Last Week’s Good Things


Last week seems like a blur of many things, but here are some things that made me happy during it.


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!



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!

The Phantom Tollbooth and Marriage

When I opened the newspaper one day this week, the front of the fluff section immediately had me. The author and the illustrator of The Phantom Tollbooth were coming to town. I needed to go.

There is recent buzz about The Phantom Tollbooth since it is celebrating its 50th year. The book, like many wonderful children’s books, is a quest and adventure story. The main character, Milo travels through a mysteriously appearing tollbooth into strange lands inhabited by strange characters. He emerges from the tollbooth a new boy. Where he was once bored and unconnected, he becomes interested and ready.

I haven’t read the book in many years, and it even occurred to me that this is not one that the kids and I read together. I am planning, however, to get back into it again.

The event was delightful. On the stage of the lovely theater at the Jewish Community Center, the two eighty-plus-year-old gentlemen charmed the packed house. Norton Juster talked about how the book came out of avoiding writing a book about architecture that he had been awarded a grant to create. The adventures of Milo came to him during strolls on the beach. He would write each down and work on it until he was satisfied with it. Into each he would bring in the clever wordplay that his father had instilled in him as a boy. The finished episodes would be handed off to his neighbor and friend, Jules Feiffer who gave birth to the images of Milo, Tock and the land beyond the tollbooth. They bantered like longtime friends will do, and those of us in the audience smiled uncontrollably. We were watching a piece of our childhood come to life again. When the talking was over, the crowd moved out to the lobby. Many of us had new or old books clutched in our hands as we waited for signatures. We were like groupies waiting for the rock star to acknowledge us.

But I titled this post The Phantom Tollbooth and marriage. The marriage part of this story is just as charming as the Misters Juster and Feiffer. When I saw that article in the paper, I sent it on to Dan. I asked if he wanted to spend our Saturday evening thusly. He responded with an enthusiastic, yes. Dan had not read the book as a kid, and he was not incredibly familiar with either man. He did, however, read my enthusiasm and got on board.

That night, he waited in line with me prior to the doors being opened. He chatted with a cute couple behind us who brought along their copy of the book that was given to the husband of the couple by an old girlfriend almost 50 years before. We both got to unexpectedly see some old friends. And, after the talk was over, he happily waited in line to get autographs. That is what marriage is all about.

We are not married because we are the same person. We are married because we have our differences and we make room in our own lives for those differences. When Dan wanted to go to a national conference of homebrewers a couple years ago, I did not know what to expect, but I was pretty sure that it would put him in hog heaven. Turns out, I had a great time too. It happens in our hobbies, the food we choose to cook, the restaurants we want to go to, the books we read, the organizations we belong to, the jokes that we like. Some we merely have patience for; others we learn to embrace.

By the time we left the event, it was close to 10. Our plan was to eat after the talk, so we were kind of hungry. We arrived at a local mecca of restaurants and found that each finished serving at 10 – except for one bar. That bar was not what we planned. The restaurants that we had in mind would have been more interesting. The closing of restaurants at 10:00 seemed early for a weekend night. It was cold as we walked from place to place only to find the same story. But, it ended up that we got to sit in a warm place, filled with the happy sounds of people enjoying the success of their basketball team on the tv, drink a good beer, and eat some decent bar food. We laughed at the silly drinking apparatus his beer came in. We talked about the talk. We decided it was nice that the employees of the other restaurants had a reasonable schedule. It was a good way to close a very good night.

Marriage is its own kind of tollbooth. Lucky for me, my traveling companion shares the journey well.