Tag Archive | Tom Petty

Bernie, Bernie, Bernie

bernie ficus

How quickly things change in life and nature. Wednesday, Bernie the starling achieved two major steps: He sat in our ficus tree on the screened-in porch (with an assist from me) and had quite a big time pulling on leaves. And, more importantly, he picked up two meal worms and ate them, instead of just tossing them around and waiting to be fed. Quite the accomplishments for a wee one.

Then I left to pick up some of our grandkids at school. Jude and I rushed upstairs to see Bernie (Jude named him), and evidently he’d had a misstep while I was gone. Instead of being perched on one of the branches in his box or in a chair or on the floor (he’s been exploring a bit lately), he was in his fancy box with his left leg at a funny angle. We have no idea what he did, but we’re hoping it’s just a sprain/strain – a little research shows that to be very common in starlings who land on hard surfaces.

Sadly, he’s lost the ability to perch (or maybe it just hurts right now), though he can walk and had a great time playing in a puddle in the yard yesterday. But for the time being, this seems to be one of his favorite things:


bernie snuggles

Poor baby

From what I’ve read, he can recover, regain his footing, and, we hope, leave the nest. If he wants to live in our yard, that’s just fine. At least we won’t have to worry about cats here. But we want him to go free, and he already prefers the great outdoors of the screened porch upstairs to his safety box in the laundry room, where we put him at night (and kept him yesterday for recuperation, to his dismay).

Whatever happens, we’re giving him our best shot and our love. Even if his life is short, it’s better than being a snack for a feral cat, which is where he was headed.

Please send him your healing thoughts. He’s a good little bird. Now I’ll go back upstairs to check on him and see if he’s hungry again. But mainly, we wait. And as my man Tom Petty says, the waiting is the hardest part.

bernie porch


The waiting

The waiting is almost over for Tom Petty’s Verizon Arena show and I couldn’t be more excited.

Maybe that makes me a little girl, but his show in Memphis about a decade ago was probably THE best concert I’ve seen, and his music is a huge part of the soundtrack of my life. And my children’s. Can’t wait.

(Hard Promises,  especially, got me through a dark spell. Be sure to click on “the waiting” link for an excellent version of one of my favorite songs.)

Speaking of important/influential people in my life, two icons from my youth departed in the past week.

As Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows, Jonathan Frid was an immortal — and someone I rushed home from school to see for a few years – but he passed on Friday, April 13, at 87. (Oddly, just last night I was talking to John about him and we got up to that news this morning. Cue Dark Shadows soundtrack …)

And Arkansas native Levon Helm laid down his weight yesterday at the increasingly younger age of 71.  You made us proud, Levon.

The most important icon from my youth to pass on in April was, of course, my father, who died 30 years ago at 48 on April 24. That’s thirty, 3-0, three decades – so hard to believe in some ways and the reason T.S. Eliot’s “April is the cruelest month,” from “The Wasteland,” sticks so in my head.

And the reason I’m waiting for April to be over this year.

The waiting for the West Memphis 3 to be released from prison may be over, but the waiting for them to be cleared is infuriatingly and embarrassingly far from over, a point made very clear at the William H. Bowen School of Law symposium Wednesday, April 18.

“Exploring Evidence: Lessons from the ‘West Memphis Three’ Cases” was interesting, informative and eye-opening, proving that even though followers might think they know it all, there’s always more to boggle the mind.

This won’t go away, folks. Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Miskelley are still waiting for justice – as are the memories and families of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore.

All eyes will be on Arkansas again soon as this mishandled and bungled case gets so much new publicity – movies and books will begin springing up all over later this year.

At some point justice will be served.


April may be the cruelest month in some ways, but April in the Quapaw Quarter is beautiful. One of the nicest things about living downtown is walking the dogs, especially through Mt. Holly Cemetery.

Life downtown keeps getting better, too, as Main Street continues to come back to life. Check out the information about an “idea generation” meeting May 5 to be held at the Oxford American, which has big ideas and plans of its own. Promises to be good.

We downtown-dwellers are excited.

Mt. Holly Cemetery is beautiful anytime, but it's especially radiant in the spring.

"Whatcha doing, Dad?" Tess and Zuzu love running through Mt. Holly, but they don't understand stopping for photos.

Give me just a little more time

For the past week and a half or so, I’ve really needed some magical power to give me just a little more time. I’ve wanted to blog and I’ve wanted to sew, but all my creative efforts have gone toward school. This weekend was the second marathon session of Family Mediation, 5-9 Friday night and all day Saturday and Sunday, which was great, but now we’re sitting powerless in the candlelight, without a clue what’s going on.

No bang of a transformer blowing. No crash of a vehicle meeting a utility pole, just sudden silence and darkness with occasional sirens in the distance. Kind of peaceful, actually, except for the eerie stillness in the air. And the next round of sirens that just started on Roosevelt.

Life in the ’hood.

So much for hitting the fab pile of fabric that’s been untouched for days.

That’s been rather the modus operandi of late, one surprise/disruption after another.

Oh well. Might as well use this time to write about what’s happened in the days I’ve been absent, even though I can’t post it until we get re-Entergized. Yesterday was John’s, Kitty’s, their friend Paul’s and their cousin Joanne’s birthday.

John, Cathy, brother Paul and I celebrated John’s big day at Ciao last night. Dinner was divine, as always. Such a nice restaurant, and how lucky we Quapawians are to have it! Five of our neighbors were at nearby tables, which made for an extra-nice touch.

Thursday Julia and I went to the Little Rock Sustainability Summit at the Clinton Library, which was another treat. Afterward Julia sat through my presentation for class today (thanks, again!), then I gave her a stylish new bob in my kitchen – we had a large time. Fun can be free.

Speaking of bobs, while we were sitting at the summit, I looked out the huge library window at a hotel that Daddy (Bob Cartwright) remodeled sometime before he became ill. Reminders are everywhere, especially in April.

By this time 30 years ago, he’d lost his ability to speak. But his strong, brave, young heart continued to beat.

I’m writing this April 15, which is the day the taxman cometh, but more importantly, it’s my grandmother Verna Jewel Tackett’s birthday (she’d be 96, had we not lost her when she was 85).

In 1982, this was nine days before Daddy’s death, though of course we didn’t know that then. We just knew it was imminent.

He died on April 24, on my grandfather Doyle Tackett’s birthday. April has always been an important birthday month. Now we also have Marie-Noelle on the 18th and Elizabeth on the 21st.

Which is also the date we see Tom Petty. Hallelujah! Can’t wait. Love that TP.

And of course Sunday was Easter at Mother’s. Quiche divine,  four kinds, with roasted veggies and peach cobbler. Heavenly.

On Friday the 6th, Julia and I took Sylvia for a walk down the sidewalks of Argenta (which we used to call downtown North Little Rock when I was little), inside Galaxy Furniture, and to lunch at Argenta Market, which was all a real treat on a lovely day.

So maybe it just seems like every second has gone toward school. I guess I really don’t know where it’s gone.

I do know that two long research papers and one (hard!) test are all that’s left of this semester. Can that possibly be true?

I could still use a little more time. Can’t somebody give me some? It’s going oh-so fast.

P.S. Power came back at 10:40ish. No explanation.

Learning to fly

In political terms which I try to avoid here since political discussions take up so much of my life – and tend to be hotter-than-hot potatoes – some might call me a flip-flopper. But to use a Bushism (those ridiculous gaffes are in danger of becoming almost endearing in these ugly political times), I’d rather think of myself as a “decider.”

Because, as my man Tom Petty says on the classic “Hard Promises”  (and which, amazingly, sadly, is not on YouTube!*), “you can still change your mind,” no matter the stakes, right? Only stuck people never waiver. If we continue to grow, we’re always learning to fly. 

And my wings have taken me from working on a gerontology degree to the pursuit of an MSW. That’s master’s in Social Work. Gerontology is housed in the Social Work department, so it’s not that radical a move, and I’m very, very pleased and excited about adding another year to my coursework.

Seriously. Even with the hard promises of hard work. 

But rather than write today about all my reasons for changing, especially since projects, papers and finals are breathing down my neck (so that’s dramatic personification. My undergrad degree is in English and I’ll always be a writer. Can’t help myself.), I thought I’d just let one section of my SW application essays speak for me today.

Describe the factors that have led you to choose social work as your profession.

In some ways, I’ve been practicing an untrained version of social work much of my life. From at least adolescence, I’ve tried to operate from a center of compassion and have been accused many times of caring too much. In high school I consciously reached out to the “misfits” and lower socioeconomic status students and did my best to operate from compassion in the tough early days of school desegregation. I’ve always championed for causes and advocated for change – I’ve also been accused of never being satisfied, but sometimes the status quo is unacceptable.

Social work in many ways feels like a natural extension of my high school teaching career. As a newspaper staff adviser and girls soccer coach, I had a closer bond with those students than regular classroom teachers, and many of them came to me for counseling and advice. Even my Journalism One and Creative Writing students – as well as my English students back in the 1980s when I was a very young woman – confided in me or consulted with me in times of trouble. Good teachers have much in common with social workers; we are mandated reporters, and we take education classes that cover Erikson, Freud, Maslow and Piaget at great length. Many of our in-service workshops are on working with the poor or on person in environment theories. I always proudly taught in and sent my children to public schools, which are true bastions of diversity.

Even as a newspaper health and fitness columnist, I often had people write, e-mail, or call for advice. Though I always told them I was not a professional, of course I did what I could to help, whether it involved researching the answer, referring them to someone else, or just listening and helping in whatever way I could.

What makes me know without a doubt that this is the right decision is that within two chapters of my Diversity and Oppression textbook,  a feeling of “coming home” washed over me.  Teaching and writing were my first two callings. Social work is my third – and it’s calling loud and clear.


So there you have it. Call me a bleeding-heart idealist. I’ve been called that before – and a whole lot worse.

Bring it on.

*Here’s a random dude doing a cover of one of my favorite TP songs, in case you can’t hear it in your head as I can.


Michael Jackson might have sung about a shiny black rat from a sub-rate horror movie, but some of the lyrics are right on target for how my Ben changed my life.

About this time 33 years ago I was excitedly awaiting to meet the boy who would change my life, give it purpose and meaning, and make me realize who I really was, Ben’s mother.

In general, life was a scary place for a young girl in those early PTSD marriage years, but once I met my blue-eyed boy, the lyrics to “Ben” played in my head: “I used to say ‘I’ and ‘me,’ now it’s ‘us,’ now it’s ‘we.’” And I knew the meaning of love that can’t be understood until you’ve become a parent.

My beautiful boy rocked my world. We spent much time in the Bentwood rocker he’s holding on to.

Now that my babies have kids of their own, they know how much I love them. That’s a great thing, just as I learned how much my parents love (past tense in Daddy’s case) Cathy and me.

Back to Ben’s birth: He was a scheduled C-section. My doctor scheduled the delivery a week before his due date to keep him from going over 9 pounds, which the doc thought was a bit much for a small woman with a first Caesarean. He arrived a 8 pounds 11 ounces and with a beautiful round head.

I didn’t get to meet him for about three hours, since I had to be knocked out with twilight sleep – no epidurals for the allergy queen. But I roused myself enough in recovery to whisper to a nurse, “What did I have?” I knew in my heart all along he was a boy – we never even considered a girl name, but this was pre-sonogram to determine sex days.

The nurse confirmed what I knew and I groggily, happily went back to sleep. A bit later, another nurse brought him to me in my private room, and my world rocked on its axis.

I don’t want to embarrass my grown-man son, but I have to share a few things about the wonder that was my boy. By 5 months, he was pointing to the farm animals in our “Norman Rockwell’s Counting Book.”  We spent hours in the rattan Bentwood rocker reading. “Where’s the chicken?” Little finger pointed.

“Where’s the cow?” I asked one day shortly after he started pointing to animals. “Moooo,” Ben said as he pointed to the cow. Did that really happen? You bet.

Mother was determined Ben would talk before I did, and by 7 months, she had him pointing to lights and saying “eligh.” When you talk that young, some things come out in baby talk, but moms always understand. Trigger was “GrrGrr,” his second word. Mother and Daddy were both “GraGra” for a bit, until one day Ben dubbed Daddy “GrandBob.”

We had so much fun. He’d sit for hours putting lids on jars and taking them back off. He’d also run like a tornado in an old-timey, folding walker, crash into a piece of furniture, turn, run, crash into something else, also for what at least seemed like hours. Ripping pages from magazines was another of his favorite activities.

At 15 months, little Ben would bring me a Tom Petty album whimpering “TP, Mama, TP.” 

Music was already of major importance to him. That’s also the age he learned to work the stereo, a bit roughly. After we got it back from the shop we had to elevate it and he had to ask me to turn it on.

By 2, he could name every color in the 64-crayon box of Crayolas, and I swear to you that he knew Burnt Sienna from Burnt Umber. He also peppered his sentences with advanced adverbs like “absolutely” and “certainly.” Granted, he still had a baby lisp, but his vocabulary was vast.

I can play the piano!

Liz never got a chance to talk much because Ben anticipated and explained her every need. That baby boy relished being a “big brother” at 15 months. He used to raise my shirt to kiss the baby before she was born. After she arrived, he’d check her diaper, though he was still in one himself.

Ben didn’t sleep through the night until he was 3 years old. Things weren’t always easy, but he was always my precious boy, even when I wanted to throttle him. Now he’s my precious man and a daddy to beautiful Annabelle.

I’m glad he knows how much he’s loved.

Happy birthday, beautiful boy.

Bittersweet me(mories)

It’s taken me a few days to work up to writing about the breakup of REM. Wednesday morning, as I was doing an early morning weights workout, the scroll across the bottom of the screen silently announced the news.

“Oh, NO!”

I startled John, who was engrossed in the news on his computer in the dining room. REM was one of my bucket-list bands. I don’t mean to see before I die – I have a few bands left that, after seeing them, I could conceivably never go to another concert.  (Conceivable? Probably not. But maybe.) Concerts bucket list.

Now I can never see them live. But I’m actually OK with it. It’s not that I’m losing my REM religion – but sometime’s it’s wiser to heed Buddy Holly’s advice than to turn into still-touring relics. Rolling Stones, I love you, but a 50-year tour? That’s getting kind of creepy.

I’ll always have the finest worksong to play for the finest of hours. And REM kept me from chewing my leg off when I needed out of a miserable marriage. And helped me have the courage to go for it.

So I’ll settle for my REM collection and knowing that “Automatic for the People” will always be on my 10-desert-island-albums list. 

I’ll always miss you and be grateful for your assistance through some rough spots in life.   RIP, REM.




Speaking of Top 10s (the desert-island list), how do you choose from a lifetime (a looonnnggg lifetime) of music?

“The Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East” is a no-brainer. Has been since I was 16. 

So is Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.” Goes without saying. 

Automatic for the People.” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” “Z.Z. Top’s First Album” (they used to kick ass, trust me).

Crap, halfway there with old stuff. And haven’t even addressed Led Zeppelin. OK, “Houses of the Holy.” What the hell. They’re all good. And there’s that confounded bridge that always makes Liz and me smile.

But any Top 10 list of mine would be heavy on Tom Petty – he is my husband in a parallel universe. (It’s OK, it’s OK. John digs him too.) And my baby boy, Ben, used to beg me to play TP. So he’s got to be there. He could be all 10, actually.

But I guess I could settle for “The Waiting,” if I had to, and “The Traveling Wilburys, Vol.1,” but it would almost kill me to choose. 

Please notice I’m being authentic and true and not copping out with greatest hits or boxed sets. You try it – waaayyyy harder.

Then I’d have to add Mumford & Sons “Sigh No More and The Avett Brothers, probably “Live, Vol. 3.

Shit, that’s it! Can I live with it forever? Maybe. Ask me tomorrow. But probably not – there’s no DMB, and when you’ve gotta hear Dave, you’ve gotta hear Dave. Or Willie. Or Leon Russell. Oh, my.

This won’t do! Ten is not enough. No desert islands for me unless I can bring my iPod Touch with unlimited battery power.

Maybe next time I’ll do an all-girls version. Or an all-Beatles. Or an all-post ’90s. Or an all-boxed-sets. You try it. It’s hard.

What IS your Top 10? I dare you.