Barbara's Random Thoughts

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pictures are gonna have to do

I wish I had time to dig in and offer you a nice long update. But I don't. In the meantime, here are some pictures from my Thanksgiving weekend.

Sarah, Barbara, Melinda, Hannah, Corina...the AHs!
Reunion and breakfast with dear friends from FC choir days.

Me with Baby Dell! I got to meet Heather and Aaron's new baby boy.

My crazy nieces, Hannah and Rebekah

Celebrating Emily's 11th birthday

My dad, reading to my nephew Johnny, demonstrates that he can moo.
| posted by Barbara | 1:02 AM |

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I am thankful

That the needle-poking is over (and I don't have TB! Woo!)
That we have a half-day today
That I am going to South Africa next year
For fundraising support from unexpected places
For the amazing friends I've made in the Bay area over the past three years
For all my amazing friends everywhere
That I get to see the AH's this weekend
That I get to meet Heather's baby this weekend
For my family
That I get to celebrate my niece Emily's 11th birthday on Sunday
For my book club
For my drive to work through the hills
For a job I've really enjoyed over the past 3 years
For awesome co-workers, present and past
For annual trips to Barbara's Fishtrap for dangerous crab
For a holiday pie
"For all You've done and yet to do..."

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
| posted by Barbara | 9:26 PM |

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Comprehensively punctured

Just so you all know, the dreaded TB test has now been performed. Along with two other needed vaccinations. I feel like St. Sebastian.
| posted by Barbara | 2:08 AM |

For your amusement

I've been attempting to get rid of a lot of the stuff that I've accumulated over the past few years. Last night, I went through the box of tapes in my closet. Yes, cassette tapes. I don't even own a cassette player anymore, haven't since I moved here, and yet these are still in my closet. As I went through the box last night, I came across some items that are just so embarrassing I have to share the moment with you all. (The effect will probably be lost on you if you aren't familiar with early-90s CCM...but that may be best.)

Arranged by increasing degrees of mortification, I present for you a tour through Barbara's embarrassing musical past.

Old school Michael W. Smith. I inherited the one on the left from my sister. I remember her playing it when we lived in England. The one on the right has the distinction of being the first tape I ever bought. I now have "" in my head.

Petra! Woo! Note the autographs on the cassette single on the right...I'm so cool.

Oh, yeah. Down with the DC Talk. What's really embarrassing is that I can probably quote ALL the lyrics from both of these, with little prompting.

You thought that was the grand finale, didn't you? Oh, no. No, no, no, my friends...get ready for this:

Carman. I have no words, I really don't. I own a Carman tape. This one contains some particularly hip tunes, such as: "God's Got an Army", "Get Your Business Straight with God", and (wait for it...) "The Resurrection Rap."


| posted by Barbara | 2:05 AM |

Monday, November 20, 2006


A new form of movie review.
| posted by Barbara | 9:45 PM |

Friday, November 17, 2006

Don't look a holiday pie in the face

Yesterday was the company "Turkey Pluck." Yeah. Every Thanksgiving that I've worked here, the company has had some sort of cheesy holiday-themed mid-afternoon social activity, prior to Thanksgiving. It always includes a game to be played for such thematically-appropriate prizes as Safeway, Whole Foods, and Honey Baked Ham gift certificates. And gift certificates for holiday pies available at the on-site cafe.

I never win stuff like this. But yesterday I won a pie.

The game was as follows: you were to pluck a feather out of the tail of one of several cardboard-and-styrofoam turkeys, and if your feather had yellow tape wrapped around the base, you won a prize. They had the prize winners get up in front of the group, they distributed the prize-containing envelopes, and then everyone's favorite MC (guess who, coworkers of mine?) made his way down the line with a microphone, asking people to share their name and what they'd won. I think I was a bit sarcastic in my tone as I said "I won a holiday pie!" Because, really, "Turkey Pluck"?

One of my coworkers later commented that I seemed less than enthusiastic in my pie-winning. And you know, the pie was the least impressive of the prizes, I do believe. But, I still won something. Next week, I get to take home a chocolate cream pie for my niece's birthday...and she'll love it.

The pie-thing and my mocking of the event itself got me thinking about irony and sarcasm, a couple of my specialties. Lately I've been growing tired of my affinity for such. It's so easy for me to hide behind sarcasm. I revel in verbal repartee, but there's a time for getting serious and going deep.

Last weekend, in the middle of an ironic conversation about men's hosiery and the wearing of Daisy Dukes in the workplace (no, seriously, this went on for maybe 20 minutes), I realized that I was tired of irony. There's something to be said for sincerity...and for genuine enthusiasm instead of ironic mockery and detachment.

I really need to embrace the holiday pie.
| posted by Barbara | 10:04 PM |

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The word is out

I gave notice at work today. I'm both sad and relieved at the same time. It's good to have the news out--it's been wearing on me, especially the past couple of weeks. Last week was filled with a bunch of team meetings, author conference calls, and the like--all of which made me more and more conflicted about my plans to leave. Or rather, about my not yet disclosing my plans to leave. I told a friend last week: "I'm tired of living a double life!"

Last week, one author specifically asked for me to work on his book, other authors were uneasy and asking for reassurance about transitions on our team/with the company as a whole, my new editor mentioned a couple times how grateful he is to have my help...and I felt increasingly guilty about leaving people in the lurch.

Our editorial team has been short-handed since July. Right now, the team consists of a new editor (as of October), a new editorial assistant (as of August), and me (who's been on the team for three years). There's also an open position which is under a hiring freeze until January. Hey, at least I'm staying till mid-December...

I was going to wait until after Thanksgiving to give notice (three weeks felt reasonable), but after last week, and an incident of the news being "leaked" to yet another coworker at a party over the weekend (Rebecca is SO Typhoid Mary), I came into work this week with the feeling that it was time. I told my manager and my team today, and they were all sad about me leaving, but really supportive. I knew it would be fine, and it was, I was just dreading doing it. But it's done. All out in the open, and I can move on and do what I need to do before I leave without all this inner conflict.

I know that many of my coworkers (especially the former ones) have been quite dissatisfied with the company in recent months, but I've really enjoyed my job, my team, my coworkers, and my authors over the past three years. It's bittersweet for me to be leaving. I really am gonna miss the Wad, as we so affectionately called it in days of yore. It's what brought me to the Bay area, and I wouldn't trade my time here for anything.


| posted by Barbara | 3:27 AM |

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Winter Reading Challenge

I've seen this on several of the book blogs I read, and I'm giving in to the peer pressure. The challenge is this: select 5 books that you have already purchased, have been meaning to get to, and haven't read before...and READ them, between Nov. 1st and Jan. 30th.

These all seem to be better winter books than South Africa books, hence the need to read them now rather than take them with me under the pretense that I will read them next year. Here's the list:

1. Atonement – Ian McEwan. I dragged this book to South Africa and back, then to Italy and back, and I still haven’t read it. I am ashamed. I think everyone else in the world has read this book but me.
2. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens. I know, I know. I have an MA in Literature and yet I haven’t read this. In my defense, I’ve read David Copperfield, Martin Chuzzlewit, Great Expectations, Hard Times, and A Christmas Carol. Probably others I'm forgetting. No, I haven’t read Oliver Twist either. Shut up.
3. Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman. I’ve been meaning to read more Gaiman since picking up Coraline a couple years ago. (And since Julie’s always recommending him…)
4. Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen. The one Jane Austen novel I haven’t yet read.
5. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott. Yet another egregious omission in my reading list. It’s time.

I reserve the right to switch out books above with books below, depending on my mood. I borrowed both of these from friends and should really finish and return them before I leave:

The Disorderly Knights – Dorothy Dunnett. (I will return this to you before I leave, Julie!!)
No Promises in the Wind – Irene Hunt. (Kristy--ditto.)


| posted by Barbara | 9:56 PM |

You would think now hope would be tired

I started this post last week, in the midst of a lot of struggling with the idea of hope. I'm still not sure it's exactly what I want to say. I wrote part of it early in the week, as I reflected on Sunday’s sermon. Then later in the week, my thoughts got turned upside down and I felt like hope had the rug pulled out from under it. Yet again.

My mind isn't settled on this yet. I'm still wondering how I can hang on to the idea of hope and at the same time be contented as I am. At least inside my head, hope seems to breed discontent. Hope, in a sense, is the desire for something more. Is that discontentment? Can a longing for something better co-exist with contentment?

Faith comes into this somewhere, too. Perhaps I'll write more on this later, because I'm still thinking and processing a lot of these things. But I'm going to post now before my inner perfectionist wins out and tells me not to.


I am tired. But hope is not. And that frustrates me, because right now, I just want hope to shut up. I’m tired of hope itself.

Running through my head is an Emily Dickinson poem that has always annoyed me (mainly because of its sing-song nature; to fully experience my mockery, sing this to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas"):

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all...

Sometimes I want to smack that singing-thing and make it stop. Ok, maybe most of the time.

Hope is something that's difficult for me. I'm essentially a pessimist, usually out of self-protection; the underlying thought being: if I don't hope for something, then I won't be disappointed when it doesn't materialize.

On Sunday morning, Steve's sermon discussed the stories of two women in 2 Kings chapter 4. The story of the second of these two women is what stuck in my head. It's the story of a woman who's well-off and seems to have everything she needs. She decides she wants to honor God's prophet, Elisha, so she has a guest room made ready for him to use whenever he needs it. Elisha asks his servant if there is anything they can do for the woman, and the response is "she has no son and her husband is old." So Elisha prophesies that in a year's time, the woman will have a son. Her response is not enthusiastic:

"No, my lord," she objected. "Don't mislead your servant, O man of God!" (v. 16)

But she does indeed have a son, just as was promised to her. Time goes by. Her son dies from a sudden illness. The woman goes straight to Elisha:

"Did I ask you for a son, my lord?" she said. "Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?" (v. 28)

It's like she's saying "I knew this would happen." There's pessimism and bitterness there, a sense of "I told you so," and at the root of it all, a lack of trust. She doesn't believe that God will accomplish good in her life, or at least, a specific good: that of giving her a child.

And I know it seems useless,
I know how it always turns out
(Innocence Mission)

And you know what? That's me, right there in that story: “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes?’” Don't make me believe in something, don’t let me hope. Because I know that I’ll be let down, just like I have so many times before. Deep down, I'd rather close myself off and be safe from hurt. Because ultimately? I don't trust God to be careful with my heart. I saw myself in that woman.

Even though God had given her a child, this woman still didn’t trust. Not completely. Her first response upon her child’s death was to go to the prophet and tell him “I told you so.” It hadn’t really been enough that God gave her a son. She still hadn’t accepted the sovereignty of God or let herself believe in His promises.

The chorus to the following song sticks in my head, from a time when Heather and her sisters sang it at GHBC:

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
When you don’t understand
When you can’t see his plan
When you can’t trace his hand; trust his heart

Those words come across to me as a little too cliché, a little too much of a pat answer. “If things don’t make sense, just trust God!” Life is never that simple. But those words stay with me—because I do believe that God is good. I struggle with trusting that goodness for my own life. That’s what faith and hope are all about, though. Jesus encourages us to have simple faith, faith like a child. My mind rebels against that notion. Because I know how much life doesn’t make sense—my own life and that of others. How do we trust when things don’t make sense; when things turn out like they always do? I don’t know.

The simple fact that we know that things should be different implies that there is something better, or that there will be someday. And that’s all I really have to hang on to. That and the knowledge that I’ve seen God working in my life, in so many ways that I easily forget when I get bitter and pessimistic.

You would think now hope would be tired, but it’s all right…
| posted by Barbara | 9:51 PM |

Suffering for Jesus

I'm getting to the part in the plans for South Africa where I apply for a visa. I have the FBI clearance, I sort of have a flight reservation (or will shortly), and thought I was ready to send everything out. Until I talked to Katie today and she said something about the letter from her doctor. Aw, crap. Something else I have to do. So I logged onto the NC site today, and started making my little list of what I need to still obtain. Visa application, passport photos, evidence of financial support, blah blah blah. And then I got to the "letter from the doctor" item and noticed this note that somehow I had overlooked before: "You will also need a TB test."

You have no idea of the fear this strikes into my heart. Seriously. I'm still a bit shaken.

Are you guys kidding? A TB test? I SWEAR that wasn't on the list before, because I would TOTALLY remember that. Arthur? Did you guys sneak that in after I applied? Because I'm having second thoughts! (And I'm only half kidding.)

This girl's scared of needles, yes. But this girl's FAR more afraid of TB tests. I had to have one when my family moved back to California when I was 9, and it was the single most horrible experience I have ever had at a doctor's office. The evil nurse took away the stuffed animal I had brought with me for comfort. I don't want to talk about it.

I once jokingly said that I didn't think God would ever call me to go somewhere that would require me getting shots. Very funny, God.
| posted by Barbara | 2:36 AM |

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Today's been a little crazy, but I have a free moment while I'm waiting for someone else to get back to me on this proposal that needs to be looked over by our editor in chief before the day's, you know, in the next 30 minutes. PLENTY of time. (This has been my day today. Quote of the day: "Barbara, you've had that worried expression all morning...")

But anyway, as I impatiently await a phone call, I thought I'd post some rather hilarious pictures I came across over the weekend and just HAD to scan. These are of Kristy and me at the Hollywood Bowl some summers ago. I think we were headed for a 4th of July concert, but I'm not sure. We were picnicking beforehand and these photos illustrate certain items that are still present in our HB picnics today.

Me, with the requisite olives. I fixed the red-eye and now my eyes look like great pools of blackness...maybe I should have left it alone. (You know, the pimentos do look like little red-eye-plagued eyeballs.)

I LOVE the facial expression here. Up to something, Kristy? What are you doing with that HUUUUUGE SPOOON?
| posted by Barbara | 2:17 AM |

Monday, November 06, 2006


I have a small mental list of things I want to do before I leave the Bay area. One of these things is to take advantage of living near SF and get myself to more concerts. Toward that end, I was checking a few websites today to see if there are concerts I'll just have to attend in the near future. And I discovered this lamentable fact: The Weepies are playing in LA on Nov. 18. Then they're playing in Sunnyvale (Sunnyvale? Really??) on Nov. 25. As it happens, I will be here in the Bay area on the 18th, and in the LA area on the 25th. GRRR. Maybe I'll pass them on the road...


| posted by Barbara | 10:42 PM |

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Belatedly, I am getting around to linking to Lisa & Tom's blog. Recap: Lisa was one of my roommates in Florence, one of the two I reconnected with at the Trevi Fountain a month ago. Lisa and Tom are living in Rome for the fall, chasing after their beautiful two-year-old daughter as they do research for a book on Baroque churches. Now that I've caught myself up with their blog, and it's a month later--one month from our against-the-odds meeting--I wanted to link you to Lisa's reflections on our Trevi meeting, both before and after.

Three Coins in a Fountain
Dreams Come True

Thinking about this again still thrills me!!

Lisa's reflections on hope echo a theme that's been threaded through my days lately, something I will post about soon.

Labels: ,

| posted by Barbara | 12:15 AM |

Friday, November 03, 2006

Continuing correspondence

Another glimpse into my life as an assistant editor/associate development editor/whatever other job title you want to give me; bring it on. (See this post for the beginning.)

11/1, author:
I will try to get it to you by the end of today. I am pretty sure it can be done but if not, would it be the Wrath of Barbara if I get it to you tomorrow?

11/1, me:
The earlier the better (know what I mean, know what I mean), but I can stay the hand of wrath for another day, if need be.

11/1, author:
Oh you are a saint, an angel, and a goddess of mercy - the new trinity! Thank you. I will still try my best to finish it today. I am adding two new chapters to it. Oh man, this helps a massive bunch.

In case that was not clear, you rock!

11/2, author:
I haven't forgotten about the manuscript. I am working very hard on it right now and I will get it to you as soon as I can (Today is the goal).

11/3, me:
Waiting with bated breath...

11/3, author:
I know, I know.

Barbara, I am pushing as hard as I can to get this thing done. I blew my Wednesday deadline and I blew my Thursday deadline but it was not out of suckiness, it was out of an attempt to put things exactly right. ... With a trillion apologies.


| posted by Barbara | 9:26 PM |

Returning, part one of a few

Here is one of a series of Florence picture pairings: 1996 vs. 2006. You've seen the Mr. Right mug spanning two decades. Now I bring you the Centro Linguistico Italiano Dante Alighieri (say that 5 times fast), then and now.

At first, Melinda and I walked right past and didn't recognize the place--it was completely under construction. We doubled back and stood around gaping, then took some pictures. As we did so, the builders returned. Through broken English on their side, and snatches of broken Italian on mine (Melinda didn't even try...), they showed us around the building. The irony of our deplorable lack of Italian skill--upon our return to the language school where we studied--was not lost on either of the two parties involved.

Walking into Via dei Benci, #12, was surreal. It was just school, just where we had our classes and ate our lunches, where we hung out in the courtyard and picked up our mail...but it was a backdrop to so much more. Melinda and I walked down that bare entrance hallway and out into the courtyard strewn with builders' debris, and I found those halls haunted with ghosts of friends and voices from the past. It's always unsettling to return to places that were instrumental in your personal growth, and see an external representation of your internal growth and change.

That experience on Via dei Benci was a bit of a microcosm for returning to Florence as a whole. It was strange for me to return to Florence after ten years, stranger than returning to places from childhood after a long absence. I said to Melinda that it made me feel old, because these are adult memories that I'm revisiting. She agreed, commenting "Florence is where you grew up as an adult." I know there's been quite a bit more "growing up" here where I am now. I wonder how it will feel to return to the Bay area in ten years?

Coming soon: further exciting pictorial juxtapositionings including "Barbara at her apartment door" and "Barbara with a lamppost." I can feel the excitement now.


| posted by Barbara | 12:08 AM |