Through the Years
Some of our favorite stories
I love a good story, and I love people. Everyone has a story to tell. For 20 years, I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by creative (and, therefore, opinionated) writers, designers, and photographers who know how to tell these stories.
Every month, after looking through each magazine issue in its final form, I’m known for proclaiming: “This is my favorite issue ever.” After so many, that declaration may seem comical, but, well, ask anyone – that’s me. I’m enthusiastic. (And that’s me you might see eavesdropping and butting in for details at Starbucks – also, not shy.)
For our 20th-anniversary issue, we decided to ask Buzz staffers and contributors to pick their favorite or most memorable stories. We knew the task would be hard, but I knew they could do it. I also knew I could not do it.
I hope you enjoy their reflections below, whether you remember the original stories or haven’t seen them yet. If you haven’t and want to – or if you want to reread – you can see thebuzzmagazines.com for links to all of them, plus so many more that we love. Thank you for sharing your stories. Here’s (glass raised) to the next 20 years – yes, also an optimist. – Joni Hoffman, Editor, since 2002
Staff writer, since 2014
I’m dating myself here, but as a high school student in the 1970s, I longed to be journalist Charles Kuralt from CBS’s original “On the Road” show. He lumbered up America’s backroads in a motorhome, celebrating ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Writing for The Buzz is a lot like that. While I don’t scout about in a motorhome, the magazine has been my vehicle to some pretty cool stories over the years.
When Life Has Other Plans: A spine surgeon’s journey with quadriplegia [October 2020] sticks with me like no other. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first met renowned spine surgeon Rex Marco, paralyzed in a mountain biking accident. Turns out, he’s probably the strongest person I know. When tossed the ultimate curveball, he ran with it with courage, positivity, and determination, embracing new life circumstances to find a cure for spinal cord injuries. He follows that research passion today through the Christopher & Dana Reeves Foundation.
Other stories come to mind, too, like a three-family kidney swap [Forever Linked: A three-family kidney swap, January 2021] that gave three people a new lease on life. Behind the Lens: The life of a LIFE photographer [November 2016], was a real treat. Former LIFE magazine photographer Bob Gomel revealed the stories behind his iconic photos of heavyweight boxer Mohammed Ali and The Beatles, to name a few. And speaking of The Beatles, Love, Love Me Do: A couple of Beatlemaniacs [February 2021] was a fun one. Who knew that one of the country’s highest-quality collections of Beatles music and memorabilia takes up the entire upstairs of Alex and Judy Fazzino’s house? A magical mystery tour, for sure! Here’s to more adventures with The Buzz!
Staff writer, since 2009
In January 2021, I explored the foods of Ethiopia, and it remains one of my favorites. The story [Chef’s Corner: January is for Ethiopian] highlighted the Ethiopian Christmas celebration in January rather than in December. In addition, the story provided a bird’s-eye view of our city’s diversity.
As a young food writer in the ’90s, I once wrote how you could dine around the world in Houston. Our beloved city has almost every kind of ethnic food you can imagine. Craving British Indian? Just head to the Red Lion (2316 S. Shepherd Drive) for chicken tikka masala. Want to see what afternoon tea is like in Hong Kong (once ruled by the British)? Drive West to Katy Asia Town, where you can get a cucumber sandwich along with pork dumplings at Proper Rose Garden (1223 Grand West Boulevard). For authentic, homemade Lebanese food and fresh, yeasty pita bread straight out the oven, few can compare to the venerable Abdallah’s (3939 Hillcroft). The list goes on and on. We’re so lucky to savor the world without having to jump on a plane, especially now.
Design manager, since 2004
As a native Houstonian, I know there is a long list of things to love about living here. Art, museums, the food scene – just to name a few. However, the quality of outdoor life in our fair city has never been anywhere near being on that list. But my views of what Houston (and the larger Gulf Coast area) has to offer changed pretty dramatically when my 10-year old son became something of an expert in identifying birds in the early days of the pandemic.
A year and a half later, and our whole family has been swept up by a love of birding, spurned on by the realization that we basically live in the North American Mecca for birders. From our year-round birds to the dazzling array of migrants that pass through in the spring and fall to our flocks of wintering residents, Houston is a paradise. Meg Scott’s April 2021 article, Spotting Beauty: Spring wave of color delights Houston birders, made me realize that there is a much larger birding community out there than the people we had already met.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a Hepatic Tanager to find at Bear Creek Park.
Staff writer, since 2009
It was my peripatetic pen that led me to The Buzz Magazines’ front door a dozen years ago. A former Houston Chronicle travel editor and now freelance writer, I’m hitting the road less these days, but The Buzz has let me keep my travel spirit strong with a monthly vicarious journey (or several), interviewing Buzz-area readers about their travels.
Nothing brings out the most inspiring aspects of ourselves and our lives more than travel, and so I’ve been able to enjoy my share of inspiration, thanks to the Buzz readers who have let me ride along in a virtual back seat with them to many corners of the globe. In honor of The Buzz’s 20th anniversary, I’ll share a few of my favorites.
Travel Buzz: A different kind of journey [September 2020]: World traveler Pam Zane and husband Randy grabbed my heart with Pam’s decision to hit the road as often and inspiringly as possible after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis and treatment left her sidelined. She defied the odds with the often-fatal diagnosis, and together with childhood sweetheart Randy they scheduled their trips between chemo treatments. Antarctica, Patagonia, Bora Bora, Ethiopia – nothing was off limits. Five years later, she’s still going strong.
Solo traveler’s lens captures human spirit [July 2019]: As a solo woman traveler, I have long understood the advantages of being alone in the world; it gives you entry into cultures and situations that would never be possible as a part of a group or even a couple. So when I had the chance to visit with the consummate woman world traveler and photographer, Carol Kirshon, I felt I’d found a kindred spirit. Her lens finds its way into the world’s remotest corners and seeks out the most ordinary of folk – the tea pluckers of Darjeeling, a girl selling watermelon in Myanmar. In July of 2019, she’d visited 157 countries, from Armenia and Azerbaijan to Zaire and Zimbabwe. By now it’s surely more, but as she is offline in Saudi Arabia at the time of this writing, it’s hard to say.
Travelers with kids: I especially love the stories where parents pack up their kids and hit the road for extended periods, considering travel to be an important part of their children’s education. These days, the virtual classes necessitated by Covid have made that easier, as the Hruskas showed with their Airstream office and school. But long before Covid, our Global Family series let me trail along with the Germains, the Waters, and the Kramers; and even before that, there were Deborah and Paul Luik and their daughter Kaia.
I could go on for much longer – but the point here is to give gratitude to Buzz readers and advertisers for supporting us for two decades so that we could enjoy the community spirit of this big crazy city that is Houston. Let’s keep it going for another 20.
Contributing writer, since 2017
Miriam Murphy’s father, Hugo Dachinger, was an Austrian Jew and up-and-coming artist who escaped to England in the late 1930s, then found himself in an internment camp. He passed his days painting, using discarded newspapers, paintbrushes made from sticks, and paints mixed from ash and mud. Miriam preserved her father’s artwork, even saving it from Hurricane Harvey.
I was intrigued by her story [as shared in Art in Exile: Miriam Murphy’s treasures, April 2018], especially because my own grandparents had helped save a group of Austrian Jewish refugees from the Holocaust. I’d been knee-deep in research on Austrian Jews as I worked on my novel, a fictionalized account of my grandparents’ story. I met Miriam in 2018 when she invited me into her post-Harvey rental home. She served me biscuits and English tea from fine china and spent several hours showing me her father’s beautiful artwork.
In the years following, I was surprised to find the article had been read as far away as the U.K. I received several notes from people overseas who knew and loved Miriam’s parents and wanted to reconnect with her. Her story stuck with me for the insight it offers into the refugee experience and because it shows that, even in the darkest times, there’s hope and beauty.
Staff writer, since 2018
Writing about neighbors has shown me that everyone has a story, and I’ve been lucky to tell many of yours. One that stands out is The Bormaster Family: Ties that bind – no matter what [August 2019], a story about a close-knit family in Bellaire that, through challenges and setbacks, sticks together.
I first met Kim Bormaster, one of four siblings, in her family’s bright home one afternoon. Kim, then 32, had just been named the first Special Olympics athlete in the Ronnie Arrow Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and I was to write about it. Immediately, I was struck by Kim’s positive energy, and I wanted to spend more time with her.
Over the next few weeks, the Bormaster family graciously welcomed me into their home and into their lives. Mom Leslie detailed the joys and challenges of raising twin daughters Kelly and Kim, while eldest daughter Alli spoke candidly about a devastating accident her husband Jeffrey recently had suffered.
When it came time to write the story, it basically wrote itself. This was a story about family, and all I had to do was place the reader into the Bormaster household. I’d bring them into the living room – where Kelly’s children were rolling on the floor, Kim was showing off her Special Olympics medals, and everyone was speaking in strings of compliments – and let them see Bormaster love for themselves.
Contributing writer, since 2014
My first article for The Buzz Magazines, Houston Restaurant Memories: A look back at Houston’s dining past, published in November 2014, took me on an extraordinary journey. The history of Houston had always held a special place in my heart. The restaurants I remember dining at while growing up in H-Town held fond memories. Longtime Houstonians, especially, would enjoy this nostalgia.
The Astrodome opened in 1965 on South Main Street, a major thoroughfare commencing at the stadium, meandering through the Texas Medical Center, and continuing on through downtown Houston. Restaurants lined both sides of this popular street. Each restaurant captivated me with its unique style, and some were recognized as much for their themes as they were for cuisine. Look’s Sir-Loin Inn’s knighted horse and the Gaido’s Seafood blue crab greeting me at their entrances are forever etched in my mind.
Writing this article led me on a sentimental walk through my childhood. Having dined at every restaurant mentioned, the memories evoked from this article were a gift for me, just as I hope they were for the readers.
Staff writer, since 2011
What is my favorite Buzz story? I think that changes every month! I feel so fortunate that friends and acquaintances – and even strangers – share their stories and allow me to write about them, and I love learning things I never would have at a quick grocery store run-in.
My first thought was to give an update to Back Porch: Surviving the permit driver, August 2018, which went semi-viral and caused my daughter to be asked at a party, “Is your driving getting any better?” My answer, three wrecks later (which happened after I wrote the story, mind you), would have been no. Thankfully, two years later, my answer is yes (fingers crossed, praying all the time).
On second thought, it has to be all the stories people have shared that tell us: We are not alone! In The social media spiral, September 2018, a friend told us about the time she tried to check her son’s date out on Facebook and accidentally friended the girl, then unfriended her, only to have the girl accept. “It’s a double-whammy – first you request, then you chicken out,” she said. “The kiss of death. I should just stay off!” And in Airing Our Dirty Laundry, in August 2017, one of the most regal and poised women I know confessed to her house being infested with thousands of tiny moths. “[The exterminator] said, ‘You have to send all the clothes and every rug to the dry cleaners and rip out every wool rug…’ and I was like, ‘That is never going to happen.’ I’d rather crawl around looking for cocoons.” Then she added, “Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night … inevitably it’s your most favorite fabulous sweater they get to. They only eat cashmere, not the dumb wool socks.”
Staff writer, since 2006
After more years than I can count (actually, 12 or so) with The Buzz, I have written some really fun stories and met people who have surprised, inspired, and entertained me. But my favorite story had a pretty mundane topic: a high-school car parade.
My son, and oldest child, graduated from Memorial High School in 2020 along with millions of other heartbroken Covid-era seniors. I dare say the parents were even more devastated, watching the pandemic rob our kids of so many milestone moments. In the middle of online school, canceled sports seasons, and proms, there was finally a glimmer of hope: the MHS graduation car parade. As a mom/Buzz writer, I attended the parade with my family and covered the story [Cruising On, The Memorial Buzz and The Tanglewood/River Oaks Buzz, June 2020].
Lining the sidewalk on Piney Point Road were more happy faces than I had seen in months. It was the first time we had an event that wasn’t on Zoom, and families thought this socially distanced, pandemic-friendly afternoon was the greatest celebration on earth. Smiles and enthusiasm resurfaced, and we thought we were turning the corner on the pandemic (that thought was obviously premature, but it seemed good at the time). We finally felt normal.
Account manager, since 2003
The task of having to identify one or a few of my favorite stories did not come easy. As I pore over the magazine each month, I often think that this issue is for sure my favorite. Until the next issue.
One article that jumped out at me was one just published in our December 2021 issue, Adulting 101: “These are your fuse boxes,” by Andria Frankfort. I plan to share it at our table and hope its suggestions will be met with, “Can you teach me that?”
One of my favorite columns is Buzz Kidz. I enjoy reading about the interests and ideas of young people. A recent one that caught my attention was Lost and found bamboo [by Raasti Kayani, August 2021, The West University Buzz] because I, too, carefully nurtured many plants in our garden hurt by the February 2021 freeze. I love how at the young age of 9, Raasti is aware of the shrubs in her garden and their well-being.
Sometimes articles make me tear up. I love how these people [the Broach Byrd family, featured in Beginning Again: A story of love and loss – and love again, by Andria Frankfort, February 2021] who had experienced such tragedy, found happiness and love again.
As a sentimental sucker who loves to repurpose family heirlooms, it was poignant how this young bride [Erica Reed, featured in Yes to the Dress: A wedding memoir in silk and lace, by Cathy Gordon, May 2018] not only used her mother’s wedding dress made by her grandmother, but also had it modified by her grandmother. Although the task came with many obstacles, she got to walk down the aisle in her dream dress.
I am more vigilant about bicyclists after reading the story Ghost Bikes: White bicycles memorialize riders [by Jennifer Oakley, September 2015]. I think it’s one worthy of reading more than once.
Account manager, since 2002
I always connect with Cindy Gabriel’s articles. I love the humor I find in her stories even though you are reading something that is thought-provoking. To my surprise, this year, when reading about her mom in the 1950s Gulf Coast and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, area [My Mama's 1950s World: Now lick your lips and smile, May 2021], I found similarities between those times and the culture and my own. I lived, worked, and went to school in Hattiesburg during the ’70s and early ’80s. When reading about her pageants, I reminisced about participating in Junior Miss pageants in high school with my friends. We had a lot of fun being together getting our “training with interviews and manners.”
As I kept reading, it was unbelievable the common paths. Wow! I attended The University of Southern Mississippi (formerly known as Mississippi Southern College), when the Student Printz was still being published, joined a sorority, and was named a debutante my sophomore year. In the summer, I worked as “office help” at Camp Shelby. This is not Keesler AFB, but it is a joint-forces training center just south of Hattiesburg. Oh, the many memories of working at Camp Shelby. My parents were not from Mississippi, so reading about that generation in Mississippi was interesting because of what seemed to change and what seemed to stay the same.
Staff writer, 2004-2006 and since 2018
It’s beshert, said Joni Hoffman after seeing a picture of me pointing to a “Buzzworthy” sign at a Barnes & Noble in Bentonville, Arkansas, of all places. Stan and I were on a fall foliage road trip as I was thinking about The Buzz Magazines’ 20th anniversary, the next assignment. Beshert, Joni tells me, is a Yiddish word for something that is “meant to be.”
All I had to do was figure out something Buzzworthy to write. Boss kiss-up pieces are strictly forbidden by Joni and Michael Hoffman. Then came the memo that a look back at “best of” Buzz moments was gathering steam for the issue.
One story came to mind. We Love Mr. Warren from February 2005 [We Love Mr. Warren: A simple story of neighborly love, The Bellaire Buzz]. It captures the essence of what it means to be a neighbor, which, I feel, is the essence of The Buzz Magazines. It’s the story of one man who walked his block twice a day and developed a genuine interest in the neighbors.
People who hardly knew each other developed their own unique relationship with Mr. Warren. It wasn’t until he died that one neighbor, Tammy Owen, discovered a journal he kept of his walks. It was full of details he learned about their lives, who waved at him, who spoke to him, and who did not.
Chelsea, Evergreen, College, and Fern were the four Bellaire streets making up Mr. Warren’s block. Tammy thought hers was the only family who had actually developed a relationship with Mr. Warren before she saw his journal.
Tammy then reached out to the neighbors on those four streets; they all decided to make one memorial walk around the block in honor of Mr. Warren. They picked what turned out to be a drizzly day, but 70 people showed up.
It’s gotten a lot easier to get pictures for stories these days. In 2005, we weren’t all walking around with cameras on our phones. Despite our best efforts, we were not able to find one person who had a picture of Mr. Warren. All we had was one shot taken in the rain of neighbors who showed up to honor him.
Today, I realize, that is the picture of Mr. Warren. He was the invisible neighbor who made those before him visible. Chelsea, Evergreen, College, and Fern sound so lovely together, almost like a song; “Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.” I wonder how many new houses are on that street today. I wonder who still lives there since 2005, who remembers Mr. Warren. I wonder how many living on that street have never heard this story.
Today, I realize that The Buzz has been doing that for 20 years, making us visible to each other, and storytelling “across the fence” to one another. Some of those stories were written so long ago, they have become documents of neighborhood history that define us, whether we know it or not. It’s beshert.
Account manager, since 2019
Every month, Andria Frankfort’s Back Porch is one of my favorites to read. So it was especially fun to be interviewed by Andria for Don’t be that customer [December 2019]. Retail workers rarely get a voice, and so it was nice to be able to share even just a small piece of what it’s like to be on the other side. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And it was fun to be involved in a Buzz article in that way.
Andria’s articles are always so relatable. The first “teen-vocab guide for adults” [A teen-vocab primer for grownups, August 2019] made me laugh. Most of the words are the same as when I was in high school 20 years ago. I thought, they’re still using these words today – I was in the know. Then the second “Teen-vocab guide” came out [Teen-vocab primer No. 2] in July 2021. This time, I felt old. I realized I needed to pay closer attention to what my 19-year-old nephew was saying, since I knew only half of the slang terms.
Photographer, since 2006
Most of my sessions begin with a call from Joni along these lines: “I’ve got this great story, and you're going to love them – they’re the nicest people,” or “I know young children can be tough to photograph, but these are five adorable children, and I know you can make it work….” I just have to laugh and remember my motto: It’s just another day at The Buzz.
With marching orders in hand, I’m likely to end up maneuvering pigs for a better profile, waiting for chickens, photographing dogs, horses, more dogs, and people showing their love of gardening, cooking, family, work, more horses, bees chasing Michael, and so forth. I smile, remembering, It’s just another day at The Buzz.
Special perks I’ve enjoyed from sessions include food, recipes, art discussions, movie reviews, and friendships. I’m thankful people have shared important hobbies and memories from their lives with me. The love stories are some of my favorites, how they met and how they’ve managed to stay happily married with all life throws at you.
Dr. Rex Marco [When Life Has Other Plans: A spine surgeon’s journey with quadriplegia, by Cathy Gordon, October 2020] has to be the most touching story. Life threw him a major curveball. We talked about the article and where to photograph him but most importantly, we discussed life. Not just his life but overcoming adversity in life, knowing there’s a plan and to keep going, no matter what, to stay positive and mindful. As I was packing up my gear, I gratefully remembered: It’s just another day at The Buzz.
For 20 years, The Buzz has cared for people, and their stories bind communities. Here’s to another 20 because the community and people make it a better day at The Buzz.
Staff writer, since 2012
Writing for The Buzz means there is a potential story around each corner, and in my case, as the baby columnist, at each class I used to attend at Gymboree, every park outing, or playgroup I ventured out to. I became a mom when I had my twins in 2014, and a couple of months later, Buzz Baby was born. I have grown up as a mother along with my column, so choosing one article is hard.
However, one that stands out in my mind is one I wrote on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey [A year after the flooding, August 2018]. A family with five children under the age of 4 (including 6-week-old twins) had to be evacuated from their home by boat. The families I interviewed, including mom Lindsey Bowman, had the best attitudes while talking about their experiences. Of course, it was with hindsight by the time we spoke, but an experience like that forever changes you as a parent.
A second article is my Buzz Baby article on adoption [Adoption, November 2016]. Those parents were so inspirational, truly with their hearts on the front lines of parenting. I enjoyed meeting those wonderful families. Their happy conclusion to a long, complicated process made an impression on me forever. Thank you, Buzz Baby, for all that you have shared with me. I look forward to growing with you some more.
Staff writer, since 2015
“I pray through music.”
That simple line struck a chord in me. It was just four words from an article that I wrote that appeared in The Buzz Magazines in May 2016 [Soul Survivor: Music, prayer and laughter ease cancer treatment]. But they remain with me even today.
When I had the joy – and I mean true joy – to interview Claire Frazier, it was for a story about hope after a cancer diagnosis. If you think that the words “cancer” and “hope” should not be in the same sentence, talk to Claire. And she will make you think otherwise. I titled the story Soul Survivor because Claire prayerfully and musically endured and conquered cancer.
“I heard from so many sweet friends after the article came out, each of them expressing their love and support, and many of them compelled to share their own cancer stories with me,” says Claire. “One friend touched me most deeply. We studied music together in college and had not been in contact for over 30 years. At the time, he was going through his own very difficult cancer treatment, and shared that after reading the article, he adopted Philippians 4:13 (quoted in the article as my focus verse) as the scripture that would carry him through his tough days: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’”
Now, seven years after the article was first published, Claire and husband Joe are still happy to share her faith in facing cancer. “And all three of our children are now married to the most wonderful spouses, and we’re grandparents of twins,” she says. “I think they would agree that my story is also their story because we lived it as a family.”
I am grateful for being able to help tell that story.
Staff writer, since 2011
In January 2016, The Buzz’s office received a call requesting extra copies of the November 2015 issue. The caller, an older woman, had read an article I wrote about Amazing Place, a daycare center for people with dementia [Amazing Place: When memories fade]. She shared that she had recently been diagnosed with dementia but “hadn’t been willing to face it” until she read that article. She wanted extra copies to give to her family members.
I was touched, but it wasn’t about me. When I look back at Buzz articles, both ones I’ve written and ones that other writers have, the ones that stick with me are the stories people tell of their experiences in the hopes of helping someone else, the way the clients and families of Amazing Place did. Or the way four of our neighbors [Claire Frazier, Bill Gage, Stacy Middleman, and Ashley Pratka] told Jennifer Oakley about their experiences with cancer [in the May 2016 issue].
So many of The Buzz’s feature stories are the result of people’s generosity and their desire to help others with issues, both big and small, light-hearted – such as Andria Frankfort’s “Airing our dirty laundry” in Back Porch, August 2017 – and life-altering – such as Cathy Gordon’s feature on Dr. Rex Marco in October 2020. It’s an honor to help people tell their stories, share their experiences, and connect.
Staff writer, since 2004
Since 2004, I’ve been exploring topics for The Buzz Magazines that I’m most passionate about. Topping my list of stories are those related to being a special needs mom. Over the last 17 years, I’ve written many articles highlighting the courage about those overcoming their disabilities. My hope is to always inspire others with their stories, but usually I am the one moved.
That’s why I picked my 2020 article about the Steel Magnolia Moms [Steel Magnolia Moms: The race that wasn't – and will be, January 2020]. It is the largest support group in Houston for moms who share in the joys and challenges of raising a child with special needs. This particular story focused on a group of 12 moms, Dahlia Brown, Elizabeth Elder, Shannon Essex, Marla Grace, Shana Halvorsen, Dawn Kemp, Liz Maberry, Evelyn Nordin, Kate Peden, Laura Ryan, Kelly Scoggins, and Nikki Thomason, who ran the Ragnar Relay fueled by nothing other than love for their families and each other. It’s the perfect representation of who we are as a special needs community. We’re all running the miles, but we can’t finish the race without each other.
We have an update to this story since it was first published. The founder of Steel Magnolia Moms, Elizabeth Elder, lost her sweet daughter Annabelle in October. Annabelle was 11 and passed from complications from her condition. Annabelle paved the way for this Steel Magnolia Moms group to become the beacon of love, light, and hope that it is for so many today.
Contributing writer, since 2018
People dream about their face being on the cover of a magazine, but writers dream about their byline being on the cover. Could two pandemics make it happen for me?
Esther Almaraz’s grandchildren, Audrey Leonard and Daniel Irr, were part of the graduating class of 2020. Covid had closed schools and unraveled prom and graduation. Esther, 91, told them schools had been shut down during her senior year, too, due to a polio scare in 1946. Her diploma came in the mail. Her family had never known about this.
I knew there was a chance of this article [Pandemic Perspectives: From polio to coronavirus, August 2020] being a cover story, but wanted to see it with my own eyes first and not jinx it! The last days of July, I eagerly listened for the thunk of our mailbox to run and catch our postman, Sam. Finally, Sam handed me the August issue. Sure enough, there was Esther and her grandchildren smiling back (from behind masks, but still smiling).
Then after the title, Pandemic Perspectives, the words: “By Karen Vine Fuller.” I pointed to the cover. “Sam, I wrote this story!”
“You’re a writer?” he said. “I wondered what you did in there all day!”
Editorial assistant, since 2020
I have loved working with the students involved in School Buzz, our online program for high schoolers to report on what’s happening at their campuses. Last year, Eshaan Mani, a student at The Kinkaid School, wrote an excellent article for our School Buzz blog on a fellow classmate Jaivir Pande, who won the Drive, Chip, and Putt golf championship in Augusta.
I brought the article to my editors to suggest potentially running the story in print. The next thing I knew, we were setting up a photo shoot. Jaivir appeared on the cover [August 2021, The Tanglewood/River Oaks Buzz], and Eshaan got a byline in print [Drive, Chip, Putt: Kinkaid junior wins national finals]. My School Buzz correspondents surprise me every day with their talents. I am grateful for the students’ hard work and for the opportunity to have led the program.
Associate editor, since 2013
Every day, I read Buzz stories that inspire or interest me. Some are powerful and moving, while others bring light-heartedness and levity. It’s impossible to choose a favorite. Here are a few that have stuck with me:
We met Lisa Eicher when she was featured in Annie McQueen’s article on Ninja Warriors: Running down life’s obstacles [June 2017]. Ninja Lisa, mom of four, wanted to use American Ninja Warrior as a platform to raise awareness for Down Syndrome and adoption. Two of her children, Archie and Sevy, have Down Syndrome and were adopted from Bulgaria. As often happens, this story led to another. In 2019, the Eichers opened Sandal Gap Studio, a nonprofit for artists with intellectual abilities. Then-15-year-old Sevy, despite being nonverbal, expressed herself through her beautiful art. Angie Frederickson captured this extraordinary family’s spirit, the role art can play, and the compassionate community they have created in Speaking Through Art: Sevy Eicher's unfolding talent [March 2019].
Another family whose journey has stayed with me is the Germain family [Tackling Grief: Living life jelly side up, by Cathy Gordon, August 2015, and Global Family: the Germains, by Tracy L. Barnett, August 2017]. Dana Germain’s husband, Rich, died unexpectedly in 2014, leaving behind four grieving children and wife. Dana and Rich had discussed taking a sabbatical to travel the world with their kids. The “Germainiacs” took a year-long trip around the world in honor of their dad’s zest for adventure.
The Buzz has let me meet many incredible neighbors, such as Max Flinn, who battled with addiction and is now sober and a successful musician, and Dr. Rex Marco, a spine surgeon who was paralyzed after a mountain-biking accident and remains impactful in the field. Plus, I will always remember certain families, such as the Bormaster family, the Berry family, and the Hartland/Hendee family, who have supported one another through so much, with so much love. Through The Buzz, I’ve gotten to know many inspirational neighbors, I’ve gotten to know Houston, and I’ve gotten to know myself. And I’m so grateful.
Staff writer, since 2006
Since I’m in several community organizations, I have a huge resource to find stories for the Rumor Has It social column [in The Memorial Buzz, The Tanglewood/River Oaks Buzz, and at thebuzzmagazines.com]. I get invited to parties and charity events to experience firsthand these wonderful celebrations. It’s apt then that I found a celebration to write about as well for this Celebration Issue.
Since I also sell real estate, I am not easily impressed. However, one of my favorite charity events that I wrote about in 2009 came from being in awe of the home (at that time) of Gene and Astrid Van Dyke, where the event was held.
Their pool was known as the largest pool in a private residence in North America at the time. Gene gave guests rides in a small motorboat in the pool. Let that sink in. They also had a super-size pavilion to seat 300 people underneath. Their generosity at hosting events for causes they believed in was so big it reached over to 2021 for me to write about it again.
Associate editor, since 2004
I helped editor Joni Hoffman write her introduction to this story, so I told her she had to write mine. She declined. But she is nice – amazingly, consistently so – so she offered to bring me coffee. It almost made me forget her “no.” I guess that means she is smart too.
My problem, like hers, is in the choosing. What she does is come up with ideas and inspire talented people. What I do is edit those people’s articles and piss them off.
These writers love their words, and all of them take seriously their role of putting others’ stories down on paper. Some are newspaper and Houston Chronicle alumni like myself. Others are professionals from the worlds of TV, corporate communications, the literary arts, and public affairs. Some are work-in-the-home parents who have a lot to say.
My favorite articles are the ones that surprise me. Lately (since I’m being forced to choose by Ms. I’ll Bring You Coffee Hoffman), the articles that have surprised me the most, both with turns of phrase and with topics, have come from Cindy Gabriel. I never know where she is going with her stories. Sometimes she doesn’t know either. (Don’t worry. She’ll tell you that herself.) But, in her funny, roundabout, smart-hippie-philosopher way, she has taught me lots.
I have learned about the “Mark Twain of Russia” behind Fiddler on the Roof and Cindy’s hair stylist’s family who escaped from Saigon (“We looked pretty conspicuous. My mom dressed us all the same. The girls wore solid white cotton dresses. The boys wore khaki shorts with white Hawaiian-cut shirts. We each had our own Smurf backpacks. We just didn’t have the wardrobe for fleeing a war.”)
And we – okay, I – need to know what has happened lately with her late-in-life romantic partner, Stan-the-Man. Is the fame still going to his head? “If there is one thing I have learned in this series on Stan, it’s that a lot of people read The Buzz Magazines. Now that I know that you are reading closely, I will have to be more careful about what I write, lest Stan-the-Man becomes a mini-series, we get rich, we turn to drugs, have affairs, go broke, and it all ends badly.”
Tell us, Cindy. Tell us everything.
Publisher, since 2002
When Joni and I started The Buzz, we had no idea how entwined it would become in our lives. The more than 800 framed magazine covers that line our office walls serve as a visual diary of our lives over the past 20 years.
Behind each story, there is often an equally interesting back story. For example, we were at a tiny restaurant, The Laurel Tree, in Utopia, Texas, celebrating my birthday several years ago when we overheard the couple at the table next to us mention something about Bellaire. We introduced ourselves and learned that their daughter Laurel Waters (who has a culinary diploma from Le Cordon Bleu) was the chef and owned the restaurant, and their son Lou Waters, daughter-in-law Gerry, and granddaughter Thalie had been on our cover just a few months earlier. These chance meetings happen all the time. Everywhere we go, we run into people who have a connection to The Buzz. And every new person we meet offers a potential story.
Naked City, a television police drama that debuted in 1958 (the same year I made my debut to the world), concluded each episode with the narrator intoning the iconic line, "There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them."
This has been our story over the past 20 years. And thankfully, we have done it fully clothed.
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