Monday, March 31, 2008

Being There

I've mentioned Cindy a few times - the mother of the boys for whom I was a nanny. She died of breast cancer in 1993. At the time, Jonathan was 13 years old and Ben was 9. What follows is an excerpt from a letter that I wrote to Jonathan, eldest of the boys, on the 14th anniversary of her death last year.

For me, the day started with no indication of anything changing for the worst, though that threat had been imminent for weeks. You left for school just after I got there, Ben came downstairs to breakfast and we chatted while he ate. Then your Dad came downstairs, into the kitchen, looking hollowed out and lost, and quietly said, "It's time to come say goodbye." I tried to steel myself, as I had been for days, months, years, against the inevitable. As I walked into the room, I knew she was already gone, but I went to her beside anyway and touched her cheek. I think I softly said, "Oh Cindy." before I completely choked, wept out, "Oh Bill!" and hugged your Dad, who was crying too, for... I don't know how long we stayed like that. I managed to keep one hand on Ben's shoulder. He couldn't understand... he broke my heart, trying to wake her up, saying, "Mom... Mom..." After what could have been two minutes or twenty, your Dad took Ben with him to pick you up from school.

So, I sat alone with Cindy for a while, held her hand one last time, reiterated promises I'd made to her, thanked her again for her love, her friendship, her trust in allowing me to care for her children, for the deep and beautiful perspective she brought to my life. I'd never met anyone like her, and I haven't again since.

Then I heard the car pull up, the door open, footsteps on the stairs. I remember standing up and walking to the bedroom door. I didn't want you to have to cross that chasm by yourself. You walked in first, with your Dad and Ben behind. Your anguish, as you came into the room, was palpable. Everything in my being wanted to shield you from it all. I remember thinking, "I have to hold him up, I have to help him stand, this is so wrong." I held out my arms, and managed to whisper, "Jonathan." And you just collapsed onto me. After a couple of minutes, your Dad pried you away and led you over to your Mom. At that point, as much as I was a family member, I felt like an interloper and I crept out of the room.

The towel. Funny, I have a fond memory of that as well. Once, in her drug and brain tumor induced confusion, Cindy woke as I sat with her, and asked me what she was doing at a Turkish Bazaar - all of the towels and blankets hanging over the windows to shield her eyes from the light, made her think she was in some foreign, dusty town square. She had a great time describing the merchant stalls selling rugs and hookahs, the men arguing over figs and dates and pistachios, and the exotic women meandering around looking for income. She was enthralled by the vision, as was I.

And, to me, that is the epitome of who your Mom was... a woman who found beauty in the everyday, no matter where she was, or what she was doing. She was a woman of near infinite patience, soft-spoken, able to see any given situation from several different perspectives. She had a wry, delightful sense of humor, and was always quick to laugh – which was fortunate, because she had one of the best laughs ever. She was just as quick to share a tear and lend a shoulder. Whomever she was with, whatever was going on, she was always so there in the moment. And I’m not putting her on a pedestal here – it’s really who she was, how I saw her at least. She taught me tons about being a good human. She wasn’t perfect by any means… she always got overly anxious way too easily, and she had to discuss any decision to the nth degree (doggone lawyers!). But, you’re right, she was a great confidante and one of the finest friends I’ll ever have. I still talk to her whenever I have anything heavy to weigh out in my mind, or wink in her direction when I see extraordinary in the ordinary. Still, I long to sit at the kitchen table with her again, drink tea and shoot the shit like we did in the olden days when “you kids” were off at school. I’d love for her to know me now, and be able to relate to her as the “who” that I am now.

It is strange to think how young I was then, yet how much older I felt than I do now. Everything had such immense weight to it. It was all so serious. Had I realized then how little in life actually posed a threat to me, I’d have enjoyed my youth a lot more.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Supernova Sunday

As reported on November 1, 2007, by Tariq Malik:
"A massive explosion in the deep reaches of space stemmed not from one dying star, as is typical, but from two dead ones that collided as the climax of a long orbital dance..."

If dead stars can do that, what happens when two souls collide?
What happens when two artists, unbidden, share a single vision?

When two poets, in a communion of timbre, speak the same word?
When prime numbers line up like so many dominoes to be knocked flat, the combination thereof resulting in a new prime?
When feral eyes clearly see shadow and midnight?
When two like spirits, each on a separate path, meet at a crossroads, recognizing the fruition of a life-long search?
It is...
Massive: widespread; imposing in scale

Let not my heart be still. Hammer away.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fluff n' Fold

We had snow yesterday. It was beautiful, though everyone but me complained that its timing was way off.

I've learned... paper does not always need to be written on for a definition to be obvious.

if my love for you
knows any bounds
it is the inability
to define the how or why
my heart
folds at the sight of you
folds like a plain
white sheet of paper
gets folded
folds again, then unfolds
an origami bird
that at once knows
flight is possible

Friday, March 28, 2008

No Refunds

"Why do we have to believe something must change in a favorable direction in order for us to be joyful? Why do we often make happiness a reward, the bonus we allow ourselves to feel after we get what we want or as the result of doing something we believe is good?"
~Barry Neil Kaufman, Sonrise

That's a quote I've had in my book for going on 30 years. I come back to it every now and then when I need to be reminded that my life is what I make it. I can choose happiness. I'm not Pollyanna enough to be unrealistic - sure, there are hard times. There are things that knock the wind out of me, things that leave me crawling on bloodied knees in the breakdown lane of this highway, sobbing for anyone or anything to give me some relief. However, by and large, it's my choice.

Accept the unchangeable, and then accept that everything changes. The only constant is inconstancy. Rilke said, "Let everything happen to you; beauty and terror. No feeling is final; just keep going."

These are some of the thoughts that have helped me through this past year. These are thoughts I've leaned on often in my life, not so much as crutches, but as a sturdy oak after a long hike - the tree that's there when I need some shade and a bit of rest after some long wandering. I've come to realize that I'm just as happy on the hike as I am resting in the shade of the oak. Happiness isn't the reward - the journey is. This is what we're given. This is the gift - no exchanges, no returns.

Happy Friday, y'all!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cheesy Grin

The other day a friend shared the following Craigslist employment ad with me:

Cheesemaking Assistant
(name changed to protect...something) - one of the northwest's premier artisan cheesemakers. Located in *Somewhereville, WA.* Assist with all aspects of handmade cheese production, from curd forming to affinage, cleaning and packaging. Must have excellent hygeine, food handling experience and be able to lift 40lbs repeatedly. 20-30 hrs. per week. Begin immediately. Serious applicants should email resume and references.

I'm sure there's a cheesemaker out there somewhere who will slam me sideways for making fun of this at all, but... c'mon. Apropos of yesterday's post, I can't not... you know I've gotta go there! Because, let's face it, a cheesemaking ad of any kind is funny just because it's a blast to say cheesemaker. Hell, I'm turning it into my new insult. Dude... don't be a friggin' cheesemaker! Man, I have had one nasty cheesemaker of a day... *ahem* Savvy?

Ok, I'll start with a compliment. I'll ignore that the employer skipped capitalizing Northwest, and move right on to the impressive use of affinage. Sure, it's an industry word and you probably can't work there for 5 minutes without learning it, but still - I'm sure that weeded out a lot of lowlife applicants right there. I'm really glad they require excellent hygiene. I mean... ew... I would think that's a given, but sometimes ya just gotta be blatant about stuff.

What really tossed me to the floor, howling and chortling was the last line: Serious applicants should email resume and references. I mean, you've got to be serious if you're applying for a job as Cheesemaker, nay, Cheesemaking Assistant (there's room for advancement!), right? How could you not be serious. "Hi, I'm here for an interview with Joe for the Cheesemaking Assistant position." Go ahead, try to say that aloud without busting up. I can't. You've got to be serious. Shit, you've got to be downright lugubrious to pull that one off.

Now, before I get lambasted by all of the Cheesemakers (Assistants and... gawd... is there such a thing as a Head Cheesemaker?!) who read my blog, please understand that I have the utmost respect for what you do. I love cheese, really I do (now there's a Looney Tunes blast from the past). My life would be utterly bereft without cheese. Hell, I would date a Cheesemaker (they've got good hygiene after all). "Here, Darlin', I brought you a brick of that Danish Bleu you like so well, and a wheel of gouda." "Oh, Heathcliff, you shouldn't have. I'm in a fair way to have my head turned..."

Seriously, I'll take cheese over a dozen roses any day. If I had a little hootchie-mama thang going on the side with a vintner, I'd be set for life.

Speaking of employment, yesterday someone asked me if my new work roll was everything I'd dreamed of. My reply:
It's not quite what I'd dreamed, but to be fair, in the dreams I'm usually naked and any number of capibara-like rodents are helping to chew through the restraints while multi-colored kites float by untethered, and strange people speak Baltic type languages somewhere just beyond my line of sight - I never know what they're saying, but I keep hearing my name interspersed in their conversation. Other than that. Yeah. I'm sure you're wondering... no, that would not at all be an outlandish dream for me. Pretty much de rigueur for my somni-conscious wandering.
Whew. Curd forming is a fun one to say as well. I'm going to use that too. "Hey, now there's a curd forming idea! Well done!"

Someone stop the woman... she's outa control...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I Gotta Be Me

"My memory is too clear; too sharp; things should wear at the edges, and what is unresolved should soften. So scenes are near my heart like pictures in lockets..."
~Anne Rice, Interview With the Vampire

I've received several comments on this blog lately. Yeah, sure, they were ignominiously solicited. So what? This is the easiest way for someone to get to know me without sitting across the table for hours. They've all been very graciously good comments, flattering, kind and all too generous. Thank you, and again thank you.

It reminded me (as I was tripped and sent flying into recall the other day) of something Eric Clapton once said when asked about playing guitar: "I can't not play guitar."

Hear ya, Eric. It's reflexive. Entirely. Tell yourself not to blink. It might last for a few seconds; minutes if you're good at it. But eventually you have to blink... you can't not blink. A drama teacher once had us do an exercise. She said, "Close your eyes for 5 minutes and think about anything, but do not think about an orange." G'head. Try it. Unless you're a Zen master, bet ya have trouble not thinking about an orange. I know I did. I imagined myself in a meadow- a big grassy meadow; but, out in the middle of the field, yup, an orange. I imagined myself in a crowded theater. Sure enough, four rows down, just off to the left, there sat a woman with fruit in her hat - want to take a stab at guessing which kind? Before long, I caved and, in my mind, was holding a cool dimpled orange, had dug my fingernails into the skin of it, thereby releasing the oils in an intoxicating explosion of scent, juice running down my palm and wrist. Odds bodkins! Not thinking about an orange was the best orange I've ever had. (Don't tell me not to think about sex!)

Lady Gresham (shocked): What is she doing?
Mr. Wisley: Writing.
Lady Gresham: Can nothing be done about it?
~Becoming Jane

I can't not do this. I can't not play with the pretty colors and textures and make my little flight of fancy bits of art. I can't not write, let my mind bubble over and spill - this proverbial overly full kettle that's reached boiling point. It would crush me to not be allowed that. Honest, I think my brain would implode. Restraints would be required (granted, there are those who think they should be implemented now). I'm still chuckling over Gordon's comment a few weeks ago about my imagination not only being out the door, but about three blocks away. That is, by far, the most spot on observation anyone has ever made about my thought process.

Sing it for me, Sammy...
Whether I'm right or whether I'm wrong
Whether I find a place in this world or never belong
I gotta be me, I gotta be me
What else can I be but what I am
I... gotta.... beeeeeeeeeee... me!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

White Rabbit

Agggh! This never happens. Ok, rarely happens! I was up far too late last night and managed to oversleep this morning. So.... now.... I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!

Big news... I was promoted at work yesterday. WooHOOO! You know the saying. Unless you're the lead dingo, the scenery never changes. Yay for me.

Y'all have a wonderful day out there in TV land.

Ack! I'm so late.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Open Doors

One thing I love in this life? Those moments of connection with a total stranger. Even if I know I'm not going to see them 5 seconds from now or ever again. That "ssssnap-shooooop" of the bolt being thrown thrills me

Friday morning I stopped at the gas station to donate my paycheck to the needy oil companies. There I was standing at the pump, admiring the rainy morning, whistling mindlessly to some Dave Matthews in my head. A tall, burly, not so shabby lookin' trucker came strolling out of the station's convenience store. Even at 30 paces, he had gorgeous eyes, which I wouldn't have noticed had he in turn not seen my truck - which has its name in decals on the sides: Birddog. In what sounded to me like a joyful tone, with a deep, rather husky baritone, he hollered, "BirrrrrdDAWG! Oh man, I like that!" I looked over, saw this studly dude and gave him a huge grin. I loved the way he said her name. "Thanks!" I hollered back. "It's cuzza da way she go down da road!" He responded with his own grin and a gloved wave, hopped into his truck and was gone. The moment stayed with me all day. It felt so good

Same day, later that evening, I was yawning and surfing through craigslist ads. Initially I was checking the roommate section, but then I hopped over to the personal ads just so I could amuse myself with the pathetic composition and bad grammar of the posts. First post I opened was a very simple, "Anyone out there want to chat? Email me your IM." "What the hell?" I thought. "This will be short." I'll engage him on chat. He'll ask what I'm wearing, what I'm doing. I'll cleverly respond, "I'm wearing surgical scrubs. I've just finished sharpening the knives. Tell me, do you still have both kidneys? Want to come over?" and watch just how fast he disappears

Instead, I fell into a 6.5 hour online conversation that blew me out of my provincial mental shoes. Not only did I hear the ssssnap-shooooop of the bolt, but the tzappp-hssss as the sodium arc lights illuminated the gloom. G'lord. We talked about everything - spirituality, likes, dislikes, movies, music, art, writing, humanity, cheese and practical applications thereof - everything. At 4 a.m., full moon be damned, I finally said, "I gotta sleep." Same thing happened Saturday evening. I was just going to say, "Hi, how are you?" It turned into another typing marathon. And again last night (but I made myself go to bed by midnight). I'm intrigued, fascinated, beguiled - he's a very cool human being. But, he'll probably stop talking to me after Tuesday. He's got ridiculously lofty expectations, that's why. C'est la Vie... it's been fun, and the connection was startlingly lovely

Who's next?


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Stranger Than Fiction

I'm in a strange moon mood. It seems that each passing month the pull of La Luna gets more intense. My soul is restless. I don't mean just stirred up a little. I mean restless... wild rampage restless. I mean, I wish I had a punching bag restless.

In the book The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub, the protagonist, a boy named Jack, meets up with a very kind orange-eyed creature of a guy in a parallel world (aka The Territories) - a guy very aptly named Wolf. Wolf is a huge man, but a simpleton who needs watching in much the same way a child does. Wolfs (not wolves, which you'd know if you read the book) are shepards in their world. So, he's happiest under an open sky with the scent of nature in his nostrils. Anything more stimulating than that pretty much over taxes him. He hates our world (with the exception of popcorn). "Like it," Wolf muttered. "How could anyone like it, Jack? And the smells..."

I hear ya, Wolf!

Anyway, as the moon grows fuller, Wolf is self-aware enough to know that he will be a threat to Jack. Jack is his herd and he has to keep the herd safe at all costs, god pound it! They find a shed and Jack locks himself in. As the night approaches and Jack sees the full moon start to rise, he hears a spine-chilling, ululating cry in the distant woods. Wolf is on the prowl, on the hunt. Later Jack wakes to hear growling, snuffling, and lip-smacking sounds at the shed door.

I'm Wolf. I'm that kind of restless. I want to trip the wild fantastic. I'm also Jack. I just want the moon to pass and have my sweet, simple buddy back again. I've barely slept in two nights. Yesterday I walked, I laughed, I sang, I cried, I danced, I cleaned, I cried, I laughed, I prowled, I wrote, I ate, I talked, cried, laughed, sang... I did everything but feel peace. Enough with the searchlight. Really. Enough! I give, already. Laws yes, wolf!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Runnin' on Empty

Caveat Lector: It's Friday and there's a full moon. I'm more than ready for both. Howwwwwl!

In my sleeplessness last night, I watched an old episode of NCIS and heard a fantastic bit of dialogue.

Abby: I used to be an anarchist.
Ducky: Really? Why'd you quit?
Abby: Too many rules...


So, okay... I think I need to give an idea some air. Some members of my family have planted the notion that I should attempt to do a marathon, or at least a half marathon with them in January. Well, they've more than planted it. The brats have actually been tilling, watering and doing druidic dances. And you thought I lacked the graces of subtlety? I'm downright reticent by comparison.

Homer said, "You only have to do a 16 minute mile!" Only. Funny lad, that one. When I mentioned his argurment to David (who ran the Boston Marathon twice), he said with a rather harsh laugh, "Yeah... 26 times. Consecutively!"

Me. A marathon. Even a half marathon. Me?! Yeah, I know. I'm trying not to laugh too. However, at the back of my head is a resonating, "Hmmm....." Fifty pounds lighter from now, I'd be able to run. Probably. I've never been a runner, but it's not a question of could I; it's a question of would I. Am I willing? In the face of the 3-Day 60 mile walk, I'm already looking beyond. I know I can do the 60 miles, no question about it. The "hmmm..." keeps getting louder.

Barbara Ann keeps saying, "Don't be a friggin' idiot! You can't do that!!"

The Gypsy responds, "Oh yeah? Watch me."

Oy vey... I hate when they do that... you know who always wins the argument.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Loaded

That's right friends n' neighbors - today is the first day of Spring. Happy Vernal Equinox to y'all! We've also got a full moon coming on strong, so I'll have myself put in lock-down mode soon. Wouldn't want to frighten any neighborhood animals (except maybe that pesky, incessantly yappy little rat of a purse dog that runs all over the place).

I'm feeling much better, thank you. Told you I was a tough old gypsy. I've missed walking the past couple of days, and my sis sent me some nifty new socks, so I'm ready to hit the path again.

But, Springtime. Even if the weather is crappy, it just makes me itch to get outdoors. Everything changes so fast in the Spring that it's a shame to miss a moment of it. Buds shift and stretch in a sleepy sprout, leaves yawn and unfurl, blossoms jump and whirl like so many Kossack dancers. In short, the world comes alive!

This time of year always puts me in mind of my favorite Christopher Marlowe poem. Some theorists claim that Marlowe and Shakespeare were one in the same man, but that's neither here nor there. It's a great poem no matter who penned it. The very simple, "come live with me and be my love" speaks to my own bent toward simplicity in terms of looking for a mate. Flowers, jewels, and proclamations do little for me. But, I swear to all the gods, if some fine fellow ever looked me in the eye and quietly uttered, "Come live with me and be my love." It would be all over with for me.

The Passionate Sheperd to His Love
Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

~Christopher Marlowe

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Sick. I'm sick. I have a head cold - the first in two years. I hate being sick. I have no tollerance for my sick self. I'd rather walk on blistered feet than have this muzzy brain feeling. I can't abide by my own weakness. It's just a cold though, and not even the really bad version that most people seem to be getting.

*cough... sputter....sniff*


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Suddenly I See

During my walk yesterday I discovered my new absolute favorite walking tune. Really, this is it - I‘ve discovered my anthem. I’ve heard it many times before, but not since I began training for the 3Day; not since I’ve had my eye to this telescope (*wink to KT*). I’m talking about yet another fabulous KT Tunstall tune. And a nod here to my new Scottish pal Gordon, as KT hails from his hometown in Scotland. The song is, “Suddenly I See.” And…well, geez… suddenly I see. This is what it’s all about for me. It’s about becoming; it’s about being here now; it’s about doing; it’s about power; it’s about living as loud as I can; it‘s about how I want to be perceived by others. I want people to look at me and say, “What the hell is that glow? What is that … that… thing beaming off of her?!” And not because I want the notoriety, but because I want to wake people. I want everyone in the world to understand how beautiful this life is, and how incredibly short it is. No matter how long each of us has, it’s not long enough - not long enough for yourself; and I guarantee, it’s not long enough for those who love you. I’m not just trying to be smarmy here - I really do believe this. Life is so, so, so precious. Life is what we each, individually, make it. It’s hard work, but any fine meal is hard work; any awe-inspiring artistic masterpiece is hard work; love is hard work. Life takes effort, but the end more than justifies the means.

A year ago December, during one of John’s hospital stays, a profound thing happened to me that I’m just beginning to really realize. I was on my way to visit John, and as I got to his room, as sense of calm fell over me. I slowed my steps and paused in the doorway long enough to see a small woman who was slightly bent over a cane, standing next to his bed, talking quietly and intently. John was in a loose lotus position on the bed (it was always odd for me to see him, as a paraplegic, cross his legs or sit “Indian“ style - I don‘t know why), and he was very obviously rapt by whatever she was saying to him. I crept quietly into the room, not wanting to disturb, and John, more peaceful than I’d seen him since long before his diagnosis, calmly said, “Hi Sweetie.” The woman, now obviously blind, turned and held out her hand toward me. Not a word was said as to who I was (except for the “hi sweetie“), but she said, “You must be The Great Love.” And she said it with such reverence that I was immediately humbled by it. I didn’t blush; I didn’t try to make light of it; I felt I had entered the holy of holies; I simply said, “As he is mine.“ (Looking back, I think that may have been our marriage ceremony.) She continued to talk to John very calmly about his journey, about the journey we’re all on - this vague and amorphous path through life and into death. Then she ended by saying a very quiet, simple Buddhist type of prayer. “John, may you find peace in your journey,” here she gestured toward me. “And may this Great Love be your strength.” Then she hugged John. Then, as she hugged me, she whispered in my ear… this small blind woman who didn‘t know me at all; who had only met me moments before… she whispered, “You… shine.” John didn’t hear her say that, and I never told him she did. I think it was just for me to hear, to hold on to. Until now. But… wow.

“I feel like walking the world…” It's an amazing journey, if we'll just let it be.

Her face is a map of the world
Is a map of the world
You can see she's a beautiful girl
She's a beautiful girl
And everything around her is a silver pool of light
The people who surround her feel the benefit of it
It makes you calm
She holds you captivated in her palm

Suddenly I see
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see
Why the hell it means so much to me

I feel like walking the world
Like walking the world
You can hear she's a beautiful girl
She's a beautiful girl
She fills up every corner like she's born in black and white
Makes you feel warmer when you're trying to remember
What you heard
She likes to leave you hanging on a word

Suddenly I see
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see
Why the hell it means so much to me

And she's taller than most
And she's looking at me
I can see her eyes looking from a page in a magazine
Oh she makes me feel like I could be a tower
A big strong tower
She got the power to be
The power to give
The power to see, yeah yeah

Suddenly I see
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see
Why the hell it means so much to me
~KT Tunstall

Monday, March 17, 2008

Rox in my Sox

Meet Roxan Wynn, another beautiful soul taken much too soon by breast cancer. Roxan was one of John's very best friends. He used to call her his sister-friend, and they often refered to each other as soul mates. I wasn't threatened by that at all - any friendship that deep is beautiful to me. Sure, they had at some point talked about taking the relationship further, but agreed that the friendship was perfect as it was.
John and Roxan met in a pottery class in college (the coil pot in the picture above is one that she made), took an instant liking to each other, and so it began. Hers was a feisty sweet spirit, and one with a great sense of humor. I got to know her well through phone conversations, email and online chat. She was already sick when I met her, and had been for years, but one would never know it by her attitude toward life. She woke up every day expecting to win. I admired her immediately, because she was one of the few people who could give John shit, tell him exactly how it was, and come out of it with her head still firmly attached to her neck. Anyone who could get that kind of respect from John P. Johnson most certainly had mine.

When she first heard about me, her words to him were, "You're hooking up with some internet slut?!" She quickly learned that it was much more than that. At one point in our budding friendship, she said to me, "I'm so glad you're in his life. I'm so glad he's got someone who really loves him. It's been a long time coming. Don't let him get down on himself ok? He takes everything to heart and beats himself with it." I thanked her and promised I'd do my level best. Not long after, she took it upon herself to embroider a poem that I wrote for John. It hangs in a place of honor on my wall.

Roxan, her husband John, and her daughter lived in Hawaii (Maui) for a number of years. She and her husband were both big into horticulture. She used to make John jealous by telling him about the humongous pot plant she had growing, hidden, in the middle of a ginger grove on their property. In the early 80s she tried to coax John into joining them there, offering him use of a small cabin on their lot. John really wanted to go, but life got in the way and he never made it. By the time he felt he was ready to make the jump, she called him to say that they were on their way back to the mainland. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer, was having a radical mastectomy, and was scheduled for chemotherapy. She fought hard for seven years.

I met her seven months before she died. John and I were fortunate enough to travel to Bakersfield to visit with her and her family as she was going through yet another round of chemo. The minute I got out of the car, she wrapped me in a tremendous hug and said, "Oh... I feel like I've been waiting to do that forever!" And our friendship was sealed. Although it was obvious to me (having seen it all before) that she was losing the battle, her spirit was undiminished by the ravages of the fight. Her only complaint was, "Yeah, the chemo makes me feel kind of puny." Kind of puny... yeah, right.

On September 23, 2002, the day before his birthday, John got the call that Roxan was gone. In all our years together, I never saw the man look more lost. Roxan was 42 years old.

I walked 6 miles yesterday. I spent much of the time thinking about sweet Roxan, about how she'd touched my life in such a short time, about her deep relationship with John. I thought about how breast cancer (any cancer) is no respector of persons. It hits anyone and everyone it chooses to - no matter race, creed, financial status. It must be stopped. So, I walk... gladly and proudly.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

These Are a Few of my Favorite Things

Ahhhh... bean. Fresh, steaming, deep dark bean. I can't live without it. The whole texture of the day rides on my first sip. Once the final gurgle hisses from the coffee maker, I know my life is about to get better. I'm never wrong.

I was watching some forgettable foody show the other day and this guy took a bite out of something (don't remember what anymore), sighed and said, "That kind of cures everything." It got me thinking about the simple things in my life that have a way of "making it all better."

Here are a few:

  • the sound of rain spattering against the windows
  • the scent of freshly mowed grass
  • a good hug - not one of those cheapo Hollywood hugs where you barely touch shoulders and pat someone on the back; I'm talking about the kind where I get enfolded and everything else in the world slips away
  • Midnight curled up by my side, purring like a John Deere tractor, while I read some wonderful bit of literature
  • the scent of cinnamon
  • any tune that's so rich it makes me stop everything and listen... then go back and listen again
  • words... words that have real meaning, that have bite and substance
  • the sound of genuine laughter
  • birdsong at o'dark thirty, when the rest of the world is still asleep
  • that first sip from a glass of good red, as it rolls across the tongue, the acid grapeness demanding full attention... oy, it's like being seduced by a total stranger
  • fireflies
There's a lot more, to be sure, but you get the idea. Take a minute to stop and ponder... what cures everything for you?

I simply remember my favorite things,
and then I don't feel so bad
~The Sound of Music

Friday, March 14, 2008

This Is Not A Test...

Yesterday as I was listening to the radio on the way to work, I heard a notion that really struck a chord in me. There I was, cruising down the road, listening to (shameless plug for the folks who have unknowlingly been part of my daily life for years now) KMTT, 103.7 on my FM dial. Remember when there used to be dials? Anyway, between songs they were talking about standardized testing (it's that time of year) for students. I'm opposed to them, always have been. I don't think they prove a thing. I'm a prime example - as smart as I am, I never did well on those things. At one point, a 15 year old girl called in to comment. Marty, the DJ, asked how she was faring on the tests. Her reply, "Okay, but I'm a creative person, and I don't like doing things that have only one answer."

"Comrade!" I hollered in astonishment. Never have I understood myself so well in a single sentence. The fact that it came from a 15 year old made it doubly profound. Sure, she's being home-schooled, which means she's probably allowed more independent thinking and critical thought than the average high school drone (which means there may be a modicum of hope for the future). But still.

Marty went on to say that girls seem to have some kind of stigma about math, or being perceived as being good at math. Really? I guess I've never thought about that, or even noticed it. I've always been good at math and I've always loved it. I've never even considered trying to squelch my latent inner-geek. I know, that flies in the face of not liking things with only one answer. But for me, math is all about the puzzling out of things, and there are infinite ways to arrive at the solution to most puzzles. Therein lies the creativity in math. Besides, it's an essential skill for people like me who do creative things that require measuring - cooking, quilting, card making. I used to work in a fabric store, and I was always the egghead who got called upon when someone couldn't figure out how much yardage they needed. "Ok, so she's going to need enough for 52 3X3 inch squares and a 4 inch border strip... how much..." And I'd rattle off an answer. To me it seemed simple. Obvious even. I guess I'm an odd balance of right brain / left brain principles.

"I don't like doing things that have only one answer." I love that. It really captures the spirit of the creative mind. It's what takes some of us off the beaten path and down into hollows that no one else has seen before. It, at least partially, answers the questions I get asked so often. "How do you do that? How do you come up with this stuff?" It requires a hefty helping of non-linear thinking. In short, it requires having a childlike mind that says, "What if... what if the sky were lime green?" And then suddenly horses are pink and grazing amid upside-down blue trees and... and somebody's asking you, "How did you come up with that?" Now I can shrug and say, "Guess I just wanted a different answer."

"We are all of us in the gutter,
but some of us are looking at the stars."
~Pretenders, Message of Love

PS Hey Marty, if you're reading this... rock on, Dude! By the way, (apropos of a comment you made last week) this 46 year old gypsy girl most definitely likes good guitar riffs and plays some wicked air guitar.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Court Jester Wins

Was there ever a fairy tale in which, after being presented all of the rich, handsome and available princes in the land, the king's daughter chooses the court jester? I don't recall one. Had there been such a story, I would have identified with it. Nothing will snap-focus my attention faster than a guy with a sense of humor. The more irreverent, the better. Humor is at the top of my mental "laundry list" of what I look for in a guy. I'll take the ability to generate belly-hugging, tear-squeezing, breath-robbing laughter any day over the ability to induce a long, slow screaming orgasm. But, hey... hit both points, and you've knocked it out of the park, buddy. (I am a Scorpio, after all.)

She was starin' through the doorframe
Eyeing me down like already a bad boyfriend
Well she can get her toys outta the drawer then
Cause I ain't comin' home
I don't need that attention, see
~Jason Mraz, Geek in the Pink

I pondered my penchant for humor and humorous men while I was out walking yesterday, having found myself grinning foolishly, as I often do, over Jason Mraz's tune, Geek in the Pink (great walkin' tune!). I've realized why it is that I tend to swerve sharply in that direction. I used to think I was just in it for the cheap entertainment. True dat, true dat, but wait, there's more... People with a well developed sense of humor run deep, because humor is the light that rages against the dark. Those people have seen the harshness in life, have stood in front of it, and have taken a piss on it. (Anyone who's been able to do that gets admiration points on the Barb-O-Meter.) They also have an innate sense of what will trigger various emotions and sensibilities in others (and the meter rises like a teen boy looking through a Victoria's Secret catalog). They tend to be self-confident and not care a whole lot about what others will think of their thought process (and the meter pulses and takes on a life of its own). Plus, really good humor, and the ability to use it, comes with inherent intelligence (and the meter blows out in an oh-my-god gush).

Hey baby look at me go
From zero to hero
You better take it from a geek like me
Well, I can save you from unoriginal dum-dums
Who wouldn't care if you com...
plete them or not

~Jason Mraz, Geek in the Pink

So, yeah... if this were a twelve-step program, I'd have no choice but to say, "Hi, I'm Barb. I'm a humor ho." But it's not, so I proudly don the figurative fishnets and go trollin' for guys who make me laugh until I can't breathe anymore. Trust me on this one - once I'm there, I'm a sure thing.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tonto Wears Spurs?

Alright, already! I got chastized by Tonto this morning for being "absent." (She gets up way too early!) So, now I can simply be noted as being very late. Sorry, Miss. My cat ate my homework.

It's Springtime and love is in the air. Yesterday there was a pair of ducks outside my office window. (A paradox resides within, banging impatiently on my conundrum. *chortle* I just made that up... that's good right there... I don't care who you are...) We named the ducks George and Gracie and told them to stay the hell away from the Teriyaki joint. I think my cat is in love with a resident squirrel - she doesn't chase it, she just goes outside and wiggles at it, then comes back inside and acts all fidgity and restless (sounds awfully familiar). Love... the deep dive into a star smattered sea of indigo... (*winks at Tonto*)
So, let go, so let go
Jump in
Oh well, what you waiting for?
It's alright
'Cause there's beauty in the breakdown
So, let go, yeah let go
Just get in
Oh, it's so amazing here
It's all right
'Cause there's beauty in the breakdown

~Frou Frou, The Breakdown

Life is beautiful - even with it's faults, inconsistencies, and dark paths, life is just beautiful. I feel good and I'm happy. Had someone told me a year ago that I'd feel the way I do today, I'd have thought they were nuts. But...

A paradox resides within, banging impatiently on my conundrum. That's my story. I'm stickin' to it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I tell ya, the time change has my circadian rhythm all shot to hell. I'm not a good sleeper anyway, but this is ridiculous. I don't like waking up and feeling like I need a nap.

I went walking in the rain yesterday afternoon. I loved it. Really, I did! It was beautiful and peaceful. Besides that, it smells so doggone good around here when it rains. Everything is lush and verdant and hollering, "Life!"

As I walked, I thought about the men in my life. I thought about unconditional love. I love easily; I give freely. I thought about how few people (especially the men I love) truly understand it, truly understand that it's what I'm all about. It's about loving a person enough to allow them to stay or leave; it's about allowing another to be exactly who they need to be, even if that comes with a goodbye. It doesn't come with expectations and requirements. Because of that, unconditional love doesn't care if it's unrequited. It is what it is; it's just there. It's about open hearts and doors. It's about embracing the tough stuff while remembering the laughter, and judging neither. It's not about a blending and blurring of the boundaries of a soul; it's about individuality.
for your smile is a prayer that prays for love
and your heart is a kite that longs to fly
allelujah here I am
let’s cut the strings tonight

~Fairground Attraction, Allelujuah

I've always had trouble with people referring to their mates as "my better half." Does being in a relationship, being in love, turn us into 50% of something? What a sad notion. That means when the other is gone, we are only half of something that is no longer? This is why I maintain that each person needs to bring 100% to the table. Do you invite someone over and just serve bread for dinner? No, you make an entree, a salad, a vegetable, a starch. You present something that's entirely in balance. There is no loving another without self love. Because, by my very definition of unconditional love, I have to give my self the freedom to be exactly who I am.

While I wholly believe in telling people that I love them, I often find that declaring such sends them running for the hills. It vexes me. My love isn't meant to frighten, or to scare people off. How can that be? It isn't meant to make them feel as if they owe me something for being loved. It just is. To know that we are loved should feel as unequivocally good as walking in a soft Spring rain. Let it be.

I walked alone in the rain,
laughing as
each drop
hit my face -
a kiss from you,
and before long
I was dancing
to an unnamed tune -
spinning, whirling
to music I hear
only in your embrace.
The non-dancers
smile wistfully at me,
as I pass them -
spattering life on their cuffs,
and wish they knew your song.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Everything's Eventual

Rockville, Maryland: 10 March 1998...

It was a day as ordinary as any other. I woke up, put on the bean and prepared to take the subway to my job at The Catholic University of America in Washington DC. Although my ex bowl of oatmeal and I had been separated for months, we were still sharing the same apartment. It was a strange, but mostly peaceful coexistence.

I put in my usual morning at work, dealing with students, schedules, paper shuffling, PhDs who weren't intelligent enough to un-jam a copy machine. CUA had leaped (kicking and screaming) into the computer age just a month before and we finally had my favorite Al Gore invention - yup - the internet. All of us were learning about it, learning how to use it, and my supervisor said, "I don't care if you play or what you do, just learn what to do with it!" So, I'd spend my down time surfing. One of the places I'd managed to find was a chat room called "The Reading Room." People would wander in to talk about books (sometimes), or just shoot the shit.

I was doing the latter with 3 friends of mine online when this "mug" stumbled into the room. "I'm looking for information on James Hilton, the author of Lost Horizon," he typed. We assumed he was some high school kid wanting us to do his homework for him - it had happened before. So, we gave him shit, "Hey kid... that's what libraries are for! Go do your own homework." "I'm not a kid. I'm doing research." "Yeah yeah..." and we went back to our chatter and the mug went silent for a while. A few minutes later he chimed in again, "Oh, I see. So this is just a bored Hausfrau's club!"

In an instant I was pissed off and laughing at the same time. How dare he?! So I threw an IM at him and said, "Hey, wait just a minute! Don't make presumptions about me. You don't know me!" "Then talk to me," he wrote back. We began an email discourse that quickly turned into volumes. In his first email he told me he had a "No Bullshit Policy," and asked that we agree upon truth for truth's sake. I'd never met anyone so forthright. He told me right away that he was living in Northern California, was a paraplegic, that he could be an asshole, and that he could cook up some killer spaghetti sauce. I, in turn, told him that I was an emotional wench, but that I could laugh as easily as I could cry, had recently separated, and was living just outside of Washington, DC. Our correspondence had bittersweet elements to it and was always rife with humor.

A couple of weeks (maybe) later, that correspondence turned into hours long phone conversations that quickly became a financial millstone. The guy pulled at my mind and tugged at my heart like no one else ever had. He was strong and independent, yet he spoke with such tender love about the people he cared for, about natural beauty, and art. His was an amazing intellect - one that could absorb and retain facts like a sponge, and yet he had a creative side that was breathtaking. When life's adversities threw new challenges his way, he met them with fierce courage, determination, and a fair bit of MacGuyver-like ingenuity. On top of all of that was a sense of humor that was a non-stop, over the top, riot of laughter.

It wasn't long at all (a mere two months) before I was absolutely, without a doubt, certain that I had to meet this amazing man face to face. As I put it in an early email to him, "I'd like to share an endless pot of coffee with you, and really find out who you are. You intrigue me like no one else ever has." I had to meet him, whatever the outcome. So, with a couple of suitcases and my faithful sewing machine in tow, I hopped on a Greyhound bus, and for four endless days, made my way across the country to meet the person who was to be my spiritual other, John.

You never know what can happen on an ordinary day. Everything's eventual. Ten years ago a door opened in my life and a journey began. As it turns out, there's no such thing as an endless pot of coffee. The cruel to be kind Universe only gave us nine years together, but I'm a better person for those nine years, and for the lessons I've learned since.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

~Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet 43

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Lifetime of Inches

That's a picture of Cindy and Bill Simon, parents of Jonathan and Ben, for whom I was a nanny from 1987-1995. That being said, I never felt like an employee, as they almost immediately made me an honorary member of their family. There is much I could say about them as a family unit and all that they taught me about unconditional love. There is so much that I can't articulate it; can't find words to make it flow. So, I'll just leave it at this: they were profound in my life, and still are.

Cindy became a dear friend to me. She was so easy to talk to and had such good insight. Her calm, patient manner was an anchoring influence on my chaotic emotional existence. I wrote the following after a conversation with her in Novermber 1988, not long after that picture was taken. I'd been out walking (oh, that delicious metallic taste of irony), and my spirit was still decidedly rumpled when I returned home.
Conversation Upon Returning Home

there must be a rainbow
out there
you said
as the gods began to weep
(really, it did happen
that way)
I mused (amused),
what a fine metaphor
you just used
to respond
to my unspoken thoughts

if you look to the South,
I said,
you can see this brilliant

speck of blue
just beyond the clouds...

I guess you just have to
be standing
in the right place,
you said

without a clue, you did it again

The above picture is one that I can't look at without tears. When it was taken, none of us had a clue that Cindy only had five years left to live. Looking at that picture, who would think such a thing ? She's healthy and happy; her smile could light up a room. And yet. A year and a half after that picture was taken, Cindy was diagnosed with breast cancer. A little more than five years after that picture was taken, the flame sputtered and the smile that lit the room was no more.

Cindy died from breast cancer on December 7, 1993. It's a weight that has never left my heart. While I'm walking in honor of several people, it's Cindy that is the impetus. She is the cornerstone to my resolution. A couple of months ago I talked to Jonathan on the phone (who was 13 when Cindy died and is now nearly 28). During the course of our conversation he said, "I wish I could sit and talk to her as an adult. She was always one of my best friends. Of course, she'd probably give me shit for dating shiksas...." And I had to smile as I wiped away tears. Jonathan is so much his mother's son; so like her in many ways.

For you, Cindy... 60 miles ain't nothing in a lifetime of inches.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Two Step Shuffle

How can I turn away
Brother/sister go dancing
Through my head
Human as to human
The future is no place
To place your better days
~Dave Matthews, Cry Freedom

I had a great walk today. It turned into such a pretty day. It's kind of funny... at last count I had 934 songs on my iPod, and I keep it on random shuffle when I walk. However, it seems that there are about 10 of them that keep cycling around just when I need them. Sometimes it's just the beat I need to keep me moving; sometimes the lyrics will haul me along; sometimes a combination of both. Songs like Where the River Flows by Collective Soul is one of them. I tend to like their stuff anyway, but that one in particular gets my attention. Another is Black Horse & The Cherry Tree by KT Tunstall - if that doesn't get you movin' down the road, you're probably braindead. Higher by Creed always inspires me. Then there's Marc Broussard's Home.... whew... can a white boy really have that much soul?! Nickelcreek's Smoothie Song... Dave Matthew's Drive In Drive Out...David Gilmour's All Lovers Are Deranged... Keb' Mo' singing More Than One Way Home.

So many. So much good music. Just a few examples of what helps me keep moving. But the one that always seems to come on, and the irony here is that it's sort of the theme song for the 3-day is World, by Five for Fighting. Forget walking - I could practically fly when I hear that one...

What kind of world do you want?
Think Anything
Let's start at the start
Build a masterpiece
Be careful what you wish for
History starts now

Friday, March 7, 2008

*Insert Clever Topic Here*

Friday! It's about time. (Heh... pun intended.)

It's been a long, ugly work week and I'm ready for some good old-fashioned R&R. Why, I'm all but lame from the dingo bites on my legs.

Spring has made its way to my neck of the woods. The cherry trees are blooming, the forsythias have popped open and I even have one solitary dandelion in my backyard. Also returning are the spiders. It's a sign that milder days are here to stay. I suddenly have a whole host of interlopers parading through my house. They don't bother me, really. I'm not one of those gals who squeals and screams, "Eek! A spider!! Someone big and strong come and kill it for me!" In fact, most of the time I don't even mess with them.... just say "Hey Charlotte," and keep about my business.

Here's a small video of me laughing my butt off while talking online with my pal Tonto. This happens often when we talk. It's worse when we actually get together... albuterol and oxygen tanks are required.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Takin' It In Stride

Yesterday afternoon was flat out gorgeous here in the Pacific Northwest. High sun, 55 degrees... what more could a gypsy ask for? Nada. I zipped home from work, laced up and hit the road... one foot at a time. I found a new walking route that took me down along the lake, back up through Forbes Creek, and around into my neighborhood. As near as I can approximate it's just about 4 miles. I even found a secret path out onto a hill and watched the sun sink lower as it turned the sky creamsicle orange. I'll have to toss the camera into my pack one of these days soon.

Today is supposed to be even gorgeous-er. Yup, trust me, I've got the iPod recharging. With any luck, the work day will fly by.

I'm starting to get my stride back. It's a little bit altered from the old stride, but it's getting stronger. All the surgery on my left leg rendered it, and about 3/4 of my foot, completely numb from mid-calf down, so I have to kind of swing my leg around and just have faith that my foot is going to land in such a way to catch me. It's a gimpy old horse, but it's mine and it gets me down the road just fine. Besides, it makes my feet slap down a funky shufflin' beat.... shoop pah shoop pah.

I'm learning to Zen my way up the big hills. Everything is uphill here! Both ways! The first few times I'd give myself goals... just make it to the lamp post... just make it to the fire hydrant. Now, I just march and let my head go elsewhere, often in thought of the people I'm walking in honor of. Walking uphill is nothing.

Anyway, that's my marching story for the day. I'm loving this though - loving the passion and commitment it takes, loving the feeling of doing something positive after so many years of apathy.
Move yourself
You always live your life
Never thinking of the future
Prove yourself
You are the move you make
Take your chances win or loser

See yourself
You are the steps you take
You and you - and thats the only way

Shake - shake yourself
You're every move you make
So the story goes

~Yes, Owner of a Lonely Heart

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wholly Mary

Yesterday one person stepped forward with a topic idea. My nephew Jason (Nancy's boy) emailed me and said, "I like when you talk about the family, always seem to learn something new. And yeah, I do read it, almost every day." It floored me because I didn't even know for sure that he had the url to this site. Yeah, yeah, I sent it to all 4.6 million people on my email address list, but who reads emails anymore?! Anyway, his simple comment touched me. Love ya Jas, and... as you wish.

The above picture is my nephew, Homer (Tom's son) and his mom, Mary. Homer has been part of my life since he was born when I was 15 years old. He was the sweetest, funniest little boy - one of those kids that was so easy to have around, you could forget there was a kid around. He's grown into a fine man - served his country as a Marine, has a beautiful wife and two fantastic children. Proud Auntie? Hell yes, you betchya.

I don't get the credit though (maybe a soup├žon). That pretty solidlly goes to Mary. I liked her from the minute my brother brought her home. She was covered in dirt and grass because they'd had to leap from the car into a ditch due to a tornado that chaperoned them on their first date. I'm sure she was a bit rattled, but if she was, it didn't show through her laid back style and sense of humor (oh, c'mon... you know a sense of humor was going to be part of my admiration!). Mary was there for me through some troubled teen times - I could talk to her and she wouldn't try to shush me or sweep the problem under a carpet like so many other adults in my life. She called me Burb.

I fell out of touch with Mary (and for a time with Homer) shortly after she and my brother divorced in the mid-80's, but I never forgot the friendship. Clearly, in that missing time, Mary did an astounding job raising Homer through his teen years. By the time opportunity provided for me to meet up with Homer again, he was already a young man in the Marine Corps. At some point during that time, I had a dream that I'd met up with Mary. In my dream, we met in a crowd, just looked at each other, and I said, "Sure is good to see you again." She replied, "It is." And we hugged. Speed forward in time (which is pretty much what happens anyway) to Homer's wedding (see above pic), and the first time I'd seen Mary in... oh... 20 years? We caught each other's eye as we moved through the crowd, and as I reached to clasp her hand, my exact words (without giving it a thought), were, "Sure is good to see you again." You know it. She said, "It is." And we hugged.

Mary was already fighting breast cancer then. It was the last time I got to see her. Mary died last summer at 52 years old. She barely got the chance to know her granddaughter, Madison, and never got to meet her grandson, Marshall. Homer tells me that almost every day, he finds himself reaching for the phone to call her and tell her about something funny the kids have done. No surprise that Homer and I have had lots of conversation about cancer and loss - both of us having faced it at the same time. We've spent hours crying, laughing and cussing online. I'm glad I could be there for him in some small way.

But I'm not his Mother. There's no substitute for that. There's no balm that makes that wound any easier for him to bear. Nothing I can say will heal that ache when he reaches for the phone, just wanting to say, "Hey Mom... guess what your granddaughter did just now...?"
Last year Homer did the Race for the Cure run in Florida, in honor of his Mom. I had a dog tag engraved with her stats for him to wear while he ran. He was kind enough to accept and wear a second tag with the stats of my friends, Cindy Simon and Roxan Wynn.

This year, it's my turn to wear the tags. I proudly walk for Mary Johnson, for Homer and his family. Consider this: breast cancer tends to run in families. By donating today, you may very well be part of someday saving the life of that adorable little girl in the picture above.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Deus ex Machina

Procrastination: To drags one's ass in such a way as to ensure one's place in life as a loser.

I'm such a good procrastinator. I'm a champion. I was born procrastinating (two weeks late). Without deadlines, I'm a totally wasted case - this is where the free spirit that everyone so loves becomes a barnacle, rather than an amorphous play-pretty. So here I am yawning and scratching and wondering what to write, and I've got 1/2 an hour to "git 'er done."

What's on your minds today? You never say... you just leave me here alone in the dark with no one to change the lightbulb. I've asked you for topics and yet, you just sit there, staring numbly at the computer screen, waiting for the oracle to hie you home. Rattle my cage, dammit! It's no less than I've given you. Ain't no output without input, savvy?

In other news: my blister is all healed up; I got my info packet from; got all my fundraising letters sent out; I've already raised $390 toward my goal - c'mon folks,
give 'til it hurts! I'll be walking until it does... well beyond that really. And none of that compares to the pain of those who live with breast cancer, and those who lose to breast cancer.

Swear to all the gods... if I have to nurse one more person through the final stages of cancer, any cancer, and the tragedy is that I most likely will. If I do, I'm going to start grabbing people by the nostrils (hell, I'm ready now). Wake the fuck UP! This is an absolutely ugly, nasty way to die, and it's no way to live either. Make it stop. Give up your lattes for a month and keep me walking. Because you all know me... I will walk until I drop dead if it would make a difference.

If I don't see $1000 on my goal meter by tomorrow, I'm going to post a description of exactly what it takes, physically and emotionally, to nurse someone through the final stages of cancer. I've done it three times now, so I'll have plenty of ammo. You don't want me to go there.

And I thought I had nothing to say today. See what happens when you get me riled?

Monday, March 3, 2008

First Pitch of the Season

Today my baby brother is 44 years old. Happy Birthday, John! It seems like just yesterday we were tearing around the old neighborhood together. Some strange time warp dealie has tossed us 35 years into the future. Crazy.

Yesterday I launched the official fundraising letter for my Big Walk (which many of you have already received/seen), but here it is again. Within 1/2 an hour of emailing it, I already had two very generous donations - I actually had one within about 2 minutes! I can't tell you how excited I am to be doing this. Yes, it's a tremendous undertaking, but I can do it.

"Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right."
~Henry Ford
So, for any Black Ink Pad readers who aren't on my mailing list:

Dear Friends and Family,

I have taken on an incredible challenge. This year, I'll be participating in a very special event called the Breast Cancer 3-Day. Beginning September 12, 2008 I’ll be walking 60 miles over the course of three days, with thousands of other women and men. It’s for an event called the Breast Cancer 3-Day, which benefits Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the National Philanthropic Trust Breast Cancer Fund. The net proceeds will support breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment through Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the National Philanthropic Trust Breast Cancer Fund. They are working hard to build a future without breast cancer.

I've agreed to raise at least $2,200 in donations. I know I can raise even more than that, and have set my personal goal at $2,500. So I need your help. Please consider making a donation of $50.00. If you can’t give this amount all at once, you can spread it out over four months, using the payment plan option.

Keep in mind how far I'm walking - and how hard I'll have to train. You can donate online at Just click on Donate Now and search for my personal fundraising page (Barb Black, walker id #1766328). You can also call 800.996.3DAY to donate over the phone.

In the past 15 years, I have lost three dear friends to breast cancer, and know three more who are currently battling this horrible disease. So, this is a cause that is very dear to my heart. Without a cure, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer - there is not a single life that will go untouched by this illness - these woman are mothers, aunts, cousins, sisters, wives, friends. So, your support is vital. Please join me in walking for the cure by donating today. Because, as stated: Everyone deserves a lifetime. That’s why I’m walking so far. To do something bold about breast cancer. I hope that you'll share this great adventure with me by supporting me in my fundraising efforts.

Please also help me by forwarding this email to anyone that you think might want to help - friends, family, coworkers. Every bit counts. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and thank you in advance for your support and generosity!


PS You can visit my personal page at the website by going to the following link:

For more information about the Breast Cancer 3-Day, Susan G. Komen for the Cure or the National Philanthropic Trust Breast Cancer Fund, visit our or call 800.996.3DAY.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Measure Your Life in Love

There are days when someone else says it better than I can say it myself. What follows is a song that has stirred me from the beginning measure, when I first heard it back in 1996, and it still has the exact same power over me. It's one of those songs that, every time I hear it, I think, "Someone out there gets it. Someone knows my exact shoe size."

Listen to it twice. At least.

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear
525,600 minutes - how do you measure,
measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets,
in midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter,
in strife.
In 525,600 minutes -
how do you measure a year in the life?
How about love?
How about love?
How about love? Measure in love.
Seasons of love.

525,600 minutes...
525,000 journeys to plan.
525,600 minutes -
how can you measure the life of a woman or man?

In truths that she learned,
or in times that he cried.
In bridges he burned,
or the way that she died.

It’s time now to sing out,
though the story never ends
let's celebrate, remember
a year in the life of friends.
Remember the love!
Remember the love!
Remember the love! Measure in love.
Seasons of love... Seasons of love.

~RENT, Seasons of Love

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Don't Shoot Me, I'm Just the MESSenger

Welcome to March!

Terri, Kris, and Kristyn made it here in good time and in one piece - rubber side down, all the way. Glad to have 'em here. It's fun seeing their faces and sharing some good ol' Johnson banter. Trust me, you ain't lived 'til you've been steeped in that stuff for a few hours.

Ah, but wait, that's not all!

...drum roll please...

This is my 100th blog posting! WoooHOOO... tequila shots all around. Truly, it's been my great pleasure to post all these Bits o' Barb. I'm still fairly astounded that you guys show up to read. Thanks for your patience and indulgence while I bare my soul, search the damned thing (and some would say it's damned, but I'll have good company in Hell), and expound on what I find in those dizzying, spelunking dives inward. I know that in the past 100 scribbles, I have, by turns, offended, amused, enthralled, provoked, evoked, placated, riled, tantalized, and probably even bored (I hope not too often).

What started as an attempt to flex some long atrophied writing muscle, has (clearly) become something of a passion for me. I love it. I love the outlet that The Black Ink Pad provides. I love that it makes me think, makes me write (sometimes for writing's sake alone, as I often don't have a clue what I'm going to scribble here until it comes out), makes me reason through things, makes me research. It's been very healing for me to come here. Much more than I can say. It's way better than simply keeping a diary, because of the feedback I get. It's always startling when someone throws my words back at me. "Shit, you actually read that?!"

It's been a helluva ride this past year. You've all, in your own beautifully individual ways, made it infinitely more bearable. I thank you. If I'm a Gypsy, y'all are the campfires; the warm glow that flickers and dances in the dark, as I stare and ponder the mysteries of this fantastic life, this amazing Universe. Really... Thank You X 100... and then sum. (I couldn't resist, sorry.)
he wants to write something down
he wants to sing a song
or paint something
lie down and fade away
or get up and get away
to the beat of the marching feet
in the heat of the prison heat...

all my life
where there`s white
I have words
so I write
what I hear
perfect white
with no words
it is thin
but it`s clear
it is thin but it's clear

~Jane Siberry, Seven Steps to the Wall