“This is Marketplace”

True confession: I have a voice fetish. A charming accent, a well-placed glottal stop, a deep and smoky whisper… these things undo me. The right voice could almost make me vote Republican. Almost.

Fortunately, when I’m in the throes of voice withdrawal for whatever reason, I know that help is on the way in the form of NPR’s Kai Ryssdal, the host of their weekday program called Marketplace.

Incidentally, is it a job requirement that you have to have an unusual name to work for NPR? Just wondering. I mean, Ira Flatow, John Hockenberry, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, Andrei Codrescu, Joe Bevilacqua, Jad Abumrad, Hyunh Burritoso, Mandalit del Barco, Corey Flintoff, David Folkenflik, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, Yuki Noguchi, Sylvia Poggioli, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, Shankar Vedantam, Doualy Xaykaothao, Lakshmi Singh, and whatever happened to Snigdha Prakash?

But I digress. Where were we? Oh, yeah. Voice fetish. In the opener, just before the music swells, Kai says “This is Marketplace” and you can just hear the sexy smile in his voice. It makes me want to pull off the road and take a cold shower. That’s all I need. After that, I’m good for at least 24 hours.

I’ve comforted myself with the assumption that this guy probably has a face for radio. Surely he can’t be as gorgeous as his voice. No way. Impossible. The gods do not rain that much favor down upon one individual. But in looking for a picture for this blog post I see that, no, yowza… the voice definitely fits the face. Why he’s not on TV is beyond me.

Hoo. I need to go home and kiss my husband. Like… immediately. (And his voice and good looks are nothing to sneeze at, either. How lucky am I?)

Now, don’t even get me started on Morgan Freeman or Sam Elliott…

Kai Ryssdal
Kai Ryssdal

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Let Reality Be Beautiful

Things are good. Almost too good. So good, in fact, that sometimes I panic. That annoying little voice in my head whispers, “This is too good to be true. It can’t be real. You’re overlooking something. Or all the great people around you will finally see you for the inherently flawed individual that you are and disappear. Or a meteor is about to crush you dead. Or something. Because you can’t have the good things.”

If a pep talk like that doesn’t send me into a panic attack, surely it will cause me to dive headlong into a pint of Häagen-Dazs. Neither outcome is optimal to my health. But if I get to choose (“You never get to choose.”) (“Shut up, annoying little voice!”) I’ll take the ice cream.

I was talking about this to my dear friend Anju, whose blog I highly recommend. Of everyone I know, Anju is one of the ones I’d be most likely to consider an authority on this subject, because from what I can tell, she leads an amazing life. She takes risks. She sits down at the world’s table and she feasts of life like a fat kid in an ice cream parlor. No apologies. No prisoners. Her life isn’t always a bed of roses, but it is uniquely and undoubtedly hers. I admire her. I’d love to be her.

After listening to me grouse, she simply said, “Let reality be beautiful.”

Wow. If that doesn’t strike a chord in you, then you are tone deaf.

And you know, why the hell not? If things are good, then I should enjoy them. I need to live in the now, because the now, right now, is awesome!

I may not have any control over the meteors heading my way, but I certainly don’t have to poop all over my own party. I deserve as much beautiful reality as the next person. And so do you, dear reader.

Thanks Anju!


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My Voice

I had a fascinating conversation with some old friends recently. I’ve known them for 10 years in the virtual world of Second Life. We hang out a couple times a week, but in all that time I’ve never heard their actual voices. All our communication is via text.

Am I alone in this? When I read something, I “hear” what I’m reading inside my head. I’ve always done that.

But the other day, for the first time, it occurred to me that when I read what these two friends type, I have different inner voices for each of them. Based on their personalities, my mind has created a kind and gentle voice for one, and a straightforward, practical, no-nonsense voice for the other. Fascinating.

So naturally, I asked what my “voice” sounds like to them. I was really surprised by the answer. They said it doesn’t sound like my blog.

That’s intriguing. I think of this blog as me on a screen. I’ve taken pride in laying myself bare and being honest and vulnerable here. But my friends say that in my blog I sound like a strong positive woman, and when I talk to them, I’m more fragile.

Hmm… Yeah, I can see that. Since I write my entries several days in advance, I have plenty of time for multiple revisions. That means by the time my posts reach you, I’ve edited out a lot of the craziness, impulsiveness, negativity, and basic hysteria. (Yeah, I know. Hard to believe.) I think that makes the blog infinitely more readable, but perhaps it also makes it less “me”.

But when all is said and done, that’s the definition of true friendship, isn’t it? Someone who sees the unedited version of you, warts and all, and loves you anyway.

I’m a very lucky person.


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Revel in This Privilege




privilege; plural noun: privileges

synonyms:advantage, benefit

  • a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.

When I was a little girl, my mother took me to a special place. We stood in line. Then we went into this booth and drew a curtain. There was a wall with many levers on it. I remember holding onto her skirt for balance and  looking up as my mother pulled some of the levers, and ignored others. Then we left.

I didn’t really understand what was going on at the time, although I’m sure she tried to explain it to me. I could tell that whatever it was, it was very important. I was proud of my mother for pulling those levers. And with that curtain drawn, I knew I had been let in on a big secret. It was exciting.

That was my first voting experience, and clearly it made a big impression on me, because as soon as I was old enough to vote, I did. And I always have. And I always will (despite the fact that the levers are gone, so it doesn’t seem nearly as cool).

It astounds me that more people don’t take advantage of this privilege. That’s what it is, you know. Not a chore. Not an inconvenience. A lot of people on this planet don’t have this right. They don’t get to voice their opinion about who should be running their country, and by extension, their lives. They don’t get to say, “This is how I want things to be done.” If you can do this, why on earth wouldn’t you?

Yes, we can talk about corrupt politicians, whether or not this or that race is rigged, how the rich have unfair influence and on and on, but imagine how much worse it would be if none of us voted at all. How quickly the virtual shackles would click on our wrists.

And as a woman, every time I vote I think of all the women who fought and died and protested and were jailed and went on hunger strikes and were force fed just so that this privilege could be mine. Any woman who does not vote may as well be slapping those women across the face.

This election may be the most important one this country has ever faced. Please don’t sit it out. Be grateful that your voice can be heard. Vote!


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My Fry

There has been much ado about vocal fry of late. If you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere and don’t know what that is, it’s the quaver or creaky/growly sound some people have in their voices. It’s usually attributed to college-aged females, but I hear it in plenty of males, too.

It seems that a lot of people find it annoying. I never have. It’s just another voice quality to me. Some languages have a click sound. Some accents have a glottal stop (which I just love). Some people have vocal fry. Big deal. Sometimes it even sounds sexy, in my opinion, depending on the situation. But once you focus on it, you hear it everywhere.

I genuinely believe that no one employs vocal fry on purpose. I suspect most people don’t even realize they sound this way. I can attest to that. Recently, I was featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, and the first time I listened to the interview I realized that I have vocal fry. It comes, it goes, but it’s definitely there.

You have to understand what a revelation this was for me. I’m 51 years old, and this fact had escaped me all these years. Imagine that. Needless to say, I’ve been hearing myself natter on about things for decades. How could I have missed this? It’s like suddenly discovering you’re a Martian after walking the earth for your whole life.

So, hi, I’m Barb, and I’m a fry-aholic.

Now, if you really want to be irritating, do that baby talk thing. That, you can control.


The Ultimate Interview

I will never know what my mother’s favorite color was. I’ll never know where she was when Kennedy was assassinated, or during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I’ll never know if she ever considered being a model. She certainly had the looks for it. Did she know anyone affected by the 1944 big top fire that happened near her home? I will never know these things because she died when I was 26 and it never occurred to me to ask those types of questions. I also can’t remember her voice, other than one particularly bad note she used to hit when singing one particular song. (She was beautiful, but she couldn’t carry a tune.)

When someone you love is dying, you’ve obviously got a lot on your mind. But if it’s your first major loss in particular, it’s quite possible that you don’t fully comprehend, or won’t allow yourself to completely accept, the fact that this is one change that’s going to be permanent. An enormous amount of history dies every time a person does.

If I had t to do over again, I’d ask questions, and lots of them. Think of it as a final interview. I’d even record it, so I’d have her voice as well. Here are some of the questions I would have asked my mother if given the chance.

  • What was your dream for your life?
  • How many times were you in love?
  • What is your favorite color?
  • Tell me where you were and what you were doing and thinking during various major historical events in your life. (VE Day, VJ Day, Kennedy Assassination, Martin Luther King’s Assassination, etc.)
  • What was the best day of your life aside from the birth of children?
  • What was the worst day of your life?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What were your dreams for my life?
  • If you had all the money in the world, what would you buy?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • What is the best trip you’ve ever taken?
  • What was your biggest achievement?
  • What was your biggest disappointment?
  • Describe a perfect day.
  • What would you change about your life?
  • If you could give me one piece of advice, what would it be?
  • What is the most important lesson you’ve ever learned?
  • What is your favorite joke?
  • What is the most fun you’ve ever had?
  • Who is the best friend you’ve ever had?
  • Tell me something about yourself that would surprise me.
  • Tell me about your first kiss.
  • Is there anything you’ve always wanted to say, but haven’t said?
  • What do you believe will happen when you die?
  • Are you proud of me?
  • Was there anything you always wanted to learn but never got around to learning?
  • Do you know how much you are loved?
  • What would you like people to say about you after you’re gone?

Some of these questions will be harder to ask than others. But if you don’t ask them, you will never have the answers. And believe me, there’s nothing worse than that.

Ma at 15

My beautiful mother at age 15.