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.