Thursday, June 19, 2008

you are here

I am trying to say that I love San Francisco. But it comes out all wrong. Waxing poetic about the smell of fog or a surprise view as you round a corner. Even if that view stops you in your tracks. Even if it is guide book worthy. It's hard to find the words to walk the line between well written and trite. Nailed it and over done. So how is this: it makes me happy.

I nannied there for two summers when I was in college. It was the first place I traveled outside the Midwest. It was the furthest I'd ever been from home. It was nothing like what I knew with its pan handlers, and water shortages and tourists. I had never lived anywhere people visited. But here were throngs of people in sun visors making me wait in line.

My memories from those summers are brightly colored. And the soundtrack is kid laughter. And there are moments I recall so clearly that if I shut my eyes I'm in them again. Heart pounding. Giggle stifling. Sun burnt. No summer since has ever come close.

When we started the decent into SFO, the runways built out into the water, I remembered that I never wanted to leave. And here I was coming back for the first time since. It had been over 10 years. I had forgotten here. How I cried the day I had to leave. How I plotted on ways to afford California out-of-state tuition. How I promised I'd come back. I would figure it out. I would.

I didn't.

I feel almost guilty.

These five days back. As a bona fide grown-up. In a fancy hotel. Fuck. I knew before I got off the plane that come Monday I wasn't going to want to leave. Some places just feel more like home than other places.

In the decade that's past the girls I nannied with are no longer there. They moved back home. Or moved somewhere new. Dispersed as some kind of child care super team across the country to bring time outs and finger painting to those who need it most. I e-mailed Jennie. The cornerstone for my California summers. One of my longest and best friends. I wished for a catch-up session. Over guacamole and flan. At that one place we use to go to. With the windows right out to the water. Where you could toss tortilla chips out to feed the ducks.

But she's in Alabama now. And I'm mostly in Seattle.

So instead I wandered the city. Walked for hours at a time. Pretending I had an apartment to go to. Or a barista who knew what I wanted to drink. I did have strangers who shared smiles with me. I did have spending money. I did have sore feet. But what I wanted was a key to a 1BR on Nob Hill. Instead a I had a Westin key card with gold fish on it. It's still in my bag.

With July comes a chance to do it again. 4 days this time. A different Westin. But the same perfectly imperfect city. The same sense of home and where the hell have you been and how can I never leave. Penciled out on cocktail napkins this time instead of college rule. Wondering if some Silicon Valley upstart could see the Business Developer in me. Because I can see me there. Wearing high heels on cobblestone. Always having a sweater. Feeling like I've arrived.

Friday, May 16, 2008

april showers

There is a special kind of guilt when I see a month without a note. No April in the archives. No snippet of what it was like to be alive and me and in Seattle in April 2008. But thankfully, you have written. You have noted the nice days and the road trips and the long hours at work. You've mentioned the pretty in a good friend and snapped a camera phone picture of a poorly worded sign. This collective story we're weaving about these modern lives is wonderfully patchwork. And where my dull gray April quiet lives, your yellow swiss dot April makes it look almost on purpose. And for this I thank you.

I gave a speech on May first to about seventy people at a party. And I've read a bunch of books. I've worked lots. And walked much. And started making granola. But not just any granola. Granola that is worthy of a fan club. Once I found a simple recipe my variations are as plentiful as the oats. This last batch though. My OH my. The smell brought all the neighbors 'round and I've had three proposals of marriage.

Ginger Snap Granola

Makes a lot. Stores for about 2 weeks.
Best served with tart lemon yogurt in a very small, pretty bowl.

4 c. oats
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. cloves
1 t. ginger
1 t. cinnamon
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. molasses
2 t. vanilla

Combine oats, brown sugar, salt, cloves, ginger and cinnamon in a bowl. Warm the oil and molasses until slightly simmering. Remove from heat, add vanilla. Pour over oat mix and stir until evenly coated.

Spread out the oat mix on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 300 degrees. Stir half way though.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

the can-can such a pretty show it will steal your heart away

With my new days of self employment and flexible hours to call my own I get to go on these two. Three. Hour walks though downtown. I try to time them with least chance of being rained on. But I don't always get it right. I walk through Queen Anne to Seattle Center. And then follow the Monorail to Westlake. From there to Pioneer Square and back home up 1st with a quick stop in the Market for some plums or leafy topped carrots. One time I bought dates. I do this almost every day. Unless. It's cold, windy AND rainy. That's the triple threat of heading to the gym instead. Which yields no conversations, no carrots and no inhales of sea air mixed with fruit stands mixed with slow walking tourists.

I've really come to love the Market. I love how you have to talk to someone for every single purchase. How many apples? How many tomatoes? How are you? I spread out my modest buying power to as many of the stands as I have items. Tomatoes from the first one, the stand kitty corner form the pig. Asparagus from the place inside, on the right. With the clever punk rock girls and the sassy signs about not squeezing the fruit. Clemintines from the stand a little ways down on the left. The place I bought the ripe plums for my birthday cake. The one where the girl hinted I should bring her back a piece.

I bump into tourists as they. Just. Stop. Walking to peer at a wall of tulips. Or listen to a shaggy kid strum away on his guitar. I stopped being annoyed by it as soon as I took it as an opportunity to see what they are seeing in this city I've come to take for granted. In this city that they spent a few hundred bucks each on a plane ticket and few hundred more a night on a hotel. They notice what I would other wise walk by. And for that, I don't mind the second of awkward as my hands hit their hips and I can smell their shampoo. The tulips are really that lovely.

And that kid was playing my song.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

may you live with ease

This is year four of naming my birthday year. The three before have all been named with a word or an idea to help me navigate the months and minutes of the 365 days before the next one offers me cupcakes and presents once again. It's surprisingly powerful. Training your mind to find that particular pattern in the chaos. Slowly cataloging all the proof of how the universe offers up what you ask for, even when you only ask in one word. Maybe two. But there you have it. A theme year that seems to magically come true. So, be careful what you wish for.

1) Debauchery 2) Consciousness 3) Actualization and now.


It's more for me than it is for you. There. I said it. Out loud. But don't we all know that anyway? Giving is receiving. And as I spend a few minutes a day in metta meditation and writing down the happy. The goal is to free my heart and float a little above the sidewalk. Setting down the brewing skepticism I sometimes find myself acting upon. Sprinkling a little sugar on the parts of me that need it. Watering the parts that don't. I do hope that as I change I can help raise the collective compassion of my neighborhood, city, country, world by a couple percentage points. That there is power in a smile to a stranger. And even more in a wish for their happiness.

Long walks. Sunny days that happen to land on your birthday. Plum cake. Pretty stamps. Short stories written by friends. Clover. Health. My never ending supply of wacky ideas. The people who will go along with them. Idealism. These giant purple-pink flowers on the trees up the street. The smells and sights of the Market. Walking shoes. My parents. Baths. Mentors and friends. My awesome umbrella. Those moments where you get IT. The smell of honeysuckle. Strong legs. Seeing how saying no to something is saying yes to something else. Laughing so hard that I start to cry. Catching up. Reading. Right now.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

if you wind up in Fargo, you went the wrong way

Their house is in the middle of nowhere. The directions to find it included things like silos and tar roads.

Take the second tar road on your right.

I’d turn down road after road to see the dots of gray gravel poking up above the snow or the streaky black of a plowed county highway. But changing direction from North to West didn’t do much for the scenery other than reposition the sun. Flat and endless and white.

I got lost. It took me four hours instead of two and about a dozen phone calls to Josh with my hopeful coordinates. Apparently there are two “county road 9”s. Since you go through two counties. Each having at least nine roads to call their own. Wound up in Rockville or Paynesville or something like that. When I finally stepped out of the car and said hello to their dog Josh asked me if I had to pull over to cry.

“No.” I laughed. “But I did stop to pee in Belgrade.“

Inside there was hundred year old wallpaper and original woodwork and a one year old baby I was meeting for the very first time. Christa made lunch of dates and dark chocolate, tea, cheese and whole wheat crackers. It was the best everything I’d ever tasted, having been hungry for 3 hours and out of water for two.

Christa is forever linked to my old coffee shop. She had front row seats for the dramatic eight month decline of the little shop on the busy corner in South Minneapolis. She was the only one who knew all the players. Knew the day to day. Held my hand and sat next to me while I tried to figure out how to stay afloat for another month. She taught me how to smoke and got me drunk on days when getting drunk was the only sane thing to do. She helped repaint my house and move all the furniture so it felt like mine again. She’s the brightest colored character in a grayish blue time.

She moved right after I moved. Moved to the country to put her Master’s Degree to work, saving the world one migrant family at a time, bringing her big city smarts back to the barely incorporated township she grew up in. They don’t have internet access and her cell phone reception is sketchy. We talked sporadically when she was in the city or staying late at work. But like all great friendships, the pause button works flawlessly. No time actually passes, but your hair grows and you can have babies. It’s some kind of perfect magic.

The catching up was easy and laughs over things we never collectively thought would reach the realm of funny were so healing and life affirming. If I can say that without sounding like a wannabe guru. If even saying that can capture all the wow.

The little baby who took to me gleefully fast won my heart as quickly. She has messy hair and soft cheeks and shares her Cheerio’s with near strangers. Seeing Christa as mom and hearing her talk about it so smartly. So thoughtfully. That little girl is one of the luckiest babies in the world.

Sparked from the picture perfect afternoon while driving home with crystal clear directions and a painstakingly crafted map it hit me for real this time. A gratitude for the eight months of bluish gray and how it’s come to show light on the best parts of who I am. I’ve flirted with this idea. Hoped for it. Tried it on. But it never stuck. Too early. Too insincere. I wanted to let go of the ick and fill up on the good but that takes time and patience. It happens under the radar maybe. While you are unaware. Pops it to the surface as a bona fide revelation while driving back to Minneapolis at 4pm on a chilly Saturday afternoon. I almost pulled over. I almost picked up the phone to call everyone I know with the news. But instead, I just drove.

And talked to myself.

And let it wash over me again and again like a really great hug.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

pudding pop

So, it's 7:30pm and I literally just had a cookie in one hand and a mug of peppermint tea in the other while reading a blog. Not this blog mind you. One, I write the fluff that shows up here so reading it doesn't hold much surprise and two, this piece of internet real estate has been vacant so long a pair of pigeons have moved into the attic.

It's nearing a month of my self-employment. I am proud to report that I have showered and dressed myself each and every weekday. I still have cash monies at my disposal. I've only gained 5 pounds. And it's been the best 30 days of my cat's life ever. So far, so good.

Really the only disturbing trend is the weight gain. Which I'm taking charge of as of yesterday. And as of tomorrow I'm buying a size smaller pair of blue jeans and magnetting them to my fridge. Having to physically move the legs of pants I currently can't fit my ass in to get pudding will hopefully stop me from getting pudding. Not that I even have any pudding, but you know what I'm saying. I'll have pants magnetted to my fridge. It's gotta do something.

Monday, December 17, 2007

oops, i did it again

I started a company!


(Second time's a charm, right?)