Casa reflections

It was a year ago this weekend that I first met three beautiful children who had been neglected and abused and removed from their home and placed in state custody where they have bounced from one home and school and therapist and psychiatrist and caseworker to another.

Today, they are traumatized, hyper-vigilant, fearful, medicated and exhausted, and I still do not know what tomorrow holds for them. 

Many days, it feels as if the only difference I can make is to introduce the tiniest dose of humanity and hope.


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Catch it if you can

Comparing and contrasting the merits of theater in London versus Broadway – that was the topic of discussion over dinner at El Chaparral Restaurant in Helotes over the weekend.

Then, we were off to the historic Woodlawn Theatre for the true-story musical, “Catch Me If You Can,” running through May 11. (Thanks to my friend Debi Pfitzenmaier for the tickets.)

Though we were late to the show, we easily slipped into seats near the back of this cozy theater. Soon, that conversation came back to me, and then something I really already knew, but sometimes forget.

I’m no arts critic. I’ve never been to London. I have seen only a few shows on Broadway. But I can tell you San Antonio has some great local talent, both on stage and back stage, and creative leaders in the performing arts who are bringing great things to our city.

My next thought any time I have this privilege at Woodlawn, The Playhouse or anywhere else: These people must work really hard to put this together. These are no simple productions. From learning the script and marks to lighting, music and set design, it’s clear that a lot of thought and labor goes into each and every scene.

In “Catch Me If You Can,” the magical set, designed by Benjamin Grabill, placed the show’s fantastic musicians front and center, rather in the orchestra pit. Costumes were genius, too. Kudos Rose Kennedy!

Support local theater and the arts. Catch it if you can!


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Behind the walls of history

Walter O. Walker, WWI

Walter O. Walker, WWI

I felt like royalty that day. My group showed up in the lobby of the History Museum of Mobile, Ala. on a cool and windy day over spring break. We weren’t there for the standard visitor tour, but to see something special.

The curator, Holly Jansen, greeted us warmly and led us through several doors and passageways, up a story in a giant freight-like elevator, through her offices, and into the vast storerooms of the museum.

When we arrived in a staging area, she pointed to one of two long tables. There, my grandfather’s World War I photograph and documentation that my mother had donated to the museum sat, waiting. She had great news to share with us, she said. A new portrait gallery, Faces of Mobile, was being created in the museum (opens April 2014), and of the hundreds of paintings and photographs of the city’s famous and historic faces, my grandfather – a soldier, farmer, shopkeeper and father of 11 — would be there. What an honor.

Our eyes soon wandered to other intriguing items in the room – mini-sized Mardi Gras floats from days gone by, a wicker baby carriage, military uniforms and ball gowns. Holly graciously offered to show us around and led us into a heavily secured, expansive warehouse.

There, we got up close and personal with Abraham Lincoln’s signature on a commissioning document, vintage Mardi Gras regalia, tiaras and crowns, cigarette-dispensing “penny pack” slot machines, Civil War-era cannons and cannon balls, and many more portraits, busts and masterpieces. It was fascinating, and Holly spent more than an hour with us, happily rolling back the doors of time to let us ooh and aah over all the treasures.

With the recent announcement that San Antonio and Central Catholic High School being chosen to host The Wall That Heals, April 10-13, 2014, I feel like I hit the history jackpot once again.

The Wall That Heals is an exhibition created by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to travel to communities across the U.S. Featuring a half-scale, 250-foot replica of the memorial in Washington, D.C., it is also accompanied by a mobile museum that tells the story of the Vietnam War era and The Wall.

It just so happens that a proud Central alum, Paul Venzer ’04, works for the memorial in D.C. He had simply contacted Central to update his address. But someone cared enough to ask him about his job, and one thing led to another. Now, an institution with a long history of preparing young men to serve their country will, with pride and dignity, welcome a memorial that means so much to Military City USA.

I have great pride for the men and women in my family who have served throughout history. And I have true admiration and gratitude for people like Holly and places like Central that work to honor their contributions and sacrifices every single day.

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Cardboard Kids


These are just a few of the cute little cardboard children that I was introduced to this morning at ChildSafe San Antonio.

They will soon make their public debut and begin appearing all over San Antonio starting April 3.

They have been created by individuals and groups who care about the children in our community.

They represent the 5,846 children here who were abused here last year, the 1 in 10 who actually reported the abuse.

Like them, each one of these cardboard children tells a different story of abuse — and survival.

By sharing their stories, we come together as a community to prevent and heal from child abuse. If you see one, please share it with your Facebook friends, send a tweet, take a selfie, just keep the discussion going.

Contact ChildSafe to learn more, make a donation and find out how you can help today.

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No good deed

No good deed goes unpunished. Clare Booth Luce

You never fail until you stop trying. Albert Einstein

These words are not only the bookends of my experience as a CASA volunteer this week, but also what has kept me going.

You’ve all heard the system is broken. In more ways than I can list.

Most importantly, so are the children, and the moms and dads. Broken by their own losses and unable or unwilling to climb out of a system ill-equipped to handle the burden.

For the CASA volunteer, it’s an adversarial world, a constant uphill battle to advocate for the best interest of the innocent children, to speak up for the ones who have the most at stake.

The system, for better or worse, is designed to protect children by following a cookie-cutter set of codes. So when advocates seek something more for the children in their cases, there are wins and there are setbacks, and both rarely happen without some kind of conflict. Yes, it seems, no good deed goes unpunished.

Confrontation is not my favorite thing. I suppose it would be easier to disengage oneself from all the tension, from all this brokenness, and quit trying. But then I’d have to find a way to simply stop caring.

I’m no Einstein but I think that would be the worst failure of all. Not for me. But for the children and for our future.

(Along with never giving up, completing this blog post and getting back to posting regularly is one of my 2014 resolutions. Losing weight is always on the list, of course. What’s new on your list in this New Year?






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Santa suits

stockvault-santa137679In the drive-through lane at the dry cleaners yesterday, I could see through the glass doors no less than three Santa suits cleaned and bagged and ready for the big guy to claim.

It made me wonder, if my children were still little enough to be strapped into car seats in the back, what they would think. How would I answer their questions and keep sacred the secret of Santa?

No, instead, in the back of my SUV were bags bursting at the seams with new clothing, shoes, dolls, gift cards, books and games – all the things six other young children hoped Santa would deliver this Christmas.

Every year my family requests from a local shelter the names and wishes of six people who need Christmas more than we do. Rather than give one another gifts, we set aside the traditional “Secret Santa” drawing-names approach to gift-giving long ago and now choose to give in this way – the greatest gift of all, giving and sharing our blessings with others.

I don’t have the oversized red suit, trimmed in white fur. But I think I know the real secret of Christmas.

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The Tail of Two Lobsters (or, What We Would #cookforjulia)

French chef and kitchen celebrity Julia Child would have been 100 today. If you would like to mark the occasion by preparing her recipe for Lobster Thermidor, which calls for a seven-step ingredient preparation list and a 32-step assembly, be my guest.

(I’ll come with a nice pinot grigio.)

Instead, I’m bringing back this Christmas Lobster post.


Dear PBS and KLRN, this is what we would #CookForJulia.


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