Sunday, May 31, 2009

Patricia -- An Indelible Friendship

Recently I have had several occasions to think about how when someone dies who is a direct relative, your friends and neighbors shower your with condolences, treat you gently, respect your mourning.

But when a friend dies and others know, they may say “I’m sorry” (and mean it) but the magnitude of that death to you doesn’t quite sink in.

Hanging on the door of my linen closet is a large wooden ornament with a cat on it. It was a gift from my friend Patricia, who died nine years ago last month. A number of months ago in a post related to a “Write on Wednesday” prompt, I spoke of Patricia and several of you said you would like to hear more.

In light of my “quest” to honor those who had a profound influence in my life, I honor Patricia!

I was an older grad student – not quite 30 – working as a promotion student at WKAR when I into the office I shared with my boss. I found Jeff having a deep conversation with a female colleague, to whom I was introduced.

Patricia Maloney handled education services for the station, and we would later work on projects together. But I first knew her as Jeff’s friend, who would stop by to talk politics, the arts, or about what they saw on “CBS Sunday Morning” or heard on NPR.

Don’t laugh – I didn’t know much about NPR then. I certainly didn’t know about “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.” But if Jeff and Patricia were talking about these, I thought I should find out what it was all about. And I became hooked.

Patricia and I became great friends, and in many ways she was my mentor and a teacher -- an interesting role for someone only a few months apart in age. This tall woman, who reminded me of a colt on the edge of achieving race-horse status – all legs, long hair, elegant (but in an unpretentious way) – was just what I wanted to be.

She was confident. Self-assured. Brilliant. Articulate. She had style and grace. Because Patricia knew about NPR, I started listening to NPR – and I loved it. I developed a life-long habit I not only continue today, but one that would serve me professionally as well.

She taught me about how delicious it was to put granola or bran flakes in your yogurt and I remember walking to her duplex not far from the station at lunch where we’d enjoy yogurt and cereal and talk for eons. Silly, now. Not then. We’d talk movies – not just the popular ones, either.

She introduced me to “My Brilliant Career” and to “The New Yorker.” Her cat Shandy had a fine gallery of cartoons by his bowl. When Shandy died, we got on the phone and we both cried.

And we’d talk about books, the theatre, art, politics. For a person working and studying in a university community, I knew surprisingly few people with whom I could have these conversations. And we'd talk shop, too -- the TV Auction, a new educational project. It was all there.out for breakfast, too, on Sundays and share the New York Times. Neither of us relished giving up the book or theatre section, but over omelettes and tea, it always seemed to work out. Our discussions were long and involved, and often they would center on hopes, dreams and family.

Both of us had mothers who had died of breast cancer, and in Patricia’s case, both of her parents had died. We talked about our mothers who left us far too early. Who left us young, unformed, never seeing the women we knew we would become, the families we hoped would be parts of our lives.

We shared our career dreams. And we shared every sorrow. The ups and downs of our romantic lives were dissected and examined. In person – and later in letters and phone calls – we helped each other through heartbreak and celebrated joy. We supported one another unconditionally and in full.
And every minute I spent with Patricia, I learned more and more about growing up.

That sounds silly. But Patricia had been places. She’d grown up in Chicago, then lived in Boston before coming to Michigan. She had a confidence, the assuredness that comes with different experiences. Mine had been “the same.” I had lived in the same town forever (partly by choice) and didn’t have siblings to teach me how to fight or compete. And while I didn’t mind that – totally, just a little – I still needed to learn that surefootedness that she possessed.

When Patricia lived in Michigan, we’d share salmon mousse and mulligatawney soup. We’d talk books. I didn’t know many people here who did that. Most had long moved away.

But Patricia was never happy in Lansing. Think about it. Chicago. Boston. Lansing. It doesn’t compute. And she desperately wanted to return to Chicago.

And so, one day, she did. With a smile on her face and joy in her heart, she returned to the windy city, with a big new job (not in broadcasting) and new worlds to conquer.

We kept in touch through regular phone calls and letters. Those were the days of letters, and Patricia wrote the best.

“I suspect (smile) your new spacious apartment is all full! “ she wrote, shortly after I moved.

And in another, after seeing a movie: “I got very sad, I think because the movie reminded me of falling in love – and I truly wonder f I’ll ever fall in love again. Lonesomeness seems such a way of life. Singularity so strong by now. And the possibility of loving (with or without romance) seems quite remote. It’s not that life isn’t good and rich. It is, and with health restored, so sweet. But lonesome. Yes.”

Her health restored. This was after we learned that Patricia had breast cancer. Our mothers' disease. The disease we both feared. But they got her cancer; she was treated. She was home free. “Our mother’s prognoses don’t have to be ours,” she reminded me. And she was right. I think about that every time I have a mammogram.

And then, one day I received this – “One interesting, complex event – lunch with an old college boyfriend, Paul, who lost his wife last year. Very sad story – two kids, Nora, 5, and Jimmy, 8. Cancer – side effects of chemo caused congestive heart failure. Although we hadn’t spoken in 12 years, we had a great three-hour lunch. Maybe we’ll get together again.”

Paul turned out to be the love of her life, and when they married, she also married his children, Nora and Jim.

After that, letters talked about Jim doing this and Nora doing that. She had found her family and was ebullient.

One day, Patricia called. Her cancer was back. And this time it was worse – for different reasons.
Paul knew, when he met Patricia, that cancer was part of her story. But it was still agonizing for her to contemplate telling these children who had already lost one mother that their beloved stepmom had the same disease that took their mother away.

Through it all, she did the family vacations, the PTA, the school activities. One-on-one vacations with Paul while the kids were with their grandparents. And when she had a cancer recurrence, that involvement didn’t change.

One time I visited her – it was shortly before a surgery. She said, “I got a wig like my hair and I’m having this done while the kids are with their grandparents. They don’t need to know about this right now. When it’s time, OK. Not now.”

Rick and I were headed to a bike trade show in Chicago in February 2000. I called Patricia to see if she’d be up for lunch or dinner. But she declined.

“I haven’t been feeling well, and I’m not sure I can really get out right now,” she said – which made sense to me. It was late February and the Windy City can be brutal at that time of year. Her home was far from the trade show and we thought it unlikely we’d get together this time.

We had a fabulous talk, though, as I told her of this new guy who had stolen my heart, who – like Paul – shared his children with me, and who for whatever reason, loved bicycles almost more than life itself.

It was a wonderful conversation.

And the last.

When she died two months later, I was shocked. I had no idea it was so serious at the time, and if she knew (and I think she probably did), I’m sure that’s what Patricia wanted.

I really don’t think any death – except possibly my parents, and in some ways, not even theirs – has affected me so.

Patricia died almost 10 years ago. My world is entirely different. Yet, like the others who die too young – Diana, JFK, James Dean, to name a few – she is frozen in time.

This beautiful colt of woman who introduced me to so much. She helped craft the person I am today and that friendship lives on as vibrantly as it did when she was alive.

In a letter I wrote to Paul and her step-children after she died, I said “My life and my world was a better, richer, more inspired world because I knew Patricia. It was brighter, it was more beautiful. I’m a better person because of her. She was the most courageous, well balanced, good humored woman I’ve ever known, a role model in every way.

And I like to think that the words she wrote below showed that she felt I, too, was a person worth knowing.

I'm delighted to say I was the winner of Bree’s blog drawing for a copy of "The Notables." Thanks, Bree!

Time is running out to enter my drawing for a lovely crystal, donated by my friend Richard (not to be confused with Rick, because I know some of you do!), whose story of the Food Bank Crystal Project I mentioned in my May post titled "A Puzzle." If you would like to enter, please leave a comment here and on other posts up to midnight on May 31.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, Pink Saturday!

This is Alice, the party girl (she has diamonds on the soles of her shoes, but unfortunately, you can't see them!)
She, The Marmelade Gypsy and I wish a happy one year birthday/anniversary to Beverly and her Pink Saturday posts!

See more Pink Posts at How Sweet the Sound.
Don't forget -- today is the last day to enter my drawing for a beautiful crystal similar to this one. Your comments will be entered into the drawing!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Three New Friends!

Here are three of my new friends, born at Joanne's this past weekend and nurtured and polished back at home!

Zoe is a wild child -- I'd like to think she is me with a better figure! Except I have arms.
Fran is sweet, gentle, quiet -- but with a spark of magic!

Elizabeth is very serious. People put her in charge to get things done, because they know she'll do them right!

I have two more new friends who are still primping! You'll see them soon!

Incidentally, all the "girl's" faces, their wings and Fran and Elizabeth's clothes (and Zoe's body template) are from Joanne, who sells absolutely terrific collage sheets on CD, perfect for paper dolls and other collage projects. She also has some super backgrounds (I think there were over 100 images) perfect for everything from ATCs to larger projects. Check out Ad Libitum and send her an e-mail if you are interested in seeing more. As of over-the-weekend, her website was under reconstruction!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Happy Camper

What makes a happy camper?

Making paper dolls -- something I've never done -- with lots of wonderful, energetic, creative, delightful people, who inspire and energize you! That makes me happy!

Getting to see your blog buddy, Joanne (whom I'd not seen in person since Artiscape a year ago and who graciously invited me to her home for a paper doll art retreat, put me in a comfy bed with lots of good Somerset magazines and treats at the bedside and more than generously shared her supplies with us all. That's happy!
Getting to meet fellow blogger Karen, whose blog I've visited for ages -- and meet her face to face! (Seen here in our Show and Tell time!) My smile is getting even bigger!

Spending time in Joanne's home, filled with her own incredibly divine art -- along with that from various swaps and trades she has done (the panels on the wall behind Karen and me are both Joanne's and others' work). (Big smile, big inspiration!)

Having my first mint julep -- at breakfast! (Who's not happy now?!)

Being invited by Catherine to her home for a beautiful brunch... (Happiness is getting better and better!)

...and learning a new recipe -- poached eggs atop spinach, topped with tomatoes and herbs. That made me very happy, too!

And enjoying it with old and new friends! Happy to the max!

The photos Joanne took are on her blog, Ad Libitum, with a more detailed look at everything we did, so do link over if you'd like! And Beth B. posted on Vintage Sweets, too! You'll see some of the wonderful people I met there, and her photos are better than mine!

I'll be posting pix of my dolls (completed -- in the photo here, they're on their way, but not done!). And, I might add, Joanne created a monster. These dolls are WAY too much fun!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Exeutive Assistant Issues

This is why it is hard to work from my home computer.

The executive assistant seems to think he has the right to sit wherever he chooses. It wasn't quite so bad when it was my lap or when he decided the mouse was really a mouse.

Now he's taking over. Like the plague.

So, I'm taking a couple days off this Memorial Weekend to visit Joanne (from Ad Libitum) and meet some of her friends from Kalamazoo -- and special guest Karen from Karen's Muse and Musings! We're going to make paper dolls and play with glue! Sunday I'll come home and maybe get some herbs in pots!

Look for photos next week!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Really, It's May

Although you wouldn't know it was May based on the fact that I'm wearing a heavy turtleneck sweater and a shawl (but I did take off the jacket) to the East Lansing Art Festival. (Here with friends Rhonda and Judy.)

The station had a booth with Clifford the Big Red Dog as an attraction. When Clifford was there, kids and families flocked! One little girl was so beside herself, she simply couldn't tear herself away.

It's a good thing we weren't busy while she was there -- she had plenty of time to hug, smile, laugh, hug some more...

Yes, even adults wanted their photos with Clifford -- and so did dogs (or dog owners!), like Judy's husband, Dick, here with Jack-the big black-and-white dog!

And for those who were shy? Clifford managed to win their hearts!

Some of our on-air folks were there, too, taking testimonials, including host Mark Bashore.

And ace social media guru Heidi twittered for WKAR!

I was there all day Saturday and part of Sunday (watch for my wine tasting notes in the next post!). But the best part was a little time off to help stimulate the creative economy! I wish I remembered the name of this stone person -- I carried home a couple of heavy things from her!

While I found some lovely jewelry and a few other fun things, by far my favorite booth was this one -- Elizabeth Westerman of Grosse Pointe, MI.

I loved her work and bought plenty of it! All my colors!

My friend Bob Sheap had his first ELAF show and was doing well as I went by.

And our booth neighbor, Rhonda Liskey, makes fabulous raku pots and these jamming jujus (on the wall behind her). I really wanted one of those, but couldn't afford it today. Fortunately, she's local.

I really enjoyed a good conversation with her on starting out in the art fair world. Interesting woman, lovely artist.

Despite a gloomy, very windy Saturday (for at least part of it) and a cold but sunny Sunday, people seemed determined to welcome spring and creativity!

Of course running into friends was always fun -- like our friends Bonnie and Paul, whom I happened to find with Rick and Greg!

And there was lots of art fair color. Gotta love it! Don't want to do it. But I love it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cork Poppers Pop Out for Spring!

Our wine tasting group, the Cork Poppers, had our first gathering in recent months. Today's theme was "Wines of Australia."

Rick and I were late (I had to work the fair till 2 and we didn't get there for an hour), and from what I hear, we missed the very best wine -- Rocky Gully 2006, a dry Riesling from the Frankland River in Western Australia. Some of the fragrances included lemon, lime, peach, quinine citrus, green apple. It had a "Medium length and finish," according to Dick's notes, which meant it hung around in your mouth for a bit!

Everyone raved on this -- and they must have loved it because they didn't save us a drop! Price? $18.

We got in on the Tapestry chardonnay 2005, from McLaren Vale. I'm not big on oak-aged wines, but this was aged in French oak barrel for a little bit and then transferred to stainless steel. It didn't have that oaky taste I dislike. The armoas included fruit and spicy oak.

As I said, not being fond of oaky chardonnays, I thought it was delicious! It was nice and peppery, very crisp, and $15. The others didn't like it as much as I did.

Shoofly Buzz Cut 2007, from Adelaide, South Australia, was a blend of Viognier, Riesling, Semillon, Chardonnay and Verdelho grapes.

The aroma included tropical fruits. Grown in the high alittude in the Mt. Lofty Range, the harvest was in early spring. This one was $12 and while it didn't grab me as much, the others liked it.

On to the reds -- all of which I liked better. The first, The Stump Jump Red 2007 (McLaren Vale, South Australia) was a Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre blend. It was seasoned in oak casks for six months (but I don't have the same issues with reds as I do with the chardonnays in oak.)

Lots of fruity smells here -- berries, white pepper, licorice. Dick says it's named after an Australian invention, The Stump Jump Plough, which can ride over stumps and roots without stopping the draught horse.

At $11.50, it wasn't a bad deal. I found it very nice -- it was delicious with the strong cheeses I was enjoying at the time, very spicy, with a fabulous aroma.

The next red, Wishing Tree Shiraz 2006 (Western Australia) had more flavor than smell. In fact, I'm pressed to say I could smell much of anything. At first, I wasn't as fond of it, but it grew on me, with smooth tanins and a long finish -- it really stuck with you. At $13, not bad.

Some of the flavors of this ruby-red wine included black raspberry, cassis, incense, spices and red fruits. It, too, had a long finish.

Our last scheduled wine, The High Trellis, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (again, McLaren Vale) was $18.50. The consensus? "Buy it by the case!"

Aged 18 months in older American and French oak barrels, it was much dryer than the others -- Rick liked it better than all the others combined, and described it as "three dimensional" -- what you taste at the beginning isn't what you taste in the end." Mike said it was "better by the minue" and several of us said "It smells divine."

Dick surprised us with one more -- Peter Lehmann 2006 Barosa Shiraz.

At $15.49, it was very tasty and we liked it much better than the Wishing Tree.

Words of note for Australian wines -- our wine mentor Dick said if you buy an Australian wine, drink it within two to three years of the vintage label. Don't save this one for your big celebration more than a couple of years down the line!

Then it was time for dinner!

Thanks to Pat for hosting us, and happy birthday to Roger! Everyone brought great treats for the pot luck. And I'm still full!

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