I won’t even attempt to put a timeframe on this post. I have not had a typical good things post in so long, I have forgotten how I had even had that habit. These are busy days, I know, but I can’t believe that they have been so busy that I can’t sit myself down and rattle off what has made me happy, impressed me, inspired me, or in some way or the other made me take positive notice. I need to do that. It revs my engine. It balances me. It makes me accountable. It makes me a better world citizen when I make myself be more aware of goodness.
So, I will do my best to bring the habit back into my life. Here, I give you a recap of some of the things that I have taken note of during the last several weeks. Maybe you have noticed some of these too!
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – We had our annual Poetry Night Book Club last night. This is the night we all bring a poem or two to read aloud and say why we like it. My choice this year may have been my easiest choice ever. A few weeks ago I read Jacqueline Woodson’s National Book Award Winning Brown Girl Dreaming. Jacqueline’s book tells the story of her life – all in verse! She was born in Ohio in the 1960s, but did her growing up in South Carolina and Brooklyn. The pieces that she put together in this book weave a beautiful story of her family and the time during our country’s history when being a brown girl could sometimes be dangerous. The book is marketed as a young reader, but I think there is no age limit to love this book. Here is just a snippet.
no words are needed
Deep winter and the night air is cold. So still,
it feels like the world goes on forever in the darkness
until you look up and the earth stops
in a ceiling of stars. My head against
my grandfather’s arm.,
a blanket around us as we sit on the front porch swing.
Its whine like a song.
You don’t need words
on a night like this. Just the warmth
of your grandfather’s arm, Just the silent promise
that the world as we know it
will always be here.
Dan and I went down to the Brookside Art Fair last weekend and I was taken by the art of Kreg Yingst, an artist from Florida. He does super cool block prints that are music themed. There were several that I could have been very happy with, but I decided on one with a vintage bug and Beatles lyrics. Everytime I walk past it hanging in our dining room it makes me smile!
Waldo-Brookside Rotary – For a few years, Dan has wanted to start a Rotary Club in our neighborhood. While he loves his current Rotary Club, he had the feeling that there was a niche for an evening club in our area where there lots of new businesses and active neighbors. It is now a real thing. Through his work and the support of the Plaza Rotary over fifty people have committed to being a charter member of the new club. I am one of them. I have already met some wonderful people – all with a commitment to make our city, nation, and world a better place. It is a great thing to be a part of from the very beginning, and I hope that Dan knows what a wonderful thing he was instrumental in bringing about! If you are in the area, we would love to join us at 5:30 at The Well in Waldo.
The 100 Day Project – There is an Internet challenge that started back at the beginning of April called the 100 Day Project. The goal is to pick something that you want to try to do for 100 days and go for it and document it. In my quest to be a little more creative, I decided to do this, but I had a little trouble coming up with what it was that my challenge could be. I kind of wanted to draw, and I came up with the best solution for someone who wants to draw but needs a lot of help with it. My project is #100Daysof EdEmberley. Since April 5, I have been drawing and posting an Ed Emberley inspired drawing on my Instagram feed. It has been fun, and there are so many creative things coming out of this challenge. I think I can make it until July 14!
Zucchini Noodle Maker – In our continuing quest to eat more Paleo, Dan and I happened onto a new gadget that has made our list of great things. This little device when scraped across a zucchini created noodley pieces of zucchini that can substitute for pasta when paired with things like shrimp scampi or beef stroganoff. I could eat them every day!
As I was going through my logbook pages for the last several weeks, there are a number of little things that bear mentioning since they too were great! Things such as: visiting Powell Gardens on a beautiful Saturday in Spring, cleaning out my utensil drawers, watching the Kentucky Derby with juleps and friends, Birdie snuggling on Dan, buying tickets for Pitchfork festival in Chicago and Jason Isbell at the Ryman Theater, Season 1 of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Dan reading me Lake Isle of Innisfree in his William Butler Yeats voice, seeing the Drive By Truckers, peonies in bloom, them Royals!
That does it for this one. I hope there are many good things ahead for everyone!
Friday was the one week anniversary of Ali and Jose’s wedding. After spending the pre-wedding week in New Orleans and then driving back home last Sunday, my life still feels pretty much in post-wonderful-trip-scatteredness. My goal over last weekend was to figure out where I left off on everything pre-trip. Getting back to this blog and recapping our most excellent time feels like an important piece of this.
The wedding was, of course, the second in our family in 56 days. Back in January, we gathered in New York City January to celebrate Sam and Jean. This time we headed to New Orleans to make our family members number six! As we felt with Jean and Sam, Jose makes Ali even more than she already was – and that is a feat! Their combination of love and friendship and partnership is strong. I still remember driving them from the airport the first time we met Jose and them laughing together in the back seat. That is the best sound ever – to hear your child’s happiness.
Now, to try to encapsulate the doings is going to be a little tough. There were an incredible number of good things that went down during the days leading up to and following the ceremony. I am going to give it a try, and I hope I convey the wonderfulness of it all. Here are some of those good things:
New Orleans – When Ali and Jose were picking a wedding date there were things that they did not want. They didn’t want hurricane threats or Mardi Gras interference. The last week of March turned out to be a spectacular choice. Making the drive down South, we could visually see Spring deepening. Everything was greener and more alive. As always, the city of New Orleans welcomed us with friendly people and beautiful surroundings. I don’t think I have been in the city when the azaleas are at their peak. This time I was. The beauty of the city was enhanced even moreso.
The Southern Gentleman – One of the memorable moments from Sam and Jean’s wedding was Jose’s outfit. On a brutally cold day in New York City, he sported pink pants, dress shirt, bow tie, and blue blazer. He noted that that his look was the mark of a Southern Gentleman. Dan got it in mind to return the dapperness. He bought a bow tie before we left, and with the help of YouTube he managed to somewhat get the thing tied. He also bought some pink pants to complete his own version of the look. The reveal was when we met up with Ali and Jose at Cochon for a family dinner. The look on Jose’s face when he got a load of Dan was the best!
Avery Island – Through a series of fortuitous events, Ali did not have to work at all during our week there. On Monday, she picked us up and we went to Avery Island – the home of the McIlhenny family and the home of Tabasco sauce. The place is about 2 hours southwest of New Orleans and the drive takes you through some amazing Louisiana realness. Along the way we stopped in a little po-boy shop that served up an amazing fried shrimp sandwich. Getting out of the car at Avery Island, you immediately get the smell of Tabasco sauce, which was quite great! The factory tour was short and sweet, and the gift shop had quite the array of Tabasco products – special versions of the sauce, Tabasco Slim Jims, Tabasco pralines, Tabasco ice cream … Dan got so excited he bought the guy in front of him’s purchase. All got sorted out and we then drove and walked through the Jungle Gardens which is on the property. It was a stunning habitat of flowers and huge live oak trees with Spanish moss and egrets and a snake that tried and succeeded in scaring me.
Crawfish Boil – On Wednesday, we went to see the NBA New Orleans Pelicans with the happy couple, Jose’s dad, and Jim, Micaela and Birdie who had just made it in. Before the game, Ali and Jose invited us to their house for crawfish boil. Laid out on the table went 25 pounds of the little mudbugs along with corn and potatoes. It really was one of the prettiest meals I have ever seen! Standing around shelling the leftovers with Ali, Sam and Jean was also lovely.
Family – I was going to call this part “Family and Friends,” but as I considered it, everyone that I am going to talk about is really a member of our family – even if genetics would tell you otherwise. We pulled into New Orleans late on a Saturday night and got welcomed by Dan’s sister and brother-in-law who kindly offered us accomodations for the duration of our trip. Over the next several days, we had arrivals of people who have filled our lives with happiness over the years and who wanted to be there when Ali brought Jose into the family. Dan’s brother and his family and his sister showered their kindness over all. Our nephew and niece Ryan and Diane got a little NOLA vacation with the festivities. Jim and Micaela ventured with 1 month old Birdie who charmed everyone! Tom and Julie – who we have not seen for too long – showed up at the rehearsal after party and my heart leapt out of my chest with joy! Tracy, John, Rik and Teresa and Enid all could share memories of Ali as a wee one as they observed the beautiful bride she now is. Jose’s family showered us with kindness and their expressions of their love for Ali. The night of the wedding – looking around and seeing these people scattered throughout the room was the best!
Sam and Jean – When we last saw Sam and Jean, we were leaving their wedding reception on a cold night in Greenwich Village. Having five days to hang out with them in New Orleans was so wonderful. They came, of course, with an itinerary of places to eat and drink, and we did a pretty damn good job of working through a portion of that list. We also got to play at the Zoo one day which offered a number of cats for Jean to swoon over!
The Wedding – It could not have been better. I was lucky and got to spend the late afternoon with Ali and her friends as she got ready and then headed to Rosy’s where the wedding and reception would be. Ali was the most chill bride I could have imagined. She just exuded happiness. And, she was stunningly beautiful. Getting her into that dress and standing back to see her took my breath away. When it was time for the ceremony, I walked to my seat, past the Army officers who would make an arch of sabres that Ali would walk through on her way to Jose’s side (and on their way out, one of the officers – per tradition – whacked her on the butt and welcomed her to the army). The ceremony was beautiful and joyful. The reception afterward continued the joy, but amped up! There was not a song that did not fill the dance floor with young and old. Dan, Carly, and Marlin toasted the couple with words that made me cry a little as I raised my glass. And to end the evening, a brass band entered the venue and played about 45 minutes of New Orleans jazz that had napkins waving and feet a dancing like crazy. It was an amazing end to a perfect day.
The hardest thing of the whole trip was leaving. Hugging Sam and Jean that last night was so sad. Saying good bye to Ali right before we left town and seeing Banjo looking sadly out the window as we pulled away got my boo boo tears going. I just read a quotation by the author Elizabeth Stone who wrote: “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” That sums it up so well. While I would love to have them walking closer in proximity to me, I am lucky to have four people in this world who every moment of every day can be sure that they have me supporting their lives.
Pickles! I need to get this blog post done before the name becomes obsolete! Just to put you in the right place, the last week that I am talking about is the week of February 15. I know! That seems like longer ago than a week to me too! Maybe it is the waning days of winter that seem to adjust the speed of time or something. Anyway, before it expires, here are a few of the good things that brightened my last week.
Birdie Arrives – Okay. I am going to cheat here a little bit. On February 20 a little girl arrived into this world who was anticipated to be adored to such a level that she would likely always have a sunshine aura around her. Birdie has a mom and dad who have waited so patiently for her and who will probably be some of the best parents a girl could have. She has grandmas and a grandpa who will be there for her always. She has aunts and an uncle ready to embrace her as a new part of their lives, and that just can’t help but make them better. She has cousins who will be friends and playmates. She has extended family that are all so excited to meet her and fall for her too. And she has people like Dan and me who, though we share no blood, we feel as much a part of her family as genetic boundaries allow. The cheating part of this is that even though Birdie arrived last week, I did not meet her until this week. And she is perfect, and she is loved well.
Another Gushy Review of Jason Isbell – On Tuesday we went to see Jason Isbell and his band play at the Uptown Theater. This was #6 Jason Isbell show for us. I would say it was probably the best yet. His band is so good, he was so engaged and seemed to be having so much fun. There was something else about seeing him this time. This is weird coming from someone who has never met the guy, but I felt so proud of him. When we first saw him in 2009 he was a different man from the one he is today. You see it in pictures from the time – talent out the wazoo, but hazy from drinking. On Tuesday, along with all of the fabulous musical moments, was his presence as a healthy and happy man. It has been his journey, but as a person who loves the music he makes and the persona that he shares with the world through social media, I feel like I have had some read into where he is now. He and the band encored with the Rolling Stones’ Can’t You Hear Me Knocking which was rocking good fun. After that, this part of his tour ended and he went home to be with his wife. A couple days later on Instagram he posted a picture of his hand on Amanda’s slightly rounded tummy. Happy and healthy.
A Saturday Walk – The weather has been super weird. One minute they say it will snow, but then it doesn’t. Last Thursday, I heard nothing about snow, but I left work (minus my boots) in a real dilly of a snowstorm that kept me crawling through the downtown streets, but as soon as I got a couple miles south the sun was shining and the inches of snow on my car looked very out of place. Weird. Last Saturday was supposed to be weathery, but it turned out to be beautiful. Dan and I are still working hard on getting our steps in, so we used the opportunity to take a walk to Waldo Pizza for lunch. We were extraordinarily good and had salad bar and no pizza. We rewarded our goodness by chasing our salad with one of the best deals in beer flights (and a great selection) in the city.
Final Season of Justified Started – Raylan Givens is a bad ass, and Boyd Crowder is too. I will be sad when this program ends. In the meantime, I will savor every moment of this show and be so happy every time there is a scene where Raylan and Boyd talk to each other. It is tv brilliance.
Movie Night – We have not been very good with keeping our monthly movie date with our friends. This month, however, we got it done. It’s a good way to end the day to leave work and sit down with people that you want to catch up with and fill in the gaps since the last time you did that. We did that and then we went to see American Sniper (not a huge fan, but, oh, that Bradley Cooper!) and then we went and had some more catchup over a nightcap.
Wishing everyone a wonderful week as March rolls in!
I am still getting used to the fact that Sam is married. A couple weeks ago, over the course of a few days in New York City, we had a whirlwind of activity, but the actual wedding was over in a few blinks of the eye. That was perfect for Sam and Jean. It felt like who they are and what they wanted. And now they enter into their new phase of life as do Dan and I. We have a new daughter that we love dearly. We work to find ways to show our love and support for them as individuals and as a couple. What a dear thing a happy wedding is. While this is titled “Good Things,” I think that there should be another made up word for when something happens that seems better than good; happier than happy. Whatever that is, that was our time in New York City. Here are a few highlights
Having Ali and Jose there – We have kind of a little, but geographically spread-out family. Having all of us together is infrequent and special. We got into NYC on Thursday afternoon from KC, and Ali and Jose came in from NOLA. We pulled up to our hotel in our cab and literally, right behind us, pulled a cab with Ali and Jose. Their being there during their own wedding prep time was so wonderful. And, Jose showing up to the wedding in pink pants and bowtie – all southern gentlemanly – is a memory that I won’t forget.
Meeting Jean’s parents – Meeting your almost daughter-in-law’s parents hours before a wedding could make for some nervousness, but that did not feel like the case at all. Despite all of the weather that threatened, the Adamoski’s from Chicago and the Ryan’s from Kansas City arrived in New York City and got to see their children get married. We met Jean’s mom and dad at the very cool, Jimmy’s No. 43 in the East Village. The basement bar was cozy and fantastically cool. The bartender was memorable. And Jean’s parents arrived with hugs and welcome. It’s hard not to like people who are behind the woman that my son adores, and people who also seem to think that Sam is pretty great.
Parent dinner – The night before the wedding, the couple and the parents had dinner at Momofuku Ssam. Our meal was the rib-eye dinner which was comprised of a cow-size ribeye steak, done perfectly and sliced on a platter, french fries that seemed to be fried to a ethereal crispness and Caeser salad that we found pleasure in just picking up dressed leaves and eating. Of course, our meal went beyond the stated meal. There was a platter of multiple different kinds of hams, veggies, bubblies, and we finished off with a cake that was covered with popcorn. For part of the night, Sam came over and sat next to me. I told him how happy I was. He told me how happy he is. Yep.
The Wedding – Everyone should spend a day or two hanging out at the NYC marriage bureau. In the amount of time that we were there, we saw such a variety of couples come through that I just wanted more! Some came in bridal gowns and tuxes, some looked like they weren’t sure why they were there. Couples take a number and are called to different stages – completing the certificate, in the staging room, the ceremony itself. Sam and Jean arrived carrying doughnuts. Both had gold shoes and new wedding clothes. Jean’s was actually a combination of a lace top of her grandma’s and a skirt made by a best friend. They looked adorable and happy. The ceremony itself lasted less than five minutes but it included all of the necessary elements: vows, I do’s, rings, and a kiss. And just like that, our family has a new member.
Cooper-Hewitt – After the ceremony, most in attendance hopped on the subway up to upper Manhattan to go to the Cooper-Hewitt museum. This was probably my doings since there is a Maira Kalman exhibit that I wanted to see. It was my first time at this museum that is housed in a building that in itself is a museum. The Kalman exhibit was a room curated with unusual objects, beautifully displayed, and annotated in Maira Kalman’s distinctive style. The rest of the museum was full of curious tools, hands on design opportunities, fascinating videos, and so much more.
Wedding Dinner at Roberta’s – The staff at Roberta’s presented us with such delicious pizza and sides. Sitting at a long table watching the combined friends and family of the couple was heart-warming.
Kinokuniya Bookstore – I had read about this bookstore a few months ago and did not let it go far from my radar. It is a Japanese bookstore located near Bryant Park and it is a wonderland for someone like me who love paper, pens, and fun stationary items. Dan’s enthusiasm to go was not as great as mine, but when he hit the door, he was sold. It was just so fun! There is a great selection of books – many with an art focus, but the downstairs level that is devoted to all things paper goods plus, was candy! I think we browsed for at least two hours. So fun!
The Party – The place was called Reciprocal Skateboards. It is in Greenwich Village. You enter into a shopspace lined with brightly colored skateboards. Around the corner in the other room are pinball machines. This was the party site on Saturday night and it was so much fun. There was beer and champagne that was cooled in a borrowed newspaper box from the street. There was a big bowl of quarters that Sam had to restock a few times. There were new people to talk to and get to see how Sam and Jean have been good friends and important people to many. There were toasts and tears and laughs. There were amazing steamed buns with pork belly from Momofuku. My heart garlands worked well and provided a good backdrop for the love that was abounding all night.
As I said, it was a whirlwind (I didn’t even mention going to the Natural History Museum for the first time, the guys in the wine store who gave us three free bottles of wine, or the poutine with smoked meat!) and I feel like I am still getting resettled. Our trip home was delayed a day so my plan for my off day did not work last week, so this is my off day to write and take care of some of these things that I have been thinking on.
Next month we will make a trip and do this in a different way with Ali and Jose. I know how lucky we are.
Last week was birthday week. I am still a person who likes the idea of birthday celebrations, so I enjoyed the special things that came my way as part of that. Here are some of the good things that happened during birthday fest week.
Resolution making – I always give myself until my birthday to put together resolutions. I got help this year from a posting that went up on Brain Pickings at the beginning of the year that offered guidance on resolutions. In fact, I kind of lifted my resolutions directly from it. Thanks to Popforms and their Spark Notebook plan, I also worked on a theme for a year. My resolutions are rather broad and my theme is a good daily guide. For my new year, I resolve to walk and be more present, make my life wide, keep a diary, cultivate true friendship, and define myself. My theme is to create myself daily. Every day is a new adventure, and my theme is a good reminder.
Baby Shower Book Club – I have written about our book club before, but last week was a first for our group. We had a book club baby shower! Everyone brought a favorite read aloud as a gift for Jim and Micaela. As they opened each gift, the giver explained why they made the choice. It was so much fun to see some old favorites and also to be introduced to some new ones. Dan picked Redwall which is a great adventure book that Dan read to the kids. I picked the My Father’s Dragon Series. This series is one of my all time favorites that I read to the kids. If you haven’t read these books, I would highly recommend them. They recount the adventures of Elmer Elevator and a baby dragon that he runs away to rescue. It is all very fantastical and fun.
New Bumper Sticker – I have had my cute little beetle for about eight years now, and it still makes me smile. Shortly after we bought it, we were in Arkansas and I bought a bumper sticker. It was Bob Marley with the quotation “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” While I still love that sentiment, Bob had gotten pretty faded over the years. As part of my birthday fest, Dan took me to the fun It’s A Beautiful Day shop and I picked out a new sticker. On Saturday, I washed that dirty car and put on its new message. It is a quotation from the Dalai Lama – “Choose to be optimistic … it feels better.”
Birthday celebration – The messages on Facebook, calls from the kids, a birthday card with sweet messages from my work team, tulips left on my porch all went into making my day a very nice one. Aside from from very pretty cologne, Dan also got me the world best ice scraper. I am very excited about that as I have never been happy with any ice scraper. If it pans out, it will probably show up as its own “good thing.” We also had a great dinner at the new JJs, where a Restaurant Week deal got me Mushroom toast, Chicken Marsala, and Chocolate Mousse for $33. I started my new year well.
How About Never, Is Never Good for You? – I got this book for Christmas and got it finished last week. If you like New Yorker cartoons, this book is a must read. Bob Mankoff, who is the cartoon editor there, is a funny guy, and this book is a charming journey through the history of New Yorker cartoon, and how and why cartoons get selected.
That was my week. I hope that your week was also filled with good things.
My sense is that I am still getting the feel of the new year. January is always like that. It isn’t like January 1 hits and you have your plan for the year all set. You are still in recovery stage from the holidays and it is cold and dark. Nevertheless, amidst some pretty terrible things that happened in our world, my days held good things and here were a few that I noted down last week.
Making Garlands – In an email message from Sam, he mentioned that he and Jean wondered if I would make some heart garlands for their wedding celebration party. A couple years ago, I had seen on Pinterest or somewhere where you took punchout hearts and string them on a ribbon to make a garland. I made them and sent one to Sam and Ali. Sweetly, I remember visiting Sam several months later and seeing it still hanging up. Now, he tells me it is hanging in their bedroom. Well, that made my own heart melty, and I set to making yards of garlands.
Wedding Suit IMing – Another impending wedding good thing was that on Saturday Sam sent several instant messages and pictures while he was shopping for his wedding suit and accessories. Say what you will about how technology will be our downfall (some people say that, right?), but I am all for being able to instantly see my boy picking out wedding clothes hundreds of miles away.
#JeSuisCharlie – Speaking of technology, there was the #JeSuisCharlie flood that came after the awfulness in Paris. Being able to type a few characters on social media gave people across the world a means to connect; to say I’m with you; to say I care. It is small, but it is something. You wish for more joyful ways for the world to connect, but we are not always so lucky.
Cooking and Listening to Music – A pleasure in my life is listening to music while I am in the kitchen. I have gotten a little more picky about how music sounds, andI so appreciate it when the sound is quality. My listening caliber got a boost when Ali and Jose got us a sweet Bose wireless speaker for Christmas. Last Friday I was tooling around the kitchen making dinner, enjoying a glass of wine, and listening to some Jason Isbell. It was so beautiful I had to take a pause to soak it in.
Getting back to my desk – Last Friday was the first one in a long time where I got to sit down at my desk and do a little creative work. Our Christmas tree kind of blocked it for a few weeks, and then there was holiday dishevelment in general. When I sat down last Friday, I didn’t do much, but it was fun to just play around a little. I have some fun new markers, so I got to do some arty stuff with pretty colors. We bought this desk at a little neighborhood shop. It belonged to the owner’s mother and he was using his store to display and sell off a few of her things. Since we got it, it has moved around a little, but when it landed in our library room, it felt at home. It has never been declared my desk, but obviously I have taken it over. Sitting in its messy comfort is the definition of a good thing.
Keep your good things close!