Sunday, July 24, 2016

Uncle Doug

I’ve been meaning to do this post for awhile. In fact about two months ago my mom had shared on Facebook one of writings from a few years ago and my Uncle Doug had commented that he wished I would start up again. And I meant to – mainly for him because I knew he wasn't feeling great and I thought he might appreciate it - but, I didn’t. Then he went into the hospital and I thought, “I know, maybe to lift his spirits I should write a blog post for him” and I meant to but, I didn’t. And then he was in so much pain that I thought well, even if he can’t really even hear or pay attention to a post of me babbling on about him, maybe I should just write it and put it into the universe. And I meant to but, I didn’t. And then it was over. He was over. So, this is belated to say the least.

Picture this: Me at fourteen, semi-moody - alright, totally moody - and having just said goodbye to my mom and brother for presumably ever. We had just finished moving them to an apartment in the Bay Area so that my mom could take a new job. My brother, Ted was in junior high and had agreed to go with her. I didn’t want to leave my friends so, our solution was for my family leave me in Fresno. My mom arranged it with my grandma and grandpa so that I could live with them and stay at Edison. It was hard to have the three of us split up. This was my core, my nucleus, and it was all coming apart – my own doing, mind you – but, I was feeling alone. Anyway, Uncle Doug (among others) had helped Mom and Ted move and so, it was him that I rode back to Fresno with. We’re in his truck on the I-5 and it was hot, I think. We talked about whatever. And then at one point, he turns on Harry Chapin and starts singing to me. What adult thinks that playing Harry Chapin for a moody teenager is a good idea? And I don’t mean to imply that I am special or different or whatever but, really, what fourteen year old is going to hear Harry Chapin and go, “Yes, I love it!” but, I did. I did then and I do today. That day – that three hours – that was a gift to me and one that I have never forgotten. I felt cared for in a time when I was pretty down.

Uncle Doug always did nice things for me when I was going through tough times. Most recently when I had my pacemaker surgery, he and Aunt Laura brought me Starbucks in the hospital and a meal from Tahoe Joe’s when I got home. And all the way back to the first time I was in the hospital in Kansas he sent me a Best of Kate Wolf CD. The Kate Wolf CD was good but, more than that it got me started on a mini-folk music journey. Mark and I eventually went to the Kate Wolf Music Festival in Sebastopol which was a unique experience itself. I guess I just don’t know if I would have ever done that without the initial listen from Uncle Doug. He never sent me a Gordon Lightfoot CD which would have been taking it a bit too far, I think; he knew the limit!

He was always quick to celebrate my accomplishments. For my college graduation he sent me very beautiful flowers which I can still picture with a note saying how proud he was of me. He gave high praise the couple of times that I put myself out there and sang in public. Technically, even when it wasn’t in public and even when Ted and I sounded fairly terrible in our own homes, he shared videos like we were incredible musicians!

He helped me make a pinhole camera in elementary school when neither I nor my mom had an idea what to do for a science project. In high school he helped me make an electro magnet. He let me use his computer with whatever program pre-dated AOL so that I could get on the internet and chat with boys (Ok, I don’t know if he actually knew that is what I was doing but, it wasn’t like people chat now. It was more like pen-pals)

He tested the duct work when we got our first house to see that the cold air wasn’t leaking much.

He bought me the jewelry box that sits on my dresser.

He loved my kids. I mean like really loved them. I used to get excited calls around Christmastime for either an opinion on a purchase or just a head’s up if it was something that he knew was right for them. The rug in Merrill’s room, a sweet little Frozen necklace, Jack’s bow and arrow, Lego sets, cookbooks – he was always trying to get my kids just what they wanted.

He picked Merrill up once from school this year and offered no more than two months ago to take Jack to the family’s Saturday morning breakfast tradition whenever he wanted to go.

He wasn’t just generous with my kids, mind you. All kids got great gifts from Uncle Doug! He really loved showering them with presents that he took time to pick out.

Two Sundays ago he said he didn’t want any more treatment. The room was crowded with people who loved him. On Monday, when I arrived at the hospital shortly after he had passed, the room was crowded with people who loved him. Do I regret not properly say goodbye? Maybe. I mean, I had planned to, once he got to hospice, once there were few enough people that I could ask to have the room for a minute and maybe just have mom and Aunt Laura in there. But, it might have been too late for him to hear me then anyway. And I might have been – no, I would definitely have been- a blob of tears and snot and he probably didn’t really need to see that as one of the final views of the world. Either way, lessoned learned.

I guess I’m just glad that I was there, glad that I was around for some of the last little bit. I’m glad that he came to hear me sing just three weeks before he died. I am glad that he had good brothers and a good sister and that they were there for him. I am most of all glad that he had someone to share his life with because being married is hard but, worth it and in the end, no one knows you like your spouse.

So, that’s kind of it, I guess. There are more stories and things but, I think this gives you the general idea. He was a special. I think he made a lot of people feel special.

I tell my kids something at night which they hate but, I love and so, I’ll leave you with it now as a final reflection on what it means to be alive and part of this crazy world.
“You are precious and more loved than you will ever know”

Saturday, October 12, 2013


I love the cycle of emotions that comes with the long term listening of a great album.  You start out with a couple of favorite songs that you've quickly established are the "best" songs.  And so, time goes by and you listen to the  album, and you listen again, and you listen dozens of time.
And then, something funny happens - you get a new favorite.  And it goes on and on until the songs are so familiar to you that eventually, they cease to become as special.  So, you don't listen for awhile and then you can love it all over again.  

Southeastern by Jason Isbell is so simple yet so great.  His personal struggles are laid out in a way that is honest and universal.  And kind of country but, not exactly.  This album has been out for several months and I've enjoyed it so, so much.  Truly.   
I've enjoyed "Different Days" the whole time but, now it's one of my favorites.

So thankful to be able to enjoy music and to have been introduced to the work of this creative man.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Day 27 - Rumple

Tonight I hit the hay happy.  But, my brain wouldn't shut down and I thought I had this good idea for this blog post.  It wouldn't leave me alone so I got myself out of bed and headed to the computer.

I wrote for a good long while - and I read it and re-read it quite a few times.  It went from sounding pretty good to sounding like absolute poop.  I will have to read it again tomorrow to see if I can salvage any part as something I would post.

In the meantime I thought I would share with you what my inner voice of self doubt sounds like.  Whenever I know I am sounding whiny, preachy, retarded, or even so sincere that it begins to sound phony, the voice I hear in my own head making fun of myself is Rumple from Shrek.  I can hear him reading this now.

It's sort of tough to operate on a day to day basis with this voice in your head.  I hear a lot of "blah biddy blah" - that's what he thinks of most of what I say.  "Blah biddy blah, my life is so hard.  Blah biddy blah my kids are so amazing.  Blah biddy blah, I'm Leslie and I pretend I can write."

So, there you go.  I guess this isn't really a gratitude post.  Screw it.

Blah biddy blah, goodnight.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Day 27 - The Way Down

It's funny how at one time you can look at the scale and see a number and say, "Wow, this number is horrible and I feel horrible and woe is me," and then some time later when you've weighed more than that for awhile and are finally trying to get yourself to a non-miserable weight, you can look at the same exact number and say, "Damn, I feel pretty awesome! Good for me!"  The number on the scale on the way down looks so much better than the number on the way up. 

So here's to the way down for me, my husband, and a couple of my friends.  May we all keep it up!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day 26 - Remembering Taylor

There is no time like 1:30 am, when you’ve woken up to go pee to realize that you totally messed up by volunteering to change your schedule on a day when you already had plans. There is really not much you can do about it until the morning so it just sort of eats you up and twists up your stomach for a while. The good news is that this is my first serious round of insomnia in a while.

So, while lying there I started thinking about where I was two years ago. This next week in 2009 was a time of joy and a time of loss. There was so much to be grateful for. I am going to take a stab at a little slice of this today.

Two years ago I was huge. There was a little girl inside of me that I had only seen through an ultra sound. I didn’t know much about her other than she didn’t seem to keep a regular sleep schedule and that she was a mover and a shaker! My due date was December 17th and I was hoping to be on time if not a few days early. I was ready for her to get out of my belly!

On the 16th my mom had taken our family dog to the groomers to get a bath and a nice trim before the Christmas. But something happened there and when she brought Taylor home, she couldn’t walk. My mom spent the rest of the night trying to help her but, was pretty sure that Taylor would not recover. So, on the morning of the 17th, my brother, his wife, my Mom, my Grandma, and I all spent our last few hours with our faithful companion before having her put to sleep. A sad day.

Taylor was a gift to me from my brother, Ted, on my 19th birthday (August 13, 1994 for those of you keeping track). I was working at Miller’s Outpost in Manchester Mall back when it was a cool place to work. And so, standing there in my jeans, tucked in shirt, and belt that undoubtedly matched my shoes, I saw my brother and his girlfriend walk in through the door carrying a paper sack. As he placed the sack on the glass top of a rounder of Anchor Blue clothes I could see that it was moving. Inside was this amazingly cute furball of a puppy! She was so tiny! I really, really liked her instantly and I took my 10 minute break to hang out with them. One of the hardest things to do is to go back to work knowing that there is a freaking adorable puppy at your house waiting to play with you. Time went by very slowly that day.

If memory serves I think we might have had a night at home without my mom. Little did I know that my mom wasn’t exactly “in the loop” on the “og-day ituation-say”. In fact, she claims that Ted asked her and she said that we could NOT have a dog. He remembers that she said that they would “talk about it”. Either way, he may have ignored her and poof – we had a dog. My mom came home from work the next day to find an empty house, which she expected, with a tiny puppy, which she did not expect, peeking out to greet her. I laugh when I imagine this happening!

Taylor ended up breaking two major Cindy Barnard rules. We were taught from an early age to never get a female dog. This is going to sound sad but we actually had to take a dog back to the Long’s Drugstore parking lot where people had been giving away puppies because the people lied to us and said it was a boy when it was actually a girl. There were no boys left so we went without a dog for awhile. And then there was Baby but, that’s another story. Anyway, we had a girl dog but, there were never any puppies as we followed Bob Barker’s instructions and had her fixed!

Taylor spent the summer of 1995 swimming. She was reluctant at first but, we lured her in the pool with weenies. By then end of her first summer she was a swimming fool. Taylor’s favorite thing to do in the whole wide world was go swimming. I mean she LOVED it. Unfortunately, she loved it so much and ran around the pool so often that she actually ran the pads off of her feet. She was sort of insane too because she absolutely would not jump in the pool unless someone had thrown a ball for her. So she would bark or cry at you until you did; that part was sort of annoying. Then she would run around the pool multiple times to make sure she jumped from the best angle. Overall, my best times with Taylor were spent in the pool. Somehow we figured it out so that I would jump in the pool and throw the ball at the same time. Then I would hang out underwater at the bottom until I heard her splash in. Then, she would circle at the top with ball in mouth waiting for me to come up. Once I came up from the water, the race was on! She was a great swimmer.

The second Cindy Barnard rule that Taylor broke was that she ended up becoming an inside dog. When I left in January of 1996 to do a semester in London, Taylor was an outside dog. I mean, she would come in and hang out with us but when we were not home she was outside. She slept outside. But, my mom bought a new house while I was gone and there was no landscaping in the backyard. Things were always muddy out there so my mom ended up breaking her own rule and let Taylor become an inside dog. We were all happy with this decision.

For the most part, Taylor was to be trusted as an inside dog alone in the house. Yes, she chewed the cover off of Ted’s autographed Angels baseball. Yes, she would dig into the bathroom trash and pull out used feminine hygiene products. Yes, she would lay on the couch when she thought that no one was home. But, Taylor was such a loving dog that it sort of made up for the shenanigans. At the same time she was sort of fierce and I always felt safe with her. Standing at about 20 inches toes to ear tips and weighing about 40 or 50 pounds, she guarded the house with all her might! When that doorbell rang – lookout! She would go crazy. Even if she could see that she knew you and even if she heard your voice. Talk about a Pavlovian response! Lookout pizza man!

When my Grandma moved in with my mom, Taylor came to know even more creature comforts. My grandma would seriously buy Taylor her own nuggets when she went to a fast food restaurant. Of course, Gram would call Taylor a “he” when she really was a “she” and nearly got us to do the same but, in the end the two of them spent a lot of time together and became close.

Taylor was not injury prone but she did have a couple of issues. She was bit by a spider above the eye and spent a few days looking like Rocky Balboa. In her old age another dog took a chunk out of her back. But, she recovered from both and even seemed to more energetic when she would recover.

We believe Taylor to have been a lesbian which is fine. We are a progressive family. She hated bicycles, skateboards, the vacuum cleaner, singing through wrapping paper rolls, the Jaws theme on the guitar, UPS men, and anybody working at a drive through. She loved swimming, chasing balls, chasing me around the couch, French kissing Utah, having her belly rubbed, and lox and bagels.

It was sad that Merrill never got to play with her because she loves dogs. I worried that my sadness on that day would somehow transmit to Merrill in-utero. If it did, you couldn’t tell. She was a pretty content baby.

There is so much more I could say about Taylor and her funny ways and sometimes neurotic behaviors. She was a such sweetie. A short legged, perky eared, big brown-eyed, stout little sweetie.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day 25 - Letting Go of What Cannot or Should Not Be

Today I started thinking about things that I will never do.
When you are young there are so many possibilities. The choices are daunting, really. You feel like you are good, or could be good, at everything and the world becomes a dizzying place as no clear cut path is laid out before you. As you get older doors close and you come to realize that there are things you will never do. Mostly, I am fine with all the things that I did not choose to do or be in life. I am comfortable with my choice to drop out of KU and return to Fresno. I am happy that I didn't move to another city and miss meeting Mark. I like the life that I have. And time passes this way and one by one the possibilities drift away. You change and the things that seemed important, exciting, or fun, change too. I have come to realize that I am now a worry wart. I didn't used to be. I'm not sure I can ever be less of one than I am now.
Some things I will never do because I am too scared; some because I'm too lazy. You might argue that some are still technically "possible" and, they might be but, today I reflect on things that I have let go*. I am at peace with them.
Things I will likely never do:
Own a baseball team
– I can’t imagine a scenario where this would happen. It would be cool though, and I would not be like the lady from Major League and try to move the team to Miami. Although, I might send a cardboard cutout of myself to the team. Unfortunately, I might have to make it backwards – lose a game peel a sticker off.
Win a shopping spree – A childhood dream. I can remember walking down the aisles of Toys R Us and wanting so desperately to throw everything in my cart. Who wouldn’t love a shopping spree? But, I don’t enter contests anymore so, this is really impossible.
Hike alone in the woods – I love the idea of the peace and solitude that a solo hike would provide but, I am such a scardy cat. What if a bear attacked me? I would be so worried and panicked the entire time that I wouldn’t enjoy my hike.
Skydive – Bungee jumping totally ruined this for me. Now I know how fast you really fall and, while it was certainly adrenaline-inducing, I don’t know that I would enjoy that feeling for an extended period of time. Plus, I’m a mom now and it seems less than ideal to jump out of a plane.
Write a novel – I have neither the skill nor the patience for this but it would be fun anyway.
Direct a movie – Not happenin’. Bummer. This was my big plan when I dropped out of school. Then we got two dogs that needed a yard and decided to stay in town.
Be in a musical – My particular wish was to play Rizzo in Grease but I would take any role really. I think it would be fun to sing and act on stage. I like to think that if I get brave in my old age I could go try for Roger Rocka’s but, I really don’t see me following through with this.
Go deep sea fishing – Again, there is potential here but I am so worried about getting seasick that I am just not sure I can bring myself to do it.
Drink whiskey – I would like to be a girl that is cool and tough and can drink a man’s drink. I’m not. I never will be.
Get a tattoo – I think I missed the window on this one. At 36 there is no statement that I would want to make with a tattoo on my body. I wouldn’t mind some little symbol or something but the only way I could see this happening is if the next thing comes true.
Look like Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. Bad ass. – Then I could get a tattoo and freaking go hiking by myself because I could kick a bear’s ass. And I would carry a gun and know how to use it. In fact, this one might be the key to all of the others.
Be a contestant a game show – I would really take any game show at this point. I just want to go on one. But, Wheel of Fortune won’t have me and I’m only smart enough for Teen Jeopardy.
Have a cool accent - It's a jolly oliday with you butt. You know what I mean?
Smoke using a cigarette holder - But, smoking is dangerous and certainly unbecoming no matter how neat the holder looks.
Know the difference between an outfit looking funky or looking stupid – I have never had the ability to distinguish between these two things. I pick a funky sweater and it just looks like a grandma sweater.
Let my hair grow down to my butt (or beyond) – Inspired at an early age by Crystal Gayle, I just think this would be neat. I would feel like Rapunzel.
Swim in an official competition with goggles and a cap – I was always too chicken to sign up for swimming in High School and I have regretted it ever since. You can’t go back in time and change things.
Surf – 1. I am now afraid of Riptides. 2. I am afraid of sharks. 3. I don’t have very good balance. But again, if I looked like Sarah Connor…
Travel with a band – Not as a groupie. Not about sex. I just want to hit the road and follow a band for a summer because it sounds cool. At this point I would either pick The Avett Brothers, Ryan Adams, Greg Brown, or maybe the Dave Matthews Band but, I am sort of getting over them.
Drop out and live on a beach in Mexico – This sounds like a better idea than it actually is, I’m sure.
Find me a cool rider – Well, I won’t be finding any more men and I absolutely wouldn’t want my husband to start riding a motorcycle because they are super dangerous but, it’s sort of a remnant of a dream from teenage years; a result of watching too much Grease 2.
Participating in the World Poker Tour –Because it’s not that complicated of a game and because I think the announcers could give me a cool nickname and persona.
Hitting a home run – God, that must feel nice!
Being able to wear anything in public without a bra and have it look sexy not ugly – Long have I been jealous of girls who can do this. Blah. This is not a weight thing so I’m not sure going full out GI Jane would help me on this one. Only a boob job would fix this and I am not sure if I actually had ten grand that I would spend it on this.
Things I am still holding out hope for:
Ride a horse on the beach
– I should be able to do this. Again, a remnant of a childhood dream. Not sure what movie I saw this in but it seems like I have wanted to do this for as long as I can remember.
Write a hit song, or at least a song that gets recorded – This might require me actually sitting down with the guitar or at the piano on a regular basis. Right now I can’t seem to make the time for it.
Wearing my bathing suit in public and not being totally mortified – Potential New Year’s resolution? I would love to take the kids to a water park.

* This is not a bucket list

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day 24 - My Momma

How do I adequately express gratitude for my mom? I am so grateful for her but, to suppose that my words, my little blog, could even begin to encompass what I feel – the notion is ridiculous. I can’t imagine that I will do her justice but, since I sort of need to finish what I started, I am going to try.

So, here are a few things to love and admire about my mom.

She does. Yes, she does. Does what, you may wonder? Whatever she decides. When my mom knows that something should be done, she does it. There are few things that stand in her way. The obstacles that you or I see in front of us seem like child’s play to her. It’s not that the obstacles aren’t really there, it’s just that somehow, with her in charge, they seem to get out of the way. When she’s on a mission that’s what happens.

We moved about once a year when I was a kid. And when my mom would decide that it was time to move she would spend precisely one day looking for a new house or apartment. Boom. Done. And we moved. She does quickly. She does well. This is why she is amazing at her job no matter what her job is!

My mother is strong. And because her strength has been born within me and because she has nurtured that strength within me my whole life, I forget that in reality it is exactly that - her strength. I forget that it is a strength that has its origin outside of me because I use it constantly - every day I live.

My mother radiates energy for those around her. If you know my mother at all you know that there is not a single doubt that if you needed her she would be there. Upon making a connection with my mom you are bound to her – in a good way. She does not know selfishness. It’s amazing and strange but she really doesn’t. She only knows giving. She is just like the Giving Tree… “Take my branches to make a house.” And at the end, when all seems gone except the stump, the tree offers what she can which is still completely what is needed. She never quits giving. And I don’t mean material things, although she gives those too. I mean she gives of herself. What she has, the light, the strength, the knowledge, the intuition, all of those things are yours and mine because she does not hide them. She showers them upon us all!

Anyway, I don’t really know if I’m done or how to wrap this up but I am just beyond fortunate to have been born the daughter of Cindy Barnard. Her love has guided me through my life so far and I count on it to be there for me, always. So thank you Mom. You are amazing.