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NOLA: Olivier’s

October 11, 2011 | Traveling

We asked the concierge if she could recommend a nearby restaurant that’s quiet. Quiet? In New Orleans? (I’m sure she wondered, “What is WRONG with these tourists? Who comes to New Orleans for quiet?) She knows her restaurants. She recommended the perfect place, Olivier’s Creole Restaurant.

Except for some fairly loud, very well-dressed girls who showed up after the Hanson concert at the House of Blues (I somewhat expect to get struck by lightning just for writing that), it was very quiet with great drinks and delicious food.

Here’s our waiter, Chris. He looked up how to make a Zombie for us.

Here is that amazing food.

We went back the next day to get pictures outside. What a fabulous place!

Posted by Becky @ 5:15 pm | Comments  

Charming Marie in New Orleans

October 2, 2011 | Blogging,Music,Norway,The Snake Charmers,Twitter

Remember how I took Charming Marie to Norway? Well, I thought I’d take her to New Orleans with me last month. (Yes, that’s a blue cow covered with the Blue Dog.)

But wait! Looky here! There’s Marie … for real! She flew in from Houston for the weekend. I was in NOLA for a journalism conference.

That’s Ricky. He took our picture. Yep, it was game day. The Saints played the Texans.

More pix to come.

Posted by Becky @ 3:32 pm | 2 Comments  

Books: A First-Rate Madness

September 13, 2011 | Books,Politics,TLC Book Tours

I just finished reading A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness by Nassir Ghaemi. I received a review copy from the publisher, Penguin.

When I first got this book, I thought, oh great. Another book about a bunch of dead guys. And it was, indeed, a book about men. It was about some of the most noted leaders in history — Lincoln, Sherman, Churchill, Gandhi, FDR, JFK, MLK and Ted Turner — and how mental illness either hurt or helped them as leaders. And it’s not what you might think.

He argues that a leader who suffers from, say, depression is the best leader during a time of crisis. With such a mental illness, he says, a leader is more likely to have the qualities of realism, empathy, resilience and creativity — all of which are needed to lead others through a crisis.

He also argues that leaders who are mentally healthy — Bush, Blair, Nixon — do more harm than good during crises.

I was skeptical at first. I figured this might be someone with a singular focus into which he wanted to fit this idea. It actually turned out, though, to be the opposite. He had a much more varied background — a degree in history, another in philosophy and another in public health — which helped him see patterns that others would not. A historian, for example, might fail to see the dimensions of mental illness in a subject’s life. Ghaemi, however, was able to draw from all of these aspects of his background to see a subject more clearly and completely.

He asked an important question after discussing Hitler (whose manic-depression was made worse by how and with what he was medicated), “Why not just exclude the mentally ill from positions of power?”

Because, he answered, “… such a stance would have deprived humanity of Lincoln, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Kennedy. But there’s an even more fundamental reason not to restrict leadership roles to the mentally healthy: they make bad leaders in times of crisis — just when we need good leadership most.”

I expected his writing to be dry or somewhat academic, but it wasn’t. He’s engaging and compelling, and the book is a great read. I highly recommend it.

Posted by Becky @ 3:43 pm | 4 Comments  

Closure

September 12, 2011 | Death

We buried Mom’s ashes last weekend and got to spend the day with family, aunts, uncles and cousins. It was a good ending.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 2 Comments  

Litterbug, litterbug fly away home …

September 11, 2011 | Forest City,Iowa

… take all your trash with you and leave us alone.

Otherwise? I’ll find out where you live and dump all my garbage in your front lawn.

I’ve written about this before (two years ago to the day). I really don’t get it. An entire bag of fast-food trash? Really? I’m sure you’re “this” close to home. Why can’t you just hang on to it until you get there and put it in your own trash can? “Litterbug” is actually too nice a word. I prefer “litterpig” or “litterjerkhole.” Just stop throwing trash out your window. Please?

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 4 Comments  

Though I’ve got to say goodbye to the summer …

September 10, 2011 | Forest City,Iowa,Summer

… I’ll send my love to it every day in a letter, sealed with a kiss.

Sigh. No, I’m not ready to say goodbye yet.

Posted by Becky @ 3:32 pm | 4 Comments  

Food: Tomato and Watermelon Salad

August 30, 2011 | Food

I saw this recipe over at Algonquin Books Blog. It’s absolutely delicious! My mother would have loved it.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | Comments  

Garden

August 28, 2011 | Family,Food,Iowa

Our first cherry tomatoes from the garden.

Posted by Becky @ 6:10 am | Comments  

Apple tree

August 27, 2011 | Family,Food,Iowa

Our apple tree is loaded with apples this year. I’ve got to get into harvest mode soon. I might try making apple jelly this year.

What’s your favorite recipe for apples? Pie? Salad? What’s the craziest apple dish you’ve eaten? Let me know. I love new recipes!

This is one of my new favorites from my aunt. We ate these when we were in Missouri. Yum!

Aunt Carolyn’s Candy Apples
Ingredients
4 apples, peeled and sliced
A little water
Red Hots candy
1/2 cup sugar
Cinnamon

Place sliced apples in a skillet with a little water and heat. Cover with Red Hots. Stir only after juice from apples accumulates. Add sugar and cinnamon. Cook until soft.

Posted by Becky @ 10:30 am | Comments  

Books: States of Mind

August 26, 2011 | Books,Brad Herzog,Family,Missouri

I finished reading States of Mind: A Search for Faith, Hope, Inspiration, Harmony, Unity, Friendship, Love, Pride, Wisdom, Honor, Comfort, Joy, Bliss, Freedom, Justice, Glory, Triumph, and Truth or Consequences in America by Brad Herzog when I was on vacation in Missouri.

While I felt on the same page with him in Turn Left at the Trojan Horse, States of Mind — oddly enough — took me even further into my own “state of mind.”

It made me look at my own life and wonder what I’ve done, where I’ve been and where I’m going. It made me think of regrets, and it brought out a little envy.

I mean, the man wrote this book in his 20s. Did I do that? No. (I started research for one in my early 30s, but I obviously didn’t write that book.) He seemed to have such a clear path for his life. Did I? Never. He admitted that he suffered angst from basically a perfect life. Have I? Oh, I wish.

So, here I am. I’m 46. My mother died in January this year. I am the age my father was when he died 27 years ago today, on Aug. 26, 1984. I was 19, and he was 46. It’s a little weird to be 46 now. I wrote about my dad two years ago on the 25th anniversary of his death.

Think about death much? (It probably doesn’t help that I’m reading Sing them Home and Tinkers, both of which have death as a central issue.) No, actually, I’m thinking about life. My life.

Thanks, Brad.

Coincidence abounds again with States of Mind. And not just within the book.

I’d just started the book as I sat alone in a Mexican restaurant, sipping a margarita. I got there before the lunch rush, and the place was empty. Then the host brought in a couple and seated them right beside me. I looked up and smiled, then turned back to my book. The woman wondered aloud what she should order. She looked over at me, asked if the margarita was good and should she order one? She went on to say they were celebrating their anniversary.

“Oh, which one?” I asked.

“Our 54th.” They were in town from Clarion to get her eyes checked. She’d recently had surgery on them and was happy to be able to read again, she said, pointing at my book.

We had a nice chat.

I remembered that chat when I got to page 104 and learned that Chicken Owen of Pride, Alabama, had been married for 54 years. Not 52. Not 58. Fifty-four.

Coincidence.

One of the topics in his chapter on Hope, Mississippi, was desegregation. That’s what I was researching in my 30s when I decided to find the children my father taught in the first desegregated fifth-grade class in Thomasville, Georgia. I might have even been talking to them when Herzog was interviewing Jerome and Ollie May. We learned something similar.

“We often think of desegregation as an end to a moral struggle, when it was, to many closest to it, the beginning of a practical one. Jerome at the Hope Country Store told me he had quit school for a while when the races were mixed, not out of moral indignation but because of the volatile atmosphere it created. … From an entirely different station in life, Ollie May had developed much the same perspective. ‘I remember that this mother let her daughter to go school, and she got beat up and stuff. That’s when they was tryin’ to mix ’em together then,’ she explained. ‘I said if I ever have any kids, if my kids had trouble, I would just take ’em out. I wouldn’t let them go through that, ’cause I didn’t have to.'” (p. 140)

Coincidence.

In the chapter on Friendship, Maine, he wrote this.

“It was then that I realized what I admired so much about Bill and Caroline Zuber. They were in control of their lives. They had taken it upon themselves to define the moment. It was a concept that became the credo of our cross-country tour and, indeed, a blueprint for our future, so much so that Amy and I turned the journey into a search for a home, setting lofty criteria for the life we wanted to live and looking for an environment that would meet them. … Too many people I know — and these are young people, people with options — seem to settle for entrenched mediocrity, merely tolerating their day-to-day existence. A few even seem to revel in their misery, the late hours or cold winters or tyrannical bosses or shunted dreams. They trudge through fifty weeks of tedium to enjoy two weeks of reprieve — maybe three weeks, if they’re lucky enough to get a promotion. The Zubers decided to make life a vacation.” (p. 277)

That right there? That’s when I wished I could have 25 back and create an organized blueprint for the future, which is where I am now. My “future” is full of late hours and cold winters. I want life to be a vacation. How do I get that? Do I still have options?

Well. Let’s ask Hemingway.

“. . . I thought of Hemingway, of a passage in Death in the Afternoon: ‘There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things, and because it takes a man’s life to know them, the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.'” (p. 296)

Or, you know, a woman.

But I don’t know.

Maybe I was meant to struggle to learn the important things in life. Maybe I would have learned nothing if I’d had a perfect, non-chaotic life. I mean, I’ve lived through some difficult times, but I also have some amazing memories. You can see some of them on my post from last January, A decade: Are you reelin’ in the years? I wouldn’t trade the memories behind any one of those pictures for a less chaotic life. Not even for a second.

So, yeah, there’s still the issue of long hours and cold winters. But I’ll figure that out. I always do.

Anyway. This book isn’t about me. But I want authors to know how their words can affect readers. Oh, heck. They probably know that because they’re readers, too. In any case, someone else will read this and come away with a whole different experience.

And y’all should read this book.

I highly recommend reading Brad Herzog. He’s a wonderful listener and a gifted storyteller.

Oh and P.S.: While I was reading States of Mind in Missouri, I passed a building with HERZOG in big letters. I’d never seen it before, even though I’ve been to St. Joseph to visit my aunt and uncle many times over the years. I’d also never heard of the name until I picked up Turn Left at the Trojan Horse. I wondered if maybe there were a whole mess of Herzogs living there. But, nope. Listed in the telephone book was just Herzog Contracting Corp. and a Wm. R.

Posted by Becky @ 1:36 pm | Comments  


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