Summer Favorites

Summer's not quite over, but since I haven't done monthly recaps in awhile, I thought I'd smush them all together with some highlights from the season so far.

We headed to Chicago (my first time there!) in early June for the wedding of my dear childhood friend, and had a great time. Our host, my friend Allison, is a Chi-town native, and it was great to go exploring with her in both the city and the suburbs. We hit up the Lincoln Park Zoo, stood on the shores of Lake Michigan, chowed down on delicious Italian beef sandwiches and chocolate shakes at Portillo's, and explored historic Oak Park/River Forest outside the city. The wedding festivities took us to Hyde Park, the Garfield Park Conservatory (where the ceremony and reception took place--gorgeous!), and a delicious brunch at the Promonotory. We capped off the trip with a visit with Sean's cousins, which included a beautiful skyline architecture tour on Lake Michigan, sailing on the Tall Ship Windy from Navy Pier, the Rolling Stones exhibit "Exhibitionism," and deep dish pizza. Plus, of course, we had to go see The Bean. 

We have a niece! So excited to be elevated to aunt and uncle status and to watch her grow up in the months and years to come.

On Thursdays at work recently, we staffers get giddy: it's Potluck Day, Potluck Day is here! The best thing is that they show up weekly during the summer, we learn how talented our co-workers are in the kitchen, and we end up trying all sorts of delicious dishes, from Indian to Italian, and good old-fashioned sandwiches and salads. Not to mention the time for fellowship!

We've had a number of opportunities to spend time with family this summer--an extended reunion with my dad's side, and several cousin visits from Sean's side to meet the aforementioned new niece. Such a gift to catch up, laugh, reminisce, and greet new chapters with those most important to us.

Speaking of important people, one of my dearest high school teachers and her family are moving out West (watch out for Melissa King Rogers, California poetry scene!). She's taught at our school for 18 years, so a few of us collaborated on a farewell party (thank goodness for social media in this respect) and ultimately folks from the classes of 2002 through 2016 showed up to offer love and thanks. The best moments came when we circled up and introduced ourselves, and were able to express what Dr. KR has meant to us, not only in our high school days but in our whole lives. It was such a meaningful evening and I'm grateful we got to show her how much she's given us. 

I have some sweet new head shots up on the site, and that's all thanks to my friend Kristen. We had a great time traipsing around one Sunday afternoon with the camera, and I didn't feel too crazy awkward pretending to be a model. It's pretty fun every now and then!

Our women's small group at church has gotten together several times this summer for apps, drinks, and conversation that ranges from serious to tears of laughter. Grateful to share life with these strong and fun-loving ladies.

This has been a rain-filled season, and living in Georgia where drought is common, I've savored every pour and storm that has swept through our skies and drenched our city.

July took me to the Writing for Your Life conference at Belmont University in Nashville, which I touched on last week--it really did help reset my writing habits and introduced me to some great people, both speakers and fellow attendees. 

Ending on a superficial but oh-so-guilty-pleasure note: Guys, Game of Thrones is back!! We only had to wait 460something days. Don't get me wrong, I push my glasses FAR down my nose to blur pretty much any time Cersei's in a room with one of her enemies (not to mention the battle scenes), but we have become so connected to these characters (er, the ones that are still alive), and I can't wait to see how it goes down. Also, as a pop culture fanatic, I love reading all of the episode recaps and watching reaction videos. Have y'all checked out Game of Thrones at the Burlington Bar or the Twitter recaps on fan site Watchers on the Wall? SO GOOD.

Jeez. It's August already, and I'd love to know: What's sweetened your summer season?

P.S. I also bit the bullet and launched my professional writer Facebook page. Not gonna lie, a little intimidating, but I'm also excited about it. Thumbs up?

Mindful March.

Wanted to recap March before we got TOO far into April (yes, I know it's 1/3 over)...

March 1 marked the beginning of Lent this year, and I set for myself two Lenten "goals" (if it's right to call them that): I would give up all dessert/sweets, and I would take on praying the hours with Phyllis Tickle's Prayers for Lent Through Easter from her Divine Hours collection. Both have been good in different ways, and I hope to write some thoughts about both practices during this Holy Week.

I've had a chance to serve as a Confirmation mentor to our seventh graders at church this year; not only has this experience caused me to reflect on my own confirmation 16 years ago, it's also meant that I've gotten to scratch the surface of faith and life with these great kids. Part of that included a day retreat here in Atlanta, working in the Clarkston Community Center garden in the morning, writing a creed for Confirmation Day during lunch, and bowling at the Comet before dinner.

It's far from a bad thing when you get to listen to amazing speakers for "work," and last month I got to hear from two prophetic voices of our time: The Rev. Dr. Amy Butler of the Riverside Church in New York City (that historic church's first female senior pastor), and the Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and organizer of the Moral Monday protest movement in that state. Both pastors preached stellar sermons that spoke truth to power in a way that I needed to soak in, and I hope and pray that many more are exposed to their messages of authenticity, hope, and the need to dismantle systemic racism in our country.

Can't remember the last time that I went to a movie on opening day (probably a Harry Potter midnight showing), but a good pal and I took a Friday afternoon to go see the new version of Beauty and the Beast. Sang along like crazy, of course. Music really does make me well up, especially when I realize how imprinted on my brain and heart it is, even after years of not singing it. And while seeing B&B onstage in Dublin on my first trip out of the country will always be my favorite experience of it, Hermione, Matthew Crawley, Gandalf, Olaf, Obi-Wan, Professor Trelawney, Audra (doesn't need a character name because she is a legend) etc. were all lovely. Watching it also made me pretty sure that the original is where I first heard/learned the words "provincial" and "asylum." Who knew?

We got together with a group of friends that hadn't all been together in awhile for a delicious meal, laughter, and fellowship. It also happened to be the day that Sean passed his Certified Financial Planner licensing exam (woohoo! so proud of him), so that added to the celebration!

I was thankful for two more chances to get to know others in my community and talk through important issues of social justice, specifically racial justice: another Round Table dinner at Emory (subject: March? AKA, what does it mean to be an activist?) and as part of a group from our church meeting with a group from a predominantly black congregation. Both felt so important to me, the experiences themselves and beginning to process them (like I did in this post). There's so much more to be done, and I'm excited for future discussions with both of these groups. I strongly recommend--especially to my fellow white people--trying to find an opportunity like this in your own community, and pray that more will crop up for me and for you, wherever you are.

Switching from the profound to the superficial, a thrift store near us is having a going out of business sale and I got some sweet (nearly) new spring things for a VERY discounted price. Since I go shopping approximately 1.5 times per year and only enjoy it for about 1.5 hours, this was an excellent development!

My folks celebrated 32 (!) years of marriage in March, so of course a dinner was warranted. We tried out M572 and really enjoyed it--the atmosphere and the food were both top-notch!

The next day, I drove out to a double birthday potluck for two of my best friends (happy day, A&A!), and got to see one's new house. It was a perfect spring day and besides good friends, there was pimento cheese, so really nothing could have been better. 

I spent an afternoon hearing from Edward Mitchell, the executive director of CAIR (Counsel on American-Islamic Relations) Georgia, in a talk dispelling myths about Islam and refugees. It was really great, and taught me a lot about Islam that I didn't know before, in terms of the belief system itself and the origins of important practices like prayer five times a day and the Hajj to Mecca. A really great opportunity! 

I'd love to hear: what were your favorite March moments? Or any from April already?

February Fullness.

Hi, friends! My monthly recaps have been a bit haphazard of late, but you have to start back somewhere, right? And for only 28 days, February sure was full. Here are some of my favorite moments (in no particular order)... What were yours?

#ATL4Muslims/#ATL4Refugees: On the first Saturday of the month, two friends and I took the MARTA train to midtown for an interfaith rally in support of Muslims and refugees. It was a brisk sunny day and I was grateful to be able to show my solidarity with people who contribute so much to our community. It was especially important to me to express this solidarity as a Christian, because I believe that Jesus would value interfaith fellowship and would certainly stand alongside our sisters and brothers who want to come to this country to build better lives.

I'm flying... (flying! flying! flying!): If you know me at all, you know that my church youth group's yearly musical and drama performances were integral to my teenage years, helping me grow in confidence, self-esteem, friendship, and over-memorization of lyrics that I happily/crazily can still recite to this day (did you know that Joseph's coat of many colors was red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and I could go on but you would start to hate me...?). So it's extra fun to now get to be an audience member, and that was certainly the case for this year's production of Peter Pan. I've known some of these kids since they were toddlers, and what a gift to be able to watch them grow in the same ways I did more than 10 years ago. Plus, we were big fans of the televised Mary Martin Peter Pan when I was a child, so it was fun to revisit those (very stuck-in-your-head-able) songs.

Back to childhood: Speaking of church youth group and growing up and musicals, one of my dear friends came into town and one Sunday afternoon we got to roam around our forever stomping grounds, a.k.a. the church campus and playground, and reminisce like whoa. I'm so thankful for other people who appreciate that time in life as much as I did, and who can still feel the reverberations of it even now. It was a cool feeling to perch on the tire climbing contraption (does it even have a name?) that used to make us feel small and talk about adult life stuff. (I heart you, KTO!)

Room at the Round Table. I'm really thankful to work at a university that has so many opportunities for everyone, not just students, to learn and take part in strengthening the community. One of these is the Round Table, which I think I've mentioned before. About 70 people of different backgrounds gather for a meal and to discuss and share questions on a certain topic. February's topic was (can you guess?) love, and I while I valued having a chance to speak, I felt even more strongly the importance of listening to the others at my table. I could have stayed silent the whole time and still come away so deeply enriched.

Development without displacement. One thing I'll say for the Internet, and Facebook in particular, is that it has made me aware of specific events that I can attend in my area to better educate myself about issues that matter. An example of this is the gentrification teach-in offered by the Atlanta chapter of SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) a couple of weeks ago. SURJ Atlanta holds educational events every month, and this was the first one I was able to go to. Along with a basic definition of gentrification (when affluent white people move into historically lower-income neighborhoods populated by people of color, thereby driving up prices for everything, resulting in displacement of longtime residents) and the complex myths surrounding it, we learned about how gentrification has happened in Atlanta specifically--a history that, as a native Atlantan, I'm ashamed to say I knew very little about. We also heard from representatives of two groups currently fighting gentrification in the city: one trying to secure affordable housing around the popular Atlanta BeltLine (where housing prices have skyrocketed), and one trying to work with the Georgia State University development that will take over the old Braves' stadium Turner Field and surrounding neighborhoods. If you're in Atlanta and looking for ways to get involved, I'd suggest SURJ ATL's educational programs; it wasn't intimidating, taught me a lot, and introduced me to concepts and organizations that I hadn't previously been aware of.

Saturday Seminars are the way to go. I spent one rainy Saturday morning with the Decatur Writers Studio at their first "Saturday seminar," which offered two presentations for writers--one on law and copyright presented by Deborah Gonzalez of Letterbox Legal, one on author platform presented by Alison Law. Both interesting, informative, and helpful! In the middle, we got lunch catered by Souper Jenny (yum!) and had time to connect with our fellow local writers. DWS is planning to offer these 3-hour Saturday sessions on different topics every month, and if you're an Atlanta writer, I encourage you to check them out! (I'm already signed up for their March Saturday seminar...)

[Insert your favorite Dowager Countess zinger here.] Because this was the first winter in the history of our entire relationship without Downton Abbey, Sean and I have been rewatching the series from the very beginning (we're about to start season six tonight). With a couple of exceptions (dear Jessica Brown Findlay and Dan Stevens, four years later, I'm still mad), I've been reminded how wonderful this show is, and how affectionate I feel towards these characters (in most cases).

Witnessing herstory. On February 8, Emory University, where I work, inaugurated Claire Sterk, its first woman president. I got to attend the inauguration--and bring my grandmother. Nana's presence made it extra special, because she's lived in this area since she was a small child, has a degree from Emory, and, as she told me before the ceremony, has known all of the previous Emory presidents since the 1920s. It was wonderful to be able to share such an historic moment with her. 

Coworker bonding. My colleagues and I got away for a daylong team summit at my house--it was so fun to show them our digs, and to talk through our priorities in a less fraught way than we would have in the midst of a crazy day at the office. I'm so grateful for my work people!

At-home massage is the way to go. Because he knows me well, my husband got me a massage gift certificate for Christmas, with the added plus that the wonderful massage therapist, Toni (ATL folks, let me know if you want her info), came to our house. It was so lovely to finish up and not have to drive anywhere, and instead take a hot shower, put on my bathrobe, and curl up on the couch.

Whew! This year is already flying by... can't wait to see what March brings. But first, I'd love to hear your most meaningful bits of February. Lay 'em on me!