Saturday, December 21, 2013


"Water Over Time"
Hello, my adoring fans! What's the point of having a blog if you can't do a little boasting now and then. My books are here! It was such a kick to open the box and find them, all shiny and new. I spent two years off and on writing the poems and stories, some of that time I didn’t realize I was writing a book. Below is the description I wrote for

When Barbara Toboni takes a trip back to Guam in 2010, she finds what remains of the family’s first home abandoned and barely visible, ravaged by many years of storms. The house becomes a symbol for the author inspiring her to write poetry and short prose about her life on the island spanning twelve years. Memories are clear and portray Barbara’s coming of age as she grows from pre-teen to young woman.
I hope some of you will order the book from Amazon, or if you live in Napa, stop by, stop me on the street, or stop me while I shop, and I will sell you a copy out of the back of my car. I plan to take a few copies to a local bookstore and perhaps Jessel Gallery would be interested, as they do have my other little book, Undertow. I’m very proud of both my books. Can you tell? So wow! Here we go! Buy! Thank you!

A few books have been signed and sent off to relatives. For those cousins and friends I didn’t send books to I apologize, but it would be nice to make a little money. If I send to one cousin, the other cousins would be jealous. How do I choose? Do you see what I mean? And the book is cheap, $5.50 plus shipping. It’s not a large book. It’s what they call a chapbook, 32 pages. It won’t take you long to read, and please let me know what you think.   
Pictures are included, all but one taken by my father, Morton Friedman, whom among other things was a terrific amateur photographer. Amber Lea Starfire helped me format my book for CreateSpace. And Amber, along with my other workshop pals, Patsy Ann Taylor and Christina Julian supported me through the whole process. To them I say thanks and cheers!  
For comments, what are you most proud of lately?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Keeping a Secret

I’ve known Tish, my hairdresser, since the 80’s when I stumbled into her shop with a hair emergency. Not wanting to do anything too drastic to my long hair, I had let another hair pro lop off inches to my shoulders, but the outcome was dreadful. I had paid good money to resemble a sphinx. Seriously, it is not a good look to have your entire head look like a pyramid. Thank goodness Tish had time to remedy the situation.
With a good eye for style, she washed, clipped, and blew dry my mop into a more appealing do, and in return she became my new hair pro forever more. Back then, Tish and her husband, Dana worked together at their salon on Jefferson Street, and I liked their easy banter, which often included their clientele.
Tish and I had much in common both being the same age and married with two children. We discussed friends, relatives, trips, and holidays. When Whitney, Tish’s niece and Jim, my youngest son started dating, we had even more to talk about.

Shhh! Don’t tell the kids. They don’t like it when we talk about them.  

My hair style hasn’t changed much over the years and I still rely on her today, but during my last appointment six weeks ago, we were both oddly quiet, and it had everything to do with keeping a secret. October 9th, 2013, I entered the shop with my mouth zipped shut. I was determined not to share any information about Jim and Whitney. Jim had confided in his father and me recently that he had planned to propose to Whitney on her birthday, which happened to be the next day, October 10th.

I had known about the engagement when I made my appointment, but I couldn’t delay my do any longer. That familiar sphinx still haunted me when I looked in the mirror. I would have to keep my mouth shut. I didn’t want to spoil their surprise and, I might add, no one had proposed yet, and no one had accepted.
I did my part by not saying a word, but I noticed Tish was oddly quiet too, a mystery. I tried, “Can you believe it hasn’t rained this season?”
"No.” Tish looked about to yawn.
I led again, “Do you get many trick-or-treaters for Halloween?” Luckily, that subject took hold for a few minutes, and the owner of the shop sparked some interest when he walked in off the street carrying a scarecrow to be used as a decoration.
Then the conversation waned again. I sighed and closed my eyes, but the sound of the scissors grew unbearably loud. Snip, snip, snip. What was wrong with Tish? I asked about her health. She mumbled a few words and then, thankfully, the blow dryer muted everything. After that it was time to pay and leave. Good for me! I had kept my secret.
Six weeks later, with my hair out of control again, I called Tish to make an appointment. By then, Jim and Whitney’s news has made the rounds, emails, Facebook, and good old-fashioned word of mouth. I laughed when she congratulated me over the phone about the engagement. I told her I was relieved now because we could talk about the wedding. Jim had proposed and Whitney had said yes.
Tish said, “I knew about Jim’s plan to propose when you came in last month, but I didn’t want to say anything either, thinking it would be awful if I knew before the groom’s mother." 
We congratulated each other on keeping a huge secret, although it’s still a mystery to me as to how she knew about the engagement plan. No matter. For now, I’ll just have to assume aunts know these things.  

Whitney and Jim

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Zorie, Zorry, Zori

Photo by iMool
Ever feel like your eyes are in the right place at the right time? Recently, while reading Your Daily Poem—a fun website that emails followers a new poem every day—I spotted the word, zorry. One of the stories in my upcoming shiny new collection, Water Over Time, is called “The Zorie Sisters.” After having done a hasty search of sandal advertisements on the Internet, I trusted my spelling of zorie was correct.
How lucky to be reading a poem displaying the word, zorry.  Made me question its spelling. My chapbook is in the final just-a-smidgen-left stage of edits before zipping off to CreateSpace.

Only yesterday, Amber, my high-tech helper, emailed me a PDF version. “Give it a last look,” she said.

Excitedly, I opened my copy, this after reading my daily poem. How odd is it that I should read a poem featuring a zorry? It’s not like zorry, or zori, or zorie, is a common word. Is someone up there trying to help me? Do I have an editing angel?
Wishing to mind the signs that be, I consulted Wikipedia: “Zōri (草履?) are flat and thonged Japanese sandals…quite similar to flip-flops…” I changed my spelling, and I bow to Wiki and kiss zori. Thank you, Japan, for zori. Slipping into flip-flops is one of the joys of summer.

Thank goodness my eyes were in the right place at the right time.   
Water Over Time, thirty-three pages of stories, poems, and pictures about growing up in Guam, including the story, “The Zori Sisters,” is nearing completion. Then off we go. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Are We Done Yet?

My old Guam neighborhood
Picture sample for upcoming chapbook

When riding in the car with your parents, do you remember asking, "Are we there yet?" The answer was vague, "Just around the bend." Vague, because as a little girl, I couldn't tell how long the bend was, no frame of reference for maps, and miles, and hours.

In memoir, just around the bend can take you back years, and although you have a map, you will need a magnifying glass, and the miles don't tell you about stops along the way, and the hours don't tell you who you're going to meet, or how long you need to stay and talk, so there is no one to ask except for yourself, "Are We Done Yet?"

 I feel exactly like that little girl in the back seat now about to publish Water Over Time, my chapbook about growing up in Guam, "Are we done yet?"

"Close," is the answer. Decisions are being made, and I finished the About the Author page, which jolted me out of my creativity mode, and set me back into a reality mode. Reality being, I'm making a list and getting things done. 

I've decided to self-publish, and to use CreateSpace, and to get some help. A fellow writing group member, Amber Lea Starfire, has been a valuable resource. She writes a brilliant blog at Writing Through Life. She has used CreateSpace services in the past with great success and has offered advice and encouragement.

Some people can zip over to CreateSpace, upload their file, tap the submit button, and everything they enter turns golden, but I'm an anxious sort of person and I worry a lot about styles, and formats, and the end product.

Patsy Ann Taylor, another writing group pal, wrote on the acknowledgements page of her book, Click, "Writing is an activity usually endured alone. But from opening sentence to coda an author, if she is lucky, has support along the way."

Sooo maybe there is someone, other than myself, I can ask, "Are we done yet?"

In the meantime, I am reading one of the stories from my collection at SISTERS Consignment Couture in Sonoma along with two other authors, arranged by Laura McHale Holland. I invite you to come by if you're able.


Friday, Oct. 4, 2013

7 to 8:30 p.m.

Authors will share original writing about

sisters born or sisters found.

Open mic will follow for further readings on the theme. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Crying Babies

photo by Stefan Gara

If you read my last blog, there's been a slight change. I'm in the editing stage of my book. Perhaps you didn't notice, but I sure did. After all, a mother can recognize her own baby's cry, and boy, was my baby crying. How could I not see this before? One very awkward sentence. It wasn’t me. Baby must have written that one herself and she can’t write yet, but I fixed it, and now it reads fine.

Second guessing seems to be the norm. Lying awake last night─that's right, babies keep you up at night─I wondered if my sarcastic tone might put off a whole race of people, but after another look again this very early a.m., I think not. I'm mostly happy with the content of stories and poems. I need to edit and think about design.

Only one more page to write, About the Author. I know nothing about myself. After all these years, what can I say that is new and endearing?

After that, the publishing process begins, but I would also like to add a few pictures. I'm very vain and I was quite beautiful as a young girl. It will be hard not to use many. Seriously, I have to decide how many pictures are appropriate, and will they work in black and white or should I use color? I have at least two in mind.
And what about contests? Should I enter? Try to get a few books published for free and win prize money? Sounds good, but it’s a long process. What, what, what, is the best route? My workshop buddies share advice, but ultimately the decision is mine. I will probably have Copy Corner in Napa print my chapbooks again. They did a great job with Undertow, in 2011. 

Want to hear the best news of all? I showed a friend photos of the trip I took to Guam in 2010, and asked her opinion about one of the pictures for the cover of my book. She’s an artist so I thought she would have a good eye, and she said, “I can paint that for you.”

Wow! Her name is Elaine Lewis and she works out of her home in Lake County. She does a show at a gallery in Lakeport once a year, and she’s won many prizes at the local fair.

So lots of little things to think about for baby, but first I have to get her to stop crying. Anyone want to weigh in here?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Authority: What was Dad Thinking?

My father, an authority on most things, got the education thing wrong when we moved to Guam. After speaking to other authorities on the subject, he decided the Catholic school curriculum was more advanced, therefore better than the public schools. He enrolled my older sister and me in Catholic school. We failed miserably. My science teacher, a nun from Korea, talked so fast that spit ejected from her mouth, and her scribbles on the board were confusing and useless to me.  

It wasn’t only our grades that suffered, our behavior took a bad spin too. Seemed everywhere we turned we were breaking some rule or another, skirt lengths, bubble gum, make-up, the wrong kind of scarf or headband, and once my sister had a note sent home; holding hands with her boyfriend in the hallways. I saw a lot worse things going on in the hallways, but I think those nuns had it in for us, the Jewish sisters.

Jewish girls in a Catholic school. What was Dad thinking?

With each infraction of the code there was a fine, a dollar for chewing gum, or for skirts rolled up. The note home for the boyfriend was probably the last straw. After a few short months my Dad had had enough. Between the lousy grades and the fines he yanked us out of there and plopped us in public school where we behaved like angels or no one seemed to notice us.  

Public school had a few challenges of its own. We picked up the nasty habit of cigarette smoking so we could fit in, but we steered clear of anything dangerous like getting involved in the fights between rival gangs of Guamanians and Filipinos. Once, when a girl in the bathroom demanded a cigarette and I didn’t have one she threatened to beat me up. Luckily the bell rang. I always carried extra cigarettes after that.

With improved grades and no fines, Dad was happy and could go back to being the authority figure I loved and respected.  

(This post is a sample of a book project, stories and poems, about growing up in Guam.)

photo by stjohnschool

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In Hiding

I feel like I've been in hiding. It's been a while since my last post. Actually, I've been writing and reluctant to share my ideas. I suppose this is normal for a writer, but bad for blogging. I am putting together a book of poetry about growing up and living on the island of Guam. The poems I am writing now are mostly personal. I want to keep them that way until I am sure they are exactly what I want.

At times, I have wanted to share a poem from this collection, but I am reluctant because several seem to be in a state of transition. Some poems are more solid than others. Some I think need further introspection.

I get ideas in the middle of the night when I can't sleep, or perhaps the ideas are waking me up. "Wake up girl, get out of bed and write this stuff down before you forget!"

My process: scribble an idea, write a paragraph or two, choose phrases, play with the words, polish, polish, polish. How much polish? That's my problem. My writer's workshop has been helping me with this part. Some poems I bring to them and ask, "Is this done yet? Do you get what I'm saying?"

Good thing, I am not hiding from them. They seem to understand this crazy business.

Hidden cat photo by Grahford 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Celebrating National Poetry Month

After reading a blog post by Laura McHale Holland, I decided to follow her lead and post a poem to celebrate National Poetry Month. She wrote a poem beginning with this writing prompt: "The Day Is..." She offered the prompt to her readers and asked them to leave comments and poems. This recycled poem seems to fit well with that prompt. It also fits this gorgeous, golden, and warm spring day. Check out Laura's lovely poem too. Laura McHale Holland
Spring Patio

The Day Is
Golden warm
before the season remembers its pattern
bright laughter sprinkles like freckles
between our words

The drifting drawn lifting tone
of saxophone settles like satin
against our ears

Crowds and cars like colored marbles
spill before us

In unison
golden warm mingle
circle leaves, long hair, skirts

Suspend the season

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Turn a Corner

Dave and Barb March 20, 1982
Turn a corner. That's how quick your life can change. It happened to us 31 years ago.
Happy Anniversary Dave!
Turn a Corner

I turn a corner
his kitchen full of
laughing friends
merry blue eyes
welcome me
the unexpected guest

“I’m here
to see Laura…
your roommate”
his smile

Laura appears
“Ready to go?”
“You can stay,”
he says
Laura shrugs

I’m not here
to see him
or am I?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Treadmill Surprise

A writing prompt: The last time I was surprised it nearly....
The last time someone surprised me was when husband, Dave, and I went to buy a used treadmill from a lady in Sebastopol. The adventure nearly landed me in the emergency room. Maureen wanted $250.00 for her treadmill saying it was rarely used.     

I was anxious to try the machine so I climbed on and Maureen started it up. She showed Dave and me a few of the controls, speed, distance, and incline levels. As Maureen and Dave talked I kept up the pace, but after a few moments the tread seemed to jump up a notch. I asked if we could slow the pace a bit.  

Both Maureen and Dave didn’t hear me. Was I imagining things? No. The speed was up from 2 to 3 m/p/h. “Guys, how do you stop this thing?” 

Maureen turned to me, but didn’t seem to register my question. What was wrong with her? I trotted along. I don’t like trotting. “Hey! Hey!” The colored buttons on the control panel blurred. Was this a carnival ride? The whirling teacups or the flying swings? I was afraid to let go of the handles long enough to push any of the buttons. All of my focus was on my feet. Run feet run.   

“Let go, and I’ll catch you,” Dave yelled, but at that point I didn’t trust him. My legs gave out and I fell flying backwards banging my knees and elbows on my way. Dave grabbed me and helped me to my feet.      

Maureen finally snapped to attention and pulled a key to stop the machine. She asked if I was okay. “NO. I’M NOT! Why didn’t you stop the treadmill?”

“Brain fart,” she said.

Brain fart?? Because I got hurt, Maureen must have felt guilty.  We were able to talk her down in price another $50.00. We bought my treadmill for $200.00.

When was the last time you were surprised?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mia's Melody

This post is in response to a writer's prompt from our worskshop: She or he finally arrived only to discover .....

Mia finally arrived at the bookstore only to discover the poetry reading was over. Presenters had been scheduled between the hours of 2 and 4 p.m. She glanced at her watch. It was 3:30, but Mia’s car had broken down. It was too late to call anyone for a ride, so she had decided to walk the three miles. Better late than never.

Mia set up her display glad the podium, microphone, and chairs were still in place. While customers browsed the store she set out books, business cards, and flyers. Mia was prepared to perform. She had practiced her poems over and over, and so she began.

“Good afternoon, everyone, I hope you are enjoying your day of shopping. I am sorry I am a late reader, but I have a treat for you. I am going to read from my collection of poems.”

As Mia’s voice flowed out into the room listeners shifted toward it and took seats as close to her as they could manage so they could hear every melodic syllable. Mia’s voice captivated everyone in the store and because it was a warm day the doors were left open. Little rivulets of Mia’s musical sound floated out the door where a crowd had gathered, and they too entered the shop. Seats filled quickly.

When Mia finished reading the audience clapped loudly. People stood. Comments flew, “Magical! Profound! Joyous!”

“Thank-you, thank-you!” Mia was delighted.  It was not a common occurrence to have a standing ovation at a poetry reading. Alex, the store manager, told her she was welcome back any time and to bring more books. They were flying off the shelf.

Mia awoke to the loud ringing of the phone. “Mia, where are you!  It’s me, Patsy! We are all here at Copperfield’s! Get down here! You are late!”

Amber, Patsy, Barb Moehring, Barb Toboni (Mia)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What I've Lost and Found: Health

These past few weeks I’ve had a bad cold and cough. I’ve lost my good health. I’ve been too sick to carry on the ordinary tasks of everyday life. Just a trip to the grocery store has been a major challenge. I carry cough drops and tissues; wrap myself in extra layers, scarves and sweaters. I rush home to laze on the couch in front of the TV. Forget my normal routines, forget writing. I feel unproductive, uninspired, zapped, pooped, petered out, and dull.

What I’ve found is a new appreciation for preventative measures. No longer do I think it is silly to sing happy birthday to me while I wash my hands or take the time to look for the wipes at grocery stores to clean my shopping cart handles. I don’t mind standing in line for my flu shot, eating an apple a day to scare the doctor away, exercising, or taking my vitamins.  

I’ve learned that health affects physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing and have started to explore new ways to stay well, new diets, organic fruits and vegetables, vitamin supplements, meditation, alternative medicines, herbs and acupuncture.  

I still ring my doctor when needed and will gratefully take pills to get better, but my best advice? Rely on traditional comforts. Chicken soup is my favorite remedy.

The chicken soup worked. I'm feeling much better now. What is your favorite cold remedy?