“Surround yourself with people who talk about visions and ideas, not other people.” ~ Unknown
Here are a few friends that talk visions and ideas all the time; Catherine Brereton, Susan Stewart, Annie Bassoni, and Stacy Yelton. This morning we converged for brunch (deliciously prepared by the Brereton/Stewart family), a couple hands of Cards Against Humanity, and a wonderful visit on the porch. These women inspire me every day in a variety of ways, and we never fail to laugh when we’re together. We also never fail to eat well, and bread and/bread-like foods are usually involved. What amazing minds I’ve been fortunate to call friends.
“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work. And when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.” ~ Wendell Berry
This is Geoffrey. He’s the sweet boy that looks after Catherine and Susan. He’s got a curious look about him with huge eyes and a wonky ear that looks like a piece of wadded foil on the tip. He’s a small build with a mighty heart. Unlike many cats who shy away from visitors, Geoffrey joined the gathering in the kitchen for a time, and he was interested in my camera. I couldn’t get it to fire when he had his nose stuck to the lens, so I stalked him down the hallway until he did a pirouette in the bedroom doorway as if to say, “What do you want, human?” I was smitten with this kitten.
“Never forget yesterday, but always live for today, because you never know what tomorrow can bring, or what it can take away.” ~ Tiny Buddha
Stacy, Annie, and I were invited to Susan and Catherine’s for brunch in their new house. PJs were optional, but as you can see, we all showed up in casual wear. What a treat it was to spend a few hours with these smart, witty, funny women. The C&S team cooked some truly remarkable vittles, too. Susan had warned us about Catherine’s homemade cinnamon rolls, but her description didn’t do them justice. They were ridiculously good. We laughed, we talked, we shared our love of grammar and gravy. It was as gorgeous around that breakfast table as the bright blue sky outside. I’m so grateful for their friendships.
“Your face will change. Your body will change.
The only kind of beauty that endures is the kind that lives in your heart.”
~ Lori Deschene
BFF Catherine graduated from the first MFA Creative Writing class at UK back in May. During her last year she’d been Editor-in-Chief of Limestone, UK’s long-time creative writing journal. BFF Susan quit a tenure faculty position at Cornell (yes, that Cornell) teaching English some years ago because she hated academia (can’t blame her there). So, when I say that both women are exceptional writers, I’m really doing them a disservice because the word just doesn’t quite convey how gifted they are. Susan’s poetry is nothing short of exquisite, and Catherine’s fiction, and non-fiction, is second to none. Together, they’re a scary good writing team. A short time after Catherine graduated she asked if I’d be interested in being part of a literary journal with she and Susan. Of course I said yes. Who wouldn’t want to create something awesome with these two? We named it Solidago; Latin for ‘Goldenrod’, Kentucky’s state flower. We opened our bi-annual submission window for prose, poetry, and art at the end of July. It closes Monday. This morning we met formally for the first time since summer to discuss design and such. We also met our new social media intern, Sabrina Smith, a former student of Catherine’s. Her boyfriend was sweet enough to snap a photo for us to commemorate the moment (I’m sorry I didn’t get his name, but thank you for the snap, Sabrina’s Boyfriend!). We’ll have the first issue of Solidago available for purchase around Thanksgiving, and we’ve already chosen the cover for our spring issue. There are great things happening all around me, and I’m so lucky to be part of this slice of goodness.
“I am not who I was nine years ago. I will never be that person again. I am stronger, yes, but the most significant aspect of the me I am now is that, through the loss, I have learned–know–truly, completely, without doubt or question, the limitless, eternal, and unstoppable power of Love.”
~ Mary Carroll-Hackett
Greg Davis was dressed as a Southern Gentleman for the Derby. His wife Vanessa Oliver wore her traditional Derby Day pants. The pants are very 70’s, and so much more entertaining than the traditional Derby hat. Though I didn’t take a lot of photos during the Derby garage party, the ones I got are either good, funny, or both. I’m only sorry I didn’t pop off a close-up of Annie Bassoni. I love all the expressions. I am just so blessed to have each of these people in my life.
“In the end only three things matter, how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” ~ Unknown
I’ve been so busy that I almost didn’t have the annual Derby gathering. At the last minute, I dragged the TV to the garage and fired up the grill. Most everyone had plans, but fortunately, I wasn’t alone in my last minute throw-together-cookout-idea. I couldn’t ask for better company. The food was delicious. The horses ran without incident, and Nyquist remains undefeated. The rain didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits and a lot of laughs were had. I’m glad we were able to be together. We sure did miss Sandy Davis, though: love and miss our Miss Kentucky Derby. Otherwise, a good time was had by all.
“The law of harvest is to reap more than you sow. Sow an act, and you reap a habit.
Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
~ James Allen
I had a guest register available at the reception. I didn’t realize I’d forgotten it until I went to bed Friday night. I attended All Saints Day service this morning and picked it up afterward. Sixty people attended Friday’s reception. Sixty people took time out of their lives to come see my work. Some I’d never met before Friday. Some sneaked in and out without my seeing them though they were kind enough to leave their signature. Some drove nearly two hours to be there. Some took off work. Some were recovering from major surgery. Some couldn’t stay long, and others stayed the whole time. Someone pointed out how many segments of my life were assembled in that room: family, close friends, old friends, new friends, co-workers, writers, actors, artists, musicians, librarians, bankers, software developers, railroad men, professors, social workers, therapists, pathologists, nutritionists, the list goes on. They’re not all represented in this collage, but I couldn’t think of a better way to have a group hug in the outhouse. Sixty people. I may be speechless for a week I’m so overcome with gratitude.
“There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under the jurisdiction… I can choose how I’m going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life-whether I will see them as curses or opportunities. I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
One of my favorite things about the traditional Derby Day cookout is seeing John Lumagui. I never get to see him enough, so any opportunity, however long or short, is a joy. He doesn’t say much, but when he does, it’s usually something that makes me howl with laughter. John met Wally for the first time today. In fact, Wally was the official greeter, and he loudly announced each new guest. This, of course, was not what John was expecting. He was one of Sadie’s best friends who, like John, was very quiet. Wally is anything but quiet, but he and John bonded by the time the party had ended and that was a good start for me.
As is often the case, the crowd changed throughout the day. Early arrivals, Deb Chenault and Marcella Christensen (below), had obligations that took them away before the race. Meanwhile, The Brereton-Stewarts and The Davis-Olivers (both relative newlyweds) arrived later in the day to help ring in the race. Watching his bride from across the yard, Greg Davis remarked, “You know, it was two years ago at this party when I first saw her in her Derby Pants.” That was the first any of us had seen of Vanessa’s Derby pants. She wore them again this year. Some things are tradition.
I almost cancelled this year’s party because I’ve been sick with what I can only assume is a horrible case of allergies. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I especially couldn’t do it because Sandy Davis is moving back to Boston in a few weeks. She has been a mainstay in my Derby Day tradition, and I’m hoping she’ll make this a reason for her annual return to Kentucky so that her smile will always grace our cookout. I’m so glad I didn’t cancel. Even though I couldn’t say much – literally – I enjoyed seeing everyone’s happy faces; hearing their jovial banter and gentle, steady laughter; and feeling the kindness they each possess for one another, even the people who were just meeting for the first time. That’s what the cookout is all about for me: being with people who are kind and happy. I’d have to be on my deathbed not to have it. Luckily I’m not.
“I can choose either to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure.
It’s all a question of how I view my life.”
~ Paulo Coelho
Annie Bassoni, Catherine Brereton, Ruth Bryan, Susan Stewart, and I convened at Stacy Yelton’s for our first Cards Against Humanity night of 2015. It coincided with Annie’s birthday (sort of), so a tiny birthday cake made an appearance. She was particularly protective of her cake against 4’10” Susan. Meanwhile, Catherine was stealing it from the back. Stacy missed the first cake affair because she was ordering pizza, so we did it again. The second time, Annie blew out the candles by inhaling (sort of) the flames. As you can see, she was quite proud. And a good time was had by all.
“Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn.” ~ Marianne Williamson
Susan Stewart is an enormous spirit in a tiny body. Last night there was a dinner to say goodbye to her mammary glands as today she underwent a double mastectomy. Despite the fear, she never lost her sense of humor, clearly. Laughter really can get you through the toughest of circumstances, and breast cancer is a very scary circumstance. It’s no match for Susan, though. She is one of the wittiest (and smartest) people I’ve ever met! Ladies (and men, too), do self exams and get regular mammograms. Be like Susan: be a survivor. And remember to always laugh.