Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Random quote and unrelated photo of the week

Both how I'm livin' and my nose is large

Digital Underground
The Humpty Dance

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Won't you be my neighbor?

I am disproportionately excited about our potential new neighbors. Not even them, per se, but about the prospect of having neighbors with a child (even better, a girl) Ada's age.

A house on our block went up for sale recently, and as a testament to the continued strength of the market (and not to the beauty of the house, which is in less than fantastic shape and bears the marks of its former resident's, um, taste), it garnered five bids. When I heard that my heart sank, because I knew that a couple with a toddler was interested in it, and I could not imagine that they'd get it. The people selling the house would surely take the highest bidder's offer, and around here that is bound to be from a contractor who intends to patch the place up before selling it for tens of thousands more. But on Thursday the family arrived for the inspection, and my heart leapt. Chris and I wandered down the street to say hi, to see if it could really be a family with kids.

It is not as if we are alone on this block, stranded amid childless types. We love the people on the corner, who have two, and Ada stalks with our six year old neighbor up the street. We are friendly with the people around the corner (who come with the multiple excitements of a child, a dog and two chickens) and know others in the neighborhood with kids. But somehow the idea of a friend, dare I say a potential best friend once they get old enough to care about such things, it made me thrill at the prospect.

(Before we go any further, this is where I need to say: Ellen, I have no intention of tossing Monkey Boy aside as best friend material. Ada will always love your Boy, but it couldn't hurt a girl to have a close girl pal on the block. You know, as back up, for when M.B. goes through his "girls are icky" phase. )

Growing up I had a best friend, one who lived a mere three blocks away. We were a Mutt & Jeff duo, minus the mustaches and hats. I was always the giant kid, while Rachel was tiny. I remember her parents, who worried about her size and low weight, practically force-feeding her the kind of treats I only dreamed about getting at home. Although we were both from Jewish families, our backgrounds were very different. Rachel's parents were European immigrants, her father the only person from his village to not die at the hands of the nazis. My parents were East Coast-bred Americans. Her dad owned a restaurant and her mom stayed home. My parents worked in offices. She was an only child, with a tv, stereo and Barbie dream house in her room! I had to share everything with my sister.

It wasn't until later that I realized that Rachel idealized my family as much as I did hers. While I loved the quiet and luxury of her house, she loved that my mom would play with us, make cookies or help us with projects. Her parents were more hands off. I thought they were great, sophisticated and interesting. (Plus, they had a sign by their pool: "We don't swim in your toilet, don't pee in our pool" and how funny was that?)

Even though Rachel and I only went to school together for a few years, we saw each other a lot. We played together after school and every weekend. I went with her family on weekend trips to Palm Springs, we slept over at one another's houses, made matching Halloween costumes, choreographed elaborate dance routines to the Grease! soundtrack, and dressed my sister up in wild outfits from my costume box. We walked to and from junior high together planning our futures. We could not imagine our lives without one another, laughed at the idea that we'd ever be apart.

By high school we had come apart. Not from some great teen schism, some slight or misunderstanding, but because I'd taken one track and Rachel another. Though Rachel was smart, she was not the geek that I was and had somehow not jumped on the honors track with me. It seems weird in retrospect that she'd stuck with me through my really awkward years, the buck teeth and coke-bottle glasses of my early teens, only to peel away when I came more into my own in high school. I don't blame her, becoming a teen is a difficult thing for the most self-possessed child. I am sure I didn't help matters, and I can't even remember how it happened that we drifted apart.

After Rachel I didn't have any really close female friends again until college. But regardless of the fact that she is not still my best friend, Rachel's friendship helped shape me. Whether or not any of the plans and dreams Ada makes with her friends come true, whether or not they actually move into apartments together and share wardrobes and always choose one another over their romantic prospects, the space to make those plans is what I want for her. I want her to have someone to snuggle with in sleeping bags, whispering late into the night and giggling in exhaustion. I want Ada and her friend to learn to roller skate together, to run down grassy hills and gather rose petals for some secret project. I want them to dream and make up stories and explore together. I want her to have the kind of friend-love that buoys a childhood. I want her to have what I had.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Random quote and unrelated photo of the week

The only answer to the question “Why me?” is this: Because bad stuff happens to everyone, and this is what happened to me. One of my closest friends struggled with infertility. That’s her short straw. Another friend’s marriage fell apart. Another friend gave birth to a stillborn child. Look closely enough and you’ll see that everyone has a short straw or two in their lives.

Alice Lesch Kelly
Cases: The Struggle to Move Beyond ‘Why Me?’

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Words and Phrases

Selected Ada vocabulary

Pine Cone

Sand Castle

Punk Rock

And while we are on the subject of words, I'd like to file this under "things I never thought I'd say":

"I'm sorry Ada, you can't take Willem Dafoe home."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tulip Thief Strikes Again!

Some readers may remember that last year someone stole a bunch of tulips from my yard. I wrote a letter to the perp, and posted it to the blog. This year I breathed a small sigh of relief when my tulips opened unmolested. My around-the-corner neighbor was not so lucky. This year, all of the tulips along her front garden were snipped and stolen. She was as angry as I had been, but apparently she does not have a blog. (Seems unlikely, I know, but I guess one or two people are still holding out.) Instead, my neighbor put up no fewer than four signs in her yard itself, plus a total of eight additional signs at the light poles on either end of the block. Here's one of them:

To add insult to injury, around the same time as the tulip theft three small trees planted on the side of her house were dug out and taken away. My neighbor thinks this theft (a vastly more aggressive plant abduction than the tulip taker could likely manage) was perpetrated by the people hired to install plants at the newly constructed condos a block away. Several gardener trucks were parked on the block, and it was during their few day stay on the block that the trees went missing. And really, who else is likely walking by with a big shovel with which to uproot the trees? Or a vehicle in which to cart them away? Definitely not a random crime.

My neighbor is so angry and upset about these thefts that she's already thinking about leaving this house they purchased less than a year ago. The loss of my tulips last year did not make me want to find a new home, but it did have me harrumphing and complaining for days to anyone who would listen. It sucks that people think it is ok to steal plants, as if they are not the resident's property the way that a porch swing is. It is worse in some ways, because the resident has put energy into the plant and is likely more invested in its well-being and beauty than she would be in the health of an Adirondack chair.

The one redeeming thing about this is that it reminds me how much I love Portlanders' willingness to vocally (or visibly) declare themselves to their neighbors and the world. It may not be much solace for my neighbor, but maybe the knowledge that our local serial tulip thief changes target each year could be.

(Thanks to Sarah and her call for cell phone photos. She reminded me that this was still in memory. Also, thanks to Chris for checking my links.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Random quote and unrelated photo of the week

Yard sale at SE 20th & SE Sherman (2 blocks North of Division).
Clothes, some furniture, really nice guitar and some other musical equipment, household items,books (sorry, no romance novels).

Craigslist garage sale advertisement

Monday, May 14, 2007

Learning from a Friend's Father

A good friend of mine just lost his father. I only met Tom on a few occasions over the years, but have felt quite warm toward him and my friend's mother since they joined us several months ago for one of our weekly Thursday-night-dinner-with-friends dinners.

I was saddened to hear that this man died, and was very moved by something his daughter wrote for his obituary:

Tom lived a very full life. He was a man of his word, a believer in justice, and a lover of the Green World. He lived his values every day, guided by a strong sense of ethics and a belief in the importance of kindness.

I read the obituary this morning and have been thinking about this description since then. Occasionally I read an obituary, usually of someone I did not know (even in the celebrity sense of knowing of them), and am inspired by the way the person led their life. I hope that I can take some of Tom's example to live my values, and to teach that to my child the way that Tom did with his.

Mike, I am so sorry for your loss.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Your new favorite restaurant

I interrupt your regularly scheduled diet of crafts and quotes to provide a public service announcement to my Portland-area readers, and really for anyone who might want to visit our fair city.

My pal Ellen's brother Nate has just opened a fantastic restaurant downtown: Clyde Common. While it officially opens on Tuesday, last night Chris and I joined Ellen's family at a preview dinner. We were joined by various local luminaries (including a member of a seminal punk band). Our local free weekly was there too, and apparently had a good time too.

The menu is eclectic (spicy popcorn is available, along with more classic fare) and tasty. (Poached tuna, hangar steak, a vegetarian gnocchi looking thing were all delicious) The kitchen is open, so you can get a good look at the staff at work. Despite it being so early in their lives as Clyde staff, they were looked on top of their collective game. The main floor of the restaurant is set up with several large tables (hence the "common" in Clyde Common), allowing people to chat with their neighbors. We shared a table with the musician and his wife, as well as a pastry chef and his partner. For those who dislike talking to strangers, the mezzanine will soon open, providing more private dining spaces (as well as couches, for when that date is going really well. (Smooching will be tolerated. After all, this space was once a gay club of some local renown in the pre-safe sex days.)

I checked out the staff while waiting for our food. I enjoy an open kitchen, so this is great for me. It gives me a false sense that I know what's going on in the heart of the restaurant. The only down-side is that the staff were tatooed enough that when we take my parents, once my father notices, it will be the only thing he will be able to talk about. Dad's still not over the idea that a tatoo means you are either in a rock band or (what he would refer to as) low class. Or both. (Over the years, some of his patients have been musicians. Not all of them paid their bills.)

If all this - good food, friendly and helpful staff, an inviting space, and a lovely zinc topped bar - aren't enough of a draw, after dinner you can amble over to the lobby of the Ace Hotel (in which Clyde Common is located) and jump into the conveniently located photo booth. What could be more fun than pictures of four tipsy and sated adults crammed into a small box?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Random quote and unrelated photo of the week

People like gambling more than they hate each other.

Willy Vlautin

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Jack of all trades

...master of none

Lately I have been feeling self-conscious about the extent to which I am a dabbler. Even as people have said very nice things about some of the crafty projects I’ve posted about, discussing them publicly reminds me the extent to which I am able to SORT of do a lot of things. I am not great at any of them. I can put a felt elephant together, but it is always going to look a bit wonky. I take a lot of photos and once in a while they are presentable, but mostly I just slap up whatever crap I have snapped, despite the fact that I then cruise over to another A’s mom's and see what happens when one carefully documents one’s work. I mean, it does help that she’s got a photographer husband and some impressive equipment. And how beautiful; the work, the documentation, all of it is lovely. But oy, is it a reminder of my slap-dashiness.

And so it goes. I can write a little, but not like others. I can sew a tiny bit, but only when Stephanie holds my hand through the whole process. I do a lot of things, but none of them really well. (Ok, I am a really good editor, but given that this is neither my profession nor something I get asked to do socially a lot, it doesn't help much.)


This was originally going to be a post about how I am ok at a bunch of things, but not great at anything. But then I lay on the floor of Ellen's house, talking to her about blogging, why I didn't like how my stylist dried my hair, and my idea for a "jack of all trades" post. And Ellen, my biggest booster and cheerleader, talked about some of the ways she thinks I am amazing and together (and threw in that she'd like me to help her run a program, should it find grant funding) and left me feeling pumped up about myself. Because there are a lot of things I am pretty fucking amazing at. Things that I often see as flaws (Am I compulsive, or detail oriented? Messy, or just relaxed?) are also strengths.


And now weeks after that conversation, I am hard pressed to remember what I am so good at. (Except that editing thing. I did some kick-ass editing for a colleague yesterday.) I am trying not to worry about it too much. I mean, it is ok not to be fantastic at everything I try. If that was my requirement, I'd never try anything. (Such as the insane idea I had to make a braided rag rug from some old t-shirts. What exactly was I thinking?)

In the spirit of appreciating the effort, even if the result is not everything I want it to be, I offer a couple of things I have been working on lately:

Onesies for some babies-on-the-way

Here's my first attempt at a bag. It was a lot easier that I thought it would be, but at the rate that I sew (and rip out seams, and re-sew) it took over a week to finish. The pattern is from Amy Butler. I highly recommend her patterns, especially for the novice seamstress. The directions were very details and clear. I didn't want to tear my hair out at all over this.

Inside the bag - POCKETS!

Friday, May 04, 2007

I don't knit, I just link to cool patterns

If (unlike me) you are a knitter, you may be interested in this excellent pattern, created by my pal Stephanie and named for Ada.

Ada, a year younger and many hair follicles shorter

The pattern was also noted by Craft magazine's blog, a nice little nod to Stephanie's talent. Did I mention that she made this pattern up by herself? Stephanie is not a woman who thinks small. Unless you count the size of Ada's head at age 1.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Toeing the line

For those who have been paying attention, the great and powerful Jiro mentioned that my blog would benefit from an increased Jiro-focus. I took his comment as an opportunity to get him to offer my readers the value of his years (and years, and years) of life experience. I asked people to submit their burning questions, and one complied. Ok, two, but Jiro has declined to respond to Betsy Veal's comments ever since she scaled the wall of his compound to leave her famous ketchup souffle at his door. So that leaves one answerable question. (Seriously, what is wrong with you people? Have you no questions that need answering?)

But never mind, a question comes to us from the temperate north:

Why is my big toe more sensitive to heat than other parts of my body?

The Sage Jiro responds.
One of the more obscure beliefs of Scientology is that the galactic overlord Xenu having stubbed his toe one time too many on the galactic overlord baby’s toy train set declared that henceforth all of the evil spirits would enter through the toes, and that everyone’s first toe would “… swell larger than all of the others …” and become more sensitive to all things. This was around the same time there were several decrees about the galactic overlord poopy diapers and the galactic overlord's complaint that “I should have gotten a puppy”.

On the other hand, of course everyone knows about the belief in Swedish mysticism that the first lutefisk sprang from Odin’s big toe.

Should anyone need advice, Jiro doesn't have much to do these days. His job is a piece of cake, his child is pretty much willing to do whatever he says, and his wife, well, she's not a candidate for Stepford yet, but we're working on her. Email the advice line at nonlinear . advice @ gmail . com - what could it hurt?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Random quote and unrelated photo of the week

Ma'am, I'm here to check your house for parasites ... apparently, you have hippies.

Eric Cartman