February 24, 2006

Reason to have a kid

So they can grow up and I can get them one of these shirts.

I’m Tired, People! Good tired, but Tired.

Link here to find out how your name will be defined in the dictionary. I entered my proper name (well, the nickname version that everyone calls me vs. the full, flowery version that only one person ever called me, and he turned out to be a sexual harasser. The flowery name resulted in “like in nature to a train-riding hobo”).

“Benevolent to a fault”. Let’s disregard the fact that each time you redo the ‘test’ you get something equally flattering: sexually stunning and visually addictive were the next two results.

Benevolent to a fault fits the last 36 hours.

I left work last night in search of a showerhead. I called my impending house guest, found out she was still an hour up the road and scooted up to Lowe’s. The only had one brass version. (Can I just say that I’ve always been the silver girl, even when gold was in style? It HURT me to pass all the simple, elegant silver fixtures and ask for the gold. I felt like a bad romance writer doomed to take bubble baths while contemplating my next smutty novel.) And they were, of course, out of stock. He called his girlfriend at the store across town to verify they had one in stock. He offered to go pick it up for me and have it there the next day. I know the offer was completely altruistic, but I needed the stupid thing now. So, I sped home, dropped off the dog, picked up my friend, (who’d just driven 6 hours) and drove half way to NYC for a stupid (did I mention it’s gold?) showerhead. Dinner at Chick Fil’A. Home to chat. Well, she and I chattered while Jrex stared bleary-eyed at his laptop.

Thursday I left the dog at the house with her. She visited another Baltimore friend while I went to work. After work I met with two people from church to do a counseling session for one of them. As I drove home after grocery shopping and dropping the counselee off, another friend called. I walk in the house, dragging grocery bags while listening sympathetically on the cell phone. My house guest (Let’s call her Little Sis) had fed the dog (love her!). She put away food. I’m still on the phone. Little Sis goes into the living room to read while I’m on the phone another 45 minutes. Had it been a light chat, I would have called her back later, but no, it’s another discussion of childhood pain, going to counseling, healing, and dealing with life. Don't get me wrong, I love those conversations, but it was 11 PM. We finally hung up and I ended up chatting with Little Sis 'til 1 AM.

Jrex was in lab all night working on his presentation for lab meeting. He arrived home at 6:30 am to sleep for an hour. At 7 Muttola demanded her morning ritual of licking him into consciousness. I figured 6 hours of sleep beats a single hour so I got up to entertain her and let my poor hubby rest.

Downstairs, I finally swept the house. Did I mention that Little Sis has really bad allergies, and we have a dog? Did you notice that I didn’t mention that in why I needed to sweep the house? Have I told you that I’m really bad at remembering little facty details? I’ll remember the emotional conversation: how you felt when your Dad said you were lazy and what you did as a result. But not key life details: you love the color purple, you hate mushrooms, or pet hair equals death. When Little Sis was breaking out in hives as we chatted at 12:30 am, I thought, “oh yeah, maybe sweeping should be moved back onto the to-do list!”

House swept, I sit on the couch to read, journal, and ease into the day. The phone rings. Who the heck is calling me at 8 am?!!! I run to grab the phone so it won’t wake up Little Sis or Jrex. It’s a friend who’s living overseas. She’s in a country where any discussion of the Big Man Upstairs might get her killed. But she needs to talk about some differences she’s having with her teammates. I say, “OK. Let’s call them #1, #2, and #3. Not your teammates, your Teammate. Get it?” She does. So we talk about God the Father as #1, Jesus as #2 and the Holy Spirit as #3. (I know it’s theologically incorrect to have a ranking system, but I was tired.) I’ve never played religious spies before; Star Wars, yes, Cops and Robbers, I’ll be the robber, but ‘they only want to talk to #1 and I want to talk about #3’ was never on the play list! Obviously, I was happy to hear from her and give her some reasons to laugh in the midst of her situation.

Got off the phone with her and conferred with Jrex about some hard stuff in his life. Chatted with Little Sis then ran off to work.

I do love all these talks, but, phew! That’s a whole lot of personal interaction, even for an extrovert. It would be better if I knew I had a day of nothingness coming up, but I don’t see one for a while.

Do you do days of nothingness? (I’m sure all Moms, Dads, teachers and lab junkies out there are training their bazookas on my charming, inquisitive face.) For me it’s a day where I know that no one is coming over, I don’t have to look good, change out of my pajamas, answer the phone, or make any food. I can do art; I can sleep, or take a bath and give myself a pedicure. Somehow in college I did that once a week. Now, I’m lucky if it’s three or four times annually. I’m sure that once kids arrive, it won’t happen again for 20 years or so. Sigh. How do you live without that?

PS. In case you’re wondering, otr girl = “a person who falls into an outhouse and dies”

February 22, 2006

I'm in 'go mode'

Meaning that despite my butt growing fatter by the minute in this chair, my mind is racing around town doing errands. I have a house guest arriving tonight and staying through Sunday. She leaves, we breathe for 24 hours, then the in-laws arrive Monday. Mom K insists that she's coming so she can cook for us and just relax. Not go anywhere, no need to plan, just relax. For her it will be a vacation cause she can skip her nightly prayer meetings and hang out. For me, not so much. But I'm far more relaxed about it than I've ever been. Maybe not all the way into 'just relax' mode, but certainly not in "OH GOD, Jrex, YOUR PARENTS ARE COMING AND I'M GOING TO DIE" mode. I'm looking forward to them coming (really, I mean it). We are, however, expecting her to arrive with a car full of Chinese medicine "just in case" it might help us produce the grandchild they've anticipated for 8 years.

In any case, for tonight, in the next hour and a half (approx) I need to figure out what I'm cooking all weekend, go shopping for groceries, go to the hardware store and get a replacement shower head (during my cleaning frenzy this morning I seem to have taken the last legs out of the current one), and get home in time to sweep all the dog hair from every corner in the house. Not cause I need to impress this visitor, but because it's been driving me crazy for a while now. (Um, yeah, Jrex, meant to call you about the shower head, but it's been a busy day!)

I'm aware that I just use guests as an arbitrary deadline. It gives me incentive for all the little jobs I can't be bothered with the rest of the time. But I wasn't expecting the sudden arrival of the showerhead deadline. The annoying factor is that the bathroom was decorated in brass fixtures. Which. aren't. in. style. And therefore not. in. stock. I wanted to wait a year or two for fashions to shift!

I can feel 'go mode' even as I type. Hope you're breathing easier than I am!

February 20, 2006

Havin a good time in West Virginia

I just returned from a church retreat where each person was assigned a small group. During the small group time we had to do a photo scavenger hunt. Our group was stacked with three art school students (one wants to be a photographer) and a group leader who's a professional designer (me). Out of the 10 categories, here’s a sampling:

1. A very good time to claim leadership/camera owner status.

2. We had to take a glamour shot. Rather than go nuts with makeup, we decided to try for the wet tissue look. One woman told me of a trick she learned in Japan: breath on the lens to make a fuzzy shot. Great idea, but very hard to control the results!

3. We had to make a sculpture with the theme of Beauty from objects found on the ground.

4. Our dramatic rendition of Saul on the road to Damascus. In the story he’s been knocked off his horse and temporarily blinded by a bright white light.

5. Proof that God redeems ALL things. Women’s groups had to do the Spice Girls, men ‘N Sync. I worked three years in a group home for girls. One of them owned the Spice Girls video so I knew the names and appropriate looks for each member of the group. From the left: Scary Spice, Sporty Spice, Baby Spice, and Posh Spice.

When I told Jrex the story he shook his head. “I don’t know, hon. Redeeming the Spice Girls shows very poor taste on God’s part.”

February 17, 2006

Three things I an NOT allowed to Appropriate

While waiting for a friend at a store, I started chatting with two African-American women who worked there. They chat with each other about colleges.

Woman 1 “Yeah, I’m going to College A. It’s ok.”
Woman 2 “I went there for a little while. Then I tried College B. But, you know, those HBCs are just not as good as white schools. Underfunded, always struggling. I had to leave and go to College C. College A is really bad though. You should get out of there.”
I interject: “HBC?”
Woman 2: “Historically Black College.”
Me: “So, that’s a phrase I probably shouldn’t start using, right?
Women start laughing. “Definitely not.”

This one occurred during dinner with two Korean friends. Bossy came here when she was little and has no accent. Naive came when she was 10 and has a rather thick accent, but is comfortable with American culture and fashion.

Bossy: “You know that guy; he’s the one who’s really FOBBY.”
Naive: “He’s not that bad.”
Bossy: “Well, of course you think that, you’re FOBBY yourself!”
Naive: “But not like him. I'm not that bad. He wears FOBBY clothes.”
I interrupt: “Um… what’s FOBBY?”
Bossy: “Oh, Fresh Off the Boat.”

Gay friend was bemoaning the need to go to a plate decorating party to celebrate a friend’s civil union. His friends wanted people to come to a pottery glazing thing and glaze a plate for them. My friend needed ideas for how to design his plate. I’ve learned with various design clients that you never offer a suggestion without collecting more data.

Him: “I know them. If they don’t like it, they won’t use it. They’ve only invited artistic friends so the pressure is on!”
Me: “Well, have you been to their house? What’s the d├ęcor like?”
Him: (snorts) “They’re Lesbians. It’s flannel.”

February 15, 2006

“Pray Hard”

I read a bunch of Valentine’s Day blogs today. I felt like I needed to address the issue, but really we didn’t do much. I had dog training class, Jrex got home late. No card, no flowers, no overt romance. But in the end, we had a really lovely evening talking, laughing and praying together. He told me that being with me felt like being in an ‘oasis in the desert’. We’re supposed to do the nice dinner/sap fest tonight or tomorrow.

We discussed various cultural differences, particularly around prayer. When Jrex and I were first married, his mom would often tell me that we needed to “pray hard”-- for his studies/board exams/residency applications/etc. I would nod, a bit confused. Sure, I’ll pray. I had no idea what she meant by praying hard. Pray more often? Pray while pacing? Pray while punching a wall?

I now go to a church full of 1 ½, and 2nd generation Koreans. The first time I went to a group prayer meeting I almost lost my mind. Everyone prayed out loud at the same time. I had to stick my fingers in my ears so I could figure out what to pray. It was confusing, overwhelming, and really frustrating. After a few more sessions I gradually acclimated. Now I'm part of an interesting symphony where I pray aloud, yet can simultaneously hear what others pray. Different voices rise or fall, and different themes emerge. Every so often, the whole group shouts in prayer. The noise gets overwhelming, but if I jump in and shout along, it’s also very cathartic. I finally got it: “pray hard”. Yell at the top of your lungs for 15-30 minutes. Yeah, it’s hard all right! But oddly fun.

Another cross-cultural adjustment was the constant, rhythmic interjection of God’s titles. In Korean language prayer, phrases are often prefaced with “Hananim Abaji” (Lord Father). When Koreans pray in English, they often begin and end sentences with “Lord Father God”. If you want to try it out, just pray fast and loud: “Lord Father God we ask you to be here, Lord Father God. We thank you, Lord Father God, for what you are doing and for who you are, Lord Father God.” Continue along those lines for the next 5-10 minutes. (Perhaps why it's more efficient to pray out loud at the same time!)

It’s another example of how Koreans do “we” not “I”. It’s the whole group praying together, feeling the same thing at the same time. It’s not an individual trying to formulate impressive words for the group. There’s no need to feel shy or self-conscious. Best of all, everyone participates equally since the prayer time isn’t dominated by one or two people.

While I’ve learned to appreciate that form of prayer, I miss hearing the different ways that people express themselves to God. My childhood church was an inner city Lutheran congregation with a mix of German & Appalachian immigrants, middle-class whites, and Southern blacks. I savored the time of open prayer. Every Sunday, Ms. Smithy Calhoun would stand up and pray, “Dear Kind Heavenly Father, I want to thank you kindly for waking me up in my right mind today. Thank you for getting me out of bed and getting me to church. Thank you for all the goodness you’ve shown us. Please guide the work of our hands and lead us safely home in the end.” Rhythmic, comforting, and safe.

Incidentally, the idea of thanking God for waking up in one’s right mind is one I’ve only heard in black prayers. I wonder about the history of it. Does it go back to slave times when that may have been one of the few things to be grateful for? There’s something so beautiful in being thankful for every little thing. It’s true. I have all my fingers, my toes, and my right mind. I can go to work. I can love the people around me. There’s much to be thankful for.

I’ve been exposed to many different kinds of churches and faith expressions. I’m truly grateful for the increased emotional/spiritual vocabulary that gives me. Sometimes I bang on my African drum and yell like a Korean. Other times I thank God for my many blessings. And, at times, I sit in silence.

February 13, 2006

Let it snow let it snow let it snow

18 inches in 24 hours shuts a ‘southern’ city like Baltimore down for the day. No church. No meetings. I water colored and calligraphied my day away. I’ll post pics later.

I think this guy was a boy scout. Is there anything else you need for the snow?

We love our street. Everyone comes out around 10 am and shovels and chats. One guy (who leaves early) owns a snowplow, so our small street is often plowed before the main street. The mutt insisted on supervising the day’s activity.

Our birdhouse is becoming more liberal every day. . .

February 12, 2006

Party of Three

Last weekend three of my friends turned 30. They did a ‘three’ themed party. Guests were to bring gifts (to be judged in a contest, no less) with the theme of three. The party was from 3-6 pm on Saturday.

When I stopped off to get three cheeses (practical and boring), I was distracted by a sale at the Dutch Connection. I bought three each of three kinds of flowers for each friend. As much as possible I matched flowers to personality. The florist kindly, at no additional charge, whipped my odd assortment into a lovely arrangement. At the party we had to stand up and explain our gifts. I think my explanation is what won me one of the prizes: “These cute, self-contained flowers are for M, the yellow roses with red tips (for friendship and passion) are D, and the fun pink ones are for K”. The self-contained guy tried to joke about it, but I think he was a little hurt. I tried to re-emphasize the ‘cute’ part, but I doubt it sank in…

I thought the best gift came from the art students. When they heard the theme, they thought of three blind mice. So, one of them sacrificed her gloves and made mice dangling from a carving knife. The other two brought blindfolds and cheese (so it’s a good thing I switched my gift!!)

February 10, 2006

Au Revoir

I hate to leave for the weekend with my previous downer post! But I don't have a succint point to make or any coherent thoughts at the moment. Sorry for the ramble:

Tonight we're meeting some friends for dinner at the James Joyce pub. As a restaurant a bit gimmicky, including the hostess with the Irish accent, but the food's supposed to be good. I'm picking them up at 7. It's 5 pm.

I still have to finish some calligraphy for a wedding shower gift (due tonight for a shower I can't attend tomorrow). Why can't I be the person who just gives them the stupid frame? No, I have to go to Target and get the spinny 5x7 frame so they can put a photo on one side and I can do calligraphy for the other. Stupid over achiever...

I will likely do the RW Emerson quote, "The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it." But in the search for that one, I found one by Socrates that cracked me up, "By all means marry; if you get a good spouse, you'll be happy. If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher." I doubt that newlyweds would find that funny! Jrex laughed, too. We joked about what you get if you marry a philosopher from the get go...

My bosses are gone (to Wyoming to ski). They took a total of 8 weeks vacation last year! But it's hard to get upset because when they are gone I can get real design work done. I gave my co-worker the day off (and covered for him, "he's getting lunch"). Not because I'm a great altruist, but because he talks ALOT. It's hard to get any design work done when he's here. I needed to design the look for a spring fundraising event, a trade show graphic, and banners for a museum today. No distractions (except for 20 phone calls and three couriers, but who's counting?) was a Good Thing.

Signing off for the weekend. Cheers.

February 8, 2006

Life is lived in the gray zone

As a kid I would hear or read Bible stories and judge the characters for their weakness. “I would never doubt God, I would never rebel, I would never deny that I knew Him.” As I get older life has shifted into far grayer territory.

One character I actually despised. She seemed whiny, petty, pushy, impatient and jealous. If she’d just waited for God, the whole world would be different. Sarai, Sarah. Didn’t trust God enough to wait for a child. Pushed to get what she wanted. Then pushed to get rid of the result.

The obvious catch to this Faith business is that when you’re in the middle you don’t know the ending. Maybe you’re a misguided fool. Maybe you heard wrong. Maybe you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time and nothing is going to work. Maybe your friends are right: you need to grab life with both hands and stop waiting for God/events to change your circumstances. I start to doubt. I thrash around trying to figure out where to grab hold. Eventually I decide I’d rather grab God and I let go of all the fear and I return to waiting. Unfortunately, the cycle repeats frequently. Perhaps there is a reason that the verse I keep returning to is, "Be still (cease striving) and know that I am God." Perhaps this time I will listen.

I can no longer despise Sarah. She waited far longer and far more patiently than I.

February 7, 2006


One of the best things about being in a culture or a race, but not of it, is the ability to choose what to appropriate. If I don’t get it right, well, “I’m just a white girl.”

I can braid, corn-row, straighten, wrap, and finger-wave better than most white people. But, when my gorgeous Nigerian-English friend asked if I could re-do her microbraids, “I’m just a white girl”.

I own a djembe and have a great time playing along to CD’s in my house, but if it came to anything public . . .

I can clap on beat and sing alto in a gospel choir, but when it comes to double-time syncopation . . .

I can handle the ropes for double-dutch, but when it's time to jump in . . .

I can make kim chee, dduk gook, myulchi, gim bop, kalbi and bulghogi, but when it comes to dinner every night and a spick and span house . . .

My favorite appropriation of all is a title. When my sister had her baby we discussed what to have M call me. Growing up in Cincinnati we have a killer nasal ‘a’. College friends made me repeat where I grew up just to hear me pronounce the ‘a’. I have to gulp to give, “Albany” a low ‘a’. I dreaded being trapped in ‘Ant’-land. However, the other pronunciation makes me think the butler will be in to announce dinner at any moment. “Hello, dahling, I’m your AUNT. Won’t we just have a divhine time togetha? Ah see you have a smudge on yoah nose. Go have the nanny swipe that, deah.”

Koreans save the day by having a great name for me. “Imo”. Easy to pronounce. Soothing to the ear. Sadly, Jrex doesn’t have a great title. Because he’s the uncle by marriage not by blood, he is “Imo Abaji” (Aunt Father). So, ironically, he’ll likely be called ‘Uncle’. White Imo. Korean Uncle. Appropriations all around.

Because it's easier than cleaning my house

Same concept as before, just brighter. (OK. A lot brighter) It's an easier solution to my boredom at work than say, trying a new career in architecture.

(I wish I could get new furniture this cheaply!)

February 3, 2006

Dog Days

DustBuster for Dog hair. $15
Washing rug. $1

Never Being Alone. Priceless.


"Are we done, yet? Lady, I've got dead pigeons to eat, SUVs to chase, and my boyfriend to bark at across the alley. Just do a quick lick and let's get out of here."


We bought 15 easy dog tricks. She mocked our vain attempts. We tried food. She didn't care. We resorted to So Your Dog's Not Lassie and learned how to bend her to our will. "Most people forget to praise the dog when it's quiet, which means it only gets attention when it acts out."

"Good, Dead Dog."

Mom Advice, Part II

Remembered another tidbit on my drive in today.

I was a sophomore in college. Dating a guy who was talking marriage (hi, J.O.!!). Rather than argue or try to persuade me we were too young, Mom just said,

"Promise me to wait one year after college before you get married. Otherwise you go from the protective environment of home to the protective environment of school to the protective environment of marriage. [and yes, she really talked like that!] You need time to find out who you are on your own and know that you are competent without someone else to take care of you."

It all worked out in the end. J.O. and I are still friends, but I married a different J three years after I graduated. Yes, ma'am, you were right. It's good to know I can make it alone.

One of the random things I'm very proud of is that all my ex-boyfriends, and Jrex's ex-girlfriend were at our wedding!

February 2, 2006

Real Simple here I come?

Real Simple features a section where readers offer snippets of wisdom. The question to send in for future issues is “What’s your favorite piece of advice from your Mother?”

In almost any given situation I find myself saying, “My Mom always said…” and now I can’t remember much!! So, if you knew Margaret H. Towe and you want to remind me, please do!

Here’s a random sampling:

“The things that irritate you in another person are often things you don’t like about yourself.”

[During my punk rock phase when my hair was dyed black and red] “You have a great sense of style. You’re very striking.”

[To a teenager reading a romance novel in the car] “Honey, you know it’s not always like that, right? Most of the time relationships are just ordinary, but good. You don’t have fireworks all the time.”

[When my Dad and I were impatient with Jrex in the midst of him trying to navigate the perilous road to marrying a white girl] “Jack, you cannot judge him! He’s doing the best he knows to do and he needs our support. Young lady, when you get mad at him, who are you helping?”

[early in my marriage when I wanted her to take my side as I complained he didn’t do verbal affirmation] “Even if he can’t reciprocate yet, keep giving him love in the way you hope to receive later. He needs to hear it and it’s better to invest in your dream for marriage than fret about what’s not there yet.”

[You’ve probably figured out that she liked Jrex A LOT!!]

It wasn’t specific advice, but her dying (from cancer, 8 years ago) was one of the greatest examples of HOW to live that I’ve ever experienced. She knew she was going home, and she was excited. We could see her spirit get too big for the frail body in the bed. She died with joy, peace, and a sense of humor. When her best friend compared her (and her nose tube) to an elephant turtle, she just grinned wryly and shook her head. At one point she looked down at her emaciated legs and laughed, “All my life I wanted legs like this!” When people came to visit, she knew they needed to say goodbye and was gracious and loving in giving them room to do that. She comforted US!

I wanted to find out what she’d have told me about life in her 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. I miss you, Mom.

February 1, 2006

And Ain't I a Woman?

In honor of some comments after my last post, here's the famous Sojourner Truth speech.

Sojourner Truth was an ex-slave who became a leading figure in the abolitionist and women's rights movements. My blog name 'sojournering' is partially in her honor.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain't I A Woman?
Delivered 1851
Women's Convention, Akron, Ohio

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say