Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Hey all! As we approach the start of a New Year, we here at VSA Texas want to share with you a few of our resolutions for the year ahead:

Eric Clow: Read more, listen more closely, release a new CD, and write (anything and everything from songs and stories to plays and letters)!

Lynn Johnson: My resolution not only for this day and 2016 but onward is to keep my spiritual spring filled so that I may offer a drink to someone who may have thirst.

Nicole Cortichiato: Attention everyone! Nicole here and I have news. I’m all about the fun in 2016. And if it’s not fun, somehow I’m going to make it so. Here are my New Years goals for 2016:
  • Smile at strangers more
  • Laugh more, at myself and others
  • See the desert
  • Go to Niagara Falls
  • Wear a clown wig or bunny ears while grocery shopping
  • Get published in a new magazine
  • Make a special hat for cleaning my apartment and wear it only when I clean
  • Put a book of my poetry together on iBooks Author
  • Learn to play ukulele
  • Buy a drum and play it at a drum circle
  • Take a cooking class
  • Take an African dance class
  • Buy someone I don’t know a coffee
  • Write 10 new stories
  • Pay off my credit card
  • Sing at an open mic
  • Start running again

April Sullivan: My New Year's Resolution for the past 30 years or so has been the exact same. Stop biting my nails! And I stop for about a month and then go right back to it. But surprisingly I stopped biting my nails in May of this year and I have not returned to my old habit. So now what? I am at a loss for a resolution. Making resolutions had become just as much of a habit as biting my nails. Maybe my resolution for 2016 should be to stop making resolutions and to do things in my own time frame. Not just because it is January 1st. That's a good idea! I will start that on February 22nd.

Celia Hughes: I generally don’t make resolutions for the calendar new year because it is just another way I can set myself up for disappointment, when on Jan 2, I break the first one. But this year may be different! I believe that my birthday is the more accurate marker of my new year, and as this birthday coming up is yet another milestone - if anyone counts milestones - maybe the end of 2015 is a good time to start some new traditions that can lead toward a healthier me.

I had been doing fairly well moving the arrow on the scales downward, but with the launch of Pie Day at the office and the arrival of a TV and a couch (!!) at my house, the arrow has steadily been moving back up. So, I will start to walk twice a week, with the goal of increasing to five days by my birthday. Some of these walks will just be around the neighborhood, but I would like to explore some of the paths and trails around Austin. However, I will need companions for many of these walks as I have never really regained my fearlessness of a long walk in the woods since that fateful day in February 1984.

And I will talk less and work harder. It’s going to be a stellar year in many ways for VSA Texas, and I need to be on my toes and ahead of the pack if we are going to have an insanely successful year in 2016. I guess that gets back to the walks too.

So, if you want to join me as I walk my way down a couple of dress sizes and ramp up VSA Texas to dazzling new heights, please come along. I promise you it will be your best year yet! (and mine).  

What are your resolutions for the New Year? Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

'Tis the Season for Friends!

It’s time for another book review by April! This year, among all the great art prints, jewelry, and other great items at our Holiday Art and Gift Show, we have one book for sale. Friends is a children's book written by Theron Parker and illustrated by Daniel Winship, two Deaf artists. In this delightful book, Theron uses minimal text, and Daniel uses expressive artwork to tell the story of two young boys, one Deaf and one hearing.

A sneak peek inside Theron Parker's Friends
This book is great for children of all ages to read for a variety of reasons. The rich illustrations are great for younger children who don't read yet. They can be described to the kids, and families can practice the sign language in the book together. Daniel's drawings of the signs are easy to follow, even for a beginner. Children a little bit older may be able to follow the written words, or look at the gestures to tell an adult what is going on in the book. If you look closely, you see that the little dog has his own visual storyline as the book progresses. These subtle details make the book great for reading multiple times. For reading level kids, they can focus on the words as they are written and signed, and the book can be a great conversation starter about communicating with people who may be different than you, or speak a different language.

The cover of Friends
Friends combines the simple and the complex in this short, but well-written book. I recommend it to anyone looking for a children's book that covers the topics of friendship and diversity. If you are interested in checking out this book, remember that our holiday show is still open for last-minute gift purchases. Next week, we will be here Monday-Wednesday, December 21-23, from 9:30am-5:00pm. So come visit us, bring your friends, and buy a copy of Friends for them!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sock Monkey Manger, Where Are You?

Back in November 2007 when I started to work for VSA Texas, I would take short walks down the block to check out the neighborhood. One time I stopped at a house on the corner facing the old AGE (Austin Groups for the Elderly) building where I work, and I looked and noticed a sock monkey manger scene. There were wise sock monkeys, wearing caps and capes, paying respects to a little sock monkey baby in a grassy manger. Mary and Joseph were there too, and a sock monkey angel was perched on top with a cap and wings. Lights were glittering all around the house and I went, "Wow, this is the coolest neighborhood!"

So every holiday season I walk a half block down to see what the owners have done for the holidays. It has always been a variation on sock monkeys - a little bizarre at times, but oh so creative. It always makes me smile and laugh.

Sock monkeys gather 'round the manger

But this year I don’t see a manger, just a shrine of sorts with some peoples' pictures on it, a large Spanish style Madonna on another piece of board, and an orange tree in full bloom, loaded with a plethora of oranges, and surrounded by prayer flags. It's very nice, but I miss my sock monkeys and all the lights that used to be down 37th Street.

Prayer flags hang over a garden bed,
and an orange tree stands in the background.
This year's shrine with assortment of photos,
Madonna, and prayer flags

I hope the video below captures a bit of the peacefulness this little house has always provided me on my little walks away from work. Last year I talked with one of the owner’s friends, who was out planting herbs, and told her how much I enjoyed the sock monkey manger, but she didn't tell me they wouldn’t be coming back this year. Where are you, my sock monkeys?

What are your favorite spots for holiday decorations? Share your stories in the comments section below!