Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Reluctant Geek

As I was proofreading the previous post, I suddenly remembered a (to me) hilarious anecdote that I must share today.

In June of 1996, John and I traveled with the Oratorio Society of Washington/The Washington Chorus to Paris, London, Cirencester, Oxford and Bath on a concert tour where we performed the Fauré Requiem and the Vivaldi Gloria.

A few days before we left, John's department in the Defense Intelligence Agency offices at the Pentagon had installed new computers. He was so excited to have a CD drive on which he could play music while at work. His own personal CD player.

We were gone for ten days. On his first day back at the office, he called me at the law firm in a panic. He had forgotten how to open the CD drive and had inadvertently pushed the CD into the 5.25" floppy drive. He was mortified that he'd have to call the tech support guys and admit his ignorance.

In trying to diagnose the problem and come up with a solution, I asked him, "was it a software CD or a music CD?"

He replied, quizzically, "They put software on CDs?"

Courage Is . . .

Today I am celebrating John's life. I have a box of cards and photos, the folder I kept of his medical records and my notes through our cancer battle, and copies of e-mails received at the end of his life. I rediscovered this box a couple of nights ago after not seeing it for a year. I'd like to share some of those notes here today.

John was great about buying me cards and writing the most lovely notes to me. I wish now I had dated them. To set the stage for the first note I want to share, let me back up.

John and I lived together from August of 1988 to May of 1990. At that time, he chose to listen to the seductive words of another woman, who didn't really want him but didn't want me to have him. We parted company and I married, a couple of years later, Bob the Mormon with the son who threatened to shoot me. The day John heard Bob and I had separated, around Easter of 1995, he started calling me, sometimes four and five times a day. We went out for our birthdays a couple of months later (June 20th/June 22nd) and just fell back into our wonderful old life together. A couple of months later I received this card from him:

Lucky are we who know that destiny
is guided by the heart alone.
And lucky am I to have found you.

He signed it:
Across the years.

Inside was a long, handwritten note that included these words:
Dearest Jan --
Your resilience and astounding ability to overcome adversity, move on, and put your life (back) in order is testimony to both your faith in yourself and your considerable talents.

As one who has been a burden and a challenge . . . it's a bit painful to me to think back on my inability to recognize what we had, and where we could have been had my perception approached yours. But being that as it may, I have a total faith in you . . . .

He always got a kick out of my name being the same as the Susan Sarandon character in "Rocky Horror Picture Show," and he would pronounce it "CHAN-et" as I guess some character in the movie did.

I don't remember the reason for or date of the next card, but it believe it was after our marriage on March 16, 1996, but before his diagnosis in September of 1996.

Courage is . . .
Believing in yourself and fulfilling your potential.
Showing you care and giving unconditionally.
Doing what you want and trusting yourself to make the right decisions.
Sitting in the driver's seat and taking control of your life.
Making your own decisions and being honest with yourself and others.
Accepting changes and flowing with them.
Dealing with your problems and asking for help.
Offering your opinions and communicating your fears and doubts.
Accepting abundance and allowing yourself to succeed.
Trying again and doing new things.
Loving yourself and others unconditionally.

Inside the card, he wrote:
And you get some pretty terrific marks in all 11 categories.
And over time.

Now, from my e-mails to friends and to my caregivers' support group:

June 24, 1998
John said to me this afternoon that he was very weak and ready to move. I wasn't sure what he meant, as communication is very difficult for him. I asked, "do you mean you're ready to die?" He said yes.

June 25, 1998
Last night when I gave him his medications, he said, "promise me that these are the last medications." I said I could not promise that — that it was not within my control.

And later that day:
He's much more restless this afternoon — having a very hard time getting to sleep. He stares blankly around the room, looks right at me but doesn't see me. His skin is cooler.

His pain is worse today. I called the nurse and said we must increase the morphine or the Duragesic or both.

Later that evening, and this is so typically JR:
John is carrying on tonight about a set of eight disks he wants me to create and some message that's supposed to be on the disks. He says "copy a: to b:/ and make two sets." Then he wants to know whether I was done and what it was called. Then he said I needed to list the b:/ network.

June 26, 1998
We're very close. When the hospice social worker came this afternoon, John told her he was ready to die. She told him good-bye when she left.

June 27, 1998 (Saturday)
A music thanatologist, or harp therapist, came this morning and played prescriptive music for him for an hour. Sounds very woo-woo, but it wasn't at all. It was quite wonderful and peaceful. He's resting comfortable.

Later that day:
He has not slept much this afternoon. He just stares blankly around the room and has little conversations with all the people inside his head. Finally it dawned on me that he's afraid — if he goes to sleep he might not wake up.

So he's very conflicted. On one hand, his body doesn't work anymore and he wants to be rid of it. On the other, he doesn't want to leave his loved ones behind. What a dilemma.

June 28, 1998
A little earlier this evening, John reached up as if to twist dials and flip switches. Then he said something about getting on board. So I think he's just waiting for the flight crew to come and get him.

Two minutes ago he said, for the second time this evening, "Okay, let's go.

June 29, 1998
The nurse came by an hour ago and said he doesn't think today is the day. He says it should be this week, but not today.

John has not eaten since Thurs., and is now not drinking — everything comes up. So ice chips and little sips of water when it's medication time.

June 30, 1998

John is having great difficulty swallowing, so difficulty in taking his medications. His internal store of morphine is low this morning, so he's in great pain and moaning quite a bit. I continue to pray for his release from this jail of pain.

John has had a day from hell. Right now we're waiting for the ambulance to come and take him to hospice where he will spend some time while we try to get his pain under control. I don't ever want another day like this one has been.

After the worst day we've ever had, I called hospice and asked if they could take John in-unit tonight to try to stabilize the pain. The ambulance arrived at 5 'til 6:00. We arrived at hospice at 6:30 p.m. The staff asked me to wait in the lobby area while they got him settled in bed. In less than five minutes they came out and said, "he's gone."

He was one remarkable person who enriched my life beyond compare. I will miss him forever, but I am so grateful that he is no longer in pain.

From my remarks at his musical memorial service on July 27, 1998:
For the past 10 years, it has been my pleasure to be friends with John Ross. For the past two-and-a-half years, it has been my privilege to be married to him, and for the past 21 months my blessing to be his primary caregiver as he battled the demon cancer.

And I'll close this very long but heartfelt post by sharing with you the note TJ referenced in his poem. This was, again, so typical of John to leave me lighthearted notes when he had left early for the office or had raced out the door for an early tee time. This, a reminder not to set the security system because the cleaning lady would come that day:

Dear One -
Don't arm on Tuesday!
Bless you for caring for me.

Friday, June 29, 2007

On Intimacy

I'm still mulling over the "why do you blog" question the Chef posed recently.

I have frequently said that what I miss the most, not being in a relationship, is intimacy. When I say intimacy, I don't mean the flesh-to-flesh component of intimacy, although that's also lacking. I mean the ability to lie pillow-to-pillow or sit across a cuppa and pour my heart out, both the happinesses and the sadnesses. And listen; listen as my loved one tells me what he's thinking about current presidential candidates or the price of gas or how he felt when he hit that last golf ball or how much he enjoys our life together. Anything on the spectrum — just the sharing. The sharing of our hearts. I miss that.

So I share my feelings in cyberspace. It doesn't matter to me whether anyone reads or not. But the knowledge that someone may be reading, and that people send me e-mails off-blog commenting on my current happiness or sadness, lets me feel that I'm heard.

The Chef wondered aloud how I could bare my soul the way I do. I think I pride myself on being open — an open book. And part of the reason I put the blog behind lock and key — err, password — after beginning my job hunt, is because I do bare my soul, no holds barred, in a venue that's visible to all eyes, friend or foe. I didn't want some employer Googling me after reading my resumé and choosing a more private person to employ.

As I thought about the lack of intimacy on my drive in this morning, I felt my throat constrict and my eyes well with tears. I'm missing John horribly. I'm missing the ease and comfort and utter compatibility of that relationship, that man, that life.

I fantasize that his last thought before closing his eyes the final time was how much joy he brought me.

Life's Passages

Sit down, Kiddies, this is going to be a long post. It was rolling around my head for an hour while I laid on the massage table tonight.

Twenty years ago in August. Oh my God, I cannot believe it's been twenty years. Twenty years ago in August I went to my law school orientation. I was in my standard IBM skirted suit, with my badge hanging from the jacket pocket. A woman sat down next to me. She introduced herself and observed that we looked like we were from the same generation. When we compared notes, she was three months older than I and had been married twice — once annulled and once divorced. I was on my second difficult marriage.

Her name was Tracy Nadel. We became close friends. We spoke on the phone daily. She formed a study group and I was invited to join. We studied together, ate together, shared milestones together. After my second marriage fell apart, after I got custody of Tyler and was working a full-time and two part-time jobs while going to law school at night, it was Tracy I would call and ask, "can I please quit?" And she would answer "no," and I would dig deep inside and find the strength to endure another day, another week, another semester.

She passed the Pennsylvania bar on her first try and went to work as a resource analyst for the Joint Committee on Taxation on the Hill. I didn't pass the Pennsylvania bar, then I didn't pass the Virginia bar four times. Tracy was always there encouraging me. She stood by me through my ill-advised third marriage, and rejoiced with me when John and I found each other again.

She had a limited variety of male friends, but no one she deemed good enough. And she was sad, as her biological clock kept ticking, that she had not had children and probably never would. She started thinking about adoption.

Tracy was one of about thirty guests at John's and my wedding on March 16, 1996. She had just started the paperwork to be approved as an adoptive parent for a Chinese adoption. Unbeknownst to her, her daughter had been born a month earlier. In February of 1997, Tracy and her sister flew to Beijing and went out in the country to the orphanage where her daughter, Jennie Rebecca, was waiting for her.

Shortly after Jennie arrived, Tracy was diagnosed with a malignant tumor on her kidney. The surgeon said he got it all and she'd be fine. A year later, John died. His death changed my life. Motherhood and her health scare changed Tracy's life. I moved to Tucson with Steve and all contact between Tracy and me ceased.

A year ago I Googled her to see what was happening with her these days, whether she was still on the Hill, whether I could find photos of her and Jennie. To my horror I found her obituary. Renal cell carcinoma. And a seven-year-old adopted Chinese daughter. Her sister and brother-in-law adopted Jennie, who became a little Manhattan Jewish-Chinese Princess.

Today I Googled Jennie to see if I could see a photo, could see how she was growing up. To my astonishment, I found an article telling how Tracy's sister had inadvertently discovered that Jennie was a twin and had been able to find her fraternal twin sister and reunite them.

All of this thrust me into a river of melancholy. I remembered Tracy's impeccable townhouse in Georgetown, original works of art on the wall, an interior designer's touch on every room. It made me wonder why we, certain single women of a certain age, put so much effort and attention into our homes, when all we want is to make a home with someone else, some right man who will help us find the center of our lives. We tread water and jog in place while we try to put all the pieces of the puzzle together to find him.

I remembered how many hours Tracy and I talked about finding the right man, and how thrilled for me she was when John and I reunited. I remembered how discouraged she was that she could never find her ultimate partner. I remembered how she sat next to me, emotionally holding me up, through John's memorial services.

I felt part of the reason our friendship fell apart was because she was jealous of my having found Steve, someone (the token Jewish man?) who appeared to love me and bought me the big diamond and the big house. She said I wasn't being a good friend. Was I not a good friend because I found my man before she found hers, which she never did? She would have said a loud but loving "I told you so" had she known how miserable I was with Steve. But she didn't get that chance. I tried a couple of times to reestablish contact, but she would have no part of it. And then she was gone.

I've said a number of times here that I would love to have a crystal ball to see where I'm going to be six months from now, or a magic wand to make the housing and job situations straighten themselves out. But those don't work.

Would Tracy have adopted Jennie had she known she wouldn't live to see her past first grade? I like to think so.

Should I open my heart to someone when I don't know if he'll want to see me again in a week or six weeks or six months? I like to think so.

I've often said that, as hard as my life has been (in my opinion), it has all worked together the way it should. I wish I hadn't married Terry, but that marriage got me my boys. My moving to Washington to marry Dick and my job at IBM got me my B.S. My finding myself in therapy gave me the courage to attempt and accomplish law school. My volunteerism with The Washington Chorus got me John, once and again. John gave me happiness.

Brick upon brick, life is built and we move from room to room in that life. Right now I feel like I'm in a keeping room and I'd like to move out, but evidently the time isn't right. Maybe it's a time for remembering how to open my heart, how to trust someone, however tentatively, with my heart.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Words for the Wise

I'm very pleased with how my fragmented and "broad-based" career experience has developed into my current position as a wordsmith. (For any reader who doesn't know, I serve as editor-in-chief of I take technical marketing information and turn it into compelling Web copy.) And it follows that I'm thrilled that both my sons are drawn to words.

Tyler has developed wonderful critical-thinking skills (with a tip of my hat to his teachers at Interlochen Arts Academy) and writes insightfully about a number of topics on his Ignorance is Piss blog (see link on the left column of this page) and his new Youngstown Renaissance blog. He also writes program notes for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra program book, and is highly complimented for his way with words.

TJ is a poet. I love reading his words and want to continually encourage him to pursue that avocation. He wrote some lovely verse about John that I posted on my Website. These words are especially poignant to me now, as we're two days away from the 9th anniversary of John's death. Here are those words.

I've mentioned that he has a new lady in his life. I sense a new lightness and brightness in him and that makes me happy. This morning he shared with me a poem he wrote recently about his new lady and, with his permission, I post it here.

At This Moment (She Is)

She is form and she is function
She is style and she is substance
She is prose and poetry
Fact and fantasy
She is truth and beauty
Wit and wisdom
She is an explosion of all five senses
(And then some)

She is a phoenix goddess
Worlds destroyed and empires built
In deep devotion to her

She is purple ink and orange-dyed eggs
She is springtime love
And sex in the afternoon
She is the calm and the storm
And, best of all
She is mine
Not for ever
Maybe not even for tomorrow
But for now, at this moment

And at this moment
Holds the promise of a
Thousand thousand moments to come
Each one sweeter and more magical
than the one before it

And maybe tomorrow
Maybe at some moment before forever
That promise will turn out to be a lie
But if so, it will have been
The most beautiful lie I have ever heard


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Celebration of Life

My colleague Rajendran Subramaniam lost his father a month ago. He had to take almost a month off from work to return to India as there is a three week process for them to bury their dead.

Raj has a beautiful little daughter who turns one today. I mentioned it when I saw him this morning and asked if they were having a little party tonight. I know in his religion there is a ritual at one year of age where they shave the child's head, but I didn't know whether they also have birthday parties.

He said he is not supposed to celebrate anything for a year following the death of his father. They will have a small children's party on Saturday, but nothing major, and nothing major for his son's 6th birthday in August.

His statement of the year of mourning made me start thinking about the passages of life.

I've told my kids repeatedly that all anyone needs to say after I die is "she was kind." That's how I want to be remembered. I don't want mourning. Sure, I know my kids and grandkids and friends will miss me, but don't mourn. Celebrate. Celebrate the fact that we had such fun together and made beautiful music or dyed beautiful silk or watched a beautiful sunset together. Don't put your life on hold for a predetermined period of time, determined by some holy person ten centuries ago.

I'm all for ritual and tradition, but life is to be lived, not mourned.

The Midas Touch

When Tyler was virtually living with me in high school and college, I frequently said that everything he touched turned to gold. He is such a gifted conductor, and did a fabulous job perfecting his technique, building musical groups, and developing his musical network.

I feel a bit of that magic has rubbed off on me and has manifested itself a bit in the past few weeks.

About six weeks ago I saw a notice in the Tucson Citizen about the Tucson Business Edge and their "40 Under 40" annual award. I suggested to my fellow Tucson Chamber Artists board members that we nominate our conductor and music director, Eric Holtan. Last week we were notified that he is one of the 60 finalists.

Then last week I e-mailed Bonnie Henry, who writes a local personalities column in the Arizona Daily Star, about the Traveler's coast-to-coast ride in the Run for the Wall. (See my earlier post.) The Traveler called me this morning to tell me he has been interviewed by Bonnie Henry and participated in a photo shoot with his bike yesterday. I was thrilled.

If good things come in threes, I wonder what else I can turn to gold with my touch.

iPods, Songs, and a Confluence of Men

I had a ball at Raz last night. I've always wanted to have a party of all my friends at my house where I could just play the piano all evening. Who cares what the caterer would cost? I would be having the time of my life. That's basically what happened last night.

My dear friend Terry, who is the PR Manager of the Tucson Symphony, had invited our friend Cassandra and me for a birthday drink. Cassandra was formerly the Development Associate at TSO at the time I was the Information Systems Manager. The three of us shared cubicle walls in an office and developed a close and enduring friendship. Terry knows I would like to live in his closet and stroke his wardrobe on a regular basis. He's the only guy I know who loves Nordstrom almost as much as I.

As we were sitting there hearing about the new and seemingly permanent (finally!) man in Cassandra's life and the gossip at the Symphony, who should walk in the door of Raz but Frank and one of the fillies, actually the filly who cuts my hair. (Don't let anyone tell you Tucson is not a small town.) Then at 6:30 the Professor came in and was seated directly ahead of me so we could maintain eye contact and he could feed me tunes. (Oh, and an hour later the retired lawyer/real estate investor came in. He was wearing a clean shirt.)

The Professor's knowledge of jazz repertoire is astonishing. He kept feeding me song titles that I'd never played before. I could usually get eight or sixteen measures of the song, but tended to fall down at the bridge. Yesterday at work I bought a couple of songs off iTunes to try to get them in my head. I didn't master them yesterday, but I'm starting to build up, with the Professor's help, quite a list of fine songs to learn and add to my repertoire.

I may have to remove all the audible books from my iPod to have room for all these new tunes I'm going to learn.

I am really astonished with the musical inventiveness inside the Professor's skull. I hold my ear up to his ear just to hear what's going on inside there, and I am amazed. As this relationship (yes, I'm feeling like I can call it a relationship) develops, I can't wait to continue sitting on a piano bench with him and developing my style based on what he hears.

My friend Joe, who has the classic rock band East2West, came in and sang three numbers. I think we have the possibility of being fabulous together, but it will require a PA system. The system at Raz wasn't working last night so Joe really had to push to enable me to hear him and enable the audience to hear him. And I blew a chord because I was distracted by the sound situation. I hope Joe had enough fun that he'll want to work with me again, despite my blowing last night.

I may have doubts about the woman who is acting as event planner for these Tuesday night gigs, but I'm going to enjoy them as long as they last and as long as I can stand working with her.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Why Do You Blog?

This question was posed to me several weeks ago by a new friend, who shall be referred to as The Chef.

No one had ever asked me that before, and I was taken aback by his question. The blog started out when I wanted to memorialize what I thought was going to be an ongoing haiku communication with some unknown person online. When that quickly fizzled out, I just kept writing about the goings-on in my life, particularly with Mr. Match.

As I go back and read those early entries about Mr. Match and his behavior, his need of "hot-and-cold running women", I realize I should have recognized what was happening and broken it off about two months earlier than I did. But I was having so much fun, and he was so attentive — when he was actually attending to me — and I had so much hope that I might actually be able to have some happiness in my life again.

Lesson learned.

As the weeks passed and readership built up to 30 or 40 people per day who were patterning their days around my posting, I found that I really enjoyed the regularity of blogging.

Of course, not everyone who blogs writes a post on a regular basis. (Just check any of the links to the left of the screen. I check Jaci's blog daily to see if she's posted some new scrapbook layout for my viewing pleasure, but she's too busy with school being out for the summer and two babes to care for.)

In the beginning, I had ideas popping into my head, begging to be laid down in pixels. I couldn't wait to write the post each day, and frequently had two or three days-worth of topics in development. As I became more and more accustomed to the discipline of writing every day, I enjoyed it more and more. I found a voice of humor that I didn't know I had. I enjoyed taking the mini-disasters of my life and turning them into comedy. And I fell more and more in love with examining the grammar and parsing the sentences and trying to figure out the best way to express any given thought.

And I found that putting my thoughts and emotions into words worked as therapy-without-the-therapist for me. I was learning more about myself with each day, and learning more about my craft of writing.

So why do I blog? To express myself, to deal with feelings and emotions, and because I just love doing it.

Thanks for asking!

The Cosseted, Caressed Cat

I woke up at 4:00 this morning with a bit of a headache. Back to my usual routine: Excedrin, glass of cold water (as the iced tea pitcher was empty), and ice pack to the back of my neck. I crawl back into bed and in an instant Rudi is by my side.

He places his hind legs as close to my upper arm as he can, then stretches across my chest. This is his usual routine. I stroke his head, scratch his ears, and he head-butts my hand for more stroking, more petting, more pampering.

As I lay here caressing him, it occurs to me that cats are very lucky. What I wouldn't give for a man in my life whom I could nuzzle up to and head-butt so he'd run his fingers through my hair and take my mind off the pain in my head.

Ah, to be a cat.

Monday, June 25, 2007

More Detritus

I mentioned the recyclables that are being deposited on the window ledge. I didn't mention that the front hallway in the building is lined with trash containers. There are the standard recycling containers for white and colored paper, newspapers and cardboard. But there are also very large carts, maybe 30" wide and 48" long and 36" deep, one to hold glue-bound manuals and phone books and a couple to hold unclassified trash.

When I started my career with IBM in Dallas a mere 26 years ago, I was working in a group of supersmart programmers, the best and brightest that IBM had to offer. If you've spent much time around the best and brightest (such as Evil-Ex-Fiancé-From-Hell), you know that sometimes these ultrasmart people have no social skills.

One of these bright programmers in Dallas was a guy named Ed. To call him a slob would be a compliment. He tended to fall asleep at work. You might see him with a book in his lap, one hand holding back the pages, sound asleep. I remember one time sitting at my desk in the secretary's corner of the floor, hearing something I thought was a lawnmower engine. I asked some of the guys what the sound was, and they told me it was Ed, snoring.

Twenty-five years ago, every man at IBM wore shirts and ties to work. This was a good ten years before "casual Friday" was initiated in the nation's workforce. Polo shirts, jeans, shorts — never worn to work, at least not at IBM.

Ed kept a tie in his desk drawer. Every morning when he arrived, he would open the drawer and don his tie. When he left at the end of the day, he'd take it off and restow it in the drawer.

But here's the thing. Ed was kinda big. Maybe fat. Maybe obese. Some memories, thankfully, fade with time. When he'd sleep at his desk, he'd drool. When he'd go out to lunch with the guys, he'd drip food on his tie. Remember that McBarbeque sandwich that was premiered in about 1982? Yep, barbeque sauce all down his tie, never to be removed.

I had totally forgotten about Ed and these idiosyncracies until I was walking past the trash bins in the hallway and saw a tie coiled among the papers and awards and other unwanted office stuff.

It's been many a year since most men in Tucson wore ties. The standard in this office is polo shirts and khakis. The standard in my group is shorts and t-shirts.

But I'll bet that lone tie in the trash bin could tell some great stories about the old days!

The Detritus of Office Life

IBM has given up the lease on the building where I work. They have five buildings on this campus, and with more and more employees telecommuting, no longer need this space. By July 31, this building will change from IBM occupancy to Raytheon occupancy.

So everyone in this building is busy cleaning, tossing and packing. When someone comes across a manual or book or binder he no longer needs but thinks someone else might have a use for, he takes it to the window ledge in the vending area and leaves it for adoption by someone else.

As I nuke my morning tea or my lunch, I browse the ledge to see what's available. Some are software packages we used around here ten years ago (or more). Some are classic blue binders with the eight-bar IBM logo. Some are textbooks the abandoner used for a class but no longer needs to refer to.

This strikes me as humorous, but I'm not sure why. Only in the last six months have I gotten rid of most of my law textbooks, after carting them around for 15+ years. The thing with both law and computers is that the information quickly goes out of date. The immediacy of information — some very reliable, some less so — has dimmed the necessity of hardcopy books for study and education.

In that same vein, I was very interested to learn this morning that iTunes has surpassed to become the third-largest music retailer, after Wal-Mart and Best Buy. I would love to have a crystal ball and be able to see what popular culture will be like in 25 years.

If you'll excuse me while you ponder that, I'm going to run down to the ledge and see if anyone abandoned an HTML manual. I still like to use highlighters and pens on paper!

Others' Words on the Same Topic

Today's Real Simple Daily Thought is right on target to the last post:

June 25, 2007

To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.

— Donald Laird

Life Lessons Learned

The restaurant I went to last week, Vin Tabla, offers wines in tastes, glasses, or bottles. But more on that later.

When I meet someone new, I want to focus on him, on the potential in that relationship. I don't want to date five guys at a time. Remember, I have no hormones. I can't keep all the facts straight!

When I meet someone new and all indicators are a good match and lotsa possibilities, I hide my profile. I don't want someone else pinging me and diverting my attention. I want to see if this one's a go and explore it, view all facets of the relationship. Then, down the road, if it's not working, I will move out of that arrangement and find another.

I don't easily quit something I've started. I want to give the other party in the relationship the benefit of the doubt. I'm a kind, caring, loving person and am a terrific support mechanism. To me, to quit too quickly would be to risk throwing away something wonderful, but also would belie my view of myself as a terrific support person. A care-er.

At 57, I find that I'm less and less resilient with each relationship attempted and lost or discarded. I find something; I open my heart and walk in, fearless. Maybe this goes back to my pre-law school view of life as black or white, one or zero. Either explore a relationship with me or leave me the hell alone. But that then rejects the possibility of having a lovely time getting to know each other and then growing into something even more wonderful. Hmmm. Maybe I've never done that before.

Maybe the history of my love life has been a series of roller coasters.

The ones and zeros right now are "romantic" or "platonic". Frank and I started at romantic and moved to platonic. When I'm exploring romance with a man, I don't want to be one of many; I want to be one of one. But if the relationship is platonic, I don't have any entitlements, any claim on the territory, so that anxiety dissipates.

I'm perfectly happy being one of the fillies in Frank's stable, and I tease him relentlessly. A couple of the women that he hangs out with protest loudly when "filly" is applied to them. One in particular, a professor, is a woman he feels a very strong connection to and for whom he would release all the fillies from the stable and tell them to go find other homes. But she doesn't want a relationship with him. She wants him to take her to dinner and she wants his advice about houses and his help with things electrical or horticultural and she wants to ride in his cute little car. But she doesn't want a relationship. And she doesn't want to be a "filly." C'mon! It's a one or a zero. It's romantic or platonic. Isn't it?

Bringing the discussion back to Vin Tabla, I want a man who wants a glass of me, not a tasting of me along with five or eight other bottles. I don't want to sit on the sideline, waiting my turn for him to order a glass of me and, a year or so from now, a bottle of me.

If you want to personify the bottles of wine, the tasting is a competition to see who will win the opportunity to be selected for the next glass. To the best of my knowledge, women aren't into competition. It's only the men who want to compete and win. I just want to win by default and skip the whole competition nonsense.

Yet again, the Little Adoptee rears her ugly head. I want to be special. I want the farmer to say to Babe, "That'll do, Pig. That'll do."

But it occurs to me that just being selected for a taste should say to me that I'm special. After all, look at all the women who didn't even make it to the tasting!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Mini-Travelogue

Frank and I got back from Scottsdale/Phoenix around 3:00 this afternoon. I then sashayed over to Talbot's to use my birthday coupon. (A new friend observed that I sashay when I walk. Is that a Southern thing?!) Alas, there was nothing at Talbot's that said, "Buy me." So I bought a pair of black leggings, then eased on down the road to Limited Additions, where I added a few pieces to my summer wardrobe.

To the PianoLady, I will confess that these pieces include an Eileen Fisher black knit dress To Die For. Perfect for playing the piano at Raz on Tuesday nights. I am a happy birthday girl!

This evening I went over to Rio Café for spinach salad and a glass of Excelsior — my routine. Kate-from-Chicago and her dad were there and she and I agreed to get together the next time she's in town. And Richard wouldn't let me pay for my dinner. He said it was my birthday present.

So all-in-all, I'd have to say it was a pretty spectacular birthday. If the past few days are an indicator of the year ahead, sign me up!

Friday, June 22, 2007

My Birthday Activities

Thanks to all for the wishes.

I received several e-cards yesterday. This morning several e-mails awaited me when I woke up.

I'm meeting Jill at 7:30 for coffee. Congratulations to Jill and David who are celebrating 39 years of marriage today. She knows all her single girlfriends want to be on the waiting list for David if she ever tires of him. He's a gem, but she is too, so this is a match made in heaven.

This afternoon Frank and I are driving to Scottsdale for the twilight (i.e. all the lights on) tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West. You may remember that Frank is a stained glass artist. He has lived in Tucson since the 70s and has never visited Taliesin West. The initial plan was to drive his cute little sportscar, but I said on second thought that we should take my car with the GPS and a little more room to stretch out.

We're staying at one of the many lovely resorts in Scottsdale and will probably have a breakfast that includes mimosas.

Tomorrow I'm taking him over to see the Arizona Biltmore Resort, which is attributed to Wright, but may have been done by his student. In any event, there's some more great Frank Lloyd Wright glass there.

Then we're going to run by Restoration Hardware, a store Frank is unfamiliar with and will absolutely love. When I told Frank the whole plan yesterday, his response was "You've got it all planned. I'm not going to have to make any decisions!" He sounded thrilled. Really.

(I should whisper in your ear that he's been having some problems with his 16yo son lately, and my goal on this trip is to pamper him and let him escape his problems for a few hours.)

So that's my day.

And my mother just called to wish me Happy Birthday! Last year she forgot my birthday, so this was quite nice. By the way, she didn't know if today was Friday or Saturday, but she knew it was the 22nd. That's a good sign.

And Happy Birthday to Me!

I don't think I've ever known the time at which I was born. Last night I decided to see if I had that information. I dug through all my adoption files and finally found a document from the hospital records. Handwritten across the top of the form was "June 22, 1950 5:05 am" How come I'm now 57 years old and that's the first time I've seen anything showing my time of birth?

Have you ever really stopped to think about all the little things you know about yourself that an adoptee never gets to know? I'm not saying "poor me." I'm saying there's good cause for all the holes I've sensed in my life for my whole life.

Here's the short story and some tidbits:
Daddy and Mother decided they wanted a daughter. They had two sons already, and mother had been pregnant once shortly after they were married and gave birth to a stillborn daughter. For whatever reason, they decided not to get pregnant again and take their chances on another son, but rather to adopt a daughter.

So Daddy told all his colleagues who had obstetrics practices that he wanted to adopt a daughter. He asked them to consider him as the potential adoptive parent should any of them have a patient come into labor with no identified recipient for the child.

In the evening of June 21, 1950, the phone rang in their home. The doctor calling told them he had a patient in labor and if it was a girl, they had a daughter. I imagine they didn't sleep very well that night. The next morning they received the second call, congratulating them on the birth of their daughter.

Mother had an appointment that day at the beauty shop to get a permanent. She told the hair stylist she had just had a baby, and the woman looked at her like she was crazy.

On Mother's sister's birthday four days later, Mother sent Aunt Helen a telegram, stating, "Happy Birthday. Announcing Janet Gail Crews, born June 22nd." Her sister was very angry with her for hiding her pregnancy for nine months. (Okay, I never said this was a functional family!)

On June 28th, a family friend drove Mother in his car to the hospital to pick me up. She had a little cotton batiste dress for me. Daddy didn't go along and they didn't drive a car that was identifiable to Mother and Daddy because they didn't want my birthmother to be able to later find them and decide she wanted me back.

Daddy brought the rolling metal baby cart home from his office to be my crib until they could get a nursery together. Many years later when Tyler was so sick as an infant, Daddy let me have that cart so I could move Tyler around the house and keep him near me at all times.

Mother tells me she was so thrilled to have me. She says she loved me so much she would stand by my crib and cry.

One of my earliest memories is of Daddy telling me I was his "special delivery baby."

As I did for PianoLady, I'll tell you a couple of people who share my birthday: Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Kris Kristofferson, Bill Blass and Meryl Streep (who is a year older than I and looks darned good for 58!).

And I'll thank you for all the good wishes and close with a quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh, whose writings I love.

"We tend not to choose the unknown, which might be a shock or a disappointment or simply a little difficult to cope with. And yet it is the unknown with all its disappointments and surprises that is the most enriching."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Heat in the Light of Day

No, this post is not about the temperature in Tucson today. But I did want to mention that you can tell it's summer in Tucson when people start choosing their parking spaces to be near trees rather than near the entrance to the building.

I've mentioned many times on this blog that the first time I sat down for a drink with Mr. Match, a mere 360 days ago, lightning struck the table. Ever the pilot, he stated several times that we were moving at the speed of heat. I had wonderful feelings after that meeting and for a couple months thereafter until he decided behaving like a scoundrel was preferable to behaving like an adult.

Today I have wonderful feelings again after last night's stellar first date. But I was thinking about the lightning and the speed of heat, and I didn't have that sensation last night. As I look back on last night, in the cold light (or Tucson hot light) of day, my impression is of one of Boston's satin blankies wrapping us up, rather than of lightning striking the table.

I do not feel a sense of urgency. I don't feel any anxiety or nervousness. I just feel warm and wonderful. Whether this relationship — or whatever you want to call it — lasts 24 hours or 24 years or someplace in between, I'm going to enjoy every minute of it!

(P.S. On choosing the word "relationship" to describe something so new: We're relating, aren't we? Therefore it is by definition a relationship.)

Happy Birthday to Frank

When I first met Frank last October, I asked when his birthday was. He said "June 21st" and I asked if he was kidding. I figured he had seen my e-mail address (jaycie622) and correctly figured out that my birthday was June 22nd and was just playing with me.

It's been fun through the past eight months, as we progressed from dating to becoming dear friends, to know we had a joint birthday coming up.

I called him this morning and told him we were the same age today. Alas, tomorrow I'll zoom ahead.

If you haven't gathered from all I've written about Frank/The Gardener over the past eight months, I'll tell you he's a very generous man, selfless, and devoted to his friends. And cute, to boot. As well as great fun for all the fillies in the stable.

So Happy Birthday, Frank. I hope your day includes some peaceful garden time.

Rather than posting just one photo of him or his garden, I'll share the album with you.

Oh! My! God!

June 20, 2007, may just go down in history as one of the all-time great days in my life.

I met someone today. It makes me wonder if John gave himself a birthday present by dropping this man in my life, this totally, utterly, completely and absolutely suitable man. He's very intelligent, he's highly educated, he's cultured, he's musical. Oh, and he's very good looking and knows how to dress himself and keep a nice house. Can all of this be inside of one man?

I played for him, then he played for me and I was blown away. Blown Away! The jazz that's inside this man's head astonishes me. It doesn't matter that he is not yet facile enough to have the music seep out his fingers. I see what his hands do on the keys, and I understand what's inside his head. And it's phenomenal.

Okay, that's all I'm going to say about this topic, except to say he's a professor at the university and I could fall head over heels for this guy.

Can you imagine how wonderful it is to feel hope, just when you thought you'd never feel hope again?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Twists and Turns of Life

Today is John's birthday. He would have been 69 today.

During the final year of his life, I was active on a cancer caregivers' listserv/bulletin board. Those of us on the board were the primary caregivers for someone, typically a family member, with cancer of any type. Although there was the occasional tiff on the board, as there are in all online communities, for the most part this group of people were a lifeline for each other. When I was worried or scared or needing information, day or night, I could post a note on the board, and usually within 15 minutes I had what I needed, whether an "attagirl" or solid information and a link to the page I needed.

We all got to be as good friends to each other as one can be with someone you've never met face-to-face. In September, three months after John's death, there was a cancer march in Washington and many of these people traveled to DC to participate in the march. My home was the center of our activity, and several of these people, both the patients and the caregivers, stayed with me.

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When I began making plans for The March, I told Jaci and Tyler I needed their bedroom and would pay for a weekend away for them, airfare and hotel. That was the beginning of their planning that ended up in their wedding in New Orleans on September 26, 1998. But that's a story for another post.
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One couple who wasn't able to travel to The March was Bruce and Trudi. Bruce had been diagnosed twelve years earlier with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL) and had been brilliantly battling this horrible disease. He would be in remission, then he would suffer a setback and Trudi would think she was going to lose him, then he'd pull out of it and the cycle would begin again. Their life was the roller coaster no one wants to ride.

Trudi kept a journal, a blog before the word "blog" was coined, to not only keep track and document what was happening with Bruce, but to also focus attention on this disease whose incidence increases every year. She was tireless in her battle for Bruce and her work to wipe out this disease. She had many interests — her garden, her scrapbooking, her children — but Bruce's health was her compass for each day.

Every so often, over the years since my activity on the caregivers' board, I would search for and reread Trudi's NHL journal, to see where they were in their lives and how Bruce was faring. Whenever I read, I would post a note on the guestbook to let them know that I still remembered and was thinking of them. I left one such note about a month ago.

Two nights ago I received a response from Bruce. He told me, to my horror, that Trudi was diagnosed in December of 2006 with inoperable, stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer with metastases to the adrenal gland and to the brain, and she died in April of 2007! She kept a blog of her ordeal. I can't imagine what a blow this has been to Bruce, after being the primary focus of Trudi's attention for so many years. I'm thankful he has daughters nearby who will maintain Trudi's vigilance over his disease. But the loneliness and the sadness. Oh, I remember it too well.

How does this relate to John's birthday? I have said many times that I was blessed to be able to provide care for him through this illness. I found a strength within myself that I would probably never have known. I found supreme and utter happiness and contentment in our marriage, as did he. I believe I was an inspiration to many people who watched my management of his disease.

And through the caregivers' group, I formed bonds with people who were traveling the same road as I. Some did it more adeptly, some less, but we all understood the journey as only one who is walking a road can turn around and see where he's been.

So on John's birthday, I am filled with gratitude for having been given the opportunity to learn and grow through his illness, and for having been blessed with a wonderful marriage, two-and-a-half years of happiness more than many people experience.

And simultaneously, incredible sadness that it couldn't have continued twenty-five years longer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Is change the only predictable value in life?

So I told you my manager decided he'd let me telecommute a few days a month. Then two days later my boss (not my manager) called and said she thinks she's found another manager who wants me. This position would be higher up the food chain, five rungs below the vice president for worldwide marketing for IBM System Storage. This manager told my boss that she was going to go to the VP and tell her that they needed me on their team. (And that would be 100% telecommute. But I'd still be a contractor and still be making my piddly Tucson salary.)

Then today I get an e-mail from a software house in Cleveland asking for an interview. These are the people I sent a writing sample to last week and they want to move forward.

Darn. I thought I had everything figured out.

I guess if we don't keep changing we die, huh? At least that's what I've heard.

Define: Enabler

I am an enabler, but in the good sense of the word, in the way it was defined before it became associated with addictions and other aberrant behavior.

I want to do things to make my kids' and my grandkids' lives easier and happier. Is that so terrible?

Yesterday I got a mid-afternoon call from Tyler. He and the fam were en route from a weekend in Nashville back to Youngstown. He asked, "did you send Boston a circus coloring book?" I had sent Boston some new easy-reader books last week, and Boston was absolutely convinced that the coloring book on which his sister was drawing/coloring/scribbling was in fact his. And he was quite distressed about it, as only he can become distressed. So at Tyler's request, I got on the phone with Boston to reassure him that I had not sent him a circus coloring book.

You can hear what comes next, can't you? The request that I find a circus coloring book and send it to him. But the most delightful part was the detail he put into describing the book he wants. It would be a "coloring book with circus performers" and include a "funny clown, a tiger, and a striped drum." And it would be a "crayon picture book."

Now really, what child goes into that amount of detail when describing something? "Circus coloring book" would have sufficed to send me clicking to and and But a "funny clown, a tiger, and a striped drum." Well by God I'm going to spend way too much time online, and enjoy every moment of it, to send this child a coloring book that meets his specifications. (BTW, I found at Amazon an "anti-coloring book" that is less about coloring inside the lines and more about drawing and creating. Here's hoping there's a funny clown and a striped drum somewhere inside this book.)

I e-mailed Tyler and Jaci overnight in the attempt to ascertain exactly what he wanted. They each e-mailed me back saying it was Riah's book that was given to her at the hospital two weeks ago and not something I would find in a store. And that he had enough coloring books and didn't need any more.

That's all well and good, but I promised. I want these children to know that when they make a reasonable request of Grandma, it will be done.

Maybe I'm jealous of them. I didn't have grandparents. Well, I sorta had a stepgrandmother, who married my mother's father a few years before I was born. She was an "old maid schoolteacher" and never had children. I got birthday and Christmas gifts from her, always white underwear. Really. I wouldn't joke about that! Her name was Minnie. Heard enough?

I'm having a good day. I did something nice for my grandson. I was born to be a grandma! Call me an enabler or anything else you want, but just make sure you call me a good grandma.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Thinking about yesterday's post, I realize that what I want is entitlement! I want to be entitled to expect a breakfast call or have someone say yes when I ask if he wants to meet for dinner. I want to know that on a Friday night I have a choice of whether I want to go out for an enjoyable evening or stay home and sew or watch TV or talk over a flickering candle.

I want choices. I'm tired of being at the whim of every Tom, Dick and Frank.

(But I'm not discarding him. He's too much fun! Without him, the only men in my life would be Richard and Eduardo at Rio Café!)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Loss and Sadness

Something about this day has thrust me into sadness, a missing-John, missing-love, missing-having-someone-in-my-life kind of sadness.

Normally Frank calls me about 9:30 and asks if I'm hungry and would like to go to breakfast. Ten minutes later he turns into my yard in his cute little BMW Z3 with the top down, ball cap protecting his bald head, smile adorning his face. These calls and almost weekly breakfasts have become my impetus for hopping out of bed and into the shower on Sunday mornings, dressing attractively and being ready to ride at a moment's notice.

This morning he didn't call. Either some other filly made it out of the stable this morning, or his daughter (visiting from Seattle) took him out. In any event, I don't call him, as I can't stand the pain of rejection when he has other plans. I know it's not rejection — I know in a few days we'll share another meal together. But, all the same, I feel pain.

This morning it hit me especially hard. It's Father's Day. (Thank you, Hallmark, for infusing an otherwise normal Sunday with too many expectations.) I don't have a husband to make a fuss over or stepchildren arriving later for lunch. I can't run out to the kids' house and hug Tyler to tell him what a wonderful father he is and how proud I am of how he's embraced this role.

Two weeks from yesterday will mark nine years since John died. This Wednesday he would have been 69. We would have hosted a lovely dinner, with Tamara and Jeff and the grandsons, now 12 and almost-10. We would have marveled again, as we did frequently, how lucky we were to have found each other again. At least that's how it all plays out in the marriage in my mind.

But in reality I'm alone, with no one to turn to me upon awakening and ask, "How did you sleep?"

I long to belong. I long to have someone whom I know I can call and suggest, "Let's go get breakfast," without his responding, "Oh, I can't today. Maybe tomorrow."

I quit waiting for Frank's call at 10:00 and dished up some steel cut oats, tears welling up in my eyes and a tightness in my throat over the lack of someone with whom to do something so mundane as share breakfast.


I've been working on my website as I just changed hosts. I'll be adding some new photos and a new gallery page, where I'll show photos of my jackets.

At the urging of some cyberfriends on my GThreads listserv, I've posted photos of my latest jacket. You can view it here.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

My Perfect World

A mere two weeks ago I posted that maybe my perfect world would be living in Tucson three weeks out of the month and in Youngstown one week.

Yesterday Donna, my boss/team lead/friend, called and said she thought Ken had acquiesced. She told him I was thinking about traveling back and forth between both cities, and Ken responded, "Then why would she leave?" Exactly! I would leave because I don't have twelve weeks of vacation, or even twelve days!

So the current plan is to get the appropriate software loaded on my laptop and to begin telecommuting on a limited basis with my late-July trip. After six to twelve months of this, I can reevaluate what I want to do. By then, Ken will have seen that I can successfully handle telecommuting and that there's no negative impact on the team. Or he'll have gotten a new job, God willing. Or I'll have gotten sick of the travel and just decide to retire!

To say I'm feeling relieved is a gross understatement!

Friday, June 15, 2007


I listen to Good Morning America radio on XMRadio as I drive in each morning. This morning, with Father's Day around the corner, Hilarie Barsky was talking about fathers. The questions she was posing to listeners were:
  • When you were a kid and were mad at your dad, what television father did you wish was your dad?

  • What celebrity or famous person does your dad most remind you of?

I thought first about the television dad and then about being mad at my dad. Here's the thing — I can't remember ever being mad at my dad. My mom? Absolutely. On a daily basis. She regularly made me feel horrible and worthless and inept, and my response was to not like her at all. But Daddy? Ah, my hero, my best friend, my staunchest proponent. I adored him.

And all my friends loved him, and he adopted all my friends.

Gail, whose parents had divorced when she was eight, prompting the move to Florida and the beginning of our lifelong friendship, considered him her surrogate dad. Gail stayed with us frequently when we were in late elementary school and in high school. Her mother had back problems requiring hospitalizations; Gail would move in for the duration. As teenaged girls do, we argued. One night after dinner — probably a Wednesday night, as Daddy was home for dinner — Mother told Gail and me to do the dishes. We were in the kitchen arguing about who would wash and who would dry, and Daddy was out in his garage workshop, tinkering with one of his beloved antique cars. He heard us arguing clear out in the garage. He came in, separated us and sent us to separate rooms, and washed and dried the dishes himself. A harsher punishment was never devised. Gail and I still talk about this incident every time we're together, and still feel remorse for our behavior, which occurred a mere 40+ years ago!

Once when I was in college at UCF, he was at a medical convention when I had a sorority party at the house. He called home during the party, just to say hello to my girlfriends. He knew how to make people feel special.

PianoLady reminds me that she once went to him to have a mole removed. After applying the bandage, he gave her a $20 bill and told us to go out to lunch.

Polly, my college roommate who is now a USAF general, called him "Doctor Daddy Doodle", a take-off on the nickname my brothers had for him, "Doodle." (If you're shaking your heads, it must be a Southern thing.)

And what kind of grandfather was he? The best. The ideal. When Scott and then Tyler were born, he was in his element. When Tyler had some health problems during his first month of life, Daddy was there, helping me understand what to do, where to turn. For months afterwards, he would stop by the house three afternoons a week to rock Tyler and read to Scott. One of my favorite memories, a vision lodged in my brain, is Daddy sitting in the wicker rocker in the playroom, Tyler in his arms, Scott on the spring horse, riding for all he was worth. Even though he died very early in their lives, he gave them many wonderful memories of fishing trips and trips to the barber and rides on the "buddy seat" in the Blazer.

Once Tyler was climbing down from his highchair, face forward rather than turning around as on a ladder. He fell forward and slit open his right eyebrow on the edge of a playtable. After racing Tyler to Daddy's office, I worked with Daddy's nurse to immobilize the all-muscle, flailing Tyler while Daddy calmly and coolly sewed up the gash.

I'm generous with my children and I'm generous with charitable organizations. I learned it by watching my dad. My daddy gave me a great deal of material goods, as well as money, but never expected anything in return. He expected me to do unto others as he had done unto me. I'm proud that he was my father.

One of the most powerful lessons I learned from him was that you don't always have to be right. If he was in a conversation and the other party was expressing views contra to his, he wouldn't argue. He would make his point, then when the other party persisted with the opposing view, Daddy would say, "You may be right."

I use that to this day. Of course, when I remember to say it to the argumentative person, I'm thinking "You're full of beans" and I'm only saying it to shut him or her up. I'm sure Daddy never said it with that little tinge of attitude.

At Daddy's memorial service in December of 1984, his associate of many years, Dr. Tellefsen, told the story of their being at the hospital and someone asking Daddy, "Dr. Crews, isn't one of your children adopted?" Daddy's response? "Yes, but I can't remember which one."

He knew how to make people feel special.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hope Springs Eternal — Everywhere!

I got home from work tonight and there was an envelope from IBM in my mailbox. It was marked "Urgent." Now remember that I work at IBM but not for IBM. So before I can get inside to open the envelope, my mind is racing. I've applied for employment in a number of positions at IBM recently, and as I'm unlocking the door to go inside so I can open this urgent letter, I'm absolutely sure that somebody has finally seen the benefit of hiring me and this is the first step.

Nope. They were informing me that the tapes that were lost recently containing employment data contained, among tens of thousands of others, my employment data from my eight years in the 80s. The urgent message? They're offering me credit monitoring.

Oh well. I'd rather have a job offer, if it's all the same to you.

Life's Options

I had dinner last night with my two dearest friends in Tucson. We used to get together once a month for dinner, but my move and Millie's house remodel and Lea's back surgery and complex life got in the way. We hadn't seen each other for over a year.

I had to fill them in on the chaos that is my life. I said, "I might be able to retire." Lea, who is 68 and incredibly active, vibrant, and vital, said, "You don't want to retire!"

That got me started thinking about all the things I want to do.

  • I have enough fabric in my stash to sew bags and quilts for two years before running out.

  • I have enough dye and silk in my stash to study fabric dyeing every day for a month without stopping for more supplies.

  • I have a serger that I haven't used since my intro class.

  • I have an embroidery machine that has many more features than I've learned how to use.

  • I have recently bought about ten new clothing patterns that I want to try.

  • I want to study clothing design.

  • I want to learn to digitize designs for embroidery.

  • I want to try new applique techniques.

  • I want to relearn how to knit — correctly this time.

  • I want to master bead crochet.

  • I want to develop a curriculum to teach underprivileged young people to sew or quilt or dye fabric.

  • I want to share my love of all things fiber with others.

  • I want to be available to help my daughter-in-law when she's got a scrapbooking design idea or a photo shoot she wants to do and needs a break from the kids.

  • I want to be available to help her when Tyler is travelling and she needs an hour to just soak in the tub or vegetate.

  • I want to …

You get the idea. And that list doesn't even touch upon all the computer things I want to learn how to do: Javascript, Photoshop, Flash, …. Or all the books I want to read. Just as I now have more interests than time to pursue them, I imagine I could be retired for a very long time and not begin to feel bored.

Now if I can just figure out how to make that happen.

Sondheim = Brilliance

My mother-in-law can denigrate Stephen Sondheim all she wants and complain endlessly about the lack of memorable tunes in musical theatre, but Stephen Sondheim is a genius!

I've rented "Sunday in the Park with George" from blockbusteronline. If you're not familiar with the musical, it's based on the painting "Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte", the famous pointillist painting by Georges Seurat that hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.

I have loved this painting since I first learned about it in my art history class at Manatee Junior College. The thought of taking the very tip of the paintbrush and creating a painting by dot-dot-dotting the canvas. Whenever I see a pointillist painting, I just want to stand a foot away from it and study the individual dots. Brilliant!

And then listening to what Sondheim does with what's going through the mind of Seurat. That's brilliant also. "Red, red, red, red, red, red-orange, red, red-orange..." All I could think of was what curses the actor must have been uttering as he tried to get his tongue around these lyrics.

"George" was written in 1984. "Company" was written in 1970. I've been having a love affair with the soundtrack of "Company", and the tongue-twisting techniques Sondheim utilizes in "Getting Married Today" are echoed in "Color and Light", the number that includes the red-red phrase above.

I composed the senior class song for Forest Lake Academy in 1967. I composed eight measures of a song in my dreams a couple of weeks ago. But composition as a vocation?! Unthought of, impossible.

I am in awe of the genius of Stephen Sondheim.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Define: Family

Remember the real estate investor/retired lawyer? He's somehow involved in this Raz gig. That whole set-up is still rather nebulous.

He called me this morning to discuss the logistics and to help me understand the various personalities in this deal.

He said, "So you're really thinking of leaving Tucson." I said, firmly, "Yeah." He asked, "But why?" I said, "To be with my family." He said, "That's not your family. That's their family, but it's not your family."

I beg your pardon! TJ, Tyler, Jaci, Boston and Riah are my family. Maybe Kathryn will be added to that group in the near future. Then I have some extra family-of-choice: John's brother Don and his wife Lee; Lee's Charlottesville cousin Ellen; PianoLady and her family; lifelong friend Gail; and a few others. My mother and my brothers and sister-in-law? Not family. They don't treat me the way one treats a family member. Well, let me restate. They don't treat me the way one treats a loved one. In my dictionary, family member and loved one are synonymous.

I had a long conversation this afternoon with my old and dear friend Kathryn Tidyman in Virginia. She's chair of the board of trustees for the new Chorus Pro Musica of Washington. All my friends in CPMW want me to return to Washington to join them in this new venture. But when Kathryn and I discussed my various options and I said I wanted to be in Youngstown, she quickly responded, "Of course. They're your family. That's where you need to be."

Ahhh, she gets it.

Helping, Any Way We Can

I went to a BeadForLife party last night at Kay Wiley's home.

The beads are made by women in Uganda out of recycled paper. The bracelet I'm wearing today has eleven beads strung on elastic cord. Each bead is separated by three seed beads. It's lightweight, perfect for the Tucson heat, and cost me a mere $5.00.

But that $5.00 then goes back to the participating communities in Uganda, with less than 25% taken off for operating costs. The women in these communities can provide for their families and the communities can be improved with clean drinking water and other amenities that we take for granted.

I like seeing people with a heart for those less fortunate, whether it's Uganda, Youngstown, or in our own Tucson backyard.

Once and Again [Professional] Musician

I have landed a standing Tuesday night gig. I'll be providing my unique style of background music at Raz on Grant just east of Campbell.

Tuesday nights, 7:00-9:00 p.m., for the foreseeable future.

If you're a Tucsonan, I'd love to see you there.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stocking up on compliments

On Sunday morning in Newport Coast I pulled the sheets off my bed and threw them in the wash. When Gail got up, she said "You didn't have to do that." I replied, "Well, you remember that I used to run a bed and breakfast in D.C. I'm accustomed to turning a room."

Gail responded, "No, I didn't know that. You're an onion. Peel off one layer and there's another."

I thought that was a lovely compliment, and then started thinking of associated adjectives.

I think of "complex" as a negative adjective. I prefer to think of myself as multi-faceted.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Beautiful Music to Sip/Shop/Dream By

Many of you know I used to make Beautiful Music to Shop By at Nordstrom in the Washington, DC, area. When I moved out to Continental Ranch in 2003, I was blessed to move in across the street from a remarkable woman, LaVerne Davis Lawrence. LaVerne puts on a show for her friends ever spring, and in 2004 I was her accompanist. Oh, do we work nicely together.

LaVerne knows I want to leave Tucson, and wants to get as many notes as possible from her head and my hands to digital memory. LaVerne and her husband David and I have had several recording sessions to accomplish this effort. I share with you the outcome of those sessions:

June 2006
Someone to Watch Over Me
The Very Thought of You

June 2007
It's Magic
The Nearness of You

Collective Nouns

I was thinking in the shower this morning — my best thinking place. I was thinking you'd like to hear about the current batch of inappropriate men who have responded to my recent profile-postings on and

Then I started thinking about collective nouns. If there is a murder of crows and a gaggle of geese and an exaltation of larks, what should there be of inappropriate men. How about a clutter? They're definitely cluttering up my life right now.

There's the recovering alcoholic (not that there's anything wrong with that) in Pittsburgh who signs every note "In His service and yours." Unh uh. Ain't happening. How about the 44-year-old chef and self-taught pianist in Tucson who goes on and on in his profile about a woman (or a cat — I'm not sure) he's met. If he has a woman in his life, he doesn't need me or any other woman for a hiking partner! There's the guy in Calexico, CA (where?). Our commonalities are having lost a spouse to cancer and being computer nuts. Not enough to go on. A more geographically undesirable correspondent? That would be in Hamilton, Montana! He is retired and does some arts 'n' crafts — he buys used ladies' cowboy boots and fills them with concrete to turn them into bookends. Again, not that there's anything wrong with that. I told you previously about the retired CIO in Oil City, PA. I asked if he wanted to meet for lunch while I was in Ohio and he said he wasn't a lunch kinda guy. And I'll finish with Todd, the real estate investor/retired attorney. He's started calling again, saying we need to get back together. But every time he calls it's clear he's three sheets to the wind.

This is clearly a clutter of men I can do without.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sand Beneath My Toes and a Burn on My Nose

Yes, I brought sunscreen. No, I didn't think to put it on yesterday before our walk. Good thing I confessed my little management-lie to the two people I work closest with, huh? Explanation: I have taken so much time off lately to go to Youngstown, and have scheduled a trip at the end of July and then a week in early August, so I was very hesitant to tell management I was taking a day off to do something so frivolous as go to the beach. So I told them I had a bunch of workmen coming to the house. But I told Ed and Chris, who work in the next offices, what the real deal was. And now I see that was a good thing. I thought I was having an inordinate number of hot flashes last night, but when I looked in the mirror, I realized my face was sunburned!

I'm not really a beach person. I much prefer hiking in the mountains, maybe off Skyline Drive, or taking a walk on a long tree-shaded path, as on Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head Island. If I walk on a beach, I prefer it to be early or late in the day. Why? I burn. I burn easily.

Once I got my driver's license, I was prone to cut classes in the afternoon and drive the 45 minutes to Daytona Beach. I think my lifelong-best-friend Gail went with me a couple of times, but I don't think she ever would have cut class, so my memories of her must have been Sunday memories. (Never Saturday. Not allowed in the keep-the-seventh-day-Sabbath commandment.) (And we went in Mother's car. Daddy would never have let us take the Corvette!) I/We would lie on the beach, turning as on a rotisserie, never thinking about the sun. But two or three days later I would be suffering. I remember driving to school with such a horrible burn on my back that I could not lean my back against the seat. Boy, were we stupid in those days. Is it any wonder that I now have to visit the dermatologist every six months and have already had one basal cell carcinoma site excised from my face?

(I remember one time, when Scott was about six months old, when we visited friends in Tampa and sat by their pool in the afternoon. We had Scott's playpen out by the pool and laid him in it and draped something over the top. But of course that didn't protect him. The poor little thing was so horribly burned. I fear now that someday he'll have skin cancer on his back and it will be all my fault. Oh, I'm such a mother.)

As Gail (friend now, not friend then) and I walked on the beach yesterday, I heard again that lovely sing-song sound of sand whistling out from beneath my shoes as I walked. I think there must be a list somewhere of loveliest sounds in the universe. If so, that sand-sound is on the list.

Last night we drove into Laguna Beach and had tacos and drinks at Las Brisas. And we people-watched. I really don't know how people live in California. I'm struck by the density of both the housing and the humanity. And the people I see, the Californians, strike me as different. Louder, laughier, more into their enjoyment. Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing. But it's sure not me. I just couldn't live here.

<Personal note on>
I'm so sorry I couldn't fit you and Jacki in on this trip. I hope you haven't become stereotypical Californians. ;-) Really, are you enjoying living here, aside from your fabulous new job and all the fabulous opportunities Jacki's been able to avail herself of?
<Personal note off>

Growing up Adventist in Orlando, we were very conservative, sheltered, by-the-book. We didn't eat meat. We didn't drink alcohol. We didn't smoke or dance or go to movies or drink caffeinated beverages. We didn't go out to dinner on Sabbath, because Jesus didn't want us to spend money on the Sabbath. We didn't read a newspaper or a secular magazine on Sabbath. We didn't wear jewelry or color our hair or wear makeup. We didn't play cards or gamble or get involved in political activities — run for political office? Never! We were "in the world" but not "of the world." But oh, we heard about those California Adventists. They were one step from heathen. They would eat meat and go to movies. The girls probably wore short skirts and bleached their hair. We knew they weren't good Adventists.

Now I look back at all of that and realize those California Adventists must have just had a sense of reality, a good dose of "Get real!"

Maybe that's what a good dose of sand between one's toes and sun on one's nose yields.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

All or One?

Okay, okay. I said I was never posting on another online dating site. And I've said it more than once. But I had a momentary feeling of hopefulness and posted again, this time on a trés ugly site named PlentyofFish. And yes, once again my inbox is overflowing with communications from totally unsuitable men. With one exception. (Could my feeling of hopefulness be justified?!)

So I have coffee with this guy or a phone call with that guy, and my weekly Wednesday night dinner and Sunday breakfast with Frank (when I occasionally rise to the top of his dating pool). And I think, "Hey, I could do this. I could serially date and be friends with a number of men." But it's so impersonal. It's so anti-intimate.

I place my hand on Frank's back when we sit at the bar at Rio Café. We talk and laugh and joke and have a magnificent time together. We know each other's secrets and talk about the potential dates we've met. And Richard, the owner of Rio, asks me why we're not a couple. Honestly, it's cause Frank's not interested in being a couple with anybody. He wants something, but he doesn't know what he wants. And unlike pornography in the Supreme Court, I don't think he's gonna know it when he sees it.

And then somebody seemingly totally appropriate for me pops up, and I instantly think about getting rid of all these Johnny-One-Cupofcoffees and my mind immediately goes to that familiar place: "Can I have happiness again? Can I, by the grace of all things good in the universe, again find the happiness I had with John?"

You know I'm hoping this topic will be continued.

The Purpose of Books

Greetings from a balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Newport Coast, California. I'm with my Tucson Symphony Chorus friend, Gail, at her timeshare.

You know I always take too much stuff with me when I travel, and I tried to avoid that this trip. I'm flying back to Tucson on Sunday night, and I don't want to check any bags because of the abysmal baggage handling service (or lack thereof) in Tucson. So I glanced around the bookshelf and grabbed The Poisonwood Bible, written by Tucsonan Barbara Kingsolver.

I have tried for years to get into this book, ever since Oprah first recommended it. I picked it up this morning and something clicked. I have been writing this blog for just short of a year now, and writing it has been a wonderful exercise for me in the science and art of writing. I'm much more aware of words now than I was a year ago.

This passage grabbed my eye this morning and made me want to share:

"I didn't know any name for what I'd seen until some years afterward in Atlanta, when I attempted briefly to consecrate myself in the public library, believing every crack in my soul could be chinked with a book."

If you haven't read The Poisonwood Bible, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

More Marge Piercy

I found the fragment that was read at John's and my wedding. It's from the compilation "My Mother's Body". The poem is entitled "Why marry at all?"

We start where we find
ourselves, at this time and place

which is always the crossing of roads
that began beyond the earth's curve
but whose destination we can now alter.

This is a public saying to all our friends
that we want to stay together. We want
to share our lives. We mean to pledge
ourselves through times of broken stone
and seasons of rose and ripe plum;
we have found out, we know, we want to continue.

You can read the full poem here.

Reading these words again brings tears to my eyes and wonderful memories of our wedding. How lucky/blessed/charmed I was that John and I found each other once and again. June 30th will mark nine years since his passing, with very few of those days occurring without my thinking of him.

What I miss, being single

I've stated before that I'm not big into poetry, but Marge Piercy knows how to put words together to take my breath away. This is from Oprah's Mission Calendar Inspiration today:

We lie in each other's arms
eyes shut and fingers open
and all the colors of the world
pass through our bodies like strings of fire.

-- Marge Piercy

This passage is excerpted from Colors Passing Through Us.

John and I had a verse from one of Marge Piercy's works read at our wedding. Now, eleven years later, I can't remember what it was. But after reading that lovely piece above, I'm determined to find it and share it with you.

The feeling I get when reading this verse is how much I miss that — miss having someone whose every square inch of skin is intimately known to my fingers. Maybe I'll be lucky enough in my life to know that exquisite intimacy again.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Stupidest Questions

I don't suffer fools gladly, and sometimes innocent questions strike me as outlandish or merely dumb.

At the top of my list is "How did you sleep?" Certain-Husband-of-the-Past asked me that almost every morning for many years. I was asleep. I don't know how I slept. If I knew how I slept, then I didn't sleep well, dontcha think?

I'd love for the readers to add a comment and tell me their pet peeve stupid questions. And if you think I take everything too seriously, as Younger Son does, then you are allowed to tell me that, too. (she said, smiling)

Gossip: So Much Fun People Once Tried To Make It Illegal

I heard this on "The Morning Read" from the Wall Street Journal issue of 4 Jun 2007 and thought you'd enjoy it.

"When God created the heavens and the earth, he inflicted humanity with the presence of snakes and other slimy and oozy and pestiferous and odoriferous objects of loathing," opined a Texas newspaper in 1915. "And He also inflicted us with gossip, for what reason only He in His superior wisdom can tell."

By today's standards, gossip in the first half of the twentieth century was pretty tame stuff: painting, padding or lacing. Women dyed their hair, lied about their age, or — the unkindest cut — chased men. Men's troubles were usually financial or marital.

Although most respected people frowned on gossip, an Associated Press reporter, Saul Pett, came to its defense: "If four old biddies sit on the front porch sipping lemonade and chewing up the neighborhood, why call that gossip? Why not call it news analysis? Aren't they like Walter Lippman and Ed Murrow, trying to understand the world around them?"

I've had a mother and a husband who lectured and preached to me about gossip. Maybe that's why I so love a good tidbit here and there.

Legislators and local officials tried to outlaw gossip in the early twentieth century. What are we trying to outlaw today that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will giggle about a hundred years from now?

Made ya think, huh?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Welcome Home, Traveler

Welcome home to my friend, the Traveler, Lee Aitken. He left Tucson on Sunday, May 13th, to ride his motorcycle to San Diego, then Ontario, CA, where he met up with about 1,000 other military veterans on motorcycles to ride to DC. Once in DC, this group who had ridden the farthest led the thousands of bikers on the Rolling Thunder parade from the Pentagon across the bridge into DC and past the Vietnam Memorial.

This ride Lee does every year is called Run for the Wall.

Lee arrived home yesterday morning after a 14-hour nightlong ride through Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. I can't wait to hear all his stories when we have dinner later this week. But he has to get the feeling in his butt to return first!

The Most Effective Alarm Clock Known to [Wo]man

That would be the sound of the cat, in your bedroom, hunched on the Oriental rug, hacking up a furball. Wanna see how fast I become alert, leap out of bed, and grab him to relocate him to a tile floor? Very fast!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Another Gorgeous Day in the Desert

You've heard me talk about the Gardener (Frank) and his garden. He has a sunflower growing in his garden and I told him I wanted to get a close-up shot of it before it went to seed. So he took me to breakfast this morning and then up to his place so I could have my way with his garden.

Here are the results.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Happy Birthday, Piano Lady

My dear friend, piano duet partner and Broadway show companion is 57 today. I love June 2nd, because for 20 days I can tease her about being a year older than I. And 20 days from now she teases me back. Each year we talk and wonder how we got to be this old.

In tribute to that, I share these lyrics I received in an e-mail this morning:

Some of the artists of the 60's are revising their hits with new lyrics to accommodate their aging fans!

Herman's Hermits- "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Walker!"
The Beatles- "I Get By with a Little Help from Depends"
The BeeGees- "How Can You Mend a Broken Hip"
Willie Nelson- "On the Commode Again"
Paul Simon- "Fifty Ways to Lose Your Liver"
Procol Harem- "A Whiter Shade of Hair"
The Temptations-"Papa's Got a Kidney Stone"
Helen Reddy- "I am Woman, Hear me Snore"
Abba- "Denture Queen"
Bobby Darin- "Splish, Splash, I was Havin' a Flash"

Then I Googled "June 2 birthdays" to see who shares her day.

Did you know Wayne Brady is only a year old than my oldest child? Now that makes me feel old! Several composers were born this day — Elgar of John's beloved Enigma Variations, Glinka; King Henry VIII. I'll bet you didn't know Henry VIII was a composer! Jerry Mathers - The Beav - is 59 today! And Sally Kellerman is either 70 or 71 today, depending on which account you read. She looks darned good, and has a second career as a singer. So the Piano Lady is in good company.

The Piano Lady has started her second career and is very successfully bringing music and happiness to lots of kids, from 2 to 20, in Westchester County. She has a wonderfully supportive and loving husband, a beautiful daughter who just finished her first year of college, and twin teenaged sons who persevere and accomplish and succeed. She has had more than her share of challenges in her life — when I feel my life is hard, I call her and get a dose of reality. If you're a regular reader here, you'll remember that PL's mother passed away recently, so this is her first birthday without either of her parents. In my long and tortuous journey through college, I'm very lucky to have landed at Florida Technological University/University of Central Florida where PL and I sat down at side-by-side pianos and our history was born.

Here are a couple of images from our NYC trip last October.

If we smile real big, will you ignore the fact that we're aging? (And that I'm wearing a really unflattering sweater?)

Oh, the things we do to show our teenagers that we're hip.

Happy Birthday, Honey. I love you. I'll see you in October.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Niceness and Success

Marcia Gould and I have talked about commuting together to Cleveland to rehearsals of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra Chorus, but their rehearsals are on Monday nights and Monday is her worst day at work. Further, she thinks she couldn't get in. She thinks I'm much better than she. But she doesn't know I'm all ear.

Anyway, I just went to the Pittsburgh Symphony Website to research their chorus to see what I can find out about rehearsals and auditions. I notice that Marvin Hamlisch is their Principal Pops Conductor. He holds the same position with the National Symphony Orchestra and the San Diego Symphony. He also guests as Pops conductor with many orchestras including, if I remember correctly, the Tucson Symphony.

C'mon. How does this guy get all these gigs? Does he just have a fabulous agent? The man is a jackass. The man is a bloated, self-important, nastynastynasty jackass! He doesn't know how to treat musicians with respect. His tongue can be especially harsh when correcting a perceived error in the chorus or orchestra. He's just not a nice man. But look how successful he's become.

Was he a really good guy in a former life, so he was allowed to come back as a jackass in this life?! Some things just don't make sense.

A Direction A Day

I'm all over the place regarding jobs and homes and the future. Each day finds me thinking in a different direction than I've ever thought before.

I started this whole epic mind game thinking my IBM manager, Ken, would allow me to telecommute from Youngstown. After all, Al's a contractor in my group and he telecommutes three days a week when he's in Tucson, and works remotely from Montana from June through September. We both are former IBMers. The precedent has been set.

But Ken doesn't like my contract manager, so he's not going to do anything to help me out. Just my luck for being employed as a contractor. Every person within IBM to whom I speak about job possibilities tells me, "We've got plenty of contractors in our group who telecommute."

Sometimes I think I'd be happy working in Tucson three weeks out of the month and the telecommuting one week from Youngstown. If I could coordinate with Tyler's travel, then I could help Jaci during those weeks when she's a "single" mom.

Then I look at jobs on Monster and CareerBuilder and various other job sites, and I see three month or six month contract positions. I think, "Hey, I could go live in San Francisco for three months for a tech writing job." The world is my oyster. I can do whatever I want. I just don't know what I want to do!

Why does it take employers three or four months to respond to a résumé?! I feel certain that my background in development means the YSU development department is considering me, but they had my résumé on or about April 15th, for crying out loud. The very least you could do is let a person know you're either interested or disinterested.

It's very frustrating.

And then I get up early and grab an hour of sewing time, and think how much I'd like to be able to sew all the time, intermingled with volunteerism and babysitting. I fantasize about selling this house and the NC property and buying a small house in Youngstown and just retiring once and for all. I'm already networking in Youngstown. The FirstBook people would love to have me help them read to the schoolchildren and distribute books. There are about 15 Pi Phi alums and no alum club, so there's an opportunity. I'd love to teach some beginning sewing classes to young underprivileged children. So much to do, so little opportunity in my current state of chaos.

Too much. It's just too much for my weary brain.

The NC property will go on the market in a couple of weeks. And I vacillate about the Chula Vista property (my current residence). Do I keep it and go back and forth, therefore making possible continued activity with Tucson Chamber Artists and Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus? (Yesterday I agreed to take on two more responsibilities on the TCA board.) I wrote to Cleveland Symphony Orchestra Chorus, who took two weeks to respond, to see if they planned August auditions. (I learned about the May 4-5 auditions on May 7!) The woman who responded said they don't anticipate any further auditions until next May. C'mon! Where's flexibility? Where's grabbing somebody who's good and has lots of experience?

It's around the corner. I'm sure it's around the corner. Work and housing and life — I don't know the details of any of those facets of life, but I'm sure they're all just around the corner. Now if I can just perfect my patience!