Sala, Cougar Football and the Dentist

a memory:

I took my mom to a dentist appointment.  I was in the waiting room when I heard the dental assistant ask, “Sala, your son played football right? Isn’t Jack Thompson your son? He was quarterback for the Huskies, wasn’t he?”   I wondered if she could hear the woman (even though all four of us in the waiting room heard every single word) because her hearing wasn’t great and she was loathe to use her very expensive, non-insurance-covered hearing aids!  As I wondered, I heard my mom respond,  “My son is a Cougar.  He went to Washington State, do you know where that is? In Pooool-man, Washington.  The Cougars, Wa-shing-ton State Cooo-gars”.  She was polite but she was loud.  And then, a few seconds later, “Did you hear me? I said, ‘He played quarterback for the WSU Coooogars!’.

A little bit after my mom passed away, I went into Dr. Bajwa’s office to pay the last of my mother’s dental bills.  I told a few Sala-isms and took some time to thank everyone for taking such good care of my mom whenever she came in.  They were good to her and she so appreciated their kindnesses to her.

Go Cougs!

Tony Thompson on a run from Vantage to Pullman, 2012


Yay! School starts next week!

One day last spring, I was at Cascade Middle School for after school Woodshop Club…which, by the way, was cool! 😎

As I was walking from the office to the wood shop, I tripped.  A stutter-stepped, doubled over into lunging forward half-fall.  Miraculously, I caught myself and managed to “land” upright. Thank. God. There was a second before I regained my balance that I really thought I was going down!  While in flail,  I looked up and coming toward me was a group of middle school boys.  Every single one of them, laser focused, mouth gaping at what was or was not about to happen!  Shockingly, I did not see anybody with their camera phone pointed at me.

An Asian kid, two white kids, two Latino kids & three poly kids.

Are you asking yourself “Why did she do an ethnic breakdown right there? Is she obsessed? Can’t kids be kids?”?  O Trust. There’s a reason. I scanned that group for the poly boys…specifically the Samoan boys. Those boys knew what I knew, I saw it in their beautiful brown eyes! They knew that if I bit it, they were responsible for me because I belong to them!!  I mean, beyond the probability that all of those kids would have “helped” pick me up because they’re nice kids, the Samoan boys are obliged to me in a different kind of way.  In the “She’s my elder/aunty” kind of way!! In the “the way I was raised” kind of way!!  I’m not gonna lie, I was comforted, even mid stumble, that my culture was at play and our shared ancestry had done the good work of obligating these young people to me and to my well being!


#lovemiddleschoolkids #goodkids #learnhowtowalk #helpstopickupyourfeet #middleschoolalloveragain

Things I Heard This Weekend

“I believe there is greatness on this hill.” 

“Ill gotten gains grow wings and fly away.”

“The history of man in this world is basically people conquering and being conquered.”

“I sometimes have to skip 4th period class because I go to my lunch but the person who has all the money is in the other lunch so I go to their lunch, too.” 

“I know the devil because I watched the Emoji movie”

“When it gets hot, kids get into trouble.  Maybe kids just need something to do.”

“Young people are wired with a strong sense of justice and a strong sense of adventure.”

“This is for all the mambas.”

”Pat, where’d you get those balls?”

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity but of power, love and self discipline .”

”No inventory and no parties!”

“Can I come sit by you? There’s a lot of people here and I can take only so much.”

”Satan.  That guy is mean, all he does is scare people and make them sad.”

Open Doors and Sharing Space


“He opened the gym for me.  I say that like I was the only one…really, though, he opened the gym for the whole Seattle area.” This was a reflection shared by a young man at the memorial service of his beloved mentor, basketball coach and friend, John Burnley. Mr. Burnley passed away in late December. Coach John Burnley was all of those things to a lot of us. He was Evergreen High School Boys’ Basketball Coach for many years though his impact was city-wide for decades long and found at many levels of the sport: the elementary and middle school level, high school and college level, too. John was a good friend to me, personally, always generous, kind and humble. He was a strong advocate for me and for the work of YES! He actually “opened the gym” for us, too, so that YES! could run program in “his” gym on Monday nights! I’m so appreciative that at his funeral, we celebrated his love for “the game,” his devotion to young athletes and his way of opening doors and making space for people…in the gym, in the classroom, in his life and in his heart. I’m grateful for John’s life and for his legacy.

Major Taylor Bike Club

At 17 years old, YES! is grateful for so much! A highlight for us is a new partnership with Cascade Middle School, where we have been offering after school programing – more on that later! Our partnerships with Run to Win Outreach Camps, Cascade Bicycle Club, A.I.G.A. Link, World Vision, White Center CDA, Lake Burien Presbyterian Church, John Perkins Center at S.P.U., Baden Sports, Highline College, Highline Schools and the Seattle Foundation remain strong and absolutely vital in our ongoing work in community. To say that it’s an honor and our distinct privilege to do our work alongside these organizations is truly the understatement of 2017!


Jack Thompson RTW Camps

Coach John Burnley was intuitive about sharing space, resources, networks and access with students and athletes who were in his care. I am hopeful that the story of YES! will closely align that of John Burnley and that people will be able to say, “YES! opened [young person insert here and it could be anything, it could be EVERYTHING] for me and for everyone I knew!”

words and slow thinking


Like it was yesterday.

I was 12 years old and in the car riding shot gun with my older brother, Jack, who was home from college.  I felt pretty cool.  I’m the youngest of my sibs and there were always older cousins around, so finding myself in the front passenger seat was rare.  AND with my brother, who I greatly admired, driving…just the two of us? Yep, everything was good.

I was singing with the radio, I was singing at the top of my lungs!  I knew all the words of the song that was playing by heart! At one point in the song, I stopped to make a smart aleck comment about Samantha Sang, the vocal artist with whom I had been singing.  It was a crack about the song…it was a grown up comment…it was a snap judgment about the singer…it was harsh…I’m sure it had an interesting, extra bite because it came out of a 12 year old.  Jack didn’t immediately react.  After a few seconds, with the snark hanging in the air, he leaned forward, turned the radio down and said, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something.”

He said, “Pat, you are so so smart. Incredibly quick witted…” he half chuckled. “Sometimes I am amazed by how you think and the way you put your thoughts together, so quick and FUNNY! I don’t know where you got that!” I smiled and thanked him for the compliment. He went on, “Well, you’re welcome and I truly mean it.  I want you to think about something else, though. Sometimes being quick-witted…being the first to comment…especially if you are going for a laugh…isn’t the best way through relationships.  If you are not careful, your words will shut people down.  Of course, I want people to know that you are smart and funny and that you are a good thinker but I really want people to know that you are a nice girl and that you are a kind person!  I love you a lot and I want people to know who you are, see that you’re a good person and how much you care about people.” I was quiet, thinking about his gentle rebuke.  Then he said, “It’s not always good to be quick witted…sometimes it’s best to be slow…slow to react…make room for other people…you should try it. I try to pride myself in being slow.”

Great advice. One of the very-most meaningful things that has EVER been said to me.  It’s been a guiding principle in my life.  I hear that conversation in my head often.  I have coached myself through many discussions, many discourses, debates and conflicts with this, “Be slow. I’m slow. Breathe and be slow.”

Sure, he looks wise but back then, he was just a 20 year old home from college!  I’m thankful for people in my life who were looking out for me. I’m thankful that teachable moments were seized upon on the regular and that my brother chose to be an active part of my formation as a young person. I’m thankful that he cared enough about me not to let me go out into the world without hearing the wisdom of being slow.