Last Week’s Good Things

weekThe weeks of 2014 are dwindling to nothing. There are many things that I promised myself that I would accomplish this year that I have not. There are some things that I pulled off this year that I am more than proud of. One thing that I have almost always stayed true to during this year is to pay attention to the good things that show up in bold or quiet ways during my days. Last week, I had more than my fair share so I have had to do some ranking to get it down to five to write about. I hope that anyone reading this finds goodness throughout your days.

In no particular order, here are some of my good things from last week:

  1. Kappa Kappa Gamma Holiday Homes tour – I kind of love to see how other people decorate for the holidays, so the idea of going into a stranger’s house to see what they have going on, always kind of appeals to me. Because this year, the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority holiday home tour benefited Dan’s organization, it was a good opportunity to buy tickets and go look at some pretty houses. The four houses that were on the tour ranged from really nice to wowza. What was best about each home, however, was that each felt like a home. There were pictures of happy family members, personal touches to the decorating that spoke more to passion than designer labels (lots of KU love going on!), and you could envision families living and having fun in each. I wondered how Dan would react to the tour as it is not really his thing, but he caught the same thing I did. How can you not react positively to an event that raises money for good causes, is staffed by friendly and helpful volunteers, and you get to see some loveliness?goat
  2. The Goat – On Saturday we went out on a cold, gray day to get our Christmas tree. We typically go to Soil Service Garden Center where the friendly staff is ever present. Our tree criteria are pretty narrow since we have a small space, and I am picky about the kind of tree. We pretty much found our tree immediately, but I felt the need to scope out the whole area. It was in doing this that Dan laid eyes on the goat. It was standing out under a shelter among other metal animals and whatnots. As soon as Dan saw him, he was in love. He tried to talk himself out of it, but we both knew that goat was coming home with us. I am still not sure why, but goodness that goat is funny. He has been in our backyard, he then showed up in the house. He has been up in the chair looking out the window, and is now poised at our french doors guarding us from all. We think he name is Gus.
  3. Transition clinic – Over three years ago, I started working on a project where we wanted to find out what survivors of childhood cancer need as they become adults. What we thought we knew, and what we confirmed is that taking care of themselves is difficult when caregivers don’t necessarily know what the implications of your prior treatment is. Out of that little project has come friendships, publications, new colleagues, and finally, a clinic for survivors to transition into when they are ready to leave pediatrics. Last week, the newspaper did a great story on the new clinic and the work being done. While my part in this was miniscule, it made me so proud!

  4. adventAdvent Calendars – I don’t think I ever had an Advent Calendar growing up, but we had them for the kids as they were growing up. Once they went to college and settle away from home, I still tried to send them one each year. There is just something fun and exciting to opening up a surprise each day – even if it is just a new picture. This year when I ordered Advent Calendars for the kids, I ordered one for us. It makes me happy!
  5. Crossroads Academy Event – For the third year, we attended the Crossroads Academy Dream Big event. Crossroads is a wonderful charter school in the heart of downtown with a mission of bringing quality education to the urban center. To see the product of the work that the staff at the school  does, combined with the enthusiasm of the downtown core leaders, is darn exciting. Celebrating this while, at the same time, catching up with friends from many areas of my life, eating delicious plates from area chefs, and having a glass or two of wine, closed my work week on a very sweet note.

As I noted, there were many more things that stood out. Like Christmas stamps! Ali’s classroom’s Elf on the Shelf who the kids call Justin Bieber! Those lemon ricotta bars I made! So much!

Last Week’s Good Things

Peach

1.  Jeff Tweedy Solo Show at the Uptown – In 2002, when he was in high school, Sam asked me if I would go to a concert with him. For some reason, I thought that the band that we were going to go see was Weezer (of The Sweater Song fame). I was wrong. It was another W band — Wilco. It was a small venue. We were right up front/ Sam even got the set list at the end of the show. Since that night, I adore Wilco, and I always think that Jeff Tweedy is one of the most romantic, swoon-worthy song writers around. I have gone to a couple more Wilco concerts since then, and they never disappoint. Last week we got to see Jeff Tweedy play the first show of his solo tour. He came out on the stage in the beautiful Uptown Theater and played guitars and sang songs for close to two hours. His conversation ran from putting a loud mouth person in the front in his place, to admitting that he probably was going to suck, but he was going to play anyway. I loved it all!

Marquis

2.  Good Citizen – Before the concert, I had stuck my license and a credit card in my pocket so I didn’t have to carry a purse. At some point – probably when I pulled out my credit card to buy something – I lost my license. I realized it soon after I got home.  I hoped that there might be a chance that it would come back to me. The concert was on Tuesday, and I told myself that if I didn’t have it back by Friday, I would go to the license bureau and get a replacement. Friday’s mail did not yield my hope, so I went to the license bureau and got myself a duplicate. Saturday, my old license returned to me. It came in a plain envelope – no note – no return address. Rather than worrying about the trouble a lost identification can cause, I got to be thankful for a kind person who took the time to return my license and piece of mind.

3.  Crossroads Academy Dreaming Big in Downtown Kansas City Event – On Thursday night, we got to attend the second annual event celebrating the work that is being done at Crossroads Academy. It was an evening of seeing some dear friends, eating great food from many Kansas City restaurants, and hearing about the work being done at this young charter school. I wrote about this same event last year. Again this year, it warmed  my heart to be in a room filled with so many good people doing good things. Bringing education to children in the heart of downtown is exciting. Having community members supportive and enthused about it is the best.

4.  Patrick is Back! – Just about every Sunday, Dan and I go to 75th Street Brewery for lunch. We have done it for many years, and during those years, we have seen favorite servers come and go. There have been some great ones and some memorable ones. The most memorable was several years ago when the kid who was waiting on us didn’t quite seem to have his dots all in order. When we asked what the special was, he couldn’t come up with what its name, but he drew us a picture of it. It was brilliant. For the past few years, we typically see Patrick the bartender on Sundays. Patrick greets us by our names when he sees us. He is friendly and attentive. It’s because of someone like Patrick that we return each week. It’s comfortable. In October, Patrick hurt his leg at work. He had been gone since then.Sunday we walked in and heard the familiar “Hi Dan! Hi Robin!” Patrick is back and that is a good thing!ibuprofen

5.  Ibuprofen – Every now and then, my back gives me trouble. I had my first go with it in college when I ended up out of commission for several days. I had one bout of it once when we were visiting New Orleans. That time, I would inexplicably fall down. It was around Mardi Gras time, so a person falling down was not all that uncommon. This week’s back pain is not that bad. I have managed to stay vertical when I wished to. It is, however, enough to make me know that it’s a problem. I have been pretty religiously pumping the ibuprofen and that certainly helps so much. Isn’t it great that things like ibuprofen are around? Aspirin wasn’t around for pain relief until the late 1800s. Ibuprofen came around late in the twentieth century. Going into a store, you can pick up a bottle of pain reliever for a reasonable amount of money and it usually goes a long way in making one feel better.

I almost picked the Hungarian Goulash that I made as my fifth good thing. I had to, however, give props to Ibuprofen!

School Days

swinney

Last night Dan and I went to an event to celebrate and raise money for a new charter school in downtown Kansas City. We met the school’s Executive Director through a friend a few years ago. He is as passionate about bringing good education to urban children as anyone that I know. In an incredibly short amount of time, he and the school’s principal worked tirelessly to build an exciting downtown school.

This venture is one of the too few hopeful signs of people working on this amazingly important project. It is astounding to me that we allow our city to continue to not serve its children with quality education. There are only a few public schools in the urban part of our city that really can claim success. That is not right. Signs of hardworking, caring, committed people like I saw last night need to multiply if we want to hope for better things.

Going into the night, I had a pretty good understanding about the school and its mission. By the end of the night, however, I was totally heartwarmed by the degree of enthusiasm for this project and the apparent success that it has already achieved. The other piece of the evening that completely got me was that three of Sam and Ali’s teachers from elementary school are now teaching at the school. We got to talk about then and now.

I think that we all agreed that when it came time for Sam to go to kindergarten, it was a sweet spot of time in the Kansas City, Missouri School District. The district had a disastrous history of decline and mis-management, but a controversial court order infused the district with money and created a magnet school system to draw in more students. When we entered the doors of E. F. Swinney school in 1991, I felt that magnetic pull. We had the best opportunity in the world, and I still believe that is true.

The Kansas City schools that I knew over the next ten years were what you would want for a child. Having grown up in a small town in western New York, I didn’t see people who didn’t look like me. Because of that, as much as I try to be without prejudice, there is absolutely some inherent in me. For my kids, I wanted their worldview to be better. It definitely was.  They would come home and talk about their day and have descriptors of their friends that ran from peach, to tan, to black, to brown, to freckled.

It was not just the racial and ethnic diversity that made the experience a good one. There was the social diversity that helped all of us better understand our community. So many of the teachers in the schools became friends as they led both Sam and Ali through learning and understanding. Parents and children from those days still remain close. The schools were not just our kids’ places – they were our family’s places.

It makes me sad knowing that those days are gone. E.F. Swinney School has been sold and will be turned into office suites. Volker Elementary continues as a charter school, but under a different name. Now when I tell people that my kids went to district schools they seem rather amazed. It really was amazing, but not the way they think.