Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December 29th, 2009

Sad Brad Smith

I never want to get away from approaching
complete strangers and letting them know that
they are adding to my happiness--that is my main
objective in keeping this blog.
But I so loved this imperfect song as soon as I heard it
during a movie last night. I've been singing it all
day. All day.

Take the time to take apart each brick that sits outside your heart
And look around you
There's people everywhere
No they don't know, in short they're just as scared
and we'd be more prepared if we just hold on through

Monday, December 28, 2009

December 27th, 2009

Decisive People in Battery Park, Richmond

While on a self-guided walking tour of Richmond's Northside,
we came across this sign.
There were even spotlights to illuminate it after dark.
At first, I thought it seemed very negative.
I mean, hey, it's a pretty big flat-out NO.

But then I started to think about how it is not always bad to say NO. And stick to it. Stick to it in the kind of erecting-a-lit-up-sign-kind of-way. I'm not talking about being stubborn, or mean, or selfish. I'm not talking about passing up a trip down the hill on the sled,
or a trip to the beach in your bathing suit.

I'm thinking about saying no to making promises you can't keep.
Say no to counting how many Christmas cookies you ate
(or will eat today and tomorrow).
Decline to engage in the latest gossip.
Pass up comparing what you create against what someone else created.
Say no to being defined by that dent in your car, or that scuff in your shoe.
Refuse to be small.
Withhold judgement until you know the whole story--or even after you know the whole story.
Reject the voice that tells you to give up.
Say no to setting your alarm for Saturday morning.
Turn down an offer from someone who will expect too much in return.
Avoid foie gras.
Resist taking yourself for granted.
Don't stay at work past 5:00 if you have fresh vegetables waiting for you at home.
Fight every insecurity.
Challenge every fear.

Put your NO sign up. With lights.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

December 25th, 2009


Merry Christmas!

December 21st-December 24th


For the first time in my life, I got to take a road trip
with the greatest traveler I know, my brother Paul.

We drove to Ohio and West Virginia to visit family for the holidays.

We listened to stories.

We told stories.

He told some pretty tall tales.

We played games.

And we wept.

It was an amazing journey. I will never forget it.

Merry Christmas, Paul.

December 20th

Alice and Grandma
My sweet Aunt Alice was my home base this trip.
She had great food, plenty of wine, a thoughtful husband,
her usual laugh,
two great daughters, old family videos,
warm blankets, fluffy towels, and all the
air I wanted for my mattress.
My grandmother will be 92 years old in January and
was very, very happy to have everyone together
if only for a day.

December 19th, 2009

The Ferrell Pack!

Greg, Carrie, Jasmine, Becky

The whirlwind of family visits started here.
With bearclaws and bagels.
These people confirmed for me that it might be
fine to never figure out what you want to do for work.
I also learned that my Aunt Becky used to drive a
Leggs Pantyhose truck around for a living.
That was before she taught at the prison.

Carrie and I concur that we might not want to work at all.

We talked about my grandfather (who would have been
celebrating his birthday on this day).

We cut through the ridiculousness of
having only one pastry.
And Carrie kept bringing me coffee.

Jasmine just listened to all of us. I think she's probably
the only 13-year-old in the world who knows
exactly what she wants to do. She's smart like that.

December 18th, 2009

I drove from Richmond, VA to Columbus, OH for these.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

December 17th, 2009


Here is Brendan handing me my old
canvas tote bag that goes everywhere with me.
In it is my journal that contains a few lines from
everyday life, everyday, over the last 8 years.

I left it in a rental car yesterday and cried myself
to sleep last night thinking about where it might be.
On the phone this morning Brendan said, "Well, it's right here."

It's right here. Whew.

December 16th, 2009


Very LONG story kind of short..

Little girl (Alyssa) is eligible for a Make-a-Wish.
Wishes for 4 years in a row that Ty Pennington
will come right on over and re-do her family's home.

Make-a-Wish can't really promise Ty.
"Is there anything else?"

But after seeing the SpectroMagic parade and
lit up princesses at
Disney, Alyssa decides that going
to that magic might be worth everything.

And, after four years, she gives up on Ty and the home makeover.

Her family starts planning a trip to Disney.
Then Alyssa gets admitted into the hospital.
But she gets better.
Her mom and dad ache from sleeping in chairs.

Her dad in particular.
If fact, he feels awful.

It's because he has appendicitis!
Alyssa on one floor, her dad on the other.
The trip to Disney up in the air.

After a couple of their vehicles break down,
and it rains for three days,
and Alyssa's IV lines blow
several times,
everyone gets better!

And then they leave for Disney.

Right on time.

Happy ending!

Not so fast.

While all of this was going on,
the town of Mechanicsville, VA
was planning the sneakiest, fastest
extreme home makeover ever.

Before the Orlando-bound plane ever left the ground,
PODS were delivered, the house was emptied,
movers, plumbers, tilers, painters, and carpenters
flocked from near and far.

Old carpet was torn out, new tile layed.
Shiny new appliances. Check.
Pretty, pretty paint. Check.
New furniture. Check.
Deck built in 1/2 day? Check.
Vehicles repaired. Check.
Box of tissues placed in every room
so that the family can cry their way
through the house when they get home tonight.

This project moved me to tears. I started crying as soon as
I rounded the corner
yesterday to deliver some small things to the house
and saw the street FULL of work trucks. I cried again when I
saw people in every single room of Alyssa's house, busy, busy, busy
making her wish come true.

The masterminds behind this don't want to be
highlighted here. I already asked them.
They said that they don't deserve the praise.

I'll tell you this, though. In Mechanicsville, this is what Ty Pennington looks like:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 15th

Ms. Flugelhorn

The Salvation Army bell ringers
are stepping it up.

This lady (and I am really embarrassed
that I introduced myself to her but did
NOT ask her name) made going to Kroger
tonight a delightful stop on my way home.

December 14th, 2009


While I was busy
being petty and cranky,
Jared was wondering
who my person of the day
might be.

I love this kind of motivation.

Jared, I will try not to miss another day.

Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

December 13th, 2009

You. And you. And you. And you. And you. And you. You. You, too. Yes, you. And you.

What a day I have had. The December 11th post took me about an hour to write (after thinking about it for two days). Making notes, crossing things out, cutting and pasting whole sections. Constantly hearing the VERY LOUD voice that says, What are you doing? You can't make sense of anything for yourself, let alone for others who don't even know you. Why don't you go do another load of laundry or something that you know how to do. No one reads this. You KNOW that the little counter on the bottom counts the times you read YOUR OWN blog. What are you doing?

I kept at it somehow to honor my gratitude for Debra, Roz, and everyone else who has ever realized they have the power to change fate by simply being kind right on time.

It was as good as it was going to get. And I posted it. I posted it with the crappy picture of Debra's card, with whatever grammatical errors there might have been, and with the funky (stupid) spacing issues that come with writing on Blogger.

Then I did some laundry and other things I know how to do.

Then I went out with my son and his girlfriend. We did what I wanted to do first (walked around Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and looked at all the Christmas lights). And then we did what he wanted to do (have a few beers at Buffalo Wild Wings surrounded by 432 televsions all tuned to different stations). When I got home, I sat down at my computer and read my story. I don't know if it was the Christmas lights in the garden or the beer at Buffalo Wild Wings, but I started crying.


I am not a writer. For me, writing is much like drinking--at the time it seems so FUN and liberating, and AWESOME, and maybe you'll make some new friends this way, and sometimes you can even convince yourself that tequilla tastes delicious! Woooo-hooooo! But then morning comes and you have throw up in your hair and you hope beyond hope that it is your own throw up and that you are in bed alone and you wonder REALLY? Really?

So I was reading my story and thinking REALLY?

And then you chimed in. I started getting messages from all of you. So sweet. I am blown away by the kindness of your notes and comments today. Humbled.

Thank you. You have made my writing hangover bearable.

December 12th, 2009

John Watson (Buzzy)

Buzzy just finished his last semester as an undergrad.
His facebook status today said:
"I'm not sentimental or anything (i dont even know if that is spelled right), but it was kind of weird walking out of hiner for the last time as a student, all done"

I love that a big tough, beer drinkin', goatee sporting
guy can acknowledge the poignancy of
beginnings and ends.

Congrats, Buzzy.

Ms. McCracken

Friday, December 11, 2009

December 11th, 2009

Debra Griffin Haskin

Debra was my best friend. We were inseparable.
We spent long days together and then
had sleepovers at her house.
We both had typewriters and would sometimes
stay up all night pretending to be working
on something very important.
In the late mornings we would work on our complicated,
choreographed dance routines to Captain and Tennille's
Love Will Keep us Together.
When we had to cross the lawns of the dozen
or so houses that separated us, we would pretend
that if a car came along and spotted us
we would immediately be turned into a
mysterious vapor and then disappear altogether. Forever.
Engine revs and headlights sent us running for our lives--
scurrying behind trees or bushes.
If there were nothing to hide behind we might have to
throw ourselves down on the ground and lie as flat
and still as possible until the car passed.
Often very dirty and out of breath upon walking in our front doors,
we never explained the game to anyone else.
Best friends do things like that.

Debra had a beautiful mother, Roz.
Roz was a real estate agent.
I didn't know any moms who were real estate agents.
She seemed to constantly be going here and there,
but was always around when Debra needed her.
My own mother went between here and there, too,
but because of crippling depression and a brutal drug addiction,
didn't always come back from "there" when you needed her to.

I remember when Debra turned 10.
She and Roz let me in on all the plans for the party.
We figured out what kind of cake to have,
what kind of games to play, and who would be invited.

On the day of the party I got dressed
in a pair of brown corduroy pants (that I loved)
and the cleanest shirt I had.
And I went into my mother's room.

"Mama?" I had to wake her up.
"Did we get a present for Debra?
Her party is right now. Mom? Mama?
I have to go soon. Did we get a present for Debra?"

She didn't say anything.
Her eyes were open and she was looking at me,
but not seeing me. Even in my clean shirt
and my favorite pants,
I was starting to crumble a little with anxiety.
"Mama, please."
"Let's see what we can find."

She had a tall dresser in her room
and the top drawer was full of things not clothes.
We all knew this. Sometimes she'd ask us
to get something out of the drawer for her--
a rosary, a crochet needle, an extension cord, a postage stamp.
When she opened that drawer, any hope
that she remembered and had gotten a present just for Debra faded.
"Here. Take this."
"What is it?"
She had handed me a yellow Avon box.
Inside was a jar of hand lotion.
It was the same lotion that my grandmother used.
No. I can't. I can't give this to Debra today.
"Is there anything else?" I asked.

On my way across the lawns,
with the Avon box in my hands,
I didn't hide from one car.
I closed my eyes and wished every car that passed
would vaporize me and save me from the party.

At the door, Roz let me in.
I tried to tell her everything with my eyes,
but she just broke my stare, kissed my head,
and took the small package from me.
Everyone was there and we ate popcorn
and listened to Captain and Tennille. At one point,
Celeste started throwing popcorn up in the air
and trying to catch it in her mouth,
and we all cheered her on, and I temporarily forgot
about the little yellow box of humiliation
with all of the other brightly wrapped presents.
I told myself that it might be possible that Debra
was enjoying her party so much that she
wouldn't even need to open presents.
But seeing the floor covered with popcorn, Roz said,
"Sweetie, are you ready to open your presents and have some cake?"

Celeste's gift was a charm bracelet that got passed around the party.
Debra opened a sparkly baton from Doreen.
Twirled it in her fingers.
Kathrine gave her roller skates!
Nicole gave her a mood ring that we all put on in turn.
Roz stayed close and picked up wrapping paper.

Handing Debra that yellow box was like offering up
every failure a ten year old girl could handle.
It was like saying, "Here, here are my shortcomings.
Here is everything I lack today:
the whimsy of a charm bracelet,
the flash of a baton through the air,
the shiny ball bearings in the wheel of a roller skate,
the mystery of a mood ring,
a mother who can get out of bed."

Debra took the box and shook it.
The heavy jar thudded around.
What is it? What is it? Let us see!
Debra pulled the jar of lotion out of the box.

No one said anything for what seemed like an eternity.
It was so quiet that I was pretty sure my life had ended.

And then Roz said, "Oh! How thoughtful! How wonderful!
Something that you can really use. Let me smell it.
Ummmmm. Look how pretty it is. It's like butter.
It's beautiful. It's the nicest gift so far."
Taking her cues from sweet Roz, Debra nodded in agreement.
Everyone else, slightly confused,
came to believe that it really was the best gift.

In the seam of shock and overwhelming gratitude,
I vaguely remember everyone rubbing their hands together
as the lotion was passed around the party.
I don't remember anything, really, after that.
Like singing Happy Birthday, or eating cake,
or going out into the driveway to try out the skates.

In the 32 years since then,
there have been other people who reached down
and pulled me up when I was surely sinking.
And it may be that I was rescued once or twice
before the day of Debra's party.
But I think that this is my earliest memory of being so keenly aware
of both my need to be saved
and the heroic kindness and grace of those around me.

When I was 12 our family moved away from Atlanta--
and from Debra and Roz.
I have not seen either of them since.
But I got a Christmas card from Debra today.
It had a picture of her and her family.
On the back it said, "I think of you often and always remember
what a good friend you were to me. The best.
Thank you for everything. Merry Christmas. Love, Debra.

Thank you for everything, Debra and Roz.
Everything. Every. Thing.
Merry Christmas.

December 10, 2009

All of the Good People at Uggs

It's freezing here.
But my feet are warm.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

December 9th, 2009

Merle Kincaid (and Student Artists at Echo Lake Elementary)

I visited Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens to see the GardenFest of lights. It's a cold garden all warmed up by millions of lights.

There was an entire grove of trees that had been decorated by local elementary schools. I was envious of every young artist behind the beauty. But one tree in particular took my envy to a higher level: I was inspired. I immediately wanted to make something even half as beautiful. Every ornament on the tree was made from "odds and ends from the art room." There were these wonderful little silver frames with gorgeous collages in them.

(I've had to say this before: this is not a photography blog. I may go back to the garden and take better pictures)

Sometimes when I read a good book like, oh, say, Life is a Verb, or hear a lovely song, like Kristin Adreassen's, I feel compelled to know the artist. I find a way to send a letter. Yes, it's usually something as transparent as "I like you. I want to be your friend. Okay? Check yes or no." (If you have ever thought of reaching out to someone who inspires you, go ahead. I've had some amazing replies from writers, singers, painters I thought I would never hear from).

I took a picture of the teacher's name. Merle Kincaid. I searched for an email address for her. No luck. But, of course, she has a Facebook account. So I sent her a message.

Hello Ms. Kincaid,

Are you the art teacher at Echo Lake? I was at Lewis Ginter last night and I saw the most amazing tree ever. If you are responsible for some of that beauty, will you send me an email? I would love to say THANK YOU for doing what you do. I would also like to say: I have to make one of the little frames and I want to know what the magic silver/foil stuff is, and what the students used to color it. I love, love, love the tree that I saw. Loved it. It made me very happy. I'm still happy about it.

All the best,


Merle wrote me back. Twice. Her replies told me two very important things. 1) How I, too, could be an artist for the small price of the silver foil tape (huge roll, $8.00 at Lowes). And 2) That my email made her feel connected to the world in a big way.

Hi Amy, thanks for the kind message! It is so sweet you took the time to say our tree made you happy! I can't wait to share your note with my students! My 3rd-5th graders are the talented artists responsible for the decorations. Most everything we used were donated odds and ends I have collected over the past few years in my art room and studio. The frames are so easy. I took leftover cardboard boxes, cut them up in different sizes and shapes. Next I had the kids cover the cardboard with foil tape I got at Home Depot or Lowe's-it's a huge roll for around $8.00. Next I cut out an opening out of the middle with an xacto knife-this takes a little time. The students used a ball point pen to carve in the decorations-but a stylo pen would work great. We then rubbed acrylic black paint on the lines with a brush in a circular motion and quickly buffed it off with a paper towel-again in a circular motion. They used colored sharpies to decorate the designs-but they look great with no color as well. I punched holes in the frame and the students used wire and beads for hanging it. In the past we have added holes in the bottom of the frame as well and attached beads to wire to hang down. Then we added the collage in the middle. In the past we have recycled old art magazines and put famous art work in the middle.....that looks great too. Hope you have fun making one. They make great gifts! Take care and thanks again for the note.

Blessings, Merle Kincaid

There must be something about Amys because you are the second Amy God has placed in my life in the past few weeks and you both are so kind.

I think your blog is VERY cool...it is a testimony that there are no coincidences. Not a one .The picture I see is God in the middle of a giant web of circles. The web glistens and radiates life. It has no hard edges like a regular web. God is connecting us all through his grace and unconditional love. We are His messengers.

Thank you for being God's messenger of a kind word.

Blessing to you and thank you,

Merle Kincaid

The world is big, disjointed, and chaotic. But it's so pretty in those moments when you can feel a part of it all. Whether you believe in coincidence, luck, God, humans, fate, silver foil tape, or some other thing that brings us together--even if only through a little frame--you can't deny the comfort that feeling connected brings. I'm so grateful for Merle the artist for reminding me of this today.

I will be making one of these for First Wednesday January (which happens to fall on Epiphany--which is a story for another day).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 8th, 2009

The Peacock at Lewis Ginter

The volunteers at
make magic happen.

If you live near Richmond, VA, a trip here
would make you happy.
For days.

December 7th, 2009


Please, Zicam gods, work your magic.
This would make me happy indeed.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December 5th, 2009


I've been sick over the last couple of days.
It has limited my encountering strangers whose
spirt, smile, action, kindness or quirk make me happy.

Pouty, sneezy, and hacking, I spent some time this weekend going
through boxes of old photographs and keepsakes.

When my sister Petra died, on a Tuesday night in March of 1997,
I brought home her address book.
Because who she was, and how she lived, she had many friends.
Most of them I knew, many I did not.
I spent the first couple of weeks after her death
writing to each of her friends.
I thanked them for being with her during her life,
and implored them to not forget her in death.

I found this letter.
I love that Natalie took the time to write me back.
I love that she loved Petra.
But perhaps most of all,
I love that she wondered if I had "a shirt or something of hers"
that I could give up.
I hope I sent Natalie a shirt. Or a glove.
Or something.

And I hope that she still has Petra's letters, the mix tape
that she hates, and whatever else she can hold
onto to from a life gone too soon.
That would make me happy.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December 3rd, 2009

Courtney (left)

I got this email from Courtney this morning:
Thanks for having us over last night.
I had a lot of fun.
I hope you and LaDonna
don't have bad headaches this morning.
Also, thank you for the cat toy.
My dad was afraid it was another silly hat for the baby.
I'm pretty sure my parents have stolen my Joy to the World sign
(her Bingo present)
and I am never getting it back.
Hope you have a good rest of the week and that I will see you soon.

There was a song on the radio yesterday that said, "in case you need reminding, you're beautiful.. don't waste the pretty." I like it and thought you would too.


If you hear a song on the radio today
that you think someone else would like,
send them an email and tell them.
Don't waste the pretty.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December 2, 2009


I know I already posted my person for the day (even if it was a poundcake), but Buddy called at 4:00 and I picked up the phone and said, "HI BUDDY! Are you calling to tell me that you are driving home from college to attend First Wednesday?" And he said
Oh, happy day. Happy day.

December 2, 2009

Linda Hoover

I was born in Huntington, West Virginia
(recently rated the most unhealthy city in the United States).
While the hollows may be filled with illiteracy, obesity, and poverty,
and while there may be no shortage of West Virginia jokes
(I've heard them all),
there is also the most amazing love that grows there.

Linda Hoover is from West Virginia. Magically, the pound cake that
I got from her tasted as if it had been made with WV Love (and butter).

It made me weep. It tasted like this kind of love:

Love that can sprout through even the thickest layer of coal dust.
Love that means soup beans on the stove at the end of a long day.
Love that smells like applebutter with the right amount of cinnamon.
Love like clothes on the line.
Love that tapes a dime (when you are 9), and a dollar (when you are 19)
to a red-paper heart on Valentine's Day.
Love that rocks your baby to sleep when you're simply too tired to do it yourself.
Love that offers Castor Oil if you suddenly don't feel like going to school.
Love that can pack quickly and get there on time.
Love that cuts your crust off until you are old enough to realize how good crust is.
Love that will say, "Honey, you sit right down and let me fix us a Coke."
Love that has a really soft neck.
Love that exclaims, "Well, I am finer than a frog's hair sliced twice! How are you?"
Love that hears the porch swing creaking at 3:00 a.m. and comes to sit with you.
Love that says, "I reckon we'll have to just have each other
for Christmas this year."
Love that writes letters to shut-ins.
Love that can whistle the gospel song "P'wr in the Blood".
Love that never tires of a much repeated story.
Love that understands kids real guidance, and biscuits need real butter
Love that never forgets the spin cycle or the fabric softener.
Love that can spell your name with pancake batter.
Love that tells you to "Get out of the bubblegum"
if you try telling an outrageous lie.
Love that offers a prayer for stray dogs.
Love that won't get mad at you if, when you are 5, you somehow become convinced that you have been abandoned in K-Mart and need to walk the 13 miles home by yourself in the dark rain and love frantically runs out of the store to find you, slips, and breaks a leg.
Love that will don combat boots and pull six children
through the snow on one sled.
Love that insists you take some snacks with you.
Love that knows who you eat with is more important than what you eat.
Love that wakes you up early the day of the funeral
so that you can have a good breakfast.
Love that tells your new husband that he is "handier than a pocket in a shirt" when he straightens up the leaning mailbox.
Love that says casually, "Well, lookie there" when another age spot appears.
Love that says to you one day, "I am forgetting words".
Love that continues through confusion and heartache.
Love that gives you just a little time to give
back a fraction of what you have received.
Love that goes before you could even start to get even.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December 1, 2009


Wabi Sabi
for sure.

Valerie moved away today. We had a two-night
sleepover party before she left.
Just got home to find this on my counter.

I am happy for Val. And might be taking her up on
her farm offer.

November 30th, 2009


Dave gave me a very small little chip
that goes inside my camera and will allow
me to take 4,324 pictures before
having to download them.

Smile, world!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

November 29th, 2009

Roger Dickerson

Happy Birthday, Dad.

I love you.

I love you enough to post this unflattering video of me.


November 28th, 2009

Good Luck Charms from Valerie McQueen on Vimeo.

Valerie McQueen

Another video by Valerie McQueen

Friday, November 27, 2009

November 27th, 2009


"I'm here to volunteer."
"Well, praise the Lord, honey. I'm Thelma."
And then started a flurry of activity as
Thanksgiving dinner for the guests of
was prepared.

"Katie typed up some instructions/directions
for us to find everything. Do you have
a copy of that?"
"Child, I've been doing this for 14 years.
We just find the stuff wherever it is.
You can round up 140 dinner plates if you will."

Thelma took charge of me and 15 or so
other volunteers who were spending
their day serving dinner to families who
were unable to be home because
they had loved ones staying at local hospitals.

In Thelma's presence, we were
all rookies in our roles as
human helpers.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

November 26th, 2009


I love Alyssa Doane.
She's smart, funny, and brave.
She also has cystic fibrosis.

She HATES long hospital stays.
But she knew last week that she was not feeling well.
She was admitted with 32% lung function.
She also HATES having to do her PFTs--(Pulmonary Function Test).
It makes her nervous.
So nervous.
So-nervous-I-can't walk-down-the-hall kind of nervous.

But Alyssa conquered some wicked fear and blew 43% a day later!
In case you don't know,
that's pretty much putting CF in its place--
telling it to take a hike.

Alyssa has a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney coming up!
And a family who wants her home from the hospital.

Happy Thanksgiving, Alyssa and all of the
folks on 7 today. Nurses, patients, moms and dads.
I'm thankful for everyone who continues
the fight against CF. Alyssa is on the
front lines today.

Love. Love. Love.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 25th, 2009


No matter how many times I just send a text
instead of calling.
No matter how many times I am cryptic
and vague.
No matter how many times I say,
"At work. Will call you later."
No matter how many times I say
"I meant to call last night, but I
fell asleep."

No matter.

Shelley always checks on me and says,
"Love you. Talk to you soon."

I am her step-daughter. She doesn't even
really HAVE to afford me all of that
gracious love.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November 24th, 2009

Virginia (Ginny)

I knew the moment I saw her that I would have to summon
the courage to walk up to her and say, "I'm Amy,
and I am documenting one thing, every day that
makes me happy--and that red jacket of yours has made
me smile from ear to ear. Can I take your picture?"

She was as gracious and vibrant as you might expect
a woman wearing this coat to be. Her husband said affectionately,
"I told her when she got it that it was too shiny."
Virginia herself admitted, "I can't wear it when I
substitute teach because they told me that it
looks like that Jackson guy's--you know, Michael."

I told her to shine on. And that I loved it.
She told me where she got it--and even took it off
to show me the label.

Virginia and her husband are traveling to North Carolina
to spend Thanksgiving with family. If they provide
at least a little of the cheer they created for
me this morning, their hosts will be very lucky
indeed. Happy Thanksgiving, Ginny.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

November 21, 2009

Wendy and Emmy

Mill Street Grill in Staunton, VA,
was a very random coice to have a beer
before riding the highway home to Richmond.
But the kindness of Wendy and Emmy was anything
but haphazard.

The sincere hospitality of these two hilarious women
extended well beyond the borders of the jobs and friendship
they so obviously enjoy.
Emmy ("like the awards," she said)
and Wendy ("like the hamburger," she said)
helped two strangers feel as if they'd made it home
without getting in the car.

Friday, November 20, 2009

November 20th, 2009

Nathan McCracken

Note left on kitchen table, November 1997:
Please sign this OOPS! I Forgot My Homework slip.
I have to take it back to school.
I think Mrs. Davidson is not telling the truth on that P.S. that says
"This makes the 83rd time this month"

Text message received November 20, 2009:
I got a 94% and an "Excellent Paper, Nate" on
the Rousseau/Montessori paper that I wrote on while we
were on vacation in New Orleans.

Sometimes things really do figure themselves out.
Keep the faith.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

November 19th, 2009


I have THE coolest friends.
Here is Katie Demaio as she is giving me a tour of Hospital Hospitality House where she is the Director of Volunteers.
HHH's work is made possible by thousands of hours put in by dedicated volunteers (and a very small staff). It's Katie job to make sure all of those volunteers are trained, scheduled, and happy. In other words, Katie is a very important cog in this wheel:

HHH provides lodging and non-medical services to families and individuals in medical crisis. Guests are referred from physicians, staff and social workers from area hospitals.
Since we opened our doors in 1984, we have served over 100,000 guests from across Virginia, the United States and beyond.
Our mission is to provide lodging and non-medical services that promote the healing process in a caring, emotionally supportive, home-like environment. Referred families are served with dignity, integrity and without regard to financial resources.

I'll be spending Thanksgiving serving turkey
and stuffing and cranberry cheesecake
(oh god, please let there be cranberry cheesecake)
to all of the guests at HHH.

It's the least I can do to show my appreciation for my friendship with Katie.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November 17th, 2009

This Girl

I was lucky enough to be walking around Belle Isle in the sunshine.
If you live near Richmond and the James River,
you know that it doesn't get much better than Belle Isle in the fall.
It was so pretty that I swore I could hear music.
Sweet acoustic guitar music.
And then girl singing music.

I looked up and there she was.

And this made me very happy indeed.
Click on the picture to make her bigger.

Monday, November 16, 2009

November 16th, 2009

Patti. Patti. Patti Digh

The LAST thing I want to do is to keep a blog about things that make me happy because they are all ABOUT ME, ME, ME.

In other words, this page is not meant to be merely a list of people who
might have complemented my haircut
or told me that they liked my jacket
or shoes. (But don't think for one minute that I don't
appreciate comments such as this--especially
since I don't have great hair or lots of
awesome jackets and shoes.)

What I really hope to do is
show my appreciation and gratitude for
kindness big and small--whether it has anything to do with me directly or not.

But, you have to pardon me today. Please.

I am so, so, so giddy proud to be featured a "guest writer" here:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November 14th, 2009

Dr. and Mrs. Joel Schmidt

Here are Dr. Joel Schmidt and his wife, Daphne at the
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's 16th Annual
Starry Night Gala that
took place tonight at the Jefferson Hotel.

When Dr. Schmidt is not wearing a tuxedo
and beaded necklaces,
he is treating CF patients at the VCU
CF Care Center.

Dr. Schmidt's and Daphne's intelligence, compassion,
and wit make them CF Heroes.
I'm not the only one who knows this is true.

Friday, November 13, 2009

November 13th, 2009

Susan Keitges Kelly

In this very photograph Susan KK is saying, through her
clenched teeth,
"Amy! I don't have time for your games!"'

Susan is the mastermind behind the Richmond Animal League's amazing fundraising events. And, she is my very dear friend.

Thank you, Susan, for making this world a better place for everyone--including our four-legged friends.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

November 12th, 2009

Sarah Branigan

Once upon a time, Sarah and a group of her friends took some photos of
themselves jumping around a campfire.They could not help but notice,"It made us all laugh and it was something we wanted to keep doing
in different places and document..."

It was the start of something wonderful.

I first heard about JumpBecause on NPR last spring.
Imagine my delight when I realized these inspiring people
live right here in my neighborhood (Richmond, VA).

Sarah and her friends are world famous for making people happy.

You can learn about them here

The concept is simple:
It's hard to be unhappy
while your feet are off the ground.

The effect has been profound:
People from all over the world have
sent photos and stories of their own jumps.

You can jump for a cause
(as Sarah and her friends did for cystic fibrosis research),
or you can jump just because.

Jump because. I love this. I'd love to see YOU submit a jump and a story.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November 10th, 2009


Good thing this is not a photography blog.

My picture didn't turn out, but I still wanted to
feature David as my One Person today.
David gave us a tour of the city of New Orleans and
compassionately told the story of Katrina and its aftermath.
There are 300,000 people in this city and each person
has 100 stories to tell.
I could have stayed with David all day today.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November 9th, 2009

This Guy

I really hoped that documenting these things
that make me happy would also inspire me to
write about WHY they made me feel
that way.
But, so far, these things speak
for themselves.
And nothing I could say would add to them.
I Love This Self Portrait.
I love it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

November 8th, 2009


A friend for more than twenty years knows
all about you
and loves you anyway.

That this girl exists makes me happy.
AND we are in New Orleans.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

November 7th, 2009


This man dropped me off at a beautiful hotel this morning

Pacquito Rocks!

Friday, November 6, 2009

November 6th, 2009

Kristin Andreassen

Crayola Doesn't Make a Color For Your Eyes

No explanation necessary.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

November 5th, 2009


Gina took my order, asked for my name,
and then yelled out "AMY!" after she made me the best cheeseburger

(Dawn, it's okay, I ordered the mini)

November 4th, 2009


I love Judy.
Teacher of second-graders, tell it like it is Judy.
Judy HATES the gift exchange at First Wednesdays. You have to MAKE your gift and she is never enthusiastic about the prospect of coming up with, on her own, some unique handmade somethingorother to give to a stranger. It puts a damper on First Wednesdays for her (and by that I mean that she sometimes stays home rather than make a gift).

But this month the food theme was soup and we were exchanging bowls instead of handmade gifts. Judy was so happy.

And Judy opened bowl after beautiful bowl. But our "exchange" can be heartbreaking because the person who gets to pick a present after you do has the option of stealing yours. We stole bowls from Judy all night.

I moved closer to her to steal this "First Wednesdays" soup bowl. Here she is smiling through the pain and disappointment of the evening.

I hope she comes back in December.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November 3, 2009

Someone who had no reason to be kind to me
was kind to me today. Once again.

But I don't have a photo.

And, I got carded at Whole Foods while purchasing a fancy beer.
But the cashier would not let me take her picture.


Monday, November 2, 2009

November 2, 2009

Mr. Moon

Look up.

This makes up for it getting dark at 5:30 tonight.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

November 1, 2009


Not just another pretty face (even though it is a REALLY pretty face).

Cara is already working on her 2010 GREAT STRIDES team (and video) to raise funds to make CF stand for Cure Found!

Cara makes me happy on this cold and rainy day.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

October 31st, 2009

Katie (aka Lady Liberty) has a lot to say. So she started a blog.
Writing is good for you, and this makes me happy!
I told Katie to add a free hit counter to her page. She said no, she was worried that it would show that no one looks at it. I told her NOT to worry, that you get one hit for every time you check out your own blog (that is how I have 70+ hits on this one).
If you ask her, she might make you a kick-ass sampler CD.
(She might not, though, I didn't ask her if I could say that)
Have fun watching the Yankees tonight, KD