Monday, December 31, 2007

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." -Annie Dillard, or "Things I Loved in Seattle In 2007"

Caveat: I have put about 10 minutes of thought into this posting. Which is not very much. Also, I’m realizing I don’t remember much of the beginning of the year, but only what’s been going on this fall and winter…So I don’t know what I might have left out. Feel free to offer suggestions/disagreements/diversions...

Best Place to Get Hot Chocolate

El Diablo on Queen Anne, for their amazing hot chocolate, fun atmosphere, and cheerful and friendly baristas ALWAYS.

Best Place to Get Chai

It’s a tie. In my quest to find the perfect chai this year, all the big chains were clearly out due to sugary sweet chais that make me want to gag …so Uptown by South Lake Union (I think this is called the Westlake one) and the Ladro in West Seattle. I like how huge Uptown is (you're always going to find a good spot to work), and also how they have great big tables to work on. The WS Ladro’s people have an edge in terms of people atmosphere…and by people, I don’t mean baristas, because both places have awesome folks who make good coffee consistently. By people I mean those in the neighborhood who go there…

Best New Coffee Shop

Tougo on 18th and Union. Good tables to work on, friendly people, kids’ play area in back, and it’s pretty quiet. Also, if you have to go to the bathroom and don’t want to shut down your computer, Brian will watch it for you and no one will steal it. (I’ve done this three times.) Once I was there when there was a beautiful moon out and they made me take a break from working to walk to the corner and go see the moon. How cool is that? They’re just not open late enough…

Best Place to Get a Burrito

The taco truck at 23rd and Rainier, or thereabouts....

Best Place for Quiz Night

Clearly the Northside Grill…Great food, great beer, great people. What more could you ask for? Every other Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Best Place to Take a Walk

Olympic Sculpture Park is beating out Discovery – which deserves an honorable mention since it actually has a leafy trail to walk around that makes you feel like you're in the wilderness and not the city. But OSP is amazing. They did a fantastic job of melding art with the cityscape around them...I’m a huge fan of the Love/Loss sculpture, and also the one that looks kind of like a whale/music symbol/up for grabs description here.

Best Nonprofit doing good stuff with kids

NewFutures. They rock. And they’re one of the few doing stuff with teens. Honorable mentions here include TAF, the Vera Project, and Urban Impact. Also ytp. Full Disclosure Note: I do know people at NF. So I’m probably biased. Well, I am biased.

Best Music for Rainy Seattle Days….

Such a hard choice! This is a tie in my world, between Over the Rhine’s The Trumpet Child and Ben Harper’s Lifeline. Mostly OTR wins because Ben’s so much better in person, but I am in love with “Say You Will…”And also, there’s a lot of other great artists who put out good stuff this year, but I get impatient and can rarely listen to a whole album, so the fact that I can listen to these two repeatedly bears mentioning.

Best Character Studies in a Movie.

Eastern Promises.
It’s intriguing, to say the least.

Best Character Studies in a TV Show.

The Wire. Michael Williams. Sonja Sohn. Wendell Pierce. Andre Royo. Really, I could list the whole cast. Enough said.

Sports Items...

I almost forgot to add the oh-so-important sports category... the Seahawks have clinched their division ...we won't talk about the Sonics because it's too depressing at multiple levels...but the best Seattle team to watch at the moment might be the Seattle Thunderbirds. Good times at Key Arena....

Categories I Have Missed...

Well, what else is there? What am I missing?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

"And they wrapped her in swaddling clothes..."

One of my friends had a baby the week before Thanksgiving, and I got to hold her tonight. She’s a peach of a baby, quiet and sweet, her two-month-old gaze fixated on whoever holds her like she wants desperately to say something back to those cooing in her face. She got slightly fussy at one point. Linds wrapped her up cocoon-like in a blanket and handed her back to me, saying, “she’ll go right to sleep now.” And she did. I stood there rocking this swaddled up bundle for a solid twenty minutes, feeling all was right with the world.

There’s nothing in the world like rocking a sleeping baby. It didn’t make me want to have one myself, but it did make me think that if more people in the world held babies on a regular basis (well, actually I was thinking if men in positions of power held babies on a regular basis), the world might be a better place.

Nancy Scheper-Hughes
would probably argue with me. But I’d argue right back on this one.

Friday, December 28, 2007

"Thin line tween heaven and here." - Bubs (Season One, Episode 4)

I've been jonesing for a Resurrection from the Brewer's Art for the past five months, so when Laura wrote about Baltimore a week ago, I started mentally listing my own Bmore loves, and I've been craving crepes from Sophie's ever since...I love how she compared her memory of Baltimore to her memory of her first kiss, the "sloppy awkward beauty" of it, how you want to vomit and cheer at the same's the perfect description of this postindustrial place trying to land on its feet. Some of the best things to come out of Baltimore are her storytellers, and David Simon is no exception. His isn't the only voice, though, in what I think is the greatest show on television hands down: The Wire.

Need I say more? It's merely some of the finest writing known to humankind, and one day I'll write a dissertation comparing it to Shakespeare's great tragedies - that scene where Avon and Stringer shake hands, each knowing they've betrayed the other, is breathtaking. And I can't even get started on the education piece. Suffice to say I hope Margaret Spellings watched last season.

Ready for Season Five? Here it comes....

Thursday, December 27, 2007

"I should introduce you to her. She also wants the world. " Colin

I don’t really want to save the world, but kids get under your skin and make you want to love them fiercely. I’ve missed being in the classroom this week, and reading about Gonzaga’s junior guard Jeremy Pargo today made me tear up. Withers quotes one of Pargo'sformer teachers, Stella Evans: “I've been teaching since '73," she says. "It took me awhile to realize, you can't save 100 percent, but damn if I don't try."

Evans’ comment reminded me of Ms. Williams, who has been teaching at Patterson High School, in Baltimore, Maryland, for her entire teaching career. She’s taught kids of kids she taught twenty years ago. Ms. Williams didn’t really pay attention to me, the new white teacher, until one of my kids who also took her algebra class left his class copy of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in her room one day. She brought it to my classroom and said “One of your students left this in my room. What else you teaching?”

This started a relationship with one of the most influential, caring, and knowledgeable teachers I’ve yet to meet. Ms. Williams always said you can’t save them all, but you can teach the best you can with what you’ve got. When I would get discouraged, she’d tell me to do whatever I needed to do to be ready to teach the next day. Ms. Williams was a constant. She was always after school late, working in her room, and always wanting to learn new strategies to teach more effectively. She cared about her kids, and they knew it from day one – she wasn’t expecting anything but the best from her students. Her example showed me much of what it means to be a good teacher. I’m thankful for her and all teachers like her who show up fully present day in and day out, making sure kids get what they need, academically or otherwise.

(On a side note, some of Wither’s thoughts raised a couple flags around race. Made me think about William Rhoden’s analysis of black athletes in Forty Million Dollar Slaves, which is a pretty fascinating take on the status of black athletes in the U.S.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"so the upshot of colonialism is that there's some roads on a grid in Nairobi."

this came after a heavy discussion after dinner about the impact of colonialism on Kenya, where several of my dinner companions grew up, and several others had visited. there's nothing like humor to diffuse things....

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

yes virginia, or a story about santa claus

So yesterday some friends said they were telling their son there isn't a Santa Claus, because they don't want him to grow up thinking he was lied to. Today my cousin noted they're probably going to lie to him at some point about something, so why not lie about nice innocuous things like Santa Claus?

I guess I never thought my parents lied about Santa Claus. They said Santa brought presents and since I was the oldest, I didn't want to ruin it for my little siblings, although they probably knew Santa was a fake before I did....but I never confronted the issue of whether he was real or not - I chose to go along with it since I liked the idea of someone coming down the chimney to leave presents. I still like the idea. It's a pretty great story. And I like believing in impossible things. I guess this makes me delusional. But there is this blog....:)

Possible things are easy to believe. - Madeline L'Engle

I was tempted to go back to the classroom today upon finding myself at work at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, printing out Christmas trivia questions and answers for tonight's Christmas Eve party. If I was still teaching, I would have a good two weeks off here. But then again, I don't ever have to bring work home, and I can leave and be done with things at 5 p.m. If I was still teaching, this would not be my reality. So there are trade-offs, I suppose. But still, working Christmas Eve is tough.

I love Christmas Eve. It's so full of possibility, of hope, of goodness. As Madeline L'Engle says, the glorious impossible.

And I love Christmas Eve services, especially late ones. There's something magic about candle-lighting, passing the flame from one person to the next and singing Joy to the World. There's also this profound sense of tradition, that not only are hundreds of thousands around the world gathering to celebrate, but it's this celebration that's gone on for generation upon generation. It's this beautiful picture of tradition that is life-giving and hope-full as opposed to dead and dormant.

It's this new beginning idea, of entering into a season of life - it is this I love about Christmas. That we've been waiting for something for so long, and it's now here, and we get to celebrate the arrival and the start of something grand.

As another childhood favorite says - "Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." -Alice in Wonderland...

Merry Christmas. May your celebrations include belief in impossibilities.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

“It’s not good strategy to have all your people in one place surrounded by a bunch of people who hate you.” – Dale

“Maybe George W. needs to play Risk.” – G

Last night I told my brother, who is obsessed with taking over the world in the game of Risk, that I would play if our cousin’s girlfriend played. So I got some lessons in Risk strategy. I started well, covering all of Africa and most of Europe. I wasn't the first one out of the game, although we stopped playing shortly after midnight. PJ thinks he would have won. This is debatable.

At one point there was a fight over the Middle East, which PJ was trying to take over. This was when Dale noted that it’s not good strategy to deploy all your troops to one area where they are surrounded by hostile countries, and I suggested it might be helpful for our President to play a game of Risk. It might enlighten some of his decisions. (Perhaps this would have been more useful four years ago.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

i forgot to mention...

1) that kait wrote journey's blog about waiting for hope today, and

2) oh, right, that guy who sent her a q drum? He's just one of the brothers who invented it, as in the Pieter of Hans and Pieter Hendrikse. How cool is that?

yes, virginia...or the story of hope and courage

who would’ve thought it /life is finding a way through this wasteland of cynics, concrete and pain /there’s a man down here / somewhere between the Saturday cartoons and the dirty magazines /he’s raising the dead in the graveyard where we’ve laid down our dreams

there’s a man down here /not worried or afraid that some politician forgot all the promises he made /and he’s raising the dead in the graveyard where we’ve laid down our dreams /his name is hope

j.m. mcmillan

I have a good friend who has had a hard time this year. Actually, it started in 2006, when her roommate was one of two people to die in a flash flood and her good friends Scott and Sarah had a baby Thomas, who got cancer. Also, she told a guy she liked him and he didn’t reciprocate. (You might not think this is on the same level as cancer, and mostly I agree with you, but still, this is not the most pleasant thing to happen.) I moved back in with my parents and couldn’t find a job, and we played the Weepies’ "This is Not Your Year" an awful lot over the phone.

2007 was supposed to be better, and we even picked words of the year to suggest this: Mine was courage, and Kait’s was hope. (More on words-of-the-year in future posts.) Hope and courage, it turns out, actually live a lot together. I needed courage to start life again in a new-old place where things and people were the same but not. And Kait needed hope - hope to stay in the same place and build community with people, to learn how to love people who need love when life sucks, and just to be able to maintain the Dallas scene in general. (Let's be honest.) Also, her mission in life is to feed kids, and this is something you need hope for, because hunger is a problem of monumental proportions.

Anyway, this whole year, Kait’s been looking for hope and miracles. In the first part of the year, she was my hope when I was crazily depressed and didn’t know what I was going to do with life and didn’t want to talk to anyone in the world. Then we had some craigslist adventures that lightened the mood and our hearts for a while. She did an amazing job with her summer job, which she has tended to hate, and it was better this year…I got a good job. She thought about coming back home. Then this fall Thomas’ cancer came back, and it’s not treatable. And Kait’s been asking for miracles again.

What she got was a q drum.

I don’t know if you read the ny times article I posted recently, but apparently a q drum is one of the best inventions ever, used in Africa to help get water to people who need it. It helps people in a practical way. You put water in it, and it’s roll-able, so even a kid can transport it. Kait thought this was cool… she e-mailed the contact person to tell them so. They started exchanging e-mails, and what do you know? He tells her he thinks she needs a q drum and he's going to send her one. She thinks, alright. Three days ago, she gets a q drum in the mail. All the way from South Africa. Not even in a box, no cardboard, no wrapping, nothing. just the drum.

She picked it up, wrapped it, and put it in her trunk. She called me to say it was rolling around in her trunk making her happy. She took it to Scott and Sarah’s, and Thomas played with it. He jumped on it and rolled it around and made crazy lovely faces for the camera. It was good.

I think this might be a miracle, that in the week before Christmas from somewhere halfway around the world, this guy she's never met gives my friend – who so badly needs to hope for something good to come out of such wretchedly difficult things – a reminder that in the midst of death, we are in life…And it is amazing.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

nellie hs a new dent and i am sad.

that's right, not nelly the music artist, but nellie the nissan, aka greta's mode of transportation since 2003...I parked her on the street at work and someone bashed into her, which was a sad thing to come out of work into. it was good I had a good day at work, but really what are the chances? I had just got back from a site visit at 4, and she was doing lovely, and i left work at somewhere in that hour and a half, someone dented her and did not leave a note. probably they saw her back left dent and assumed I am one of those people who do not take care of their car. it was dark, so i didn't even notice it until i tried to open the driver's side door and couldn't open it all the way...which was interesting. so i half crawled into her, and became sad at the state of my life in general - damaged car, no home to speak of. (I've been bouncing around.) but those of you know me know my theory that God talks to me through my car - whenever something bad happens to it, I think God's trying to get my attention. Mostly this is because someone hit me in Baltimore and then I had to hitch a ride with a woman for two weeks, and she ended up turning into one of my best friends...I'm trying to figure what God's trying to say this time. It probably has something to do with trust, as this keeps coming up in general...sigh. but i really wish God would get my attention in less painful ways. if nellie were a person, her whole left side would be messed up and she wouldn't walk right. i should probably be thankful the damage wasn't so extensive that she can't be driven. i'm working on that. maybe by tomorrow i'll be there. tonight i'm just frustrated.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"So why are you not dating?"

Is anybody else in love with this question the way I am? Isn't it a great one? I mean, don't you just want to jump up and down and say, "Oh my gosh, you've just enlightened me! I've realized my hang-ups and am now free to date the 8 jillion guys in line to ask me out."

Actually, what we want to do, as Kait says, is stick our middle finger up and tell them to go away in no uncertain terms, but instead, we smile politely, make up some appropriately nice social commentary that tides us over until we get home, and then we keel over and scream with frustration.

I for one am not dating because 1) No one's asked. and 2) No one's asked.

That's really my only reason at the moment. I actually tried to ask someone out last week - by tried, I mean I said "would you want to go out for coffee with me? Wed? At 8?" He said no. Which PJ says is okay, since I am actually dateable. Or maybe it was marketable. I asked him what he meant by this. Our conversation went something like this:

PJ: You asked a guy out? That's awesome!

G: You think that's a good strategy?

PJ: Great? I think it's the ONLY strategy...I mean, he knows then, and you'll know if he's into you and it's either yes and you can move on or no and you can move on. Either way, it's all good. Whereas I'm having trouble here. Nobody says yes to me.

Greta: Really?

PJ: Well, you know, would you date me?

Greta: No, actually, never.

PJ: See?

I pointed out that this doesn't count because he is my brother, but he insisted that I was more dateable than he was.

Anyway, the point being that dating has morphed into this weird sort of thing...whatever happened to getting a drink with someone? Has this custom died down? It seems like one is either dating someone exclusively or not dating at all. What happened to the girl who went out with a couple guys a week? Does this happen anymore? Can anyone tell me?

As LKT says, "I don't really know how people get married. I mean, seriously, how does it happen?"

I'm not even curious about the marriage part, I just want to know how people start to date. How does it all work?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Can you tell me the difference between the garlic fries and the feta fries?"

Matt: Really? I'll give you one guess.

Me: I want the feta ones. Not the garlic.

Quiz night at the Northside Grill is good times for all. Matt gets our vote for best Seattle waiter of 07, and really, how can you go wrong with Moroccan food? The lamb burger is awesome, the hummus and pita are perfect, and they have Mac n Jack's. The real question here is why wouldn't you go to Quiz Night?

My quiz team is clearly the best: The Mod Moose. Erica picked this out, maybe because she's a fan of Moose Drool beer. Anyway, we have a 4-1-4 record and a super moose logo. We try to aim for either 1st or 4th place, because 1st gets the money, but 4th gets to decide a category for the next round.

In our first choice of rounds, we picked Indiana Jones and had an Indy marathon at Erin's house. We researched in between movies. I learned that Tom Selleck was originally going to play Indy, that Short Round wore a Yankees cap in the Temple of Doom, and that Cairo was the last destination for Indy in Raiders.

Then we won 1st place and the pot of money, which was exciting and essentially covered our dinner. Mostly this was due to Peter's encyclopedic knowledge of 60s and 70s sitcoms, which I never watched, not ever re-runs.

This week was pop culture week. I did contribute several answers, one of which was "Waffle House." That's right, the restaurant where Kid Rock was arrested at in Atlanta. Really, why do I know such things?

There are rumors that geography might play a role in our selection of categories for next quiz night (New Year's Day, Jan 1st), but you'll have to show up to find out....

Monday, December 17, 2007

"We thought it was a rough patch, but it turned out to be our life." - B.E. Kaplan

Today at work we had a meeting about communication, and this quote was posted.

I've been thinking a lot about how in life something really great will happen, and then something not so great comes along. And it doesn't diminish from that really great thing, but it does serve to remind us that life is not easy.

Perhaps this is because God-doesn't-believe-in-the-easy-way, as one of my favorite characters says in Agee's A Death in the Family, but for whatever reason, life is hard. It is messy, it is painful, and it is tough.

The thing is, we get to choose how we respond to it, and that's where the beauty comes in.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose. - Garrison Keillor

Anybody in need of a cat that glows in the dark? When the power goes out, it might come in handy...really, what will they come up with next?

I don't like cats very much because I lived with a crazy one in Baltimore. She did keep the mice to a minimum, which was handy because when living in a rowhouse whose walls are practically infused with rodents, it's good to have a cat around.

She was an Abysinian cat, one of those weird looking ones like the one to our left, with ears that made her strangely batlike. The black coat helped add to the bat image. She was also strangely doglike. She'd sit at the door and wait for her owner to come home, and she'd run to the door when the doorbell rang. And if you yelled "Topo!" she'd come running.

One day I was holding her in the living room and a dog walked by. Topo freaked out. By freaked out, she clawed the hand that was holding her - mine - and bit my thumb. Her tooth got pretty far in. This was pleasant.

So the next day I go to work and my boss says, you know, cats are dirty, you probably ought to get that checked out. So I went to the doctor and it turns out that when you get bitten by a cat, you need antiboiotics...Cat teeth are long and sharp, and such wounds are hard to clean and easy to get infected. Who knew?

But a glow in the dark cat might be worth it...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

"Half the game is mental; the other half is being mental." - jim mckenny

So our very own WHL team, the Seattle Thunderbirds, brought back their game tonight and beat the Swift Current Broncos 8-3. (Swift Current is east of Calgary, west of Winnipeg.) I learned today that the WHL is part of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), which is the feeder league for the NHL, with players from part of the game, since there were no fights, was definitely the music. The Key Arena DJ could host a stellar karaoke contest. I think they should consider doing this in between periods. It could be a "Thunderbirds Idol" sorta deal. But the "chuck the puck" thing was pretty funny, too.

Also, I'm wondering about how teamwork works in hockey. I don't think this was the Thunderbirds' most cohesive night, although I haven't seen them play as much as Thunnex , who is a much bigger fan...

Friday, December 14, 2007

according to wikipedia....

... white elephant gift exchanges are also called "thieving elves." Who knew?

When I was in high school I remember going to a white elephant gift exchange and ending up with a pale blue 70's lamp shaped like an elephant. It was pretty cool.

Last year, we did a W.E.G.E. at the parents', and I ended up with a pretty awesome mini-tool set that the brothers criticized me for stealing. They asked me what I'd do with it, and I said since I didn't have a tool set, I'd use it instead of borrowing others' tools. Every girl oughta have a screwdriver, right?

At the office holiday party today, we were exchanging $10.00 "nice" gifts...(Why do people insist on nice gifts? Isn't the point of white elephant gags??) so I stole back the card game I brought, because it looked pretty good compared to all the rest...This could be interpreted as a breaking of the rules, since I brought it, but seriously, card games beat snowmen salt and pepper shakers any day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

season of imagination

My friend Kait sent me NY Times article today and I thought about how powerfully transforming imaginations running wild can be.

Shane Claiborne speaks to this when telling of a friend who spread manure in their Christmas Eve service. There was also a donkey. The point of course, is not really to authentically recreate what happened at Jesus’ birth, but to remind us that when we use our imaginations to inform our celebrations, they are changed, and we along with them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

if you can keep a plant alive...

So I just finished house-sitting for friends for a month and I think I killed all their plants. They don't own pets, and the point of me being there really was to keep the plants alive. They mostly had cactuses, which makes my plant negligence worse. Reminds me of that Sandra Bullock movie where she's told when leaving rehab that if she can keep a plant alive for a year, she can get a dog. If she keeps the dog alive for a year, then she can consider dating. Maybe this is my dating problem: I can't keep a plant alive. Hmm. I'm going to have to think about this one....

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thomas Bickle

My friends Scott and Sarah have a son Thomas, an adorable two year old who happens to have cancer. They thought they'd got rid of it, but it came back. It's not operable, or treatable, or go-away-able this time.

Sarah's thoughts about this on her latest blog posting are worth reading, especially in a season where we so often rush around and fill our time with things we think we need to do, instead of being with people we care about just because we can.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

out in the harbor/ the ships come in it's Christmastime/ the kids all holler carols cross the water/ Stars that shine

Oh, weepies, how we love you. What a great song to sing and now that Penney's picked it up for its holiday ad, you'll get more royalties and maybe release your next album faster, which would be awesome!