Sunday, October 23, 2016

If You Don't Go to Other People's Funerals...

A long, long time, ago, I spent my junior year abroad at a magic program called the British and European Studies Group in London. This small program consisted of students from a number of American liberal arts colleges, mainly with a theatre, English, and/or history been, and brought them over to work with British tutors. It was in that year that a lot of magic happened, for me and for almost everyone else enrolled. I learned I was smart, I was capable, and that I could do anything I put my mind to. Or, as my friend David put it:
I walked away from London with a writing career, darts and a wife.
Earlier this month, one of my amazing friends from that year, O'Bryan Broecker Worley, passed away due to a sudden blood clot.

It had been 28 years since I had seen her (or most other people from that program, with a few exceptions), but I wanted so much to go to the funeral. I wanted to see my amazing friend Fran, who I have kept up with and most recently saw here just a few weeks ago. I wanted to see Renee and Jenn, who I had not seen since then but who I kept up with sporadically, and I wanted to see Kris, whose own husband had passed away just last month (and I had not made it to his funeral). I wanted too tell her parents how much I thought of her, and meet her amazing daughter, and her husband, whom she had loved more than life. So when airfare turned out to be ridiculous, Patrick said "Let's just drive," and so we did. That's my husband, always up for a road trip and for making the impossible possible. And I think he realized how much I needed to go.

So on Friday we drove to Indianapolis, and got to spend the night with Richard and Elaine. We got to meet Ginger Mae, and celebrate Richard's birthday with him, and have a tasty dinner, and watch the transformative #HamilDoc with them. It reminded me that whenever I get a chance to see my BFFs, I should take it.

The next day we drove to the church, and I attended the funeral while Patrick and Beatrix explored a little. A church so full of people who cared, who loved O'Bryan fiercely and who she loved back. A chance to see these amazing women in real life.

We checked into out AirBnB that we shared with Fran and her fiancé Pate, an incredible little cottage in the back of a bigger house on Southern Parkway. The cottage was adorable, the garden filled with magic, even a koi pond:

We drove around and explored just a little on our way to an Irish bar to meet the others. Louisville is an extraordinarily pretty city. I would love to go back someday, maybe stay in the same cottage, and just settle in for awhile.

At the bar, we did shots, snacked a little, marveled at Kris' amazingly organized scrapbook. Jenn read us a letter from our friend Adam, which brought back more tears (apparently I had ones left after the service, who knew?). Damn you, Adam. And also I love you.

We headed over to Dan and Taylor's house where more people were gathering. I don't know how they had the strength to hold that kind of gathering, but I am glad they did. It made me feel closer to O'Bryan to see her knitting basket, her carefully canned jars of produce, the comfortable home she made — and brought more tears. I sat on the porch until late with Fran and Renee and Jenn and Kris, and I had no earthly idea how, but those years melted away and it was just the kind of night where we could go back to the kinds of conversations we had when we were all together in London — just maybe a little richer and more complex with age. And Dan told us stories about how he met and fell in love with O'Bryan, and it was wonderful.

A long drive back today, where we could appreciate such random things as acres and acres of windmills and lunch at the "Cowfe" at a farm-themed attraction. (Get it, "cow-fe"? And soooooo much dairy...)

It was an an exhausting weekend in so may ways. And also one of the most important I can remember spending. So important to connect with these people, to have a husband and daughter willing to go along to make that happen, to make  little adventure out of a long drive.

So much of what we discussed this weekend was how happy O'Bryan was with her life, an amazing life with so much good in it. And dear friend, I can honestly say the same thing about mine. You are loved, O'Bryan, and you make other people love each other. That's a powerful legacy.

Friday, October 21, 2016

All The World's a Stage

Somehow, despite my love of Shakespeare, I had not yet read any of the Hogarth Shakespeare project books. However, it's safe to say that there is no author whose work I love more comprehensively than Margaret Atwood. It gives me great pain to know that I will never be able to read her Future Library book, because I know there will always be one things she has written out there that I will not get a chance to consume.

So the newly-released Hag-Seed delighted me to no end. It's the story of The Tempest, as performed in a correctional facility, in an educational program directed by somewhat of a has-been director. And it's such an embarrassment of riches:
-  not just a Shakespeare story, but perhaps my favorite
-  plenty of theatre in-jokes
-  a little bit of Canadian political humor (from the pre-JT days)
-  a prison bent, a la the ever-amazing Ten Thousand Things theatre company
-  as mentioned before, fantastic writing by Atwood; she is perhaps at her best under this kind of constraint

I loved this book, and am now anxious to pick up the rest of the project books!

(as usual, book provided free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Lessons From Hamilton

Anyone who knows me knows that I am (still) obsessed with Hamilton. And, that above all, I love to read. So, Alexander Hamilton's Guide to Life, by Jeff Wilser, would seem to be a no-brainer "like" for me — and for the most part, that's correct.

Wilmer gives more than a nod to Lin-Manuel Miranda's genius, and also plaudits to Ron Chernow's Hamilton — though the fact that Wilser calls it "without a doubt the second-most pro-Hamilton book in history" (after Alexander Hamilton's own papers) is dubious. I give that honor to Chernow, or to Miranda's Hamil-tome.

That said, I enjoyed the conceit of this book. It's divided into short essays in theme-based sections (Romance, Office Politics, Leadership, etc.). The essays bring up some fun facts, and some general ideas, and are written in a light, friendly tone. The writing itself is a little offhand to me, and could stand with a bit more gravitas, but I'm also not one who thinks that you should choose your presidential candidate by who you would like to have a beer with.

It's a quick read, and a fun book, and a great way to get your extra Hamilton fix in now that the cast no longer runs Ham for Ham.

(as usual, book provided free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Library Closed

The other day I posted on a neighborhood page:
Our Little Free Library has been totally pillaged lately - as in, someone comes every day and totally cleans it out to take it to Half Price Books or something. I think we're going to close it down for awhile, which bums me out.
And I do mean "totally pillaged." I love it when the books fly off our shelves —it means that people are reading — but this was about the 12th time in the past couple of months that someone had completely cleared it from stem to stern. I'm a voracious reader, when everything from an ABC board book to old-school westerns to Faulker's As I Lay Dying all go in one fell swoop, I know that something is up.

After I posted, I noticed that a LOT of people were posting in neighborhood pages about this. Especially in my neighborhood, it seems like one person is coming along and emptying everyone out.

Our friend and neighbor Julio noticed my Facebook post; he's a reporter for the Pioneer Press and his interest was piqued. So he started checking out the story,. and found that the problem was even more prevalent than even I had thought. He wrote a great story about it here (and took a picture of us in front of the empty library this morning, though the dogs were bummed because they thought they were going for a walk.)

His story went viral, and today I was called by WCCO, and tonight we were on KARE 11 about it.

The story has actually raised a lot more controversy than I thought (pro tip: never read the comments), from people who think LFLs are dumb, or ugly, or don't understand how they work, or don't see why anyone uses them, or think that we already somehow have "enough" books in society so they are redundant, or don't understand why we are upset about people taking books that are free. I liken the last statement to cookies, honestly; I like to bake cookies, and I like to share them. I love to have people over for cookies. But if you come over and always eat all of my cookies, and don't share with anyone else (or basically take my cookies and go out and sell them), I'm eventually not going to want to give you cookies anymore.

I love my Little Free Library, and I love to share books. I think they do a great job of building community, and I hope to open ours again soon. I disagree with the people who say that naturally people will abuse them simply because they are free — because I just don't want to believe that about humanity. I want the kids walking down to Webster/Obama school to be able to grab books as they go to school, and I want to put out books I have just read and enjoy ones that people drop off there. I just don't want one person to ruin it for all of us.

ETA:  One thing I should have made clear in this post yesterday — I do NOT see this as an issue caused by used booksellers! I love used bookstores (especially Sixth Chamber on Grand at Hamline, go support them right now while there is construction outside their shop!), and one of my closest friends is an online used book dealer and I love the fact that she is constantly on the lookout for good books and trying to find them great homes where they will be read. The sellers I have met have always had the highest integrity, and one has even offered to send us a box of books to restock!

Monday, October 17, 2016

White Orchid

Yesterday was all about cleaning out the garage. We listed some furniture for sale, have a big free pile outside, and got everything else well-organized. We'r not quite ready for winter, but it's better.

As part of that, I brought in a table and chairs I had purchased off a neighborhood BST board awhile back. Today, my friend Jennifer brought me a white orchid.

I love the way this all looks in our front window, and the tone it sets for the room!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

More Camp CoCo

List posts are for the lazy, or for those who are just not going to get around to writing a full post but want to hang on to a few thoughts:

-  Very smooth, first batch Two Gingers by a campfire, passed between people. "Just one goat!"
-  Sitting on a moss-covered rock overlooking a beautiful lake and discussing your "Why?"
-  G&Ts in a dining hall with a view that Tattersall would envy.
-  Loving Nora, and thinking Dessa is The Bomb.
-  Thinking about things differently after talking to Robert Stephens (even, or maybe especially, the Instant Pot).
-  Climbing up a mountain in the dark, so that we could watch an amazing sunrise over Lake Superior.
-  Conversations — waves of conversations.
-  My husband hitting it out of the park with his keynote.
-  Stars.
-  Content. Inspired. Curious. Grateful.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Camp Coco - String Art

It always bites you in the butt.

Friday morning, right before we left for Camp CoCo, I tweeted:
I'll never be a lifestyle blogger. The current trend for string art and wall weavings confuses me and makes me think it's 1971.
Then we got up to camp, and I found out the community-building craft project was...string art.

And I think I rocked it, if I do say so myself.

That's just one example of how Camp CoCo changed my viewpoints and maybe even my life. More to come — but now I'm off to two meetings. That never changes.