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 ( 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:

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


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


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?