Barbara's Random Thoughts

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


In a similar vein, today I am dressed up as an Assistant Editor. Clever, no?
| posted by Barbara | 7:36 PM |

Author email of the day

"Yes, I am planning on emailing it to you on Wednesday. Of course, the more time the better. Hint hint, nudge nudge, say no more, say no more."

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| posted by Barbara | 7:10 PM |

Monday, October 30, 2006

I don't exist
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Interesting facts:
-There are 1,469,846 people in the U.S. with the first name Barbara.
-It is statistically the 15th most popular first name.
-More than 99.9 percent of people with the first name Barbara are female. (I really want to know about that rogue "less than 0.1%" who are male.)
-More than 99.9 percent of people with the first name Barbara are over the age of 40. (Ok, I made that one up. But it FEELS true.)

Stolen from Tracey.


| posted by Barbara | 9:05 PM |

A conversation

Yesterday, I shared a little with the couples class about mission stuff for next year. I chatted with Scott, the young adult pastor, for a few minutes beforehand.

Scott: Where's your husband, Barbara?
Barbara: Guess this isn't really the place to find one, huh?
Scott (looking around the room): Well...there are a lot of husbands here...I just think they're already taken.


| posted by Barbara | 7:05 PM |

Posting from the Park

I saw my parents off early this afternoon, after packing their car full of books and a bookshelf and a few random boxes from my closet. My dad pulled out of my driveway and as the car scraped against the curb,* I wondered if maybe I'd put TOO many books in their car. Too late. What's sad is the lack of a dent this seems to have made in my shelves.

After the parents left, I got myself to the park for a little email catch-up time. I must apologize to Kristy since I told her in an email that I had to stop writing because I was too cold and was going home. But then I remembered that there were a couple of albums I wanted to get off iTunes...and then I thought, "Hey, what about that podcast I was going to check out..." and here I still am, downloading away.

My fingers have warmed up a bit, and I'm enjoying the sight of the afternoon sun on the gingko trees. I'm even enjoying the crisp fall breeze. I'll head home soon and sit inside the (slightly warmer) house, with a book and some tea. Have I mentioned that I really love the fall?

I realized today that I haven't yet posted about the return to Florence. I need to at least post some pictures. I'll get right on that. Just not today.

*I never know how to spell this word. I had to delete and's "kerb" in England and that's my first compulsion when I need to use the word. Just thought you might like to know. It's kind of like behind-the-scenes blogging. (You're welcome.)
| posted by Barbara | 2:11 AM |

Friday, October 27, 2006

News 'round these parts

Updates and things from inside my head.

Work stuff:

I got to sit through a Big Long Important Meeting yesterday at which I got to play three roles because I'm still doing two jobs and another team member was out of town. I get to attend a Big Important DE Meeting tomorrow to figure out what I'm currently supposed to be responsible for. And then subsequently I will figure out all of the additional projects that I'm actually responsible for because we're still shorthanded and there's a hiring/promotion freeze. Yay.

Rumors have been drifting about for a while, but the news broke yesterday that our division of the company is being sold off. I got the news first via CNN yesterday morning. Woo! Official company announcement yesterday afternoon, and many meetings today. Oh, the excitement and the paranoia.

I finally got paid yesterday for the vacation time that was approved and reported and yet still didn't get added into my paycheck. I love returning from vacation to find only half a paycheck in my bank account. So fun.

Other stuff:

After a long day yesterday, it was great to catch up with good friends via phone and over dinner (ok, gelato). I should take advantage of that time before YAF more often.

Fall is here and I love it. It's been getting quite cold at night lately, but still warm during the day. Schizophrenic ambiguous weather that can't make up its mind. But when I got home last night, I crunched my way up the driveway through the first of the fallen leaves. Thus, fall is here. Time for gingerbread and persimmon cookies and pumpkin bread.

My parents are coming to visit this weekend, and they've offered to take some of my things back with them--stuff that's going to end up getting stored in their garage anyway, come December/January. So I've been going through my bookshelves and deciding which books to pack away. It's horrible. I feel like I'm packing away old friends.

I've kept out a shelf-ful of the books I can't yet bear to pack away. I know I'm not taking all of these with me next year. Neither am I realistically going to read or re-read all of them before I leave. But I can't put Middlemarch and David Copperfield and Tolkein (and like 80 others) in a box just yet. I might want them. They must be near.

Missions stuff:

Fundraising is going really well. I'm almost at my second goal (almost a month early), so I'm way on track. I just hope things aren't too frontloaded! Anyway, it's such an encouragement to me to see how many people want to be part of this next step in my life--and encouragement has come through more than just donations. Emails, conversations, so many small reminders that God's sending my way. This time is intimidating in many ways, but it's so so good to remember how many amazing people are in my life.

I'll close with a song that's been feeding my soul these past couple of days:

Sandra McCracken

In the arms of a good Father
You can go to the deep water
Where the questions we have left unspoken
Come out in the open
We will find shelter here

So I lay down what I cannot hold in my hands
Every sorrow and hope spinning out of control
And here I find sweet resolution comes in letting go
And we will find shelter here

When I look back I can see,
And when I am old I'll remember these things
Like a mountain of stone
And the longing that makes me believe

There is a tree by the blue river
Where the shade stretches wide over
In this breaking we are hand and glove
Come with me my love
We will find shelter here
| posted by Barbara | 3:14 AM |

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


There's an email in my work inbox titled "since i'll be gone" and every time I see it, I get Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" stuck in my head.


| posted by Barbara | 9:04 PM |


I feel compelled to post something so that readers are no longer immediately greeted by me calling out an old friend for finding me online. Really, I don't harass all visitors in this manner. Lurkers, do not be afraid of me, I am not really that scary. Moving on.

Here, for your amusement, is a conversation I had last night with my mother:

M: Have you gotten an email from a boy?
B: I get lots of emails from boys, Mother.
(She continues, unfazed.)
M: Well, from a boy you don't know?
B: What are you up to?
M: Well, Joy asked if she could have your email address to pass on to...I think it was her nephew?...well, she said she was so glad to have a friend who had a daughter who wasn't married...
B: So glad I have that to recommend me...
M: Well, you need to be nice to him, because if you're not, it'll get back to Joy, and I need to continue getting rides to orchestra!

So apparently soon I will be receiving an email from a "nice Christian boy" who's an engineer (surprise!) in Baltimore. I hardly see the point, but there you go. I'm single, he's single, we're both Christians, so of course, we'll get along famously. Woo.

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| posted by Barbara | 6:55 PM |

Friday, October 20, 2006

Open letter

To the person in the UK who recently found this blog by googling my first and last name:

There was a huge spike in my pageloads today. I was curious. StatCounter indicates that you are currently, quietly, reading my entire archive. Who are you? You're kind of freaking me out a little bit.

You can always email me via the link to the left if you don't want to declare yourself publicly. I don't mean to call you out, but I have no idea who you are. You must know me, hence the google search. Really, I'm curious.



| posted by Barbara | 1:29 AM |

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Here we go again

Cinque Terre--Riomaggiore

October 18, 1996

We got up totally early this morning—well, 7am. [Heehee—I love my qualifier there, as I realized that 7:00 really wasn't THAT early.] We took a 7:51 train to Pisa, where we changed trains to go to La Spezia. In La Spezia we took another train to get to Riomaggiore--the 1st city in the Cinque Terre. It was so funny--we were in Pisa and had 5 minutes to get our connecting train. And over the speakers we hear--in Italian and English--that the train from Pisa to La Spezia requires a supplement. We're standing there with 5 minutes before the train leaves, the ticket office is a couple of platforms we just got on the train! The ticket guy on the train was rad, [sigh.] though--he was telling us (in Italian) that we needed a supplement and this train was a rapido...but he was so nice! He was like "Just look next time and make sure. But this time--ok." [This is classic. We did this more times that I’d like to admit--playing the stupid Americans who didn't know they weren't supposed to take a rapido on the rail pass we had. But I have to admit that the conductors on the trains were much nicer about it than the ticket office personnel usually were when we went the prescribed route and got our passes validated ahead of time.]

Then we got to Riomaggiore and found the hostel. They had room and it's not too bad at all! [Our universally-pessimistic edition of the Rough Guide to Italy didn’t speak well of the place.] Then we wandered around a little...found that the path to the next city was closed because of a mud slide--=(! So we took the train to the next city--Manarola. We wandered down by the sea and just sat there for so long. It is so beautiful! The ocean is this awesome blue/green color--it doesn't even look real. And the waves are all crashing up on the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs--the spray and the foam are just pure white. And the sun was out, blue sky, totally beautiful day. From Manarola, we found the path to the next city--Corniglia. Oh! [I forgot something...] But first, we wandered around Manarola. Just up and around all these little streets and steps here and there. We sat next to a little church and looked out over the hills above the sea. It was so cute--all these little houses in pink and yellow--gingerbread houses, they looked like! And they're all just built on the hillside, wedged in there, stacked against each other.

We went on from there and hiked over to Corniglia. It ended up that we took the wrong trail, but it led down to these steps that went out to some rocks overlooking the sea. We sat there and ate our bread and cheese, a banana, and some cookies. We could see back to the city we'd just left and on ahead to Corniglia. There were all these dark clouds over Corniglia, but we were sitting in the sun. Then the clouds began to move, and Corniglia was in the sun, but we got rained on! It wasn't too bad until the wind picked up--then we were getting wet both from the rain and the spray from the waves, and practically getting blown off the cliff by this freezing cold wind! So we walked back up to the trail and on to the next village. It was so beautiful along the way--walking on this path along the sea, watching the sun glimmering on the water.

I think it was in Corniglia, but I'm not sure--no, it was in Manarola. [Getting ahead of myself again...] We went exploring up this little road and decided to walk up these stairs in the hillside. Turns out there's this whole series of steps leading up to and around a vineyard. We're climbing up these tiny stone steps and hiking around and under the was incredible! Then Melinda tried to find a different way down the hillside...she and Michelle ended up jumping across this ravine! I was too chicken to do it so I ended up sliding down the hill on my butt, trying to get down another way! [I totally remember this. I was so afraid I would jump and miss the other side. And it was total peer pressure, too--everyone else is doing it!! But I guess I passed the test of "if all of your friends were jumping off a cliff..."]

And then we went on to Corniglia. [I had to acknowledge the digression...] I guess most of our adventures today were in Manarola! Corniglia was really nice, too, though. We wandered some and then found a place to sit and watch the sunset. I have been so surrounded by nature and God's creation today! The sunset was really pretty. The sun behind a few clouds, casting a pink glow over the sky and pink glimmers on the water...slowly sinking down and then disappearing over the horizon. We sat there for a long time, just thinking and watching the sky and ocean. I watched the sun set over the Mediterranean Sea today! This is incredible to be here.

[Narration of the next day's hiking]

On our way to find the trail to Vernazza, we ran into our waiter from last night! We hiked with him and ran into some others along the way who were staying in the same youth hostel as us. So we all hiked together: Michael, the Scottish guy who was our waiter, 2 Australian guys, and two Canadian girls. It was really neat to talk with them about places they've been and where they want to go...nice to meet people that are fellow travelers. The hike was so incredible. The views out over the hills and the ocean were so beautiful. It was so cool, the trail led up through the hills, past all these little vineyards, there were a few people here and there, working in their vineyard. And there were olive groves as well...with little old men picking up the olives. They would all greet us and say "Buon giorno!" as we passed.

[later in the day, hiking from Vernazza to Monterosso]

We ran into Caroline and Elizabeth halfway there--they were on their way to Vernazza. We stood and talked to them a little--we met them here at the hostel last night. Anyway, as we were talking, Elizabeth somehow stepped backwards or slipped or lost her balance or something--she fully fell off the trail, down a couple of yards into this vineyard! We were all freaking out, she's lying there and can't get up because she's lying sort of downhill...this Italian guy finally jumped down there to help her up...we pulled him up to the trail, then we all pulled Elizabeth back up! She was ok, just a lot of scratches everywhere. I think if she had put her hands back to stop her fall, or if she hadn't been wearing a backpack, she really might have broken something. But just the way it was so funny to look back on it, but not at all at the time. I just have this image in my head of her falling with this terrified look on her face!

[amusing train station episode from the journey back]

I opened my backpack to get some water, and as I pulled out the water bottle, my apple went flying, rolled across the platform, and then down onto the train tracks. But I didn't want to just leave it. I figured I could wash it off! So I bent down to get it (from beneath the train we'd just gotten off of)--and my backpack slips, hits me on the head, and then slides off onto the platform. We were all laughing so hard--I felt like such a fool! But I washed off the apple, cut off the smashed part, and it was really good! [Never one to waste anything, Barbara reaches under a train to retrieve an apple...and is proud of it.]

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| posted by Barbara | 2:23 AM |

The Mr. Right Mug, part 2

You may remember this post. I've been going through photos from my semester in Italy (yay, scanner!) and thought I'd share a picture of the original Mr. Right mug:

And I thought I would also share that I got one of the best gifts ever from Jessica this summer before she moved (even though she thought it might be weird).

Yes, I now own a Mr. Right mug of my very own. has a spinner! So now I can find out where Mr. Right is! (See, in the picture, it says he's right under my nose. I think the mug lies.)

A semi-related coda:

Here are pictures of another AWESOME gift. This one I received from my roommate, Julie. She was in Mexico this summer, and brought back for me a man:

But please note, this isn't just ANY man. This is a man with Jesus in his heart:

What more could a girl want, really?
| posted by Barbara | 1:04 AM |

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Taking time out from the "All Italy, All the Time" theme for a small announcement.

My best friend Heather became a mommy EARLY Saturday morning. Welcome to Dell Aaron Taylor! I can't wait to meet him.

Details and pictures here. Keep Heather and Baby Dell in your prayers as Heather recovers from an emergency c-section and Baby Dell is being monitored in the ICU--he's been having difficulty breathing.

welcome to this dusty land
where you will cry lots but we'll all understand
things may not turn out sometimes like you plan
that's alright our little man

welcome outside of your mother's womb
i know that it's frightening
but now there's more room
just think of all the great things you'll do
just by you being you
(Lori Chaffer)
| posted by Barbara | 2:08 AM |

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Believing the Impossible

"I can't believe that!" said Alice.

"Can't you?" the queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again, draw a long breath, and
shut your eyes."

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't believe impossible things."

"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes
I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

A dear friend gave me a magnet with the above quote, around the time we were both searching for publishing jobs. She added a note with it assuring me that seemingly impossible things can come true. Last Tuesday's appointment at the Trevi Fountain was a reminder that this is still the case. Rather than rewrite the account, here's an excerpt of what I wrote that night in my journal:

There we were at the Trevi Fountain, just before noon...the appointed time. And it was packed with people. It was so completely crowded! Mel had been saying we should make signs of some sort, so anyone who was there would be able to find us. Because otherwise? No way.

I had been kind of skeptical about seeing the girls, excited to talk about it, excited in theory, but I don't know that I thought anyone else would come. But when we got there and I saw the crowd, I realized how much I wanted this to work. We stood there above the fountain, and I took a picture of the massive crowd because it was so daunting. [I later went back to this picture and zoomed in to where we found Lisa. She's IN this picture.]

I scanned the crowd, looking for familiar faces, for others who might be searching through the masses of people, for Wynne's red curls or Lisa's blond ones. Nothing. So we decided to plunge in and walk through the tons of people, looking as we went. Halfway to the far side of the fountain, where I'd stood to throw in my coin ten years before, I saw Lisa. I said to Mel: "Is that Lisa? Mel, I think that's Lisa!!" And it was. Mel started calling her name, Lenay spotted us, and we started yelling to each other and pushing our way up the step to where they were. There was hugging and screaming and I was totally shaky with nervous excitement. They had husbands! And kids! And Lisa's husband...was Tom! Lenay introduced us to her husband, Danny, and then Lisa said, "And you know my husband..." AAA! So crazy! She dated our painting professor on a semester abroad...and now they're married, and have a 2-year-old girl!

It was so good to find them there. No one else came (or we didn't find anyone else), but there we were, the four of us. Half of the girls from Via della Pergola, ten years later in Rome.

After the amazing reunion that we had, I feel a little selfish wishing for more. But I wonder about the others, the four who didn't come. Laura, Wynne, Jen, Zuleika. Mel and I had said all along that if anyone would come, it would be Lisa & Lenay. They're sisters, so they had each other to make this pilgrimage with, as Melinda and I had each other.

And the others? Zuleika dropped off the map almost immediately after our time in Florence. She stayed behind in Italy for a bit, with family in Napoli, and someone said she was in Spain for a while, but I never heard from her. Jen was going back to a life in transition and I was never sure where to reach her. Laura I kept in touch with for a bit, as I did with Wynne. Melinda and I had a small reunion with Wynne during the first semester we were back in California. But before a year had gone by, those contacts had fallen by the wayside as well. I actually ran into Laura one afternoon on campus at Chapman when I was in grad school. We exchanged info, and then never got in touch with each other again.

I remember wondering once if we set ourselves up for losing touch. Part of the pact of meeting again at the Trevi was the idea that we could find each other again if we lost each other in the years to come. The idea of meeting at the fountain had just that much more charm because we didn't know who would be there. And now that it's over, there's a finality to losing track of the other four. We don't have another "In ten years at the Trevi" to anticipate. And so I wonder. In spite of the incredible gift of finding Lisa and Lenay waiting there for our reunion, there's a sadness in the story. For those lost connections, for the four who didn't come--whatever it was that kept them away.

Partial reunion or not, this is a story that will be told for at least another ten years.

At lunch, Lisa & Lenay's mom offered the toast: "Here's to believing in dreams...and to keeping commitments." I'm good at keeping commitments, but I'm not much of one for believing in dreams. I don't like to be disappointed. But that moment of finding Lisa and Lenay waiting at the fountain will continue to remind me for years to come that dreams can be believed and the impossible can be hoped for after all.

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| posted by Barbara | 1:06 AM |

Friday, October 13, 2006

Postcards from Elba

Sunset from the ferry

Our hotel

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| posted by Barbara | 12:47 AM |

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Journey to Elba: A Study in Contrasts

Bad: Melinda mistakes "treno" (train) for Turino, and we wait for the wrong train on the wrong platform.

Good: We discover the error before the train arrives.
Melinda: Why would the train be going to Turino--Turino is north; we need to go south.
Me: Isn't that what you said was printed on the ticket--Turino? Let me see the ticket. (Pause.) Mel, this says "treno." That means TRAIN.

Bad: We discover the error 2 minutes before our actual train is scheduled to leave.

Good: Our train is delayed, so we don't miss the train.

Bad: Our train delay causes us to miss the next connecting train.

Good: There's a little Tabacchi at the very cute station where we must wait. I buy potato chips and get a free "Bandana di Pirati." This is seriously cool.

Good: We make it to the ferry just barely in time, and go straight on board to buy tickets, rather than to the ticket office.

Bad: They don't take credit cards on board the ferry. We don't have enough cash to pay for our tickets. We are about 4 Euro short, the amount we spent on snacks at the little Tabacchi at the train station.

Good: The conductor is understanding and tells us to pay tomorrow. There is a beautiful sunset on the way to Elba.

Bad: We arrive on Elba 4 hours after we told the hotel we'd be there, and they've given away our reservation.

Bad: The other hotels on our list don't have vacancies or are too far away to get to without a car.

Bad: We drag our bags and our sorry hotel-less selves all over Portoferraio searching for a hotel.

Good: We find a kind woman who speaks a little English and directs us "through the door with the clock" (an archway with a clock over it) and up the hill to a small hotel with a vacancy. It's cheaper than the hotel where we'd made a reservation.

Good: We have an incredible dinner at the restaurant up the street from our hotel.

Good: Elba is gorgeous, peaceful, and QUIET. The weather is beautiful, and we have an incredible Sunday wandering through Napoleon's villa, up and down the steep hillside streets of Portoferraio, and relaxing on a small beach.

Bad: Leaving Elba, we encounter another train delay causing us to again miss a connecting train. We arrive in Rome so late that it's not worth it for me to go to the youth hostel. I sleep in the airport.

Good: I loved Elba and it was totally worth the journey.
-Quiet. Sounds: Seagulls. Ocean. Church bells.
-Blue, blue sky; blue, blue water.
-Beautiful little streets, shuttered windows, ivy-covered buildings.

Also good: Our departing ferry was named "Moby Love."

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| posted by Barbara | 7:09 PM |

Things I Learned

...not from travelling in Italy, but from reading Bella Tuscany:

-“Macchiato” literally means espresso “stained” with milk.
-Bow-tie pasta is called farfalle in Italian. This I knew. What I didn’t know: farfalle means butterfly. I like that so much better than bow-tie.

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| posted by Barbara | 7:06 PM |

Books I Actually Read on the Plane

Bella Tuscany, Frances Mayes

(I knew bringing 4 books was ambitious, but I thought I could get through at least two.)

Conversation first night at the youth hostel in Rome:

Melinda: “I thought about bringing those optional reading books that we never read for Levonne’s classes, to finally read them. And then I thought, yeah right.”

(Barbara shamefacedly pulls A World Lit only by Fire and The Italian Renaissance from her bag.)

Yes, I dragged these books all the way to Italy again, and still didn’t read them. I am lame.

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| posted by Barbara | 7:04 PM |

Friday, October 06, 2006

"Here's to believing in dreams."

Because sometimes, they come true.

Trevi Fountain, October 3, 2006, 12 noon. They were there!!!

Well, two of them. Four of the girls from Via della Pergola ten years ago showed up to reunite at the Trevi Fountain this week. Melinda keeps saying it's like a movie...except it actually happened. It was an amazing meeting, and I will share more when I get home!

Florence is as beautiful as ever, by the way.

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| posted by Barbara | 3:53 PM |