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!
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!
This 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:
Family 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!
Gifts 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!
Call 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!
Wedding 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!
It still does not seem right to me that next week is Christmas. It is true that holidays have a whole different flavor when you do not have kids in the house. The excitement of the pending arrival of all things holiday are tempered when you have normal days and evenings that are not peppered with holiday doings and wishings and hopings of little ones. That is kind of holiday celebrating gigantified. Last week, I tried to keep my own wishings and hopings continuing, and my celebration of the good things strong! Here were some of the things that caught my attention!
Mary Sue Milliken’s Border Grill Sugar Cookies – On some previous season of Top Chef Masters, Mary Sue Milliken always stands out as a good chef and a nice person. Good combination! Her name caught my eye in a sugar cookie recipe that uses crumbled potato chips. The salty addition to any dessert is a good thing for me. I made these cookies for a friend gathering along with another pretty great recipe for lemon ricotta bars. I have convinced myself that cookies are the ultimate dessert. They are compact, not too messy, flavorful, and not horrendously unhealthy in a reasonable cookie portion!
Gin – “Gin” probably sounds a little bad, but the story behind it is nice. Dan’s Rotary Club does monthly scotch tastings, but occasionally they mix it up. This month, the mixing was a gin tasting which we held at our house. Prior to a few months ago, I was not aware that you can sip gin. There are varieties that are flavored such that they are more like sippers than mixers. While the turnout was light, the company was extremely wonderful. We sat around, ate Dan’s jambalaya, and told stories old and new. We tasted some gin and ended the night feeling happy.
Happy Gingerbread Day – As I have written before, my sister and I usually have at least a text message a day. On Friday, she messaged me “Happy Gingerbread Day!” That is one of her things. She has a day for every day! Well, it so happened that on Gingerbread day I was walking home and stopped by McClain’s Bakery down the street. I am embarrassed that I have never stepped foot in that delightful space, even though it is so close to my house. I wanted a cup of coffee, but there in the counter were some very delicious looking gingerbread cookies. I bought one, and that afternoon gave it to a friend that I was meeting for a glass of wine. It was a happy gingerbread day
We have a wedding date – Sam and Jean confirmed the date for their wedding! How happy that is!
Out little coffee machine – When we went to Italy a couple years ago, we stayed in an apartment in Venice that had a little coffee machine. When we came home, we bought one of our own. It is not hipster of fancy or anything like that. But, when I want a cup of coffee in the afternoon, just turning it on makes me think of Italy and what an unbelievable trip of a lifetime that was! To get a cup of espresso and a wonderful flood of memories is pretty great.
Whether you are reading this for the first time or as a regular, I want to thank all of you. While I enjoy tracking the good things that come my way, knowing that others may like what I write, adds a bit of extra good that I can’t help but appreciate.
Next week we will have very good visitors, so my posting will be iffy. Wishing you the merriest of holidays and many good things!
Over 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!
I am finding it incredibly hard to believe that we are approaching the middle of August. The autumn happenings that seemed so far away, are now rapidly approaching. In the midst of the blur of last week, were some very good things. These were mine:
A new shower head – We live in an old house which brings with it all of its charms, as well as all of its challenges. We have beautiful plaster walls and hardwood floors. We also have questionable water pressure. This week we made some changes that included the replacement of a showerhead. It is a little thing, but when the first activity of your day includes water at a good temperature in an abundant quantity at an acceptable pressure, you are a step ahead.
National IPA Day – Last Thursday was National IPA day. An IPA is a style of beer – an Indian Pale Ale. To me, the defining characteristic of an Indian pale ale is hoppy goodness. To celebration of this special day last week, Dan poured me a special beer. Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware makes something that they call 90-minute IPA. For this beer, they continuously add hops to build the flavor that becomes almost raisiny, It is deliciousness. Unfortunately, this beer is not available in Missouri. Fortunately, when Dan travels, he brings me home souvenirs.
Miso – Having two tastes for this years post is something that I don’t usually do, but I figure that it isn’t a bad thing. I have not used miso much in the past, but this week, I used it in two different ways. Miso is a fermented soybean product. I still don’t get what umami is, but miso is umami – salty, earthy, deep. The first use of miso this week was to mix it with butter and use it for corn on the cob. It really transformed the corn in such an interesting way. The second use was a salad dressing. This is a work in progress, as I think the version I made was a little too salty, but it was a good starting place.
TED x KC – Saturday night we went to watch 11 people take a stage by themselves and without a script, talk for an alloted amount of time on a particular topic. We heard a 16 year old girl’s original songs and how she has funded programs in countries of need, we heard about fusion energy, we heard about a new paradigm for entrepreneurship. and about bullying, and politics, and economics, and using humor … We were in a freaking beautiful auditorium that gave a standing ovation to a political scientist!
Slate Audio Book Club – A few days a week, I listen to podcasts rather than music on my short trip to and from work. I have my favorite podcasts that I tend to go to, but there are a bunch of others that I download, but then don’t listen to. The Slate Audio Book Club was one of those, until last week. I listened to two episodes during the week. One was on My Stuggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard, and the other was Jenny Offill’s Department of Speculation. To spend drive time listening to people enthusiastically talk about books – lordy me! That is good. I am not eager to read My Struggle, but I am glad to know about it. Jenny Offill’s book I need to read.
What were your good things last week?
After 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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 were multiple, but here are a few of the more noteworthy ones.
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!
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!
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!
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