Sunday, February 28, 2010

Racial profiling and street justice

There is a serial rapist in the Waldo area of Kansas City. A predominantly White, middle class neighborhood and perhaps not the first place you’d expect to see a crime spree.

The victims have been forced into their own homes or come home to find the man waiting for them. Scary stuff. Rape is one of women’s biggest fears. I think about it when I am walking to my car alone. When I am home alone. When a creepy guy in a bar looks at me and I coincidentally see him later in the night. So I can’t imagine the way these five women’s lives have been changed forever. My heart breaks for them.

But my heart also breaks as I read the stories of how some are responding. You see, the suspect is a Black man. A Black man in a very White neighborhood. So in addition to taking self defense classes, and double checking the locks on their doors, people are taking matters into their own hands – reporting their Black neighbors as possible suspects even though they bear no resemblance to the sketch. Some men have been followed as they go about their daily activities. They get double and triple looks when they run out to buy milk on the way home from work. The police have to follow up on tips in case one is correct. But I know if the suspect was a White male, the vigilante behavior wouldn’t exist.

We live in a very diverse area where for the first time ever, I might be in the racial minority. However, despite the numbers, my Whiteness still protects me. It’s a history of privilege and wealth. The inherent “safety” my race is given over traditional non-White groups. So even though I am in the minority, I still possess the inherent power I never earned. And part of that privilege means that when a white woman commits a crime, I don’t get any second looks because I fit the profile.

I don’t think the answer is to stop reporting suspects for fear of racial profiling if they truly are suspect. I don’t think the answer is for police not to stop following up on the tips for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. It’s a much deeper solution. I don’t know how to get us there, but the end solution means I don’t get any inherent privilege, power or safety just because my skin is white. And a Black man can live wherever he wants and not live in fear of his neighbor’s second glances.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A black sock in my path

I did my laundry yesterday and found this:

A black, toddler (or large-footed baby) sock. I specifically checked the washer and dryer for leftover items. Yet, there sat the offending sock in my laundry basket.

Either it's a sign of things to come or there is a bite-sized neighbor running around with chilly toes.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My friend Eleanor

I have a friend Eleanor. She’s our next door neighbor, and she likes to frequently read me her mail. Whenever I sit in the lobby to get Internet that actually works for more than five seconds, we have long, long chats.

She reads the Bible and Guidepost magazine. She prays for Shea and I. She asked us to pray that she controls her habit of swearing. Especially at the pharmacy when they don’t have her prescriptions ready. And pray for her, I did.

She bakes even though she’s trying to lose weight so she gives cookies away to her neighbors. Supposedly she’s baking Saturday so we’ll get to taste the fruits of her labor.

Eleanor had her purse snatched a few months ago while shopping at a nearby mall. The teenager who grabbed her purse pulled the muscle on the side of her body. Now she rides her exercise bike twice a day to keep it loose. She had to take a bus to the court house the other day to give a victim’s statement.

She is fascinated that my hair is dark, and my eyes are blue. She calls me her beautiful new friend. She comments that she thinks my shoes are cute, failing to notice I am wearing snowmen pajama pants and Shea’s baggy sweatshirt at 1 p.m.

Even though we’ve probably only talked a handful of times, Eleanor always leaves me with a hug, a kiss on the forehead and an “I love you very much, Sarah.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Beyond customer satisfaction

AT&T DSL and I do not get along. We’ve called over a dozen times in the last three weeks, had a tech come out and take our wall apart and downgraded our service. We have been told we just need to turn our modem off and on, we need a new modem, nothing is wrong, we need another new modem, our security alarm is blocking the DSL signal, the modem needs to be on a hard surface, we are too far away from the DSL box so we need to downgrade our service, and well, it says it's working!

Events of today:
10 a.m. Call our technican’s cell phone and tell him that although I downgraded our service, the Internet works for no longer than three minutes at a time. He tells me to call AT&T and downgrade one more speed level.

11:15 a.m. I call AT&T. She tells me that the downgrade was just completed 20 minutes ago. So, I should wait a little bit to see if it gets better. If not to call back before 5 p.m. and they will put the order in to downgrade it another speed. Fine.

2 p.m. I call AT&T again because I can’t even get more than an email to load before it blanks out again. Using Instant Netflix not even an option. DSL light is red every other minute.

Customer service man: Well, the downgrade you requested yesterday is still pending.

Me: I called someone at 11 a.m. who told me it was completed 20 minutes ago.

CSM: Well, I am sorry if you that is what you understood from your previous call, but we guarantee the change will be completed by 8 p.m. However, right now it is still pending.

Me: Why would she tell me it was completed 20 mins ago. That seems kind of specific for someone that's lying.

CSM: I don’t know who you talked to but I am sorry, it is still pending. Is there anything else I can do to make sure you are a satisfied customer?

Me: Um. No. That’s pretty much impossible.

CSM: Well, ma’am. Thank you for being an AT&T customer! We are delighted to have your business!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Food, glorious food

It was a good cooking weekend for us.

Friday I made egg bread. Shea’s reaction when he got home: “You MADE bread? And not with a bread maker? How do you even do that?” A lot of kneading and building up my biceps, my dear. It turned out pretty good. A little floury tasting, but acceptable for a first attempt.

We ate the bread with Creamy Spinach Soup, a recipe from my Healthy Cooking for Two cookbook. Very tasty, easy and super healthy! Then we were craving dessert but unwilling to break our no-eating-out rule, so we made pie with graham cracker crumbs, vanilla and chocolate pudding. It tasted way better than the manure it looks like.

Saturday morning, Shea continued our new tradition of making breakfast while I lay in bed being lazy. Last week was French toast, this week pancakes. This is aided by our new griddle which makes Shea an excellent breakfast chef.

Saturday night we broke the eating out rule but we used a gift card from our very kind and generous friends Edie and Seth.We watched the K-State game (#7 and climbing!) at Gordon Biersch Brewery in the Power and Light district. And then the snow began to fall.

Sunday we awoke to major ice, something not experienced in Minnesota. When we left for church in the evening, we chiseled away at a car coated in three inches of slushy ice. Then, Shea made yummy chicken, peas and rotini casserole but refused to take a picture because he’s mad at the chicken for not cooking itself before he mixed it in the casserole.

 For two fairly novice cooks, I am proud of us.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Netflix Education

No cable has ironically given us more knowledge of the TV shows all the kids talk about. Except we can’t really talk about it with the cool kids because we are perpetually a year behind. 

Big Bang Theory: Unexpectedly hilarious and a new favorite. The theme song alone is happiness-inducing. 

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Funny in an uncomfortable Larry David way.

Always Sunny in Philadelphia: More like partly cloudy with a huge side of inappropriateness. Sometimes too offensive and other times just really annoying to watch three whole minutes of four people all talking at the exact same time.

30 Rock: LOVE. Potentially better than Gilmore Girls but still undetermined. Unfortunately we finished the three available seasons and now must wait. Tina Fey makes my pajama-wearing, no hair-brushing, spilled-food-on-the-shirt days acceptable.

How I Met Your Mother: More love. This show however has been in a waiting pattern for about six months as we are unable to watch the current season without messing up our order and already finished the DVDs. I NEED to know who the mother is!

LOST: Hated the first five episodes but getting better. Observations:
1.       That island is far too big for it not to be known.
2.       Where is the beauty salon located on the island? These people look more groomed and beautiful than I looked on my wedding day.
3.       Why are they not more injured after crashing in a plane with nothing but a few scratches? You know, except for the dead people.
4.       There seem to be a lot of helpful tools in the checked luggage. Guns? An ax? Medications? Herbal tea? Needles? Bandages? Hunting knives? A hot doctor? Clearly this was a pre-meditated crash.

Jon and Kate Plus 8: I never watched it until unemployment coupled with Instant Netflix forced me to. It has taught me that 1. You can be a really irritating wife but a good mother. 2. Kids, especially eight of them, produce a lot of disgusting bodily functions. 3. Since I know the ending – the lawsuits, the affairs, the ridiculousness, not quite as charming of a show.

Next up: Mad Men, Six Feet Under, Weeds, Chuck and Glee

Friday, February 19, 2010

Post-wedding registry

I've been learning to cook more because it's cheap and staying home all day requires a really good hobby to stay sane. Especially when it takes me three hours to watch a 20-minute show on instant Netflix because our Internet connection is just that bad.

So, I've greatly utilized my wedding gifts even the cookie press (though probably not very successfully) and all four of our amazing cutting boards.

However, the more I cook, the more tools I do not have and have to use my very amateur skills to improvize.

Garlic press: I buy real garlic. Crack the cloves, peel off the layers. And then ever so painfully try to mince  garlic with a chopping knife.This does not work as well as when I went to a dear friend's house and watched her four-year-old pop a garlic clove into the press and ta-da!

Extra loaf pans: I have one. From college. They are probably $1.50 at Target but I suffer with one, which means my new adventure in bread making is cut short because it seems all my recipes make two loaves. So instead I bake one while the other ball of dough quadruples in size.

Dutch oven: I don't even know why this is different from pan, but a very popular tool with the recipe folk.

*Note to Shea: The above items are available at your local Crate and Barrel store.

I don't think we got anything on our list that we regretted. However, now that I am a guest of weddings rather than a planner, I refuse to buy friends any of the following, and thank goodness we never got any of it.

Margarita or martini glasses, champagne flutes: We cannot fit all our barware in our bar or cabinets. So, half of it is in boxes. We only drink margaritas while at a Mexican restaurant. And I am pretty sure we'll never be serving them to people who can't stand the thought of a margarita in a normal glass. Champagne flutes?  Really awesome if someone makes them from hand for you. Regular, generic ones? Unnecessary due to New Years Eve 2008.

China patterns: We got two sets of dishes. We love both and only use one for now. By the time I am serving a fancy enough dinner where Crate and Barrel plates won't cut it, I'll be able to borrow the China dishes passed down from the women in my family.And by then, we can trick my mom into giving us the walnut cabinet for storage.

Coasters, candles, vases: We get candles for $2 at Kohls during their weekly dirt-cheap sales. The rest of my candles I don't burn because they are too pretty. And, coasters are only helpful if you commit to actually cleaning your coffee table, which is glass, which is the worst thing to clean.

Hands-down best wedding gifts, you ask?
Really good pots and pans
Sharp knives (what a concept?!)

Silverware, dishes and glasses we picked out
Mixing bowls
Homemade cutting boards, aprons, potholders and tablecloths

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Total Money Makeover of Tears

Our first reading of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover ended in tears.

Because: Dave says we can't do things like go on vacation if we have debt. But I want to go on vacation in the next two years. And our debt won't be paid off by then. But what if we waste our whole lives paying off debt and look back and realize we never went anywhere or ate anything good or saw anything awesome because we were so focused on having zero debt. But what if we regret spending money on that stuff after we do it? BUT, I need a vacation before my tummy becomes not flat because there is a baby in there. And that seems like a really reasonable and totally not superficial reason to go on a vacation.What about a house, though? We want a house, but that darn Minnesota condo and the bad real estate market. And oh my, the student loans! Which comes first though, the baby or the house? Can you have a baby in a medium-sized apartment with one bedroom that doesn't have a real door? Probably. So, say we have the baby in the small apartment before we buy a house, what about my grad school? Can I go to grad school, have a baby, buy organic food AND save for a house? What about daycare? That's expensive, I hear, and what if I am not done with grad school? I'll be like one of those young mothers who brought their newborn to class, which although more interesting, did not help make a lecture on macroeconomics any more understandable. So maybe we compromise. Give up Costa Rica and settle for a cheap road trip. Then we have the baby in a medium-sized apartment with no bedroom door. And we'll only buy half of our food from Whole Foods and settle on Super Wal-Mart for the rest. And we won't get cable, and we won't eat out. But we will pay for a gym membership. Because how else am I supposed to keep my tummy flat?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Learning agape

We've been trying out churches in KC and trying to find one as similar as possible to Eagle Brook in Minnesota.

Each week we find things we love, and things we're not sure about. We've gotten welcome gifts of chips and salsa and a $5 gas card (bribes?), sat in high school gyms and fixer-upper church buildings and heard messages on taxes, marriage and then this past week, love.

Philia (brotherly) love is pretty easy. Find someone you share a common interest, workplace or favorite restaurant with and be their friend. Eros (romantic) love is more work but natural. It's tearing up when I pick out proofs of wedding pictures, getting excited at 5 p.m. because that means Shea will be home soon, and being able to spend weeks just watching movies and drinking wine.

But agape love is our goal. Though the Corinthians passage read at weddings has become a cliche, it's the best example of agape. It's not impatient. Nor is it cranky, full of pride, quick-tempered or rude. It always trusts and hopes.

I'm not very good at it. Whether it's in marriage, or with family members or strangers, it's hard to love without the thoughts of how this will affect me, the person's previous sins against me or the fact I have a migraine and the apartment management is testing the fire alarms so I am therefore exempt from showing love. But the good news is that I am not supposed to be good at it all on my own. Humans aren't capable of this level of love no matter how good our intentions. Enter, God.

Shea and I got married in a church for this very reason. Because although we love each other with everything we are and will ever be, it won't be enough to have the marriage we both desire.

That kind of love comes from God. An agape love that never fails.

Monday, February 15, 2010

MSG delight

We've lived in our apartment for a little over one month and finally found a key staple - our own Chinese takeout spot!

Peking Chinese Restaurant is some of the best Chinese food we've tasted and all for a reasonable price. We had crispy sesame chicken and kung pao chicken with vegetables and steamed rice. Amazing. We should have had leftovers, but nothing.

We've also found a very yummy and dirt cheap Mexican place, Cancun Fiesta Fresh.

We might hear sirens more often here, but our food beats Chilis and Olive Garden any day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chocolate bag and mediocre sushi

Shea hates Valentines Day.

A fake holiday filled with expensive Hallmark cards, mediocre-tasting candy hearts and over-priced floral arrangements. But despite his hatred, he woke up early on a Saturday morning (10 am) and made me fancy french toast. (Using the 27-inch griddle we bought Friday night with leftover wedding gift cards)

Fifteen episodes of 30 Rock later, we dressed up for our dinner reservations at Nara in the Crossroads District. So begins our hunt for the best sushi in Kansas City. We haven't had sushi since a bad experience at Japan world in Epcot on our honeymoon.

The atmosphere was cool, our ordering technique poor. After the traditional edamame, we had salmon nigri (B+), spicy yellowtail roll (B except for the last piece which required spitting in my napkin) and the special Valentines Day roll. The first time I've had warm sushi rolls, and definitely the last.

Halfway through the evening, Shea decided the table was too close to him and proceeded to push a quite heavy table toward me. As he got the "Crap, this is not going to end well" eyes, my full water glass crashed toward me, my coat and my open purse.

Waiter, arriving with rag: "I'm sorry about that."
Me: "Yeah..this is not your fault."
Waiter: "It's my job around here to take blame. So. I'm REALLY sorry."

Luckily, we are married and unlike the dozens of awkward, wide-eyed couples around us, we chuckled and continued dissolving our wasabi in soy sauce.

We finished the evening with Shea's first chocolate bag at McCormick and Schmick's on the Plaza.

So, despite a hatred of Valentines Day, I think we did pretty good.