Sunday, August 5, 2012

Good: Day 2

The second assignment in August's 30 days of food campaign is to learn how to say "thank you" in 10 languages. I did a mental check of what languages I already know:

  • Cantonese: Do jeh

  • English: Thank you

  • French: Merci

  • German: Danke

  • Italian: Grazie

  • Japanese: Arigato

  • Korean: Gamsahabnida

  • Mandarin: Xie xie

  • Portuguese: Obrigada

  • Spanish: Gracias

  • Vietnamese: Cam on

That's 11, including English. Not bad! Of course this means I didn't actively learn something for the day... so I decided to intentionally learn how to say it one more language. Swedish: Tack.

In what language(s) can you say "thank you"?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Good: Back to school


This month I'm going to try Good magazine's 30 days of good challenge. The theme is "Back to School" and today's assignment is to start reading a book.

From young adult fiction to literature to short story to a book on lettering, I've got a stack of books in progress and am going to continue with them.

Here's what I have:

  • Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire. I was #200-something on the list when I put this book in hold! But the library has 300 copies of it (!) so the wait wasn't so bad.

  • Zadie Smith, On Beauty. I finished her first, prize-winning novel, White Teeth, last year, and found this copy in my local thrift shop.

  • John Biggs, Craft of Lettering. I like how this book describes the characteristics of each letter and I enjoy learning typographic terminology. Here's an excerpt of the letter J, which I read on the train this morning:

J is a letter which was not used by the early Romans and therefore does not appear in their inscriptions, but it came into occasional use in the second century for the consonant Y and the vowel I. It was not until the seventeenth century that J was established to represent its present consonant sound. In form it is an I carried below the bae line and may taper to a point or swing to an abrupt finish in a sheared terminal. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it sometimes ended in a circular blob. In 'modern face' letters the tail of the J does not descent below the line.

  • Lydia Davis, Collected stories. This is a dense volume and full of all kinds of stories, some of which comprise simply one sentence. It's great short-span reading, and gives me great hope for my own scattered craft! Here's one short story, "A Position at the University":

I think I know what sort of person I am. But then I think, But this stranger will imagine me quite otherwise when he or she hears this or that to my credit, for instance that I have a position at the university: the fact that I have a position at the university will appear to mean that I must be the sort of person who has a position at the university. But then I have to admit, with surprise, that, after all, it is true that I have a position at the university. And if it is true, then perhaps I really am the sort of person you imagine when you hear that a person has a position at the university. But, on the other hand, I know I am not the sort of person I imagine when I hear that a person has a position at the university. Then I see what the problem is: when others describe me this way, they appear to describe me completely, whereas in fact they do not describe me completely, and a complete description of me would include truths that seem quite incompatible with the fact that I have a position at the university.

  • Isabel Allende, Island Beneath the Sea. Sent to me, along with the above, by someone I greatly respect and admire, describing it as probably the best book he has ever read. I can't wait to get into it!

  • Kathryn Stockett, The Help. I know: super behind on this one. I saw the film last year but have not had a chance to crack it open yet.

  • Clare Vanderpool, Moon Over Manifest. First one, pulled at random, on my quest to read the Newbery Award winners. This is 2011's and I like it so far.

This is only a part of the stack of books strewn about my apartment. Who knows when I'll finish them all! Bye the bye, as it always is. What's on your summer reading list? I love recommendations. And do you know about Goodreads? Yea or nay? Or would you vouch for another book list site?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Color-coded clothing


red-orange | pink | off-white | navy | grey


I brought out the crochet that's been sitting under my coffee table for months, and in between readings and musings and during phone conversations, finally managed to finish one of two bolster covers.


This used to be a XL men's cotton cable sweater that I thrifted something like six summers ago. If feels very gratifying to have:

  • practiced crochet

  • reupcycled

  • finished!

Only one more to go! Let's hope it takes about six weeks rather than six months this time. And let's not even talk about years.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Even though I hardly remember a time when there were no animals at my home growing up -- from dogs to cats to birds to fish. Including piranha! And snakes! -- I have never considered myself a pet person. Part of it is because ours were always outdoor pets, and outdoor duties went to my brothers (that's how it worked in my family). Beyond that, though, I've always been nervous about their sudden movements and start at fuzzy (or wet!) nuzzlings. And I'm not a huge fan of all the shedding.

Our dalmation, Zip (or Zipper, as I like to call him), didn't really have sudden movements. He was a beast and you could see -- and smell -- him coming a block away. When he got to you, he'd wag his tail so excitedly that you'd sometimes get a rather painful lashing. He was infinitely playful and cheerful, and never realized his own strength. I admit that I was scared of him in his early adulthood because he seemed so unpredictable.

As he got older, Zipper never lost his exuberance, never forgot about us. He would run to the gate whenever I came back to my parents' house, and whine until I reached over the fence to pet him. Then he'd sneeze -- always big, wet sneezes -- and get his slobber and fur all over my arms and pant legs.  Yum.

He got older and older. And arthritic. It gradually became harder for him to get up and run to me when I came over to my dad's house. My brother moved back home and started taking better care of Zipper, and he got better. But he didn't get younger. After my brother got back from a trip recently, he sent a concerned email to the familiy to let us know that Zipper would barely move and could hardly control his bladder or bowels anymore. I came to see him a couple of days after that and saw that he had weakened considerably since the last time I saw him. Still, my little Zipper came to greet me. He leaned all his weight into my leg, like he always did -- but was so wobbly that he ended up rolling over and ended up on his side. I helped him to his stomach, cleaned him up a bit, and took this picture. 


We said goodbye Zip last Saturday. It was so difficult to see him at the vet's -- my brother had to carry him into and out of the car -- his breathing had become so labored. He still hobbled around the room, sniffing at the different scents and chewing up pet treats. The veterinarian confirmed that there was nothing we could do that would restore him, and that the summer heat was probably making it more difficult for we decided that it was time. I made sure to look into his face for a long, long while. So that I would remember him. So that he would know that he was loved. I think he knew.

I thought about what a luxury it is to be able to say goodbye to a loved one. I'm glad I got that opportunity with the Zipper. I'm glad I got to be there with my brother, that he didn't have to make the decision alone. We both agreed that Zip's quality of life wasn't very good at that point. That he had had a good -- no, great -- life, that he had brought us all a lot of happiness in all the ten or twelve years he was with us. That we were doing the right thing.

But it still sucked.

For the rest of the weekend I kept my mind and hands occupied with a lot of cleaning and ironing. The couple times I pulled up that picture on my phone, tears would well up and flow over. But I couldn't help it -- I mean, c'mon: that is one good looking doggy.

On Monday, I passed a woman walking her dog and mentally shook my head at the thought of her one day having to say goodbye to it, and that's why I could never have my own pet. But then it hit me: if I extended that thought to people, jobs, books, projects -- or anything, really -- I would never do anything. Or know anyone. Anything or anyone meaningful, that is. Just because something ends doesn't mean it's not worth having at all. Actually, it makes the time you have with that something even more precious.

I still don't see myself as a pet person, but I learned in that brief moment that memories are not lost; I can treasure them in my heart and mind. And, more importantly, I am not afraid of loving again, of loving more. And that's a very good thing.

Thanks for helping me realize that, little Zipper. I love you and miss you.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Following mom's feet

Soon after my mom passed, I piled up all my red and brightly colored clothes, bundled them together in a furoshiki, and relegated that to a corner of my closet. I wouldn't be wearing them for three years: the culturally appropriate mourning period for a parent.

A couple weekends ago -- only about halfway into the prescribed period -- I painted my toenails red, a color I haven't used since I-don't-remember-when.

Why did I commit such a faux pas?!

For one thing, those "rules" only loosely apply to me because I wasn't born in the home country, and we aren't there now.

But the real reason -- the one that makes most sense to me -- is because rather than miss and mourn my mom, which I do all the time anyway without even thinking of it, I wanted to intentionally celebrate and be like her (which Ikind of am anyway thanks to genetics).

When I still lived with my parents, my Mom and I had a weekly Sunday night ritual: I'd give her a manicure and/or pedicure; she always had French manicured fingernails and red toenails. We'd chat a little about our day or week, and then mostly read or write -- or in my mom's case, household bookkeeping and such -- in our own little words, but right next to each other.


Last weekend, my dad and I went to the cemetery to visit Mom's grave. I hadn't been there since my birthday. And it felt especially right to be there with my red toenails. I think she would have been glad about them.

Someone I know would call this, "Saying 'yes' to life." I think that's why it felt so good. And I think my mom would have agreed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer, so far

Could it be that it's only three weeks into summer? Life's been going at breakneck speed, so much so that I'm consciously creating me-time, even if it involves backing out of events previously committed to. Here are some snippets of what's been keeping me occupied:

  • Handmade tissue paper tassels for my BFF's birthday party

tissue tassels

  • Checking out: Shakespeare, American poets, craft books, Newbery Award winners


  • Making pizza with my Italy friends

  • Farmers Markets (I'm lucky to have access to four, from Tuesday to Friday!)


  • Watermelon + feta salad (with sea salt, honey, and olive oil): this summer's staple

summer salad

Much in between, and much more to go! A part of me feels like summer is entirely booked, but I am being intentional about finding making snippets of time for both big (being a bridesmaid in a month!) and little (calligraphy, coffee, conversations, crochet) things.

How are you spending your summer days?