Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why I Work


Why do I work?

For that little red Radio Flyer wagon, the one with the polished wooden rails and shiny black handle.

It was sitting on a shelf above and behind the soda fountain in the Abilene Drug Store in Abilene, Texas.  The year was 1961.  I was five years old and was being treated to a Coke float by my Dad, Bill.

This was a rare treat.  Although mindful of the special treatment I was receiving, as I slurped my drink and used that long spoon to artfully gouge the bobbing blob of ice cream in a glass taller than my head, I kept my eyes glued to that wagon.  At some point, with the verve that is typical of many precocious children (specifically a trait of mine) I decided to test my special status and asked Bill if he would buy it for me.

He was gentle about telling me no.  He explained that the wagon cost money.  In answer to my bold-yet-innocent query, 'So what?' he told me that we--the family--could not afford to buy me--the individual--that wagon.  We didn't have the money.

Now, this may not have been my first explanation of money, but it was the one that has stuck with me ever since.  This first denial of a thing due to lack of money imprinted upon me forever a very important understanding about life.  I realized that having something I really wanted required money. Immediately after this revelation, I was struck with another, even more basic understanding, one that has arguably affected me more deeply and for longer than any other impulse that I can recall (other than sex, but that's another story).

I realized that money came from work.

Now, I am sure that by this time in my life, I'd been told about work.  But the thing is, neither of my parents had a regular job in that respect.  From my earliest memory, they had 'worked' at their own business: the Abilene Bookstore.  The bookstore was actually connected to (and in many ways, a part of) our home, so when Bill and Lynda went to work, it simply meant opening the door to the bookstore, turning on the lights and unlocking the front door.

Thus, my earliest model for work was seeing my parents do the various chores around the store: stocking shelves, organizing books, placing orders and doing a lot of sweeping and dusting.  It never occurred to me that they were doing jobs, or that their activity was in any way related to money.

In fact, I had no practically no inkling that money was related to our lives at all.  To be sure, I knew that money was necessary to get things at the grocery store, thanks to an incident that happened when I was about four:  I took a pack of gum from a shelf in the grocery store without telling anyone.  When it was discovered that I was chewing gum in the backseat of the car, I  was busted.  I had to admit to my crime, return to the store with my mother, pay for the gum and apologize for taking it.  After that searingly embarrassing moment, I knew that money was necessary to get things from a store.

So, although I knew what it was like to want something, it wasn't until I saw that little red wagon that I knew what the lust for money was like.  Seeing that wagon that day--so tantalizingly out of reach (in more ways than one)--ignited a fire in my brain.  I was insistent that I wanted it.  Bill was equally insistent that we simply could not afford to buy it.

He did, however, tell me about a way that I could get that wagon: I could save for it.

Bill explained that by accumulating a little bit of money--like pennies, nickels and dimes--every day, over time, it would add up.  And, if I saved long enough, I would eventually have the money I needed to buy the thing I wanted.

He told me that he would buy me a piggy bank.  He even offered to jump-start my project by donating a roll of pennies to put in the new bank.

We finished our sodas and I reluctantly tore my gaze from the wagon.  We headed over to another part of the store to buy a piggy bank.  The one we settled on was iconic.  It was a hollow amber glass pig with a slot for putting money in and no place for taking the money out.  This meant that once the money was in the bank, I would have to break the pig in order to get the money out.  Bill said that this would help me save, since I wouldn't be tempted to take the money out until the bank was full.

He was right. Although I did manage to extract a few coins from time to time by shaking the bank upside down, the inefficiency of this method of bank-robbing--in addition to the fact that I really wanted that wagon--meant that over time I actually managed to put in more coins in the bank than I took out.

Most of the coins in that glass pig were actually contributed by Bill.  Sometimes he would give me a few pennies from his desktop change dish.  Rarely, he gave me a nickel or a dime.  And, on those super-rare occasions, he would give me a whole quarter.  Being a bright and ambitious kid, I realized, of course, that this was a game, and a potentially easy one at that.  The more coins I could gather in the shortest amount of time, the sooner I'd get my prize.

Seeing how quickly the bank began to fill when that entire roll of pennies was introduced to it in the beginning of the enterprise emboldened me to ask my Dad from time to time for another roll.  At first this request was semi-successful.  Then it it no longer worked.  My shameless begging was treated with a smile and a promise of 'perhaps'.  Soon it grew into an annoyance.  He told me that I couldn't expect him to just give me money.

My parents told me that if I wanted money, I would have make it.  That is, to do something in exchange for it.  I would have to earn it.  To this concept, I was immediately and enthusiastically agreeable.  Why not?  To an ambitious lad like me, the possibilities seemed unlimited.  I immediately offered to do all the things I was already required to do--like making my bed, organizing my laundry, brushing my teeth--in exchange for the new object of my desire: money.

Bill and Lynda quickly put that critical misunderstanding to rest.   Those things, they said (no doubt with a wry smile and a small bit of admiration for my ambition) were off the negotiating table, so to speak.  After all, those chores were my responsibility to the family.  As such those tasks could not be sold for profit.

Undiscouraged, however, I resolved to find other things to do--tasks not already in my contract, so to speak--that were also apparently helpful around the house.  I came up with chores like sweeping the kitchen, helping dust books in the bookstore.  I even helped my parents take inventory in the bookstore every month because I could climb around and count the books on the bottom shelves.

Eventually, I took charge of mowing the lawn (a task I really hated because the mower was so loud and difficult to maneuver) and helping with the annual raking of the Pecan leaves that flooded our backyard every winter (a task I loved because it meant many 'pecan feasts' with my brother on the stone barbeque grill that dominated our backyard).

I helped Lynda hang out the laundry and scrub out the bathtub.  I helped Bill count the money in the cash register change drawer and bring in the books from the second-hand book table that sat in the front yard of the house/bookstore.  For every 'job' I received a few coins.  I promptly put them all in that amber glass piggy bank.

Soon the bank began to fill up.  I reveled in each clink, thinking about the wonderful day when I would finally get my wagon.

Eventually, the bank was jammed with coins.  I had packed in the last possible piece of copper and took it down to Bill to show him that it was time.  He went to the garage and got a hammer.  We took the laden glass bank out to the driveway and placed it on top of an upturned garbage can lid where I smashed it.

It was a glorious feeling, liberating all that money toward the object of my desire.  I wanted to scoop it all up and carry it down the street to the drugstore and get my wagon right there and then.  Bill somehow held me back, and we carefully extracted the coins from the glass without severing an artery.

We took the money inside to the kitchen table, where the coins were sorted, stacked and tallied.  Months of saving were finally measured.  The result was devastating.

Not only was there not enough money in the bank to buy the wagon, but it wasn't even close.  I turned to Bill, who had assured me that this plan would work.  He had even told me--in my many moments of high anxiety about the seemingly small sum of these savings--that when the time came, even if it were not enough, he would help me make up the difference.

Well, when the time came, I learned an important--if difficult--lesson.  It was a double blow, a little about Life and a little about Bill.  He was not able to make good on his promise.   This was in part because the amount in my little glass bank (being made up mostly of pennies and nickels) was so small, but it was also because, despite his good intentions, my father simply didn't have the money to give.

This was a tough lesson to take.  It certainly felt like a betrayal to me, and though I am not proud of my reaction, I know that I internalized it as such.  I don't want to overstate the effect however.  It's not like I never forgave him, but I learned from this experience that promises--even from loving and well meaning people--aren't always kept, often for very good and logical reasons.

The net effect of this lesson was actually positive.  Although my faith in him had been shaken, I continued to worship my Dad and followed him around closely for many years. This dual feeling of love and mistrust that I had for Bill would have a long run, and this incident was an important early indicator of that how our complicated relationship was going to develop.  While had most of our differences when I was at my most difficult--my teens and early twenties--these were mostly resolved by the time of his death in 1981.

Needless to say, I did not get the wagon.  I processed this event mentally and emotionally as a disappointment and an opportunity lost.  Although I may have repressed much of the memory, this event was crucial in ways that are not as obvious as it might seem.  Ultimately, this moment raised in my consciousness an important revelation.  I resolved that I did not have to accept future such losses.  I realized that I could--had to, really--control my own monetary destiny.

Now, with that realization pressing me forward, I came to the next logical step. I needed a regular source of income.  This too seemed almost trivially easy to my six-year old brain.  I simply resolved to be responsible for getting money on my own.  I realized that I didn't need to beg my parents for money, or badger them into inventing jobs for me to do.  I realized that I all I had to do was just go get a job.  Then I could make all the money that I needed for all the things that I wanted.

I'd love to claim that this thunderbolt of a realization occurred on the very day and at the very moment when that little broken amber glass bank failed to fulfill my dreams, but it just ain't so.  This powerful understanding about my character did not come to me anywhere near the disappointing experience with the wagon.  It was actually a couple of years later--when I was eight--that I finally decided to take matters in to my own hands.

I decided to look for work.

Abilene had, at the time, a road not too far from our house that was lined--on both sides--with small businesses: cleaners, used car dealers, pet shops, barber shops and dress stores.  I set out early in the morning and arrived on this street as the shop owners were opening up their stores and getting organized for the day.

The scenario was always the same.  I walked in and introduced myself.  As the adults' eyes and smiles grew ever wider, I explained that I was looking for work.  I told them that I was prepared to do whatever I had to to make some money.

Place after place, time after time, I was presented with gentle smiles, pats on the head and back, and even some genuine encouragement.  But no jobs.  I somehow set my disappointment aside with each rejection and remained undeterred.  I decided that it was just a matter of asking enough people, a matter of making all the rounds.

So I did.  From early morning until late evening that day, I walked up and down the entire length of the strip, going into every single business to ask for a job.  Eventually, I ran out of places to visit and light to see by.  It was getting dark by the time I headed home.

In those days, we children were sent out to play in early morning and were really not expected back home until dusk.  As crazy as that sounds to today's generation of new parents, this is just how it was.  As kids, we really did not suffer from an absence of moment-by-moment attention, nor were we placed in any sort of exceptional risk.  I like to think that had someone tried to kidnap me, they would have found me to be so difficult to handle that they would returned me promptly, as in that O'Henry tale about the Ransom of Red Chief.  My difficult nature aside, kidnapping just wasn't a valid concern for me or my parents.

But coming home after dark certainly was.

Dusk is not dark.  That sounds obvious, but to a mother--even one as tough as Lynda--used to seeing her boy come bounding in starving and bouncing around the kitchen before dinner, dark that evening became a very serious moment.  Lynda experienced what every parent dreads: that moment of panic when your child is missing.

She was standing on the porch as I walked up.  Absent, however, was the pride I expected her to bestow upon me when I told her I'd been out looking for a job.  Instead, I got a serious scolding and was sent to bed without dinner.

Later that evening, I finally saw a glimpse of the pride I'd hoped to see in Lynda's face when she brought me some dinner in my room.  She had calmed down and explained how frightened she'd been.  of course, she made me promise not to go off and do it again.

She needn't have worried.  I got all the realization about the futility of that exercise that I needed from the shopkeepers that day.  I knew that getting a job was not going to be as easy as I once thought; perhaps not even easy at all.  I could tell that it was going to take time, and that making money would take some persistence.

Child labor laws being what they were then, this is when I started selling things door-to-door.

The first thing I sold was TV Guide.  On the back of comic books in my day, there were ads for TV Guide salespeople.  It was something kids could do for money.  They way it worked: they sent me about a dozen Guides, and it was up to me to go door-to-door to sell them.  For each one I sold, I got to keep a few cents.  The ones I didn't sell I could return, but if I didn't sell at least a dozen, they would not keep sending me the product.  For several weeks, I managed to sell my twelve copies and in some weeks I did even better.

Selling door-to-door was very hard work, not just because it meant a lot of walking, but also because it meant taking a lot of abuse from folks who quite frankly had no desire to be solicited, even by an ambitious eight-year-old child.  In six months or so, I saw a lot of strange people and some very strange (and messy) houses, but I never made enough money to make it worth the abuse.

I didn't give up my dream of making my own money, however.  During the years that I was legally still too young to work, I also tried selling Grit (a kids newspaper), Fuller Brush, Amway and even Time Magazine subscriptions.  When we moved to Austin in 1968, I immediately got a paper route, delivering about 50 Austin-Americans on my bike every afternoon after school and with Bill in the car on the early weekend mornings.

Sadly--or perhaps to my eventual benefit--none of these ventures ever actually panned out.  It wasn't until I was semi-legally old enough to work (15) that I got my first paying job, as a typist for a patent attorney with an office on Congress Avenue.  By the time I got that job, it was already part of a long personal history, part of a deep desire to work.

And to think, it all started with that little red wagon.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Billie's Eulogy

We held a wonderful memorial for Billie on Saturday.  More than sixty-five people came, including her sister Mary and her three children, Jane, Peter and Carey.  Valery's sister Alexandra came with her partner, Steve Welch, and, of course, Chris was there with Colleen (who also did the flowers). 
I was honored to give the eulogy as Billie asked me to do many months ago. 
For those who could not be there, here is what I said:

I am here before you today to talk about Billie.

In what must surely be the best model for these kinds of speeches--in terms of both density and brevity, Lincoln famously said that “The world will little note nor long remember” what he had to say.  True though this is of the other speaker’s words that day, Mr. Lincoln’s brevity was neither despairing of the death he had come to acknowledge nor unnecessarily deprecating of the importance of his words on the occasion.

He wasn’t saying that we shouldn’t be here, conducting this ritual; or that we shouldn’t be here, saying these words.  The World doesn’t need to hear these words, the World doesn't need note them nor does the World need to plan to long remember them in order for those words to be valid and truly meaningful.

The World may not care, but we do. The important thing is that we take the time to say these words.  In such rituals as these, words make the meaning of life.

Billie (like Lynda, my other mother) knew that I am a man of too many words, so as I speak, I can hear her calling out from the peanut gallery: “Too many words, Mr. Dubov!  Too many words!”

Billie,  I will do my best to keep it short.

So, what words?  What can I say about Billie that is not hopelessly hyperbolic or morosely solemn?

Well, I could talk about her name.  Her full name was Wilma Gayle ‘Billie’ Houtman Caselli Clark.  Whew, that’s quite a mouthful.  It seems impossibly long until you do a bit of parsing.

How we got from Wilma Gayle to Billie, I am not sure, but I do know this:  if my first name was Wilma I’d change it to Billie.   I can’t say as I blame Billie for doing it.  Of course, it wasn’t her doing at all.  The nickname came from her Dad Neal, who (according to her sister Mary) started calling her “Wild Bill from Vinegar Hill”.  Now, where Vinegar Hill was and why Wild Bill should be from there is still a bit of a mystery to me.   I believe there is an old song which refers to “Dirty Bill from Vinegar Hill...he never had a bath and never will."  Well, though we all knew Billie as a clean sort, this actually refers to Billie’s long-ago tomboy days.

Yes, of the four sisters, it was Billie who was the tomboy.  To those who knew Billie as one of the most beautiful women ever to grace their vision, such humble beginnings may come as a surprise.  But it says volumes about her that when the tomboy look no longer hid the truth, Billie accepted her name, her beauty and used them both  with the skill and grace that came to define her presence in all our lives.

Houtman, of course, was her family name, which is still shared by many others in the small town of Holland Michigan.  Her grandfather was instrumental in establishing part of the town's identity--the Dutch Windmill--and her parents Dorothy and Neal were both active members of the community.  Tulip Time was always an important event in the lives of the family as the children were growing up; the girls often dressed up in traditional Dutch costumes to entertain the crowds that gathered to see the parade along 11th street in Holland.

Caselli was Billie's first married name.  Pierre Caselli was a Frenchman, transplanted to the United States as a young man, where he met Billie while attending Hotel School at Cornell.  She was in art school in Boston and they met at a restaurant where she was a waitress and he was a dishwasher. They moved to and lived for many years in Austin, where he was the manager of the Lakeway Inn, and she was a teacher.  She had three children (Alexandra, Valery and Christopher) with Pierre, who died of cancer at the early age of 49 in Austin.

Clark was Billie's second married name.  After Pierre's death in 1981, Billie and John Clark-- who had known each other for years already--began to see each other socially and eventually married in 1984. Dedicated to his wonderful ‘Bride’, John adopted and was adopted in turn by the Houtman clan, moving up to Holland be a part of their lives and to support Billie in her many artistic endeavors.

But I didn’t come to talk about Billie’s name.
I came to talk about Billie.

I suppose could talk about me, especially because there may be some of you who are wondering just who I am and why Billie asked me to deliver this eulogy.  After all, I am just an out...er, in-law.

I am a late-comer to this story, an outsider in many ways that go beyond the different last names.  But from the moment I rolled her daughter Valery up to where Billie was working (painting a sign on a door in a Westlake Hills strip mall) in a shopping cart and introduced myself, Billie treated me as her one of her own children, with all the love, respect, and no small measure of the high expectations that come with that position.

I was privileged to be loved by Billie, who offered it without condition.  In gaining her love and trust, I also felt pressed to be good.  I felt the need to do well, for her, for her daughter, for her grandchildren, but most of all for myself.  Billie was my ‘other mother’ She inspired me to be a better person and I loved her every bit as dearly as I did Lynda.  I will miss her.

But I didn’t come to talk about me.
I came to talk about Billie.

I could talk about Art (with a capital A), because Billie was an Artist (with a capital A).  More than that, she was a talented and prolific artist.  In a time when that title (“Artist”) is often assumed by individuals who are neither talented nor trained and by many more who have never actually worked at the craft, Billie was, to put it bluntly, a real artist.

Born with a great deal of God-given talent and put into practice by virtue of her own determined efforts, Billie always considered herself to be an Artist.  She never lost sight of her goal.  That means, even as she was raising her family, wiping bottoms, reading, cooking, cleaning house, taxiing kids to music lessons; even while teaching art to grade-schoolers; even while painting dentist’s names on strip mall doors, or running the Message Parlor (her sign-painting studio in Westlake), Billie was true to her passion.  Billie was always true to her Art.

One measure of her passion may be found in the body of work that she left us.  Her prolific watercolors are on many of your walls and a few are here on the tables today.  She created dozens of sculptures, many of which, by virtue of the material and the skill of the artist, will survive long beyond any of our mere accomplishments, however great they may seem to be, for such things as degrees and houses and even poems will all fade away with the steady beat of Time, while Billie’s bronzes and the images cast therein will remain for as many generations as you and I are all together capable of imagining.

But I didn’t come to talk about Art.
I came to talk about Billie.

I really should talk about family, because as important as Art was to Billie, it was not as important to her as her family was.  Billie was from a large, loving family.  She was born in 1933, the daughter of Dorothy and Neal Houtman, the third of six children.  Her sister Mary is here today and will say a few words about her, while sisters Joan and Sally and brothers Don and Ken all send their love and affection to this gathering.   Billie was always been close to her siblings (especially her sisters, two of whom lived nearby in Holland), their spouses, their children, and even their children’s children.

Billie's own three children were a special point of pride for her.  To say that they were close is an understatement of the highest order.  Billie was especially fond of the two grandchildren (Pierre and Madelaine--Valery's children) that she had an opportunity to see grow up while she lived in Austin.

(By the way, Billie's brother Ken created the video slideshow that we’ve been enjoying here today; her son Christopher collected the photos for that and the album on the table; and her daughter Alexandra provided the music.  Alex and her partner Steve Welch have been playing for us ‘live’ thanks.)

As good as her family as been to and for her, it hasn’t always been free from pain and strife.  It was in part because of this pain that because she understood the value of family in a way that most young mothers do not. After her first husband Pierre died of cancer at home, Billie had to move into a smaller house and go to work to support her family, which she did without resentment or complaint.  Later in life she and her second husband John moved to Holland to be near enough to care for her mother Dorothy.

John's unconditional love and enthusiastic support allowed Billie to flourish as an artist and to be a close part of her family.   The nearly annual family gathering during the summers in Holland was a treasured time for all us, and Billie in particular.

But I didn’t come to talk about family today.
I came to talk about Billie.

I could talk about friendship, for even though I am merely a part of her family by marriage (I snuck in through the kitchen door, so to speak), I also enjoyed the privilege of being her friend.  Many of the people here today counted Billie as a good friend.  You know that the kindness, caring and loyalty of a good friend is a rare treasure, and you know that Billie was all of those and more to many wonderful people.  Somehow, she kept up with all our lives, our children, our projects, our trips and most of all, our plans, hopes and dreams.

When you spoke with her, she would remember all those details about your life that you thought no one remembered but you.  When she did, you realized (more than once, I hope) how grateful you were for such a good friend.  We were all warmed by her charisma and nurtured by her kind thoughts and comments.  The Purples (to which my mother Lynda also belonged) was an especially important group of Billie’s friends, and they are well represented here, thank you.

But I didn’t come to talk about friendship today.
I came to talk about Billie.

I could talk about teaching, because Billie was a teacher.  And while she would have, in her typical self deprecating fashion, have discounted her abilities as a teacher, she was in fact a terrific teacher.  The importance of teachers--good teachers, like Billie--in our lives simply cannot be overstated.

What made Billie such a good teacher?  Billie made us all believe that we could be creative.  'You can’t draw a straight line?  Ok, let’s do circles.  Can’t match colors?  Ok, let’s try the color wheel.'  How to hold a brush?  What color to put down first?  How to make a mold?  A casting?  Paint an Easter egg?  All these things and more I learned from Billie.  What about you?

While she definitely took up teaching to support her family during lean times in Pierre’s career, Billie still brought her passion for Art to the classroom.  She taught her students Art because that’s what her hands knew best.  She taught many different individuals, in many different settings, from classrooms to kitchens, from pre-schoolers to seniors.

But while many learned much from Billie,  the subject was only nominally about Art.

Billie actually taught her students about Life, because that’s what her heart knew best.  If you were ever lucky enough to be in one of Billie’s art classes, or had her show you how to draw, or if you ever had her gently guide your hand with a brush or over some clay in her studio, you learned a lot more than how to make a pinch pot or a paint watercolor still life.  You learned to love Art, but thanks to Billie's guidance, you came to appreciate what lay beneath: Life itself.

Billie was a teacher, of Art, and of Life.

But I didn’t come to talk about teaching today.
I came to talk about Billie.

I considered talking about God, for Billie was a faithful servant of the Good Lord, in His many manifestations and many subtle glories.  Billie was grateful to God for more than her existence, though.  She was grateful for the world itself, for the place that defined that her being and for the people with whom she shared this place.  She often made note of the small things that most people, in a hurry at best and inattentive at worst--would walk past, overlook or simply miss.  To God, she was as grateful for the World as she was free of malice for the cancer that claimed her life.

As gracious as she was with God about the illness that took her from us, I am not.  I am tempted to rail at Him for taking Billie from us so soon.  But Billie would remind me of my manners.  She would tell me that it wasn’t God taking her from us but a disease, so if there’s any railing to be done, there are better targets than Him.

Besides, I didn’t come to talk about God.
I came to talk about Billie.

Hoo boy, I could talk about Death today.  After all is there a better time and place than a eulogy?  Probably not.  Death wasn’t something Billie ignored or pretended wasn’t going to happen.  When she was diagnosed with the Cancer that took her life, she fought with the courage and determination that defined her life.  She was as realistic as the situation required, as hopeful as she dared to be, and as resolute as she could be about facing her end.  Billie faced Death without fear or remorse and with as much dignity as any one of us could hope for.

Indeed, I can only hope that when my time comes, I will face it with the same dignity and dare I say it, style,  as Billie did.  After all, we are all facing the same fate. Quite honestly Billie (the teacher) has shown me how to do it with right, with humor, grace and charm.

But I sure didn’t come to talk about Death today.
I came to talk about Billie.

Well, it seems that in spite of all the things I have not talked about, I have managed to say a word or two about Billie.  Of course, we didn’t come here today to hear my words.  We are gathered here to remember Billie--each of us in our own unique way.

The truth is that we’ll do most of our remembering later.

We’ll remember Billie when we read something in the paper we know she would laugh at, when see a piece of art we want to tell her about, or when we hear some beautiful music that we would love to share with her.  Those moments will be bittersweet, of course.  But despair not.  In those moments, you will know that she is not gone, but that she is here with you.

It’s a fleeting feeling, I know.  But then, what feeling is not?

As we carry on (and we will), some of us will be lucky enough to see Billie live on in the mirror.  Some will see her in the hands, eyes and smiles of her children and grandchildren.  Others will enjoy the privilege of seeing Billie in their hands, hearing her in their thoughts and sharing with others that ready smile she so often graced us with.

Still others (countless others) will never have met her, but will know who she really was as they stand before one of her works.  There, they will feel her presence, resonating within them like Life’s tuning fork.  They too will come to know Billie.

Billie was a person who made each of us--and by extension, this World--better.  By better I mean that Billie brought us--each one of us here today, plus many more not present--to become wiser, kinder and gentler people, simply by her presence in our lives.  This a rare trait, but then, Billie was a rare individual.

So, what can we do for her in return? It’s not a foolish question.  Even though she is gone, there is a lot we can do for her, each of us, from this day forward.

Resolve, if you will, on this day--and every day of your life going forward--to remember Billie often and with love.  Resolve to carry on her legacy by being grateful for your life, passionate in your love, and determined to make a difference in the World.

Raise a glass today (and every day, if you will) to a wonderful person who did all that and more.

Billie, we will remember you!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Blame It

Blame it
on your broken heart
on some missing part
on the fading light
on the clouded sight

Blame it
on an empty space
You won't need but lose the race
To blame your place
on an unfair start.

Blame it
on your broken soul
on that rocky shoal
on the rising tide
on those who won't take your side

Blame it
on a false mark
You won't need but damp the spark
To blame your dark
on a dying coal.

Blame it
on your broken mind
on those thoughts unkind
on the roiling seas
on that strange disease

Blame it
on a sad reprise
You won't need but life despise
To blame your demise
on a grand design.