Sunday, April 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Bryan Harvey.

When I do my annual birthday tequila shot today, I'll do a second one for you. Cheers Bryan.

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Monday, April 21, 2008


So, I drove to Richmond to visit my sister last week – hadn’t been to see her since we moved, and since I’m unemployed and she has the day off…

Thought I would take a shortcut of sorts, driving down 33E rather than subjecting myself to the mini-horror that is 29N and the mind-numbing sameness of 64E. Wasn’t prepared for all the ghosts floating up before me on the trip though.

It was a gorgeous day – something I definitely will NOT miss about Pittsburgh is gray, cold weather, even in June. This day was warm, summer-warm, and it seemed as if the Earth had turned green overnight. I drove past millions of antique shops and acre upon rolling acre of horse farms, wineries, the fencing rolling up and down, up and down like a wave machine in a Sharper Image store (how’s that for forced simile?).

Passed by the Barboursville Ruins and vineyard and it reminded me of a trip made long ago by myself, my cousin Kelly, and her roommate, Marnie. We were headed to see my cousin’s sister at JMU for the weekend and took the long way. Stopped off at the ruins and lay in the grass on the first pretty spring day of the year. Then traveled along 33W with Belly’s “Feed the Tree” blaring out of the stereo. Heard that song the other day as I was dropping off donate-ables to the Salvation Army. The drive and the song whispering, “Remember me? Remember that trip you took?”

At the time I was so up in the air, nothing solid, nothing stable, and I remember passing a white farmhouse with a cerise roof. “I want to live there,” I thought, “right there.” Big oak tree, big porch, sunny day. Bright red roof. That house promised stability, contentment, home, and family. My heart actually lurched and I wanted that and what it represented more than anything on this green earth. It felt like something I could hold onto.

The trip itself was great fun – Jenny was (and still is) a tremendous actress and her and her roommates at JMU had rented a farm house in the sticks. Huge party that night, everyone drinking, sleeping in the grass. We lost our keys somewhere. I remember a short guy on a porch playing an acoustic version of “Tangled Up in Blue”. Cows mooing along to the melody, fireflies bouncing. And that cerise roof. Still on my mind.

Now, driving to Richmond, I began to look for it unconsciously. That ghost from my past. Drove the whole way down 33E looking for it. Saw some that looked similar but weren’t quite the right shade. Me looking for ghosts.

I found them in Richmond. In the shops and the streets my sister and I walked in Richmond. We ate lunch in Nacho Mama’s and it was as crappy as it ever was. Plan 9 still around. Luxor still around. Saw glimpses of old friends, looking older, grayer. Saw my favorite professor walking into Barnes and Noble – same gray hair. Still with that childlike twinkle and smile about her. Didn’t have the guts to say hello. Had that fear I would see in her eyes something that said, “Wow, you sure have changed.”

Saw the most ghosts in World of Mirth as my sister and I shopped for my cousin Kelly’s baby shower next week. I felt them all around me swirling, hovering, like a hand on a shoulder or a breath on the back of your neck. Kept expecting Kathryn to walk out the back or to see Bryan slumped on a sofa which isn’t there anymore. It wasn’t creepy per se, or even unsettling. Just found I had to breathe a little more to get through it. I don’t care what people say – it’s always going to be a little tough for me to shop there. The altar at the front of the store startled me so much I dropped my bag and gave a little, “Oh!”. Didn’t expect to see that there, and it made me turn away…

I miss them so damn much.

Drove home late that night with an almost full moon above me, its light settling itself on everything I sped past. I felt the ghosts swirling, rising, and then settling again. Took 64W to Gordonsville, heading up 15N for a spell. The moon shining, I suddenly get this feeling that I’ve been on this road before, this very one. I know I have. Something tells me that this is the road with the red roof. I know it, but of course, even with the moon’s light I cannot see it. I drive on and out of 7,000 songs on my IPod, what comes on? House of Freaks song, “40 years” starts playing. Then my mother’s favorite – Rod Stewart’s “Reason to Believe”. Then Francis Dunnery singing about how he’s going to take my mother away so I can be broken down and then built back up again.

You can’t tell me the ghosts aren’t out tonight. I can feel them. I’m not scared, not comforted, just aware that they are about. And I just keep driving. And breathing.

A funny thing has happened since we have moved back to Virginia. The feeling I got from seeing that house so long ago has appeared again inside me. It’s like a seed, or a low, blue flame. I feel a little glimmer of something like contentment growing with each day I spend here. I still feel like a stranger – it’s so different from Pittsburgh, but that feeling lessens each day I spend walking our woods. Not to be too schmaltzy or anything, but I may have just found something. There’s just such a rightness to everything for the first time in a long time.

Second Postscript:
A week before going to Richmond, I had a dream about Bryan. We were in his studio, and he was telling me how excited he was because his new album was coming out, and Kathryn was pregnant again. I awoke smiling, feeling like I had been to another place, a better place...

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Best Part of My Day (11/18/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

Sunday, and I'm hurting. I herniated a cervical disc, C-5, and so now I'm groggy on muscle relaxers that at least dull the pain to a soft throb, but leave me feeling like a zombie.

It's gray and cold, but I'm excited because Bruce and I will be moving next March to Charlottesville, closer to family, closer to more sun, closer to friends, closer to everything. I can't wait.

The best part of my day today was checking my voicemail and finding that my favorite Ya-Yas were "wayward" :0)

I loved the message guys, you brought me right out of my funk. Kelly, I left you a message sweetie, happy birthday ma deah, welcome to "da club" :0)

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The Best Part of My Day (10/27/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

Woke up feeling yucky with a cold, it's freezing and breezy out so I made coffee, pancakes and turkey bacon. Read the paper and then went and took a bath. I have this glorious bubble bath that smells like the sea, I mean, JUST like the beach. It's fucking awesome. And shower gel to go with it. I luxuriated in the bubbles and fell asleep in the steam listening to kickass music. I swear there's not much that a bath won't cure.

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The Best Part of My Day (10/22/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

Bruce went to Charlottesville for an interview (keep your fingers crossed!) and I was feeling puny because I felt like a single parent - just me and Lois, no breaks. So I called in sick and went out to shop - sat in Barnes and Nob-lays, ate a Reese's Cup cookie and a coffee with lots of half and half and honey. Made my Christmas lists, read my travel writing book, and bought some cute patent leather flats. I grabbed some time for myself and never let go. It felt good.

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The Best Part of My Day (10/21/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

Definitely first thing that morning - sunrise. I'm riding in the car up to the park with Lois. She's sitting in the driver's seat, alert - looking at everything. She's smiling at me with her big toothy grin. The fog is rising up over the trees, everything is quiet, and we're listening to Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down By the School Yard" It's such a completely happy moment, that I feel like I'm in a movie. Just Lois and me riding off into the sunrise.

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The Best Part of My Day (10/16/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

This favorite part of the day is simple - I had one of those simply horrendous days, one of those days at work where nothing you do is right, and you have not one bloody minute to yourself to even inhale your lunch.

But I come home, let Lois out back to pee, and spend 10 minutes playing ball with her and all is right with the world. The way she greets me at the door with such pure, unbridled happiness is enough to erase everything that has happened up to that point. All I see is her toothy smile, panting, tongue hanging out, excitement in her eyes and her ears perked up because I'm about to throw the ball again. I love her so much. She lives in the moment, always in the present moment. It's a way I'd like to learn. It's a good way to be.

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The Best Part of My Day (10/14 and 10/15/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the dates indicated

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Today I *finally* sat down and began to edit the short story I wrote 10 years ago and published on my website pen, paper, coffee. They are having a writing contest at Chatham, and I'm suitably motivated to enter. Thanks Ya-Ya's, you've inspired me. This was my favorite part of the day because for a few moments, I found myself actually "in the zone" writing, writing, writing. That hasn't happened in a long time.

Monday, October 15, 2007
Two moments - the first when I was running in the park, I once again found that I could run just a LITTLE bit farther than I could before. Deborah Cox's song "Coulda Been You" in my ears.

The second moment - first thing Monday morning, feeling like crap, starting another crappy week, checking my phone and what do I find? A voicemail from Melissa :) I CRACKED up laughing, and it made my day before it had even begun. Thanks girlfriend!

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The Best Part of My Day (10/12 and 10/13/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the dates indicated

Friday, October 12

Despite being in a VERY irritated, bitchy mood (fucking period) I was able to sneak out and lunch and spend it reading a magazine at Borders. Then over to Trader Joe's to buy period food - pretzel thins, taquitos (two kinds, mexican beef and chicken curry) and fried green beans of all things. Which were so amazingly good I ate the whole thing and immediately my stomach regretted it. But that little mid-day escape was the first I've had in MONTHS. If I'm not working out at lunch I'm tending to Lois. So finally I had one whole hour to myself. It was awesome.

Saturday, October 13
Period hits full force - the worst I've had in a year. Cramps so bad I'm doubled over but still manage to haul my ass out for a pedicure (can't miss the chance to pretty up the toesies). The best part of my day was spent drinking an ENTIRE BOTTLE of white wine ("Mother likes her white wine, she'd have a glass or three...." <-----Loudon Wainwright song) hoping that each glass would bring relief from crampy cramps. The drunker I got, the more I howled at the movie I was watching, "Passionfish" by John Sayles. It's one of my favorites, and reminds me so much of the YaYa movie that I may just have to buy it for all my girlfriends this Christmas. And ironically, it's about a woman trying to kick her white wine habit. She's drying out while I'm liquoring up. Favorite line from the movie? "I never asked for the anal probe." :0)

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Monday, April 14, 2008

The Best Part of My Day (10/10 and 10/11)

Originally published elsewhere on the dates indicated

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

So busy at work these days - don't even have time to think what the best part of my day is, which depresses me. The best part of my day this day was when I first walked out the door to go to work. The air was crisp and cool after weeks and weeks of hot, humid, sticky weather. It was such a relief, such a breath of fresh air to finally breathe fresh autumn air.

Thursday, October 11, 2007
In the midst of a major PMS attack today - everything and everyone is so irritating I just want to scream. My nerves are frayed, on edge, and I don't know whether I want to cry or hit someone. But as I walk back from the gym at lunch, again, that sense of the fresh air around me calms me somewhat. I'm listening to "Hideaway" an old house music song ("I need a hide, hide, hideaway, to help me run away!") and my step perks up a little. I know what she's singing about sistah!

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The Best Part of My Day (10/9/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

Very simple best part for Tuesday - my sister sent me a very long, very chatty email at work. It was such a sweet break from the stress of alumnae and all the hell that is breaking loose. It made me miss her all the more. Bruce has an interview in Charlottesville on 10/21, wish him luck! I must admit, as much as I love my porch, and the Libby Home for Wayward Women, I would love to include her in all the YaYa celebrations, she would eat it up! If we moved to C-ville, I'd only be an hour away from family in every direction, north, south, east and west.

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The Best Part of My Day (10/6 to 10/8/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the dates indicated

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Another 16-hour Reunion day. I didn't stop from 6am until 11pm. My favorite part of today was when Vivian Lowery Derryck '67, that incredible woman who spoke during Reunion about her work in Africa, told me what a pleasure it had been to meet me, and that I should come to visit her. And to call, because she has too many emails to check. It made me feel special.

Another favorite part was listening to our Cornerstone Award winners speak. Every year we hand out awards to women who have done good in their field of expertise, whether that be law, or environmental science, or international relations. Every woman who spoke was eloquent and actually had substance to their speech. They were inspiring, they had something to say. I was left in awe, and again, left with the feeling that my work is not yet done, that there is more to do. I'm just not sure what.

Sunday, October 7, 2007
My favorite part of today was the nap I took in the afternoon. It was delicious. Sunny day, cool breeze on my face, I slept better, more deeply, than I had during any night for the past MONTH. I woke feeling dizzy, but rested.

Monday, October 8, 2007
Had the day off (thankfully) and took a mid-morning nap. My favorite part of today was when Lois padded in to check on me, putting her chin on the bed and giving me a loving look. I woke up, patted her on the head, and she wagged her tail before going out to her spot to go back to sleep. I loved it. Felt like she was saying, "Are you still here Mommy? You are? Yay! I'll go have some more nap now."

Another great part of the day was snuggling in bed with my honey at the end of the day. Both of us incredibly sexy in our nose strips and me with my bite guard. We talked about our day and our plans for the week before drifting off to sleep. Yep, we're a sexy pair.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Best Part of My Day (10/3 to 10/5/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the dates indicated

Wednesday October 3, 2007
The best part of my day today was sharing sushi with my husband at Umi. We ate miso, sashimi, and downed two martinis each - with four olives in every glass. Yum! It was the first time we had a date night where we didn't discuss Lois and all her issues. She's been doing so well, just great, and so we were able to talk about other things. I felt myself relaxing for the first time in a long while. And we made total asses of ourselves at this "chi-chi" establishment because when we went to leave, we completely overturned our table, throwing water onto the people next to us who had been assholes the entire dinner. I mean, who brings their own red wine, in a leather wine case, to a sushi place anyway? They give pretentious a bad name. We howled with laughter, murmured "sorry" and hightailed it out of there, cackling the whole way. It was pretty fuckin' yaya.

Thursday, October 4, 2007
Just a yucky, busy day. Getting ready for alumnae reunion at Chatham is truly the most draining experience of my life. Sixteen events in two days translates into two 16-hour days full of smiling and making small talk with blue hairs from the class of 1957. Sigh. The best part of my day was the shrimp scampi linguine I shared with my husband that night across our red formica kitchen table. Lemony, buttery, garlicky goodness.

Friday, October 5, 2007
Reunion. There are no words for the energy that is expended in making sure old ladies get their bloody marys. Most of them are nice, but it's the ones who aren't that get you. Imagine having dinner with those in-laws you hate - for SIXTEEN HOURS and you have an inkling of what it's like.

Anyway, I did, unexpectedly, have one great moment today. One of my duties was escorting Vivian Lowery Derryck, class of '67 around. She was doing a talk on the Liberian election, which she witnessed. This election allowed the first woman president, a rape victim no less, in Africa to be elected in 2005. I worked her powerpoint presentation, walked her around campus, got her water, took her to lunch, etc. She is one cool lady, definitely yaya. And her presentation inspired me - kind of made me realize that I'm "not done yet" that there are other things I'm supposed to do here.

While she was eating lunch with her classmates, I wolfed down a wrap in the cafeteria and got to talking with a student interested in traveling abroad for the first time. I began to tell her about Vivian and how well traveled she was, then suggested that the student apply for our Vira Heinz award, which provides $5,000 to travel. The student was so open to suggestions and seemed so young and fresh. She was astounded that I was taking so much time to talk with her. I gave her my card as Vivian walked out (I had to escort her to her next lecture).

Then I got a lightbulb moment - why not introduce them? The spirit of my aunt Judy entered my soul - this is totally what she would do - bring them together. And so I did.

They got to talking, and as we walked, Vivian told Candace (the student) that she first traveled abroad because she won the Vira Heinz award back in 1967. A CHILL went up my back. I had no idea she won this award too. How weird is that? At that moment, I truly felt that I had made a connection, or started someone down a path. Vivian even introduced this moment with Candace as the introduction to her next lecture. I sat in the audience thinking, "I DID THAT." :)

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The Best Part of My Day (10/2/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

My favorite part of the day yesterday was my drive home from yoga. Right after yoga I always feel my calmest of the week. If a freight train surprised me by driving in front of the car I would just sigh and step on the brake. Nothing fazes me. I float home in my Matrix through the streets of Lawrenceville. City shops are shut for the night, people are walking, old men sit on benches. It's a warm October night, I've got Michelle Shocked's "That's So Amazing" blaring out of the speakers and all is well with the world.

I love this song. The lyrics perfectly describe what I feel right now in this life. Not only that, it reminds me of why I'm here. Not for anything big, any major earth-shattering purpose, but to just find moments of peace and silent contentment.

That's So Amazing - by Michelle Shocked
The moon is in a phase and I guess that I am too
Maybe one of these days all that I will do
Is wait and watch for the sun to make a revolution
And be blinded by the vision of that divine solution
To lift my eyes and say now that was truly amazing

That's so amazing

But the moon tonight is new and I guess I am too
And I can't see the light when it lies under a horizon
But if I'll lift my eyes I'll see a million distant suns
Guiding my way toward dawn when the sun will rise
And shine on everyone

That's so amazing!

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The Best Part of My Day (10/1/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

My favorite part of the day yesterday was my run in the park at daybreak. It was just chilly enough to make you want to move, and pitch dark. But as I power walked, the sun came up, peeking through the trees, the fog of my breath floated above my head and the music in my ears (house music from the 90's of course! Debra Cox gets me going like no one else) kept me sustained. I've recently started running - not a long way, just 100 steps at a time. That's usually when I get winded and have to slow back to a walk, panting and gasping. I usually try to run at least 100 steps about 4 or 5 times during my walk of three miles. But I found yesterday, on my fifth attempt, that I was able to run a little farther. And that was the best part of my day - actually feeling myself get just a little bit stronger.

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The Best Part of My Day.

Originally published elsewhere on the dates indicated

So I read this great article by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, and it came at a time when I really needed it. Feeling low, feeling tired. She speaks of being able to have a small space of peace no matter where you are, no matter what time of the day. And she also talks about sharing the "best part of your day" every day. Instead of journaling when you're down (which I do, often) why not record the best moments, however tiny they might be. I'm going to do that.

Thursday, September 27, 2007
The best part of my day today was spent sitting in Cafe Roma in Bloomfield, with my husband. We shared a bottle of Cabernet, and ate huge plates of homemade pasta, bread with olive oil, and tiramisu. This restaurant is owned by a true Sicilian, and his grandmother makes everything from scratch in the kitchen. When I tasted my husband's tagliatelle with lamb ragu, I was transported to Florence. My own rigatoni with roasted red and yellow peppers with artichokes was simply incredible. What a combination. It was like summer on a plate. Not only did we share a slab of tiramisu that tasted like a cloud of espresso and chocolate, we bought another to take home. I left sighing and singing.

Friday, September 28, 2007
Work was hellish today, with Reunion approaching next weekend everybody is in a frenetic insane frame of mind. So my favorite part of the day was enjoying half a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. It was crisp, cold, tasted of apples and pears, and went down smooth. I needed that.

Saturday, September 29, 2007
After eating lunch with some old teacher friends at Bravos, I spent the afternoon doing something I hadn't done in at least two years - shopping! With a real budget to use! And I'm finally skinny, so I spent the entire afternoon trying on clothes and the planets must be in alignment because everything looked great on me. Yes! Usually I try on one or two things and then run out of the store, dashing home because of my agoraphobia, lack of money, the fact I can't find anything that fits, or all of the above.

But today was different. I tried on a huge armload and everything looked great. I bought SKIRTS of all things (I never do this) and even a dress! Wheeeee! I enjoy being a girl.

Sunday, September 30, 2007
I've already had the best part of today. This morning, 7:30am, I'm walking my doggie friend Lois around the park. It's so foggy that the trees peep out and look like skeletons. It's eerie but cool at the same time. It's so quiet. She's panting lightly, and all I hear is the soft crunch of my shoes on the path. And the roar of lions. You see this park is above the Pittsburgh zoo and sometimes in the early morning you can hear the lions roar. This morning was one of those mornings. I was transfixed. I thought to myself that this is what it must sound like on the sahara in Africa as the sun rises. It was magical.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Gratitude Journal 9/23/07

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

Today I'm grateful for:

1. Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter

2. Sunny autumn days

3. Feeling guilt-free

4. My wonderful husband and sweet doggie

5. Feeling a lot better, the flu is finally going away, Yay!

6. Only six more weeks of busy crazyness at work before it slows down

7. A really good night's sleep last night

8. A sweet voicemail from sweet Melissa :0)

9. BB going on a date!

10. My long-distance friends

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Gratitude Journal 9/16/07

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

I am grateful today for:

1. ginger tea

2. hot coffee with vanilla soymilk

3. Dayquil, because I've got a terrible cold, yuck!

4. my comfy yoga pants

5. the quiet, little flame of strength I feel inside, even though outside I feel like complete crap

6. my wonderful husband, who went to the store today, walked Lois twice, cleaned the house, and let me take a nap - he's the bomb

7. my cousin-in-law getting married - she's decided to have a destination wedding in Punta Cana in January - yahoo! we are SO there!

8. the smell of the grill on a chilly September Sunday afternoon

9. a short week this week, I'm taking Friday off because I have to work Saturday morning.

10. every new day I have with Lois, because it's usually a day where she teaches me something about myself.

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Gratitude Journal 9/11/07

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

Today, I'm grateful:

1. that Lois wasn't too keyed up when I ran home this morning - there was a thunderstorm, and she needed my love and some valium.

2. for hot coffee with vanilla soymilk.

3. that even though, for some reason, my co-workers think I'm an emotional dumping ground (they vent to me about *everything* way too much) I am able to smile, breathe through it, offer advice, and keep breathing when they choose to ignore the advice. They're young, they'll learn.

4. that I have yoga class tonight - I need it.

5. that it's only 7 more weeks until things start to slow down somewhat here.

6. that the weather is cooler and not as humid today.

7. that although I am PMS-ing like a madwoman, I am aware of it. By staying aware, I can breathe through it, and realize that this too shall pass.

8. that during meditation last night, I was able to listen to the sound of the crickets, and my neighbor Joan, singing "Someone To Watch Over Me." It was beautiful and surreal. She has a gorgeous voice.

9. for Lois's smile and her kisses, which wake me up every morning.

10. for my new-found peace. It's not large, nor is it lasting, but it's present, and something I can grow with time.

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My Doggy Guru, Lois.

Originally published elsewhere, October 2, 2007

My dog Lois is teaching me to be a better, stronger, more at peace person. For years I have been looking for a guru, someone to show me what it is I'm doing wrong, why I am always stressed out and worry too much, why my stomach is always tight, and I've found my Buddhist teacher in my dog's eyes and in her smile.

You see, dogs pick up on every emotion we feel. If we feel stressed, so do they. If we worry, the worry emerges in their eyes and they are worried too. There's no other way to explain it. When we first got Lois, she was, and still is, terribly afraid of thunderstorms. At the first rumble of thunder, she will begin pacing the house, running up and down the stairs, then hide for a while in the shower stall before ripping up our bedsheets, our mattress, and our couch.

The first time this happened, I was in such a panic, I didn't know what to do. I chased her around the house, my heart racing, not because she was tearing up the house, but because I thought she might hurt herself. Even on anti-anxiety medication, Lois acted as if the world were coming to an end. My eyes were wild with worry, and so were hers. It was a stressful couple of hours.

Then, my dog sitter, who has high-functioning autism, meaning she has autism but still functions reasonably well in normal circumstances, suggested that my husband and I just sit quietly during the thunderstorm and act as if nothing was happening. We tried it, not really convinced. During the first thunderstorm, Lois still paced, but didn't tear up anything. During the second, the same. Then something changed. This was during a week when there were thunderstorms, literally, every day. I was going nuts, thinking I would never get through this, but I kept trying, kept breathing through it.

During the third thunderstorm, Lois paced for a while, then went to hide in "her spot" at the top of the back stairwell. She was quiet and stayed there until the coast was clear. The fourth time, it was during the middle of the night. She jumped on the bed, shaking, but after five minutes, she settled down, and eventually jumped off the bed to hide in her spot. I couldn't believe it. And it made me wonder about autism, and if this is what Dena does when she's faced with a fearful situation – where it feels as if everything is coming at you at once.

By being quiet and relaxed during a thunderstorm (even though much of the time I was faking it), we created a quietness and sense of relaxation in her.

Lois is teaching me to be at peace. Every time I feel stressed or freaked out, especially when we go for walks, she immediately picks up on it and acts out. But if I'm confident, strong, my stomach isn't tight with stress, and I'm remembering to just breathe, I look at her face, she smiles at me, and all is well. I just pretend I'm a YaYa, strong and fearless, and eventually I believe it, and it happens. I am YaYa.

It's a challenging process, but one I really want to succeed in. Not because I don't want her to rip up the house, but because it feels so much better. In the past, I used to force myself to peace because I felt it was the right thing to do, but now with Lois, I kind of have to be at peace whether I want to be or not – if I'm not, it's a difficult day for both of us. If I am, we both do well. By her forcing me into this state, I'm learning to go there myself all the time, and damn does that feel incredible.

She's teaching me to be fearless, something I've never been able to do without faking it. What's that saying? Fake it 'til you make it? There's something to that. Thank you Lois, for being my mirror, and my guru. I love you.

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My Life List.

Originally published elsewhere, September 2, 2007 with a few new additions...

Before I leave this life, this is my list of things to do/things to be:

1. write a book
2. live in a beach house
3. live in a villa in Tuscany
4. climb a mountain
5. camp overnight in the Rockies
6. go to a yoga retreat in Bali
7. be able to do a backbend in yoga class - unsupported
8. eat yokatori in Tokyo
9. eat sushi in that exclusive place in New York where it's $350 per person (Tony Bourdain's favorite place)
10. stay at The Plaza
11. admire the Hironymous Bosch paintings at the Prado in Madrid
12. learn to surf
13. skydive
14. hang glide
15. buy a motorcycle and ride it regularly
16. ride my motorcycle cross country
17. get at least 2 more tattoos because the best things come in threes
18. own a porch swing
19. eat barbecued pig in Ubud, Bali
20. see Ankor Wat
21. see Macchu Piccu
22. go to Tibet and see a Buddhist monastery and observe a religious ceremony
23. learn to make jewelry
24. somehow, get all the YaYas together for one night of debauchery at Tao nightclub in Las Vegas
25. eat pho in Vietnam
26. eat street vendor food in Singapore
27. own a supremely expensive and fabulous Swiss watch that I bought and paid for
28. go to Alaska and see the Northern lights
29. hike the Appalachian Trail
30. live in a farmhouse with a cerise roof on at least 5-10 acres
31. own a fabulous overnight bag that I purchased myself
32. attract people who aren't needy or desperate, but independent, intelligent, adventurous, and loyal
33. cultivate a strong spirit and confident sense of self
34. age gracefully, without surgery
35. be at peace with who I am and with everything that comes my way
36. be free of fear
37. be a firm size 8 and not always fighting to lose weight but at peace with the amount of exercise I get
38. learn to ride a horse well, and do so often
39. see the Alps
40. eat oysters in Brittany
41. return to Paris
42. travel to Hawaii
43. finally live debt free
44. have a real, working garden
45. continue to be a true friend to my husband
46. find a job that I truly care about
47. see Greg Brown in concert
48. run in a 4-mile race (eventually working up to a 13K)
49. meditate every day, it's so difficult, yet brings me such peace
50. spend a month in an Ashram
51-1,000 (to be added, as needed!) :0)

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Things I Love.

So, I just discovered that certain websites where you can blog, actually DELETE your old blogs after a certain time to make room for the new stuff (cough cough cough, MYSPACE, cough, cough, cough).

Me being someone who collects a lot, and has crates of old journals, papers from college, attempts at short stories and what have you - I don't like this. So over the next few days I'm going to pull stuff off that site and plop it down here. Epizoodiks's intent is to blog memories, and some of these are that. Others are just different kinds of "coughs". We will get back to regularly scheduled programming (Things I'll Miss About Pittsburgh) soon. Thanks for your indulgence...


Originally published elsewhere, August 31, 2007

A few things I love:
summer nights with screaming crickets and cicadas, hot, sultry summer nights on Hanover Avenue in Richmond, circa 1992, oysters, dry martinis with lots of olives, the smell of the beach, the smell of garlic cooking, my husband, my beautiful dog Lois's soulful eyes and her gentle snore, swimming in the ocean, falling asleep to the sound of waves, spaghetti carbonara, vietnamese pho, Ketel One Citron vodka tonics, sleeping late, afternoon naps, my mother's adventurous spirit, which I can feel inside of me when I'm driving my car with the stereo loud, Curtis Mayfield singing, "This year, this year." The laugh of the YaYas on my porch, my hammock gently swaying in the summer breeze, Lidia Bastianich's cooking show, flip flops and pedicures. I love the feeling of a Saturday morning and Bugs Bunny. Bacon and eggs with parmesan cheese and tarragon. I love and miss my Nana. I love sipping wine and pouring over old yearbooks with my sister, and I love the southern twang I hear in the voice of my nephews. It puts a pang in my heart because I know our family will live on in them. I love the teeny tiny moment of peace I feel after yoga and after my meditation practice. It's so fleeting and so precious. For just a moment I feel strong - I want to hold that moment forever.

A few things I could do without:
Desperate people, energy-sucking people, people who think they own the road, people who nitpik over every detail and can't step back, breathe a moment, and look at the big picture. Will this matter in 10 years? No? Then let it go, please. Fake people who smile in your face and make fun of you behind your back. Drama - it's almost never needed. Radishes. Iceberg lettuce. Pre-packaged food. The distance between me and my family. The immeasurable distance I feel sometimes between me and my friends. The sadness that comes over me sometimes for no apparent reason. Feeling sick to my stomach much of the time.

But I know that all of the things are in my life, love them or hate them, for a reason. And I'm learning to embrace the things I can do without. Hokey yes, but necessary.

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I'm old local paper has published something I wrote...again! Published twice in less than a month, yay! :0)

My letter.

The editor emailed me last week and called me "feisty" (huge compliment in my book). Two of the journalists I criticized emailed me as well (hee hee) with all kinds of excuses.

I just love it when I can stir up the pot.........

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Things I'll Miss - 2

Number two in the list of things I'll miss about Pittsburgh...

Hartwood Acres - My husband and I spent so many summer Sunday evenings here. We'd pack up our captain's chairs, fill up the cooler with contraband cocktails, and head out to hear some terrific, free music. We'd always choose a spot in the back, outside of the crowd (closer to the port-o-johns) and place the cooler between our chairs like it was an end table. Sipping on "lemonade" from thermal jugs with built-in straws purchased at Wal-Mart, capable of holding 32 ounces of whatever cocktail we'd conjured up that week. Usually margaritas, but once caipirinhas after husband had a work party at a Brazilian restaurant. Those were yummy, and lethal.

That will be forever remembered as my "Dancing Nancy" evening - Little Feat was playing that night and after 32 ounces of Brazilian sugar cane liquor, all I wanted to do was dance. And when "Dixie Chicken" came on? Forget it - I was a goner. By that time it was full on dark, so I hoped no one was really noticing me dance - just me and the fireflies, weaving around, drunk on summer. Afterwards I spent hours swinging upside down in the porch hammock after we got home. Good times.

I used to love just sitting in the captain chair and watch all the kids playing - tossing the football around, attempting to fly kites before it got too dark. I'd watch the high school girls trolling the crowd, looking for cute boys, all the while wearing shorts that were too tight. I'd feel really old right then. That voice inside would scold me for being judgemental toward those girls - "You're showing your age Libby, remember when you used to do that in Myrtle Beach? Relax, let them be kids for Chrissakes."

I loved all the doggies too - people would bring their pets to the shows, almost like they were showing them off. Hartwood was better than Westminster for watching doggies - you'd see lab puppies, Frenchies, Havanese, once even a mammoth, speckled Great Dane pulling his owner along. That dog looked like it needed a saddle.

People would either tailgate from their cars (Webers in tow) or some would go high class and have a full-on gourmet picnic complete with cheese and grapes and baguette (hiding the wine in a paper bag). We'd sit there enjoying the music (Robert Randolph and the Family Band, John Prine, Rosanne Cash, The Yardbirds, Lee Rocker), and as the alcohol took its effect, everything would take on a perfect, dreamy quality. The boat drink would combine with the hot summer air and the laughter. The dew would drop onto the grass as the sun set and the air grew cooler, the music would waft to the heavens on scents of grilled hotdogs, and the color of the air would go from bright blue, to pink and gold, to the deep purple of twilight. All would be perfect with the world, and for a moment, you'd really forget that you had to go back to work tomorrow...

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Things I'll Miss - 1 my husband and I have moved to just outside Charlottesville, Virginia. Better job for him, new state of unemployment for me, fresh start for both of us. So far we're loving it - we were kind of worried - Cville is a lot smaller, slower. But the pace seems to suit us both, and our dog, a life-long city dog, is now countrified. She wants to spend most of her time under the porch! Yes, my dog, like her mother, has become a redneck.

Anyway, Pittsburgh was our home for going on 8 years, and there are things about it that I'll miss. I'll add to this list as I think of them...

Highland Park - I'll miss our neighborhood a lot. Miss seeing the change of seasons on walks to Tazza D'Oro - I always loved looking at everyone's garden, all the colors and the care. I'll miss Tazza D'Oro's scones. So yummy. I'll miss saying hello to the dogs walking about - Ruby and Mojo the most. I'll miss seeing hummingbirds on my front porch as I lay in a hammock on a hot summer afternoon. My gasp of wonder and surprise the first time I saw this tiny creature sniffing about my red geraniums.

Highland Park Reservoir was where I finally got over so many things - agoraphobia, my self-consciousness about my weight. I started walking around - slowly at first, working up to five times around at a brisk pace. With every lap the pounds came off - I felt lighter, physically, but also mentally. The cool breezes and the trees, and seeing the baby ducks swimming - all the nature that was about - just lifted me up and calmed me down. I realized I had nothing to fear from anyone. Once I saw a turtle sunning himself just on the edge of the water, just enjoying the day. When the geese arrived I knew it was springtime (they were on their way north) and when they arrived again some months later, I knew it would soon be cold and dark - winter's approaching.

I'll miss the sweet old lady who fed the park's feral cats - she'd creep up with her baggy of Tender Vittles every day about 2pm. As much as I wanted to see these kitties in a proper home, I was torn, because they always looked so fat and happy.

I graduated from walking the reservoir to running the paths further down and around it. These paths were also where I learned to walk our dog, Lois. She was a rescue, so while I wanted to spoil her rotten, I also wanted to be a firm parent - the whole time afraid that I was doing everything wrong. These paths were where we both learned from each other, eventually coming to an understanding. She was equally afraid - of everything it seemed - the outdoors, other dogs, loud noises, you name it. But as the days progressed, her fear eased, and with it so did mine.

I can remember walking her at dawn - the fog on the trees was so thick it hung like a blanket. It hung like cobwebs - you could barely see anything just beyond your own footsteps. The air was damp, cold. We were the only ones crazy enough to be walking the reservoir that early. It was eerie. And so silent. We both walked slowly, very carefully, not wanting to disturb anything that might be lurking. And as we rounded the bend, a soft lion's roar could be heard from the zoo down the street. It was a thing of wonder - and I remember I wasn't afraid any longer. Dawn in Highland Park is what I'll miss the most...

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