Category Archives: friends

To My Friends

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I ordered two shots of orange vodka. “That’ll take the edge off,” I smiled slightly.

“Yeah, for both of us,” Dee returned my half-smile.

Dee is one of my best friends and a party promoter. After recently losing his father, Dee was throwing himself into work as much as possible. Sunday night was the first night for a new weekly event, Soulful Sunday “The Perfect Chill” at Doc’s Place in Shadyside. It was also the night for my first poetry reading in over two years.  I was nervous because I hadn’t read in so long, and because I would be reading a lot of new material.

“To your reading,” Dee proposed a toast. We clinked glasses and threw it back. The DJ was getting set up, and the night was just getting started. I hugged Dee and headed off to my reading.

There, two more of my best friends came to support me, Mindy and Roger. After the reading, they were full of praise. Roger said he would handle promotion for my book, and I believe he meant it. I dropped by brownie icing first on the carpet, and Mindy snagged the last one for me. I write all this to say: I am blessed, truly blessed. In this lifetime, we are lucky if we have one true friend, and I am blessed with an abundance. I hope that I am able to be there for them as much as they have been there for me. My friends, I hope you know who you are, and I hope you know I am always here for you and I love you.


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Friends of All Ages


For most of my life, my best friends have been older than me. As a highschool freshman, I hung out with the seniors, and then the next class of seniors until I was a senior myself and somewhat alone.  All of the men I have dated have been older than me, the oldest as much as 26 years older. So it was with some amount of surprise that I realized for the first time in my life I have as many friends who are younger than me as I do who are older than me. This, I realized, is because I am getting older, so the younger than me isn’t that young anymore!

Sometimes hanging out with a younger crowd has some amusing gaps in reference points. I came back into the room where Darrow (age 18) and Lil’ Trish (age 16) were sitting, looking through my records.

“Tell me these aren’t what I think they are,” said Darrow.

“Records?” I said not sure if that was what he was referring to.

“No, I mean these aren’t 40s?”

“They’re 45s,” I said, smiling.

“Aren’t those the big ones?”

“No, those are 33s.” This was amusing.

“Oh I said 31s or something.”

“Why don’t you sell them? Lil’ Trish asked. “Who has these? I’d be getting on e-bay.”

“Because I listen to them,” I explained.

“On what?” she looked around the room.

“On that.” I pointed.

“Oh I thought that was a suitcase.”

“It’s. My. Fisher Price. Record Player. From when I was a kid.” Amusing could turn to annoying rather quickly.

“Damn, Sarah, you are old.”

Thank you.


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G’night Trev (14 October 1962 – 7 June 2003)


I have been thinking so much of my friend Trevor lately.  I realize now it was my subconscious reminding me that he died around this time seven years ago.

Trevor Goddard was an actor perhaps best known for his portrayal of Royal Australian Navy lawyer Mick Brumby in the TV series JAG. He also played Kano in Mortal Kombat. His last role was a bit part in Pirates of the Caribbean 2. I wrote Trevor a letter in 1999 because I appreciated his portrayal of the very gray Cmndr Brumby as opposed to the black and white hero types. Some fans actually seemed to dislike the actor when Goddard’s character hooked up with Catherine Belle’s character whom they thought should be with David James Eliot’s character. I wanted to let Trevor know there were people who could still make the distinction between actor and character and that his nuanced portrayal of a complex character was appreciated.

To my surprise he wrote me back. He even asked questions about my life. I wrote him back with the answers. This time I also included my email address and our correspondence began in earnest. It became a regular thing for me to get back to my dorm room from class and chat with Trevor on AIM. I would tell him about my classes, and about my hopes and dreams.He would update me on new jobs, how his day went, things he hoped to accomplish. He always encouraged me to follow my dreams.

I will never forget the night that Trevor called me from a pay phone of some dive bar. I was fast asleep when he called and if I hadn’t talked to him on instant messenger the next day and confirmed it, I’d have thought I dreamt the whole thing. I remember he said he was playing pool and I asked if he was winning. This didn’t seem to be the response he’d expected and he emitted a short laugh of surprise.  It was always like that with us, never knowing what the other one would say.  He asked me if I wanted to go back to sleep and I said yes, and did. Whenever we talked to each other before bed we’d end our exchange with G’night, and, sweet dreams. I hope the place Trevor is now is like a sweet dream.

G’night Trev


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Puerto Rican Food

typical puerto rican meal

The sound of frying like a downpour after a long dry spell, when it starts raining hard right away instead of building up to it, a sudden onset and the sound those raindrops make on the metal casing of my window air conditioner. I love to sleep to that sound, let sleep pull me back into its embrace. Now the smell of chipotle in adobo sauce warms the air and I feel a warmth inside of me that feels like the bright light of the kitchen next to the dark outside the windows. It feels like home and belonging.

Note: For those who don’t know, I recently got a roommate, a Puerto Rican friend of mine. He has really warmed up the place, especially the kitchen when he cooks! And the table is used for something besides setting things on. When his daughter comes over, it feels even more homey. Since he’s been here, we have decorated the place more with our things, and keep it pretty tidy and functional!


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Long Time No Blog

I haven’t been posting here in a while, so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. In the interest of preventing a long rambling entry, I will try to summarize what I have been up to and if any of them strike you, I can go more in depth on the subject. I will start from this morning and then work my way through the month of June.

4 July 2009

The WPA Humane Society shelter was open from 9-11 today for volunteers only since it’s Independence Day, so I went to walk some dogs. The shelter has been slammed with surrenders recently, so they are really full. If you are thinking of fostering or adopting, now is the time. I walked two dogs. I walked a puppy named Ashley and a big boy named Sunny.



ASHLEY – ID#A106689

  • Sex: spayed female
  • Breed: Pit Bull Terrier.
  • Age: 3 months old.
  • Weight: 14 pounds.

Ashley is a sweet puppy, full of puppy energy, but also very affectionate. She stayed by my legs almost the whole walk, and she loved to give kisses and sit on my lap.



SUNNY – ID#A107037

  • Sex: neutered male
  • Breed: Pit Bull Terrier.
  • Age: @ 1 year and 1 month old.
  • Weight: 59 pounds.

Sunny has a name that suits him because he definitely has a sunny disposition. He has had a rough life and was found tied to a park bench for a couple days. But he is so friendly and full of joy now, let him bring some sunshine into your life!

Out of some of the dogs I’ve walked, Buddy, Hercules, and Dreamcicle have all been recently adopted! I have gone on two off site events with the shelter, one to Bark in the Park in Mt Washington, and one to Lucky Paws Pet Resort in Freedom, PA.


June 1-2

We adopted a kitten from the WPA Humane Society. I came to walk dogs and it was feeding time, so I went in to visit the cats while I was waiting. The whole time I was in there, one kitten would not stop meowing the whole time except when I was at his cage. He also kept reaching his paws out thru the bars and knocked his sign off. Later that day, I brought Rado back to see him and it was love at first sight. I really think the cat picked us. His original name was Oreo, but we changed it to Marko Meowii. Oreo is still his middle name I guess. We named him Marko because our adoption counselor was named Mark and because of the Bulgarian folk hero Krali Marko. Meowii because of how vocal he is and how he made our hearts melt. We did the paperwork June 1st, but he had to be neutered still, so we got to pick him up the afternoon of June 2nd. He is a joy to have in our lives. Marko has his own blog at

Marko and Me

Marko and Me


June 18th

I started a Calligraphy class today at CCAC. It is a non-credit community education course. I love it! I had been exposed to calligraphy in 7th grade and liked it then, but had no idea how many different calligraphy alphabets there are. So far we have learned Italic, and two kinds of Versals. Next week we are doing the Celtic alphabet. It is a lot of fun and I hope to incorporate it into my poetry and make my  poetry as much a visual art as a literary art.



June 22nd

I have started playing tennis. Surprisingly I am not atrociously terrible at it. Rado and I have been playing in the park and we are both learning, so we don’t get a lot of volley back and forth, but are happy when we hit it. We have my parents rackets, which everyone who saw them had to comment on how old they were. They are heavy wooden rackets probably from the late 70s, early 80s. They still work just fine, thank you. They are both WIlson rackets, one “Chris Evert Personal” and the other “Stan Smith Pro Cup” Rado bought me a more lightweight racket at a church yard sale down the street. It works pretty good too. It’s titanium and is a Wilson Rak Attack Jr.


June 23-25

Went to Ohio to help my brother with the dogs. Took Akira in my Dad’s car to the park, and walked Shiro around the neighborhood.

10142397750_ORIG 10142397760_ORIG 10142397755_ORIG


June 27th

We had dinner at the neighbors across the street. It was a very international dinner with one of our hosts being from France, and of the guests a couple- one from France, one from Italy- and a couple from Senegal. Rado played his accordion and everyone danced or played maracas and clapped. It was really fun. We hope to have more evenings like that.


June 28th

We had some people over to watch the Confederation Cup Final- U.S.A vs Brazil. U.S.A dominated in the first half, but Brazil recovered in the second half and overtook the U.S. 3-2. I was very impressed with how good the U.S. team is getting. Our goalie is especially superb. I hope it makes soccer/(football to the rest of the world) more popular here.


Random: Other than that, I’ve been working a lot, riding my bike, playing with Marko, playing with my Burmese nephews, trying to blog at my new funk music blog , sketching and drawing more, writing, reading, and trying to enjoy life. Until next time,


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CS Potluck

"That that pure sanguine complexion of yours may never be famisht with pot lucke," Thomas Nashe, 1592

"That that pure sanguine complexion of yours may never be famisht with pot lucke," Thomas Nashe, 1592

Couch Surfing is an international network that facilitates cultural exchange. If you are traveling and need a place to crash or someone to show you around or give you advice, CS is for you. The site is not just about accommodation (most of which is freely offered by individuals), it is about creating a better world. CS’s official goals include to “create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding.” The third Sunday of every month the Pittsburgh CSers hold a Pot Luck for area CSers, visiting CSers, and friends. This Sunday it was held at my friend Miriam’s apartment near me, so we decided to go. Food included quiche, taco dip, mousaka, tarator, kebabs, Shepard’s pie, spinach dip, breads, curry, green cheesecake (for st patty’s day), bunt cake (with green icing), and more. It was awesome to meet people who are different from me, but so similar in their world view. The word “potluck” is derived from whatever you are lucky enough to have in the pot. I feel lucky to be a part of a melting pot of people from around the world who are both different and the same.

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Local Woman Completes MFA, Debuts Children’s Book in Same Week

Interview with Crystalee Calderwood, author of Angeline Jellybean



Process and Mechanics

1.    When you wrote Angeline Jellybean, was it your plan to make use of rhyme scheme, or did it just come out that way as you wrote it?
It was just the way it was supposed to be written. The way you read it now is almost exactly the way it came out of my head, with a few lines tweaks, of course. I didn’t really set out to write a picture book in rhyme, but once I realized that was happening, I went with it. I had never successfully written a picture book in rhyme before, so it was a good challenge for me.
2.    What are the dangers of writing a children’s book in rhyme? Are there any rhyming children’s books that are well done that influenced you?
Dangers? Are there dangers? *laughs* Well, rhyming picture books, when well done, are extremely good for helping children develop language and memorization skills. The pitfall, of course, is that they are very hard to write well. The classic example of a flawless rhymer is Dr. Seuss, but there are many modern picture books with great rhyme schemes. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is probably one of the best out there. Ask a three-year-old to tell you the story, and they can probably do it. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom has really become an update on the “ABC Song.” It uses rhyme to teach the ABC’s and kids have so much fun with it that they don’t even realize how much they are learning.
3.    How did your background as a poet help or hurt your process writing Angeline?
I don’t know that it helped or hurt me that much. I am very much a free-verse poet, and I find that 99% of the time I try to write a poem that rhymes, it comes out trite or too sing-songy. Certainly, my background in poetry did help me hear the rhythm in my head and sort of know when something didn’t fit right. But really, I have very little experience with rhyming, so that aspect took a lot of work.
4.    Talk about your time serving with Beginning with Books. How do you think working with children and around children’s books affected you. Did it make you want to write children’s books more or less or no effect. What do you think the particular children you worked with would think of Angeline?
My time at Beginning with Books was the period in my life when I started to take this whole writing for children thing seriously. For the first time in my life, I was interacting with a large number of children, getting inside their worlds and learning about their passions and pet peeves. I was also reading a large number of children’s books, everything from board books and picture books to YA novels, on a daily basis. I was exposed to so many genres that it opened up a whole world for my writing. I learned what I love to read, and therefore what I should be writing. My time at BWB definitely made me want to write more children’s books.

I think all children can relate to Angeline to a certain extent. She is a picky eater, which is an issue many children go through at some point in their lives. She wants nothing but her favorite snack, again a common infliction amongst children. And again, the book has that rhyming aspect that really keeps children listening and interested. Most of the children I worked with deal with some very serious issues in their lives–violence in their homes and neighborhoods, drugs on their streets, broken families-and books like Angeline Jellybean can serve as an escape from reality for them.

5.    What is the difference between “good” and “bad” children’s book writing?
Good children’s book writers know children. They go to schools and interact with them. They write about issues that are important to children. They live life so that they can write about it. Bad children’s book writers sit at a desk all day and write about things they think will entertain children. They write preachy, didactic stories because they think they know everything there is to know. They don’t realize that they can learn just as much from a child as a child can learn from them.
6.    What was your working relationship with the illustrator for Angeline? How much input did you have into his process, did anything he sent you change the way you thought about Angeline?
Honestly, I didn’t need a lot of input. I looked at the first illustration of Angeline and said “That’s her.” What Stephen’s illustrations did for me was ground her in a place. I had never imagined her in this farm-like atmosphere, a little tomboy of sorts.
7.    How did it feel the first time you saw Angeline illustrated?
I was totally blown away. Stephen Macquignon is such an excellent illustrator. I adored the colors and the expression on Angeline’s face. Mostly, I couldn’t believe that those fabulous illustrations were going to be in my book!
8.    Do you foresee any Angeline sequels? More children’s books in general?
I don’t think Angeline has another book in her. But children’s books in general, definitely. I have several in different stages, none ready to publish yet.
9.    I hear that you have also written a YA Povel-any plans on getting that published? Can you tell us about it?
Definitely! Yes, I would love to get it published. It wasn’t until I sat down with some of my mentors recently that I realized how far I need to go with it to get it ready for publication. It needs stronger secondary characters, some plot holes filled in, and a subplot or two. I have my work cut out for me!

For readers who don’t know what a povel is, it is also known as a novel in verse or a novel in poetry. Povels are novels told as a series of poems. In my case, the poems alternated between the voices and points of view of two characters. Yes, it is as challenging as it sounds.
10.    How was the process different/the same in writing for young adults versus a picture book?
Writing a YA novel is much more exhausting! It took me almost a year to write my 100 page novel. Angeline came out of me in maybe an hour? Of course, neither book was perfect from the beginning. With the novel, I had to be much more organized. I had to keep track of two character’s lives, hobbies, families, struggles, boyfriends, etc. I also had multiple copies of 100 poems lying around my apartment. I had to set up a schedule for my novel. I wrote religiously every Thursday night from 6:30-9. Think about it: a picture book of less than 500 words and a novel of 100 pages. The novel has obviously taken up a much larger chunk of my life.

Crystalee Calderwood

Crystalee Calderwood

Getting to know you

1.    Did you have a vice like jellybeans as a child? If so what was it?
Oh, I think I still have that vice! haha. Chocolate. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate. If it contains chocolate I will eat it!
2.    If you could be any color jellybean, what color would you be?
Red! No, I like the red ones too much. I don’t want to be eaten. Black. Yeah, those nasty black ones. No one eats those, right?
3.    Do you like the different flavored jellybeans, like jelly belly or the harry potter ones?
I am in love with Jelly Belly jellybeans! No others compare.
4.    What is your food guilty pleasure?
Chocolate or cheese, definitely.
5.    If you had to eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I would say chocolate except I think that would make me sick. So I’m going with cheese. A nice variety of hard and soft cheeses.
6.    If you were written about in the newspaper, on the front page, what would the headline say?
Why, can you get me a headline on the front page? “Local woman completes MFA, debuts first children’s book in same week.” On second thought, that’s not exciting enough.
7.    If Hollywood were to make a movie of your life, what actress/actresses would you want to play you?
Julianne Moore. I’ve been told twice now that I look like her. *shrugs*
8.    If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?
Sara Adkins, What is with the Hard Questions? or It All Happened Because of Pittsburgh
9.    Do you remember your favorite children’s book when you were a child?
I had many. I read everything I could get my hands on. But for most of my life I read nothing but the Baby-sitter’s Club books by Ann M. Martin.
10.    Do you like to be read to aloud? Do you think different things can be gained from reading to yourself and being read to?
Yes, definitely. Listening to someone read a picture book aloud is a multi-sensory experience. Characters can really come to life when a reader adds the right inflection to his or her voice. A good storytime involves the children as much as possible, gets them thinking or moving or discussing. Of course, there is always a place and time for curling up in a chair with a good book too.
11.    Any last words?
Thank you for interviewing me. I haven’t had this much fun since I volunteered at a symphony concert for kids this morning!

Don’t forget to check out the last two days of the blog tour at:

Lea Schizas at -January 3rd
Crystalee Calderwood at -January 4th

Additionally, Angeline Jellybean makes a great gift, as verified by my mom:

I got my Mom, an elementary school educator, this book for Christmas

I got my Mom, an elementary school educator, this book for Christmas

“I thought Crystalee’s book was cute. It covered the holidays, colors and promoted healthy eating. I’m sure the kids will like it.” – Darla Adkins

Available at Amazon.Com and the 4RV Publishing Store


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