Talks: the Official Guide to Public Speaking, which is fabulous. I considered writing about Chris. He is renown as he is the Curator and “inventor” of TED Talks, which means he decides who speaks at their conferences.

Chris personifies the ultimate entrepreneur. During his 20s he played in the rock band REM (a rock band from the 80s. He jumped from business venture to business venture, some created winners and others failed miserably. His list of employment includes Los Alamos National Laboratories, known for nuclear physics projects for the government and wide variety of other entities. He applied his tech savvy when he became the editor of numerous scientific journals, most notably as the former editor-in-chief of Wired magazine. While playing with his children in the backyard with their remote control airplanes, he realized the power that drones bring to government and private industries. DIYDrones and 3D Robotics became realities. Plus, he’s a writer and speaker. He has a wife and five children.

Leads coworking Nod

Chirag Gupta

But many uncommon people are unrecognized nationwide. I thought about featuring Chirag Gupta, who started his own company before graduation from Northwestern University in Chicago. His current business, called NoD, is a coworking community space in North Dallas. He gathers various entrepreneurs for collaboration and community. They lease space from him where their businesses flourish. Chirag attracts people of all ages and cultures. He schedules tours for enlightening the public about the company’s energy and atmosphere. He writes, he speaks, and he teaches social media classes. Under age 30, yet he is uncommon. Down to earth, loves music and plays the drums. He understands the power of networking and cooperative efforts.

How does this relate to the fourth grade teacher with an idea to organize her students or the guy who wants to build a better vacuum cleaner? If you want to be uncommon, you need guts and not glory. You need to form your ideas regardless of the naysayers: pretend you work for Nike and “just do it.”

Words bring power to your ideas whether it is writing or speaking. You don’t need to be an extrovert, but you must pull words together to express your ideas. You must be willing to fail. If you don’t try, you can’t fail. If you try, you can refine your idea or find a different idea to move forward. After the fourth grade teacher watches the YouTube about Khan Academy for motivation he or she must articulate the idea to the right people for funding and implementation. Take Chirag’s advice, “You can read the news or be the news.”

Collaborating for fun and work at Nod.

Collaborating for fun and work at Nod.

What is your uncommon motivation? Are you passionate about your idea? Is the idea workable?

It’s September. A new school year started. You’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve in five minutes. Start now to mold your idea, to nudge it, to polish it. Can you make progress by the end of the year?

Promise yourself today, right now, to start your plan. Do a little research. Determine if your idea is viable. Write a short proposal to share with friends and family for their input. Refine the idea and rock on! You can be any age to focus your idea into reality. You can become uncommon.

 

 

All Aboard for the Glacier Express

mountain top

The Matterhorn-Photo by T. Glover

Wine, cheese and chocolates at every stop appealed to me. My husband and I traveled through Switzerland for ten days in 2003. Every stop on the itinerary left us in awe of Swiss beauty. If you ride with me on this trip, you may want to buy a ticket for the next flight to Europe.

My cousin suggested we visit Zermatt where he spent many vacations throughout his life. He loved the place, both summer and winter. I discovered the Matterhorn Mountain, one of the most photographed sites in the world, looms over Zermatt.

A friend told me about her ride on the Glacier Express, which travels from St. Moritz to Zermatt. Research increased my enthusiasm for riding this small train, which is neither an express train nor a glacier but travels slowly towards St. Moritz.

St. Moritz

Our trip took place in late May. Upon our arrival at the airport in Zurich we boarded a train to St. Moritz.  After an extremely long travel day, we sighed with relief for the bright light over the hotel door and the friendly innkeeper, who spoke English, French, German, and Italian.

In the morning we hiked around the lake with the warm sun shining in our eyes. The snow-capped Alps surrounded us. We drank hot chocolate near the town square.

When we explored the back streets of the hilly, little town I expected to see Hansel and Gretel or hear someone yodel from a balcony. We discovered a small waterfall. We could touch the icy waters splashing down the brown rocks where green ferns dotted the rocky hill. I recall a plethora of yellow flowers growing out of cracks in a stone wall along a narrow road. I ate white asparagus for the first time, drank superb, regional wine, and gorged on chocolates.

The Glacier Express

little swiss train

Glacier Express Train

We departed St. Moritz on the Glacier Express, a small train with few passengers aboard and no tour guide that day. The weather report reflected heavy snow storms on our eight-hour train ride from Saint Moritz to Zermatt on Memorial Day at home.

Huge pine trees and cows (each with a different bell) in the pastures peppered idyllic views as train ride began. Frigid rivers raced beside the tracks.

As the train clicked along the track the snow began to fall. We rose higher with increasing snow around us.  I don’t mean the sideways snow crossing a road which I would have recognized from living in the Midwest. My husband thought it looked like we were traveling inside a full milk carton. Nothing but white appeared outside the windows. At times the engineer used cog wheels to climb and descend through the snow and ice.

A new, more glamorous train takes tourists on this panoramic experience today through a nine and a half-mile tunnel on the 180-mile adventure. The data shows 91 tunnels and 291 bridges across the Oberalp Pass at 2033 meters in altitude (almost 7000 feet). Arches, some built in the Middle Ages, stand like aqueducts with the small train rumbling along the tracks to Zermatt.

Zermatt

Dusk surrounded us as we departed the train when we arrived in Zermatt. Cars are forbidden in Zermatt in the tourist district because of limited space. However, small trucks rushed through the narrow streets finishing daily deliveries to the hotels, gift shops and restaurants.

hotel ceiling

Hotel ceiling with hand-painted tiles

A five-minute walk dragging our roll-arounds through snowy slush led us to our hotel. The hand-painted flowers on the ceiling of our hotel room fascinated me. Later, we ate pizza at a cozy restaurant with a roaring fire, a glass of local Swiss wine, and stinky cheese for dessert. What a way to spend Memorial Day!

The Matterhorn

Crow

What is he doing here?-Photo by R. Glover

After wandering through town the next day we boarded another, small train, which rattled up the side of the mountain for tourists to see the Matterhorn Mountain more closely. While we ate sandwiches on a chilly patio at the top, a crow lit on the railing. As a little boy in a red and white snowsuit tried to feed the bird; the crow seemed as far from home as we were.

Thanks to Gay Vencill who suggested the Glacier Express. If you’d like to hear more about this trip, let me know. Next stop was Montreux on Lake Geneva.

 

 

 

Sachse-Home, Sweet Home

caboose

Railroads play a role in Sachse history.

Is Sachse uncommon? Sachse cannot claim a destination location for weddings or vacations. If you have relatives or friends who live in Sachse, you may choose Sachse. Otherwise, a small beach town in Hawaii or location in the mountains might be more likely. I write about Sachse to tell you our little town offers “uncommon” opportunity.

Three years ago we chose Sachse for its location. Our son and his family lived in a neighboring suburb. Would I adjust living in a smaller town? Would I miss my friends? Would it be too close to family? As with most plans, surprises arose. Our son transferred to Houston after we moved, but we are not planning to relocate. We love Sachse.

The railroad which runs through the town has played an important role in the history of the town, since the mid-to-late 1800’s. The population of Sachse was 10,251 in 2000 and the 2010 census shows the population as 20,472. I noticed an estimate for 2015 at 24,554. Sachse lies about thirty miles from downtown Dallas with “a little bit of country.” Horse farms exist on the other side of town. A goat farm exists near me. Our “little bit of country” disappears daily with new homes and businesses blossom like bluebonnets along the Texas roads in spring.

Lake Lavon Sunset

Nearby Lake Lavon at Sunset

Involvement

The people are friendly. On my regular walk with the dog in our sub-division people grin and greet, even when my little dog grumbles lustily at their dogs.

When I asked the librarian to recommend an authors’ group three years ago, she encouraged me to start one. I joined the Library Board. I’m on a first name basis with the Mayor. I see Mike Felix, the long term leader of this small growing town, at the Council meetings, celebrations, the annual car show and other events. The Chamber of Commerce presents good programs with active participants.

Instead of attending a church of 3000 (or was it 5000?) members we attend a small, growing church, another opportunity to meet new, exceptionally friendly people.

Unemployment is low. For example, one of our neighbors is a Fire Fighter who sells real estate. My next door neighbor sells insurance. Technology engineers live around us.

Recently I attended a meeting about Sachse’s long range plans. Hearing the ideas and plans

to grow the town helped me appreciate what is happening behind the scenes.

Quotes from Sachse Residents:

“I’ve lived places where my store was not safe. I feel safe in Sachse. When I moved my business to Sachse, I have saved a considerable amount of rent.”

Sherri Arwood-Co-Owner of Arwood Custom Jewelry

“I’ve lived here long enough to remember when we didn’t have a Krogers on Highway 78. Now we have two nearby.”

Laurie SteenisKeller Williams Real Estate (and Packer fan)

“Sachse has the charm of a smaller country town…yet close enough to shopping and restaurants.

Dr. James Moebius-owner of Murphy Road Animal Hospital

“Ive had my business in Sachse since 1998. I like the small town atmosphere near Dallas. It’s always nice to come home to Sachse.”

Frank Milsap-owner of Sachse Rod Shop (ongoing business in the same location, since 1982)

“I never intended my business to be more than part time. Before long I had to quit my day job. We have unlimited growth opportunity in this community.”

Mike Felix-Mayor

“Our events bring families together for fun and friendship.”

I never lived in such a small town but for me its advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Is it uncommon for a small town? I do not know but it is “Home, sweet home!”

 

 

 

 

 

10 Reasons to Read Gift of the Suitcase

 When I graduated from college I received a large, gray suitcase and a round trip ticket to work in France the summer before I started teaching. Within a few days I lose my suitcase, followed closely with the loss of my summer job. The trip changed my life forever. Travel to France taught me more than how to speak French.

You meet a co-worker, Christine. I introduce you to the baggage handler in Calais and the railroad clerk in Nice. You hear from the doctor who attended medical school in Switzerland in 1947 to help us understand how quickly we forget atrocities. My family makes a brief appearance. The return trip to Central France takes you through scenic beauty and inspirational situations.

Unexpected events, such as divorce, illness, and deaths change our lives. Flexibility, faith, and friends help us through hard times. As we travel through life we find new, meaningful ways to cope.

The book allows you to:

  1. Forget your chores for a few hours
  2. Travel to faraway places
  3. Recognize yourself in similar predicaments
  4. Laugh at mistakes
  5. Cheer when good news arrives
  6. Discover the joy in acceptance
  7. Spend less than a plane ticket
  8. Ponder your progress
  9. Consider letting go of your baggage
  10. Update your plans for your next trip

Let me know how the book impacts you. You can buy the paperback directly from me or from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IBooks. Click “Buy Now” for immediate attention.

You can purchase it through my website or Amazon and several other sources. The e-book is available for your Nook or Kindle and other distribution sources.

After you finish Gift of the Suitcase you may want to write a quick review on Amazon. You do not have to purchase the book from Amazon to write a review. May you enjoy the journey.

GIFT OF THE SUITCASE

 When I graduated from college I received a large, gray suitcase and a round trip ticket to work in France the summer before I started teaching. Within a few days I lose my suitcase, followed closely with the loss of my summer job. The trip changed my life forever. Travel to France taught me more than how to speak French.

You meet a co-worker, Christine. I introduce you to the baggage handler in Calais and the railroad clerk in Nice. You hear from the doctor who attended medical school in Switzerland in 1947 to help us understand how quickly we forget atrocities. My family makes a brief appearance. The return trip to Central France takes you through scenic beauty and inspirational situations.

Unexpected events, such as divorce, illness, and deaths change our lives. Flexibility, faith, and friends help us through hard times. As we travel through life we find new, meaningful ways to cope.

The book allows you to:

  1. Forget your chores for a few hours
  2. Travel to faraway places
  3. Recognize yourself in similar predicaments
  4. Laugh at mistakes
  5. Cheer when good news arrives
  6. Discover the joy in acceptance
  7. Spend less than a plane ticket
  8. Ponder your progress
  9. Consider letting go of your baggage
  10. Update your plans for your next trip

Let me know how the book impacts you. You can buy the paperback directly from me or from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IBooks. Click “Buy Now” for immediate attention.

You can purchase it through my website or Amazon and several other sources. The e-book is available for your Nook or Kindle and other distribution sources.

After you finish Gift of the Suitcase you may want to write a quick review on Amazon. You do not have to purchase the book from Amazon to write a review. May you enjoy the journey.

 

 

 

What Does Your Book Cover Show?

 

wordleOur mothers told us, “You can tell a book by its cover,” which we translated to mean we need to show the world our personality by being neat, tidy, and saying the right things. As we become adults we realize our inside is more important.

I’m forced to think how my upcoming book cover will help my readers understand what’s inside. I know the story is engaging, but how can I express it on the book cover?

The publishing team is working hard to assure the book cover is exceptional. The name of the book is “Gift of the Suitcase,” a travel memoir with the clear message that losing baggage is not always a loss. The cover is critical.

Design

What font should we use? That one is easy for me. I don’t like fancy. I know I want the title bigger than my name. I know the size of the font and inside design are fine. I agree with the dimensions of the book.

Color

The first iteration of the book cover displayed big red letters. I don’t think I’m a “red” person. I use my favorite colors in my logo, but if we use those colors, will it capture the person who is a Francophile walking past it in Barnes and Nobles? Will it capture the person who has visited Paris recently? It’s not a story about Paris, but needs to demonstrates international travel. Will the old gray suitcase be enough on the cover? I think not. If I use orange on the cover will that attract or repel? A little color test I took says I’m orange, which shows optimism. Maybe orange.

The Head Shot or Casual

My photograph album contains a few of my head shots but they seem too serious. My book contains humor, sadness, and happiness. The tiny online picture needs to exhibit my love to laugh but also my serious side. The photo on the back cover may be one inch by one inch. I sent the publisher a couple of candid shots. Did I do the right thing?

All these decisions make my head swim. I’m not a perfectionist but I do want to share my story with as many people as possible.

Will my unruly hair keep people from doubting my ability to write a book? I doubt it. Donald Trump’s hair is surely worse than mine, yet he’s running for President. I worry too much.

We make decisions daily on how the world views us. What would a book cover look like about you? Think about it. It’s a fascinating question to ponder. Feel free to comment.