Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Flight of the Heart: A Sob Story about Two Soul Mates Who Find Eachother at the Worse Possible Time

Here is Part 3 of the Flight of the Heart Sob Story. We join Izzy and Casey in progress. If you want to start at the beginning, you'll have to scroll down abit. But that's not necessary--as a not-so-objective observer who loves them both--I can assure you that these two can stand on their own just fine, thank you.

I would have flunked friend school. This is because I have a very simplistic view of friendship. If you’re my friend, that’s all there is to it. If you call me, or ask me, or need me, I’ll be there. But I won’t ask this in return because it makes me too vulnerable. But you won’t know this because I am very very smooth at looking wise and centered.

This is a method of deflection that has worked for me since 11th grade, when my wimpy boyfriend broke up with me 6 weeks before the Junior Prom. I never let on that I was prepared to cry the entire evening from the vantage point of my pathetic twin bed. Instead, I concocted some story that was so sad and so compelling—I can’t remember a word of it or I would tell you—that I glided on sympathy and skated around the truth so skillfully it was almost as if I went to the prom after all. Which I didn’t.

So this is the first reason I would flunk friend school. I don’t open up. I just pretend to. And then there’s another reason: I don’t keep in touch. I figure once you’ve made it to my closest friend list, that alone is a whopping deposit into the closest friend bank account.

You might think I lack friends because of these shortcomings. Not really: most just adapt to me and cut me some slack .

“Hello Casey”, the answering machine says, “This is Nick. It’s Tuesday September 18th at 8:27 pm. Would you call me back by Friday?”

“Oh Nick”, I think to myself, “I wish you told me why by Friday”. I don’t know that Nick developed this approach years ago to try to pin me down. I also don’t know he will call me once more before he leaves the following message:

“Hello Casey, this is your friend Nick. I’m calling to make plans for dinner. I have three dates that will work for me: September 17, which was yesterday, September 23, which is my birthday, and September 24, which the only Sunday I have open until Thanksgiving. I have my book in front of me, Casey. I’m asking you to call me either tonight or tomorrow.”

My approach to friendship unexpectedly changed one day when I told my friend Lucy that I loved her. I didn’t actually say it like that: more or less I added it at the end of a request for a local plumber. I said it quickly and smiled:

“Thanks, Lucy. Love you”
“Love you too Casey”, Lucy said.

That was the beginning. I was judicious but not withholding. “I love you.” I would say. “I love you too, Casey” a voice would say back. I liked it. Even my two guy friends Nick and Eddie said it back. I can’t tell you what prompted all this, but I liked it. It felt like fuel.

This is my history and the framework from which I began my friendship with Izzy. At first I would sign my emails to her, “Yours truly”. Sometimes I’d say “See you later alligator, and occasionally I would say “Love” by itself. I didn’t start saying “I love you” until one day on the phone I just did. And Izzy said “I love you too”.

Probably because of the long distance between Phoenix and Western Massachusetts, probably because we could not use hugs or hands or smiling eyes to get across our points and affections, Izzy and I got in the habit of saying “I love you” regularly.

But one day, while I’m walking my dog and Izzy is on the other end of my cell phone, she said, “Casey, you say that too much.”

I was flabbergasted. I was crushed. I didn’t dare ask what she meant. Instead I said,

“Ok, Izzy, you’ll have to beg before I tell you I love you again."

“Fine” she said.

Two days later I sent her the following email:

Dear Izzy, I just wanted you to know I would now say what I would say if I weren’t saying it because you asked me not to.”

Her response was quick: “You mean to say you wanted to tell me what you wanted to say if you did not say that you were not going to say it?”

This woman is sharp. My follow-up email was as follows:

"I do not like it at all that it seems I give in and give up before you do. You should be asking and pleading by now."

All I got back was a smiley face—the one with a colon for the eyes, hyphen for the nose and parenthesis for the mouth.

I replied immediately:

“I’m holding out. You think I won’t but I will. I can’t have you thinking I fold so easily. Not even x’s and o’s until further notice."

Izzy, my free wheeling free spirit friend who once assured me I wasn’t high maintenance as long as I wasn’t neglected, then said,

“This is going to be a lot of fun. I’ll see if you can last a year!”

Monday, February 26, 2007

What's Happened to Basic Education?

I am still amazed when the grocery store cashier cannot count the change due me or the electrician's helper cannot spell words like 'circuit' or 'customer'. I'm troubled enough these days by the lack of civility and friendliness from one person to another, but how does someone manage to graduate from 8th grade, let alone high school, without basic skills?
This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, KS, USA. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, KS, and reprinted by the Salina Journal. If you had any doubt educational demands have slipped and our fund of knowledge has pummulted, here's all the evidence you need. Clearly, an 8th grade education is not what it used to be! Jeez.

Grammar (Time, one hour)

1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no Modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of lie, lay, and run
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you >understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs ., what is it worth at 5 0cts/bushel, deducting 1050lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for >incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per meter?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U. S. History (Time, 45 minutes)

1. Give the epochs into which U. S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, >and 1865.

Orthography (Time, one hour)

1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, and syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, sub vocals, diphthong, cognate letters, and linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u'.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, >blood, fare, last.>9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)

1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America.5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall & Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

This exam took five hours to complete. I admit there are questions where I haven't a clue.
But it gives new meaning to my father's 8th grade education.
What's happened to us? What does a high school diploma represent?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

Shining Bright

How does a best and blessed connection develop, expand, grow, sustain over the months and years? I can't rightly answer that, but I can tell you that if a friend is a gift you give yourself, I have been very lavish in my wonderful friendship with Ces. This piece is for her, with thanks for a wicked good time this weekend!

It’s a February day when the sky finally assumes its rightful chilling brilliant blue and the sun has gained enough confidence to bounce off the gleaming crusted snow and across the tiny fully white hills that make up this park. Two solid black shadows stretch four feet before us on this frigid day. We are arm in arm, walking in silence and noticing every sign that the world is right today, that this day alone will right everything that could be wrong-- today, this day, when fortune permits two best friends to steal and share three days to catch up and wind down, to begin at dawn in the little green and salmon room off the kitchen for a fiesta cup of coffee, and then to linger, to hold hands, to notice nuances, to retell stories that are so long and so much that afterwards, neither can recall or retrace a single word or a single moment

In this hour, the teacher teaches and the extinguisher lies down the hose. The sun approaches noon and everywhere, in between the glossy iced over pebbles and the boundaries of the mostly frozen stream, even ten stories up where the sun breaks through those thin proud pines-- there is the serentity of friendship and the absence of foreboding. This is stolen time when one moment falls and folds into another, telling a story that is all too real, and all too rare, to be remembered on common days.

This is a day when the torch is put to rest and the brilliant light of friendship shines forth anyway. This happens in the presence of grace, which is the way that love works best. This happens when two people who know every petty detail instead look across to one another and whisper a prayer of thank you.

This is a day when no words, no deed, no correction or diversion or direction is needed. This is a day when two friends walk arm in arm in the park and remember there is a reason they are safe in the world.


Thursday, February 15, 2007


Some weekends shine from their own light.

This will be one of them.

I know I can be introspective and intense. But I can also
easily and fully squeeze unlimited joy and laughter from the
toothpaste and test tubes of life.

So this weekend I'm squeezing. Family. Friends. Food. Music.
Snow. Photo albums. Doin' nothing. Doin' everything.

I wish this quote were mine. I wish I could credit the
author. Though it isn't and I can't, it's my gift to
myself and you today:

The little things? The little moments? They aren't little.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Thoughts on a New Day

This weekend I had a reason and opportunity to look back my first 12 months of blog posts. I was reviewing the poems I've written to choose one for an upcoming and wonderful collaborative project. It's been just about a year since I began this blog and just about a year since I took my first writing workshop. It's been just about a year that I became aware of deep love and starting living that way.

I am surprised at the change in me. In one form or another, I've always been a glass-half-full optimist. I can remember sitting in first grade smiling at my secret knowledge that the world was a friendly place and I would be able to find my way in it.

I remember being slightly surprised that I was voted "personality plus" in my high school graduating class of 660 kids.

I remember moving to Germany and landing the one coveted job I had no business applying for.

I remember when I started my counseling and consulting business. I knew I would succeed and I never doubted it was just about the best job in the world.

I remember how cool I was when I married this handsome guy with a college degree and together we bought this sweet small house on a half acre of land in this beautiful coastal community.

I remember the depths of love raising my spunky daughter and the first time I knew without question that I would willingly and easily die for her.

Over the years I have been extremely fortunate. I am surrounded by good decent creative talented people. I have a good good life. I am loved.

When I started this blog, I wanted to achieve some blend of wisdom, optimism, and inspiration. Who better than me, the beneficiary of so many good breaks and opportunities, to talk about life and love?

But, as I re-read my posts this weekend, I can see that something has changed. It is still me. I still laugh and appreciate and look and hope for the best. I still walk my dog and write my books and poems and relish the chance to eat a pizza by myself. But within me something new has taken root. It is deep and real and it makes me the same way. I am a more authentic person. My ego doesn't do battle so often anymore, and when I give my word I know I can keep it. There are now a handful of people I love so much I am standing in front of a moving train to protect them.

All this sounds good--all the positive growth I've hoped for when I think of the person I want to be. But my transformation is not what I expected.

For one thing, I cry more often. I can tell straight off that deep love is not all it's cracked up to be. The more I love, the more it depletes me. I can more easily give of myself, but sometimes I need to plan for the aftershock , when I will be wiped, or sad, or afraid in a way I haven't known before. Sometimes I have to digest that my needs are secondary because the needs of someone I love matters more. The worse change is that I now love at a distance and that means I have to live without the benefit of proximity and spontaneity.

Sometimes I cry because I know I will spend too many days adjusting to what is nothing short of longing. Sometimes I cry because I know and accept that while there are no limits to love, there are limits to when and where and how it can be shared. There are limits to the way the world is and the way the world works.

For another thing, I see misfortune around me and as always I am mobilized to want to act against it. I have been in the helping profession most of my adult life. I have been able to reach out and help out without internalizing the pain I see. I'm particularly good in a crisis. I'm a good counselor. But lately I've come to know that, every day, I know less and less--not more and more. And ask me how to deal with the sorrow and threat that has befallen the planet these days and I am at a loss.

I've noticed my recent posts lack the hopeful exuberance of my early ones. In some ways I am weightier, not lighter. And in other ways I am more serious, not sillier. I did not expect this.

This is not a final chapter. I am not feeling sorry for myself, and I would not change one thing. I still believe that most of us are good people doing our best. I believe our best is enough. It's just that I have begun to live differently. I am just now understanding that people and circumstance have changed me and the change is now part of who I am. It will affect who I become. I hope I become a better writer because of it. But most of all I hope I become a better person. That means, unfortunately, that I still have a long way to go and alot left to learn. It means I have become vulnerable. I can be hurt, because I've knowingly forfeited some of my protection.

And it means that at least a chunk of my learning is loving in a way that I willingly accept what is possible and what is not. Acceptance. There's my word of the year so far. Acceptance. If I really get what it means to live from a place of acceptance, how then shall I live?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Pity Meets Petty Meets Pause Meets Practice

Promise Yourself:

To be too large for worry,
too noble for anger,
too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble
Christian D. Larson

I say this abit differently: I try to be bigger than the situation.

Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don't.

Yesterday I revived a petty bitch I had promised myself and someone I love I would not bring up again. I did it because this little unfounded insecure part of me keeps squawking and I failed to let it calm down before I took to the computer keys and registered my 100th complaint. All is well, afterall, but I caused the two of us wasted breaths and energy that could have been spent in any number of interesting and fun endeavors.

And yet, remarkably, all this left me with reassurance that I am loved. This came in the form of no backing down and not letting me defend that I had a valid gripe, but ,despite that, a willingness to change--to protect me --if it really came to that. And of course it didn't. It doesn't.

The next time this petty bitch surfaces--and it will because I don't yet understand why it surfaces in the first place--I am going to sit on my hands and chant zip/lip lectures to myself. I am going to write myself a letter, eat chocolate, pace to and fro, buy a book, take a hot bath, get a manicure, catch a movie--something, anything that creates enough of a pause that I calm down, remember this is not about me, and let those loving arms stay sufficiently unencumbered to embrace me just because.

I am going to yet again try to be bigger than the situation.

With practice, my batting average is sure to improve, and for me, that's a gift to myself and to everyone around me.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

An As(s)-i-nine Post

Really, I've tried to maintain a certain refinement in this blog. As some of you know I don't talk about bodily fluids, I avoid direct discussion of sex, and my writing is generally upbeat.
I like to think my blog is really educational and inspirational, based on my sincere and touching honesty and my intelligent and interesting fund of knowledge and--what?-I can be too serious and preachy? Oh yes, I forgot about that. But at least I show up and try. That has to get me some points.....

Anway, my sister-in-law emailed me the following and I can't resist sharing it. It is not refined, upbeat, sincere, touching, or honest, BUT it IS interesting. Don't tell me it doesn't make you smile.

We all know those cute little computer symbols called "emoticons," where:

:) means a smile and

:( is a frown.

Sometimes these are represented by :-) :-(

Well, how about some "ASSICONS?"

Here goes:

(_!_) a regular ass

(__!__) a fat ass

(!) a tight ass

(_*_) a sore ass

{_!_} a swishy ass

(_o_) an ass that's been around

(_x_) kiss my ass

(_X_) leave my ass alone

(_zzz_) a tired ass

(_E=mc2_) a smart ass

(_$_) Money coming out of his ass

(_?_) Dumb Ass

You have just been e-mooned!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Your Hopeful Heart

I think I've covered a good deal of this post previously. But as I'm tying up my book proposal for Good Work, I can't help but be reminded that understanding and using both my mind and heart is so damn important in my life. So here is a familiar theme on this blog of mine, and maybe even familiar words. I hope this message and information may find its way to you at a good time and for a good reason.

"Does this path have heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t,
it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other
doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey: as long as you follow it, you are
one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong;
the other weakens you." --Don Juan, as written by Carlos Castenada

You can think of information from your heart as faith, or intuition, or emotion, or your higher power, but whatever you call it, research bears out the mysterious and infallible accuracy of trusting a source that is not logical, or factual, or even understandable.

You ignore your heart at your own peril. Your mind wants facts and assurances. Your heart wants passion and purpose. Your mind looks at information and possibilities along a straight line. You better believe you want your airplane pilot and neurosurgeon to be proceeding exactly this way. But in relationships, life choices, and the pursuit of happiness, your heart truly has something also important to tell you. You can choose to disregard it, but in my years of counseling experience, that usually results in less than satisfactory decisions.

Here’s how Healing Arts Instructor Susan Kramer puts it:

“Heart decisions come from our total experience—bodily senses, mind, and soul. The energy for making the best decision is not centered in the top of our body, the head. The energy really is pumped all through us from the center of our body, our physical heart, energizing all of our body. By analyzing all the data taken in through the receptors of all of our bodily senses we can know that we have reached the right decision by noting how we feel in our torso, in our physical heart or physical body. We should feel relaxed in our body instead of stressed in our body. Some signs of stress are digestive upsets, raised blood pressure, and headaches that occur when making just head, instead of full-body decisions.”

The trick is to be able to bypass your mind, which worries about everything, long enough to allow your heart—your feelings, your body, your emotions, your faith, and your intuition—to be at least be heard.

Your mind asks the hard questions. It thinks things through. It objectively weighs the options. All of this is essential and appropriate. It's just not the whole picture.

A hopeful heart asks the tender questions, considers feelings and relationships, asks what feels right. Your mind isn't fond of this line of questioning. It is too vague, for one thing. Your logical mind prefers and often requires certainty: for example--if I do A, I can expect B.

But in most cases your mind creates a losing battle when it insists on guaranteess and known results before you ready to take action. When it comes "matters of the heart"--and this might include weighing a job offer or thinking about moving or a determining if this is Ms. or Mr. Right--making the “right” decision is actually impossible —you simply can’t know with certainty that you have every bit of information available no matter when or what or how you decide.

There is not one decision you will ever make in your lifetime that comes with an advance guarantee. Once you accept this fact, you’ll be able to approach the decisions you make from a place that includes and cultivates both your jittery mind and your hopeful heart. It usually takes both of them to get it right.

Monday, February 05, 2007

One Week In Review

What does it take for a blind man to see that there's more than just meets the eye?
John Denver

It's been a week. I've always liked this line from one of John Denver's songs but this week it's playing over in my mind in a cosmic kind of way. I think it's about my decision and direction to let faith guide me more than I'm accustomed to, but in the true spirit of what faith requires, I can only trust what I see and what I don't see.
I could write a book about this week. But how about I focus on a couple of wonderous aspects of it:

I'll start with Ryan. He is 3 weeks old in this photo. Last Friday his eyes were open for almost an hour. While I held him, I wound up his music box and shook his little lion rattle for some added percussion and I swear he listened and heard. I'll be introducing him to music and poetry for a long time.

And snow finally came to New England. Except for the probable effects from global warming, I have no complaints at all that it is February and until this weekend, there has not been one minor or major snowstorm. I don't see ice and sleet in my long term future. But it's also true that there is nothing more glorious than freshly fallen snow:

Stella and I take this walk almost every day. I open our back yard gate and off we go. She is off leash for the first 5 to 10 minutes, until we hook up with the formal path at the Park. We walk around the lake and past dozens of ducks and a few geese--once even a crane. The park is well populated and well visited but when I'm there I'm meandering in the woods. This weekend I was wearing my boots and heavy mittens instead of my sneakers and gloves, but the glisten of the snow was worth even my chilled-to-the-bone fingers.

This is the view I look at from my windown as I sit here typing this post. This towering pine is alot like I feel: sometimes it is full and strong and flexible. Other times when it's shed its branches it looks so fragile and unprotected. I worry about its longevity sometimes, until I remind myself it has been upright and proud and together for many years. I hope when all is said and done I can view my own life this way.

Back to the Park: this is the way the world looked on Saturday, when Stella and I were just walking along, taking our time, feeling the cold air, and, for at least one of us, wondering what it takes for a blind man to see....

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Short Story: Part 2

The Flight of the Heart: A Sob Story about Two Soulmates
Who Find Each Other at the Worse Possible Time

After two days of my own sob story, I am now feeling better. Thank you for your comments and advice wishing me well and spurring me on.

It's time to get back to the 2nd installment of what will probably be a 4 or 5 part short story. I advise you to scroll down to read Part 1 first if you have not done so already; otherwise part 2 may not make much sense. And please keep in mind that this is a work of fiction. My love for these two characters is exceeded only by my imagination.

Her name is Isabelle. She immigrated to the United States from the Philippines when she was 24 to work as a trauma nurse in New York. She dated her American husband for seven years, who she met in Manila while he was a Peace Corps volunteer, before she finally became impatient and asked him to marry her. She told me all this in calm detail, using her hands to emphasize a point here and there, speaking with an impeccable English accent that had a rolling soothing foreign quality to it, and she more often than not laughed right along with me at her colorful descriptions of events and people.

“My Father and Mother raised eight children” she said. “I have five sisters and two brothers. One of my sisters is a doctor and another a lawyer. My brother John is a genius. They are all very intelligent and successful. My father was a photographer. We were poor. We had two maids and drivers. And my mother would share our food and help anyone who deserved and needed help.”

“How could you have maids and drivers and be poor?” I asked.

“That is how it is in the Philippines.” she said.

“What about you?” she asked me. “Tell me about your family. Where did you go to college? Why do you hate airports?”

Isabelle and I talked for two hours with few breaths in between. She told me her co-workers call her Isabella, her family and friends call her Isabelle and two of her sisters and her blogger friends call her Izzy. By the time I left her at Gate 43, I knew she was a Nurse who wrote medical protocols for a group of hospitals . I knew she was an artist who painted with a palette knife on weekends. I knew she was a terrible dinner companion.

Just after I ordered a chicken and vegetable wrap and fries at the airport version of Chili’s restaurant, she looked at me very solemnly.

“Casey”, she said, “You should not order vegetables in restaurants. It is not sanitary. Even at home I wash and scrub all my vegetable before I feed them to my family. I wash and scrub all the fruit too. Then I wrap them in plastic and put them in the refrigerator”

I didn’t know what to say. I wondered if the unusual image of my chicken and vegetable wrap scrubbed from one end to another and then encased from top to bottom in plastic would affect my appetite.

One week after I left her at gate 43 in Dallas, I received the following email.

“Dear Casey, Do you remember me? Have you been avoiding vegetables in restaurants and scrubbing your vegetables and fruit at home? Do you have a blog I can leave a comment on? I don’t know why I am thinking of you, but it seems you have captured my interest. Perhaps we could be penpals. I love pens and have quite a collection of them. It is a shame that writing letters is a dying custom. Please do not feel an obligation to respond similarly.


Two days later I began my own blog. The process took all of ten minutes and that included the time I needed to understand that I would write or share whatever I wanted to, whenever I wanted to, and anybody who knew about me could leave comments, which I could then respond to by way of my own comments. Once I was satisfied with the overall appearance of the blog space I entitled, “I Really Don’t Care” , I sent the following email to Izzy:

“Hello there. I was surprised and pleased to hear from you. On your recommendation I have set up my own blog. I have no idea what I will write about but if you will kindly comment, I will find my way to your blog. For your information, I resent that I now think about sanitary conditions when I eat an apple. And I would be happy to give pen pal-ing a try. I am a writer after all. We can write about how disgusted we are with George W and perhaps lament about the state of the world. I do not know when I will be in Dallas again but if I am, maybe we can find a germ free restaurant to have lunch again.

Best wishes,

It took all of five minutes to receive the following response:

”Dear Casey, I will not discuss George W with you unless you are willing to admit to the uneducated and uniformed arguments put forth by the Democrats. I contributed the maximum of $ 2100 in both of President Bush’s campaigns. I should have known you were a liberal. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Take Care,

This began a string of spirited correspondences that ranged from the very mundane to the mostly innocuous to the highly charged political. Over the next two months, I learned that although Izzy worked full time, her spiel about leading a quiet life of service as a wife and mother was as accurate as her creative fire and conservative passion. She was normally quite good natured about preparing dinner every night for her 4 person family. She handled the family laundry and household chores in the same way: often she conveyed an enthusiasm, if not peaceful acceptance, for the vexing tasks of life. I wondered where she got her energy.

By month three we were talking by phone. That in itself was a federal story. We were like high schoolers deciding who should call who first. Izzy and I had become pretty comfortable in our blogging and emailing. We were writing eachother long letters and sharing petty little details about ourselves that nobody else would have given a damn about.

She finally made the first call on a Sunday morning. I was as surprised and calmed by her serene accent as I was back at the Dallas airport. She still laughed vigorously at her own stories. Sometimes the two of us were laughing so hard we couldn't talk for a long minute or more. Sometimes we were zig zagging from one topic to another before one of us noticed two hours had passed.

For two women who had no history of chatting aimlessly and endlessly to anyone else at any time on any telephone, this was nothing short of a major life change.

"Izzy", I'd say. "How come we have so much to talk about?"

"Well-l-l-l", she'd respond,as though she was going to think about it but instead, one second later, she'd reply, "Anyway...Casey, tell me a story".

And I would.

I found Izzy's positive attitude and indeflatable energy level so contrary to my own. Maintaining her attitude about chores and responsibilities was clearly beyond my reach. I bitched while she accepted. She painted on weekends--glorious artwork borne from a skilled hand and deep emotion that was anything but weekendish.

She did not have a fancy studio or space of her own. Instead she painted from a corner of her family room and completed chores, prepared meals, and did laundry in between. Interruptions didn't phase her. She never missed a beat in the animated observations and opinions that she spilled forth among me on the phone and her children and husband in front of her.

I was only slightly surprised when Izzy told me she was opposed to gun control, immigration amnesty, and most government programs, but I was floored when she told me that the evidence for global warming was not conclusive.

“You should read the Drudge Report”, she finally said. "The top scientists who do not agree about global warming are denied funding." She paused.

I sputtered. "You can't be serious."

"Do you know how old the earth is, Casey?”

I didn’t.

“It is 4.5 billion years old. Why are we overreacting now?”

To be continued......