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.

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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.

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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?

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Last Week’s Good Things

notebookThis is the New York City version of this week’s good things.  Because I was out of town over a weekend, it also is a very loose version of what “last week” means. Traveling does that to you!

It all started with the fact that I was extremely lucky to get chosen to go to a training sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. Added to this was the fact that my hospital supported me going. The conference was in New York City and started last Friday and went through the weekend. I tacked on a few personal days on the end so Dan could come in and we could spend time with Sam and Jean. Oh, what a great time it was.

From a slew of many, here are a few of last week’s good things:

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The People of New York City – It seems a cliche to give the people of New York a hard time for being pushy and difficult. On this trip, I have to say, I very much noticed the kindness of people everywhere. I arrived in the city late Thursday, Once I checked into my hotel, I went around the corner to have a bite to eat. I was the only one in the restaurant and I am sure that everyone was ready to go home. Rather than feeling a nuisance, I was treated graciously and did not feel rushed in the slightest. I noticed the same kind of feeling everywhere I went. Walking along busy streets, I noticed that people went out of their way to apologize if they bumped into you. In the subway I got a few “excuse me” and “pardon mes.” Particularly in businesses, I was treated warmly and appreciatively. We buy into stereotypes too easily. chambers

The Municipal Archives – Tuesday morning I went to the Municipal Archives of New York City. I had been in touch with the staff there for a couple years. When I knew that I would be coming to visit, I really got serious. The staff had located some documents that were potentially helpful to the research that I am doing. I was going to be able to get there and look at them! The archives are located at 31 Chambers Street amongst all of the city government buildings. These buildings are pretty awesome to behold. We made our way to the location on a Tuesday morning after a Monday holiday. The subway was jam packed, but easily negotiable. Once I got to the archives and checked in, I became a little worried. We could not find my request. With assistance from the helpful staff, we located the papers and I was able to get to work. It was great! All around the spacious room, people were delving into boxes of records or microfilm. The staff walked about answering questions. There was a young man sitting next to us looking at city planning records dating back to who knows when. Two brothers were looking up family history prior to  taking a journey to Eastern Europe. For my part, while the records that I had to look at didn’t reveal much that I didn’t know, there were many interesting things that I found and I made copies of to bring home. It also made me so thankful that items associated with an event that happened more than eighty years ago were filed away in a box and someone from the midwest can send an email and have those items waiting for her when she comes for a visit!  2013-10-15 10.22.41

Meeting Some New FriendsAlso associated with my research, I got to meet a couple more family members of my research characters. We met J and his daughter for breakfast on Monday morning. We spent a delightful meal getting to know each other and recounting how all of this happened. I also got to hear about A’s special stuffed animal who shared breakfast with us. Because of this breakfast venture, I now know what Halloween costume is perfect for a seven year old growing up in New York City – Eloise, of course! I also clearly understood, once again, what a gift I have been given to find this story. I continue to try to write this history up well. In the process, I have uncovered some interesting things, that I have been able to share with kind, welcoming, accommodating family members. Meeting some new family members and being so warmly welcomed for what I have done was humbling. samandjean

Sam and Jean – As a parent, you want to see  your children in happy relationships. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole heck of a lot you can do to secure such a thing. You try to model well, but even that can be challenging. In the end, you just have to hope. So, the best part of the trip was getting to spend time with Sam and Jean. It was our second chance to meet Jean, and it proved to be quite great.  I smile just thinking about how good I think that they are together. They seem to make each other laugh a lot – which I think speak volumes. They appeared caring to each other in many ways. On Sunday night we got to take Jean out to dinner without Sam as he was working. It felt easy and comfortable. A very good thing for the week!  2013-10-15 12.10.19bouchon

Food of New York – This trip provided an over the top food experience. Due to the good food connections that Sam and Jean bring to the table, we had two nights where fabulous New York City chefs cooked for us. At Bouchon Bakery and Cafe in the Time Warner Center, we got treated courses that ranged from a beautiful potato soup to a peanut butter and jelly dessert presentation.  At Blue Hill in Greenwich Village, the table kept producing more  treats like fresh local vegetables perfectly seasoned with salts, a chicken dish with mushrooms and a tomato sauce that was unforgettable and a pumpkin seed candy that spoke autumn. We also had some nice Belgian inspired food at Resto. Delicious tacos in Brooklyn. Decadently greasy burger and fries at Shake Shack. Chewy wood-fired pizza and yummy appetizers at Franny’s in Sam and Jean’s Prospect Heights neighborhood. Goodness!

It was a fun week. Getting out of town and spending time with co-workers, thinking about how we can do our work more effectively, was inspiring. Spending time in an iconic city inspired me to understand the world in a better way. Enjoying food in an indulgent way was, nonetheless, magnificent. Being with people I love was more than good.

On the Bourbon Trail

Back in July, I wrote about the wonderful road trip that we took to New York State. I need to write about the continuation of that trip that took us to Louisville, Kentucky for a couple days. It seems appropriate to rectify that omission at this time since, of course, September is National Bourbon Heritage Month and Kentucky is the mecca of bourbon.

A disclaimer I should make, I do love me some bourbon. Those of you not familiar with this brown liquid could possibly use a bourbon primer. The first mantra is “all bourbons are whiskeys, but all whiskeys are not bourbons.” Bourbon is and always will be an American spirit. Just as real champagne must come from the Champagne region of France, bourbon that is sold in the United States must be distilled in America. How that bourbon is made is decreed by US statute which requires:

  • production in the United States
  • that it is made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn
  • that it is aged in new, charred oak barrels

There are also rules as to what percent alcohol it goes in and is taken out of the barrel. Anything labeled “Straight” bourbon has been aged at least two years and it not blended with other spirits, nor does it have added color or flavor.

There are several legends surrounding the origins of bourbon, but one of the most robust is that Elijah Craig, a Baptist minister in Kentucky, put his moonshine in charred barrels after a fire went through his property. The resulting product was a revelation. This story has been discredited, but suffice it to say that sometime in the early 1800s, moonshine created with the calcium rich waters around Kentucky started being stored in charred barrels, shipped down the river to New Orleans, and loved by many.

We arrived in Louisville on a Friday afternoon. We stayed at The Galt House Hotel, right in the center of Louisville. Wonderfully, there were races that day at Churchill Downs. We got to spend a couple hours sipping mint juleps, betting on races, and admiring the wonderful crowd – including some fantastic women’s hats and men’s seersucker. IMG_6077 IMG_6074

The real mission of our time in Louisville happened Saturday. We had booked a Bourbon Trail tour that left our hotel at 7:30 Saturday morning. What a delightful adventure it was. Our co-tourists were enthusiastic and friendly. We had people from Canada and the US – all who loved bourbon and who had wanted to make this trip for a good long time. Our tour guide, Bob talked to us continuously as we drove out of Louisville and towards Bardstown, Kentucky. I can listen to men with Southern accents for a long time, and when they are talking about bourbon and history, I kind of swoon. IMG_6109

We made three stops during our almost ten hour voyage. Our first stop at Maker’s Mark was the longest and most informative. We toured the property – which was absolutely gorgeous – and learned about the Samuels family who created the distillery, how Mrs. Samuels came up with the concept of the dipped in wax bottle, and about the process used to create their bourbon from grain to bottle. I think that the smile that Dan had when he stood by that giant tub of mash told the story of what a delightful time this was. DSCF7362

After our tour, we got to taste several of their products and then had the opportunity to shop in their gift shop where Ali and I got our tourist on and dipped our own bottle of wax to take home. IMG_6105

Back on the bus, Ali wondered why we didn’t buy a bottle to share on the voyage. Bob had let us know that it was fine to do so and there happened to be ice and water in abundance in the back of the bus. Dan went back in the store to cure that problem. The bottle was opened and our friendships with our co-trailers was cemented.

The rest of the day had us lunching at a little spot on the Maker’s property, then we were off to The Barton 1792 distillery, and finally to the Jim Beam distillery. Along the way, we got to learn more about each other, bourbon, and Kentucky. It was very much a fine time and worth the  decision to add it to our itinerary. DSCF7403DSCF7388DSCF7415DSCF7417

Back at our hotel, we made plans to eat dinner with Lynn and Neil who made the trip from the Toronto area. Usually they travel on motorcycles, and they had actually gotten married on a trip to the Sturges motorcycle event. They were a fun couple and adventurous eaters. We had an amazing dinner at Milkwood, which is owned by Edward Lee – a former Top Chef contender. We ended the evening in the restaurant on top of The Galt Hotel, overlooking the beautiful city of Louisville. DSCF74302013-06-29 22.17.25

It was a wonderful time!

 

Last Week’s Good Things

It was pretty easy to come up with a list this week, even if we did have to say good-bye to Ali and Banjo again. Here are some of the things that made it a good week for me.

  1. An Ali Day

I switched my day off this week so I could spend the day with Ali. Unfortunately, Dan had to to go to work, much to Banjo’s dismay.

Image 3We had a very fun day that started out with a trip to Costco and then to Bob Jones shoes – where the mannequins kept scaring us, but we were still able to buy some shoes.

Image 4We went to one of Ali’s favorite lunch stops – The Drop – where she always gets their bruschetta. After lunch, there was more shopping and we capped off the afternoon by getting manicure/pedicures. This was a first for me, but I was assured that I would not be tickled, it would not be awkward, and that I would enjoy it. It was totally a nice experience and I can say that my feet have never felt as pampered. The woman and man who took care of us gave Ali a hard time for living so far away and leaving so soon. I liked them. We capped off the day with dinner at Lidia’s. It was hard to see such a fun little visit end, but we made the most of the short time she was here!Image 5 2.Khaki Dance

I was reading an article that mentioned this Internet phenomena song, Hot Cheetos and Takis. It was one of those things that I bent down the corner of the page to remind myself to go and take a look. Y.N.RichKids are part of an afterschool and summer enrichment program in Minneapolis. The Hot Cheetos song got posted last summer and got all sorts of love – including over 7 million views to date. Goodness me, it made me smile, but this other song that the same kids do made me ecstatic! I just sat there for the whole five minutes with a gleeful smile on my face. 

3. A Reading Saturday

Dan had a meeting on Saturday so I was home alone and did not really have anything scheduled until dinner time. I started working on my vacation album (see #4), and then I picked up our book club book and started reading. At about 6:30, when it was time to go over to a friend’s house for dinner, I turned the last page. It has been a long time since I have spent almost a full day reading. It was purely wonderful. Image 1

4. Starting my Vacation Album

Since doing my Italy photo album (which is still not quite finished), I am bound to the commitment of making real photo albums of yearly photos and special events. This week, I got my prints back from our Roadtrip vacation, and I pulled together all of the this and thats I collected along the way. Now it comes down to taking the time to sit with it all and get it in the book and in place. So far I have gotten us out of town, to Dayton, staying in Jamestown, and meeting up with Sam and Jean in Cooperstown. It is looking pretty good.Image

5. Riesling

Sam has been all about Riesling this summer. I have not had much Riesling lately, so we went ahead and bought a couple bottles recently. The two that were recommended to us by the guy at Gomer’s were dry and very nice. A chilled glass of this at the end of a summer day is a very good thing. Image 2

New York State of Mind

When I went to college and told people where I was from I learned something. While New York may present itself as one entity, it is not. There is “The City,” and there is “Upstate.” At the time, I was eighteen years old and had never been to The City. I was clearly an Upstater. Me from the western most county of the state, my roommate from the center of the southern part of the state, our buddy from the Adirondacks, and my neighbor from the Catskills within easy driving distance from The City –  all of us were Upstaters.

Moving to Missouri I had to explain to people that growing up in New York did not mean that my lungs were ruined by pollution and my ears by the noise. I was from as pastoral a place that one could imagine, but am as much of a New Yorker as the kids in the Bronx. It’s a big state. It’s a diverse state. It is a beautiful state.

I haven’t written on the blog for a long time because life has been a whirlwind. Part of that was that we took a roadtrip back to Upstate New York recently. The trip revived my deep love for that area.

Driving from the center of the country, you really get the feel of it. It starts in eastern Ohio when the flat highway starts to get some rolling hills. By the time you hit Pennsylvania, the hills are everywhere and they continue into New York. Everything is green and speckled with farms and lakes.

Our base the first part of our trip was Jamestown, New York. On our route, to get to Jamestown, we crossed Chautauqua Lake via the Chautauqua Lake Bridge. The bridge has been there since 1982. Prior to that, you either drove around the lake, or you took the ferry. I’ve written before about my memories of the lake. This time I saw that many of the same landmarks from my growing up days were still there. It is some version of time standing still.

I’m feeling the need to break back into the blog life slowly. There seem to be many things that I have organized in my brain yet, let alone attempt to write coherently about them. However, because this trip was so awesome, I am going to share some photos that summarize the combination of beauty, silliness, love and fun that is my New York. The intent of my blog has always been to focus on what makes me happy, and boy oh boy, this trip did.

I was back in an area where a beer comes in a Buffalo Sabres glass!

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I got to eat a Johnny’s hot dog.

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Sitting around a fire after a graduation party yielded more amusing stories than can be imagined, including conversing with a woman who everyone called Turd.

2013-06-23 17.48.05 Got in some serious family time that started at the Southern Tier Brewery, which occurred after I tripped, fell and bent up my glasses royally.

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We got into Cooperstown and found a lovely place by the lake to eat and wait for Sam and Jean.
2013-06-25 15.22.01 It rained briefly, and even that was pretty lovely.

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We got to meet Jean.

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Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame were as great as I remembered them.

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But this display was no longer there, so I could not recreate this shot:

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We got to visit one of the best breweries in the country.

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And one of the more charming breweries that I have visited.

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Where I got to buy this t-shirt:

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Birds with personalities entertained us for a significant amount of time.

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This was the second time faces were inserted into cutouts that day.

2013-06-26 15.55.17Flowering baskets always looked as beautiful as this.

2013-06-27 08.09.20It was more than great. Wait until I tell about Louisville.

Lyrical Triptiks

triptikDuring the week, my alarm goes off at 4:45 AM.  Almost instantaneously, my mind sings “get up and do it again, amen. Say it again, amen.” This is one of the songs of my life. It takes me back to college; it speaks to daily routine, and it has some lines (other than the “get up” one), that always stay lodged in my brain. The other one for this one is “I’m gonna find myself a boy who can show me what laughter means.” When Jackson sings it, he says “girl.” In my mind, I sing boy. That was my story. That is what I found when I was in college and playing that record on my dorm room stereo. I still have that boy who showed me what laughter means. Boom! Brain plant.

If you have been an AAA member, you may remember the Triptiks. These were narrow booklets, bound at the top with plastic spiral binding. On each page was a map of a piece of road.  It may be 10 miles; it may be 50 miles of your planned journey. Once you had driven to the end of one page, you turned the page and continued down the next. If you were on a round trip, on your way home, you just read the triptik backwards and from the bottom up. As I recall, the maps would also feature some attractions you might want to seek out during each leg of the voyage.

The song pieces planted in my brain kind of read like a Triptik. There are pieces of road that I have taken more or less times which have specific songs lyrics attached to them. They are the road attractions. I have my growing up songs, moody songs, being silly songs, falling in love songs, struggling songs, mad songs, winning songs, having babies songs, worrying songs. The thing is, I couldn’t tell you what each of them are, but when I hear them, or when I happen to be figuratively traveling that piece of road again, they will come to me.

It happened this week as I was literally on the road. The road happened to be the road to work that I certainly do not need a map to. I was sitting at a stop sign and the lyrics just popped into my head. I had to wrestle with it a little to figure out what the song was. I didn’t have the lyrics completely right, but they were close:

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken,

And many times confused

And I’ve often felt forsaken,

And certainly misused.

But it’s all right, it’s all right,

I’m just weary to my bones

Still, you don’t expect to be

Bright and Bon Vivant

So far away from home,

So far away from home.

The song is Paul Simon’s American Tune. It is a moody song for me. It reminds me of the days after September 11. There is something honestly brutal, brutally honest, but hopeful about this song.  What I love most about it is the bridge. It takes another key and soars.

And I dreamed I was flying.

I dreamed my soul rose unexpectedly,

And looking back down on me,

Smiled reassuringly

I think that the song came to me this week to give me that reassured smile when I needed one. I can’t explain it other than that. I wasn’t thinking of Paul Simon, Simon & Garfunkle, September 11, or anything else like that. I was actually listening to an NPR Ted Talk podcast about framing stories, that I was loving! And then there was the stop sign.  And then there was the song. Smiled reassuringly.

Today I have time to look at the song completely. I found several versions of it being performed, but the one I liked most was the most recent version I could find. Paul Simon was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011. During the ceremony, kind of out of the ordinary for an event that dates back to the time of John Adams, Paul performed American Tune. This is not thirty year old Paul first performing the song in the protest days of the 1970s. This is 70 year old Paul Simon — his voice not as strong, and perhaps a nervous or emotional shake to it. But boom. The Triptik attraction is fully revisited and rooted again in my brain.

Driving Down A Familiar Street On A Beautiful Autumn Day

Friday marked two weeks being home after our Italy trip. Returning to normal, however, has not been easy. Having a cold, Sam being in NYC and dealing with Sandy, the election, Dan traveling for a week, the time change – there just seems to be a bunch of stuff that has kept me from settling back into a routine. Part of me resists. I miss traveling and seeing new things. I miss the Italian style of living. In many ways, I think the base of my feeling unsettled is that I didn’t feel like I wanted to be home.Yesterday, however, I had an experience that helped me.

November 9th seems like it should at least have the briskness of autumn, but yesterday had none of that in Kansas City. It was sunny, blue sky, 75 degrees and breezy. Trees were either bare or briskly losing their leaves with each gust. The streets were speckled with scampering leaves crossing every which way. It was truly glorious.

As usual, I had my Friday off, but I didn’t use it writing. Instead, I worked on continuing to try to get things around here back in order. I then went out to run some errands that took me over across the state line. After getting my things done, I ended up driving home via a street that I haven’t travelled in quite a while. The experience of driving on that street yesterday did more than anything else to make me feel happy about being back home.

When we first moved to Kansas City, we moved into an apartment in a very new and suburban part of Johnson County, Kansas. It was perfectly fine, but it was not what we really wanted in a place to live. After a year, we moved to a duplex in Mission, Kansas. Mission is one of the older areas of Kansas – older neighborhoods, big trees, cute houses, nothing fancy. Here we felt much more at home.

The duplex in Mission was the house where we brought Ali home to. It was the place where I had my first experience planting a garden as we dug a narrow space of dirt and I carefully laid out a square foot planting of vegetables and herbs. There was a little patio that we had flowers and more herbs in. We hung a little swing from the tree in the backyard. A plastic swimming pool and sandbox came out in nice weather. In the kitchen of the duplex, there was a bottom cupboard that held Sam’s pots and pans and the alphabet blocks that I had made him out of empty baby food containers. When I would fix dinner at night, Ali would be in her seat and Sam would be playing on the floor or sitting on the counter helping me.

There was a very quiet man who lived in the other part of the duplex and his mom and dad would often come to visit. At one point we had broken the bottom glass of our storm door, so we had just removed the whole of that pane leaving an opening where that glass should have been. Sam would stand there and watch the goings on and greet the neighbor’s parents as they came and went. They were charmed by him.

It was at that duplex where one of my funniest kid stories happened — involving trying to get two babies in car seats into a two door car so we could go pick up another child. In the midst of prepping the car by opening the two doors and going into the house to get baby #1, a big stray dog entered the car and refused to get out. Absurdity ensued.

Living in that duplex; in that neighborhood, made us understand what we wanted when we would buy a home of our own. When we finally did get our house and move, we left many sweet memories in that house.

The road that I drove yesterday did not even go by our duplex, but it was close and it was one of the roads that I traversed a lot while we lived there. There was just something about the beauty of the autumn day yesterday that brought on so much happy nostalgia. I am home and there is beauty around me. I am home and there are memories here. I am home and there are more memories to be made.

Italian Chronicles

It is hard to figure out where to start. After 16 days away from home, I do feel like I have returned a changed person, but I haven’t processed things enough to understand fully what those changes are, or how they will manifest themselves.

I’ve returned from that trip of a lifetime – an Italian adventure that took us to several locales and allowed us to experience extraordinary sights, sounds, tastes, and emotions. I have about 1500 pictures that I need to spend time with to annotate – before it all becomes a blur of beauty. I have bags of paper ephemera that I need to review and figure out where they will be saved. And, this time I want to do it right.

So maybe I will start there. How do you preserve memories? I have always considered myself a person who journals, but I have nothing saved that I worked on as a child, teenager, or college student. I think the earliest evidence that I have are some day-by-day diaries that I started keeping when Dan was in law school – maybe even when I was pregnant. Since then, my journal keeping has waxed and waned, but I have always loved the time spent with whatever that current journal may be.

I have photo albums – some kind of in order – many haphazardly arranged – most not well labelled. Now I can recall most of the content of each, but there are those pictures that make me scratch my head a little. What will they mean someday to Sam and Ali – or their kids? Now, most of my pictures are on-line – stored in my IPhoto or uploaded into an on-line service where I can select who to share with. Last year, I decided to make copies of 100 photos of things that happened that year, and put them into an album to catalog the year’s event. The pictures are still in the envelope with the nice album purchased for that reason. I need to get that done too.

There is this blog. I have enjoyed my efforts here. I think that this forum has given me another type of opportunity to catalog things that matter to me. The fact that some people read it regularly or just happen upon it when they are searching something random, makes it a different kind of record. Deciding what is both of interest to me, and honestly hoping it will be of interest to others, can be a challenge. The reason behind starting the blog was personal, but the public nature of it is not lost.

I honestly am thinking this through as I write this. I pledge to myself, that during  the next few months, I will use my blog as my conscience.  It will see me through my record-keeping, and, I hope, will also share some experiences and memories of the wonderful trip with anyone who cares to read.

Several weeks before we left, I bought a soft-covered Moleskine notebook where I jotted down some things that I wanted to do and taped in some maps that I thought may be useful. While we were gone, I spent some time journaling in that book about what had gone on each day. I still have plenty of blank pages in that book that I need to fill  in and I have lots of precious receipts, business cards, labels and what not that I want to include in there.

One of the last things that we bought while we were traveling was a beautiful photo album. I had seen it one day when we were strolling around Florence. I wanted it, but figured it was too expensive. By the time that I was about a block away, I decided that I had to have it. We went back a couple days later and it is now ours. It was made by a woman who learned the craft of book making from her parents. It is my plan to make it something that anyone who ever looks at it will understand what this trip was and meant.

Among the things that I want to capture:

  • Getting stranded in the maze of streets in Venice as the city started to flood and every direction to our way home seemed impassable until we finally found one – at which point, Dan had to dash into an open cafe to buy a bottle of “wine to go” so we could celebrate
  • Needing to learn how to read maps again because none of us had cell phones to help us find our way.
  • The hearty manner in which Italian men say Buongiorno! in the morning.
  • Sitting on the Campo in Siena watching an elderly couple walk arm and arm across the expanse.

Whether it is weekly or less often, I promise myself to chronicle my chronicles. I will share images (because one of the things that I love is to look at other people’s journals). I will share some stories. For what it is worth, I may give some advice for anyone hoping or planning to do something similar. I do love this blog! As a person who loves assignments and accountability, this is the best!

Ryan Bingham Has A New Album Out

Yesterday I downloaded the new Ryan Bingham album. $6.99 for music from someone that I have a good history with, seemed a good deal. I didn’t listen to it right away.  When I did listen to it for the first time yesterday, it was one of those peripheral listens. I tend to do that with music more often than not. It’s playing in the background, and I am noticing more the beat than anything else. What I noticed here was that Ryan had picked up his beat a lot from his last album. I liked that.

Ryan Bingham came into my life a few years ago when we were on vacation in Colorado. It was the first week in September, which to a person who does not ski, is the perfect time of year to be in Colorado. The weather is lovely and the crowds are small. We were walking down the street in Breckenridge when Jim noticed a flyer on a kiosk. Ryan Bingham was going to be playing at a bar the next night – we had to go.

I did not know anything about Ryan Bingham, but he won me over that night. The venue was a dark basement bar with a few high top tables. We got there early to beat the crowd, which never really came. We had a table right in front of the staging area and got our first dose of Ryan Bingham and his band up close. Guitar playing, cowboy hatted, cigarette smoking, gravelly voiced guy – I was smitten. Mr. Bingham got himself a Missouri fan club that night with his rocking guitars and driving drums. They played and played and came back and played some more. It was one of the best music experiences that I had ever had.

The next year, we were back in Colorado at the same time of year. Coincidentally, so was Ryan Bingham. This time, however, he was not in a dark basement bar. He was opening for Willie Nelson at the amazing Red Rocks. It had been a year for Ryan. He had written a song for a movie and now had an Academy Award. That year, we got our tickets weeks ahead. That show was all kinds of great in so many ways, but that first Ryan Bingham experience would be hard to beat – even by a venue that is a marvel of nature.

So this morning I am spending some more time with the new album. Reviews are mixed, with lots pointing out that he is pouring too much politics into his music and that the long troubadour anthems don’t serve him well. I guess that I see that, but I don’t criticize him for that. On this album there are songs on it that I really like. Flower Bomb is pretty and has some interesting key changes. Heart of Rhythm is fun, driving, good times, rock and roll – it even has some piano pounding. I’m guessing that he loves to play it. Just reading the lyrics, you can kind of tell how this one would play out:

 

Come on honey we got nothing to lose,

We got the country and the rhythm and the blues,

I told you honey now that I’m your man,

I got a heart full of rhythm they don’t understand,

I’ll give you more than silver gold,

I got a heart full of rhythm and rock n roll

 

Too Deep to Fill sounds like he is channeling Woodie Guthrie, which is not a bad thing.

So for my $6.99 I got to hear 13 new songs from a guy who has earned his place in my music library. The fact that this album did not overwhelm reviewers – or me – matters not. I am glad he is making music. As an appreciator, I am glad that he is trying new things. I am hopeful that another tour stop lands close to me, and I will be looking out for his next release of music.

You can listen to some of the songs here: Ryan Bingham

 

 

Ciao Italia

I was probably in middle school when I read Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy. Oh good lord, I loved that book! When the 700+ pages were finished, I went to the letters of Michelangelo in I Michelangelo, Sculptor. Irving Stone, the author of The Agony and the Ecstasy, had Michelangelo’s letters translated when he was working on the book. He had them published once he was finished. As a person who loves to read correspondence, these continued to draw me into the world of popes and art and egos. I went next to Stone’s similar take on VIncent Van Gogh – Lust for Life. Again, I found this amazingly interesting and captivating story that brought me into the Vincent fangirl club.

In high school, I had a world history class where we spent a few days in the darkened classroom looking at slides (real slides; not Powerpoint slides) of Italian Renaissance art. Not living close to any art gallery nor having parents who were particularly interested in art, this was probably the first time that I had seen large scale images of these beautiful objects. There was the Pieta, the Sistine Chapel, the David, St. Peters …. My adolescent self swooned, and dreamed that maybe someday, I would see those objects in person.

In college, Professor Hans Freund was a most charming professor who taught classes in history and the arts. Professor Freund had been one of my boyfriend’s professors, and he got to know and like us as a couple outside of the classroom. I was more of a sciency person in college, but when I saw that he was teaching a class on Renaissance art, I asked him if I could just sit in. He welcomed me to do so. For a semester, I got to sit in an Ivy covered old chapel on my college campus and listen to this delightful man gush over Renaissance art in a charming German accent. It was my own ecstasy. The finale of this wonderful adventure was that we got to go on a field trip to New York City where we visited The Cloisters and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Professor Freund also invited my boyfriend along so we could enjoy this adventure together. Even though I had lived my entire life in New York, it was my first trip to the city. I am guessing it was 1981- pre-Giuliani – and the city, to me, looked like a scene out of Blade Runner. Inside the museums, however, I saw beauty up close. I could see brush strokes and read signatures. Fantastico!

Since I was a girl and read about Michelangelo’s life and Renaissance times, I dreamed about one day actually going to Italy. I imagined seeing the beauty that was described or shown in books and classrooms. There have been years since then that I thought that it could happen, and there have been times that I figured that life would go by without my getting that chance. For most of us, life is that way. It is not a straight trajectory giving us a vantage point of seeing what is up ahead. It is the long and winding road where you can’t see the things around each corner.

But this I am pretty sure is true. The boyfriend that I had when I was eighteen years old – the boyfriend that I shared my love of all things Michelangelo to during the times that we were getting to know each other and falling in love – the boyfriend who introduced me to Professor Freund – the boyfriend who took me to a museum in St. Louis and walked me straight to my first Vincent painting and let me stand there long to take it in – the boyfriend who has imagined many what-if vacations with me – the boyfriend who became my husband thirty years ago, is going to Italy with me soon. It is still hard for me to believe, but the road is straight enough at this point that I can see it and I know it is going to happen.