Wednesday, November 24, 2010


On Sunday night, I met Andy in Minneapolis (as per what's become a bit of a tradition for us). It was fantastic. Here, a recap.

We ate dinner:

We slept:

We ate breakfast:

We browsed:

We explored:

We shopped, then watched.

Back at the hotel, we relaxed and ate leftovers (before sleeping some more).

And finally, waking up to clear blue skies, we went our separate ways.

I love going to the cities, and this trip did not disappoint. Good food, inspiring excursions, and the best company. The perfect precursor to Thanksgiving, really - I'm just about radiating with gratitude.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

on again, off again

Ahh, the blog. It certainly has been a while.

Don't know why I'm so inconsistent. But I am. And at that it'll have to stay.

I guess I'm finally back here tonight because there are certain things I can't let go of, and I'm not sure where to put them. It's the sort of life stuff that has no answer. In fact, I'm not even sure there's a clear question.

Last week I went to tutoring, as I've done for two years. It's a volunteer gig once a week, in which a handful of people (myself included) head over to a low-income housing complex in our area to do homework and read with the kids there. Most are Somali and Sudanese refugees, though there are a few families that've been relocated from the Chicago projects. (So when I say "in our area," I mean a fairly wealthy, generally conservative suburb in the Midwest. Think clean-scrubbed Christian goodness and booster club moms in high school sweatshirts mixed with a touch of John Hughes. Yep. That's this place.)

Anyway, lately I've been working a lot with a certain fifth grade girl, a complete sweetheart of a person. She pretty industrious, too, though it's dang near impossible to kill her curiosity on questions regarding my boyfriend, any school dances I may've attended as a teenager, and whether or not I ever straighten my hair. Last week she didn't have much homework, so she read aloud to some of the younger kids while I helped them with various art projects.

"Are you sure you don't have any homework?" I asked her at some point. "Not even spelling words or anything?"

"I'm sure! I just have my presentation for Culture Day tomorrow, but I already finished it."

"Culture Day? What's that?"

"Oh, just this thing where we get up and talk for a few minutes about our background. Like our families and where we're from and stuff."

"Well that sounds cool! Don't you want to practice your presentation?"

She didn't, not formally at least, but we did start talking about her culture: the Tutsis of Rwanda. (That'd be the group massacred by the Hutus over the course of 100 days during the genocide in 1994).

She asked me if I knew there'd been a war in Rwanda. I said I did.

"My mom was kicked during it. That's why she has back problems now. And her brother and sister were killed."

"Really? Are you talking about that in your presentation?"

"No! Are you kidding?! It's for the whole school. There will be, like, first and second graders there. It would totally scare them!"

I told her she was right, it most likely would. Save it for another time, a different listener.

And yet who would be the best audience for such a story? It's nothing grizzly or gruesome, not in the direct sense; yet it's strange to be confronted by such an atrocious truth on a more personal level. Yes, I got the eleven-year-old's version, a generation removed and passed down through filters intended to preserve some semblance of innocence. But I wonder, what will this girl's story look like in ten years? What will she look like once the filters have faded? All that history walking into a building in the Hughes-ian suburbs of Chicago, day after day, to a crowd of classmates none the wiser....How does that work? It makes me feel a little heavy, and yet hollow at the same time. Like my heart is made of wood, and it's rattling around the dark empty space of my inside.

I'm not good at explaining all this. I'm not sure I've done a very good job of even just beginning to convey what's been on my mind, though I've been holding it for almost a week. Even now, now that it's written down and about to be birthed into cyberspace, I still don't think I can drop it.

I'll carry your story. I'll take some of that pain and history: Go on now - be free.

Something like that, as ego-free as I can muster.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

quick...count yer blessings

I've been trying to avoid even a whisper of the infamous grass-is-always-greener syndrome. I made a choice that felt right at the time, and I've gotta live with that.

But today I am keenly aware of a Berlin-shaped hole in my heart.

(I do still have that visa, you know . . . hmmm . . .)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

one biiig ol' step

Okay, so I'm hesitant to admit this here, what with my passion and motivation a step ahead of any actual doing. In the past when I've been this excited and written about it here, there's been little-to-no follow through, And I just absolutely do not want to somehow fail yet again, not this time. I've been arguing with myself for the past five minutes about mentioning anything.

But I just cannot help it.

So after a prolonged absence, I'm back to tell you I've signed up for the Sketchbook Project 2011. (Just received word today that my materials are on their way. Laaaa!) After casting aside a whole lot of fear and doubt (or at least shoving it into a small and restricted corner of my brain), I took a $25 leap back into the creative process. Simply signing up has meant stretching my boundaries, and I gotta say it feels oh-so-good.

I chose 'adhere to me' for my theme because I think it lends itself to doing something very literal, or not. More than likely, I'll go for the SERIOUS, METAPHORICAL angle - thinking about the places and people (especially children) I've gotten attached to, then had to leave. (The leaving is one thing; I don't know if I've ever fully let go, of any of it.) I hope my project will help me explore attachment and the ways we help ourselves get 'unstuck,' as well as how we filter what we let stick to us. (And I could take the "getting stuck" theme in another direction, or talk about our own personal forms of "adherence". . . like I said, lots of options. Thrilling.)

While all those threads of thought certainly have me worked up and dizzy, what finally pushed me into the realm of OH MY GOD I HAVE TO POST THIS RIGHT NOW was randomly picking up and flipping through a tattered copy of Leaves of Grass earlier this evening. As I read through 'Song of the Open Road' (a portion of which has already appeared on this blog and pretty much never fails to bring me to tears), I was struck breathless:

O highway I travel, do you not say to me Do not leave me?
Do you say Venture not - if you leave me you are lost?
Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and undenied
      adhere to me? 

Bah! Right there! RIGHT THERE ON THE PAGE - 'adhere to me.' Now, maybe this had been filed away in my subconscious somewhere; maybe it was fate. In any case, what amazing potential for further sketchbook-theme-development. In fact, I'd already been thinking about how I might work the poem into my project before I even saw those exact words. I wonder if that's where the project's creators got the theme? Who knows.

Anyway, I'm thrilled. Now all I need is that sketchbook. Hurry up, mail, hurry up! And please, universe, please: may this be one project I manage to finish.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

go on. . .

. . . give yourself a laugh today.   

Saturday, August 7, 2010

staying afloat

A few things inspiring me/contributing to my survival as of late. . .

>> A fantastic song I first heard in concert a few years ago. It washed over me unexpectedly again today, the lyrics somehow like a prayer that hit me in the heart.

>> "Your Beautiful Secret" and the Waiting for Superman trailer (both of which, I admit, made me cry)

>>The amazing blog of an amazing little boy. There is a backstory; ask me about it sometime.

Hope you find some inspiration of your own this weekend, including a few things that are "just for beauty's sake."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open."

Martha Graham

Sunday, August 1, 2010

lazy sunday

Gathered a few essentials and planted myself firmly on the patio

where I propped up my very-German-as-of-late feet and made a dent in my summer reading

while Pepper (what else?) sniffed around the yard

and found her favorite toy

until she heard the sound of shortbread being unwrapped.

Begging got her nowhere, though, so she soon found a friend to curl up with inside. Which earned her sympathy and a belly scratch, sure. But no shortbread.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

emy and pepper go on an adventure

Fed up with neighborhood strolls and runs through the park, we set off in search of some wilderness....

A short while later we were here, trying to decide which path to take. It was all very, uh, Frostian (yuk yuk yuk).

But then we saw this sign, telling us of a shortcut to the lake, and the way was obvious.

Especially when we realized our chosen path went through the forest, unlike the other, paved option. (So perhaps ours was the road less traveled, hmm? Ha ha heh! I know, I know, I'll stop.)

Pepper bravely led the way.

Er, until she got distracted, that is.

So many good smells, too much to take in!

Her still puppy-like self just couldn't take it.

Eventually we crossed this road, with a very interesting sign. . .

Turns out the Berlin Wall used to run along this same stretch.

But another sign soon reminded us of today's goal: To the lake!

It was strange to see giant blocks of apartment buildings stretching up through the trees. . .

. . . so we just looked the other way. (This, believe it or not, was all there was to be had of one very small lake. See it? It's right there, behind that grass! No? Yeah, well, nothing much to see. Just gotta enjoy the green.)

But nevermind. We kept on going, and soon we were walking through a grove of birch trees.

We emerged to find a heron feeding in this stream. Can you spot him? They may be fairly common, but the majesty of a heron always takes my breath away.

Even Pepper was pretty chilled out after that.

As we started on the path back home, the sun came out to show off its skill at shadow play.

And a clearly satisfied Pepper made for success all around.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

it's in my nature

Recently did some of that wandering I am so prone to while Andy was here for a visit. The shot above was taken by him in Potsdam.

I'm house- and dog-sitting for two weeks (one down, one more to go), and I've been using the time to hike and go for runs (dog in tow, of course), cook healthy & delicious food, sleep in, watch a little too much TV (haven't had one of those since I moved here so am making up for it), read, and apply for jobs. That last one isn't as fun or relaxing as the rest, but it feels good to be somewhat productive, in a practical sort of way. I've also been thinking out my potential Etsy shop for the ump-teenth time, as a fall back/free time sort of venture. We'll see. For now, though, more of that reading/sleeping mentioned above.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

people [draw] pictures of each other

My children (ok, so it's more like, "my" children) are frequently gifting me drawings. As I emphatically receive their handiwork, they almost always add, "It's you!" This obviously melts my heart (even in this 97 degree heat, ugh), and I can't bear to part with any of these crayon-and-marker masterpieces. I'd scan 'em if I could, but I don't have a scanner at the moment (go figure). Instead, I've been taking (semi-crap) photographs of all the drawings, just to make sure I've got documentation (validation?). Below, the Miss K Portrait Gallery: Different Artists, One Theme.

It's like that time they did the cows in Chicago - ONLY BIGGER! Except not, not at all. Well, okay, in my world. Probably only there, but ya know. So goes it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

the place shaped like home

Storm clouds over Sandwich, Illinois, May 2006

For some reason, whenever I'm traveling or away from home (meaning the place where I was born and raised), I seem to get this hankering for Annie Proulx stories. If you're thinking I'm now about to tell you about the Annie Proulx stories I'm currently reading, well, you're wrong, because I'm not reading any. Nor will I get into why I think I crave these stories while abroad. (Erm, ok, maybe a little - it has to do with cowboys and stoicism and the landscape and the beautifully crafted sparseness of the prose. Can't pinpoint it beyond that at the moment, I just know I want an Annie Proulx story the way I sometimes get this desperate urge for peanuts and Coke. It's nothing I was raised on, not specifically, and yet it's often exactly what I need to fill the space in me calling out for home.)  Anyway, I was just thinking, and I decided to share. So. That's that.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

truth beauty

Haven't been writing lately, as my internet connection is slower than slow. Truly, it took FOREVER for these pictures to load. I vacuumed and mopped my whole apartment while I waited for them to appear. Which also tells you that my apartment is rather small, but still. STILL.

I can't complain too much, though, because LOOK AT THIS:

If that is not one of the most beautiful things you've ever seen, then I can't help you. In fact, there's probably no help for you. Because OH MY GOD - gorgeous. Tomatoes! Cilantro! Geraniums! Summer.


I left work early today, as I'm (once again) getting sick. This time it entails losing my voice, along with headaches and dizziness. It does not, however, include loss of appetite (such a loss is, let's face it, quite the rarity for me). So on my way home, I stopped briefly at the local market and picked up a few things. If only I could post smells on this blog, because the scent of that cilantro is incredible. It has permeated my entire fridge and most of the kitchen. (And thank god - what a welcome alternative to the overpowering stench of French cheese that managed to linger for months.)

I'm thinking I may have to declare this my personal flag:

I piled all of this on top of some couscous, tossed it with olive oil, and dolloped Greek yogurt on top. So simple, and yet so good I could probably cry. Truly - sometimes I marvel at the fact I don't go around with tears constantly streaming down my face, there is so much joy to be found in this world.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010


From home:

Thank you, Neecy, for the beautiful jewelry and inspiring book. Love love LOVE it all.

From school:

A portrait of me, according to one very insistent three-year-old. (The artist is my 'secret favorite,' a label I stole from Esme. I'm human, I can't help it!)

From my recent trip to Tuebingen:

We went to the Ritter Sport outlet store, where I went a little crazy. Don't worry, I'm bringing some back with me! There's no way I could eat three kilos on my own...well, ok, actually I probably could, but I won't. Promise.

The outlet is attached to a great museum, which happens to have an amazing gift shop, where I also bought a monkey that can do multiplication. Teachers need such novelties, I mean it! And so do I, generally and personally. Whimsy makes my world go 'round... does my favorite chocolate shop in all the world, where I also bought coffee for the first time. Again, I'm sending a few of these things home (the coffee, however, is solely for my enjoyment).

And from the Turkish Market here in Kreuzberg:

A gorgeous new plant, the first of (hopefully) many to come - I'd like to deck my balcony out in as much spring- and summer-drag-show-glory as possible! Must enjoy it while I can.

Contained in this baggie is homemade ravioli, and contained inside each is chesnut-and-pear filling. Not shown here is the other pasta I bought, with pistachio-limette filling. All I can say is, HEAVEN.

My plant again, plus a couple bottles of my favorite Greek table wine, which tastes vaguely and deliciously of pine needles. The 'china shoes' I actually bought in my neighborhood, on the way to the Turkish market, but ya know. All in a day's haul.