July 28, 2006

You say it's your birthday...

Yeah, that's right. It's my birthday, too! I'm a grand old thirty-five today.

For celebrating, Jrex reserved seats at a super fancy restaurant for us and my Dad. The only reason we can afford this is the check that comes from my MIL for my birthday. Two days ago, I realized I'd rather spend that check going to New York to shop with my MIL for interview clothes. As a designer, I have to look cutting edge, see? Somehow that reflects how up-to-date I am on trends and therefore reflects my caliber as designer. Ugh. I'm telling you, shorts and a baseball cap should be fine, right?

This sent Jrex into a mild panic. Not necessarily about the shopping trip but for what to do to celebrate. The restaurant is easy, this woman who's saying, "As long as I can have an adventure with you and Dad, I don't care" is an unknown commodity.

But I figured it out. We're going to go duckpin bowling then come home to dress up and go listen to jazz. Both are things I've wanted to do since moving here.

I'm off to the lanes, bay-bee!!

July 26, 2006

5x5 Meme

Weigook Saram tagged me. She said I could modify it, so instead of five items in my freezer, car, closet and nightstand…

5 Projects to Finish
  • Thank you cards for people who helped me get to Ireland
  • Bookmark-thank-you-mementos (owed since New Years)
  • Little wooden boy I started carving over a year ago
  • Collage – based on common consent, I have to paint the wing
  • On-Line Portfolio so I can apply for design jobs

5 Items in the Closet
  • Me! Ha-ha. Just kidding. I do have a funny story about being the hot chick at a lesbian picnic, but that will have to wait…(You’ve been warned: don’t let your hairdresser cut your hair too short if you already have an androgynous face)
  • Three capes. Two opera capes owned by my mother. I’ll never wear them but can’t give them away. One that she made for me after we watched Ladyhawke.
  • One suede and fur coat. The collar and cuffs are rabbit fur. My mother-in-law loves me and she has great taste. When you’re a passionate PC teenager, don’t say ‘never’…
  • Evil bitch torture shoes. My affectionate name for the black stilettos I bought to wear for interviews and gala events.
  • His and Hers Hanboks. A wedding present from my husband’s aunt in Korea.

5 Items on the Nightstand
  • Evil Sudoku puzzles. Just started this week. Big mistake.
  • Bible. I like to pick a book and read through very slowly scribbling questions and notes all over the margins. I use an old study Bible whose commentary drove me crazy; that way I don’t mind defacing the whole thing.
  • Analog Alarm clock set 30 minutes fast. I’m too sleepy in the morning to calculate the right time, it makes me freak out and wake up.
  • Earplugs. My new addiction. I love the sensory depravation.
  • Cup full of pencils. To aid with items one and two.

5 Favorite Things
  • Free museums in DC.
  • Going to a movie alone. Total escapism.
  • Puttering around camp with my husband in the Adirondacks. The hard work is done. We make hot cocoa or tea and lean back and watch the stars. Then stay up all night scaring the bear away from our food bag. But that’s another story…
  • Playing in water: streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans.
  • Playing on rocks.

5 People I tag
Angie, Deirdre, Aimee, Harmless Drudge, and Lizard (if you want to or have time or energy for such things…). I would've tagged Snickollet or Linda, but one has newborn twins and the other just moved and is about to have a baby!

July 25, 2006

Adventure 2

Yesterday Dad and I drove to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I’d read about a driving tour of the places where Harriet Tubman was a slave. Until reading that piece I thought she’d escaped from the deep south, Georgia or something. The fact that she went back over and over to rescue other slaves confused me. When I found out she’d been enslaved in Dorchester County and walked ‘only’ forty miles to freedom it became much more conceivable how she was ‘Moses’ for her people and helped over 300 slaves escape north.

We drove over to check it out. As a glutton for adventure, I also brought the Mutt. In some ways it was a great preview of the cross-country drive we’re going to have to make with her in September. We kept having to consider the dog in the equation. Park in the shade and walk (so we could leave her in the car with all the windows open), ask the restaurant if we can bring a dog to the outside tables. Get creative with pulling a tiny outdoor table over to a spot with a bit of shade. Escort the dog around the big deck with everyone dining in splendor. Accidentally step on Muttola’s foot. Cause a yelp that makes all eyes turn. Pet the dog. Get her to sit under the table. Once situated, we ate soft-shell crab sandwiches (yum!).

The Underground Railroad museum was closed. Instead we found the visitor center there in Cambridge, which had info for the driving tour. Dad also wanted to rent a sailboat, but all we could find was a kayak rental place. The woman said we could bring the dog. If we rented a tandem kayak then Muttola could sit between my legs as I paddled. To my amazement, it worked! We didn’t capsize and she didn’t jump out of the boat. On the other hand, we didn’t see much wildlife either. All the calls of “Muttola, stay! Sit! Good girl. Dad, paddle right! Hard right!” meant none of the bald eagles ventured forth and we ‘only’ saw two blue heron.

As for the Tubman tour, as with many things in life, if you don’t do it you might regret it, but if you do check it out, it’s a bit anti-climactic. The plantation she escaped from is still a working farm, so there’s just a roadside marker. There isn’t even a place to pull off to photograph the sign. On the other hand, standing in the hot sun staring at fields of soybean enclosed by trees and swamps made it easier to imagine her world.

It turned out the woman who rented us the kayak owns one of the only remaining buildings from Tubman’s life. It’s an old general store where Harriet Tubman did her “first act of defiance”. She refused to help the shopkeeper corner an escaped slave and ended up ‘catching’ a 2-pound weight in her forehead as she blocked the entrance after the slave ran away.

Obviously it needs a lot of work! Our kayak is there to the left of the building. I must say I’m impressed that my 72-year-old father was willing to try kayaking for the first time with a very bossy daughter and an untried dog. He’s one of the bravest men I’ve ever met!

Adventure 1

My Dad is visiting this week. I always enjoy his visits because we get to go ‘serendiping’. That’s what we call to a new place and sampling the amenities.

On Saturday and Sunday we visited Artscape here in Baltimore. Frankly it’s more about music, food, and crafts than about fine art, but its fun to wander around. While heading to the Lyric Opera house to see Phildanco (the Philadelphia Dance Company) we walked behind a booth and found a woman being painted green.

We joined a growing crowd to watch her transform from an alien to an exotic life form…

…to a work of art.

Let’s ignore the fact that she’ll be wandering around the rest of the day in her bra, and that her picture is now floating through the blogosphere, I totally wanted to get painted, too! But I’m afraid this might be similar to vain attempts to get cornrows when I was little (I looked bald), fingerwaves (looked like a bad helmet) or nail extensions (for our wedding. Just French manicure, but I ripped them off within two days. I hate long nails). Some things are just not as cool on a ‘pale face’ (as my Indian friend called me in college).

July 21, 2006

To the clickity clack of dog nails on the wood of my desk

She's dreaming. And whining. And barking. She's started doing this with her feet against the wall at home as well as the desk at work. Cute and funny while I'm working. Evil dog must die at four or five a.m.

Sorry about not writing much this week. I've been busy trying to figure out an on-line portfolio solution. Being a graphic designer, I am required by law to have a web-based portfolio so employers can check me out. I ordered this template on Monday and spent the next three days trying to tame the beast. I wanted to change all the buttons and kill the sound effects as well as other things. I mean, let's be honest, right now it wouldn't take much to change that to a porn site! The music is awful. Their on-line help is staffed by people who know very little English. 'Yes, I'm WELL aware I need to edit the FLA file. It would be nice if you could tell me HOW!' The last Flash site I worked on had a text file that was code based and easy to change. This site would require I go back to school for a year. Oh yeah, no refund either.

Wednesday night I 'activated the network'. That's what I'm calling the process of calling any friend of a friend of a friend who's recommended to me. One of my close friends here recently got engaged to a guy from the Bay area. He recommended I contact his friend, S. I did. She was fun to chat with and sent me an email the next day full of helpful links including this site. It's a great source for design job listings and has an option for creating an on-line portfolio. I'll still finish my own site, but this solution buys me time and lets me start applying for work before my site is done.

To make up for my lack of writing, here's some Friday Link Love (a la City Mama)

  • Great proposal story! Plus I'm referred to in the story. I'm (in)famous!
  • Cat mishaps. It runs a little long, but good for a chuckle
  • On a much more disturbing note, apparently Minnesota is only "nice" and "liberal" if you're white

July 18, 2006

Baltimore Random

I love the fact that Baltimore is grungy enough to have a sizable homeless population, but quirky enough that they hang their shirts to dry after washing them in the river.
There are two sites I've experienced in Baltimore that I've not seen in other cities. First, many of the larger streets have medians. Yes, I've seen those in other cities. But in Baltimore, there's almost always someone selling something or raising money along the median. This is by no means an inner-city phenomenon. In the 'burbs one sees cheerleaders with buckets fundraising for a trip to some competition. In the city sellers offer flowers, cold water, newspapers ranging from the Baltimore Sun to Nation of Islam, and kids raising money for team uniforms. To combat this open-air market, the city is now building medians with a steep incline from the curb to a narrow strip on top with plants and trees. With nowhere safe for the hucksters to perch, the medians become anonymous and orderly. Has anyone seen this in other areas? Or is this just another quirk of this quirkalicious town?

The other curiosity (as in, 'honey, why ARE they doing that?') are the many people who stand along the street one arm raised with a flapping hand. This was a great party question for the first three years we lived here. My boss thought they were all drug dealers. I thought it was Baltimore's hitchhiking wave. Jrex refused to speculate. A few months ago, the mystery was solved. I gave a ride to a new guy who's been coming to church. He's in a two year rehab program in the city and grew up in Baltimore. We passed a young guy with his hand in the air and I asked C. if he knew what it was about. "Yeah, that's called 'hacking'. It's like a cab service. You gotta be careful though cause once you agree to terms, you have to go where they want you to go. You can get caught up in some bad stuff that way, but you gotta do it once you agree. Them young girls is the worst. Don't go picking them up cause you don't know what trouble you might get into."
I've been trying to take pictures of both phenomenon, but you know the rule--don't shoot and drive (ha! Sadly a neglected rule in this town). I got some scary looks when I stopped to take the tshirt picture. Knowing how violent Baltimore can be, taking a picture of a hacker might not be advisable.

What are the quirks where you live? Anything that makes you shake your head and say, "Only here in rural Connecticut..."?

July 17, 2006

My bosses are on vacation

Thanks, Dorcasina! I couldn't figure out what I should blog today.

The weekend was fine, but mellow and low-key. On Saturday I read a novel and Jrex watched sports and napped. We (ha! He) finally grilled Jrex's belated birthday steak (with rainbow trout for me). It's pitiful when your husband has to make his own birthday steak; but in the arenas of coffee, steak, fountain pens and balsamic vinagrette, he's much more of a control freak than am I. He'd rather spend $40 and do an amazing dinner at home than go to a steak place and pay three or four times as much for the bottle of wine and steak.

You Are 44% Control Freak

Generally, you are in control but not a control freak. Your life is usually in order.
However, sometimes you get too obsessed with making everything in your life picture perfect.

July 14, 2006


Our house is signed, sealed, and scheduled for delivery September 18th. The buyers agreed to raise the home price to cover the transfer taxes and fees, so the house will sell for $233,000. This morning I gratefully lowered all the shades and turned the AC up. We're dreading the electric bill next month...

As I left the house in comfortable disarray this morning I started thinking about perfectionism. The hardest thing about the last week was having to leave the house perfect every single day. No exceptions or exemptions. No lint on the carpets, no evidence any human sleeps in the beds, no dog hair, no dishes in the sink, no dog toys on the floor and no dog poop in the yard. I was in a box two sizes too small for my body. There was no slump room. Granted, after slumping for a week or more, the clutter and disarray depress me and drive me crazy. But in-between perfection and disorder there is a comfortable range where it feels ok to just LIVE.

A couple of my friends have shared their struggles with needing to be perfect all the time. I had trouble understanding the pressure they felt until this week. No wonder they feel anxious and depressed much of the time! I couldn't do it for one week and they've been trying to do this for 30+ years.

Interesting quote along those lines: "Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make you a far happier and more productive person."
--Dr. David M. Burns

All I can say right now is that I'm glad to let the walls fall down and begin to breathe again. The fear of not selling the house has gone and I'm more relieved than I can say.

July 13, 2006

Still Waiting

We did get an offer. It is for asking price, they just want us to pay the taxes and transfer fees. We've countered with raising the price of the house to that amount (which leaves them more cash in hand at closing). Nothing signed yet. We're supposed to go back to the realtor's at 5:30 to sign the contract.

The buyers are first time home buyers with a dog. The woman is from Austrailia and the guy is from South Carolina. My biggest concern was finding people who would love the house as much as we have. Our realtor says this couple came to the open house and fell in love. They've put together financing and everything this week just so they could get our house. If it all works out I would love for them to be able to come to a farewell/hello block party in August so we can introduce them to the neighbors.

I know you pay your realtor to be nice to you, functionally, but its still nice to hear that we've done everything right, that there's a lot of buzz about the house, we priced it right, it looks great, etc.

Of course this morning, being somewhat lazy and rebellious, I didn't make the bed, left the shades down, threw away the slightly wilting fresh flowers and left dishes in the sink. While at work I got a call that a realtor wanted to go by our house in half an hour. I would have shrugged off my slovenly ways, but I also left the dog at the house uncrated! As often as you say your dog is friendly and won't bite, one would HOPE that if a stranger walked through the front door, the dog would function as a guard dog and DO something. So I raced home (I do love my bosses on days like this!), cleaned the house, grabbed the dog and returned to work. I was just finishing, but still in the house, when the realtor showed up. I was able to add fuel to the fire and tell him that we might sign a contract soon, so he should get his client to the house asap. He thought she would love the house so he was going to try. We may get a bidding war yet.

Last night we were homeless again since someone wanted to view the house between 7 and 8 pm. Picnic in the park (in the sprinkling rain). While there I mentioned to Jrex that there were two things that were making me sad. One was selling the house, the other was feeling wounded that no one wanted it right away. It's such a great house, why doesn't someone snap it up?!! Once we got the offer, I only had one thing to feel bad about. But on the whole I'm feeling excited. It helps I found a house we could afford in the Bay area. Ha!

July 12, 2006

This feeling in my stomach could be excitement, nausea, or indigestion

There's an offer on the house. My realtor was in a settlement and will call us later today!!!


During the house project phase I checked out three audio books from the library. I'm still listening to Blink on my way to and from work. It's a book about rapid cognition and how we make decisions. When intuitive, gut-level reactions are good, and when they are fallible.

This morning he talked of a Marine general who tends to think outside the box. This commander took a bunch of other Marines with him to Wall Street. They observed the trading floor for a day, then played trading games after the bell. They then did cocktails with some of the traders, and the traders visited the Marine base and did some war games. What he discovered is that they use different commodities (money for one group, lives for the other) but the decision making process was the same. Thousands of split second decisions every hour with constantly changing variables. I enjoyed the visual he created of overweight long-haired traders being soul-mates of these three and four-star Marine generals.

I don't have any grand conclusion to make, but its a fascinating read. It's filling my mind with all sorts of random factoids I can use to bore people at parties!

July 10, 2006

So Sad

This makes me cry.

I know I'll be fine once we're in California (we're supposed to be there October 1) but right now I'm sad and depressed. I was fine while I was busy getting the house ready, but now that it's done I have time to feel all the yuck of having to sell our house. It's hard to describe how perfect the house has been for us; it just fits our living patterns. It's by no means the perfect house, but its been perfect for us these last four years.

Our realtor did an open house on Sunday (as instructed in earlier comments, I made brownies). Nine groups came through. But no offers yet. Wednesday there is a brokers' open house. I just want an offer so I can stop obsessing thinking about it so much.

Our realtor called to tell me how well everything went. "The previous owner's wife came through! Isn't she the reason they had to sell the house to begin with? How messed up would that be?!" I agreed, "It's even worse than you know! She made them sell the house so she could get money to help her on-line boyfriend buy a house in Scotland. They've broken up and she can't get her money back now." According to her son (who helps me do landscaping projects) Ex-Wife can't afford the house. It makes me sad to think of her trading in her house, family and lifestyle for a tiny apartment and not much of a job. She seems like a stark example of what can happen after exchanging the bad/ good of reality for a 'what-if' fantasy.

I'm in a bad place at work. I just want to focus on leaving and everything I have to do to get ready for a new life in California. That means I'm just doing time in the office. I have a client coming in today at 3 to look at some design work, and I've barely put any time into it. I just don't care. Which isn't like me.

Sigh. Anybody want to buy a great house in Baltimore? Wanna start a bidding war? Soon?

July 7, 2006

Devil Wears Prada

What I didn’t tell you is that in the midst of my crazy work weekend I played hooky Saturday night. My friends S and M (don’t make any jokes!) came over, and as mentioned, helped clean the house for a while. Then we cleaned up a bit and headed out to The Avenue, one of those fake small towns that are just the latest version of a mall, to do dinner and a movie.

S is Korean; she came here when she was 8. Her mother came from a very wealthy family and married ‘down’. S tells of her mother commenting on how unstylish she is while she’s one of the more stylish women I know. She has the purse of the hour, always has stylish bunion-inducing heels and wears a parade of stylish coats all winter. M is also stylish, she’s Nigerian by way of England and is strikingly lovely. And then there’s me. Stylish by way of thrift-stores (and an awesome Korean MIL).

We were those women in the theater who make you pray, “Don’t sit near me! Please stay far, far away!!” During the cleaning time and chat at our house, M kept saying, “Spot on!” and now S kept repeating the phrase in a funny Koreanized British accent. To retaliate, M was using the phrase, “Praise Gawd!” with a horrible twangy American accent. I believe there was even a mild Whopper tossing incident, which landed spot on.

We calmed down once the movie started. If you know nothing about fashion, the movie is still enjoyable (I knew 30 percent of the names they were throwing around), but if you really love fashion the way S does, it was a movie to drool over. The Anne Hathaway character, Andrea, gets to walk into a props closet and walk out with loaner shoes and bags by all the big names that I can’t spell or pronounce.

In the end it’s a morality play: for what will you sell your soul (or for ‘soul’ insert: time / energy / creativity)? Andrea gets a fluke chance to be 2nd assistant for Miranda Priestly, fictional editor of a made-up magazine (loosely based on Vogue and its editor). I heard Meryl Streep interviewed; they asked if she was trying to model her character, Miranda, on Vogue’s editor, Anna Wintour. She responded that she had no interest in making a documentary about Wintour, rather she imagined her character as a man and acted accordingly.

The scene that replays in my mind is one when Andrea walks into the town home of Miranda. To her shock, Miranda is there, in a gray bathrobe with no makeup. After so many scenes of Miranda in stylish glory, seeing her pale and old is like a punch in the gut. Meryl Streep is such an extraordinary actress that she inhabits this power mongering game-player in a way that makes you both hate her and love her at the same time. She’s never completely dismissible as a selfish bitch. And that’s a huge part of her power.

What is the drive in us to be trendy? Why does that seem to define our status, or our design savvy, or our taste? If we’re honest with ourselves, that drive is in every field, it’s just that the markers change. If you’re in science, no one cares about the clothes, but have your new 17-inch laptop or G5 delivered to the office and watch everyone drool. If you’re in a field like design though, how you dress reflects whether you are aware of trends, which reflects whether someone should be paying you to think for them (which is the heart of the designer’s craft). I could pretend that I’m above all the fashion frenzy, but I wonder what I would do in that world? I suspect I would begin drooling over the names and would love to flaunt having the latest greatest items. One of my fears about myself is that if I had access to money I would dive headfirst into that pool and drown there.

July 6, 2006

Ironic Mail

Jrex got a letter yesterday for an oncologist position in the Stanford area. It’s somewhere within 100 miles of San Francisco, admits to the Stanford hospital system, is an area with median home prices in the $300,000 range (meaning its somewhere in the boonies). They are offering a starting salary of $350,000+. With a signing bonus, and moving expenses paid. Why is he in research?!

Oh yeah, cause the Jrex who does research is the one who has energy to invest in our relationship, has compassion, creativity and a good sense of humor (and time & energy for recycling runs and puppy dogs). I guess that’s worth $300,000. Right?

July 5, 2006

Purely for my satisfaction

Before I owned a house I did internal eye-rolls when my friends talked about choosing wallpaper or doing house projects. I was airily superior that if I had a house it wouldn't dominate me the way THEIRS did. I would know it was just a house. Nothing more.

Sigh. I've gone to the dark (dork?) side.

Still to Do
  • Basement Bathroom floor
  • Finish treehouse window (yes, we live in a house where the treehouse has functioning windows. Perhaps not as great as these, but more than I ever expected in a house)
  • Den (touch up painting)

Completed During Four Day Weekend, or don't ask me how my 4th of July weekend was or I might just tell you... Hey, wake up!
  • Repainted entire bedroom, including edging around existing wallpaper border
  • Put up ceiling in basement bathroom
  • Drove 2 cars full of paper and magazines to the recycling center
  • Reorganized and cleaned the entire basement
  • Made curtains for kitchen
  • Painted 1st layer on treehouse window
  • Filled 10 garbage bags with crap!
  • Reorganized attic storage cubbies
  • Zapped the wood floors
  • Cleaned kitchen grout
  • Cleaned out old Chamber stove
  • Called plumber (the sinks and pipes in the house KNEW this would be a BAD time to start dripping, so away they went!)
  • Painted front door and trim (oops, now it sticks a bit. I think I went one coat of paint too far)
  • Bought plants for porch and front walk (nothing says welcome like droopy, root-shocked plants)
  • Edged front sidewalks (still need to finish)

Completed by two of my friends, or how being a 'big sister' paid off
  • Wiped off ceiling fans
  • Cleaned out widowsills of 4 years of grime
  • Polished bookcases
  • Polished furniture
  • Washed cabinets
  • Mopped kitchen floor
  • Cleaned bathroom (including anti-mildew spray in the tub)
  • Swiffered floors

The accomplishments of my amazing husband
  • Spread lime, topsoil, and grass seed in the bare spot in our front lawn (nothing says "I'm home" like a HUGE bare spot that used to be a 40 foot blue spruce)
  • Did another recycling run
  • Did a dump run
  • Mowed the lawn (after picking up dog poop. Which I swore he would never EVER have to do if he let me get a dog)
  • Said 'sure' everytime I asked him to move something or help me.
  • This may not sound like much, but its HUGE (and I'm not being sarcastic). He cleared out his attic office, stairs, and little room at the foot of the stairs of 4 years of geological organization. You've heard of how sedimentary rock forms from layers of sand pressured at the bottom of the sea? Well, the papers were beginning to fossilize.
  • In addition to all that he had to vacuum slate dust from every crevice in the attic. When they put our new roof on they didn't give us notice and so we had dust throughout our top floor.
  • Not only that, my wonderful husband, who hates to organize, sorted and organized all the remaining books and papers and set up the attic so it looks roomy and attractive. (It's a finished attic that counts as our third bedroom, so it needs to look spacious.) Most of the papers we recycled? Were from the attic. We've agreed on a new system for our coming apartment life. He gets one shelf. When its full, its getting sorted or it will be trashed by She Who Must Not Be Named.

The moral of the story? Living in an apartment with a landlord on call sounds great!