Last Week’s Good Things!

iron_man3_1It has been awhile since I have gotten in two blog posts in a week, but this week, we need to get it done. There were good things last week and they deserve to be recognized!

  1. Amazon Prime – This is one of those things that I think I may be a little shallow about, but goodness gracious, I love Amazon Prime! Lots of people like it for the streaming video and whatnot. I love it for the free and quick shipping! This week I had this great idea to order some protein bars, some more coffee and a new calendar. I ordered them Sunday and I had them by Tuesday. A couple weeks ago, we ordered a new Weber Gas Grill. It was crazy heavy and it was delivered free. We have gotten our moneys worth out of it for sure! Call me a fan.
  2. Two work related shout outs – A few months ago, one of the people that I manage asked me to write a letter of recommendation for her for graduate school. This week she found out that she got accepted. She was so thankful to me for writing the letter, but really, seeing her spirit to get working on a new chapter of her life was something that just made me feel great! The other thing at work was that I had one of my co-workers come to my door on Monday to see if I was going to a presentation at the hospital. I hadn’t signed up in time so I wasn’t register. She encouraged me to come with her anyway. I ended up getting in and it was very good. The best thing, however, was her coming to me; encouraging me; and being happy for me when I got in. Both of these examples seem very simple as I write them, but they are the kinds of things that can change the flavor of a day.
  3. Notes under my pillow – I believe I have noted that Dan has been doing some crazy traveling lately. I am not sure how many miles he has traveled over the last month, but it is pretty significant. More often than not, when I get into bed on the night he  has left, there is a note under my pillow. This week’s note was a particularly good one! It kind of makes me miss him more when he is gone, but that isn’t a bad thing.
  4. Mini road trip with food and song – For some reason, I always think that Lawrence is much farther away than it is. We really need to get there more often! Braving the crazy rain storm Saturday night, we met friends at 715 in Lawrence for a wonderful meal. I had the rabbit ravioli – which I believe is the first pasta dish that I have had since starting this South Beach thing. The filling had a little hint of sweet which was a nice balance to the richness of the rabbit. I also had a Sidecar and a Manhattan that were killer.The service was very nice and our waiter got us out of there in time to go to our second Lawrence outing – a concert by the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers. I am not sure that I have heard choral singing since high school days, but this group is pretty amazing. They also had a high school ensemble perform with them. I am not a good enough musician to understand why the high schoolers weren’t almost as good as the professionals, but they were sure impressive. While I probably will not make choral music a part of my repertoire, I am glad that I did it, and it made for a lovely mini road trip ending!tmbg
  5. Outing on my own – I am going to cheat a little here and bring in something from two weeks ago. Thursday is usually my Friday at work. Two weeks ago on Thursday, at the end of the day, I had the window open in my office. It was a beautiful day, and I could hear a band warming up for an evening concert. The band was They Might Be Giants. I love this band, plus I have an especially warm place in my heart for them, because I think it was the first band I introduced one of my children to that they really love too. I knew they were playing, and I had toyed with the idea of going. But hadn’t really asked anyone and Dan was still gone. I just went. At 7:00, when the gates were open, I shut down my computer, and drove the couple blocks to the venue. It was so fun! I stood right by the stage during their performance. I got a concert t-shirt. I was home by 11:00!  I am so glad that I did that! Then, this week, I had some movie coupons that were about to expire so I went to go see Ironman 3. Loved it too (other than the movie previews that came on before it. They kind of scared the beejeezus out of me.). I have never minded doing things on my own, but I haven’t really done it that much lately (my creepiest example of me doing something on my own was when I went to the drive-in by myself while I was home from college to go see the Deerhunter.) These were some good things.

Last Week’s Good Things

There was reason for this to be a week where it would have been hard to find good things. Dan was away all week after a very nice weekend. While my work week had its accomplishments, it also had things that I didn’t necessarily want to deal with. But, no matter what, there were such wonderful good things that happened to me and around me! I bet that everyone had them too!

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  1. Driving home on Friday – I usually don’t work on Friday. For the past two Fridays, I have  because of meetings that I have to go to, or just scheduling issues. Whatever the reason, it makes me feel a tiny bit put out even though I find the office deliciously quiet and personally productive on Fridays. As I was driving home on Friday, I glanced over my shoulder to see the chapel that friends of ours had gotten married in a couple years ago, In front of the chapel was a beautiful bride and groom surrounded by friends and family.  How is that not a great way to come home from a day of work!
  2. Poetry Night – I think I have written before about our book club. Every year we do a poetry night where, rather than a book, people bring a poem that means a lot to them. This week we had our annual gathering. It is just such a great thing! I read some Ogden Nash. A couple people read things that either they or a loved one had written. There is just something welcoming about reading aloud and amongst friends.isbell-shires-225x300
  3. New York Times article about Jason Isbell – A few months ago I mentioned to Dan how cute I found the Facebook posts that Jason Isbell wrote about his girlfriend/fiance. They were always just perfectly charming. Jason used to be a member of the band The Drive By Truckers. He left them when his addictions pretty much got a hold of him and made him not a good collaborator. We saw him a couple years ago, and I thought he was great, but I expect it was during a time of big drinking. Now, he has a new album coming out, he has married that cute girlfriend, and he has come out of his addictions with the help of those he loves. The article is pretty great.
  4. Kickstarter – I very much like Kickstarter. The concept that I can give $6 to a concept that I believe inis pretty awesome! I have given to a number of projects that appeal to me, however, this week I got something back from my donation that really felt great. A few weeks ago, I had donated to a project that involved someone that I really like. At my donation level, I got a critique of my writing. This week I received the critique and it really reinvigorated my writing. Richard Goodman is a great writer and he had good things to say about my writing. He also seemed interested in what I am doing. It was such an example of how some words of praise are so important to all of us!
  5. Annotations – Before I sat down to write this, Dan made me take some time to listen to David Foster Wallace’s graduation speech that he gave in 2005 at Kenyon College. It is a lovely address that gets to what a short distance it would be for all of us to be empathetic if we tried. I would highly recommend listening to it, but the good thing that I am noting this week is the link that I came across that showed the books of David Foster Wallace. They show beautiful annotations.  For me, this is art. This is creativity. This is a wonderful mind at work that makes me marvel.

We all need marvel and empathy and encouragement and creativity and beauty in our lives. My wish for everyone is that we all find these this week.

Last Week’s Good Things

IMG519Early this past week, the temperature outside hovered around 80 and there was a moment that I considered switching on the air conditioner. Between Wednesday and Thursday, something unnatural happened to drop temperatures more than 30 degrees and to make snow fall from the sky. Despite that nonsense, there were things that made last week good. Here are some of them:

  1. Lunch with Steve – I met Steve a few years ago when I started working on the book that I am writing. It turns out that Steve had made contact with Marcia’s family around the same time that I did. He wanted to ask some questions for research that he was doing about blood banks. The timing of our inquiries was strange in itself, but, perhaps the strangest thing is that Steve lives less than a mile away from me. Two people, working on two different projects but involving some things in common, making contact with a person in California around the same time – and we live within blocks of each other! I still marvel at that, and I am so thankful that we have gotten to know each other and share what we are doing. Friday at lunch we talked about one of my chapters, and just about stuff in general. He has let me borrow some of his old books on transfusions and I have loved going through them and both picking out the things that are useful to my work, but also enjoying some of the oddities of medical history in them. Like this:

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Yes, that is a woman cuddled up to a sheep as she is connected to it to receive its blood. It turns out that those kinds of transfusions weren’t very useful. Lunch with my friend Steve, talking and reading about transfusion … definitely a good thing!

2. The griddle – To celebrate Cinco de Mayo at work, we had Quesadilla Day. We can do that because we have a wonderful griddle that comes out on such occasions. One of my co-workers rescued the griddle before it became a part of a cleaning out donation at her house. She wondered if we might be able to use it in our office, and I firmly gave it a thumbs up! The griddle has been used on Ultimate Grilled Cheese day, Reuben Day, Pancake Day, and now Quesadilla Day.

3. Mint julep in silver cups – I have always wanted to have pretty silver mint julep cups. Last year, I found some on line at a reasonable price. By the time I got them, however, our mint supply was in bad shape. Since then, they have sitting on the shelf, waiting. Over the last few weeks, the mint is returning in force, and the running of the Kentucky Derby made for a great opportunity to initiate the cups. Getting the cups down, however, I found that the pretty shiny silver was now tarnished. The homemade method cleaning method that I found that worked like a charm was toothpaste. A little toothpaste and elbow grease cleaned beauties up. With mint, bourbon, sugar, the cups, a muddler, and the nifty ice crusher that Dan found on ebay, we toasted Orb and the other horses that ran a muddy but exciting race on Derby Day.photo

IMG_20130504_2038334.  My job review – I had my job review this past week. It went well, and I had the satisfaction that those who took the time to comment on my performance think that I get my job done well. What really meant more to me, I think, was the number of people who commented that I treat people well, that I am kind, and that I always make time for others. I do try to always be kind, and I do try to be there for others. I think that it makes a difference in how I feel about the job that I am doing, and it was nice to see that others appreciate it.

220px-Bernie_film_poster5.  Bernie – Dan and I watched Bernie last night. I have heard good things about this movie for awhile now, so I had it in my Netflix queue. This is based on a true incident that was reported in the pages of Texas Monthly by writer Skip Hollandsworth. Jack Black plays Bernie Tiede, the assistant funeral director in the small town of Carthage, Texas. He is pretty much adored by everyone because of his kindness and helpful disposition. In the story, Bernie befriends the town’s wealthy widow (Shirley MacLaine), who is universally disliked because she is plain mean. As their relationship goes on, it becomes more and more emotionally draining to Bernie who must always be at her beck and call. One day, he snaps and he shoots her with the armadillo gun. Matthew McConeaughey is the town district attorney who has to prosecute a man that the town, for the most part, sympathizes with and understands why he would have shot her. It is crazy entertaining and makes me love Jack Black even more than I did before.

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)

Last Week’s Good Things

Another week, more good things showing up around me!

  1. Magnolia and Bradford Pears – this is the week that you drive down many streets in Kansas City and you are treated with bursting trees of pink and white. The magnolia trees and the Bradford Pears are at their finest this week, and it is hard not to be struck by their beauty each time you go outside. This is what I see every time I walk out my back door:IMG510
  2. Finishing three books – I haven’t been happy with my reading output lately, but this week I got back in the game. The Plague and I gave me the story of a woman dealing with a health crisis at a very particular time in medical history. The Bronze Bow was another check off on my quest to read all of the Newbery award winners. More about that one later. The last one was The Great Gatsby. I think this was my fourth or fifth reading of The Great Gatsby. While I like this book very much, it is one of those stories that I lose over time. Fitzgerald does bring some beautiful writing to this period novel.
  3. Man on a bike – I was driving to a meeting after work this week and I was feeling slightly grumpy that I had to go to a meeting rather then just going home. To go to my meeting, I had to go down Main Street. At an intersection, I was stopped at a traffic signal. While sitting there, a guy on a bicycle rode in front of me. He was a middle aged man and he had a huge smile on his face. He was also riding a bicycle that he had tricked out with a steering wheel! and an American flag! and a Mexican flag! If I had not gone to my meeting, I would have missed that. He was a guy on a bike, enjoying one of our first spring days and he made me smile!
  4. My gym – I made an effort to get back to the gym this week, and once again I was struck by how great this place is! It is just a couple blocks from my house. It has all of the features that I want. Equipment that I want to use is almost always available. And, when I go there, I kind of feel like a young thing.
  5. Mad Men returns – The television season isn’t what it used to be. Shows don’t all start in September after you go to school and end before you are out on summer vacation. I kind of like that. This week, we got the return of Mad Men. There was a bunch going on in this first episode. I think I need to go back and watch it again, but it made me very eager for the rest of the season.

Last Week’s Good Things

sallie21. Opening Acts – Wednesday night we went to The Record Bar to hear music. The intent was to hear the main act, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, but I think the highlights of the night were the opening acts. We arrived early and were able to hear Bob Walkenhorst do his set. While we have intended to go to one of Bob’s weekly shows for a long time, this was our first. It is truly one of the best deals in Kansas City. For $5 we were treated with over and hour of guitars and songs that ranged from gospel-y to “Sympathy for the Devil.” The opening band for Thao was a band from Portland called Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside. Sallie Ford has a voice you will remember. Like The Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard, her sound is down home, gettin’ it done. We got her two cds which she signed, but Jim and Micaela got an even better memory of the night. Sallie, Jim, and Micaela photo booth shots.

peace2. Colum McCan’s article about peace in Ireland – On Easter, novelist Colum McCan had a column in the New York Times about peace in Ireland. It is just a beautifully written piece about the work that George Mitchell did to bring the sides together through patience and grit. It is hard to imagine now the Ireland that was just 15 years ago. No more car bombs. No more bloody people in the street. One of the many beautiful lines in this piece is, “[Mitchell] split a feather down the middle and encouraged both halves to take flight.” There is more lovely stuff and the message of hope is even more beautiful.

3. Radio Lab podcast about the Heimlich Maneuver – Radio Lab is a gem of a podcast. This week I listened to a recent show about the Heimlich Maneuver. The show was narrated by one of the show’s producers, Pat Walters, who had himself been given the Heimlich maneuver as a grade school student when he choked on a piece of apple. It turns out that Heimlich is still alive. Walters tracked him down and met with him. The show was a deep dive report on the beginning of the Heimlich and what has transpired since its being heralded as a lifesaver. The trajectory is incredibly interesting and I learned a lot. What stood out to me, however, was the end of the show when the reporter had the school nurse who performed the maneuver on him, read the letter that she had written him after she performed the Heimlich on him. She received a thank you letter from him and his family, and she responded to them with her own letter. The letter was incredibly moving. The school nurse wrote that over her years of being a school nurse her only goal was to make sure the kids in her school stayed safe and healthy. She went on that  there had been some kids over the years that she had lost. Her coming to his rescue was what she was there for.

breakfast4. I love book jacket designs and I love pretty fonts. The covers of Ismar David combined both of these. I know several of his designs, but didn’t know the source. I came across information about Mr. David this week.

5. Jasmine Coconut Rice – we had a great Easter dinner on last Sunday. Dan made the boneless leg of lamb and it was fantastic. My contribution was a salad and my favorite standby starch sidedish, Jasmine Coconut Rice. We had lots of leftovers, so I have been able to enjoy this favorite thing throughout the week. I highly recommend it. Many kudos to 101 Cookbooks for this addition to my life (I do substitute white jasmine rice).

Last Week’s Good Stuff

Sundays mean time to sit back and prepare for the week ahead. Time to go through what happened the previous week. Five favorite things from last week:

  1. The Inauguration of Barack Obama – My day off this week was Monday so I got to watch the Inauguration ceremony. President Obama’s speech made me hopeful and proud.IMG424
  2. Silver Linings Playbook – Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are a complicated couple. I liked the movie and I liked that I got another Oscar movie on board.
  3. Paul Levy – Paul Levy used to run a major hospital in Boston. This week he presented Grand Rounds at our hospital. He talked about how his experience coaching girl’s soccer guides how he ran a hospital.
  4. Dan teaching people how to brew beer – Today was a brewing day for Dan. When he plans to brew he usually posts it on Facebook. He oftentimes has people come over – some to just hang out; some to learn. Today was one of the days that he had a student brewer with him all day. It was cute.
  5. Dinner with friends – With birthday and restaurant week, we have had a few great meals out recently. Last night we went to a friend’s house for dinner. We all brought a dish; sat around the table and talked – best  meal.

 

My Favorite Albums of 2012

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My rules for picking my favorite albums for 2012 are that I had to have bought it and spent some time with it during the year. It could not be something that was landing on everyone else’s “best of” list that I then went to seek out. There is one of my selections that bends my rules a little bit, but I am going to let that one slide.

All in all, I think it was a great year for music. Here is what I liked best:

Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

The album opens with Hold On that gets your head boppin’ immediately, and then moves into I Found You – crazy strong opening! Brittany Howard has a voice that magnetizes each track, and the band members surround her voice with rock, blues, folk – whatever is called for. I want to sit in a roadhouse and listen to this band while drinking a bucket of beer.

Ani Difranco – Which Side Are You On

One of my best concert memories is seeing Ani Difranco with Sam at the Uptown Theater. We were in the first row of the balcony section and Ani put on a great show and was goofily charming. Her western New York roots also endear her to me. This album was released early in the year and has a lot of Occupy protest spirit to it. I think she is a compelling songwriter who writes about what she cares about and marries the lyrics to good folk accompaniment. And I adore her voice! This album got attention for its title taken from a classic protest song – Which Side Are You On? – which she covers and brings in Pete Seeger and New Orleans brass to come in and play with her. It’s solid, but I like what she is doing with her own songs better. Albacore is one sweet love song from the Righteous Babe.

Best Coast – The Only Place

This album reminds me of Kansas. This summer when I was driving by myself to Colorado this was one of my selections for those times when I got sleepy. It is just an exuberant, summery popfest. When I hear it, it just makes me happy. The opening track, The Only Place sets the tone for the whole album.

We were born with sun in our teeth and in our hair

When we get bored we like to sit around, sit around and stare

At the mountains, at the birds, at the ocean, at the trees

We have fun, we have fun, we have fun when we please

Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Yea, I can’t remember the name of this album. I am lucky if I remember its nickname, The Idler Wheel. Despite its challenging name, however, I am a big fan of this album and very much liked listening to it this year. There is Fiona’s distinctive voice that when I hear it, makes me want to go listen to her early albums again. This girl can write songs that lay open her person. She can turn a phrase like no one’s business:

I made it to a dinner date

My tear drops seasoned every plate

I tried to dance but lost my nerve

I cramped up in the learning curve

Frank Ocean – Orange

Frank Ocean, to me, combines Stevie Wonder and Prince. He is masterfully soulful and funky. This is an album that has savory goodness and achey reality. Super Rich Kids starts out like Bennie and the Jets, but turns into this:

We end our day up on the roof

I say I’ll jump, I never do

But when I’m drunk I act a fool

Talking ’bout, do they sew wings on tailored suits

I’m on that ledge, she grabs my arm

She slaps my head

It’s good times, yeah

Sleeve rips off, I slip, I fall

The market’s down like 60 stories

And some don’t end the way they should

My silver spoon has fed me good

A million one, a million cash

Close my eyes and feel the crash

Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

I didn’t know Sharon Van Etten before this year when this album got lots of NPR love. This is another one of those albums with some great rocking guitar work, drumming and vocals, but then she can go all acoustic and makes me think Judy Collins and Joan Baez.

Rufus Wainwright – Out of the Game

Rufus gets my love. He has a voice that you have to get used to. He has quirkiness that can get out of control, but the boy has good music genes that I think came out in aces in this new album. He hit mourning, growing up, becoming a dad, and snarkiness equally well.

Kishi Bashi – 151A

One of Kishi Bashi’s songs ended up on a commercial this year. I felt kind of cool that I knew who it was when it came on, but I also wondered if my liking it made me lame. Doesn’t matter. I do like this album. I think it is fun, innovative and has some really beautiful sounds.

Carolina Chocolate Drops – Leaving Eden

Fiddles, banjos, foot stomping. Yep, I like this one a lot.

Damien Jurado – Maraqopa

I am going to add this to my list even though it doesn’t really qualify because I didn’t enjoy listening to it very much in 2012. I bought it at some point, but I don’t think I ever listened to it. When I pulled up all of my 2012 albums I saw this one, listened to it, and really liked it. It might not turn out to be one of my 2012 favorites, but for this week it has been a great new music gift given to me. This one has some rocking guitars and organ, it has some dreamy vocals; it has a song with a children’s chorus. I can’t pin this one down yet, but I think it deserves a spot on my list.

27 Years Ago, I Became a Mom

The purpose of this blog is to write about things that make me happy. This has made me happy since the moment that I knew he was going to be mine. Happy birthday to my Sam, and a quotation from one of the many books that we read together:

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together.. there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. but the most important thing is, even if we’re apart.. I’ll always be with you.”  – Winnie-the-Pooh

 

Time to Come Home

Tomorrow my writing retreat comes to an end. I will be heading east with more than 150 pages of what could someday be called a book. I think it tells the story that I am trying to tell. While I didn’t write all of those words while I was here, I put them in order, added to them, and edited them. I still have more to get down before the major editing begins, but I have a plan for that too. I am in good shape.

This had been great, and I am so grateful that I had this opportunity. Where I was in the process, I definitely needed a kickstart. I needed to be put in a spot where I either put up or shut up. I am the person who rises to challenges, and I just haven’t felt the challenge lately. This was my challenge. I think I met it.

But now I am ready to go home. Today I hit that tipping point where I am tired of being alone. I have had a schedule this week where I wake up early, write for eight hours and then go out for a little explore. I have made some great discoveries, but they are always a little less cool, or delicious when I am not enjoying them with Dan. I tell myself that next time we will come here together, and I will know where we will need to go. But today there was enough of the “next time.”

I am ready to go home, sit on the couch with Dan, and crack open up one of the presents that I have picked out for him.

Thanks to all of you who have passed along kind words of support. It was quite a fun week!