Celebrate: Hug Your Cat Day

In all honesty, I never thought I’d be celebrating Hug Your Cat Day in its truest form: embracing my own feline. However, as luck and love would have it, my husband and I recently adopted an extremely sweet, delightful, spotted kitty named Domino.

Dom is a one-year-old domestic short hair, and it goes without saying (but of course I will), he’s the cat’s meow. ☺️

We are pretty smitten with this kitten (did you expect me to stop), so hugs will definitely be in order all day on this June 4th.

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Love at first sight. Shoutout to KC Pet Project for taking such wonderful care of so many animals and connecting them with forever homes!

Stretchin’, readin’, and settlin’ in at home.

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Oh hai!

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Okay, last one from our pensive feline. Happy Hug Your Cat Day all!

Celebrate: Pizza Party Day

Gimme Pizza! P-I-Z-Z-A. (You know who you are Olson Twins fans.) While many things are negotiable and absolutes are difficult to define, pizza stands supreme (pun intended). Generally, most red-blooded humans enjoy a slice of cheesy, saucey goodness from time to time, or from day to day, if you were like my husband and I earlier this month in New York City. (Quite fitting that Tourism Day and Pizza Party Day fall in May!)

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in the art of NY-style pizza. I would simply like to share a few of the places I’ve been, give some quick recommendations, and make you super eager to order a pie sometime soon.

First, we visited Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village, made extra delectable by the late hour we consumed the pizza and the hilarious comedy show we attended prior to consuming said ‘za. Joe’s is both what you’d want if you had a few too many and what you’d crave for a quick bite with a good pal. Like Pringles, I bet you can’t eat just one (slice).

Second stop on our Tour de ‘Za: Grimaldi’s. I highly recommend walking across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan, with Grimaldi’s set as your reward for successfully dodging hundreds of tourists and getting all of your steps in for the day. Matt and I went with a classic margarita-style pizza and were not disappointed. Although you can add many different toppings, this option enabled us to enjoy the pie in it’s natural habitat, so to speak. Grimaldi’s employs the classic coal-oven style of cooking. Pro-tip: be prepared to wait in line (direct sunlight) and bring cash (no cards accepted).

I find it fitting that the final pizza stop was in Little Italy/Nolita at Emporio. Not typically featured on the “classic” lists of NY-style pizza, this establishment is apparently where celebs go to get a great meal when milling about the Lower East Side. The list of entrees looked amazing, but the pizza was most certainly a stellar place to start. Cooked in a wood oven, the pizza at Emporio is made using top-of-the-line double zero flour. The resulting texture of the crust was quite amazing, enhanced by tangy sauce and gooey mozzarella. (Side note: I highly recommend the Nolita/Noho Food Tour, where you can visit Emporio and many other great neighborhood spots.)

And because we were only in the Big Apple for five short days, the pizza chronicles will continue on in the future! There are still quite a few places to go on my list, and I mean Pizza Day (February 9th) is coming…

On 30

I turned 30 this year. Well, not this year exactly, but within the last year. I know this level of detail is unimportant. It’s as if I’m a five year old, vehemently insisting that “I am five and a half, thank you very much!” Perhaps I’m marking the smaller increments of time because it’s suddenly going by quickly, and I want to measure it, to control it. 

Any age ending in zero seems to invite some level of crisis, celebration, or renaissance. These ages are the ones that prompt special greeting cards and bigger birthday parties. They are the ones that elicit teasing, the ages for which “over the hill” was created. 

The first of the zeros, passed me by without much pomp and circumstance. At 1-0, every birthday was fun, and I greeted every chance for endless attention and copious amounts of sugar with open arms. Well, this may also be true twenty years later. Truth be told, I can’t even remember what I did for my 10th birthday. Were there cards harolding my entrance into double digits? Did I get a new Barbie or (less-desirable) new clothes? Were there clowns, monkeys, and a bouncy house? I don’t know. (But no, I’m sure I would’ve remembered a bouncy house.) What I do know of myself at 10, however, is that I felt joy. I sang. I lit up in the presence of love and merriment. For me, I’d like to remember the big 1-0 as a celebration of the purest kind.

Next, came 2-0. A college sophomore with freshly cut hair and grayish lowlights, I started differentiating myself, albeit ever so slightly, from my family and friends. My two roommates and I would cruise down Snelling Avenue, occasionally rolling down our windows to yell something intended to be completely embarrassing, yet was mildly amusing at best. We’d celebrate birthdays by drinking bubble tea and going to cheap concerts. I traveled to Guatemala that year. I changed my major three times that year. I gave up theater that year. Many mini changes and minor crises that crescendoed into becoming a Resident Assistant on campus, taking on the trials, both physical and emotional of everyone I could…somehow, transitioning from a time of finding myself to losing myself in the problems of others. 

So if 1-0 was celebration and 2-0 was crisis, it would seem, at the dawn of 3-0, I found myself expecting renaissance. 

And on September 25th, a.k.a. my birthday, I began spouting off reflections and mantras accordingly. I had aspirations of seizing the day, embracing my inner warrior, blah, blah, blah. 

At eight months in, although I feel slightly more confident and a bit more self-aware, more than anything, I feel limited. In my 20s, time was on my side. Even if reality and perception didn’t always see eye to eye, I thought that, as I opened up my hands to ideas and experiences, so life would open up to me. At 3-0, however, I’m swapping lofty possibilities with strict time tables; spending little with saving much; waiting for the future with clinging to the present. For the first time, I don’t want to get older. Well, in someways I do. I want the perspective of age, but I don’t want the limits. 

In the next five years, I will have more scans, less eggs, more pains, and a few more wrinkles. My body feels like a hotel lobby, checking new visitors in and long-time guests out with increasing frequency.

For all of us, choice and options are limited as our context changes. Speaking from a privileged place, I know there are many others who have much less say in the trajectory of their days than I. Perhaps, I’m just waking up to this reality in a more tangible way.

And perhaps this realization, however small, is renaissance enough for now. Because it’s okay if doors close. Others may still crack open—just as I knew they would at 2-0, and I can face each with joy I had at 1-0. 

Change is seen as something evil only by those who have lost their youth or sense of humor. – Cookie Mueller

So hello 30s. We will be in each other’s company for a while. I will try not to fight you, and I will try not to blame you. I want to make the most of you, and I don’t want to run from you. Limited I may be, I’m still me at any age. And for now and for every age, that’s enough.

Celebrate: Express Yourself Day

Although I’ve always had an affinity for poetry, I have not penned many verses nor am I well-educated on the topic. In many ways, poetry feels like a lost art to me—sequestered away to lyrics on a page or the occasional public reading.

My Great-Grandmother, on the other hand, adored poetry. She tucked away hundreds of lines and verses into the corners of her memory and could recite her favorites with ease well into her 80s. Any short string of rhymes I can conjure or quick facts on Emily Dickenson I can recall are byproducts of her influence.

This week, in an effort to make space for both celebration and expression (i.e. – Express Yourself Day on March 7th), I wrote a few lines instead of journaling.

Across the Highway

There are places I claim,

but they don’t claim me.

When I left, they left me.

Tried to store both away,

the memories, the momentos. 

Yet time stole me away.

From every lamp post,

from every sunset,

from every cherished thing.

Although I’ve never lived outside of the country or made a cross-country move, the smaller relocations—whether a few states or a few ZIP codes away were rather difficult for me. Because these changes didn’t seem major at first blush, however, I didn’t let myself grieve. I didn’t let myself process. Essentially, I didn’t let myself feel.

At the time of each move, I simply thought the change was more parts excitement than challenge. Try as I might, however, each time I relocated, the feelings slowly came rolling in. Scratch that—they came barreling in.

More often than not, I got angry. I made snarky comments about a picture a friend posted when, in truth, I was hurt because she went out to one of my favorite local haunts, and I couldn’t be there. In this murky, sensitive place, I typically assume the worst in everyone. I feel forgotten and dismissed.

Everytime I move, I vow to handle the transition a little better. I plan to be a little kinder to myself and others. Yet, as a creature of habit, I let the ignore-anger-sadness cycle inevitably ensue.

I wrote these few, meager lines as a way to let myself know it’s okay. It’s okay to hurt, and it’s okay to admit that things are hard. Although we haven’t all experienced the same changes, we all have experienced the sour pill that is transition and that, essentially, is life.

Through connection and creativity, I pray to be more patient with myself and others as life ebbs and flows. And who knows? Maybe a taking a few cues from my Great-Grandma and Emily Dickensen would do me a little good as well.

Taking Ten

Art doesn’t simply happen. Stories don’t write themselves. And lately, I’ve been thinking about my desire to create and the ebbs and flows therein.

Although I’d describe myself as a fairly scheduled, organized person, creative pursuits seem to fall out of mix when I plot out the minutes and hours of my days. Because art is more fluid and abstract in nature, I somehow assume that it just is. It just happens. And I can’t put reins on it, so I just let my mood take control.

However, if I wait for inspiration, for illumination to come to me, I find the proverbial canvas blank, more often than not. So lately, I’ve been thinking of ways to carve out time for art, music, and writing—to take anything I would consider procedurally organic into something intentionally planned.

If I set aside even ten minutes a day to hand-letter a card, to cross stitch, to add content to my blog, to sing in the shower, to journal, the content might not be noteworthy, but the change in my mood might be. It’s not a particularly novel thought, as any pursuit demands time and practice, but I believe all too often we consider output over input–negating the inner benefit creative pursuits provide.

So, this post marks my first #artten. If you’re like me and find yourself saying, “I’m not particularly talented, artistic, or gifted,” yet secretly love and long to create, consider taking ten for art. I’m looking forward to what this new variety of an #everydayholiday will bring!

New City, New Bridges

Happy #bridgeday readers! Admittedly, this might be a bit of a stretch, but I’m going to seize this holiday to share a bit about my recent trip to Atlanta. I mean, I crossed exactly two bridges over the course of this four-day excursion, so it counts, right??

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During the days, weeks, and months before the trip, the most common question I fielded was, “Why Atlanta?” Well, for starters, my mom and I share a tradition of spending Labor Day together. This yearly practice has consisted of travel in one form or another, as we’ve lived anywhere from 400 to 1,000 miles apart. Because plains, trains, and automobiles are major players in our planning regardless, some years we go to one another’s homes, sometimes to another family member’s abode, and sometimes to a brand-new city. Cue Atlanta! (Okay, cost of airfare helped cast the deciding vote in this year’s planning process. And yes, I am aware that Labor Day is in September, but work schedules made October the way to go this year!)

Over the course of roughly four days, we saw many places that are unequivocally Atlanta-eque, while also making time to get off the beaten path a time or two. To that end, one of the first things about Atlanta that surprised and delighted me was its murals.

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According to our segway tour guide (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it–THE best way to see a new city), neighborhoods like Cabbagetown, Inman Park, and others frequently commission artists to fill city streets with eye-catching wall murals. The one above features the classic “butterfly” symbol of Atlanta’s Inman Park. In the upper-right hand corner, you’ll also see a plug for King of Pops. Killer popsicles! I humbly suggest ordering the blackberry lemon ginger pop. Places like this make you dream of frivolous things like suitcase freezer compartments.

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Aaaand, everyone needs a little liquid refreshment, right?? My mom was brave enough to follow my lead a far spell from our downtown hotel to Urban Tree Cidery. After train-ing, busing, and walking, we narrowly dodged a rain shower to grab ourselves each a flight. The seasonal variety, shown above, was a solid collection of tasty apple cider brews. Our MVP? Cheery #3, of the cherry varietel.

Beyond snacking and drinking, we also took in some local jazz and Shakespearean theater. (I take that back, we did munch on peach cobbler and tomato basil soup, respectively, at these establishments.)

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Although commonly and most deservedly visited, Martin Luther King’s gravesite, childhood home, and Ebenezer Baptist Church were historical highlights of our time in Atlanta. Because the MLK National Historic Site is currently undergoing renovations, note that the eternal flame and gravesite are not currently visible. However, sitting inside his church, while listening to King’s prophetic, inspired speeches on repeat, is quite impactful and well-worth the time.

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On our last full day in the city, my mom and I started the day at Olympic Park before heading over to “Share a Coke and Smile,” “Open Happiness,” “Taste the Feeling,” and [insert your favorite slogan here]. In our humble opinion, it was definitely worth the price of admission to try Coca-Cola products from every continent and to sit on the American Idol couch…just for old time’s sake.

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As we approached a trip total of roughly 25 walking miles, we pushed our aching feet over to Ponce City Market for a little shopping and, you guessed it, snacking. One of our best meals of the trip was a simple paneer tikka wrap at Botiwala. Their specialty is Indian street food, and the shop shares the same chef as Chai Pani. Although we didn’t leave with a basket of Georgia-made goods (I mean, we did have more walking to do!), I did sneak up to the forth floor of the market where Stuff You Should Know is recorded to see if I could sneak a peek on my husband’s behalf. Alas, the definitive word “private,” paired with clouded glass, prompted me to turn the other way. And, after a quick video, I did. (Fast fact: Pinterest is also located at Ponce City Market.)

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During our time in Atlanta, we were also able to make our way (aching feet and all) through Jimmy Carter’s Presidential Center and Library just before closing time. The grounds were lovely and peaceful–a very fitting way to frame our 39th president’s time in office, as he was and, still is, a man deeply committed to peace, human rights, and disease eradication.

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After a bit of vegan soul food and several episodes of Gilmore Girls, the Ploeger Girls found themselves on an airplane and back in Kansas City. And this day of bridges, I am so glad to have connected with a new, wonderful U.S. city, while reconnecting with my mother as well. 🙂 Thank you, Atlanta!!

Although I just attempted to end this post with an impressive, abstract mural, I know what you all (or y’all) really want. Alright, alright, here’s a picture of us on segways…

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Wicky-wow, wicky-wow: Vinyl Record Day

From the invention of the first phonograph in 1877 up to the creation of Apple and Google music memberships today, recording and playing music can range from a highly technical, involved process to an unconscious, daily habit. And for those who prefer tickling their ears with the sound of vinyl records specifically, this day is for you!

You may have your dad’s, you may have a refurbished one, or you may have an Urban Outfitters model, but whatever your record player’s origin, you likely swear that certain albums sound best on vinyl.

My own brother, B.J., is one such avid vinyl listener and, for this Everyday Holiday, I picked his brain for a few recommendations of albums he finds are especially good on vinyl:

  • MF Doom — Mm…Food
  • Joy Division — Unknown Pleasures
  • Pixies — Doolittle
  • The Beach Boys — Pet Sounds
  • Pink Floyd — Wish You Were Here
  • The Smiths — The Smiths
  • John Coltrane — Blue Train
  • De La Soul — 3 Feet High and Rising
  • Elliot Smith — Either/Or
  • Led Zeppelin — Led Zeppelin III

As a disclaimer, B.J. did share that this is a small sampling from the records he owns, and there are several more he’d like to check out in the future. (Might I add, after marking the 44th anniversary of the invention of hip-hop yesterday, it’s a stellar weekend to revisit some of your personal favorites or even a brand new album.

Because all celebrations are better with music,

Kelsey