Emily M. DeArdo

Celebrating Ordinary Joy

Seven Quick Takes No. 116: My Country Tis of Thee

7 Quick TakesEmily DeArdoComment

linking up with Kelly and the gang

I. 

Ok, first: What You Might Have Missed This Week

The Fight for Joy

Summer Scribbles No. 4: The Summer After High School

II. 

Since it's the Weekend of the Fourth, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about Our Peculiar Form of Government! So gather 'round for a Civics lesson, cats and kittens!

 

III. 

OK, the first thing y'all need to know: Things in the U.S. are done in threes. There are three branches of government. There are three levels of government. 

The three branches of government: Executive, Legislative, Judicial.

The three levels of government: local, state, federal. This is called Federalism. (More on that in a bit) 

Every level of government has the three branches of government. 

So, your town has a mayor (executive), a city council (legislative), and a mayor's court (judicial). Or something like a mayor's court.

A state has a state legislature, a governor, and a state supreme court. 

The nation--the United States-- has Congress (legislative), a president (executive), and the Supreme Court of the United States (Judicial). 

IV.

Each branch of government has its specific functions. 

The legislative branch makes the laws. (This is your local council, state legislature, or the U.S. Congress.)

(For how this works at the federal level....)

The executive enforces the law. This is the mayor, the governor, the President. (You hear the president say he will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America when he's sworn in on Inauguration Day. That's part of being an executive.) 

The judicial branch interprets the law. (It's not supposed to make law, but you know....) 

Each branch has powers over the other branches of government, so that one branch cannot become too powerful. This is called checks and balances. For example, a governor can veto a bill--but the state legislature can override the veto. A supreme court can declare a law unconstitutional, and so forth. 

V. 

Got that? 

Back to Federalism. 

The idea behind Federalism (or at least, American Federalism)  is that what can be decided by the states, should be. The Constitution gives us this in the 10th amendment. 

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.[5]

Keep in mind that, before the Revolutionary War, the colonies were governed by the British King. As in, the King thousands of miles away. Who knew nothing about them or what they were doing or what they wanted. Hence, the idea that government that is closest to the people should make most of the day to day decisions for the people in that area. From the beginning, everyone agreed that there should be levels of government--but who does what? What should the Federal government do? What should the state governments do? Etc. 

You can still see that we have a divide in our country about what the Federal government should do and what it should not do.  But the general idea was that government closer to home is better at knowing what the people need in a particular area, and that the federal government is good for things that affect the nation as a whole. (i.e., the military, building roads, the mail service, etc.) 

VI. 

Having said all that

People do not seem to understand these ideas. 

Here are two examples. 

1) When I worked in my congressman's office (Congress being the legislative branch on the Federal--national--level), people would call and complain about the local sewer service. Or trash pickup in the city where the district office was located.  

This is not something you call the federal government about. This is something you call the local city/township/village about. 

2) When I worked in the state senate, people used to call and ask for federal senators. As in, senators from other states. Note that I worked in the state senate. As in, all of our senators represented different parts of Ohio. Not different states in the nation. 

You may remember that the Democratic Nominee for President is 2004 was Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. That fall, I worked for State Senator Jon Carey, who represented part of the state of Ohio. 

Can you guess what happened in our office nearly every day? 

That's right. People called looking for Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts

Yes, they were both senators. And yes, their names were pronounced the same way. 

But guys. One is a federal senator. As in, he works in Washington, D.C. and represents the people of an entire state--which was not Ohio.  

One is a state senator. He represents significantly fewer people.  And he's not running for president. 

VII. 

If you learn nothing else in any civics class, ever, please learn the difference between the branches and levels of government. Don't say that a state representative is getting the same great paycheck/benefits as his federal counterpart. Don't call the mayor to complain about the president (and definitely not vice-versa). Don't expect the Supreme Court of the United States to care about broken city ordinances in Smalltown, U.S.A. (I mean, sometimes they do. But that's another kettle of fish.) 

And now I shall leave you with the Schuyler Sisters. 

 

 

 

Summer Scribbles No. 4: The Summer After High School

essaysEmily DeArdoComment

Using the SITS girls monthly prompt list

The summer after high school was a pretty nondescript one for me. I did some baby-sitting, I read Harry Potter and anxiously awaited the release of the fourth book. I spent a lot of time with my high school friends, swimming in their pools. There were a lot of sleepovers. 

(Side note: weren't sleepovers the best? I mean, really? I miss those. Although, sleepover pro tip: When your friend's parents are at a wedding out of state, leaving you and said friend alone in the house, with only the scaredy-cat dog, it might not be a good idea to watch Silence of the Lambs at 2 A.M. Just, you know, maybe not the best idea.)

Most of my friends were going to college sort of locally, meaning in the state of Ohio. A few were going out of state. This was before the advent of Facebook, so we knew it was going to be harder to keep in touch, but fortunately this newfangled thing called email had opened up wide possibilities. And AOL instant messenger! That was going to be super useful during our college years. 

There was some packing for college. And yeah, I started early. Like, August. Even though I was only going about fifteen minutes away. I had one summer orientation session, when I had to set my fall schedule, and then orientation orientation began August 25th. Of course it rained that day. It rained every single move in day of my college career. Again, glad we didn't have a lot of stuff to move. I was just really glad that my dorm had air conditioning, and that you couldn't smoke on our floor. Yes, you could smoke in the other dorms at this time. But you couldn't have lit candles. Crazy much? That got changed at the end of my freshman year. 

I was excited to go to college. I mean, I had liked high school, but I thought I would really like college, and I was right. I did really, really enjoy college. OK, the almost dying wasn't a fun thing, but that wasn't college's fault (and that's another story), but most of it was a great time.

It did feel odd, though, to not have work to do during the summer. The summer before my senior year, I'd had the Summer Reading List for AP English. I remember spending long hours at the neighborhood pool with my super cheap copy of Jane Eyre. But there was no summer reading--at least not yet--for incoming college freshman at my school. That changed a few years later, when every incoming student had to read an assigned book, with classes and events during the academic year surrounding said book. 

So it was just me, my friends, swimming pools, and sleepovers. It wasn't a bad way to spend a summer.  

 

 

The Fight for Joy

essays, health, transplantEmily DeArdo4 Comments

The tagline of this site is "Celebrating Ordinary Joy." And that's what I try to do on a daily basis--to remember that this life is so incredible, such a miracle, that everything is Joy. The brown bananas in the freezer awaiting their transformation into muffins; the roses and sunflowers in a vase on the counter; even the trash bags that need taken out. Everything is a gift. 

But that doesn't mean it's easy. I never wanted a Pollyanna tag line, where we play the glad game, and blithely ignore realities. Sometimes, reality is hard. 

Last week, I felt as low as I've ever been. I tried all my normal things--journaling, napping, bubble baths, talking to friends, a holy hour, a weekday Mass. When I go to Mass, no matter how crappy I might feel, usually the consecration floods me with peace. Not on Friday. On Friday I was totally just at Mass. I didn't feel a thing. It was like robot-me. 

I talked to my therapist (Most people, post-transplant, see a therapist. It's par for the course.) I basically didn't talk--I sort of fell apart. I was a mess. I wasn't sleeping, I wasn't eating right, I was forgetting conversations I'd had two days ago--and I don't do that--and I had no idea why. 

Joy was really far away. Incredibly far away. I thought about the tagline and I laughed. Joy? Really? JOY right now? 

No Joy. 

On Saturday, I was very gentle with myself. I read a book suggested by Elizabeth--The Awakening of Miss Prim--and I re-read the Restore workshop pieces. I went to Mass. I made dinner. I slept when I could. 

Today, I had a doctor's appointment. It was my normal clinic visit, but I was anxious because I didn't know what was going on with me. I wanted to find out. So I spilled out all my symptoms in a flood of words. 

The doctor and the nurse listened, and we figured out what it is. It's nothing major--it's just my body adapting to different drugs, and readjusting hormone levels and all those delightful things that happen when you're taking very powerful medicine. 

So my body has to readjust--and this will happen both physically and mentally. As it readjusts, things will go back to baseline. But until then, it's measures to fix the symptoms--sleeping when I can, getting good food and exercise, having the A/C set just about arctic. :) 

I'm so happy that I'm not crazy. 

But during those foggish days, days when joy seemed so far....it was hard to remember to look for the ordinary joy. 

But it's there. It's always there, even when I couldn't see it, or couldn't feel it. 

When it's elusive, hang on. Keep looking. Find that one thing. It's there. And that one thing can be a crack of light that you need to keep looking, keep seeing....what keeps faith. 

 

 

 

Seven Quick Takes No. 115--Not to go all Boromir on you....

7 Quick Takes, health, JeopardyEmily DeArdo1 Comment

 

linking up with Kelly and the gang. 

I. 
There is logic in that title. Really. :) 

So last week I was watching Army Wives on Netflix (Yes, sometimes I watch soap-ish TV. DO NOT JUDGE.) There was a kid with CF who was brought into the ER with a collapsed lung.

Now, to treat a collapsed lung, an interventional radiologist (so no, not just anyone) has to insert a chest tube, in order to reinflate the lung. It requires cutting. It requires stitches. It requires boxes. It basically sucks. It's my second-least favorite thing to have done, medically. 

(What's first? A pH probe. Seriously. Don't ask. 

Oh, you asked?  OK. 

A pH probe involves sticking a tube up your nose, down your throat, and into your stomach. And the tube sticks to your face and dangles outside of your body because it's attached to a stupid meter. It sucks. A lot. And it hurts. A lot. Basically, it's a tool left over from the Inquisition.)

So anyway, while watching the show--the kid had no tube left in. It was basically, we stick in a tube! The lung reinflates! Let's go home tomorrow! 

Um, no. 

Hence, the below photo, which I created to express my displeasure. 

 

One does not simply not keep a chest tube in. Sorry. And to remove it also requires an interventional radiologist. Yeah. Stitches, remember.

II.

So, please make the above meme a thing. I think it's awesome and the Internet needs it! 

III.

I have a clinic appointment on Monday, so I'll report back with the results when I get them. Oh what joy, oh what rapture. :) The nice thing about clinic visits in the summer is that the rush hour traffic is significantly better. 

IV.

The recap from this week, in case you missed it: 

Summer scribbles: A taste of summer (My strawberry salad recipe) 

Postcard: Chicago

Catholic 101: Apostolic Succession

V.

Also, I got a picture with this guy:

You know, some random Canadian. ;-) 

The dress is from Shabby Apple. It looks a bit better on TV. I think. Since the photos are taken during one of the commercial breaks, you don't really have time to primp. 

VI. 

The show airs on July 18th! 

I will also be on Jen Fulwiler's Radio Show that day, to tease the episode. :) If you have Sirius, be sure to tune in! I'll have more info as we get closer.

VII. 

Another thing about that photo? The microphone pack is attached to my bra strap. Really. They have a guy who attaches all the microphones. He asks before he attaches it. And he's very professional about it. But that's where the microphone pack is. They remove it before they shoot the "let's all talk at the end of the show" thing, so you won't see it. :) 

 

Summer Scribbles No. 3: A Taste of Summer

food, essaysEmily DeArdoComment

Like most good things, this recipe was created sort of by accident.

My friends and I spent a weekend in Hocking Hills in July, in a lovely cabin that had a full kitchen, so we decided to do most of the cooking. We have a lot of culinary-minded friends, so I was planning on making a few things: my Irish soda bread (made ahead and brought down for breakfast), and a Caesar salad. I also decided to do balsamic strawberries as an ice cream topping or fun dessert, because I love balsamic strawberries and more people need to like them too.

I had asked a friend of mine to bring eggs for the Caesar salad, since I was going down right from work and didn’t want the eggs to be destroyed in my car. Sadly, friend forgot the eggs, but that led to this creation, so I guess that’s OK.

Anyway, this salad was quickly imagined, and everyone liked it–the guys even fought over the leftover strawberries. I have made it for another meal with friends and they liked it so much that one of them asked for the recipe so she could make it for her friends.

So here it is. 

Summer Strawberry Salad

This serves about six people, give or take.

2 heads romaine lettuce

2 pints strawberries

1-2 tbsp. brown sugar (light or dark. Or Splenda!  really like splenda brown sugar because it doesn’t get hard and gross in the bag)

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

EVOO

3 lemons

First, make the strawberry topping, because this need to sit for at least 20-30 minutes (If you can get an hour of sit time, that’s optimal)

Lop off the top of the berries and cut in half. Place in a bowl. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Let sit.

When you’ve got about five minutes to dinner (or you’re ready to eat), start the salad.

Starting at the frilly top end of the lettuce head, cut the lettuce into 1-2 inch pieces. Discard the stem end. Then cut down the middle of the lettuce, which will cut each piece in half, leaving you with smaller and easier pieces to eat. Continue with the second head and place the lettuce in a serving bowl.

In another small bowl, add 1/2 c. of EVOO, depending on how much dressing you like. Add the juice of two lemons, then whisk together. Remember, there’s balsamic going in here, too! Taste, and add more lemon juice if necessary. 

When ready to serve, add strawberries to salad. Add dressing. Toss. Eat a piece of lettuce to check seasoning. You may need some kosher salt or pepper added for seasoning. Totally up to you.

 

Postcard: Chicago

travelEmily DeArdoComment

I visited Chicago in 2006 to celebrate my first transplant anniversary with some of my friends. We spent a weekend there and I'd really love to go back soon! 

There were four of us on this trip-me, my friend Amilia, and our two other friends, Tom and Troy. During the day on Saturday we split up, but we all ate dinner together that night and saw Wicked at the Oriental Theater. 

Hotel

Congress Plaza Hotel 520 South Michigan Avenue. Part of the movie Return to Me was filmed in one of the ballrooms here. It's centrally located, right across from Grant Park and near Shedd and the Field Museums. 

Museums

The Field Museum 1400 Lake Shore Drive. Amilia and I adored the Field Museum. They had an exhibit on King Tut running when we were there, but there's also Sue the Dinosaur, their "normal" Ancient Egypt exhibit (which is great), and a host of other things. There's also a McDonald's. (I do not, however, remember it being so expensive to visit....but it's worth it. There's also, like Houston, a City Pass, which also includes Shedd. ) 

Shedd Aquarium 1200 Lake Shore Drive. The guys went here, and had nothing but good things to say about it. The museum recommends buying tickets online

Art Institute of Chicago: See the famous lions outside and visit even more famous art inside. Ticket prices are here. This is also included in the City Pass. 

Food

Giordano's : multiple locations. If you're coming to Chicago, you have to eat some deep-dish pizza. This is where we went, and the pizza did not disappoint. 

Rosebud Theater District: We had dinner here before Wicked, and it did not disappoint. A really lovely restaurant with a great staff and excellent food. (There are multiple locations throughout the city.) 

Shopping/Attractions 

Grant Park: "Chicago's Front Yard", it includes the Shedd and Field Museums, as well as Buckingham Fountain, the "bean", and hosts other festivals throughout the year.  

Navy Pier : Since the Ferris Wheel was invented in Chicago (and named after its mayor at the time), ride the one at Navy Pier. This is a fantastic place to explore, eat, and generally hang out. 

The Miracle Mile: OK, really, you sort of have to at least visit this. We stopped in at the American Girl Store, but there's also a huge LEGO store, a Nike Store, etc. etc. 

Catholic 101: Apostolic Succession

Catholic 101Emily DeArdo2 Comments

Since we just talked about the apostles--let's talk about apostolic succession. 

This is something we cover pretty briefly with the kids. We don't get into papal infallibility and all that (quickly: papal infallibility does not mean what you think it means), but we do talk about how a pope is elected and what the pope does. 

Before we talk about that, though, we talk about basic hierarchy. From the bottom up: 

  • a pastor is in charge of a parish, which covers a territorial area. (a suburb, a city, part of a suburb or city, etc.)
  • A bishop is in charge of a diocese--a larger territorial area. 
  • An archbishop is in charge of an archdiocese--an even larger area. Here in Ohio, we have the archdiocese of Cincinnati. An archdiocese doesn't have to be bigger in area, but in population. New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles--these are all archdioceses.

Archdioceses often have a cardinal as the bishop. (You have to be a priest before you can be a bishop, a bishop before you can be a cardinal) A third or fourth cousin of mine is Cardinal Wuerl, who's the bishop of Washington, D.C. He was made a cardinal by Benedict XVI. Bishops and cardinals are made by the pope. 

All of the Cardinals make up the college of cardinals. Cardinals under the age of 80 elect the pope. (This is a rule created by Pope Paul VI, so it's a pretty new rule.). So, anyone who is a cardinal, under 80, can be elected pope. 

(Fun Catholic fact: technically, any Catholic man can become pope. As in, my dad could be elected Pope. But then he'd have to be ordained and all that jazz. But technically, it could happen.)

So what does this have to do with apostolic succession? Well, we call it apostolic succession because the first pope was the apostle Peter. 

From Matthew 16: 

h When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi* he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”14i They replied, “Some say John the Baptist,* others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”16* j Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”17Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood* has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.18k And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,*and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.19l I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.* Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”20* m Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.

This is the most common Scripture cited for Peter's primacy and the establishment of the Papacy. Every Pope since then has followed into the "Petrine office" (Petrine--Peter). 

Now, there have been some pretty awful popes. There have also been many saintly ones. The office doesn't automatically make you holy. But the Pope is in charge, spiritually, of all the 1 billion+ Catholics in the world. Pope Francis is Pope Number 266.  He's also the first pope named Francis--and you don't call him "Pope Francis I." We can't call him that until there's been a Francis II. 

The tradition of regnal names began with Pope John II, in 533. His given name was Mercurius, after the Roman god Mercury, and he didn't think that was an appropriate name for a Christian pope! So every pope since then has had the option of a regnal name. John Paul II's baptismal name was Karol; Benedict XVI's was Joseph, and Francis' was Jorge. 

The pope's role has changed over the centuries, but he has always been the spiritual leader of the world's Catholics. 

Seven Quick Takes No. 114: My hockey team loves me!

7 Quick TakesEmily DeArdoComment

I. 

My hockey team loves me, guys. 

II. 

We were in Pittsburgh all weekend--my godson graduated from high school last weekend and the party was on Saturday. 

My godson is standing next to me--blue shirt. 

My godson is standing next to me--blue shirt. 

How in the world he's this old already is beyond me. I mean, at my high school graduation party, he was a toddler! 

Cue Sunrise, Sunset....

III. 

Anyway, on Sunday, I spent time with my Aunt Judy and Uncle Frank, and their son, Justin, and his wife and their two boys. I had never met their boys before so I was totally eating up the cuteness. 

I mean, seriously, look at those eyes! 

I mean, seriously, look at those eyes! 

Rex, the oldest, was a bit reluctant to talk to strangers. But he warmed up to us. 

Rex, the oldest, was a bit reluctant to talk to strangers. But he warmed up to us. 

And there was also...Primantis. Yeah. 

So, seeing my Dad's sister, her husband, and my cousin and his wife and kids, and eating delicious food, all made for a pretty great day. 

And the hockey game hadn't even started yet.

IV. 

One of the nice things about having a big family is that you have people to eat the leftovers. So dinner was at Aunt Patty's, where we ate party leftovers, I swam with the kids (barring my inability to "properly" swim), and then we Waited for the Game. 

This child is my cousin Justin. He just finished first grade, and yet he was shockingly unaware of the Rules of Hockey--especially Stanley Cup Final Hockey. 

Rule No. 1: When the game starts, you pick a seat. And you stay in it the whole game. No exceptions. His seat was my lap. 

Rule No. 2: They are "periods" not quarters, and they are 20 minutes long. There are three of them. 

Rule No. 3: In the intermission, you can leave Said Seat, but you must return to Said Seat when the next period begins. 

Rule No. 4: You will yell at the TV. 

Me: mumbling things at the TV and the players.

Justin: Emily, they can't hear you! 

Rule No. 5: The only time you can leave your seat during play is when your seat is about to leap up and celebrate victory--she will be afraid of tossing you into the coffee table. We don't want to go to the ER. When victory occurs, she will then lift you up into the air and squeal a lot. 

After victory, the photo. 

After victory, the photo. 

V. 
My sister and my dad then went to Dick's, which opened after the game, and scored many Victory T-shirts and Other Things. 

Yes! Mel was here, too! She came up from Houston to party with us. :)

So we rejoiced in victory. 

VI. 

And then we spent the next day at Kennywood, our favorite amusement park. I had time to do some sketching, had Rita's gelato, ate excellent food, and rode fun rides. 

Dad and I  on the log jammer, wearing our Victory Apparel. (Well, I am. Dad is wearing a shirt from the last Cup run.) 

Dad and I  on the log jammer, wearing our Victory Apparel. (Well, I am. Dad is wearing a shirt from the last Cup run.) 

Summer Scribbles No.2: Sink or Swim

essaysEmily DeArdoComment

Continuing on with Summer Scribbles (using prompts from The SITS girls), here is this week's prompt: 

When did you learn to swim? 

Um, well. This is sort of a funny story. 

I cannot "officially" swim. By that, I don't mean that I can't swim, because I can. I just mean that, in official parlance....I flunked swimming lessons. 

Yes. I'm a swimming lessons drop out. So is my brother, by the way. 

Back in the day, when I was probably five or six, my mom enrolled me in swimming lessons, like almost every other parent around here. I wasn't afraid of the water, and I would get in just fine. I'd kick and splash and all that. No problem.

So how'd I fail? 

I couldn't float. 

Really. I guess I just wouldn't trust that the water would keep me up. So I refused to do it. 

Thus, I was unable to move up to the next level of swimming lessons. 

I sort of taught myself backstroke while watching the Barcelona olympics, and noting what the commenters said about technique. I cannot butterfly or breast stroke, and I really can't do freestyle, either. I do my own sort of freestyle. But I can handle my own in a pool. I love the ocean, and baths are one of my favorite things in life. Water and I are friends. 

However, I used to get really nervous watching kids in water. Part of it was my lack of strong swimming skills, but also, when you have crappy lungs, the idea of not breathing is not one you voluntarily accept. So the idea of going out and chasing down a kid while I could barely breathe while swimming didn't seem good. 

But, since I have 22 cousins (not counting my siblings), and the vast majority of them are younger than me, and my aunts in Pittsburgh have pools (two did, now it's just one)--I got to watch a lot of kids in the pool. It always baffled me. I have many cousins who are excellent swimmers. There are a whole bunch who were on their high school swim teams, for pete's sake. Are you sure you want to trust me with your offspring, oh aunts of mine?! (They did. No idea why.) 

It's not such a big deal now, because almost all the kids are grown, or old enough that they can handle themselves in the water. 

I'm probably not the person you want in charge if you're sending your tiny tots to the water park. Or the ocean. Unless your kid really doesn't want to swim. Or go out beyond the breakers. 

But I can float now.

How did you learn to swim? Were you ever afraid of the water? 

 

Postcard: Houston

travelEmily DeArdoComment

My sister lives in Houston, as does one of my cousins. So this is a city I'm going to get to know pretty well, probably. However, the only time I've been there was before my sister moved there, and I was visiting my cousin, who had one child at the time (now she has three), and the baby was 9 months old. So, these suggestions sort of reflect the period in which I was there, meaning, we had a baby in tow. :) And since I stayed at her house, I have no hotel suggestion. 

However, here's what we did, and what I can suggest: 

Museums and Shops 

  • Johnson Space Center:  1601 Nasa Parkway. I seriously had a blast here, and the baby didn't get bored! Besides visiting Historic Mission Control (where Apollo 13's MC was based--the actual event, I don't think the movie was filmed here), it's also a great museum with rotating exhibitions (when we were there it was Star Wars), a play place for kids, and fun science experiments (like figuring out how much you'd weigh on other planets, and what the soil makeup on the moon is). It is expensive. I think we had coupons or something. But kids under 3 are free, and kids from ages 4-11 have a reduced price. (There's also the CityPass, which I talk about below, and will save you a bundle.) 
     
  • Brazos Bookstore: 2421 Bissonnet Street OK, I had wayyy too much fun here. You know how much I like my independent book shops, and this is one of the best in the country! There's a great kids area and I even found a copy of The Stranger in French, which I didn't buy, and I kick myself for that a lot. If I'm ever back there, I will try to hunt it down again!
     
  • Houston Museum of Natural Science: 5555 Herman Park Drive. We had a lot of fun visiting the butterflies at the Butterfly Center, but there are also other cool things to see here. Kids and adults will like it. 

  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: 1001 Bissonnet. I also love art museums, so this was a great place. Their collection of impressionists is.....impressive. (See what I did there?) I also really liked their selection of European art. You can buy tickets ahead of time on the website. 
     

TAKE NOTE! If you're planning on doing the Space Center, the Museum of Natural Sciences, and the Museum of Fine Arts, I highly suggest getting a City Pass.  Save yourself some money!

Food:

Freebirds: Like Chipotle, but better. Locations around the city.  

Galveston: 

We did take a trip to Galveston the same day we did NASA. In Galveston, we drove around and had dinner at Gaido's, which was enjoyable. There's a great view of the Gulf from inside, too! We took the baby to the beach and went wading for a bit. The water is like bath water. My parents have spent more time down there than I have, and they really like it. So it might be worth checking out, and of course spending a beach day, if that's your thing. You don't have to pay to use the beaches and there's street and lot parking. Fees for the parking vary. 

Catholic 101: God is not a vending machine!

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

A continuation of the Catholic 101 series

We sort of cover this when we cover prayer. The kids know that it's important to pray to God for things you want, but I warned them not to treat God like a vending machine--as in, prayer goes in, what you want comes out. 

"If you ask God for a pony for Christmas," I would say, "And you don't get a pony, that doesn't mean God doesn't love you."

We cover this again when we talk about Jesus' works, which is why I'm talking about it today. After we cover the 12 apostles, we discuss Jesus' ministry on Earth before Holy Week. The Beatitudes (we'll talk more about them next week), the parables, and the miracle stories are a big part of this. 

The first year I taught CCD, there was a child in my classroom who was blind. And who had to teach the week we talked about Jesus curing the blind man? Me. So it was really imperative to me that I get across the idea that just because student A was blind, he hadn't: 1) done something wrong, and was being punished by God, and 2) prayed hard enough. 

Student A's blindness is God's will for Him, just like all my stuff is God's will for me. Please, please, please do not tell someone that his circumstances are because he hasn't prayed hard enough, and if he would just pray a little harder, he'd be magically cured!

That's vending machine thinking. 

Now, do miracles exist? Absolutely. Does Jesus tell us to ask for things we want/need? Absolutely. BUT--we also need to consider if what we want is what is best for us. Remember that God sees the whole picture. We see this tiny, tiny little bit of the canvas. 

So while we talk about Jesus' great miracles, and acknowledge the miracles that happen today (I'm sure I've been the recipient of at least one), it is important to remember that prayer is not asking for things--and then getting mad if they don't happen. 

I'm sure most of you have prayed for someone to be healed who eventually died. I know I have. But that didn't mean God was spiting us; He was doing what was best for that said person, even though immeasurable sadness was left behind. 

So, yes, Seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened. But don't just pray to ask for "stuff". 

It sends me up a wall when people say, "If you had more faith you could be healed." What is this faith business in their minds? Some kind of magic formula? ...God is not your personal slot machine! Faith breeds a humility that is willing to accept the truth that he Father has revealed to us through His Son Jesus, knowledge that Christ is the Lord, and a deep realization that within the soul dwells the spirit.
--Mother Angelica, PCPA 

 

Seven Quick Takes No. 113

7 Quick Takes, Jeopardy, life issuesEmily DeArdo2 Comments

I. 

First up--this week's post roundup: 

SITS girls Summer Scribbles No. 1

Catholic 101: Those "Screwball Apostles"

II. 

I'm going to Pittsburgh this weekend for my godson/cousin's high school graduation. He actually graduated last week, but the party is this weekend. I can't believe he's that old, first off. I was fifteen when he was born! He'll be going to Pitt to study computer science. He's a good kid, and I'm so lucky to be his godmother.  

III. 

Just a reminder: my Jeopardy! appearance is July 18th!!!

IV. 

(Yes, that merited the cool font. You know it did.)

I'm actually sort of nervous about people watching it. I can see the whole slew of tweets and Facebook postings of "YOU IDIOT! How did you not know THAT?" And honestly, there's at least one question I'm still beating myself up about. :-P 

I did manage to impress Alex T., though. I did. But that is a story for the day the show airs. :) 

V. 

I did manage to whip the sketchbook out this week, not once, but TWICE! Oh yeah! 

Lunchtime sketching--lamp and a wonky pitcher. :-P (I was trying to do single line contour on that guy, so....)

Lunchtime sketching--lamp and a wonky pitcher. :-P (I was trying to do single line contour on that guy, so....)

Plant at Dawes Arboretum. 

Plant at Dawes Arboretum. 

VI. 

California legalized assisted suicide this week. Why that's a bad idea. 

VII. 

And my hockey team is continuing to hate me--game 6 in San Jose.....

Summer Scribbles No. 1: A Question of Packing

essays, travel, Jane AustenEmily DeArdo2 Comments

The SITS girls had a list of blog writing prompts for June, and I've selected ones I particularly enjoy, and which I'll be sharing with you on Wednesdays throughout the summer. Sometimes using prompts helps ignite my creative juices and give us some variety in the content we have here. And it's summer, so we might as well have fun with it, right? 

The first prompt is: 

What is something you always take with you when you travel? 

Besides the medical equipment--CI cleaner, CI battery charger, the huge medication bag (which is smaller than it was pre-transplant!)--and the normal stuff, there are two things that always come with me when I travel:

Tea and Jane Austen. 

I realize those things are probably connected. 

I started taking Bigelow tea bags last fall when I went out of town for a wedding. I found it was so nice to have the option of hot tea in my room at night--if there's a coffee machine, I can heat up the water for tea, and if there's a microwave, I can even reheat tea again in the morning. I brought an entire box to California with me, if you can believe it, and it came in handy on the last day, because I caught a cold and having tea was definitely helpful! 

The other thing I always bring is a hard copy of a Jane Austen novel. Usually it's P&P. For Pittsburgh, it'll be Persuasion, unless I finish it before then, in which case it'll be Emma. When I' tight on space and/or I have my iPad, all of Jane's books are loaded on there. Her books are sort of my literary security blanket. I know I'll always have something to read!

What is something you always bring with you when you travel? 

Catholic 101: Those "screwball apostles"

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

a continuation of the Catholic 101 series

Mother Angelica called the 12 Apostles "screwball apostles" a lot. It always made me laugh. 

This is one of my favorite things to teach the kids, because the apostles were a motley bunch. Fishermen, tax collectors, married and single men...who dropped everything to follow Jesus.

The Apostles always give me hope, because in the Gospel they're continually doing stupid things. They don't understand Jesus a lot of the time. I can sort of imagine Jesus taking a deep breath when talking to them. You guys still don't get it?! 

In class, we break the apostles into three weeks, so we can let them ferment in the kids' minds, and not throw too many names at them at once. But here, you get all of them at one time. Historical fact about all of them can be hard to come by, so sometimes we just have historical guesses about what happened to them. 

Peter : Simon Peter, the "rock", the leader of the apostles. Andrew's brother, he was a fisherman who worked with his brother on the boats. Jesus healed his mother-in-law, but the Gospels never make any mention of Peter's wife. He betrayed Jesus three times the night of Holy Thursday, and tradition says he wept for that betrayal every day of his life. Peter went to preach the Gospel in Rome, where he was crucified upside down, since he didn't consider himself worthy to be crucified the same way as Christ.  He was the first Pope--and tradition says he was also the longest reigning pope. His feast day is June 29.  

Andrew: Simon Peter's brother; a disciple of John the Baptist. Also a fisherman. He is the patron saint of Scotland and was crucified in an X-shape--hence the flag of Scotland bearing the X-shaped cross, the Saltire. His feast day is November 30. 

James the Greater: Called "Greater" because he was taller than the other James. (yes. For all time, we will know that one was taller than the other.) John's brother, one of the "sons of thunder". Son of Zebedee and Salome, he was a fisherman along with his father and brother. James preached the Gospel in Spain, and is buried at Santiago de Compostela, which is still the site of many pilgrimages today (people walk the Camino to Santiago still, today, as seen in the film The Way.)  His feast day is July 25. 

John: The "disciple Jesus loved", John was the brother of James the Greaterand was also a fisherman. He wrote the Gospel of John, the Johnnine Letters, and the book of Revelation. He was the only apostle present at Christ's crucifixion, and took care of the Virgin Mary after Jesus's death and subsequent ascension. He was the only apostle to die of old age, on the island of Patmos (he was exiled there during the persecutions of the Roman emperor Domitian.). Hie feast day is December 27. 

Philip: Like Peter and Andrew, Philip was from Bethsaida, and was also a disciple of John the Baptist. The Gospels don't tell us what his profession was. He preached in Greece and was crucified upside down, like Peter. His feast day is May 3. 

Bartholomew: Also identified with Nathaniel in the Gospels, he was from Cana. He was a missionary to India, where he left a copy of the Gospel of Matthew, and also traveled to Armenia, where he was flayed alive and crucified. In Michelangelo's The Last Judgment, Michelangelo paints the apostle holding his flayed skin. It's also a self-portrait of the artist. His feast day is August 24. 

Bartholomew, holding his flayed skin, is to the lower right of Christ. 

Bartholomew, holding his flayed skin, is to the lower right of Christ. 

Thomas: The famous "doubting Thomas", who refused to believe in the Resurrection until Christ appeared before him and told him to put his hands in the nail marks. He traveled to India to preach the gospel, and is the patron saint of that country. Thomas was killed accidentally when a fowling shot hit him, instead of its target! His Feast Day is July 3. 

Matthew: A tax collector, Matthew also wrote the Gospel of Matthew. Born in Galilee, he invited Jesus to his house for a feast, and became one of the twelve. 

Caravaggio, The Calling of St. Matthew 

Caravaggio, The Calling of St. Matthew 

Tradition says Matthew preached the gospel to the Jewish community in Judea before going to other countries. We aren't sure how--or when--he died. His feast day is September 21. 

James (the Less): Son of Alpheaus.  He wrote the Letter of James and was the first Bishop of Jerusalem. He was thrown from the roof of the temple in Jerusalem, and his body clubbed after he died. His feast day is May 3. 

Jude/Jude Thaddeus: He was a cousin of Jesus; his mother Mary was the Virgin Mary's cousin. Author of the Epistle of Jude; he preached the gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Libya. He is the patron saint of lost/hopeless causes. He was martyred in Beirut around 65 AD. His feast day is October 28. 

Simon: Sometimes called "Simon Zebedee" to distinguish him from Simon Peter. Legend says he was martyred by being sawed into pieces. 

Judas: "The Iscariot". He betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin for 30 pieces of silver, and committed suicide early on the morning of Good Friday. He was replaced in the group of 12 by Matthias. (Feast Day May 14)

 

 

 

Seven Quick Takes No. 112

7 Quick Takes, life issues, Jane AustenEmily DeArdo2 Comments

I. 
Previously on the blog, here (in case you missed any of it!): 

Sugarcoating Suicide: Me Before You
Ordinary Joy
Summer Reading

That first one has become particularly relevant since I found out that the state of California will legalize assisted suicide next week. 

II. 

In My Summer Reading post, I talked about Eligible. Well, I finished it yesterday, and it was terrible. Terrible isn't really a strong enough word for how bad it was, acutally. If you are at all tempted to read it, please, for the Love of All That is Holy, go pick up the real Pride and Prejudice, or watch the Only Version That Exists In My World. 

 

III. 

Also in the world of Jane, I'm re-reading Persuasion. If you haven't read that one, go for it, please. It gets overlooked sometimes!

IV. 

If you're a Facebook friend of mine, you're probably wondering why, around 8:00 every other night, my feed becomes incomprehensible with sports jargon. It's because the Penguins are in the Stanley Cup Finals, and I adore hockey.  

My first NHL game was against the Hartford Whalers (Wow, I just dated myself) at the old Igloo--the Civic Arena-- in Pittsburgh. I think this was in 1990. But anyway, I have been a lifelong fan since then. Poor Mary, when we were in LA, had to put up with my attention totally deviating from her if hockey came on the TV when we were eating. I'm like a dog going "SQUIRREL!" 

So, until the series is over (and hopefully the Pens will sweep and it'll be over next week, and we'll have our Fourth Stanley Cup victory), there might be some weird Facebook posting. :) 

V. 

If you're wondering why I root for Pittsburgh teams when I live in Columbus--it's because my parents are both from Pittsburgh. In fact, they were born three days apart (although in different hospitals), and Dad is a Pitt and Carnegie Mellon graduate. Mom used to work at Pittsburgh Children's before she married my dad. So all of us kids were brought us as Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins fans, and it stuck. Even though my brother went to OSU, we're not very strong OSU fans. 

And I hate calling it The Ohio State University. Some of my friends do it just to spite me. :-P

VI. 

It go so hot, so fast here. It's like we didn't really have spring at all. It was cold, and then "boiling lava hot" (as Jim Gaffigan says in his Hot Pockets sketch). Oh well. At least the pool's open and my A/C works!!!! 

VII. 

Finally--do any of you use fountain pens? I just started and I have to say, I love them. I feel very writerly and Jane-ish (although I know Jane didn't use them). Ink spots on my fingers? Fun! 

 

Summer Reading: June

booksEmily DeArdoComment

 

As Olaf likes to say, it's.....

SUMMMMMERRRRRR!

(In case, you know, you need an audio refresher. :-P)

Anyway, one of the best parts of summer is the summer reading lists that are everywhere. I've already looked at three so far and I've compiled a list of books that I can't wait to read (and in fact, I've already started some of them). So I thought I'd share my list with you! Some of these I've already finished and I've put my review in, and some are still waiting to be read. 

I love Chris Cleave. I had the great opportunity to meet him when he was in Columbus on book tour for Gold, his last book, and he is such a lovely person--and a fantastic writer. If you haven't read his other books (Gold, Little Bee, and Incendiary) get on that now. 

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is set in London in 1939, just as World War II is beginning. Mary North is the daughter of an MP, and instead of finishing finishing school, she races back to London to help the war effort--to be assigned as a teacher. Not exactly what she had in mind. 

Tom works for the education ministry, and when Mary comes to him asking for a new position, he falls head over heels in love with her. Problem is--his roommate and best friend, Alistair, does too.

The novel is based on the lives of Cleave's grandparents, and like all his novels, the writing is beautiful and the characters engaging.It was unputdownable. Highly recommend it, even if you think you're sick of WWII novels. This one is different. 

 

This is part of the Jane Austen project, where contemporary authors "reimagine" Jane's work. In Eligible, the story is set in Cincinnati, Darcy is a neurosurgeon, and Bingley was a contestant on a Bachelor-like series called Eligible, which everyone watches but no one will admit to. Lydia and Kitty are Paleo Crossfitters, Jane is a yoga teacher, Lizzy is a magazine writer, and Mary....well, no one really knows what Mary does. I've just started this one. 

I've always loved memoir, and I've been wanting to read this for awhile; I think Ginny Sheller suggested it back in the day. Ohio's biggest industry is farming, and I had a friend in high school whose parents ran a large farming operation--pigs, cows, soybeans/corn. We would go pick corn to have with our dinners in the summer. So I've always been fascinated by stories about farming and the people who do it. 

Kimball writes engagingly about her transformation from a SoHo, quasi-hipster writer to a full-fledged farm wife. Some parts are definitely a little squirm inducing--I could not be a farmer--and it will make you hungry. 

I know this book has been out forever, but I haven't read it yet--and since a sequel (I guess a sequel?) is coming out this summer (it's already out, actually), I figure I should read this one. Here's what Amazon says about it: 

Orphaned during her passage from Ireland, young, white Lavinia arrives on the steps of the kitchen house and is placed, as an indentured servant, under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate slave daughter. Lavinia learns to cook, clean, and serve food, while guided by the quiet strength and love of her new family.

In time, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, caring for the master’s opium-addicted wife and befriending his dangerous yet protective son. She attempts to straddle the worlds of the kitchen and big house, but her skin color will forever set her apart from Belle and the other slaves.

Through the unique eyes of Lavinia and Belle, Grissom’s debut novel unfolds in a heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful story of class, race, dignity, deep-buried secrets, and familial bonds

So, if Kitchen House is good, then I'll be reading: 

I realize the name of this one might make some of you freak out. No, I'm not becoming a pantheist or a polytheist, guys! This story is very Joy Luck Club, except it follows three generations of one family, living in Kolkata, California, and Houston. The writing is elegant, and the three strands of stories are woven together for a satisfying conclusion. 

 

The Accidental Empress and Sisi: Empress on Her Own, by Alison Pataki

Together, these novels trace the life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who, at 15, married Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria- Hungary, in the last years of the Habsburg Empire. She's "accidental" because her sister Helene was supposed to marry the Emperor, not impulsive, artistic 15 year old Sisi. And after her marriage has already taken place, Sisi begins to realize she may have made a huge mistake. The books are compulsively readable, dripping with great characters, and most of it is taken directly from the historical record. 

 

 

What's on your summer reading list? 

Ordinary Joy

essaysEmily DeArdoComment

I have to start by saying: I am so humbled--and so surprised, honestly--at the reaction I received over my last piece. I am so honored to have received so many beautiful comments, both here and throughout social media, regarding it. Thank you for your lovely response! 

A lot of the writing I do here chronicles my daily life--ordinary joy. I write because that's what I do. It's my main creative act, the way I focus the lens of life. I write about books, and knitting, and travel, and theater, and my faith. And generally, my posts are pretty small. They go out into the world and a few people read them, and I get a few comments here and there. 

But Friday's post really clarifies why I write about the small. I write about the ordinary joy. I write about my constant use of the knit stitch and Jane Austen and sometimes I write about hospital stays and problems with insurance and IV woes. Because those tiny, ordinary things are what make up a life. It's a life I'm blessed to live, and to share with all of you. 

"Earth's crammed with Heaven", Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, " and every common bush afire with God; but only him who sees, takes off his shoes."   

I want to see, and I want to share those moments here in this space. I want us to take off our shoes. 

Ordinary joy, ordinary faith, ordinary life--and how extraordinary it is, that I get to live it at all. That any of us get to live it, at all. 

 

 

Sugarcoating Suicide: Me Before You (Or: Why you should not read this book or see this movie)

life issues, transplantEmily DeArdo27 Comments

I get really, really tired of defending my existence.

If it isn't people telling me that my transplant was immoral, it's people who think that assisted suicide for disabled people is a good idea, and a sign of love. 

Yes. Because, you know, nothing says I love you like KILLING YOU. 

Let's look at the cognitive dissonance, here: When someone--say, Robin Williams--commits suicide, social media is flooded with messages like, "suicide isn't the answer", "please get help-- don't be afraid of getting it", "I wish people knew that they could talk to me if they're ever feeling like this." Etcetera. You all know how this goes. People are sad, as they should be. People continually say that suicide is NOT a good option. And it's not. 

But: when it's a disabled person who kills himself, oh, well, that's love

And that's exactly what happens in the new movie Me Before You, based on the novel of the same name by JoJo Moyes. In it, a woman falls in love with a quadriplegic man she's taking care of--but, oh, he wants to kill himself. Because, you know, life in a wheelchair isn't worth living. And if she REALLY loved him, she'd go with him to Switzerland and be there when he kills himself. Because that's love: supporting you in all your bad choices! 

No. You know what love is? Love is what Mary Lenaburg and her family did for her daughter, Courtney. Love is what Kelly Mantoan and countless other parents do every day for their kids who need their help. Love is my mom washing my hair when I'm nineteen years old and her back hurts, or my dad staying up during countless ER runs with me, or my siblings learning how to reconstitute and push IV drugs. THAT is love. 

My life isn't perfect. Show me someone who says his life is perfect, and I'll say that this person is a liar. Did it suck, being twenty-three years old and not being able to brush my teeth without sitting down after? Does it suck now, when I have to ask people to repeat things because I don't always understand them, or when my CI malfunctions? Yeah. But I would never, ever say that that was worth being dead. Obviously, I like my life just fine, since I've been to the edge of death and come back from it five times. I must think that something is worth living for. 

When we start sugarcoating assisted suicide--like in The Sea Inside, Million Dollar Baby, and The English Patient--we are trying to make it morally acceptable. We're trying to tell people that suffering is bad and we should avoid it at all costs, even by killing people who are suffering. Guys. That's not love. That's not living boldly, as the movie's tagline execrably proclaims. 

Living boldly is living the way my friend Sage does, while she waits for a lung transplant.  It's what Andi's kids do every day, whether they're running crazily at a T-ball game or singing in show choir. Living boldly is embracing life in all its highs and lows and living anyway.  

I've had people tell me that they would've aborted me, if they'd been my mom. 

To my face, people. 

* * * 

In The Giver, a dystopian novel by Lois Lowry, Jonah, the main character, discovers that what everyone calls "release" is actually euthanasia. In his community, old people are killed, people who break the rules three times are killed, even one of a set of twins is killed. Babies that don't sleep through the night when they're a year old are killed. Why? Because they are inconvenient. Because they make life difficult for the community. Jonah can't live in a system like that, and runs away with Gabriel, a baby that is slated for "release." He risks his own life to save the baby's--because if you try to escape from the community and are caught, you are "released." 

The community's highest value is ease of life. No one experiences pain. No one, actually, experiences any emotions. People take a pill every day so that they don't have emotions. Parents don't have children--they are "given" children, who are born via artificial insemination. When Jonas asks his parents if they love him, they laugh at him and say it's a meaningless word. And thus, the community medicates away their humanity--and kills what is inconvenient. 

Yeah, it's a book--but are we that far off from that? Where do we stop? 

The abortion rate for Down Syndrome kids in the U.S. is 67% In Europe, it's 92%. We are killing babies because they are imperfect. Because they are inconvenient.  This Atlantic headline pretty much says it all--why on EARTH would you keep an imperfect baby? 

People sue for "wrongful birth"--saying that they wish their babies had never been born. Not all cases of CF are detectable in utero, because there are thousands of possible mutations. So if a kid with CF is born, and his parents don't like it, they sue. They can pretty it up all they want and say they need the money for the kid's care--but it's not about money. It's about having a kid who isn't perfect, and someone needs to pay for that. Someone made "a mistake."

Jesus had something to say about this: 

 

You know who made the "mistake", here? It was God. And no, it's not a mistake. God did all this for a purpose, and for a reason. My crazy genetic code exists to bring Glory to God. That's why I'm here.  

Suicide is not an answer for anyone, at any time. It's not romantic and it's not brave. In the case of assisted suicide, it's reprehensible. 

Life has value beyond its utility. We are not cogs in a machine. We are human beings created in the image and likeness of God. And to purposefully commit suicide is not brave. It's cowardly. It flies in the face of bravery. 

I'm not a hero. I'm not a saint. I screw up. But the answer to challenges isn't to give up. The answer is to live the best you can, in the circumstances you are in. Love is helping people find a way to live--not by helping them die. 

 

Writing Update: Sending queries and other notes

writing, memoirEmily DeArdoComment

I thought I'd update you on the status of my manuscript, since it's been awhile. I'm still shopping the memoir manuscript around to different houses and agents. Each one wants different things in the query, so I've been adapting each proposal per regulations, and then sending them off. I have also completely re-written the beginning of the manuscript, including adding a new preface. I'm really excited about that part!

As far as fiction goes, I've uncovered a really old manuscript that I abandoned, and I've set to work finishing it. My goal is three chapters a month until a final rough draft exists. That's not a lot, but I wanted a sort of easy goal. I definitely surpassed it in May, writing about seven new chapters, so I figure I'll do the same thing in June. It's very easy to write once I'm in the characters' heads again. 

That's all for now, but I'm excited about the way things are going! I hope to have good news to share with you soon!

 

 

Postcard: Duck, North Carolina

travelEmily DeArdoComment

I've been lucky enough to spend two weeks in Duck, North Carolina, twice in my life, and both times have been amazing vacations. Duck, which is part of the Outer Banks, has some of the best beaches in the country, and it's an amazing place to relax and enjoy life in a small island town. 

You can fly into the Outer Banks--the Richmond, VA airport is fairly close--but I recommend driving, because, if you're spending a week at the beach, you're going to need a lot of stuff. For me, it's a drive that can be done in one very long day, but both times I've gone, the drive has been split into two days on the way there, and done in one on the way back. 

So here are my recommendations for a great week in one of my favorite places on Earth. 

Housing

Both times, the house we stayed in was a Sun Realty NC rental. They have a HUGE variety of properties to fit every budget, are pet-friendly, and are fantastic to work with. (They also support the CF Foundation!) They have everything from tiny beach bungalows to multi-story houses with pool tables and inground pools. 

Food

The food in the Outer Banks (Hereafter OBX) is fantastic, especially the seafood. Here are some of the places we've enjoyed eating: 

The Blue Point for a nice lunch or dinner. Located in the Waterfront Shops in Duck, you have a lovely view of the sound, and the crab cakes are to die for. Seriously.  1240 Duck Road. 

Duck Pizza Company: It's a Sunday evening tradition--don't go grocery shopping, get Duck pizza. They deliver, or you can eat at their shop in the Scarborough Lane shops. 1171 Duck Road. 

Duck Donuts: The one. The only. Incredibly good and incredibly famous. :) 1190 Duck Road. 

Sooey's BBQ and Rib Shack: Get some Carolina cue in the Scarborough Faire shops (right next to the Scarborough Lane shops). 

Big Al's: This is in Manteo--we ate here on our way to see The Lost Colony (More on that below). Fantastically fun retro diner. 716 S. Highway 64. 

 

Grocery Stores

Food Lion in Corolla is your big box grocery store. In Duck, you have two smaller choices: Tommy's, which is a gourmet market and sells a ton of fresh seafood as well as other gourmet eats, is in the waterfront shoppes. Your other option is Wee Winks, which is less pricey and has your general food/household stuff. TINY parking lot, though, which backs right out onto Duck Road, so be careful! 

 

Bookstores

That's right guys--book stores. Two fantastic independent bookstores!!!! Both have really friendly staffs and are heaven for book browsers. 

Duck's Cottage: My true love. I go there almost every day when I'm in Duck. Not only books--coffee and pastries, too, that you can eat in the shop or on the adorable porch outside. Treats and water for pups, too! Small, but an incredibly diverse collection, and they'll order books for you. 1240 Duck Road. (In the Waterfront Shops) This is my favorite bookstore in the country, guys. I love it even more than The Strand in NYC! 

Island Bookstore: Scarborough Faire shops. Packed to the rafters with all sorts of books, including ones that are crazy hard to find. A great place to dig around and browse. 

 

Shopping

Duck is known as a shopper's paradise, and there's a lot of great places to check out. The Scarborough Lane and Scarborough Faire shops are a good place to go when it's raining since they're more covered; the Waterfront Shops overlook the sound. The Fudgery at the Scarborough Lane shops is to die for, and the Christmas Mouse shop there is really cute. I love just about every shop in the Waterfront Shops. 

 

Beaches

The Beaches are divine. If you rent from Sun, you'll have private access routes to the beaches. You can also rent beach items--chairs, noodles, floats, even bikes--from various companies around town. The beaches all have lifeguards and boards noting the weather conditions, water temperature, and other things. Be aware of riptides and how to get out of them before you go, though--every house that Sun rents has information sheets about these in the main room. 

 

Theater

The Lost Colony is one of America's first outdoor drama performances, and it's one of the good ones. The performance features really cool sets and music, and is located in an outdoor amphitheater that overlooks the water. Wear bug spray and bring a jacket, because it gets chilly! But it's a great performance that details what might have happened to the "lost colony" of Roanoke. 1409 National Park Drive, Manteo, NC. 

History

If you want to see where the Wright Brothers took their first flight, head to the Wright Brothers National Memorial. (Even though the first flight was in Kitty Hawk, the museum is located in Kill Devil Hills. Go figure.) 

Sports

The OBX is a great place to learn to surf, SUP (Stand up Paddleboard), body surf, kayak--all sorts of things are available. There's fishing off the research pier, kite flying, and a lot more. North Beach Outfitters at the Waterfront shops sells sports gear and also has kayak and Jeep adventures. 

Getting around/miscellaneous

Everything in Duck is off the main road--route 12, or the "Duck Road." It's easy to get around via car or even bike--and to get to the other towns, you either go north or south. Corolla, the city north of Duck, is pretty remote, and some of the sites are only accessible via a 4X4. 

Sundays are crazy, because that's the biggest day for people leaving and arriving in the Outer Banks. Be prepared for slow traffic on the bridges and once you're on the island. It gradually clears up as you get closer to Duck. To avoid the traffic when you're heading home, leave really early in the morning. I haven't figured out how to avoid it when you're arriving, yet. : ) Also be sure to study the hurricane information sheets in your hotel/rental. 

Your rental company will tell you what you need to bring in terms of cooking/household gear. If you're like me and you like to cook, you might want to bring a decent knife and cutting board, since those can be hard to find in rental houses. 

I really want to get back to Duck soon--writing this has made me miss it!! If you're looking for a great vacation spot, I highly recommend the Outer Banks, and Duck in general.