Thursday, August 30, 2007


Don't ask me how I got lucky. That's for the universe to answer. The writer and philosopher Hugh Prather once defined "soulmate" as 'the person you just happen to be with when you finally realize the limitless potential a relationship can offer'. That might be what happened to Ces and me--time, place and circumstance, perhaps intersecting with destiny, so we two women amazingly, thankfully found eachother and became friends.

This post is an acknowledgement and thank you to Ces for being my best and dearest friend. It's enough that her vocabulary and fund of knowledge keep teaching me at every turn. It's fascinating that our opposite opinions invigorate rather than separate. It's remarkable that we enjoy listening to eachother for hours on end.

But most of all, it's miraculous that the two of us joyfully put up with, reach out to, tend and care for, unconditionally love and trust eachother, and laugh, laugh, and laugh some more. This is what the universe has awarded me, and I can only say thank you, thank you.

If you haven't already, you can visit Ces here. Count on her to entertain and educate with humor, civility and sometimes ingenious controversy. Following the recent honors she gave me, I am happily bestowing both the Thoughtful and the Creative Blogger awards to my friend Ces.

And, since writers write, here's one last way of making my point:

Friendship (To Ces)
I tell you about my bank account
The challenges I mount
My heart’s desires,
My passion and fires
The guy at the bar,
My avatar.
The near accident,
The words I meant.
The way I pace,
An occasional grace
The lights at the park,
My fear of the dark
The reasons I cry.
The times that I try.
My zero fashion
My deepest passion
My life on the lane
The times I’m insane
My college days
The places I’ve played
When I fall down
My sacred ground
Life in the Midwest
The times put to the test
Living abroad
Loving lobster and cod
The things I feel
When I try to be real.
You patiently listen
With an honest glisten
Thank you my friend
For fun without end.

New Orleans

August 29, 2005. Hurricane Katrina. It's been two years. I was there as a Red Cross Volunteer. These pictures don't do justice to the miles and scope of damage and destroyed neighborhoods.

I'll never forget the stunned look on honest faces revisiting their homes for the first time, many after up to 18 feet of water had destroyed their neighborhoods forever. In Saint Bernard county, with rows of modest house after house, all they could salvage from the ceiling high muck was plastic tupperware and glass vases. I saw families at the edge of their driveways wiping the mud off like they were cruifixes. It was all that was left.
It's two years later. And the people of New Orleans are still not home. They never will be. Too many who doggedly made it back live like refugees. The American government has let these citizens down. This is not a political statement. Help was not there then. In most cases it still hasn't come. In most cases, it won't come.
Erase your life and start again? Erase your photo albums and your back yard barbeques and the knowledge your kids and their kids would live down the street from you. Erase your sense of
home, of security, of patriotism. Erase the flashbacks of cutting a hole through your attic roof so your kids wouldn't drown. Can you?
I was there, and it changed me for life. I will never forget. I ask that you don't either.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My House in the Country

If I'm not quite a city sophisticate, I am definitely not a country girl. I've lived most of my life in or near large metropolitan areas--Boston, Nurnberg, Oklahoma City--and some years in the beautiful coastal towns of Scituate Massachuetts and Provincetown on Cape Cod.
Today I live in a college town surrounded by farms. JB and I moved here two years ago when she insisted she would no longer commute hours to her consulting job. I followed kicking, screaming, and sulking.
We bought a moderately boring ranch house on a cul de sac bordering a large town park. We knew only a few people--work colleagues of JBs--but we at last had a yard with full sunlight. That meant I could garden. And the yard had a shed that after insulation, wallboarding, painting, and heating became JB's Magic Cottage.

It's been two years. I marvel at my life here. First off, there are trees and farms and back roads and hill towns and freshly grown fruit and vegetables at every turn. In the spring we start with asparagus, then strawberries and blueberries, and currently we're up to peaches and summer corn.

Secondly, people are really nice. Genuinely nice. It's a small town way of being, I think. You know the plumber or the nurse's aide is probably also your neighbor, so decorum and thoughtfulness tend to dominate.

Third, I am living a bit of a country-bumpkin life. I often go to a Wednesday night auction where I might bid on a box of anything-goes for $ 5 or $ 10; I 'm landscaping my yard by hitting the Farmer's Market once a week and picking up whatever plants they're selling; I'm meeting friends at the hole-in-wall Smithsonian Restaurants on Friday nights; I'm walking from my backyard into a park with magnificent tall tall pine trees, a couple of little lakes, creek-side picnic sites, and slumbering trails.

And this weekend along with JB I'm visiting our friends' family barn:

I can't tell you much about this particular barn, except it's been in the family for years and years. It is a rock solid, authentic, mystical barn. It sits almost directly on a side road. You walk out the back door and into a meadow where a family member has plowed a thin path to walk through, which you do because you come to a trail in the woods for a short distance until it spills out into a secluded pristine lake. There our friends have a boathouse tucked into the woods and out come the kayaks and canoes.

Kayaking on this lake is seeing dragon flies glide and hearing frogs sing and ducks splash. It is paddling along with a simplicity that puts you smack in the natural order of things. It doesn't take your worries away, and I had some on this day, but it places them in a larger context.

Last summer and this one, we've planned one full day with our friends at the barn. JB and I brought lunch--tomatoes from our garden, JB's fresh-corn salad, french rolls with cheese and deli meats. And my peach cobbler--the first time I made it, with just-picked local peaches, and it was so awesome it was gone in a flash.

We laugh, we kayak, we catch up, wind down, eat, play pool, read, stretch, and we watch the bats come flying out of the chimney across the street just at dusk--more than a hundred of them using their precision sensors to come within inches of you but speed by without a touch.

The barn itself is so authentic it's like being there a hundred years ago. Our friends' parents have put in a kitchen and living area, a bath room, set up a pool table, and made a few bedrooms from old horse stalls--but mostly the barn is as it was and always has been.

As the afternoon fades, it takes takes on an ancient feel. We plan to grill steak but the charcoal is too old. So we eventually build a raging fire outside, wait for the flames to settle down, and cook the steak to perfection. We are having stuffed zuchinni with cous cous, corn on the cob, tabouli, wine (not me), and we do all this in slow motion.

We snug into the make shift living room, listen to 60's music, laugh and become quiet. As night settles in, we are definitely in a sacred space. You can feel it. And you can kind of see it. (Anon, look closely--there is a figure in the photo on the right.....)

It's the end of the weekend. I have seen bats and dragonflies. I have paddled upstream (ha!--nothing new there!), eaten food harvested that morning, relaxed in a sacred place with talented friends.

It's not everything, but it's a pretty easy way to live. I like it.....

Oh! I almost forgot: JB' watering cans. Here's a finished one she puts decorative paper over plastic and decoupages it. She sold 14 at our yArt Fair. Pretty cool, huh...

Saturday, August 25, 2007


It's a dry spell in the kj universe. I haven't sat at my trusty desk for more than 15 minutes at a time. My Mom is happily in a nearby nursing home doing slow motion rehab, summer is giving way to the bronzes of fall, a publisher has asked me to tighten up my book pitch and is still interested (yay), I miss my best friend, and I haven't quite caught my breath.

Perhaps I've posted this little poem already. If so, hey, here it is again. Poetry is the easiest form of writing for me. Self-help books are the hardest. My favorite of all is the short story of Izzy and Casey, yet unfinished and that's fine with me.

Happy weekend!


I’ll be damned
My head is crammed
With thoughts of flying
And maybe even
And even possibly
Catalog buying
Instrument flying
And forever trying

Monday, August 20, 2007


I've always wanted to love someone more than they loved me. Not that I've ever had a long line of suitors, but as far back as early teenagehood, my attention and attraction usually found its way to those who didn't make it too easy for me.

If that sounds weird, perhaps it is, but I know others who prefer the opposite: they want to be the adoree instead of the adorer. Not me--maybe it's the breathless and sometimes insecure chase and challenge of love's wonderous roller coaster, but I just love being so smitten, everything stretches at once: your skin, your thoughtfulness, your life, your possibilities, your heart.

So based on another Big Yellow prompt, a few weeks ago in my writing group I wrote a silly corny poem about this very subject.

I Love You More!

I love you, you know
I wish it weren’t so
Before you I coasted
And now I am roasted.

A peanutless shell
What a story to tell
You’ve wrestled me down
I’m a mat on the ground.

I’m a wimp in a suit
Being cool is so moot
You offer a slice
and I’m thanking you twice.

Whatever you ask
I’m up to the task
If I’m heard but not seen--
I’m just stuck in between

The grill and the grate
Where I rev up my fate.
I’m tempted to stay--
It’s even likely I may

Camp in your parlor
And gear up each hour—
For an encouraging word
Though sometimes absurd.
If I fold when you fawn
It’s because all along
I’m smitten by you:
What else can I do?

You speak and I jump
You coo, I’m a lump
I used to be tough
But now soft is enough.

Just don’t think I’m cheesy
Because it’s so easy
When you call out my name
My heart flutters lame.

This love is for real—
It’s a honeysweet deal.
I don’t need much back
I have what I lacked.

And when you see me today
These words would you say?
Ok! Fine! I do love you too !
Hey! Too funny:I already knew!

Sunday, August 19, 2007


When my daughter was about seven years old,
she asked me one day what I did at work.
I told her worked at the college--that my job was to
teach people how to draw.
She stared back at me, incredulous, and said,
"You mean they forget?"
Howard Ikemoto
I'm here to say that art and creativity are mandatory to happiness. It's easy enough believe or pretend that is not so, for any number of reasons:
I don't have time
I'm not a real artist
I have nothing worth saying
I'm not sure what I'm doing
Other people are so much better than I am
I'm only a novice
I've never been trained
I've never had an exhibit
I've never been published
I just dabble
Misconceptions about this subject always surprise me. It seems too many of us believe if you don't seriously paint, or write, or sculpt or design something, you can't possibly be an artist or a creative person. And yet, I look around me and I see artists and creative souls everywhere--all ages, all sizes, all mediums--some professionally committed to earning a living from their art, others just beginning to take themselves seriously, others engaged in planting gardens, cooking dinners, coordinating accessories, taking photos, planning parties, drawing cartoons, singing songs, spinning tales, making cards, painting furniture, giving gifts, crafting, performing, providing, trying, stretching, sharing.
It's probably true most of us have to fight for the time to play in the service of art. But guess what? You have to, because if you don't, some part of you will wither. I am pretty sure I am right about this.
Somehow in the process of growing up too many of us lost sight of the importance of play. That loss may have made you a better money manager or a more grounded person, but if you've sacrified creativity and play, think again. It's not optional. Really, truly, I don' think it is.
As for me and my own version of creativity:
Writing is easy:
all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper
until the drops of blood form on your forehead.
Gene Fowler
But here's the thing: I wouldn't have it any other way. Never, not even, no can do. It's too much fun, even when I'm doubled over, trying to outshout my own worse critic, and guess who that is.......

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Warning: this is going to be a long post. In the midst of my Mother's broken hip and transition to a rehab. nursing home, as well as challenges with JB's mother, this weekend marked the reality of JB's dream to have an art fair in our yard. It was also my birthday, so we combined the two into something that began at 11 am on Saturday and ended at noon on Sunday.

In between, we had a total blast. Here's the story:

This is how we started. The truth is JB and I (and Stella) live in a modest ranch house in a college area surrounded by farms, with a yard transformed by a fence we had installed, and then stained and painted ourselves for most of a summer--two panels at a time--and by my slow motion approach to gardening. I've been planting for the two years we've lived here but in relaxation mode.

We held the art fair in the side yard in front of JB's Magic Cottage. When we transitioned from art fair to back yard party at 4 pm, we put up a volleyball net and set up little tables in the back yard with table cloths and salt shaker vases and fresh flowers. I am using the word "we" generously here, because without being asked our friend Cheryl got the net up and our friend Amy arranged each table so it looked like a little cafe.

I had to do-lists and had delegated small tasks to certain people with the hope that JB and I could enjoy the day without running around attending to every detail. Hannah husked the corn, Janna cooked it, Cindy sliced the melons and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, Ces made her famous Pansit and 250 (!) eggrolls, Lily and Tracy handled the grill and burgers, etc etc etc etc.

What I did not expect was how easily and lovingly all kinds of people just chipped in and created a seamless "event". My 12 year old friend Chris and my friend Heather's son Cameron, also 12, without being asked, passed appetizers around for an hour--with great professional dignity. Nichole and Kris put the lobster rolls together and got them served. Cathy moved tables. Clara rolled eggrolls. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Community happened so seamlessly it makes me wonder if I am blessed with the best people on the planet or if some magic takes over when good people come together.

The Art Fair was fantastic. Here you see where Ces and I set up. We hung a few of her paintings on the fence and she sold her art and illustration calendars. You should have seen her face when the first person asked her to autograph the calendar! I will never forget watching her sign her autograph repeatedly throughout the day.

I (Madame Gina for the day) was nearby reading tarot cards for $ 5 a shot. I started slowly but by the time it was over I had read about 8 people and was exhausted. I turned 4-5 people away and still feel guilty. I spent all my earnings shopping at the art fair. I think most of us did that.

JB sold 14 watering cans she had designed and decoupaged, Tracy sold almost all of the one-of-a-kind wood birdhouses she made, Amy sold all her handmade cards. Cindy sold soap and fruit preserves. Lily set a beanie baby toss where everybody won. Jessica's signature humor was all over the place.

Before Ces arrived, I told her Stella was looking forward to giving and getting kisses from her dog bed. At the time Ces replied, "I'm not lying in bed with any dog!". But it didn't turn out that way. Multiple times over several days I would find Ces lying on Stella's bed, kissing and patting her. Here they are in a corner of the yard affirming their friendship.

Our friend Amy sold vintage salt shakers adorned with flowers from her yard. These are the same flowers she put on each table for our cookout.

About 20 people participated in the Art Fair and about 50 people partied with us for a cookout and birthday bash. Country bumpkins that we pretend we are, we cleverly put ice and drinks in two wheelbarrels, which worked out quite nicely.
A couple of hours into the day, a special person stepped out of blogland and stepped into the yard. If you haven't visited Carla's blog, let me tell you she is a wonderful artist. A treasure of my day was seeing Ces and Carla meet in person for the first time. Don't be telling me blog relationships can't and don't blossom into true friendships.

My writing group introduced me to Nichole and Kris, also bloggers and always wonderful company. Here we four bloggers chat away.
Without a doubt: the highlight of the day: MR. RYAN. Now 7 months old, he is a double super DOLL. His easy going charm is surpassed only by his parents, who roll with the punches and kiss him non-stop. (Note: I love him....)

At 4 pm we transitioned to a backyard cookout. I'm not including photos of the 50 or so partygoers, but I will just say they were fun, festive and fabulous, one and all. JB and I planned a menu of appetizers (deviled eggs, Ces' eggrolls (250 gone in 30 minutes), peanut chicken, and honey dew melon with piscuitto (Chris walked around saying, "Want some melon with raw meat?").

At 5:30 we fired up the grill and served hot dogs and burgers, farm FRESH corn-on-the cob, just picked tomatoes and cucumbers, Ces' pansit, and little fresh lobster rolls brought by our friends Maureen and Cheryl straight from Maine. (This was JB's special treat, the cost be damned).

By dusk, my son-in-law Mike was making whatever moves this photo implies and the night was young.

By 1o pm or so, four tents had been staked in our back yard, including one for JB and me, and we became rugged campers for the night.


By 9 am Sunday morning, JB was making scrambled eggs and bacon, I was brewing coffee and readying scones, toast and bagels, and JB's sister Cindy had cut up the fruit. About 25 of us dallied over brunch, in no rush to do anything but.

Such is the story of JB's Yard and Art Fest. But what I have told you by words and pictures does not begin to address the overwhelming massive love around and inside me. I cannot give justice to my feelings, but here are a few highlights:

--JB estatically walked around all day. Her dream had come true. What could be better than knowing that about someone you love?

--Ces is my best friend in the world and distance refuses to let us steal a cup of coffee together or stop by for a quick visit. So it is no understatement what-so-ever to say that four days of non-stop, stay-up-late, anything goes fun with my best friend was my dream come true.

--PLUS: My niece Hannah is special person # 1 and distance subbornly interfers with our get-togethers too. So to have Hannah, and Ces, for four days of non-stop, stay-up-late, anything goes fun, was more than any one person deserves. The three of us laughed so long and so hard we barely came up for air.

--Jess, Mike, Mr. Ryan, and Janna stayed the night: four fantastic people I deeply love. Jess and Ryan appeared in the backyard tent at 6 am Sunday morning, rolling on the air matress and reminding me what family is all about.

--Then there's the matter of my birthday. I tried to underplay it but I was surrounded by an outpouring of gifts and wishes and love love love. Dozens of people I deeply care about were here this weekend, enjoying themselves and eachother. Sometimes I don't know how I'm capable of loving this much. But I do. It hasn't always been that way, so that makes the bonds and friendships I have unbelievably precious and special. I am so lucky in a thousand ways.

I've said it before but it bears repeating: LOVE DEEPLY. It's worth it.

We'll be doing JB' Second Annual YART next year. Maybe Andrea will come?

In the meantime, I'm here opening my birthday presents, counting my blessings, loving my family and friends, cleaning up a house gone amok, and wondering what's next.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

With his own hands he built their six room house for $ 3400. When the mortgage was paid off--$ 150 a month--they said they were free at last.

When he died 12 years ago, she started doing the things he did not approve of or did not enjoy with her, like going to movies and playing cards to her heart's content. She did this without one shred of guilt or remorse.

She lost most of her memory a few years ago while helping the family dog jump on the family bed. When she hurt her back all it took was one day's worth of narcotic pain meds to erase her short term memory and replace it with a zest to live fully anyway.

He stills visits in the flowers.

She loves her life.

When she fell and broke her hip, all she can remember is yelling "help, help". She tells this part of the story with a smile and a joyful rendition of the "help help" part.

She is in a nursing home for the first time in her life preparing to walk without harm or pain so she can go back home and read and play cards.

Don't tell her she can't be independent because she will glare at you.

They were married for 56 years. She is not sure about reunions in heaven because "What about people who were married to more than one person? How would those reunions work?", she asks.

She's my Mom and he's my Dad. They did right by me for all these years and for that reason alone, I will willingly return the favor.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Year Later

All mankind is of one author,
and is one volume;
when one man dies,
one chapter is not torn out of the book,
but translated into a better language;
and every chapter must be so translated...
As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon,
calls not upon the preacher only,
but upon the congregation to come:
so this bell calls us all:
but how much more me,
who am brought so near the door by this sickness....
No man is an island,
entire of itself...
any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore never send to know
for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee."
John Donne

What a year it's been. I:
left my consulting practice,
began a new career as a writer,
witnessed the birth of an incredible baby boy named Ryan,
found myself a true-blue best friend,
designed and landscaped my yard,
installed a hottub under the stars,
finished the interior of our cozy little house,
adopted a shelter dog who deserves only good things,
attended the unveiling of my friend Willa's unexpected death,
made some life long friends who drop by for coffee and meet me at the summer pool,
traveled to the Amalfi Coast of Italy,
got my finances in order,
discovered the surprising joy of blogging,
decided to be myself,
once and for all.

This has been a year of fluctuating emotions, tender hearts, and vulnerable sensitivity. I am not at all sure about tomorrow or next month or next year, but I know I can trust myself and the the people I love. I know I will make the best choices I can, based on information that is often available to me only at the very moment my decisions are made. I know I am a good person without harmful intent. I know I cannot know the future, but I can let faith guide me to where I should be. I know I will hope for the best and move on from the worse.
This is my birth-day and I wish I could give presents to all the people who make my life rich and meaningful. "No man is an island". HA! John Donne got that right.
Happy Birthday kj, from the woman you are, the woman you will be, and, afterall, the woman you've been all along. Get it right, kj--you deserve nothing less.

Monday, August 06, 2007


A couple of quick thoughts from a weary week:

"Ride the horse in the direction she's going"

"Bend like a tree"

"If you can't handle what's happening, wait two hours before you panic"

"Suspend judgement"

"Do the best you can"

"The universe has a sense of humor"

I am woefully behind on visiting my favorite blogs. My mother has been up and down and down and up again. Thank you for your well wishes--things are very hopeful if not definite. I am pleased to report I can still do well with minimal sleep. This week we have family visiting us, my best friend is arriving on Thursday, it's my birthday midweek, and next weekend brings our first annual Art Fair and Yard Party in front of the Magic Cottage. Meanwhile, chores and challenges abound.

That's life. And, I might add, I'm complaining but only slightly. Because when you get right down to it, I have way more to be thankful for than to bitch about. I hope the same is true for you......

Thursday, August 02, 2007


My mother fell, broke her hip, had surgery on Tuesday, and needs an inpatient nursing/rehab program for 4-6 weeks.

So the answer to "Where is kj/" is this:

I have been spending my nights sleeping in a vinyl blue hospital chair that should recline but doesn't, trying to make up for all the gaps and problems in the United States health care system. This is not anybody's hospital stay of 20 or 10 or even 5 years ago. Some of it is so impersonal and regimented I'm actually feeling sorry for the nurses and doctors, not to mention my poor mother who thank god has me to keep an eye on what she needs when she needs it.

At one painful and uncomfortable point in the middle of dark night, with two nurses trying to insert a catheter that my mother had inadvertedly pulled out, I said, "I know this is hard, Mom. It sucks".

And my ever sharp 91 year old mother without a working memory responded, "KJ, it double sucks."