As you can see, I haven't been active on this blog for quite some time. Anyone looking for me is invited to join me at http://barbgibson.x.iabc.com. Or find me on Twitter @Barb_G .
As a teenager, I was what was known as a PK -- a Preachers' Kid (and before the grammarians start shaking their heads, the plural possessive is correct, both my parents were ministers). It was a strange world to grow up in, very controlling and overwhelming and righteous. Perhaps that's why I tend to delight in all things irreverent (things my mother would call blasphemous). In 8th grade, I went swimming with Terry Tipton in the baptismal pool in the church where we went to Christian school. As a protest against the line in the Pledge of Allegiance that says "one nation under God" (whatever happened to separation of church and state?), I always say "one nation under Bob."
So this morning as my husband Andrew was getting ready to go to a morning chapel service, part of the annual Founders' Day celebration at the school where he teaches, he was telling me about the various traditions the day would entail. First, he and several friends would meet for breakfast as they always do before the Founders' Day service. "There's the sweepstakes," he said, "and the teachers process into the abby in our robes and hoods, in order according to length of tenure..."
"Wait, sweepstakes?" I asked. Even though it's Church of England and therefore foreign to me, completely different from the Oklahoma pentacostal world of my parents, I couldn't imagine where gambling fit in. "What's the sweepstakes?"
"On the length of the sermon," he said. "We all place bets on how long it will be. The head of the history department is the official timekeeper. The person who gets closest to the time wins 20 quid."
What a fabulous idea, I thought. I imagined how much money I could've made, how much boredom might have been alleviated, if we'd had such a sweepstakes going for every sermon when I was growing up. Instead of rolling eyes and passing notes back and forth among friends, we'd have had something to root for. And God would be horrified! Or at least my parents would. Which I guess ultimately was the point of my rebellion.
In case anyone is wondering, Andrew got home a few minutes ago. He didn't win. He'd had 12 minutes 30 seconds (clearly this is the religion to grow up in, our sermons used to last more than an hour!), and "the bugger ended it in under seven minutes!" I'm also happy to report no one was struck by lightning coming out of the service.
All my pets have had food names, except one. I won't get into the possibly deep psychological reasons behind that (ok, but only briefly: to me food is love, see the daddy post to understand why). It started with Beans, the Beagle. Then Beans got a little sister, a Yorkie, and I named her Jelly (get it?). I actually wanted to get a weeney-dog and call it Frank, but that didn't work out. Later, I had a cat named Sushi (after her favorite food, naturally). Then a tiny teacup Poodle, named Noodles. Anyway, two and a half years ago, when Andrew and I got our first dog together, a Westie, we decided to break the naming convention and name him Noggin. Any carpenters out there will recognize that as the name for the bit of wood that goes cross-ways between two uprights in the wall. There was also a children's cartoon character in the UK called Noggin the Nog, so it seemed to fit to have Noggin the Dog. We returned to the food-name tradition with our latest Westie puppy, Muffin.
Ok, so where's the coincidence, you ask? I was just doing a Google search on Noggin (because of course he has his own story blog, The Spectacular Adventures of Noggin & Izzy, and I like to see how they come up in the search engines), and I found a site called Noodle Noggin & Bean, and realized for the first time that all three words are sometimes used for brain. So maybe there was an even deeper psychological thingy going on!
I got caught doing something slightly embarassing while driving again the other day. It's become such a habit, almost a reflex, that I forget that others might see and wonder what I'm doing, wonder if I'm crazy. You see, I was throwing a bubble, a protection bubble actually, at a passing motorcyclist. Ah, now you're wondering too, so I'd better explain...
I'm not a great driver, or at least I don't like driving, and I get lost a lot. Mostly, it's an attention-span issue, I get bored and start thinking about something else, or singing (imagine "Me and Bobby McGee" belted out at top volume, with the convertible top down), and I forget where I'm going. Learning to drive on the other side of the road when I first moved to the UK didn't help, and the behaviour of motorcyclists, driving between traffic lanes at high speed, made me a nervous wreck. I was afraid I'd change lanes and take one out. So one rush-hour last year, after about the fiftieth one whooshed by, an idea flitted through my head. In kind of the same way that you say "bless you" when someone sneezes, I'd start throwing imaginary bubbles of protection at motorcyclists. Not that I'm superstitious, or think I have magical powers, but it seemed like a way of channelling positive thought vibes in their direction, which couldn't hurt. So I started throwing bubbles, at first surreptitiously, then without thought.
The technique I developed looks a bit like making a loose fist, then quickly spreading all the fingers, as if flicking water off the tips. It's been mistaken for a wave more than once. To do it properly, the cyclist must be in my line of sight, and if someone is driving really erratically, or traffic or the weather is particularly bad, sometimes I'll send two for extra protection.
I know it's all silly, and looks crazy, but it makes me feel better. And I wonder sometimes, if more people were sending out positive thoughts to fellow travelers, instead of being so caught up inside our own steel bubbles, if there might be a drastic reduction in road rage and accidents. Couldn't hurt to try, if anyone wants to join me.
My earliest memories are of my daddy. I actually remember lying in my crib (I'm guessing I was about 18 months old), hearing the front door open, crying out for him. It was the middle of the night, because he was at the time working nights, and I had apparently trained myself to hear him come in. With a little help, apparently, because I'm told he would come in and jiggle the crib to wake me up, just to get time with me.
Our ritual was that he would wrap me in a blanket, sit me on the kitchen worktop, and feed me cereal. It was our special, secret time together. No wonder I associated food with love and had a lifetime struggle with my weight, but that's another story. I've shared all this just to convey how important my Daddy was to my early development. I knew at an early age that I was the center of his universe, and it imprinted my own self-image. I was fabulous. I was loved. I could do anything. When, years later, the messages changed to "women are inferior to men" and "girls don't need to go to college (unless of course, they want to be teachers or nurses)," it was too late, I already believed in myself. Everything I am -- good and bad -- I can trace back to him.
We had our ups and downs over the years, at some points I thought I hated him. Possibly I was more like him in some ways than I wanted to admit. Certainly we are different in many ways, as well. But in any event, we repaired our relationship and have gotten along well for most of my adult life (it helps that I've lived thousands of miles away for much of it).
It's important to me now, as he ages and I face the realities of the future. About a year and a half ago he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It's probably hardest on my mom, who has to live with the same stories he tells over and over again. He seems happier than I can ever remember him being. Living in the past, he remembers only the happy memories. He's not anxious (the result of providing for a family of six kids), and he's not angry, as I mostly remember him. He giggles a lot now. Mostly, he just remembers old times. And in our family, old times include singing.
When I went home to Oklahoma to visit in February, I got him to sing for me, and recorded some videos on my mobile phone. Today I finally got around to uploading them onto YouTube. If you're interested, you can see them on my YouTube page. Here's to Daddys everywhere, and the Daddy's girls they created, sometimes in spite of themselves.
Impossible to write much, typing w/ 1 hand while fending off puppy w/ other and typing across older dog who is possessively insisting in sitting on my lap. Great fun, though. We brought little Muffin home late Monday evening. She's a Westie, like Noggin, only much less fluffy than he was. 9 wks old. More later! Read new story on Noggin & Izzy blog.
Andrew and I are now godparents for the first time, to Denise & Gary Walker's tiny daughter Emilia Charlotte Rose Walker, born 17 November 2006. We met Emilia for the first time when she was one week old. She's gorgeous!
IABC Chairwoman Glenda Holmes, Andrew and I headed to Dublin on Friday ahead of EuroComm (which started on Sunday evening), so we had some time for getting to know the local food, beverage & music. We found all three in abundance at Oliver St. John Gogarty's in Temple Bar. Fab food, tons of Guinness, a friendly crowd and lots of music. Vice Chair (and good buddy) Todd Hattori joined us the following night for more of the same.