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It’s a new day January 7, 2013

Posted by Barbara in Art, Life.

New Year’s resolutions have little power in my world.  Maybe I can handle a few one day at a time.

May I:

Think more and talk less.

And never for others.

Write more.

Paint more.

Buy less ‘stuff’

and give more away.

Let go when I need to.

When I slip, I hope you’ll nudge me.  Kindly, if possible.

Thank you.


“Let us cultivate our garden.” 
                                             ― Voltaire, Candide


A Legacy of Love November 8, 2012

Posted by Barbara in Art, Life.

A mom’s hug lasts long after she lets go.  ~Author Unknown


Saying goodbye isn’t easy.

Mom knew her time was near; her heart was ready for the journey.  Mine wanted to linger.  One more kiss.  Just a little longer to hold her hand.  And then that last, quiet breath.

Later, as my sister and I sat down to write an obituary, we struggled with the effort of telling the story of a lifetime in such a few words.  The bullet-list of a standard newspaper form seems so bland.  Mom was anything but bland.  We finished the writing because deadlines force action, but my heart continues to catalog the memories; we owe so much, my siblings and I, to that mother’s legacy.


Still Living STRONG October 23, 2012

Posted by Barbara in LiveSTRONG.
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Once in a while I have to go ahead and take a stand.

I try to stay pretty apolitical.  I prefer to talk values rather than party line, to find common ground and shared humanity.  I make an effort to live to reflect my moral / religious / political beliefs instead of preaching my doctrine on the street corner or standing as judge and jury over others.

Which brings me to the controversy over one of my favorite people:  Lance Armstrong.

I don’t know him personally.  I’ve never been involved in the racing sport – although I cheered for several of his Tour victories as I watched on TV.   I’ve never met the man; but I’d like to –  regardless of the truth behind the drug use allegations.


Respect works September 9, 2012

Posted by Barbara in Uncategorized.
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“Our judgments, like our watches, none go just alike, yet each believes his own”   ~ Alexander Pope,  An Essay on Criticism

I find myself troubled these days.

It seems that as the political season heats up, the emotions that each party tries so hard to stir up will stifle us, drowning even the warmth of friendship and family in a cauldron of half-reasoned excuses and Facebook flames, leaving us with a smoldering emptiness where no-one wins.  It would be good to believe that all this would pass once the election is over – but regardless of which party raises their banner on November 7, our social problems will remain for a long time to come.  There are no magic wands.  We are entering a period in our own personal history where we will either work together as human beings in caring communities or we will die of thirst wrapped in our own egos.

I’m sure I’m not the brightest little star in the sky.  It’s hard to sift truth out of the soundbites, rousing speeches and ads meant to demean rather than inform.  The issues are complex and don’t distill well into simple infographics – no matter how hard we try.  But there are a few things I know.

I know that if an issue seems obvious and simple, we just haven’t learned enough to even ask the right questions.

I know that my friends and loved ones who may not share my perspective are not idiots, as the media flame wars would have me believe.

Neither am I.

I know they are not selfish, uncaring, cowardly or unpatriotic.

Neither am I.

I’m hoping they can see me in that light, even if our approaches to solving the problems may differ.  I’m hoping that as real people, in real communities, we will still be able to speak not only with respect, but with a love driven by real friendship.  That we can learn together, share our ideas and solve our problems together.  That we will find ways to soften our words and broaden our viewpoints.

This is not a pipe dream.  It’s a necessity.

And I have to believe in our ability to get there.


“If I am right, Thy grace impart still in the right to stay;

If I am wrong, O, teach my heart to find that better way!” 
                                   ~ Alexander Pope

Have a little faith! February 29, 2012

Posted by Barbara in Gardening, Life.

It’s garden time again in Texas.   We’ve already planted cool-loving potatoes and onions, spinach, carrots, lettuce and radishes in the soil.   The more sensitive herbs, the tomatoes and peppers and watermelons that want to be coddled in warmth until all danger of frost has passed, are just breaking ground in their little pots, safely tucked away in the $20 greenhouse.

Plant too early and you may lose the crop to a freeze.  Too late and you limit or lose the growing season.   And that is  just one of the many hurdles Mother Nature keeps in her play book to challenge those who dare play the game.  Farming is one part sweat and sore muscles, one part strategy, one part planning and ten parts faith.


The elevator speech January 19, 2012

Posted by Barbara in Uncategorized.
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“So what are you doing these days?”

The question comes from friends who truly care and from passing acquaintances who are merely being polite.

My mind races around the variety of tasks on my to-do list. Some of them mundane , some  personally challenging , some are fairly esoteric (working on a website about the reef aquariums), and a few are fairly normal (planning the year’s vegetable garden.)    But when the question comes, I never quite seem to have an answer.    Especially on those days (most days, to be honest), when I’ve bounced from one end of the spectrum to the other.   My feelings at any given moment aren’t quite predictable either.   Ask in the evening, when I’m tired, and I can’t really wrap my head around it all and so I have no answer.  I need an elevator speech – planned and rehearsed – so I can answer the question.

The challenge is that the laundry list of minutiae doesn’t begin to tell the story that matters, anyway.


‘Til we meet again December 31, 2011

Posted by Barbara in Art.
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She was headed up into the mountains when I first met her.  She and her husband had come for a wilderness fishing trip with my parents – a pack trip with horses up into the San Juan mountains to one of our favorite lakes.  It was secluded enough that my father once threatened to move on because he saw smoke from another campfire at the far end of the lake a mile or more away.    If she was fearful of bears or snakes, or handling a horse on the trail, I never knew it.  Her 4 ft 11 5 ft 1 in stature and soft smile may have misled some folk about the steel that lay beneath.

A few years later, I decided in my 20 yr old wisdom that I should leave my parents New Mexico ranch for the big city.  I planned to try California, but my father convinced me  Houston would be just as exciting.  He knew Paul and Sybil would be near to look after me.  They were.   Paul found me a starter job at his company and Sybil welcomed me to weekends and holidays at their home as though I were one of the family.  I thought of her as a southern belle.  Her gentle grace and hospitality helped fill that empty place within me that my lust for self-reliance couldn’t quite manage.

She and Paul reared three boys – each of them strong willed and independent – but also equipped with a strong moral compass and a deep kindness that I now know are rooted in her and Paul’s steadfast example.  When I fell in love with the youngest of the three,  my world was set on a new and wonderfully fulfilling path.

Of course, we had  our share of misunderstandings.  Having a daughter-in-law is, after all, a unique experience.   Over the years, I began to see the childhood that gave her that strength and the mother’s heart that led her and we came to terms with our differences.

She met life’s challenges with grace and intelligence and faith, and that never changed even through the years alzheimer’s disease took its toll.   And Paul was there with her for the whole trip – all 69 1/2 of the years they spent together.    That all three of their sons shared the effort as they made sure she and Paul were supported and loved up to the very end of her adventure speaks highly of who she was.

She built a real family.   I’m grateful to have been a part of it.

May she rest in peace.

Tower Building December 6, 2011

Posted by Barbara in Uncategorized.
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I’ve been following a blog written by Chris Guillebeau for a while now.     He has a beautifully well-written blog, full of insight, inspiration and caring.  Today he published a new manifesto, The Tower. It does not disappoint.   With his permission, I repost it here. (Just click on the picture below for the PDF version.)

It is very much worth your time.

More even than downing Deathwing.

Better yet, go explore his website.  There’s a lot more.  All good.

May you build your towers in just the way you want them.

Wishing you well, my friends.

Zen – with urgency December 5, 2011

Posted by Barbara in Uncategorized.
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A friend laughed with me the other day about my mid-life crisis (her term).  She’s noticed that I’m all about canoe trips in the wilderness, writing my novel/book, blogging and making a bucket list.

She’s wrong.  It’s much worse than that.  And it’s not a recent personality change.  I’ve always walked/skipped to a syncopated drummer.

I attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison in the early 70’s (enough said).  Since then, from survival camping to learning  to speak Navajo to overhauling industrial turbine engines to my passion for coral reef aquaria – my life choices have always leaned a bit to the road-less-traveled.   Somewhere along the line, I detoured into family life and  we have 4 amazing sons, who bring their own adventures into my world and to this day keep me motivated and enjoying life.  [My sweet husband/best friend isn’t a detour.   We’re traveling this road together all the way.]

But, to be honest, I had settled for a long while, into living inside the box.  You know.  The ticky-tacky construction Steve Jobs talks about in that 47 sec clip that’s making the rounds.   I went to work, and even though I loved and valued what I did, it was long hours and very high stress.  It took a toll on my family and my health.  A few years ago, a couple of health crises made it perfectly clear:   choose to do whatever it takes to live life on my own terms for whatever time I’m given – or settle for rolling inexorably down that broader path.

It is true that I’m somewhere around mid-life – even for an optimist.  At the same time, assuming my life choices are healthy, I may have another 40 years I plan to truly enjoy.   To build a business or write a novel or hike the Wonderland trail.   Hopefully to leave the world a little better in some way.

Thinking of  Steve Jobs, if you haven’t listened to his commencement address at Stanford recently, it deserves a replay.  In fact, we probably should replay it monthly, anyway, as a reminder.

Or follow Chris Guillebeau at The Art of Non-Conformity.  Start with this week’s blog about his new manifesto.   He’s no-where near a mid-life crisis.  But he understands.


This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. But what I do today is important because I’m exchanging a day of my life for it.

When tomorrow comes this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place that which I have traded. I want it to be gain not loss, good not evil, success not failure.

I know I shall not regret the price I have paid for it because the future is just a whole string of now’s!  ~Lou Holtz

Parents and kids November 29, 2011

Posted by Barbara in Art.

Family faces are magic mirrors.  Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present, and future.  ~Gail Lumet Buckley

We had an awesome Thanksgiving. I hope you did, too.

We were blessed with having all our sons (and a couple of really special girlfriends) AND both my parents AND my brother and his sweet wife (one of my very closest friends starting in our high school days) enjoying the Texas hill country. It was a rare treat for us to be all together. Nothing says ‘family’ like the smiles and hugs shared in such magic times.


“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” ~Jane Howard