Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tea for Two!

A few weeks back, I'd made plans with my friend Stacked Librarian to go to tea at the Ritz-Carlton.  Stacked is about half way through her first pregnancy - she's expecting a little girl in early March.  After the busy-ness of the last few months and the sadness of the last few weeks, we thought we could use a little "girl time."  So we got all dressed up (it has to be a special occasion for me to wear heels on a Saturday!) and drove past the Occupy Charlotte protesters at Trade and Tryon (yep, the cross streets were named for the intersection where, back in the day, people assembled to both "trade" and "try on" goods).  Bonnie was valet parked by uniformed folks who kept a professionally straight face at the gently ageing and highly dependable vehicle in the midst of the Jaguars and BMWs and we strolled into the imported marble lobby as if we belonged there.  (Jimmy Buffett wrote about a similar experience in "Gypsies in the Palace" - check it out sometime!)

The "chocolate tea" at the Bar Cocoa was simply fabulous!  We were taken care of by John, who made quite a fuss over the two of us.  Stacked stuck with hot chocolate (thick as gravy and rich as gold) and I had a variety of teas - John switched up the teas to go with the savory and the sweet parts of the tea.  Pixie-sized sandwiches were followed by scones with lemon custard and Devonshire cream, then teensy desserts with hazelnut creme, chocolate mousse, and edible silver.


We even picked up a few truffles to take home to make the experience last a little bit longer.  Just looking at the light green box with its chocolate-colored ribbon makes me happy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sadness and Light

It's been a very strange 24 hours.  A friend and mentor of mine has been very sick with advanced pancreatic cancer.  The disease had metastasized throughout her body and everyone knew it was simply a matter of time before - well, before time ran out.  Over the last four months, she had struggled as one function after another shut down in response to the disease.  Her time ended on Saturday.  I am told that the end was peaceful; she was not alone nor was she in pain.  I am grateful to the wonderful folks at Hospice as well as her other caregivers who helped to ease her journey.

The funeral was today - a bit quick, I know, but those are the decisions that were made.  I cried for my friend, whose life was cut short by a cruel disease that didn't care in the least that her plans didn't include debilitating illness.  I cried for her family, who really won't quite know what to do without her.  I cried for her friends and yes, I cried for me.

I believe that our lives are lessons; that we all have things to both learn and teach.  My friend's life contained many lessons for me and one of the big ones that I want to share with you is this one - it's later than you think, so don't waste time.  It'd be a shame to get to the end of your life and not be able to think of the moments in which you were truly happy in your own skin.  For my friend, I think some of those moments involved helping other people - she was heavily involved in her community and I think she derived great satisfaction from that work.  I also hope she had a stash of personal "hey wow!" moments.  I know that a few years back, she took a trip to India - I hope she rode an elephant.  That'd be a "hey, wow!" moment.  Only a few weeks before she died, my friend insisted on taking a cruise to the Bahamas and good on her, I say.  I hope that trip had some "hey, wow!" moments, too.

I have a few "hey wow!" moments that I can recall easily.  Some are profound and some are just silly.  The pure blue of cobalt glass with sunlight behind it, for instance - that's one of mine.  The feeling of connectedness I noticed this past weekend at the last farmers' market of the year - that's another.

The point is, no matter what form they take, you have to be on the lookout for those moments.  There are several religious traditions that believe that when you arrive at the afterlife, you'll be called to account for your life.  Not just the times you were selfish or mean or didn't quite live up to your potential, but also to give an accounting of all the times you could have been joyous in your life and failed to do so.  The first time I heard that, it actually pulled me up short.  What?  There's actually a responsibility to be happy?  Whoa.

It's no good to simply spin and spin and spin and not know why you're working so hard to spin so fast.  The end comes for all of us and all too often, it comes too soon.

Requiescat in pace, my friend.

Note:  Image at top of post courtesy of:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Out of the Park!

As you probably know, I've been gone for a little while.  The annual regional PCA conference was held in New Orleans recently and I've been blogging about that experience over at the other blog; the one I reserve for more academic musings.  (The Nest is a bit more free-form in its range of subject matter.)  You can click here to go to the latest conference post over there, if you're interested.  The city of New Orleans was quite interesting but it didn't seem useful to double post.

But a few musings and then some "new stuff."  I really, really enjoyed New Orleans.  Not just the conference (although I heard some quality material and my own presentation was well received), but the city itself was just stupendous.  Can't wait for an opportunity to go back - must buy a lottery ticket!  Also, I had the great experience of seeing for myself that the recent surgery was a success - it was the first presentation in years during which I didn't have to stop - not for a dramatic pause, but to simply catch my breath.  Wow!  It felt great to just be able to concentrate on my paper and the ideas I was trying to convey instead of constantly thinking, "Just breathe.  Stop and breathe.  You're okay."

Last night, it was my dad's turn to be the speaker.  He was chosen to be inducted into the Davidson County Sports Hall of Fame for his contributions to his college baseball team's victory in the 1955 College World Series - the only ACC team (so far, anyway) to ever win that contest.  (Click here for the newspaper article - Dad's on page two and you can access the slideshow from there, too.  I've already posted my favorite a little further down.)  That was his senior year of college and he was the catcher, as you can see from the picture at the top of the post.  It was quite an honor and I know how humbled he felt at being inducted.  I must admit to being right proud of my dad, but not exactly for the same reasons.

You see, I like sports.  Quite a bit, actually.  But I especially like the good qualities that sports can (and often do) instill in the participants.  Qualities such as teamwork, accepting responsibility, a strong work ethic, and sportsmanship are all qualities that are useful off the field as well as on.  In my opinion, my dad has used those qualities to make his community as a whole a stronger, better place.  Among the contributions my father has made to his hometown that were left off his blurb in last night's program are his work in establishing a permanent location for the homeless shelter, his work to get a medical ministry up and running in town for indigent folks who find themselves in need of medical care, and keeping a public food pantry supplied.  He also dresses up as Santa Claus and visits seriously ill children in the hospital around Christmas time, a trip I've accompanied him on and had to admit was just too darned hard to do.  Yet Dad does it year after year.

Baseball?  It's a great game.  And that picture at the top of the post doesn't come close to capturing Dad's glory days.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Down a Notch!

Fall weather has hit here at the Nest and it's quite a welcome relief from the nigh-oppressive heat of a Southern summer.  I had the windows of the house open for few days and then needed to close them up and actually cut on the heat at night!  Oh, it's good to need a thick blanket and have it, isn't it?  The leaves haven't started turning just yet, but it's only a matter of time, and a short amount of time at that.  Then it's time to start thinking about hearty stews, mulled cider, and pumpkin pies.  In short, time to slow down a bit and take things down a notch.

It's fall break at my school this week and the county fair's in town.  It's purportedly the largest county fair in North Carolina and, judging from the extensive schedule of events, I have no plans to challenge that claim.  One of these days, I'm going to see an amateur demolition derby and be on the sidelines of the pig races.  (And don't worry; "New Blood Wrestling" doesn't involve a pool of hemoglobin.  At least, I don't think it does.)

But, as Aragorn might say, it is not this day!

This is the week of the PCA/ACA regional conference and I'm in the midst of packing.  I'll be posting about the conference over at the other blog - click here to go over there.  First post should be up Wednesday night (or so - this whole "taking it down a notch" includes me trying to actually have some vacation built in with this conference.  It's New Orleans, after all, and a boatload of far-away friends are scheduled to be there). Check it out, won't you?  Hear how my anime-purple-streaked hair goes over at the conference.  (Or at home, for that matter!)  Yep, I'm channeling my inner Faye Valentine.  FryDaddy's reaction has yet to be recorded.