I’m never leaving here


I drove through the rolling green hills of the Driftless region of southwest Wisconsin today. The farm fields have sprouted; some are already knee-high with corn or soy beans. The hills are dotted with clusters of trees, grand old solitary oaks and pastures full of grazing cows or horses. The sky was bright blue with a few floaty white clouds. It was a nearly perfect early summer day.

I used to live in that area. I didn’t think I ever took the beauty for granted, but after not seeing it daily for the last five years or so — I was definitely soaking it in today.

I had a hand-drawn map on a piece of paper to guide me. The address didn’t show up on my GPS. In this now-city-girl’s opinion, it was out in the middle of nowhere. Absolutely gorgeous nowhere, though. I had never been to this farm before. The friend who lived there was the friend-of-a-friend with whom I’d have a few coffee chats over the years.
I had also had this woman’s daughter in my children’s choir at one time about 8 years ago or so.


The two friends were waiting for me on a lovely screened in back porch as I drove slowly up the long gravel driveway. I got out of the car, flung my arms wide and declared, “I’m never leaving! This is absolutely beautiful.” (This photo is the view from the screened in back porch).

We laughed and hugged and said hello.

I’ve written about my friend, Anne, before. And here as well.

The woman who lives on this gorgeous farm was diagnosed with an aggressive very rare form of cancer last October. She went from mammogram, to biopsy, to starting chemo in FOUR days. It was urgent. Her prognosis was never good. The doctors thought she wouldn’t make it through October. I saw her today, looking great and full of joy and love — about 9 months after that thought. She is fiercely determined, surrounded by prayer and LOVE.

We had peppermint tea and some delicious veggies, cheese (it IS Wisconsin, after all!), gluten-free crispy crackers, and dark chocolate covered cherries. A lovely tea party for three.

We chatted about family, about our children, about our lives. We talked about her treatment until she declared she’d had enough. We went on to talk about the book she had finished (during chemo!) and about her upcoming book signing. I bought a few for family and friends, and she happily signed them for me.

We talked about balcony people and about basement people. She said, “If you are on the stage performing at the very top of your ability and the balcony is full of people who love you unconditionally, who believe in you, who are your most loyal supporters — who is in the balcony?” I got teary and reached out my hand to Anne, “Anne Donovan.” She grasped my hand. I talked about how Anne has buoyed me through the years and not only me, but my children. Without fail, without reservation, without shyness. She is on our side. Always. No question. Ever. I’m incredibly blessed to have a balcony packed full of wonderful friends and family and colleagues.

Then she asked, “Who is in the basement? Who second guesses you? Questions your words, your motives, your actions?” Well, I could name a few people. But thankfully very few.

This woman inspired me. She gave me comfort and support today; she declared my life had already touched many lives for the better and predicted I would be continuing on that path. She hugged me tightly and she knew I was thinking I might not ever see her again. She saw my tears. She prophesied that I will be open to more joy and love than I can imagine. All three of us hugged and at least two of us were tearing up.

I took a quick photo of the three of us.

I will carry this sacred moment in my heart.




Three Moments in Ankara: #2 Galeri Z

As we were walking in the oldest part of Ankara, Turkey — the area near the Museum and the hisar (the citadel) — I saw a shop window with some blue and white plates and tiles displayed.

Since I collect blue and white plates, we went in.

The Turkish blue and white plate my family got me several years ago.
The Turkish blue and white plate my family got me several years ago.
signature on the older plate
signature on the older plate
Galleri Z
Galleri Z

I said hello to the shop owner, a short plumpish woman with short blond hair and impish eyes.  She said hello and how are you?  So I thought I would try out my Turkish phrase that Mustafa taught me:  iyiyim sen nasilson. (I’m good and how are you?)

Galleri Z shopowner: Fatma Tuna

She smiled broadly and congratulated me on my attempt to speak Turkish.  This seemed to put me into the long-lost relative category — or long-lost friend at the very least.  She asked me about our trip and where we had visited and why we were in Turkey.

Some of the many blue and white plates in Galeri Z shop in Ankara, Turkey
Some of the many blue and white plates in Galeri Z shop in Ankara, Turkey

We chatted about all this while I looked at the plates — lots of them hanging on the wall and many more in display cases around the shop.  I had almost decided not to get one since getting it home would be difficult (I would most likely have to carry it on the plane)….but then….I saw one that I absolutely loved.

The lovely plate I bought at Galeri Z in Ankara.
The lovely plate I bought at Galeri Z in Ankara.

The beautifully detailed and intricately painted cobalt blue pattern on the white plate really caught my eye.  She of course got it down for me to look at more closely and she handed it to me.  I could feel how heavy the plate was and up close it was even more gorgeous.  (She knew how to sell things that is for sure!)

She said the company that produced this plate is out of business now, and the woman who painted this particular plate was a known artist.  I (just by eye) also liked another plate that this same artist had painted, but ultimately chose the first one I saw and loved — the one I was holding.

Signature on the plate I bought.
Signature on the plate I bought.

She said she had just three plates from this artist left; the one in my hands, the other one I liked and another one on the wall (with more colors – not just blue and white).

I bought a couple of other small things, and decided I was finished shopping.  Mrs. Tuna cheerfully wrapped everything very carefully and rang me up — chatting the whole time.

I bought this lovely blue and white trivet in Anadolu Kavak at the farthest point of our Bosphorous cruise.
I bought this lovely blue and white trivet in Anadolu Kavak at the farthest point of our Bosphorous cruise.

As we were leaving, she invited us back for Turkish coffee or hot tea after we visited the citadel.  I wasn’t sure we would have time but I assured her we would if we could.  After climbing the steep streets and stairs and enjoying the spectacular view from the walls of the citadel, there did indeed seem to be time to go for a quick cup of tea or coffee and a chat with this very friendly woman.

Some buildings in this area were nearly in ruins and others were fresh and new.

Though she may have been surprised that we came back to take her up on the offer of tea/coffee,

Turkish Tea
Turkish Tea (Photo credit: kulinarno)

the store owner made us feel very welcome and bustled off to make coffee and tea for us.  (I had Turkish coffee and my daughter had apple tea while the men had cold Coke).

Turkish Coffee
Turkish Coffee (Photo credit: mbgrigby)

The tea/coffee cups were lovely, very delicate with beautiful gold highlights.  I said I thought the cups were pretty and she said with a smile, “We sell them here in the shop.”

It felt very nice to be invited to sit, drink and talk in her store. We took the time and so did she.  We got to meet her daughter who also happened to be in the store the second time we visited.  Though we didn’t talk about anything profound or of world importance — it was a wonderful opportunity to get to know more about life in Turkey, and for them to get to know more about life in the US.

Turkish coffee
Turkish coffee (Photo credit: roboppy)

We heard and read how friendly and warm the Turkish people are – and this day’s experiences certainly emphasized that.