Friday, March 23, 2007

I hadn't planned on an exciting day, but as I reflect, I see a chilly gray day filled with a few of my favorite things. I rode the bus downtown to tutor Leonardo at the jail, had lunch with Greg, and visited an Asian grocery in the International District. Along the way, I gathered a few useful tidbits to share with you:

  • For you vegetarians who have been craving organ meats, you'll find vegetarian kidney at Viet Wah Super Market. Other sweet and savory treats: frozen dade (some kind of larvae. If you know what kind or how to cook it, do tell), big pomelos, cow penis and uterus (the yin and yang of beef offal), pretty little black sesame candies, cuttlefish balls, veggie chicken ham, cream puffs, and dried mussels.
  • Crafty upcycling ideas from jail (via Leonardo):
    • If the correctional officers take away your playing cards, make new ones out of milk cartons.
    • No mirror? Make one from the reflective insides of a potato chip bag.
    • Sculpt decorative flowers from toilet paper. Great Mother's Day gift.
  • Miscellaneous:
    • The formula for simple interest is i=prt, where p is the principle, r is the rate, and t is time.
    • The deadline for King County Metro's Poetry on Buses contest is April 30, 2007.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Being here

Yesterday was sunny, warm, and dry. The cherry blossoms and daffodils blared with color, and we opened the sunroof as we drove home from brunch. I think ahead to spring, when we'll take in our vitamin D the natural way, and shed layers of fleece and Gore-Tex for a few unreasonably perfect months. This is only a teaser and we still have chilly rains to endure, but I'm dreaming about those sunny days I'll spend in the backyard making jewelry and listening to podcasts while Lupita suns on her stoop.

As idyllic as that sounds, I want to break this habit of always looking ahead, always thinking about what's to come, rather than where I am. I'm learning the cost to the present when I continually focus on the future. I often feel I'm in a prelude, a preparation for the real fun and authentic experience that lies ahead. If we're headed to lunch, I'm thinking about what we might have for dinner. If I'm reading blogs, I'm thinking of the posts I'll write someday. If I'm laying around reading a book, I'm easily distracted by dreams of future travels and adventures that I'll take once I'm really living.

One crafty side effect of this habit is cleverly disguised as lifelong learning via a steady stream of 'how-to's'. Before doing something I've never done, I tend to plan and prepare so that I might eventually do X the RIGHT way. How to cook. How to blog. How to make a pincushion. How to patch that gaping hole in your heart that makes you hungry for some unknown invisible experience that will make everything else make sense.

During our sunny drive, Greg said "I like our life". Later that day, Robin, whose wisdom and empathy is second only to my mother's, reminded me to "cultivate joy and gratitude". As I look back on the weekend, I see my rich and filling life, not a ramp-up to the real thing, but the real thing itself. One evening, baby Sam slept, wriggled, and cooed in my arms for two whole hours while Greg and I enjoyed Ria's company, a great dinner, and a very nice glass of wine. The next afternoon, we lunched at a sports bar to watch basketball and indulge in a favorite treat, beer during daylight. That evening, I spent an evening with a wacky group of crafting librarians, noshing and sharing ideas and inspiration. By the end of the weekend, I was full, a little hungover, and kind of smelly, as if I'd just returned from a weekend of camping. I had dug around in a fragrant, mossy heap of companionship, love, food & beverage, and emerged rich, spent, and content, not at all concerned with what Monday might bring.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Smarty Pants

Today I had lunch with my dear friend, Steve. We've been friends since I was his RA at the dorms at Wichita State. He's from Conway Springs, a small farming community west of Wichita, the thriving metropolis where I grew up. Seattle is home to many former Kansans. Tip: when meeting someone from Kansas, reconsider your inclination to whip out the Wizard of Oz allusions. We've heard them.

Back to lunch. I've noticed a dearth of good sandwiches in Seattle (also a glut of teriyaki. Coincidence?). And clearly my expectation of finding a decent vegetarian sandwich is unreasonable. But today I have new hope.

Steve took me to a new favorite in Georgetown, Smarty Pants. At our server's suggestion, I ordered today's special, a West Coast Brat, a reuben-esque sandwich grilled up with Field Roast, swiss cheese, and cole slaw on marbled rye. It was [insert your favorite synonym for yummy here]. Grilled but not greasy, saucy but not goopy, fresh, savory, and good. While most of the sandwiches on the menu are meaty, patrons can substitute Field Roast on any sandwich.

But wait, there's more. Full bar. Yes, it's true. A really good sandwich place with lots of options for everyone, and beer and booze if you like (and I do). What else could I want? Friendly service? Yep. Laid back, hip but not pretentious? Uh-huh. I'm going to start getting out more.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bread and blogging

My partner, Greg, is quite a good cook (although getting him to cook can be challenging). Yesterday, our friends Mark, Erin and baby Maia asked us over for dinner, inspiring Greg to make this beautiful French bread.

Mark asked us to bring a salad or vegetable, so I pulled out my favorite roasted cauliflower recipe. Greg didn't mention that Mark would also be making a simple pasta dish to go with the salmon, so we showed up with our contributions to a nearly all-white dinner! Atkins notwithstanding, it was a yummy dinner and we had a fun evening chatting, eating, and playing with Maia. We also learned how to play Quiddler (Erin kicked everyone's ass), Erin made me my first salty dog, and shared her recipe for honey whole wheat bread.

Our evening brought me to a new perspective about this whole blogging thing. Instead of openly embracing this blogging urge, I keep ruminating over the 'why?' and 'what?'. Does the world need another blogger bearing her soul? Can I really just write this stuff without any planning, sense of scope, or single unifying theme? Like little Maia, I study situations closely, considering my options before taking my own tentative leaps. But I can take other lessons from her as well. When the music plays, just start dancing. And when dinner is all white, enjoy it along with the good company that you keep.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Tutoring at the jail

I always notice the walruses on the Arctic Hotel in downtown Seattle, near the King County Jail where I tutor students once a week. Of all the things I do in my daily life, this is the most rewarding, life-affirming, and compelling. It's trite to say, but I surely get at least as much out of the experience as do my students.

Students taking GED classes at the jail can request a tutor to support their learning in the classroom. The wide range of skill levels in the classroom makes it difficult, if not impossible, to meet the needs of each student who may have dropped out of school in 8th grade or 11th grade, may have a learning disability, or may not be a native English speaker.

As we reviewed algebra and geometry topics this week, my current student, Leonardo (not his real name), exclaimed that he had a formula to share with me. He then proceeded to teach me the Pythagorean theorem. He even spelled 'Pythagorean' without a hitch. Leonardo is also a gifted poet and prolific reader, curious about spirituality, psychology, and African-American history. As a librarian, I also work with community college students, and have worked with a rather entitled, self-assured lot at the University of Washington. But I have never met more earnest, hard-working, and curious students as those I have had the honor to work with at the jail.

I volunteer through Literacy Source, a wonderful organization in Seattle that serves adult learners in a variety of ways. As you might imagine, the demand for tutors is larger than the supply. Those of us in the blogosphere are blessed with abilities than we might take for granted, but with a relatively small time commitment, we can share our blessings with others and have impacts that we can only begin to imagine. If you're even remotely interested in learning more, please contact Literacy Source or your local literacy organization.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


I don't intend to fawn over my pets on my blog on a regular basis, but I'm pretty sure it's going to happen anyway. I only hope that other people out there trawling about for pug porn might find mine (my pug, that is) entertaining. I certainly do.

Lupita Bragiole Sinibaldi Keller, or Lupe, is our five year-old pug. This is my first dog, always having thought myself a cat person. Lupita has shown me the joys of the dark side, to the chagrin of the cats. It's like living with a cartoon. She not the most sociable dog you've ever met, although her face makes everyone want to be her friend, and then they're disappointed, hurt, or offended when she's shy. I'm sure that's our fault somehow. But for those with enough patience to hang out for a while, they're rewarded with a 20 lb. pile on their lap, depositing fur and giving kisses, wanted or otherwise. I'm amazed at the fortitude of our male friends who endure her trapsing about on their laps.

Stay tuned for future pug posts, though I promise to resist pug cult tendencies.

Accidental blog

I witnessed a terrible car accident the other day. It was very dramatic and upsetting, although I don't know what really happened or whether everyone was alright. I wanted to tell a bunch of people, mainly for my own selfish catharsis. So I'm starting a blog.

A car was moving at high speed perpendicular to the oncoming traffic. It crossed five lanes of traffic, from the left to right. I was 3-4 car lengths back in the far right-hand lane. The car slammed into the guardrail, metal flying in the air. A hawk that had been in the ravine squirted into the air, as if flying backwards, but straight up. I could feel my mind trying to make sense of the picture. Was it a head? A baby? A part of the car? No, a hawk, and so close up. A much better view than I usually get of the dozen or so I see on my commute.

At that point, I had to pay attention to my own ass. The driver in front of me veered slightly right, and I had a split second to check my side mirror to ensure that it would be safe for me to veer slightly left to avoid the car in front. Then I pulled safely onto the shoulder and called 911, my hands and voice shaking. I just got a cell phone, and now I had a legitimate occasion to use it.

The dispatcher asked me where the car in question was now. I couldn't see it. I saw other cars on both shoulders, but not that one. Did it go over the guardrail down into the steep ravine? Oh God, please no. I had no idea. Traffic was crawling by, so I couldn't see where it ended up. Down in Boeing Field somewhere? She took my sketchy info, told me I could leave, so I clutched the steering wheel, still weeping quietly, and drove away. There's the car over there on the left shoulder. Someone is leaning into the driver's side window. It couldn't have been good.