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Archive for Memphis TN

go . Starting Christmas Vacation in Memphis

Merry Christmas! I hope you have all had as wonderful a Christmas celebration as we have. We are visiting with family and enjoying some down time — and for me, some time away from project work. I’m spending son little time thinking through ideas for 2017 and making plans for where I want to put my focus in the coming year.

This December, we were very excited to visit Memphis again to kick off our Christmas vacation! We spent the first few days of our holiday back in the 901 to catch a production of “Annie” at The Orpheum theater. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been to Memphis during the holiday season, and it was fun to be there again this year. Weather for the trip was kind of typical for the South in that the first two days were warm, humid and rainy, and the last two were frigid! So, we were not able to visit some of our old favorite spots. However, we still did at least a little walking downtown, taking in the Christmas lights, enjoying the historic Orpheum, and visiting the Memphis Zoo for the annual Zoo Lights celebration. That zoo visit assure me that the fisherprice code a pillar I purchased will be a hit with the kids. We always love breakfast at the Blue Plate Cafe next to Court Square. It’s just a couple of blocks from our hotel in the historic William Len building. They serve breakfast all day, so my favorite french toast is always available. Also, the rain did not stop the hide-and-seek game in Court Square the kids play each time we stay downtown.

This trip, we also discovered a new little cupcakery next to Court Square, Cupcake Cutie, Etc, where you can build your own cupcake — choose your cake type, icing flavor and toppings! It’s been open about four months, and we’re definitely adding it to our list of favorite spots for our next visit. Here’s a glimpse at some of our views from this trip. Enjoy!

go . Memphis in June


Memphis has become one of “our” places. It feels like we’ve visited it enough that we don’t feel like tourists, but more like friends coming to town again. It’s only a couple of hours from Starkville, and I love seeing productions in the Broadway Series at The Orpheum. So, over the last couple of years, we’ve visited the city a couple of times each year, and my children have begun to call it their own. They’re starting to know their way around Downtown, and they each have their own experiences they look forward to — restaurants, stores, museums, the park. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to enjoy their excitement about their own experiences of a place!

Earlier this month, we went to Memphis again to see The Wizard of Oz (amazing!), and it was our first time to visit during the summer months. Our last trip was in January, so it was a real treat to see flowering trees and so much green on Main Street where we like to stay. The weather was that Southern summertime mix of sweltering heat and billowing clouds that brought a couple of quick thunderstorms in between plenty of sunshine.


We enjoyed walking to dinner at the kids’ favorites, Aldo’s Pizza Pies with its plates of dough, and Huey’s with the challenge of shooting your toothpick into the ceiling tiles. We also tried Bayou Bar & Grill in midtown in Overton Square on our way out of town, and it did not disappoint! This trip, we had time for our first visit to the Fire Museum of Memphis, which is located in the old Fire Station No. 1 Downtown. It has a fun mix of Fire Department artifacts, photos, trucks and equipment, as well as some neat interactive exhibits the kids really enjoyed — especially the rescue simulation driving the fire truck through Downtown streets!









We usually stay at the Marriott Residence Inn, which is located in the old William Len Hotel, built in 1927. In addition to some great Art Deco details, the hotel includes a nice rooftop space for views of Downtown landmarks (and the occasional game of hide-n-seek). For some reason, my children always request one evening just to play in our hotel suite with delivery from Aldo’s and Westy’s, and an evening thunderstorm provided the perfect opportunity this trip.




So much of these experiences with my kids inspire me. All the shapes and colors of a more metropolitan downtown. And mostly their reactions to everything – when they make me laugh out loud, when they embrace each moment and make the little things fun. I’ve been going through lots of photos from our Memphis adventures, and I want to share a few more posts of some of the themes that are popping out – our latest views of Beale and The Orpheum, the amazing public art that’s everywhere, the architectural details from the era of early high-rises, a couple of other unique experiences I’m just now remembering. Stay tuned!


letters to my daughter 032316 + Ballet Memphis!


We were happy to see Ballet Memphis perform in Starkville last night as part of the Mississippi State University Lyceum Series. We have seen the company in a couple of traditional productions in Memphis, but last night’s pieces were less what you expect from traditional ballet. They were more experimental with interesting variations of costumes, disruptions to the typically fluid ballet choreography, and a more abstract form of storytelling. I think what we all enjoyed most was the unusual musical selections chosen for the dances. One of the things I love about Ballet Memphis is the diversity of the company, and I think that lends itself to some very interesting storytelling. The pieces we saw last night were clearly rooted in Southern culture, and used music that is very indicative of the South with combinations of traditional hymn-like religious music, the negro spiritual sound, a bluegrass feel and even some voice sound recordings of interviews and old gospel sermons. One of the pieces exclusively used Roy Orbison songs — not your typical score for a ballet performance. The consensus favorite with my crew was called “The Darting Eyes,” and was inspired by traditional Mississippi River baptisms through many eras. It was a really beautiful blending of an almost ghost-like historical imagery with the sacred rite of baptism so much ingrained in Southern culture.

I loved that a non-traditional performance like this (absent of the frilly tutus Baby Girl loves about her own ballet performances) could provoke conversations with all three of my children. It was amazing to see the fresh eyes through which they viewed the performance. I’m so grateful we’ve had the chance to see this wonderful company perform several times. Today’s Letter to My Daughter was inspired by the unexpected combination of music of ballet traditions we saw last night. I want to encourage my kids (and myself) to have the courage to choreograph our daily dances to our own music — no matter how unexpected.

go . Sightseeing Beale


Last weekend, we visited Memphis to see the amazing Broadway musical, Matilda! I would highly recommend this award-winning production if you have a chance to see it. While we were in town, we had a lot of fun in our favorite downtown activities, and this visit, we also did a little sightseeing on Beale Street — soaking up the sights and colors of one of Memphis’ iconic destinations. Baby Girl got her air guitar on, and we took in the cacophony of signs, neon, letters and curiosities. A new favorite Memphis activity was definitely added to the list for future trips! Enjoy a few of the sights…







favorite colors 101415 . Alley


We’re heading to Memphis for a long weekend and some Cinderella fun on Friday, and I was digging through a few photos from past trips. Aside from the ones with my three cuties, I think this may be my favorite Memphis shot! I love the slices of light taller buildings provide on downtown streets — the colors, the shadows, the patterns formed by overlapping window grids. Does every mid-size urban downtown in America have Deco details? This one is so warm, even though I kind of remember the day being cold.  It inspired today’s favorite colors — a mix of warm and cool, blacks and browns, the blend of neutral tones.

go . Cafe Keough


Today I’m sharing one final post from our Valentine’s weekend trip to Memphis. I mentioned before that we were snowed in for a couple of extra days, which was actually tons of fun (and maybe a little nerve wracking for the Mommy). On Monday morning when we ventured out, our favorite pancake spot for breakfast, the Blue Plate Cafe, was closed for a snow day. That gave us the excuse to wander down Main Street a bit in the snow and ice in search of an alternative. We stopped into Cafe Keough, a corner coffee shop we had seen in our previous walks. It’s a wonderful old space with high ceilings, big windows and a great mix of history, industrial feel and urban vibe.

Part of the appeal was that the manager was shoveling off the iced sidewalk in front of the cafe when we walked up (bonus!). But, the pastry counter kind of sealed the deal. The kids enjoyed waffles with a side of oatmeal cookies, because that’s what you do on a snow day in Memphis, I guess. And, I couldn’t resist the chocolate croissants. We settled into a couple of the small cafe tables by the front windows and enjoyed our munchies with a great view of snow-covered downtown — a view I’m sure we won’t soon forget. Thanks for sharing the trip with us, and I can’t wait to try out some of the sandwiches at Cafe Keough the next time we are in town!






go . Walking in Memphis + Snow


We were excited to visit Memphis again for Valentine’s Day last month, and I thought I would share a bit of our trip through pictures. We were there to see The Lion King at The Orpheum Theater for the Saturday matinee, and ended up with an extended vacation because of ice and snow! We went from shedding our coats during the walk on Saturday to throwing snow-turned-to-ice bombs at one another on Monday. It was a fun time for everyone to be snowed in for a few extra days. Plus, since we were staying away from the roads and some of our familiar haunts were closed, we had the chance to try some new things. All in all, it was a grand adventure which included the broadway show, Memphis BBQ, the National Civil Rights Museum, familiar walks in and out of snow, and some good togetherness. Here’s a look…


[late afternoon trek back from the Orpheum]


[doorway peek into Southern Folklore]



[Memphis deliciousness from Central BBQ after our visit to the Lorraine Motel]


We usually stay next to Court Square downtown when we visit Memphis, so these buildings are a familiar look up. The skies went from bright cobalt blue to pretty gray over the few days we were there.




see . Seeing Ourselves at the National Civil Rights Museum


It took me a few seconds to realize what she was saying. They were sitting in a school desk and Bug was helping Baby Girl “sound out” a word. Sound by consonant and vowel sound, they put it together… “Nigger.” I think my heart just broke when I heard it spoken out loud by my sweet little girl. “Mommy, what does that mean?” It was the first time the children had heard that word.

We were about mid-way through our visit to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee last month. The museum is located at the site of the Lorraine Motel, the place where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated on April 4, 1968. We were in a portion of the exhibit called “The Children Shall Lead Them” which chronicled the efforts of children like Ruby Bridges, whose attendance integrated schools in the South. They recognized Ruby’s story from some of their studies at school.

Part of the exhibit included school desks where visitors could sit and look at letters or paperwork from the time. We had gathered around a desk showing the “Little Rock Nine”, the nine students who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. My oldest and I were focused on a letter from a white senior written to Ernest Green, one of the nine, asking him not to attend their graduation. Mr. Green had visited Mississippi State University in 2014, and I was telling Drummer Boy about the lecture. Bug and Baby Girl, in the perpetual reading lesson stage they are in right now, had focused on the next piece of paper under the glass. It was a copy of lyrics to a song children were taught during the time of the Arkansas Nine. The title included the word “nigger.”

It was the first time the children had heard the word “nigger,” and I supposed I’m thankful that they learned it at a place like the National Civil Rights Museum. That reading lesson was just one of many conversations our visit to the Lorraine Motel has facilitated over the last few weeks. And, the moment of hearing “nigger” spoken aloud by my daughter was just one of many moments that brought me to tears as we took in the exhibit. It is a very moving and challenging place, but one that is absolutely essential if we are to do the necessary work of learning from our own past.



I’ve had several friends ask me what kind of experience the museum was for small children. Mine are young — fourth, second and first grades — and it was definitely a lot for them to take in. I am sure there was much they did not understand, and quite a few times they did not have the patience to listen to what I tried to explain to them. Still, I am very glad we all saw it together, and it will serve as good groundwork for when we can see it again as they get older.

The exhibitions are incredibly well-done and well-organized with displays, artifacts, video and audio throughout. There are several interactive walls that my children called “big iPads” where they could tap, drag and cater their experience to what interested them. (Or just be amazed by the fun of sliding things around when the information was beyond their attention spans.)



The museum includes displays from Freedom Summer, the Freedom Riders, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Memphis Sanitation Strike, March on Washington, information about the slave trade and its impact on the history and economics of the United States, as well as artwork and music related to social justice themes. It also includes an interactive smart table called “Join the Movement” where information about other issues beyond civil rights for African Americans are shown in quotes, images and video.








Without a doubt, the most moving portion of the museum for me was the Mountaintop Theatre, followed by viewing the hotel rooms where Dr. King stayed before he died. In the theatre, we heard Dr. King’s “mountaintop” speech given at the Mason Temple on April 3, 1968, along with commentary from those who were with him both on that evening and the day after when he was killed. The prophetic words of Dr. King, heard in his own voice in that particular place, created a true flood of emotions from shame and sorrow to honor and resolve…

“Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

The restored hotel rooms, viewed right after hearing the speech, were a very quiet and almost hallowed place. Hardly anyone spoke, and even my children found the need to whisper. Viewing the exhibits related to Dr. King’s death — the hotel rooms, the balcony and the wreath from the parking lot (now a courtyard with interactive video kiosks), the rooms across the street where it is believed James Earl Ray stood to shoot — definitely produced the most questions and confusion for my children. But, honestly, they produced the most questions for me as a Southerner and a human being as well. Although the ensuing discussions were very challenging as a parent, I’m so grateful to have taken the opportunity to begin some of those conversations surrounded by actual sights and sounds from those for whom the struggle for civil rights was a matter of life and death.

This quote from Rev Martin Luther King, Sr was displayed as the last image in the viewing area in front of his son’s hotel room in the Lorraine Motel. It brought me to tears, and I snapped a photo of it because it was such a poignant reminder that civil rights are not just about policies and speeches and national movements. Civil rights are about people. They are about my children. They are about me. There is no more poignant reminder of that fact than the words of a father about the son he’s lost — a lesson I hope I’m taking from the National Civil Rights Museum into each new day.



morning letters . Wednesday 021815


It’s already “hump day,” and it’s my first day of work this week! We had planned a long weekend in Memphis and ended up with an extra snow/ice day. While we were there, we had the chance to visit the National Civil Rights Museum, and it was such a moving experience — eye-opening, heartbreaking, inspiring and affirming all at the same time. I’m still reflecting on it a little today with this quote that was displayed in the museum. I’ll share more about our trip in some posts to come, but meanwhile, let us be about breaking chains.

signs . Memphis, TN No. 3


I love noticing signs. How letters in two dimension or three dimension interact with the built environment. How they intersect our views of our surroundings. How they communicate in digital or molded or hand-drawn ways, I love the ones made at signsofreilly.com. When we visit places, I usually snap lots of photos of signage — it’s just a quirk my children have come to accept about their Mommy! Yes, I suppose it’s been the source of a few eye-rolls from the kiddos on our sidewalk and back road adventures.

This weekend, we are visiting Memphis, Tennessee again to see The Lion King — big excitement! In anticipation, I’ve been looking through photos from our last two trips there, and thought I would share a few letters and numbers!

sign1 sign2 sign3 sign4 sign5 sign6 sign7 sign8 sign9

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