San Antonio’s Central Library

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WOW – this library! It’s a Mexican Modernist marvel.IMG_8695IMG_8680.jpgIMG_8690

Sneak peek at the Chihuly sculpture Fiesta Tower from the escalator…angles, angles, angles…IMG_8689

Then KAPOW! with the 20’8″ sculpture exploding up through the atrium.IMG_3083

The library has the books and public computers you’d expect at most libraries, but there are also: an art gallery, a Children’s Low-Vision Reading Room with Braille and audio books, and the “Book Cellar,” a fantastic used book store in the basement.

It takes a lot to maintain such an amazing library…

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YIKES!

Postcards from San Antonio

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The lovely, meandering River Walk is the heart of San Antonio…

IMG_3066IMG_3028It’s even prettier at night than it is at daytime. I loved hearing the mockingbirds singing in the trees all night long.IMG_8620

On our first evening in San Antonio we had dinner at Boudro’s on the River Walk. The only thing I can remember about that meal was the guacamole, which was transcendent. Fortunately for the world, they post their recipe here!

We witnessed a few weddings happening at this spot…IMG_8648

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A glass mosaic mural by Carlos Merida Confluence of Civilizations at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center

There are sculptures dotting the courtyard of the Mexican Cultural Institute, which is on the grounds of the convention center…

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We strolled around La Villita Historic Arts Village, located right off the River Walk…

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It was a long afternoon…

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I am now obsessed with the concept of a jellyfish chandelier. They are kind of hard to see through the window…

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…but check these out! Or how about these?

We didn’t forget the Alamo…IMG_8674

and San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest standing church in Texas, where Davy Crockett, William Travis, and James Bowie are laid to rest:

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South Main Plaza where the Cathedral is situated has a European feel to it. We weren’t able to make it, but at night a light show is projected onto the façade.IMG_3033IMG_3043

The Spanish Governor’s PalaceIMG_3053

Tchotchkes galore at Market Square…IMG_3055

A little bull rider…IMG_3057

Pint-size cowboy boots!IMG_3059IMG_3087

We waited for over an hour to be seated for dinner at places like Boudro’s, Zinc, and Rosario’s. On our last night in San Antonio, we had our one non-Mexican/Tex-Mex dinner here…IMG_8758

Hot Joy is a buzzy restaurant that has been written up in Bon Appétit as a “Top 10 New Restaurants in America.” It’s got a casual, colorful vibe and interesting Asian fusion dishes. It was probably way too cool for the likes of me, which is why we showed up at 5 pm and were seated with no wait!

Our hotel was right next door to the Briscoe Western Art Museum which opens late (and for free) on Tuesday nights. After our early dinner we strolled through the museum…IMG_8777IMG_8763

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Reverence 2012, George Hallmark (b. 1949)

The one place on my list that I didn’t get to, which will be my first stop if I ever go back to San Antonio, is the Japanese Tea Garden at the San Antonio Botanical Garden…

My favorite place in San Antonio, besides the River Walk in general, was the Central Public Library. I’ll post photos of this eye-popping building tomorrow!

Patricia in Ladies B1

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(I texted this to my friend who lives in Charlotte…)

“The best human being in the whole wide world works in that restroom,” I reported to my friend and colleague, who was waiting for me outside “Ladies B1” in the Charlotte airport.

The bathroom attendant had been outrageously, unreasonably cheerful as she “seated [her] ladies.” She pointed out empty stalls, held open doors, and ushered in women with a Right here, darling! Step right up! She welcomed everyone to Charlotte and blessed them as they made their way out the door.

As I sat in my stall I couldn’t help myself – a foolish grin washed over my face and I laughed out loud as I heard her lead other women to their stalls, insisting that “everyone’s going to be happy in my bathroom!”

“I think I know exactly who you’re talking about!” my friend exclaimed when I told her what I had observed, “I remember her from the last time I flew through Charlotte! We should really go find out her name and commend her to her supervisor.”

We were already halfway to our gate on our way to San Antonio, but we wheeled back around to find out the name of this woman who could approach her job working in an airport restroom as an event, a mission, and a blessing to others.

We introduced ourselves to Patricia in Ladies B1 and told her we thought she was amazing. We exchanged hugs and laughs and then my friend and I went on our way, texting her supervisor as we walked away.

 

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“Isn’t your day just a little bit better because of her?” I asked. My friend agreed.

“She spends her day in an airport restroom and finds joy and meaning in her job…We have to remember her if we ever feel like complaining about our jobs,” we told each other as we made our way back to our gate.

We were on our way to NASPA, one of the largest conferences for student affairs professionals in higher education. For the next few days we would attend sessions and workshops on how to be more effective in our work. We would hear from experts in the field about their latest research and strategies for helping students flourish and thrive:

IMG_8795But the most valuable session I attended was probably not any of the ones I attended in San Antonio…it just may have been the one I went to during my quick layover in Charlotte.

I give you:

Program ID          Title                                     Room

101                         Be like Patricia                   Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Ladies B1

  • Have a sense of mission and take pride in the work you do.
  • Make people feel welcome and valued.
  • Radiate kindness and joy. (It’s infectious).
  • Create a space people are happy to be in – even if it’s an airport restroom!

 

Weekend Snapshots 46

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Friday

The primula my mother-in-law brought from Scotland to England to America is blooming again. This humble little flower made its way to me from across the ocean wrapped in a napkin stashed in my mother-in-law’s handbag. It’s held a spot of honor in every garden of each of the three houses we’ve lived in here in Charlottesville. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve divided this sentimental favorite to share with friends…

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In the evening I picked up my daughter and three of her friends after their second ever quartet practice. I laughed during the entire car ride home as the young musicians discussed their plans to get rich busking on the Downtown Mall.

“Whose case should we use to collect money?”

“Definitely mine,” said the cellist, “It’s the biggest.”

“Yeah, mine is way too small,” agreed the flautist, “It would fill up with money way too fast and we’d have to keep emptying it all the time, which would be a pain.”

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Dream big, girls. Dream big!

Later that evening we had family movie night.

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Little Mr. Muffet sitting on his tuffet, watching The Lord of the Rings.

We’ve been watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy over the course of several weeks. Though Tolkien wrote his great epic in the 30s and 40s about hobbits, elves, dwarves and wizards, it’s uncanny how many parallels can be drawn between the trilogy’s war between the forces of good and evil and current events. Trump, Daesh, the refugee crisis, the environmental crisis…they’re all in there. I found this gorgeous edition for my daughter who has only read The Hobbit, and still has the pleasure of reading the trilogy ahead of her. The rest of us are lined up to re-read them when she’s done!

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Saturday

MarieBette Café & Bakery and their brioches feuilletées are one of the many reasons I love living in Charlottesville:

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Breakfast!

There are only about two and a half days in any given year when I want to be outside, and Saturday was one of them!

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My husband took the kids to play frisbee golf:

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…while I had fun getting my hands dirty in the garden! I transplanted a few things, planted some seeds…

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and finally finished the oyster shell path I began last year! It only took three more 50 lb bags of crushed oyster shells and the last dregs of my will to carry on. If you see me hobbling around clutching my back like an old woman, you’ll know why.

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Winter Jewels Hellebores are one of the very first plants I put in my new garden. These flowers are so great! They bloom crazy early and then continue on for months, untouched by deer, insects, late snows and other gardening catastrophes. They self seed and are easy to divide too. img_2969

In the evening we all met up again for dinner at Smoked, a bustling barbecue restaurant in the newly opened Piedmont Place in Crozet. There was a rather long wait for a table, so we spent a lovely hour at Over the Moon Bookstore.

I’ve been trapped in a loveless marriage with Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall for what seems like an eternity, but has really probably been less than a year. I thought I’d step out on Wolf Hall to have a meaningless fling with Carl Hiaasen’s Razor Girl, but I’m not enjoying that book nearly as much as I thought I would. So now I’m condemned to slog through TWO books before starting some of the books I bought at Over the Moon. I was discussing this with the bookseller and she told me she didn’t understand this at all:

“Life is too short. I give a book ten pages at the most, and if I’m not hooked, I just stop reading it.”

Do you feel obliged to finish a book once you’ve started? Even if you hate it?

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Sunday

Spotted on my way to book group brunch…

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Did I mention how much I love living in Charlottesville?img_2981

This month my book group read my sister’s novel Tiger Pelt! I artfully posed some copies on the table only to realize with bitter disappointment once I got home – you can’t see the books!!!img_2984-2

You may not be able to spot the books in the photo, but you can find your own copy of Annabelle Kim’s Tiger Pelt online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound. It’s a great pick for book clubs! No loveless marriages here…I promise it will move and inspire you. Readers of this blog may recognize some of the events in Tiger Pelt, because the boy’s story is inspired by my father’s life story. If you read it, I would love to hear what you think.

After I got back home, I began to redecorate for spring:

img_2987My daughter and I gave her guinea pigs’ pad a new look for spring too:

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I feel that it’s still missing a certain je ne sais quoi…A seagrass wallpaper to pull in a little more texture? Some ambient lighting perhaps? Some cushions for a pop of color? A chaise longue in the corner? Nothing but the finest for these round-the-clock industrial poop factories:

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Ultimate Girls Weekend

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When we brought this baby home, it became instantly clear that the family dynamic would change forever:

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When she was just beginning to take her very first wobbly steps, I bought my daughter this walker so she could be more independent:

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She was giddy with power. She soon began ordering her older sibling brothers to sit in the cart so that she could push them around…literally and figuratively.

“Sit DOWN,” she’d shout in an imperious manner.

The boys would meekly rush to obey her orders. Sometimes they would misunderstand her directives and the wrong person would sit down.

“NO!” she’d shout and point her finger at the designated boy, who would then scurry to take the place of the other.

Once when she was still a toddler, I was musing with my middle child about what he thought his little sister would be when she grew up.

“Oh, that’s easy! She’ll be a boss,” he said with no hesitation.

“A boss? A boss of what?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter. A boss of anything. She’ll be really good at it.”

I spent the weekend in Richmond with the boss of our family for her team’s first soccer tournament of the year: the Ultimate Cup Girls Weekend. When we got to the hotel she read me the riot act when I tried to send some text messages.

“We have to be up at 5:30! It’s time to go to bed!”

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Rallying the troops.

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Between games we had a photo shoot-out…

The third game of the final went into an actual penalty shoot-out!

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Ready for business.

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Come at me.

After the opposing team’s first shot, she got to take the first penalty kick for her team.  During the car ride home, she told me: “I had to argue with the ref before she’d let me shoot. She kept yelling at me to get back next to the goal to wait for my turn to defend again. I kept explaining to her I’m taking the shot! I’m taking the shot! but she kept yelling at me to get back.”

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Nobody puts baby in the corner.

She got her shot in and then got back to the business of defending her goal.img_3835img_3838img_3840img_3842

They won their game, but I think the stress probably took years off my life. img_3844img_3852

The girls lost the championship game, but they went home smiling anyway. img_2944

Our household is a benevolent dictatorship. And we like it that way.

My Old Man

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I’m ending my countdown to Valentine’s Day here, where we are now…or at least where we were a few years ago.

Old People Dating

(first posted December 6, 2014)

Thanks to our church, which hosted a Parents’ Night Out yesterday, my husband and I were able to go out on an extremely rare date night. Our daughter fit the target age for the participants, and I conscripted the boys to be helpers. My husband brought the kids from home and I left work so that we could all meet up at the church at 5.

As we signed the kids in, the kind adults who were supervising the evening asked, “So what are you guys going to do on your date?”

“Uhhh…we’re not really sure yet,” I admitted, “but I guess we’ll go out to dinner.”

“Where do you guys usually like to eat?”

I’m pretty sure they weren’t asking about our dashes into Subway between soccer and piano practices, or to Panera on a Saturday in the middle of a day of running errands with a minivan chock full of kids…It’s the kind of question that would be easier to answer if a date night was something that happened more frequently than say, the appearance of Halley’s Comet in Earth’s atmosphere.

The last time we had a regular date night was fifteen years ago, when we were married with no children. We were both singing in the church choir and practice was on Thursday evenings. I was pregnant with our first child at the time, (the boy who is now 6 foot 3), and I was always ravenously hungry. We would go to Ruby Tuesday, which was both close to our rehearsal, and had a menu that met both of our needs. While my husband demurely nibbled at his salad bar dinner, I would devour every last bite of one of those Pantagruelian platters groaning with three different kinds of meat. You know…the kind that would only be appealing to obese middle-aged men and me in my pregnant, callow youth.

Yesterday, as we got back into the car, we giddily pondered our restaurant options as wondrously as if we were contemplating a rare and precious diamond. We made a spur of the moment decision to go to an Italian restaurant, because we can be crazy like that. We showed up at 5:30 with all the other geriatrics.

Me and my old man

As I sat there in the warm and elegant ambiance, I drummed my fingers impatiently, my eyes darting around, wondering if the bread would arrive in my lifetime. After gulping down the bread and an appetizer that we rashly ordered in our expansive mood, we were both full.

“I guess it’s too late to cancel the rest of our dinner, right?” I asked.

We had a couple bites of our main courses, but took most of them home in boxes. This would have never happened in our Ruby Tuesday days! After polishing off my meat slab platter, I’d still be picking croutons off my husband’s salad.

Dinner was done and we still had a couple of hours to go before we had to pick up the kids. The restaurant is right next to Trader Joe’s, so that’s where we headed next. We got into an intense debate about the merits of Trader Joe Honey Nut O’s versus Honey Nut Cheerios.

“Their version tastes much better than Honey Nut Cheerios,” my husband told me, “It’s less sweet.”

“Well, it may taste better, but the misplaced apostrophe is burning my eyes,” I replied.

As we rang up our purchases, we still had an hour and a half before we had to pick up the kids.

“Well…what should we do now?”

“Oh, I know! Let’s go to CVS and pick up my prescriptions and get Epsom salt,” my husband said.

“OK, Gramps! Let’s do it!”

As my husband was paying for our purchases, I remembered I had a $5 coupon attached to a CVS receipt that was floating around in my purse. I pulled it out and tentatively showed it to the cashier. “Would we possibly be able to use this?” I asked doubtfully.

“Sure!” she said as she tore it from my receipt.

As we walked back to the car, we were both jubilant. My husband said, “I can’t wait to try my Epsom salts!” I said, “I think this might just be the best day of my life. I feel like I just won the jackpot! This is the first time in my whole life that I’ve actually been able to use one of those CVS coupons. I’m so inordinately happy, I think I could dance a jig right here on the sidewalk! Could you smell the scent of victory, crackling like ozone in your nostrils when I got to use my coupon? Because I sure did!”

Flush with my unexpected success, I had another idea…

“HEY! Let’s go to the CoinStar at Harris-Teeter!”

We drove over to the grocery store and my husband obligingly lugged in the heavy container full of change that I had stashed in the car.

Have you ever used CoinStar? It’s mesmerizing to watch the sum grow from piles of pennies that have just been lying around the house. We didn’t want the magic to ever end. After emptying our container, we pulled out every last penny from our pockets and wallets until the clinking of the coins finally stopped.

“Wow. This is the best date ever,” I said with a sigh of contentment, “First, the coupon and now this!”

It was now 8 o’clock.

“We still have half an hour. We’re supposed to pick up the kids at 8:30.”

“Yeah, but I’m sure it will be fine to pick them up early. And then we can get home, so I can try my Epsom salts.”

And that’s what we did.

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Picking up our helper elves…

And it was good. Really, really good. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky…

Read the rest of Starfish, by Eleanor Lerman here.