Monday, April 30, 2012

The Little Things

Oh how time changes and stops and then speeds up all at the same when a loved one is ill.*  I can't even remember what my moments of happiness were a couple a weeks ago, maybe it was that the Metro was running (ie not breaking down), or that my evil nemesis (every superhero has one) was on vacation, or that I found a secret stash of chocolate in the back of the freezer. All those things seem so insignificant now.

These days my little moments are a lot simpler:

When my dad opens his eyes wide and clear and bright and looks right at me and says, "Hi there!"

When my sister and I sit by his bed side and take turns reading The Hobbit to him.

Going through old pictures with one of my uncles and realizing that once upon a time my dad totally rocked a pair of overalls. 

The constant, and I really do mean constant,  stream of visitors and phone calls and emails and texts and cards. I love every single one of them. It has brought a lot of comfort to know that my dad has touched so many people, whether it be because of his teaching career or involvement in the military, community, or his church.  Our house is full of flowers and ham and brownies and cards which little by little is making this all a little bit easier, a little bit of knowing that we aren't alone in all of this. 

*My dad has a rare brain disease that has a complicated name that I haven't bother to memorize. This, in my mind, takes away some of its power.  It has no known treatment or cure. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Leave of Absence

As soon as I shut off my computer I am heading to the airport. My dad has taken a turn and been asking for me and my sister.  So I probably won't be blogging or returning emails or sending witty texts for a little bit. God, I don't even know what I just threw in my bag, hopefully there is clean underwear in there somewhere.  I think that I have been living in denial and distraction for while, just to survive and not let sadness and fear break me. But reality must make it's way through eventually and can brutal when it does so.

But you never know, maybe writing (and banjo music and pie) will help with healing and coping and living, and I'll pop up around here every now and then. 

Thank you again for all your kind words and thoughts and prayers and cupcakes.  I'm still hoping for a miracle; even if it is just  understanding and comfort. 

Me and My Dad once upon a time

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Song of the Week: Open Post

I tried writing this week’s post three times, about three different songs. But all three posts ended up basically saying, this song is good, you should listen to this song, the end. And while, true, that really doesn’t do any of those songs justice. And good music, like people wrongly accused of not knowing where Kansas is on a map (I’ve been there) deserves justice.  Maybe I am going through a music funk, the kind where you still love your old music, but you are itching for something new to rattle your bones and shake your mood.  My Song of the Week posts are usually my favorite to write and they also usually get the most response, so I am breaking down the third wall  here and asking you for your song of the week. In other words, what are you listening to right now, what song has been stuck in your head for the last couple days, what was the last song that made you stop and say ”holy cow, what was that?!”

How can I prove that I am truly serious about wanting responses? Free tambourine solo for everyone that responds? Ok, maybe those of you that have heard my tambourine solos wouldn't want that. Jam? My heartfelt thanks?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sounds: Trampled By Turtles @ 9:30 Club

Trampled By Turtles pretty much set Washington, DC on fire on Friday. They are one of those bands that you just have to watch in awe because they are just so good. Each of the five musicians are talented in their own right, but put them all together and a new word needs to be invented because awesome doesn't even come to close to what is up there on stage. I'm pretty sure that I stopped breathing during their amazing cover of The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." A tribute fitting of the great Levon Helm, RIP. 

I was talking to an older couple before the show started about what type of music TBT play; folk? alt-country? Americana? I had to admit that I am terrible about categorizing or describing bands. In my head there really are only two types of music and/or bands: stuff I like, and stuff I don't like. I think that I have finally grown out of the stage of trying to be a music snob and put bands and different types of music into neat little boxes and have them compete against each other. I love the fact that I feel at home at a punk rock show as much as I do at a banjo festival. I believe that it is healthy for the soul to have an eclectic love of music. Our souls are so complex that some days you need to have dance party, and some days you need to lay on the floor in the dark. But no matter what type of day you are having, there is song for it. Oh music, you are a wonderful thing!

Some favorite shots of the night, and if their hands look a little blurry isn't so much because my camera is out of focus it is because they are strumming those strings with such vigor:

Their new album, Stars and Satellites came out earlier this month and it is beautiful. My favorite song of the moment from the album, which our friends from Minnesota played on Friday is "Alone," :
I swear, that banjo breaks  my heart every time. 

Eating My Way Through the Show Me State

Washington DC has a lot of great food. You can get falafel, pho, empanadas, injera (Ethiopian flatbread),way too many to list curries, and fusion everything  all within a couple of blocks of each other. But one thing that I miss, that I really haven’t found out here, is some good old fashion home cooking. Oh, I know, I know home cooking can be whatever you cook in your home. Thanks, I can read. But in American cuisine lingo, what it really is, is the mashed potatoes, the chicken fried steak, the BBQ,  the fried and covered in gravy everything, you know, the stuff that makes the world call us fat Americans. This is not a menu or lifestyle you, I or anyone should probably be eating every single day, but as celebration of friends or culture, it is perfectly ok. And let me tell you, everything I ate those first couple days was definitely celebratory.  So when I was making plans with my friends (before my dad got sick), most of my plans involved where/what I wanted to eat. And I know that a lot of this food may not seem at all that glamorous, but to me it really was a little bit of comfort and home.

First of all, do you know that Sonic has sweet potato tots now? OMG, they do. Why didn’t anyone tell me? This is newsworthy, as opposed to 98% of what is actually on the news.  And don’t even start to think that these are some hipster tots, like a lot of the sweet potato creations that are popping up on the food blogs. These are pop in your mouth in the back seat of car in the middle of nowhere while discussing Guns N’ Roses and wash down with a strawberry limeade, easy on the ice, tots. Post script: that means they’re good.
Lambert's Cafe in Ozark, Missouri, ‘cause sometimes, you just want a really good chicken fried steak, and bread rolls to be thrown at you. One of the servers really does go around and throw rolls at people. He asks first, and you have to be quick, they come flying fast.  I couldn’t get a good action shot of this happening because maybe somebody at the table wasn’t that good at carb catching, and maybe when the bread guy saw me with a camera he started throwing them from the other side of the room, and maybe I was busy eating at least three of the rolls.

I’m usually not a huge fan of okra, but the fried okra they bring around while you wait for your food; de-lic-ious.

 . . .and the food, so much food,  is served in a frying pan. I only ate maybe half, but that half made my stomach oh so happy. And hopefully the General’s dad was also happy when I conveniently left my leftovers in their fridge.

We break for cheese.

I can attest that this is truth , that cheese really is hotter than hell.
 The brownie sundae is more sentimental than fancy. The friends I was with down there in Southern Missouri were the friends that were with me during probably the hardest, darkest time in my life. And they stayed stubbornly with me , even when I tried to push them and everyone else away. Back then, there were many nights of eating ice cream and brownies together as we tried to sort out life. So eating brownies sundae together again was so fitting as we talked about our lives in their current states.

Trader Joe's. Sure, I have one right now the street in VA, but the closest one to the General is almost 3 hours away. When we were up in KC a side trip had to, just had, to be made. We may or may not have filled the basket with only hummus and chocolate and English cheddar with caramelized onions cheese.  Does anyone see a problem with this?

Oklahoma Joe's in Olathe KS.  We met up for dinner on Saturday with X and soon be Mr. X and had lots of time to chat because the line for this place was already out the door and starting to turn the corner.  I had a brisket sandwich and my oh my,  was it tasty. When trying a new Midwest BBQ place, I always, always order the brisket. If they can’t make a good brisket, nothing else on the menu matters and they should just close their doors.  Although my BBQ heart still belong 100% to Summit Hickory Pit, I can say that this this my new favorite place across the line in KS.
So the moral of the story is if you visit Missouri on an empty stomach, it won't be empty for very long. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Notes to Myself

Note to self:  Stop buying dresses without pockets, even if they are cute. Carrying a bunch of things in your hands into  meeting isn’t cute.

Note to self:  When your toes start to tingle, that means you have reached your caffeine limit for the day.

Note to self:  Do not start googling stroke therapies and treatment options after 10  o’clock at night. You will never get to sleep that night.

Note to self:  Really, really considered giving in and signing up for Netflix again. They have Dark Shadows, you are the last person on earth and the moon that hasn't seen the Downton Abbey Christmas special, and next year they will the place to see new episodes of Arrested Development. . . next year.  Bluth family 4ver.

Note to self:  No, you do NOT need a glue gun. Say it. Repeat it. Believe it. (Rebuttal note: Since there are no specifics in the 2nd Amendment, I am just going to assume that it covers glue guns too. So I have a right, a RIGHT, to bear arms . .  .of craftiness!  The glue gun debate was sparked by this book page wreath, and the general desire to make laser gun sound effects when I glue things together.) 

Note to self: The only twitter stream that it is appropriate to catch up with at 3:30 in the morning is Nathan Fillion's. Especially now that you understand all the Games of Thrones references, because you are now a couple hundred pages into book 1 and that makes you an expert. (p.s. LOVE the book. I am trying to promise myself to finish the first book before I figure out a way to watch season one of the mini-series)

Note to self: Make %100 sure the guy in the elevator really is Chris Thile before you freak out. Dear the real Chis Thile, I'll see you and the rest of the Punch Brothers next week!. Speaking of Punch Brothers, have you guys seen this:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Never tell me the odds

I am 100% percent sure that my grandparents who, to me, looked like James Dean and Vivien Leigh, don't mind for one bit that their picture on my bookcase is slowly being encroached upon by a plastic Darth Vader head. I am 99% sure neither one of them saw Star Wars in this life, but I am also 98% sure that they show it in heaven (with really, really good popcorn and cherry slurpees).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Song of the Week: The Lumineers

I fell in love with the song “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers at exactly 12:03 AM while washing dishes one late night/early morning.  iTunes was shuffling songs on my laptop and I was cleaning out the food processor for what felt like the umpteenth time and all of a sudden this song came on and startled me. HO! HEY! But pretty soon I was stomping along and splashing a little too much water, as a cookie sheet became a stand in drum. I love when music just makes you move without you knowing it.  It is such a simple little song but I think most good songs are. If you get too complicated your head and your heart just gets so confused on what it should be hearing and feeling that you just give up and turn off the song. And 12:03 in the morning is not the time for complicated song. It is, however, the perfect time for a little song with a little tambourine, a little guitar , a little clapping that all somehow magically turns your kitchen into your own little hootenanny.

And  the video is just as charming as the song. Especially if you feel that definition of charming should somehow involve lots of people wearing suspenders.

Life Lately

1. Too many days staring at this hospital bed
2. My favorite tree in my parents' backyard-a Dogwood
3. My parents' favorite children
4. Show Me State cows
5. Trying to out run (fly?) a storm
6. I'll just whip up a batch of jam
7. The first pesto of the season

Update on my dad: he is out of the hospital and in an inpatient rehab center, which he hates. So if you hear about a rogue patient storming down I-435 in a wheelchair, that would be my pops. I don't think it is the specific center he is at, I think it is just the fact that he has to be there, that he hates.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Words: Wisdom

“I actually attack the concept of happiness. I don’t mind people being happy - but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying 'write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep', and 'cheer up' and 'happiness is our birthright' and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position - it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say 'Quick! Move on! Cheer up!' I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word 'happiness' and to replace it with the word 'wholeness'. Ask yourself 'is this contributing to my wholeness?' and if you’re having a bad day, it is.” 

--Hugh Mackay
found via here

I always try to tell people (and hopefully myself) that we should never apologize for our feelings, even when  it involves ugly crying in public. If we are having a bad day or things really aren’t ok, we shouldn't feel bad about saying so. If it makes some people uncomfortable, which it surely does, than that is really their problem. Lord knows, I have been taught the hard way, that sugar coating situations or burying feelings leads to nothing good and just prolongs the distress. If our feelings leads us to do regrettable actions, then maybe that is a different story, but feelings we are allowed to own. To allow the sadness and pain in life to change us, hopefully for the better, we first have to acknowledge them, and then work through them. I have also learned that working through them is the key, and not letting them swallow you up. And sometimes working through them means  baking everything you can think of-- you should of seen our kitchen this weekend (and maybe tonight . . .). 

Friday, April 13, 2012

This song.

All day long.

Communion artists Michael Kiwanuka, Ben Howard with his band, India and Chris, Ben Lovett, The Staves and Johannes from Bear's Den jam to John Martyn's 'Over The Hill'.

I've almost forgiven Communion for canceling their VA tour spot. Almost. If they keep giving us songs and sights like this, I am sure we will be friends again, real soon. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Favorite Things: Cherry Blossoms

I live in the DC area. I have a blog. It is springtime. So I am bound by some blogging bond to have cherry blossom post. And that really isn't a bad thing, I mean, have you seen the cherry blossoms?  I love the idea that thousands of people come to our fair city just to see trees;  lovely, lovely trees.  The cherry trees were a gift, in 1912, from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, as a symbol of the friendship between the two cities. The trees only bloom once a year, and the blossoms only last for short time, a couple weeks at most. 

This year I didn't make it down to the Tidal Basin  where you walk under a canopy of these delicate pink and white blossoms. But even though the path along the water and various amazing monuments is the piece de resistance when it comes to bloom, it isn't the only place the Japanese trees call home. In fact, there is one in my front yard:

Each year, when the weather starts to get warmer I look at this tree with anticipation, "When is it going to bloom? WHEN?" And then one day it just explodes with blossoms and I know that winter is over, for real, and summer is just around the corner. 

To see more and infinitely better cherry blossom pictures check out DC photographer extraordinare, Tiana Simpson's series. 

Song of the Week: CCR

My dad is still in the hospital and today he sure is cranky about it. So I made the executive, and maybe a little selfish, decision to take a break today. He needs to rest, and to be honest, so do I. I'm just sad that I get to leave the hospital and he can't. This afternoon, I went down to clean up his office and desk and live in a moment of familiarity: his bookcases full of science fiction and chemistry books, his collection of playing cards and his record collection.

Yeah, my dad has the Shaft soundtrack:

But by far, his collection is filled with 1960's/1970's folksy rock n'roll. Creedence Clearwater Revival is one of the bands that I connect with my dad, and c'mon, you know John Fogerty has a great voice. So as I was straightening up, I put some CCR on the turntable, and the world just felt a little bit more right.  Dad, this one if for you: 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Comfort Food

For the last two days my dad has been in the hospital.
For the last two days I have worn the same exact clothes.
For the last two days I have gone from this hospital to my parents' house to hospital to my parents' house.
For the last two days I have recounted my dad's medical history 348790 times.
For the last two days I have learned how exhausting and lonely worrying and hospital hallways are.
For the last two days I have sustained only on cheese and crackers, and TJ's peanut butter cups.

Until tonight.

On my drive home from the hospital I was hoping and maybe silently praying that there would be a warm casserole waiting on the doorstep. This is the Mid-West, it could happen. But no magical food stuff appeared.

So I decided to make my ultimate comfort food: pie and ice cream.
And yes, I used the fancy Depression Glass dishes.

At this moment in time, I really don't care what it is about pie that makes the world right, I'm just glad it exists and is in  my stomach.

p.s. the doctor's are pretty optimistic about my dad's recovery.

p.s.s I have over 200 new items in my reader, anyone want to organize them into things I need to read and things I can just mark as read? I'll even start you off . . .the recipe for Blackberry Goat Cheese Brownies should be at the top of the "need to read" pile. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

“There was nowhere to go but everywhere"*

My trusty orange backpack is packed
with Levi's and plaid shirts with pearl buttons,
my little black notebook, 
two charged cameras,
reading material, 
and mixed CDs for road trips across the Mighty MO.

Train schedules have been checked.
Boarding passes has been printed.

The road is calling.
I only have one short week to offer it.
It will be just enough time to get my shoes dusty
and clear my head
and fill my heart.

*From On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Song of the Week: Frank Turner

Man alive!

"The Road" by Frank Turner is my theme song:

To the east, to the east, the road beneath my feet. 
To the west, to the west, I haven’t got there yet. 
To the north, to the north, never to be caught. 
To the south, to the south, my time is running out.
 Ever since my childhood I’ve been scared,
 I’ve been afraid, of being trapped by circumstance, of staying in one place,
 and so I always keep a small bag full of clothes carefully stored,
 somewhere secret, somewhere safe, 
somewhere close to the door.

 Many of my peers talk about owning homes and settling down. The whole idea of a 30 year mortgage scares the cheez whiz out of me. And it’s not the money part; it’s the staying in the same place for 30 years part.  To my little wander’s soul, that sounds more like a prison sentence than to something that I should aim towards. Unless there is an argument for aiming towards a prison sentence? Label it restlessness or wanderlust, but nowhere I have ever lived has felt permanent. Every place, every apartment, every job I have ever had has had this sense of being temporary and fleeting, just a stepping stone to something else. Some places have been easy to leave and move on, while others tugged a little stronger for me to stay. But the promise of a fresh start, or a new chapter, or just the winds of change (cue the Scorpions) is always a little stronger. Songs like "The Road" reminds me that it just isn’t about me not growing up or sucking it up, that there are other roamers and wanders out there, happy members of a misfit tribe.  

But sometimes I think I just haven’t found a place, the place, my place, to settle down, to call Home with a capital H. And to be completely honest, the wander's life can get a little lonely.  Every now and then, I do feel a yearning for a place of my own. A place where every corner and squeaking tile is mine.  A place where I can keep my spices in alphabetical order.  A place where I have favorite diner where there is a waitress named Flo who knows I only take real whipped cream with my pie. A place and a reason to come home to . . . and stay.  

If you couldn't tell, Frank Turner is a Brit and is currently touring in Europe and Canada, probably eating good cheese, poutine, and breaking hearts. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

I'm That Girl

I’m the type of girl that always keeps the address to Pierre Herme’s bakeshops and a couple of Euros in my wallet . . . just in case I spontaneously materialize in Paris.

 I’m the type of girl that has maps to no fewer than 3 public transportation systems on her phone at any given time, 21st century wanderlust tools.

I’m the type of girl that, with absolutely no plans to leave this life anytime soon, wants to write a Last Will and Testament, just so I can include the clause:

Under no circumstances is Elton John to perform a musical number at my funeral. He is permitted to be a pallbearer and nothing more.

(from Eric D. Snider’s latest column about funerals, if you haven't read it, get to it, now.)
I’m the type of the girl that eats pie for breakfast.
Single serving strawberry pie with coconut crumble topping, my latest and maybe best kitchen creation to date. Now you wish we hung out more, huh?
I’m the type of girl that goes into a store to buy Downton Abbey and comes out instead with a collection of classic silent horror/sci-fi movies. Metropolis AND Nosferatu? Sold.
I'm the type of girl that drives way out to the fancy grocery store just so I can listen to and sing loudly to music in my car. And also for their cheese counter. Current car-tunes favorite: Mermaid Avenue. (l use public transpo during the week, so tree huggers, leave me alone!)
Yep, I'm that type of girl.