Thursday, 31 January 2013

Miss Schaller

You know how I feel about using code names on this blog. It started out to protect privacy, and has evolved into something that is just downright fun. MY name may give you the ability to find me in the Real World (it's kind of unusual), but most names I could mention wouldn't help you at all. I can tell you that I have a friend named Sara. There, now you can track me down and stalk me, right?


So anyway.

I like code names, but they are mostly just for fun. In this case, however, I'm trying something new. I'm going to tell you about my second grade teacher, Miss Schaller, who was a creature of sparkle and magic. I strongly suspect that in a past life she was a unicorn. She was that. amazing.

The summer before second grade, I heard about our two different options for teachers. Mrs Ferrin taught one second grade class, and Miss Schaller taught the other. My friend was dying to have Miss Schaller, and I was desperate to have Mrs Ferrin. As luck would have it, of course, the opposite assignments came about, and I found myself in Miss Schaller's class on the first day of school. It was one of the great pieces of luck in my life.

Miss Schaller was young, fun, enthusiastic, and a zoo keeper. I mean, she wasn't really a zoo keeper, but in our classroom we had quite the assortment of critters. Hercules was a large grey rabbit you could take out on a leash at recess, if you had enough stickers on your chart. Quills was a friendly hedgehog (the first I had ever seen). Pattern and Diamond were two small turtles, not very creatively named by an 8 year old... me. There was also a mudpuppy, and a couple of frogs. Yes, friends, it was a hell of a classroom. It would have stood out anywhere, but in suburban Indiana, it was downright exotic.

And that wasn't even the end of it.

Miss Schaller practically oozed kindness and delight in activities. She! Loved! Everything! While I feel certain that one or another of us must have awoken her frustration at some point, I have no memory of this. She is packed away in my brain, a memory made by an 8 year old, as someone who was endlessly smiley.

She danced in the front of the classroom, waved her hands enthusiastically as she explained, got us all involved in projects all of the time, and threw her chalk in the air once to make a point. (It promptly vanished, and we were all awe-struck. It was later discovered, I believe, in the creases of one of the hanging maps... but that did nothing to convince us that Miss Schaller wasn't magical.)

From Miss Schaller, I learned about the parasaurolophus (my favourite dinosaur to this day), and how to write an informal letter. She taught us to spell, to research, and (much to my disgust) units of math that I have blocked from my mind. I know that math drills involved "board races," which I loathed, but even at 8 I realised that no one was perfect. Board races were Miss Schaller's one great flaw.

We put on puppet shows. We learned that air had weight (who knew??) and we performed experiment after experiment.

I want to teach middle school, not second grade, but Miss Schaller is certainly one of the reasons I want to teach at all.

**This post is part of the Writer's Workshop, over at**

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Oh yeah, and this.

In July, I gave you a teaser. I told you that if you'd just hang around, I would maybe even show you a picture of the lovely newt I met while celebrating my friend's birthday.

It's now January, and I still haven't shown you. You had probably forgotten. I had certainly forgotten.

But it's just a really, really good newt.

So here you go.


 I was looking back through some of my previous posts, and keep seeing places where I mentioned all of the exciting stuff I was going to share "soon." Often, that never comes to pass-- I get distracted by life in the present, and just forget about what I was going to document. But no more!

Well, ok, realistically, I will carry on doing just that. But I'm trying to catch up a little bit. SO, without further ado...


I went to visit Aloha over Thanksgiving weekend. It was great, and glorious, and not nearly long enough. I loved hanging out with her, getting to know where she lives, and meeting some of her people. We had a wonderful time strolling on beaches, lying in the sun, visiting sea turtles, and wearing muumuus around town. Like ya do.

Pineapple ice cream at the Dole plantation. Delicious treat, and cute baby pineapple spotting.

Trying to fly by the tide pools. Failed, but got close, I think. 

Bravely poking a baby sea cucumber

Waimea Beach-- view from where we parked the car
(and the background on my iPad... so I can gaze longingly at it many times a day)
My favourite home-cocktail! Guaranteed to induce cavities immediately. Dragonberry Rum, Sprite, and Skittles
Sea turtle friend. Besides seeing Aloha, seeing a sea turtle (or a gazillion) was my main priority. Success! Saw a gazillion.
The view from Diamond Head
Of course, I did not EAT the Spam. I just posed with it. Like ya do.

Muumuu day! Complete with leis. No one has ever looked quite so good in a muumuu as we do, I think.
Though there were so old ladies out and about who gave us a run for our money. 
Truffle pig chocolate bar: Turned out to be shaped like pigs! Much to my delight and Aloha's surprise.

 It was an amazing not-long-enough weekend, and I can't wait until I get to see Aloha again. It may not be for a while yet, but in the meantime, I will simply gaze longingly at the photos of our adventures. Maybe that will tide me over. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Dear Men

Dear Men,

I want to clear something up. I am a die hard feminist, proud to identify that way, and tend to bring women's rights or gender/sex equality into conversations apropos of nothing. I believe strongly that women are being held back, held down, and coddled. So yeah, I'm in this whole "feminism" thing for women.

But I'm also in it for you.

If you want to drive a huge truck, watch football every weekend, and live the stereotypical straight Man's paradise... Knock yourself out. Really, I wish you all happiness.

But if you want to work with children, cook elaborate meals, volunteer on the PTA, or even wear make up? I support that too. I don't like that women are held back from leadership positions, and I am  equally saddened by the response men get if they choose to work in a pre-school or interior design.

I don't think you have to be a gay man (or a woman) to appreciate physical beauty, lovely fragrances, or comfort. Actually, why does anyone think that? That is just weird.

It offensive to all of us that the media portrays women as domestic goddesses and men has hapless fools. It should be disgusting to all of us that a working mother is asked regularly about her family and childcare situation, and a working father almost never is.

So bring on the dolls, the trucks, the sports, the mud, the nail polish, the scented lotion.

Let's just share, ok?

And bring on feminism.

Let's share that too.

Love, Blythe

Written as part of Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

I'm not quitting Facebook

I have seen this article circulating on Facebook, and know several people who have already backed out of this particular social media outlet (and perhaps all others as well). Probably you know people who are boycotting Facebook as well... maybe you are just such a person. I support that, but I am not one of them.

I know the down side of Facebook, I do. There are all sorts of privacy issues at play here, information that is being used for marketing purposes, the detailed public story of our private lives, the constant search for external validation. It's a time suck.

And yet, I'm sticking with it. I'm staying in with my eyes open, keeping an eye on what people post about me, and carefully considering what I choose to share with the world.

Here's the thing. I don't feel like it is taking away from my Real Life. You know who I almost never communicate with on Facebook? My local friends. If they live in the PNW, we almost never talk on FB (with the exception of occasional group planning messages). Sure, we sometimes post pictures or "like" the occasional status update, but our main interactions are based solidly in the real world. We go to concerts, go out to dinner, visit farmers' markets, drink beer or tea, shop at Anthropologie, eat sushi or brunch. We watch movies, bake cookies, and go ice skating. We have actual, real-life conversations. I don't use Facebook to keep up with these people. I know what they are doing; I get to hear about it or see it  first hand.

I use Facebook to see what my high school friends in London are up to, to follow the adventures of my East Coast college friends, to express my excitement for a couple's engagement, and to share when I find a container of caviar in a food drive bin.

I used it to re-connect with Apis, and I use it to keep track of birthdays.

I use it to find out what my high school teachers are up to, as they continue their teaching adventures around the world.

I don't think it takes away from my real world relationships at all. Maybe this would be different if I'd grown up here, gone to college here, if all (or most) of my friends were local. That's not my reality, though. The vast majority of my friends from high school and college do not live here, and so I embrace Facebook as a way to follow their adventures, cheer their successes, and, yes, "like" their statuses.

Sunday, 13 January 2013


Despite the fact that we are already a couple of weeks into 2013, I still feel the need to write a 2012 wrap-up post. This is due, largely, to the fact that my 2011 wrap up post was such a downer. 2011 was pretty depressing, and left me eager to make 2012 the Best Year Ever. That New Year's Eve, at midnight, Kale and I raised our glasses of pink champagne to each other, ate another spoonful of mint chocolate chip ice cream, and vowed that we would make 2012 wonderful.

And so, as a sequel to "2011: A tragedy," I give you...

2012: Year of Joy

What. a. year. I can't believe all of the good things that have happened, and I feel certain that listing them will only result in leaving something fabulous out. After all, I don't want to spend the rest of 2013 (already shaping up to be a winner) writing about 2012, now do I? And, honestly, do You All (invisible audience) even really care about the details? But this is for me, my own reflection, and you're more than welcome to enjoy it (or not) as you so choose.

And so, a synopsis:

My family is doing well. Eco started college this fall, and while it certainly has been An Event for him, it's been equally as exciting for me. My baby brother all grown up and off to college! Who would have thought? This is shocking in no small part because he is 7 years younger than I am, and wasn't I just a first year? That's what I thought. Time flies, kids.

My sister, meanwhile, got her first paying job. This feels me with delight for her, and gratitude for the wonderful, wonderful establishment that prioritises hiring people with disabilities. My hearts swells every time I think about the incredible people who choose to put someone else's success and learning ahead of their own convenience. There are people like that in the world, guys, and so sometimes I think things will all work out ok.

 My cousin has a Real, Grown Up Job in The Big City, and it's so fun to hear my little Montana cousin talk about her life there. I'm endlessly excited for her, and really hopeful that I'll get to visit her sometime in the near future. Our past is full of family camping trips, playing the same game (it involved a mountain-- her staircase-- and a hiking woman-- me-- who brings home a pet mountain lion-- her), hiking, and gathering quartz from a nearby mountain with big "No Trespassing" signs all over it. Our future, I know, is full of Skype conversations, phone calls, meaningful conversations, and big adventures. And hopefully some camping trips, though maybe not on hilltops with unwelcoming signs.

Clover and Neptune are growing up faster than I could have ever believed, and while I feel a twinge of sadness now and then, overall I am so proud of the people they are becoming. Their senses of humour continue to grow, their compassion is sincere, and I am thrilled with the people they are becoming. I feel so blessed to get to be a part of this process. A has regained her health, and we are all thrilled and relieved.

Panda and Pom Pom are growing up to be young ladies to be reckoned with. I can't believe my good fortune to get to be privy to their adventures and accomplishments. Panda will be testing  for her black belt in karate this spring (!!) and Pom Pom is busily immersed in 5th grade and the school's upcoming musical.

2012 was also a year of friends and adventures, 

January brought a visit from Aloha, whom I had not seen since graduation in 2010.

February found me in DC to visit Ginny, Pearl, and Monica, which was a fun, not-nearly-long-enough long weekend. February was also the arrival of the ChickFam!


March brought me to Portland to hang out with Wednesday (in for the weekend from the Bay Area), Aslan, and Hanz.
Also pictured: Bottomless Mimosas.

April was... epic. At various points in the month, I could be found farther south in Oregon for an Arbour Day Party, dressed up as a tree; at my second Ingrid Michaelson concert of the year with Harmony and Dash; hanging out with Twirl and, shortly thereafter, Polka Dot, showing them the best places to eat explore in Seattle. 

This is a terrible picture of me, but it's cute of Harmony and Dash.

In May, Apis came to visit, and we were both thrilled to find that we liked each other as much as 20-somethings as we had as 12 year olds. We hadn't seen each other since then, and hadn't kept in touch until we re-found each other on Facebook, so this was really a fabulous discovery! 

June found me in Portland again, to clap and cheer for London as she performed in Hamlet, staged in a graveyard. Creepy! June also began an epic summer during which I looked after all four children (ages 9-12), and we went on many fantastic adventures, wrote glorious songs, and came up with a team name.

These are the homemade silk-screened t-shirts that Panda and I made.
They say "BuMa," which stands for "Bubble Mafia."
In July, Daisy arrived to spend the rest of the summer with us in Seattle, as she completed one of her clinicals for her PT programme. We haven't lived in the same place since we were 11, so this was a real delight.

September brought Daisy's departure (sad!), but another visit from Apis (joyful!). It was a true photo-explosion, especially when we went to the Chihuly Glass Museum (haven't been yet? Go!). In September, I also began my Masters in Teaching programme! If you know me in real life at all, you know I have been talking about doing this for.ever. It was a great triumph for me to actually get my ass in gear and go back to school. I'm relieved and elated to find myself on the path about which I feel so strongly. Middle school language arts and social studies, here I come!

On the first of November, we celebrated Halloween in the same way that Arbour Day was celebrated-- wild costumes, lots of beer, wine, and cocktails, and generally extravagant behaviour. At the end of the month, I flew to O'ahu to celebrate Thanksgiving with Aloha. We spent a glorious long weekend luxuriating in the sun, eating delicious things, dressing up in muumuus, and playing with sea turtles.

I finished out the year well, spending the days leading up to Christmas with Clover, Neptune, and their grandparents at their cabin in Montana, playing in the snow and drinking hot chocolate. On Christmas Eve I joined up with my mom's side of the family and generally had a calm, lovely time. The year ended with a cheerful bang at a bar on Queen Anne, surrounded by some of my loveliest Seattle  friends. 

And just in general, 2012 has been a wonderful year of strengthening friendships, developing new ones, and appreciating those forces of nature I call my friends. I can't tell you how fortunate I feel to have such a strong, funny, brave, adventurous, kind, generous, FUN group of people in my life. 2012 has been a year of continuously expanding my definition of family, and carrying on with the happy spinning of my web.