My Best Friend


My best friend in the world is named Joyce Tianello Snodgrass. Today, August 4, is her 60th birthday. She is now embarking on her second circle of life, according to Eastern Astrology. But more on that in a minute.

One note before I begin. She happens to share her birthday with a man whom I adore, the President of the United States, Barack Obama. I say she shares because today is his 53rd birthday, and so she had it before he was born. Happy birthday, Mr. President.

Now back to Joyce. I first met Joyce Snodgrass in 1979, when we were both members of the Austin Civic Chorus. We did not become best friends then, though we stood next to one another in the alto section. She later disappeared, and I learned eventually that she had not passed the auditions. I do not understand that because she has a fine voice. But perhaps the director recognized that it was not a voice suited to a large orchestral piece like Handel’s Messiah, which was our traditional fall piece every year. Perhaps it just wasn’t a big enough voice, but she does beautiful work with folk and rock-style music.

Our paths crossed again when we were both employed by the Astronomy Department at the University of Texas. That was when we started to become pretty close, and discovered we shared a the same great, but skewed, outlook on life. We found we shared a love of music, and the outlandish world of the science fiction lover. We were both highly intelligent, and could find humour in the same places many folks don’t see humour.

As our friendship grew, we found ourselves once again working in the same place, a public radio station called KUT radio. She worked in the taping department, I worked upstairs in scheduling. And the friendship grew even more.

But our paths seemed to converge finally as a lasting friendship when I became very depressed in the mid-1990s, and she (and my cat Melissa) were the sole reason I did not commit suicide in 1996. She because she fought for my life, Melissa because I could not find my self capable of leaving her behind. Joyce fought for me again and again through the next several years, and because of her, I live today, having overcome the things that were causing me to despair of life.

She is retired now and living more than 20 miles away, and does not drive into town often. But we stay in touch by telephone, and while she still loves a bit of night life, and has other friends she does things with, and I am happier to stay home these days, we are still close. I think she does not always understand how much she means to me, even though I tell her often that I love her, but she was born in a much more reserved world than I was, where people she grew up with were not as demonstrative as I am.

Joyce has done so much to improve my life, that I feel that today, on her 60th birthday, I need to say so in a much more public way – thus this blog.

Now to the Chinese Year of her birth. Joyce was born in the Year of the Wood Horse. In Chinese Astrology, a cycle is 12 years of the totem, times five different areas of each totem. Wood, fire, metal, air, water. Today she begins her second cycle of the Wood Horse.

The definition of a Wood Horse: Friendly, cooperative, and less impatient, this type of Horse could be the most reasonable of the lot. But s/he will still resist being dominated. The Wood element enables him/her to discipline his/her mind better and s/he will be capable of clear and systematic thinking. The Wood Horse will have a happy disposition and be very active in social affairs. Amusing and a good conversationalist, he is not overly egotistical and will not constantly vie for the headlines.

But as he is progressive, modern and unsentimental, he will throw out the old and welcome in the new. Changes and new inventions capture his imagination and he will not shrink from trying the unconventional.

He will like to explore many other fields, but will try hard to fulfill his responsibilities first. The strong, high-spirited, and sanguine Wood Horse does not have a lazy bone in his body, but he would do well to learn to be more cautious and discerning.

I tell you that Joyce would disagree with many of these traits, the one about systematic thinking, but I think if she really thought about it, she would discover that she really does think systematically about the important things in life, but she occasionally sees importance in mundane and minor things, and hesitates often in wondering if she is doing the right thing. Joyce is married to a very nice fellow, Bill, who is also very intelligent, and an inventor, and I think sometimes he expects things from her that are not reasonable. But she likes him, and I think he is a nice guy, and they have been together for over 35 years, so it works for them.

Anyway, Joyce, happy birthday, have a great day, and a great second circle of life, as long as it goes on. Perhaps you and I will both be lucky enough to attain the beginning of the third circles of our lives, when we are both 120 years old, though I will reach it 14 years before you do.

Love from

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

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About carolstepp

Music is about the most important thing in my life, and I follow a large number of musicians, particularly Irish, Scots, Classical, Crossovers of any of these. I was writing a blog about Celtic Thunder regularly on MySpace, and now I have left them after a year, and will start writing my blogs here. I am 70, retired, living on Social Security, and have a lot of social network fans.
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