Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy recently passed away. Maeve Binchy wrote Circle of Friends, the first novel I read with a protagonist I could relate to; a girl I knew, because she lived in my head. I have re-read Circle of Friends every year since I was 14. It holds up.

Binchy wrote sweeping stories about people who could be your friends, neighbors, family members, yourself. They are not epic adventures, there is nothing of the paranormal about them, they are not set in space or the future or in an alternate reality. Most often, they are set in an Irish town populated by people we all recognize, sometime in the last 50 years, and the situations are real. Love, hate, death, loss, betrayal, friendship. I would always look forward to a new book from her, and at this point, I have read everything she's written apart from a memoir. These books are not complicated (extensive casts notwithstanding). They are easy to read. They are comforting and lovely and worth a look.

I'm genuinely saddened by this loss. And will read Circle of Friends again very soon. It'll hold up.

*If you're interested, my favorites are Circle of Friends, Echos, The Glass Lake, Light a Penny Candle.


Little things.

Hearing Moonlight Sonata in the hospital lobby. A rich and delicious Orange Chocolate Mousse cake. This line of poetry: "I still wear my favorite Hawaiian shirt, the color/of bubble gum, absinthe & night" (from "Larry Levis in Provincetown," by Rick Hilles). This commercial. No line at the gas station. A new cardigan. Scrabble on Facebook. This song. And this one. A free Diet Coke.


Going Home Again

I spent a large chunk of Saturday with a very dear, very old friend. It was her birthday, and we were going to lunch. I told her that we were going to act like we were 16 again. We were 16 together, and it was a carefree time. Even with the staggering narcissism of a teenager I knew then that I was living a carefree, semi-charmed life. Teen dramas notwithstanding, I was happy. I had friends, and they were good people. So, as we embarked on this day together, the fact that 16 is long since behind us didn't matter. We were going to be carefree on her birthday. We got a little bit lost trying to find the restaurant and chalked it up to adventure. We drove by a friends house to see what was going on. (Our 16 was pre-Facebook, after all, and we had to do our creeping the old fashioned way.) We went to an old haunt and indulged ourselves a little bit. It was as carefree as two grown-ups could manage, and was a lovely day. We aren't 16, though. That was evident immediately, as I watched my friend get a goodbye hug from each of her beautiful children and a goodbye kiss from her wonderful husband. That we aren't 16 was borne out by our conversation: children, mortgages, the deaths of loved ones, career choices... all the trappings of adult life. We'll never be 16 again. We both know that. But, it didn't matter. Because being 16 wasn't the point. Being friends was the point. And we are. Friends. We're the kind of friends that can pick up where we left off no matter how much time has passed. We're the kind that have a long, long history; the kind of history that makes back-stories mostly unnecessary. We're the kind of friends who have stood through thick and thin, and will continue to do that. She was good people at 16. All our friends were. She's amazing people now. They all are. I knew they would be. My life at 16 was charmed, because by geography and happenstance, I made good friends, who for whatever reason, deemed me worthy. And now, all these years later, it's not about being 16; it's bigger than that. Saturday, for all it's grown-up trappings, was magic. Because friends like that? They are like home.


Blessed Sanity

I'm going to share a secret with you. It's this website, 750 words, and it has allowed me to keep my sanity. Seriously. It's a private online journal that encourages you to write 750 words a day. When you hit the goal, it gives you a rundown of the content with some cool little graphics. It's good practice for those who want to write, but it's also a magnificent place to vent. I don't do so hot with the paper and pen journal, but this is really easy for me. There are a lot of things that I need to purge sometimes, and this public blog isn't the appropriate forum to share them. Thus, 750 words. I can be as negative as I need to be. Or as silly. Or I can cry as hard as I need to. And I can share the things that are really in my heart; those things that it would be embarrassing for anyone to see. It's a bit like a prayer. It's cathartic and awesome. It's totally worth the time it takes to get to 750 words. Try it.


Power Anthem

This song has gotten me through the last several days...



You know that horrible, pervasive, wretched little voice in the back of your head that says you aren't good enough? Smart enough? Lovable? Capable? Worth anything? Yeah, that one... It's been screaming at me the last several days. It won't stay in the back of my head. It won't shut up. It's made me cry. It's wiped me out. I've been slow to smile, slower to laugh. I feel heavy; weighed down by my inadequacies. I walk with my head down while the insidiousness fills me. The voice is real. It's loud. It's devastating. It's heart breaking.

You what else is real, though? Grace. Grace is real. I was leaving work yesterday, part of the horde --which meant for a few minutes that I didn't feel alone -- and the snippets of overheard conversation were louder than the hateful one in my mind. I raised my head as I walked outside, and experienced grace. The sun was shining, the breeze was fresh and delicious. I sat, waiting for the shuttle, and watched the guy next to me, a cafeteria worker by his apron, open and immerse himself in a book of poetry. I watched a social worker greet a nurse like an old friend, and smiled at their embrace. All the while, the sun shone. On the shuttle, I listened to the girl next to me giggle quietly while she played Draw Something on her phone, and a breeze came through the open window. I walked to my car, the sun was still shining, the breeze danced, the air smelled like Russian Olive and spring. I could see, smell, hear, use my legs, breathe. I filled my lungs, raised my face to the sun, and whispered a prayer of thanks for grace.

Today, the voice is quieter. Today, I have whispered gratitude for the ability to see grace when it was given. I have smiled. I have laughed. I have accomplished some things. I can breathe.


Poem in your Pocket

It's Poem in your Pocket day, which means I should have copies of my favorite poems to share. Please consider this my metaphorical pocket, and enjoy some of my favorite poems.


You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine.

--Billy Collins
Sonnet 4

Only until this cigarette is ended,
Upon a hill, after the sun has set.
A little moment at the end of all,
While on the floor the quiet ashes fall,
And in the firelight to a lance extended,
Bizarrely with the jazzing music blended,
The broken shadow dances on the wall,
I will permit my memory to recall
The vision of you, by all my dreams attended.
And then adieu,--farewell!--the dream is done.
Yours is a face of which I can forget
The colour and the features, every one,
The words not ever, and the smiles not yet;
But in your day this moment is the sun
Upon a hill, after the sun has set.  
--Edna St. Vincent Millay

Crayon Pirate
There was a single blue line of
crayon drawn across every wall
in the house. What does it 
mean? I said. A pirate needs
the sight of the sea, he said and then
he pulled his eye patch down and
turned and sailed away.
--Brian Andreas

Go here and here for some other poems...


Random Happenings

These things have happened in the last 16 or so hours hours:

I freaked out about a meeting of senior management and medical directors that I was supposed to attend today, and consequently bought a new shirt and some trousers to wear to the meeting so as to not look like a grungy manager. Wore new clothing to meeting, didn't say a word... Boss Lady took over the presentation. But I looked presentable as I sat next to her.

I just saw someone post on Facebook that Bridal Showers are a great way to "stalk" your kitchens. I had a split second of utter panic: "Who's stalking my kitchen? Why? Am I in danger from some dark kitchen killer?" before I realized what she meant. Spelling matters, people.

I picked up my journal for the first time in two years last night. There were some things I needed to purge, and my journal was the only appropriate forum.

I started a new poem.

This song:

I laughed really hard at this from Married to the Sea:

I cried. It wasn't a very cleansing cry, though, so I anticipate another one coming shortly.

I had a lengthy and pitiful discussion with myself about... oh, about a lot of things. What my job means, why I'm doing it (benefits, mostly), how I reconcile myself to knowing that I'm captaining a sinking ship here, and wondering what the fix is. A self-assessment of health. A long look in the mirror (I mean literally, not figuratively). There were other things, but those went in the journal. And this whole scene was where the tears came in. This discussion wasn't productive, nor did it make me feel better. I think tonight it will be a lengthy and less pitiful prayer.

I read this poem: "Fishing on the Susquehanna in July" by Billy Collins, and it soothed me.

I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure--if it is a pleasure--
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one--
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table--
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandanna

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.

 And Diet Coke. Diet Coke happened.



Near the tail end of Harry Potter's cinematic journey, Dumbledore tells him "Words are... our most inexhaustible source of magic." I love that. It's like everything I believe about language -- the beauty and the power of words -- in a perfect soundbite. I have never ceased to be amazed at words; what they can do, what they can evoke, how they feel when they're put together well. Words, and the using of them, are magic.

This was brought powerfully home in a very personal way a couple of days ago. I've recently made a new friend, and we text, very casually; generally in the "Hi, have a good day" vein. A couple days ago, he said that, and followed it up with, "How are you?" This was new. This was the invitation to a conversation. This was care and concern. Three words. Simple, often throw-away words. These were sincere, though. I could tell. And let me tell you, they bloomed for me. I so needed them. In that minute, I needed to know that someone cared how I was doing. Beyond the implied invitation to take our friendship just a little deeper, which I value, there was the awareness of someone giving a damn about me, if only for a moment. I love poetry; I celebrate it. I devour books. I listen intently to songs to really hear the lyrics. I like to talk about language and how it works, and why it works; I like to write. I'm a little intense about words. But those words? Those small words made my day. Helped my heart.Were magic.


Song Selection

This song is really speaking to me the last few days...


Best Thing to Happen to Today

This. This is the best thing to happen to today. One, because I really like this song. Two, because the guy in the v-neck is Matt Bomer. I would chew his gum.

On Friends

The last week has been an interesting one for me, in terms of friends. Some I thought I had, I think maybe I don't. Some I didn't think I would get, I maybe have. And some have shown up, unsought, but so welcome. I said a few posts ago that I don't think I have a "best friend." I first said this to a friend (who has and claims a best friend, which I love for her), on a gorgeous fall day, as we wound along the road somewhere between Washington D.C. and Williamsburg, and I've thought a lot about it since then, and I've worried about it. What did I mean? Do I sound insensitive to the people I am lucky enough to call friend? Do I need a best friend? What happened to the friends I used to categorize as "best?" It may sound insensitive, yes, and for that: I'm sorry. As for what happened: time and distance, a shift in lives, movement, miles, nothing more. Also, this: I don't think I need a best friend, or to claim one. I'm selective now (perhaps a little cautious). If you are in my life, and I call you friend, that's enough for me. It means enough to me. I have people whom I call friend that I have known nearly my entire life. They are part of me, sprinkled through my memories; what more is there?  I love my friends; how deeply depends on time alone, but I love them equally.

I find myself humbled by the people who claim me as friend. By those amazing, beautiful, wonderful men and women who allow me into their lives. I am grateful for old friendships, as comfortable as breathing. I am grateful for new friendships, the reshaping of my life to accommodate them, because it means I'm alive. I am grateful for friends who I am still getting to know, for the adventure and magic that comes with that. I am grateful for those friends who have come and gone, for all these reasons and because I've been transformed by them.

My sisters, Sara, Megan, Molly, you -- and you alone -- I will claim as best, because ours is eternal. I love you.

One needs friends, and thank Heaven, I have them.


National Poetry Month

It's my favorite time of year! National Poetry Month, in celebration of poetry, language and beauty. I share poems all month long on my other blog, so if you're interested, head on over: Psyche's Candle.


A Thought or Two...

“I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach” —Maya Angelou


On the Interwebs

This video made me laugh.

I started following this Twitter feed, because I'm a geek. 



The last year's evidence to the contrary, I have a blog. And while I don't have an delusions that there are hoards of people reading this, I have begun to feel that I should get back to this. There have been moments lately that I feel I want to record, and as much as I love to write, I am horrible at journaling, so this is it for now. Also, and I know this is silly, but I don't need anything else to feel guilty about, and this blog niggles. It quietly berates me in the wee hours of the night. It reminds me that if I am going to claim a piece of the internet for myself, I should have the wherewithal to follow through. And, so: here we are. 

After I finished the 30 day music challenge -- which was the last thing I blogged -- I felt a bit drained. Then, too, I had just finished posting poems on my other blog for National Poetry month, and my brain was tired, and my heart a bit deflated. I gave myself a break. Then, my sweet Daisy was hit by a neighbor and was killed. And I was a mess. I couldn't see anything to write about it; there wasn't anything I wanted to share. I just desperately missed my puppy. (I still miss her.) I had to give myself time to grieve her. 

A few months later, I was given a game-changing opportunity: I was offered a Manager position for the Department of OBGYN in the hospital. I took it. The move was swift and heady. I had to find my feet. Figure out what kind of manager I am; what kind I want to be. I've had to hire and fire almost from the moment I got here. Things are finally settling a bit. 

An October vacation, Thanksgiving, Christmas, job, calling, a brief stint in the hospital at the beginning of January, job, calling, recovering and here we are: March. And I can do this again. Maybe. So, diving with both feet, as I do most things...

Brooke tagged me for this:

Here's what you do:
1. Post the rules
2. Share 11 random things about myself
3. Answer the 11 questions from the post in which I was tagged
4. Create 11 new questions for my tag-ees to answer
5. Tag 11 people

I think she'll forgive me if I don't tag 11 people (I don't honestly think I know 11 people who blog. Or rather, I don't know about said blogs.) However, I will share some random things, and answer the questions. 

11 Random Things:

1. I like office supplies. I have enough pens for a small country. 
2. There are books I have read which I consider dear friends. Some have gotten me through a rough time, some have altered the way I see things, some have simply entertained me and done it well. 
3. I have a weird fascination with the Salem Witch Trials. I wish there was a better explanation for them. 
4. I am equally fascinated by all things Tudor. Queen Elizabeth I is a role model. (Sidebar: I saw her Bible on that vacation I mentioned earlier. We, Brooke and I, were at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the docent was working really hard to tell me something Shakespeare related, but I just went ahead and geeked all the way out over QEI's Bible.)
5. There is always a song in my head. Always. 
6. I am firmly committed to the idea that Cadbury's Mini Eggs are the best secular thing about Easter. I will stockpile before April 8th. 
7. I really like listening to audiobooks. They make my really long commute something more enjoyable. 
8. I am prouder of my ability to embrace my nerdery than almost any other accomplishment I've met as an a adult. There is something wonderful about knowing, and liking, who you are. 
9. I don't really like pie. 
10. My sisters are my very best friends, and I enjoy spending time with my family above most of the other people I know. 
11. I recently downloaded the TapFish app for my nephew and I am addicted. I check on those stupid fish several times a day. 

11 Questions:

1. What are you naturally talented at? I think I'm good at people. I can read them, understand and relate to them, and if asked, can generally help them.

2. What is the most embarrassing song you have on your iPod? Probably something Glee related.

3. What book have you read over and over? Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchey

4. Who is your hero, and why? My family, individually and collectively, for the people they are, and the things we are to each other.

5. What song represents you? Bach's Cello Suite No. 1

6. What is something that can always make you laugh? Funny stuff. Duh.

7. Who do you consider your best friend? Apart from my sisters, I don't really consider anyone my best friend. I have dear friends, and old friends, and some who mean more than others... But, there is a level of time and dedication which being a best friend requires, and which time and/or distance have made challenging; so, I have very dear friends who will always be in my heart.

8. What would you choose for your last meal? Fried Chicken and raspberry cream pie from Maddox in Brigham City.

9. What movie makes you cry, every time? Bright Star.

10.What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time? It's okay to be smart. Learn a language. Don't date that guy. Don't date him, either. Be brave enough to major in Creative Writing. You're fine, just as you are.

11.What question do you wish I asked, and how would you answer it? "Who is your fictional boyfriend?" John Thorton from North and South

Also,  I am really excited to see The Hunger Games next week, I'm seeing The Civil Wars in May and am beyond thrilled about it, and I love, love Downton Abbey. Just so you know.