A Booksom Babe Goodbye: We’ll Miss You, Diane!

Diane had stopped coming to our bookclub soon after her diagnosis. She’d had brain surgery and was on an intense course of chemotherapy. We were at a loss. Diane had been a “Booksom Babe” for 13 years. We loved her wit and her insights as we discussed literature, sipped wine and shared bits of our lives.

She is only 59, we lamented. She just retired from a successful career in nursing.

We felt numb and inadequate as we continued to meet as a bookclub the past 18 months without her.  Care baskets of hand lotions, cards, books, and food were assembled and delivered. Some of us wore tie-dye, psychedelic, cat tee-shirts and brought hand drums to cheer her in her living room. We wanted to make her laugh. We all wanted to forget for a little while.

Because there were few options available, Diane opted for experimental medicines. For a while, the tumor was at bay. We all were a little hopeful. Maybe she’d finally catch a break.

Though she never complained to our bookclub, we were fully aware of all she had endured in such a short time. She lost her husband to lung cancer in 2005. In the past year she’d lost her mother and then very tragically, her son. How did she manage to go on at all? Her wonderful 26-year-old daughter “A” was  her “rock”, she said. We marveled at the young woman with so much tragedy and weight on her shoulders.

The tumor came back with a vengence. Soon Diane was moved to Hospice care.

We kept up with her progress feeling all the more helpless. Some of the Babes brought meals to her daughter to warm up after long days at the Hospice center.

Then Diane died. We knew it was coming, yet I think we were all a little stunned. We’d lost book club members to moves or people opting out, but never to death.

Bookclub was scheduled at my house just two days later. I decided we’d still meet, though I wasn’t sure we’d actually talk about the book. Would we be grieving as a group, too distraught to discuss it? I prayed before the women came over that we would find comfort that night. The five who came over greeted one another with the usual hug, but then we each just shook our heads and sighed. As usual as we assembled in my kitchen around the counter. This time, we raised a glass to Diane.

As we sat in my living room,  we skirted around the topic of our own mortality. We vowed to travel more. Do the things we’ve been putting off. Ever a practical group, we brainstormed what might do in memory of Diane, and how we might help her daughter.

After a while, someone enthusiastically suggested we discuss the book. Everyone was up to it,  so we discussed it late in the evening. I don’t think we were being irreverent or callous.  At times of grief, I think people tend to grapple for normalcy. We’re a bookclub, so it was normal to discuss our book, even though Diane had just died.

After everyone left, I ran the night through my head. It was good to get together for bookclub, but I felt a little odd that no one cried.

A week later, four of us Babes attended Diane’s Celebration of Life. The priest remarked to the full church that we all “showed up” because Diane had showed up for so many throughout her life. Her daughter reinforced this in her eulogy giving poignant examples of Diane “being there.” Diane was there for A’s long recovery after her life-threatening ski accident.  Diane had argued with reluctant doctors that they needed to perform yet another surgery on A to alleviate her daughter’s constant pain. One time Diane called the high school where her step-daughter attended and demanded the girl be assigned a new partner to walk with in her graduation procession. The kid with whom she was originally paired had bullied her. As a Girl Scout leader, Diane jumped off a bus in Boston on scout field trip so she could apply her medical skills to a bicycle courier who was hit by a car. The list went on and on.

We Babes sat in renewed awe of this strong, vigilant woman we were proud to know and privileged to call a fellow Babe. Our hearts were burning at the total unfairness of her untimely death.

At the end of the service, people were filing out of the pews in an orderly fashion ahead of us making their way to the back of the church.

Suddenly, I didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye to Diane. She had been cremated and her beautiful pearl-colored urn sat on a small table surrounded by purple Irises at the front of the church.  I leaned to the Stacey on my right and told her I needed to go to Diane’s ashes.

“Do you want me to come with you?”

I said it was up to her, but I had to go. As I approached the table, sunlight streamed through the ceiling windows casting bright rays around Diane’s island-altar.

I rested my hand on the cover of the Diane’s cool, smooth urn and closed my eyes.  I thanked God for the privilege of knowing this awesome woman. Then I whispered “Goodbye.”

At that moment, I felt a warm hand atop of mine. I opened my eyes and saw it was Stacey’s. She had decided to go against the tide and join me. My throat tightened and I started to shake.

I opened my eyes a second time and saw that Ann and Theresa had now joined us. Through bleary eyes, I gazed down at the pile of Babes’ hands stacked on Diane’s urn. Ann’s hand was on top of  Stacey’s, and Theresa’s hand on top of Ann’s. This impromptu gesture of solidarity, collective loss and admiration hit us hard in our hearts, right then  and there at Diane’s urn.  We were crying as we turned to make our way down the aisle toward the receiving line.

Debit Card Debacle: Charged Over $300 on My Neighbor’s Plastic!

My long-time neighbor and friend Jane and I had just finished a golf lesson and headed to the nearby 19th hole for a pint. We paid our respective bills each sliding the waitress our same-bank debit cards. The next day, I handed the debit card to our garage guy to pay a $300 repair bill on our truck. Card slides, I sign, I stick in wallet. Next I met a niece and paid plastic for my $3.29 frozen coffee. Card slides, no pin/no sign, I stick in wallet.
Later that afternoon on a top secret beer run for my husband (he had just been alerted in an exclusive email that a select brand that had just come in at a local beer cave), I pulled out the card to make that purchase. Card slides, I put in pin—DENIED! The familiar lady behind the counter politely said, “Oops, it says the pin number doesn’t match.”
“Huh?” I went over four digits in my head. “It’s my card…” Then I looked at the slightly scratched name on the rejected card. Jane ______! Not Tanja!
“@#$!” Then out loud, “OMG! It’s my friend’s card!” Then, I when it dawned on me that I had just paid the $300 truck repair bill on HER CARD, I really let out an exasperated OMG!
The counter woman sort of laughed. I gained enough of my senses to write a check for the coveted, designer beer (good wifey), but I lost it in the car! What if my running Jane’s card to the tune of $300 plus dollars set off a chain of bounced withdrawals on her end? I knew there’d be a $29 penalty on each botched transaction! Ca-ching! Ca-ching! Ca-ching!
Stressed and more than a little embarrassed, I dialed Jane. She took the news with an initial “OMG!” Then her usual calm self, “It should be alright, I have enough in there.”
“Oh, Jane, I am so sorry! I will go straight to the bank and pull out the $310 and drive it right over to you!”
“Or you can just write me a check and I will cash it tomorrow,” she said.
I called my husband who was working an overtime shift. He just laughed at first, but then,”Did you get the beer?” Man!
I drove down the street to the now-closed bank and actually walked half way up the sidewalk to the ATM before I realized, I can’t pull the money out! I don’t have MY ATM card, Jane has it!
By the end of the day, we were able to reimburse Jane the truck repair and coffee in cold, hard cash. She and her husband were very good natured about it. Lesson learned. Check to make sure YOUR name is on YOUR card before running it all over the place! Do you have a similar story?
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50 Things I’ve Come To Know in 50 Years

Fifty things I know as I turn fifty today, 2/25/15:

1. I am loved

2. I believe in a merciful God

3. I feel the power and presence of Jesus in my daily walk

4. I have come a long, long way in my healing

5. I am so much more centered than in my 30s and 40s

6. I have been forgiven

7. I have forgiven

8. I still need to forgive

9. I know the answer is always “no” if you don’t ask

10. I have confidence to speak up and am learning when it is better to just keep quiet

11. I have learned not to waste my time with negative people

12.  I need to give negative people and situations over to God to protect myself… from myself

13. I am still deeply in love with the man I met and married

14. I am blessed to have been able to balance work and spend so much time with my children as they were growing up

15. I am probably always going to be my current size and weight and have embraced it

16. Walking is my best defense to maintain #15

17. Dairy Queen chocolate dipped in chocolate cones are the best treat on Earth

18. One of the best places in the Universe is in the arms of my husband

19. Cuddling on the couch often beats going out

20. Laughing my head off with good friends is one of my very favorite pastimes and something I need to do so much more of

21. Encouraging people brings me joy

22. Sometimes I just have to write (ugly journaling) or I will lose my mind

23. Creative writing is like free-falling and eating a chocolate dipped in chocolate

24. It is important to celebrate my heritage, all sides

25. It is important to honor friends and relatives—living and passed

26. Having reunions—especially with live music—is restorative on many levels

27. I know that I am letting go more, prioritizing what or who is important

28. Moderation in everything makes everything more enjoyable

29. I don’t need to drink to have a blast

30. I never need to over-drink ever again

31. Sipping from a small glass of irish whiskey on the rocks that we brought home from Ireland is exquisite

32. I am supported by good women friends

33. I have been blessed with particular women prayer warriors who hold me up, and I them

34. I love to pray for people

35. I rejoice in answered prayers or blatant or subtle evidence of God’s hand in  situations

36. I love God as my Heavenly parent and finally feel I can climb on His lap and have him stroke my hair

37. I am excited for today

38. I am excited for my future

39. I am grateful

40. I know it is important to carve out trips for my husband and I to take now

41. I am humbled that America is not the center of the Universe

42. I love finding and playing records and jamming on my air guitar

43. It is important to keep learning

44. It is important to take up a new sport or hobby (golf!)

45. I want to write to raise people up, show love, praise God

46. I love my humble, 70s raised ranch

47. I like my funky green Fiesta that gets 40 MPG

48. I love making chocolate chip cookies for people

49. I like where I am at age 50

50. I am not afraid

Enjoy “Wild Wild Life” by The Talking Heads  

“I’m wearin’ Fur pyjamas

I ride a Hot Potata’
It’s tickling my fancy…

“Angel Feather” at My Women’s Fire Circle

I was drawn to a sample drum circle at the Haddam River Days event last September. Sitting before a l waist-high djembe drum amongst mostly children I soon mimicked the simple beats laid down by the women. “I like peanut butter- I like peanut butter.” The beat shifted to more complicated but still easy rhythms. I zoned and stayed at the circle for over a half hour.
The women handed me a flyer and encouraged me to join one of the local drum group. Yes! I would get myself to a circle—and soon!
Almost a year had passed and though I thought about it, I never got to a group. It had been in the back of my mind and was brought to the fore when my friend “D” and I were talking bucket lists. D said she and her partner wanted to try drumming and she asked if i could help them find a circle. D is in late stages of cancer and time literally is of the essence.
I called the number on the flyer but there was no answer. I surfed the web but couldn’t find anything local or soon. I began asking around. A lead from a woman from my church who is a massage therapist pointed me to a shop The New Pagenew page. I called and spoke to a very friendly proprietor, Yvette.I explained my friend’s situation and if she knew anyone anyone who facilitated women’s drum circles, who might make a house call. She told me to call her associate Tala. What a great and open soul! Sight unseen, Tala, a certified Sound Healer, not only would come to my house for a drum circle, but she would taylor it to a healing and energy circle in honor of D. She would also bring a friend, Lindsay, a fantastic drummer and photographer.
I would make the fire in my yard–tinder, kindling and fuel, no paper or accelerants, and w one match ala Girl Scouts! Tala would bring a singing bowl, some rattles, and drums. I would loan out my Tom toms, maracas, etc. I decided
to buy a small djembe of my own.
I thought and prayed about the drum circle and who to invite- mostly people who knew D, but a few others I thought would be a good fit. Each woman was to bring a special item from her own yard to put into the fire as an offering—flowers, sage, a stick, etc.

D and I were in steady contact growing more and more excited for this fire circle event. She did a ton of researching on line for djembes and Tom toms. She purchased a set of each for her partner and they were miraculously delivered the day before the circle.
The day of the circle arrived. Sadly, D was having a very bad day and she told me she and S could not make it after all. My heart was sad. I thought about postponing, but know how hard it is to get nine committed friends plus Tala and Lindsay to find a new date. We decided to have the circle in D’s honor and for individual benefits anyway.
I met Tala and Lindsay in my cul de sac that night and experienced their warmth and kindred spirits immediately. Tala gave me a full, soulful hug as though we had known each other for years!
The women were milling around the fire pit as Tala and Lindsay set up their bowls, bells, rattles, and drums. While I was bringing out last minute refreshment items for after the drumming, a white, fluffy feather (not from the typical northeastern birds) floated down by the circle between Cathy, Brenda, and Erin! The three women stopped mid conversation to marvel and retrieve it. It was immediately identified as an “angel feather.” We all got the chills and felt its surprising appearance as something spiritual. A hello from someone departed? A presence? Someone gave the feather to Tala who stowed it in red velvet bag with her gems.
I will write more about the actual 2.5 hour drumming experience,but will for now stick w the feather…
At the end of the night as we were standing around the goodie table, the consensus was to give the feather to D. Tala put a piece of flint that had been carved into a heart-shape she acquired from her friend’s sacred land in Arizona (?) to present to D. Some of us talked about going to her house for a “flash mob” drum circle when she rallies. We will see. I took the satchel and promised to bring it to her ASAP.
D called me the next morning. Thankfully she was feeling a lot better. I gave her a play-by-play of the night, and how we were thinking of her and sending her love and energy. I told her about the “angel feather.” “That was me!” She said, almost matter of fact. She said she had planned to bring one of her precious feathers to the fire as an offering. woh! I told her how the women wanted her to have it. She said she would keep it with her sacred treasures and plans to have it on the altar at her memorial service.
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