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msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 3/3/2011 1:33:34 PM ET 2011-03-03T18:33:34

Gabrielle Giffords has been singing "American Pie," eating chicken soup and "is making the kind of progress that all of us would anticipate" after being shot in the head in January, according to a rabbi who has been visiting the congresswoman regularly.

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Rabbi David Lyon, of Congregation Beth Israel in southwest Houston, has been visiting Giffords about three times a week as she recovers in the TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital, Houston TV station KHOU, a CBS affiliate, reported.

He told the station she had recently sung "American Pie" with her longtime friend Rabbi Stephanie Aaron.

Lyon added that Giffords had a healthy appetite.

"Well, she had a little chicken soup with matzo balls. I think that's fair to report, and as we all know it is Jewish penicillin," he told KHOU.

"Gabby is making the kind of progress that all of us would anticipate, whether it’s words or emotions," he added.

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He also said Giffords sometimes wore an orange wristband that he gave to her with a phrase in Hebrew, meaning "this too shall pass."

"And it means not only will all of this pass, but there are joyful moments that pass into less joyful moments, but even those less joyful moments will pass into more joyful times in the future," he told KHOU.

'Sweet, spirited person'
"Gabby likes to reach out and hold my hand and she listens carefully and smiles easily. Prayer for her is meaningful," he added.

Lyon said Gabby was "a sweet, spirited person who doesn't give up and truly wants to make a difference. Currently, it's to make a difference in her own life, but ultimately to continue making a difference in the lives of others in which she was elected to serve."

He added Giffords was kept busy by her program of rehabilitation and added that he hoped she would be able to give her own updates on her condition.

Slideshow: Former Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (on this page)

Giffords amazed doctors with the speed of her recovery in the days following the shooting on Jan. 8 at a constituent event in Tucson, Ariz., and she appears to have been making steady progress since.

On Feb. 7, Giffords asked for toast with her breakfast when hospital workers brought her a meal.

Giffords' staff members said on Feb. 9 that these had not been her first words but confirmed the request and said she had been talking "more and more" since speaking for the first time several days previously.

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On Feb. 21, she wished her husband Mark Kelly and his twin brother Scott — both astronauts — a happy birthday in a Twitter message. Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin said the tweet and Facebook posting were written by a member of her staff.

She also thanked TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital for a cake that featured the likeness of her husband.

Park named for youngest victim
Six people, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge, were killed in the Tucson attack; Giffords was among 13 people injured.

Federal judge Larry Burns has said the trial for the man charged with shootings, Jared Loughner, 22, should begin no later than Sept. 20.

Interactive: Tragedy in Tucson: The shooting victims (on this page)

The U.S. attorney's office in Arizona has said they will issue a final indictment against him by March 9.

Loughner is charged with trying to assassinate Giffords and attempting to kill two of her aides.

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A new indictment is expected to also charge him with the murders of U.S. District Judge John Roll and Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman. Loughner has pleaded not guilty. State charges are also likely.

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On Monday, a park in Tucson was named in the honor of Christina-Taylor Green, the 9-year-old victim.

The Canada del Oro Christina-Taylor Green Memorial River Park was officially dedicated Monday. The Arizona Daily Star says about 250 people attended the ceremony.

Pima County officials said they would put up a plaque in the park to commemorate Christina's life.

She'll also have a Little League baseball field in Tucson named in her honor next month. Christina's family is expected to throw out the first pitch when the Canyon Del Oro Little League season begins April 1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photos: Former Ariz. Representative Gabrielle Giffords

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  1. Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot and left handicapped after a gunman opened fire at an event in Tucson, Ariz., and her husband retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly prepare to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 2013. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, leave the Newtown Municipal Building in Newtown, Conn. on Jan. 4, 2013. Giffords met with Newtown officials on Friday afternoon before heading to visit with families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. (Michelle Mcloughlin / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Gabrielle Giffords waves to the Space Shuttle Endeavor with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly as it flies over Tucson, Ariz. on its way to Los Angeles, on Sept. 20, 2012. Kelly served as Endeavour's last space commander months after Giffords survived serious head injuries because of a 2011 shooting. (P.K. Weis / Southwest Photo Bank via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gabrielle Giffords blows a kiss after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. on Sept. 6, 2012. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Gabrielle Giffords stands on top of a peak in the French Alps with her husband Mark Kelly, right,, and mountain guide Vincent Lameyre, July 23, 2012. On her first trip out of the country since her injury in 2011, she rode a two-stage cable car to a station for spectacular views of Mont Blanc. (Denis Balibouse / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Ron Barber, right, celebrates his victory with Giffords, left, prior to speaking to supporters at a post election event, Tuesday, June 12, 2012, in Tucson, Ariz. Barber, Giffords' former district director, won her seat in a special election after she resigned to focus on her recovery. (Ross D. Franklin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Democratic Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, read Rep. Gabriell Giffords resignation speech on the House floor on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012. The day after President Obama's State of the Union speech, Giffords formally offered her resignation to Speaker John Boehner. Weeping, Shultz applauded the strength of her friend and colleague, "I'm so proud of my friend." (MSNBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. President Barack Obama hugs retiring Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as the president arrives to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., left, and Pelosi, right, posing with Giffords husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly of the Navy, at his retirement ceremony with Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011. (House Leader Nancy Pelosi's office / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returns to the House for the first time since she was shot, making a dramatic entrance on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, during a crucial debt vote. She drew loud applause and cheers from surprised colleagues. (NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords poses for a photo the day after the launch of NASA space shuttle Endeavour and the day before she had her cranioplasty surgery, outside TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital May 17, in Houston, Texas. Aides of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords posted two recent photos of the congresswoman to her public Facebook page, the first since the January 8 shooting that killed six people and wounded a dozen others. (P.K. Weis / Giffords Campaign / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Emergency workers use a stretcher to move Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in the head outside a shopping center in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. (James Palka / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. In this Jan. 5, 2011 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner re-enacts the swearing in of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Susan Walsh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Rep. Giffords, left, speaks during a candidates debate with Republican candidate Jesse Kelly at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., on Oct. 18, 2010. Kelly is an Iraq War veteran and was the Tea Party favorite for the 8th congressional district seat. (Joshua Lott / The New York Times via Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords meets with constituents in Douglas, Ariz., in 2010. Giffords, 40, took office in January 2007, emphasizing issues such as immigration reform, embryonic stem-cell research, alternative energy sources and a higher minimum wage. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Rep. Giffords speaks during a press conference in Washington, D.C., where members of Congress called on the President to secure the border with the National Guard on April 28, 2010. (James Berglie / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. This picture provided by the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Monday, March 22, 2010, shows damage to her office in Tucson, Ariz. The congressional office was vandalized a few hours after the House vote overhauling the nation's health care system. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., center, gives a tour of Statuary Hall in the Capitol to Shuttle Discovery STS-124 astronauts Mission Specialist Akihiko Hoshide, of Japan, and her husband, Commander Mark Kelly, on Thursday, July 17, 2008. (Bill Clark / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. From right. Rep. Ken Calvert, Rep. Dennis Moore, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and Rep. Heath Shuler, attend a House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security hearing on current and proposed employment eligibility verification systems on May 6, 2008. The hearing provided a forum for lawmakers on both sides of the immigration debate, focusing on a system to verify the legal status of workers and job applicants. (Scott J. Ferrell) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Gabrielle Giffords with U.S. Navy Cmdr. Mark Kelly, a NASA astronaut, at their wedding in Amado, Ariz., on Nov. 10, 2007. Kelly's twin brother, also an astronaut, is a commander on the International Space Station. "We have a unique vantage point here aboard the International Space Station. As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not," said Scott Kelly of the tragedy that befell his sister-in-law. (Norma Jean Gargasz for The New York Times / Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Representatives-elect including Dean Heller, top right, and Gabrielle Giffords, next to Heller, prepare for the freshman class picture for the 110th Congress on the House Steps on Nov. 14, 2006. (Tom Williams / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords rides horseback in 2006. In an interview with NPR last year, she recalled working with horses during her adolescence in Tucson. "I loved cleaning out the stalls, and I did that in exchange for riding lessons. And I continue to ride most of my life. And I learned a lot from horses and the stable people ... I think it provided good training, all of that manure-shoveling, for my days in politics ahead." (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A page entitled, "Just do it!" in La Semeuse, the Scripps College yearbook in 1993. The photo at right shows Giffords in traditional Mennonite clothing. That same year, she won a Fulbright award to study Mennonites and other Anabaptist groups in Northern Mexico. Gifford's senior thesis was titled "Wish Books and Felt-Tipped Fantasies: The Sociology of Old Colony Mennonite Drawings." (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Gabrielle Giffords' senior portrait from the 1993 Scripps College yearbook. Giffords double-majored in Latin American studies and sociology. A Dean's List student, Gifford won several awards during her time at Scripps. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Gabrielle Giffords, right, laughs with her mom, Gloria Kay Fraser Giffords, in a photo published in the Scripps College yearbook. Gabrielle received a B.A. in Sociology and Latin American history from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. in 1993. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. University High School portrait of Gabrielle Giffords, class of 1988. Dr. John Hosmer, taught history to the future lawmaker. He tells msnbc.com, "Gabrielle sat in the front row. She was inquisitive ... She was a very mature person from the moment she walked in the door." (University High School) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: US Senate holds hearing on Gun Control
    Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA
    Above: Slideshow (26) Former Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
  2. Image:
    Morry Gash / AP
    Slideshow (45) Mourning follows deadly shooting in Arizona

Gallery: Tragedy in Tucson: The shooting victims

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