Stat Counter

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bestie Baby

Dear Mom,

I decided to use the holiday weekend to pop down to D.C. and meet little Molly. She will have her first birthday around Easter, so I've been a bad auntie, but it was tough to get down there while you were sick.

I left on Saturday morning on an early train out of Penn Station. Molly was just waking up from her morning nap when I arrived, and we had brunch in Old Town Alexandria at a cool converted fire house. Molly charmed the waitress with her smiles and sweet behavior. 

Jeff spent the afternoon making lasagna while Hilary and I caught up in Molly's play area.

Molly shares many of her mother's interests. She enjoys books...
Exploring new places...

I cheated and pulled those action shots off of Hilary's feed, but I did get to see her rocking the adorable cupcake pajamas seen here! 
Scotty came over for dinner, and we gobbled up Jeff's lasagna as she caught us up on what's new in her life. 

Today we just hung out, walked and visited. And ate, of course. It was a quick trip, as Hil dropped me back off at Union Station  for my 6:15 train. 

Being around my mom friends always makes me amazed at what a tough job they have and how well they are juggling it all...especially since Meghan's two girls are just 15 months apart, like Leigh Ann and I were. I don't know how you did it! 

It was fun to come in and out of Union Station, which always makes me think of you and your D.C. trips. 
I'm on the train again now wondering what year it was that you stopped taking the train back. Wish I could just ask you, but maybe your deputy tour director Juliane will remember.



Friday, February 14, 2014

Cheers to Mental Health Days

Dear Mom,

I got a little overwhelmed this week and couldn't keep up with my blogging. But I am feeling MUCH better today, for a couple of reasons. One, I took a true "mental health day" on Tuesday and did some very healing cleaning and organizing in every sense of the word. Two, I am working on something special that feels like a bright light for this year. More to come. And three, I am heading to D.C. this weekend to visit Hilary & Jeff and meet Molly -- finally! 

So, here are the happenings since my last post... 

Jason joined me for church on Sunday. I think he got a kick out of it. Afterwards, we stopped by my favorite magazine shop downtown so I could buy the February issue of Architectural Digest with Van & Skip's house in it. You would have loved it!! 
Debbie E. had sent me a photo last week to make sure I'd seen it. I had to dig under the March issue, but they still had a few copies of February's issue. 

I saved the issue for Neil, as he and Nate were at the Human Rights Campaign dinner last week, where Eric Holder spoke. Neil said one of the other speakers was a magazine editor who was honored for her pioneering work of featuring the homes of same-sex couples in her publications, back when that was a revolutionary thing to do.

Anyway, after church Jason and I got brunch at my favorite neighborhood spot, Monument Lane. We both had the chicken & waffles. So good!

On Tuesday, when I was taking my mental health day, I got the very best surprise: a package of Sugar's best salted caramels from Benjamin & William! They are absolutely divine. Made my heart happy.
I forgot to take photos of two other delightful care packages I got recently, but I will have to play catch-up. You sure did leave us with some sweet friends who make me feel very loved. And that was a blessing, 'cause I was really struggling on Monday. It didn't help when I walked into work and saw A ROACH ON THE WALL.
It was like a metaphor for the day! My office buddy Steven (he of the "shoe condoms) and I snuck out for a greasy brunch at 11, which perked me up a bit, but I just couldn't find my mojo. I was glad I was not ashamed to admit to my boss I was going to take a mental health day on Tuesday. It REALLY did the trick. That's something you taught me, and I am grateful for it. There's nothing wrong with admitting you need a day to get your head straight! I stayed in bed until 11:30, went to a noon spinning class, cleaned up my apartment, caught up on email, and just generally reclaimed control over my life.

Neil came over for supper, and I made the Roasted Halibut with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Butternut Squash from Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day cookbook. 
photo by Quentin Bacon
I also made the Roasted Beet Salad with Oranges, Fennel, and Mint.

It looked nothing like this photo, as I tossed it to break up the goat cheese, but it was delicious! You would have been proud of me for cheating and buying the beets already cooked. I left out the red onion.

It's been a snowy week here, and the snow in Charlotte reminded me of Christmas of 2010, when you stayed an extra night or two with me to see the snow before you went home.

There's Leigh Annie on her front porch in her pajamas. I think you bought her some cute galoshes at TJ Maxx that year. Or maybe that was the year after? Anyway, I think this was the most snow they've gotten in Charlotte since then.
Yesterday I joked with the doorman that I needed a piggyback ride to the subway, but it really wasn't a big deal. I need to do a post on all that I've learned about winter footwear!

Okay, that's all for now. Glad I am feeling better, and glad you taught me to take care of myself.



Snowy Valentine's Day

Enjoying my snowy view and recycling one of my favorite blog posts from 2012. "My love" and I are now approaching our third anniversary! Cheers to living a heart-driven life, wherever it takes you.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Super Weekend

Dear Mom, 

You always enjoyed a good weekend recap, so here goes: 
The "main event" was Saturday, when my friend Laura got our whole gang into the pre-Super Bowl tailgate party at a big bar on the Lower East Side. We had a blast! Laura works for a new company called Wheels Up; they are a private aviation company started by the founder of Marquis Jets. 

Laura's former boss Billy Bush (the TV host) is associated with the company; he and a dozen pro athletes were the celebrity hosts of the event. I should have done my homework...I wouldn't have known them if I bumped into them! 

You can't see Julia in the group shot, but here's a cute pic of her... 
And here's Julia with Marianne and Kathleen. I need to post your "cheat sheet" of who's who in the gang. 
In preparation for the big event on Saturday, I chilled out on Friday. My boss had given me a hard-earned day off after a looooong but successful week. My friend Allison came over, and I made this winter minestrone, which Leigh Ann said Rebecca made for her. It was absolutely delicious! Allison brought some wine, cheese and olives from Eataly. We had a great time visiting. She lost her dad two years ago, so she is a very empathetic pal. 

I took some of the soup to work on Monday and gave it to Serg as a thank you for bringing me pajama bottoms last week when I forgot mine. I told him he was the only man whose pants I'd gotten into in quite a while. ;) 
winter minestrone-7639-2
I also did a few more projects around the studio this weekend. I unpacked your painting, which Juliane had shipped me. They did a fantastic wrapping job! I love looking at it when I am on my sofa. 

My bed upgrade is finally complete, although I'm not completely satisfied with the headboard. It was only $250 on Amazon...and, once again, ya get what ya pay for. But it's fine, and I'm very happy I upgraded to a queen. 
Installing the headboard was a bit trickier than I anticipated, as I needed an extra set of hands to manage multiple tools at once. (Where's the man of the house when you need help with your nuts and screws?!) I tried to get Cyrus to come down, but I ended up powering through on my own. 
I'm not sure what to do with my linens, as I used to put the quilted spread on the bed, but it seems kinda matchy-matchy with the headboard. However, I think I'm gonna have to do it again, as I'm not a fan of the stripes. 

On Sunday, after I'd finished my bed project (it's amazing what you can accomplish when you get up at 5:45!) I met my friend Christine for brunch at The Smith in the East Village. We splurged on a dozen oysters, which were fantastic! 
Then we both got the special sandwich...pork belly with fried green tomatoes. Divine! 
I was so stuffed, I didn't eat again for the rest of the day. I took in a 5 o'clock showing of August: Osage County, which I think will have to be the subject of its very own post. 

Monday it snowed again, and we're getting more tonight/tomorrow. And supposedly another blizzard on Sunday! Good thing I got myself some new winter footwear...though I am starting to think I should have gone with the full-own Eskimo boots like Kathleen's. 

Aunt Debbie said I should ask Joe Namath to loan me his fur coat. HA! 



Sunday, February 2, 2014

Language of Love

Dear Mom,

As you know, The Five Love Languages is one of my very favorite books. Well...maybe not so much for the book itself, but for the framework it gives us about understanding how we give and receive love.

To recap for those who are out of the loop, the languages are:
1. Words of affirmation
2. Gifts
3. Quality time
4. Acts of service
5. Physical touch

I have found this to be a really helpful framework for life. Although my "language" is words of affirmation, I think that being conscious of all five languages -- and trying to love others in a "multi-lingual" fashion -- is important. It's also helpful to think that sometimes loving someone in our own language doesn't really resonate...we need to show love in the language they will receive and understand.

Neil was the one who first introduced me to this, back when he was dating a guy who would feel really loved if Neil cleaned up the kitchen!

Your language was quality time, and it was such a relief once Leigh Ann and I figured that out, as we quit trying to find tangible gifts that would please you and just started giving you trips. Leigh Ann's language is acts of service. Once, she got my car washed and detailed while I was out of town, and picked me up at the airport in my clean, shiny Honda! I learned that it was very important for me to be available to her when she wanted to pick up her Christmas tree or to do another chore that was tough to do solo. (Though she does like to amuse herself by rearranging her furniture at odd hours.)

Anyway, during the week of your funeral, when people were answering our phone, cooking our meals and running our errands, I said to her, "You must feel VERY loved right now with all of these acts of service going on!"

Meanwhile, I felt very, very loved reading all of the sweet Facebook posts after you died. I decided to cut and paste some of them...since this blog is also my memory book...and since people like Aunt Debra who aren't on Facebook haven't gotten to see and enjoy all of these.

So, here are some of my favorites, with apologies to anyone I missed: Photo: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I couldn't ask for a better guardian angel watching over me as I continue to take the road less traveled. Miss Cheryl Snipes Smith held my hand (literally) and showed me the world as we trekked across Europe. From getting lost in Hyde Park to wondering about the dust bunnies of Versailles and even discussing knock off Louis Vuitton bags while eating gelato in Florence- Miss Cheryl will always be apart of my fondest memories and I wouldn't be who I am today without her.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference. 

I couldn't ask for a better guardian angel watching over me as I continue to take the road less traveled. Miss Cheryl Snipes Smith held my hand (literally) and showed me the world as we trekked across Europe. From getting lost in Hyde Park to wondering about the dust bunnies in Versailles and even discussing knock off Louis Vuitton bags while eating gelato in Florence -- Miss Cheryl will always be a part of my fondest memories, and I wouldn't be who I am today without her.
I think it was exactly as she would have liked it to be. Well, partly because as her daughters stated, she left explicit "how to" instructions, and well, just because the people who knew her so well, knew better than to let it become maudlin or depressing. So instead the descriptions of her were told as in life with mere mentions of her death. There was barely a wet eye in the house, as we were lifted into laughter with stories, phrases and memories. I think she would be pleased that her works of art, her daughters, held the defining moments in the palms of their hands and never faltered or stumbled when sharing their love for their Mother with us. 

I said goodbye today to a very special lady and never once needed the gobs of tissue that I brought with me, just in case. I think she would have been very proud that her lifetime of "antics" kept us all smiling, all the way til the end.
Enjoyed the Celebration of the Life of Cheryl Snipes Smith today. You raised two amazing women in Leigh Ann Smith and Lynsley Smith. They did you more than justice. It truly was a celebration. The only time I cried was because I was laughing so hard I couldn't do anything else. Your spirit was all over that church. I could truly feel you there. You pulled what seemed all of Gadsden County together to celebrate a life fully lived. Vaya con Dios, Mi Amiga
I can't imagine how many people reminisced about CSS tonight. At Jimmy and Peggy's she was the main topic of discussion. Lots of memories for us all.
I have never had a teacher make such a big impact on me. She taught me how to see the positive side of every situation and how to add a little bit of spunk to everything I do. Cheryl Snipes Smith, you will be missed!
Your mama, like goat cheese in the Quincy Winn-Dixie, was a rare gem. I've loved reading all the wonderful tributes to her. Thinking of you all today. 
Today we say hasta luego to one of the most beautiful people that lived. CSS has taught me so much like keep a red ribbon on my luggage so I can find it faster at baggage claim, think outside the box and ask "why water" at the FDR memorial, she taught us all not to look like tourists when we travel but having cheats is okay, but most importantly, she taught us to be different and be yourself. I'll miss seeing you when I drop off your jam. I love you for forever and will see you manana. "You got that thought?" 
Miss Cheryl Snipes Smith has been on my mind all day... fun, outgoing, full of life Miss Cheryl. An incredible traveler (I couldn't keep her pace around D.C. in 8th grade though I tried my absolute best to keep up), my high school Spanish teacher, and forever friend. I have enjoyed seeing all the "CSSisms" on my newsfeed today!! But the one I've kept near and dear is "look up, look down, look all around". This saying has served me well in museums, airports, and cities all over the world. Thank you, CSS, for everything!
One of my favorite teachers I ever had was Cheryl Snipes Smith, resident Spanish teacher at Munroe. I not only did well in her classes (and went on to take more than a year of Spanish at UGA), but I was always entertained by her, both inside and outside the classroom. She and my father went to school together, and he has fond memories of her as well. I've never met anyone in the Quincy area who ...didn't adore "Miss Cheryl", as I still call her. I'm so happy that her daughters, Leigh Ann and Lynsley, were able to spend so much time and make great memories with their mom before God called her home. Thanks, Miss Cheryl, for all you gave to our school and for making our little corner of the world that much more fun. iVaya con Dios!
She never called me just "Callie." Even before she taught me I was "little Cara" probably because she saw how badly I wanted to be like my older pretend sister. After I entered her classroom, it was always "my Callie-girl" or "Alice." I always said I wanted her to be my traveling buddy. It only took one trip to decide that for me. She insisted we never look like tourists when we traveled and showed us ways to cheat, but look like a native. Sadly Washington, DC was the only trip I ever got to take with her. She's the one who pushed us to think outside the box, to come up with the most creative ideas. She knew exactly how to help up develop those crazy ideas rattling around in our teenage minds. She reminded us over and over again that a language wasn't just about the words or conjugation we used, but the people that spoke it. She taught us repetition was key in the practice pages we made over and over again and in the arm stretches she would do every single home room to make her arms strong again. She helped me get through my mother's breast cancer. She got the biggest kick out of all of us when Audrey Thomas described the Spanish word, "caca" as "shit." She was one of the most fun teachers I ever had, and also one of the ones I learned the most from whether it was academic, traveling help, or general life lessons. She has been such an influence on my life. I only wish I had gotten to see Ms. Cheryl Snipes Smith one more time. We lost an amazing woman. We will miss you an awful lot.
(Editor's Note: Callie gets Extra Credit -- that was posted from "Scotland" -- and we know she wasn't near Glasgow!)
Although I could spout off any number of things and quotes I remember about CSS, one thing she taught me in Europe stands out more today than ever. When writing a mandatory journal entry, I misspelled "cemetery." CSS wrote me a note that has kept me from ever misspelling it again. "Cemetery is spelled with all E's, because we are all Equal in death." We may all be equal in death, but Cheryl Snipes Smith certainly lived a life that we all can aspire to. I'm so very grateful to have known her.
I first connected with Cheryl Snipes Smith when we enrolled our girls at Robert F Munroe. I knew right away that she was a unique person/teacher but as I came to know her better, I learned that she was way more than simply unique for she was talented and skilled in so many aspects of life. If you paid attention, you would glean so much from her! I also learned that she was a survivor of not just one type of cancer but two! You would never have known. She had life by the tail and was swinging from every branch she could find. I was amazed and then inspired because we soon became connected in the sisterhood of survivors. We, as survivors know that even though we finish whatever course of treatment we are prescribed, that the fight is never finished as long as we draw a breath. Miss Cheryl's fight is over now. I am thankful for the blessing that she was to Natalie Bristol Kirbo and Anna Jo Bristol and all that she taught them. I'm grateful for the inspiration that she was to me. I'm thankful to have had the connections that we had. We love you and will miss you Miss Cheryl.
No mother could ever have hoped to raise daughters as smart, driven, funny, faithful, socially conscious and determined to make a difference as Cheryl's girls. You gave her countless reasons to be proud.
Top ten reasons CSS will forever be remembered by MJ
10. She always called me MJ 
9. Her beautiful thick hair
8. Spanish ( with a southern accent) 
7. That fact that my first day in Spanish class she said, "My class is a little different. A students might struggle but B/ C students like u, MJ probably will make A's . ( sad to say I think I proved her wrong) 
6. Her writing CSS on the chalkboard. ...
5. As Jeff posted earlier , her perfect mix between sassy and classy! 
4. As Coach Morris posted , she was definitely an outside of the box thinker. 
3. Washington D.C. 
2. Teaching me the importance of journaling trips. I will forever be grateful! 
1. As I grew into an adult, she always treated me as one. Encouraging me, telling me what a great mom I am and as long as I was happy that's all that mattered. 

It was a bittersweet feeling hearing of Ms. Cheryl Snipes Smith's passing today. I am so sad that this wold lost such an incredible person, but I am thrilled to know that when I get to heaven I will have the best tour guide around. Teachers always want to leave a lasting impact on their students, and Ms. Cheryl did just that. If I can leave a tenth of the impact on the students I work with that CSS left on me, I will consider my teaching career a success. Thank you Ms. Cheryl for teaching me about manners, life, and the world we live in. you will be truly missed!
After touching so many lives, I hope you rest well, Ms. Cheryl. You'll be missed and remembered often. Thank you so much.
So many high school instructors these days teach for standardized tests. You take the class, get your 5, and you move on. You're to dump what you learn instantly to make room for what's next. 

Ms. Cheryl's classes always felt like the opposite. They were starting points; we had been prepared to be inquisitive, if not voracious, connoisseurs of Culture. It comes with growing up in a remote place like Mt. Pleasant Florida—essentially an island—that there's an inherent conflict between the curiosity about what's "out there" and intimidation that what's "out there" is unwelcoming, hostile, indecipherable. It's so clear that Ms. Cheryl's mission was to amplify the curiosity and crush the intimidation. In a charming way, to make us the ultimate outsiders. But never tacky tourists.

(Editor's Note: From Samuel Iglesias, the only other Bobcat I know to have gotten his bachelor's degree at Duke. Go Blue Devils!)
About 10 years ago, Mandy and I ran into Cheryl Snipes Smith after our wedding. She came over and gave us a big hug and proceeded to gush about the thank you note I wrote for her wedding gift. She told me she always wanted to write a book on thank you notes ... but "you won't need to buy it". Well, I wish the writing muse that was with me then was here now to help me write this post. 

There are so many great posts and memories that do much more justice than I can, so I will keep it simple. “Miss Cheryl” was the penultimate, simultaneous combination of classy and sassy, a wonderful teacher and one hell of a lady who raised two wonderful young women - Leigh Ann Smith and Lynsley Smith.

We will all miss her, but I take comfort knowing she is in heaven weaving a tale to eager ears right now, wonderfully laced with a perfectly timed quip or wise crack along the way.
Thanks for always being yourself. Thanks for always being so kind to me. You had a good everlasting influence on all of us. When you're a young widling its hard to see the bigger picture..sorry for giving ya so much grief in my younger years. Its funny how 2 simple chats with you over the past two years have helped me more than almost anyone.. from Patrick and Whitney's Wedding to Liz's Funeral. those two images of ya are what i'm gonna hold on to! wish i knew some cool spanish to say for ya ;P Love ya Mrs Cheryl Snipes Smith
You did much more than teach us in the classroom. You gave us all a piece of your practical wisdom. I will forever remember: "look up, look down, look all around," that I can fold my paper two ways: hamburger or hotdog, to always ask the 5 W's, that almost everything we learn we will need for the "ACT, the SAT, and all of those other TTT's", and the countless memories we shared on our trip to Europe. You are the smartest, funniest, and by far the strongest woman I have ever met. Thank you the lasting impact you had on my life and the lives of everyone you came in contact with. I love you now and always Cheryl Snipes Smith
While "Miss" Cheryl was only my teacher for Spanish....English...and humanities, she taught me many more valuable things about the way life works. This extremely brilliant lady is the perfect representation of teaching for the love of teaching. I will always remember her letting my humanities class of five plan out our dream trip to NYC, which would be funded by her when she won the lottery. You will be forever in our hearts CSS! 
So much more than a teacher of facts, words, language. She taught my daughter, Elizabeth Ann Clark, to spread her wings. Forever grateful. Vaya con Dios.
I am simply heart broken. There is so much I could say about Ms. Cheryl. I could fill up a book on the impact she made on my life as a student and as a person. And I know she made this impact on a hundred other students from Munroe. She is exactly the kind of teacher I want to be; she is exactly the kind of person I want to be. My favorite thing about Ms. Cheryl was the way she always thought outside of the box and made all of her students do the same thing. I'll never forget sitting in the Globe theater in London with Ms. Cheryl or talking about Why Water? at the FDR Monument in D.C. or the five W's or reading Anne Frank or having to go around the room in class and give 18 answers to the same question most people would think there was only one answer to or learning how to conjugate in Spanish. I'll love and remember you forever, Ms. Cheryl; you're my biggest inspiration!Photo: I am simply heart broken. There is so much I could say about Ms. Cheryl. I could fill a book on the impact she made on my life as a student and as a person. And I know she made this impact on a hundred other students from Munroe. She is exactly the kind of teacher I want to be; she is exactly the kind of person I want to be. My favorite thing about Ms. Cheryl was the way she always thought outside of the box and made all of her students do the same thing. I'll never forget sitting in The Globe Theatre in London with Ms. Cheryl or talking about Why Water? at the FDR monument in D.C. or the five W's or reading Anne Frank or having to go around the room in class and give 18 answers to the same question most would only think there was one answer to or learning how to conjugate in Spanish. I'll love and remember you forever Ms. Cheryl: you're my biggest inspiration!
You don't always meet someone who could yell at you in Spanish, who could make you cry just by hugging you, who could make you laugh by telling you "You should be a lawyer because you love to argue," and who could make you poor your heart out and not even mean to. I wish you could live eternally, Miss Cheryl Snipes Smith. I won't stop arguing for what I believe in for you. Thank you for all that you've taught to me and for touching everyone's lives. I'll love you for forever.
As I went back through the Facebook posts, I was curious to see who had been the first person to post something...Hilary and Neil mentioned they started seeing posts before Leigh Ann and I sent out the CaringBridge link. I was really touched to see the very first one seemed to be Mr. Blucher, who posted simply this:

Let Light perpetual shine on my dear Friend.