January 31, 2007

An extrovert realizes emotion as it's expressed externally. An introvert figures out a feeling and then states conclusions. Guess what I am?

Kimchi Mamas and Rice Daddies are doing a contest for the funniest story about your father or mother respectively. Just doing the exercise caused me to think about the stories I carry about my parents.

It was easy to think of funny stories about my Dad. He’s absent-minded, blunt and has a witty sense of humor. All three contribute to great faux pas stories. It’s much harder to think of funny stories involving my Mom. It’s not so much that she’s dead. I don’t have any qualms about ‘speaking ill of the dead’. I’d rather remember her as she was: full of worries, anxious about money and whimsically graceful in speech and carriage. The problem is she didn’t have a sense of humor. Life was too painful and too real for her to laugh much. You want sincere? Moving? Deep? I gotcha covered. You want cute anecdotes? Hmmm….

Once during college I called home and Dad answered. After ten minutes of verbal tennis rallies, Mom got on the line. She sighed, “As I listened to the two of you I realized I’m jealous. It’s rare I make your father laugh like that. I’m glad you share that together but I realized I feel left out.” We went on from there to just talk about life. Her comment wasn’t prelude to a discussion, just Mom sharing an emotion as it happened.

I’m profoundly grateful that by example and by her gently probing questions she made it ok to feel what I was feeling, to name it, and to move on with my life. I never had to pretend to feel something I wasn’t. If I was uncomfortable with someone I just met, she said, “That’s ok. It’s important to trust your intuition.” When I brought friends home, she’d say, “I like your friends. You have good sense and it shows in the people you choose to care about.” Months after two of my close male friends in college initiated the ‘wanna date?’ conversation and were rebuffed, she asked, “Have you mourned the loss of those friendships? Just because you never dated doesn’t mean there’s nothing to grieve.” I can list many more examples where she’d ask THE pivotal question that shaped how I thought about a season of my life.

I started this post with no idea what to write about and these memories are catching me by surprise even as I write them. I think it’s cause Dad was just here. As much as I love him, there’s a real sense that when Mom died, I lost both my parents. She was the one who reminded him how to act, nagged him, and brought out his thoughtful side. Without her life with Dad feels like a frenzy of activity occasionally punctuated by an emotional moment. With Mom around life was saturated with meaning, questions, insights and emotion. I’m so sad that in some of my resistance to the frenzy and frustration at not having the Mom side of the equation I’ve also lost the freedom to laugh with my Dad the way we used to.

I miss my parents.

January 29, 2007

So far no broken bones

This is the view as I bike into work in the morning.

My supervisor worries about me driving in the dark to catch the train at night. That's not the real concern. Far more worrisome is my klutz factor. On the way home Thursday I managed to hit the lip of a handicap curb wrong. Let's just say that the rest of the ride to the train station the song in my head was, "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again."

January 25, 2007

Day 3

New job. New routine. Quick Impressions:
  • Love the commute. Two train stops with a 15 minute bike ride. As I pump hard to catch the train at the end of the day it feels like being a little kid running home from school. Much more thrilling than a car ride. Especially since I have to cross the track before the train to make it.
  • Everyone at work seems to view my bike riding as an eccentricity of the highest order.
  • Still enjoying the people. Very multi-ethnic in an Asian/Caucasian sense. At lunch time, the Indian IT crowd takes over the break room and different elements of the branding department wander forth to the cafeteria or nearby Asian restaurants for lunch. We’ve got a Korean woman married to a Chinese Vietnamese man, my boss is Chinese married to a Korean, my project manager is Chinese married to a white man. It looks like we’ve hired a new project manager whose last name seems Japanese. But, given the rate thus far, she’s probably white.
  • It’s my very first ‘real’ cubicle experience. Fortunately, I have a big one, with a Mac G5, and cinema screen monitor. On Day 1 they gave me an Office Max catalog and told me to order what I need. Do you think an order for an Aeron chair will be ok?
  • The design work is all immediate turn-around and not that exciting. The longest any designer has lasted so far is 9 months.
  • OTRdad is still here (Day 9 of a 12 day visit). We’ve done Palo Alto/Stanford and the San Francisco Modern Art Museum. He claims I (and my bro in Seattle) keep dragging him out for forced death marches (since we seem to have trouble finding the bus stops…).
  • On Sunday we set forth with OTRdad to go on a whale watch trip with folk from Jrex’s lab. It was, in fact, supposed to be a day for bonding with other labs. Before we left, I told my Dad, “Here’s the persona for you today: dignified older gentleman. We can’t embarrass Jrex with our usual antics.” He nodded and asked, “Can I talk to people?” I laughed, “Only if you listen as much as you talk.” His persona was never tested. The Subaru we received back on Friday started whining and smoking as we hit the mountains. We turned around and spent the afternoon hiking to the Dish on Stanford’s campus instead. Turns out the whale boat never made it out of the bay. Even within the bay, people threw up due to high seas. They ended up hugging the shore and watching the seals. On our end, the Subaru was fixed within one day on Monday (they’d installed a faulty Power Steering Pump). No charge. Phew!
One final item that sounds far worse than it is. I mentioned swimming in my last email. Well, I get to pay the piper for all that. I’ve already had a benign mole removed from my forehead. Since then, I’ve been good about my annual skin checks. The Menlo dermatologist removed two moles from my back two weeks ago. The 9 mm (!) mole was normal, but the 6 mm one has irregular cells. Thankfully, it’s not melanoma. They’re sending the path report to the house so my own private oncologist (I love him!) can check it out. I have an appointment in March to get it further excised. Sun-block, sun-block, sun-block, people! And hats! And gloves!

January 22, 2007

I remember

Twizzle did this meme. Set a timer for 10 minutes and write a piece beginning with the phrase, "I remember..."

This is Main Street, one block west of my childhood street, Sycamore.
I remember our street. In the eyes of 'normal' Americans, there was little to recommend it. We had no yard and busy cars sped up and down a few feet from our front stoop. For us though, our outside world was filled with possiblities.

Stepping from the front door, I'd run my hands along the reflective black tiles in the entry way. After their coolness, the sunwarmed stone of the stoop burned my bare feet. Turning left, I ran past Mr. Hooper's window, crossed 14th street and tore over to the grassy playing fields of the School for Creative and Performing Arts. Wearing only a swimsuit, I dug in the mud searching for fossil encrusted rocks. When the day's excavation was complete (and the pool finally opened), I'd run across the street --after looking both ways first-- and throw myself into life at the pool. I loved getting into dunking duels with the lifeguards. Each year I picked my crush and would target him with my violent affections.

I remember running across the street to the appliance store and dragging home empty refrigerator boxes. First we cut out a little window in the side. We drew patterns and flowers all around the opening, then decorated neighborhood telephone poles with crayoned signs, "Puppet Show, 5 cents." Neighbors gathered in our basement, solemnly putting nickels in the box on the table. Our homemade productions seemed to be comedies no matter what we tried to write. After the show, the box, laid on it's side with slots cut for seats, became a firetruck. Eventually, the distractable firemen got into wrestling matches and tore through the walls of the truck. Those tattered pieces were the best sleds ever. Even in summer, you can sled down grass if you have a great chunk of cardboard.

On weekends during the school year, we rode our bikes in the asphalt hills of the Peaslee Neighborhood Center. I never grew brave enough to jump off the steepest hill, but loved riding up and down the shallower slopes. One day, riding there alone, I was confronted by six older girls on bikes. "Give us your bike, bitch!" I could see my front steps beyond the leader's shoulder. "NO!!" I yelled as I pumped my hardest through their midst and toward the safety of home. They followed me for a little while then gave up, laughing at my peddling frenzy.

January 19, 2007

Feast or Famine

Nothing may come of this, but one of my freelance clients here might sign some big contracts in the next couple weeks. He's talking about buying me out of my new job if that happens. It's an exciting proposition since I'd functionally be doing the total design for a start-up company. It would keep me involved in branding and interactive design (which would really help my portfolio...) Anyone know the ethics in that kind of situation? How much time do I owe the job I'm about to start?

January 17, 2007

Job vs. Career

In September I interviewed at the largest exhibit design center on the West Coast. The Head Guy asked me a question that has haunted me since then, “Do you want a job, or do you want a career?” He continued with, “If you want a career, you’ll commute for it. If you just want a job and you’re across the Bay, it’s not going to work.”

The truth is I want a career, but I want it close to home, convenient, and only 40 hours a week. The Head Guy suggested I call a friend of his who is a partner at of one of the biggest design companies in the world. I still haven’t called him. The Head Guy is in Oakland, The Partner is in San Francisco. To commute to Oakland involves at least 45 minutes of driving in traffic. Commuting to San Francisco takes two trains and an hour and 20 minutes each way. It bothers me that I never called The Partner. What is wrong with me? Even if I didn’t get work there, his name could open other doors. I never banged on doors, dropped off my portfilio, sent my resume out or did anything aggressive. I took contract jobs through two creative placement agencies. The job I found was through Craig’s List.

This job is NOT a career move. It’s just a job. As an in-house designer I will be working within corporate guidelines, not generating new ideas. I won’t be meeting with clients, or gaining agency experience. I won’t learn better website design. On the other hand, I hop on the train and ride it up two stops and then bike the final two miles. It integrates exercise into my daily life and it’s a short commute.

What’s freaking me out is that I’ve always thought I was competitive and ambitious. That I would call anyone or do what it takes to get what I want. The hard part has been figuring out what I DO want. And in the end what I want is just a job.

I think that after my Mom’s illness and death, many things were rearranged in my mind. I didn’t care about work anymore. No matter what I do to make a living, it’s not eternal. It just doesn’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things. What is eternal are the relationships in my life. Those are the people I’ll see again in heaven. The reality is that I DO sacrifice and work hard for relationships. That’s what’s made my home life suffer: being available for friends, not working overtime at a job.

Part of the reason I didn’t pursue those career possibilities is I didn’t want to walk through that open door. I didn’t want to force myself into a lifestyle where I have to work 60 hours a week (with a 2 hour and 40 minute commute every day, it would be 60-80 hours minimum). I didn’t want to sacrifice my marriage so I could make garbage. (No matter how many awards the annual report wins, it mostly ends up in the trash, right?)

I’m still a bit freaked out that this job will make me creatively claustrophobic. I’ll keep my options open and continue to pursue relationships with local designers. Perhaps I’ll find something that is both job and career. But in the meantime, I’m happy with ‘just a job’.

January 11, 2007

Got it!

Just got a call and was offered the job! In the midst of all the car chaos it's comforting to know I'll be getting a paycheck soon.

It'll take a week of processing before I can start work. The woman who called asked what I hoped to make. "Well, I've been told that designers in San Francisco get between ___ and ____ so I was hoping for something in that range." (Considering that I made half that at my last job I had to laugh at my own nonchalance). She asked what I'd made in my previous job and, thinking on my feet, I scrambled, "Less than that, since Baltimore was a lower scale for everything. For example we had a three-bedroom house that cost us $125,000." She laughed and offered me something within that range. Inside I was excited but calmly answered, "That should be fine for now."

I took a humor risk during the interview when they said they'd need to do a drug test. I acted like I was getting up to go and exclaimed, "Well, that's it for me then!" Fortunately in the job description they'd mentioned that humor was important.

My other risky response during the interview was when they asked how I handle stress. I grinned, "You mean aside from running around the room cursing?"

I guess I was right about their humor. Phew!

Modified to add: I met with one of my freelance clients yesterday. He has a few deals that might go through in the next couple months. I just couldn't wait to find out if they were going to work out. He asked what they offered me so that he would know what he has to offer to buy me out! It may not happen, but it was flattering to be asked.

January 10, 2007

'scuse me while I vent a little

Last Friday Ms. P left at 6 am to catch a plane. At noon Mr. Shove came to stay. Mr. Shove is the founder/creative director of a physical theatre group in Rochester. For the past five days he and I have worked almost 'round the clock to try to get his website updated. Last night I was up long enough to walk the dog in the morning and then collapse for two hours. We didn't get the site done, but we're well on the way.

I tell you that to tell you this. When I'm tired, I cry about anything. Anything.

When I called* the mechanic today and he told me they'd put the whole car back together and THEN tested to see if the head gaskets had been warped when the car overheated, I just about died. After maintaining composure long enough to ask how much more THAT might cost (at $95/hr labor) to fix, I lost it. Now we're at least $1000 over the reimbursement check we just received. It wouldn't be so bad except he mentioned that if a Subaru gets so hot it overheats and shuts itself off, head warpage is a common occurance. When I brought the car in I told him I'd driven to San Jose where the car just stopped at a light. No, there was no smoke, but it completely stopped. He said I hadn't told him that (lie!) or he'd have checked this earlier.

I've always taken the Subaru to a dealer and felt maybe I was being overcharged for the privilege. Maybe I have been, but I've never seen this kind of (lack-of) response rate. A week and a half in the shop and now you want to add this?! I don't think so. We'll pick up the car tomorrow and find another place. Anyone know a good mechanic?

note: the guy has only called me twice, otherwise I've been calling him.

January 8, 2007


Good news: The reimbursement check for moving expenses is bigger than either of us expected.

Bad news:
It's barely enough to cover the cost of fixing our Subaru. Which has languished for the past week in the shop.*

*Which is why it took me 1.5 hours on public transportation to get to my interview on Thursday. Jrex biked 40 minutes each way to work one day, bummed a ride the next and then WALKED an hour and a half there on Friday. After hearing that story, someone from lab loaned us their second car until ours is fixed.

January 6, 2007

When you're too lazy to leave the house to find a Hallmark version

Handmade thank you card for Thursday's job interview. It's an in-house design group for ABS, the company that makes my husband's research equipment. A company 20 minutes up the road by car, but 1.5 hours by public transportation. The three women interviewing me were Asian. I wonder if they were disappointed when Ms. Most Common Name in Korea showed up in all her pale-faced glory?

January 2, 2007

New Year Food

Being a fourth generation American on my Mom's side and a DAR on my Dad's side, it's hard to claim any particular traditions. As a 1.5 generation Korean-American Jrex has a clearly definied culture. Out of self-defense, I claim random items as being necessary for my 'German' cultural identity (mostly dessert and beer). The only other specifically German tradition I have is pork and saurkraut for New Years day. Koreans tend to eat duk-gook (a dumpling based soup) for New Years. Most years we have soup for breakfast and pork in saurkraut from the crockpot for dinner.

I think he's fully corrupted me though. This year we had duk-gook for brunch and then Jrex made a FANTASTIC New Years dinner. He ad libbed a recipe involving rosemary and thyme encrusted chicken breasts on a bed of wild rice surrounded by steamed veggies. For dessert we had mixed fruit with honey and almonds. As my friend and I cleaned up after dinner, Jrex played piano in the living room. Ms. P turned to me and exclaimed, "If I'd known it was this good here, I'd have been here months ago!"


I provided the key ingredient for dinner. A couple days ago as I walked the dog past the retirement home, I realized the bushy hedges separating the cars were rosemary. I brought some home and used it for dinner.

As I started out on a dog walk yesterday I heard someone calling my name. I turned back to find my husband. When I got closer to him he said, "Could you pick up some rosemary while you're out?" I looked confused, "But I don't have any money and the stores are all closed?" He gave me a look that signaled I'd had a DBM. "Oh!" I exclaimed "You mean 'pick up' some rosemary!"

Those poor bushes are going to be stripped by spring.