April 28, 2006

With-A-Squish: Muddy

Following jo(e)’s suggestion, here’s what I wrote in five minutes about mud:

It’s raining. I go and ask Mom if we can play outside. She looks out the window for a few minutes, “There’s no thunder or lightening. Go ahead.” Gleefully my brother, sister and I clamber into our swimsuits and run out the door. Instantly our hair is plastered to our sunburned foreheads. The wind blows sheets of rain around the corner from 14th St. We squat in the rain gutter and race branches down the drain. After a couple minutes we dash across the black asphalt, still warm from the morning’s sun, to the playing field next to the high school. We never have to mow a lawn, yet half a block from our house, we have a whole city block of grass, bushes, sand, and mud. We run up the little hill onto the baseball diamond. In the mud at the edges we build dams to stall the rivulets carving miniature gorges in the dirt. Eventually, all our efforts fail and the water wins. We’re barefoot. Our summer calluses are thick enough to pull glass shards out of dead skin without any blood. Like Hobbits, we wander carefree. I love standing in the mud and flexing my toes. Squish. Squish. Squish. On the way back home we walk through the gutter water. Clean, happy and hungry we tumble into the house. Our footprints strewn wet across the living room carpet, we run back to the kitchen for fresh hot chocolate.

Biggest Reason Moving would Suck

April 27, 2006

It was time

Email today from BossOne. I'd seen her looking sad and sent an email asking if she was ok.
Yes, thank you. Wavering in a decision-making time, that is all. Buying TalkerBoy a computer means I am committed to making this Business a continuing, ongoing entity. Can I? Should I? Do I want to? How good can we make it? What the heck am I doing here?

You know, the existential stuff about being/doing/having.

I needed a pep talk and I mostly need to talk to BossTwo about this stuff. It is easy to complain about him but harder to have a real conversation about everything. I have to start making decisions without him and it makes me nervous.

Thanks for asking. Plus, I like it when we are all really busy and I don't feel busy today.
You are the BEST! Thanks a lot for asking.


After that, it only seemed fair that she know all the facts on my end. I told her we don't know anything for certain, but we might have to move in August. She'd sensed I wouldn't be here much longer, without me saying anything. She asked lots of questions about what I want, what Jrex wants. She understood why I hadn't wanted to tell her 'til I knew. If we do have to move, I hope I get another boss that nurtures me as much as she has.

By the way, this limbo is killing me!! Our hammock broke, do we buy a new one? Wait and see. How crazy do I have to be for the next few weeks to get our house ready in case we have to sell? Best not to wait. How much do I invest in the people around me knowing I might have to leave? Best not to withdraw. I feel like an obnoxious teenager with my Mustang in neutral reving and reving the engine.

I'm just a lemming. Really.

Saw this one over at jo(e). And here and here. Sing with me now...

ABC meme

Accent: I absorb the accent where I live, though I maintain a nasal midwestern ‘a’.

Booze: Newcastle Brown. Cosmopolitans. Wine with dinner

Chore I hate: Dusting. So fussy. So old lady. So necessary with the number of books we hoard plus a shedding dog.

Dog or Cat: If my husband didn’t stop breathing around cats, I would have a cat. I like their independence and low-maintenance. That said, I love our dog. Who is like a cat: she cleans herself, tries to clean us, stretches every time she gets up, and is good at weird contortions while sleeping.

Essential Electronics: I’m a designer with distracting co-workers so I’m going to have to pick laptop for $4000, Alex.

Favorite Cologne: Ick. Smelly clouds of doom. Two I can tolerate: Mom wore Beautiful. I like Old Spice on a guy.

Gold or Silver: Silver. Gold makes me look jaundiced.

Hometown: Cincinnati. Which meant when I arrived at college in 1989 everyone sang, “WKRP in Cin-cin-nnnaaaatti!” to me.

Insomnia: Not a problem. I love me some sleep.

Job Title: Best Wife Ever. Right, honey? Honey? Otherwise, Decorator Girl. Seriously. I have two sets of business cards. One says “Senior Designer”, but I give it to boring clients. I was named by an old curmudgeon of a client who said to my boss, “You and your decorator girl come over here and tell me what to do with my restaurant.”

Kids: Nope. Always wanted a Benneton family but various circumstances have conspired to leave us childless so far. Sigh.

Living Arrangements: One man, one dog, one house, two cars. Fabulous hammock under a weeping cherry tree.

Most admirable traits: Listening, maintaining lots of great friendships, ability to laugh.

Number of Sexual Partners: Hmm….Technically one.

Overnight Hospital Stays: None for me, thanks!

Phobias: I’m fine with spiders, bugs, heights, open spaces, people, and the dark. Not crazy about closed in spaces or slugs.

Quote: "Damn the torpedos, full-steam ahead!"

Religion: Christian. Having a father who ran a non-profit meant I grew up sampling basically every flavor: Catholic, Episcopal, Messianic Jews, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, and on and on. Our base church was an inner city, charismatic Lutheran church with a Catholic nun as head of counseling.

Siblings: one of each. Both younger and better looking.

Time I wake up: Some days 4 AM, but usually 8 or so.

Unusual Talent or Skill: Cling like a monkey to a rock wall?

Vegetable I love: any Jrex steams and tosses with his homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

Worst Habit: Chewing my nails. Talking too much? Oh, and being inconsiderate and self-absorbed.

X-rays: Just the teeth and nothing but the teeth. Except for my head, neck, and shoulder after a bike wreck. But I was fine so it doesn’t count.

Yummy foods I make: They all sound boring: tuna melts, pizza, and salads. But I spice them all up and use cheese to great effect.

Zodiac Sign: Someone who was way into Signs said I was the epitome of a Pisces; she was disturbed to find out I'm a Leo by the calendar.

April 26, 2006

Heaven. I'm in Heaven.

Enter a song or artist you like and this site creates an online stream of related music (mostly excellent selections, though Ashlee Simpson was a surprise appearance in my "U2" stream . . .).

No more '80s music torture! My office mate has been trying to make me talk. I resist you, playa'!

April 25, 2006

Courtesy and Culture

Sunday afternoon I switched plans and hung out with two friends. One, M., is Nigerian-English, the other, S., moved here from Korea as an 8 year old. I didn't call Jrex till after the fact. My cell phone died a week ago, I didn’t have his memorized, and for some reason (DBM), I didn’t think of paging him. An hour after I’d been due to arrive home, I called to say I was on my way. I got in trouble**. As deserved.

One of our themes lately is that I need to be more considerate, to slow down and put myself in someone else’s shoes. I realized a couple things after our discussion. One, right after we married, I tried doing things my Mom’s way. She always complained when Dad was late or didn’t call her, so I complained. Jrex became quite good at calling to let me know when plans changed or he was running late. Two, I have a double standard. If he’s late and I’m waiting, I’m pissy, if I’m delayed, the reasons are valid and he shouldn’t be upset. Which is obviously crappy on my part.

In any culture not calling was discourteous, but what intrigued me was my Korean friend’s reaction. I emailed both women to let them know how it turned out. When I said I’d forgotten to call Jrex, M and I thought it was no big deal. S told me later she was horrified! I told her about Jrex wanting to feel considered. She emailed me about it and then called me later that night. That’s been a HUGE theme for her, esp. in friendships with Caucasians. In Korean culture, as I’ve learned the hard way, I’m supposed to call my MIL before and after every trip. I should call to say I’ve arrived home after a visit. If I’m shopping, I should be thinking of her and buying things for her and Dad. I should send cards with checks in them for every birthday, anniversary, or special occasion. For S, those things are second nature, but none of her white friends reciprocate. It’s been hard for her not to take it personally. For a long time she assumed white friends were cold, disinterested, or just didn’t like her. I know that for Jrex consideration looks different than that, but for S, it was like I’d set off a light in her head.

*The picture is from this site which features experiences (for English or Japanese speakers) in authentic Korean homes! Learn to bow! Learn to wear a hanbok. Do they teach courtesy?
**It should be noted that Jrex wasn't so much concerned with me being a little late. He's not that petty. It was that he'd tried to call me cause he was running late (due to the lack of cell phone he had no way to contact me), he was concerned for how long the dog had been home alone, and we were expecting a delivery/vistor between 6 and 7. So he had to curtail experiments, rush home, I wasn't there and he had no idea where I was, if anything had happened to me, etc. It was a potent cocktail that could have been avoided if I'd called to check in.

I know every friendship and marriage is, in fact, cross-cultural. The challenge is to learn to articulate your cultural (or just familial) assumptions. Being from different races or nations just make it more obvious there are differences. What about you, have you hit the consideration wall? Experienced (or done) things that seemed completely rude, but were in fact just culturally different?

April 24, 2006


Read a great book last Sunday when I was pouting. I was the author’s peer advisor at Hampshire. Granted that just involved one meeting followed by an outing to Northampton, but still!

Saturday we watched this movie. It was a great reminder that the key to aging gracefully is to embrace your age, to be who you ARE not who you were.

Two years ago I dragged Jrex with me to see Marcel Marceau. When I was six, Mom took me to see Marceau. The show in Baltimore was a pale shadow of that memory. As a 60-something man he’d lost his power. He could have been fantastic if he’d focused on new pieces, but he tried to cling to the past and it didn’t work.

In the movie, Robert Redford plays an old curmudgeon. Since he wasn’t trying to be the older-man-seducing-a-younger-woman, the loss of his looks didn’t matter. In the end, his craggy, wrinkled face became handsome. I wasn’t comparing him to his younger self, I just enjoyed who he was in the movie. In contrast when I watch Harrison Ford or Sly Stallone still trying to be action heroes it seems pitiful. (Rocky and Rambo are in the pipeline for reappearances!) Don't fear aging. Just don't fight it either.

*Truth be told, I’ve never seen a Stallone movie, the trailers are enough!

If you ever have a chance to help a friend move, and that friend wants to ‘pay you back’ in food, just say yes! Sunday, our friend made us dinner three (4?) out of six. She’s a fantastic cook and baker. It’s phenomenal to have someone deliver food hot to your doorstep. Moroccan Chickpea Stew, homemade flatbread, and carrot ‘cake’ bread for dessert. As I told her, we’ll help her move again any time!

And finally, because truth is stranger than fiction, someone emailed me this site.

April 21, 2006

Evidence of Trauma

As true geeks, we keep Sherlocking Muttola’s life before we adopted her. What happened to make her the sweet, yet quirky dog we enjoy?

Known Facts
1. She was kept in a back yard with other dogs.
2. At 11 months when we adopted her, she’d already had a litter of puppies. Based on her reaction to getting her butt sniffed, and the anxious/threatening bark she does at bigger male dogs, I call her my 'little rape victim'.

The Evidence
1. She’s great with adults and children, but growls at most 12-15 year old boys.
2. She barks intensely at anyone walking through the alley behind our yard. If they are on a bike she sounds like an aneurysm is imminent. Yet when she meets the same person in front of the house, she wags and licks them to death.
3. The first time I watered the plants with the garden hose she ran into the house, up the stairs and hid under our bed for hours.

And last night? We were in the back yard. As I brushed out the endless supply last of her winter fur, we heard a really loud pop. It sounded like one of those cap guns I played with as a kid. She started shaking and moved warily into the house. Even the arrival home of her Man barely distracted her. She wouldn’t play games and wouldn't go back outside until morning.

I’m picturing a couple neighborhood boys who enjoyed tormenting back yard dogs? I was so mad last night. I wanted to go find those kids and 'school them'.

April 20, 2006


One of the current challenges I’m dealing with is to ‘be still’. To let myself be where I’m at, even if that means I have anger or crappy emotions I don’t want to deal with. Last night I read an article that put words to that struggle. It was a piece in Weavings about the Grunwald altarpiece. The altarpiece was commissioned by a hospital for victims of St. Antony’s Fire. St. Antony’s Fire was the Middle Ages term for a bacterial infection featuring “intestines eaten up by the force of St. Antony’s Fire, with ravaged limbs, blackened like charcoal”. The author meditated on pain and how we respond to it.

“…hope is not the same thing as optimism or positive thinking…Is hope possible apart from an honest reckoning with one’s own deepest vulnerability?... These are not places most of us would choose to enter, at least not willingly. There is a natural and understandable desire to protect ourselves, to find places to dwell that are not so vulnerable, so painful. But this is not always either possible or advisable. The willingness to stay put, to refrain from fleeing, often marks the first gesture of openness toward facing what we would rather not face—our own incompleteness and brokenness, even our despair”

“To face this darkness, our own as well as the darkness that afflicts others and that hovers continuously over our world, is perhaps our greatest challenge. It may well be the only path toward redemption.”

“[In the altarpiece] is a haunting image of redemptive love—much of whose power comes from its refusal to evade or look away from the harsh realities of suffering and loss.”

The temptation of St. Antony. In the bottom left is a person suffering with St. Antony's Fire.

April 18, 2006

The Other "Normal"

Easter Sunday morning I was pouting. After being with my friends from upstate New York I didn’t want to go to my church here in Baltimore. My friends from Rochester are my age or older (for the most part). Even if they aren’t older in years, they have a mature perspective and are emotionally articulate. After church there, the snippet conversations are about struggles with God, with cancer, with parents, with life. At my current church my closest friend is my pastor’s wife. Obviously we rarely get a chance to catch up on Sundays. Most of my conversations are with people younger in years and idealistic in perspective. Often our talks consist of what classes/rotations they are in and how busy/stressed they are.

For me ‘pouting’ looked like novel reading, moving slowly and leaving the house five minutes before church started. It’s a 20-minute drive, minimum. I even drove the long way. It’s ‘longer’ due to a very slow traffic light. As I sat there, pouting, a little body darted in front of my car and stood by my passenger window. It was Smart Boy. I often pick him up for church. His single mother works two jobs and doesn’t come to church. I unrolled the window, “Did you want a ride?” He nodded expectantly and said, “I tried to call you but the phone wasn’t working. My Mom was just about to take me down on the bus.” I looked over and waved at the woman smiling from the bus stop. “Come on, get in. Does she need a ride?” I asked. “No, she’s going to work, she was just going to take me downtown first. This will save her some time.”

On the way, I asked about his week. He’d had spring break but didn’t do much. The day he was to go stay at his Dad’s house, his Dad went to jail. I asked if Smart Boy knew why he went to jail. “Yeah. He was disciplining my [half] brothers. You know how you get a welt when someone disciplines you? Well, I guess they weren’t used to that and they had some scratches, so their Mom called the police.”

There was too much there for a quick response, so I asked a different question, “How did you feel when you found out you couldn’t go visit him?”

“I went in the living room and started crying on the couch. I told my Mom I didn’t want to talk about it right then. I guess though that I’m lucky. I’ve been disappointed so often that I’m used to it. I don’t need to throw things or break things the way some people do. Plus, if you have a hard childhood, it means you’ll grow up to be a celebrity. Like Oprah.”

I agreed, “Yeah, especially if you take the hard things that have happened to you and use them to help others. You can also turn that hurt in on yourself, that’s when people start drinking or using drugs. But Oprah decided to help other people out and I know you’d be good at that, too.”

We chatted more and every other sentence he dropped a matter-of-fact statement that hurt to hear. No one in his class at school has a Dad at home, he hardly ever sees his Dad, about his cousins and how they broke things after their Dad died and the long hours his Mom has to work. In his world, it's all normal. Normal to get welts. Normal to be alone. Normal to be disappointed.

Last weekend I hiked with a friend. During the walk she explained she doubted God’s existence since He’d never answered her prayers when she was younger. Her question is one I’ve often wondered, where is God when kids are being hurt? I was humbled that in a very small way on Sunday, God used my pout to make me late and let me be a tangible God moment for Smart Boy. I know he needs a lot more than that, but being at the stop light at the exact right moment, having a longer light than usual, and his quick eyes and feet made both of us glad.

I Believe in Vampires*

The amazing thing about the modern age is that they call ahead to schedule appointments.

“Ms. Girl, we’re calling because we really need your rare blood type. In addition you have special blood that’s great for babies. Please come in at your earliest possible convenience.” At this point I give blood just to make the phone calls stop for 3 months!

One of the myths in Hollywood movies is that they only want the blood of young, beautiful people. Every time I show up, I’m the youngest person in the room.

Seriously, people, call your local Red Cross and get in there to give a blood donation. Maybe if enough of us are doing that, they won’t call me on a weekly basis!

*Don’t sue me! Just getting your attention. They are very nice about sucking your blood.

April 13, 2006

Cause you never know . . .

. . . when someone might be trying to figure out which gang you're in.


Someone once asked Dorothy Parker to use the word ‘horticulture’ in a sentence. She immediately quipped, “You can lead a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think.”

Sometimes clients are like that.

Without going into potentially job threatening territory let me just say that people who work for large, bureaucratic agencies must LIKE cubicles, boxes, and rules! They prefer to run in place: hamsters whose wheels give them a sense of safety. “Ah, another day, another 50 mile trot. Excellent!”

April 12, 2006

Quiet Evening at home

In the meme yesterday I mentioned hand-shoveling 12 tons of gravel. Our gravel-filled side yard is now our outdoor dining room. We have two comfy chairs, a fire pit from Target, and a small table. Last night I made dinner while Jrex got to play with fire. (His love of chemistry and fire should have been combined through a career in pyrotechnics, but that’s not high on the list of acceptable career options for a 2nd generation Korean.)

As we sat and talked, the poor dog kept trying to stay near us, which meant contorting herself into semi-comfortable positions in the gravel. She could have moved five feet to a nice bed of soft grass, but no, must be as. close. as. possible. (At night she shimmies her way under the bed. We won’t let her on the bed, so to be near us she burrows beneath.)

One of the rituals I’m enjoying is that we often discuss my latest blog entry. Last night he was confused by the whole “tag” concept. I explained how certain ideas or questionnaires start filtering around various blogs. Someone who knows you’re a reader tags you to fill in the blanks for your own version. He wondered who Snickolett was; he knew the other two I’d tagged. (Thinker he doesn’t read your blog, just knows it exists!)

I explained Snickollet is a soon to be mother of twins whose husband is fighting cancer. “Her life is more full of highs and lows all at once than anyone I know.” He shook his head, “I’ve seen worse.” (He’s an oncologist though currently working in a bio-chem lab.) He had a 34 year-old cancer patient admitted for a bowel obstruction. While he was in the hospital his wife came in to give birth just down the hall. They went “home” to a hospice.

There’s a quote I appreciate, “The world is more full of weeping than we can understand.” Many of my friends think I’m being morbid with that quote, but I’m not. Somehow I find it helpful. After my life was touched by death, it helped to think of all the other people who have endured as much or worse. It helped to feel part of a community, no matter how horrible the ‘joining’ fee. The worst part about becoming blog friends is that it’s impossible to help in any tangible way. All we have are words. And they are often the last thing one needs… I wish I could run over to Weigook Saram's house on a rainy day and play with her little girl while she takes a break. I want health and wholeness for Snickolett's husband. I want to make them food, or help paint the babies' room. What fragile yet vital bridges we build: stories, sympathy, care.

April 10, 2006

Group Rhythms

The retreat this past weekend was intended for people to work on emotional and spiritual healing. In the large group we all gather to share, to worship, and to jam on drums and rhythm instruments. We also break out into small groups of three to four people. One of the ‘exercises’ is for each small group to create a group rhythm that we share at the end of the retreat.

I’ve been a group facilitator the last three years. Depending on the group, I may or may not get to deal with my stuff in the small group context. Each year God has met me, but it hasn’t always happened through my small group. This year I had an awesome group: Dancer Girl, Thinker, and Mentor Man. In our first session together we just dove off the deep end and kept going from there.

This year I’ve been challenged over and over again by Psalm 46. The Psalm starts with “Though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…” and ends with “Cease striving (Be Still) and know that I am God.” The inviation is to find rest and stillness in the midst of chaos. Yet, something has been in the way. During the retreat I realized I’ve been mad at God for a long time. When I’m mad at someone I have nothing to say unless and until we discuss the conflict and work through it. I haven’t wanted to deal with the anger so I've avoided much time alone with God. I’ve seen people close to me get lost in mazes of anger at circumstances and at God. I’m scared of getting lost. I’m scared of losing my safe place. But in not being real with the emotion I’ve lost that safe place anyway. My group was great at letting me work through that anger and get to a place of peace.

Our group rhythm? We stood up shoulder to shoulder in a square and leaned back into each other. Mutual support and rest.


One of my best friends was my roommate during the retreat. Except for my husband, she’s the first best friend I’ve ever had. I’ve had lots of amazing friends, but rarely had the ‘total package’. She and I share the spiritual side, we’re both art people, same age, similar taste in movies and hiking, similar taste in food/shoes/clothes. Along with our other friend, Jrex calls us the ‘triplets’.

She’s in a new relationship for the first time since we became friends. He was also at the retreat. I thought it might be hard, and in some ways it was. In the last few months she’s been totally swamped in grad school, a department head for her school district, and in this new relationship. As a result our main point of contact has been ‘errand chats’ where we call each other while driving places. Twenty-minute snippets that maintain contact but are just never enough for either of us. It was frustrating to have to ‘share’ her with one more person. Frustrating that he now has a higher priority. Necessary for them, but hard for me.


As mentioned previously, I was excited about my 7 hour road trip to upstate New York because I found two books on tape to read. The Mermaid Chair may well be great, but it's read by a woman with a VERY soothing Southern accent, so no good for a road trip. The Historian worked ok for a while, but the author is heavy-handed with forebodings and melodrama so it was hard to get into. As usual Weigook Saram is right...

Fortunately I had Trace as a back up. That got me home safely.

April 6, 2006

Muttola Monologue

OK, Mamacita, it’s time. I’ve tried being passive aggressive, clearly not effective. I saw the red suitcase of impending loneliness this morning. I saw the car loaded. I figured if I stuck close enough to make you trip over me there was no way for you to forget me. I even tried the pitiful Bambi look. Did it work? No. Didn’t you learn from jury duty that a bored CAP (I like to think of myself as a Canine American Princess) is a dangerous CAP?

I started small, a few serving utensils, it only escalates from here, lady. While I’m speaking of utensils, gotta say ‘thanks’ for being a lazy dishwasher. The things you leave in the sink, especially ones used to sauté Korean beef? Excellent choices, Mamacita. Speaking of Korean food reminds me: you have a horrible sense of humor. When I get excited about Korean food, it’s clearly VERY wrong to joke that I’m lucky not to be a Korean dog! How could you make a bad comment about my Man, my comrades and his People? Rude and in poor taste, Mamacita.

Unlike you, my Man clearly loves me. One day when you were gone, he left me some Korean fish in a packet. For future reference though, just putting it in the food bowl would have been fine. I know you like to keep me busy. Give me things to think about, yada yada yada. But, really, I had to surf the counter, plus that packet took me a while to open. I don’t think I should have to work that hard just for a snack.

Oh, by the way, he’s MY Man. I don’t know why you keep acting possessive around him. You should know that anytime you get too close to him, I’ll be there. Any time. Any where. Even if you won’t let me onto the bed with you (and that’s a whole ‘nother conversation!), I’ll be there. Staring and whining high pitched enough to break glass.

So remember, you leave me home alone, you pay. I scoff at the magazines you line up on the couch to keep me off. I haven’t done it yet, but there are shoes I can access, there’s a bed to sleep on, and I could happily release the feathers from their confinement in your bed cover. You’ve been warned.

April 5, 2006


While Jrex was a 2nd year resident his intern was an attractive blond woman. (No I’m not about to make a stupid joke, relax) One night he came home exclaiming, “She’s normally a very intelligent woman, but every so often she just has a dizzy blond moment!”

That day he finally figured out a word to use for her, and for me. We all have them. I find ‘brain fart’ to be a distasteful term. It implies you blanked or forgot something. DBM, on the other hand, encompasses more. The moment when you ask or do the totally stupid thing; when you leave your house keys at the hardware store to get copies made, then walk away without bringing them, and the store closes before you're ready to leave work (hypothetically speaking, of course), or when you leave a full garbage bag loose in the kitchen and it proves to be too much temptation for your scavenger dog. Fortunately for me, he doesn’t remember my stupid questions! I have at least 4 a week or so; if his memory were better I’d be buried alive in the snorts and guffaws from his corner of the marriage. Fortunately for you, I can remember two that OTHER people did recently.

At a group outing on Friday, Jrex was explaining to another couple his obsession interest in roasting his own coffee. The husband asked, “So you just put green beans in and roast them to get the coffee?” His wife gasped in disbelief, “Is THAT where coffee comes from?”

This morning my father called my work phone twice. The first time BossOne answered. When Dad got on the phone he literally asked, “Was that BossOne?” I love that my Dad reads my blog! But that wasn’t the DBM (hi, Dad! Aren’t you glad I keep this somewhat anonymous? Well, except for your other two children, and Mom’s best friend, and anyone you’ve told to read this…) The second time he called, BossTwo answered. BossTwo came to tell me I had a call, “I think it’s your Dad, he sounds really confused.” Dad gets on the phone, “How come your bosses keep answering your cell phone?” I laughed, “Because it’s my work number you're calling.”


What about you? Any DBMs to report? Any of mine that you want to remind me of? Go ahead, make my day.

April 4, 2006

The Love Fest

Book Love

I leave Thursday to drive 8 hours into the wilds of upstate New York for an annual retreat. Eight. Hours. Last night I stopped by the library for a 'best of the worst' audio book. Usually it's a choice between young adult fiction and mystery/thriller. I was excited to find not just one, but two books on my ‘to-read’ list!

The Mermaid Chair

The Historian


Car Love

While pumping gas, a dignified older man at the next pump turns and asks wistfully, “Do you like your car?”
I nod, “I love my Subaru.”
He nods slowly, “I loovvved my Subaru. Enjoy it while you can.” He turned back to a mini-van stuffed with car seats.
The next morning as I’m getting out of my car downtown a black Mercedes convertible parks behind me. A white-haired businessman gets out, “Do you like your car?”
I nod, “I love it.”
He grins, “It’s my winter car. I like driving it better than the Mercedes. It handles better, it’s more comfortable. It’s such a great car.”

Phew! That just saved me $50,000!

April 3, 2006

I've been hiding the truth

You Are Lara Croft

"Everything lost is meant to be found."

April 2, 2006

That’s MaDAMN Forewoman to you!

Warning: Brain Dump ahead, expect long reading times.

Baltimore’s extreme inefficiency strikes again
After rushing into jury duty late at 10:10 AM, I should not have been surprised that we sat in the jury room for another 2 hours and 20 minutes while they ‘finished up’ some other cases. That they didn’t know about at 6 pm the night before??!!

Damn Korean shopkeepers
In that 2-hour time slot we did a lot of chatting and laughing. The jury was mostly black women, three white women, two black men, and two white men. For a while TV shows, specifically soap operas and American Idol provided a common ground for most. Then someone brought up crimes experienced and we were off. One woman, Short-and-Sassy, relayed this story:

“I was at the neighborhood store. While I was in there I saw two guys start putting on masks. I said ‘oh no I am NOT going to be part of this’ and I started easing toward the door. One of those boys put a gun up TO my temple and said, ‘Where you goin’, bitch? Get back in the store.’ So they started robbing everyone in the store and those Damn Koreans just stood up there behind their glass and did NOTHING. I gave them my money and cards. Then I saw some man start arguing that he wasn’t going to give up his cheap ass watch and I said that’s it. I eased out the door and ran down the street to find a police officer. I brought him back and by the time we got back wasn’t nobody there. So then what? Them Koreans said they weren’t going to get involved! So I had to go to the station and try to identify those boys.”

Which set off a series of short diatribes about how Korean shopkeepers get liquor licenses before black folk and how wrong that was. They quickly moved on to how blacks need to support each other by shopping in each other’s stores. “The Chinese all go to each other’s stores. We need to stick together more.” I had no idea what to say in the midst of all the Asian prejudice. The sad truth is that it’s what they experienced so really, what could I say? They aren’t all like that? They would agree on the surface, but nothing deeper would change. Jrex said I should mention that my FIL had been held up by black folk, did that mean they would do something like that? Too bad he wasn’t there.
Cops are Liars

The whole case was as follows. Two plainclothes detectives in an unmarked car saw a man walking up the street in a notorious drug infested area. When the guy looked up and saw them, his whole demeanor changed, then he turned and threw 10 jumbo crack vials into a sewer. The police officers arrested him, went down the manhole and recovered the vials. Because they were eyewitnesses, they didn’t fingerprint the vials. The defense’s entire case depended on finding holes in the detectives' stories. This incident was from October 2003. It all seemed open and shut until we went out to deliberate. There were two counts. One was for possession; the other was possession with intent to distribute. The fact that he had 10 vials and no drug paraphernalia seemed to indicate he was dealing. I hadn’t realized that most dealers use a ‘stash’, a place in plain sight where they hide the drugs until they make a transaction. It could be a McDonald’s bag, an old tire, a shoe, etc. They didn’t find a stash. They didn’t see anyone else on the street as a lookout, or as a prospective buyer. In my mind they hadn’t proved his intent to distribute, but possession seemed clear.

As ‘forewoman’ I got to run the proceedings! Yikes. Short-and-Sassy had done this twice before; she recommended we write down our ‘vote’ so it would start anonymously. We did. I thought it would be fairly close, but five people said not guilty on both counts. We then went around the table and stated, one at a time, our reasons for our opinion. The surprising thing to me is it didn’t break down along racial lines. Frankly I was grateful both police officers were African-American or I’m sure it would have been worse. The two white men said not guilty on both. They said that the discrepancies in the detective’s stories meant they could have been mistaken. They didn’t think they’d lied outright, but could imagine scenarios where the detectives were mistaken. One woman changed her mind and said he was guilty of possession. Most people changed and said not guilty for intent.

One of the white men, let’s call him Former Hippie, mentioned he’d driven by the house on his way home. He started pointing out all the flaws in the detectives’ statements. His opinion reinforced two of the other not guilty people. Short and Sassy was one of them. She mentioned that her brother, 13 years ago, was searched by the cops and when they didn’t find drugs on him, they broke his hand. I tried to say we need to base this on the evidence in this case, but she was unwilling to condemn a boy based on the word of two police officers.

On my end, I remember working in a residential treatment center where I had to physically restrain girls if they tried to harm themselves, someone else, or destroy property. I have very clear memories of certain restraints and crisis incidents with the kids. I don’t remember what other people did very clearly, but I remember what I did, and I remember what the kid did. Most of the time I could tell you what the weather was like. I can tell you what the child wore especially if it was part of the restraint, but not otherwise. The detectives’ discrepancies made sense to me. They each had clear memories of their own actions, but not of each other’s at the time. One remembered a stop sign at the corner, but he wasn’t driving, the driver didn’t mention a stop sign. In fact there was no stop sign. What was common to their stories was that the guy turned away and threw vials toward a sewer drain. Former Hippy felt you could drive a truck through the lies. He had more than just a reasonable doubt. He could imagine all sorts of scenarios that let the kid off the hook. For example, he turned around to tie his shoelace, saw the vials and pushed them into the sewer. (!) Former Hippie didn’t want to hurt someone’s life based on the words of the two detectives. I told him if he was that concerned he should go mentor some kids on that street and save people from getting into this. (He didn’t like that much) In the end for the three remaining Not Guilty people, it came down to whether you could trust a policeman or not. They weren’t budging and no amount of evidence was going to sway them.

After two hours of shouting, me sending a note that we were deadlocked, more shouting, being told to lower our voices, more shouting, people crying because they can’t afford to miss any more work or pay for day care, Former Hippy getting entrenched and thriving as the one person standing against the Man, one of the women suddenly stood up and pointed at Former Hippy, “You went to the house! You’re not allowed to DO that!” More shouting. In the midst of the shouting, I realized she was right! I wrote a note, “The juror most against the guilty verdict went by the house on his way home last night. Is that relevant?” I didn’t ask or tell anyone about the note, I just walked out and handed it to the sheriff. When I came back in Short-and-Sassy asked me what I’d done. I told her what I’d written and she said, “You shouldn’t have said he was against the verdict!” She was right. That wasn’t relevant and gave the lawyers too much info.

They called us back to court right away. The judge said, “Madam Forewoman, you sent us two notes tonight. The first we didn’t respond to because it was much too early for that, the second is problematic. Is it your considered opinion that despite more time you would still be unable to reach an agreement?” I said, “Yes, Your Honor.” He asked the rest of the jury and they all nodded. Then he read my note and said, “I gave specific instructions that none of you were to conduct your own investigations but to base your decision on the evidence heard in this court. One of you took it upon yourself to disobey that instruction. As a result we must declare this a mistrial and set another date to hear the case with a new jury.”

Why would a man who seemed so smart be dumb enough to go to the scene (which is down a narrow one way street and on no one’s way to anywhere)? How do juries get past a deadlock? We might have had to come back the next day and do that all day?!

All that for $200 worth of crack. No wonder it’s so hard to change this city.