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A Longhorn Looks Back on 50 Years of Marriage

Alcalde, November 2023 

We met in 1965 at Midland High School, but we weren’t high school sweethearts. In fact, we didn’t even like each other.

This is 74: Author Ruth Pennebaker Responds to The Oldster Magazine Questionnaire

Oldster, November 2023 

Aging has given me perspective a/k/a wisdom, more leisure time, fewer responsibilities, a fondness for naps, toe drift, itchy scalp, a body that stubbornly rearranges itself without my permission.

Austin's Blue Hour Dames want to 'rehabilitate' the word old

KUT News, September 2023 

Society is often telling us to act young, as if being old is a bad thing. But two Austin women say it's like any other time of life and want to talk about aging honestly.

Like many Texas women, I had a safe, legal abortion. What happened to our state?

Washington Post, September 2021 

It was 1974, the year after Roe v. Wade, and my generation finally saw progress. Our daughters won’t be so patient with out-of-touch politicians.

For a minute, we boomers were special again. Now they’ll let anyone get a vaccine.

Washington Post, May 2021 

You remember me, don’t you? I’m a baby boomer, a member of the post-World War II generation that shook the world. We were big, we were loud, we had sex and drugs and music, we rebelled, we protested. Nobody ever called us the Greatest Generation, but so what. Boomers were special and everybody knew it.

Newly Vaccinated Boomers Are Ready to Get Down

Texas Monthly, February 2021 

While much of the under-65 population awaits their COVID-19 vaccines, the generation that invented sex, drugs, and rock and roll is about to run amok.

Old Arguments, Won and Lost

Writers at Large, January 11, 2021

My husband has always had ideas—lots of ideas. He’s relentlessly curious, willing to pursue any cockamamie theory that intrigues him. These qualities have helped make him a creative and original academic psychologist; they are some of the traits I love best about him but they also make me want to strangle him from time to time.

How Zoom Spanish Classes Are Saving My Sanity During the Pandemic

Texas Monthly, December 8, 2020

When my Austin lessons went virtual, I discovered the joy—and distraction—in thinking about unfamiliar pronunciation, irregular verbs, and past tenses in these challenging times.

Loving the One You're Quarantined With

Alcalde, July 1, 2020

My husband, James Pennebaker, PhD ’77, is an academic psychologist and researcher at UT Austin who studies emotional and physical responses to disasters. When a volcano blows, the earth shakes, or the levees break, he bursts into action.

We Were Always West Texas Sisters

Texas Monthly, December 18, 2019

Our lonely, difficult childhood—and our love of books—always connected us, despite the wildly different paths we took.

From brutal surgeries to pink ribbons: A history of breast cancer (Book Review)

Washington Post, December 12, 2019

In a crisis? Take notes, Nora Ephron advised, because "everything is copy." Diagnosed in 2014 with an aggressive breast cancer, Kate Pickert, then 35, took excellent notes. After all, she was a health-care journalist who had written about breast cancer in the past. And like any savvy journalist, she recognized a great story when she was thrust into it. 

Can Beto Turn Texas Blue? Sure, when a Stetson grows pink ears.

Washington Post, October 1, 2018

On June 25, 2013, I was at Wendy Davis’s legendary filibuster of new abortion restrictions in Texas (a fact I would like prominently mentioned in my obituary). I was crammed into a gallery at the state capitol, along with hundreds of other sweaty, raucous liberals.

Please Don’t Tell Me About Your Bucket List.

Alcalde, November/December 2016

And I won’t tell you about the time we were stranded in Albania after the pyramid scheme collapsed.

Dinner Conversation. What do an author and a professor discuss over dinner?

Tribeza, August 2016

Dinner with the two of us? It didn't start out well. We’d been dating a few months, and I think my mother wanted me to impress him with my cooking skills. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any. 

Love, Coco.

Alcalde, March/April 2016

I am writing to a granddaughter who is thousands of miles away. How else will she know me? ​

A Sisterhood of Memories

The New York Times, October 29, 2015

I know the accepted wisdom: Making new friends takes longer as you age. After all, you’re busier, more set in your ways, less open to novelty. But nobody ever told breast cancer support groups about that crisp little sentiment.

Mother of the Bride

Texas Monthly, July 2014

While my daughter looked toward her future, I thought back on my own four decades of marriage (so far)—the good, the bad, the better than I ever expected.

She’ll Take Manhattan, but Hold the Jeans

The New York Times, March 22, 2012

Darkness fell on a brisk Saturday night, and droves of the young and the raucous flooded the entrance and lobby of the Dream Downtown hotel in Chelsea…"Good lord," said Pat, a New York friend, eyeing the eager faces, the stilettos, the sheer force field of energy. "Is anybody here over the age of 18?"

Brooklyn, in Thick and Thin (Crust)

The New York Times, March 8, 2012

The big white bus is leaving. If you’re one of those ignorant souls who thinks New York City is limited to Manhattan and its cold, imperious skyscrapers, you should hop aboard.

Survivors Bond Over a Grueling Play

The New York Times, February 16, 2012

Over her crevettes Marseillaise, the author and blogger Jen Singer is telling me about the tumor she had in her left lung. “It was the size of a softball,” she says. She and I are online acquaintances who had never met in the flesh before. But we’re both cancer survivors, and we are going to see the Broadway play “Wit” together. Our respective tumor sizes count as small talk.

The City, Inside Yet Out

The New York Times, November 17, 2011

Don't think David Roffe is only a New York City tour guide. He’s also an actor who has appeared on “Law & Order” three times — most memorably in 13 consecutive seconds as an accused murderer of a college student. “You’ve got the wrong guy, dude,” he told the law, in a speaking role he nailed in only two takes.

Following a Child of the City

The New York Times, November 3, 2011

“My love affair with New York,” Marc Aronson says, “is a continuation of my parents’ love affair with New York.”

All Those Great Stories, Crying to Be Overheard

The New York Times, October 20, 2011

Come here to sightsee? It’s fine, I guess. You can catch the towering buildings, the store windows, the stunning bridges, the leafy parks. And yes, they’re impressive and staggering. But to me New York is most of all a city of people and their stories... 

Monday, So Good to Me

The New York Times, August 25, 2011

When my husband and I moved to New York for several months in August 2009, we were told repeatedly that “nobody” was in the city in August. We wandered around the crowded streets, marveling at the number of nobodies everywhere.

Newest New Yorkers at Play

The New York Times, August 11, 2011

They are young, talented and driven: artists who want to make their mark on the world. You see them in New York more than any other city in the country, and their New York is different from yours and mine. It’s hipper and faster paced, open to experience. If they want to see a folk-singing duo, and their iPhones tell them to cross two highway lanes on foot to get there, consider them crossed.

Where Lone Stars Don’t Feel So Alone

The New York Times, June 23, 2011

"Texans make the best New Yorkers," Robert Leleux says loudly. "It's because we’re bred for size. New Yorkers appreciate that — our extravagance. We wouldn't play so well in Indiana."

The Mediocre Multitasker

The New York Times Week in Review, August 29, 2009

Read it and gloat. Last week, researchers at Stanford University published a study showing that the most persistent multitaskers perform badly in a variety of tasks. They don't focus as well as non-multitaskers. They're more distractible. They're weaker at shifting from one task to another and at organizing information. They are, as a matter of fact, worse at multitasking than people who don't ordinarily multitask.

Throne Occupied; Try a Comfy Recliner

The New York Times Week in Review, November 15, 2008

On Friday, Charles, the Prince of Wales, turned 60.

Sixty! If you think that birthday is tough for most baby boomers - who struggle with desperate rationalizations about whether they're young-old or old-young, and whether 60 might possibly be the new 40 - think about Charles. He's now been the heir apparent to the British throne for 56 years, waiting to be King of England since 1952.

Having Cancer, and Finding a Personality

The New York Times, August 11, 2008

They say cancer changes you. They may be right. When I found out I had breast cancer 12 years ago, I became a comedian. Not the kind anyone paid to see. Just the kind who lurked around hospital corridors and examination rooms offering offbeat opinions, wiseacre remarks, outrageous commentary.

‘Sex’ and the Pink Ribbon

The New York Times Week in Review, June 1, 2008

All right, we admit it. We’re not traditional "Sex and the City" types. We’re five women from Austin, Tex. (wrong number, right sex, wrong city), who range from our late 40s to early 60s (wrong demographics; too old). Our shoes are conservative and our politics are liberal (wrong, right).

We’re Big, We’re Back, We’re Texas

The New York Times Week in Review, February 24, 2008

Somewhere, Ann Richards and Molly Ivins — bless their big, demanding hearts and rest their impatient souls — must be sharing non-alcoholic margaritas and crowing with delight. Their beloved Texas Democrats, long rumored to be terminally dysfunctional, bitter and comatose or dead, are staking out the center stage of the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries. On March 4, two days after Texas Independence Day, they will choose between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton in what turns out to be a pivotal contest. Well, hot, as we say down here, durn.

JOURNEYS: 36 Hours | Austin, Tex.

The New York Times, March 28, 2003

TEXANS, especially sentimental University of Texas alumni, have long agonized over Austin's soul. Does Austin remain easygoing and eccentric in its setting of rugged hills, trees and lakes? Are its politics still liberal and is its music still rowdy? Is it still a refuge for slackers who don't want to grow up and move to Houston or Dallas?

Hotter than a Crawford Ranch

The New York Times Op-Ed page, August 28, 2001

All those reporters who are always clustered around President Bush should have been suspicious the minute he started stomping around his ranch in the middle of August. Instead, sweating and gullible and, frankly, kind of pathetic, they earnestly reported the president's rhapsodic remarks about going home to Texas in the summer. They bought the implication that Texans wouldn't miss a Texas August, even if it is 110 degrees in the shade (except there's not any shade).

Hers: Going Off The Deep End

The New York Times Magazine, February 25, 1990

I didn't take swimming lessons because of my 40th birthday. I'd like to blame it on that, but it isn't true. I took them because of my 7-year-old daughter, Teal. I could see it in her eyes. She already hated the water as much as I did. 

The Texas Observer Columns

Shut My Mouth

The Texas Observer, May 11, 2011

In the immortal words of the great Tammy Wynette, sometimes it’s hard to be a woman. Anyway, that’s the tune I’ve been humming — “Stand by Your Man,” to be precise — while a torrent of anti-female legislation sweeps across national and state capitols like an Old Testament pestilence. De-fund Planned Parenthood! Forget family planning! Teach abstinence even though it doesn’t work! Give extra lectures and bonus sonograms to women who seek abortions!

Bringing Up Baby

The Texas Observer, March 30, 2011

On a wintry day in February, I went to the Texas Senate to hear citizens and medical and legal experts testify about the sonogram bill. You know, the bill we’ve all been hearing about that requires a doctor to give a woman both a sonogram and an oral description of the fetus she’s carrying before she can secure an abortion. That bill.

Unearthing Aurora

The Texas Observer, March 28, 2011

"Terms of Endearment is a book?” a well-read friend asked recently. “I didn’t know that. I thought it was just a movie.” Hell yes it’s a book, I said, and told her she should read it immediately. It’s one of my favorite Larry McMurtry novels, published in 1975. Terms of Endearment doesn’t quite qualify as a “lost book” since it’s written by the renowned McMurtry. But Aurora Greenway is one of the greatest characters to get lost between the page and the big screen.

Irrevocable Acts

The Texas Observer, August 16, 2010

This story starts with death. Then it gets worse. But I'm getting ahead of myself. My father died on May 15. He was 85 and he'd suffered from Alzheimer's for years. His illness, even more than his death, was a tragedy. He was a retired accountant, mild-mannered and soft-spoken, and he'd led a quiet life. That's why it's so strange the aftermath of his death deteriorated into a series of botched events that shouldn't happen to the quick or the dead. That brings me to the House of Death, my affectionate nickname for the Austin funeral home that handled and mishandled my father's remains. Let me recount the ways.

The Better Half

The Texas Observer, July 06, 2010

So I've come to the point in my life that I read a book and talk back to it. That's what Laura Bush's autobiography, Spoken From the Heart, made me do, anyway. I read it with a divided mind, talking out of both sides of my mouth. What is a first lady's job? I kept wondering. What, specifically, did Laura Bush owe us?

Taking the Reins

The Texas Observer, July 06, 2010

Fifteen or so years ago, I sat across a dinner table from a Dallas state district court judge who delighted in the sound of his own reedy tenor. When abortion came up, he told me and my fellow dinner-table hostages he had "never met a woman yet who didn't regret having an abortion." I didn't trust myself with my fork, so I put it down. "Well, you've met one now," I told him.

Space Politics

The Texas Observer, May 12, 2010

Years ago, when I interviewed with a New York law firm, one of the partners told me he’d always thought New Yorkers and Texans were quite similar. Both were arrogant, convinced they lived in the center of the universe, and unpopular with the rest of the world. (This was the same guy who complimented me on my “great” personality after he’d spent the entire time talking while I listened. But, hey: You take your nuggets of wisdom wherever you find them.)

Just for Today, I am Pat Robertson

The Texas Observer, February 16, 2010

You know the old saying: You can't begin to understand another person until you've spent some time in his shoes. Today, I am Pat Robertson. I am wearing his shoes. They are Ferragamos.

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