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 This is a little outdated, but what can be wrong with reflecting on good things that came my way in the recent past?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.

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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.

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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!

Good Things Recently

journalI am not going to pretend that this will be a timestamped archive of a particular period of good thing tracking. When I look at my calendar and see that next week will end the month of October, I am busted! I have let another month get by without really getting my act together. Sure, I have excuses, but none of them really amount to anything insurmountable.

But, I have collected some items that I would like to take some minutes to write about and remember. They reflect some of the last few weeks good things. I hope that as the days have gotten shorter, the trees have taken on brilliant colors, and World Series fever has come to a city that wondered if it ever would again – your days and weeks have brought many of your own good things!

YayA Little Road Trip to Celebrate a New Job

Dan has a new job helping a wonderful agency bring in dollars. The mission is one that means a great deal to him, and it means some very positive lifestyle changes that we are both incredibly happy about. To celebrate, we went to destination location, Bentonville, Arkansas! Seriously, it was a fantastic weekend road trip that we have wanted to do for a while. The attraction is an amazing art museum that is courtesy of one of the WalMart heirs. I am not a WalMart fan, but I am sure a fan of Crystal Bridges. This lovely glass structure sits amongst trees and water and nature trails. The galleries are full of an amazing collection of American art beautifully curated. The big draw for us was the special exhibit that is there through January – State of the Art. The concept is a team from the museum visited 1000 working artist studios across the country and picked 100 of them to include in the exhibit. The variety of media blew me away. There were interactive displays, videos, collages, toys, photographs, paintings …. It was visual fun, and a very great way to spend a morning. After the museum trip (which is free, by the way), we drove to Fayetteville to pursue my passion of visiting independent book stores. Nightbird is a charmer right in the downtown area. The little trip had multiple highlights. Being in Fayetteville on college football day meant we got to see grown men walking around with razorback hogs on top of their heads. Sitting next to our hotel was a Waffle House. Dan had his first and second experience at this iconic joint. We had some good food and bought some beers that we can’t find here. Yay Roadtrips!

Jean Got Her Ring – One morning there was a text message from Sam that the rings they had ordered were in and he was going to surprise Jean at work. The next thing, there was a picture of a hand with a beautiful ring. It was sweet to see the outpouring of likes and offers of congratulations when the engagement status got put up on their Facebooks. The happiness of good news spreading is a nice thing about social media.

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Royals – To be still writing about the Royals is something! This team has not only boosted the happiness level of this city, but they have charmed the socks off of countless the world over. There are good stories every day about something this team has done, or that others have done that make this more than just a baseball story. As I have already confessed, I am not a terribly active baseball fan, but right now I can name a good portion of the roster and I am even contemplating purchasing my first Royals t-shirt.

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Wordless! performance by Art Spiegelman + Phillip Johnston – I remember seeing the book, Maus for the first time and needing to buy it immediately. It was something so new, and I loved it. In it, Art Spiegelman told an amazing story via a comic book format. It had humor, but it also had tragedy and wickedness and sorrow. It became one of my favorite books ever, and it made me a fan of what was to become a whole new genre of literature. I saw on a blog that Speigelman was touring with a jazz ensemble and delivering a lecture about the advent of wordless books. Delightedly, I read that Kansas City was on the tour. I bought tickets and Dan and I went to the performance at the incredible Kauffman Center. It was fantastic, and the way that the images that Spiegelman highlighted were so well supplemented by the jazz of the Phillip Johnston group was crazy great!

I think I will just stop there, even though I have several more items that I have noted in my journal. Suffice it to say that I am feeling pretty lucky these days.

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!

 

salad

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

goodWhen you can’t sleep, what better thing to do then just get out of bed and write about last week’s good things? 

pierogie

Making and sharing pierogies for Easter – Although it seems like a gazillion years ago, Easter was officially during last week. On Easter Sunday, we had family and friends over – 13 in total. Late in the afternoon, Dan’s sister came over and the three of us became a pierogie making machine. Pierogies, if you are not familiar, are a Polish dish – very much like a ravioli. The family version that Dan and his sister enjoy is filled with cottage cheese, sour cream and lots of pepper. Our finely tuned system included Dan making and rolling out the dough, me filling, cutting and crimping, and Laura boiling, buttering, and baking. The result was delicious, and because it was such a beautiful day, everyone took their plate out to the patio. We sat around talking of pierogies of old, the welcoming of spring, and whatnot. That was a fine example of a holiday celebration.

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Austin KleonAustin Kleon is an artist and author. He has done a TED talk and a keynote at SXSW about creativity and being out there with your creativity – show your work. As part of Kansas City’s Middle of the Map forum, I got a ticket to go hear Austin speak on Tuesday night. Work has been more than hectic these days, so leaving work at a reasonable hour seemed decadent. Add to that, going to a cool space in the Crossroads arts district – where they welcomed me with a free copy of one of Austin’s books and a cold Boulevard Pale Ale – heavenly! Austin’s talk was all about fostering creativity followed by a charming Q & A session. He also has one of the most fun book signatures I have encountered.

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Happy Hour Symphony – I guess I can’t whine about work hours too much since last Monday, Dan came to pick me up at work so we could go to the Kansas City Symphony’s Happy Hour. I had no idea that these existed, but we got an invite to come along with friends. This is a free series offered by the symphony and it includes time prior to the concert where you can hang around the beautiful lobby in the Kauffman Center and have a drink and chat. The concert itself only lasts an hour, so many people were there with their kids. We heard three pieces played by various ensembles. I had not been in Helzberg Hall before, but it is fantastically gorgeous with not a bad seat and incredible sound.

Mary Roach – It was a eventful week! Thursday night, I met friends at another beautiful Kansas City space – the Kansas City Central Library. It always makes me think of a New York Public library at a smaller, but just as lovely, scale. Thursday’s menu was a talk by author, Mary Roach. Mary’s most recent book is Gulp, which is a guidebook of your alimentary canal. The talk was a dialogue with a library staff member, followed by questions and answers. Mary has had a pretty fascinating writing life – writing books about sex, cadavers, life in space, and the afterlife. A author who spins science well is a friend of mine.

bday

Happy birthday to Dan – Saturday we got to celebrate Dan’s birthday. Because he had to go into work in the morning, I spent some time doing some shopping and preparing for the requested birthday meal. The main dish was T-bone steaks which I got from McGonigles. I made twice baked potatoes with cheddar, sour cream, bacon and added a good amount of heat. Heirloom cherry tomatoes with avacados made the meal healthy. Dessert was Shatto vanilla ice cream with a choice of toppings. Friends were over to share in the bounty. We welcomed Dan into his new year delightfully well.

It is Wednesday already so I need to start enumerating what has been going on this week. I hope that your good things are piling up!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

I have had a really nice week. It was one of those week’s that I have thought more than once what a lucky person I am. On Saturday, I got to talk to both kids who both sound really happy. Just that could make a week. As it was, there were a number of other things too. These are five of them:

1. Lift Every Voice – There has been much in the media this week about the celebration around the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. King’s Dream Speech. One morning this week, something that I was watching had a clip of a performance of Lift Every Voice and Sing – the African American National Anthem. The words of the song were originally a poem written to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday and introduce Booker T. Washington. Hearing the song made me immediately recall the many elementary school programs where Sam and Ali and their classmates would sing this song. Those of us in the audience would be welcomed to sing along. Sadly, I don’t have a video of one of those performances, but I found one on Youtube that has the same spirit – complete with the hand motions that made every song better!

2. Thank You NotesDonorsChoose.org is an on-line mechanism for teachers to seek funding for the things they need for their classrooms and students. If you know a teacher, you know that they spend a good piece of their own money to buy things that help them do their job and take care of their students. I know that almost every weekend, Ali is running an errand to get something that she needs for the week ahead. Last year, Ali did a DonorsChoose campaign to get her classroom some very basic supplies: bathroom passes, bins, an electric pencil sharpener, pouches for supplies, and a laminator. Just with these items, she was able to organize her classroom better and create more learning opportunities. This week we got thank you letters from her class. They are all quite precious, but this is one of my favorites! I can’t wait to see what Ms. Ryan’s class has on its wish list this year! If you have a chance, go to the site. I’m sure you will find someplace to put that extra $10 you had this week.halls-1

3. My Job – There are some weeks when I am writing this blog post up, one of my motivations is bringing to mind the good things so I don’t dwell on the not so good things. Admittedly, my job can fall into that latter category at times. But it is never because I don’t like my job. I really do love what I do, and I have been so lucky to be given the chance to do things that I find exciting and challenging. There are times that my job is very stressful and the things that I have to do are not fun.This week, however, I had little to grouse about and much to enjoy. I got to have some really great conversations with people that created new energy and enthusiasm. I saw people step up to new challenges with excitement and energy. I heard about new work that is being done that can potentially lead to better outcomes for the children that we take care of. Every week will not be as good as this week, but that some weeks are as good as this past one, makes me grateful.

4. Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival – Last year was the first official year for the Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival in Kansas City. The resurgence of spirits over the past few years has made events such as this more common across the US. The model is the iconic Tales of the Cocktail held each year in New Orleans. Founded by Ryan Maybee, Doug Frost, and Brandon Cummins, this 5 day event is a good thing in my book. Last year we went to one seminar; this year we made it to two. On Friday, we went to a discussion among Ryan, Jim Meehan (who runs PDT in NYC which is perhaps the coolest bar I have ever been in) and Angus WInchester (an “Ambassador” for Tanqueray Gin). They spent two hours giving advice on opening your own bar. Listening to such personable people, who have obvious passion for what they do, was fun and informative. They made it moreso by serving a Meehan and a Maybee inspired cocktail during the presentation. Saturday we attended the seminar on new innovators of American whiskey. Fittingly, the event was held in famous Prohibition era boss, Tom Pendergast’s office space. F Paul Pacult and Sean Ludford provided a fascinating historical retrospective of American whiskey making. We then tasted ten different craft spirits that are now being produced in the United State. Some day I will write more about this topic, but I will leave it by saying that this was a very good thing. Both events were $15 a ticket and were executed well with fabulous volunteers. Hats off to everyone and I can’t wait until next year.Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 10.13.54 AM

5. New Yorker Cartoons – A few years ago, I got a form letter form Bob Mankoff that charmed the socks off of me. He was looking for people to buy a book of New Yorker cartoons that he was editing. He sold me with charm and humor that seemed to speak directly to me. This week, I came across a posting of Bob Mankoff’s favorite New Yorker cartoons and a link to his TED talk on the anatomy of a New Yorker cartoon. I thank Mr. Mankoff for going through those 1000 ideas every week to choose the fifteen cartoons that will end up in the magazine and more often than not, make me happy.

 

Last Week’s Good Things

I am a little late this week, but what the hey! There were some really good things last week and they are still worth thinking about!

  1. Image 7New shelves – If you know me you probably understand that I have a penchant to buy books. A few weeks ago, Dan and I went to Half Price Books to get a copy of A FAREWELL TO ARMS for our book club. I believe that we left with about 20 books. It was bad? Our books have outgrown available space, so we did what one does when they have too much of something. We got more shelves. By consolidating Dan’s clothes and moving out a little dresser that we had in our bedroom, we had an empty 35 inches of wall space in our bedroom. It is perfect for two of the stackable bookshelves that Amazon Prime could get me pronto. This week those new shelves arrived and I had a dandy time filling them with books. I am not completely satisfied with the arrangement yet, but that will come. In the meantime, now, when I walk into my bedroom one of the first things I see is a lovely tower of beautiful books.
  2. hallsCough drops with a message – This just tickled me. I received Dan’s cold this week so I have been spending some time sucking on Hall’s throat lozenges. I am about halfway through a bag that I started when I had my last cold. The other day when I set the wrapper down, I noticed some words on it that did not look like the normal Hall’s logo. The label was covered with motivational messages! There are a number of different sayings that appear on the drops. It makes you feel like your healing process is getting a little cheer!
  3. Image 6Hummingbirds – We have three hummingbird feeders in  our backyard. We have had them there for a few years, but this year Dan has been keeping them up better since he gave up on feeding seeds to the other birds (they were getting pretty messy). Over the past few weeks, we have been completely entertained by a group of hummingbirds that come and eat at the feeders and then play around with each other. They pester each other and dive bomb and race and then come flying back in for a sip of nectar. We sit on the patio in the evening and enjoy a beverage and the aviary antics. They accept our presence without a care. They get so close it sounds like a huge bee in the ear, and there are times that they swoop in so fast that it seems that they will hit us. I think that it is almost time for them to leave the area, but they certainly have earned their sugar water while they have been here!
  4. Learning Opportunities and Good Teacher – As noted, I have had a little bit of a cold this week. It really manifested itself this weekend. I was scheduled, however, to attend a workshop all day Saturday. Not only was I not feeling great on Saturday, but it was also one of the most beautiful August days on record. I really wanted to attend this workshop, so despite it all, I went. I was so glad that I did. From 8:30 until 5:00 the instructor kept my attention and I learned so much. It is a great thing to be engaged by a good speaker talking about something that is meaningful to you.
  5. Post Office article in Esquire – I somewhat reluctantly say that I like Esquire magazine. I know that they can do their fair share of objectifying women. Aside from that, however, it is a well put together magazine. I like the layout a lot. It has the busyness that really appeals to my design likes. It also has some completely wonderful writing. Esquire does some big time reporting in the midst of some of their fluffier things. This past week I read the article that they did recently on the postal service. I love so much about the US Postal Service. Ben Franklin was the first Post Master General and he is a hero of mine. I think it is amazing that I can spend 46 cents to send a letter anywhere in the United States and it will get there so quickly. I still love hearing the sound of mail being delivered. I would so love to see the machines that do the sorting of the mail because that feeds into my love of automated machines. I could go on. Anyway… in this article, Jesse Lichtenstein writes about the financial issues that the postal service is having (very enlightening), highlights postal employees from the letter carrier to the head person, and most interestingly, he talks about how mail gets from place to place. I would really love to go watch that happen one of these days!

Last Week’s Good Things

Image1.  Paul Thorn at Knuckleheads – Paul Thorn is from Tupelo, Mississippi. He plays guitar and sings songs about the good, bad, ugly, sad and funny. He once fought Roberto Duran. When he comes to Kansas City, a one night show isn’t enough. He stays and plays three. Friday night was our third time going to hear Paul at Knuckleheads. The first time we saw him we were there to see the opening act. It was good, but we then got the gift of being introduced to a story-telling, charismatic, southern drawling, song master. Once again, I fell under his spell. I will spending my coming weeks with his songs in my ears and a smile on my face.

2. Rain in the Morning – A couple of mornings this week, I woke up to the sound of rain and an occasional rumbling of thunder. That is the best! It makes the morning darker. It makes the bed cozier. I still had to get up and get myself ready for work this week, but there was that pleasure of lingering in bed a few more minutes listening to the rain hit the window.

3. Grits – I like washing dishes. We don’t have a dishwasher and I really don’t mind (other than I would like a place to hide dirty dishes until they do get washed). I like washing dishes because it is a quiet and calming. The same pleasure that I get from washing dishes I get from other activities that require little thought or activity, but a fair amount of time. I love cooking risotto and making ricotta cheese. Both of them take patience as you bring them to the right consistency or the right temperature. This week, grits fell into this category. I had always heard that good grits take a long time to make. Following a recipe I had saved, I pursued the low and slow method of grits making. The process had that same magic of risotto. There was lots of stirring. There was adding liquid a little at a time. There was reaching the point where the product was rich and creamy. For the grits, that was supplemented with some heavy cream, bacon and cheese.

4. Jonathan Franzen talking about birds – Science Friday on NPR is really a wonderful program. I usually don’t get to listen to it on the radio, but I have been trying to listen to the podcasts of the program more. This week I listened to an episode with Jonathan Franzen. Franzen is the author of a couple of favorite books of mine: The Corrections and Freedom. I think that he is a terrific writer. Franzen recently wrote an article for National Geographic about migrating birds being hunted for sport. Franzen has been an avid birder for years and his love for his hobby charmed me completely. The host, at one point in the interview, asked Franzen which bird is his favorite. His answer was so cute, I needed to go to the transcript to get it exactly as he spoke it. His favorite is the California Towhee. “It’s not an uncommon bird. It’s very plain, but it’s just the loveliest thing.”

California_Towhee_b13-45-039_l_15. George Saunders graduation speech – I have come a little late to this piece, and now I understand that it is being made into a book. Author, George Saunders addressed the graduates of Syracuse University. His message is simple – be kind. In the speech he relates that a life regret occurred when he was a boy he did nothing when a classmate was teased. He called it a “failure of kindness.”  Saunders proposes that one of the effects of aging is that we become kinder and it is a factor of our becoming less selfish as we get older.  What he tells the graduating class is that they might be able to speed the speed of kindness growth by being aware of it and “err in the direction of kindness.”

Last Week’s Good Things

  1. Angus Stone’s The Wolf and the Butler – This song is kind of Frog and Toad are Friends, The Fantastic Mr. Fox , druggy weirdness, but it really is a lovely love song.  
  2. Making Dan’s Birthday dinner – This is Dan’s birthday fest weekend. On Friday I made him a special dinner which consisted of a version of Pasta Amatriciana and a wedge salad with homemade blue cheese dressing. The sauce that I used as the base for the Amatriciana was the Andrew Carmellini’s basic tomato sauce that Sam asserts is better than the Frankie’s sauce, of which I am quite fond. After a request for clarification, I got a sweet email from Sam talking me through some of the details of the recipe along with other life updates that made me really happy for him. The sauce was delicious.
  3. The Happiness Advantage – A couple weeks ago I came across a TED talk given by Shawn Achor. Achor is an expert in positive psychology. His talk really hit on many of the things that I believe. His thesis is that being happy; being positive, yields success. I got Shawn’s book, The Happiness Advantage and read it this week. I am more inspired than ever to bring this message with me in all areas of my life. One of his principals is something that I have been doing lately – writing down three good things every day. Just as writing this weekly blog post does, the three things a day puts me on a constant lookout for the good. It is a nice life practice. http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work.html
  4. Fresh flowers – I am pretty sure that when I was growing up, getting fresh flowers meant going to a florist or growing them in your yard, There were not the flower sections in grocery stores that are pretty much a given nowadays. What an awesome thing that for $3 you can buy something that will brighten your windowsill, your dinner table; your desk. This week I bought some flowers that made made my world prettier.photo (1) copy
  5. Funny bits in newspapers – One of the things that I really love about newspapers is that you often find little articles that not only fill a space, but which are hysterical. One of my favorite ones was an article about a cow that crashed through the ceiling of a coffee shop in Iran. It never ceased to crack me up to think about a couple of guys sitting chatting over a cup of coffee when all of a sudden here comes a cow raining down on them. Comedy gold. This week I found a new addition to my collection:clipping
  6. And another bonus happy this week. Last night, Dan went plaid in a big way.photo (2)