This weekend I treated Ethan to a belated birthday celebration featuring wall-to-wall theater and good old fashioned mother/son bonding time. As luck would have it, his Godmother happened to be in town and we managed to squeeze in an impromptu Saturday morning breakfast date with her as well.
We started with Springdale High School’s performance of The Addams Family Musical starring our friend Amelia Catanzaro as Alice. The show was charming and the diversity of the cast made it especially enjoyable. The young man playing Uncle Fester nearly stole the show. He was a hoot! Torrential rains made the drive home interesting, but we made it safely!
Saturday morning we picked up Joanna for breakfast at the Farmer’s Table. Ethan raved about the biscuits (with vegetarian gravy, of course!) and I could only manage to eat HALF of my two War Eagle Mill pancakes. Delish!
Saturday evening was the show we planned the whole weekend around. A touring production of Tony Award winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttimewas at the Walton Arts Center. Critics’ reviews were right on the money. “Eye-opening, life-affirming and unmissable,” and “One of the most fully immersive works to ever wallop Broadway.”
The use of lights, sounds, and choreography, combined with the minimalist props and sets created an experience that was mesmerizing. More importantly, the performance gives the average viewer an opportunity to imagine what it might be like to live with autism. In a word: PROFOUND.
Finally, on Sunday we took in the final performance of Assassin’s the Musicalby the University of Arkansas Theater Department. This show was especially fun as several of the cast members are a part of The Crude Mechanicals, the Shakespeare Troupe that Ethan is a part of. We always enjoy the performances of these remarkable actors. And I found myself Googling and reading up on the various assassins (and would-be assassins) after the show.
All in all, I think Ethan would agree…. #Theaterpalooza2017 was a pretty great way to celebrate turning 19!
I just got home from a whirlwind three and half days spent on a road trip with my good friend Jessica McClard (founder of the Little Free Pantry and a one time guest of Harry Connick Jr. ). Our destination: Cause Camp 2017 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Cause Camp is a two-day, nonprofit conference which features several of the biggest names in our sector. Most conferences feature one “rockstar” giving the keynote address. The Cause Camp lineup is ALL Rockstars, all the time.
I’ve been to several professional development conferences in my day. Many of them very good. But without question, this was the best conference experience from top to bottom, inside out.
Without further ado, here are my Top 10 Reasons why Cause Camp 2017 was the Best Nonprofit Conference EVER!
It all started with the app. Seriously. I knew I was in for something special when, just a few days before the conference, I downloaded the conference app by Attendify. Conference schedule, speaker bios, profiles of fellow attendees… all of it in the palm of my hand and no dreaded tri-fold program to keep up with. Then, when the conference kicked off, the social component kicked in. It was like a dedicated Twitter and Instagram feed all-in-one. Perfect for the compulsive phone/status checker. (Who are you looking at?) P.S. I love a good hashtag. #CausetheChange
The caliber of the speakers.Hello???? Dan Pallotta!!! His Ted Talk has been viewed 3.8 million times. I also found John Rood from Disney, Derek Feldmann , author of Social Movements for Good, and Tyler Riewer from Charity:Water particularly compelling. Look them up.
The personality/spirit/tone of the conference. In a word, “Unstuffy.” I appreciated the “let’s not take ourselves too seriously” attitude of both the Nonprofit Hub’s Publisher Randy Hawthorne, and Marc Pittman – aka the Fundraising Coach – who emceed the event (with the perfect amount of CHEESE, I might add.) Another thing about spirit of the conference worth mentioning: the “traditional Cause Camp welcome.” The organizers set the tone (and the expectation) right from the beginning. We welcomed EVERY speaker with a standing ovation and loud cheers. You know that had to help in getting presenters “pumped up.” It also ensured that attendees were high energy and attention spans on high alert. Simply brilliant.
The format of the conference. No breakout sessions! All the speakers spoke in one main auditorium, which means I had no FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) by having to “choose” one presentation or topic over another.
The conference venue itself.
Oh. My. Word. The Nebraska Innovation Center was an ideal location. The audio/visual component was state of the art. The very cool (and very comfortable) swivel seats in the auditorium – which had a POWER OUTLET for every participant and their device – provided ample room for each attendee and their gear. And, if you can believe it, the TEMPERATURE was comfortable all day, both days. Apprarently they don’t subscribe to the “If we freeze them, they will stay awake” mantra of most convention centers. I could go on and on about the venue (cleanliness of restrooms, the Mother’s Room – which I don’t need but can certainly appreciate, the free Wifi… all of it. Perfection.)
The host city: Lincoln, Nebraska.
Yes, you read that right. While it IS fun to visit big, splashy cities, like San Diego and Baltimore (which the AFP International Conference seem to favor) let’s face it…. they can be really EXPENSIVE. The hotels, restaurants, airfare, etc. I absolutely LOVED that Lincoln was just an easy day’s drive (about 7 hours) to get to from Northwest Arkansas. Our drive home provided a lot of valuable time to digest and discuss what we had learned, without all the added stress of airport security, connecting flights, layovers, etc. Disclaimer: I realize my #6 Reason Why Cause Camp 2017 was the Best Conference Ever won’t apply to everyone… but it certainly works for me.
No Sales Pitch. Cause Camp doesn’t have a giant vendor expo. In fact, they had a very small, carefully selected (I presume) group of partners who were conveniently located around the perimeter of the commons. I didn’t feel obligated to visit the booths (nor avoid eye contact with any pushy sales people). They were there and accessible if a participant was interested in learning about their service, but there was no pressure to “drop a business card and win a prize!” Even the presenters refrained from pushing their books, or blogs, or websites, or whatever… Instead, I WANT to visit their site to learn more. The perfect tease.
Coffee, food, cocktails, repeat. From an opening night reception at the Nonprofit Hub on Sunday (where we met and became fast friends with Beth and Becky with Drug Prevention Resources, and Jude and Leilani from the YMCA Austin), to morning coffee, lunch and snacks each day, ending both days with a cocktail networking reception – AND the infamous karaoke PARTY on Monday night – Cause Camp kept us full of both fuel and fun.
Lunchtime activities. A two hour lunch break was built into both days, and each day had a variety of optional activities to partake in. Everything from meditation and yoga, to a tour of Spreetail (inside the Nebraska Innovation Studio), a make-your-own t-shirt station and more. Spoiler alert: I made the t-shirt on day one and had really nice, long conversation with a new friend on day two.
Swag. We received a really nice box with great swag. But the best part is having all the resources of the Nonprofit Hub at my fingertips until I can go back for Cause Camp 2018 March 26th and 27th, 2018.
What is it about re-reading a favorite book? Its sort of like visiting an old friend, but finding out that they’ve changed. . . or maybe you have.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Joy Luck Club was published in 1989 when I was a senior in high school, though I don’t think I read it until 1992 (the year I was married). Amy Tan immediately became my new favorite author (replacing S.E. Hinton – favorite author of my youth) and for years I faithfully read everything Tan published. A year later (1993) JLC was made into a movie – a movie which remains one of my all time favorites. When the title came up as a potential read for my Book Club, I was thrilled to revisit an old friend.
Of course, I couldn’t find my paperback version of the book (most likely in the attic) so I went out and bought a new copy. At first, I couldn’t believe how SLIM this edition was. I remembered it being an incredibly thick saga. Nope, just 288 pages.
Details/Topics: The Joy Luck Club tells the individual stories of four Chinese women and their Chinese American daughters. It is a story about both the complexity of mother/daughter relationships, and the immigrant experience.
Reading it again, this time as the mother to a young adult woman, I found myself sympathizing (perhaps even relating?) to the mothers in Tan’s story.
Favorite Quote(s): “In two year’s time, my scar became pale and shiny and I had no memory of my mother. That is the way it is with a wound. The wound begins to close in on itself, to protect what is hurting so much. And once it is closed, you no longer see what is underneath, what started the pain.”
“And then it occurs to me. They are frightened. In me, they see their own daughters, just as ignorant, just as unmindful of all the truths and hopes they have brought to America. They see daughters who grow impatient when their mothers talk in Chinese, who think they are stupid when they explain things in fractured English. They see that joy and luck do not mean the same to their daughters, that to these closed American-born minds “joy luck” is not a word, it does not exist. They see daughters who will bear grandchildren born without any connecting hope passed from generation to generation.”
We had a New Year’s Eve Family PJ Party at the Nabholz Cabin this year – complete with lots of games, puzzles, and of course… FOOD!
My brother and sister-in-law and their brood arrived by 9 a.m. on NYE – just in time for breakfast. And since it was still officially Hanukkah and we pride ourselves on being ecumenical (*smile*) we had latkes on our breakfast menu. Everyone RAVED about these crispy potato pancakes, so of course we served them again on New Year’s Day. Mom, Dad and Grandma J loved them as well. Who knew that such a simple dish would be such a hit! I figured I’d better archive it on my blog since I’m expecting requests for the recipe!
4 large potatoes grated
1 yellow onion
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
ground black pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable oil for frying
Sour cream and/or applesauce for garnish
Grate the potatoes in a large bowl, add the eggs, salt and pepper and mix well (I used my hands). Sprinkle in the flour. The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons – but Mark did this part and I think he used considerably more – maybe even half a cup. Patty up the potatoes as best you can – they don’t really stick together. Then fry in the oil until brown. As they get crisp, they stick together.
After I don’t know how many years of volunteering at and putting up with the traffic of Bikes, Blues and BBQ, Mark and I finally got wise. Well, not really. It just so happened that Glen Hansard was making an appearance in Tulsa the same weekend – so we accidentally and happily escaped. Glen Hansard is, hands down, the BEST live show I’ve ever seen and I would (and hopefully WILL!) go again and again and again. If you’re not familiar with him, do yourself a favor and watch Once on Netflix, follow him on Spotify, and watch everything – especially THIS – of his on YouTube. He’s my favorite. By.A.Mile.
We made a weekend of it and I was pretty stoked to go to the ACTUAL Curtis House from my favorite movie, The Outsiders. They’re raising funds to convert it into a museum. I WILL be back.
Two kids home from college, plus Collin, made for a very happy Thanksgiving for me! There’s nothing I love more than having all my chickies at home and cooking for them and feeding them. Ethan introduced us to Cards Against Humanity (not my finest parenting moment) and we had a family game night plus chislic before Grace and Collin headed back to Jonesboro. Honestly, the fact that they stayed late specifically FOR game night was the highlight of my holiday.
On November 30th Mark and I spent 5 hours on the road (down and back to Conway) with mom and dad to see Ethan for 20 minutes on the stage in a one-ace play at UCA titled “The Decision.” It was incredible and Mark and I are still, both, BEAMING with pride.
We turned our annual #Brewtheran Beervent party into a fundraiser for the ministries at our church and it exceeded all of my hopes and expectations. My good friend Sherilyn transformed our fellowship hall into a warm and cozy space reminiscent of a chalet. Our praise band musicians set the mood with their amazing talents, and Alan Gann provided several tasty home brews. My heart is FULL!
It’s no secret Fayetteville has TONS of unique shops, boutiques, restaurants, parks, trails and neighborhoods. But our beloved city also offers ample opportunities to capture the essence of “Funky Fayetteville” in a photo.
Here are a list of 8 MUST STOP Photo Ops in Fayetteville, brought to you by yours truly. (Bonus! Most of these are within walking distance of our conference headquarters, The Chancellor Hotel.)
Step inside the Dickson Street Bookstore, inhale the unmistakable scent of good, old fashioned PAPER books, peruse the shelves (you could get lost for HOURS), and be sure to snap a selfie.2. The paramount view of our beautiful city can best be viewed from Mount Sequoyah. It’s kind of awe-inspiring.3. I’m particularly partial to photos which include a pint glass atop the purple picnic tables at Fossil Cove. Located just off our bike trail, and part of the infamous Fayetteville Ale Trail. Enjoy a pint (or two) and say hi to “Barley,” the pub dog while you’re there.4. Alexis Diaz’ recently completed mural, part of the #UnexpectedFS project, is INCREDIBLE. (photo credit, @Alexis_Diaz on Instagram).
5. A super fun, super colorful installation known as the #MaudeWall, created with all you fashionistas and photographers in mind. It makes for a perfect backdrop, no matter WHAT you’re wearing. And if you don’t LIKE what you’re wearing, they can help with that too. It’s located on the back wall BEHIND the Maude Boutique on North College Ave.
6. Hank Kaminsky’s World Peace Prayer Fountain is located just outside the Fayetteville Town Center on the South side of the square. It is not to be missed.
7. Saturday morning: get up early and grab a cup of coffee, walk outside and greet all of Fayetteville as they participate in the quintessential Fayetteville Saturday ritual. Between the flowers and produce, the art and artisans, the pluckers the pups and the people… you’ll have plenty of subjects to photograph.
8. No trip to Fayetteville is complete without a hand-crafted cocktail at Maxine’s. The drinks themselves are photo-worthy, and the mural on the front wall makes an excellent photo backdrop as well. Need a drink recommendation? I highly, highly recommend “The Bell of the Bar.”
Yesterday was “Move-In” Day at UCA. Ethan was up, showered and dressed by the time I got up at 7 a.m. He had already packed his car on Saturday. We poured a travel mug of coffee and were on our way.
Conway is a relatively short 2.5 hour drive, but a misty rain made it seem much longer. We arrived by about 11:30 and located State Hall, checked in with the student staff, and had all of Ethan’s belongings in his room in two short trips.
He didn’t want to “settle in” too much, as his roommate wasn’t scheduled to arrive until 4 p.m. My kind and courteous son wanted to consult with his roommate about furniture placement, etc. We were able to convince him to let Mom and Grandma help make his bed for a quick photograph (or three).
Then it was off to Walmart for a few dorm room essentials (ramen noodles, Crystal Light peach tea, and Command Hooks for hanging artwork on the cinder block walls).
We then met up with big sister Grace, who was helping her boyfriend Colin move to Conway too this weekend. We had lunch at the Dixie Cafe and before long, it was time to hit the road.
A quick selfie in the parking lot to mark the moment, followed by hugs, kisses, “I love yous” and goodbyes.
I had a moment when I was about to tear up, then Gracie gave me the “moola” gesture (I promised her birthday money) so I ran around to my side of the vehicle to grab my checkbook. At that same moment, Genna had just climbed in the backseat and I heard her exclaim, “Alone at last!” That was it. All laughter and smiles, no tears for this mama! So happy/proud/excited for this new chapter for Ethan. Happy that Grace has met such a kind and thoughtful young man who so clearly makes her happy. And happy, too, for Genna. Her 3rd child status is finally paying off!
Inspired by my friend Sarah Daigle, who was inspired by my beach reading posts, I FINALLY picked up and purchased Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Oh. My. Word. Absolutely my favorite book of the year.
I’ve picked this book up at least a hundred times when browsing Barnes and Noble. For whatever reason, the book jacket’s description of the friendship between two Afghani boys and a complicated father-son relationship didn’t grab me. It wasn’t until my friend Sarah told me, “I am reading the Kite Runner and am in love with language use that reads more exotic than American writers and the dialog is poetic,” that I vowed to give it a try. She was right.
Lyrical, haunting, hopeful. A book I will read again and again.
“For you, a thousand times over.”
“There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood.”
“Sad stories make good books.”
“Not a word passes between us, not because we have nothing to say, but because we don’t have to say anything – that is how, it is between people who are each other’s first memories.”
There’s nothing like a week at the beach, unplugged, with sunlight streaming in the windows waking you at 5:30 a.m., to indulge your love of reading.
With the sugar-soft white sands of Seagrove Beach beneath my toes, (and the smart phone smartlyleft behind in the condo), the only item on my daily agenda was to eat, drink, sun and read. With zero Facebook notification interruptions (and zero games of Candy Crush) I managed to devour 5 books during our 6 days on the beach.
Below is a very brief recap of what I read (in order) and what I thought…
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan. My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Details/Topics: I picked this up in the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble and it was worth every penny of the $5.99 price tag. The book weaves together the story of Frances Gerety, the real-life pioneering ad woman who coined the famous slogan “A Diamond is Forever,” as well as 4 other stories of relationships at various stages. I was genuinely surprised by the way the stories tied together at the end. Favorite Quote(s): “I don’t always have to understand the people I love.” “Scars. A sign that you had been hurt. A sign that you had healed.”
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick My Rating: 3out of 5 stars Details/Topics: Another bargain bin selection, but I had extremely high hopes for this one as it was written by the author of Silver Linings Playbook, my favorite book of 2013. It was okay, but definitely didn’t measure up to SLP. Every chapter is a letter addressed to the actor Richard Gere. Let’s just leave it at that. Favorite Quote(s): “Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.”
“God doesn’t do coincidences. You can bet your ass.”
Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer My Rating: 4out of 5 stars Details/Topics: Another bargain bin selection. (Are you sensing a theme?) I had relatively low expectations for this book, but thought it would be mindlessly entertaining – a true “beach read.” I’ll admit I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed meeting these characters and even got a bit choked up at the end. The story is about two little girls – one a privileged child from Manhattan, the other, an “islander” who’s lives with her blue collar single mother year round on Nantucket. The two spend their summers together every year and become the best of friends – “Nantucket Sisters.” Of course their backgrounds complicate their friendships as they get older, as does falling in love – especially WHO they fall in love with.
At this point (day 3 of the trip), I’ve run out of books. Luckily, my niece Sadie had brought a book with her which I quickly snatched up.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd My Rating: 4out of 5 stars Details/Topics: “Handful,” a young girl slave, is given as an 11th birthday present to her Master’s daughter, Sarah Grimke. The story is told with each chapter alternating between the two characters’ perspectives. Handful holds on tightly to her mother’s stories of when their ancestors in Africa had “wings,” while Sarah, aware of the injustices of the time, discovers her own wings as an abolitionist and feminist. Sue Monk Kidd was inspired by the real-life Sarah Grimke. Favorite Quote(s): “If you must err, do so on the side of audacity.”
“She had the look of someone who’d declared herself, and seeing it, my indignation collapsed and her mutinous bath turned into something else entirely. She’d immersed herself in forbidden privileges, yes, but mostly in the belief she was worthy of those privileges. What she’d done was not a revolt, it was a baptism.”
Now I’m out of books again… luckily Genna enjoys one of my favorite genres, Young Adult.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz My Rating: 4.5out of 5 stars Details/Topics: A coming of age story of two Hispanic boys, their friendship, their families, and self-discovery. Favorite Quote(s): “Maybe the problem between me and my father was that we were both the same.”
“Yeah, I had all kinds of tragic reasons for feeling sorry for myself. Being fifteen didn’t help. Sometimes I thought that being fifteen was the worst tragedy of all.”
“Scars. A sign that you’ve been hurt. A sign that you have been healed. Had I been hurt? Had I been healed? Maybe we just lived between hurting and healing.”