December 31, 2008

This is SO mental

On Monday I had my very first ultrasound. I'm sure that guys suffer much worse once they hit 40 and have to have someone looking at their colon, but it's a strange experience to have someone probing areas you don't normally share with strangers.

The nurse at my OBGYN called me back an hour after the test (LOVE the digital age), "We need you to set up an appointment with Dr. O as soon as possible..." Fortunately, she continued before my heart could stop, "You appear to have a dermoid cyst on one of your ovaries. It's benign and not dangerous at all, but it is 8 cm and needs to come out. We can probably do a lapriscopic surgery, but you'll need to discuss all this with your doctor."

I came home and told my home doctor about it, his eyes grew big, "Wow, 8 cm. That's impressive. It's the size of a baseball!" What! I hadn't actually figured out how big it was, that's huge! He continued, "I've seen some the size of grapefruits, so it's not unheard of, but that's a good size."

I called my friend, Ms. Sword. She's had some experience with cysts; in addition to being impressed by the size, she added, "A dermoid cyst! That's so cool. Those are the ones with hair and teeth and things growing in them."

At first I didn't feel at all emotional about the whole thing. As the shock is wearing off, I'm realizing I want it out NOW. Not because of any health risk or need to get pregnant, rather, I feel dirty. I feel like I have some dustball that's rolled up and started growing in my belly and I don't want it. Ms. Sword's comment has given me a picture of the thing: it's like I'm carrying Mr. It's love child. Out, out, dam'ned spot!

The first opening with my OB is January 30th. Now that I know it's there, every time I bend over I think I can feel it. On Sunday I climbed the walls at the gym with no thought for my stomach. Today? I crouch to pet the dog and say, "Ow!" Jrex started out sympathetic, but as I keep saying, "8 cm? I've got a baseball in my guts. Ow. My stomach!", he's started to roll his eyes.

Last night, he grinned at me and said, "I'm downgrading it to a raquetball." Hmph.

December 25, 2008

What we carry for each other

Jrex and I woke early this morning. Dad was still asleep. We chatted for a couple hours (with a dog walk intermission). One of the hard parts about having a houseguest is missing each other. Normally, it’s just the two of us, so we take our daily chats for granted. It was good to catch up a bit.

We discussed how, in my house growing up, it truly was survival of the fittest. Kids are by nature relatively self-focused, so without both parents reinforcing consideration, a kid isn’t going to learn to think of others. Much as we love him, our Dad was an only child and his default option is oblivious. Poor Mom, she didn’t have a skill set for dealing with little kids since her main tool for discipline was yelling. Dad backed her up as much as he could, but due to his entrepreneurial housing firm, he wasn’t around much. This created kids who could endure emotional onslaughts then shrug it off and do what they wanted anyway. For my sister and me, that means husbands who have no idea how to get us to change behaviors that drive them crazy. It means we’re often bulls in china shops of other’s emotions. Ironically, my brother is the most sensitive and thoughtful of the three of us.

On the other hand, for Jrex, he might have been relentlessly trained to think of others, but he wasn’t allowed to feel his emotions. His father, before becoming a Christian, was a very angry, abrasive and oblivious man*. His Mom could only handle one person in the family being angry and wouldn’t let the kids express frustration. Jrex wasn’t allowed to pursue music despite his teacher urging his parents to allow him to go in that direction. Wasn’t allowed to take a year off after college, despite being exhausted and clinically depressed. He’s had to think of others at the expense of his own soul.

As a wise friend once observed to us, we usually marry the person who is perfect for either continuing our childhood traumas or helping to heal them. We’ve both made huge choices to try to be part of healing what our parents never gave us. It means that over the years, I have had to draw out Jrex’s anger. Which, unfortunately, is often at me. It’s challenging to keep asking for more details instead of reacting defensively! It’s meant that over the years, he’s had to turn off the stove after I cook, endure my relentless projects, and grit his teeth through my fend-for-yourself attitude and my inconsiderate actions.

Today, for Christmas, he wrote me a poem that recognized my choices to remain in our marriage. Knowing that he sees what I’m doing was the best present I could have asked for today. (Though Mom K sent me a very sparkly, very Korean red sweater jacket! And my Dad made me some very cool hardware store accessories—really!)

Part of what makes life meaningful and healing is what we can carry for each other. The places we can give each other grace to be who we are--the flaws and the beauty. We're both grateful for the parents we've had. We're incredibly rich people in terms of our legacies from them. And I'm incredibly grateful that we have each other.

May you find someone willing to carry with you this year. Merry Christmas (and/or Happy Holidays)!

*Of course, he survived years in occupied Korea, years in the army and relocation to a new country, new language and new customs. He had reasons for the anger. And, after becoming a Christian, truly transformed into a big-hearted, generous man.

December 22, 2008

He's a good Dad

We arrived late, but no later than many of the other guests. Double Name played the host and welcomed in the guests, bustled around putting coats away and was generally very helpful. My Dad wandered around starting friendly chats with each person he met. If I went over to make sure he was ok, he shrugged me off. He was fine. By the end of the evening I had strangers coming over and saying, "Oh, you're OTRdad's daughter. I heard..."

Toward the end of the evening, Double Name and Graceful came over to me and asked if I'd be willing to explain The Jumping of the Broom. Mostly, I knew it as a slave tradition: when the owners didn't allow marriage, the slaves who wanted to marry jumped together over a broom to declare themselves bound to each other. However, I knew that my Dad knew the history better than I did. I went over and asked him to tell me about it, to make sure I was correct. As he explained it, I realized he was the one who should say it. Our family is not at all shy (you're shocked, right?), so he was happy to tell a story to a room full of new friends.

We called the room to attention. Double Name and Graceful stood behind my Dad as he explained, "Many of us think that weddings belong in a church. The reality is, the church really didn't get involved in wedding ceremonies until the 13th century. Before that, all over the world, people became married simply by declaring they were. In different cultures, this was shown in different ways. Here in the United States, we think of jumping of the broom is a slave tradition. Yes, it was used then, but more than that, it was a way many African cultures used to declare a wedding. Today, Double Name and Graceful want to declare their union before you as they participate in this historic ritual."

I held one end, my Dad held the other as our friends grinned at each other, counted to three and jumped!

December 20, 2008

It's all relative

Tonight is the wedding reception for Graceful and Double Name. I mentioned them a while ago when I got their e-vite and thought they'd eloped. They hadn't. In fact, they just got married this past Wednesday by a justice of the peace. Graceful's sister was the witness.

It hasn't been an easy journey. Graceful is Chinese and Double Name barely has a family. His mom was white, his father a light-skinned 'black' man. He has hazel eyes, blondish hair and tan skin. Her parents saw a black man. They gave her statistics about black men being 7 times more likely to leave their wives. Relative after relative called her to challenge her logic, question her thinking and batter her towards changing her mind. She responded as graciously as she could, but was clearly overwhelmed.

A couple weeks ago, her parents went to see a Christian Counselor. They brought the letter they'd written to Graceful. All their logic in one tidy package. The counselor took them to task and told them what they needed to do in order to maintain a relationship with their daughter. They actually listened! In a surprising turn of events, they asked if they could host the wedding reception. Obviously, Double Name wasn't that excited about the idea. These people had mostly either ignored him completely or grilled him within an inch of his brain.

A week ago, Double Name picked me up at the train station so we could grab Graceful and go down to the climbing gym. As we drove, I asked him how it was going. He's had to be the strong, steady one for Graceful; I think he appreciated a place to vent.

I commiserated, "Look, there's nothing you can do in the short term to make them like you. It will just take time. If you can bring yourself to do it, accepting the invitation to do the party at their house would be huge. Sure, it won't feel as much like your own gala, but it's an important bridge to build."

He sucked it up and we'll be driving down there tonight.

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This morning, I was climbing with our third partner, Petite Slovakian. She was asking why Graceful's parents didn't like Double Name. She'd met him the previous week. I explained, "Even for me, it was a three year campaign for my husband's parents to consider our marriage. Double Name has it even harder since he's African-American."

Petite Slovakian looked confused, "He's African American?"

She couldn't tell by looking at him. Yet it's the main thing Graceful's parents see.

December 18, 2008

Life is as strange as fiction

Two nights ago, Dad and I went to see Cadillac Records. Many of the images and ideas from the movie continue to play in my head. The emotional arc of the movie was the rise and subsiding of Muddy Waters, famous Blues man from the 1950's. He began as a sharecropper and ended up in Chicago. The character played by Adrian Brody essentially builds a record label with Muddy Waters' music as the foundation. It's an ensemble cast full of amazing acting and singing.

Yet the images that echo are of violence. Police brutality when one of the musicians, drunk, forgets that he is a black man in the early 1960's and not the rock star his fans adore. Casual shootings. Threats of violence. Beatings. Tattered emotions rubbed to the point of agony by life's edges. A reminder that even though we now will have an African-American (truly!) in the White House, within my father's lifetime, it was a revelation and a revolution for a black male to be treated as a man.

December 15, 2008

Self-sufficiency: nature or nurture?

Saturday I called my Dad. For Thanksgiving, he'd stayed with my sister, then took a train south. For the past week, he'd been at a Trappist monastery in northern California. He'd planned a weekend trip to Susanville (small town where he lived for a year as a boy), and then over the pass to Pyramid Lake and Reno, NV. However, with snow in the pass he didn't want to end up like the Donner Party, so he was just going to hang out in Chico for a couple days. He'd arrive at our place Tuesday afternoon, as planned.

We chatted about other things and then signed off.

I mentioned all this to Jiu in passing. His first comment was, "You told him he could come early, right?"

I blinked. Huh? It never occurred to me. Dad certainly wasn't hinting at an earlier arrival either. That night we had dinner with Lovey and Dovey, who are both Asian. When I told the story, they were also shocked I hadn't invited him to come earlier.

I laughed, "Well, I guess I come by my self-sufficiency honestly, right?"

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In our family, my Mom always complained that the four of us were thoughtless. She was the only one who tried to make life better for the whole family. The rest of us only thought about ourselves.

I could go on, the litany usually took 10-15 minutes. I clearly tuned it out within the first couple lines. Over the years, I'd like to think I've become more thoughtful of others, but I think there is a core of me that feel like it's everyone for themselves. I thought it was due to an absent-minded father. You know, if you can figure out a bus route home, then you don't have to wait the extra hour for Dad to remember to pick you up. I think it's deeper than that.

When I remember visiting colleges, I always went alone or with a high school friend. I'm not talking about local colleges either! University of Chicago (in a bad part of town), went with a friend. Oberlin College: drove up with my best friend. Hampshire College? I flew to New England alone. Took a bus from Springfield up to Amherst. Took a local bus from Amherst out to the college. Met with someone in the Admission office. Asked for a recommendation for where to stay. Was invited to crash on the floor of a student's room. Did that.

At the time it all seemed normal. My family couldn't afford to all go, I needed to see the schools. We did what we had to do.

It's only in retrospect, as I watch friends escorting their children to various colleges, that I realize what I did was crazy! Obviously, I'd earned my parents trust, but still.

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I called Dad yesterday and invited him to head our way. Of course, being The International Man of Mystery (as designated by my two best friends), he already had plans to hang out in Berkeley. He'll save on one night of hotels and come to us tonight instead of tomorrow. He wasn't twiddling his thumbs or pining away alone in some hotel room. In my family, we were bred to be independent. If it needs to be done, let's do it! No waiting for the whole group. No consensus. Barely look around to make sure anyone is with you. Let's go!

No wonder I drive Jrex crazy at times! It's not just un-Asian, it's almost anti-Asian. Totally thoughtless. Poor Jrex. I wish my Mom had lived longer so he'd have had an ally.

December 12, 2008

Irony abounds!

Guess who just sent a friend request on Facebook? The girl I just mentioned in the previous post. The one who was my frienemy in 1st-3rd grade. Apparently, she's also a Christian now.

Too funny.

December 9, 2008

Getting to know me...getting to know all about me...

In college, I loved the dining hall. Not just for all the food options, which were actually good, but for the people. I would eat my meal with my closest friends, then spend an hour or so going from table to table to banter with other buddies. First year, one of my friends, Ego Boy, and I used to tour through the dorms from room to room of our mutual friends.

Even in high school I rarely stayed with one group the entire lunch. I'd wander around and chat for a bit with various clusters of people. I seemed to be good friends with key people in different groups. I was never the center of a posse, but comfortable with the clans and cliques that each sat in their designated zones: the stoners on the side of the soccer field, the preppy crowd on the front steps, the geeks on the back steps, the art crowd clustered in Handsome Art Teacher's room.

If I tried to stay with just one group, I felt claustrophobic. It meant being dragged into the minutia of silly feelings. I didn't mind being there for a deep talk or a crisis, but the day to day petty dramas drove me crazy.

I married an introvert. That kind of social skimming drives him CRAZY. He's had to teach me to slow down and not cram so many people into my life. I've helped him to connect with a broader spectrum of friends.

Tonight, I realized that what I love about Facebook is that it allows me to do my quick scan of the dining hall. It sets the stage for deeper conversations when I connect with someone on the phone or in person; yet, in the meantime, lets me feel aware of what's going on. Jrex sees little point in Facebook. I've been trying to get him to join the fun, but I now see why he might not like it. He enjoys connecting deeply with a few people and FB is NOT the forum for that.

As I'm writing this post, I'm realizing how much this is a dynamic tension in our lives. I would call myself a skimmer, a sampler. Once I've solved the puzzle, figured out the dynamic, learned my lessons, I'm ready for a new job, a new city, a new home. I keep my friends and collect more as I go. Jrex wants to stay in one place. He judges me for my 'flightiness', I get impatient with always WAITING and being still and patient. It's intriguing to me to see how deep the skimming tendency is in me.

I know the Lord's been teaching me about rest and about being rooted and established in love. Finding my stability in Him. I've been resisting Him, too! Why do they both want to make me into something so totally different than who I've been all my life? It's hard to transform from being a stream into being a tree.

The bigger question is, why does stillness feel so threatening? Why does one small group make me feel claustrophobic?

Does it go back to my two 'best friends' in 1st through 3rd grade? How Redhead would play me and the other girl off each other OVER and OVER and OVER. Did I vow to never get trapped like that again? Is it from the three other families that were the core of our church growing up? The weird inter-family dramas that were played out among adults and kids. Being part of the 'late', 'dirty', 'disorganized', 'loud', 'poor' family?

Hmm...this post has actually helped me realize a few things. I've been protecting myself from additional battle scars like those two patterns ever since. I suspect the Lord is trying to heal something in me that I never thought needed healing.

December 8, 2008

Found the perfect gift

Well, not really 'found', partially 'created'. Many of you may already know about blurb.com. It's a site that facilitates book publication. Anyway, this summer we spent time with the In-Laws and Jrex's sister and her family. Using my photos, as well as Dad K's, I created a photo book (with both of us on the cover as co-authors).

It took a long time to find the correct images. Of course, blurb provides layouts, but I eventually got a little frustrated with them and created my own layout in Photoshop. However, I think for any non-anal, non-designer types, blurb's layouts are a great solution!

I'm publishing three copies: one for us, one for the In-Laws and one for Sis. Voila! I look thoughtful and we save a couple hundred bucks buying individual gifts for each person.

The funny thing was how 'political' everything got. Selecting flattering pictures. Finding a blend of my style of casual, natural people shots, while including the requisite number of posed, stiff, centered people shots to cater to my In-Laws generation of Koreans. Writing up the story of hiking in order to reflect Mom K's enthusiasm while completely downplaying Dad K's lack of breathing ability (smoker + steep climb=sloooooooowwwww). Making sure to include enough of his photos to flatter him. He's got a great eye for landscapes, but he tends to center any human being. AND he doesn't know how to use his wonderful Nikon D60, so all his photos were tinted blue. Fortunately, I know how to do color correction, so they look great in the book.

I think I've navigated the relational shoals and created something that will honor and bless my father-in-law. Now I just have to figure out something for my own father...and Kindles are backordered for the next 11 weeks. Sigh. Anyone got any great gift ideas?

December 5, 2008

Weird

Apparently members of my high school class are in the running to be featured in the 6th season of High School Reunion. If I send in an application, I could go for a paid two-week vacation with friends from back in the day.

If you had that opportunity, what would you do?

December 4, 2008

Jrex sums it up . . .

My company has global offices. In our particular branch, we have around 80 people. Yesterday they laid off 15. Captain Chaos is gone. Fine. Dancer and British Boy from my department are gone. That sucks. We got through the morning of layoffs. Took British Boy out for a farewell lunch (Dancer is in Europe on PTO. Imagine getting laid off while on vacation?!) Came back, went to the pep talk by our department VP, The Devil. Blah, blah, blah: "We decided to take a pessimistic outlook and cut deep and hard just once rather than be conservative and do another round later." In that meeting, Savvy Tech Woman was asking great questions. She came by later and we chatted about our shock as well as a few things related to design stuff I've been helping her with. At 3:55 pm she had to scoot across the building for her one-on-one with Fresh Face--the guy in charge of our branch.

Around 5 pm, The Devil stopped by to check how we were doing. I shared my hope that Dancer would be able to continue as a contractor out of our London office. She's been there for two months doing an exchange and they want to keep her on. I told The Devil, "Dancer has been Savvy Tech Woman's go-to person on the technology update. With Dancer gone, she'll be coming to me!"

The Devil looked straight at me: "No, she won't"

Beat.

"What do you mean?"

"She was just laid off. She was the last of the layoffs."

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When I got home and downloaded my day onto poor Jrex's head, he listened well. Then he said the words that will be echoing in my head throughout the rah rah "Town Hall" meeting we're supposed to have this afternoon.

"I heard a talk by a guy at Hopkins. He was an oncologist who tried it all: private practice, industry, academia. He told us, 'One of the things I learned in all my different opportunities: You may love the institution, but the institution doesn't love you'."

December 1, 2008

Bridging the Gap

Saturday night we had dinner with friends. The husband, Korean Scientist, and his wife, Gentle Smiles, moved here to raise their son Curious in the States. We've known them since Baltimore.

They've come to our house as part of group events, we've seen them at other parties thrown by people in lab. At most of those occasions, Gentle Smiles and I pulled to the side to talk for a while. We compared notes on Mothers. Me, discussing my MIL, her discussing her own mother. The dread of saying the wrong thing and ending up with the Mother living with us. The pressure to measure up. What it's like for her to raise a child here.

When our Thanksgiving plans changed, this family was my first thought. Jrex called and they already had plans. The irony was, they'd already asked him what we were doing for Thanksgiving, and made their plans after he said we had a guest. So they invited us over Saturday instead.

I went expecting a Korean feast. Instead, when we got there Gentle Smiles was nervously setting out cloth napkins, forks and knives. Telling her husband he should have offered us drinks. I could tell she was trying to do things the American way. She even had a cheese plate with crackers, along with the more Korean fresh fruit. I was very touched by the gesture, but wanted her to be able to relax and have fun. Nothing I said seemed to calm the anxiety.

As she was getting the food on the table for dinner, somehow the subject of chopsticks came up. I laughed about how I'd grown up eating with chopsticks, but had to learn a new technique when I got married; metal chopsticks require a more efficient method than the child's skills I'd had. Her eyes grew round, "You can eat with metal chopsticks? Show me." She'd been using a pair of wooden chopsticks to mix some of the food. I used them to grab a piece of kimchi and put it on my plate.

I laughed, "It would feel strange to eat kimchi with a fork".

She beamed and bustled to the kitchen, "I'll get chopsticks then."

As we all grabbed food with metal chopsticks, she smiled more and stopped trying to make sure everything was ok. Her husband seemed to relax back into his chair. Conversation flowed more readily. She asked what foods I knew how to make and was impressed (bulgoghi, kalbi, stew, jae jang myun, odicha). I told her about the first time I went to Jrex's Mom's house. She had me help make the jae jang myun. (It's a black bean paste sauce that covers noodles and any ingredients one chooses to include.)

"She plopped a huge pile of squid in front of me, with tentacles. They were the little, red squid, but they still had tentacles. I had to shut down the Midwestern girl in my head who was grossed out and cut them into small pieces. Everything I ate, I just shut that girl down and tried it. I loved all the food."

We ended up staying until 10:30 pm. Unfortunately, I did play the ignorant American and didn't stay to clean the whole kitchen with her . . . but, I think they needed to get Curious to bed and he'd have never settled down if we were there.

I thought it was interesting that after all our previous conversations about Korean culture, she'd assumed she had to do things 'my' way. Perhaps next time, she'll just do a Korean feast! Or, perhaps I will.

November 28, 2008

Bad Food Porn

Let's just say, it's definitely not Pay-per-View. I'm still saving up for my real camera and tripod. AND, warning to all vegetarians, look away...
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We have a well-designed apartment. The smoke alarm is far away from the kitchen, right next to the bedrooms.

Yesterday, for the first time, we set it off! Fortunately, nothing was harmed, just the drippings burning in the pan. Poor Muttola, she'd never heard that sound before.


I love a sexy man with an oven mitt...
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Riffs on traditional foods

Nothing we made was normal. Instead of mashed potatoes, we made up a recipe. While eating potato salad last week, we started doing a 'what-if' scenario: what if, instead of mayo, you use Blue Cheese dressing? what if, instead of bacon, you broil some pancetta?

This is the end result. To our tastes, it was the best potato salad we've ever had.

  1. 2 pounds New Potatoes. Scrubbed. Peeling is optional. Boil until forkable. Chill in refrigerator while chicken cooks.
  2. Slice two celery sticks. Add to potatoes.
  3. Dice half a red onion. Add.
  4. Broil 1/4 pound of super thin slices of pancetta, procutto or other cured ham. Separate slices and broil in toaster oven or oven for 2-3 minutes per side. Just to crisp. Drain on a paper towel, then pick up and crush. Sprinkle on top.
  5. If available, crumble in goat cheese or gorgonzola to taste.
  6. Add lots of salt and pepper to taste (Korean taste means LOTS of pepper).
  7. 1/2 cup high quality Blue Cheese Salad Dressing.

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The 'Greens'

We saw this on On The Road Again. Using a cast-iron skillet over medium high heat, Gwyneth Paltrow toasted pine nuts and currants in olive oil, then tossed and wilted spinach on top. It's SO yummy. If my Mom had made spinach this way, I'd have begged for it.

Jrex also saw a quick recipe by Bitman, from that same show where he grated sweet potatoes. Stir-fried them in olive oil on high heat and then coated with a butter concoction. Also very good.

The Bird

Jrex followed the recipe from Cooks Illustrated for roast chicken. It was juicy and tender. The dripping sauce gravy did NOT work out. As you saw from the top photo, it just tasted burnt. Oh well! It wasn't even missed cause the bird didn't need any moisture to be palatable.

The dinner

The wine was a California Pinot. Jrex is on their mailing list and orders direct. Rhys Vineyards. This was a concoction of various grapes. On the nose, it was mellow with a hint of old shoe at the end. In the mouth, it was a bright, cheery flavor with a lingering finish. Very appropriate for Thanksgiving with it's happy taste blending well with each of the foods.

Dessert: Apple Cranberry Currant Pie

Since I now have a box of currants I need to use up, and since I wanted cranberries, when I saw this recipe in Sunset Magazine, I had to give it a try. I even made the pie crust from scratch. It's edible, but not that good (the crust). The pie itself was tangy and very good. Not too heavy.

In the future, I might just make it as a crumble.

The setting


The candlelight made it easy to ignore all the dishes waiting across the room. Jrex picked Miles Davis' Kind of Blue for the music. We toasted each other and shared what we're thankful for from the past year, and what we're grateful for in our marriage.

The best part was that, without any guests or an agenda, we just relaxed throughout much of the day and cooked little bits here and there. Of course that meant we didn't eat until our usual hour of 7:30, but it was a great day.

November 27, 2008

Just the three of us...

We had a friend who was going to visit for Thanksgiving weekend. At the last minute, she wasn't able to come. Her reasons were great and I wasn't offended, but I was sad. It feels like the point of Thanksgiving is to pack as many people into your house as possible and visit and feast all day. I tried to find some other orphans, but everyone we could think of had plans already.

At first I was really disappointed. It felt pitiful to not have friends or family for Thanksgiving. Somehow the dinner felt less like a gift and more like work. This morning I spent some time with the Lord and realized that I needed to view the day as an opportunity. A time to celebrate just the two of us. To be grateful for all we've survived together and to dream ahead.

As a result, we're going ahead with the meal we'd planned. Of course, everything we're making is a little off-beat and experimental: Roasted Chicken and shredded sweet potato stir fry by Jrex; blue cheese potato salad, wilted spinach with currants and pine nuts, and apple currant cranberry pie by me.
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Yesterday, Jrex went to Whole Foods to get our 'organic, grain-fed, free-range' chicken. The woman in line ahead of him was talking with the worker,

"The 20 pound turkey is the biggest you have? Hmm...well, I guess I'll take that as well as the 15 pounder."

As she waited for them to collect her birds, someone came to help Jrex. They weighed the chicken and then said, apologetically, "It's only 4 pounds". Jrex nodded, "Perfect. Thanks."

The woman looked at him with envy in her eyes, and asked, "Thanksgiving for two?"

Jrex smiled and nodded, "Yup". She sighed again, "Enjoy".

Now that I've adjusted my expectations for the day, we will!

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On cooking days, we call Muttola "Hopeful". As in "Watch out for Hopeful when you step back from the stove!"

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Stay tuned for the food porn photos tomorrow!

November 24, 2008

Thanks!

Yesterday, I received a packet from Aunt Bird in the mail. She and my other aunts cleaned out my Grandmother's house this past summer and pulled from the piles of paper the letters and items that might be of interest to me.

There was a letter my Mom wrote to Grandma when I was 1 1/2 years old. She talked about how I already liked to 'read'. She'd read me from one book while I held another and turned the pages. (Hmm...think I might have been wired for independence?) In that same letter, she mentions "Uncle Sonny" and how she knows that if anything happens to my Dad, he'd protect and defend her. Uncle Sonny is a whole 'nother post, but of all the people she mentions, he was the one who was around the most for my growing up years. Aunt Bird warned about Uncle Sonny planning on toughening me for the streets; Sonny thought my Mom and all her farm-bred sisters were too soft and he had plans for me to be ready for the world. He did it, too!

Mom had also written out a account of my birth. Apparently nothing correlated to the Natural Childbirth book she'd read and she wanted to note all of that. I'm still in awe of my Mom. In 1971, when women were usually drugged for birth and encouraged to bottle-feed, she wanted my Dad in the room, wanted natural childbirth, and was determined to breast-feed. I guess she was in so much pain (backache labor) that she opted for drugs toward the end of labor. They gave her Demoral which meant she was really relaxed between contractions, but didn't really stop the pain of the contractions. It also meant that she felt like my birth was a bit of a dream state. Unlike today when they encourage women to breast-feed within two hours, it sounds like she didn't feed me until the next day?

I have a bunch of friends who have told me how hard breast-feeding is. One of them, right now, has a baby that cannot seem to learn to latch correctly. Apparently, neither me nor my Mom had any problems. It's a relief since it gives me hope that if that's ever relevant, that may be true for me as well.

Obviously, there are tons of questions I'd love to be able to ask my Mom, it was fun to get some of them answered 'beyond the grave'. Chatting with my aunts on the phone the other night was another reminder that I have a bunch of great resources for advice.

I love my family!

November 21, 2008

DBM* #527

On a road trip, stopping at a gas station, getting sleepy. I go in and stare at the refrigerated drink section. Every kind of water imaginable with energy, flavors or nothing OR high calorie caffeinated soda or chemical flavored no-calorie soda.

I turn to Jrex, "Wouldn't it be great if they just made a caffeinated water with nothing else in it?"

He shakes his head, "They have it. It's called 'tea'."

-----
*Ditzy Blond Moment

November 19, 2008

Joshua Tree, Part I

After judging all the brownness of the Nevada desert, our time in Joshua Tree convinced me that in such barrenness, there is usually more going on than meets the eye. It felt like much of what we saw contained evidence: of the passage of water in the last rainy season, of the passage of animals in scat or tracks, of the grinding passage of time in the rocks and landscape.

Being in JTree is like being in a Giant Child’s rock garden. In the middle of flat land, all of a sudden, there rise piles of golden stones, rounded and haphazardly stacked and strewn about. In the flat areas, the land stretches to the horizon with spikes of Joshua Trees. At times it looks like the Dr. Suess’ idea of a Christmas Tree farm: regularly spaced whacky shapes bent at crazy angles with funny spikes of leaves.


It was beautiful.



Before this trip, I had a cliche notion of the desert: vast dunes of sand, with me crawling toward scant shade. What I’d never thought about was the wind. Every morning the wind picked up, sometimes gusting up to 40 mph. Our tent was tucked behind some big rocks, so at most, we had continuous fluttering, but other people, who set up in the quiet of evening, woke to tents that were whipping back and forth over their heads at crazy angles. Then at night, as the sun set and the moon rose, the wind usually died down. We were tucked among the child’s stones with the moon bright enough for clambering.

Day 1/Hike 1: Lost Palms Oasis
As usual when camping, we did one (long) hike per day. Joshua Tree spans parts of two deserts. The Mojave, home of the Joshua Tree itself, is 3,000 feet higher than the lower, drier Colorado. The first day, we descended to the lower desert to hike to an oasis. The trail was rocky, but very pretty. As we hiked out of a wash, Jrex ahead of me, I saw his foot descending right on top of a snake. What I couldn’t see was if there was a rattle on the tail. Jrex never even saw the snake until I pointed it out. No rattle, thank God. In fact, after being stepped on, the snake didn’t even move. That was my adrenaline rush for the day!

After 3.5 miles in on a rocky path, we turned and looked down on palm trees.


My Oasis image was also a cliche: a babbling brook or spring, palm trees, and someone in a toga waiting to feed me grapes and fan me with a palm branch. Instead, there was a row of palms straggling down the valley in the midst of dry rocks. As with much of my desert experience, once I adjusted my expectations to what it was, I found the beauty.




Day 2/Hike 2: Death by shifting sands

OK. OK. I’m being melodramatic. This was supposed to be a 10.5 mile up-and-down hike to a peak. The guide book mentioned climbing up gully’s and washes to the peak. What it didn’t say was that the WHOLE hike would be on sand. Imagine being forced to walk in the soft part of a beach, uphill, for hours.

The hike was my idea so I couldn’t get mad at Jrex, but we both agreed that sand was NOT fun. The view was pretty, we found a hidden valley of huge Joshua Trees, but I wouldn’t want to do that one again.

To add insult to injury, neither the signs on the mountain, the guidebook, nor the topo map seemed to agree on anything. We had to bust out the compass to figure out where we were and where we needed to go. On the way back, I insisted on trusting a sign instead of Jrex’s memory. What should have been the last mile turned into two.

I also wore sneakers. With mesh sides for ‘breathability’. The whole way down I had to stop every mile to drain my shoes and socks of sand. I kept telling myself: “It’s better than being at work. It’s better than being at work.”

It was.

We were there the night of the full-moon and the days leading up to and after. Which meant that after Jrex cooked dinner over one-burner, we could go and wander among the rocks in the moonlight. The moon was so bright we could see colors in the rocks.

Joshua Tree, Part II

Day 3: Aborted Hike and Acceptable Substitutes

We left camp by 8:30 AM. Drove 40 minutes west. Our goal was to explore a bit in the Coxcomb Mountains. It’s an area with no trails, so we planned to build little cairns of rock at each turn so we could find our way back. The guide book instructions: “From the intersection of Utah Drive and Adobe Road, drive 41.9 miles east. You’ll see a dirt road on the right. Watch for it, it’s hard to spot.” We found it. But, the dirt road was closed.



After 12 miles in sand the day before, neither of us was really tempted by the thought of hiking in 4.5 miles (and hiking that back out), in order to hike another 4-7 miles in the mountains. We agreed it would be a fun weekend backpack trip, hike in, camp, explore, sleep, hike out. As a Day Trip though? Fuggedabadit.


Instead we drove back and did two smaller hikes. We scooted up Ryan Mountain in an hour to a great view. We could see the Wonderland of Rocks from above as well as see the descent of the Mojave toward the Colorado Basin.


After Ryan, we drove through Hidden Valley, the campground paradise for climbers. (yes, I was wistful and a little bitter since I’m married to a non-climber, but held myself together) We hiked a mile through rocks to get to Barker Dam. I love the ‘no swimming’ sign! Apparently for 9 months of the year, there’s high water and lots of birds and wildlife.


Beyond the dam area, there are rocks with petroglyphs. The colors were painted on relatively recently, so they look great for the photo, but are inauthentic.


Yet again, I took us on a wrong turn and we had to hike out through some sand, but not for too long...

The next day, we packed up everything. Jrex made us a final cup of tea and we clambered up the rock near our campsite to have a final farewell to the park. Can you see where our tent used to be?


We drove out the West entrance since we’d seen a place with a “Showers” sign. Backpacker and Climber haven, obviously! After getting cleaned up, we asked the guys in the store for a brunch place between here and LA (since we drove around the outskirts of the city to get to Joshua Tree). They stared at us in horror, “You can’t get to LA! The roads are closed.” We were both confused and they continued, “Didn’t you hear about the fires? The 210 and the 101 are both closed. You gotta go north...”

Fortunately, we had a good map and they told us how to get up to Bakersfield the back way.

Our trip confirmed again that in our guts, we like trees and green. We’re not desert rats and don’t seem to be getting converted, but it was still worth it to see Joshua Tree. Jrex has camped in Death Valley with some buddies and says that’s even better, but I think our goal is to get to Kings Canyon for our next camping trip next summer.

The funny thing to me is coming back to work and trying to tell coworkers about my trip. They all look at me like a freak for sleeping in a tent. I try to explain, “You don’t understand, we were car camping, this was luxury! I could walk down the hill to a toilet!”


I guess that didn’t help their perception that I am from another planet. All the gay guys at work say, “Well, Palm Springs is great...” Yeah, it’s close geographically, but NOT Jrex’s scene. Cute shops and a quaint downtown? I would love it, but Jrex barely felt relaxed by car camping. Civilization still felt too close for truly getting lost in the wilderness.

I guess that means I’ll just be further on the freak scale when we take our next trip and backpack it.

November 18, 2008

Not what I expected in my Inbox

I just got an evite from my climbing partner, Graceful. She's Chinese-American and has been dating an African-American guy who is seven years younger than she. Of course, her family has been hoping he'll go away...

The evite photo was of two rings in a glass. The evite content? "Come celebrate our wedding"

I think they eloped?! Holy Moly.

November 17, 2008

Las Vegas Recap


Dear OTRgirl,

Have you ever seen such desolate wilderness as Vegas Valley?

Buggsy should have planted his resort on the backside of the moon. It would have been lovelier and had more water.

Love,
Dad

So true. I posted more photos on Facebook, but many of you aren’t part of that world, so I’m posting a couple over here as well.

I spent the hour and a half flight to Vegas looking out the window. I loved being able to see the traces of water-flow etched into the desert.


Flying into Las Vegas felt strange after passing over such barren land. Seeing lawns and swimming pools, bought with the waterflow meant for deltas in Mexico really irked me. I know I’m turning into a bleeding-heart over so many issues, but water-use in the West is definitely becoming one of my hot-buttons.


I was shocked that the Las Vegas Strip is literally right next to the airport. This picture was taken from the runway while the plane taxied into the terminal.


Overall, I was bemused by Vegas, but not overwhelmed. My focus, time and energy were on the convention we were producing. My coworkers are great and we had fun, so I didn’t have to think too much about the city itself.


That said, I did have to walk through two casinos as I went from one venue to the other. Each time, I felt sick. Not just the cigarette smoke, though that did give me a sore throat and headache, but the glazed looks in people’s eyes. I hated watching SO much money getting washed away. I kept thinking that if they would just invest that same amount they’d have a guaranteed jackpot. Yes, slower and much less thrilling, but worth far more in the end. Ah, whatever. I sound like a killjoy whenever I talk about it, let’s just say, it wasn’t my scene.

The funny thing about my work for this client is that 95 percent of our attendees are male tech-geeks. They don’t care what the signs look like. Yet all my approvers are marketing women, who care passionately. Sigh.

I got to help cheerlead the RockBand competition the first night. We wanted to get people playing it and psyched about joining teams and fighting toward being in a competition at the final party. Take a bunch of shy programmers and let them loose--turned out to be a great way to get them to interact and network.


I was able to meet with my main client counterpart. She’s based on the East Coast and most of our contact is via IM (Instant Messaging, Dad), so it was good to hammer out a couple things. She showed me the upcoming Big Show look/feel. It’s being developed by the ad agency that took over last spring. Her hope this year is that they create the initial look/feel and then pass it over to me to implement. That sounds MUCH better than what I feared: months of being a production artist and not a designer. We shall see how it all pans out, but it helped to see at least an initial presentation and to get a sense of what she’s thinking.

More power to those of you who have enjoyed Las Vegas as a vacation destination. It wasn’t on my life-list before and I was glad to shake the dust off my feet when I left. Sadly, the Account Executive on my team loved having me there and recognizes that I should be there for the site visit as well as the pre-show set-up. So, looks like more Vegas in my future. I guess we can’t all be lucky.




November 7, 2008

Exciting Times

I had a brilliant (absolutely mind-blowingly brilliant, I swear) post about the election, but my browser crashed and I lost it. Sigh.

I'm in Vegas for work, writing this between meetings. I get all the joy of writing post-it notes with place names onto the back of signs. Mostly, I'm making sure all the signs that I laid out are beautiful and placed correctly before the attendees arrive. This puts me squarely in the non-creative world of the sort of people who thrive on operations. Don't get me wrong, I like to be organized, but not quite to the extent of minutia that an ops person enjoys...

Did I mention Vegas? This is a weird place. I'm hoping to go for a run in the morning and take pictures to post. Look, the Brooklyn Bridge! It rises four feet off of an asphalt 'river', but it's right there! And a little Eiffel Tower. Why go to Paris when I'm visiting there now? Inside the building, the ceilings are painted with a fake sky, the halls are lined with quaint little shops full of glittering junk, and every lobby and opening is crammed with slots, crap tables and card dealers. I'm bewildered by a whole city built completely around people wasting time and money. Totally weird.

Sooo...excited by the election. Bewildered by Vegas. Looking forward to a vacation in Joshua Tree next week with Jrex.

I'll post again soon, gotta go do more signage!

November 4, 2008

Phew!

Jrex and I just came back from voting. The lines were longer than we've ever seen them, but it only took about 30 minutes, so not bad at all.

I'll be glad when tomorrow comes just to stop the wild emails, Facebook causes, and links to crazy YouTube videos.

On the radical left: Bush will declare martial law if it looks like Obama might win. Carry your passport with you all day and make sure your gas tank is full and you have enough cash to get out of the country. He's brought in a battalion of Army soldiers and has them at his beck and call in violation of the Constitution. In the bailout fine-print, he has 1 billion dollars in discretionary spending. All beginnings of a fascist state. This is what Mussolini did in the 1930's.

On the radical right: Obama will bring in all his Muslim cohorts if he's elected. Sarah Palin is Esther and is chosen for this time. A vote for McCain/Palin is a pro-life vote. Obama is calling for a Civilian Defense force. This is the first step towards a Nazi regime. Hitler said he was a Christian and look where that got the Germans!

My own personal conspiracy theory? If McCain/Palin get elected, someone from a fringe element will try to kill McCain so that "God's chosen" can be in power.

I've never experienced this much emotional hysteria and conspiracy theory around an election!

November 1, 2008

Speaking of dreams vs hopes.


Judging by the series of twitching feet, bared teeth, growls and barks coming from the dog next to me, in her dreams she gets to do a LOT more hunting than she does in real life.

October 31, 2008

Nothing to do with the holiday

We've had a bunch of looming "C" purchases. Jrex, in particular, has been stressed each month we can't add to savings since he's been trying to anticipate those needs.

CAR: Not in the near future, but may become necessary to have a second car at some point. Ya know when I'm too old to bike or whatever. Given the cost, good to save towards it, right?

CAMERA. Both our cameras died. Well, really we lost the base to the pocket digital and my wonderful Olympus 5050 died a noble death. I researched and haven't found an equivalent camera. Then I saw news about this one: the Panasonic G1. It's a 'mini' SLR with removable lenses. It's not out yet, and we definitely have to save toward that goal, but I'm VERY excited about it. I've heard rumors that Olympus may do a camera in a similar format and I might wait for that one. However, I've got a show coming up in Vegas next weekend, for which I need a camera. Solution: EBay. Ordered a new base that should arrive soon.

CELL PHONE: for the last six months, after one phone conversation, my phone lost all juice. I used that as an excuse to lust over the next generation of phone options. It never occurred to me until last night, just replace the battery, silly! Done.

COMPUTER: Smart Girl loaned me a laptop last spring (her hubby works at Apple). This year, with my big spring show already looming, I need a computer. Being a designer, I'm Mac-dependent, so that's not cheap AT ALL. I also need a laptop for travel to shows. In the last couple weeks, my job has revived a dead laptop with a new hard drive for me to use. I got it yesterday. After work, I ran around to Staples and the Mac store to outfit my home office. I'm actually on a shopping high as a result.

I found a really cool keyboard at Staples that felt GREAT to type on, but it was pricey. Checked an equivalent at Mac Store, it looked cool, but I didn't like the feel. While at the Mac store, I used their computers to price compare via Amazon. I bought a laptop lock and laptop stand there, but when home and ordered the protective case and keyboard/mouse combo online. They've already shipped! (LOVE Amazon...) In the end, I have a 'new' computer for @ $180.


I'm feeling proud of myself for figuring out creative work-arounds. Feeling a little strange in the midst of all the economic crisis about being a happy little consumer, but mostly excited.

October 22, 2008

Dreams vs. Hopes

A couple weeks ago I was challenged to declare my hopes. Basically, during my wives small group we spent some time in silence listening for nudges from the Lord. That was the thought that popped into mind: write down and then declare your hopes.

I haven't done it yet. The truth is, I'm scared. I did try. On Saturday, Jrex met friends from lab to go running and I stayed home to spend time with God. (I'm off my running program . . . a sore stomach being just the latest excuse.)

I couldn't do it. I realized that I could easily write out my dream. It's the oldest, deepest one that I have. I've always been gifted with kids and dreamt of rescuing kids from garbage dumps, the streets, or disaster and bringing them into a place of hope, stability and restoration. I even took my job as a residential counselor to get life skill training. Jrex and I married with that shared vision. We wrote lines in our wedding vows about welcoming the sojourners that God brings our way. The problem as it's turned out is that with Jrex's schedule and energy level, bringing kids into our home just isn't going to happen. And, it doesn't look like we're moving overseas anytime soon.

I prefer to take practical steps to make a dream a reality. Want to be a fine artist? At least major in it during college to figure out if that's what you want. Want to marry that cool Asian guy? Sit next to him at the wedding reception, invite him to lunch, and go on from there.

Write down and declare your hopes.

I don't know what they are if they aren't leading toward my dream. Everything else feels like I'm making do, and that doesn't feel like 'hope'. In Paul's letter to the church in Rome, he says, "...if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it."

What am I waiting eagerly for?

We do want to have biological kids. (We're working on it, Dad, calm down.) I would still like to take in foster kids, but, see above. So, children is a hope.

If we're in the US and not overseas (highly likely), then I would love to have a home that can be a place of retreat and restoration for broken people, especially those wrestling with disappointment with God. Hope #2.

I want Jrex to have a job that is fulfilling and is the right fit for him. Along with that, I want him centered and lifted in amazing ways in his spiritual life. Hopes #3, #4.

Those are things that Jrex and I have discussed, known quantities. So, what's scary? What's the thing that is a wall between me and truly articulating hope? I still don't know the answer.

My friend Ms. Sword answered the question, "What's the difference between a dream and a hope?" by quipping, "Dreams happen when you're sleeping, hope happens when you're awake." There's something profoundly true about that. Hope means it's possible. It's coming. You have to be awake and ready to receive or to act to make a hope a reality.

How would you answer the question? And are your hopes lining up toward your dreams?

October 20, 2008

Miscellany

I tweaked my stomach muscles during my trapeze lesson (what a cool thing to be able to say, huh?). It wasn't too bad, but in the three climbing sessions since then, I think I've actually pulled my stomach muscles.

One of my climbing partners is a rehab doctor (best climbing partner career choice EVER. If we find an EMT to climb with us, we'll be ready for anything). She was concerned for me after I had to come down off a couple climbs on Sunday. "The only people I've ever encountered with pulled stomach muscles are surfers."

This morning, I tossed that story at Jrex as I was rushing to get out the door. I called a farewell as I left, and without missing a beat, he called back, "Hang Ten, babe."

October 17, 2008

Moonlighting

My coworker, Dancer is off to London. She started a blog. In order to leave comments without leading people to this blog, I started an 'official' non-anyonymous blog. The intent for that one is to write about art and design. Have something I can link to from my website. Ya know, be professional like. Or something. (The address is my name+71.blogspot.com)

This is what I posted there today:

This past weekend we put our membership to good use and wandered the museum with a couple friends. I think they enjoyed the café and the view from the tower more than the exhibits, but it was still fun to go.

Maya Lin is in the midst of an installation for an upcoming exhibit. Each time I've visited the Vietnam Memorial, I've been in awe of her genius. Her trust for simple, powerful forms and materials is amazing, especially considering she was in grad school when she designed it. For her installation, she's using 2x4's of different heights to create a hill with surrounding undulations. The repetition remains organic since the differences in height vary as board jumps to next board. I can't wait to go back and see a bunch of her stuff.



One of my favorite pieces at the museum is this one, Cornelia Parker's Anti-Mass.
You walk into a new gallery and turn left, looming at the end of the room is this shadow. Pieces of burnt wood dangle from the ceiling creating a new shape, their ragged edges somehow shaped into the clean lines of a cube. The tension of air, charcoal, wire, contrast of shapes all create a powerful silence. You walk closer, examine the remnants, then wander to the wall to read the label.

Cornelia Parker, Anti-Mass. The wood is from a Black Southern Baptist church that was torched by arsonists. From that devastation, Parker has given shape to the redemption of suffering. I think of that old black phrase, "and still we rise". Knocked down, battered, held under, "And Still We Rise."

Makes me want a house so I can find objects to reclaim and hang from the ceiling. I miss having a house...but that's a whole 'nother post.

October 12, 2008

Whiplash

Yesterday we continued our adventure birthday tradition with Lovey and Dovey. Thus far we’ve done horseback riding/Monterray Bay cruise; bike ride/picnic in the Presidio; and rock climbing. Yesterday was Lovey’s call. Her latest dream adventure? Flying Trapeze Lessons.

They picked us up in the morning and we headed north to the city to Circus School. Once we all were changed, warmed up and supplied with safety belts, the instructor asked for a volunteer. Everyone shuffled their feet; I didn’t feel like wasting time, so I raised my hand. I had NO idea that meant I’d be first The Rest of The Lesson. First up the 25 foot ladder. First to step around the support truss and stand on the narrow board with my heart pounding in fear. First to get strapped into my harness. First to lean out hips first and grab the bar. First to crouch on “Ready” and drop on “Hup”. First to follow the directions:
“Legs up!”
“Hands off!”
“Look at the far wall!”
“Hands up!”
“Legs down!” and finally
“Hup” to drop into the net.

I loved it. I had a sugar crash after two rounds and wasn’t able to complete the catch with the pro at the end of the lesson. Lovey did it though! Happy Birthday to her.

For lunch we took them to the ‘best Chinese food in San Francisco’: San Tung at 11th and Irvine. After two servings of the incredibly addictive ‘dry fried Chicken Wings’, we exploited our membership at the de Young museum and all went in for free. After touring the galleries, we grabbed drinks at the café and sat out in the sculpture garden. While sipping our hot drinks and flavored waters, we heard a roar of jet engines and saw the Blue Angels swoop through as part of Fleet Week.

Overall if we’d stopped there, it would have been a beautiful, wonderful day. But, we didn’t.

They dropped us off at home and an hour later, Jrex and I went to the movies.

I’d heard about a movie and then actually got free tickets from someone at work. We knew it would be disturbing, but we had NO idea. The movie? Call + Response: “The first feature rockumentary to expose the world’s 27 million most terrifying secrets”. A local Oakland-based musician started to find out about the modern slave industry. The more he investigated, the more he wanted to do something about it. As he spoke with other musicians, they wanted to join him. In the end, the movie segues from black and white segments with songs responding to slavery back into color interviews with survivors and advocates. Julia Ormand, Ashley Judd, Madeline Albright, Moby, Switchfoot, Emmanual Jal. Other musicians I’ve never heard of and stories I can never forget.

The amazing thing was that the movie managed to convey the enormity of the issue without leaving one paralyzed in despair. By the end of the movie all I could do was pray, “Lord, show me what to do and I’ll do it.” Jrex was furious at the injustice, I was crying and heartbroken.

They took hidden cameras into brothels. To hear a white man saying, “You give ‘yum yum’?” (oral sex) “What about ‘bom bom’?” (intercourse) and to see a seven-year old girl smile and nod eagerly is one of the most horrifying echoes I carry from the movie. One of the musicians rapped a piece called “War Child” about his experience being abducted into an African child soldier war. Apparently right now there are more slaves worldwide than were exported from Africa in 400 years of the slave trade. Back then, a group of 12 abolitionists met in England and determined to end the British slave trade in their lifetime. They succeeded. “Lord, show me what to do and I’ll do it.”

I’m sure my prayer for action will have far reaching consequences, but in the short term we have the following action list:
  1. Give up chocolate (unless it’s guaranteed free-trade). 80 percent of world chocolate is a result of slave labor. No more chocolate chip ice cream or brownies or hot chocolate. Trade As One does carry free trade versions of much of that, so it won’t be total withdrawal, just nothing in a café or restaurant.
  2. For Jrex, he’ll be emailing Sweet Marias (his coffee bean supplier) to find out which of their beans they know are slave free.
  3. We’re going to sponsor additional Compassion girls. With education and options, the need to sell one’s daughter is diminished. I want to find out if they have any kids who have been rescued and specifically sponsor them.
  4. Look for volunteer options here in the Bay area. There are numerous sex and labour slaves in this area.
  5. Renewed commitment to buy clothes from resale stores. Cheap new clothes are often supplied by labor slaves.
If you want more ideas, click here.

My overall sense from the Lord was to love his broken children. That’s been my hearts cry for much of my life. I just don’t know how or when. It’s not something I can inflict on my husband in terms of what we do with our house. But it’s something I may be able to do as a volunteer. At the moment, I’m ready for him to get a job so I can be Lady Bountiful and volunteer time to make a difference in the world. Who knows what life has in store, but at the moment, we have to do what we can do here and now.

The movie was made with no financial backing and right now is only on a limited release. Check out the locations. If it’s near you, I highly recommend it. Disturbing? Undoubtedly. Worth seeing? Definitely.

October 7, 2008

One of the bad side-effects of being an oldest sibling is that I have an overdeveloped instigator. This means that I have a tendency to tease and poke at someone I care about until they react. It's often playful, rarely meant with any malice, but can be very abrasive over time.

Of course, poor Jrex is often the worst sufferer. My Dad is a close second. I grew up torturing my younger brother--though with him, he gave back plenty. I hate that I do that. It's like I get into what I call 'go' mode, I'm moving fast, feeling bright and energetic, happy and quippy and then I say too much, tread too heavily over a sensitive area, and oops...

Perhaps it's that I like the taste of my feet?

October 4, 2008

Crazy things I do for work...

It's Saturday and the mutt and I are in the office...

My tar baby project stuck with me all week and ended up sapping all my creative juices. I was trying to push through it yesterday and then gave myself permission to have an off day and leave early. Which meant I'd need to come in today. I don't really mind. Jrex had to be in lab most of the day anyway. If I get to wear a baseball hat and bring the dog with me, I can pretend I'm not really in the office. (Muttola loves coming in with me. We play chase around all the cool, artsy cubicles here in the design studio.)

I'm listening to my jazz playlist and registering for Second Life.

One of my major clients has a Second Life Island. We keep looking for events and options for the developer community. While we often discuss Second Life, I'd never gone into that world...

OK. Just checked it out. And...nothing. I mean, I saw my client's pavilion complete with store, but no people, just wandered around. Whatever, I'd rather do that somewhere real. I teleported to "Hobo Island". Again, just wandered around. Flew a little. Didn't care enough to start touching things or knocking on doors.

So, back to work.

Edited to add: Second Life (link here) is an on-line world. You go into it, pick a persona--including first and last name-- adjust the look of your persona or Avatar (mine is "OTRgirl Turbo") and start wandering around. If you run into another person, you can do on-line chats. Your avatar can do facial expressions and physical movements. You can fly, walk, run, fight. There are real life millionaires from Second Life. You buy SL money with your real dollars, then you can buy, trade, sell, invest in land, etc. Essentially, as if none of us are already busy in real life, you can live a second life. I guess it's cool if you want to try out what it would be like to be a different race, gender or physicality? Overall, I think I have enough technology in my life as it is...

September 30, 2008

Too much going on!

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I've got a 'tar baby' project at work that's edging out my regular client work. It's a presentation of our technology offerings that will be given by our CEO on Friday... I'm just putting someone else's design work into a new format. My coworker, Dancer, developed a great system, but she's off to our London office for the next two months. It's not that big a deal. Mostly it means I have no time to check Facebook or blogs. Woe is me, right? I actually have to WORK at work. Sheesh. Who can survive the suffering?

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I LOVED the Frida exhibit, even though it was one of the worst viewing experiences ever. Too many people (why bother with timed tickets if you're going to issue self-guided tours that take twice as long for people to get through?!). Everyone wanted to stop at her 'train wreck' paintings: the miscarriage, the murder/affair, the self-portraits with nails, thorns, animals and blood. I've seen most of those in reproduction. It was great to see them in person, but most of them are small, intimate paintings. It's hard to take them in while nudged along in a mob. Frankly, viewing them in reproduction is fine compared to the gallery experience I had.

However, they also had a bunch of her paintings that I'd never seen before. There was a gorgeous portrait of her husband, Diego Rivera. I was fascinated to discover it was painted two years AFTER she found out he'd had an affair with her sister. I've rarely seen so much love in a portrait. Much of her work has a folk-art aspect. Seeing it in person made me realize her extraordinary technique.

Mostly, I came away thinking that she's the artist for a blogging generation. She was doing self-revelation when NO ONE did. Now, it almost seems ordinary. Honestly, seeing her work in person made me realize what an obsessive, compulsive person she must have been. I've never seen such tiny brush strokes! Such a repetition of shapes to make every thorn on a cactus. The only other time I've seen that degree of obsessive technique was in some of the art in Baltimore's Visionary Art Museum. I love her paintings, but she would have been a very intense roommate. Of course, she was married to a philandering jerk so they had an absolutely insane relationship.

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I did check my bike seat. The woman took it with a smile and not even a blink.

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I'm off to check out a small group from my church. It's run by a couple my age: Caucasian woman married to a Korean man. LOVE it! She's also a bike commuter, hiker, climber and do-gooder. She works in the poorest neighborhood on the Peninnsula and even lived there (before marriage to a guy who owns a condo). I've wanted a chance to know her better for a while and this may or may not be a way to do that. The group may be too large or too young. Que sera, sera, right?

September 27, 2008

It can't get any worse, said the pessimist.

Conversation last night:

Jrex explicates, "You know how they say the glass is either half-full or half-empty? Well, I say that the glass is half-empty and getting emptier all the time. It's always evaporating, you see."

I groaned, "It was bad enough when you were just a pessimist, this takes it down to a whole 'nother level."

He smiled, "Yup. Call me a cynic."

I mock glared at him, ". . . Honey, I hate to tell you this, but you're not just a cynic. You REEK of cynicism. People can smell your cynicism from 50 feet away!"

He cracked up laughing and I continued, "The really scary thing is that you just took that as a compliment!"

Nodding, he responded, "I am not a pessimist, I'm just a cynical realist."

"No, dear. You're not a realist. If I tell you ten good things and then one bad thing, you only remember the bad thing. That means you're not being realistic, you just weight the bad. That makes you a pessimist."

"Hmm...that's a valid point. I'm a cynical pessimist then!"

I groaned again, "Is there no hope then!?" I shrugged and grinned, "The sad thing is that at some point I'll accuse you of these things in front of other people and they'll get all weirded out thinking we're having a fight. Yet all along you and I will be fine with it. I can't believe you were happy to be called a cynic."

With a cheerful grin, he nodded.

September 24, 2008

Such as it was

Saturday I took my bike on the train and headed up to the city. After waiting in line at the museum, it turned out that one needed timed tickets into the Frida show. Grrrr.... I'd had a 'little thought' about looking it up on line before heading out, but didn't do it. I bought a ticket for Thursday night (half-price!) and decided to explore the city a bit.

I found an Aveda training school and made an appointment for a 90 minute facial/massage session (for 'only' $50!). Having two hours to kill, I headed over to the Ferry Building to look for lunch. Parked the bike at a bus stop with people swarming around. Took the bike lights with me and headed inside.

All the lunch options in there were crazy expensive. I ended up buying a book instead and decided to head back to the area around the Aveda school and grab food there (no tourists='real' prices).

I got out to my bike, unlocked it and jumped on to cross the street. Got to the other corner and scared some Asian guy half to death as I started cursing REALLY LOUDLY. Someone stole my bike seat. Just took the shaft and seat and left the bike. So, riding while standing, I rode back up the hill, canceled my appointment (since that same amount of money will now be used for a new seat), and grabbed some food.

In the end it felt like such a waste of an afternoon. I've had a car stolen before and didn't feel as violated and pissed off as I did about my bike. I'd just bought that seat a month ago. It was woman-specific, not cheap and MINE. My bike has become an extension of my body over the last year of riding it almost every day. I'm one of the 'good guys': I'm not buying gas, not contributing to pollution, not made of money--and someone attacked me.

Next time, listen to the little voice and stay home! Oh, and in the city, take my seat inside with me. Which is what I'll be doing tomorrow night. I'm looking forward to the look on the coat check person's face when I sashay into the museum and check a bag and a seat.

September 19, 2008

Busy, busy

I just wrote an email to a friend saying that weekends have been recovery times lately. I've craved alone time. Work hasn't been stressful, but it's been unexpectedly busy the last two weeks.

On Monday we were all here until 10ish. Not due to Captain Chaos, just prepping for a surprise client visit--potential $20 million dollar account='all hands on deck'. During that frenzy, at one point Dancer and I were chatting with the Devil. He'd come in while Dancer was FREAKING out about a Captain Chaos bomb. He listened to her rant and then said, "I get the impression you all aren't that excited about the direct management you are under..." She laughed, "I'm SO not going to answer that!" He went on, "I'm working on it. It got hung up on a couple other items, but I'm working on it."

Most evenings, I end up going home and reading or watching movies. I'm still running in the mornings, still climbing with Graceful on Sunday afternoons, but I rarely call anyone during the week. However, this weekend looks to be fairly busy.

Tonight we're meeting our buddies, J and O for dinner. J finally finished Law School and so we can now 'play' with them more often.

Tomorrow morning Lovey is coming to my place so we can catch up. We have really intense activities planned. 1. Take the dog to the vet. 2. Go out for brunch...

In the afternoon, I'm hoping to take the train up to the city to check out the Frida Khalo exhibit at the SF MOMA. I've seen so much of her work in reproduction, but rarely in person. That might be my main alone time. I'm looking forward to reading or journaling on the train. Then having time to really look at the art, perhaps do some sketching, then bike/train back home.

Once I get home, I'll check in with Jrex (he's trying to finish his paper this weekend!). Then, either together or alone, go meet some other friends for a dinner party at their house.

Sunday is climbing afternoon. Last week I stayed for an hour and a half long Yoga class. The teacher minimized the religious aspect ("Imagine your third eye open to the heavens...") and it was very athletic. My stomach was sore for the next three days. I might stay for that, but we have supper club that night, so the schedule would be tight.

Supper Club is an Italian theme, so I'm hoping my cheese kit arrives today, but I bet it won't. Sigh. How COOL would it be to show up with homemade fresh mozzerrella?!

I do like our life here these days, but all this busy, busy stuff is impacting my east coast relationships. I hardly ever call my MIL anymore, barely call my Dad and am having trouble staying up to date on other relationships. I guess one can only do so much.

Anyone else have fun plans for the weekend?

September 17, 2008

The post that will show how indoctrinated I've become

So . . . the fruit of all that Animal, Vegetable, Miracle reading. Our book club decided to do a practical application of the book. Saturday morning, Graceful met me at my place and we drove up to the Redwood City Farmer's market. We bought 10 pounds of tomatoes (recipe called for 30!), 5 bunches of basil and sundry other items.

Animator and Big Smile met us at the apartment when we returned. A vat of pasta sauce, tomatillo salsa and 3 ice cube trays of pesto later, we were ready to make cheese. Yup. We made our own mozzarella. 30 minutes start to finish. (You can find kits/directions at cheesemaking.com) While doing all that fun and games, we roasted a chicken that Big Smile had pre-assembled. Graceful assembled a mozzarella and tomato salad with fresh basil and balsamic vinaigrette.

As the chicken finished, while we were debating whether to make an apple cobbler, Quirky Asian Woman showed up with a lemon tart. Dinner turned into a progressive affair. The chicken and salad were done at 5:30 and the five of us were starving. We started eating. Jrex came home at 6 and we grabbed him a plate. At 7 pm, Hamilton showed up with marinated steak which Jrex cooked (slow oven roast on low heat for 15 minutes then seared on high in an iron skillet). When we finally got up from the table it was 9 pm. We don't have enough chairs for that many people, so two of us were perched on one chair together. It felt really cozy and familial. Old fashioned in all the right senses of the word.

The foods were all locally grown (except the steak. Yes, it was grass raised and free range, but from Uruguay). Jrex bought us wine, but failed the mission. With all the local wine sources, he bought a box wine from Italy. Hey, it's 3 liters of wine that stay good for up to 3 weeks, and its a great drinking wine.

At the end of the night, every one left with pesto, a Ziploc bag of pasta sauce, salsa and cheese.

One funny realization for me was how weird it felt that Animator, a white guy, was helping in the kitchen. I'm used to Jrex helping out, but Graceful and Big Smile are both Asian women and somehow, in a kitchen of Asian women, it felt 'wrong' to have a guy in there. When Mom K is here, Jrex hangs out with his Dad and it's a women-only kitchen. I adjusted quickly, but was surprised to have even had that moment.

September 10, 2008

The back story and my Palin reaction

I’ve mentioned in this blog that I’m a Christian. Sarah Palin being, without a doubt, a very sincere believer, I should be ecstatic and ready to vote for McCain/Palin, right?

The reality is that by choosing her, McCain has guaranteed I won’t vote for his ticket.

In order to explain that, I should tell you some life history. (You can skip to the last three paragraphs if you just want the conclusion.)

Palin comes from a stream of Christianity called Pentecostal or Charismatic. Basically, in the early 1900’s a group of people began seeking God and the Holy Spirit showed up. People began to speak in tongues, to get healed, to speak forth what they sensed God wanting to say (‘prophesying’) and to be freed to do expressive worship, among many other ‘signs and wonders’. As has happened since the Roman branch split from the Eastern, out of one larger stream, factions divided. Today there are many different groups around the world that have different comfort levels with the power and ‘manifest presence’ of God. I’ve experienced much of the breadth of that stream.

My parents were charismatic Lutherans. They were people of deep intellect and curiosity, unthreatened by opposing viewpoints. They sent their kids to public schools and were comfortable answering tough questions. I was taught to be comfortable with people of all colors, classes and beliefs.

In college, both Jrex and I attended a church that was comfortable with the Gifts of the Spirit. I became comfortable hearing and voicing nudges of thoughts that were bigger than me. I can pray in tongues and have encountered some ‘interesting’ things spiritually (when you pray for someone and their stomach starts to ripple, it certainly ain’t expected).

Jrex moved to Rochester ahead of me. He found a church that wanted to reach out to people in one of the tougher neighborhoods in the city. When he joined, there were a number of core members of the church that also lived in the neighborhood. Within a few years, most had moved out to the suburbs. When I joined him in Rochester, I began attending that church with him.

It was a church full of very kind, generous people. I did notice that if I really expressed my emotions or was too vulnerable, people drew back and seemed uncomfortable. Most of the sermons had to do with our victory in Christ. If we had problems, we were likely being disobedient. For schooling, the children of the church either had a private Christian school, or a private Mom-run school. The front doors of the church were always locked. The back door had a buzzer that you had to ring to get in during the service.

When we got married, we moved into a house across the street from the church. Jrex was taken aside by men from the church and berated for exposing me to such a place. He explained that I grew up in a worse neighborhood than that one. Perhaps placated, they just assumed we both were weird.
Jrex and I went through some horrible years early in our marriage. Rather than dealing with any of it directly, my pastor just told me to ‘duck and let God get him’. I had a couple of good friends in the church, but their advice usually was to pray and trust God. I met weekly with an older woman in the church (I’d asked her if we could meet, it wasn’t required). In many ways she and I were very similar: strong-willed, bossy, natural leaders. She was wonderful on many, many levels. She called me out on my attempts to control Jrex, challenged me to trust the Lord, and prayed faithfully for me. Over time though, I noticed that she got a lot of migraines. I noticed that as I followed her advice, Jrex and I had more and more distance between us and I was more and more angry with him. I’ve never been a passive aggressive person, and I began to have those patterns. It took a while, but I realized that she was spiritualizing things that were emotional and pragmatic. Submitting to my husband didn’t mean never telling him what was bothering me. It meant talking things through and trusting him to make the final call. I tried to tell her my observations, but she thought I was in rebellion.

In the midst of all that, I was introduced to another group of Christians in the area. Their pastor passionately embraced my design/artistic gifts; he wept after reading a book I’d made expressing my heart for the city. My other pastor had looked at it and said, “What do you want me to do with this?” With the second church, I went to healing retreats in which the emotional garbage could get untangled while still dealing with the spiritual elements. It was a church where God could still speak, but the world was a place to be embraced not feared.

[It should be noted: after the death of the pastor of the first church, a new pastor came who has truly led the church out of fear and into social justice and revitalizing the city. So, the people were willing, God answered our prayers for the church, it just took longer than we expected…]

When I watched some clips of Sarah Palin speaking in her church, heard some of her childhood pastor’s words, I was strongly reminded of that first church in Rochester. My concern about her is that in the strength of her ‘righteous’ beliefs, she truly believes in a religious dictatorship. I do believe that Jesus is The way, The truth and The life, but I also deeply believe that God made our minds, that he doesn’t rape us into belief. He woos us, loves us, convicts us at times, but it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. I don’t want a government that blares Christian music and thinks that American Christianity should be forced onto every person.

Mostly, I’m tired of fear mongering in the name of Jesus. I’m tired of a world full of enemies from which only the Big Powerful Republicans can save me. I’m really freaked out by Mr. Rove in the background. He doesn’t even believe in the law, much less in God. The great manipulator is NOT someone I want around another four years.

When Jesus came with skin on, he didn’t rise to power or take over the government. Instead, he lived among the poor, without fear. He met enemy soldiers and treated them as human beings, even healing their servants. His biggest condemnations were for the religious powers of his day and he was killed for it. I know that He loves Sarah Palin (and Karl Rove—God being able to do the impossible), but that’s not reason enough to vote for any single faith to take over our country, even if it’s supposed to be ‘mine’.