December 30, 2007

My kind of shopping

I found out about this site today at church. A guy who lives here in Silicon Valley worked with Mother Theresa for a while. One of the guys there told him, "Don't come to the frontlines of poverty, we have plenty of foot-soldiers here. We need you to be a catalyst between people in the West and the poor here who want to work." It changed his life. He's created a website that sells goods produced by people who have come out of dire poverty. They work specifically with vulnerable women: single mothers and many women who have been involved in human trafficking.

I know it's too late to do your Christmas shopping there, but please bookmark the site (TradeAsOne.com) and consider it first when you're looking for purses, toys, bags, journals or housewares. Give a gift that tells a story and helps lift women out of slavery.

You can see the video I saw today at this link:

http://tradeasone.com/who-we-are/Watch.html

December 26, 2007

The Best of the Rest

On our second day of vacation we snowshoed up to a nearby ridge. (All the signs listing distance were in km. I love the metric system! 1.5 km is MUCH easier than 1.5 m) We arrived at 8500 feet where there was no wind. We heard absolute silence: no birds, no planes, no car sounds, no other hikers. I felt like I got to drink a full cup of Bigness.

Jrex is gazing at the ridge that lines Kings Canyon. That road is closed from November through April. Not due to snow, but because there are often rock falls that wipe out sections of the road.

Unfortunately, the view to the west, which should consist of glimpses of Fresno, is solid brown smog. From Fresno, you have no idea there are 11,000 foot peaks just an hour away. The brown curtain shrouds both ways.

The day before we left, we got 24 inches of snow in 20 hours. That day Jrex went out cross-country skiing while I opted for a book by the fireplace. The next morning at dawn we went snowshoeing again since it was our last hurrah and we wanted to enjoy the fresh powder. Enjoy we did, up to our knees, despite the snowshoes!



I loved all the funny Dr. Seuss trees.

At every exit from the lodge there were signs that read, "Watch out for falling snow". I wasn't sure how bad it could be until I saw this (that's the main lodge, by the way)

The food was great. Served buffet style, both guests and staff shared the dining room. One night we had braided salmon, the next there was swordfish. Each meal had a veggie entree as well as red meat and an alternative (fish, poultry or pork). Lunch and breakfast were included as well, for $90/weeknight and $120 on the weekend! Nothing fancy, and certainly not a honeymoon locale, it suited our blue-collar style perfectly (good bang for the buck, real people, no pretensions).

Due to the snow, the roads were all closed. We had to wait for an escort to lead a caravan out to the main road.

Twenty minutes later...

December 23, 2007

Giant Sequoias: More than you ever wanted to know*

On the first day in the Sierras, we drove down to the "Grove of the Giants" in Sequoia National Forest; we collected tidbits we've been inflicting on people since our return:

Sequoias have chemicals in their bark that have made them immune to dying of old age. They aren't succeptible to fungus or bacteria. The only thing that really kills them is fire, or being blown over (usually due to fire damage). Even then, the wood doesn't rot.
Their pine cone seeds are only released through heat; sequoia stumps show fire scars every 13 years or so for the past 2,500 years.
We'd read in the book that we were going to see the largest tree by volume in the world. Honestly, from a distance, it's underwhelming. Redwoods grow tall, Sequoias grow stumpy. At some point, it looks like someone hacked off the top of the tree. They look like a big club with random green stuff clumped at the top. But when you get close, they are definitely huge!
This tree was used as a cabin and saloon in the 1800's.

I took a wonderful shot of Jrex facing the camera while looking up at this 'skylight'. In yet another example of why I love him, he then said, "Do you want me to turn around so you can put this on the blog?"
Aside from signs that said, "Take photo of General Grant Tree here", the other thing that annoyed me was that almost every tree had a masculine name. "The Chief", "The President", "General Lee". Two groves were called "The Senate" and "The House". When I look up at a big, old tree, brooding over the forest and sacrificing itself for the sake of it's seeds, it seems matriarchal. Ah well, I guess that's what we get when a bunch of crazy bachelors are the ones who arrive somewhere first and throw labels on grandeur.

*In true geek fashion, I love random factoids.

December 22, 2007

Fun times!

I swear I'll upload the pictures tomorrow! I don't even have the excuse that I haven't had time; rather I've been consumed by the dark hole that is Facebook. I'd tried to reconnect with Baltimore friends, but half of them have the last name "Kim" (which is as common as "Smith") so searching for someone with that name got me nowhere. Then I thought of searching for the networking queen with a Czech last name. Bingo! I sent 'friend requests' to 20 people. And they've been answering! Which has been fun for me, but detrimental to my blogging.

In the Facebook fun, I found the guy I had a crush on from 7th-10th grade. (Our school was grades 7-12). In 10th grade I asked him to the Sadie Hawkins dance. We had a great time, lots of fun, but no chemistry. There's a very good reason for the lack of sparks--it turns out he and his boyfriend are now living in Brooklyn.

The whole Facebook thing is worth it though to get a message like this (from the guy I just mentioned):

"I had forgotten that you went to Hampshire, but it's all ringing a bell now. It makes sense, being that you were all artsy and stuff. I always thought you were kind of ahead of your time in high school. Meaning you were a little more mature than most, which I guess isn't saying a lot, but still... You always seemed sort of sophisticated somehow."

Fake it 'til you make it, baby!

December 20, 2007

Our much needed break

We returned last night from six days away. The most surprising thing for me about the trip was that I went into deep hibernation mode. I used to do this when I came home from college. After a semester of investing deeply in relationships and running all over doing activities, I came home, crawled into bed and read books for three weeks. I talked to my family, but that was it. I called no one. I only saw people if they initiated and came to my house. Of course, I lost touch with most of my high school friends, but I needed the 'off' time.

In our marriage, I'm usually the one who chats with strangers and tells Jrex the name of the cashier. As I avoided connecting with people, Jrex stepped out. He got to know the guy in the ski shop, set up telemark lessons for us, knew the names of most of the staff and invited kids to play Scrabble with us.

There were two days when I told Jrex to go have fun outside and I just sat by the fire and read. Our room had no TV (why do you think I picked this lodge?!) so we did lots of reading in the evening as well. (Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, An Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers, Eragon, Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver)

I could have stayed in the "cave" for at least another three days, but it was just what I needed.

Now, if I can get the pictures to upload, I can make you think I was more active than I really was...(blogger's add image button seems to be dysfunctional)

December 12, 2007

Phew!

We're off for our vacation tomorrow. I don't have anything articulate to say.

1. I just worked a 40 hour week in three days (it feels like that, though I haven't really added it up). I got everything done and am out the door, so it's fine. I don't know if it's true or not, but I've told everyone there is no cell phone reception in Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Park.

2. I've been sucked into the bottomless pit that is Facebook. One of my best friends, who told me she never goes on line and therefore never reads my blog, sent me an invite. [Pause for irony to sink in...] I didn't sign up for a while since I really don't have time for anymore online activities. Three nights ago, I dove in. And yes, it's consumed what little free time I have and strained my poor designer eyeballs. I've mostly been connecting with people I knew during college. I was part of a fantastic community in the Pioneer Valley and have been horrible at keeping in touch so it's great fun to see their pics and reconnect a bit. The kids who were preteens when I left are now gorgeous adults! Yikes.

My symbol of Facebook rebellion is that my profile picture consists of a photo of Muttola. She's cuter than me anyway, if a little furrier.

See ya next Thursday!

December 11, 2007

Misconceptions

On Saturday we took Mom and Dad K up to San Francisco. We wandered Golden Gate park (Japanese tea garden, coffee at the De Young museum and then the Conservatory of Flowers). Then Mom wanted to see San Francisco, so we drove downtown and swung over to Chinatown. Being from New York city, they were underwhelmed by San Fran. It's a cool town, but it doesn't really have a big city feel. Compared to New York or Chicago, San Francisco is squat and fairly small. The per capita eclectic ratio is probably higher than in the other cities, but I didn't want to try to explain the Folsom street fest through the language barrier (it's a celebration of leather/S&M culture).

For dinner we went back to Jrex's cousin's restaurant at 19th and Balboa. Once again there was a tour bus parked in front. Last time, Jrex told me his cousin had been a bus driver when he first arrived in the USA. In my mind, that conjured an image of a city bus. I felt bad for the long, hard climb his cousin must have had. During dinner Saturday, I asked about the tour bus.

"Do you get tours often?"

"Every night." I assumed I'd misunderstood him, then he continued, "In the summer, we have 600 a week."

"What?! How do you do it?"

"Same menu every time. They tour, they don't want to take long, so in out 30 minutes. Four lunch and six night on busy day."

I was incredulous, "Do other Korean restaurants have tour buses?"

He shook his head, "Only me. I guide tours fourteen years. How you say? Many 'brothers' at tour companies now?"

The image of the poor, toiling, bus-driving immigrant was blown away.

December 10, 2007

Big Day

Today's post is in honor of the day someone amazing arrived in my world. At the time she arrived, I didn't know it was amazing, all I knew was that Mom and Dad had left me and my brother wasn't with me. I was four and a half.

I do remember Dad coming to the house where I was staying and asking if I wanted to stay there for the night or go home with him. We lived in a vertical duplex and 'going home' just meant going downstairs, so I decided to go home. We sat on the sofa in the living room while he held me in his lap and told me I had a little sister. I was very impressed by her name since she had TWO middle names, not just one. Of course, being my sweet, absent-minded Dad, he mixed up the order of the middle names, but at least he had the right ones. Her name meant 'filled with grace and beauty'. (Mom was really into the meanings of names, mine means "Christ's Joy", my brother's means "Beloved Watchman".)

I didn't appreciate the amazing gift of my sister for a while. First because even as a toddler, she liked to keep things in order. Nothing gives you a bad name like a younger sister who's favorite toy is a broom. Second, she was ADORABLE. I was an awkward skinny girl with stringy 'dishwater' blonde hair, a big forehead and buck teeth. She had hair like white gold in a halo of curls. She tanned instead of sunburning and was wonderful with the old ladies at church. Third, with the age gap between us, it mostly felt like she was stealing my stuff all the time. Clothes, earrings, stuffed animals. I kept threatening to remove anything of mine that she was wearing, even if we were in public, but I never followed through. Most of my memories of my sister when we were younger involve all three of us. She and my bro often went off adventuring together, or all three of us played (and fought and roamed the neighborhood) together, but it was rare that she and I did stuff alone together as kids. Fourth, when I was a junior in high school and she was a sixth grader, people kept thinking we were twins. She was tall for her age and both of us were skinny. Obviously, she LOVED those questions, but I hated them. At her sixth grade graduation someone congratulated me for how well I'd done on stage. That's how alike we seemed then. I was 17. But, I'm not bitter!

In our family she was seen as the 'quiet one'. She'd often fade away and go upstairs to read (often while OTRbro and I were doing chores). We had a family therapy session where the counselor asked, "And, OTRsis, what do you think?" All four of us swung around to look at the eight year old in the corner. She has opinions?! It was a revelation for our oblivious family.

Once she left for college we began to develop our own relationship. We'd often chat about family dynamics, who she was becoming, and this great guy she'd met (he's still around). Our Mom died her senior year of college. OTRsis and I spent a month and a half at home together. The first two weeks we worked together to take care of Mom as she died and then we spent a month 'organizing the house'. That often looked like laying around in bed reading books and being depressed. We did have days where we had enough energy to clean, sort and organize. In many ways, I would say that our adult relationship began then.

Over the years it's been fun to see my sister come out of her quiet zone and become the opinionated, creative, powerful woman that she is. She was freaked out to have to go first into the realm of mommy-hood, especially since we don't have a Mom we can call with our questions, but she's been amazing. She's raising fun, confident kids who share her intelligence and fun sense of humor.

Happy Birthday, OTRsis! You're fantastic.

PS. I have a box of stuff ready to send. Hopefully you'll get your birthday gifts before Christmas...

December 6, 2007

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: In-Law Edition

They're heeere!

The Good:

-Three of my women friends joined me on Sunday and we prepared 20 meals to freeze for each of our families. It's been great to just throw dinner in the oven and look like the good DIL. (Fake it til you make it.)

-I'm very busy at work, so we three aren't getting as much 'quality' time hanging out waiting for Jrex to finish his work and come home. Now we both arrive back at 7:30 pm. Mmmmm....dinner at 9 pm (sadly it's the usual in our house). His poor father usually eats at 5:30 and goes to sleep by 9.

-After 10 years, we're all relatively comfortable together, so their visits are (almost) relaxing.

-Since they can walk to 'downtown' and the train station, they can hang out here, relax, but still get out and do something, all while we're at work.

-My MIL is a very considerate, thoughtful, amazing woman.

-We get a Korean TV station for free via our 'rabbit ears' on the set.

The Bad:

-Me. I'm hiding in the back bedroom instead of being a good DIL. See earlier point.

The Ugly:

-We get a Korean TV station for free via our 'rabbit ears' on the set. It's turned on at 5 a.m. by my FIL who is losing his hearing. It stays on CONSTANTLY. Grrrr....I hate that stupid noisemaker.

-FIL also hacks and gargles in the bathroom. On the other side of our bedroom wall. At 5 a.m.

---

All in all, they're good folk and I love them. But four adults in a 2 bedroom apartment is just a bit crowded after three days.

December 4, 2007

Pride Goeth Before a Fall and Haughty Eyes Before Destruction

I thought of a couple variations on that verse today.

As I rode to work in the rain.

December 3, 2007

Cause I AM discreet

Last night we had our second supper club. We've formed a group with three other couples to explore new recipes through a once a month dinner.

After dinner, we sat around the living room chatting. Jrex was home sick. The three guys all started comparing notes about biking to work. Wine Aficionado smiled, "Only in warm weather." Another man, who's served two tours in Iraq, declared, "I'm a fair weather biker, as well. It's too cold for me now." Hedonistic Outdoorsman, boasted, "I'm still biking, but last Thursday, I thought, 'this might be my limit'."

I've mentioned that I'm the soul of discretion? The master of my tongue? Known for my silent, loving presence?

I snorted and declared, "You're all a bunch of wusses! I bike every day. It's not too cold. I'll be biking when it rains. Of course, this is also coming from someone who's lived in upstate New York and New England. Compared to that, it doesn't get cold in California."

For some reason that seemed to shut down the conversation. Was it something I said?

November 30, 2007

Because bootleg is best


When I first started this job, my right shoulder hurt from a combo of biking mishaps and holding my arm up to desk height to move the mouse. I set up an ergonomic consult with the woman from HR. She ordered a $350 drop down keyboard/mouse tray and a stand to raise the monitor. We have custom made desks here in the design department. The keyboard arrived and was completely unsuitable for the desk. I returned it and figured out that I could put a clipboard in my lap and use that for the mouse. My shoulder problems went away.

My chair was uncomfortable but not horrible. After two months though, it was truly awful. My lower back hurt all the time and my shoulders were sloping toward ugly old lady land. Last Friday I brought in my balance ball. I'd used this at home for a seat and loved it. All week now, I've heard variations on "Are you sitting on a ball?!", but it's been great. The best part? I'm developing some killer ab muscles.

Anyone else have bootleg office solutions? The cheaper but better way to make it work?

November 27, 2007

Das Leben ist gut

Copying Rachel...

I'm thankful for a wonderful and varied Thanksgiving week:

-For a job that decided to give us Friday as a holiday without using up a PTO day.

-For wonderful Pakistani food (though the wait to order truly made it feel like we were in another country...).

-For the chance to finally see Into the Wild. A movie that truly makes you feel thankful for life, warmth and a good family.

-For the chance to see Jrex's cousins and uncle in San Francisco Friday night. I'm thankful that I spent $60 on three kids books (Extreme Dinosaurs and How Many racked up the cost) since they turned around and gave me a Dior purse.

-I'm very thankful that Jrex's cousin owns a GREAT Korean restaurant just north of Golden Gate park. As I told Jrex, of all the 'typical' immigrant business to own, I'm very glad to have a restaurant in the family instead of a dry cleaner or a store.

-For the chance to hang out with one of my close friends for the weekend. And for her dog-walking abilities when we abandoned her both Friday night and all day Saturday.

-For access to an Urgent Care center and the news that instead of gall stones or kidney stones, it was just severe constipation.

-For the chance to bike into the Presidio and picnic on the beach under the Golden Gate bridge with another couple. For so many great friends after such a short time here. For both on-line and real-life community.

November 22, 2007

Vacation, Baby!

A husband in research=very rare vacations. The last time we had extended time off together was our cross-country drive! He's found a lull in the mouse-driven schedule and I just booked us for six nights in Montecito Sequoia Lodge nestled in the heart of Kings Canyon National Park. For half the price of Yosemite, we get just as many views. The Lodge sounds somewhat basic, but gourmet hot breakfast and dinner is included for less than $100 a night. We can bring a cooler of lunch food and be good to go. Also included (I think) is gear for winter activities: snow shoes, snow tubes, ice skates and snow boards.

Jrex loves winter camping and has been trying to get me to join him for years. I figure a heated lodge with a hot tub is as close as I want to get (for now). I'm doing the happy vacation dance in my head. We even have good friends who are overjoyed to act on their dog fantasy and will host Muttola for free. We just cook them a great surf and turf feast to say thanks.

Thanksgiving? My wonderful friend, Ms. Sword, is here. We're continuing the Christmas Day tradition we started with her last year--Kabob & Curry for the best tandoori chicken ever! Why wash dishes when you can go to the movies?

Hope you all have a wonderful day!

November 17, 2007

God Thoughts

On my silent retreat two weeks ago, I had an idea for a ritual to help me focus during my time with God. On a small table in the corner of the living room, facing away from whatever mess, a candle stands waiting. Before I start praying, I light the candle. To end my quiet time, I have to choose to blow out the candle. It’s just enough of a pause to check if ‘our’ time is done that I can usually override the random impulses I get to jump up and clean the house (or water a plant, or do a pedicure).

Two nights ago I read Lamentations. It made me want to learn Hebrew so I could really ‘get it’. It’s a five-section poem that Jeremiah wrote about Jerusalem’s defeat. Each section begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet; the third chapter has three sections in it. The poem is an outpouring of grief with hope embedded in its center, yet the form of the poetry is strict and mathematical. I love that paradox.

Because of that reading, I found myself this morning thanking God for His passionate love. Because he loves passionately, he gets angry, he gets hurt and jealous, he dances around his love, he laughs, he sits in silence, he embraces, he weeps, he covers, he delights. It’s the WHOLE package. I realized that a chunk of the theology in American churches is because we are uncomfortable with certain emotions. We think it’s bad to express anger; therefore God would never do something so tacky. We are uncomfortable with big, messy, passionate living; therefore God must also be contained and polite. I was so glad and thankful that he doesn’t fit our box. Instead he calls us to come outside and learn again to play and to love him as passionately as he loves us.

November 15, 2007

This one's for you, Mr. Body Part

In case anyone is wondering (Dad) why the blog is a bit more weekly than daily, it's 10:15 pm and I'm still at work. Jrex is on his way to pick me up. (well, I just called again and he'd fallen asleep instead of heading out...)

Monday and Tuesday we were finishing up the crank and turn for the Adbe Gala. Over the weekend a poor freelancer had to cover for me (well, he's much richer now!). I'm SO glad I missed the last round of the 'fire drill'. Most of the time I work with a different account. I can organize and drive it at my own pace. Anything with Adbe means dealing with my creative director. Who is not. Creative. or a Director. He procrastinates and thrives on the high of all nighters. Ugh!

The good part is that they liked what we came up with and the freelancer did a great job. On Monday night I was here late finishing up that whole mess for a Tuesday client presentation. I whipped out something for a proposed viral marketing portion of the party. Stickers for the walls in the garage, etc. It looks like they might take that and run with it for the entire party identity.

Tonight, I'm here trying to finish up the Look and Feel for a conference that doesn't happen until MAY. Yes. Next year. What's the rush? The woman who approves look and feel is about to leave for maternity leave (as in next Wednesday the 21st). Her boss is due back from maternity leave December 1st. The Boss is married to someone who owns an ad agency. We need to get the look and feel somewhat locked in with someone who knows me and loves my work before The Boss hands it off to her husband. I don't fancy spending 5 months as a production artist, so I'm trying to stake my design territory while I still can.

What's the question? Yes. I'm exhausted. And still have to keep cranking it out.

Hmm? I do still enjoy my job. I really like designing things. The pace here is so fast that I don't have time to second guess myself, and thus far, my gut instincts seem to be working out fairly well.

The other question? Yes. I'm going to stop blathering on now.

November 12, 2007

Tidbits

On Thursday, SmartGirl picked me up at 1:30 and we drove off for the weekend. On our way to a four-day retreat in beautiful "Cow-Town" California (aka Vacaville), we stopped off at the Jelly Belly factory for a tour.
As we put on our paper hats and joined a shuffling line gazing at video screens and looking down at acres of jelly beans, I did wonder if we were going to be trapped in a Willy Wonka movie. My big regret is not buying the pepper or sausage jelly beans that I tried. They actually tasted 'right' while still being jelly beans! They've produced a Harry Potter series of jelly beans, including dirt and bugar flavors. I did NOT try those.

Sunday we wandered home with stops at the Outlet Mall and Walnut Creek, CA. The retreat was good, but I don't have a lot of words for it. As with the silent retreat, there are things I need to mull over a bit. My biggest take-away is that I'm on the right track, which is always comforting.

I arrived home at 4:15 pm to find Jrex toiling in the kitchen. We've joined a new Supper Club with three other couples. At 6:30 we were due at their house for an Italian food dinner. Jrex assembled an anti-pasti plate as well as ricotta eggplant rolls covered in homemade red sauce for our appetizer course. He bought some pre-dinner Italian wine (Prosecco? No idea). When we arrived with the food, people kept looking at me as they asked what things were. I shrugged and pointed to Jrex, "Ask the chef. I have no idea!"

Next month we've decided to do a 'favorite Christmas dish' theme. It's not my family's recipe, but I've got a great garlic mashed potato recipe and I'll do hot mulled cider and apple crisp in honor of Mom (Dad's only 'real' recipe is corned beef and hash--I'm not a fan).

November 6, 2007

Weird

This morning I had to walk the dog before dashing out to catch the train. I was in my usual assortment of bike commuter based oddities: from the waist up, the formal side of business casual. From the waist down, nylon pants, sneakers and an orange pants clip.

As usual the mutt just had to select the best ivy patch in which to hide her 'stuff'. She picked an area near a really busy intersection. As usual, I had to venture on a treasure hunt in a stranger's ivy patch to clean up after her (she's become a snob--grass is no longer an acceptable medium for her business).

When we were done, I tried to hurry across the street before the truck that was barreling towards us. Muttola kept stopping in the middle of the road to try to nip her own back. I rushed us both across the street and then checked what was bothering her. Two yellow jackets were trying to burrow into her fur! I grabbed a stick and started trying to dig them out without pissing them off. I'm running late, freaked out that the dog is about to get stung, cussing at the yellowjackets and pushing a stick around in her fur. I must have looked like a maniac trying to beat her dog on the side of the road!

I've never heard of bees burrowing into a dog! They didn't seem angry, just seeking a cozy dark place. Fortunately, the mutt doesn't seem to have been stung and I made my train, but if you read another blog that mentions the Maniac of Menlo Park, you'll know The Rest of the Story.

November 4, 2007

Silence can feel like a warm cozy blanket

On Saturday, I joined 18 other people from my church for a silent retreat. It was great to have some time alone with the Lord to reflect on where I've been and where he wants me to be. I'm not ready to talk about the details since I find that if I talk about stuff I'm supposed to act on, I end up just talking and not doing. So, I'm going to try to do first and talk later.

If a picture is worth a thousand words though, maybe you can figure out my weekend from the following pictures (some of them were just cause things were pretty, some are significant.)








October 31, 2007

Still rolling along

Last night I was still at work, along with three co-workers, trying to finalize a Captain Chaos project. My first thought was that a train was going by, but then I realized I was on the third floor of a building far away from the train track. Captain Chaos, an L.A. native burst out of his office, "It's a big one, folks!" Gentle Man hurried over to a doorframe. I huddled near a cubicle divider. It felt like the room was gently rippling. Nothing fell off the walls or even shifted on our desks, just a rolling motion. Even after the big rolls ebbed there were tiny ripples that continued.

My phone rang, "Did you feel that?!" Jrex exclaimed.

"Yeah, we were all huddling for safety. Are you at home?"

"I was just about to leave to head back into lab for something. I think I'd better stay home for at least another 20 minutes or so, Muttola is whining and wandering the apartment freaking out. I just thought it was the train, but then I realized there was no horn. Um...we are planning on moving back east, right? I'll take a blizzard over an earthquake anytime."

The Californians in the room at work were all excited, "That was a good one. What fun!" One coworker tried to call his Mom and had trouble getting through on the landline though his cell phone ended up working. "That was big"

I said to them, "I HOPE that was a really big one, cause if it wasn't, I don't want to know how much worse it could get!"

One looked it up on line and called out, "It was a 5.6!"

"What!? That's not high enough!" They laughed. Mocked my pain. Sigh.

Then we all went back to work. I'm starting to understand why most Californians just shrug and say, "Oh, you get used to it" when I ask about earthquakes.

Not that I'm used to it yet!

October 23, 2007

What have I gotten myself into!?

Tomorrow morning I'm meeting with two of the creative heads of Ad0be to plan their 25th anniversary party.

I know nothing about parties!!

Don't panic, it's not just me, the meeting also includes our creative director (aka Captain Chaos) and another experience designer (aka Writer Man). I'm supposed to just be a fly on the wall, giving them a subliminal message that we have a full stable of designers at their beck and call not just five of us...

The outfit? Black brocade skinny pants, a black knee-length Matrix-style jacket, cool shirt and boots with killer heels. "Hello, dahlink. I am zee mahster design guru, how can I help you zhow your genius to ze masses?"

Candlelight seems to foster these kinds of conversations

I am constantly amazed at the impact seemingly small choices can have in shifting relational direction.

Two nights ago, Jrex and I chatted over yet another amazing dinner he’d crafted. As I shared some of what I’d done during the day, I was surprised to find myself feeling emotional. I often try to figure out those feelings out loud, but unfortunately, say it too strongly or from a sideways angle. “Unfortunate” because so much of my life is filled by and surrounded by Jrex’s impact and presence. Not unfortunate to have him, but unfortunate since while I’m feeling sad and trying to figure out why, it can easily seem like he’s the problem, when really, I’m just trying to dig down into the surprise emotional rush and figure out what’s really going on. At times, he feels attacked and gets defensive. Soon we’re trying to figure out where the landmine was and figure out how to piece us back together, my initial emotion tucked away.

I’ve tried to tell him that I need him to ask questions in those moments. No problem, right? In the midst of a fight or flight moment, choose research! Not surprisingly, it’s been difficult for us to figure out how to navigate our way through such moments.

As I got weepy, I hesitated, unsure if it would be safe to continue. He gently asked, “Is there anything I could be doing differently to help in those situations?” It turned out the issue wasn’t at all about him, or at least only tangentially. He kept asking questions. Kept listening.

When we married, for my part, it was because we were truly best friends. In life’s busy-ness and pain it’s been easy to turn to other relationships to try to process my emotions. As I told him after his gentle listening, I’ve missed him as a friend and was really grateful that he asked questions instead of getting upset.

He smiled quietly, “It was a choice.” Which made it an even more profound gift.

October 19, 2007

Why Graphic Design?


In college, I studied fine art (drawing, painting and literary journalism). All my life, both Dad and Mom whined about what they could have done artistically with the right encouragement. I didn't want to inflict such rants on any future children, so I decided to see how far I could go. I found out that I'm good, but I don't have the drive to be a fine artist. I like structure and deadlines.

As graduation loomed, I thought about what I could do for a job that would let me get my fill of people, yet not be so draining that I wouldn't have energy to paint. Throughout high school I cut my family's hair, in college I cut all my friends' hair--so naturally, as a college grad, I went to beauty school. That is a WHOLE 'nother post. Just visualize this: two white women in a mostly African-American scene. Doing hair. I can straighten, wrap, weave and finger wave, girlfriend! (snap)

After graduating from beauty school, I worked in my college town in an Aveda salon. I always felt like I was playing an extended game of dress up, but it was fun. Poor Jrex, though. He started dating me at this stage. Not only did he have to tell his Mom he wanted to date a white woman, he had to tell her she was a hairdresser. She felt a little better when she found out my Dad went to Harvard Law and my Mom had a Masters in Theology, but still...

I usually don't tell people about the hairdressing. Not because I'm ashamed of it, but because then I have to do a hair consultation. Being a hairdresser was great training for becoming a designer. It's the same emotional arc, but compressed into 30 minutes: client's dream countered by a diplomatic reality check, intelligent/artistic interpretation, happy ending.

After a couple years of hair/dress-up, I needed to figure out what to do when I grew up. I knew I was great with kids and had always wanted to do foster care. I figured I should get training in the field, so I volunteered my way into a job at a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed kids. Also another post.

When Jrex was going to start residency I knew it would be a good time to go back to grad school. I thought about doing family therapy or social work, but Jrex said, "I keep thinking you should do graphic design." Inside me something clicked, "You mean I can have fun? As a career!? Cool!" I talked my way into the core curriculum for graphic design at Rochester Institute of Technology and then did a one year Masters in Printing with a focus on Graphic Arts Publishing.

I worked in a printing company for a year after graduating. I'd intended to do 6 month at the printer and then do 6 months at an ad agency. However, 9/11 happened and the advertising industry collapsed.

When we moved to Baltimore I did an info interview at a small company that produced large format digital printing. The owner kept suggesting jobs she heard about and then decided to create a design position for me. I got to do all sorts of fun, crazy assignments there. She just assumed I could do anything, so she would have me doing restaurant interiors one day and then exhibit design the next.

Here in the Bay area it's been a bit strange since the overall scene is contractor based. Through a visual placement agency, I had three long-term contract jobs: a pharmaceutical company, a scientific equipment manufacturer and a game design firm. This job as an 'experience marketer/designer' came via a headhunter who found me through my portfolio on creativehotlist.com. I still love design and still cut Jrex's hair though I don't have many occassions for doing physical restraints...

Are there any other questions you want me to answer?

October 17, 2007

Was it hard to marry cross-culturally?

Yes. Though my Dad has always pointed out that every marriage is cross-cultural.

It wasn't as hard for me as for my husband. My parents didn't care about race. His parents wanted their son to marry a Korean. Every time he went home to visit they set him up on a blind date, "You'll like her, she's studying medicine at Yale." They hadn't met me at that point so I didn't take it personally.

I dragged him home within four months of us starting to date. My parents were two of my best friends, so if they didn't like him, I knew it wasn't going to work. Of course they loved him (everyone who gets to know him loves him). During that visit my 92 year old grandfather was also visiting. I completely horrified Jrex as I verbally sparred with Grandpa. In Korean culture you treat the elderly with complete deference and here I was treating him as a peer. Of course, Grandpa loved it. I had that kind of relationship with both my grandfather, my Dad and now with my husband. Ironically, how I treated Jrex totally threatened my Dad at first. See, Dad married an amazing woman who did NOT understand sarcasm. At. all. So, despite the fact that I quipped right back at Dad, he couldn't handle me quipping at my husband. A wife doesn't DO that! He's since adjusted.

One of the many tragic aspects of my mom dying 6 months into our wedding was that she LOVED Jrex. She was his biggest fan. She never let me complain about him. Sure she could whine about my Dad to me, but if I even tried to do the same she'd jump all over me in Jrex's defense. The building is burning, who do you save? I think she would have grabbed him first! ;-)

We dated two years before I finally met his parents. His parents came up to Rochester for a weekend. We met them at the hotel. The whole drive there I nervously practiced "On yong ha sey yo" over and over. At dinner his mother gave me some lovely porcelin vases. I gave them nothing. Because. No. One. Told. Me. About. Koreans. and. Gifts. No one apologized profusely as he drove me home. He'd forgotten about gift giving! I learned then that I'd study Korean culture on my own since I couldn't assume I had a cultural guide at my side...

As much as we both communicate well and analyze everything, there were aspects of how he was that I thought were just him. It wasn't until we attended a 2nd generation Korean church in Baltimore that I realized how many things were elements of Korean culture. I receive love most effectively through verbal affirmation (thus the addiction to comments on the blog...). He never thought to compliment me. I found out, that's just Korean. In fact, if he were being culturally correct, he would insult me whenever someone else complimented me. Maybe that's just a parent's job, not a spouse's, but all my Korean friends have examples of how their parents "kept them humble".

For the most part, our core values are very similar. We value family and quality time. We believe in saving money but also buying good tools ("tools" being a tent, or a cool new waterproof messenger bag made of recycled bike tires). As Jrex told his parents before they met me, "You're idealizing a Korean woman and have horrible assumptions about American women. She's more Korean than most of the second generation Korean women I know."

The biggest asset we've had, aside from our friendship and mutual respect, has been two sets of parents who (in the end) were willing to bend toward each other's culture and try to understand and accomodate the other side.

October 12, 2007

How did you meet your husband?

Part 2 of The Introduction Cards Project

I was a first-year student and he was a senior at a college down the road. My school had no Christian fellowship, so I went to the one at his school. Spring semester I ended up in a Bible study that he led. It was just him, me and a sophomore woman, but it was a great group. I'd grown up in a Christian family so I knew the 'right' answers; Jrex took us to places and concepts in the Bible I'd never wrestled with before. He would say, "Let's talk about what it means to have faith" and then two hours later my brain would feel like it was going to explode.

We were just friends with zero romantic interest in each other until I'd graduated from college. He'd left for University of Rochester after his college graduation and came back east for a retreat. During those few days, one night we chatted from 10 pm to 4 am. At the end of that conversation we both started thinking, "hmmm..." At the time I was getting fairly burned out and cynical (at the OLD, OLD age of 21). Except for one guy (husband of frequent commenter "k"--a guy who truly was my little brother. Love him), most of my guy friends had ended up wanting to date me. After I said 'no', I ended up losing them as friends. I just wanted to take a vow of singleness and get on with my life without all the emotional trauma of dating. After that conversation with Jrex, I thought, "huh. maybe it IS possible to find the package deal." I still wasn't thinking it might be him specifically, but I thought, "I respect him, he's funny, he's smart, he's attractive, we can talk about anything and we share a similar way of thinking about God."

He came back three weeks later for a wedding and I stalked him. Or at least, did subtle manipulative things to be around him. Chatted with him outside the church until it was time to go in, thus ensuring I could sit next to him. Ditto at the reception. At the end of the weekend he asked if we could talk. Inside I gulped, "Uh oh, he's going to tell me to stop following him around!" Instead he wanted to check if I was interested in thinking about a relationship.

We talked and prayed for 6 months before starting to date. He knew that his parents would have a hard time with a non-Korean woman. They did. (more on that Monday).

In that first conversation about possibly dating, Jrex made me the core promise of our relationship, "I have no idea what life has in store for me, or for a woman who is involved with me. The one thing I know for sure is that it will never be boring."

October 10, 2007

Mi Familia

I'm the oldest of three kids: me, then a brother and sister. OTRsis, seen frequently in the comments is, in fact, my fabulous, gorgeous younger sis. Wave to the crowd, carisima! She is another graphic designer (she got into it before I did, lest you think she followed me). She has two young kids and a wonderful husband who is a high school teacher.

My brother is a professional disc golfer by day and bartender by night. He doesn't sit still long enough to read a blog...

Our parents chose to be downwardly mobile and raise us in Cincinnati's #1 poverty community. Mom chose not to work and stay home with us while Dad operated a VERY non-profit housing firm. We survived 6 months on food stamps and years of donated clothing and cars.

Mom died 10 years ago. She'd been the director of drama, and first female professor at a conservative midwestern college before marrying my Dad. She fulfilled her drama urge through numerous performances for our church and for retreats. I grew up being on stage, in gospel choirs, marching in protests, eating carob chip cookies and bean sprouts--all because of my Mom. She was also someone who worried all the time, carried lots of bitterness and was usually frustrated by our family dynamic (lest you think she was a saint. I mean, she is one now, depending on your theology, but she was a very human, complex woman when I knew her).

Dad is still in Cincinnati. Dad is 72 and has been writing plays for years. He's recently decided to try for a second income in a theater related job. His goal is to become a stage manager so he's now training as an assistant production manager for a theater company. Our house in the inner-city has become a communal space which he currently shares with a married couple. He's had various ex-cons and assorted misfits in the house; I never know who is going to answer the phone. My father is "anonymous" in the comments. Not because he is afraid of being noticed, no it's cause he's the classic absent-minded professor type and can't recall his log in info. Take a bow, impressario.

Those who know me would recognize me as an oldest. The scary thing is to think, I could have been even MORE bossy than I already am. Mom was the oldest of 10 kids so she knew the pain of being the little extra parent. She didn't let me take on that role. Anytime I started to boss my brother and sister she would say, "OTRgirl, stop. That's my job, not yours." I was always hurt by that since I was 'just trying to help'--but now I am grateful for her wisdom. She also never made me babysit them. Instead, when I was old enough to know how to handle an emergency, they would leave us with these instructions, "We're going out for three hours. When we return, if the house is in order and you have nothing to tell us, we'll split the babysitting money between the three of you." As a result, OTRbro and I would get into two-round knock-down, drag him over the back of the couch in a headlock, split my lip fights. Then clean the house together. Talk about training in conflict resolution!

What truly makes us weird: we grew up without a television. My father maintained that he was an addict and couldn't have it in the house. The main impact of this has been that I can't participate in conversations that are about a television show. Which has maybe impacted 2-5 percent of my conversation time. On the positive side, it meant our parents had to be very creative with how to occupy three hyperactive children. We built indoor forts, created puppet shows (and some puppets), played dress-up for hours, fought (see above), read books, played cards, went to church events, talked, drove each other crazy, giggled, explored the neighborhood and spent every summer day at the public pool down the street.

We weren't, and aren't, a perfect family, but we can talk about anything that's bugging us and usually find something to laugh about in the midst of our pain.

See, it's the stuff you probably know already if you've read here or known me long. I love telling the stories, but it's almost rote with new people. Of course, if I did this as a card, it would be more visual and far less wordy...

October 9, 2007

Getting to know you

I love how keeping a blog allows conversations with distant friends to skip the catching up stage and just get to the heart of things. My cousin closest to my age (anyone want to suggest a pseudonym?) came to visit last weekend and she already knew about our lives here. Two nights ago, I called one of my ex-boyfriends who has since become a good friend. He reads the blog and so could ask questions like, "You mentioned in a post that you and Jrex have differences in vision. For anyone who doesn't know you, there was a whiff that you might be considering divorce. Tell me more about what you meant." I LOVE being able to just start talking in the deep end and skipping all the "what have you been up to?"
chit-chat.

The problem is that I need to process my daily life without catering to my inner editor. As a result, I usually only tell long-distance friends and family about it. It's been a good policy, but it means that with new friends here I have to go through all the start up conversations. I'm so impatient with having to tell the same stories again and again. This past weekend another new friend, Art Facilitator, picked me up to go to San Francisco. We watched Helvetica--a movie for designers and type geeks. I LOVED it, but if you don't know who Matthew Carter is and don't care who designed Meta, it might not be for you. Then we checked out the "Hardly Strictly Bluegrass" Fest in Golden Gate park. Wonderful adventures, but our conversation was filled with all the early friendship questions. How did you end up in California? Do you have siblings? How did you meet your husband?

When we first moved to Baltimore, I seriously considered making info cards that I could hand out:

"My family? Hold on, let me find that one. Oh, ok, here it is..."

In preparation for those future life story cards, I'll 'give' you one each day for the rest of the week.

October 3, 2007

Greening the city

One of my ongoing interests is sustainability. I thought about going back to school for architecture so I could build low-income row homes in Baltimore that were 'off the grid'. Solar powered, green roofs, using gray water for irrigation, radient heat, etc.

This morning we had a brainstorm at work for an upcoming event in February. Apparently San Frncisco, Amsterdm and Se0ul are working together with C1sco to try to further sustainable cities. We are running the event and are charged with creating a green-friendly experience. San Fran will host up to 50 mayors and their entourages for the event. Our ideas ranged from wrapping BART trains with a welcome message (not so green friendly, though the part about taking public transport from the airport is), using laser projections to create signage, to giving each delegate an iPhone with maps, program guide and agendas already installed.

What do you do to be 'green'?

October 2, 2007

Only in San Francisco

We picked up Gentle Man at 7:40 at his home in Bernal Heights, San Francisco. Bernal Heights is surging toward full gentrification after a seedy past. As we drove through I tried to give Jrex character sketches of my coworkers, “Gentle Man is in his forties, I think. He’s one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met. Not that it matters, but I’m 90 percent sure that Gentle Man is gay. Like you, dear, he’s very soft-spoken, so I’ll sit in the back so you can hear as he navigates you to the restaurant.”

We drove up to the Mission to meet two of our current and two previous co-workers at a Senegalese restaurant. Eeyore had NOT been invited. Gentle Man had suggested that was not the kindest thing to do, but had also quietly confessed he wasn’t sure he was up for an evening with her. Most of us had our significant others along for the fun.

As we shared pitchers of tamarind margarita, mango cocktail, and sampled each others delicious meals, someone mentioned the Folsom Street Festival and asked who was going. Gentle Man laughed and said, “Definitely.” British Designer also nodded and said he and his girlfriend were going. People started talking about what they’d seen at the fest in years past. My third co-worker, Fireball started laughing at the look on Jrex’s face. He told me later that he’d overheard British Designer say, “I have a leather mask, should I wear it to the festival?” and someone answered, “I wouldn’t get dressed up unless you’re willing to be an active participant. People take the fest very seriously.”



After dinner as we drove Gentle Man home, we somehow started chatting about Halloween on Castro Street and all the drag queens that come out to party. I laughed as I said, “One of my friends in college was horrible. When he dressed in drag he was more gorgeous than any of the women. Well, he was gorgeous either way.”

Gentle Man smiled and softly said, “Well, most of the people in the office know about this anyway, but I do that occasionally. Mostly for Halloween on Castro Street.”

I asked, “Does it feel mostly like dress up, or does she become an alter ego?”

He nodded and said emphatically, “Definitely an alter ego. We rent a hotel room right by Castro so we can just have fun and not worry about driving home or anything. But last year there was a shooting there. It’s just not safe anymore. Too many people just watching and not enough people there to participate. The street doesn’t even want to have it anymore and the city is actively discouraging the event. It’s very sad.”

After we dropped him off, I looked at Jrex, “OK, so make that 100 percent.” He grinned and nodded.

-----------------------------

The next day I reflected on the fact that only in San Francisco would a dinner with co-workers have involved a discussion of teaching in bi-lingual schools, a recent honeymoon to Vietnam, drag queens and S&M.

Then I thought about the fact that when he was in Israel, Jesus horrified the establishment by the people he chose to be around. He was often accused of partying with sinners. I was struck by the notion that if he were here physically, he’d be hanging out with the drag queens and loving them. It made me glad to know him.

September 28, 2007

Random Friday

Last week and this week are huge crunch times at work. We have two shows to design that are going up the same day.

All that is to explain my radio silence and to tell you why I don't have time to tell you more about:

-going to Bay Meadows horse track for my company picnic. I wanted to start my gambling addiction, but neither of us brought cash. Best part? The race where Horse #7 scraped off the jockey at the starting gate and trotted around after the other horses.

-Bringing Muttola into work after dinner Wednesday night. We hung out til 11 pm and had a couple chase games around all the desks and cubicles. Stressed-out Eeyore was still here and seemed amused by our capers.

-Figuring out whether it's worth it to have a Mary Kay rep who is a friend, but who is also long-distance and bi-polar. Sometimes she's great and other times, not so responsive... Which leads to thoughts about how we're all just wired differently and why as a society we think it so necessary to medicate everyone to sameness.

-Seeing "Becoming Jane". I enjoyed it, but I like Jane Austen and I love the actor. He was also Tumnus and in The Last King of Scotland. Brilliant. Not a handsome guy, but becomes compelling in every movie he's in.

-Flipping around last night to catch premiers of Ugly Betty, My Name is Earl and Grey's Anatomy. Why oh why does GA have to jump off the ridiculous soap opera angle when all they need to do is let the characters live and interact?! They have an amazing cast and compelling characters, but they keep forcing them to do bizarre and stupid things. Ugh. Despite the annoyance, I keep thinking about the characters. I miss Burke. Sigh.

-The follow-up post would be how we took the summer off from TV and how wonderful it was. We're trying to just pick two shows to follow for the fall. Heroes is a given. We both missed the premier of Bionic Woman, but that could be fun. I'll have to give it and GA a couple weeks to figure out who 'wins'.

-Yesterday while discussing what capital investments the design department needs for the fall, the best recommendation was a foosball table. We're billing it as a carpal tunnel prevention device. Think it will work?

September 21, 2007

The Ignorant Question

This morning at work we had a ‘town hall meeting’ for all the staff. The VP in charge of our branch of the company did a good job inspiring us with the fact that we are uniquely positioned in the market. Many companies are moving away from traditional advertising and marketing and are moving toward doing conferences, team building, and fun events to build their brand—and that’s what we do.

Then he opened the floor for questions. A few people asked very intelligent questions. During the VP’s initial speech and throughout the high level Q&A the word ‘silo’ kept coming up. It was used to talk about no longer being segregated into silos, that we should move away from a silo mentality, etc.

I’ve always been fascinated by group dynamics. I often experiment with them. I love to go into a museum and just stand and examine a neglected painting. After a while a whole crowd gathers because they think they might be missing something. I was impatient with the tentative Q&A. I’d been introduced as a new person early in the meeting, so I figured I could get away with anything.

I raised my hand, “What’s a silo? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

As they answered the question (a silo is a group of people who only worry about their area without involving other members of the company), the whole room loosened up and people started asking much more gut level questions.

Tonight they implemented one of the suggestions that came up in the meeting. On Friday afternoons the managers bring around a drink cart for anyone who’s still working at 4:30. After my ignorant ice breaker, someone suggested having everyone gather around the drink cart instead of it traveling. Another person suggested moving it to different departments so we could get to know each other.

I just got back from mingling. I know I did a couple doom and gloom posts about work, but the last few weeks have been getting much better. Ever since finding out that Eeyore is not my supervisor, I’ve been better able to manage her and my clients and my projects. I’m really enjoying the job now. Drinking and chatting with more of the people who work here has just reinforced that impression.

So get out of the silo, people, drink up and ask the stupid question!

September 18, 2007

WAY too much info for the men...

I'm telling you now, Dad, Uncle Quip, Uncle Deer Slayer, move away from this blog post. Do not proceed any further...

(though, Uncle Quip, as a family doc, this might be good to pass on to your patients)

Saturday morning, Snickollet mentioned The Diva Cup in this post. I checked out the website and decided I should try it. An easy bike ride gets me to a Whole Foods which sells it. However, as a woman skilled at Good Intentions with little follow-through, I would have normally have forgetten about it by Sunday.

Friday night I'd called Workaholic's Wife to see if she had time to hang out on Saturday. This new friend is married to a guy who runs a start-up company. She's struggled a great deal with what marriage is supposed to look like when an 'early' dinner is at 7:30 pm. Hey, welcome to my world, sistah! Needless to say, she was quite happy (and available) to hang out.

Now, SHE's the one who suggested window shopping at Anthropologie and wandering around Palo Alto. The fact that we walked by Whole Foods on the very same day as my Diva Cup Discovery meant that she had to endure my quest to procure it. I told her what I was looking for and was surprised she'd heard of it from another friend. She said, "You have to let me know if it works. They must be really popular if I've heard about it from more than one person," she paused as a thought struck her, "Oh wait, we live in California."

[Gentlemen: Don't complain that I didn't warn you.]

All that is to tell you that my cycle started today and I LOVE The Cup. You only have to change it twice a day, no risk of Toxic Shock, no leaking, no more land-fill contributions, no risk of running out of supplies and no smell. I can't really run around work and evangelize my new discovery, so I'm inflicting it on you. As Snick said, 'you have to be comfy with your girly parts, but then, shouldn't we all be comfortable with them?' I feel like I've entered a whole new era of freedom from the tyranny of Bloody Bondage!!

OK. Sorry. I got a little carried away there. Um. What I meant to say was, you should check it out. NOW! I mean, that is, if you want to.

September 13, 2007

In response to the commenter who questioned my geek status

I saw this over on Sandra's website:


NerdTests.com says I'm a History / Lit Geek.  What are you?  Click here!


I would also have to offer into evidence what I look like leaving for work in the morning:

-Dorky helmet that flattens my hair and causes it to flip out in very weird ways by the time I get to work? Check.
-bike clip lovinging tucked around my right pant leg? Check.
OR
-padded bike shorts? Check.
-matching bike gloves (hey, they were on sale at REI, the matching color is coincidental. Really. No, I mean it.)
-Water bottle filled with Gatorade mixed from powder? How could I ride in this desert without it?

I don't qualify for nerd status. I would define a nerd as someone lacking social skills who hides behind technology. Geeks, however, are proud to be passionate about things that the 'norm' aren't into. Things like growing up without a television. Reading in bed with one's spouse. Exploring exotic food preparation. The socio-economic study of dog-park attendees. Reading while walking the dog.

I'm happy to be a history/lit geek. That sounds about right. Unless you ask my Dad, my husband or my brother-in-law. They are the REAL history geeks. I just trail along and peer at their discarded books on occasion. In fact, half the questions I was able to answer in the affirmative were because of Jrex, my Greek major husband, indoctrinating me.

Choices

A couple nights ago, a friend called from Rochester. As we caught up on each other’s lives I asked about her in-laws. I’d been in a small group with her mother-in-law during a healing retreat. At the time her MIL had recently confronted her husband about his affair. She was in process of figuring out whether to stay with him or not.

It turns out they ended up divorcing. I never knew her husband, but based on what I’d learned of her that weekend, I could imagine it would have been difficult for her to choose to forgive.

As I thought about that situation, I had this thought about forgiveness:

In order to truly forgive, you have to die. You have to give up your right to be angry, bitter, or hurt, you have to die to your pride or self-defense. The reality is you DO have a “right” to those emotions because you were wronged. There is no forgiveness without death—that’s why it’s so difficult to do. None of us want to die. Volunteering for it seems highly counter productive. Yet the mystery at the heart of my faith is that without death there can be no life. Through death and then resurrection we can experience a new, deeper/higher, more joy-filled level of life.

I know that I’m struggling with places where my self-preservation/comfort instinct is at war with the need to just lay down and let God have access to my attitude. I KNOW how hard it is to forgive, but I’ve also seen amazing fruit in my life and in other’s lives when they were able to make that choice.

My friend’s MIL did the ‘logical’ thing: she didn’t die. So her marriage did. I can understand her solution, but I wonder what new marriage might have been born had she been able to forgive.

September 10, 2007

The Plot Thickens

We never had the knock-down staff meeting I feared. HeroMan, our absentee Creative Director, also known as Captain Chaos, kept being unavailable. He's good enough at the game to make it a fair assumption he's waiting for the fire to die down.

This morning the traffic manager (Stressed-Out Eeyore) got an email from Captain Chaos informing her to expect a new hire today. None of us have ever met this guy nor did we have any idea he was coming.

Turns out he’s a creative director with a writing/acting/theater background. Not someone who can actually design from his own concepts. He will therefore be someone like Captain Chaos who will create a need for content creation without the means to aid in it.

The four of us who were in the office today took him out for a welcome lunch. He’s a great guy.

My overall thought is that Captain Chaos has hired his own replacement.

September 5, 2007

Good Conversation

One of the wonderful things for me here has been that I've very quickly developed some great friendships. One of my new friends picked me up for lunch today.

I've mentioned before my need to be asked questions. Some of that is because it's hard for me to be sad in front of someone else. It usually happens only if someone asks a question that probes into my quiet, dark, underground river of sorrow. I barely want to visit it on my own, I certainly don't take tour groups down there.

This friend, Smart Girl, is very good at questions.

At one point she mentioned, "When you talk about your vision for your future it seems separate from an 'us' vision with your husband?" I hadn't even thought about it before. In some ways, because he's reached a point of survival, he doesn't really think in terms of goals, dreams or visions. If I'm going to think about those, it's within the context of what our life together has become, but isn't something we usually discuss much together.

Other questions (all asked from a place of understanding, quiet listening, and caring):

"What do you think the Lord is trying to reach in you?"

"Usually when the Lord closes a door, He opens something else. Do you think you're just staring at the closed door? What do you think He's leading you toward?"

"What frustrates you most about your life at this point?"

Let's just say it was a bit embarrassing to keep tearing up at a sidewalk cafe!

------------

In return I asked her lots of questions. I love finding out about people's lives. Some might see this as a bit 'nosey', but my intention is not to pry, just to discover.

I asked her about the fact that, despite being an only child with no cousins, she didn't seem spoiled.

"Oh, that's cause no one noticed me. When I was 9 they gave me a credit card, and when I was 11, I started running away to Europe."

"What?!! As in getting on a plane alone [nod] and actually getting there? [nod] Alone?! [nod] For how long?"

"I would usually go for a week."

Total shock in my voice, "And just stay in a hotel and walk around?"

"Yup."

"What happened when you came home?"

"Nothing. They didn't say anything. It was like I never left."

"And they just paid off the bill?"

"Yup."

"You never got molested or bothered by anyone there?"

"No. Total miracle. I remember wandering around alone in Paris at 3 a.m. drunk and no one messed with me."

All of a sudden my ghetto fabulous childhood filled with roaches, foodstamps and hovering parents seemed like the wealthiest childhood I could have ever had.

September 3, 2007

The Calm Before the Storm

When I was being interviewed for my current job there was a woman who often came out to tell me ‘they’ would be with me shortly. I assumed she was the design department administrator. However after I started working she was the one who gave me a to-do list for the day. If I got up and chatted with other people in the department she would inquire, “OTRgirl, what are you working on now?”

Um, obviously, nothing at the moment!

I didn’t know where I stood in relation to her. She acted like my supervisor though that didn’t seem right. Our creative director (HeroMan) is someone who lives in LA and comes into the office two days a week. For those two days he’s usually in meetings or pitching things to clients, so he has very little interaction with those of us in the department.

I call this woman, “Stressed-out Eeyore”. She creates negative spin and can make a tempest in ANY teapot. Throughout the day she gets up to tell every single person in the whole department every single detail of the latest installment of whatever drama. And then often repeats herself. I can’t tell if she does this until she gets the answer or the sympathy she wants, but it drives me CRAZY! I feel like I’ve been slimed by the end of most days.

On Friday, she took a day off. I felt like the holiday weekend started early! While she was gone the two other designers both pulled me aside to tell me that she’s NOT my supervisor and I need to stop letting me treat me as if she were. She is just the traffic manager and is stepping into HeroMan’s void. She needs to be told to Back Off. They both said a variation on, “You are a fully qualified designer, you can manage your clients however you want and she should not be telling you what to do. I haven’t wanted to interfere but I can’t stand to see how she’s treating you.”

The day before she left, Eeyore created a show-down with the creative director. We’ve all been frustrated that he isn’t around much. She called for an all-staff meeting with him and fought with him over the phone about how neglected we all feel. She pulled everyone in the pit with her. I’ve never complained about him, I’m just riding it out and trying to let things sort out on their own, but she started telling him how I would need extra help because I have these two shows coming up, blah blah blah. Huh? I can ask for help if I need it and so far, I don’t. Thank you very much.

I’m concerned that the meeting where she expects all of us to jump on HeroMan is going to turn into all of us jumping on her. It feels like she’s setting herself up for a pick me or pick him option. None of us plan on going down with that ship.

Ahh, conspiracy theories, gossip and back-biting, what would an office be without them?

August 30, 2007

Because I'm a lemming

I mean, hey, I'm in the marketing/design world. I get it, self-promotion is good.

This guy is really good cause he's sweetening the pot with a digital camera. A nice one, not just the bootleg version he's trying to get rid of because his Mom couldn't manage to learn to use it.

He's doing the Stay at Home Dad route, Geek style. He's even coordinated with SmugMug to give away a bunch of prizes. Have I no shame? Will I do anything if the price is right? Um...is that a trick question? I've already designed for the military industrial complex--I've have no moral high ground.

From the quick overview I had today (it's FINALLY a slow day at work), Mike seems like a neat Dad who's using his web design skills and writing ability to make it work from home. Never an easy challenge. Check it out and help me win a camera!

Some things are worth not wearing makeup

I have a very carefully calibrated morning routine that allows me to wake up at 8 a.m. and catch an 8:45 a.m. train.

8:20 a.m. The Phone Rings. The caller ID on my phone shows my sister's house. I assume it's my Dad with travel plans since he's due to arrive this evening. He's spent a week in Seattle and now will join us for the next eight days.

"Imo?" It's my sister's voice. Why is she calling me Imo? I mean, I know it's what my niece calls me, but why is my sister addressing me as such?

"It's me." I venture. I'm a bit slow in the mornings.

"Blonde Niece has something she wants to tell you." This is indeed momentous, as the last few times we've tried 'chatting' on the phone it's been a random monologue with occasional laughter in response.

I hear fumbling noises, "Hey, girl! What's up?" I speak into the void.

"You come my hou ah ma nap?" I hear her breathy question and rapidly try to interpret.

"You want me to come to your house after your nap?"

"Yea!" She exclaims.

"Oh, sweetie, I wish I could but I live too far away. I won't be able to come today."

"Oh. You pla ma to?"

Silence. My sister rescues me, "I think she wants you to play with her toys."

Then more fumbling noises. In the background I hear laughter and then OTRsis gets back on, "She took the phone and carried it over to her toys."

8:27 a.m. My hair is still wet.

"Well, I should run. Can I call you back later?"

"Sure. Blonde Niece, do you want to say good bye to Imo?"

More fumbling and a breathy 'bye-bye'.

Quick hair dry. A dog walk and speedy bike ride and I make the train.

--------

How could you not be cheery and grinning the rest of the day after that beginning?

August 27, 2007

When Geeks Mate

We had newlywed dinner guests a couple weeks ago. The husband is a Silicon Valley guy--he bikes to work, loves to read and is up on all the latest tech devices. The wife is from Orange County (a very wealthy subculture of LA). She's from three generations of fashion design and wealth. As they sat in our living room the husband exclaimed, "See, honey! A wall of books. That's what I would like to have." She looked at our bookshelves where we have every square inch filled with books. "Hmm...I could see that looking ok. If you had three books vertically and then three horizontally with a little pot or something on top of the horizontal books."

I looked at her in horror, "Jrex would KILL me if I tried to do that with the books." (I was minimizing the fact that I would hate it as well--poor Jrex, scapegoated again! He couldn't even defend himself since he was cooking at the time.)

"Why?" she asked in bewilderment. Her husband was staring at her in consternation at her confusion.

"Well, our books are meant to be read not just to be looked at and any pots would get in the way of functionality." Her husband nodded vigorously.

------

Last night we ate a dinner of crackers and sliced cheese as we read in bed. I kept thinking of this other couple, where books and reading were not viewed as sacred by the wife. I felt so happy that we could just spend an evening reading together in mutual contentment. I guess it turns out that in our core values our marriage isn't so cross-cultural after all.

August 20, 2007

Remembering the Dead

On Saturday the 18th, Snickollet had the memorial for her husband John (aka “Goose Husband”). She invited people who wanted to be virtually present to light a candle at 6:30 EST. At 3:15 my time, I started assembling objects. I knew I wanted to light a candle for John and one for my Mom. We never lit one in Seattle for the 10th anniversary of her death. It seemed right to remember Mom and pray for Snick and her family all at the same time.

As usual, the assemblage took on a life of it’s own. I wasn’t sure why I was placing things until I’d finished and realized the symbolism:
  • Two incomplete circles of stones. Two life-lines cut short by cancer.

  • Two candles. Two lights that burned in the darkness and warmed those around them.
  • My Mom’s circle had more stones, closer to a life ‘full of years’. John’s was tragically short.
  • At the beginning of Mom’s circle, seashells. For her these symbolized baptism, new beginnings, fresh life. She often used shells when she spoke on starting life with God. She would pass them out to participants as a meditation aid and a tangible reminder of a retreat.
  • At the beginning of John’s circle, a black egg. For beginnings and for a Goose.

  • In my Mom’s circle, a march of quirky figurines. The nail figures were sculptures that graced our library shelves growing up (I ‘appropriated’ them when I left for college). Mom loved little sculptures and she loved to worship YHWH.
  • I didn’t really know John, so I didn’t want to presume about his life. I did put a little metal stone with “Believe” near the end of his circle.
  • At the end of Mom’s life, a metal stone that reads “Sabbath”. She was trying to learn about rest and about simplicity in her last couple years of life.

  • For both of them, the upward twist of driftwood: beauty emerging from the scouring and buffeting of life.
After I’d finished setting up, I heard the door open behind me. I thought it was the dog and turned to shoo her out of the room. It was Jrex. He’d come to join me. Instantly I wanted to sob. He was here and her husband isn’t. He’d known this was important to me and came to just be with me. Jrex knows the power of presence. No words, just standing there meant a lot to me. I also realized I wanted to be alone with my little ceremony. It felt very private (even though I took pictures to share with the ‘net…don’t ask for logic). I lit the candles and we were quiet together for a bit. Then, quietly he walked out of the room and shut the door gently behind him.

I watched the two flames for a long time.

August 18, 2007

Let's all go to the Lobby!


Last night we rushed off to the movies for the 7:10 showing of Stardust. It was sold out so we bought tix for Bourne Ultimatum instead. However, once in the theater we decided to step into the 7:05 showing of Ratatoulle (sp?!) with the option of leaving for the 7:40 showing of the movie on our tickets. We never left.

I know most of you have probably already seen the 'little Chef' in action, but it was really fun. The physical comedy was amusing and the animators walked a very fine line of maintaining the 'ratness' of the animals without them being completely repulsive. For some strange reason, we both were STARVING on the ride home.

On the way out, we stepped into The Invasion. It's the Nicole Kidman redo of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Much of the film was shot in Baltimore. Even in the 10 minutes we watched, it was fun to see the old hometown. The firm I worked for in Baltimore printed most of the signs that hang in bus stops in the movie. My picture is on one of the "Missing" fliers though I don't know if it's ever visible in the movie. I'm hoping to go back with our three friends who moved here from old Balwmore. It's not the kind of movie I usually enjoy, but for nostalgia and personal history, I'll do it.

Has anyone else seen any good movies lately? Did we take the right pick of the non-Stardust options?

August 15, 2007

It was evening and it was morning. The first day.

I forget if I mentioned this was going to be happening, but I’m in Seattle right now. My sister’s husband had to go out of town for a week and we figured that would be a great time for me to come up and meet my new nephew. The theory is that I’m up here helping out. Thus far I’m feeling much more like a pampered guest with play privileges.

For this visit, it’s just the three of us Body Part kids. No spouses, no dog. I told OTRsis that I feel like I’m at a slumber party with dolls. Sure, the bigger doll keeps asking me to read her stories and play games that circle around to ‘There’s Daddy!’, but it just feels like fun.

The Morning: Movement

In the morning we met my brother at Golden Gardens (I keep calling it Golden Gate), it’s a beach/playground area on the Puget Sound. While I assisted Blonde Niece climb UP the tunnel slide (over and over and over), a woman came by to offer her a balloon. Apparently, she and the other 20 adults milling around next to the playground were waiting for their kids.

We’d noticed a banner reading “P2S —You did it!” and assumed it was for a graduation or birthday. Turns out, P2S stands for “Providence to Seattle”. A group of 20 college kids were due any minute after biking across the country. They’d started June 10 and rode every day except for stops to work on Habitat for Humanity projects. The whole ride was a fund and awareness raiser.

Blonde Niece finally decided she was ready to go build sand castles so we waddled briskly over to where OTRsis had set up camp. Eventually, my brother joined us and Blonde Niece proudly showed him her handiwork. All of a sudden we heard screams, shouts and yells—the bikers were coming! The approach to the beach involves a long downhill that gives a glimpse of the ocean, then parralels the beach for 500 yards before turning back into the long parking lot. As we turned to watch the bikes streaming down the hill, we started sniffling. The raw exultation called for a response and all we could do was tear up!

The screaming bikers swept into the area where their parents were gathered, then turned and attacked the beach. They rode to the water’s edge, dropped the bikes, then piled into the sea surrounded by and filled with screams and cheers. Even my bro got a little watery.

The Evening: A Different World

My sister’s friends came over to watch the kids so we could go out. We’d already decided that part of what we want to do this weekend is remember Mom in honor of the 10th anniversary of her death. She died at the end of September, but we won’t be together then.

For dinner my brother and sister took me to a fantastic Morroccan restaurant. From the outside it looks a bit sketchy, but inside? Wow.


The whole meal involved communal plates and fingers as utensils.


Before the meal each of us were given a gleaming white towel. Then our host brought over a metal container to catch the water he poured over our hands. A guy seated next to us was eating alone. I wondered what he thought as we toasted Mom with our water glasses and reviewed what our parents had done, both wrong and right. Mostly right and often quirky, but each of us are grateful for our parents and for each other.