Books of 2019 – Number 10 – Eating Eternity: Food, Art and Literature in France by John Baxter

It has been a couple years since we went to Paris, but I still have a little moment when I unlock my phone and pay attention to the photo that lingers behind my screens of apps. It is the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. I took the picture while I stood under it and looked up. J’aime! Our last night in Paris, I made us go back to see it one more time.

Paris is magical like that. I chose my book #10, John Baxter’s Eating Eternity – Food, Art and Literature in France, because of my affection for Paris. John Baxter is an Australian writer and filmmaker who has lived in Paris for decades. He has written other books about France, but this is his only one devoted to food.

This was a very fun book to read. There are twenty-nine short sections – all with either reproductions of artwork or period photographs. Baxter writes about the café life in France and what food in the home (or castle) would look like. His writing about the Occupation of Paris during World War II brought to life the efforts of the chic restaurants to still delight when the food of the city was scarce. Chefs filled in the gaps by offering up zoo animals which were being sold off and city rodents. Yuck!

There are vignettes of artists Renoir, Monet, Cezanne, Dali and Matisse and their relationships to food in their life and in their art. He writes of wine, champagne, chocolate, fruit, vegetables and the many ways ingredients are combined for pleasure and sustenance. I learned and I enjoyed.

The book made me want to pop into a boulangerie for a pain au chocolat, and then take a stroll to the Eiffel Tower.

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Books of 2019 – Numbers 7,8,9 – MetaMaus, Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman

I’ve been down with a bad cold for the last few days, so reading time has been abundant. The last few days, I have been feeding my cold and starving my fever by plunging into the Holocaust as seen through the eyes of Art Spiegelman.

When we were in Colorado last summer, we took a daytrip into Aspen and, while there, we stopped in at the Explore Booksellers. We had been in this shop a few years ago, and I remembered the many small rooms filled with beautiful books. It had not changed. As I was browsing the shelves, my eye was drawn to my future purchase. MetaMaus is a beautiful book with a red fabric spine, and a unique cut-out on the cover represents a glass eye, but also the hole of the accompanying CD. The CD is filled with reference materials and the complete Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman. The book is filled with sketches for Maus, other Spiegelman drawings, photos, inspirations, and an exposition of how Maus came to be. I took this beauty home with me, and I read it this week. When I was done, I found my copies of Maus I and Maus II and read those too (I would have read them on the CD, but my computer doesn’t have one of those old-fashioned appendages J).

The Maus books were groundbreaking when Art Spiegelman published them beginning in 1991. In graphic form, Spiegelman tells the story of his parents’ experience as Polish Jews during World War II. There are many amazing things about what he does with this story telling, but probably the piece that got the most attention, was that the Jews of the book are depicted as mice, and the Germans as cats.

I read the Maus books soon after they were published. I loved them. In panels of black and white, he told a tragic true story with no less ethos than if it was a biography of his parents containing many more words. His drawing style (reminding me of woodcuts), his lettering, his narrative – blew me away.  From there a graphic novel fan was born (although, at the time, that term was not really a thing. Maus made it a thing).

Spending a day sick in bed getting deep into Art Spiegelman’s head when he was creating Maus may not seem like the elixir some would choose. It didn’t cure what was ailing me, but I loved it.

Books of 2019 – Number 6 – Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean

For a few months now, I have been reading Ron Chernow’s biograpy of George Washington. It is my Kindle read, so I really only read it when I am travelling or when I wake up at night and can’t sleep. Because of that, the 818 pages of the book are taking some time to get through. I just, however, read about Washington’s inauguration, his reluctance to assume the role of President, and his continual efforts to ensure the people that their government would not turn into something outside of the democracy that so many had suffered to create.

This book is quite the juxtaposition to my sixth book of the year, Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains – The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.  We are reading this one for our book club and I expect some good dialogue. Dr. MacLean is a professor of history at Duke, and her book begins in Jim Crow South. Early on it reviews the Brown vs Board of Education ruling and the measures that some communities went through to avoid the law taking effect. In parts of Virginia, it meant the shuttering of publicly funded schools from 1959 – 1964.

The book introduced me to James McGill Buchanan, a political economist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on public choice economics. Buchanan’s career becomes the lens through which we see the intersection between economic theory and the billionaire capitalists who see their own success as a guarantor of the success of the country. Buchanan and his close group end up supported by the ultra-wealthy Koch family, and the mutual relationship leads to much of the neo-conservative movement that began with the Reagan Administration and continues today.

There are readers of this book who laud its content and wake-up call, and there are those who question its research and motive. What it made me recognize is that our democracy is never a guarantee. We need to pay attention. George Washington was not wrong to be nervous.

 

Books of 2019 – Number 4 – War Hospital – A True Story of Surgery and Survival by Sheri Fink, MD

 

 

War Hospital – A True Story of Surgery and Survival by Sheri Fink, MD

Publisher: Public Affairs in 2003

429 Pages

I just finished my fourth book for the year in my quest to read 52 books this year. I am enjoying the extra time that I am putting into making myself step away from other distractions and giving my attention to words.

Sheri Fink’s non-fiction work, published in 2003, is an incredible telling of what happened in the city of Srebrenica during the Bosnian War – a horror that raged from 1992–1995. Fink’s work focuses on a warzone hospital and the individuals who worked there. She writes of the paths that led the heroes of this story to the hospital. She describes how they learned the practice of war medicine in real time. Reading about the hospital’s day-to-day, you see the doctors and nurses suffer horrible losses, and work through grisly conditions. The physical, mental, and emotional toll is brutal. At the book’s end, only during the horrific massacre that took place in their village and threatened everyone, do the doctors, nurses, and others leave.

At its conclusion, Fink poses questions about the presence of humanitarian workers in such situations. Do such services provoke a false sense of normalcy and security? What is the responsibility of the medical professional when there is clear violation of anything resembling humanitarianism? Are expectations of neutrality for medical professionals the right stance?

I remember watching the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics. It was a beautiful venue amidst picturesque mountains. People sat at sidewalk cafes drinking coffee and wine. Ten years later, those mountains sheltered snipers, foragers for food, and refugees trying to find a safe place. The Olympic stadiums were in ruins and marked by warfare. It is hard to believe it can happen. This book made me understand what happens when it do

Last Week’s Good Things

notebookThis is my thirty-first good things post during 2014. With these posts, I try to take time to reflect on the things that have crossed my life during the past days that have made me stop and notice how those things made me feel good or happy or better. The list has not been as consistent as I wanted, but it has always been on my mind as I go through each week.

Over the last weeks, here are a few of my good things:

IMG_2329Family time – Ali, Jose and Banjo arrived in Kansas City last week. Their presence in the house has been delightful. With both kids living miles away, any time that we get to spend with them is such a treat. We have eaten well, played some games, visited with loved ones, had a doggie heater in bed with us each night. It will be hard to have them drive away tomorrow, but so grateful that we got this week! 

IMG_2262Gifts for friends – It is kind of weird to choose gifts that I gave as a good thing, but this was just so much fun to do. When I was thinking of what to give some workmates for the holidays, I had a thought. Why not see if I could find old postcards of downtown KC where our hospital now sits? It was so fun to rummage through boxes of old cards in antique shops and peruse eBay for matches to my search. Having multiple pictures of our town from many decades was so interesting to look through. Some of the cards had messages between family and friends during their travels through our city. These items of correspondence were precious enough to have been kept year after year until its owner let it go in some way or another – but not in the trash.

Holiday deliveries – They get a bad rap from some, but last week, brown trucks, white trucks and delivery vans pulled up to our house multiple times to deliver holiday gifts or cards to the house. Oftentimes, they made the extra effort to put packages safely on our back porch. I also stood in line to mail a package and, though the line was long, I was greeted warmly and assured that my delivery would be on time. To me, these services are fantastic, and those holiday cancellations were pretty awesomely cute!

midwifeCall the Midwife – It has been awhile since I have gotten pulled in to a television series. We seem to be watching fewer programs lately, and tend to turn the set on for random cooking shows or sports. Recently, however, we had more time and because of a remembered recommendation, we watched the first episode of Call the Midwife. This is a BBC series about a group of young midwives practicing in London in the late 1950s. It is wonderful! The characters are interestingly layered, the story lines are poignant and compelling, and it is pretty to look at. We are through Season 1 and into number 2 thanks to Netflix. Really good television!

IMG_2430Wedding Preparations – Over the last weeks we have talked with Sam about plans for his and Jean’s wedding coming together. I also got to sit with Ali last week and address and stamp invitations.

As 2014 winds down and we all tend to reflect back and hope forward, I continue to want to make catching good things a part of each day. Happy new year to anyone reading, and may your year ahead be great!

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!

September’s Good Things

coloMy blog might suggest that, thus far, September has been devoid of good things. Untrue! The first week of the month was spent in Estes Park, Colorado where the sound of the Big Thompson River greeted us each morning and put us to sleep at night. While there, we had visits with friends, did some hiking, read some books, marveled at nature, discovered some new breweries, played some games, and kicked back. Back home, however, things immediately moved into overdrive. What September lacked was that balance between vacation and not vacation. With the end of the last week of the month nigh, I will attempt to summarize September and head into October with at least a hope to get things back on track.

Colorado in September – The first week of September is a wonderful time to visit Colorado. Pictures will do better than any words I can come up with.IMG_1670

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This last page of the September issue of Esquire Magazine – I count myself a fan of Esquire magazine. As a print magazine, they always do interesting things with the layout, and their reporting pieces are killer. The writing is always strong. It was, however, the last page of the magazine that really captured me in the last issue that I read. I giggle over it still. even though I tore it out and sent it to Ali. I can’t find a copy of it on line, so you will have to get an idea of what I am talking about by looking at the picture I took of it.

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Visit from the Tooles – We unexpectedly got to host Carly and Thad as they drove across country to set Carly up in her first gig as a physical therapist in Leadville, Colorado. Carly is Ali’s best friend, college roommate, maid of honor. Thad is in the running for brother-of-the-year. We had a great time sharing some KC hospitality – including teaching them how to play Catchphrase and filling their bellies with waffles for their final leg of their journey.
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I won a fantasy football game – the fact that I put this on my list gives you an idea of what a rarity this is. The poor dude that I beat must be feeling pretty badly.

Steroids – I came down with this very weird mouth ailment that became more and more irritating and painful as the month went on. After several false starts, I started on a taper of steroids that kicked out whatever it was that was going on. I am not a medicine fan, but that action was pretty impressive.

The Royals – I watched the Royals win the World Series that first year I was in Kansas City. Sam was a newborn and Dan was a Cardinals fan who could not believe  what happened. Sam just turned 29 and Dan remains a Cardinals fan – but we all feel good about the Royals finally seeing a playoff game.

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The Ken Burns’ Roosevelt series on PBS – The storytelling in that multipart series was riveting! My favorite was Teddy Roosevelt being shot while delivering a campaign speech and proceeding to talk for another hour before agreeing to go to the hospital to see about the bullet in his chest.

Making Cookies – For one reason or another, I made three batches of cookies during the month. The first was Amish Sugar Cookies which I became familiar with when I was growing up and I went to my friend Sue’s house. They are soft and sugar goodness. For fajita night book club, I made peanut butter cookies that I amped up by putting in some cayenne and sea salt. For dinner with friends, I made the killer rosemary shortbread cookies in the Flour cookbook. I kind of think that cookies are the perfect dessert.

Cards from future in-laws – As wedding planning continues, we are excited to get to know both Jose and Jean’s families. This month we received notes from both – sharing their happiness that our children have found happiness.

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My new fountain pen – I hoarded gift cards for a couple years and finally spent them at the awesome Pen Place in Crown Center. Yes! A store of pens! My pen is beautiful and writes beautifully. It is also filled with some equally awesome orange ink. I love it.

I have left off some other pretty big things that may get some extra coverage some other time. Kind of a silly list, but all things that made me happy during an uneven month.

Last Week’s Good Things

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Last week’s good things were multiple, but here are a few of the more noteworthy ones. 

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Jason Isbell, Willie Nelson & Alison Krauss at Starlight – As I have noted before, Jason Isbell is one of my all time favorite musicians – maybe my favorite. My most recent opportunity to hear him was at Kansas City’s Starlight Theater – a beautiful outdoor theater in Swope Park. The sound that night was spectacular! Jason was the opener, so he only had six songs, but he was brilliant as usual. I have not listened to Alison Krauss much, so I didn’t know what to expect there. She has a lovely voice, a great stage presence, and her sharing the spotlight with her other bandmates is winning. Willie Nelson put on a great show. We had heard him a few years ago at Red Rocks. That night he was okay. At Starlight, he seemed to really bring it more and more as the night went on. The night ended with all of the performers on stage singing gospel songs and looking really happy. So was I!

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Keeping Positive – Our new office building is wonderful and to have most of our group in one place is the best! Last week, we had our first Division meeting and there were loads of good sentiments passed on by attendees. I was the recipient of some words that mean so much to me. There is a good vibe in the new building that is palpable. One thing being done is having everyone write on an index card what positive commitment they are making. These are hanging on the bulletin board in the breakroom. Seeing the number of cards grow each day is heart lifting!

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Jean’s beer – After her visit here with Sam, Jean sent Dan a bottle of special beer. It came with a very sweet note and explanation of the contents. Of course, this spoke to Dan in a big way and he reciprocated with a flowing thank you and commentary on hows and whys of beers. Then we actually drank the beer, and enjoyed it for what it was and how it came to us. The whole process – seriously good!

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Scanning Pictures for Ali and Jose’s Engagement Party – We couldn’t attend the engagement party that Ali’s New Orleans’ friends threw for them. What I got to do, however, is provide a photo history of Ali that they used. Sitting and looking through photo albums is the best history ever.

Dan and Pet Videos – Our morning routine during the week is early rising, Dan making breakfast, watching the news, reading the paper, and looking at our computers. Dan laughing at pet videos in the morning makes my morning.

I hope today and every day has many good things for you!

Bonus Good thing: Jason Isbell singing Cover Me Up at Starlight Theater

Last Week’s Good Things

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Last week seems like a blur of many things, but here are some things that made me happy during it.

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Cook for Courage Event for Child Protection CenterThe Child Protection Center is a nonprofit agency where children who are suspected of having been abused can go to for an age-appropriate, safe, forensics interview. The work they do is pretty amazing, and, unfortunately, the need is large. Last year, they served over 750 children! For the first time, the agency put on a major event to raise funds for the center. Cook for Courage brought together six area chefs – each of them had to do their take on ribs and a side dish. A beautiful evening, held on a bridge!, where we got to eat delicious concoctions, while donating to a good cause, all adds up to a very good thing!

Dinner at EBTEBT is a restaurant that has been serving meals in Kansas City in the same place for many, many years. We had never been there, but we had in our minds that it might be the kind of place that could have molded jello on the menu. We put our preconceptions aside and made our way to EBT for dinner last week. Dan writes about the experience really well on his blog, but I have to include it on mine too. It was really a wonderful experience and the food was fantastic! The trendy and “Latest and greatest” is not always better. EBT exuded classic!

 

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From my garden – Hmmm. Lots of food centered things this week! Oh well, sometimes that is just the way it goes. On Friday, I made a salad for dinner. I grilled some chicken and I tossed it with lettuce, radishes, onions, avacado and cheese. What made me really happy about this, was that the lettuce and the radishes came from my garden! They were pretty and fresh, and it was delicious!

phantomThe Phantom TollboothDan and I got to go hear Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer talk several months ago. It felt like such an amazing gift to hear two giants in the world of children’s literature talk about creating The Phantom Tollbooth. The guilty part of it, however, is that I really don’t think that I ever read The Phantom Tollbooth. I thought maybe I did, but reading it last week, I could not remember that I had. Oh man! It is such a wonderful book and there were many, many memorable moments and lines. Because it was the 50th anniversary edition, the book included essays by a  number of writers and others saying what the book meant to them. Pure pleasure!

 

The end of my notebook – Last year I started keeping a different kind of journal than I ever have. I had found this great (de)composition book at a college bookstore. Using some ideas from Austin Kleon, I did a page-a-week format. There isn’t really a format, but it could include me trying a different kind of handwriting, drawing, lists, notes, to dos, good things to remember, ephemera pasted or taped in – really anything. I have loved keeping this up. It makes me happy just looking at it or opening up to any page. Unlike journals I have kept in the past, this doesn’t hold troubles, it holds happy things. This past week finished off (de)composition book #1. Book #2 is ready for action. I am ready for weeks ahead with much to be happy about.

Ready for a new week? Let’s go!

Last Week’s Good Things

weekI will say it again, because there are times that I need to remind myself of it. It is really important to do good things and see good things. Not doing so – especially during stressful weeks – makes for an imbalance. I am working on this week’s list, but last week had some very good things that need to be remembered.

Mother’s Day – Wowzer! Was Mother’s Day really just a week ago!? That is what my journal says. My Mother’s Day was very nice. After I lost my own mom, this became a day with very mixed emotions – a day that amplified the absence. But this Mom’s Day, early phone calls from both Sam and Ali made me focus on the being a mother side of Mother’s Day. When I became a mom, I thought I couldn’t love my babies more. I was wrong.

My Team – There is a lot going on at work. There is a big inspection that we are preparing for, we are getting ready to move, and our normal workload continues to expand and get more complicated. When the going gets tough, however, my teammates step up even more. They are awesome. They don’t complain. They offer help. They offer support. Being a part of that makes me proud.

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Jimi Hendrix on a postage stamp – Yeah, Jimi Hendrix. That is you on a US postage stamp. I bet you saw that coming.

Huber2 photo 1Huber the Tuber – We found this book at a used book store several years ago, and I hadn’t really looked at it since. Last week I picked it up and read it. Huber is a tubercle bacillus trying to just peacefully exist in a host lung. Things go to hell, however, when a bunch of other bacilli want to stir things up and take over. It is quite a riotous romp through the pulmonary system. The book was published in 1942. The author, Harry Wilmer, was a doctor who wrote and illustrated this book to help children understand tuberculosis. Like so many good pieces of children’s culture, there is a lot here for the adult. The caricatures that Wilmer draws reflect the day’s politics and society. It is a treasure!

pens Prismacolor Markers – I am a lover of pens and color. This pack of Prismacolor makers that I have are the best! It’s the little things that make me happy sometimes, you know? When I am writing something and all of a sudden I notice how nice the pen writes, how good the color looks, how the other colors are there just waiting to be used – how good is that?

Keep looking for those good things. I will too!