All posts by barb


We meet again, adoption thoughts. Probably for the last time in this medium, as my blog hosting expires in July and I’m letting it go. A decision for which I’ll kick myself in a year, no doubt. It’s been a good run, about 13 years, writing my way through murky waters.

A few years after the Kid was born, I hoped that I would come to a place where I didn’t cry daily. Where the nerves in my neck would regain their protective coating.  Where I wasn’t consumed with grief, regret, self doubt, self directed anger. A walking open wound. I am my own worst enemy.

Regret is a funny, insidious thing and an utter waste of time. I see that now. But there’s no cure for it, is there? Coming to terms with my decision had it’s own course, it’s own lessons and unfortunately, it’s own time. I didn’t anticipate 20 years.

I still hold very strong opinions about adoption in general; I doubt that will ever wane. For me, the first mother, the birthmother, my piece (or is it peace?)  is nearly complete. I have very little left to say, except for that piece regarding Janine in the Handmaid’s Tale that I have yet to finish, nearly a year later. Maybe before July.

I was extremely fortunate to have been a part of the “birthmother bloggers” back in the day, and to have met some incredible women with remarkably similar stories.  I wouldn’t have survived without them, and that’s not being dramatic.

Thanks, truly, folks who have been taking this trip with me, reading my words and believing in me since the Cigarettes & Coffee days. I’ve always been grateful to have a place to be heard.

coming alive in the cold

At the end of 2016, instead of a predictable year-end time capsule, I explained my year in Rocky gifs, with the main thrust that in 2017, I wanted to catch my chickens, find my place. (That blog had to be removed as about 3/4 of the gifs I used disappeared). If you’re unfamiliar with the reference, I’ve got you covered.

I have so much to say, but it requires words I can’t formulate right now. Someone close to me recently, and “helpfully” suggested a make a “gratitude list”. I winced over-dramatically as is my way and filed it deep in the recesses of “yeah, no”. Over the last few days when I’ve gotten out of my way, yeah, I am grateful indeed for a few things this year, as demonstrated below.

Being invited to participate in my first exhibition.

Falling in love with this joker & bringing him in.

Putting myself back in treatments & thereby back on medication.

Meeting with The Kid’s mom & finding some resolution to 20 years of plaguing questions.

The move that changed our lives in ways we couldn’t even imagine.

Chronicling some of my angst with this broad

I don’t know where I’m going with any of this, which is almost awful because as I’ve said before, I lose my mooring without a plan. But maybe learning some flexibility would be a fine start.

Just gonna keep catching my chicken.

Hope 2018 brings you good stuff & new opportunities.


*hat tip to my favorite band, The Afghan Whigs,  for the title of this blog, from their song “Birdland” on the album “In Spades” that came out this year. Also a high point in my 2017.

Potted Plants

For the love of tacos, remind me next time that moving in the middle of “the season” is not a good idea.  Since the move, everything is weird & feels out of sorts. I feel weird & out of sorts. I can’t seem to get solid footing. Change messes with me.

One evening after dinner, about two weeks after moving, Chris (who was in the midst of the unpacking…everything) mentioned how amazing it was to have so much space and how awesome the yard would look in a year. (The man loves his huge, lush lawn.)

“Maybe we’ll have room to grow here, ” I said. “On Crocus, that place was so tiny. It was like having a plant that you couldn’t transfer to a bigger pot when it outgrew the current one. We couldn’t grow, we were stunted.”

I couldn’t have been more truthful, and I didn’t realize it until later.

With space comes growth, with growth comes change, and sometimes change is incredibly painful. Yes, of course, sometimes it’s amazing & positive & pancake breakfasts. But even the idea of potential pain is often enough to stymie my fortitude on a good day, let alone a bad one.

My discomfort, however, is balanced by the new discoveries of the house, the neighborhood, the geography in general. I never thought I’d sit on the front porch & watch the bats hunt in the evenings. Or the weird fact that we’re in the air pattern now, even though we only moved 6 miles. Watching the cats in any number of windows. Establishing a routine, which has been lacking & taking it’s toll. Without a set routine, I function poorly. But every day, the kinks become just a bit more smooth.

I’m typing this in my new office at home, which is bigger than our previous bedroom. First time I’ve sat at my desk. I’ve got one cat snoring behind me, and one sprawled in the doorway. At this moment, I can’t believe we live here, how fortunate to have this opportunity. I’m trying not to waste it.

packing it in

I’ve been working on a piece regarding Hulu’s series “The Handmaid’s Tale” for over a week, trying to make it right. This is not that post.

We’ve been living in the same tiny apartment for a decade. It served us well for the first few years, when it was just us & one cat. But really, it’s tiny for two adults & no matter how much we enjoy each other’s company, we’re always on top of each other. Add a heaping handful of cats, and it’s become downright tight. Let alone having anyone visit. Then it’s simply claustrophobic. At the annual lease signing, our landlord would remark that he couldn’t believe we were staying another year.

While we’ve managed pretty well, a joking query to a friend of Chris’ has led us to greener pastures. Literally. There’s a lawn. And trees. And a backyard. For nearly the same rent as our barrier island abode, we’re moving to a legit house off the island on 8/1. A free standing house. No “shared wall” neighbors. I am beside myself, in the best way.

Six weeks. We have to pack up our lives in six weeks, in the height of “the season”. It’s a somewhat daunting task.

I poked my head into my tiny office last night, flipped on the light, and groaned. While pretty good with purging junk & unnecessary items annually, but I’m a bit overwhelmed. How much craft paper & supplies do I need? (All of it, clearly) How much ephemera is stored in cube shelves? (All of it, clearly) Did I mention it’s a daunting task, the packing?

But the end result, though. We’ve been in desperate need of a fresh start for quite some time. Our current apartment has been our home: with party lights & laughter, with tears & loss, with the “John Bonham solo” of scrambling cat feet. You know, the things that make life…life.

I’m naturally prone to nostalgic sappiness, and no doubt I’ll shed some tears during this process. Probably more out of frustration, anxiety & uncertainty than true sadness. Because truly there won’t be much to miss about this apartment, aside from our walks to the beach or back bay, which have been some of my happiest moments in recent years & lent themselves to nice photos. And the familiarity. For all of it’s summer frustrations, the Wildwoods have been an interesting place to reside.

But here’s to new routines, new commutes, new shin bruises due to new furniture arrangements. Like the Jeffersons, we’re moving on up (the road).

Symbiotic Salvation

As you may know, I’ve been feeding/caring for a random cat that’s shown up at our apartment. I can’t help myself, and to be fair, Chris can’t either.

While we’d seen him strolling around the neighborhood regularly, we first “met” him in January, when he marched up to us while leaving the house early one morning, chatty & looking for attention.

We named him Vic (Very Important Cat). And then we didn’t see him again until March, when he started appearing at our place on a regular basis, wearing a collar that was a bit too tight.  So we continued to feed & care for him, and he returned regularly, one day without the collar. He started spending so much time at our kitchen door, we bought a collar & attached a note, asking his “people” to call or text us if he was their cat. Within 12 hours, the breakaway collar was gone — and no calls, despite our best hope. Whether or not a human removed it, we’ll never know. He’s a great cat. Affectionate, chatty, handsome. Content to just be “around”. But he deserves better, as he’s clearly domesticated, but uncared for — at least in recent weeks, as evidenced by some wounds that could use a vet’s attention.

Caring for Vic has been a lifeline for me in some regards. Over the past few months, I’ve been falling down the rabbit hole of mental health issues. Again. It started with what I considered run of the mill anxiety & I found myself in familiar, unpleasant territory. I couldn’t focus on everyday tasks, regular duties & responsibilities were overwhelming, additional projects sent me into a full-blown panic. The harder I tried to rein it in, to maintain a level of “normal”, the worse it became.

When the physical symptoms of chronic neck pain & headaches arrived, with the new addition of auditory issues, I knew it was time to schedule an intake again at My Therapy Institute. It’s been about 4 years since I’ve been in treatment, and I’ve found myself here again, back in therapy & on medication. And a new diagnosis of Bipolar II. The diagnosis isn’t “new”, I just wouldn’t hear it last time. I had previously fought against it, saying it wasn’t me, it didn’t apply. But the reality now is that it does apply, and I’m okay with it.

Over the past few weeks, caring for this random cat has given me a little light while I navigate these waters again, armed with a compass & spyglass this time around. I’m taking care of him, taking care of me.  We both deserve better.


Is it snowing in Jackson Hole?

I don’t remember where I first saw the link to this magical place.

It’s just an intersection in a town in a faraway state. I cannot tell you how much joy I derive from this live feed. For anyone else (minus the 288 people currently watching, make that 290) it’s probably akin to watching paint dry. I get that, I really do. (down to 278)

Although there’s not a lot of pedestrian traffic whenever I seem to check in (granted, mostly middle of the night), I’ve gotten in the habit of making up 10 second stories about the denizens of Jackson Hole if I check in mid-day.

Typical tiny stories:

*Oh, I see Linda is out in her red coat. Looks like she’s been supporting the local economy on her 2nd dead husband’s money by the number of shopping bags she’s carrying.

*Look at that cute family coming through the park! I think they have a toddler. Aw cutie pie. Oh, it’s a dog! Aw, cutie pie! It’s wearing a sweater!

*Jane is late for work. Again.

*Mark has been standing outside that kiosk/shed/shack for 20 minutes. Looks cold. He doesn’t appear to have gloves. WHERE ARE YOUR GLOVES, MARK?

And while it’s easy enough to google what’s in the immediate area to see what shops & businesses are in the vicinity, or watch the 24 other live feeds of Jackson Hole, it’s more fun to just work with what I have on the screen. The only thing I know for certain:  if you want the Teton-Yellowstone National Parks, hang a left. Only because there’s a sign next to the traffic light. Everyone seems to be courteous to  drivers & pedestrians alike at Heaven’s Little Intersection, and weirdly enough, I have yet to see a law enforcement vehicle.

One morning when Chris was at work & I was sitting in the kitchen, drinking coffee at 5am (2am in JH), I clicked over to see what was happening in my new favorite location. It was so picturesque, this currently deserted crossroads, with the lights from the park & softly falling snow. I may have sighed with contentment.

In a time where my feeds are overwhelmingly angry, sad & confusing, I need these little moments of tranquility. No doubt it’s the same reason many tune into the Cape May live feeds, which I’ve never viewed. Why would I? I know when I can find my friend John Cooke down at the Cove walking Joy, his gorgeous golden retriever, and shooting the sunrise. I forget that my everyday existence in the seaside town where I grew up is someone else’s vacation dream or few minutes of escape.

So enamored, I checked possible vacation itineraries at a variety of local inns, lodges & AirBnbs. I burst out laughing with my findings. “It’s like Cape May, but in the mountains!”

Little moments of peace, little moments of serenity. I’ll take ’em where I can find ’em. Even if it’s as a peeper from 2,229 miles away.

this time we go a little lower

My lifelong battles with depression & anxiety are well-chronicled on these pages. Just words.

Last week I fired up a limping laptop that I haven’t used in a number of years, looking for specific photos to move for future use. While scrolling through a untitled album that contained roughly 1000 photos, I found a series of self portraits taken when I was in my deepest, darkest places around 2006-2008. Before the hospital, before therapy, before medication. They knocked the breath from me. So often we don’t know how bad it is until much, much later.

My photo editing skills have dramatically improved over the years, and I must have deleted the original files, as I’d edit them much differently now. Maybe that’s okay. They speak for themselves, to specific point in my life. A place I don’t want to revisit, but always lives in the fringes.

Set the Dials to “Thrill Me”

Is it juvenile, at age 43, to babble about your favorite album? Dunno. But that’s what I’m writing about today. I’ve been writing this post off & on for over a year, according to my draft bin.

If you’re lucky, you find that one album by that one band that grabs you by the nethers & never lets go, no matter how much time passes. Enter the Afghan Whigs’ “Black Love” in the spring of 1996. This muttering of mine is not a song by song critique of the album, as many of them have been done beautifully, such as this one, but how this album has been a constant in my life since the first listening.

He brought the CD over to my apartment & popped it into the player. “I think you’ll really like this”, he said. In the previous months, he had given me a lot of new music that I loved: Massive Attack, Tricky, Everclear & Pavement to name a few, so I paid attention. And from the first notes of “Crime Scene Part One”, I was enraptured by the storytelling, by the music, by the alternating howling & crooning of singer Greg Dulli.  At age 23, I believed I had a thorough knowledge of deception, betrayal & lust — the backbone of Black Love. But that’s the folly of youth. I never did. It rears back & knocks me over repeatedly. At least I’ve had a soundtrack to my poor decisions for 20 years.

Through the burgeoning & failing of relationships of the romantic kind, Black Love has been the default as I either celebrate the excitement of new entanglements or the devastation in which I’ve found myself embroiled. But even Dulli finds temporary redemption on Black Love & while “hope” may be too strong a word, resilience may be the key. Despite the indiscretions, the fabrications, and suffering the consequences of my actions, Black Love remains mirror of my confessions, and my penance.

This year, Black Love turns 20. I’ve found myself listening it almost daily as I navigate emotionally choppy waters once again. It never fails me. That’s the beautiful thing about a favorite album, story, piece of artwork. While it’s a snapshot of an era initially, it can take on new life as you gain experiences. It’s always worth revisiting to see if it sticks. It’s not the same album to me at 43 as it was at 23.

As so many fans have said previously, “thank you, Gentlemen”. Thank you for providing me with a lifeline when I often couldn’t/can’t get it together alone. I can always press “play”.


Dancers Wanted

My love for reading started early. I read everything I could get my grubby little hands on: my own books, the Reader’s Digest Home Repair Book that frequently lived on our coffee table, classified ads. The classified ads were especially intriguing. Items for sale, homes for rent, job offers. I would spend hours splayed on the living room carpet of our row home, pouring over the “help wanted” section of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Like many 8 year old girls, I wanted to be a dancer when I grew up, despite my inherent lack of grace or discipline. But it was the era of “A Chorus Line”, which was still running on Broadway & many local theaters. The advertisements were shown almost constantly on TV, and I played the album endlessly, singing along loudly in my tone deaf way, much to the dismay of nearly everyone around me, especially my oldest sister who was visiting from college.


“Barbara Lee, you’re 8. You don’t need a job”, she snarled into the pillow on the top bunk in the room we were temporarily sharing while she was home, probably hung over.

I was undaunted by her irritation & danced out of the room, down the stairs & into the living room where I again, sprawled out with the Help Wanted section of the classifieds. Where I saw The Ad.

EXOTIC DANCERS WANTED. No experience necessary. Will train. Make $2000/week. XXX. Call 215-555-1234.

I COULD GET A JOB! And this was PERFECT for me. I didn’t need experience, but I had some experience, thanks to my weekly “jazz” class. So I already had a leg up, so to speak. And exotic? Aside from the Original Cast Recording of “A Chorus Line”, the other album that played often was Barry Manilow’s Greatest Hits, which contained “Copacabana”, so I imagined myself in sparkly attire with feathers in my hair & a “dress cut down to there”. And obviously this was a nice place to work, because they ended their advertisement with XXX, which meant “kisses”. I imagined of all the things I could get from the supermarket foyer toy machines on $2000/week. Exciting prospects. I was beside myself.

My mother made her way through the living room carrying a basket of laundry up from the basement and noticed my unrestrained glee with the newspaper.

“I’m going to get a job, Mommy!”

She paused on the first stair that headed to the second floor & turned to me, “Really? What do you have there?”

I rushed over to her & showed her the ad, pointing out that I already HAD experience, so I was basically a shoo-in for this available position. She blinked rapidly, removed her foot from the step, put the laundry basket down & led me to the scratchy sofa across the room.

“Barbara Lee, this isn’t the type of dancing that you do. This is naked dancing. For men. These aren’t nice places. Ladies take their clothes off for money.”

I was CRUSHED, twisting the newspaper in my hands, sputtering about “exotic” & “feathers” & “kisses”. She shook her head at me, telling me I didn’t understand, which also was a  blow, as I was aware that my reading comprehension was well above normal. My dreams of raiding the supermarket foyer quarter machines circled the drain.

She sighed & took the laundry upstairs. I followed her, & upon seeing that my sister had dragged herself from bed, put on A Chorus Line again, to my then-favorite song “Dance 10, Looks 3”. While I sang loudly & unfettered to this ditty about having the skills but not the looks (without the help of plastic surgery) to make it on the Great White Way, I could hear my sister snickering from the shower.

“Tits & asssssssssss”, I danced around my room, posing in the mirror all the while, “bought myself a fancy pair. Tightened up the derriere. Did the nose with it. And all that goes with it! Tits & assssssss, had the bingo-bongos done. Suddenly I’m getting national tours.”

While my dreams of being an Exotic Dancer with feathers, spangles & kisses might have been dashed, I still held out hope for Musical Theater. My mother sighed loudly from down the hall, shut the door to the room & put away her laundry in peace.

involuntary crab-slaughter

In the late 90s, I lived in central Pennsylvania, but returned to the shore frequently to visit family & friends.

During one such visit in mid May, while spending the afternoon walking on the beach with my longtime best friend (now husband), I spied a sand crab (also called “mole crabs”) digging around the water’s edge. I have always loved sand crabs & would spend hours “playing” with them as a youngster, building them sand castles from which to reign. But they always escaped my civil engineering attempts, as crabs do.

So I scooped up a handful of sand that contained my crabby little friend & terrorized played with him for a few minutes, rolling him over in my palms with glee, telling Chris about my childhood castle construction. The air was balmy with a cool breeze and because early in the season, the beach sparsely populated. It was a truly a perfect day.

Chris & I talked about what we should do with the remainder of our afternoon & I decided to set my crab friend free. But instead of setting him gently down at the water’s edge where I’d found him, thereby calmly restoring his world, I launched him into the air towards the water with a cry of “be free, little buddy!”

And a seagull swooped down and ate him, mid-launch.

I stood there stunned, like a jackass, while Chris fell to his knees laughing at the perfect serendipitous moment. “It’s the circle of life”, he cried, clutching his stomach. We laughed our way to the nearest bar, toasting our now-digesting crab with afternoon beers.

This moment in time sums up my general day to day life.  I often react with my first impulse without clearly thinking things through and despite my noblest intentions, it is usually the wrong action. No doubt it will be my legacy: Good Intention, Poor Execution.