Photo by Yannick Menard on Unsplash

I was living somewhere called Hazerswoude-Rijndijk. No, I'm not making that up. It's a small, extremely quaint village in The Netherlands about five miles from Leiden, where my oldest daughter, Natasha, was born 23 years ago. In fact, her birthday was just two days ago, which made me reminisce about so many things, including how my sister scared the living daylights out of her when she was only three weeks old.


Now, you need to know that my sister doesn't "do" travel unless it's relatively short flights (six hours or less), so traveling from Houston to Amsterdam was a big deal for her. Of course, staying at The Amstel Hotel, one of the world's greatest hotels, made the "sacrifice" a bit more bearable. At the time, we weren't close, although we were always there for each other if needed. And I never had a single doubt, ever, that she'd be the most amazing aunt when the day came.

So, only weeks after Natasha was born, there she was at the door of our idyllic farmhouse along the Rijndijk River about 40 minutes, and countless miles of tulips fields, outside of Amsterdam. And how did she get acquainted with her niece? By gently tossing her up in the air, almost non-stop, for over six hours. Natasha was my first child, and as any first-time mom will tell you, we're overly cautious with the first one. So, how did I handle this? First, with horror, then when I saw she was being extremely careful and really not "tossing" her very much at all, although it just seemed like it, with some trepidation. (The fact she told me Natasha weighed far less than the weights she lifted daily might've helped.) But mostly, with appreciation as Natasha literally wouldn't stop crying, except for when her aunt gently "threw" her up in the air.

The following day Black invited Natasha and me to spend the day with her at the Amstel. She had arranged for what turned out to be one of the best days I'd ever have with her and Natasha – a private cruise along the Amstel River in a classic wooden Dutch boat, in and out of seemingly all of Amsterdam's beautiful canals, with a gourmet lunch prepared onboard. It was magical, memorable, and something only my sister would do. And Natasha, showing her first indication that she very much liked her aunt's "lifestyle", was a picture-perfect infant for the entire day. Well, almost, as the day didn't start well,

Black had left her room unlocked, and I walked into the most beautiful hotel suite I've ever seen, something out of a 1950s Fred Astaire movie. Natasha's blissful in her carry seat having slept quietly in the car, while I'm admiring the panoramic views of the Amstel River, lost in thought of how this is a perfect moment in time. Until my sister walks in from the bathroom, having just got out of a hot bath, and picks up Natasha. Who instantly starts to scream! But a scream I had never heard before – or since. A scream you'd expect if you saw an ax murderer coming toward you. And then I … laughed, uncontrollably. Because my sister had the biggest mascara "raccoon eyes" that I've ever seen in my life and was probably the scariest thing Natasha had ever seen in her (three weeks old) life.

Red's two Labradoodles

Photo taken by Red

If you asked Black about National Pet Month, she’d probably quote you statistics about the number of people who have pets and the health benefits, conveniently “forgetting” what she told Red about unconditional love. But Red would tell you that she celebrates Moo (read the original post to learn about the other “unusual names” of her four-legged family members) every day, letting her know with a hug and a cuddle how much she’s loved.



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Well, this month marks 18 years since you changed my life, so I wanted to thank you. Again. For bringing such happiness into the lives of the girls and me, although some heartbreaking sadness, too. But there's nothing like unconditional love.


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OK, but can you tell me what you are talking about?


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Do you remember when I moved to Houston after living overseas, and we started going to the Hyatt Hill Country in San Antonio for Memorial Day weekend? You were married to Larry, and his girls were young, and Natasha and Sawyer were even younger. Well, in 2003 you asked me if it was OK if you got us a puppy.


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You had always talked about getting a dog but wanted to have children first. The timing seemed right, but given your allergies, the options were limited. Until I learned about a new breed, well technically a mixed breed, originally developed in Australia to be hypoallergenic guide dogs.


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I'll never forget you showing me photos of the most incredibly adorable dogs I'd ever seen. The fact Labradoodles were half standard poodle, which was what I had initially thought we'd get, and half Labrador Retriever was amazing. But only you could find the perfect dog from an article in a business magazine.
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Photo courtesy of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Last night began Holocaust Remembrance Day, which ends today at sunset. A day when Jews around the world stop to reflect on a horror beyond comprehension. Yet, in light of the atrocities being committed in Ukraine, it should make us all stop, think, and promise to “never forget.” As we see images that are hard to believe are happening now, there are some Holocaust images that will always be imprinted in our minds and hearts … all serving as a reminder that, regardless of your religion, evil is evil.

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Shoes. Seemingly endless shoes. That’s all I can think about.


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I know you cannot be talking about my closet.


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Far from it! It’s an image that’s forever burned in my memory. A pile of shoes, each one representing a life lost. Each one a story onto itself. Each one proof of something we should never forget.


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Normally, I would ask you to tell me what you are talking about or accuse you of being overly dramatic. But, not this time.
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For golfers, spring means another Masters golf tournament. Last year, everyone talked about the 35th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus’s amazing come-from-behind victory to claim his 18th major championship. What made it even more amazing was that, at 46, no one thought he would ever win another major. This year, the talk’s all about Tiger Woods (now 46) competing on the 25th anniversary of his first Masters win. It’s a comeback story straight out of Hollywood as a serious car accident 14 months ago initially left people wondering if he would survive, let alone ever play golf again. (Which is reminiscent of when Ben Hogan, one of golf’s all-time greats, came back after a horrific car accident in 1949 to win The U.S. Open in 1950.)

For most golf fans and lovers of great sports comebacks stories, those are inspirational examples of never giving up. And although I was in the crowd around the 18th hole in 1986 when Jack Nicklaus raised his putter in triumph, that was my second favorite Masters memory. And my greatest memory at the Masters didn’t actually take place at the Masters. Well, not at the golf course, anyway.

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