Burn Burn Burn

Every year since #Blogust began in 2012, the Shot@Life team has asked me to participate in some challenge to help raise awareness for the program and donations of vaccines for kids around the world. The surface challenge is easy – ask you to leave a comment and every comment you leave = one vaccine donated. Simple, right? The real challenge for me however is right here, these posts. They never just say “Ask your readers to comment,” they say “Hey, can you write a post about a woman halfway around the world doing the kind of work that humbles you so much it hurts?” Or “Yo, how about you pick one quote, any quote in the whole entire world full of quotes, to inspire children?”

When I was a kid, 17 or so, old enough to not realize I was a kid still, I was walking down the street in the city I lived in and the cover of a book caught my eye. I picked it up and read the first page I opened to. And the next page. And the one after that. I bought that book and still have it to this day. It’s tattered and worn, 23 years later. It’s full of scribbles and notes, highlighter and circles. It’s also full of the person I became because of it. No one had more of an impact on shaping the woman, the mother, the human I’d become than Audre Lorde. If I have to choose someone’s quote to share to inspire my kids, your kids, the limitless sea of kids on the internet and in the world, it’s going to be her.

And if I have one wish for all of those kids, it’s to realize that there is something inside of them that can be a force for whatever good they want to make happen. Sometimes all that takes is a pen and paper, or a keyboard and a Twitter account.

Audre_Lorde_Blogust15

Give a kid a shot at a healthy, long life, so they have the chance to find out what they’ve got and use it. Leave a comment here (or on Facebook or Twitter, of course) and we’ll donate a vaccine to a kid in need. Any comment will do, but I’d love to hear the quotes, the song lyrics, the lines, the verses that move and define and inspire you.

During Shot@Life's Blogust 2015—a month-long blog relay—some of North America's most beloved online writers, photo and video bloggers and Shot@Life Champions will come together and share inspirational quotes for their children. Every time you comment on this post and other Blogust contributions, or take action using the social media on this website, Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation pages, one vaccine will be donated to a child around the world (up to 50,000).

(after you comment here, head over to the amazing Erika's blog and comment on her heartwarming post today, too.)

Dies Hier

Hello, old blog. It's been a while. 

I went backwards, reading my past 30 entries or so (which got me to 2013, wow) to see where I left off and try to piece together what's been said (and what hasn't). I realized that it's all just too weird and complicated to attempt a digital backfill, so maybe it's better to just start where I am right now. 

Where I am right now is Düsseldorf, Germany.  What I've learned one day (or is it two days with the time change?) in is that Germany is not fucking around. Germany brings you a goddamn plate of sauerkraut. 

They also just keep refilling your bier until you give them money and leave, and if you don't speak German and try to order anything to drink other than bier, they just bring you kaffee.  Which they will never refill.

Neither Jim nor I speak a single word of German and know not a single German custom (despite my having birthed three German-Americans, which buys you a lot less of a pass in actual Germany than you'd think), but we're figuring it out. Our friend from Berlin gave us this shockingly helpful book and so we knew to expect a lot of potatoes (no sauerkraut spoilers, thankfully) and to not expect, um, service

We'll be in Germany for a few days, and then head back to Amsterdam where we had a short and productive layover yesterday (two days ago? What day is it again?) during which I ordered a short flat white at the airport and walked away with what Jim's mom says is a perfectly valid Chinese name, so I'm going to keep it. #ThanksRutte*.

We're here for work - Jim's work specifically, but I work there, too, and I realize that I've not actually talked (here or on social) about leaving my old job at BlogHer way back in 2013. I haven't talked about a lot of things, but a lot of things kept right on happening anyway. 

We're going to Berlin on Thursday and while we're there, we're going to tour all of the old stuff that a U.S. girl born in the 70s thinks of first when she thinks Berlin - the wall, the Führerbunker where Hitler killed himself. As I understand it, the wall won't be terribly hard to find or see, but the Hitler stuff? Gone. A parking lot near a playground and some apartments.

Berlin is not backfilling. Berlin is very good at saying this, here, is where we are. This, here, is what we're doing. Keep doing THIS. I could learn a thing or two from Berlin. 

The past year - hell, the past two years -  have been the most amazing, crazy, wild ride and it's been moving so fast I haven't been able to do anything except hold on tight and see where it takes all of us. Some of it was really hard, some of it really amazing, and some of it is still working itself out (some of it probably never will). I could go back and hash my way through it all, lay out everything I wish I'd done and said differently, tell all of the stories so that I don't forget them.

I could explain what the hell happened to my domain name - why I changed it in the first place, and why it's back to the old one.
I could write out what getting a piece of mail that said my 15 year marriage was over felt like.
I could tell you about finding one brother and losing another one.

Or maybe I'll let myself forget some of it, and just start with this, here, today. The sun came up in Germany a little while ago, and there is sauerkraut to eat. 

 

*I'm well aware that no one gets that**. I hardly got it. Bygones.
**He's the prime minister of Holland. You know, Holland's Obama? Oh, nevermind. 

 

Five Kids Will Also Get You Black Walls & Appliances

Two weeks ago, Whirlpool invited Jim and me to spend a Friday night walking through a Victorian house in the heart of San Francisco, every room of which had been gutted and meticulously redesigned by a series of interior decorators to showcase the wonders of this bowl. 

The rest of the decor in the house was pretty alright, too. 

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There were gold-flecked rugs that looked like wood floors, creeptastic haunted forest letters crawling up walls, teency nooks for making phone calls or smoking cigarettes or reading books pretty much everywhere we turned. I could have spent 14 hours in the potting shed alone, but the kitchen completely stole the show, as Kitchens of the Year are wont to do. 

Black herringbone backsplash, you guys. 

The whole kitchen was black, in fact. The cabinets were black, the appliances were black, the backsplash was black, the wallpaper was black with shimmering black mica flakes (or something really similar to that) in it. You'd think this would eat a kitchen entirely, but it didn't at all. It worked beautifully, actually. It gave all the natural light in the kitchen something to do with itself, instead of just bouncing off all the pale surfaces and making that room 17 times larger than it already was.

Pics from SFGate.com

My favorite appliances I've ever owned in my whole entire life were my black Whirlpool Cabrio washer & dryer, which I had to leave behind in Texas (and they don't even make anymore, ask me how broken I am about that). I've only ever seen black kitchen appliances in matte, but the Whirpool Black Ice appliances in the Kitchen of the Year were shiny, sleek, and entirely badass.

Our friend and bombdiggety food blogger Stephanie Hua got a picture of the Whirlpool fridge in the House Beautiful kitchen -

Photo snagged from Stephanie Hua of Lick My Spoon

Which is slightly more sensibly-designed than the fridge in our House Cluttered kitchen. 

Still Life with Five Kids #fridgie #cryforhelpie

Still life with five kids. #fridgie #cryforhelpie

We were treated to a live cooking demo with Chef Robin Song, who owns a whiskey, ham, and oyster bar in San Francisco - propelling him to the top of Jim's 'People to Become Best Friends With' list. He prepared a quinoa salad that I not only didn't hate, I am pretty sure I would eat it every day of my life - propelling him to the top of my 'People Who Obviously Practice Voodoo' list. He also made that bowl up there. When you walk through a $17 million home and at the end of that walk have one thing only to say, and that thing is, "Man, I really love this bowl," it's kind of nice to be able to say you met the person who made it. He was a pretty cool dude - not at all pretentious. He gave us a lot of cooking tips that ended up, "Um, well, just do what works for you." Stephanie asked him what he always kept in his fridge and he said something like, 'Errr...does beer count?' Pretty refreshing from someone who's career is kind of exploding right now. 

Speaking of refreshing, this is the recipe for that salad. For real, make it. Once you make it, you will realize that you can change it 5,284 ways and it will still be amazing. I'm pretty sure I'm going with lime and steak and cotija crumbled on top next time, and then tomato and basil next, but this spring veggies one was killer - minus the asparagus, obviously. Jim even liked it, and he'd sooner eat cicadas and chicken fetus' than put a vegetable, or worse, QUINOA, in his face.

A Time to Kill

For 17 years, I was a serial hamster killer. It wasn't an intentional thing; I think it's entirely possible I was cursed by my crazy grandmother who had a penchant for channeling George Washington and/or The Prince of Darkness. No, not Ozzy, you stoner. The other one. No matter the why: if you were a hamster and you ended up in my house it was not a question of if, but rather when, you'd end up getting stuck in the wall for a few weeks/getting dropped one too many times/being thrown across the room when you crawled across my neck in the middle of the night/sliding down the heating duct and roasting like Chirstmas dinner/chewing your own leg off to escape us. I could go on. Dozens of hamsters died on my watch. 

When I grew older and they wouldn't sell me rodents anymore, I moved on to Cookie Carnage. I can bake the most insanely complicated holiday Yule Logs and the most delicate thank-god-you're-lactose-tolerant cheesecakes, but when it comes to cookies, I may as well have had a machete and a hockey mask. The cookies I baked for birthday parties were rock hard and the ones I baked for Santa disintegrated on the cookie sheet - and those are just the drop cookies. Rolled cookies? HAHAHAHAHAHA. Grown men have wept at my cookies. Children have run, crying for their mothers. 

Then I got a cell phone. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. The very first day I got my very first cell phone, I dropped it in a toilet in Aurora, Colorado. Since then, I have gruesomely murdered at least two dozen cell phones. I left my first pink Motorola X on the hood of my car in Denver, CO, trying to put groceries in the trunk. I dropped my second one in False Creek, Vancouver, BC, trying to take pictures of my now sister-in-law's dragon boats. The trail of broken phones, dropped and shattered while getting into cars and getting out of cars, walking down the street, or just standing there doing nothing at all, spans much of the southwest of the USA, and several scenic locations along the West Coast.  

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For a brief time in Arizona, I tried my hand at Handbag Homicide, but the sight of the one and only Gucci bag I will ever own flattened by a 30 minute onslaught of oncoming traffic was enough to scare me straight. 

I've never been much of a watch person. When I was younger, I had a calculator watch. I loved that watch. I wanted to shave my fingertips down to sharp, pointy stubs so that my watch and I would have the most symbiotic relationship possible. The cool kids who threw really good punches in grade 4 didn't love my watch as much as I did, however, so I retired it and instead imagined myself entirely too cool to be tethered to the constraints of something as arbitrary as, like, time. Unfortunately, the constraints of time directly correlate to the constraints of payday, so I probably couldn't have afforded a watch anyway.

When I was older, I didn't ever wear a watch because watches only do one thing, and I was a young mother of two small boys. You had to serve at least two simultaneous functions in my life for me to even acknowledge you existed. 

AT&T (@ATT) sent Jim and me Pebble watches to try out and we spent the first few weeks texting each other ridiculously love notes to and from our wrists, as we do. It was lovely and is still - as far as I am concerned - the single best thing about having a smartwatch. No matter what meeting he is in, or how stuck in airport security he is, I know he will get the 8,502th sappy romantic emoticon I've sent him this week. These things matter. 

But second-best to more-efficiently harassing some cute guy I met online is the fact that this watch is actually saving me from Mobile Murder. I was walked though San Francisco a few weeks ago, on my way to a client meeting and waiting for another client to call me before my next meeting. I was in high heels on cobblestone, chugging a coffee, rushing from one meeting to the next, hanging on to my phone so I'd feel it ring and not miss the call I was waiting for. My laptop bag was throwing me off-balance, and what it wasn't doing, the cobblestone was. I almost dropped my phone three times before I remembered that my watch would vibrate when the call came in. I didn't have to flail about Union Square, scaring the tourists, tempting fate. I could tuck my phone safely in my bag and not miss a thing. So many helpless phones could have been spared, had the Pebble only been invented 10 years previous.

The ability to reach someone via their wrist is completely underrated. I can't tell you how many times I have called and called and called and called my 14 year old but have gotten no answer because he left his phone in bed or by the toilet or outside in the driveway for me to run over when I get home. I pay $50 a month to a phone provider for the privilege of never getting through to this kid.

So his dad and I bought him a Pebble, too. 

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Jim wrote about a bunch of other Pebble features that we both really love, like being able to check a text at the movies and not worried about getting shot, or being able to screen phone calls discreetly, or convincing the kids their dear old great grandmother has possessed their television set. It also has a great fitness/running app in it that works with your phone to notify you of your progress during a run and then shows the map of your path after, and it even pings you later with encouragement to do better the next time. I know this because I've used it exactly once. If you want, I can tell you how long it takes before it gives up on you. 

I was switching out the watchfaces every week or so, but I've landed on a steady rotation of Calculus and Fuzzy. They're everything I've ever wanted from a watch - something to show my geek streak, and something to let me keep pretending like I am too cool to care what time it is.

Of course I tried to kill this thing, because we are who we are, after all. I took it in the shower, but it turns out, you can totally shower with it on or bath your kid with it on or wash the dishes with it on or sit in the hot tub with it on. 

So I don't know what I'm going to kill next. I've gone from living creatures to baked goods to personal technology. Maybe there is no next; maybe I'm a changed person. I can bake a decent cookie now, I have a watch I really love wearing, and I haven't broken a phone in months. Maybe it's time to start gardening or something.