Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Roots and Wings

The lovely Cherry Pie has requested 5 facts, mundane or profane, about me for the benefit of who knows who. Who could refuse such a request? So here's a peek at my upbringing and family:

1. My father was Italian American and made it to fourth grade. He owned his own business as a bricklayer and mason, with unlimited pride in the permanence of his work. He could fix, build, make, configure, assemble, and disassemble just about anything.

2. My mother is French Canadian and made it to sixth grade. She worked as a cashier at a local supermarket until she got her big job as Head Seamstress at a state school. To this day, even though she has about zero working memory, she is a bright and vibrant woman.

3. My father picked up junk cars, rebuilt engines, and gave me at least a half dozen of his reconditioned junk masterpieces. The first was an Austin (before Healy) that had little lit arms extending as directionals. He specialized in Ford Falcons and Comets. But the very best was a little yellow Metropolitan, with a bench for a back seat and a zip I cherished. Despite his generosity, I was only allowed to drive within a certain radius, predetermined by my father.

4. My godmother Marie turned 90 last weekend. Her friend Dennis picked her and her assumed lesbian partner of 30 years up in a rented limosine and they drove 75 miles to Providence, where they had all-you-can-eat lobster at a local buffet.

5. For four months I helped my father die at home. Until the hours before his body started shutting down, he got up every day, put on his plaid flannel shirt and work pants, and sat in the same chair with an intravenous hookup and a spartan dose of tynenol every four hours dispensed by my mother. When he died, I felt a distinct strong and fresh breeze cross from him and his bed to the open window.

Joey's Story--Part 3

Joe Part 3

Here's the last part, at least until I one day sit down with Joe and pick up from here. He and I usually talk a couple of times a month. He still calls me his sister.......

Joe Part 3

While Bessie and a partial box of donuts lay calcifying across the street, Joey was spending his first 60 minutes as an orphan, and first time ever in his life, on the 8th floor of psychiatric ward in the hospital where he had worked for 35 years. He was calm as long as he had a listener, but that was not to be this Labor Day weekend. From the first moment of his admission, he ran his fingers through his thick black Italian hair, repeating what was to become a familiar lament for the next several years. “How could my mother leave me like this?”, he cried, “I’m a good guy. My mother told me not to worry about this”. And again and again, “I’m a good guy. How could this happen to me?”

That first night I asked the nursing staff to arrange for me to speak with the Psychiatrist on call. Joe and I practiced his ability to moan alone for up to five minutes. He was in full panic mode after two minutes, but he did try. I told the weekend crew that Joey would be okay as long as someone checked with him every five minutes or so. That never happened, nor did the doc call me back. I tracked him down at 7:30 am the next morning, calling three times in 30 minutes until he reluctantly came to the phone. I could tell immediately he was pretty useless, complicated further by the fact that he didn’t care a hoot. I asked him about the holiday weekend schedule—any individual therapy, any groups, any social worker, any recreation. His answers were impressively clear: no, no, no, no.

It was an eventual weekend. Joe paced and cried, cashed in dollar bills for dimes to make phone call after phonecall. He resisted when an aide told him no more calls, and he screamed for his parents when someone else told him he had to stay in his assigned room—alone. Sometime between that decision and my arrival, Joe was placed in four point restraints, and sometime inbetween the 20 minutes he was stretched out like a crucifix, his arm broke
In two pieces. For the record, broken bones are distinctly against all restraint protocols, and when followed by the news that Joe was a 35 year beloved employee of this same hospital, the direct care staff, the psychiatrist, the Orthopedic Surgeon, and the Vice President of Hospital Affairs all phoned me quickly and politely. It was at that moment in time that I officially became Joe’s Case Manager.

I can do case management. If a service is needed, a resource uncovered, or a plan developed, I’m your person. I do this across the United States for folks, and I like to say it’s about the three c’s: competence, caring and creativity. I try to bring out the best in treatment teams and family members and unsympathic employers and individuals for some reason down on their luck. So it was not much of a surprise when 45 minutes after Aunt Theresa’s bash for Bessie, she, Mary Jayne and I faced a social worker who quickly got to the point of saying that Joe would be discharged the following day and it was of course the family’s responsibility to make whatever arrangements he required. She provided no information and even less sympathy. Because I always prefer back doors, just in case, I had searched out a few psychiatric residential programs,already, and I had arranged for Joe to be evaluated by one of the better ones. It took some doing, but Joe would remain on in the psychiatric ward for another two days, until he could be transferred.

The transfer to Wild Acres took place with Joe’s arm in a thick cast and his face deepened with black potholes under both eyes. I picked him up, drove him to the residential house in Lexington, and met with the Director and all staff. I feel the need to mention, at this point, that I was able to do all this only because I was in the middle of the first time off from my own work and business in my adult life: I was giving myself three months to write the book on Happiness. I was staying at our little sanctuary in Provincetown—writing every morning and every late afternoon, and in between walking the bay and chuckling over my good fortune.

I was glad to help Joe get settled. I figured I would be needed here and there for about 3 months and my volunteer gig would come to a noble close.

That’s not the way it’s turned out. Soon after Joe began wailing and flailing at Wild Acres, his cousin Mary Jayne set up a trust for him and asked if I would serve as one of three Trustees—the other two being herself and Aunt Theresa. Bessie misled Joe = by telling him she would be around forever, and she may have checked out so suddenly that whatever coping devices he may have had went haywire, but she and Frank had saved for his welfare. There was ample money—enough to arrange for an appropriate lifestyle. The kicker from Mary Jayne was that she had selected three beneficiaries to serve as additional motivation to assure the money was well managed. One of the three was my 22 year old daughter Jessica. Mary Jayne was very clever: the potential of Jess benefiting from my good intentions was sweetly satisfying. I was in for the long haul. And long haul it is.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Six Words

My friend Ces is always coming up with new ways to shake things up. The latest, in her words, is to " write your own bio using three points each consisting of only six words". She got this idea from two interesting writers, Shron and Caroline. Since I don't know how to set up links (help!), you can take this opportunity to visit Ces and her Dishes. You will be serenaded by Ces' incredible paintings and, shall we say, one-of-a-kind take on life and love.

So here's my biography in 3 parts, 6 words.

1. Jess' Mother, JB's Partner, Rose's Daughter

2. A fun steady deep talking friend

3. Steward hoping the world will relax

Joey--Part 2

This is part 2 of Joe's story. There are 3 parts in all.

Aunt Theresa threw quite a bash for Bessie’s funeral. As I later learned, her style was to do things with fanfare and class. She rented a huge ballroom at a hotel in Waltham and there we all sat, 8 to a table, with full access to a buffet line that included mounds of shrimp on ice, two hot entrees, assorted cheeses and meats, and tropical fruit cut and sliced in brilliant colors that overlooked the fact that this was about Bessie’s untimely death.

I’ve never absorbed the details, although she’s told me more than once, but Aunt Theresa starting losing her sight when she was in thirties. She had 3 sons and a son-of-bitch husband at the time, but by the time she could no longer see anything but the faintest of light, she had transformed herself into a graduate student-soon-to-be-social worker. She was apparently quite a star in the world of rehabilitation, for which she is to this date quite proud and forever grateful.

We got to know eachother pretty well during the two years that Joey fell apart, moaned and rocked, and to everyone’s surprise, especially his, four or five years later found the missing pieces to life after mother. I never really liked Joey growing up, so I never expected to become a lifeline for him, and certainly not the imaginary sister he likes to call me—his clever way to let me know he expects and requires family like attention here and there. Back in those early days, and now, I have the skills to help him find programs and resources and people and possibilities, so even to this day he is my permanent volunteer client.

Which leads me back to Aunt Theresa. I like her, admire her, am in awe of how she manages her independence. She would like me to be a more available friend than I am, but I do try to be there for her in the big moments. Like the time a couple of years ago when, fresh out of rehab. for knee surgery, she phones me with a healthy cadence of terror and panic in her otherwise methodical voice.
“Help, Help”, she says. “There are little men all over my apartment. They are on the couch and at the foot of my bed. There are dozens of them. Help”.

“Theresa”, I say, “What do they look like?”
She hardly catches a breath. “They are small with top hots and big bowties. Red and blue and some are yellow. I need help”
“Theresa”, I say again. “I am going to drive over and I will talk to you on my cellphone while I drive. I am sure they will not hurt you, and I will be there in 15 minutes”.

Aunt Theresa is hallunicating. When I arrive, she is holding a fly swatter and moaning almost like Joey. “Oh my god” she says, “They are all over you. One is sitting in your lap.”

“Theresa, I will stay here tonight and keep them in the living room with me. This is probably because of your pain medication. We can go to the emergency room tonight and they will help you. But I’m sure these little guys are not harmful.”

That night, and the next, I stayed at Theresa’s until the little men with their vibrant colors faded and were gone. We laugh about this every once in a while. I have seen many people hallunciate, but this was something else, I think Theresa actually appreciated seeing the shapes and color as if she could rightly see.

Which brings me to an unrelated part of Joey’s story: my second albeit brief encounter with another sightless person. He was a friend of a friend of a friend and I met him at a piano bar in Washington DC, where I sat on a bar stool and there he was beside me. I know a pickup line when I hear one. At first I thought I would simply use my politeness skills to move away and on, but he couldn’t see the signals. Only words-direct words—would do. I am sure to this day that I told him I was not available because he was not my type, not because he was blind. I hurt his feelings and I admit I did and still do wonder how much of a risk he had taken, if at all, to put that hand on my knee.

Which brings me to another unrelated part of Joey’s story: my third, and lengthier friendship with Joanne, who was blind and by far the best magician, who could convince you she could see when she couldn’t. In restaurants, we would simply forget and she would finally say, “Guys, I’,m blind, remember. I can’t read the friggin menu.”
More than once Joanne told the story of growing up on a rural farm in Iowa and being sent to a school for the blind 100 miles away. “My parents would wave down a passing car and send me back to school with some stranger who was headed that way—can you believe it?” I couldn’t until I met Joanne’s mother, who said without a prompt at the dinner table, “Oh Joanne, we scraped our money to send you to that special school, but we could only afford the bus fare one way. We had to send you back with strangers.”

Joanne was married to Alan and together they lived comfortably in a Brookline condominium. Alan was a computer talent in the early days. He died just after he sold some rights to Nitendo. Before then, for several years Joanne and her little rug rat dog Bunnie would stop at the local corner drugstore to pick up essentials. She knew the pharmacist and cashiers as well as she knew the entire neighborhood. This was another story she told: “One day however, the owner walks up to me and says, “Joanne, I don’t want you to come in here any more.”
“Iwas floored. “What?” Why would you say that?”
I heard him sigh with a twinge of disgust. “Joanne, your goddamn dog is eating the candy bars”.

Joanne never went back to that Pharmacy, but not because the owner told her not to.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I'll be mostly out of the blogs this weekend. I'm taking the opportunity to post a true story about Joe. This is the first part of 3, so if it looks too long already to read, don't give it a thought and don't bother.


I was willing to do mostly anything but I did not want to see Bessie dead. I had already dealt with three deaths that year and that was plenty. That was 2 more than I had ever dealt with before in a twelve month period. I started thinking I was becoming an expert on how and when to die, which was a specialty that enriched me as a person, but not one that either held my interest or beckoned me from afar.

The night that Bessie died, Joey had reached his limit about four hours earlier. For the preceding six weeks he had moaned and paced through each laborious minute of each laborious day, muttering to himself and making one frantic phone call after another—sometimes more than a hundred a day. He had never been alone until Bessie found one morning that she was unable to walk the two blocks to the Star Market to buy her daily half gallon of milk. I never cared to learn the details, but she somehow ended up in front of a doctor who told her she had lung cancer and got her a hospital room that every day.

Until then, Joey would precisely leave for work at 5:00 each morning, precisely phone his mother at every break, and arrive home at just the precise moment when Bessie would open the door for him just as he reached the stoop and then hover over him with her rapid often intelligible speech until he went to bed at 7:30. Joey still slept in a twin bed, I was to later learn, and his room on the second floor of their dusty house displayed all the remnants of his childhood—a model plane, a grungy teddy bear, even a desk blotter with a calendar dated 1953.

Bessie and Joey, and Frank before he died, had lived on the little dead end lane next to my parents for probably 40 years. Maybe more. I never saw Joey when we were kids because he ventured out only with his parents, and even then, it was obvious he was always timid and tired. Long after I moved away from that little lane, several lifetimes later by my personal standards, my mother asked me to get involved because after a lifetime of precise hovering Bessie had stopped all communication with Joey the day she entered the hospital. The few times I saw her there, and later in the rehabilitation center across the street that was really a nursing home she would be lying in bed with her eyes closed and her mouth wide open, holding the phone receiver to her chest, off the hook so Joey could not call her 25 times in 35 minutes, which he did because he was too panicked to tolerate even a moment alone. He managed to work, and he drove his jeep back and forth to the hospital where he worked as a cleaner in the maternity ward, but he could not stay in that house alone.

My involvement really kicked in when my mother called me to say Joey was pacing up and down the lane in his pajamas, agitated because his cousin Marilyn who had come to visit from Florida had borrowed his car but would not stay with him overnight. Someone had called the police and when I arrived, Joey was sitting at his dusty dining room table, waxing poetic to the three policeman in the room. He was telling them about the events of a certain Tuesday at 1:00 pm on August 12, 1961 and about the date and time, with minute accuracy, when his parents were married, when he was born, when the city of Waltham was incorporated, when the great fire took place and exactly what his father had for dinner that night. The cops patiently listened with the intent, I supposed, of calming him down. They did not know or care that Joey could not tolerate being alone. When they left, he picked up the phone and dialed and dialed, moaning and hoping that he would not fall off the sidewalk and end up under the bridge, as he liked to say.

Joey was admitted to the psychiatric ward of the hospital where he worked approximately 15 minutes after Bessie died. His aunt Theresa, who is 75 and blind, and his cousin Mary Jayne, who is 63 and a businesswoman, left the emergency room to cross the street to the nursing home, while I stayed with Joey until he was admitted. He was wild. He paced and rocked and kept asking how this could have happened to him. I did my best to tell the weekend crew that Joey could not be left alone for more than a few minutes; but it was Labor Day weekend and nobody seemed to care too much.

I was glad to stay with Joey for awhile because as I said, I did not want to see Bessie dead. You can imagine my dismay when I arrived at her room almost an hour later and there she was frozen shut in her bed, her mouth open, her wild black hair jetting in every direction, her hook Italian nose looking just like the Wicked Witch of the West (or was it the east?) Aunt Theresa, Mary Jayne, cousin Danielle and a half full box of Dunkin Donuts surrounded her and her bed. It is my personal misfortune that I carry that vivid image of Bessie and the box of Dunin Donuts with me to this day.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Thursday 13: Half and Half

A few weeks ago, , I nixed the idea of writing 13 good things about myself. But here I am again, ever tenacious, this time thinking it will be just fine if I inject some balance by splitting the good and not-so-good right down the middle.

I'll start with the not-so-good in the hope of finishing strong:

1. I have no patience with moody people. This is because if I don't like you anyway, it's an extra irritant to put up with, and if I do like you, I will probably take it personally and think you're upset with me.

2. I can nag. I never start out that way. I try to respect your point of view in general, but I can get to thinking it might help if I restate how I see something, or explain my position in a different way, or ask you incredulous questions about why you think what you think or feel what you feel. I view this as an unfortunate character flaw...

3. I can be messy. I don't hang my clothes up right away, I spread out books and magazines and mail and folders every which way on the couch so I am surrounded by a virtual sea of papers, and I keep my car in a condition my father always affectionately called "Craphouse Deluxe".

4. I an be controlling. This is not the same as nagging. Controlling means that I benevolently try to pull things together or decide on the most desireable income. I'm at my happiest when I'm a non-working supervisor. I'm working hard on knowing the difference between stepping up and stepping back.

5. I can be obsessive (or is it compulsive?). I quit smoking and drinking now at least 15 years ago, I love the thrill and sound of the quarter and dollar slot machines, I prefer things to be orderly although that doesn't happen all that often, and I can get pretty passionate pretty quickly. When I'm not my enlightened zen-like self, I also can perseverate, worry, and overplan.

6. I'm the first one crying when my feelings get hurt, when animals are mistreated, or when true love doesn't work out.

Ok, now to the pretty good:

7. I try very hard to be kind. I don't hesitate to help anayone when I can lend a hand and I work extra hard to keep my ego in check.

8. I'm versatile. I'm a counselor, teacher, business consultant, case manager, project director, and writer. I can cook, landscape, listen, paint, parent, and persuade.

9. What I lack in smarts or thoughtfulness, I try to make up for in caring. If I'm on your side you can count on me for the long haul, and I'll do what I can to rectify a real or perceived wrong.

10. Six years ago I agreed to help a mentally challenged man named Joe after his parents died. It hasn't been a straight road but I've become a "trustee" in his life and I've promised him I will always be there to help him with his fears and finances .

11. I spontaneously make up songs that rhyme and sing them to jb first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and often during car rides. Most of them are about her, and most of them are pretty silly.

12. Give me a cup of coffee and I'm good to go. Early mornings I'm content to sit with my favorite orange mug in my favorite chair and read the paper before the day beckons. Or I stay up late into the night and brew a fresh cup while I read or write or think about life. And I love to drink coffee with a good friend while we talk about philosophy or share girl secrets.

and last: like the wide circle of life, my good points converge with my not-so-good:

13. I'm the first one crying when my feelings get hurt, when animals get mistreated, or when true love doesn't work out.........

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Heading Home

I'm thinking alot about home lately. Not just a house or physical structure, but the places where I feel safe, welcomed, supported, loved--simply, home. Recently the place and space of "home" has expanded for me. I have some old, and some precious new, wonderful people in my life who I proudly call my family and friends. It's as though because I'm receiving giving and carrying love I'm always heading home because of it.

I believe the fact that I'm writing more often and more sincerely has affected the deep connections I am feeling. Once a week, and on an occassional weekend, I am in a writing group run by among other things, songwriter Nerissa Nields. I did not know she was a songwriter and performer until after I had gotten to know her, so I began listening to the music of the Nields Sisters after-the-fact.

There is one song Nerissa wrote that carries me directly to the connections I feel everytime I hear it. I wish I had written it myself. I'm sharing the lyrics and not the music, which is unfortunate, but this pretty much sums up what I hope to give and get from the people I love and care about.

Heading Home

Will you walk with me down the lonesome highway
Though at times we’ll have nothing to say?
Will you come with me though I won’t know where I’m going?
Someone will show us the way.

Will you follow me through the rain and the snow
The way the wise men go, they seem to know
When we follow our star, it won’t matter where we are.
Oh, for love made long ago, I’m always heading home when
I’m on the road with you.

Will you say “I do” even when you think you don’t
And hope things can change in a day?
Will you say “I love you” even when these are just words
The way words sometimes are when you pray?

Will you see me when I get mad again
I’ll apologize again and again
For the one thing that is true is I’ll fall again for you
Oh, for love made long ago I’m always heading home when
I’m on the road with you.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ms.kj Does Italy.....

This is a sure cure for depression: look out an airplane window and be awed by the splendor of it all.

We stayed in the little village of Maiori on the Almalfi Coast. This is its pier. I barely know how to operate a camera so this beauty is the real deal.

JB dragged me shopping four days in a row. Given the bargains in leather and ceramics, I did buy a few things for myself, but I complained about 60% of the time. As an alternative, I begged her sit with me over a cup of cappuccino and watch the world go by. She obliged about 60% of the time.

Few washers or dryers in this part of the world.

Imagine having and taking the time every day to buy your fruit, vegtables, meat and fish. I was enthralled by the rhythm of daily life in Maiori.

JB does not allow me to post her picture on this blog, but who could resist this shot? Besides, you still couldn't spot her in a police lineup.

This is the view across the street from our hotel. The cliffs of Almalfi and the Mediterranean Sea are majestically everywhere you look.

I love storefronts. Always have. Always will.

I'm lying on the beach, feeling the warm sun, looking at this panorama, and can't believe my good fortune.

The Almalfi Coast consists of buildings, neighborhoods and communities, lemon groves, and thin winding roads ribboned around the coastline, way way high up. In one variation or another, it looks like this.

No doubt I'm headed back to Italy again one of these days. The food, folks and coastal beauty was awesome.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Internet Interloper

Introductory addendum, explanation, or whatever: Yesterday I wrote this on the plane from Milan to Boston. I thought it came out pretty funny, which was my intention. But it seems I may have hit a chord we all think about. But, as a favor to me, try to read this post lightly. I'd hate to have you visit and end up depressed for the day. ):

They'll track you down in your own backyard--
pirates who have stalked you from another continent,
following your weekend restaurants and family reunions.

They'll break in through the basement on Sunday night
and tie you to the bedpost while they open drawers
and carry your television into the rented van.

They'll use your credit cards,
cash your bank accounts,
and make a few smooth moves so your hairstyle is theirs.

All because you have posted your entire life on the internet.
Because your e-mails and blogs have found their way
to Mad Max in Memphis and a 68 year old trucker in Kalamazoo.

They'll open your refrigerator
and pull out the special mozarella
from the second shelf rear

And marvel at the Indian placemats with the Mexican colors.
Then pull the red rickety chair up to the little round table
Commenting, by the way, that your dining room looks exactly like you described it.

That will be bad enough.

But when they ask you to sit down and break bread--one friend to another--
or carry the suitcase to the familiar guestroom,
When that happens,

I will say the same words with great syllabic pronounication and emphasis.
I will lecture and cajole and implore and direct
While your furniture is carried out the back door.

And you--you will politely and impatiently wait
Until the commotion dies down so you can get on-line
and share this fascinating adrenalin-shaking event.
"Dear friends", you will say.
"Guess who I met today?"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Time for a Break

In the meantime,

In the in-between time,

Even in the lean time--

I'm thanking my lucky stars

for the pleasure of your company.

Be back soon...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Thursday 13 on Wednesday

Thursday 13's a little early this week: a vacation's a-coming.

The Thursday 13 theme this week is no theme.

1. This is my lonely livingroom fireplace. Until one of us orthopedically recovers to lug and stack the woodpile, there'll be no fires in the household. Come by in a few weeks and it should be roaring.

2. Helpful Advice: Never name your car unless you know exactly what you're doing. This is Prissy (named for her attitude in snow). When jb finally traded her in for a Honda Accord, we left her in the dealer's parking lot with terrible guilt. In literature this is called personification.
Prissy called it abandonment.

3. This is Francine. She found her way to us from Santa Fe, joining other personified family members including Frank, Esther, Mildred, Uncle Kitty, and Emily Rabbit.

4. Once a week I drive 100 miles to spend the day with my mother, and 100 miles back. This is the same Massachusetts Turnpike immortalized by Arlo Guthrie and is particuliarly notable for the snail paced drivers in the passing lane.

5. Every bathroom should have this kind of inspiration. Afterall, what better place to concentrate on self-improvement?

6. A while back Andrea and others bared their refrigerators. Or was it freezers? If you look closely you will see Turkey Hill Chocolate Cherry Yogurt, Junior Mints, and Weightwatcher's Chocolate Eclairs. What's a freezer for if not emergency chocolate?

7. Thursday 13 turns serious....kj walks in the park, looks up, and the universe speaks.

8. Here is the spot where I often write. It's a little pond in a great park, an easy walk from my back gate. 9. Here is the spot where I look outside as I write. Amateur that I am, I couldn't get the camera to do it justice. But once I saw a baby fox run by, there are always fun loving woodchucks, and the towering pine and well of geraniums keep me good company.

10. No attempt to clean up the clutter here: it's my writing room and I love it.

11. Ces, this is for you. This is Stella and the miracle of healing.

12. My 90 year old mother has zero memory, really, but she somehow figured out how to call the florist and send me these funky flowers the day after my surgery.

and 13. Just words: Thank you for your visits and comments. You will never know how much they mean to me.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Strong Arms

I don't say "thank you" enough.

Strong Arms

I will catch you in the freefall
Should life become a grinding haul.
I will help you to your chair
Where you can play some solitaire.

I will stand in front of words and trains
Anytime they cause you pain.
And anything that blocks your step
I will beat back to safety’s depth.

You’ve done all of this for me
With simple generosity.
You complement so much I lack.
I just hope I give it back!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Songs of My LIfe

Cherrypie tagged me to share the songs that mean something to me. I was belting out and lip synching songs in the privacy of my bedroom as a pre-teenager. I've used broom handles as microphones and pretended to sing passionate songs in great theatre halls. Even after the nun teaching my first communication class pulled me aside and told me I could only move my lips and to cool it with my passionate attempts to sing, I've continued to be a fantasy singer. I admit I can't carry a tune. Oh, but I try.

So here are my favorites:

1. Someone to Watch Over Me: This George Gerswin tune has been sung by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Willie Nelson to the student in Mr. Holland's Opus. I listen to it and I tear up. The title says it all: who doesn't want this? And to someone to watch-over back....

2. Twist and Shout : Is there a better song to dance to? Mary Chapin Carpenter does this song fiddle country justice. I won't tell you what my daughter Jessica said about my dancing at her wedding to this song, but my uncharacteristic response was "Who gives a sh--?".

3. Blowing in the Wind: When I first heard this Bob Dylan song, I understood something about a peaceful world, and I deeply felt the wisdom and inspiration to do my part. I am a child of the 60's, really, and that has had a profound impact on who I am and what I believe.

5. Halleluiah sung by kd lang: This song mesmorizes, haunts and transports me whenever I hear it. Her voice is stunningly beautiful.

6. True Colors (Cindy Lauper)--Jess and Mike chose this song for their first dance at their wedding. I was surprised Jess liked it and it will always remind me of the day my favorite daughter married a man she truly loves.

7. If We Only Have Love"--When I was in college, I loved Charles Aznavour's "Jacque Brel is Alive and Living in Paris". I saw the play at the little Charles Theatre in Boston and listened to this album over and over. I've chosen this song in particular because in my mind some things are always true. Love rules.

8. The Great Peace Train: I'm at a Holly Near concert in my early 30's. She a lesbian comfortable in her own skin, has a fabulous voice, and isn't afraid to speak of peace without apology. All are qualities I want for myself--then and now--ok, ok, so I can't have the fabulous voice.

9. Angel in the House: If you haven't heard this sweet song, I recommend tracking down the group, The Story, and the cd of the same name. Jonatha Brooke was my neighbor and a dog friend when her cd was released. It was chosen by People Magazine as the pick of the week. Jonatha and I and and a varying dozen or so other people often stood in the open field of Cold Springs Park and talked about dogs and life and how this music was made. I look back on these days in the same way I currently cherish my blog relationships.

10. John Denver anything except his really hokiest songs: I like his simplicity, respect for nature and mountains and soaring. Last Christmas jb bought me a two cd collection of his greatest hits. You can see me happily singing along with him on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Of course, I am totally oblivious to you.

11. And last, Andrea Bocelli's Con Te Partiro. I'm not much of an opera fan but I played this song in Provincetown for the two years we lived there. Somehow it helped me understand both the sadness and the joy of life. I was knee-deep into both at the time, and hearing Bocelli belt this out helped me feel better about being very very human.

So now I'm tagging: Popscholar, Ruby, ValGalArt--Any interest in sharing the songs of your life?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Thursday 13: Miscellaneous

1. I have no clothes. Honest. Somehow in our move last year my winter clothes disappeared. Everything but a couple of sweaters. So today I went shopping. I bought two tops, two pairs of pants, a sweater, a blouse, and a camesol.

2. I also bought sneakers. So I can walk in the Isle of Capri and the park next door.

2. I haven't heard from the blog police (Jessica) in a while, so I must be posting more descreetly

3. Did I already mention that jb and I commissioned a dog communicator, which is a fancy word for a psychic, to tell us about Stella's life before we got her? She spoke to Stella over the phone and told us what she said. Everyone we know is making fun of us but we thought it was great. And helpful.

4. The last time I was in Italy was 30 years ago. I will soon go again, with jb, to the Almalfi Coast.

5. Cherry Pie has tagged me for my favorite songs. I know my very favorite is George Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me".

6. Woo Hoo! The season opener of "Lost" aired last night. This is an awesome series, on every Wed. night. I don't watch much tv but I don't miss this if I can help it.

7. Last Monday the Big Yellow writing group resumed. It is called that because Nerissa Nield's house is big and very yellow. I was so glad to see Kris. I can't describe how great it is to hear people read their work outloud, and to read mine.

8. One of my favorite jokes is "How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb?"
Answer: Just one, but the lightbulb has really got to want to change....) (smile)

9. This weekend Jess and I are taking my mother to her family reunion. There will be over a hundred people there and I will know about 20. My mother is the oldest and is known as "Aunt Rose".

10. No firewood, alas, in the household yet. Neither jb nor I can lift or carry--my back and her knee. We are thinking of putting an orthopedic doctor on retainer (smile again)

11. Our friend Heather is coming for the weekend. She and jb are enrolled in collage workshops at a nearby artisan school Sat. through Monday. When we get together, we talk all night and usually end up doing or discussing some kind of art.

12. Jess came to visit and stayed over last Friday night. We made pancakes Saturday morning and looked at pictures of her when she was a baby. Nothing--I mean nothing--is better than this kind of time with Jess.

13. I know I have misspelled two words in this post. One of the best teachers I've had used to say, "Perfect isn't coming today".

More to Say (who knew?)

Yesterday Stella and I resumed our walks in the Park. I bring one 8 by 11 piece of blank paper and a pen. At some point we find a bench. Stella sniffs and I write. This is what happened yesterday. To my surprise, my thoughts on destiny and life had more to say.

So this is, I guess, part 2 of "longing for destiny". If it's not obvious, the incredible honesty, sincerity and reflection I've found in so many blogs is the engine for these two poems. The counselor in me wants to offer guidance. The writer in me hopes my words are good . And the person in me--hey, it's just me--hopes I understand myself, and thus you, at least some of the time.....

If I knew you were weighing,
waiting,wondering about your place and space;
If I watched your emptiness
Take shape,
One day content in the simple act of
cooking dinner, with basil on your fingers,
Other times withdrawing
through the sting of disappointment,
Or confused by the countless dualities
That lead you to the familiar and unknown,
To the window and the cellar,
All at the same time. All at once.

If I knew and watched
Your hearftfelt effort
To find yourself
At the place you first got lost,
I would watch for so long;
I would be sad there is no shortcut
To wisdom
And fearful of sounding pompous,
But also, I would remember that
your heart can win out.

I could tell you a few things
That may help, depending.
I could tell you it is what it is,
That you have to feel your way through jagged walls sometimes.
But in the end they will help you balance
between the mundane and the sacred.

I could tell you the confusion stays.
It doesn’t really shrink with age,
Sometimes because of real or imagined hurts.
And sometimes because DNA works that way.

But—this is important-- the wonder stays too
As does the part you already know—
The part where love matters monumentally.

So here it is.
The Ying. The Yang. The best. The worse.
This is where you might lose it.
These damn dualities.
I can’t tell you why you might wake up in turbulence
When the rest of the world is busy watching jeopardy.

Or why sometimes you soar and other times crash.
But I can tell you to expect confusion.
To learn to work with it.
To work around it. And beside it.
And I can tell you there will always be wonder.
Exhaulted wonder,
Where for a moment the stunning fireworks
Pull you from your roots
And you know every single thing--
All of it compacted into the shining molecule of acceptance.

Can this help?
Can you stay with yourself
When the ground shifts
And you drift to uncertainty?
Can you accept before you seek?
Can you give yourself a break
And let not knowing
Sit in its own space without overflow?
You can.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Longing for Destiny

Last night I returned to my big yellow weekly writing group. It's been 3 or 4 months since I've read one of my poems or stories outloud. When I do that, I connect with how much I love writing. I love it.

The prompt this week was from a book on love and somewhere in it was the phrase "longing for destiny". I got to thinking that sometimes the search for destiny can take you to the wrong place:

It’s a bus to nowhere, really.
It’ll stop for you, transport you somewhere else,
Accept your token and save you the effort
But you won’t find destiny there, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Once or twice you might think you have—
You might settle in with great hope,
Ready to let love and longing
Tumble onto you like a box of cherrios—
One circle and another filling the circle bowl you call your life.

Over time you may travel a number of buses
And any one may be your portal
To rich ground where you build your home,
Where you fall into a softened corner
And find your cherished place.

You wish. You wish it works this way. That’s fair.
But wishes aren’t like bus routes.
Wishes wither in the moments of now.
They require nourishment that comes only from the future,
And there is no portal to pass through
That will take you there and back.

The right moment. The right person. The right place.
The right job. The right time. The right break.

Right is what makes this wrong.
All of it.
When you decide right in advance,
Your possibilities cool like reheated toast.

Forget the endless bus routes.
It’s about today Now. Here. This moment.
This couch. That’s all of it.
You show up. You notice. You try.
And then you let the universe steer
Into the night. That’s plenty. That’s enough.

Monday, October 02, 2006


Let me say this upfront: I don't know if the following post on stress is helpful, or boring, a good read or worthless chatter. I'll appreciate any opinion or feedback you're inclined to share. My criteria for writing something like this is very simple: it either helps because you understand something in a new light, or it puts you to sleep. If it's the latter, I'm better off knowing. :)

Stress is bad. And common. Even small anoyances and irritations--a rude sales clerk, a snappish friend, a messy bathroom--can trigger the body’s stress response--affecting digestion, immunity, cognitive and sensory skills, pain threshold, even sexual drive. It comes in all forms--a dead car battery when you’re late already, a sick child when you’re due to fly to Chicago, a broken promise, a performance review by a supervisor who doesn’t like you, or even by one who does. Then add the catastrophic--the unexpected diagnosis, a job lay off, the end of a relationship.

Stress and conflict are an inevitable part of life, but the actual events that take place are only part of the problem. Your body reacts when you only think about an event or problem, even those that have not even occurred--the IRS audit, the mounting bills, the career challenge, the inevitability of death. Did you know that your mind cannot tell the difference between imagined versus real danger?

Even with effort and awareness, you can't always avoid stress. You do not have to let actual or anticipated problems dictate your mood, but that is exactly what will happen if you do not intervene in some way. It helps to know that from the moment the alarm clock goes off and your feet hit the bedroom floor, you are influenced by last night’s dreams, yesterday’s worries, by old stress and new stress. You don't start with a fresh slate unless you find a way to bypass their effects on you, and if you don't do that, your day can start badly before it even begins.

You can’t control most of the events that happen as you live your life, but you can control how you respond to them. The trick is to be able to bypass your mind, which worries about every thing, and your ego, which needs to be right. You do this by not letting stress accumulate, by not letting one difficult event spill into another, by walking away from conflict whenever you can, and by using proven stress management techniques: Yoga. Prayer. Meditation. Exercise.

Chronic worry is bad for you--especially when you worry about things that may or may not happen. Because your mind doesn't know whether your house has burned down or you are simply worrying that your house may burn down, the result can be disastrous to your physical well-being. Symptoms from colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatique, fibromalgia, and headaches have a direct link to this kind of worry overload. (Sapolsky, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, 1998)

There are many people who would tell you that stress is healthy and stress management is worthwhile. I'm not one of them. I view it a different way: I think it's best to keep a watchful eye not to let stress and worry accumulate from one day to the next. Take breaks. Take time. Remember to breathe out, not just in. And have a 2 or 3 minute technique you can count on when you need to clear your head fast. And, then, of course, live your life.......