My Mom, Genevieve Crovo Gelles (aka Ginny Owens) had the most beautiful voice. She began her singing career as a child, and took private lessons from Madge Fairfax. Soon she had to make the decision between opera or Broadway. She choose Broadway. You see, the Hammerstein’s (Dorothy and Richard) recognized Mom’s talent and asked her to come audition In New York. When all was said and done, she appeared in 48 plays and musicals. Some of her leading roles included Laurey in Oklahoma, Julie in Carousel and Magnolia in Showboat.

Mom was a soprano. I could recognize her singing voice anywhere. Solo or with a whole choir singing with her…I could always hear which voice was hers.

Here is an old recording of my Momma singing “The Lord is My Light and My Salvation”. The solo female voice is my Mom.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
Of whom shall I be afraid?

Wait on the Lord.
Be of good cheer.
Wait on the Lord.
Be of good cheer.

He shall stengthen thy heart;
Wait on the Lord;
Wait on the Lord;
Wait on the Lord;
Wait on the Lord.

Saint Crispin's Day
The fewer minds, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one mind more.

We few, we happy few, we band of a11y brothers;

And a11y experts now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their essence cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon ACAA day.

Inspired by William Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day

A friend of a friend is dealing with a life threatening situation with her 10 year old son. On spring break, while on a cruise, the child, Justin, become very ill. A helicopter came to get him and fly him to a hospital where it was discovered he has acute leukemia. I cannot even imagine what that child and his family are going through right now.

My friend wrote an incredible beautiful and private post (to her inner circle of friends on facebook) asking each of us to make a difference by signing up to be an organ donor, signing up to be in the bone marrow transplant database, and sending positive energy to Justin and his family.

While her whole post touched me deeply, I was really moved by this paragraph:

So if you pray, pray. If you’re a Buddhist, mediate. And if you’re Batman, well, we could really use your help right now. What I know is that if this boy’s life is saved, it will be due to medical science, not divine intervention. But I also know that the sheer power of a critical mass of people working toward a solution will yield positivity. So light a candle, say a prayer, meditate, or send very focused, very present, very positive thoughts to this young man while being completely open to seeing how you you can save more Justins with a few easy mouse clicks. And remember… Whatever you spent the last day or week worrying about? It’s just not that important (unless it was something life threatening).

So, I encourage you to consider becoming an Organ Donor and signing up to Donate Bone Marrow. I’m signed up for both (I first signed up to donate bone marrow when John Slatin was diagnosed with acute leukemia…so yeah…this whole story hits me right where my heart, mind and soul live).

Whether you chose to do this or not…is a totally personal decision, and I completely respect that. I just was moved this morning to reach out and encourage others to help.

I never really knew my Grandma Bertie. She died when I was just 3 months old. Every year, on her yartzeit, we would light the candle in her memory and I would hear the stories about this strong, loving, wise, brave woman.

My mom recently shared a newspaper article written about Bertie Gelles by our Rabbi, Dr. Hyman Judah Schachtel. I treasure these words:

She Enjoyed Life to the Last

“Today can be a beautiful day. If it isn’t, then it’s your fault.” The wise and valiant woman who expressed this noble philosophy and attitude toward life has passed from this earth, but thoughts of her remain with me as a great benediction.

Before she died, a relatively young person, she told me that God had been good to her, had blessed her with a rewarding life. She wanted no tears at her funeral.

She was ready to meet her maker in a spirit of love and thanksgiving. When I replied that her life had more than its share of trouble and woe and pain, she replied, “I forget the bad times. I recall only the good.”

Seldom have I met her equal. She teaches all of us how to live and how to die. In such a great soul we find the highest revelation of spiritual power and courage.

She shames our petty complaints, our greedy approach to life, our selfishness and our debasing fears. This unusual woman reveals to us that the task in life for all of us is to accept full responsibility for what we are and what we become.

She ridicules our proneness to make excuses for our for ourselves, to blame others for our failure, to grumble that life has been unfair. She belongs to that rare, gallant company of men and women in every generation whose gracious acceptance of the unacceptable, whose refusal to despair keeps life moving from strength to greater strength. Because she never cried out in terror, although she saw death approaching nearer daily, she was able to enjoy life to the very last second of its fleeting existence.

Remember her some day when you are disheartened and discouraged, when you feel lost and dismayed.

Here her saying “Today can be a beautiful day. If it isn’t, it’s your fault.”

Grandma Bertie, I carry your spirit in my heart everywhere I go. I’m deeply grateful for the legacy of your love, joy and courage.

Dearest darlingest friends ‘o mine,

It will come as no surprise to you, that I’m part of a global ‘Hug Campaign’ sponsored by GISHWHES – a Guinness World Record attempt to collect at least 100,000 images of people hugging…

and I need YOUR hugs! (by 3pm central time on Sunday, August 18, 2013)

All you need to do is

  1. Take a picture of you (or someone you know) hugging someone else WHILE one of them holds a note with a message for the world. The message can be anything you want to say, even if it is simply a drawn smiley face. I put “Hugs make the world go round” on my sign…but you can put ANYTHING you want.
  2. Get the details on the Hug Campaign and how to upload your image (so it will count towards this Guinness World Record).

Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions.
Happy Hugging!
Glenda (the goodwitch) Sims


The Sims family is ever increasing. Marriages followed by new baby Sims have left the mantel at Christmas overflowing with stockings. This year we will be adding two stockings, one for baby Brynnley and one for Yana. As thrilled as I am about the newest baby in the family, I’m even more excited about the newest addition, Yana.

Yana is a beautiful 14 year old who grew up in Russia. She lived in an orphanage in Zhytomyr, which is closing. Her only living relative is an older sister, who is 18 and just barely able to support herself.

My nephew, Bryan, and his wife, Kim, already have 3 children. Yet something was missing. They felt called to explore options for international adoption. This summer they learned of the orphanage in Zyhytomyr and asked to host a child for a three week visit this summer. Other families in the area were also hosting children from the same orphanage.

Yana traveled from Russia to the US with her friends and a guardian. Her first night in the US was spent at our family lakehouse with 20+ Sims and she didn’t speak a word of English! I could only imagine how overwhelming it must have been for her. But despite the language barrier, she played, swam, fished and couldn’t get enough of the jet skis. By the end of her visit, there was no doubt, we had fallen in love with her (and she had fallen in love with us).

Kim and Bryan began the formal process of adopting Yana, which included two trips to Russia, tons of paperwork and required an endless amount of resilience and patience. Then on November 8, 2011, Yana became one of us. As exciting as it is to get to be a Sims, I can only imagine what it must be like to start life over in a new country, half a globe away from your sister. And as if learning a new language isn’t challenging enough, the Russian and English alphabet are different. But Yana is a brave girl…and I believe that hope, love, family and friends can give her the strength to make this transition with grace.

Over Thanksgiving, the Sims family gathered at the lakehouse again. We were blessed with an abundance of turkey, the best mashed potatoes, amazing pumpkin and apple pies and love. We played ping pong, cards and farkle. We cheered for the Longhorns and made our annual trek to Fredericksburg to tour a winery and have a delicious lunch at the Fredericksburg Brewery. And…Kim, Kat, Syndey and I created an iMovie of Yana’s journey to becoming a Sims.

Kim wanted to create the video for Yana, so she would know how much we love her and how happy we are to have her in the family. The video is also for us to remember all the things that Yana holds dear, her language, her sister and all her close friends. And we are very sensitive to the fact that while this is a wonderful opportunity for Yana, it is also incredibly hard to leave all that you have known and cherished behind.

As I worked with the photos of Yana and her sister…and Yana saying good-bye to her friends…my eyes filled up with tears. I hope, with all my heart…that her transition is a smooth as possible, that she knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she is loved, and that she is able to reach her full potential that honors her past as well as her present.

For me, some of the most touching parts of the video are:

  • Picture of Yana with her sister – starting at 3:27
  • Friends saying Goodbye – starting at 5:47
  • Yana arriving at the airport to a Texas size welcome – Starting at 7:20

This Thanksgiving was incredibly meaningful for me. I’ve never been so grateful for my family and friends.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

I have always wanted to go to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. In fact, it has been on my list at for over 5 years. Then, my dear friend and colleague, Sharron Rush, asked me to speak at the Southwest Conference on Disabilities (which just happens to occur in Albuquerque during the International Balloon Fiesta). I could hardly contain my excitement, as I planned my trip.

I had originally hoped to take a hot air balloon ride with my husband. But at $400 a head, the price seemed too steep (especially when I checked prices locally). My friends told me that just being at the festival was amazing, so I decided to just enjoy the balloons from the ground.

The weather had been very rainy and the balloons had not been able to fly for days. Friday evening we were kickin’ around in Old Town and we met a balloon pilot (Paul) and his “new” girlfriend (Terra). Paul offered to take us up in his balloon in the morning, assuming the weather cooperated. I squealed with delight and it took all that I had not to start bouncing up and down.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

The next morning we arrived at the balloon field before sunrise and helped crew Paul’s balloon, Str-8-Up. The weather was still questionable and Paul made no promises that we would get to go up, but he did decide to at least stand-up the balloon. We helped unroll the envelope from the storage bag and hold it open while the big fan filled it with air. Being a part of the crew as the balloon inflated was priceless.

Paul had been given approval by the zebra (launch director) to take-off at his own discretion. It was the final Saturday of the Balloon Fiesta and the last day for Mass Ascension. Paul’s balloon is twice as large as the average balloons and more difficult to manage. He had been carefully watching other balloons that were already up and decided he was ready for launch. Scott and I climbed in, but Paul’s girlfriend, Terra, had said she was afraid of heights and wouldn’t go with us. I looked her straight in the eye and said, “Girl, get in this balloon with me. I’m afraid of heights too.” She climbed in and we lifted off so gently it was like floating on air.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

The view from the basket was breathtaking as hundreds of balloons were around us. I was too enchanted to be frightened. The experience was so incredibly exhilarating, I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning, only better! I was already in love with hot air balloons…but this first balloon ride forever changed me into a balloonatic. So, don’t say, I didn’t warn you. Hot air ballooning is amazingly wonderful and downright addictive. I can’t believe I waited this long to do it! I’ve got so much lost time to make up for now :)

As Paul began to look for a good place to land, he realized we were headed for sacred Indian ground. Our ballon was descending rather quickly and Paul had to use all his skills to get us up in a different wind current to carry us away. We were still rather low and the next place to land was a cemetery. Paul was talking to his chase crew on the radio to determine if the cemetery was a “red zone” (designated off-limits for landings). Suddenly Scott told me to turn around and look…because Paul was purposely grazing us through the top of a tree.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Right ahead was a parking lot that looked perfect for landing. Our chase crew had just pulled in and Paul was bringing us down gently….gently into a dumpster! You see, Paul is an excellent pilot and a bit of a prankster. He thought it would be funny to drop us a few inches into the dumpster and make Terra and I squeal (which we did) and then expertly lift us out of the dumpster for a marshmallow soft landing in the parking lot. I’ve never laughed so hard.

As we were packing up the balloon, a gentleman approached us and asked for our email addresses so he could send us pictures of our landing. So not only do we have the priceless memory of Paul’s “Trash and Dash”…but we even have pictures to prove it.

Without a doubt, I consider myself very lucky to have my dreams of the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta come true.

A lifetime ago, or so it seems, I read a book that became a part of my heart. The book is “Plain and Simple” by Sue Bender. It is about the journey Sue took to live with the Amish and what she learned. For me, “Plain and Simple” was a breath of fresh air. I slowed down and questioned that materialistic self-centered society around me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m still quite the pampered princess…but for a moment, I stopped and realized these important truths:

  • Life is more meaningful when I approach everything I do as sacred. It doesn’t matter if I’m doing laundry, reading to my son or presenting on accessibility. Every thing I do can be meaningful. It all depends on the spirit in which I do it, that is what makes the difference.
  • When I learned to stop resisting who I am…when I stopped trying to change myself into something I am not…when I trusted that there was nothing missing inside…I rediscovered me.
  • When it comes right down to it, I believe with all my heart, that life is all about love. When I’m in touch with my heart and when I follow my heart, I live my life fully.

That is my truth, plain and simple.

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