I always miss the good stuff!

It seems like I’m always missing the action in our little city and I arrive a day late and a dollar short, to use an overused cliché. Sometimes it’s a good thing like when we were out trick or treating this Halloween with a group of friends and a lot of kids. We came home after gathering inappropriate amounts of candy and put the kids to bed only to read in the news that there were kids stealing candy from other kids that night using a gun. It was on our street. Hurray for an early bedtime!


Today I took a bit of a stroll on our small high street and decided to hit the local pawn shop just to see if there was anything interesting. I browsed around. Looked at the dusty power tools and the well-played instruments. I saw some nice jewelry, said hello to the two dudes that work there and then left.


I went over to our new coffee shop/bike shop/bar where I saw an old acquaintance that I knew quite well in high school. I looked over at him and pretended like I didn’t recognize him. Yep, I have those days. In all fairness he probably thinks he recognizes me but is not quite sure from where. Then I sat and read my Stephen King book about writing, which is REALLY good. I heard a few sirens after I sat down but, whatever.


I was only there about half an hour before I sipped my last bit of hot chocolate, ignored the old high school acquaintance again and headed home. I passed the pawn shop four windows down and saw two cop cars and two ambulances outside and all the crew surrounding a guy lying on the ground. I asked a man what happened and apparently the guy on the ground stole stuff from the shop yesterday and came back again to do likewise. They weren’t having it this time so they scuffled with him and he tried to leave but tripped on his way out and didn’t get up. The poor soul was looking pretty worse for wear, to use another cliché, and sort of gave off that junkie vibe.


I probably missed that whole event by about five minutes, maybe ten. It’s funny how time works; the whole butterfly theory. One minute can change an entire encounter which can change someone’s life. If I had been in there during the incident my life wouldn’t have really been changed much except I’d have seen a scrappy lad get a bit roughed up trying to steal loot from a pawn shop. But then again, if I had been just a minute late on my jog last week, I wouldn’t have had a run in with a crazy lady.


I don’t want to think about it too hard or my eye will start twitching but I’m amazed at the difference that just a minute or two can make. That minute or two can make a difference of life as we know it or chaos and basket balls being thrown at your face.  Hmm….I sounded a bit like Jack Handy just then.


Well, no matter, I still dig my neighborhood. It’s still shocking and friendly all at the same time. At least I was on time enough to walk up my street after the pawn shop event and see a man dumping half of the crap from his home (dirty mattress, popped air mattress, broken TV and scads of straight up trash) just outside Le Donut right next to a charity box that reads, “Clothes, shoes, cell phones”. See what a difference walking by at the right moment can make?




Urban Handbook. Sold where?

Somedays I wish there was a sort of handbook for living in this type of setting. I grew up here and it was always the type of city where you learned how to lock your door (car and home) once you were in and once you got out, and if you drove downtown back in the day, you rolled up the windows and locked the doors so as not to get jacked by the pimps and druggies. Looking back I think there was likely some overdramatizing on the subject of personal safety but, the city still does has a vibe of instability to it at times.

Today I was coming back from a jog (two miles post-Christmas belly and I was giving myself a mental high-five on a job well done). I was cooling off down the street from my house and saw someone who looked like they were walking up on my lawn. Someone I didn’t recognize. Then they seemed to be in the neighbor’s yard. It was a girl who walked a bit like a boy so there was an edge of toughness there. When I came closer I could see she snagged a soccer ball from our neighbor’s porch and was coming towards me. Our neighbors have five kids and one of them plays with my son so I did feel a bit defensive of his property.

When she came towards me like a Harlem Globetrotter, a mentally ill Globetrotter, she was trying to do the offensive/defensive dribbling movement with me in a way that total strangers do NOT do with one another. I just smiled while she was laughing a bit too overconfidently while saying, “Come on. Let’s go. Let’s play” in her tomboy voice. I laughed a bit insecurely and just swerved around her to avoid her then thought, “I know she took that from our neighbor’s yard. What the….?”

So I asked her, “Did you take that from up there?” pointing at their porch and she paused. When she paused I immediately regretted asking her that question. She started coming at me and it was clear she was looking for a fight. She said, “Oh, you wan it? You wan it?” I said nothing. Just stated at her. Then she threw it HARD towards my face and I put my hand up and blocked it (thank you cat-like reflexes). I was a bit stunned but still said, “Thanks”. It was the thanks that was the other mistake. It seemed to fire her crazy up to amber alert. She came at me, while I was holding the stolen ball in my arms like a small cat, and just started pushing into me. It was mental (I use that word deliberately) because I was trying to protect myself without getting her really fired up. I kept wondering if she had a knife or something. So I just kept pushing her off me then she pushed her hand into my face and walked away.

The whole episode reminded me of a scuffle I use to get into in high school. Totally unexpected and a bit stupid in its subject matter. I actually wanted to punch her to get her away (at my core I’m a pacifist but I have my moments of weakness, sorry) and because of  my kung fu training (thank you David Welther) I was thinking of ways to swing her around and trip her and get her on the ground. Then the better part of my mental make up took over and told me, “She’s crazy. Don’t ‘eff’ with her!”. Then I felt bad and sort of didn’t want to hurt her. She was tiny and not really strong. My pushing on her was pushing her back hard. She wasn’t really a good match for me even though she thought she was. I walked away shaking partly out of anger and partly out of totally being stunned. Too much adrenaline, fight or flight stuff going on in my innards.

I had to tell the kids about it because they heard me speaking about it to the husband on the phone. Then later my son and I drove around a bit to try to see if we could figure out where she was from. I’ve had another encounter with her so I think she lives around me. Fantastic! I can’t wait to see her again. I told O she was wearing all brown and she was small. The best part of the entire event is when we finally went into Safeway to get our five gallon water jugs filled and O saw a tiny old woman, maybe seventy years old, in a brown trench coat. He pulled on my sleeve and pointed to her while pressing his mouth shut and his eyebrows raised, like he was saying, “Look! There she is. The crazy lady that attacked you”. I laughed out loud thinking of the small Vietnamese woman that he was outing throwing a ball at my face and trying to push me over. It was really cute of him to try to be my advocate.

So, I wonder where is the handbook on urban living that helps those of us who are committed to living in a developing city with an abrasive identity that she is trying hard to overcome see people who are a pain in the ass with compassion? Where is the compass that gives us some direction on what to do in really weird situations, not to avoid getting in fights but more to see things the right way? There’s a fine line between staking your place in the city and loving it, wanting to make it better, clean it up, develop her….all while contending with the disenfranchised who roam the streets day and night and letting them live here too. It’s just as much their city as mine. What to do? What to do?

Well, I’ll tell you this: If you see a small, tan woman wearing all brown, walking all tough like a tomboy and trying to interact with you for a good game of basketball while walking down your street….just pretend you don’t really notice. I learned the hard way not to stir up someone else’s crazy out of a sense of justice for your neighbor’s soccer ball. I’ll put that in the handbook.

Birthday fever

One of my oldest and dearest friends gave me a pretty substantial gift card for my birthday in February and this past week….wait for it….I finally spent it! Well, most of it. It was a whack load of a gift card for World Market, yo! I bought myself stuff I never do; Caviar, sparkling white wine, pumpernickel bread (besides the Germans, who buys that stuff?).

The kids ran amuck and kept asking for things like the blow up shark or the metal kazoo but I was determined to just get stuff for me. Then I came home today to find my husband dipping into my stash and I had to pinch him by the ear.

But two nights ago, after taking home my booty from World Market,  Matt and I busted out the color-embellished caviar that was supposed to look like black fish eggs and we rocked the night away. Cheers to living the high life, on a sweet gift card. BAM!

My night with Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott in Tacoma


A little disclaimer: I did not spend the night with this woman, not really. I didn’t even say much to her. Apart from shaking her hand, asking to get a photo with her and telling her that I’d let her get back to sifting through her Q and A cards, I didn’t really spend one on one time with this woman….at all.

She was in town lecturing at our church FOR FREE so I just had to go. I’ve been reading her books for years and simply adore her candid, humorous writing style. Her lecture was superb as she spoke about writing, faith in God, raising a son and her woes through the Bush administration. I rushed home and wrote down some of her anecdotes so I wouldn’t forget them. Then I posted the picture taken with her and I on the almighty Facebook and I called it a night. Quite a night!

There was a Q and A time and I couldn’t think of one thing to ask her on my piece of paper. All I really wanted to do was take her home with me and have her as my surrogate mother. Instead I got to put my arm around her like a silly fan and walk away totally forgotten in the abyss of other silly fans. She’s really soft and fluffy though, and delightful to listen to. Twas a stellar night indeed.


We’ve been experiencing this crazy ice storm out here in the PNW and due to the fact that our city doesn’t invest into ploughs or salt (that due to the fact that this freak-weather only happens once every 15 years or so) we’ve been hulled up in our home for three days now. Yesterday was mental! Not only was I going crazy because my son was bouncing off the walls with cabin fever, but there was really nowhere to go. Everything was closed. If you were brave enough to walk about you risked a twisted limb or getting impaled by falling icicles.

Now that it’s warmer and beginning to thaw all you hear outside is the cracking of breaking branches under the weight of all that ice and the slide and crunch of sheets of ice skidding off the roofs. Happy ice storm of 2012.

When the kids get bored….throw them outside!

When my kids start to climb the walls inside the house, these days I have to tell them to get their shoes on and go outside before I tear my heart out. Obviously they have to get some wiggles out and they also really start to bug me when they jump on furniture and run around the house, clomping on our hardwood floors like a couple of Clydesdales.

They winge and moan being told to leave the house but I always know throwing them outside will produce something of beauty once they just engage with being out there. You have to make extra effort to get outside when you live in an urban setting, even in the lush beauty of the Pacific Northwest. So out they go….then this is usually the sort of thing that I find them making:

It's a pirate ship! Complete with oars and a flag

Apparently it's a Swiss Pirate Ship

Cleaning up the Hill

Photo by sleepinyourhat

Yesterday we had our neighborhood clean-up day and I’ll be damned if I missed it. I thought it was at 3pm but it was at 2pm. I was even home and occasionally peeking out the window but I didn’t see anyone. So at three I came out with my latex gloves on, ready to pick up smashed Rainer cans and empty Snickers wrappers from our gutters. Then I noticed….no one! The street also looked very clean. Finally, I saw one neighbour raking up some leaves and said, “Oh, are we ready?” Through her surprised look I could see we were indeed past ready. I had missed it. The shame of it all is that this whole neighborhood clean-up was MY IDEA!

So I basically entreated my loving neighbours to take care of our street on a brisk Sunday afternoon while I sat inside in my cozy home. I felt so embarrassed and wished someone would have knocked on my door and dragged my butt outside. Well, I redeemed myself by spending the next hour raking leaves out of our drainage and out of the street. Victory!

Through my embarrassment I will say the street looks lovely and it’s so right to come gather as a community, in the midst of a notoriously rough area that is no longer rough-just a bit unstable, and clean up the rubbish. I’m beginning to love my street and our fantastic neighbors. Here’s to helping lovely things stay lovely.