Barbara's Random Thoughts

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I'm off

I've been so caught up in memories these past few weeks, as I've been revisiting my memories of studying in Florence. This morning my thoughts took a different turn, and I started thinking about how much has changed in the past ten years--of all I've experienced since I was last in Florence. I remember sitting around with my roommates, talking about our planned Trevi Fountain meeting, and we were all speculating on who we would be in ten years' time. And here I am, ten years later. I know I've changed, but it's hard to pin down what all of those changes are when I've lived through them so gradually. I wonder where everyone else is--if Jen became a landscape architect, if Zuleika is still living in Italy somewhere, if Lisa and Tom are still together, if Lenay kept in touch with Apo, her Turkish/Italian boyfriend. And, if there's anyone who still calls Laura "la sposa chic" or if Wynne maintains the title of Mack Mama. I wonder who these women are today, and where life has taken all of us. I'll let you know if I find out on Tuesday at 12 noon, when at least Melinda and I will be waiting at the Trevi Fountain.

My last night in Florence, I sat on the Ponte alla Trinita, looking across the Arno at the Ponte Vecchio, and thinking about returning to Florence one day. I was sad to think that I was leaving a place that had become home, that had become a friend, and that I would only be able to return to as a visitor. Next week, I'll be a visitor in Florence. I'm looking forward to returning to old haunts and reacquainting myself with the memories that I'm sure will lurk around every corner. But there's a sadness in the returning--because that time is only a memory now.

I'm going to stop tormenting you all with memories of ten years ago in Italy, for the next 10 days at least. I fly out tomorrow morning (at an hour no human should have to be awake, much less enduring airport security) to go create new Italy memories. Stories will no doubt follow upon my return. Until then, be well!

Books I Shall Take on the Plane: An Optimistic Reading List

A World Lit Only by Fire, William Manchester
The Italian Renaissance,
J.H. Plumb
Bella Tuscany,
Frances Mayes
Ian McEwan

(For "Books I Shall Actually Read on the Plane," I'll keep you posted.)

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| posted by Barbara | 10:00 PM |

Friday, September 29, 2006


I caught up with Heather last night over the phone, talking about my trip to Italy and how she's about to give birth any day now. We ended the call with the following:

Her: Have an amazing trip!
Me: Have an!


| posted by Barbara | 7:36 PM |

Florentine rainstorm

The Palazzo Vecchio and the Duomo from Piazza Michelangelo

Rainstorm moving on down the Arno


| posted by Barbara | 6:37 PM |

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ten years ago...

I got out the Italy journal last night and was reading through some of it--I'm sure you're all interested to know that 10 years ago today I was in Milan. One of the enduring references from that trip is a compulsion to say "Milan is...Milano" every time someone mentions Milan. (I really did have to restrain myself last night while talking to a roommate about how Milan is not in the south of Italy. I know! I've been there! And, Milan is....Milano!)

Small explanation: there were maps of the city in various languages available at the tourist office. The front of each map helpfully translated the city name from German, Chinese, Spanish, etc. into Italian. So the English map said "Milan is Milano" on the front. I was endlessly amused by this, and Melinda and I went around the entire weekend, quoting this phrase to each other in condescending tones. "Milan is........Milano."

My journal entries from Milan aren't terribly exciting (except that they all have "Milan is...Milano" written across the top, next to the date), so here are some other excerpts for you. The first one is very meta. It's funny to me to look back on this, because even now I have a similar reaction to a lot of my writing in this journal. But there are glimpses here and there of some pretty cool things I was thinking about and working through in my journal, like my reflections on the Basilica in Assisi. But I gloss over that here:

Florence, Sept. 25th, 1996

I am so frustrated with my writing lately…just looking through my journal...I've written so much--and what have I accomplished?! Melinda is laughing at me because I keep saying I'm shallow and write nothing meaningful. I guess I'm not a shallow person (I hope not!) but it just seems to come across that way as I write. I guess it just goes back to the whole thing of how it's hard for me to talk about what means the most. It's not that I have no depth, I just have a hard time talking about it and an even harder time writing about it, I guess because it's more permanent to write it down!

This was a theme I returned to a lot in these journals--about how my writing is sub-par. (And yes, Barbara, perhaps if you had refrained from using the word "rad" so frequently, this would sound a tad more intelligent. But hey, I was 18.) This is something I still struggle with--being a bit self-conscious about talking about meaningful things. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I'm so good at being flippant and sarcastic.

This next one describes one of my favorite afternoons in Florence, going off and exploring the city by myself. I have such vivid memories of this rainstorm and the view of Florence from Piazza Michelangelo.

Florence, Sept. 22nd

This afternoon, Melinda went out running and I stayed here for a while, studying. Around 2 or 2:30 I went up to Piazza Michelangelo. A bunch of people from our group were there, but I didn't find them. That was cool, though--I was really enjoying just being by myself, looking at the awesome view of the city!

It was so strange, I left the apartment, it was raining a little, but not that much. So I went on ahead and started walking up there. It started raining harder as I walked, but not too bad. Then once I got there, (the view was so rad!!) it started getting harder and harder and finally just poured. I had been just standing and marveling at the view...the city shrouded in the mists of the clouds and rain...the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio rising above the rooftops...but when the rain started to drip through my umbrella, I ran for cover! It let up before too long, and this awesome, full-on rainbow came out over one side of the city. Not just the half of an arch like you normally see, but the full arc, with the grey/blue clouds behind it.

I can't wait to be back in Florence, to climb up to Piazza Michelangelo and look out over the tile roofs again. Rain is predicted for the time I'll be in Florence next week. Hmm.

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| posted by Barbara | 6:21 PM |

Friday, September 22, 2006

I am an art nerd.

I found this on Mimi Smartypants, and it just cries out to be blogged.

Hieronymus Bosch action figures.

Can't you just see them crouched threateningly around my Jane Austen action figure?
| posted by Barbara | 9:03 PM |

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I wrote up a nice "ten years ago today" post last night, with a big long journal entry from September 20, 1996. It's on my home computer and will be posted when I get that thing near a wireless connection. Just know that ten years ago yesterday, I was in Assisi. (And in 10 days, I'll be leaving for Italy. Woo!)
| posted by Barbara | 6:57 PM |

Ten Years Ago Today

(Yeah, I messed with the date on this post so it matches the title.)

Here’s the first of these. I had a bit of time when I got home from work today, thought I’d pull out the Italy journal, and then realized the date—Melinda’s birthday! After giving her a birthday phone call, I settled down and typed this up. This recounts one of our study abroad group’s day trips. The trip to Assisi happened to fall on Melinda’s 21st birthday.

I love this entry. In fact, I think I’ve posted bits of it before, because it sounds recently familiar, but here it is in its entirety. Snarky or explanatory comments, a la Sheila's Diary Friday, are in brackets/italics. I apologize now for my frequent use of the word “rad.”
Sept. 20th, 1996

Today was so rad! [count: 1] Melinda really had an awesome birthday...I’m jealous! Just kidding. It was so neat, though...even though we had to get up early and all. Assisi was so beautiful! It was just the total quaint, pretty town. Melinda, Felipe and I [the three of us had all been in choir together at FC] spent the morning just wandering around the town, going into some churches, etc. [Because that’s what you do in Italian towns—you visit churches.] But I think what I liked best was all the narrow little stone streets—stairways going up or down, all the doors with ivy or grapevines or morning glories overhanging, and all kinds of plants and flowers on the porches and along the just looked so European [ha!] and so pretty.

After wandering around, looking for some Roman ruins (which we completely missed because they were so unimpressive), we went just outside the city walls and sat on this hillside off the side of the road and ate our lunch. It was so rad [count: 2], just sitting there, looking out over the valley and the Umbrian hills…I think that was my favorite part of the day. [I am very disappointed that I did not recount here the story of how our butts got damp from the grass, and Melinda commented “Oh, damp.” There. I have now recounted it.]

After lunch, we went back to the Basilica di San Francesco and met the group for a tour of the church. Mel and I had to go to the bathroom so bad and we ran to find one close…which we did find, but it was a pay one and the pay thing was jammed, so you couldn’t even get in the door! Heather showed us and this crowd of old Australian tourists how she and Gina had wiggled their way in through the revolving door exit…it was so hilarious! These Australians were climbing through…this one old lady, and her husband was fully coaching her as to which way to go—“Now put your bum through, that’s right…squiggle in there…” It was so crazy…I really wish I’d taken a picture!

Anyway…the church was awesome. It was interesting, though—because it was so ornate, frescoes everywhere, his [St. Francis’] tomb was a total shrine…and his whole life was dedicated to renouncing all of that. Poverty, chastity and obedience were the three things that were fundamental to the whole Franciscan order.

The frescoes, though…wow! Downstairs, we saw Cimabue’s frescoes, Giotto’s frescoes, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti…all of the artists Jen [one of my roommates] and I were trying to sort out last night! And then upstairs were more Giotto frescoes, a whole series on the life of St. Francis. [It makes me so sad to read this. The frescoes I so loved were for the most part destroyed in an earthquake a few years later. They’re just gone. Powerful works of art, and they just don’t exist anymore.] And the guide we had was really good, she totally explained each panel. That’s so rad [count: 3] because then I knew what each one was about and what I was looking at, rather than just seeing—yeah, those are a series of frescoes on the life of St. Francis by Giotto. [I’m so profound.]

Midway through the tour, we stopped at the gift shop, and Mel and I were debating whether to get a book on the church or not. It was really nice—color photographs of each panel of frescoes, etc. And in English! But it was 30,000 lire [Oh, I miss the lire! I loved that exchange rate…15,000 lire was like $20 or something like that. It was so extravagant. I’m so sad it’s the Euro now.]…I thought that it would be perfect for all of us at the apartment to get for her for her birthday, but I couldn’t figure out how to get her to put it down and get Wynne [another roommate] to buy it without Mel catching on. Finally, Wynne and I told her we’d seen it for cheaper down the street [such liars!], and so I talked her into putting it back and looking elsewhere. Wynne went through a whole charade trying to get the book…there was one copy left and this other lady picked it up…AAAH! But she did get it [Wynne, not the book-swiping lady, just to clarify] and we all signed it and gave it to Melinda tonight at dinner.

That was cool, too…on the bus on the way home, I was talking to Melinda about what she wanted to do tonight—others were saying oh, we’re going out dancing, you have to come, it’s your birthday…and Melinda was saying she’d probably go. Well…I’m really not a dancing, nightclubbing type (really?!) [Ha! I love my self-mockery here.] but I wanted to go cause it was Mel’s birthday. But I didn’t really want to go! Anyway, we got back here and Jen & Lenay, I think, had invited Tom [one of our professors] over to dinner and everybody kinda helped fix. [Dinner, that is.] We put up the Happy Birthday banner we made for Jen’s birthday [another roommate birthday a few weeks prior] and made placemats for everyone. We had our candles in the wine bottles out and Jen wrapped Mel’s book all cool with pasta bowties and a flower…it was just such a nice evening. Laid back, just a leisurely dinner, Jars of Clay playing in the background [such sophistication], good food and conversation! And Mel said tonight—it was just really perfect [argh—Barbara, there are not degrees to “perfect”, it can’t be “really perfect.”], what she wanted. Not to have to conform to others’ expectations or whatever, but just have a nice evening here.

Today was kinda strange for me as well—just talking to Melinda now, about the Basilica and how rad [count: 4] that was—total contrast to a lot of the rest we saw today. I really was hit with the total Catholicism, saint reverence, ornate shrine, etc. this morning in the church with the font where St. Francis and St. Clare were baptized. That Madonna with the electric light halo…man. I really need to get these thoughts and feelings into a poem. Just the question of why? What is the thought behind this? Is it the complete reverence and exaltation of this person or is it looking at God as too holy to approach and the saint as an intermediary, or is it just a ritual? Kneel down, make the sign of the cross in front of this statue with the light-up, plug-in halo? That really reminded me of that Gary Soto poem we looked at in the spring in poetry—the “glow-in-the-night Christ.” How do I reconcile this religion with my relationship and my experience of God? All of this is just so foreign to me—the icons, the ritual, the shrines and the saints. Psalm 25, totally. [I’m not sure what I’m talking about here, as Psalm 25 doesn’t seem relevant. I might have been referring to vs. 4-5: “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” A prayer for understanding, perhaps?]

But the Basilica today—those frescoes were there for a purpose and that was awesome to me. To see the way they portrayed the life of Christ, the life of St. Francis so simply. In order for the people to see and understand. Art which is not self-serving, not overstated, not there to call attention to itself, but art which points to something greater beyond itself. It has a purpose.

“As critics scorn the thoughts and works of mortal man/My eyes are drawn to You in awe once again”

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| posted by Barbara | 4:25 AM |

"We're only rude if you're being annoying."

That was one of Kristy's rules in her conference on bubbs. I invoked it last night while driving, with unexpected results. Small warning: this story contains language which may offend children, small pets, and/or homeschoolers.*

So. While driving Lucinda home from work, I had a little...shall we say...encounter. Glancing over to my right, anticipating the lane I would need to get into once it actually became a lane, I got all annoyed at the girl in the shiny black Mustang who had decided to make it a lane, just for her. I commented on it to Lucinda, and then realized that because the girl had edged into the non-lane early, I was now boxed into my current lane, traffic pushing me ahead of Mustang girl, with nary a gap to enter the lane that now was a lane. So I threw on my indicator and edged in front of Mustang girl. See...because I'm only rude if you're being annoying. You're gonna make your own lane and pass me? Ok, fine, I'll cut in front of you. Petty? Yes, indeed.

Mustang girl was not happy. I was careful to avoid the burning gaze of death she kept shooting me via my rear view mirror. I begin recounting to Lucinda a similar encounter where I did something not entirely road-worthy in response to someone being an idiot to me. We turn right. I get to the part of the story where the angry man in the big-ass truck called me a bitch, said that was the first and only time I had ever been called such, and just then, guess who pulls up next to me? Yeah. Hello, Mustang! Hello, girl flipping me off while shouting "F--- you, bitch!" Nice timing. Aaaaand, that would be the second time I've been called a bitch. Oh, fun.

But we haven't even gotten to the best part. Mustang girl pulls forward, and what do we see on the back of her car? Oh, look! A Jesus fish!


It's so nice to come across fellow Christians on the road.

I said I was tempted to pull up next to her and ask what church she goes to. There's something inside me that really wishes I had.

*Oh, I'm so allowed to make jokes about homeschoolers.
| posted by Barbara | 1:21 AM |

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


It's that time of year again: today is Talk Like a Pirate Day. My sister handily reminded me this morning, with an email titled "Avast there matey." I was confused for a moment, as my sister does not adopt pirate-talk on a regular basis. Then I remembered. (How could I have forgotten such an important day?)

Piratey things:
-Danielle introduced me to Savage Chickens a while back, and lately the cartoons have been solely devoted to pirate chickens.
-The official Talk Like a Pirate site.
-And...The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything! (They're making a movie?!)


| posted by Barbara | 6:02 PM |

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Emails I Have Received Today

Subject: Crisis Level: Brown

I just dumped my tea everywhere--anyone in need of a caffeine fix this morning and if so, could I hitch a ride?

Subject: Grass fire

There's a grass fire outside, so if your car is one of the two parked next to the hill near the loading dock, you might want to move it now.

Subject: RE: Did that strike you as very K-Mart?


Snarky snark snark...


| posted by Barbara | 11:14 PM |

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Looking around, looking forward

Over the past few weeks, I've felt more and more disconnected from my plans for next year. It's like I made the decision to go, and the rest became details to slog through until the time comes. The emotions and the excitement have kind of been folded up and put on a shelf as I've gotten caught up with work, with life here and now.

Right now I'm sitting in a local cafe, here for the sole purpose of free wireless. (Also maybe for the strawberry Italian soda I'm drinking. Italian, you see, because I'm going to Italy in a little over three weeks!!) I meant to log on to the NC site and get some work done on the fundraising chapters I've been meaning to complete. Instead, I'm catching up on email and blogs and links I'd bookmarked to read later. I thought I was procrastinating a bit, but somehow things have converged to remind me of why I'm going to SA next year. Here's what I've been reading:

-A movie review Lucinda sent to me ages back
-Thoughts on missional Christianity from one of the NCSA staff
-Bono's remarks at the 2006 National Prayer Breakfast

It's nice when the excitement comes back. Ok, now I should really get to that fundraising stuff.
| posted by Barbara | 2:22 AM |

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Is this worth a post?

Do you ever receive responses to emails you don't remember writing? Last night I was trying desperately to tame my unruly inbox before I left work. Apparently I wrote the following in the midst of that effort.

Sounds great, Jerry. I leave this alone for a while and it seems evrything gets sorted out. I like that. Let me know if you need anything further--but it sounds like Bill, Greg, and we folks here are all set.

I do not remember composing this. I do not remember misspelling "everything." And it seems I changed geographical regions for the span of this email. "We folks here are all set." What?!

Ok. Back to taming the inbox.


| posted by Barbara | 6:24 PM |

Ten years ago today

September 5th, 1996 marked the beginning of the semester I spent living and studying in Florence. Ten years ago, my friends.

In October, I'm going back to Italy with my dear friend and Florentine roommate, Melinda. When all of our flatmates from that semester parted ways, we said if we lost touch, we would meet at the Trevi Fountain in Rome on a specified date and time (ten years from when we were there together). I've lost touch with everyone but Melinda, and I haven't been able to track anyone down via the web. I even resorted to joining Facebook, to no avail. (I couldn't quite bring myself to join MySpace, even for this.)

So, October 3 will find Melinda and me at the Trevi Fountain, wondering if anyone else will join us. Lisa, Lenay, Zuleika, Laura, Wynne, Jen...we shall see if anyone shows up. Half the charm of the idea is in the not knowing.

Preview of coming attractions: During my semester in Florence, I faithfully kept a journal. Since I'm the sort who loves to revisit memories through the "on this day in history" model, and since it's such easy pre-fab blog content, I'll be posting journal excerpts here frequently (hopefully not ad nauseam) over the next few months. Stay tuned...


| posted by Barbara | 12:49 AM |

Weekend Soundtrack

Yes, Lucinda, even though I now have an iPod, I will continue to post these. Here's the (rather eclectic) list of what I listened to on the drives to LA and back this weekend. (I'm even admitting to the Wilson Phillips.)

This Train, Mimes of the Old West
PFR, Them
Switchfoot, The Beautiful Letdown
Wilson Phillips, Wilson Phillips
Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill
U2, The Joshua Tree
Dave Matthews Band, Under the Table and Dreaming
Over the Rhine, Ohio
Timber Worship, Timber
And: Cure Mix for Barbara, discs 1 & 2 (Thanks, Kristy!)


| posted by Barbara | 12:47 AM |