Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Memphis in May

Now that I've got some time off, I really think I should pursue a career working for the Memphis Travel Bureau...if there is such a thing.  Knowing that we may not get the chance to live right in the middle of a metropolitan area for awhile, we are embracing downtown life.  There is just so much to do, most of it within walking distance.

The month of May proved to be Memphis's crowning achievement.  The aptly named "Memphis in May" celebration literally lasts the entire month and is full of live music, barbecue, and more music.  It really couldn't be more Memphis.

Despite this year's "flood of the century," we attended as many of the events as possible.  Now that the water has receded and everyone's attention has shifted to the flood waters along the Missouri River, it's a bit late to point out that we remained high and dry in Memphis.  Yes, there were people who were displaced from their homes, but overall, Memphis experienced--in the words of a local paper--a very "family friendly natural disaster."  I'm still kicking myself from missing out on selling t-shirts to all the gawkers who flocked downtown to see the water (I had a design picked out and everything).  The water was pretty impressive...although not impressive enough to wade in it, which is disgusting.  I hope all of those newscasters in their hip-waders got over the rashes/snake bites/dysentery they surely received.

                                           December 2010
May 2011

News crews converge on downtown Memphis, probably because there's more to do than in, say, rural Arkansas

But before all that was the Beale Street Music Festival, held in Tom Lee Park, which is right along the water.  Due to said water, I had to attend the majority of the festival by myself (Jon was busy "floodfighting")--which made it a little bit lame, although I heard some great music.  The line-up was very eclectic, ranging from Jerry Lee Lewis ("Great Balls of Fire") to Ke$ha, but with three stages, it was pretty much a guarantee that there was something to appeal to everyone.  I think our favorite act was John Mellencamp, who's still got it after all these years.

John "Cougar" Mellencamp
The bulk of the flooding occurred after the music fest, which meant that the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest the next weekend would have to be moved away from the aforementioned Tom Lee Park and to the Mid-South Fairgrounds, several miles away.  The organizers changed the theme to "Come Hell or High Water," which was a pretty good description of the dedication demonstrated by all of the competitors.  My brother (an amateur competitor himself), sister-in-law, and niece were in town for the weekend, and we all got a taste of what the contest had to offer.  Except not a literal taste because we didn't know any of the teams and therefore didn't get to try any of their barbecue.

One of the elaborate set-ups at the BBQ Fest
I believe there was a triathlon the following weekend, but since we didn't participate in that, it really doesn't bear mentioning.  The final event of the month was the Sunset Symphony, which included an airshow, a symphony orchestra, a soul band, and fireworks.  Plus, it was moved back to Tom Lee Park along the river.

Anxiously awaiting the music

So, if that doesn't get you excited to visit Memphis, I don't know what will.  Don't let the sweltering heat and oppressive humidity keep you away.

Friday, June 3, 2011

100 Things to Be HAPPY About

Now that I am a full week into my self-funded sabbatical, it is time to reflect on my year teaching 8th grade Language Arts in a large urban district.  Rather than rant and rave about how challenging this year proved to be (because if you've had the "pleasure" of talking to me over the past 7 months, you know how I truly feel), I have decided to focus on the positive.

I started counting down the days pretty early in the year and when I realized there were a mere 100 days remaining back in December, I began to compile a list.  Inspired by a former teacher/current friend and mentor, I borrowed from the book 14,000 Things to Be Happy About by Barbara Ann Kipfer and created my own version.  (Perhaps I should credit Oprah and her gratitude journal or whatever it's called...but she gets enough press as it is.)

I'm not going to share my complete list of 100, just a smattering of ideas.  Like the actual book, my list ranges from serious to frivolous.  The common denominator, however, was that I was able to think of at least one thing that made me happy after a day of frustration.

So, without further ado...100 Things to Be HAPPY About (in reverse order--I was counting down, remember?):

98.  The glow of Christmas lights in a dark room
91.  Checking things off the to-do list
89.  Perfectly ripe bananas with a hint of green on the top
83.  Scoring 66 points in "Words with Friends"
76.  Not being made to feel guilty about plaque at the dentist
74.  Jon's homemade beer
66.  Thinking of Dad
60.  Spontaneous dancing in the kitchen
58.  Library book sales
52.  Not feeling like a tourist
50.  Random Friends references
42.  Wearing flip flops
36.  Bad puns (which are actually good puns)
31.  Going to the grocery store, leisurely strolling down every aisle
27.  Food prepared near the street
20.  Listening to NPR in the car
17.  Jon and I "out-awesoming" each other
13.  Shakespeare in the Park
7.    Tap dancing
1.    Being DONE and DONE!

If for some reason, you are interested in the whole list, I would be happy to share.  However, I think the point is to think of your own list, profound or random as it might be.  I found it helpful to reflect on my blessings even in the midst of a crappy situation.  Insert clich├ęs here:  every cloud has a silver lining, always look on the bright side of life (try to get that song out of your head), Little Mary Sunshine, Pollyanna, etc.