April 29, 2007

La Photographs

Since they don't directly correspond to the narrative of the previous post, here are some gratuitous photos:

La Bridge. Mom K and I trotted out with the dog so she could stand on the bridge. We didn't make it to stand over the water, but it was still impressive. As was the fact that La Mutt was relatively well-behaved. Who knew she could heel?

La Mutt. Of course we brought her along! She stayed in the car for the winery and for dinner, but mostly had a great day.

In the morning as Jrex and I packed the car, Mom K left the apartment door open. As I steped onto the stair to get another load, a collarless Muttolah ran down the stairs toward me. Instead of turning right to make her escape, she bolted to the left and jumped into the car. Normally she sits in the back seat so that's where she jumped. Since we had two passengers, I'd put her bed in the Outback's rear. I went to lift her out to put her in back and she lept into the front seat. As I went toward the front door, she scrambled into the back seat. What was Jrex doing this whole time? Laughing.

I've never seen such a look of doggie relief as when I finally grabbed her and put her in the back instead of banishing her.

La Photographer. When we arrived at the top of Mt. Tam, a European biker was trying to photograph a butterfly. Dad K instantly began a competition, snapping pictures then turning to check if the Euro biker noticed him snapping pictures... I don't think either of them succeeded and I swear that butterfly was teasing them both.

La View. A Mom and her boy. A man and his dog. A wife with a good view.

Because I'm sick, that's why...

…I’m in the bedroom blogging while my in-laws are here. No really, I have a cold and have been napping most of the afternoon.

I have some Kansas photos I’ve meant to post all week, but haven’t had time (plus they’re on my work computer…). We’ve had something every night and then the in-laws arrived Friday night.

Yesterday we took them to Sonoma for Mom K’s “birthday day”. We didn’t buy her a gift, so we gave her a day instead. We crossed Golden Gate (something she’s always wanted to do), climbed Mt. Tam to get a view of the bay, then drove to Sonoma for wine tastings and dinner.

One of my MIL’s most endearing characteristics is that she’s a lush. She never drinks on her own, but if there’s alcohol to be had, she never says no. We went to the Chateau St. Jean north of town and checked out their reserve tasting (special wines, higher tasting fee). On the way out I said,

“Well, do you want to try their ordinary wines as well?”

No polite Korean protest, no ‘whatever you want’, instead she chirped, “OK! Why not?”

Dad K and I left it up to Jrex and Mom to continue the drinking as we’d had enough. After sampling five reserve wines, Mom tried all ten ordinary wines as well. She’s only five feet tall and was weaving just slightly on the way to the car. Did that stop us from getting a bottle of wine for dinner? Did you read the previous paragraph?

April 25, 2007


“So, ‘more blood’, huh?” Uncle Doctor gave me a hug and a wry grin.

“Tell me more about Ireland!” Aunt Bird exclaimed.

“Let me see that ring!”

This weekend was a reminder of why I enjoy having a blog, and how disconcerting it is to be quoted back to myself. Many of my aunts and their husbands read my blog, and even the ones who don’t, offer opinions on what names they want me to give them.

“I think I’d like to be Uncle Deerslayer”, Aunt Country Singer’s husband declared in his slow West Virginian drawl. Coming from a man who made sure his wedding date didn’t interfere with deer season, who am I to argue?


Uncle Boy Scout Leader (aka Uncle BS Leader) is a wonderful storyteller and has helped shape the boys of Fowler, IN into fine upstanding men. “I’ve never had a scout quit on a hike. In fact, we were getting near the end of a 12-mile hike when one of the scouts started panting and lagging behind. I went back to give him a pep talk. ‘Listen, we can’t stop. We only have one and a half miles to go and you can do it. You just put your hand on your brother’s shoulder and he’ll pull you along. He’ll put his on the scout leader’s shoulder and pull him along. In the end, you’ll all make it. If you decide to quit, I’ll have to cut your throat and leave you here cause I’m not leaving a live scout on the trail.’ The kid made it. And he never forgot that hike!” Uncle BS Leader laughed.


In many ways Grandma’s funeral was a celebration of her life. All her surviving children came, except her son (who has an iron-clad excuse). Most of her grandchildren and a few of the great-grand kids were there as well. Of my 27 first cousins, 21 of us made it to the funeral. We were all a bit freaked out to recognize the kids we played with lurking behind the faces of adults we’d never met. Yet, as always, the family is warm and welcoming. Almost every conversation jumps off the deep end.

One of the remarkable features of my Mom’s whole family is that, for bad or for good, everybody’s in and no one gets kicked out. No one cares if my husband isn’t white. No one does a cold shoulder if the couple isn’t married. Even if you’ve never met before, the greeting is a hug. And if the family is swimming in the hotel pool and you didn’t bring a suit? No worries. One of the aunts is sure to bring extras. Come on in, the water’s fine!

April 19, 2007

We're off to see the wizard!

Oh no, wait. Dorothy and Toto went the other way: from Kansas to California (via the soundstage...)

We found a dog-sitter. We invested stock-options in Southwest. We leave tomorrow! I'm actually really excited to see all my peeps. Truly. Most of my blood relations will all be there. Pray for no tornados... though that would be a cheaper method for getting back out here to Oz.

The other thing I haven't had time to write about is my new job. I'm loving it! In the last two days I've had to photograph a sword, 'distress the h__' out of a heart for an I [heart] L*ra shirt, and come up with a world of paraphanalia for an upcoming game. MUCH more fun than my previous job.

See ya on the far side of the prairie.

April 15, 2007

Seven reasons it’s worth $666 for Jrex to come to the funeral next weekend

  1. Since no airline offers bereavement rates anymore, our plane tickets to Kansas cost $666.60 per person! Fortunately, Dad is covering the cost of one of the tickets. I joked with my Dad that the ticket price was a sign we shouldn’t go. He agreed, “It’s clear the devil owns the airlines.”
  2. Jrex left Friday for a conference in LA. He won't be back until Wednesday. With the death of Snickollet’s husband, it’s set up a weird ‘what-if’ weekend. I don’t like it.
  3. Mom has been dead for almost 10 years. I know the boundaries of the hole and have healed around it. I know it’s there, but it no longer impacts me emotionally. Most of the time. Yet, a weekend full of her sisters will be a weekend of a new awareness of the hole. I like not being emotional anymore about not having a Mom. I don’t want to have to feel all this all over again.
  4. Yesterday my sister commented that she was glad Jrex was coming cause he could deflect or deter some of the ‘When are you having a baby?’ comments. I hadn’t even considered that scenario! Many of my aunts read the blog so they know not to ask, but we’re going to be among hundreds of relatives who have no idea. With my sister, her daughter and Numero Dos in the oven. It just begs the question, doesn’t it?
  5. My cousin D is coming, with his Japanese wife and mixed kids. I’m excited to have a cousin who also married Asian. I’m also glad for her sake, and their kids, that in the middle of Kansas, there will be at least one more Asian face.
  6. He’ll get to add Kansas and Missouri to the states he’s visited. I’ve been to 38 states now, he needs to catch up! Plus he'll get to see that Kansas really isn't flat. It does have rolling hills...
  7. I like him.

April 13, 2007


...as of 7 am Central Time, both of them are gone. GH, tragic, young, too soon. Grandma, gently going home.

In some ways, the vigil stage is harder. Now I can start to move again. For instance, I now have to switch plans from going to a wedding in LA to a funeral in Kansas next weekend.

Fortunately the cute Anne Klein dress I found in my neighborhood thrift store (read upscale...) will still work for the funeral. How pitifully trivial my brain can be, right?

As further evidence of my skewed priorities, while I'm sad I never got a final goodbye with Grandma, I'm really excited to see my aunts and cousins. When I called my sister to tell her the news we were both looking forward to hanging out next weekend. Joys and sorrow all mixed together. That's life, right?

April 12, 2007

Going gently into that good night.

Only a few days left. I remember those last few days.

We brought her home for the end. After days of visitors, worship, joy, laughter, tears, poems and goodbyes, Mom faded into a husk, unmoving on the bed except for sudden, startling breaths. Each one a shock. Each pause after a breath, a waiting. Was that it? The last one? I couldn't breathe until I heard her shuddering intake.

My husband arrived after she'd lost consciousness. One of the kindest things he's ever done for me or for my family was sitting that final vigil. Those last couple days it was too hard to be in the same room with Mom. He remained. Often alone in the room, with her. Waiting. Patient. Quiet. Unafraid.

After two long days of this, my Mom's mom came with a few of the sisters. Saturday, September 27, 2007. When her mom came in the room and spoke, my Mom stirred on the bed for the first time in days. It was just a stirring. Her eyes never opened, she didn't speak. But her mother's voice reached her on that final journey.

Eventually we all gathered downstairs while Jrex and Aunt Bird sat vigil in my parents' room. They chatted quietly about all sorts of things. Aunt Bird was talking while Jrex counted. After three-minutes had passed he quietly interrupted to say, "She's gone."

April 6, 2007

The Background Music is in a Minor Key

In the middle of all the job and gift drama, I've carried two tragic scenes in my mind.

On Saturday, while taking a ski break, my phone rang. It was one of Mom's sisters, Aunt Trust. My Grandmother had a major stroke. Though her body survived the stroke, her brain did not. All this week in the background, I've known that my Grandmother is being allowed to die. She never wanted tubes or artificial life support and after the stroke, she couldn't swallow. On Tuesday they removed the IV tube and over the next 10 days she will die. In many ways, I never knew my Grandmother. In the middle of a large family full of strong personalities, she usually just watched and smiled. She was always ready with a big hug and loved to have her family around her, but it was rare among 27 cousins to get one-on-one time with her. I remember seeing the hair salon she had in her house in Sylvan Grove, KS. On many levels, her life was brutally hard, but the main thing that I experienced from her was joy.


Monday morning I woke at 3 am. Jrex also woke up. We prayed for the usual suspects and even the future in-laws of one of my best friends. At 4 am, I was still wide-awake. I couldn't stop thinking about Snickollet. So I got up, checked her blog, and decided to call her. No, I don't have phone numbers for all my blog friends. Last summer we met up in Boston during a six-hour layover from my Ireland trip. At the time she was ready to burst with her twins, radiant and fun. I still had her number in my cell phone.

4 AM here is 7 AM there. I'm so glad she decided to pick up the phone. Mostly we swapped 'gallows humor' stories. We both find amusement in some very odd places. For me, it was when my Mom was dying. She had a tube coming out of her nose that drained anything she put in her stomach. Despite that, she still liked the sensation of eating and drinking; one of her favorite drinks was Ensure. It comes in strawberry flavor (and color). Mom had a constant stream of people that wanted to come by and say farewell. She'd laugh and chat and make them feel at home. Then she'd drink her Ensure. And it would come out the nose tube. Red. The visitors clearly began to freak out as my Mom kept chatting away. I laughed every time.

For Snickollet it was when she took her husband in to the hospital ER and one of the docs asked him, "Aside from your pancreatic cancer, how's your health?"

The tragic news is, it's not good. I've never met this man, but I feel like one of my friends is dying.


My supervisor received the news very graciously. In fact, she and the whole team are taking me out to a farewell lunch. She asked how I wanted to announce it; I decided to visit people individually. Which meant I had to laugh at myself over and over. I still can't say, "I'll be senior designer for a gaming company" without laughing. This was NEVER on my life/career/design checklist. Can you see me at a gaming convention!? It sounds like my new creative director had no background in games, nor did the senior designer I'm replacing. Apparently I'll have to do 'research' at work. Yup. That's right. I'll be paid to play games. AND, if I wanted to go crazy and buy any gaming systems? It would be a tax write-off.

April 5, 2007

Career Whiplash

I was contacted by another company on Friday. Long story short, I finally was able to get over there this morning to interview and sit with the designer. It's full-time contract work with potential to be hired. The catch is, they need me to start Monday morning. I wasn't able to catch my supervisor before she left for lunch. So now I'm dying while waiting to tell her I'm giving her 1.4 days notice!!!!!

I've never been this person. I had to leave the state to leave my last job! The contract employee scene out here is nuts. It's a large, spread-out design scene, so people just move around frequently. The bummer is that in a job where I didn't represent myself very well as a designer, I'll be leaving a wonderful final impression. Ugh.

New Job Perks? More money, better fit in terms of design and creative scope, closer to my house and a shower (so I could bike all the way).

Downside? I love my peeps here. We go to lunch every week, most days we do a walk along the bay. We chat over the cubicle walls. I'll miss them.

The whiplash? Aside from the speed? I'll be going from designing minimalist posters with TONS of white space to working for a gaming company. The company that makes L*ra Cr*ft Tmb Raid*r. From, "why don't we move that to the right a touch" to "is that too much blood?" At least I trusted my instincts and wore a black skirt with knee-high black boots to the interview.

April 2, 2007

The Gifts

We’re back from Tahoe. There was still enough snow for some fun skiing. I took a lesson in the morning while Jrex hit some black diamonds—then he kindly joined me for a couple greens and one and a half blue slopes. After my knees started aching, he skiied a few more tough slopes while I lounged in the car and called Mom K. She was SO happy I called. She’d wanted to call but was worried that her once (and sometimes twice) daily phone calls during our cross-country drive had been, well, a little stressful.

What? You don’t care about all that? Skip to the chase? Sheesh. Impatient, huh?

As I mentioned, my gift for Jrex was a book.

The title-- “Thin Threads: a Decade of Drama”.

The contents? His poetry. Over the years he’s written poems on various scraps of paper. I selected the best of them (or at least the ones I enjoyed most!), put them in chronological order, designed a layout, and hand-bound the book. I spent a grand total of $24 (with 26 hours of labor).

He said it was the best thing I could have given him. If you can read Korean, his name is on the cover as well as part of the title page.

Here’s what I wrote about the author on the back page:
Musician, poet, husband, friend. Born in Korea, most of his life has been spent in the USA. Despite his status as a Yankees fan, he is loved by anyone who has worked with him, eaten his food, or heard his dry wit. While wrestling with life’s deepest questions he’s managed to complete a Ph.D. in bio-physical chemistry, an Internal Medicine residency, an Oncology Fellowship and three years of slogging research. All this on less than five hours of sleep most nights.

His wife knew he was a keeper when she saw him standing firm in a swirl of her mother’s sisters. A man who could exude peace, stability and humor in the intensity of a gathering of [Last Name] women was a man to be reckoned with.

His gift to me? Well, first a story. (Patience IS a virtue!)

My wedding and engagement rings were burgalarized from our house in Baltimore back in 2003. We bought a replacement wedding ring right away. For this anniversary I was hoping he’d get me a ring, but after I found The Box and casually mentioned, “my ring”, he’d said, “It’s not a ring”. I was bracing myself to act excited when I saw a bracelet or necklace. Also, please note, I’m usually very good at spoiling a romantic mood. We did the gift exchange at a fancy restaurant. As I saw him pull a little blue velvet box from his pocket, I exclaimed, “You lied!!”

Turns out he didn’t lie, exactly. The Box only contained loose stones for Jrex’s selection. At the time of our conversation, there was no ring, yet.

This ring is what Jrex had originally hoped to find when he shopped for my engagement ring. He and Jeweler Friend worked very closely to design this one, pick the right sapphire and get it done on time. It’s beautiful.

On the way home, I called my sister. I told her the ring was very ‘blingy’. She laughed, “Maybe it’s only big in your head.” Um. No. It’s big.