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The hero within November 16, 2011

Posted by Barbara in LiveSTRONG.
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“You have to climb a mountain before you can enjoy the view.” ~ via Marc and Angel Hack Life

Sometimes doers of heroic deeds find themselves in a public spotlight, and many times the stardom that follows overshadows the truly heroic effort.   We focus attention on the end result to create super-star moments.  We remember only the victor’s hands raised in glory.  Sadly, this makes it difficult to see the long, persistent struggle that finally resulted in that moment – and that likely continues on a daily basis long after the attention has vanished.    And we believe that mere mortals such as ourselves can scarcely hope to attain that victory.

In reality, heroism is deeply ingrained in each of us.  It germinates when life hands us the most difficult moments, pushing tenuously through our being like a seedling struggling to break the crust of soil and find the light.  And it blossoms as we trudge through the frightening, heart-rending moments to conquer our own pain and fears and find the strength to stand despite it all.

We look at ourselves standing there, covered with dirt, sweat, blood and tears and we don’t see a hero; just a real person doing his best to make it through.

If you’re there right now, know that your inner hero is showing.  And the light is giving the rest of us courage to keep on fighting, too.

You are the hero we most need.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”    ~ Winston Churchill


The bucket list October 26, 2011

Posted by Barbara in Life, LiveSTRONG.
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Everyone who got where he is has had to begin where he was.                         ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Life’s good.  I have no regrets.  I’m active and getting healthier, slowly but surely.  So why not just keep on keepin’ on?  Why a bucket list?

Because I have things to do.   And doing some of them means that my family and friends need to know what’s up so they can come along for the fun, if they want.  I’d love that.  Some things on this very flexible list are kind of solo activities.  But others (like those that entail travel or adventure) would really only be enjoyable with great company.

And I realize, finally, that procrastination is equivalent to failure.

I’ll be changing the list pretty frequently at first, as I think through the difference between things I really feel a drive to do and those that would simply be pleasant side-trips.  Making the list public puts me on notice that the time is now.

In fact, now is the only time there is.


It isn’t simple to simplify August 26, 2011

Posted by Barbara in Life.
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One of my recurring New Year’s resolutions is to simplify my life. Simply put, we have too much junk.

I often feel just that way about the ever-present clutter in my world.   I’m a world class saver of all potentially useful stuff.  Dutiful daughter of survivors of the last Great Depression.  No, that does not read:  hoarder.  My ‘collection’ has value.  Sort of.

Every now and then I go on a spree trying to thin out the abundance. I make runs to the local charities with outgrown clothes and still-playable games and unused kitchen gadgets.  But the thing I find it hardest to let go of are the books. I’ve had shelves and closets and boxes of books for all age levels and interests.  I collected children’s books for my kids until they thought I was trying to start my own library and, I’m proud to say, they all learned to read.  I still have most of them.  The books, that is.  The kids  just wouldn’t stay where I put them.

During the summer, I made a real effort to reduce the collection enough that I could leave J with only one bookcase in his bedroom. For some reason, he thought it important to have a desk and a computer.  Most of the books we moved out ended up in stacks on my bedroom floor.

I’m working on it. I am.

But I’m quite sure I’ll need my old Navajo language books from my college days again. And if not, well…..they hold so many memories! And so many undelivered dreams.

And, yes, we really do still grab old National Geo’s to spend an evening with – as though they were old friends who had just been waiting for a turn at our attention. The complete compilation on CD just doesn’t do it for me.

That’s what a 32 year collection looks like.

And it stays.

A room without books is like a body without a soul.   ~Cicero

Cycles August 9, 2011

Posted by Barbara in Gardening, Life.
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It’s been hot in Texas.  Very hot.  My car showed 112 degrees the other day.  It’s taking a toll on the garden, and only the hardiest of vegetables have endured to this point.   When our water supply was interrupted for a couple of days, it spelled the end for almost everything.   I was sad to see it go until I realized that the changes I was seeing were not harbingers of the end.  Rather they were showing life’s willingness to adapt and continue.

Adapt, you say?  The sunflowers are still standing only because the stems are as thick as small tree trunks and will likely stand until we cut them down to plant the next crop.  Adapt?  Even the heat-loving watermelons have quit blooming, the vines withering almost as I watch.


Garden lessons, life lessons July 11, 2011

Posted by Barbara in Gardening, Life.
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I was weeding the garden this morning. My recent week of play saw a bumper crop of weeds to go with the nice harvest. As I worked my way down the row of mostly gone or harvested onions and garlic I saw what I took to be a miscreant stalk of corn – probably planted by the birds who are enjoying the corn crop.

 I really am aware of how steep my gardening learning curve still is.    I thought I knew exactly what that plant was.  I was quite willing to pull it up.  At the very least, it was growing in the wrong place.  Who needs corn in the garlic row?

Imagine my surprise when my pulling uncovered a large tuber.  It was the long-lost ginger I had planted months ago and never seen again.  It had suddenly decided to grow – exactly where I had planted it.  It didn’t grow as quickly as I had expected and I didn’t understand what it would look like if it did.  So I mis-read the reality.  And ruined what would have become a beautiful and productive plant. 

I wonder how often we fail to recognize other treasures in life.

Sometimes because they take time to reveal themselves.  Sometimes because we  are so focused on our own expectations that we don’t recognize and value what is right in front of us.

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. 
                 ~Thornton Wilder  

Fish are people, too July 6, 2011

Posted by Barbara in Sea creatures.
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For my mother.

<cue Dragnet music>

The story you are about to read is true.   Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent….

Sometimes we experience something so unique that it is difficult to share.  Other people generally respond to things outside their own paradigm or expectation with disbelief at best.  Derision and laughter are equally common.  But, as Sgt. Friday says, “Only the facts, ma’am.”

Serpent Star


Chapter 1 –  Awakening

Snails are not the brightest of God’s creatures.  They fill their niche in the web of life admirably, eating algae and diatoms, scavenging morsels from the sand and rubble of the ocean floor, moving methodically across the ever-moving, ever-changing terrain of the sea.  The ability to plan ahead is not high in the skill-set.  It doesn’t, in fact, even exist, for all we can tell, in this lowly life form.

For humans, the frontal cortex, that part of the brain sitting prominently behind the skull of the forehead where it seems most vulnerable, has the role of planning, recognizing consequences, putting together the pieces of a sequence of action to foretell the future and predict needs.   We seldom consider lower life forms to have that capacity for planning and strategy, because we don’t see the same physical brain structures in other organisms that we have come to recognize play a crucial role in our own abilities.  Maybe it is this limitation, and our persistent unwillingness to recognize the reality in our own observations, that limits our search for understanding our place in the universe… and the value of all creatures.


It was less than a week! July 5, 2011

Posted by Barbara in Gardening.
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We went on a trip to visit the folks and have some play-time in Austin this past week/end.  6 days.  I promise.

Garden – July 5

The morning before we left, we harvested everything – took a good bit with us to share on the trip.  All this grew in the week we were gone.

The pictures don’t do these things justice.  The larger zucchini are 18 inches long and the watermelon is about 15 lbs.  I’m wondering what one does with squash that big.  Stuffed zucchini boats, maybe.  One would feed the entire crew of the ship it matches.

Sunflowers grew more than a foot and have blooms now –  at least 6 ft tall already.

But I love having lots to share. It was a good plan.

Garden: One of a vast number of free outdoor restaurants operated by charity-minded amateurs in an effort to provide healthful, balanced meals for insects, birds and animals.
               ~ Henry Beard and Roy McKie, Gardener’s Dictionary

Until the end of time…. June 23, 2011

Posted by Barbara in Art.

Today is the 69th year of wedded bliss for my wonderful parents-in-law.  I want to wish them a VERY happy anniversary!  Not only that, but this fall will bring my own parent’s 65th anniversary. Among the siblings in both families, we each count marriages that have lasted, to date,  30 – 40 years, and counting.  So, while I’m no expert, I do offer some observations about what it takes to make marriage work.

No worries.  It’s a very short list.  In fact, there are only 3 basic rules.  Break any of the three and you’re on your own.  Keep all of them, and you are almost guaranteed a successful relationship.

Number 1: Base it on real friendship. No, I didn’t say love.  People misunderstand and misuse the word love way too much for it to convey any clear concept these days.

What most people think of as ‘love’ is emotion.  It’s a ‘feeling’ – and we know that feelings change from one day to the next, one moment to the next.  Feelings are created by chemicals in your brain that are manipulated by external inputs:  situations, illness, foods, exercise, medications, the list goes on.    The first flush of love is a pleasant feeling, to be sure.  Just not one you can count on as a basis for a lifetime relationship.  The kind of love I see so clearly in those hands, the kind that develops such a deep and lasting bond,  is built over years of shared laughter and shared tears.

Friendship, on the other hand, makes one think of words like:  dependable, tolerant, happy, memories, loyal,  compadre….    Those words describe a consistent continuing  mutually giving relationship between equals.  We enjoy spending time with friends – working, playing, just hanging out.  Friends usually share our most basic values, but beyond that we tend to be tolerant of most differences.  We seldom believe we can re-make a friend into something he or she is not.   If changes are required before you can accept and enjoy your future spouse, it’s a recipe for failure.

If there is such a thing as a good marriage, it is because it resembles friendship rather than love.  ~Michel de Montaigne 


Back in the garden June 20, 2011

Posted by Barbara in Uncategorized.

Coffee.  Garden.  Coffee.  Does a good morning need anything else?  ~Betsy Cañas Garmon

Garden – June 20

I totally enjoy spending the early mornings in the garden.  It’s good for the soul.  And it must surely be a good way to stay young! It provides for all the things they say we should do.  Good nutrition,  fresh air, daily exercise (my shoulder still complains that I hoed too much too quickly), and an excuse to learn lots of new things. Gardens are a constant learning curve. And, like the reef aquariums, it is always awesome to see the ways nature develops and how everything is connected. The webs of life that support our own are so easy to take for granted but so amazing!

This year we’ve redone the watering scheme, going from a drip system that didn’t work well to a timed sprinkler system supplemented with hand watering. We’ve figured out how to fight squash bugs.  I’ve been amazed to discover that water (applied with a hand sprayer) has been my biggest ally in that fight.   We’ve been spared the onslaught of the dreaded colorado potato beetles that stripped the crop last year and we’re learning to hill potatoes to make them produce better.

The green beans are beautiful but not making any beans. I think it’s just too hot for them. We were pretty late getting the garden in this spring, and the weather turned hot so early. The squash have been prolific, giving me enough to share through the food pantry as well as making zucchini bread, frittatas, zucchini fries and other goodies.  Learned a better way to fix okra and planning to try oven-baked as opposed to frying.


Living STRONG March 24, 2011

Posted by Barbara in Life, LiveSTRONG.
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I’ve been sporting a new yellow wristband recently. It’s a reminder of why I’m putting in gym time,  planting a garden and generally trying to simplify my lifestyle. It keeps me motivated and helps me stay aware of the bigger picture.

If you don’t know, LiveSTRONG is the cancer support network of Lance Armstrong’s foundation. If you or anyone you know is affected by any type of cancer, check them out. The resources they have available are absolutely awesome. Don’t just glance at the website, either. Watch the videos. Call and talk to a real person. It’s mind-boggling the kind of real-people helping real people network they have.

Like many of you, cancer has touched my family more than once.   We’ve survived prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, colon cancer, skin cancer, cervical cancer.  I lost an aunt to breast cancer and one to ovarian cancer.  An uncle died of lung cancer.  My cousin’s son was lost to testicular cancer.  And I have many dear friends who are cancer survivors.

Each of those family and friends would be worthy of a commitment to health and to understanding and beating that disease.  But that isn’t really why I started wearing the band.