Talk20 Hutch and Connections

talk2020140124-283wbobcolladayI’m passionate about connecting people and ideas, and that often happens through story. In fact, almost everything I do in my personal and professional life is about building connections. I’m certain this is how we make the world better,

One of the things I’ve been a part of creating that exemplifies community connection is Talk20 Hutch. We just had our fourth installment Friday night and it was spectacular, as always.

The concept is that 10 people tell a story using 20 photos and each one is shown for 20 seconds. The slides are on a timer and just keep going, so the presenters have to, too. Each presentation is a little over six minutes.

This is a community project a friend, Kari, and I started. Actually, we weren’t friends when it began – we didn’t even know each other. But a mutual friend, Kate, thought we should, and asked us both to get together and meet. Kate wasn’t in town, so Kari and I met on our own. I’m always thrilled to do that. In fact, it’s how I first met Kate. She said people kept telling her that she should get to know me and she asked if I’d meet her for coffee. It was great to connect with her and it was great to connect with Kari through her a few years later.

Anyway, over coffee, Kari was telling me various ideas she had for things she’d like to see in Hutchinson. One of them was Talk20. She had been a presenter where she had lived before moving back to Hutchinson. As soon as she explained the concept, I said, “Oh! I love that! We should do that, and we should do it at the library!” I was excited by the possibilities.

Well, things went along for a few months with both of us thinking about potential presenters and Kari, who had just moved here when we first met got settled in. She messaged she was ready to proceed. I asked the director at the library to meet with us. Kari asked if I thought he would be willing. I replied I was 99.99% sure. We explained to Gregg what we wanted to do and with no hesitation he said, “Yes! Lets do it!”

So, we began planning. That was in October, 2013. We did our first Talk20 in January, 2014. We expected 75-100 people. We had about 150. People were standing in the auditorium hallway, sitting on the floor and leaning on the walls. But people stayed. Because hearing people talk about their passion is intoxicating. Forty people have now stepped up to the microphone and shared their story.

201501 talk20The next time we moved downstairs for more room. The library rented chairs, a screen, a sound system, etc. We simply could not have done it without their generous support.

The fact that Talk20 Hutch exists is a testament to the power of connection. In addition to all the library does, downtown Hutchinson has supplied gift certificates, and my friend, Greg, has recorded all the presentations so they’re available for viewing on the website later. We have a core group of vocal supporters who help spread the word, and The Hutchinson News has been very generous with pre and post stories each time.

Although it’s a tiny ripple, by creating this community event, it has created business for others. Not only does the library rent equipment to make it possible, but we have an after party each time, creating a situation where people are gathering and buying food and drink. Most of all, we’re giving people the opportunity to make more connections with community members by attending. There’s a magic about that.

People often ask who’s putting Talk20 on, and the truth is that it’s Kari and me who are organizing the night and Gregg who is making it possible for it to happen. Talk20 has no budget – it’s the lamp from my desk that illuminates the podium and Kari’s laptop that’s running the presentations. This is a labor of love. The library is making it all possible from the chair people are sitting in to the screen they’re watching. 

Talk20 is an example of what can be done when ideas and people connect. But it has to start somewhere. If Kari and I hadn’t both been open to meeting someone new at the suggestion of a mutual friend, this wouldn’t have come to be. And if we hadn’t taken action beyond that it would have just been a nice chat over coffee.

You have ideas and people that need connection, too. They’re waiting for you to build those bridges.

I’m so thankful for the talent, time, energy, enthusiasm and connection of all the folks who’ve made Talk20 happen!

Some of our spectacular presentations:
Ann Richardson – Autographed Handkerchiefs
Julie Black – Creativity
Jason Probst – Going Viral

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History is Made – Supreme Court Rules on Marriage Equality

This is what history feels like. Today, one of the most important Supreme Court decisions in my lifetime was handed down. Same-sex couples are entitled to marry just like anyone else, and have their marriages recognized in all 50 states.

Kansas, where I live, was one of the few remaining state that prohibited gay marriage. As of today, it is the law of the land that everyone has the same rights when it comes to marriage.

I’m not sure how long it will take for me to stop saying “gay” marriage and just call it marriage. I think it’s going to take awhile because over the last few years I’ve said “gay marriage” many thousands of times, I’m sure.

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This morning when I saw the notices on Facebook of the court’s decision, I asked if anyone wanted to go to dinner tonight to celebrate. Eventually we ended up with 20 people, 22 including another couple that decided to come last minute and couldn’t sit with us because we couldn’t add any more tables, but did get to come and visit. It was a great group. I wanted to be with like-minded people tonight.

I was in tears multiple times today, just from the emotion of seeing something I believe to only be fair and right come to fruition. I thought the decision would go this way, but I was relieved when it did, nonetheless.

Tonight I passed around a journal and asked everyone to write something about the struggle, what today meant, or anything else they’d like to share. I didn’t read it until I got home because I knew it would make me cry. It did. I am constantly flabbergasted at what my gay and lesbian friends have suffered. Just as I will never know what it would be like to walk around in darker skin, I will never know what it feels like to be shunned only because of who I love.

Often criticized for his flowery writing, Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, and his style was perfect for this occasion.

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No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgement of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered.

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Of course, not everyone is happy. One of my Facebook posts today acknowledged that:

There are people I love who are not sharing my joy today at the ruling on gay marriage. None of those people will be hateful, for which I am thankful. I hope eventually you’ll see this day as a time when our union became a little more perfect, a little more equal, a little better for ALL of us. But, even if you don’t, I’ll keep on loving you. Because ‪#‎lovewins‬ in all circumstances.

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But, despite that, it’s a happy day, a historic day. This is one of the great moments in our nation’s history when something that should be obvious is made the law of the land. Yesterday the Affordable Care Act was upheld by the court. Today gay marriage. If the supreme court had a fan club, I’d join this week.

I would like to see everyone on the right side of history, but if that were possible, there wouldn’t be these issues. Some will always insist on being the Bull Conner’s of the world. With social media they have a bullhorn of a different sort. But the difference today is that we ALL have that bullhorn.

Tonight the White House is lit with rainbow colors. Obama was so eloquent today about the decision.

I am also happy that Obama is getting vindicated. I cried the night he was elected, too. I was so overcome with emotion, with a feeling that we were turning in the right direction. I have that same feeling today. And in his years in office we have healthcare and now marriage equality, both of which will eventually be considered the norm.

I realize there will come a time when people say, “gay marriage, what do you mean?” And we will have to explain that there was a time gay people were not allowed to be married. We will have to explain that there was a day when that changed. Today was that day.

This is what history feels like. Sometimes America gets it right. ‪#‎lovewins‬

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Time to Reconnect

I was able to have lunch with my friend, Jon, today. We hadn’t seen each other in months. I’ve been missing him.

Lunch with a friend is one of my great pleasures in life. I think maybe because I grew up where such things just weren’t really possible because it was the country, I still love that. There’s something magical about sharing food and conversation with people.

As always, we had a wide-ranging conversation, including the state of politics in Kansas at the moment which is sad, to say the least.

Then I spent the afternoon at a client’s house and have been working on various projects since I got home. It seems I spend a tremendous amount of time at the computer!

I did finish up a couple of things that had been languishing, so that was nice. This is one of them.

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Celebrating

2015-06-08 19.33.54Tonight a friend and I went to Mulvane to eat dinner at Luciano’s Restaurant. Luciano moved to Kansas for love and opened a restaurant with his family’s recipes. I did a story about him a few years ago for a magazine and it’s a neat story. Apparently it’s very difficult to open a restaurant in Italy because of the necessary permits and such. So, it worked out for everyone.

I tried the Pasta Carbonara, and it was good, but I think next time I’ll have something with the red sauce. I had red sauce last time I was there and I missed it this time. My friend had red sauce tonight. He let me have a taste and I was reminded of how extraordinary it is.

Tomorrow is my friend’s birthday, and I wanted to celebrate my fourth year being self-employed, so it worked out to celebrate both. We had a lot of great conversation about all things writing as well as a few other topics.

Then there was creme brulee. What else needs be said?

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Anniversaries and Celebrations

20150502-022edtwToday marks my four year anniversary of being self-employed. Of course, like many businesses, it didn’t start out so cleanly.

I was doing a lot of freelance work, in addition to my fulltime position at the Cosmosphere doing PR. About six months earlier I had started thinking about quitting and trying to make a go of it doing only freelance work, but – let me be honest here – I didn’t have the guts. I was doing all the freelance I could – there just wasn’t any more time to devote to it. But, I was hesitant to leave the comfort of a full time job.

Then on June 8, 2011, I was called into the CEO’s office at the Cosmosphere and told my job had been eliminated and that it would be my last day. I was in shock. We’d just done a huge, successful event. They had just hired someone to raise money. They had hired an ad agency to handle the marketing. I felt like I would finally be able to concentrate again on the things I’d been hired to do – PR, social media, etc. But, instead I was told they were giving all that to the ad agency and events to the new hire.

When something like this happens, people surprise you. Some in one direction, some in another. As soon as I posted the news, I got a phone call from my friend, Kristine. We were working on a project together and had agreed that we’d each take $1000, and use $1000 for the materials for the project. We had agreed that I’d be paid at the end of the project, which was fine. We were about one-third of the way through it.

When I answered the phone, what I heard was, “It’s Kristine. I just read your message. Do NOT take another job before you talk to me.” We made plans to get together the next day. When I arrived, she handed me a check and said, “I want to go ahead and pay you now. I trust you to complete the project.” I thanked her and told her it wasn’t necessary – that I had some money in the bank. She insisted I take the check. “I don’t want you to be financially stressed in any way and take a job you won’t be happy in,” she said. “I think you’ll be happiest working for yourself.” I was sure she was correct about that, and was hoping it would all work out that way, but had no idea then what was going to happen.

20140915-901wHer kindness, unexpected and unbidden, is a gesture I will never forget. It was a perfect example of someone putting themselves in your shoes. Plus, it wasn’t about the money, it was about her belief that all was possible. She had faith – enough for both of us.

Things at the Cosmosphere continued to change. Within a few months the ad agency had been let go. Not too long after that the CEO was gone. By now the development person is also gone. And the Cosmosphere is just as cool as it ever was. It’s a wonderful place with some great, dedicated people who work there. I have nothing but love!

For the next few weeks I tried to help in any way I could, to the point that friends were saying I was being *way* too generous. But, I always like to do what’s best for the organization and be as kind to everyone as I can in the process. The Cosmosphere is such an incredibly neat place, and we are so fortunate to have it in town, I would never have wanted to do anything that would harm it in any way. I’m thankful for my time there. It was a very cool job, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have some really cool jobs!

Although I was upset that day by the shock, I knew it was meant to be. When I did my exit interview, the person said, “You don’t seem very upset.” “This is one of those ‘everything happens for a reason’ situations,” I said. And I meant it. Even though I was still distraught at the unexpected nature of the situation.

I didn’t miss that it was like God was looking down saying, “Girlfriend, I’ve been trying to help you. But you are just too dense to get it. Job keeping you from going out on your own? No problem. I got that taken care of.”

That day while I was cleaning out my office – no easy task because I personalize any space I inhabit, so there’s always some packing to do – some people stopped by to say goodbye. I so appreciated the CEO writing an email that day, telling people my position had been eliminated and that it wasn’t because of anything I had done or not done. It was nice. It gave people permission to talk to me. Some did. Some didn’t. That’s how these things go.

It was the height of the recession and although I did do a lot of hunting for a traditional job, there wasn’t much to be found. Meanwhile I just kept doing what I was doing, and my client list built up with some incredible people and organizations doing fantastic things. I am so, so, so fortunate. By the time unemployment ran out (the first time in my life I’d ever had that!), I was sure I’d be able to make a go of it.

I feel so incredibly fortunate. Most of those clients are ones I still work with. Every client I work with is doing something I believe in, and creating things that astonish me. They are all dedicated and I’m honored to be a little part of their success.

For the first time I’m going to mark the occasion with a nice dinner out with a friend. I feel so blessed. It’s worth celebrating!

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Sue Monk Kidd at Watermark Books

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Sue Monk Kidd spoke in Wichita Thursday night. She was at Watermark to promote her new book, “The Invention of Wings.” It is a story of the “Struggle in the human spirit for freedom,” she says. It is historical fiction based on Sarah Grimké, an abolitionist who was born into a slave-owning family in the 1830s.

Kidd says she has always been interested in these topics. “Gender and race matter deeply to me,” she says. She is a product of the south of the 1950s and 60s and says she graduated in the first integrated class at her high school. “I feel a responsibility to be a witness to it,” she said.

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She said her hope is that the reader will feel this story, to feel enslaved and to feel women with very few rights. Her favorite line in the novel is, “Press on, my sisters.” She said she was reminded of the Julius Lester quote, “History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another’s pain in the heart our own.”

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Asked about the conversation she has had about slavery while on tour, she said it was still a very difficult topic. “Slavery is ground zero for racism,” she says. And it’s hard for people to discuss it, to accept what it means in our history. “Slavery is America’s original sin,” she said. “It is an American wound.”

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Kansas Poet Laureate Wyatt Townley Spoke at the Hutchinson Public Library

20150227 091wKansas Poet Laureate Wyatt Townley spoke at the Hutchinson Public Library Friday, February 27.  Townley’s theme was “Coming Home” to poetry. Her presentation weaved together the words of many poets, including Langston Hughes, William Stafford, Emily Dickinson, Tess Gallager, Billy Collins and others.

She encouraged people to memorize poetry. She said when she started her journey as poet laureate she realized she knew everyone’s poems except her own. She says she is always working on memorizing something these days.

“You will always have it. It will house and shelter you,” she says about poems you carry in your memory. “Come home to poetry,” she said. “Let poetry come home to you. Poetry’s porch light is always on.”

Townley said people often get bogged down in wondering what a poem means and she says that’s not the way to approach it. She says no one knows what poems mean, including the poets.

She said her favorite explanation of what poetry is comes from Emily Dickinson. “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” She says poetry is nothing to solve, but something to experience. Townley says one of poetry’s greatest gifts is consolation. “Poetry renders our solitude communal,” she says..

One of the parts of her presentation that spoke most directly to me was about finding beauty in life. She related a story Kim Stafford had told her about his maternal grandmother. She was having a very difficult pregnancy and the doctor prescribed an hour of beauty a day. Townley said she thought that was brilliant and encouraged those gathered to devote at least a few minutes every day to beauty – that it would be life-changing. Stafford’s grandmother, of course, was able to bring that baby into the world and the baby eventually became the wife of poet William Stafford and the mother of Kim Stafford.

Wyatt Townley is a widely published, nationally known poet and a fourth-generation Kansan. Her work has been featured on National Public Radio’s “The Writer’s Almanac” with Garrison Keillor, in US Poet Laureate Emeritus Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry” column, and published in journals ranging from “The Paris Review” to “Newsweek.” She has published three collections of poetry: “The Breathing Field” (Little Brown), “Perfectly Normal” (The Smith), and “The Afterlives of Trees” (Woodley Press), a Kansas Notable Book and winner of the Nelson Poetry Book Award.

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The Myth of the Power of Young

Often in the last few years I’ve been involved in conversations where “young” has been extolled as the most virtuous and sought-after quality for a group, project or organization. This is often said in a group that includes me and two or three other people who do not fit the very quality of “young” that is being sought. As best I can tell, we are supposed to be flattered that we are “included” in the young discussion and have no concerns that when we’re not present the things that are being said about other people over 30 who are not currently present are not being 20130117-033wsaid about us when we’re not around. You’ll forgive me if I’m skeptical of that.

I believe age to be no more an indication of the quality of someone’s character and worth than their skin color. I have grown incredibly weary of this infatuation with only wanting the input of the “young,” however that is defined.

My reaction these days is to simply walk away from whatever project it is. It’s the same mentality as a racist would exhibit – being judged on an arbitrary factor that has no real bearing on how valid a person’s input is. I’m not comfortable with that. At all.

You’re essentially telling me that my ideas and my input are not welcome because I’m over 30 or whatever cut-off you’ve set for “young.” And when you, yourself, reach 30 or 40 or 50 or whatever it is, will you then step aside because your ideas are no longer valid? That is the question I can never seem to get a real answer to. That’s when it’s mentioned that anyone is welcome to the group. Of course, that’s not really true for groups that have an age cutoff until it applies to their members who have reached that age cutoff.

This “young” conversation happened on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week in different groups about different topics, although there was some overlap. On two of those days, I was taken aback by the public berating of people who were not in attendance and deemed to be not “young” and therefore not valid. Goodness knows I’ve been guilty of that from frustration before, too. And this situation offers much opportunity for frustration, including from me, too. But, I hope I remember how unflattering it is the next time a situation arises when I’m tempted to air my grievances in a public setting. My frustrations in one of these cases has nothing to do with age, and I bit my lip to keep from sharing. It would have been cathartic, to say the least. But I’m not sure it would have served any real purpose.

It caused me to reflect on each of these circumstances, and I realized that in every case the things that have been created, that are thriving, that are inspiring people to want “young” people involved – all of them were created by people over 40 – most by people over 50. None of the “young” people who are so desperately sought have created a meaningful product. Some have done it in conjunction with someone else with more age and connections, but none by themselves. Forgive me for being results oriented, but what is the point, then? Why not just seek people who are inspired and passionate and enthusiastic regardless of their age? What is “young” bringing to the finished product? I contend it’s not “young” that’s bringing anything of value, but it’s the character and passion of the person who may or may not be “young.”

I’m afraid that most of what I have heard in the last few days were complaints about young people not being involved in the things created by others. And, yet, the last time I was involved on the board of one of these organizations and a “young” person was added to the board she was downright rude to the director and the rest of the board in trying to push through her ideas, many of which had gaping holes of logic in them. When it was suggested we investigate possibilities of some of her thoughts, she threw a little hissy fit and stormed out. I was not impressed. She was well-respected locally for being a “young” go-getter. Sorry, but this is not the way to get things done.

What she accomplished was made that board very, very, very hesitant about ever inviting anyone else like her onto the board. And I can’t say I blame them. Guess what? They don’t want input from “young” people now. So you wonder why you can’t get them interested in welcoming you? Thank those who pushed getting a “young” person onto the board in the first place with no thought to whether or not the person had anything of value to contribute. Those pushing “young” people created a circumstance where it’s far less likely to ever happen again because the only quality they deemed important was age. Is that fair? No. But it’s as fair as just wanting a “young” person in the mix. You got what you wanted. The experience was incredibly negative. It will take a lot of effort to overcome that.

Sometimes people who’ve been around for awhile know something won’t work because they’ve been down that road. I’m always up for trying new things that make sense. I’m not interested in going down a dead end I’ve already traveled. And I’m unclear why you’d want to try and do it if there’s valid evidence it isn’t workable. If there’s a new idea, lets go for it. If it has already failed, why keep banging our heads? Lets find a different way.

I’ve been serving on boards since I was in my 20s. As I have gotten older, I have tried to be a mentor to young people who wanted to be involved in the community. Some are better suited than others. Just as some 60 year olds are better suited than others.

It’s always wonderful to partner with people on projects who come from different backgrounds and have different circles of people to draw from. One factor in that may be age, but it’s only one factor. Why get so bogged down in it? It’s the same as saying I only want to partner with blonde people.

Being “young” does not automatically mean a person has good ideas. Being older does not automatically mean a person has nothing to offer. Judging people based on age is exactly the same as judging them based on their race – it’s meaningless. It’s not a flattering position to be in – for anyone – of any age.

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Winter Strawberries by Pat Mitchell and a Sneak Peek of the Reno County Museum Exhibit

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When I took the painting off the wall I spotted the words I had forgotten were there. “Winter Strawberries” in my friend, Pat’s solid, sturdy, printed letters.

20150208 049wThis painting has hung above my living room mantel for almost 14 years, the entire time I’ve lived in my house. I removed it recently to loan it to the Reno County Museum for an exhibit they’re doing about my dear friend, Pat Mitchell. Pat was a local historian, artist, collector and all around creative person.

She painted this from a photograph she took of the tea table at her Little Bigger Studio when she was having me and our friend, Sondra, down for tea. The three of us gathered re20150208 019wgularly for tea. I treasure those memories.

I teased Pat about the strawberries in the tablecloth, saying it would have been easier to paint a solid color table cloth. She laughed and said there wasn’t any challenge in that.

In 2001, I was in Kentucky with my mom who was very ill when I got a phone call telling me that Pat had been found dead in her home. It was the only time someone has ever seriously asked me if I was sitting down before delivering news. She had died of an apparent heart attack, long before her time. She didn’t even get six decades on this Earth, but she did so much in the years she had.

She was a true r20150208 016wenaissance woman. In addition to being a fine artist, she was an exceptional historian. She created what is known locally as “The Hutch Files,” cataloging and cross referencing many thousands of newspaper articles. She published two books featuring historic postcards. She wrote and created so many things it’s impossible to name them all.

20150208 001wAside from her presence and spirit, which were her greatest offerings, the gifts Pat offered to those of us lucky enough to call her friend were always personal and lovely. One Christmas she gave me an ornament on which she had painted the house where I lived at the time. One birthday she gifted me with a painting of me with my cat. Aside from events, it wasn’t unusual for an average day to bring something in the mail, such as her father’s oatmeal cake recipe written out in her trademark penciled printing. They weren’t “things,” they were little bits of Pat manifested in things she could share even when her presence wasn’t possible. She taught me the wisdom of sharing personal gifts.

This painting had always hung in Pat’s home or studio, and I had always loved it not only because of the subject matter, but because it was a tangi20150208 018wble reminder of a moment Pat, Sondra and I had shared.

After my mother’s death, less than a month after Pat’s, I returned to Kansas and Sondra and I began to process the losses we felt. We were sitting in her back room, drinking tea and talking about Pat when she said, “I want that painting she did when she was having us for tea.”

Once I knew Sondra wanted it, I immediately decided to not say a word about wanting it myself. Sondra, being an action person, got up and went to the phone and called Pat’s son and left a message she’d like to buy the painting. He called back in a short while and generously offered to give it to her. He and his family were headed out, but said they would leave it on the porch for us. Sondra and I jumped in the car, drove about 30 minutes to his house, where w20150208 017we retrieved the painting, the teapot and the sugar and creamer set.

It was then that Sondra told me she had gotten the painting for me. That she knew I loved it and she wanted me to have it. Needless to say, I was touched.

So, that’s how Winter Strawberries came to live with me. It is not only a daily reminder of Pat’s creativity and friendship, but how generous people around you can be just because they’re wonderful people. I’m forever grateful to Pat’s son, Terry, to Sondra, and to Pat’s spirit that this beauty graces my life and reminds me of a treasured friendship.

Today I dropped off a couple of additional items to loan the museum for the exhibit. The curator reminded me it was Pat’s birthday – February 20.

They are just starting to put together the exhibit and gave me a little preview. It’s going to be amazing. I’m so thankful they are honoring her memory and so happy I can share some of the beauty Pat brought into my world.

Now… a little sneak peek of the exhibit!

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P is for…

20150209-010wA few years ago my friend, Matthew, and I decided to visit the Printing Museum in Peabody, Kansas. In reality, we just decided to go to Peabody, and everything else that happened came about as a result of that decision.

We found ourselves peering into the locked door of the printing museum on a Saturday morning. Before long, a woman across the street asked if we were interested in seeing the museum. We said, “yes,” and a few minutes later a man came and unlocked the door so we could look around. She had called him, telling him he had customers.

We looked at the various items, many of which are no longer in use anywhere, and I bought this piece of type as a reminder. P is for Patsy. P is for Peabody.

We also went down to the library – one of the few Carnegie libraries in Kansas still in use as a library. It’s a beautiful building and they have a treasure in the basement – some of the original books that were seed books for every Carnegie Library.

These little bits and pieces of life remind me of moments. Matthew and I were blessed to share many times together. This was one of those ordinary days that we often long to have more of when it’s no longer possible.

Appreciate yours.

P is for perfection. P is for possibilities. P is for passing time. P is for people you love.

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