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And I emerge from the Silly Season at last…

Welcome back to the cornucopia of emotion, goofiness, and occasional pathos that is my Musical Monday Blog!  This week’s song is Pompeii by Bastille.  This post is dedicated to one of my life long best buds, Kimberly (you can check out her blog at http://www.kimberlyemerson.com/).

Kim and I met in the fifth grade when my parents moved and I started school with her.  In sixth grade we were in the same class, largely because there only was ONE sixth grade class, and we really hit it off.  In a foretelling of who we would some day become we wrote stories and read them to one another.  We would even write a chapter, pass it off to the other to write the next chapter, and so on and so forth.  She moved away after ninth grade and I lost a wonderful light out of my life.

Cue the twenty-first century and Facebook.  BAM!  There’s Kim!  And we’re back, people.  After corresponding via funny posts (you know cute cats, political cartoons, and the things that George Takei puts up) I flew down to SoCal to see my old friend in person.  And in the words of this week’s song, “Does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?” We’re getting the band back together! Er, so to speak.

When I listen to Pompeii I hear a miracle of friendship, that after so many years and so many miles, different life choices, it almost feels like nothing’s changed at all.  Growing up, Kim and I weathered the slings and arrows of the resident elementary school and, later, middle school, Mean Girls.  Nowadays as we both slog our way through this inscrutable thing called the publishing industry, we frequently have to give one another a lift emotionally.  The rejections and the sheer contrariness of a path to hoped-for success that literally has no sign posts is wearing on the psyche, to say the least. (Yes, there are how-to books, but if I have learned anything in recent years, it’s that everyone’s story is quintessentially unique.)  On the days when I am finding it simply impossible to be my usual optimistic self, Kim is there to lift me up and I hope I do the same for her.

I know I am painting my own personal picture from the song, yet this is what the line, “How am I gonna be an optimist about this?” means to me.  That’s the great thing about music, art or poetry, you are the master of your domain.  It is up to you to say what that media means to you, how it moves your spirit.  Pompeii may mean something very different to other people, but for me it’s an ode to friendship and not giving up on my dream– or Kim’s.

After all, we haven’t failed until we stop trying.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F90Cw4l-8NY

Pompeii”

Eh-eh-o eh-o [8x] I was left to my own devices
Many days fell away with nothing to show And the walls kept tumbling down
In the city that we love
Grey clouds roll over the hills
Bringing darkness from above But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
You’ve been here before?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this? We were caught up and lost in all of our vices
In your pose as the dust settled around us And the walls kept tumbling down
In the city that we love
Grey clouds roll over the hills
Bringing darkness from above

But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
You’ve been here before?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
If you close your eyes

Eh-eh-o eh-o [8x]

Oh where do we begin?
The rubble or our sins?
Oh oh where do we begin?
The rubble or our sins?

And the walls kept tumbling down
In the city that we love
Grey clouds roll over the hills
Bringing darkness from above

But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
You’ve been here before?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?

If you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?

Eh-eh-o eh-o [8x]

Friends and writers- finding our way.

Friends and writers- finding our way.

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.

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This past weekend was a girls’ weekend… and a good one.  One of the things that I adore about wine is that the right wine goes with food AND friends.  The elegant bottle and lovely glasses lend a celebratory air to any table while the simple act of toasting the occasion and clinking stemware reaffirms ties both old and new.

Friends, malbec and Japanese food- life is good!

Friends, malbec and Japanese food- life is good!

This weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to spend much of my time with two grammar school gal pals, Holly and Kimberly.  It’s been thirty-four years, but we still get one another.   On Saturday evening we had dinner together at Yoshi’s in Oakland.  Yum.  Japanese goodness on a plate, or in this case, many plates– we ate a lot!  With dinner Holly and I split a bottle of the 2011 Andeluna Cellars Malbec 1300 Mendoza.  (Kim is not a wine drinker, but she still toasted, so it’s all good.)  Thanks to the Andeluna’s tastiness I shall always remember this meal as, “that delicious sushi dinner we had with the fabulous malbec.”  It will help me cement the sensory impressions of this special time I spent with my dear friends.

Argentina is well-known for its malbecs and some of the best come from Mendoza.  As I have mentioned in a previous column, malbecs are amazing.  Like pinot noirs they are that uncommon red wine that pairs well with a variety of foods (similar to rieslings and sauvignon blancs amongst the white wines), although far more fruit and berry-driven than the pinot.  Japanese cuisine can be a particular challenge to pair wines with as one’s dinner can run the gamut from delicate to complex to spicy flavors.

The Andeluna took on all comers.  It’s an accessible wine– for those just beginning to become acquainted with red wine, here’s your gateway bottle.  There’s enough tannin to add structure and complexity, but in general one is struck by the bright berry and cherry flavors.  This is a very well-rounded malbec with just a hint of spice.  It was really quite lovely, and at about a $13 price point (depending upon the vendor), it’s very affordable, especially for a wine averaging about 87 points by reviewers.  Should you have a bottle at Yoshi’s, they charge $30 which isn’t bad for a really tasty wine at a restaurant.

2011 Andeluna Cellars Malbec 1300 Mendoza, Argentina

2011 Andeluna Cellars Malbec 1300 Mendoza, Argentina

If you wish to purchase a bottle for yourself and aren’t planning on an evening of sushi in Oakland, California, here are a few options:

The Wine Club

Solano Cellars

Both charge around $10, but remember you still have shipping charges.  I shall certainly be purchasing some for my husband and myself.

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her creative contributions to the BBB Blog.

 I saw two friends last week, though actually, it has been two weeks.  I went back east and had a chance to reconnect with two very rare souls, then came home and got sick.  I am better now and so began to flesh out a piece I began on the plane ride back to California.

I saw two friends last week.   Many years passed since I had time with either of them.  They did not know one another, though they had met in days gone by.  They didn’t remember, but I did.

I joke with my children that everyone has a super power.  They say mine is reading, but I wonder… maybe it’s remembering.  It’s not a matter of intelligence, God, no; it’s just that social situations resonate for me.  Everyone who has ever met me is rolling their eyes in agreement right now- I’m like… social.  Super power is too strong and narcissistic a term, though perhaps it gives you an idea of what I mean.  Conversations that sparkle, instants captured, moments held; they all exist inside my head.  As a book is like a film to me, so too, there exists my own movie; it is my life playing in my head.  People far away, but never truly lost because I have them with me on a track I can repeat again and again.

We are born alone and so we end, by ourselves once more.  Yet in the intervening time, however long that may be, we each, in our own way, seek to reach out.  We strive for connection, understanding and companionship.  The best of art, literature and politics are played out when that connection is achieved. It may come in the form of bright, brittle social interaction, forgotten like a may fly in the summer air as we move on to the next encounter.  We might find it on a sexual level, heady with a shattering power forged in sweat and shared passion.  There are the friendships, those platonic, those romantic and a few which are mixed of both.  Some even endure, long beyond the initial connection, becoming lifelong touchstones we return to, brothers and sisters, finding in them our best and truest sense of self.  Likewise, the failure to connect, to establish those bonds which sustain us results in some of the worst of humanity: the murders, the bombings, the sadists.

This week’s song for Musical Monday is an old one; 1992, in fact.  It’s called “Man of Golden Words” by Mother Love Bone.  It seems another lifetime when a good friend played this for me, set the song on repeat and we saw the night through.

Of all the ways we find to connect, music has certainly been an important conduit for me.  Verses and the lyrical poetry hidden within operate on multiple levels, bringing about a closeness with those whose souls are similarly moved.  A long past memory can become more real than the mundane closeness of present day given the right notes played at an unexpected moment.  That is the power of song.

I love you, my friends- you shape my life in the most profound ways and, thus, help and change me along my path.  Miss you already!

Lyrics to Man of Golden Words

Wanna show you something like
The joy inside my heart
Seems I’ve been living in the temple of the dog
Where would I live, if I were a man of golden words?
And would I live, at all?
Words and music, my only tools
Communication

And on her arrival, I will set free the birds
It’s a pretty time of year, when the mountains sing out loud
Tell me, Mr. Golden Words, how’s about the world?
Tell me can you tell me at all? yeah
Words and music, my only tools
Communication
Let’s fall in love with music
The driving force of our livings
The only international language
Divine glory, the expression
The knees bow, the tongue confesses
The lord of lords, the king of kings
The king of kings

Words and music – my only tools
Communication

Man of Golden Words

Man of Golden Words

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.

There are times in one’s life when the news is all good.  It is graduations, engagements, weddings and babies.  There are also times when the news goes the other way: terminal illnesses, deaths and good-byes not said.  That is where I am right now.  A friend I’ve known since the fifth grade is saying his long good-bye, we just lost a fellow mom and then the other shoe dropped today.  I had a co-worker who I had a one of those close relationships where you went months or years without speaking, but we always picked up where we left off, just so easy.  In the summer of 2009 I received a letter from him, telling me all was well, his book was being published and asking me to email.  He sent me the press release to his new novel.  I promptly managed to tuck the note into my in-box and it fell behind a filing cabinet.  Today I found it as I did a major office purge. I immediately emailed him, ecstatic to have his contact info.  Then it occurred to me, eek, what if he’s published other books?  I’ll look like a schmuck if I haven’t been keeping up on his works.  So… I Google’d him. Mark E. Zamen.  He died in January 2010, I was more than two years too late.  Shame on me.  I should have emailed the second that note arrived.

http://www.eloquentbooks.com/BrokenSaint.html

In addition, I have been consumed with finishing my book, The Dragon in the Garden.  It deals, among other things, with mortals and immortals, the love between the two.  Given the current state of the news in my life and the logistics facing my pair of lovebirds, it seems only fitting that this Monday’s song should be the incredibly beautiful, yet equally tragic, Who Wants To Live Forever by Queen.

This song was featured in one of my all-time favorite movies The Highlander.  It is, quite frankly, one of the best movies ever.  The soundtrack, all by Queen is ridiculously good.  Eric and I danced our second dance at our wedding to Queen’s One Year of Love from the same movie.  If you need an amazing video pick, take this one.  Ever copied, never surpassed, I can watch it again and again.

Heather

Heather

Conner Macleod

Conner Macleod

Don’t lose your head.  Oh, and bring on any happy news, okay?

A few years back, okay, it was the nineties, so more than a few, Hillary Clinton wrote a book, It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us.  As I recall, she caught a lot of grief for that one. The phrase, “It takes a village” became the punch line of many a stand-up comedian’s cheap shot.  Let’s face it, you can still get mileage out of the line even today.  The premise of the book was not to replace the nuclear family with the village, but rather that the two should exist hand-in-hand.  Our children’s lives are touched, enriched and, ultimately, changed by those in the community around them.  The coaches, the life guard at the local pool, the teachers, the lady at the grocery store, the crossing guard, even the postal carrier influence and help care for the children in the area.  The home, the school, the activities and/or the church combine to shape our children.

Moms have villages, too.  I am blessed  by the network of people around me, especially the strong women, each lending a hand in the business of raising children for fun and profit.  (Emotional profit, of course.)  I have a lovely husband, whom I adore, but it’s not life in Cinderella’s castle.  Eric has a demanding job that he enjoys.  It requires a great deal of travel… I repeat, a great deal.  I could eliminate about half of the travel, but it would mean moving out of state.  He would be home more, however, there would still be travel and long hours.  I would leave my extended family in California, something I swore I’d never do, and I’d lose my village.  Losing my village would mean starting over, something families do successfully everyday.  I tip my hat to each one of them, but then they don’t have my village.

My village IS all that and a bag of chips.

I recently had cause to reevaluate the members of this group, the network of other parents and miscellaneous important people that I rely on to help make raising my children the wonderful and shared experience that it is today.  You see, our village just decreased by one. On June 5th, my friend Cara lost her battle with cancer.  Or as she said towards the end, she was called home.

In the grand scale of the world’s stage the death of one mom in a quiet suburban neighborhood is effectively like the loss of one flower amongst a meadow in full bloom.  Given the larger shadow of our world’s problems, we are faced again with the question, how much does one life matter?

The answer is, as it ever was, it depends upon who is asking the question.

Cara was a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister and a friend.  To those who loved and knew her, there can be no greater loss.  She leaves behind a loving family, including her husband and three daughters: eleventh, seventh and third grade, a lovely brunette, a doe-eyed blonde and a flaming redhead, respectively.  All three are really good girls.  They were the apple of Cara’s eye and rightly so.

Cara was always a little on the quieter side, but with a ready smile and a pretty laugh.  She was one of those people whose warm brown eyes  seemed to hold an eternal twinkle, a sparkle.  Our worlds intersected in Girl Scouts, school and soccer.  Her middle daughter has shared classes with my son since kindergarten and her youngest is the same age as my youngest, playing soccer and enjoying Scouts together.  We moved in similar circles, shared schedules and split carpools.  We rolled our eyes at our children’s antics, cheered their efforts and occasionally giggled at the results.  As mothers do, we worried, we hoped, we prayed.

At her memorial Saturday, her oldest daughter spoke eloquently, trying to give the gathered crowd a glimpse into the warm, loving presence that had been such a rock in their household.  I can add a few brushstrokes to the portrait Abbie sketched out for us.

Cara could build a heck of a campfire.  She could get a squirrelly group of thirteen eight-year-olds to listen to her by speaking in a soft voice.  She loved being outside, telling me once how the breeze on her cheek always made her feel good.  It had possibilities, she said.  When I stressed out about meeting details, she told me with a smile, “It’s going to get messy, Erika.  Just let it happen.”  A couple of years into my daughter’s scout troop there was a schism as to the direction of the troop.  It was a minor thing and no hard feelings, more a difference of opinion over tone and priorities.  I remember Cara saying, “Girl Scouts is more than crafts in the multi-purpose room.”  So, we took the troop outside.  We did hikes, learned about nighttime critters and went camping.

I overheard a pastor say after Saturday’s service, “She was always behind the scenes.”  He was exactly right.  Cara didn’t need to be in control, she didn’t need to get the credit, what she needed, was to help.  And she shone when she was helping, oh, how she shone.  Her family is a private, quiet family and yet, whenever there is a need, they are always the first to volunteer.  My husband will tell you, I know a lot of people, but among the cornucopia of giving people that I am fortunate enough to know, I don’t know anyone more giving, more caring.  About five years ago, when I first was getting to know Cara I was unsure as to how to say her name.  Was it “Car-ah” like the auto or was it “Care-ah”?  My good friend Michelle told me with the faith usually reserved for Santa Claus and Mother Teresa that her name was “Care-ah” because “she cares about us.”  I never confused the name again.  That pretty much summed it up– pretty much summed Cara up, too.

I know that Cara was a person of great faith and spirituality.  She’s gone on to a better place and I would never disrespect her memory by rethinking this or its timing.   That being said, I know, had it been her plan and not God’s, she would never have left her beloved husband or her girls.  I know, for her, there is another purpose and a higher good.  And I also know, she will be very missed by those left behind.  In fact, she will be missed every day by many different people in such varied ways because that was the kind of person she was.  She affected every part of our community and we were better for her touch.  I know that she wouldn’t be as I am now, she wouldn’t be selfish, but I’m just not that good.  I can’t help mourning and selfishly missing my friend.  I want her back.  As a mom I can’t help looking at her wonderful family, her sweet husband and her beautiful daughters: each brave, stoic and heartbroken in turn and wish that I had the power to bring their lodestar back to them.  Yet, I cannot.

Cara married a wonderful man.  This was one of the things I always loved about her.  I love and am proud of my life partner, not everyone is.  Let’s face it, people, some of you can barely stand each other.  So, it is a relief to meet other couples who cherish one another, who are happy in their chosen partner in life.  Cara loved Norbert, no, I mean she REALLY loved him.  Kudos to them both for nurturing that; it’s not easy.  I know that he will see these beautiful young women through adulthood.  Cara’s daughters will be fine because they had Cara and a little Cara is a heck more than most people have to get through this life.  And they have their dad who’s a dad who is ON DUTY, I mean he has his eyes on their future.

Yet, here’s the thing, the village can help.  I hope that all of us will make a place in our hearts for this family, for these girls.  I asked my mom what we could do to help as Cara’s last days came closer and she said, “They won’t need you now, there will be a lot of help.  They’ll need you six months from now, a year from now, three years down the line.  They’ll need you when people start to forget.”

Because, let’s face it, this family never will.  There will be a hole in these daughters’ lives forever.  Will they be wonderful people?  You bet.  Will this event shape every aspect of their lives?  You bet.  Can we help?  You bet.  Can we ever fill that hole?  No, not even a little bit.

And here’s the thing, it is an impossible task, to fill the emptiness of a mother’s passing.  But we do not attempt these tasks in the hopes of completing them.  We take on these tasks because they are the things most worthy of doing.  We do them because that is what needs to be done, because these girls deserve our very best.  Because children need hugs, rides, praise and support.   We will champion these girls because they will need second chances, advice on first loves and first heartbreaks.  We will do these things because that is what will need doing.

And, why else?  “Because I knew your mom.”  She’d have done it for me.

Because sometimes one person is everything.

Because sometimes one person is everything.

My village is decreased by one… and oh, what a difference the one made.  Cara, we all miss you already, so very much.

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