The week's good news: September 9, 2021
It wasn't all bad!
4-year-old pianist who started with Zoom lessons wins global music competition
Her hands gliding across the keys with ease, playing a piece that could challenge someone with quadruple her experience, Brigitte Xie only started taking piano lessons in the spring of 2020 — and she's just 4 years old. Brigitte's parents signed her up for Zoom piano lessons at the beginning of the pandemic, and teacher Felicia Feng Zhang told Reuters she quickly observed Brigitte "has a curious mind and she loves to learn." Zhang and Brigitte's parents were amazed by how quickly she learned the notes and keys and chords, and it wasn't just her family and teacher Brigitte impressed — the Connecticut resident dazzled the judges at the prestigious Elite International Music Competition, becoming its youngest winner ever. Her prize, the opportunity to perform on stage at Carnegie Hall, will have to wait until it's safe. Until then, Brigitte — who told Reuters it's "fun" to play the piano — will continue to practice at home in front of her biggest fans.
Texas furniture store turns showroom into shelter and sends truckloads of supplies to Ida victims
Gallery Furniture in Houston quickly transformed from a showroom into a shelter for people displaced by Hurricane Ida. As soon as the storm slammed into Louisiana on Aug. 29, owner Jim McIngvale, also known as Mattress Mack, started gathering supplies to send to New Orleans, loading up dozens of his trucks with water, food, and generators. "Louisiana helped us during Hurricane Harvey, so it's the right thing to do to help our neighbors," McIngvale told The Washington Post. He also wanted to assist those who came to Houston after Ida damaged their homes, and about 50 families and individuals sought shelter at Gallery Furniture. Ana Lee, her husband, and their children are among those who came to the showroom after their rental home in Destrehen, Louisiana, was destroyed by Ida. "I really have to tip my hat to Mattress Mack's kindness at helping so many," she told the Post. "It's a pleasure to meet somebody who has a good heart."
Artist retires after spending 50 years making butter sculptures at the Minnesota State Fair
Armed with her trusty knife Old Faithful, Linda Christensen has spent the last 50 summers turning 90 pound blocks of butter into sculptures, putting on a show year after year in the Minnesota State Fair's dairy building. These carvings — called "butter heads" — depict the fair's goodwill ambassador, Princess Kay of the Milky Way, and her royal court. Since 1972, Christensen has created more than 500 butter heads, with many princesses keeping them in their freezers for years. She carves them inside a 40-degree booth, with her model sitting next to her. "As goofy as it is — and it is goofy — it still really fulfills something for me," Christensen told CBS News. The booth is now too chilly for Christensen, and 2021 was her last fair as official butter sculptor. "I have looked forward to this every year for the last 50 years," she said, "but on the other hand, I've made it 50 years. That's something to celebrate."
Bone marrow recipient thrilled to meet her 'brave' donor face-to-face
Tia Jensen and Gage Tappe came into each other's lives at the perfect time — she needed a bone marrow donor while he was looking for purpose. Two decades ago, Jensen learned she had multiple sclerosis, and in 2018 was diagnosed with leukemia. She began chemo in Seattle, and was put on the bone marrow transplant list. A match was found in Idaho: Tappe, who told Today he was at an "all-time low" after moving to a new state and having partial custody of one of his children. Discovering he was a bone marrow match lifted his spirits, he said, and "gave me a sense of value to myself that I didn't previously have." The transplant was successful, and doctors gave Jensen two pieces of good news: both her leukemia and multiple sclerosis were in remission. Jensen wanted to thank her then-anonymous donor for "willing to just be brave and take that step," and last week, got her wish when she met Tappe in person on Today.
Giant panda gives birth to twin cubs at Madrid Zoo
The world's panda population got a boost on Monday, when twin cubs were born at the Madrid Zoo. Their parents are Hua Zuiba and Bing Xing, pandas on loan from China who have mated before. The tiny, hairless cubs are bonding with their mother Hua Zuiba, and it will be a bit of time before the zoo finds out details about them, like their sex and weight. Two experts from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding flew to Madrid form China to help assist with the births. It's believed there are about 1,800 pandas living in the wild in China, in addition to roughly 500 in zoos. Thanks to worldwide conservation efforts, pandas are now considered "vulnerable," rather than endangered.