Thursday, May 30, 2013

Community

What is “community”?  Or rather, where’s the line between “our community” and “the community”?  And when are we really involved?

I don’t quite know when it happened, but I realized that when I visit or learn about a new church, the first thing I look for is if they’re involved in their community.  Maybe it’s the Peace Corps in me; maybe it’s because my current church is so good at it.

Nearly every church I’ve come across claims to be community-involved.  Yet, most of them seem to do “community” without ever having to come into contact with people beyond the church community, existing or potential.

A couple weeks ago, I read through pamphlets for a church a friend had visited.  The pamphlets talked heavily about community work.  All the examples listed were intra-church programs, singles group events, married couples bible study, youth group, etc. 

I visited a church out-of-town this past weekend.   The focus of the whole service was community work (related to Jesus’ “I’ll make you a fisher of men” phrase).   The pastor mentioned a lot of programs, both within his own congregation and as part of the greater Methodist Church: support for missionaries, a school supply drive to help UMCOR’s efforts in Oklahoma, a knitting group that met after service once a month  to make blankets for those in need.

Other things I’ve seen touted as community work include having Bible study or small group meetings at pubs and coffee shops.  The idea is that these locations make religion more accessible to people who are scared of the “church” part.

But all these things, valuable as they are, none of them strike me as community involvement.  They focus on those already part of or interested in being part of the church community.  They insulate church members from anyone on the receiving end of the church’s work.  There’s community, but there’s no involvement.

The church I currently attend does these types of programs - women’s group, food drives, public small group meetings – but it’s also involved in community beyond.  Not just beyond the church walls, but beyond the “potentially interested in church.” 

There’s a community garden in Richmond where members help out sometimes.  Groups from the church regularly serve lunch and dinner at a local homeless shelter/soup kitchen.  And of course there’s my favorite, knitting every week.  Sitting next to someone, knitting together, becoming friends is so, so different than knitting a sweater or a blanket elsewhere and sending it to the shelter. 

There may even be more programs that aren’t on my radar.  What I like most about these activities is that they aren’t fishing for new members.  They aren’t asking people to come to church or talk about God, but they’re still feeding people’s souls.  They’re real and authentic.  People.  People simply going out there and showing God’s love through simple, everyday things.  And that’s powerful.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Tattoo

It’s pretty much always completely out in the open.  Even in the middle of a Wisconsin winter, it’s on one of those patches of skin that very likely may peek through all the layers of outer gear.  Yet, it’s very rarely noticed.  A young boy in Nigeria noticed.  My mother eventually noticed, although she thought I’d just drawn on myself with marker.  A few other people here and there have said something, but generally it’s more of a “do you have any tattoos?”  “Just this one.”  “Oh, I hadn’t even noticed that.”

It is very small.  It is also very important to me.  I got it in Zambia.  A friend of mine did it with a sewing needle and calligraphy ink.  She did a lot of them for a lot of volunteers.  All the same, or relatively the same, depending on how drunk she was when she did them.

Although I was living in Southern Province, at the time we were considered part of Central Province for Peace Corps org-structure purposes.  A group of Central Province volunteers had liked how the abbreviation for Central Province Peace Corps, CP PC, was reminiscent of the band name AC DC.  They designated the lightening bolt as Central Province’s symbol and it stuck.  It was on the Province t-shirts, carved into the Peace Corps house’s gate, painted on all sorts of things, and it was the tattoo.  Except for the people who got theirs when she was drunk; they got tadpoles.

After trying to find pictures of it, I get why people don’t usually see it.  I went through years and years of photos and found one where it’s visible.

more monkeys (3) with tattoo circled

 

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Guardrail, 10. Alfred, 0.

wendy is so cute“Here, I’ll test it for you, ok?”  I leaned the guardrail against the wall.   My little sister, Alfred, and I were the kinds of kids who turned everything into a jungle gym, even our grandfather.  Our bunk beds  made a much better jungle gym without that pesky safety guardrail on the top bunk.

--  The beds had been my father’s growing up and so were quite sturdy.  The guardrail was a long piece of solid wood with thick grooves for sliding onto the head- and footboards. 

  When Alfred and I wanted to play on the bunk beds, I’d crawl up onto the top bunk or stand on the side-rail of the bottom bunk and carefully, and slowly, lift the heavy guardrail off the bed.  It was unwieldy and difficult to move, being so heavy and long.  I’d prop it against the bedroom wall, where it would lean, towering over us, twice the height of Alfred.

And then it would fall on Alfred.  No matter how carefully I leaned it.  Now matter the angle I put it at.  No matter what, it would topple over onto Alfred the minute she stepped near it.  I’d place  it on the wall and walk back and forth in front of it, testing it, seeing if any floor boards would creak and knock it off balance.  I’d stand in front of and jump up and down.  I’d go across the room and run past the guardrail.  It would stand still, perfectly still against the bright yellow wall.  --

With trepidation, Alfred took one step, two steps, nearing the guardrail.  She just had to pass it to get to the bunk beds.  Three steps.  Almost directly in front of it.  Four ste—CRASH!  The guardrail came tumbling down on her.  Poor Alfred; she couldn’t win.Crystal on the bunk beds

My friend, Crystal, on the bunk beds without the guardrail.

katrina being adorable in wendy's bed

Munchkinhead on the bunk beds with the guardrail up.

 

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The only sliver of wall where I could lean the guardrail.  Facing this spot, the bunk beds are at 8 o’clock.

 

 

Picture up top: Alfred standing where the guardrail would fall, a little older than when it would fall on her.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Winner Take All – Book Review

WinnerTakeAll The Chinese are everywhere.  That’s one take away from Dambisa Moyo’s Winner Take All: China’s Race for Resources and What It Means for the World, but it’s not the only one.  In this fairly short but very extensive look at China’s investments, purchases and loans around the world, Moyo explores the whys, wheres and hows of China’s past and future development.

The big takeaway is that China is the Little Red Hen, working steadily and surely while the rest of the world is the other barn animals off playing.  China, and only China, is preparing for the future.  China is purchasing, excavating and storing resources it will need to continue developing, resources that are limited and for which the world will face shortages in the future.

Most surprising to me, China isn’t only working out deals with other developing countries, but also with countries that like to consider themselves world powers.  I knew about many of China’s dealings with Zambia, and I’d heard some rumblings of China’s loans to the US.  But, I had no idea how extensive China's network is.  I didn’t know, for example, that China attempted to buy the port of Long Beach or that it has 25 year deals with Eastern European countries for oil supplies.

China has been accused of neo-colonialism.  But, as Moyo points out, China's activities may have some similarities to past colonial powers’ activities, but China’s approach is very different.  China is building partners and working to create win-win situations where both China and the host country get something they need.  This builds good will, strong good will that is already taking hold.  Many developing countries already view China far more favorably than traditional donor countries like the US.

Moyo’s work is well-researched and her premises and conclusions well-backed by her extensive economic background.  There are a few spots in the book where the economic language and ideas get pretty heavy and require a good working knowledge of econ.  However, even for those who do not have such a background, this book is worth a read.  Most of it is very accessible and Moyo does a good job explaining some of the complex issues.  And the subject matter is highly important.

This is one of those books I hope our leaders read.  I recommend it for you, too.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fun with Munchkinhead Day 9

No fun without Munchkinhead.  Munchkinhead left today.  In fact, as I’m typing this, she should be getting off her plane in Milwaukee.

P5211949 Before she left, we squeezed in one last trip to the plaza.  We got matching shoes.  Munchkinhead had to repack to fit the shoes in, but she did it.  She only bought 3 pairs of shoes on the trip.  Not bad for such a long visit.

Munchkinhead trying on shoes.
The one on her right foot are the ones we got.

P5211950Munchkinhead also repotted my plant for me.  It’s a small yellow rose plant that Mzzzzz Jones got for me about two  years to cheer me up when I was sad.  It’s badly needed repotting, but I’m terrible at that sort of stuff.  Munchkinhead, on the other hand, is very good with plants. 

We picked up a slightly larger and very nice pot at Ross the other day.  It even matches my kitchen curtains!  We got a small bag of potting soil from the local hardware store.  Munchkinhead laid some newspaper out on the kitchen floor and went to work.  My plant looks happier already.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fun with Munchkinhead Day 8

Today was so low key, we don’t even have any pictures.  Munchkinhead spent a good portion of the day packing.  In the afternoon, we went to see Gatsby at the Cerrito Cinema.  What better place to see Gatsby than in an art deco, speakeasy theater?

We sat on couches with a little table and ordered a pizza for dinner that was brought out during the film.  The film itself was quite good and full of lots of surprises, mostly in the soundtrack.  Both Munchkinhead and I had read The Great Gatsby in high school and found the movie to make far more sense than the book.  Though I will say, to the extent I remember, the movie seems to track the book pretty well.

Munchkinhead got to listen to a whole bunch of music again, including some pieces she heard at the orchestra concert yesterday.  I had band rehearsal for our next concert, which is in only a few weeks.  She sat in the back and worked on her knitting.  She was also very helpful, packing up the snacks after break-time.

We rounded out the evening with a game of dominos and one of our favorite films for quoting, Lost in Austen.  One peacock is probably sufficient.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Fun with Munchkinhead Day 7

Concert day!  Lots of music today.  My band concert was today.  I was super, duper excited about it because we sounded good, we IMG_0365were playing one of my favorite songs that I had picked out and a whole bunch of friends said they were going to come watch.  We did sound great, and that favorite song, "Nothing Else Matters,” sounded excellent.  Munchkinhead came to watch and took some pictures and even a short video.

We also went to the Community Woman’s Orchestra concert in the evening.  My band’s Artistic Director is one of the finalists for the Artistic Director position of the orchestra and she was conducting this concert.  The theme was dance music and the repertoire included orchestral versions of a number of pieces we’d played in band.  Several of the pieces have also been successfully used by products such that hearing them immediately made Munchkinhead and me start laughing and tossing out slogans.  Bounty, cheese, beef and spaghetti sauce were all covered.

P5191940Even the morning was music-filled with a rollicking service at church.  It was the first combined service for the two churches that will be merging, and it was Pentecost Sunday.  Much of the service was focused on working together, moving forwards, and building the new church as one.  The sermon had a slogan, “Flame On!” and although it did follow the theme of building a new, wonderful, out-reaching church, it sounded to me like something people might say to each other in the Castro the way people in the Mission say “stay brown.”

After Service, Munchkinhead found the playground.  And the kids found Munchinkhead.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fun with Munchkinhead Day 6

Saturday is football day.  So, I took Munchkinhead along and she joined in the fun.

Every Saturday, people gather at Berkeley High to play flag football.  Having grown up in football-focused Cudahy, I’m still amazed the public is allowed on Berkeley’s football field.  It’s a nice field, too, turf.  Whoever shows up gets to play.  It’s never exactly the same group, though there’s certainly regulars who show up nearly every week.   The Facebook group is huge, and usually about 30-some people come out.

This week was a little odd – the normal equipment guy was out of town and the people who had the equipment were a bit late, and there was an extra amount of aggression than usual.  Perhaps it was the heat.  We still had lots of fun though.

Munchkinhead and I were never on the same team, and we didn’t even play in the same game until the end.  For most of the afternoon, there were enough players to have 2 games going at once, six players per team.  The winners of the first set of games played each other and the losers played each other.  After that, enough people had to leave that we switched to one game with seven players on each team. By the last game, we were playing with teams of 5, the smallest number that works.

Munchkinhead did well.  The Legend told me she got a few flag pulls.  And a bunch of us saw her break up a pass, which was awesome.  I started out doing not so well, but then got better as the day went on (and everyone else got tired).  I even got a touchdown!

Between yesterday’s nearly-11 miles of walking and today’s over-4 hours of football, we’re both sore and pooped, but happy.

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Fun with Munchkinhead Day 5

ohmygoodnesswhatacrazybusyday.  We had fun!

Munchkinhead and I took a day trip upP5171874 to Sacramento today.  We took the choo choo train up, went to the Zoo, the Railroad Museum, the Historical Museum and the Capitol and met Mr. Trizzle for dinner.  According to Munchkinhead’s pedometer, we walked nearly 11 miles today.

Munchkinhead on the Capitol Cooridor with her train ticket, headed to Sacramento.

The Sacramento Zoo was pretty nice.  It felt fairly small, although it was much bigger than the Oakland Zoo, which Munchkinhead and I visited last time she was here.  Maybe the Milwaukee Zoo is just an outlier and we never realized it.  The Zoo had lots of African animals, which made me happy.  I love seeing Zebras IMG_0302 (pronounced zed-bras) and giraffes.  And much to Munchkinhead’s delight, the Zoo had white-handed gibbons, just like her Gibby! 

The white-handed gibbon.

Much to Munchkinhead’s chagrin, the zoo also had its share of unenlightened parents.  There was the school group chaperone who, standing at the gibbon exhibit, told the school children to “look at the monkey.”  That sent Munchkinhead into quite a mumble for a good five minutes.  And there was the mother who failed to correct the small group of four-year olds who insisted the black and white lemurs were pandas.  After all this, and attempting to avoid stepping on the massive amounts of little people, Munchkinhead was so annoyed, she wouldn’t even play in the stick-your-head-here things with me.

IMG_0291 Me as a butterfly.  This one would be great if the zoo map weren’t in the picture.

After the zoo, we got on the bus and headed back towards downtown to visit the State Railroad Museum.  It was awesome.  There was a huge display about the building of the transcontinental railroad, including letters, artifacts and dioramas reproducing some of the original equipment like snowsheds. 

It also had a large number of engines and cars on display, several of them open for walk-through.  I especially liked the displays about how the long-distance cars have changed over the years.  One exhibit features seats from different eras that guests can try out.   Munchkinhead also got to sit in the engineer’s seat of one of the last engines built by Rosie the Riveters.  The docent was such a sweetie (or off his rocker), telling us it may have been built by one of our great-grandmothers.

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Munchkinhead and me in front of one of the display engines.

He may have been off about our great-grandmother’s building  trains.  But, the museum did have an artifact just like P5171907something our grandpa had.  In the model train display, there was a little man in a little shed with a little red door.  Grandpa had the same little man on his special train set that he’d put around the tree at Christmas.  We were very excited.

We discovered another museum next to the Railroad Museum, the Sacramento Historical Museum.  Admission was only $6, so we had to check that out, too.  It was about the founding of Sacramento, which was pretty much all about the gold rush.

When we finished up in Old Sacramento, we walked into the main downtown area to visit the State Capitol.  It’s a very beautiful and impressive building.  Munchkinhead loved the architectural and design details and kept taking pictures of banisters and lamps and such.

P5171911Munchkinhead in front of the Capitol. 

Behind the Capitol is an extensive garden area with a lot of memorials.  There’s a memorial garden that was started in the late 1800s to honor the Civil War soldiers.  Many of the trees in that grove were brought to California as saplings from Civil War battlefields.  There was memorial to all the firefighters from across the state who have died in the line of duty.  A memorial for Vietnam casualties.  A memorial for the first priest in the area.  And many, many more.  We took in our fill of memorials and monuments and then met Mr. Trizzle for our fill of food.

It was a wonderful and fun-filled day.  And now, we both dearly need some sleep. ;)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fun with Munchkinhead Day 4

IMG_0209We started off the day with several games of bowling.  Albany Bowl has a great low price special on Thursday and Friday days.  I  won all the games, but that hardly mattered since Munchkinhead explained she doesn’t care how many pins she knocks down, she likes bowling because she likes throwing things.  O_o

Somehow, after bowling and a nice lunch at home, our day turned into a sort of accidental let’s-be-rich-people day.  We spent the afternoon at the race track and then went for dinner at the yacht club with our uncle.

I’ve driven past Golden Gate Fields well over a 100 times and had never been in it.  Munchkinhead’s visit seemed like a great excuse to finally check it out.  It was lots of fun, especially since it was an absolutely gorgeous afternoon with bright sun and not too much wind.  We watched 7 races and bet on a total of 11 horses from those races.  Munchkinhead had been to P5161855races in Kentucky before (she went to college in Kentucky), so she knew how to place the bets.

Overall, we won half our money back.  We started off picking horses based on the horses’ names.  That didn’t work too well.  By the end, we were picking based on jockeys and their rankings and the horses’ names.  That worked better.  In the 7th race, we picked 2 of the top 3 horses.

Here’s a fabulous picture of the two of us in the stands, in between races.  Munchkinhead borrowed my hat.  (Well, I put it on her head and she made a face.  But her faces are always so much better than mine.)

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We almost got a picture of the two of us in front of the track when a gentleman offered to take a picture for us.  However, he turned out to be totally inept.  Couldn’t understand the concept of “no, you have to look through the viewfinder,” no matter how many times or ways Munchkinhead explained it.  Then he couldn’t find the shutter button.  Then the camera turned off, after which, in trying to turn it to find the power button, he dropped it 5 feet onto the hard concrete and said, “good thing it’s electronic!” 

Munchkinhead was horrified, especially when she discovered the fall had broken the camera.  Part of the retractable lens had come out, the lens couldn’t close and the camera screen would only give us “lens error. reset lens.”  Needless to say, by the end of this, we didn’t get our picture.  Though I did get Munchkinhead’s camera to work again after some minutes of futzing with it.

So instead of both of us in front of the field, here’s Munchkinhead in front of the field, and me in front of a tree in the parking lot.

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Our Uncle had invited us for dinner at his yacht club, so we headed directly over to Sausalito after our day in Albany.  The yacht club is at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge and it happened to be very clear and sunny when we got there.  The fog rolled in while were having dinner.  Munchkinhead was thrilled and super excited about the fog.  Until we went outside and she learned what the fog meant. Brrrr.

She got some great pictures of the bridge, and got a nice picture with it.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fun with Munchkinhead Day 3

Several years ago, Alfred got me a very sweet Christmas present: 2 passes to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.  Dorian and I hadn’t used them because we’d only been able to go to the Cal Academy at night, for its Thursday night Night Life program, which has different tickets.  So, I thought it’d be fabulous to finally use them with Munchkinhead.

IMG_0182 We set out on BART, transferred to Muni and walked into Golden Gate Park where the Cal Academy is.  As we approached the building, we pulled out the tickets, still carefully wrapped in their plastic sleeve.  It wasn’t until we opened them that I learned they weren’t heavy-duty tickets mailed from the Academy but a single sheet of paper with the tickets printed out, carefully folded to show only the tickets.  Alfred’s printer is so good, I couldn’t even tell they were home printed.  At the bottom of the page was fine print.  The tickets were only good for a year.

Munchkinhead and I went to the ticket window.  The lady there was super nice and went to talk to her manager.  She allowed us to still use the tickets, we just had to pay the difference in admission price from when the tickets were purchased and the current price.  We were very happy.  If we’d had to pay full admission price, we probably wouldn’t have gone; they’re $30 each!

P5151839 We had lots of fun at the Academy, dodging little grade schoolers and squinching up our noses when their screeching voices hurt our ears.  We saw live penguins in the African Hall, stuffed zebra, a Lucy skeleton copy and lots of taxidermed antelope of various kinds.

We explored the four-story rainforest with its beautiful butterflies, the aquarium and the living roof .  Here we are on the living roof in our matching dresses – we just happened to both pick out the same vintage pattern at different points, so we have similar dresses – and our matching shoes – we bought those together last time Munchkinhead came to visit.

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But my favorite two parts of the Academy were the stuffed giraffes and the walrus statue thingy.  I love giraffes.  I think they’re my favorite animal.  IMG_0183The Academy has a baby giraffe that is shorter than me!  Or would be, if we were allowed to stand on the same platform.

The walrus statue, or whatever it is – it’s some sort of wall decoration thing that reminds me of Venice, except Venice doesn’t have walruses on its canal decorations – the walrus thing sent us scrambling through our respective bags for appropriate tusk-like items.  Munchkinhead’s knitting needles would have been perfect, except for that whole having yarn and a knitted swatch on them issue.  But we found something almost as good and took a picture specially for Mommy.

“Look, Mutti!” says Munchikinhead, “I am the walrus.”

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After the Academy, we took Muni to downtown San Francisco, where we had lunch at a SF classic, Katana-ya.  Mr. Trizzle recommended it as a quintessential San Francisco must.  Neither of us got the fried chicken raman, but it was still a good lunch.

Then we did a small bit of shopping, picking up matching free, or near-free, garments from Vickie’s and a few blouses from H&M.  We skipped the three-floor shoe store because, as Munchkinhead put it best, “that sounds dangerous.”

Tomorrow, we’re hitting up Albany.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fun with Munchkinhead Day 2

Today, I sent Munchkinhead off on her own so I could get some work done.  She went exploring the Marin headlands and Sausalito with our Uncle and his fabulous lady.

They looked at some neat outdoor art pieces, including one made out of trees that were being removed by the city or state government and a few metal sculptures by the guy that did the Sunburst in Milwaukee.  They also visited a special marine mammal place that helps seals.

Here’s Munchkinhead with a seal statue.

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Here she is in front of Alcatraz.

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And in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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And here’s the Golden Gate Bridge in front of the Bay Bridge.

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I thought that was a really cool picture.

After she was done gallivanting around the North Bay, Munchkinhead came back to the East Bay for knitting night.  Well, first she got a little lost on BART, but she figured it out right away and got herself turned back in the correct direction.

We had lots of fun at knitting.  She learned to knit from Amy the last time she visited.  Amy remembered her and was happy to see she was still knitting.  Knitting was lots of fun; it always is.  There was a really cute new little girl there tonight, and her mother caught onto the knitting right away.

After knitting, Munchkinhead and I did a workout.  Gotta stay in shape.  She may be little, but she’s lots stronger than me.  I need to work on that.

Tomorrow, we’re off on a full day of adventures together, into San Francisco!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

It’s a Bird, It’s a Squirrel, It’s Goldenrail in a Tree!

“Ba Nchimunya, mulaputa,” it was a common refrain on my family’s compound, about as common as my mother saying, “get out of that tree, you have a dress on.”  But I love climbing trees, and so puta-ing* or not, up I go.

Heels or bare footed, dress or trousers, those branches call my name.  Long arms and long legs make for great climbing.  Don’t worry, I have pantaloons to wear when climbing trees in dresses.

When I was growing up, we had an excellent climbing tree in front of the house, on the strip between the sidewalk and the street.  Lightning hit one of the lower branches one year, and Daddy had to remove the branch.  That made the tree a little harder to climb, but I still managed.  Luckily, I was tall enough by then to reach other branches.

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In Zambia, there was an excellent mulberry tree right outside my first hut.  My climbing that tree led to the mulaputa accusations.  It’s branches were small but sturdy.  And climbing it meant access to mulberries that the children hadn’t been able to get.  

I'm in a tree

The family I stayed with in Nigeria had a beautiful lemon tree directly outside their kitchen window.  I startled the maid one day by suddenly peeking in the second-story window from the tree.  The family’s young daughters decided I had a great idea in getting into the tree and learned to climb it themselves.

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Africa seems to be fully of great climbing trees.  At a party for some of the girls’ friends, I found the perfect photographing spot high in the branches of a nearby tree.

aurelia in tree 1

That particular climb was extra great because I had on one of my favorite pairs of shoes for climbing.   5” wedges with a very flat ball and toe area.  The small wedge was great for, well, wedging into branch joints, and the flat front flexed with my foot and allowed for good traction on the tree bark.

walking shoes

I’ve climbed trees in other heels, too.  On my first trip to Mr. Trizzle’s home, I attended one of his friend’s birthday parties.  It was in a park with a great climbing tree.  So up I went.  One of the party guests was so impressed that I was in a tree in heels, he kept taking pictures.  Sadly, I don’t have any of his pictures.  But there are plenty of other great climbing trees in the Bay Area, like this beauty at Cordornices Park in Berkeley.  It provides a great view of the basketball courts.

Aurelia in a tree at Cordinices Park 2010 

Maybe someday I’ll stop climbing trees, but I doubt it’ll be anytime soon.

*kuputa roughly translates as to be playing with something you’re not supposed to be playing with

Fun with Munchkinhead Day 1

Today, I picked Munchkinhead up from the airport.  I had a special sign for her and a nice little welcome packet with all her necessities, or at least most of them.  She’s borrowing Daddy Bunny’s Clipper card so she can ride BART and MUNI easily.  Her packet also has a BART schedule, an Amtrak schedule, Amtrak tickets, tickets to the museum and an itinerary for the week.

She brought me cheese curds! Yay!!!! They even have Bucky Badger on the package, which is so cute.

We tried to stop at Top Dog in Berkeley on the way home from SFO, but it had just closed.  So we opted for the taco truck down the street from me.  Yummy late night snack.  I was surprised she ordered pork tacos and didn’t say anything about them not looking like the tacos we grew up with.  They weren’t very spicy this time; perhaps the lady gringo-fied them for us.

Now it’s time for bed.  Foo Foo’s come along for the visit, too.  I’m sure Daddy Bunny will be very excited to see him!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

“But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need,” continue Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ lyrics.   And sometimes, it takes a long time before you realize you got what you needed instead of what you wanted.

When I was in high school, I had a huge crush on this guy.  I’m pretty sure everyone knew it, too.  He was tall and cute and our intellectual sparring rivaled Elizabeth and Darcy.  I wanted to date him so badly, that when he started dating someone else, I joined the track team just to stop myself from being depressed.  I never liked running.

It wasn’t until fairly recently that I realized although what I wanted (and our family and friends expected) for most of my teen years was to date him, what I needed was to not date him.  I didn’t get what I wanted, but I sure as heck got what I needed.

He was, and still is, one of my closest friends.  We’ve been on lots of adventures together and through a lot of growing pains in the 20+ years we’ve known each other.  He’s a great guy.  He also has a very strong will, stubborn temperament and red-headed Aries fury. 

As a young girl, had I gotten my wish of being in a relationship with him, he would have totally controlled me.  Not because he’s a bad person or anything like that, but because I would have let him. 

Most teenagers are still figuring themselves out, and I was as naive and impressionable as any of them.  My world would have revolved around him, and he would have let it.  It’s just the way our personalities were then.   I would have missed out on a lot of my own growth.

On the simplest level, there would be no varsity letter on my jacket.  More deeply, if I ever did find my current ability to stand firm against peer pressure, it would have taken a lot longer.  Most importantly, I may have wound up losing him as a best friend.

Looking back, I’m very glad things turned out the way they did.  He has a wonderful wife who is absolutely adorable and a very good match for him all around.  And we still have our friendship, with a ton of great memories.  The current reality is well worth all those teenage tears.  That makes me smile.  It’s also very helpful when dealing with current tears.  I may not always be getting what I want, but I’m likely getting what I need.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bungee Fun, or Not-So-Fun

There was a comic in the paper the other week that made me chuckle quite hard; one of those ones that’s super funny because you see your own experiences in it.  It was from Baby Blues by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott.  Mom and Dad are in their bedroom trying to figure out why their pajama and sweatpants  are missing the elastic from around the waist.  Hammie and Zoe, their son and daughter, are in the back yard.  Hammie is high atop a ladder with a string of elastic tied around his waist, wearing a football helmet and saying “I’ve always wanted to bungee jump.”

We tried that once, too.  Only instead of stealing the elastic out of our parents clothes – which as someone who sews, I can tell you would be a lot more trouble than it’s worth – we got a bunch of Aurelia's legbungee cords from the garage.  We climbed onto the top of the large monkey bars in the back yard and hooked one of the bungee  cords’ metal ends through a hole for the swing’s S hook.  Then I held onto the other end and jumped.

Monkey bars and S hooks for swings.

It didn’t work.  The bungee cord hook came out of the S hook hole.  *Thud*  I hit the sand hard. 

Luckily, the swing set wasn’t that high, only about 8 feet or so, and we fell and jumped off it so often that it didn’t hurt.  Well, it hurt, falling 8 feet hurts, but we didn’t get injured.

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Alfred jumping from the swing and missing the monkey bar grab

Next, we tried making bungee swings by putting bungee cords into the swing S-hook holes and hooking the other end of the bungee cord into the swing’s chain links.  That sort of worked but wasn’t nearly as much fun as it seemed it ought to be.  In the end, we decided the swing set was far more fun without bungee cords.  Now I only use them for moving furniture.

 

 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Fun and Versatile Easter Dress

I have this new thing I do now, I only buy or sew knit clothing.  Why?  It stretches.  I am darn tired of having to pass down some of my favorite outfits because they no longer fit over my shoulders, arms or thighs.  So that’s it, knit or nothing.

For Easter this year, I wanted something fun, bright, modestly styled and knit.  I picked out a great retro pattern from Butterick.  A 1946 dress with detail in the piecing of the dress.  It falls just below the knees and while isn’t form fitting, isn’t a potato sack either.

Fabric

P3291760It’s fully lined, which turned out to be a very good thing for the bright yellow jersey knit I chose.  I selected skin-tone dance fabric for the lining.  Super slippery, not the easiest to sew on, but the finished product looked right.  The dress has a belt that goes with it.  I made two, one in matching yellow, and one in a contrasting green so I have options. 

Between the jersey knit and the slippery dance fabric, my machine kept jamming, sucking fabric into the bobbin case.  Mommy had a great solution: paper.  I put scraps of paper between the fabric and the machine at the start of each seam.  The paper prevented the fabric from being sucked below deck, and then I just tore the paper off the seam when I was done.

Modifications

The dress is supposed to have snaps on the bodice where the left shoulder piece meets the bodice front.  I chose not to put the snaps because 1) I’m lazy, and 2) the snaps would either be only sewn to the lining, causing the bodice front to droop, or the snaps would have to be sewn through both layers, which would be ugly.  Instead, I choose a pin or broach from my collection when I wear the dress.  It gives me more options in accessorizing the dress.   The dress is also supposed to have a side zipper.  That’s one of the awesome benefits of doing everything in knit.  No zipper needed!

The hardest part of the  dress was trying to install the shoulder pads.  The dress really needed them, especially with how much the knit drapes.  But try as I might, I just could not get the foam dolman shoulder pads sewn in.  When I could get them set properly, the stitches would tear out of the foam.  My final solution, I tape them in with fabric tape when I wear the dress.  This actually has an added benefit.  The shoulder pads are hand-wash only.  Since they’re removable, I don’t have to hand wash the whole dress.

Variations

For Easter, I used a large gold and peachy-brown butterfly broach on the bodice and wore my green belt with green shoes.  On my birthday, I wore the yellow belt and used a pewter sun-hat pin with a red flower on it and wore my red pumps.

me and Dorian at Easter

Pattern: Butterick B5281

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Long Live the Little Green Men!

You gotta watch out for people getting you back, especially the ones you didn’t even realize you “got” in the first place.

I’d left my dorm room unlocked.  I always left my dorm room unlocked.  There wasn’t anything valuable that could be taken with ease – my speakers were 5ft around – and my sorority-sisters neighbors were usually milling about that end of the hall.  But there was no denying that if I’d locked the door, I wouldn’t be dealing with this …. this what?  It wasn’t really a mess and was only slightly annoying.

army man cropped Army men.  They were everywhere.  I opened my dresser drawer; army man.  I pulled down a shoe box; army man.  I put on a pair of pants and put my hand in the pocket; army man.  There was even one in the mini fridge’s freezer!  “He’s in Siberia,” my clearly guilty next door neighbor grinned.  I was finding those army men until well after I moved out of that dorm room.  Thanks Amanda.

But as I said, she was just “getting me back.”  Except, I hadn’t filled her room with army men.  No, the little green men first appeared elsewhere on campus, all over campus, thanks to another sorority sister, a trip to Leon’s and the dollar store that just happened to be on the way home. 

A tradition was born, and that tradition continues.

Nakkita and army manMommy found one somewhere the other week.  Likely a remnant of   the attack of all attacks just before I left for Zambia.  There’s a lot of good hiding spots in a house with 3 floors.  They’re sneaked into the bottom of packages and carried along in suitcases on visits.  One of the original instigators’ daughter has her own toddler-appropriate amy and army men.1army man.   Gummy army men were passed around for holidays and birthdays – I heard they were quite delicious.  One of my  sorority sisters even incorporated them into her wedding!

 

And this past Christmas, Alfred got me the most amazing and absolutely perfectly appropriate present.  A snowflake ornament made out of army men!  I love snow.  She found it on etsy.  It’s super cute and very ingenious.

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