How to get through the Winter


We are now securely into January. I slept with the window open last night and I love it! It was 60 degrees here today. However, winter still has short days and longer nights and curling up with a good read is a wonderful alternative to sitting glassy eyed in front of the TV. I found the list and wanted to share it as an alternative. I also would like to add a book suggestion of my own. The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu have a collaboration out and it is called simply: The Book of Joy. It inspirational and humorous. I believe it is a perfect read for 2017. Let me know if you read it.

Namaste

Barbara

 

 

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11 Inspirational Books to Read This Winter

Well, we’re officially past the winter solstice, which means that technically the days are only going to get longer from here on out. But despite that, the distant memories of spring and summer are still fading as quickly as the daylight. If you’re feeling unmotivated, lethargic, depressed or just … *loud exhale full of ennui* … here are some books you can read that may help.

Neil Pasricha’s The Happiness Equation

Pasricha’s best-known work is The Book of Awesome, but The Happiness Equation takes a more philosophical approach to the pursuit of happiness instead of … just listing things.

 

Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive

An in-depth exploration of Haig’s battle with depression, if you need a pick-me-up on a very fundamental level, you could do a lot worse than this book.

 

Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

Day’s cloistered upbringing and variety of interests eventually congealed into her career as one of the earliest YouTube stars. If the pressures of social media have you feeling distinctly less social, take a lesson from Day and glean solace from your uniqueness, not shame.

 

Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places

Want a good ugly cry? Think you’re too good for YA? Pick up All the Bright Places.

 

Cristina Henríquez’s The Book of Unknown Americans

If for no other reason than to gain a little perspective.

 

Terry Tempest Williams’ When Women Were Birds

After all the gender-related ugliness of the 2016 election, When Women Were Birds should be required reading.

 

Malala Yousafzai’s I Am Malala

A young girl shot in the head turned international hero. A testimony to the power of the human spirit.

 

 

Fredrik Bachman’s A Man Called Ove

Sometimes you’re the elderly curmudgeon at the heart of this story, and sometimes you’re the neighbors who run over his mailbox.

 

Héctor Tobar’s Deep Down Dark

This one’s also filed under “Riveting true story that will make you reconsider your station in life.”

 

Rob Bell’s How to Be Here

If you need a good shot in the arm to jump-start 2017, Rob Bell’s got it for you.

Stephen King’s On Writing

It’s a classic for a reason. It’s about writing, sure, but it’s also about addiction, relationships and the idea of a craft, period, told by one of the defining authors of our generation.

 

 

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The Need to Read


I’m a reader.  That’s probably not a surprise to anybody; I suspect most of us here are.  I read non-fiction, mostly, and it’s been a great source of knowledge to me — as much an education as anything I learned in school.  I like to read slowly, to savor it, to contemplate the message.  Certain lines will always catch me, and I will ponder them for hours, pulling new meanings.

I give books to my grandchildren, for birthdays, holidays, as rewards for good grades.  It’s important to  instill in them a love of reading, I think, because readers are informed and informed people are necessary to the smooth running of this world.

Reading fosters understanding of other cultures; gives warning of things that can go wrong; gives hope in a new, better world to come.

One of my sister’s favorite authors, Neil Gaiman says “Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them.  And it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Namaste,

Barbara

 

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The Need to Read

Reading books remains one of the best ways to engage with the world, become a better person and understand life’s questions, big and small

ILLUSTRATION: BRIAN STAUFFE

We all ask each other a lot of questions. But we should all ask one question a lot more often: “What are you reading?”

It’s a simple question but a powerful one, and it can change lives.

Here’s one example: I met, at a bookstore, a woman who told me that she had fallen sadly out of touch with her beloved grandson. She lived in Florida. He and his parents lived elsewhere. She would call him and ask him about school or about his day. He would respond in one-word answers: Fine. Nothing. Nope.

And then one day, she asked him what he was reading. He had just started “The Hunger Games,” a series of dystopian young-adult novels by Suzanne Collins. The grandmother decided to read the first volume so that she could talk about it with her grandson the next time they chatted on the phone. She didn’t know what to expect, but she found herself hooked from the first pages, in which Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the annual battle-to-the-death among a select group of teens.

The book helped this grandmother cut through the superficialities of phone chat and engage her grandson on the most important questions that humans face about survival and destruction and loyalty and betrayal and good and evil, and about politics as well. Now her grandson couldn’t wait to talk to her when she called—to tell her where he was, to find out where she was and to speculate about what would happen next.

Other than belonging to the same family, they had never had much in common. Now they did. The conduit was reading.

We need to read and to be readers now more than ever.

We overschedule our days and complain constantly about being too busy. We shop endlessly for stuff we don’t need and then feel oppressed by the clutter that surrounds us. We rarely sleep well or enough. We compare our bodies to the artificial ones we see in magazines and our lives to the exaggerated ones we see on television. We watch cooking shows and then eat fast food. We worry ourselves sick and join gyms we don’t visit. We keep up with hundreds of acquaintances but rarely see our best friends. We bombard ourselves with video clips and emails and instant messages. We even interrupt our interruptions.

And at the heart of it, for so many, is fear—fear that we are missing out on something. Wherever we are, someone somewhere is doing or seeing or eating or listening to something better.

I’m eager to escape from this way of living. And if enough of us escape, the world will be better for it.

Connectivity is one of the great blessings of the internet era, and it makes extraordinary things possible. But constant connectivity can be a curse, encouraging the lesser angels of our nature. None of the nine Muses of classical times bore the names Impatience or Distraction.

The City Lights bookstore in San Francisco.
The City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/LONELY PLANET IMAGES

Books are uniquely suited to helping us change our relationship to the rhythms and habits of daily life in this world of endless connectivity. We can’t interrupt books; we can only interrupt ourselves while reading them. They are the expression of an individual or a group of individuals, not of a hive mind or collective consciousness. They speak to us, thoughtfully, one at a time. They demand our attention. And they demand that we briefly put aside our own beliefs and prejudices and listen to someone else’s. You can rant against a book, scribble in the margin or even chuck it out the window. Still, you won’t change the words on the page.

The technology of a book is genius: The order of the words is fixed, whether on the page or on the screen, but the speed at which you read them is entirely up to you. Sure, this allows you to skip ahead and jump around. But it also allows you to slow down, savor and ponder.

At the trial in which he would be sentenced to death, Socrates (as quoted by Plato) said that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. Reading is the best way I know to learn how to examine your life. By comparing what you’ve done to what others have done, and your thoughts and theories and feelings to those of others, you learn about yourself and the world around you. Perhaps that is why reading is one of the few things you do alone that can make you feel less alone. It is a solitary activity that connects you to others.

So I’m on a search—and have been, I now realize, all my life—to find books to help me make sense of the world, to help me become a better person, to help me get my head around the big questions that I have and answer some of the small ones while I’m at it.

I know I’m not alone in my hunger for books to help me find the right questions to ask, and find answers to the ones that I have. I am now in my mid-50s, a classic time for introspection. But any age is a good age for examining your life. Readers from their teens to their 90s have shared with me their desire for a list of books to help guide them.

People have always received life-guiding wisdom from certain types of nonfiction, often from “self-help” books. But all sorts of books can carry this kind of wisdom; a random sentence in a thriller will give me unexpected insight. In fact, novels and works of narrative nonfiction can do something extraordinary that most self-help books can’t: They can increase our capacity for empathy by engaging our imagination as they introduce us to new perspectives.

I also believe that, to paraphrase the Roman lawyer Pliny the Younger, no book is so bad that you can’t find anything in it of interest. You can learn something from the very worst books—even if it is just how crass and base, or boring and petty, or cruel and intolerant the human race can be.

I’m not a particularly disciplined or systematic seeker. I don’t give a great deal of thought to the books I choose—I’ll read anything that catches my eye. Most of the time, when I choose what I’m going to read, it has absolutely nothing to do with improving myself. Especially when I’m at my happiest, I’m unlikely to search for a book to make me happier. But it’s often during these periods of non-seeking that I’ve stumbled across a book that has changed my life.

Sometimes these books have changed me in relatively trivial ways at first, but then in more significant ways later. When I was 5 years old, my parents read to me E.B. White’s 1945 classic, “Stuart Little,” the story of a remarkable mouse born to a human family. The immediate effect was to make me feel that the thing in life I most desperately wanted was a pet mouse. After much pleading, I was given a gerbil for my birthday. (It soon bit me, and I was so upset that I packed a suitcase and ran away from home; I made it 50 yards before I decided to turn back).

Now, when I reflect on “Stuart Little,” I realize this extraordinary tale taught me some powerful lessons. One of them is this: Stuart’s human family doesn’t care a whit that he is a mouse. It’s a tale of radical acceptance—you can be whatever or whoever you are born to be and not risk losing your family. Every child is in some ways different from her or his parents—even if not so different as Stuart is from his.

While my parents gave me some of my earliest favorites, teachers guided me to many of the books that would shape my life.

In middle school, we read Julius Caesar’s “The Gallic War.” This was the start of my learning a great truth: History is long, and I was short. Caesar accomplished more than I ever could and had written about it in timeless works that would be read as long as people read. There was no chance I would possibly leave a mark on the globe that measured up to Caesar’s. Not a bad lesson in humility for a seventh-grader.

In high school, I read “The Odyssey.” It taught me a lesson very different to the one my teachers might have expected, yet one that was in a way a corollary to the lesson I’d learned from Caesar: that you should never be ashamed of being mediocre.

Of course, “The Odyssey” is one of the greatest works of all time. But in telling the story of a very flawed hero, it opens up a different lens on greatness. Even Odysseus himself would have had to admit that he didn’t do a terrific job getting home. Others managed to come right home after the war chronicled in “The Iliad.” It took Odysseus a decade. But he does eventually make it. Coming home was essential, and what’s important is that he managed to do it. Odysseus was superlative at many things, but getting home wasn’t one of them. He was mediocre at that.

The beauty of accepting or even embracing mediocrity is that it helps you appreciate excellence. College introduced me to some of the most astonishing books I’ve ever read, as it should. The experience of reading and studying and revisiting a contemporary masterpiece like Nobel laureate Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” reminds me how thrilling true greatness is, whether in literature or other aspects of life. At the heart of this novel is the migration of a character named Milkman Dead from north to south, the opposite of the 20th century’s “Great Migration” of African-Americans from the rural south to the cities of the north and west. I will never forget the images of flight that are present throughout—flight as escape from peril and as a symbol of freedom; flight by foot and through the air. I envy anyone who has yet to read “Song of Solomon.”

Entering the workforce brought me to a different kind of book. A wise mentor gave meAnne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift From the Sea.” This is a book about priorities. Unlike recent books that focus on decluttering your home, Lindbergh, who had a busy life as an adventurer, pilot, best-selling author and wife of the famous aviator, shows you how to declutter your brain and your life. “The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone,” she wrote in 1955.

A random sentence in a thriller can lead to an unexpected insight.

 

After decades of work, I’ve come to believe that the ability to figure out who has your back and who is plotting against you is an essential skill. Thrillers and works of suspense give us the tools we need to try to figure out whom we can trust. A recent novel, “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins, is particularly valuable. It features a possibly unreliable narrator who isn’t always sure she knows whether she is telling the truth. Sometimes the person I shouldn’t be trusting is myself.

Books have also helped me through the worst times in my life, and no book more so thanCharles Dickens’s “David Copperfield.” My need to figure out a way to cope with my sadness after finishing this novel was a trial run, of sorts, for dealing with the deaths of friends. When, as a young teen, I turned the last page, I found myself sobbing because I thought that was the end of my relationship with David Copperfield, and with Steerforth, and with Little Emily, and with Dora. But I was wrong; it was just the beginning. I think of them all the time, and I talk to them, too—just as I talk to friends who have died and think about them.

Recently, I read a book that is helping me be a better friend: Hanya Yanagihara’s devastating novel “A Little Life.” The story follows the intertwined lives of four men from right after college until middle age. Along the way, we learn about their childhoods and discover that one of them has been the victim of horrific abuse. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that had so much to say about friendship, or about the ways we can and can’t help one another, or about the importance of staying present in our friends’ lives no matter what.

I also turn to books to help remind me of things I know but constantly forget. “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio is a novel about a boy with a facial deformity who is going to school for the first time. It has a powerful message delivered by the school’s principal. He exhorts his students to “choose kindness.” Quoting J.M. Barrie, he tells them, “Shall we make a new rule of life…always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?” An excellent maxim for fifth-graders—and the rest of us.

And then there is “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” by Azar Nafisi. It is the story of a study group for women that the author led in Tehran in 1995, and it reinforced for me and for so many the power of books and literature. Ms. Nafisi writes, “In all great works of fiction, regardless of the grim reality they present, there is an affirmation of life against the transience of that life, an essential defiance. This affirmation lies in the way the author takes control of reality by retelling it in his own way, thus creating a new world. Every great work of art, I would declare pompously, is a celebration, an act of insubordination against the betrayals, horrors and infidelities of life.”

Rereading this book and others, I’m reminded that reading isn’t just a respite from the relentlessness of technology. It isn’t just how I reset and recharge. It isn’t just how I escape. It’s how I engage. And reading should spur further engagement.

Books remain one of the strongest bulwarks we have against tyranny—but only as long as people are free to read all different kinds of books, and only as long as they actually do so. The right to read whatever you want whenever you want is one of the fundamental rights that helps preserve all the other rights. It’s a right we need to guard with unwavering diligence. But it’s also a right we can guard with pleasure. Reading isn’t just a strike against narrowness, mind control and domination: It’s one of the world’s great joys.

Excerpted from “Books for Living,” which will be published by Knopf next month. Mr. Schwalbe is also the author of “The End of Your Life Book Club.”

The Wisdom of the First Lady


” I wake up every morning in a house built by slaves.” —Michelle Obama

 

“Shut not your doors to me proud libraries,

For that which was lacking on all your well-fill’d shelves.

yet needed most, I bring,

Forth from the war emerging, a book I have made,

The words of my book nothing, the drift of it every thing,

A book separate, not link’d with the rest felt by the intellect,

But you ye untold latencies will thrill to every page.”

—Walt Whitman

 

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There isn’t much more to be said here except that we can listen to the wise words here and work to change our world from what it is today, to the visions that others like Michelle Obama see. We can make the American dream work again and we don’t need to exclude other people or be racists, or haters. We can build America up again with compassion, gentleness, helping, sharing and caring about each other.

 

Namaste

Barbara

Save the Children with Books!


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Waterstones has launched an industry-wide campaign to raise £1m by urging people to “Buy Books for Syria”.

In an unprecedented step, the industry’s top publishers from Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster to indies such as Profile Books and Canongate are donating titles from big name authors such as David Walliams, Neil Gaiman, Victoria Hislop and Ali Smith for Waterstones to sell through their stores under the ‘Buy Books for Syria’ banner, with 100% of the retail price going towards Oxfam’s Syria Crisis Appeal.

The charity promotion will begin on Thursday (1st October) with titles displayed on tables front of store in Waterstones’ 280 shops, stickered with the ‘Buy Books for Syria’ name.

The offerings will include both frontlist and backlist titles from a vast array of authors including Mary Beard, Alan Bennett, Michael Bond, William Boyd, Bill Bryson, Tracy Chevalier, Lee Child and Julia Donaldson.

The company’s m.d, James Daunt, is committed to launching the appeal despite it being the industry’s most crucial time of the year in the run up to Christmas.

He said: “In desperate times like these, everyone feels the need to do something, to help in some way. We are doing what we do best: bookselling, and it only feels right that every single penny of each book sold will go straight to Oxfam. We are proud to be able transform the generosity of authors and publishers into such a substantial contribution to Oxfam’s work.”

He told The Bookseller that “some-perhaps most” of the sales would substitute “sales upon which otherwise we would be earning money” in the run up to Christmas but added that the company was “very fortunate to have an owner and board who have put this to one side and supported the initiative.” Waterstones is owned by Russian oligarch Alexander Mamut.

Tom Weldon, c.e.o of Penguin Random House UK, added: “We often speak as an industry about the power of books to change lives – our aim with this campaign is to use the power of books to save lives. I’m humbled by the way publishers and authors are collaborating to support Waterstones and Oxfam in this initiative. I hope that together we can make a difference.”

The original idea for the campaign came from Profile editor Mark Ellingham. The titles in the appeal include Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Profile), War Horse by Michael Morpurgo (Egmont), Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (Vintage), One Day by David Nicholls (Hodder), The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Bloomsbury) and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Quercus/MacLehose), among others. Publishers have provided between 1,000 and 2,000 copies of all the titles to be sold for the appeal.

Support from UK publishers includes Atlantic Books, Bloomsbury, Canongate, Egmont, Faber, Granta, Hachette, HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan, Penguin Random House UK, Profile, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster and Usborne.

Other authors involved in the appeal include Mark Haddon, Matt Haig, Robert Harris, Khaled Hosseini, Max Hastings, Marian Keyes, Linda La Plante, Andrea Levy, Hilary Mantel, Peter May, Alexander McCall Smith, Caitlin Moran, Michael Morpugo, JoJo Moyes, David Nicholls, Ian Rankin, Tom Rob Smith, Salman Rushdie and Jacqueline Wilson.

Nicholls said: “This is a wonderful initiative, turning our passion for the written word into practical help at a time of terrible crisis.”

Smith added: “I support this initiative with heart, mind and soul.”

Mark Goldring, c.e.o of Oxfam, said the £1m of raised would help its program of delivering clean water to another 150,000 people in Syria, or providing support to tens of thousands of people in Jordan over the next year. “This help is urgently needed as the conflict in Syria shows no sign of ending,” he said.

Earlier in the month, authors and publishers lead by Patrick Ness helped to raise over £600,000 for Save the Children’s refugee appeal by pledging to match donations from members of the public.

Helping those in the refugee camps is important. There have not been this many refugees in Europe since WWII. Hey, Rock world, how about a benefit concert? Let’s all come up with ideas to help these poor people who have lost everything. They are our brothers and sisters. This is one world and we all share it.

Namaste

Barbara

The Holiday of Passover Part 2


Gratitude is a big part of Judaism and many other spiritual paths. The greatest story is the story of Moses. To save his life his mother and sister who had named this Jewish baby, put him into a tightly woven basket and floated it in the river. They prayed to G-d to keep him safe. The Pharaoh’s daughter found the basket and looked inside. She looked inside an found an infant, she knew is was a Jewish baby. She took him home to the palace and raised his as her son, naming him Moses. From the water I drew him. The Jews to this day have never changed his name back to his given name. For eternity the Jewish people show Adonai their gratitude for the life of Moses.

 

The evil of those who sought to destroy the Jews and made slaves of them must be remembered as well as recalling the kindness of those who intervened to deliver the Jewish people from slavery. Gratitude is so important, it’s meant to be eternal.

 

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”   —Cicero

 

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”   —Melody Beattie

 

 

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The Jewish people believe in family and  gratitude and education. Every Jewish child grows up knowing he/she must get a good education.

 

“I dreamt I stood in a studio

And watched two sculptors there.

 

The clay they used was a young child’s mind

And they fashioned it with care.

 

One was a teacher–the tools he used

Were books, music, and art.

 

The other, a parent, worked with a guiding hand

And a gentle loving heart.

 

Day after day, the teacher toiled

With touch that was deft and sure.

 

While the parent labored by his side

And polished and smoothed it o’er.

 

And when at last, their task was done

They were proud of what they’d wrought.

 

For the things they had molded into the child

Could neither be sold nor boutht.

 

And each agreed they would have failed

If each had worked alome.

For behind the teacher stood the school

And behind the parent stood the home.”   —Author unknown

 

 

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A Passover blessing

 

 

“I doubt anyone will ever see-anywhere—a memorial to a pessimist.”   —Unknown

 

“Pessimism is a luxury that a Jew can never allow himself.”   —Golda Meir

 

The Jewish people have a tradition in many families to light not just two candles but an additional candle for every child in the family as well.  Parents explain to their children that every one of them brought extra light to their home when they came into their lives. The light of a candle, the sages teach, is a symbol of the soul.

 

“Rather light candles than curse the darkness.”   —Adlai E. Stevenson

 

“if a drop if ink fell at the same time on your book and on your coat, clean first the book and then the garment.”   —Talmud

 

” If you drop gold and books, pick up first the books and then the gold.”   —Talmud

 

” Jews are the People of the Book.”   —Mohammed, the Koran

 

 

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Ladies Need to Follow Their Instincts and Passions


Eve was the first woman to flee and find adventure. Intrepid women travelers have been pushing up against man-made boundaries and shocking their societies.

The first woman to document her travels was a nun named Etheria. In 381 A.D.
She wandered to Jerusalem and continued on to Egypt searching for freedom of choice.

In 1784, Elizabeth Thible became the first women to travel in a hot-air balloon because she knew the sky was not the limit.

Nellie Bly, an American journalist and Victorian lady traveled around the world in seventy-two days, six hours, and eleven minutes. What an inspiration to us in the twenty-first century!

Women have been having adventures and conquering their fears for centuries. They caused family scandles and much gossip in their lives. However, they didn’t listen to the people who said no, you can’t do this. They knew their hearts and went anyway. I am sure they were afraid at times but they grabbed onto life with all of the strength they had and held on for dear life!

Julia Archibald Holmes climbed Pike’s Peak in 1858 and wrote, “I have accomplished the task which I marked out for myself. Nearly everyone tried to discourage me from attempting it, but I believed that I should succeed.”

” Life seems to throw many more adventures your way when you are prepared, it is very sexy to know how to take care of yourself,” by an Italian woman named Sylvania.

Life can be scary and we can at times be filled with anxiety and hesitancy. We are here to experience life, and I don’t mean just the men. It is important to grab on to whatever is close-by and hold on. Allow yourself to laugh and love, eat and cry. This is life.

There are many books published documenting the adventures of women and they give us the luxury of sitting on a beach and walk in a Rainforest. You can absorb their experiences vicariously.

I have a friend who is a college professor of Photography. We have traveled together in days past when I was more mobile. She is a birder as well and has traveled from Peru to Siberia. I am lucky enough to see her slides and enjoy her stories. She is such a rich font of experiences and a true inspiration to her students.

I encourage every woman to visit their dreams and feel their strength. Take that step that will eventually take you to a rich and passionate life. If family or friends think of you as too wild, remember that ‘wild women don’t get the blues’.

There are several books that you could read and perhaps inspire the adventurer within. Spinsters Abroad; Victorian Lady Explorers by Dea Birkett. Living with Cannibals and Other Women’s Adventures by Michele Slung and a really good one called Unsuitable for Ladies by Jane Robinson.

Your adventures may be joining the YMCA, or joining a quilting circle, taking classes, vacationing on the Galapagos Islands. Take skating lessons, read a new author, buy a wide brim hat just because they are coming back into style.
Have fun and enjoy conquering your world. I did and have no regrets.

French Quarters, New Orleans; Photo by Barbara Mattio

Johnson Space Center, Houston, Tx.; Photo by Barbara Mattio

The Alamo, San Antonio, Tx.; Photo by Barbara Mattio