Last Week’s Good Things

weekHoliday weekends bring free time to catch up on things that didn’t get done in the lead up to said holiday. This is a little outdated, but what can be wrong with reflecting on good things that came my way in the recent past?

fantastic-mr-fox-20100322013810854-000The Morning Fox – Nope. This does not refer to anything that has to do with the Fox network. What happened is that I stepped out my front door last week at about 5 AM. It was dark and cold and still. While I walked down the steps to fetch my papers, a beautiful full-grown fox came running down the middle of my street. It was so swift and pretty. The memory of it still is a thing of beauty. Wildlife in the middle of the city happens.

Bird-by-Bird-image1

Anne Lamott talkAnne Lamott was in town last week, talking about her new book, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace. Hearing her talk was a wonderful thing! I got to know Anne Lamott first via her book Bird by Bird. It is a wonderful book about being a writer, and writing, and life. Hearing her talk is just like reading her words. She exudes a comfort with herself that makes the space comfortable. She speaks off the cuff and with humor and grace. I love the life that the words she writes and she speaks hold. My favorite essay from Bird by Bird is the title one. In it she remembers her brother whining over a school project that he had to do about birds. He could see no way that he could possibly tackle such a project. Her dad gave him the how to lesson that always sticks with me when I have a big project that looks overwhelming in front of me. How can it get done? Bird by bird.

chrissieChrissie Hynde at the Uptown – This seems like forever ago, but it was officially last week. Dan won tickets to go see Chrissie Hynde perform at the Uptown. She is on a solo tour, but she is backed up by a super band. While I like the Pretenders, they aren’t among the bands I would put among my all time favorites, so seeing Chrissie was something I looked forward to, but I wasn’t over the moon excited about. Dan and I listened to her new album in our listening blog series this year, so I was ready for those songs. She did lots of those along with several Pretenders songs. I gotta say that I really loved this concert. Chrissie was charming in her banter with the audience and band, and her voice is amazing. I don’t know what it would sound like if you did a side by side of her singing thirty years ago, but I don’t think that she has lost anything. One interesting thing about the concert was a big warning that she did not want cell phone pictures taken during the concert. She explained later that the screens really mess with her eyes and she doesn’t like it. When the last number was about to start, she told people that they could use them. A sea of cell phone rose in the air. It was a fine example of give and take! She also writes charming and sweet Facebook tour updates (photo above from that).

Lunch with Friends – Some friends from out-of-town were here visiting other friends last weekend and we got to meet up with them for lunch. We met at BB’s Lawnside BBQ. Man! If you want to hang out on a Saturday afternoon, catch up with friends over a couple good beers and some smokey good meat, BB’s is hard to beat. We have been going there since it first opened in 1990. It has always been a place with good food, friendly staff, and great music. Lucky us!

A new tracker App – I have been trying to pay more attention to some lifestyle things and I found an App this week that I think may be an easy, manageable way to do this, and I can 86 my homemade Excel sheet. TrackNShare comes with some items built in for daily tracking – Happiness, stress, weather, sleep. You can then add other things you want to track and decide on what kind of scale you want to track them. For example, you can choose yes/no, severity scale, a number, a volume scale. It is easy and having it on my IPad and IPhone make it convenient to an extent that makes me not have too much of an excuse not to do it.

That’s some of my story from last week. This week – one in which thankfulness was the dominant theme – is filling up my pages. Thanks for reading and I hope that your good things are many.

Advertisements

Last Week’s Good Things

weekoOver the last couple weeks, I have glimpsed the reality that my life is going to be returning to its old normal where my work schedule is a little less high intensity. Looking back at last week’s noted good things, I appreciate that change and what it has brought back!

A day with no meetings and head for home at 5:00 – Last Monday, for the first time in months, I had no scheduled meetings on my calendar. I spent the day in my office, working on a multitude of things that continued to fill up my to do list while I wasn’t looking. During the day, I talked to people as they stopped by my office with questions or just to chat. I had lunch at lunch time. I left my office and got home before 6:00! There was something about that day that felt like a new beginning. The things that have been going on at work since early spring have been exciting and stressful and educational and fulfilling. However, to be finished with the bulk of those and be able to end the year catching up and preparing for 2015 seems lovely!

Great meal at Story – We celebrated a friend’s birthday last Sunday with a meal out at the wonderful Story in Prairie Village. I like good food and I like a good experience. The food part that night was top notch. They really seem to continue to get better and better. For me, the other, as important element of a good experience is when I feel that the server is taking time with the table that isn’t just because they have to. They seem to enjoy getting to know and make the table experience a good one. Our server, Kevin did just that. From the moment I sat down and he made his first appearance, I could tell this was going to be good. He was self-deprecating, knowledgeable, interested and interesting. He made what was an amazingly good food experience, an amazingly good dining experience. The thing is, this was a fancy restaurant where we spent a lot of money. I have had the same thing happen at much different venues. It doesn’t matter where it is. Showing me that enthusiasm makes its mark!

Hearing Rebecca Skloot Speak – When The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks came out a few years ago, I purchased it immediately. Rebecca Skloot had written a story of a woman who died of cancer, but who lives eternally because her cancer cells had a unique quality of being able to be grown in the laboratory – over and over again. This is a great story and by the number of books sold, it obviously is a story that other people want to read. Beyond being a good read, what this book was for me was validation that a medical story that weaves several different threads, can be fascinating. As I worked on my own weaving project, that was inspiring. Last week, I went to hear Rebecca give a talk at a local university. She was better than I even thought she would be. Coming out to begin her talk, she expressed her thanks for people being there and their support. Throughout her talk, she made a point to address the students in the audience. Her grace was present throughout a wonderful event.

Frank Bruni column “Gray hair and silver linings”Frank Bruni is one of my newspaper loves. Frank is a columnist for the New York Times and his columns are so often personal experiences that resonate with some larger issue. Last week he had a column titled Gray Hair and Silver Linings. The column starts out with him sitting in a waiting room and observing a woman and man getting to know each other over their battle scars of areas of skin cancer. He then goes on to discuss what it is to grow older – to enter a new phase of your life when experiences are not all new. It is an adjustment and it does not come without its regret. He brings it back to where I feel that I am now as a 54 year old woman. He writes: as you age “you finally appreciate the wisdom of  doing so and you come to recognize that among multiple vantage points and arrays of responses to a situation, you really can elect the more positive one.” That is a silver lining.

Saturday non-snow day – We had nothing to do on Saturday, and the weather forecast indicated that we might have some rough patches of weather. That gave us an excuse to stay in. Our staying in, however, did not mean we created our weekend Wunderlist of things to do. This was our serendipity free day. We didn’t tackle projects. I pretty much spent the whole day reading, taking a nap or two, and reading some more.

We are already half-way through a new week! Wow! I hope that there are many things already on your own good things list!

Last Week’s Good Things

weekAfter the tumultuousness and eventfulness of June, July gave some weeks to regroup and begin to get back into normal. By the last week of July, I was definitely feeling that I had regained a little of the structure that had been lost. I am not completely there yet. There are things – like going to the gym – that still haven’t made their way back into my schedule. They will. And looking back at last week, I can already see some  old faithfuls returning on my list of good things. Here are five of the ones that I made note of:

movie

  1. Begin Again – We had begun a movie night date with friends at the beginning of the year, but it took a couple month hiatus. Last week, we got it back into the schedule. We started our night with cocktails and Chinese food in a restaurant that could have been taken out of Lost in Translation. Our movie choice was Begin Again with Keira Knightly and Mark Ruffalo. It was – like its creator’s predeseccor, Once – a sweet film about connections and choices and music. There is nothing bad about sitting in a theater with people you like, enjoying a movie with loaded listenable tunes.HPIM0800
  2. Yssel getting married – Dan has been in Rotary for a number of years. I have written before about what a great organization Rotary is, and what wonderful work they do. Beside that, we have reaped Rotary benefit by getting to host international visitors who come to the Midwest to learn about many different things. A few years ago, we hosted Yssel, from South Africa. He was the first guy we would host, so I wasn’t sure how that would go. Turns out, it went great! We had so much fun with him, and over the course of a few days, we became solid friends. This past weekend, Yssel got married and pictures of him and his bride greeted us on Facebook. Life gives you lots of opportunities. Getting to know someone from another country is a pretty great thing! There should be more of that going on.marigold
  3. Giant Marigolds and Zinnias – My favorite flower, I think, is the marigold. It is strong and colorful and I marigold smell is an all time favorite scent. This year, I planted marigolds and zinnias in my raised bed. I planted them from seed, and I expected they were just your standard variety. The plants that are filling my bed are monstrous. Most of them are taller than me. I am short, but that does not mean that a marigold should tower over me. It is pretty stunning sight, and every time I walk out my back door and see them, it is a super good things!
  4. Pasta with Beans and Rosemary – On my day off last week, I wanted to cook something different. Even though it was a beautiful day, I wanted to do a pasta – but not something too heavy. The recipe was from Smitten Kitchen – one of my favorite sites. It worked for me, but I can’t see how one could go wrong with al dente pasta – a light veggie sauce with tasty beans and a rosemary, garlic oil sauce.
  5. Working on my book – Also to celebrate getting back to normal, I returned to my desk to work on my book on my day off! The section that I am working on is pretty amazing. It really reflects how people can put their mind to something and make it work. It was so nice to be back with the story.

I hope your week was a good one, and the days ahead are even better!!

Last Week’s Good Things

last weekI don’t get “stressed-out” very often. In general, I am a low-key person who operates on an even keel. The downside of this is that I can be kind of boring, but it is how I like to be. It is how I am most comfortable. This week, there was one day that I came home from work feeling definitely stressed. The next day felt better, but I am definitely in a high intensity period where there are many things going on and I have lots of responsibilities. But I am working it through; I am counting on my team mates who are wonderful; I am reminding myself of work/life balance; and I am remembering all of the good things. I already have this week’s list going, but here are five things from last week.

First hummingbirdsDan researched the issue and found out that it is the male hummingbird that shows up first. Well, Mr. Hummingbird with a flaming red throat showed up at our feeder last week. I walked out the back door and saw the familiar frantic flight zip by me. I hoped that it was a hummingbird, but figured that it was only a crazy bug trying to fool me. But, it was real. Sitting on the patio reading, I heard the noise and there it was at one of the feeders. They are so pretty and fun to watch. I can’t wait for their wives and girlfriends get here!

orderDishwashing and Tidying Up – When I do get stressed, tidying up my surroundings is one way that settles me down. Even finishing up and looking at the colorful plates in the dish drying rack holds so much goodness – the order, the color, the memory of the food that filled those plates.

Finding new tidbits in my book researchYes, I am still working on that book. Last week I worked on the chapter focused on Marcia’s family and friends starting a fundraising group only months after leukemia took her life. This is really incredible. This was 1949! This was during a time that moving on was the most common way of dealing with grief. This family, along with their wonderful friends, coalesced and used Marcia’s story to begin to raise money for research to help find a cure for the disease that takes children’s lives. I found evidence of a contact that the family made only month’s after Marcia died. The contact was Sidney Wallach. In the 1930s and 40s, Mr. Wallach worked with Jewish causes in NYC. He led the American Jewish Committee and founded The Current Jewish Record Journal (which later became Commentary). In 1933 he published a pamphlet called “Hitler, Menace to Mankind,” which is pretty chilling. In the 1940s, it appears that he switched career paths and started focussing more on public relations for philanthropic causes. Using the items that I have been entrusted with as well as the amazing Internet, I filled in some more blanks of this great story. There is more to learn, but this was progress.

whitman

Whitman Illuminated – In December, I forwarded a blogpost to Dan about a new book being put out by fabulous Tin House. That was enough to make him pre-order the book. We had pretty much forgotten about it, so when it arrived last week, it was an incredible treat. It is one of the coolest books I have ever seen. Artist Allen Crawford has taken the words of Whitman’s Song of Myself and illustrated them so incredibly! Every page is stunning. 

KristieKristie Stremel and Joe’s Pet Project at The Record Bar – Thanks to friends, we went to The Record Bar on Saturday night to hear music. Joe’s Pet Project was playing when we got there, followed by Kristie Stremel who was backed by a great band. Both of these groups filled the room with fantastic rock and roll. Joe’s Pet Project had a kind of Dave Matthews’ vibe; Kristie is a true blue, girl rock and roller, of the best kind. She leads her band with energy and musical chops. Every musician seemed to be having such a good time making music. More music to add to my list.

Keep seeing good things.

Last Week’s Good Things

 

photo
We are into April! It is hard to believe that the first quarter of 2014 is behind us. For me, the week was one of catching up and keeping busy. Since Dan wasn’t here for most of it, I found things to keep myself occupied. Also, with spring starting to peek through more often than not, just paying attention to that was a good thing! Here are other things that caught my attention:

1.  Sounds in the morning – I remember shoveling snow a few months ago and marveling at how quiet it was. There were no cars on the road, so the opportunity for noise was nil. That is winter. Spring is so much different. This week, stepping out of the house each morning at about 5:15, I have been greeted by a louder and louder cacophony of birds. It sounds more like a jungle than a neighborhood street in Kansas City. I am glad that I am not trying to sleep through it! No matter – It sounds like a change of season, which is completely great!

Wentworth-Military-Academy-logo

2.  Wentworth Military Ball – Ali has gone to two military balls in the past few months. For each, she wore a beautiful outfit, her hair was lovely, and her make-up was perfect. Saturday was my turn. Wentworth had its military ball and I did my spousely duty and got myself ready to go. It was amusing that both Ali and my sister wished that they were here to offer me support in getting ready, I think that I did fine! Hair (I chose a Goody barette and a bobby pin) – makeup (I had on some chapstick) – clothes (it was something I wore at another such occasion – but I did get some new shoes (flats)). Whatever I looked like did not matter. It was a night for the students. Again, I was overwhelmed by the respect and dignity that the students at the school exhibit. I do not know that I have been called ma’am as many times as I was Saturday night. This is obviously not something that I joyously go into, but once there, it is pretty darn special.

3.  Cooking for Myself – Dan left for California early Monday morning and he came home well past my bedtime on Friday. During that time, I did not have a single frozen meal and I only ate out once! The rest of the time, I cooked for myself. One night it was a ground round burger/steak that I peppered a lot and served like a cube steak. One night it was a hearty salad. One night it was a chicken breast with mushrooms. The best was Dragon Noodles. I had heard about this dish and website on one of my favorite podcasts. I decided to save it for the last night, which was a great plan. It was really hot and tasty and delicious. A good way to end my bachelor stint

sinclairvll

4.  Picture of my dad on Facebook – The Internet is bizarre. One morning this week, I woke up and looked at Facebook as I was doing my regular morning routine. One of my high school classmates had posted a picture of the groundbreaking of my elementary school. This was probably in 1967 or so. In the picture are many Sinclairville folk that I recognize. Howard Green, our town postmaster is there. Mrs. Bloomer, our Principal is there. And so is my dad (fourth from right). He was the town lawyer, so he was there for the event. He was probably 35; youngest guy there. It made me think of him at that age, and time. I tend to think of my dad in a different time. This picture was a really nice recollection.

UPPERCASEissue21cover5. Hammersmith and Uppercase – In that I had been by myself all week, I figured I needed to treat myself. On Friday, I put in some work on my book, and later in the afternoon, I went downtown to find some shoes for the ball. Bob Jones Shoes is a wondrous place – even for the non-fashion savvy. After I found the appropriate sensible black flat, I went over to Hammersmith. Hammersmith is a store that also is a wonderful letterpress printer. It is an establishment full of cool cards, posters, gift wrap, and other things that they find interesting. It is my source for one of the most beautiful magazine eye candy that I experience. Uppercase is a wonderful art journal that takes a theme and throws the kitchen sink of ideas at it. The result is page after page of lovely images and accompanying text. I adore it, and when I am feeling wanty, I go buy myself one. It is pricey for a magazine, but I go back to them again and again. The latest issue is patterns – love it, and it is worth it!

I hope that wherever you are,spring is springing out. This week I saw a magnolia and a forsythia in bloom. Wishing you similar!

 

Last Week’s Good Things

 

photoThis was the week that Dan and I listened to Pharrell Williams quite a bit. That means that the song Happy was often in our ears. That wasn’t the only good thing this week. Here are a few more:

03-25-14---Larry-Tye-Superman-event

1. Larry Tye talking about Superman at the Library – The Kansas City Library has an amazing schedule of speakers during any month. I can remember so many good authors and talks that I have gone to over the years. Last week, I left work and headed to the beautiful downtown library to hear a talk about Superman. Before the talk, I got to roam through the current exhibit focused upon how American comic books took on the Nazis, Hitler and the Holocaust. After that, I got my complementary glass of wine, and plate of snacks, and sat down to hear a very engaging Mr. Tye talk about the genesis of Superman. That was not a bad way to end a day!

2. The Etsy Gift – Dan had been telling me that he had bought me a gift on Etsy, but he wasn’t quite sure if I was deserving of it. This made me pretty sure that this was going to be something greatly amusing. I was not, however, prepared for the awesomeness of what it was. For the past few years, we have been talking about starting a brewpub called Goats & Rabbits. The Goats and the Rabbits were the two political factions in old time Kansas City politics. Over the past several months, the conversation about starting the restaurant has become much more serious as Sam and Jean are making plans to come to Kansas City. It is really getting exciting. And on opening day of that restaurant that will be made, I will be wearing this:

goat

3. Setting the Table for Company – After we came home from our trip to Italy, Dan and I both agreed that we should be more conscious about how we eat. One of the things that we talked about was sitting at the table for meals. As the kids left, it became more routine to sit in the living room and eat. We have gotten somewhat better at that, but there is still work to do. What is great about Dan and me sitting at the table is the same thing that becomes even better when the number of people at the table expands. I love setting the table for a meal. I like figuring out what dishes will be needed. I like setting down the plates, silverware and glasses. I like putting together a centerpiece and ironing the tablecloth and napkins. Saturday night we hosted our dinner club, so I got to get my table-setting jones met. Prettiness ensued.

table

4. Good books – I finished two different, but both great books this week. Sam recommended Mission Street Food, particularly for the philosophy that they take regarding business philanthropy. The book is an autobiography of their restaurants that started from a food truck night in San Francisco and grew to have a massive cult following. The other book was the novel, Salvage The Bones by Jesslyn Ward. This is the story of a family in Louisiana dealing with alcoholism, poverty, teenage pregnancy, and cruelty – as Hurricane Katrina is coming in. This was my gym book and as my treadmill time ended on Friday, I had about a chapter left. I reset the time and went to the end. It is quite stunning story telling. She manages to get such sweetness in the midst of some really pretty horrible scenes. It was definitely worth extra time on the treadmill.

5. Good Moods – There are just those days when there is nothing special, but it just feels great to be who you are; where you are. I had one of those days on Friday. I should have been feeling a little badly because I didn’t get any book work done, but I didn’t. I just reveled in the moments of the day. I read, exercised, made lists, grocery shopped, organized … Nothing special, but very special.

I hope all of us have some great mood days ahead of us!

 

Judging Books By Their Cover

Do you do that? Judge a book by its cover? I certainly do it, with varying levels of successful outcomes. Like wine bottles, a well designed book cover snatches my attention away from its plainer counterparts. It doesn’t have to be flashy or gaudy. It just has to have a certain something – the font, the photo or illustration, the placement… all working together to represent what lies inside. Whatever it is, some book covers just work better than others.

While you may not know Chip Kidd’s name, you have almost certainly seen his work. He designed this:  jurassic

And this: kidd naked

And this: kiddthumb-david-michaelis-schulz-and-peanuts-book

And so much more.

I went to go hear him talk a couple years ago at our local library. He is a good speaker and his description of how he works is inspiring. His TED talk about book design is fantastic. A few weeks ago I heard him interviewed on the Design Matters podcast.  He commented that he got so many requests from people wanting advice from him about their work, that he could not possibly answer them all and still get his own work done. Subsequently, he decided that he would offer an on-line class to teach what he knows and thinks about book design. That class is now available, and I am taking it!

The content is offered by Skillshare. This is actually a pretty cool deal. There are a multitude of classes that are offered by the site, and I don’t know if any of them cost more than $25 (and there are usually discounts available). The classes come via videos and there is an assignment/project associated with each. You have the ability to create your project on the class site so others can give you feedback. While you don’t lose access to the classes once you purchase them, doing them on the schedule suggested makes the interaction with other participants more timely.

Chip Kidd’s class that I am taking is called Introduction to Book Cover Design: Making Stories Visual. The assignment is to redesign a book that we love.

This morning I watched the first two videos. In the first, he gave a history of book cover design in about 9 minutes. This is not a survey college course by any means, but it is a friendly, efficient way to get some new learning into your life and get your own creative process activated.

That brings me to the book that I have chosen for my assignment. Five Quarts by Bill Hayes is one of my all time favorite reads. Its tagline is “a personal and natural history of blood” – of course I love this book! He blends medical history, personal anecdotes, and contemporary investigation to tell a story about blood. He makes it work really well. There are two editions of this book. I have the white one, but I think I prefer the red one. I don’t dislike either of them, but I don’t know that either is as good as the book deserves.

five quarts 2five quarts 1

I have serious doubts as to whether I have it in me to design something that will be better than the current choices, but I am eager to delve into this attempt at creativity.

If you had an opportunity to change a favorite book’s cover, which one would it be?

 

Last Week’s Good Things

Nov 11

We are moving into the final weeks of the year. The temperatures we had to start the week made me realize that, but this weekend has been warm and pretty pleasant. More than a few good things happened this week as the days started to warm. Here are a few.

Courtney Barnett – It is true that almost every new music love of mine is introduced to me via NPR. I can’t think that is a bad thing. What’s the matter with letting the experts cull from so much new music, those bands and performers that pass their muster? It happened again this week that a single song played on the All Songs Considered podcast made me go home and and purchase an album. This week it was Austrailian singer, Courtney Barnett. Her music came up because she played the CMJ Music Festival back in October in NYC and everyone on the panel declared love. The song that they played was Avant Gardener, and I have literally had this song in my head since. It has droney guitars, lyrics that pull you into the story and make your own visuals, and a lazy delivery that reminds me sometimes of Lucinda Williams. Other songs on the album also build stories with humor and darkness – oftentimes both in the same song. She has some great syncopation and word choice. The double EP is titled A Sea of Split Peas. It made my week better!

I get adrenalin

Straight to the heart

I feel like Uma Thurman

Post-overdosing kick start

Reminds me of the time

When i was really sick and i

Had too much psuedoefedryn and i

Couldn’t sleep at night

DSCF7681

Conversations – Friday was a really good day. I got to spend the day working on a chapter and made good progress on it. Late in the afternoon, I walked up to Bier Station and met Barb for a beer and some talk. When I left, the sun had set and the almost full moon really lit up the sky. After a very cold start of the week, it felt great strolling home on that warm, beautiful evening. When Dan got home, I made a Friday evening cocktail and we sat around talking a little before I made dinner. After finishing, we stayed at the table awhile – just chatting about people and things that were on our mind this week. Days can become so scheduled and full. Stresses can cloud the positive things that are out there. I loved the solitary time I had that day to focus on my writing, but then having time together with favorite people made a really good day, better.

 Sherwood Center – The movement of stuff in the world is extraordinary. I don’t think that a week goes by that at least one new non-perishable item doesn’t make its way into our house. Sometimes you need to purge, if only to make way for what you know will be coming – more stuff. In the past, we did try the garage sale route to perhaps get back some of the dollars sunk into the things that we no longer wanted. However, the time and effort to get 25 cents for some old t-shirts and books, no longer appeals to me. That is why I love the agencies that come around periodically and take away boxes and bags of our unwanted things. The Sherwood Center is my go to service. They come when they are supposed to and they leave a receipt so I can take the donation off on our taxes. The best!

 

gilbert

Remembering the Sabres of the 70s – On Facebook a few days ago, the Buffalo Sabres posted a picture of #11, Gilbert Perreault wishing him a happy 63rd birthday. The photo posted (above) was from his glory days with the Sabres when he, Rene Robert, and Richard Martin skated together on the team. They were known as the French Connection and they made me into a hockey fan. One of the saddest days of my childhood that I remember (this makes me realize how good my childhood was) was when I won tickets to a Sabres game by guessing the correct score of the game in the weekly contest published in the Buffalo News. The day we were supposed to go to the game, there was a big snowstorm and my parents wouldn’t drive the 50 miles into Buffalo. I cried a lot. A few weeks later, my uncle got me tickets and took me to see my hockey heros. Seeing that picture this week brought back good memories!

holiday hero

The Holiday Hero Campaign and the Children’s Mercy Cancer Center Board – Doing good is easier for some than others. People with a lot of money can choose to distribute it to those projects that are important to them. That is relatively easy. But when people donate their time and their extended resources to support a project, it takes more effort. This week, the wonderful board of the Children’s Mercy Cancer Center hosted an event to kickoff the annual Holiday Hero Campaign. This campaign brings in dollars to the Cancer Center. The funds then support programming and research. Each year, a “hero” family is chosen. This year’s is one of the Spanish speaking families who have benefited from the Spanish Language cancer clinic now offered at the hospital. The event was so nice. There were board members, hospital staff, friends and family of everyone, and, of course, the Hero family. Through an interpreter, the father explained what thanks they had for the care their whole family got during their daughter’s treatment. Kicking off the holiday season amongst such good people was a good thing.

Rulin’s Update

woody1November 1, 2013. Two months left in the year – sixty-one days. The good(?) thing about having a blog is that it can hold the writer accountable. In January, I posted my “rulin’s” for the year, just as Woody Guthrie once did. We are getting close to a point where a pass/fail can be declared, but two months offers opportunity to at least pay attention to some of these things and perhaps sprint towards success. So today, I am looking back at my intentions, recognizing those successes, and looking forward to what I might be able to salvage.

Here were my 33 optimistic rulin’s followed by where I stand with each:

1. Finish writing my book. This is going to be the year.

Oh, what a sweet, optimistic thing I was back in January! Nope, not going to happen. But, I am really pleased with some of the progress that I made, advice I have been given, and even some new connections that I have made. I am hopeful that I am on a roll and that I will use my wonderful pool of advocates to maintain the push on me to get this done.

2.  I am going to drink more water. There, I said it.

I kind of think that I have done pretty well on this. I bought a new water bottle for work that I drain once a day. If not always successful, I am certainly more consistent.

3. My gym membership will be used more. I actually had some great momentum going at one time last year. I need to figure out how to gain that back.

Bad news on this one. I had the classic great run at the beginning of the year, but I have petered out terribly. Good news, I found my way back to the gym this week.

4. I will watch less television. Dan and I discussed last night that we would do at least one night a week television free.

We have not had a regular television free night, but it does happen. What I will say on this is that I have refused to pick up new television shows this year. I have my shows that get recorded and that we stay current on. What I tend to do, however, is turn on the television at night, just because. I am pretty sure that I can do better at this!

5. I am going to learn how to dance – my Christmas present from Dan.

We did this! We took our dance lessons and had fun doing it. Dancing – with any kind of expertise – takes practice. We have not done a good job at that, but there are still sixty-one days to make that better! 

6. I am going to fit into some of those clothes that I refuse to move out of my closet.

There are still sixty-one days to make this better…

7. I am going to spend time each morning at work, planning my day.

notebooks

When I do this, I am so grateful. I have tried different versions of planning tools this year. I found these wonderful composition books that I keep as a runner. One is for work, and one is for outside work. My work book has a weekly to-do list that I add to during the week and then transfer undone things to the new week. This has worked pretty well, as has using Wunderlist for master list keeping. I can definitely step up my game on this, but I judge this a partial success.

8. I am going to clean my office at work and keep it organized and inviting.

officeAgain, partial success. It looks like 2014 will see the opportunity to finally move out of our temporary trailer home and into a real building with most of the rest of our department. I am so eager for that to happen. In the meantime, my office continues to be a pretty nice location. I have a great view of the city skyline and I have embellished by walls with fun and colorful posters. Most recently, I strung ribbon near the ceiling and hung pretty postcards from the ribbon using fancy paperclips. Just walking into my office and seeing some of those images makes for a better experience. I am kind of psyched to decorate a new place!

9. I am going to re-up my Mug Club membership because going to lunch at 75th Street every Sunday with Dan is one of the things that makes me happiest.

mug

Perhaps the easiest thing on my list. Done.

10. I am going to learn how to draw Ali’s dog Banjo better so I can write stories about her.

I’ve worked on this, but I need to get back at it. I haven’t nailed her cuteness yet.

11. I am going to send fan mail (real postage stamped mail) once a week to someone I admire. I did this a couple years ago where I sent notes to authors of books I read. It was heartwarming how many wrote back and told me how much my note meant.

DSCF7127DSCF7129

I am doing this somewhat. Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden got mail from Missouri, as did some authors. This is fun and I want to do better on. And I have some great postcards!

12. I will do what I can to make the possibility of us opening a brewpub one day a reality.

While I haven’t done a whole lot on this front, there have been some great conversations about this and potential for exciting things to be happening in the coming year.

13. I will be a better leader and employee by being more positive and creative.

One thing that I have tried to be this year is a transparent leader. I share what I know almost always. I am honest in my conversations and try to acknowledge when I am wrong and when I just don’t know the answer. I try to laugh and project a positive attitude. I am partnering with a co-worker in initiating some personal development activities for our co-workers. One of them is to show a couple TED talks over the noon hour. We had our first one recently and it went well. This week we start our SEVEN HABITS IN EIGHT MONTHS discussion group. I think that I have done okay on #13.

14. I want to video chat more with Sam and Ali.

We haven’t done this a lot, but we have done it more than we had. I like it very much!

15. Books – love them. I don’t really have to put it on my list because I will always read them, but I do want to read more! Good lord, there are so many wonderful books. Just yesterday, I got one in the mail that I had to order because Sam wrote me an email about how good it is.

My list will probably be shorter than last year, but I have had some winners this year. That book that Sam recommended was John Greene’s THE FAULT IN OUR STARS which is a beautiful book about two adolescents falling in love while dealing with their own mortality. I just finished BILLY LYNN’s LONG HALFTIME WALK about Iraqi soldiers being “honored” at a Dallas Cowboys game. Excellent. 

16. Magazine – love them too! I have not done a good job keeping up with the wonderful print magazines that come into our house each month. I will do better.

Still trying

17. Computer – love my computer too, but I spend too much time with it and not enough time with rulin #15 and #16.

Have not done well at this at all. Sixty-one days to do better!

18. Last year I bought the Hugh Acheson cook book and that became my adventure cook book for the year. I didn’t do great with it, but I did okay. I got Girl and Her Pig for  Christmas this year. That’s my rulin there.

Miserable failure on this. I have not cooked anything from this delightful book. This will happen.

19. The Italy documentation will be completed. I haven’t updated on this, I know, but I will. I am actually doing okay, but I need it on the list to keep me moving.

italy album

While I am not finished, the beautiful album that we brought back is complete, other than some captions. It makes me so happy when I pick it up and move through the page. I have to decide what to do with the left-over photos and other momentos that we brought back. I thought at one time to do an album just of the meals we ate. That may still be an option. Just writing this makes me want to gather everything and look at it. Oh Italy – what a dream come true!

20. Be a better gardener. I planted basil last summer and did not make a single jar of pesto. I think one thing that I need to do is figure out a good watering system.

Not for lack of trying, I had a horrible year for basil. I planted it three times and only towards the end of summer did I really have any plants. I think it may have been a soil issue. The marigold seeds that I thought I planted turned out to be pot marigolds that were very different from my beloved marigolds. They were pretty, but not what I want. Successes were lettuce that was used in salads, lemongrass that was delicious in a few meals, and I have a great stand of chives.

21. Keep a journal better.

Oct20

Those fun composition books have really worked here. I keep a weekly running page that I have been photographing and using as the header for my “Good Things” post. I also have been writing pretty regularly in my 5-year daily diary.

22. Do the crossword puzzle every day. It keeps your brain fresh!

Not too bad here. One of the things that I do at work is copy off the daily NYT crossword and put it in the kitchen for people to fill in while they are heating up their lunch. I keep a copy for myself. I don’t always get to it, but pretty often.

23. See my friends more, and be better about setting up times.

I will never be perfect at this, but I think I have done okay here. Always can do better.

24. More movies. This is one of those things that I really do think that if I put it down, it will make me go see more movies than if I didn’t.

Sixty-one days to see some of those movies that I really want to see. I need to prepare for Oscar!

25. More live music. Ditto rulin #24

2013-04-03 21.12.25

Not great, but not horrible here. We saw some great shows this year. Sallie Ford playing with Thao and the Get Down Stay Downs was super fun. Jim and Micaela getting in the photobooth with Sallie continues to make me laugh. I got to see my man, Jason Isbell and the super delightful, They Might be Giants. We went to hear wonderful Bob Walkenhorst a couple times (should go more), and music at BB’s Lawnside. Already have tickets to see solo Jeff Tweedy next month.

26. Keep up with my Newbery Challenge.

This is my gym reading. When gyming goes by the wayside, so does Newbery. Two months to pick it up.

27. Pick two music albums each month that I really get to know.

I would say that I have done okay on this. I have tried to highlight some albums on my blog that I do get to know. One of the things that I have done lately is to email the artists to tell them that I have done that. It has been sweet to see how many email me back to thank me and tell me that they like my blog.

28. Make a photo album of 100 pictures from 2012, and put the 100 photos from 2011 that I ordered last year into an album.

2012 album

Success. Again, I need to add some words.

29. Take more pictures.

Success

30. Figure out how to start an Etsy shop. We have some ideas that we have been kicking around and doing some stuff on. Time to get real.

I bought a book about how to do it. Hmm. Probably there is more to it. 🙂

31. Get the attic organized. I made such progress when we got to fill the dumpster, time to make it right.

There are sixty-one days in which I can make good on this.

32. Bring my guitar out of hiding and play it again.

It is out of hiding and I pick it up every now and then. I think I need to restart lessons. That can be a whole new rulin in 2014.

33. Keep Deliberate Obfuscation active and fun for me.

This has definitely been a success. It is weird how fulfilling it is to check my stats and see that people are actually reading. 

 

The 304 days that happened before today have been almost all good for me. I have high hopes for the remaining days of this year, and I am already getting excited about some rulins for 2014. Who else is doing some reflecting as we hit this countdown of the last days of this year?

Last Week’s Good Things

diaryThis week saw very summery days turn quite fall-like. That was a good thing, indeed. Here are some other good things from the week that was.

1. Tamara Shopsin’s 5 Year Diary – I am admittedly a sucker for journals. In the past, I made journals. It was a hobby that I really liked, and I became pretty good at. More recently, I have bought the journals that I have used. I really love the Decomposition Book Composition Books that are produced by Michael Roger. I have two of these going at the moment – one as a catchall weekly “logbook” and one for my work to-do list/miscellaneous keeper. I got something new this week, that I am very happy with. Tamara Shopsin has created a grown-up five-year diary and, as of this week, I have me one.  Tamara Shopsin is a great artist and author. I am not sure of what prompted her to create this product, but I adore it! it has a simple, beautiful design, that I love. Every day now, I fill in 6 or fewer lines of something that was memorable/recordable from the day before. You can start anywhere, anytime. It is another way for me to be mindful of my day to day. diary1

2. In A World – Yesterday afternoon I went to see Lake Bell’s movie “In A World.” It had been a few months since I have been in a movie theater, and it was good to be back! This is being shown at the Leawood Theater which is a pretty neat old-school large format theater. In A World is the story of a young woman who is trying to break into the voiceover business. Her dad is one of the industry’s best, and he seems destined to become the next person to be voicing the iconic “In a World…” tagline in movie trailers. Of course, nothing goes as  planned. It is a fun, quirky movie and Lake Bell is fun to watch and listen to. Charming Rob Cordray and Demitri Martin also are in the cast, although the Cordray story line is a little odd/out of place. Amidst a fun film, there is a message about women’s voices that I found on point.

3. Neko Case’s The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You – When I put together my best music of the year list in December, it is going to include lots of women.  I am gearing up to write a separate post about what a good year for female artists this has been, but I need to note separately what a good thing it has been to listen to Neko Case‘s new album this week. She possesses a wonder of a voice, and she combines that voice with crazy good songs on this album. There are themes of loss and gender and parenting. There is imagery like no one’s business. My favorite:

Last night late I was watching it snow

It always goes sideways in the city

It comes right out of the streetlights, you know

Pumped out by an engine deep inside the earth’s core neko-case-the-worse-things-get

4. Comments from Important People Who Have Read Pieces of My Book – I continue to plug away on the book that I am still writing. People ask me if it is still fun, and I truthfully tell them that it really is. I like putting the pieces together. I am enjoying more the trying to fill in the blanks, although this is challenging to me. I am also working on writing more of a story and less of a thesis. This past week I got feedback from a great friend who read a chapter and had complimentary words. As importantly, he is also going to give me some critical feedback. When you look at words over and over you begin to doubt whether they even make sense. Getting some encouragement and suggestions means a great deal. The other note I got this week was from a family member of one of the main characters in my book. I opened his email this week when I woke up and started my day with some tears in my eyes. His note meant the world to me, and the spirit of it is the true reason that the book is still fun.  This story has been a gift that I have been given, and it is my charge to see it through.

5. Grocery shopping on A Friday morning – When I stayed home with the kids, we would almost always do our grocery shopping midweek and in the morning. I like to get my things accomplished early. On Friday, I took my car in for a repair. By 8:30 I was out of there and set to go home. I decided, however, that since there was a grocery store right near the dealership, I would stop in for some groceries. I don’t know if it was because it was the start of a new day, or because it was Friday, or because the Chiefs won their game last Sunday, or if it is always that way, but it was just such a friendly, happy experience. The produce guys were laughing and greeting as they restocked colorful vegetables. The woman at the meat counter was cheerful. The deli lady laughed at herself for talking to the plastic bag that wouldn’t cooperate. All through the store there were friendly, helpful staff, and seemingly happy customers. My check out person was the express line guy who called me over to his line. He talked to me about their rewards program, how he likes to pay inside at gas stations, and about something that happened with his son – all while efficiently checking my groceries out. Friday morning grocery shopping is the best!

Tell me something that was good from your week.