Archives for posts with tag: awesome things

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My splendid friend Anna Pickard (and her dashing beloved, Bobbie) set off on a train journey around these United States a few weeks ago, and not content to just do something that’s on all of our life lists, she also turned it into a delightful Web 2.0 + epistolary adventure of Olde mashup with her Snailr Project. I love it when my friends do amazing things that I can brag about, don’t you? So of course I signed up to get own little mail-tweet goodness.

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(Click over to Flickr to see the text transcribed)

What’s amazing to me about this postcard is how it stretches across a particular narrative divide in Anna and Bobbie’s trip, that is, the Train Crash. They were rumbling along through Louisiana when their Amtrak train struck a passing eighteen-wheeler, shearing it right in half. They were fine, most of the passengers were mostly fine, the driver of the truck was miraculously fine. But the character, A, that Anna so good-naturedly lacerates about his vegetable consumption, was taking photos and uploading them to twitter, and both Anna and Bobbie linked him and his accounts of the crash through their Twitter feeds. By the time I received the postcard, I was able to immediately identify who she was talking about because of this web/text mashup world.

I’m not sure Anna had any intention that A would be so included in her narrative after this card, but there you have it – narratives have a way of bringing back characters all on their own. And although the tweets about the crash reached me first, the card is on my fridge and is an altogether more interesting piece of ephemera. Two sides of a story.

I was thinking about Anna’s project as I watched all the photos trickle through from the Mighty Summit held last weekend in California. I won’t go into a whole long diplomatic summary of what Mighty Summit means or represents or who it affects, because you probably know and if you don’t, well, a tempest viewed from far enough away from the teacup just looks like a mirage.  I personally thought Broad Summit was fascinating, and I think Mighty Summit is, too.

But I was thinking about inspiration, and how the worst fallout I’ve noticed from Mighty Summit means we can easily miss the best possible takeaway from its existence. I get it. It was a public-facing event that not everyone was invited to attend, and it’s hard to see the spirit of something you’re feeling left out of. No, I don’t get free massages for sitting around with my friends and inspiring each other. That’s okay, though, because the muscles can get tense again but the ideas don’t fade from my grey matter. I’m inspired by Anna’s project and I’m inspired by the can-do, roll-up-your-sleeve Rosie Riveter attitudes I saw as the best cream skimmed off the top of Mighty Summit, across the blogs of the women who attended. And isn’t that a pretty good takeaway from something (two things really) that I didn’t even do myself?

I think there’s the risk that if we focus too much on what we, as a community of bloggers, didn’t get from not attending an exclusive event like Mighty Summit, we miss the chance to notice what we could get even without attending, which is the trickle-down puffs of inspiration and positive energy. Anna inspired me to think more about letter-writing, about the value we ascribe now to our written words because of scarcity. Mighty Summit made me look harder at my list, and think, what’s the purpose of this collection of ideas if I don’t approach each day (or, realistically, each year) as a chance to scratch a satisfying line through it?

So this year, the year that I am thirty, I am going to commit to five items on the list. One is a cheat, since I’m doing this anyway:

6. Spend New Year’s Eve on a beach.

(This year, my mother and brothers and our various partners are going to spend Christmas and New Year’s in Aruba. Before you get too jealous please realize that Christmas is going to be sort of sad this year and we made the collective decision that it’s better to be sad on a beach than anywhere else.)

Here are some other life list items I’m pretty sure I can reach August 31st, 2011, with some satisfying strikethroughs:

18. Ride a tandem bike.
41. Learn how to make perfect marinara sauce from scratch.
74. Help a friend with a project or ambition of theirs’.
98. Read Henry James and William Faulkner already, sheesh.

And I’m going to add one more, since #6 was such a gimme. This goes hand-in-hand with it, anyway:

87. Make gifts from scratch one Christmas.

And there’s another takeaway from Mighty Summit – we are not in anything alone. That’s why I put #74 on there this year. It’s not something I plan to only do once, and it’s maybe the most important (and self-referential) item on the list. But I know it’s something I can do this year.

If you can think of some way to help my list along (are you a chef that can teach me knife skills? a pianist that can show me how to play a jazz standard on the piano? want to help me throw a benefit party? most importantly for # 87, do you know how to craft?) then in the spirit of Mighty Summit, I’d love your help. Until then, I’ll be here, plucking away at my little pile of awesome to-dos, and being inspired by the people around me. So the question is, what awesome thing are you going to do this year?

Some of my people (and I) went up to Westchester this weekend, nominally because one of us was cat-sitting, truly because we are all whores for swimming and grilling and other weekend-as-verb activities. Jen explained it like being a kid, but with access to alcohol and fire. Very true.

summer suits

Friday night was for the girls, and we made ourselves a delicious dinner and then we went swimming in the dark, because we couldn’t figure out how to turn on any pool lights. That’s okay, we lit a bunch of candles and it was super romantic. Too bad we’re all straight/married/taken, right? I slept peacefully in the woodsy basement of our friends’ converted barn, with the smell of grass coming in through the window and chlorine in my hair.

In the morning, Lavina and I were the early birds and we chucked Jen and Mim out of their nests, and into showers, so we could go to IHOP. Long gone are the days when those pancakes were the most amazing pancakes I’ve ever had. We talked at breakfast about first-day-of-school outfits, and who wore Keds, and how rebellious we were as daughters on a scale of stolen kisses to hair flipping.

fun with noodles!

Then the dudes joined us and the pool party began in earnest. We spent most of the day in the pool, or making lunch or dinner, or lounging in the living room playing with toy guns. Dinner was a variety of grilled meats, and vegetables, and salads, and everyone contributed, and we agreed that cooking dinner for eight is best managed by six. Our friends’ house, where we were squatting (gracefully! neatly!) lacked for nothing, NOTHING, in the kitchen.

“Where would the ______ be?”
“That drawer, probably.”
“So it is.”

the table

Then we went night-swimming again, where I realized that executing a perfect dive is a lot scarier into a dark pool. In the morning, we were happily surprised by continued sunshine, and we threw together a breakfast fit for kings, with pancakes and amazing bacon and fruit salad. It was better than IHOP. Is there anything more grown up than making breakfast better than IHOP?

I think it’s bloody marvelous of me to have such incredible friends, don’t you? People you can spend 48 hours with without wanting to stab are not easy to come by. One of the things I’ve realized lately is that my friends are good people, decent and intelligent and engaged and caring. My closest friends are the ones who are constantly in touch, constantly spending time together and renewing the strong bonds. Kinship is another one of those values – like love, and trust, and fidelity – that can come at a whimsy but requires work to keep buoyant. I always said that there were friends I would keep regardless of how close we remained. It’s true, but it’s also not paying dividends. I will spend more time this year doing my part.

i ate this

Aside from all these thinky-thinks brought on by excellent #1 good time with friends, there were riper-than-ripe cherry tomatoes from the garden. I can’t stop thinking about them. I guess we’re just going to have to move to the ‘burbs and grow tomatoes. Only Stuart will call them tomahtoes.

Previously: One through twenty five, twenty six through fifty, and fifty one through seventy five.

As it turns out, I’ve done quite a few little things off my life list in the past year since its inception. I might write an updated post about some of those, but for now, the ones accomplished have crossed out – take a look back and see! Here’s the last 25 entries on the list, compiled over the past year in various notebooks and post-its to myself, and shamefully not updated here.

76. Learn how to run regularly,
77. then run a 5K,
78. then run a half-marathon.
79. Cook a huge Thanksgiving dinner.
80. Cut my hair really short.
81. Take a knife-skills class.
82. Teach.
83. Go on a canal-boat holiday.
84. Practice yoga regularly.
85. Go kayaking.
86. Drive down the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible (preferably vintage).
87. Make gifts from scratch one Christmas.
88. Take a family vacation with both of my brothers and my parents.
89. Run for some sort of office.
90. Save up for one or two really big gifts to myself.
91. Catch a firefly in a jar.
92. Help send my kid(s) to college without incurring debt.
93. Make a beautiful piece of jewelry for a friend.
94. Attend a convention (preferably an interesting one).
95. Live in California.
96. Visit the Bodleian Library at Oxford (and Oxford generally).
97. Do an apartment-swap with a friend in Europe.
98. Read Henry James and William Faulkner already, sheesh.
99. Go on a bike trip.
100. Enjoy it all.

I recently got a new laptop and just now, sitting on the couch with tea and a sleeping dog and the bulk of Saturday’s New York Times, it occurred to me that I have a lot to tell you, I have a lot that I owe to this space, and wouldn’t you know it: I hadn’t even created a button in my bookmark bar for this blog’s log-in. I think that says a lot, it says too much, and for that I’m sorry, what three of you are left (Simon, my mother, someone else).

I start graduate school on the same day that Obama starts his job. I sort of like that; it feels like an auspicious day to Start Shit. And I am so into starting shit in 2009; it’s the year for starting shit. I hope you’ve got some shit you’re starting up and fiercely, too.

That was a lot of swearage, sorry. It was said with hope.

Anyway, I start graduate school; more precisely, I’m enrolled at Pratt for the mouthful they call librarianship these days – Master of Information and Library Science. That’ll be me in *mumble mumble* years, however long it takes me to cram thirty-six credits into my life. I’m an overachiever on paper so let’s say two years, okay? You can buy me a drink when I’m wrong.

I’m going to continue to work at my Awesome Non-Profit Job through school, if they’ll have me, which I think they will. That job, oddly, is part of what sent me giggling into the arms of library science; conversely to all my solitary word-wrangling, I enjoy being at the center of this little office, this little organization that relies on me and my, well, organization. Plus c’mon, you people just know I want to rip my clothes off and run screaming through the Dewey Decimal System. Metaphorically. The view from here looks like I’ll be concentrating on legal librarianship, for obvious reasons. Of geekness.

Now let’s discuss why this my first post of 2009: I don’t know. I’m working on understanding my motivations here, and my reticience therein, and this blog is still only half-way to how I want it to look but I’m working on that too. I flatly refuse to do anything so dramatic as to question the point of all this, c’mon, we know there’s point!, but I do still love this space and think about it often even though I can’t find the words that belong here all the time. I’m hoping my new life (now with 100% more studying!) is going to provide some much-needed fertilizer around here.

Happy 2009. Y’all come back now, y’hear?

I had an absolutely marvelous Thanksgiving, thank you for asking. And
now, because really it’s shameful that I forewent this hallowed
Internet Tradition on the appropriate day, a list of things I am
thankful for in no particular order but with the most important bits at
the top:

snooze time!

I
mean obviously I am incredibly grateful for Stuart and how he inspires
and challenges me in a billion different ways every day (betcha didn’t
think anyone could do anything a billion times a day – that’s hyperbole
for you!) but I’m also more shallowly grateful that he is silly and
loves our very silly dog and enjoys being photographed being silly
with the aforementioned silly dog. I am madly in love with Stuart and
Nano in that order (sorry Nano but you don’t put my socks on for me
when I’m sick).

I am also this year grateful a little for
myself because I have challenged myself in some small but fundamental
ways this year and truth be told, I wasn’t at all sure I’d pull through
on the goals I set for myself humble though they were, but actually
I’ve made some headway on all of them and I have surprised myself by
doing so – it had been a directionless time and I’ve gone some ways to
rectifying that so there you have it, a very self-inflating entry on
this list but it’s true.

I am eternally grateful for my awesome
family. My parents who are so generous and thoughtful you wouldn’t
believe me if I told you how generous and thoughtful but let’s just cap
that by saying they frequently drive two hundred miles to see me and
help us with stuff. Which is awesome. And also for my amazing brother
Lui who hosts me in Houston and pours margaritas down my gullet and
stays up late talking about Stuff and is really the best brother you’ve
ever had, yes even you! And the rest of my family also obvs because
even though they are far away they are also awesome.

I am
thankful for YOU, all of you, because you like me and encourage me
(May!) and email me thoughtful recipes (RA!) and are snarky with me and
then send me awesome books in the mail (Simon!) and have become my
dearest friends (Kate and Jen!) and go to see stupid movies with me and
edit my essays (Anna!) and obviously marry me (Stuart!) and I’m not
linking to all of you because I’m lazy but you know I adore you.

I’m
also thankful for my amazing friends who inspire me, when I look around
and realize they’re doing what they love, and they’re picking
themselves up and starting over, and they’re being bold with their
lives, and they’re turning on dimes, and they’re creating art that’s
worthwhile, and they’re constantly IMing me with little ‘beep!’s all
week even when nothing is new and we’re all inundated with work, and
they’re graceful and magnanimous and have I mentioned they’re all
incredibly attractive? They ARE.

And I’m grateful for New York,
which suits me so perfectly that I can’t yet imagine living anywhere
else although I know one day I will, and I’m grateful for the beautiful
apartment we live in, and I’m grateful that there’s chili bubbling on
the stove because it’s Sunday night and Sunday nights are chili nights,
because I’m a creature of habit, as if you didn’t know that.

So
in sum, I’m grateful for this little life I’ve carved out with a
beautiful husband and a nervous dog in a dynamic, breathtaking city
with my passel of fierce inspiring friends and HEY! It’s time for
chili. Come over sometime?

finished product
Oh lookythere! I made salted caramels last night. It was a blast, even though I had to learn the hard way the lesson of properly oiling the parchment. A lesson painfully learned as I had to throw away about a third of the delicious caramel due to the extra roughage of paper stubbornly stuck to it. Don’t ask whether I considered just keeping those bits for myself and just chewing the paper off.
Friends and lovelies should consider themselves forewarned that I’ll be making batches of these (for fun) and giving them away (for the sake of my hips) with reckless, sticky abandon.

Of all the small changes I’ve made in 2008, one of the coolest has been to start a weekly writing date with an old college friend turned writing partner, Mayumi. We meet for about 6 hours, once a week, alternating houses, and feed each other lunches and gossip about our work and life and in between all that, amazingly, we probably get a good solid 4 hours of writing (on our own projects) done every week. To quantify that, on days by myself, in a 4 hour period, I’ll output about a thousand words. On days with Mayumi, I can surpass two thousand. Which means in our time together, I’ve actually started and completed two short stories, am working on a third, and have made room in my brain for two new ideas, both of which I’m excited to crack open.
Pretty good for a small change, right?
Nearly as exciting as the writing has been this:
small dog, big step
Well, we go there once a week (Nano in tow – someone get me a laptop backpack already, the ten pounds of computer and the ten pounds of dog on the subway gets heavy!) and she comes here once a week and well, it was bound to happen. Mayumi (and her husband) fell in love with Nano.
And then raced out and got one of their own. And aside from really and truly feeling like a fairy dogmother for being the spark of an idea between May, Dave and little Nahe (you should have heard me shriek when the ASPCA woman called to ask for their references), I’m also delighted to see someone else’s life being transformed by the power of canine.
This is all just a way to point you towards May’s latest post on the subject, which made me all nostalgic for those first glorious, tumultuous weeks that this shy little dude tiptoed into our home and proceeded to upend our lives and make them infinitely better. And I showed you some cute pictures along the way.

At about six tonight I decided to call my Grandma Pauline in Katy, just to say hi and that I loved her and that I hoped the hatches stay well battened down. Hello, newcomers, did you know I love Houston and about a third of my most dearly beloveds still live there? It’s true; catch up, will you.
Anyway, I called the number I had in my cell phone, and it went to voice mail and a woman spoke, saying, “hi, you’ve reached Dee,” etc etc. And I thought, well, she doesn’t sound much like Grandma, well, a little right THERE, and sometimes my Grandma goes by DeeDee so I thought why not, and left a message saying I loved her and hoped they were all safe and sound. (They being my extended fake Texan family of Grandma and her four grown sons and passel of grand- and greatgrand-children.)
About twenty minutes later my phone rang and I saw a (281) number so I answered and said hello, and this nice woman named Dee said hello, and had I called for my grandma? I said yes and she explained that she was pretty sure she didn’t have a granddaughter named Christina so had I gotten the wrong number?
She also went on to ask where my grandma lives and oh, she’s in Katy? Well, this Dee is in Katy too, and she thinks they’ll be fine and won’t have much damage if any. She told me her husband was in Iraq and worrying about her, and she assured me that my grandma would be fine. She also said she’d go ahead and pray for her anyway, and I thanked her before my Yankee voice got too choked up to do so.
And that’s pretty much why I miss Texas sometimes. And also why I’m obsessively refreshing the Chron’s science blog for news from my new favorite blogger, Eric Berger.
And crossing my fingers and yeah, praying, for everyone I love in Houston to make it through the night with unbroken windows and unflooded homes.

I think I might be a little late to this party but I’ve just discovered Brian Andreas and Story People and I’ve fallen completely in love. Particularly with this one

text: “I remember once I went to my great-grandmother’s house. It was a big white house & it always smelled like slightly burned toast & raspberry jam. She had a picture of Jesus on the wall in her living room. She told me his eyes would follow you around when you walked. I told a friend about it a while ago. He nodded & said he used to have a Chihuahua that did the same thing.”
…For obvious reasons.

A few weeks ago, the inimitable Holly Burns wrote a post about favorite words and phrases which has been rolling around in my brain pan ever since. And then, a few days ago, I noticed my word list at the back of my trusty little notebook and decided to share it with you, because these little beauties are too wonderful to stay locked up in a notebook. Here are a few of the best:
coterie
hirsute
apotheosis
disconsolate (bonus: SO much better than “inconsolable”!)
cortege
meretricious
draconian
cupidity
desultory
labyrinthine
ersatz
insouciance
and, a small trilogy of words that make me think I should be a theologian just to get to say them all the time:
exegesis
apocryphal
canonical
But then I was thinking about taking it a step further to favorite phrases, which gets distinctly more difficult for me. I have favorite expressions, but mostly I love them for what they mean, not what they sound like. For instance, I wish my life included more opportunities to say “rode hard and put up wet”, because it’s just so delicious; before you get filthy, it refers to horses, and best said in a Southern accent. I also love the descriptions “trussed up” and “a constellation of freckles”. They’re both very visually pleasing.
But a phrase beloved just for the way it sounds? I got to thinking and so far have come up with “voir dire” and “sexual congress”, and also, “de jure” and “habeus corpus”. And of course, those of you who know me well know my almost inappropriate affection for the name Slobodan Milosevic. Go ahead. Say it. Let it catapult off your tongue like a rollercoaster. Forget, you know, that it belonged to a genocidal tyrant. Slobodan Milosevic! It’s just fun to say.
So I guess if I have a favorite phrase, it’s the name of a genocidal tyrant. What are your favorite words or phrases, and why?