December 30, 2005

Vacation Sign Off

I don't really blog on the weekends (I try to avoid the computer in my time off) and I leave Tuesday (very early.... ugh) to fly to Seattle to visit my sister (and more importantly, my niece!). I will probably do a couple entries while I'm there, but I'm not sure.

Have a wonderful New Year!

December 28, 2005

This one went better than I expected

On the drive home Monday, I asked Jrex what he thought my strengths and weaknesses are. (When I told my sister I did this, she thought I was nuts!) But he’s insightful so I was curious what he sees in me.

One: “You’re gifted at connecting with people. You’re able to care for and stay connected with people all over the country. I have one or two deep friendships at a time and the number of people you know well awes me. Two: Creativity. You always have projects going on, whether yard projects, sculptures, calligraphy, or something else. Three: Inclusiveness. You are able to make people from all walks of life feel valued and important. You create events and reach out to people around you.”

One: “Maintenance. You’re great at starting things, but if they become routine, you tune out or get bored. Two: Sometimes it’s hard for you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”

I totally agree with the weaknesses so that wasn’t hurtful to hear (phew!). As we discussed it further it was interesting to realize that I’m a split difference between my Mother’s incredible thoughtfulness and ability to empathize, and my Father’s oblivious factor. I suspect it relates to the maintenance issue: if someone is in crisis, they’re an interesting project and I invest in understanding them and what they’re going through, but if it’s ordinary life I assume they can fend for themselves and get focused on my own perspective. I’m still happy to listen, but I’m not as empathetic or proactive as I might be for the crisis phase.
At one point in the drive I asked Jrex what we should talk about. “I don’t know,” he answered, “What do we want to analyze?”

December 27, 2005

Assorted Christmas memories and thoughts

Sorry about not doing a ‘going on vacation’ entry. My mom’s best friend emailed me to find out where her blog fix has been. Mea Culpa! We went to the in-laws in Staten Island for Christmas.

The strangest thing at my in-laws is Jrex's transformation from thoughtful, caring man to Korean son. As a Korean son he doesn’t do much to help out, he watches television in his bedroom, he waits to be served, and he doesn’t deal with the dog first thing in the morning (truly the cardinal sin!). Most of that is perfectly normal in Korean culture and I’m not upset about it, but I always forget to expect it. I'm instantly the lowest status person in the house and have to remember to be thoughtful and ready to anticipate other's needs.

Big Boss
I love my father-in-law. He’s an amazing man who has survived the Japanese occupation, fighting as a 17 year old against the communists, a PhD in herbal medicine in Oslo, being forced to work for the Korean government, starting over in a foreign country and owning a pharmacy in Brooklyn (the last perhaps being the most traumatic for him). But he’s so rough with our dog! I wrote about our first dog visit, this time was better, but still frustrating. His idea of saying hello to her was to tap her nose. Hard. But then he expected her to choose to be near him. I came up with the idea that “She knows you’re the Big Boss and she’s intimidated. Give her a chance to get used to you and she will like you.” He could accept that he was the Big Boss and even seemed pleased with the nickname. By the end of the weekend, she'd come when he called (ok, just once, but better than nothing) and he'd condescended to take her for a walk.

On the Boardwalk
We went to the Staten Island boardwalk for an afternoon stroll Christmas Eve. The boardwalk freaked out Muttola. She finally figured out a method of walking along the seam in the middle where the boards bounce the least. To give her a break from seam walking, I took her down to the water. As expected she attacked the audacious waves. For her first attempt she danced and barked, second she went mouth first up to her belly. Third time she dove in for a full body blow. Back in the parking lot, Muttola befriended a sweet old couple. The woman bent down to pet her, then threw her hands up in the air and exclaimed, “You’ve been swimming!? Mama Mia!”

Doing our duty
I love going to church Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I like the singing carols, seeing people I love, thanking God for all He’s done. Thinking about the wackiness of Him being a baby. However, if that all happens in Korean… There’s this thing in Korean culture that the one who prays the longest, or talks the longest about God is the most holy. And the church elder is certainly VERY holy. I asked Mom Kim later what the elder prayed. She could tell me the first part but then said that she got tired and stopped listening. I’ve never heard her say a direct negative about someone! She as much as said the guy was a pompas ass!

“No presents this year”
That’s what she told us. Don’t buy anything at all, please. Well that’s something to never believe from a Korean MIL. Jrex wanted to buy his Mom jewelry. We found a lovely gold necklace with a blown glass red heart. Simple and elegant. His parents are retired and his Mom has become consumed with church, so his Dad sits around the house all day. We bought him a bunch of DVDs (March of the Penguins, Winged Migration, Brooklyn Bridge by Ken Burns, and Best Of National Geographic). Jrex actually bought me jewelry for the first since the engagement ring. And he did a great job. He went to a funky local shop and found a really cool necklace and earring set. I’ll post a picture tomorrow. Mom and Dad bought us a 15-piece pot set. No, not THAT kind, the kind made from aluminum with Teflon coating. We love to cook, so that was perfect. She also bought us 400-count sheet set. I’ve splurged on some 300-count sheets that I love, but these are like silk. I’m so glad we didn’t listen to her at all!
Have I mentioned that my MIL has great taste? My sister covets the gifts my MIL gets me. Her in-laws tend toward buying comfy sweat suits. Mine, toward trendy clothes and cool jewelry. Or pots.

Overall it's been a relaxing weekend. We had great conversations on the drive up and the way back (and NO traffic either way. Truly a Christmas miracle!). Went to see Walk the Line last night. I like being married to him. It's definitely good to have a built-in best friend.

December 20, 2005


This is a commercial, but the images of 250,000 bouncy balls in San Fransisco are mesmerizing. It reminds me of The Red Balloon in the way that it pulls you into a seemingly quiet yet surprising and hypnotic story.

Cross Cultural moments

We had brunch with James’ lab at his advisor’s home on Sunday. We were among the last people to leave and his advisor exclaimed, “Wait, we have way too much baked salmon, you must take some!”

“Sure!” I quickly agreed. I could feel Jrex looking at me. “Wait, I have to do the Asian thing,” I added quickly, “I can’t just say yes like that I have to play the game. ‘No. No. No. Sure!”

“I’m sorry,” Jrex sorrowfully shook his head while his advisor laughed, “She has no filter.”
In Korean culture, the men are notorious for not even knowing how to boil water. If the wife doesn’t feed them, they will starve to death in front of a full refrigerator. I’ve only seen this in action a couple times, but it’s shocking each time. A few years ago I had Thanksgiving dinner with two Korean-Korean (vs. Korean-American) women who had to get home to feed their husbands and couldn’t even stay for dessert. It seemed the men couldn’t survive being alone more than 4 hours at a stretch.

Jrex decided as a bachelor that he didn’t want to live on TV dinners and Ramen, so he taught himself to cook. At this point he’s a much better cook than I am. It’s a creative outlet for him and if he gets inspired, I get out of the way. Grilled salmon with a crusted almond/dill glaze and steamed veggies with a hint of balsamic vinaigrette? No really, dear, you shouldn’t have.

I’ve written previously about going to Seattle for a week in January. Last night we were talking and I asked Jrex if he really minded me going. “No, it’s fine,” he quickly reassured me.

“What!?” I joked, “You’re not supposed to be THAT quick with your answer!”

“Well as long as you make and leave me a week’s worth of frozen dinners, I’ll be fine.”

December 16, 2005

Oops. I’m only used to a dog, who can’t repeat what I say.

My coworker changed his clothes to go to a Christmas Party after work. He emerged from the bathroom resplendent in a pink shirt, striped pink tie, black pants, and JCrew black jacket. As he walked out the door I called out, “You’re such a pimp, Ryan!” He grinned, “You know it!”

From behind me I hear a tiny voice, “Cwistie, what’s a pimp?” My boss’ three-year old son stared up at me. I’m all for telling kids the facts, but the thought of a conversation explaining all the OTHER vocabulary words necessary was beyond me. “Um…” I hesitated, “It’s someone who dresses funny.”

December 14, 2005

It’s not flirting when you hit me in the nose. Hard.

I took Muttola to do her temperament test at the doggie day care last night. Basically they want to be sure that she won’t kill any other dogs or vice versa. As you can see in the photo below, there are two sections the dogs play in. They have tunnels, toys, and each other for entertainment, as well as two human workers.

Normally Jada is very excited to meet other dogs and seems to do fine. As soon as we stepped into Charm City Dogs, the other dogs started barking. She started trembling. I’ve never seen her shake in fear before and I got a little nervous. What happens if she can’t do dog day care? Will I be the designated failed dog mother? The owner was very cool and gave her a chance adjust to him and to the place. They closed the other dogs into the big area in back and let Jada explore the hallway. Then we went into the little area in front where they could close the gates and let her explore. One by one they let in the other dogs, starting with the calmest ones. For a long time Jada kept hiding behind my legs and running away any time the dogs tried to sniff her. Eventually she settled down with the two quieter dogs and started to notice there were toys on the ground. Then they let in Kaia, the alpha dog (Kaia’s Dad is the owner). Kaia stood and stared Jada down. Jada did everything in her power to avoid The Look. She went behind the bench, behind me, or pretended she was VERY busy with toys and couldn’t possibly take time to notice the Boxer with the Stare. It took a while but she finally accepted a crotch sniff and the look from She Who Must Be Obeyed. Then they let the dogs out. Woof. Woof. Woof. Slap!

The three remaining dogs were high energy and big. One of them was a puppy mill dog named Homer. Homer is a male, which means he’s aggressive. He’s a puppy mill dog, which means he’s stupid. (‘Puppy mills’ crank out badly bred dogs for sale at pet stores and via the internet. “He’s a puppy mill dog” is said in the same tone as, “He was a fetal alcohol baby”.) He’s a boxer, which means his method for getting to know you is to hit you. Hard. On the nose. Jada did not approve. At first she repeated her running away routine. But he wouldn’t take no for an answer. So then she snarled and snapped at him, “Get AWAY from me, idiot, or I’ll bite off your family jewels and shove them where the sun don’t shine!” He looked confused and sat down abruptly. I didn’t know she had it in her! Go Jada. Get the big boys.

It’s confirmed. I’m going to be such a bad mother. “Now, dear, you should try talking things out rather than resorting to fighting . . . but did you win?”

December 12, 2005

When you just can't pick one event

Christmas Party Saturday night. Each table was a team on a scavenger hunt based on life experiences. Jrex was surprised to realize he’s been on four continents (Korea, USA, England, Brazil). We proudly admitted not having showered for a week (backpacking), seeing a bear (ditto), and touching one’s nose with one’s tongue (me). With 21 out of 25 we thought our table might win. We were bested by another table where someone had skydived, ballroom danced, and was fluent in four languages. FOUR?!! I barely handle one!
We helped a friend do the most organized move EVER. She used duct tape for content labels, a color label for room placement, and another color for fragile labels where appropriate. The movers were an hour late, and by the time they got there we had everything but the bulky stuff down on the sidewalk waiting to load in the U-Haul. I’m from the ‘let the professionals earn their keep’ school, but Jrex and our friend believe in the ‘do or die’ method. They have little contests at work about who is a worse workaholic. She triumphantly announced at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, “You’ve been here for 30 minutes already? You’re a workaholic!” Fortunately I strained my lower back bringing down the TV (no, really, I did, I swear), so then I could just play Tetris with the truck contents.
In the afternoon between the move and the party I knew I needed to get the dog tired out. Our neighbors across the alley have a long, fenced-in yard and two dogs. The woman who lives there came to our 2nd Annual Halloween-Open-Yard-Party and seemed really cool. I walked over with Muttola and knocked on their door. When she answered I said, “I have a strange proposition … could my dog play with your dogs?” Amy and I ended up chatting and laughing in the backyard as the dogs sniffed each other. Jada definitely watched her back. She kept slapping big boy Bingo in the face when he got fresh with her. Eventually she and Bingo fell in love. Neither of them are equipped to fulfill their raging passion, but they were able to chase cars along the fence together, sniff at squirrels, play tug of war, and pee on the same tree. Ah, young love…
Last night we went to see The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s hard to make talking animals work without feeling cheesy, but they did it. Lucy was perfect. She’s the heart of that story, and goes through a huge range of emotions, and the little actress was believable and made you fall in love with her. Even Aslan was great. I never realized how soothing and beautiful Liam Neeson’s voice is. He could read me bedtime stories anytime!

December 8, 2005

I'm only 34 why do I feel so old?!!

Yesterday I got an email from a church friend. She wants a group of people to serve bag lunches to homeless folk after church in two weeks. She suggested putting postcards with church info into the bags. This was my email in response:

Speaking as the person who seems to be the designated, “Go talk to that homeless person and see what we should do” representative: let’s not put the postcards in the bags. I totally love the idea of getting more of us out there. I love that we have homeless people coming to church. I suspect the word is getting out that we're a warm place for a Sunday nap and we're full of do-gooders who give out money and food. I don’t think we need to advertise any more than we are already! (I may sound cynical, but I suspect that’s the word on the street)

Growing up in an inner-city church I’ve seen scenarios I can’t envision us handling at this point:

-My pastor and an elder having to forcibly escort someone out of a service (not just one incident).
-Having slightly mental folk stand up in the middle of the sermon and announce they have new shoes, shirt, whatever
-The pastor having to figure out non-confrontational (or confrontational) ways of dealing with disruptive people.
-Parents having to keep an eye on their kids so that Arthur isn’t alone with them.
-People having to keep an eye on Arthur so that no parent kills him.

I hate the idea of a homogenous church and I do like the fact that we’re starting to draw in people who live near the church, don’t get me wrong about that. I like Tracy and I would like to get to know some of the other people in the ‘hood, so to speak. We just need wisdom, maturity, and backup as we move ahead. So, yeah, let’s do the lunches, but let’s not do the postcards.

I get pissed off when I know I’m getting scammed. Give me a genuine need, I’ll do whatever I have to do. Scam me and we’ve got an issue. I prayed with the first homeless woman who came into the church, Tracy. I really connected with her and felt the depth of God’s love for her. However, watching her making the rounds the last two weeks after church, I get mad. I’m mad that she’s learned to manipulate. I’m mad it works on all these sweet young things. I’m mad that we aren’t equipped as a group of college kids and young adults to do the long-term stuff required to help her make different life choices. I can’t stand the fact that a debate about compassion vs. enabling becomes such an intrinsic part of inner-city ministry in this country. How did Mother Theresa do it?

December 5, 2005

Random Chatter

• I’ve been kidnapped by aliens. Really. Warner Bros is remaking Invasion of the Body Snatchers here in Baltimore. (Nicole Kidman, Jeremy Northham, and some cute blond kid). We’re printing their posters and signs at my job. The lead designer asked for people to send in snapshots. I have an archive on my computer and sent in a few. The next day we printed posters of The Missing for use as backdrops in the movie. She’d included my co-worker Ryan and me in one of the posters. If you've seen us, call *66, please.
• Aliens have invaded my yard. I had a crunchy granola Mom (“Anyone want to trade their Twinkie for one of my carob chip cookies?”). I went to a crunchy granola college (Hampshire. Vegetarian line in the cafeteria with vegan options). So, like any self-respecting cruncher, I compost my veggie waste into a lovely backyard composter. Last night when I let the dog out, I saw something gray dart from the compost container to the base of the shed. I tried to convince myself that it was a rabid, nocturnal squirrel. But no, it was true. There are rats in the compost bin. Jrex and I are meeting at home tonight to take the composter apart and shovel rotting veggies into industrial garbage bags. Hopefully, Muttola will prove her worth and kill some vermin!
• Yesterday in church a friend pulled me into the hall. Apparently one of our homeless visitors seemed to be really out of it and she wasn’t sure what to do. Being the only person who’s lived in the inner city, I’m treated as the resident homeless expert. The guy (named Kevin) was shaking and his buddy, Charles, said that Kevin had a stroke last night. I thought he might be in Delerium Tremor. (I have no medical training, but a shaking homeless man is most likely going through alcohol withdrawal. Potentially fatal.) As I tried to invite him to sit, he collapsed into the couch and became unresponsive. We called 9-1-1. In the midst of making Kevin comfortable and getting a towel in case he threw up, I asked Charles how well they know each other, “Off and on for years. He bit me once, so I know he doesn’t have AIDS! I’m monitoring his alcohol intake since his stroke, I don’t think 2 oz of vodka before church would do this.”

The weird thing for me is that the whole interaction with Kevin and Charles felt more real to me than the chats after church with random college kids about what they’re studying. That’s what I loved about living in the inner city. No one has time for BS. It’s all about survival and helping each other when you’re down. It’s not a random homeless guy in a door, it’s Joe and you know his Mom kicked him out again and you know the Drop-in-Center will take him. I don’t know the resources or the people here yet. But that’s beginning to change.

December 1, 2005

Pride and Prejudice

(includes spoilers)

I know it marks me as a sap, but I do love Jane Austen and thoroughly enjoyed the new Pride and Prejudice last night. I was amazed that in two hours the movie could encompass so many character shifts. I even liked the mother by the end of the movie. In every other version I’ve ever experienced, including the book, I couldn’t stand her. I liked this Mr. Darcy better than Colin Firth. He seems deeper and bound, rather than just transforming from stiffness to relaxation. As a result his transformation into someone expressive and tender is much more satisfactory.

It got me thinking about romance fantasy in general. Elizabeth Bennet soundly refused Darcy’s first offer of marriage, yet he continued to love her. He went out of his way to redeem his mistakes and to make life better for people she cared about, some of whom he held in disdain. In the end she walks out in the foggy dawn and he comes toward her, his greatcoat billowing in the wind, striding quickly, his face anxious but resolved. He asks again if she’ll take him.

That’s the fantasy: that we can say no, be or look ugly, and the guy will keep loving. No matter what we do, he’ll never leave us or hate us. But it’s not true.

As I reflected on the movie I thought, “There’s no man I can think of who would be rejected as she rejected and continue to love her like that. Most would get defensive and angry, or take no for an answer and walk away. If they don’t take no for an answer, then they’re a stalker.” As I thought further I wondered where that fantasy began.

Then I realized.

It’s Jesus. No matter how much we push him away or walk away, he keeps loving and waiting. But he doesn’t push himself on us, rather he keeps making things better for us and for people around us, and he waits until we finally see him for who he really is. Then he lovingly looks at his beloved and asks again to be allowed to love.

November 29, 2005

Male vs Female Bonding

After a surprisingly enjoyable 12-day visit, my Dad flew home to Cincinnati yesterday.

On Friday, we built a sunburst arbor to top a floating trellis along our back fence. I’ve had the wood since August, but have been overwhelmed each time I tried to convert my drawn plan into cut wood. Dad’s done housing rehab for 27 years and showed me lots of great carpenter tricks. Put the 2x6’s in place on the corner posts and just draw the angles for the sunburst on the top edge, use old lipstick to figure out where to drill peg holes in the arbor, and bend a flexible piece of stripping to create the sunburst arch cut line. When we finished, Dad commented that this will be a wonderful memory for him: we confronted a woodpile and conquered it through ingenuity, cooperation, and brute strength.

While I deeply appreciated the help, for me it’s mostly something off my to-do list. I thought about how much guys seem to bond through shared events, whether in real life or in watching an event on television. Jrex and Dad kept discussing a fabulous football game they watched 2 years ago. For them that game counted as a bonding memory. For me the more meaningful memories from his visit are the conversations we had: what forgiveness looks like for him, our differing experiences of his mother and aunt, and memories of my Mom (his ‘beautiful wife Margaret’).

We visited family friends who now live in DC. On the drive home, Jrex worked on grant writing in the back seat. Dad and I started playing a game we used to do when I was little. At bedtime my brother, sister, and I picked three objects (trying to make them as different as possible). Then Dad wove them into a story that always included the three of us having an adventure. For the first story I selected, "an iron, a floating castle, and a cube". Dad told a story of me as a 4 year old playing in a stream behind Grossmama Heine's house. I used an iron bar I found to rescue a floating chess piece which I proudly displayed on a Rubix cube. It was fun to be reminded how creative my Dad can be and how much we crack each other up with verbal sparring. I'll treasure that memory. He's welcome to treasure the trellis.

November 25, 2005


I’ve seen a few other blogs with thanks lists and thought I’d snag the idea.

Things I’m thankful for that reveal how shallow I really am:
1. Muttola wakes Jrex at 5 am and leaves me alone.
2. Graham Crackers in Milk
3. Fun shoes
4. Thrift store treasures
5. Sunshine on winter days
6. Hugh Jackman, Matthew McConaughey, and Josh Lucas

Thanks from the deeper side of life
1. A husband I still like to talk with after 8 years
2. Not just one, but two best friends
3. A home built for hospitality
4. Jrex getting inspired to create an “Un-Thanksgiving” feast
5. A father who helped clean our house for the feast
6. Friends to enjoy the feast (and wash dishes!!!)
7. A brother and sister who are also friends
8. A dog who makes us laugh
9. Knowing how profoundly God loves me
10. That He keeps leading me/us to the next big thing.

November 22, 2005

Blog Insecurity

I admire blogs that pare events to their pithy core since it’s hard for me to find the shortest way to tell a story. One of my fears is of boring people (perhaps a related issue...). I often choose to be the person asking questions cause I know I’m not bored by them; but if they’re listening to me, there’s no guarantee. Every time I write a long entry I get scared that no one will ever read it. Then, lo and behold, no one comments, so it's obviously true. A proven fact. I’m boring and shouldn’t even bother telling stories or trying to connect myself with the world. But then I hear from random friends that they read the blog. My sister complains that I’m not updating it enough. I get emails that mention an entry. So in fear and trepidation, I keep writing. When will they all get sick of me and stop reading it?

Train that thing already!

This weekend my father and I visited my husband’s parents. Without my husband. I think this should earn me major bonus points in the daughter-in-law department!

Actually, it took a few years, but Mom K has really taken me to heart as one of her own children. My mother died 6 months after our wedding, so Jrex’s Mom has adopted my family. She loves to take care of my father and cook Korean food for him, she bought gifts for my sister’s baby, and she always asks how my brother is doing.

We arrived Friday night and Mom made us dinner before she and Dad K left for a wedding reception. Saturday, Dad and I went into Manhattan to go museum hopping. I left the dog with Jrex’s parents; terrified she would tear something apart or poop on their newly refinished floor. We got off the express bus that night and Jrex’s parents picked us up on the way to a Spanish restaurant for dinner. They said the dog had been fine, but I worried about her spazzing the three hours we were out. When we returned to the house, all was well. No poop piles, no torn bedding, and no chewed furniture. Phew.

That night J’s mom left to go pray at her church. The two Dads and I sat watching TV in the living room. Every time Dad K looked at the Mutt he had a sneering, disgusted look on his face. He kept telling me how wonderful his daughter’s dog is. When he tells Zsa Zsa to sit, she sits; if he tells her to stay, she stays. It’s very important to train a dog properly. He left out the part where Zsa Zsa is 12 years old and at this point wants nothing more from life than the chance to sit and stay. The Mutt is just over one year and we’ve had her for 2 months. She barely graduated from puppy kindergarten. Dad K decides to demonstrate how to control a dog. He sits stiffly on the edge of the couch and yells, “COME! Jada, COME!” In a moment that was of course shocking to him, she cowers behind my legs instead. My Dad starts urging her, “Jada, go to Dad K. Go, girl” I try to entice her over there. I go to get treats for him to use. He sneers at my treats. Without words he says, “Only sissies use treats to train their weak-minded animals”. He stands and points down at the dog, “Jada, SIT!” I try to do a subtle hand signal for her to obey, but he brushes me aside, and the dog runs to keep me between him and her. He finally huffs away toward his room leaving the three of us in disturbed silence. I lean over to my Dad, who has a shocked stare frozen to his face, “Dad, what are we going to do when we have ‘real’ children?” He shakes his head and shrugs helplessly.

November 16, 2005

DC photos

In the Smithsonian magazine's current issue on 35 Who've Made a Difference, they included a piece on Maya Lin, architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I love her work. Rather than cash in on her early success, she's chosen a less public path which integrates her interests in monuments, sculpture, texture, and meaning. I respect that she extensively researches a project in order to render a seemingly simple, yet profoundly right solution.

These are photos I took last year in DC with my climbing partner and friend. She's been sick lately and is no longer able to climb. We both hope it's temporary, but it's been 6 weeks now with no end in sight. She came to visit last night. I hadn't realized how much I missed her til then. It took 2 years to find someone with whom I could enjoy climbing. It's easy to find someone to belay me on the wall, but hard to find someone I enjoy as a person (who also kicks my butt in determination, and has a similar climbing ability and style). We never even got a chance to climb outside together. We've been cheated and it makes me really mad for both of us.

November 14, 2005


On Sunday, I went to church. After the sermon, our pastor asked if anyone wanted prayer. A homeless woman was sitting in the back and raised her hand. I went to pray with her. The whole time I prayed both of us wept. I got a glimpse of God's heart for her, his sadness for her, but also his love and delight in her all at once. Her prayer request was for 'a place'. When I went back to my seat I just felt so grateful for the many blessings I have. The fact that we could drop $70 for dinner (granted that's very excessive for us) the night before was mind-boggling for me.

Of course, after the service, the homeless woman told different stories to everyone in an attempt to get what she could out of the church. My pastor's wife asked me to go see if there was anything we should do. The woman had already told me that she's been without a place for 13 years. Growing up in inner-city Cincinnati has given me exposure to various homeless neighbors. On college break years ago, as I studied in the downtown library, a man came to my table and started telling me his sob story. "Edward, what are you doing?!" I exclaimed. He blinked and said, "Damn, girl! I used to play in your house!" I challenged him to go to my Dad's non-profit housing firm and do some odd jobs to get money. Shame-faced he started making excuses for why he just needed the $2 instead. Given experiences like that, I knew that 13 years without a place is a lifestyle choice. I asked my new homeless friend what resources were available for women here in Baltimore. As I'd assumed, she knew them backwards and forwards. She got around to asking me for money and I grinned at her, "I don't carry cash, you know how that goes." She looked back at me and I could tell that she knew that I knew the gig. She grinned back, "yeah". She wasn't ready to change, and sometimes love is just standing back and letting someone feel their need. I gave her a hug and we walked out together. She had a bag of vegetables, perhaps some cash, and a warm place to sit for the morning. It was all she was ready to receive.

November 10, 2005

Last Saturday Night

I've been married now for 8 1/2 years. My husband is my best friend and the person with whom I want to spend my free time. In the midst of all that's good there are areas in our relationship where we are both waiting. It's hard to describe without getting further into things than I'm ready to do in this context. In any case, I did this collage on the theme of waiting in the context of our marriage. The two figures on either side are from Andrew Wyeth's work. One is called 'Adrift', the other is called 'Spring'.

November 9, 2005

It all works out in the end

Dinner: Shrimp Bisque
Forgotten: My husband doesn't enjoy cream based soups
Conversation: Great
Decision: I get to go to Seattle. Yippeee!!!
Lecture: As expected. It's totally valid that he's been resenting how much time he's had to spend with the dog, especially since his experiments aren't working and he's frustrated by life in general. The fact that he moonlights (oncology doc for an overnight on a hospital floor) once a month means that any extra money in our budget comes, quite literally, from his blood, sweat, and tears.
So, $100 for a week of doggie day care + travel expenses + him stuck at home doing experiments he hates = slightly resentful husband.
Christmas Presents: Mine will be going to Seattle. My family will receive my presence. Jrex gets whatever he wants!

November 8, 2005

This is so embarrassing

Before I get to that, I have to fill in the back story. I've campaigned for a dog for 5 years or so. House burglarized? "Hey, honey, a dog's a great deterrent!" Gaining winter weight? "Hey, hon, if I had a dog, it would force me to exercise."

The counter arguments: "You go away on lots of trips, and God Forbid I have to pick up any dog poop." Also, "given the cyclical nature of the requests, I don't think you really want a dog and if we ever have a kid, you might ignore the dog."

When he was scheduled to go to New Orleans with a Hopkins team (cancelled thanks to some FEMA mismanagment), I took advantage, "Honey, you'll be gone for two weeks, can I get a dog?" He caved (Thank YOU, dear!!).

Eighty-five percent of the time he's glad to have her. (The other 15 percent is due to Muttola's hatred of the TV. Anytime we try to watch, she pulls at our clothes, tears up the room, and has a hissy fit. If we sit upstairs and read, she's fine. Good dog! My other unsuccessful campaign has been to eradicate the TV...) I love the grin he gets when he watches her doing something goofy.

Skip to my side of the family and the Christmas plans. Add in a husband who works 7 days a week doing cancer/mouse research. Who can't leave his experiments 'cause taking a couple days off means ending all experiments (which take 2 months to get going) and then starting over when he returns. Mix in a sister in Seattle with a 6 month old baby, a retired father who loves going to Seattle, and a brother who lives there as well. Christmas in Seattle, right?!

"This is what I told you would happen when we got the dog. You have to take responsibilities seriously, you can't just go galivanting around the country and leave me to put her in a crate all day."

Which leads to the embarrassing part of the story.

I'm looking into doggie day care.

I'm listening to earnest owners discuss the merits of their establishments, "we aren't a warehouse for dogs, we have a 1/7 ratio and pay our workers over $7 an hour, we have webcams set up so you can check how your dog is doing, and we only accept certain dogs. Your dog is lovely, I can see that she would be no problem." (Muttola was bored enough to just sit on the lady's foot. I didn't want to tell of her transformation when thrust into a room full of soft toys to destroy in 5 minutes or less.)

I'm new to this dog-parent business, but last time I checked, she IS just a dog. Yeah, I love her and enjoy her, but webcams? Some of these people are crazy about their pets. My big fear is when I irrevocably cross the line and join them. Yes I'm looking into an agility class, but only cause we're both bored with the sit/stay/good girl deal. I don't feed her human food, she's not allowed on any furniture, and a folded up blanket is just fine for her bed (am I protesting too much?).

Tonight we're supposed to discuss the issue. It's a classic ploy, but I'll try making him a great dinner first!

If labrador + poodle = labradoodle, and cocker spaniel + poodle = cockapoo, what is whippet + shepherd? A Whipperd? A Shephet? (Is this the part where I've crossed the line and joined the crazy pet owners?)

November 2, 2005

The dog was no help

Went out to take night photos at the local art school. Brought Muttola. Night Photos. Dim Light. Tendency to Blur. Steady hand . . . steady . . . JOLT from the dog reaching the end of the leash. In the end we found our rhythm and had some fun.

She snuck back into the picture. Attention Slut.

Even at night you can tell that no bleach or scrub brush has touched this stoop since the yuppy invasion.

My favorite shot of the night.

November 1, 2005

Baltimore Blend

Last night we hosted our 2nd Annual Halloween Open Yard Party for the people on our street. Last year I transformed the shaded side of the house into a 17 x 40 foot outdoor entertainment area. (The gravel saga is for another day, but here's the quote, Hubby in a shocked tone as he stares at the pile in our front yard: "12 tons of gravel!! I thought you meant 2 tons!") Fire Bowl (Target, $100), smoky wood from trimmed trees ($0), s'mores ($10), no one catching fire (priceless).

At one point in the conversation, R, a black truck driver is discussing Chico sticks with S, a black speech therapist, while A, a white Verizon manager, and M, a black teacher swap stoop-cleaning stories. In Baltimore, famous for row homes, the front steps, or stoop, are made from white marble. A grew up in Greektown, and M grew up in East Baltimore, but each of them had to go out once a month with bleach and a scrub brush to clean those steps til they shone. Jrex is the only Asian on the street. In the midst of a discussion of spoon bread and cooking fads, I mentioned that my Mom loved cooking with her wok and we had chopstick eating contests growing up. That launched a whole discussion about how hard they were to use and did Jrex grow up using them. Before that moment, it felt like they'd all thought of him as just another white guy. All of a sudden he transformed into an exotic stranger: he grew up eating with chopsticks! The exotic concept for me was the image of a Saturday morning ritual where doors pour forth little kids with scrub brushes to kneel before marble stoops.

Our street is also home to a plumber, a special ed teacher, a postman, a couple nurse practitioners, a building contractor, an oncologist, a graphic designer (me!), and a Renaissance instrument maker. When I pass out invitations to events, I use it as an excuse to knock on neighbors doors to meet them. I've had tours of many of the houses on the street. I LOVE to see how people use their spaces, so I always enjoy excuses for that. I grew up on a block with an electric company, an abandoned building, an old people's home, two schools, and a church, so I never really had neighbors. I love being the nosy woman down the street... Watch out, it's all a ploy to satisfy my desire to collect random factoids and stories! It's not just your imagination, you ARE being used in my nefarious plot.

Perhaps that's the fun of reading people's blogs: a chance to collect random neighbors all over the world.

October 27, 2005

October 26, 2005

I'm trying to grow it out

I walked into a new salon last week. When I first moved to Baltimore, my boss recommended a hairdresser. He was a marvelous craftsman, but always cut my hair too short. I had to blow dry it and flip it out so I wouldn't look like an old lady. I LOVED how he did highlights (yes, I've become one of them, I even wear makeup on occasion), but I finally tired of the old lady haircuts and started asking other people for referrals. A sequence of hairdressers kept cutting horrible layers into my super fine, slightly wavy hair. I became a blow dryer slave or risked looking like I'd spent a night breakdancing on my head.

I told the new woman I was tired of getting my hair cut off, tired of blow-drying my hair, maybe we should just trim it a little, but if she had any suggestions I welcomed them. She said, "I've got the perfect style for you. You'll be able to air dry it and you'll look like the artist that you are." That sounded great. Now you should know that when I take off my glasses, I'm completely blind. I have to trust the hairdresser is obeying my every whim. Then the glasses go back on and I have to lie, "Looks great, thanks!" Somehow this woman took, "I'm tired of my hair being too short" as permission for this:

When I left I called my husband to warn him, "Honey, I look like an Elf. Not like from Lord of the Rings, like from a kid's book." The morning after the haircut, I woke up, brushed it back from my face and went downstairs, "Look, hon, I'm my brother". My brother is a handsome guy, I like him, but I'd rather not look like him! Yesterday at work I cracked up my co-worker when I walked in and morosely announced, "I look like a Beatle".

The sad truth though is I think I like the haircut.

October 24, 2005


I've noticed men tend to use clever nicknames on their blogs more than do women. Why is that? Not-for-Profit-Dad calls his wife MOWA (Minister of Wifely Affairs), MetroDad calls his wife BossLady and his baby is Peanut. Dog nicknames are easy: Muttola, Kid, and La Spaza. Any suggestions for what to call the hubby?

October 20, 2005

Because it's a slow day at work

Took one of those On-line IQ tests today []. I like their description. I think I've started to memorize their test though, and that's why it says I have extraordinary math skills!!! The part about patterns seems to be true though.

Your Intellectual Type is Visionary Philosopher. This means you are highly intelligent and have a powerful mix of skills and insight that can be applied in a variety of different ways. Like Plato, your exceptional math and verbal skills make you very adept at explaining things to others — and at anticipating and predicting patterns.

October 18, 2005

Fair Trade

My big triumph last night was discovering an object for which Jada would forgo her Kong frisbee. Normally she chases it, snatches it mid roll, looks back at me and begins thrashing the frisbee hard enough to break it's neck. Then she waits for me to chase her. Look, Dog, the theory is that you Bring It over here where I'm standing. Good girl. No, Bring It Back over HERE. Now Drop It. No, not Thrash It within an Inch of It's Life, Drop It! Well, yesterday she ran outside with her rawhide bone and seems to be equally drawn to chasing the bone or the frisbee. We do 3 or 4 rounds before she gets bored. I hold up the trade object. She cocks her head, "Hmm.... if you want me to have it, that means giving up THIS toy. Well, ok, fine." She comes to me, drops the object and turns ready to hunt down the next one. My previous dog never got the hang of grabbing the frisbee in motion; for Jada, I roll it on the ground, but she snags it mid roll every time (well, unless I aim badly and it hits the base of the treehouse. In which case she's quick to stop, thrash it for stopping, then trot it back to me). I'm excited by the prospect of a dog that might be able to do mid-air acrobatics. The black dog. The red bandana. The mid-air leap. Triumph and Acclaim! My hippie dreams may be fulfilled after all!!

I started reading "So Your Dog Isn't Lassie" last night. I stayed up til midnight; it was better than a novel. Finally, the mystery of Muttola's brain explained! Apparently we have a highly intellegent, independent, prey driven dog. We have to show her that we are the Alphas: No, I get to go through the door first, I get to eat first, I get to groom you whenever I want, I get to decide how long we play. We have to engage her creatively so she chooses to please us. Unlike most dogs, if we disapprove of her behavior, she'll just shrug and thrash the frisbee anyway thank-you-very-much. But at least I have hope and help for my training my future frisbee dog. Cause I'll look fairly silly at the dog park if I always have to alternate the rawhide bone between the frisbee throws.

October 17, 2005

Busy Weekend

Western Maryland. If you go expecting quaint, lovely farmland, you'll have a great weekend. If you believe the websites and go expecting 'the highest point in Maryland, the third highest waterfall, acres of virgin timber, hikes along a scenic river' and let your expectations rise, well, you might be a bit underwhelmed. If you also instruct your 'hiking partners' not to bring cotton clothing and to bring daypacks for extra layers and food for vigorous hiking, you may not only be underwhelmed, you may look like a super-intense hiking fool. The highest point was 3,360 feet and was a 1 mile hike up to a picnic table overlooking rolling farmland. The waterfall was lovely, but was encased by boardwalk trails and old folk in white tennis shoes. The virgin timber contained slow-growing, fairly slender hemlocks that just looked like lovely old pine trees without much underbrush. The best part for me was while my two companions journaled by the water, I found a nearby cliff and did some close to the ground rock-climbing. I miss climbing outside!

We stayed in a cozy 1940's log cabin with a wood stove, fully functional kitchen and bathroom, and comfortable beds. I'm hoping to go back in the winter with expectations properly adjusted and do some cross-country skiing. The parade was part of a Garrett County "Autumn Glory Festival". While munching on kettle corn and funnel cake we gleefully watched marching bands, Shriners in little cars, and "Red-Hat Brigades" (ladies over 50) from nearby towns and counties. I grew up watching fireworks more often than parades, but one of my friends was a small town girl and told us great stories about her years dancing in the local December parade (a typical Minnesota tradition)

I drove out with two friends from church. One of them, Stephanie, has ambitions to solo hike the Appalachian trail. She's also the one who only owns jeans and tennis shoes. I recommended she start by buying some hiking boots. At the end of the weekend, Gretchen turned to me and said, "I used to think I was an outdoor person, but after spending the weekend with you I've realized, I'm not." How did I go from being a girl who couldn't sleep if there were crickets outside the tent, to this?! It's all my husband's fault. (thanks, babe!)

October 13, 2005

Dog's Life

She looks peaceful now. Don't be lulled. At 4 pm she wakes up and begins to attack her chew toys and anything else I toss into her den. Shredded across the floor are the remains of yesterday's cardboard tube.

I love playing with my camera's slow sync flash. However, I don't think Jada appreciates it . . .

October 11, 2005

Explaining II

OTRgirl. There's a wonderful band named Over-the-Rhine. I'm not named for them. Rather, the band is named for my inner-city neighborhood in Cincinnati. I've moved a few times since then, and now have a house with plants and a lawn to mow, but growing up I was in a row house with a cement backyard. Each floor had three rooms in 'shotgun' format (stand in the front and shoot straight to the back) and a bathroom. I vowed to never be someone who lived a clueless life in the burbs. I'm trying not to be clueless, and I'm two blocks within the city limits, but 'never say never'...

Looking at me, no one can see the scrawny, tangle-haired kid with 1/4 inch callouses. The girl who loved to read on the stoop and wave at passing cars. Who walked four blocks to church and answered "Amy" to men who asked, "Yo, slim, what's your name?". Who was friends with the trucker and his wife across the street. Who grew up learning to corn-row her doll's hair. My father says we kids are bilingual because we can speak the street slang of our neighborhood, or the educated lingo of our college prep high school.

Over the Rhine. Protests at City Hall and the Board of Ed, sit-ins and walk outs. Advocating for change. Steel Drum Band practice, and swim team at the neighborhood pool. Walking to Music Hall and sneaking into the orchestra section to see the Dance Theater of Harlem. Leading tours for volunteers at my Dad's non-profit housing firm. The Drop-In-Center. Losses: godfather, godbrother, Sonny, Bob, Betina, Buddy, Mom. Bludgeoned, shot, Diabetes, Heart-Attack, Suicide, shot, Cancer.

It's at the center, but no longer the total identity. Over the Rhine.

October 10, 2005


A sojourn is a temporary stay or a brief period of residence. My mother loved the idea of being 'sojourners', people who will only be here for a short time. This process of recording where I am on the journey, is what I call sojournering. Something like journaling, something like travel mementos, and most of all a recognition that I can't take any person, home, or event for granted; it's all a gift.

This whole writing into the void is a bit weird. I interviewed my Mom during college. I had to do 20 hours of interviews and then write it up for a literary journalism class. Every time I turned on the stupid tape recorder she began to s..l...o...w d...o...w...n and En-un-ci-ate everything. It drove me nuts! I feel like that as I'm trying to figure out how to do this. While I mean every word I wrote in the first paragraph, it's my English essay voice.

I'm full of questions and impatience as I start this: Who am I writing to and why should anyone care? Isn't my life busy enough without adding one more thing on a 'to do' list? Yet I've mostly lost the time to journal. Here at work my dog sleeps quietly under my desk (I LOVE my bosses!), but at home she's ready to play and can't stand to see me sitting around on the couch. This becomes a way to reclaim the need to process my life. Plus it means I won't have to copy email text to send to people. Now I can geekily say, "Just check my blog".

Of course then I'll have to spell out the title . . . and explain that I made up a word.