Sunday, August 31, 2014

"Do little things with great love."
I took this idea to heart when I read it scribbled in chalk on the bathroom wall at a coffee shop yesterday. We visited Brew, which has excellent $1 cups of coffee, in Traverse City.
Even long, incredible days in grand places consist of numerous small moments to appreciate.
Sammy is loving this journey!
Arduous hike!
Lake Michigan!
We went to Sleeping Bear Dunes. Awesome. We only made it halfway to the lake climbing the mounds of sand (the mini-dunes were seemingly endless). It was a big hike for us and we had been craving the exercise.  

Such a great expanse of space to admire.

We went on a scenic drive as well, and there were unbelievable views. By the lake, the wind was fierce and the tiny specks of sand were  needles on our skin. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Yesterday, Niall and I started on our grand adventure.
First, we went to Holland, Michigan. Holland is famous for windmills and tulips. We spotted some windmills, but the tulips were not in bloom.
There was a cute downtown and a sweet community garden.
It's always nice to see the sunset on the beach. I love this side of Lake Michigan.

Niall had a great time taking photos.
 I was so excited for a campfire. I had the chance to make a delicious s'more, courtesy of dear friends of mine who gave me a camping care package.
Happy Birthday to Niall!
Today we are in Grand Rapids, currently camped out in Lantern Coffee Bar due to a bit of rain outside. There was a little public art enjoyment earlier.
We checked out Maya Lin's Ecliptic in the Rosa Parks Circle, Project X by Robert Morris at Belknap Park (pictured above), and Alexander Calder's La Grande Vitesse (pictured below).
Other noted things about Michigan: lots of roadside produce stands, black squirrels!, beautiful tall trees, American cars, and blueberry farms...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

We also went to Bivens Arm with my mom and step-dad when we were in Gainesville. It was a lovely time.
I just glow around these people!

It's exciting to check out the different scenery down there. I'm excited to get to know the plants of Florida. I admired the Spanish moss and so much greenery while we were there.

We also explored the not-so-natural world of Universal Studios  on our trip. My former step-dad (and still important family member), Steve, works for them. It's always a lot of fun to go with him and hear his stories. 
When I was a kid, I went to the theme parks of Orlando with my mom and Steve for a week or so. All I wanted to do is hang out in the gift shops. They rode all the rides and I would only try one or two of the really tame ones - I remember riding the ET ride and liking it, but needing a big break afterwards.
I'm still scared (especially with the big roller coasters), but the difference is I'll actually get on the rides anyway. 

It's so much fun!
My favorite rides this time were the rather intense Hulk and fantastical original Harry Potter - though the ET ride was still strange and beautiful as well. 

There was also some amazing vegan food to be had in Orlando at Ethos Vegan Kitchen and Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar. Thanks, Steve!

Niall and I worked hard cleaning and organizing most of today. Whew. Tomorrow our two month cross-country adventure begins - with some time in Holland, MI and camping out in Grand Rapids!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Florida was nice and hot. 

We had the chance to cool down with some vegan ice cream at this amazing little organic/vegan ice cream shop/bakery called Karma Cream. I've been excited about trying this place for quite a long time and it did not disappoint. I envision visiting them frequently in my not-too-distant future.

There was a pool!
The heat makes the water so wonderful.

I spotted this little guy out there one morning.

Monday, August 25, 2014

We got to Florida! What a big drive in a big truck (filled with most of our earthly possessions).

There's nothing like the open road.

We had a fantasy of driving straight through, but we couldn't do the whole 15+ hours, so stayed somewhere along the way.

As we moved further south, along with more Jesus, anti-abortion, and pro-guns billboards, we spotted some stunning mountains in Tennessee...

and I bought the tastiest peach when we hit Georgia, as well as a Styrofoam cup packed with salty, satisfying hot boiled peanuts. 

I'm trying to focus on the little moments, during this big scary time of transition. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Last Friday was my last day of work. It already feels like so long ago, yet also like I should be headed back there soon. The people I worked with sent me off in such a sweet way.

I even had a cake (amazing with raspberry jam inside from Sweet Cakes Bakery) and cinnamon buns. My workmates packed me up a vegan road trip/camping care package (you can see some of the goods behind me, including s'mores ingredients). I have so much love in my life. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

In Cincinnati, I had also the chance to spend time with my grandparents on my mom's side. I haven't spent nearly as much time with them as with my dad's side of the family; I'm grateful I have had the chance to re-connect with them the past couple of years.
They took us to a lovely Thai restaurant, Lemon Grass, because of the large veggie selection - so kind. It was a really nice little time.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Niall and I are on the bus, headed back to Chicago after our visit to Cincinnati. It was really necessary and wonderful to attend Madeline's memorial. It started at this lovely museum on the top of a hill. I love the hills of Cincinnati - coming from the flatness of Chicago, it feels extra special. This particular hill was covered in gardens with walking paths - I found a bush of lavender covered in bumblebees. It was a place quite appropriate for Madeline, as she loved the outside world. There were lots of words shared about her, lots of tears, lots of memories. Then we went to the Ohio River. Her husband Robert scattered some of her ashes into the water, near her old apartment.

Then, we had a weekend of slow family time. We got to meet the newest member of my family, Oliver. He is my first second cousin and is an incredible baby at three months old. It is so nice to have a new arrival in the family.

Friday, August 15, 2014

It has been a period of "good-byes" and "see ya laters" lately. 
I said farewell to the garden the other day. I am passing it along to my dear friends who live down the street, so I know it's in good hands.

Thanks for teaching me so much!
Niall and I said a huge "bye, for now" to Cassius, who is settling into his temporary home with our friend Sean. I was encouraged by Cassius' confident strutting around the apartment and rubbing his cheeks repeatedly on Sean's legs by the time we left on Wednesday. We got a text that night, featuring a photo of Cass lounging comfortably on the bed. I am so relieved - now I feel like we can actually take this trip.

Cassius has never been so high up - what a view! I think he'll be just fine...

It's been really hard to be at our apartment now, though. This house is no longer a home without Cassius. 

Today is Niall and my's last day at our respective jobs. It doesn't quite feel real yet. However, after six years at the amazing Tree House Humane Society, I know that I've learned so much there and I will carry that with me for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I had the chance to spend some time with my friend Callie for probably the last time for awhile. She's a pretty new friend who I feel a great kinship with - I met her through beekeeping volunteering at my favorite place, Garfield Park Conservatory. I'm gonna miss her, but I'm glad that our paths have crossed and I'm sure we'll keep in touch.

Today was my last day at the conservatory. It was overcast with a bit of spitting rain outside, so we just bottled up some fresh honey for the gift shop. 
I got my own jar as a parting gift!

 Callie and I went wandering the gardens afterwards before heading to the excellent Heartland Cafe. Here's what some of the bees were doing during our garden wander:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Grateful for early morning cuddles with Cassius. He goes to stay with a friend starting on Wednesday, so that he is safe and secure during these upcoming travels. It's really hard to imagine being separate for a few months; I'm trying to savor every moment with this amazing boy. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

So sunny outside in front of Tree House, I'm glad we got a photo together as a remembrance.
Yesterday was my last time seeing Carly for awhile. Carly is a volunteer at Tree House who started around the same time I started working there. She's seventeen years old now and such an inspiration. 
It's been really something to see her grow into the amazing young woman she is today. She is so kind, which I am learning I value above all else. She is also curious and vibrant and smart - I am so excited to find out where she goes and what she does. What an honor to be part of her journey.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wonderful recent things:

I just finished reading Listening is an Act of Love, in preparation for my outing tomorrow afternoon with my good friend Suzanne, to be recorded talking with her about my relationship with my mama.

StoryCorps is the most amazing thing - an nonprofit dedicated to preserving American history by recording the stories of everyday people. Family members, friends, neighbors, or StoryCorps facilitators interview individuals about their lives in a fancy recording booth. The interviewee and interviewer get a copy of their talk and a copy goes to the Library of Congress.
I found myself totally absorbed in this book of real interviews from this important project. I was on the train, crying over accounts of survivors of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, laughing along with spouses talking about how they met. I'm excited to participate tomorrow at the Chicago booth.

Yesterday I went to the Art Institute of Chicago with my dear friend Piyali. It was great to share the time with her - and to visit this grand museum one last time (for awhile) and see the new, fascinating  Magritte exhibit. Piyali took me there and to dinner at Native Foods (so good!) as a sweet goodbye present. What a treat!

Both of us just love the Joseph Cornell boxes.

Each box is such an amazing little world.

Monday, August 4, 2014

My aunt Madeline's memorial bench has been installed - it looks lovely, sitting at one of her favorite spots in Austin.

Thanks, Dad, for sharing these photos!

Friday, August 1, 2014

On his blog, my friend Michael just mentioned a prose poem, "The Life of a Day" by Tom Hennen. Naturally, I had to look it up. Here's part of it:
"We examine each day before us with barely a glance and say,
no, this isn't one I've been looking for, and wait in a bored 
sort of way for the next, when, we are convinced, our lives
will start for real. Meanwhile, this day is going by perfectly
well adjusted, as some days are, with the right amounts of 
sunlight and shade, and a light breeze perfumed from the 
mixture of fallen apples, corn stubble, dry oak leaves, and the
faint odor of last night's meandering skunk." 

Reading this is a big help, during this time of transition.

"Be here now," Cassius seems to remind me on a daily basis.