Donna Dee

I loved my cousin, Donna Dee. Not sure why, but I am missing her today.

She was ten years older than I and I knew she was the coolest person on the planet. She told me things no one else would and she always had stories about my mom. She’d often tell me that the two of us were very special; just like my mom and her, she and I were ten years apart in age.

Donna was the daughter of my mom’s oldest sister, Charlotte. That’s the two of them in the picture I’ve posted today. Donna lived with my Grandma most of the time when she was growing up. Because of that, she spent a lot of time with my mom before my mom married my dad. For me, going to Gram’s was the best place on earth. It was the place where I felt the most special and the place I got to be around my three favorite people, my Grandpa, my Gram, and my cousin, Donna.

Donna taught me all the things every little girl needed to know. Some things, I’m pretty sure my mom wished she’d waited a little longer to show me. She had so much wonderful big girl stuff. She taught me how to roll my hair in those painful brush rollers and gave me hints on how to get those little pink pic things to really hold the rollers tightly to your head. I learned how to “tease” my hair and fell in love with the smell of hair spray. She showed me how to use lipstick, telling me how important it was to blot–that final blot was what helped the color last so it wouldn’t smear when you kissed your boyfriend. That always made me giggle–me–a boyfriend.

I loved having all those kiss marked kleenexes around us as we talked. Almost as much as I loved being with Donna–the one person who always knew how to make me feel like I was cool, too.

There was only one time when she did not share. I’d found a little bar of square chocolates on her dresser. To my kid eyes, they looked like someone had shrunk a Hershey bar. See what I mean, she really had super neat things! I asked in all the ways I could think of–please, please, please, could I have just one piece. She would NOT share. Well, I said to my young self, I’ll just wait until she leaves. I’ll only take a couple–she’ll never miss them.

She did miss them.

She never told on us kids–she did this time. Man, I thought, this must have been some really special stuff. First, she wouldn’t share and now she told on me–I mean–us.

My Dad came over to my sisters and me, asking us who had taken Donna’s chocolates? Not me, I said. I was feeling very put out because she did not share. PLUS, they tasted terrible. I’d thrown a lot of it in the trash.  So, really, since I’d thrown it way had I really taken them?

His look focused on me for a few more seconds–I was thinking, rationalizing it all in my head. I stood my ground.

“Okay,” he said, shaking his head and chuckling, “The truth will come out soon enough.”

Very early that morning, the truth indeed came screaming out as one stubborn little kid barely made it the bathroom. Man, I thought, that must have been some seriously bad chocolate! It was then they told me I had eaten EX-Lax, medicine, not candy. Geez Louise, no wonder it tasted so bad.

Oh, the lessons we learn. It was a very very long time before I asked anyone for chocolate.

I am…

B…simply being…

Love and peace, Y’all.



Musical Memories

It’s Friday. I may be retired, but being retired does not take the “specialness” away from Fridays.

Friday is one of our water aerobic days. I love being able to exercise again without feeling like I am destroying my body. Today was special because of some of the music.

I’m always surprised by the emotions music can stir–even while working to get your heart rate up and stay somewhat coordinated–a feat that often eludes me.

Today, one of the first songs spurring me on was, “I’m Henry the Eighth I am”, the original one, by Herman’s Hermits. Oh, my heavens. I don’t think I have heard that song for decades.  As I listened, I was transported back to 8th grade. I could see all my former North Tama classmates climbing onto the buses which would take us to the school house in Dinsdale, Iowa, the site for our junior high. The trip was a fairly short and one we made regardless of the weather.

We would often sing as we rode down Highway 63. At least that is what I remember–the singing, talking and planning for the day ahead. As I thought about this, I couldn’t help but wonder how different that whole experience would have been if we were taking that same ride today. Would we even be talking to each other? Or would we all be in our own little spaces looking at our cell phones?

The other song that made me smile played shortly after that. As it began, I recognized it right away. I wanted to run over and turn it up. “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang. As this played out over the pool I saw an entirely different time in my life. I had “grown up” but I still had a lot of growing up to do. I had a precious group of friends who were also mostly co-workers. I was and am very lucky. This is something else that does not happen in today’s world. We worked and partied hard. Whenever we were together, this song playing often. As it played I would often declare it to be the song playing if I ever got married again.

Two very different songs that helped me remember two very special times in my life. I am grateful.

Because it’s Friday I am sharing my latest book. Setting Free The Kites, by Alex George.  It’s a story of two teenage boys, Robert Carter and Nathan Tilly. They meet on their first day of school in 1976. Their friendship is formed quickly by two tragic events.

What made this book important to me was one of the story lines. Robert’s brother, Liam, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Working in medical imaging, I had several patients over the years with muscular dystrophy. Reading about Liam, his bravery as he battled his disease, and the effects it had on his family was well done, enlightening, and heartbreaking.

Because the book impressed me, I want to share some snippets. With the nature of Liam’s disease, I don’t feel that I’m giving anything away.

Oh, Liam,” she whispered. “You were the best boy there ever was.” She kissed his cheek, breathing him in, baptizing him with her tears. But no matter how tightly she squeezed, how fiercely she clung, she could not hold on to him. 

Some time after that, we stumbled out into the rest of our lives. 

…On the window shelf was a half-drunk bottle of Gatorade and a paperback of The Great Gatsby…He had only made it halfway through. I wondered whether he had given up on it or if he’d been planning to finish it when he returned home from the hospital. 

There were unfinished stores everywhere.

For me, the book was perfect because I have been doing so much reflecting on my own childhood. The book is serious but also very funny and always entertaining. The characters in this book reminded me of many people from my own childhood. Grab it and travel back to the 70’s.

I am…

B…simply being…

Have a safe and restful weekend.

Love and peace, Y’all.


The Gentle Touch of God

I have never doubted the existence of God nor have ever questioned His sense of humor.

Let me share one of my stories that support my belief.

The summer before my senior year in high school, my friend, Laura, asked if I could take over a week of in home babysitting so she could go on vacation. I was beyond thrilled. The family lived in Iowa City but would come get me when they brought Laura home. The catch? Convincing my parents.  The only way this would ever happen was to pray for a miracle. That was no exaggeration.

I prayed and, to my surprise, God granted the miracle.

Norma, the mom, picked me up and I was on my way to Iowa City for a week. The best part was there were two days at the end of the week when Laura and I would be at the same time.

The first night we were together we decided to go out and explore the neighborhood. As we walked, we discovered a Goodwill box that was crammed full of clothes. It was too tempting to pass up. We crawled inside and started trying on clothes–it was like having our very own fully stocked dressing room. We found everything we needed. We could not wait to show Norma at breakfast the next day.

She was not pleased. In fact, she told us in no uncertain terms that we were thieves. Not only were we thieves, but we had stolen from GOODWILL. She was so angry with us. She was so deeply disappointed in us. We needed to take it all back immediately. She told us we should be ashamed of ourselves.

We were ashamed. Very ashamed.

Sobbing, we gathered up all our treasures and headed back to the donation box. On our way back we walked past the Catholic Church. I was still very upset so I asked Laura if she minded stopping.

We walked up the few steps and through the front doors. The air was cool and the wide open floor plan of the church was dark and comforting. As our eyes adjusted to the dim light, we found our way to the altar. Sitting close together, we talked to each other and to God. The tears started again as we told Him we had not meant to do anything wrong. For whatever reason, we did not see what we had done was stealing. In all honesty, we explained, we felt the two of us needed those clothes as much as anyone else did. We were sorry and asked for forgiveness. But most of all, we cried, could he please help Norma find a way to forgive us, too?

Time passed. We talked. We prayed. Slowly we noticed that the air in the church felt warmer, the silence less pressing. Smiling, tears drying, we shared an emotional hug. Turning to leave, a ray of sunshine topped the trees and illuminated the large stained glass window over the entryway of the church. As that beam of light angled towards us, a gust of wind caught the heavy front doors, slamming them open.

Holy Cow.

We each jumped off the altar, down the aisle, and out the door! We did not stop running until we were about a block from the church.

At the time, we did not know what had happened. Had God visited us in the church in Iowa City?

My heart says yes and my heart is so blessed by the memory.

I am…

B…simply being…



More From the Confessional

I shared my First Confession story yesterday. I’m not sure why I remembered so much about it. I think it was  because it happened during a very short time span when my life was “normal”. We were a typical Catholic family for the time. My Dad converted to the Catholic religion when he married my Mom. Mom helped me learn my prayers and made sure I had that special dress along with the extra special hair style for my all-important day. Father Lana was the first priest I was old enough to remember and was our parish priest for several years. Looking back, our parish must have been one of his first, if not his first assignment. I say this because many years later, he was the principal of the Catholic grade school my niece and nephew attended in Waterloo. This fact is just one example of how certain people have always been in my life–even if it has been very tangentially.

My other memorable confession story happened not long after my First Confession/Communion. We went to my grandparents for Easter. As every good Catholic knows, you have to go to confession before Easter. I was so excited because I was part of the “adult” group. Everyone got in the car and we drove to Sacred Heart, my grandparent’s parish, in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Okay–here’s the little detail I missed. It is one of the first and one of the most blaring examples of not knowing what you don’t know. I had only gone to confession at my little church. You remember, our little church that had one side for the priest, one side for the confessor. At this much bigger church, there were two sides to the confessional. It was like there was one “active” side and one side “in-waiting”. I never noticed. I was so nervous because I was about to tell some new priest my sins. What if he thought I was really bad? My whole entire family was with me–along with at least a hundred other people. I had to really get this one right.

It was my turn. I had my sins tallied and in order. I walked into the confessional, knelt, looked at the window, and began my confession. Sure, it all looked different but I expected that–that screen in front of me must be a lot thicker because I could not see the priest at all.


Oh no.

I looked up. I could now see a dim outline of the priest. He cleared his throat and asked me if I was ready to say my confession. Well, I thought to myself, hadn’t I just done that? They must do things differently here in Ft. Dodge. I told him I couldn’t think of anything.


He sighed. He told me that I needed to go back and examine my conscience some more so  I could come back and make a good confession.

I walked out of the confessional and back to the pew where I had just been a few minutes earlier. I thought and thought and thought. I was very confused.

I looked around to see my Dad looking at me. He came and sat beside me, whispering why I was still sitting there? I began my detailed story.  As my words spilled out, I could see him beginning to smile.  He was beginning to see exactly what had happened.

He put his arm around me and slowly turned me around, showing me the two sides of the confessional. He explained how it was different from what we had at home.

As an adult I can see this must have created quite a dilemma.  Does he send me back in line or does he tell me to say three Hail Marys and three Our Fathers and be done so we could all go home? He left the decision to me…

I scrambled back in line, completing one of my first lessons on how somethings are the same but different.

Yes, God certainly does have a very wicked sense of humor.

I am…

B…simply being…

May God continue to bless us all.

Love and peace, y’all.




Bless me, Father…

Memories. Lately they have flooded my head. Last night I woke up thinking about my First Confession and First Communion.

I was thrilled to see a picture of my First Communion survived all the moves I’ve made over the years. I’m thinking that in itself qualifies as an honest to God miracle.

This picture was taken at our house on first street in Traer, Iowa. My two sisters are standing with me, Beth on my right and Susan on my left. I was so proud of my beautiful dress, vail, and shoes! I felt like a princess, ruling the day to the max because I was literally the center of attention.

Growing up Catholic is a source of stories for many of us. My first confession was such a serious thing for me. I was going to have to remember all my sins, tell them all to the priest, and then try to not do them again. I agonized over how many times I disobeyed my parents. This was my first confession so this covered a LOT of time. How do you even count that many times? How many times had I been unkind to my sisters? I’m not sure I could even count that high.

Our parish Priest, Father Lana, talked with us that day as we formed a line beside the confessional. Father told us to do our best–that the number of times we sinned was not as important as being truly sorry for them. And, he said, with the grace of God, we needed to work hard so we did not sin again.

Well. That took some of the pressure off. I could ease up on the number deal and concentrate on my future. Still, I was thinking, this is going to be hard.

Father Lana lead our pre-confession prayers. He gave us all a final review as he entered  his side of the confessional. In our little church, there were only two doors, one for the priest, and one for the person making their confession. This was a detail I did not appreciate until I was much older.

The line progressed, each of us making our confession. While we waited I could see that some kids were super fast, others not so fast. This began to bother me. If I said all I had planned, I’d be in there a pretty long time–a lot longer than most of the kids ahead of me. I’d have to talk fast or change my confession. My mind was spinning and it was almost my turn. I could come back, right? If I’d forgotten something, I could say it next time–when there were not all the other kids watching…waiting.

It was my turn. I walked in and knelt before the little screened window. I heard the window open and I was asked if I was ready to make my first confession. I began, as I had practiced, bless me Father, for I have sinned. This is my first confession…

I told Father my sins and all the times I could remember committing them. When I’d been quiet for a few seconds, he asked me if I was done? Had I searched my soul and was this my best confession?  I hesitated. Had I forgotten something obvious? After some thinking, I replied, “Yes, Father.” He gave me my penance, three Hail Marys and three Our Fathers, and told me to say my Act of Contrition.

I completed my prayer. I’d done it! I’d made my first confession. My sins were forgiven. Three Hail Marys and three Our Fathers and that’s it. Much easier than I’d expected.

I thanked him and stood to leave. As I turned I heard Father Lana say, ” That was a very good first confession, Barbara. God bless you.”

Wait a minute.

My young mind was so surprised. How had he known who I was? I mean, confessions were top-secret. He was sworn to secrecy, right?

Oh, the sweetness of these innocent childhood memories.

I am…

B…simply being…

I wish you love and God’s blessings.









Stories–we’ve all got ’em.

I find it interesting so many are writing about their lives–the list of memoirs grows daily. My guess is they’ve always been there–I’ve just never noticed–I wasn’t ready.

The spark igniting my “getting ready” came unexpectedly. I was watching the Today Show one morning–actually paying attention instead of attempting to do something I am not good at–multi-tasking. One of the segments this particular morning was about Prince Harry and his support of Lady Gaga. They’re teaming up to help battle mental illness–Lady Gaga had recently gone public with her mental health issues as Harry opened up about the challenges he’s faced due to the tragic death of his mother, Diana.

I was quickly pulled into his story. If someone like Harry had such difficulty with the depth of resources he had, I suddenly had a very big ally and mentor. If he could openly discuss his mistakes and challenges, I began to believe I could, also.

Everyone knows the story of Diana’s death. As I watched and listened, I began to think about my life. I questioned if even I knew my story. This was the moment I began to write my story. It has not easy nor will it won’t be fast. It’s a tale that’s been buried for very long time.

As if to spur me on, I heard this morning that Prince Harry and his brother, Prince Charles, have done a documentary about the life of the Mom. This is the first time they have both talked openly about her. Yes. My mentors continue to cheer me on.

Katey Sagal talked about loss and grieving in her book, Grace Notes. She lost a baby very late in pregnancy. A baby she’d named, Ruby. Katey eventually found solace by way of a Buddhist teaching about young loss. Her words soothed me, comforted me, and gave me so much insight into many of my own struggles. I’ll share:

“Her purpose had been fulfilled in the short time she was here. 

Which meant I’d have to believe she was here for a “Purpose”. 

That we all are. 

I believe that. 

I don’t know that we always know what that purpose is, but I do believe we all have a destiny to be fulfilled. 

…it was explained to me that powerful souls come in and out of this life quickly, because their work here is done. They have passed on the lesson they were meant to pass on. Nothing left for them to do. With that concept in mind, I asked different questions. I had a shift in perception. 

Ruby was fierce. She did so much in her short stay.

She taught me I could hold more than I’d ever imagined I could. Her loss had let me revisit all that I had lost before her. My mom, my dad, my young self…They all showed up, unfinished, undone. 

I grieved. 

All of them.

All the sudden passings that I’d stuffed away.

She let me feel my strength. 

She confirmed my faith in something greater than myself. That God of mine got redefined, and my partnership renewed.”

Oh the teachers show up in the damnedest places sometimes!

I am…

B…simply being…

Love y’all.





Happy Friday

I feel I’ve been very serious this week so it’s time to change it up a little bit. Here’s what I found to help start off the weekend.

I’ve shared a few of my favorite books and here is another: The Lonely Hearts Hotel, by Heather O’Neill. This is a wonderfully written book. The subject matter is not my usual choice and there were times when I thought I could not/would not finish it. I am very glad I did. I must warn you, note the emphasis used here, there are parts of the book that may be upsetting and plain out-and-out offensive to some readers. My advice, give it time. Let it set in your head for a while. I did. I found I needed to let the story evolve and I needed to evolve along with it. It’s a detailed and involved story, taking place in Canada during the depression. Ms. O’Neill introduces her list of characters to us as they age, expanding and developing each characters individual and unique story. These people–characters in the truest sense of the word, are all interwoven together in ways that reminded me of an O’Henry short story. Her word choice and phrasing are so refreshingly original I found myself caught off guard at times. Some sentences I had to re-read and roll the words around in my head for a few minutes so I could fully appreciate the imagery and the simple power of them all.

You know by now that I usually have examples, so here are a few lines:

“…what happens when an unwanted child has an unwanted child?”

“Every day the average person will witness six miracles. But it isn’t that we don’t believe in miracles–we just don’t believe that miracles are miracles. There are so many miracles all around us.”

“He didn’t want to read the newspaper or listen to the radio anymore. He didn’t want to be a grown up. There are some people who are just no good at it.”

Have a great weekend. Take some time for yourself while staying safe and cool.

I am.

B…simply being…

I love you.





I have been reading a LOT lately.

I’d like to think that I read to learn something. I know better than that. I read so I can delay doing my own writing. Lately, the words do not come easily and I fumble with what and where I begin this and every story.

I finished Katey Sagal’s memoir, Grace Notes, this morning. I did not know who Katey Sagal was when I began this book. Now, I feel like I found an ally–a kind and warm confidant who knows and understands so many things–one of those people I mentioned yesterday–people you don’t have to say much because they just understand–they get it.

I loved her book. I took my time reading it. She joined me for morning coffee and in the evenings, she came by to talk as I had a glass or two of wine. I read her words very carefully. So many things were shared so openly and honestly. The two of us had many one on one therapy sessions. The book may be closed but those stories seem to have a life of their own.

Ms Sagal, I wish I could sit on my front porch with you. Tell you, face to face, how much you taught me while validating so many parts of my own story.

Thank you for writing your book. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. There are many powerful things I noted so I could think about them later. A few of the earlier notes/quotes:

“Growing up, I had found a way to survive the empty spaces in my family and in myself, to not look too closely at my external or internal circumstances.” 

“Act as if…God forbid somebody thinks I don’t know it all–constantly acting as if…”

“…I became a chameleon-like, morphing into what or who was in my world. Taking on the traits of others in hopes of bumping into me. As a result, for years, I thought I was you…”

“The cost of having a mother die too young and a father work too much. There is no one to mirror, and so you don’t know how to be who you are.” 

Yes, my friends, she pretty much nailed it.

I am…

B…simply being…

Love y’all.






Today has been a day to think. One that I think I’ll grab a tall glass of chilled white wine as I write about it.

Michael and I watched the first Cars movie a few days ago. I love that movie. Today we were on the way to an appointment and saw an old truck that looked just like Mater. Because Michael had just seen the movie, he pointed it right away. That just made me smile. It is just one of the best things about being with another person for a long time–you can share a lot of things without saying a lot of words. These days, I appreciate that more than I can even begin to share here.

Seeing the Mater look-alike made me think about my favorite quotes from that movie. Mater is talking to Lightening as he circles around him. McQueen is so impressed because Mater is going so fast and in REVERSE. The tone of admiration is lost on Mater. He replies: “Shoot, I don’t need to know where I’m going, I just need to know where I’ve been.”


I need to know where I’ve been. The more I remember, the more important remembering becomes to me.

I am enjoying looking back–most of the time.

The dynamic is very interesting–to say the very least. My working platform is based on memories from my very young and innocent self. This fact alone is a set up for some inner conflict because the so-called adult mind that is now working to de-code all of this is no longer young nor innocent.

Onward we go.

Day by day.

I am…

B…simply being…

Love and peace, y’all.




The Fourth of July, 2017

I know.

I said I was taking the day as my own Independence Day. That was true until I found the two quotes I am sharing with you today. Both gave me pause so I felt the need to share.

By the way, both read just as well tomorrow as today…just in case you did a better job of staying true to you own Independence Day!

The first quote is very simple and spoke to me immediately:

We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls. ~Robert J. McCracken

The second, took a while to read and even longer to fully appreciate:

Have you ever read the Declaration of Independence…? If you have, you will know that it is not a Fourth of July oration. The Declaration of Independence was a document preliminary to war. It was a vital piece of practical business, not a piece of rhetoric; and if you will pass beyond those preliminary passages which we are accustomed to quote about the rights of men and read into the heart of the document you will see that it is very express and detailed, that it consists of a series of definite specifications concerning actual public business of the day. Not the business of our day, for the matter with which it deals is past, but the business of that first revolution by which the Nation was set up, the business of 1776. Its general statements, its general declarations can not mean anything to us unless we append to it a similar specific body of particulars as to what we consider the essential business of our own day.
      Liberty does not consist, my fellow citizens, in mere general declarations of the rights of man. It consists in the translation of those declarations into definite action. Therefore… reading its business-like sentences, we ought to ask ourselves what there is in it for us. There is nothing in it for us unless we can translate it into the terms of our own conditions and of our own lives….
      The task to which we have constantly to readdress ourselves is the task of proving that we are worthy of the men who drew this great declaration and know what they would have done in our circumstances. Patriotism consists in some very practical things—practical in that they belong to the life of every day, that they wear no extraordinary distinction about them, that they are connected with commonplace duty. ~Woodrow Wilson, Presidential Address at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1914 July 4th

My wishes for a very safe and jubilant 4th of July.

I am…

B…simply being…

Peace and love to y’all.


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