Revealing Time

One of the things you consider as a parent is the right time to teach modesty to your children. Especially us moms, who can't even get private time on the toilet without company. Without a story about the latest cartoon hero or plush adventure.

To see HH and me, you'd think we were pretty conservative folk. There's one thing that we're - um - relaxed about, and that is our state of dress at home. Or undress. You know, before and after a shower. Not at the dinner table or anything. We insist on pants.

So at 7, I thought it was well past the time to put some limitations on Boo, and we have. But not completely. I figured that like a lot of things, the time would reveal itself. Like when I wondered when to let Boo play in the rec room alone - and for how long. When do I let him in the yard alone? Those answers revealed themselves to me when I saw Boo display certain levels of emotional maturity.

So the other day, I was starting to get dressed. I hadn't gotten very far when I hear Boo calling for me. I could hear his footsteps approaching my dressing area.

He turns the corner.
He sees me.
He quickly covers his eyes -
and said "Ewwww!"

I think it's time.


Perception is Reality, Part Deux

Here's a slightly different take on Perception and Reality.

I was at a birthday party several years ago and was speaking with an acquaintance. Let's call her Ceci. She's very intelligent and very successful. Princeton undergrad, an Attorney, tall, good-looking and black. She was born and raised in New Jersey. I was raised in central Pennsylvania. Her take on Pennsylvania is that everyone past Philadelphia regularly walks around in white hoods, carrying a torch in one hand. At the time, I was merely bemused. Later on, as I thought back, I was mildly offended. I don't think I was deeply offended, but I was deeply affected. I continued to replay that interaction, testing it for perception vs reality.

Recently, I had the chance to do a little research into her perception. If you'd like your nice suburban butt kicked out of your comfort zone, go browse The Southern Poverty Law Center website. My analysis is going to be far from a thorough scientific report, but it will give you some idea of where reality lies. Lays. Lies. What's true and not.

Pennsylvania has 46,058 square miles and 37 known hate groups, which equals 1 hate group per 1,245 square miles. New Jersey, at 8,722 square miles, is about 1/5 the size of its neighbor. New Jersey has 40 known hate groups, which equals 1 hate group per 218 sq miles.

Pennsylvania has a population of about 12,500,000 people which is about 1 hate group per 337,840 people. New Jersey has a population of about 8,680,000 people. That's 1 hate group per 217,000 people.

I'm not picking on New Jersey. Some of my best friends are from New Jersey. They can be very nice. ;-) I just wanted to check Ceci's perception. And defend Pennsylvania. She, like most people, are comfortable at home, no matter what "home" actually is. It could, in fact, be dangerous, abusive, toxic. But not knowing what's out there, the unfamiliar, is UNcomfortable, even scary. What is that saying about the known evil? Help me out here. Think about the extreme situation where a child is abused in her own home. But it's home and normal to her. She grows up and what? Another abusive situation. Feels like home. How about you? What do you take for granted as being safe and even, good? but is merely familiar?


Twice-Cooked Eggplant Recipe [UPDATED 9/9/09]

I inadvertently made an awesome fab dish today. I do that sometimes. I'm an experimenter kind of cook. Can't make the same recipe twice cuz I'm always fiddling with it. Dangit! I didn't take a photo. [UPDATE: see below!!] It was beautiful. Take my word for it.

It sorta looked like this:

But darker. And yummier. Here's the thing about this dish you have to understand. Eggplant gets mushy. It was prededestined before the beginning of time to be mushy. And you know, it's not all that flavorful. So you fry it to get a little crispness to improve the texture and flavor. The broccoli and onions add crunch, to be a texture contrast to the preordained mushiness.

Twice Cooked Eggplant

3 Asian Eggplants (long skinny kind) - cut into 1/2" coins
1 cup Broccoli florets - small, lady bite size
1/2 c Onion - cut into 1/2" squares
Garlic (jar or fresh, but please, NOT garlic powder)
Soy Sauce

Heat up some extra light olive oil in a pan with a lid. (About 1/2" deep) When the oil is nice and hot, put the eggplants in, turning them over once so that they have a crunchy grilled look to them, like this:

While the eggplants are frying, put a little bit of water in another frying pan. Put the florets in them and steam for about a minute - sort of blanch them. You don't want the broccoli to be soft. Drain the water.

Put in a little olive oil and add the onions. Stir them until the onions start to get clear. You don't want them to be soft, either.

When the eggplants are done, add them to the broccoli and onions. Put about a teaspoon of garlic and a swigger* of soy sauce. Quick fry for a couple of minutes.

Taste it. Add a bit more soy if it needs it.

Serve with rice. I actually served them with scrambled eggs today and they were delish!

*swigger - that's my official cooking term for nod the soy bottle all over the pan so that there's a sprinkling all over.


The Mathematics of Jesus

We little humans strive to understand our amazing world. We try to describe it, make sense of it. We look at this vast Creation, explain a tiny little minikin of it and hand out a Nobel prize.

For thousands of years, people have been defining the world. A point. A line. A triangle. A polygon. Slicing the world into simple shapes like wielders of a subtle knife, hoping to open up the magic of this world. But what about the rest of it? The mountains, the waves, the clouds - all chaotic forms - ruled by something other than Order? It wasn't until the 1970's when Benoit Mendelbrot cohesively described the mathematical principle of these supposed chaotic forms in Creation. What looks chaotic and random to us, and to mathematicians, is in. fact. highly. ordered. (And here I ask myself rhetorically, "Could this be a random act??")

Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.
-B. Mandelbrot, in his introduction to The Fractal Geometry of Nature
Medelbrot coined the word "fractals" to describe this phenomenon. It wasn't until we had computers that mathematicians
could plot out these fractals. What happened? They created cyber mountain ranges, coastlines, clouds. The strange new planet scape on the Star Trek movie? Yup. Fractals. Let me try to explain the concept as best as I can using Mendelbrot's diagram. (And stay with me here. I've got a point to make.)

Take a triangle, left. On each leg, put another triangle, like this:

Keep doing it - add smaller triangles to the small legs, and even smaller triangles to the even smaller legs. If you took a close up of one leg, it would look like this:

Here's the entire triangle and what it would look like:
Cool, right? So what, you're saying.

OK. Next, let's measure the perimeter of the equilateral triangle we started with. If you were to measure the figure on the right, you would intuitively understand that this perimeter is bigger/longer, than that of the triangle on the left, right? (Ha! get it??)

Theoretically, you can add triangles infinitely, then the perimeter length would get longer and longer into infinity. And of course, the area would also get bigger and bigger into infinity.

Here is the paradox:
This figure, looking like a snowflake, or the arabesque of Islamic architecture:

is an enclosed form; a solid, complete polygon, and yet, it's area and dimension can increase into infinity! Here. Here's my point - and thanks for reading this far down - here I have found an excellent analogy for Jesus Christ. How can a man be the Son of God, be God? How can His eternal character fit into our aching, aging, dying, imperfect body? God says in His Word that all can look to Creation and know Him. How can a finite Man, be Eternal?

Bound and limited in a human body,
and infinite in nature.



Snacker Slacker

Friday, 3:30 PM

Boo and I were in the Wreck Room. We were doing a 3-D puzzle. Let me rephrase that. I was doing the 3-D puzzle and he was running around me like a retriever puppy. He said he was going to get himself a snack. I was slackin', so I asked him to bring me one, too.

Cabinets slam. Doors close. Bowls clatter. The woosh of the fridge door. Microwave bleeps.

A snack for his oma:
Oatmeal, a glass of soy milk, a spoon and a napkin on a tray.


Pay As You Go

We bought a new car couple of months ago. Before Congress passed the Cash for Clunkers program. So now they're handing us $4,500 to buy a new car. You don't need a blackbelt in shopping to know this is a good deal. So my Handsome Husband and I decided we'll hand over our clunker, trade in our mid-life Accord, then we'd be halfway to a new car! Good deal, right?


A house payment plus two car payments, divided by one working adult is not a good equation for me. Giving up a perfectly good car to buy a new car would require me to count my lattes. You know, the conventional wisdom of grown-ups is that you should save up your money and buy important and significant Things. Grown-up Things. A sofa. A house. A luxury car.

I was a dismal failure at this. I felt irresponsible. Not that I tried to change my ways or anything. I never had a great sofa, my own house or an impressive car to show for my earnings. Instead, I enjoyed my life in other ways, day to day: I took classes. Went on bicycling trips. I flew to the beach. Ate good food. Drank a latte. Or two. This was the way I enjoyed my life.

When I actually became a grown-up, I decided to stop buying into this supposed grown-up way. I'm not interested in a hardwood sofa to pass down to the next generation. Or a new car to primp over. I don't want to scrimp and save so I can appear "grown-up." I want to enjoy being with my friends or sit and read a book over a latte. Or two. Not at home sitting on my sofa. Or writing a check to Honda.

I want to pay my way. Each day. As I go.


Why It Matters, Final Installment*

*3-1/2 months later


Look at an infant. As soon as they shed the most primal instincts, they respond to their moms. Look into her eyes, she looks back. Give a hug, she cuddles back. Smile, smiles back. Clap your hands, she'll try the same. She models herself around her world. Do some ironing and cooking, and boys and girls will play house.

Soon, boys start identifying with their dad; girls, their mom. It's a natural process for brain and character development. Although it may be hard to imagine now, it was hard for a girl to look at all the men doctors and say "I want to be a doctor." It's was easier to admire the pretty 2nd grade teacher and model herself after her. Or, if you couldn't relate to any of the female teachers, secretaries or sales clerks and you sulked in your room and wondered what was wrong with you.

Add to the gender cake a layer for race. (Even now, try searching "female doctor," and see what you get. Page after page of mostly white females.) Back in the day, not only were the doctors men, they were white men. White men astronauts. White men news anchors. Short, tall, bald, fat. White, white, white! (You must say that like Jan, when she says "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!")

If you are a white girl, you may understand that a black girl wouldn't feel comfortable going to the Clinique counter because of coloration, but it may be harder for you to believe an East Asian girl wouldn't, either. You may not think we're so different because we're usually lighter, like you. My friend understood this once she traveled abroad. But our eyes, facial structure and coloring are different. Put shadow on the crease? Highlight the brow bone? Dot the ball of your cheeks? Look up to put on mascara - on our straight lashes? Smudge the eyeliner - so that it smudges onto your cheek?? Things just don't make sense to us.

So who do we emulate? Do you understand the lack of connection, the potential frustration? If we want to encourage our children, in the words of a military ad "to be all that you can be," might we want to paint the possibilities in every color imaginable? And the more our children see various scenarios as "normal," might the walls of predispositions and prejudices break down? Might I possibly hope that the world would understand each other better?

As a Christian, I know grace does not abound without Christ. But there is common grace - the grace with which God blesses the World. Might we scatter and plant the seeds of possibilities, understanding, hope, tolerance and wisdom into the fertile field of Grace?

Might I Hope?


Scripture: Who is Jesus?

Periodically, I will be sharing with you something I learned from Sunday's sermon. (If you'd like to learn more, you can download them from our church's website.) It's called "Scripture" because these are not my thoughts, but from my notes of the Word preached by our pastor. I hope it will be enlightening to you.

Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESV)
1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Who is Jesus Christ? A good man? A wise man? A prophet, like Mohammed?

Verse 3a: He is the radiance - why the word "radiance?" Because Jesus embodies the Source, the power. What is the difference between the sun and the moon? The sun has an internal source, or is a source that radiates heat and light in the sky. The moon merely reflects, having no internal power of its own. He is not like the moon, a dead orb which only reflects the light.

Verse 3b: He is. . . the exact imprint - everything that God is, Jesus is. If God is eternal, Jesus Christ is eternal. Jesus was not created at a point in time; He always was and will be.

This, I believe.


Perception is Reality, Part One

When I was in architecture school, we were discussing the notion of safety. The professor spoke about real safety vs perceived safety. What? you say? Architects learn about safety in architecture school?

Here's a hypothetical scenario. You're walking home late from the library back to your dorm. You are walking past large, illuminated windows. Through them, you see a sea of hunched shoulders, pretending to be deep into their poli-sci text. You are relieved to go home and looking forward to a bowl of ramen noodles and crashing. Of course you're safe! So safe, you don't even think about it.

The reality is, the path to the building is lit only by the glow from the fluorescents in the reading room. The reality is, everyone has an iPod on. The reality is, college students often rough house and scream in playfulness. If someone jumped out of the bushes, dragged you to the windowless side of the building, and did something horrible to you, you'd never be detected. Why? Even the students who might have their earphones off might look up if they heard your scream. They'd look out the window and see . . . blackness and their own reflection. Nobody in the library would see you, or hear you.

So, why were we discussing safety vs perceived safety in grad school? As architects, we need to think outside of our own particular goals and do our civic duty to consider the implications of the fenestration, encourage proper lighting, appropriate landscape design.

So how does this apply to us in our own lives?

Let's look at the difference between feeling safe, and being safe.
Do you automatically feel unsafe in an unfamiliar town?
Do you feel unsafe in an unfamiliar area of your own town?
Do you feel unsafe, or uncomfortable, when the people around you don't look like you?
Conversely, do you feel safe in you own neighborhood?
. . . do you feel safe because everyone around you looks like you?

Sometimes when I'm driving, I will forget to lock my door. No matter where I am, I will eventually remember to lock my doors. But, if I see a "suspicious looking" person coming toward me, that is the jab reminder to lock my doors. Even if I know they are locked, I'll press the switch again, for psychological reassurance. I remember years ago when I got that panick-jab when I saw a "suspicious looking" person - a black male. But after I locked the doors, it panick-jabbed me in another way:
Am I racist?
I thought and thought about it. It sickened me to think that no matter what I believed and how I acted consciously, that I might, deep down, harbor racism. Another time, another town. Again, a panick-jab that made me check my doors. This time, the "suspicious looking" person was a white male. . . a tremendous. relief. to me.

My next thoughts were: What is it that frightens me? Was it the swagger? The clothes? The cigarette butt hanging from his mouth? The tattoos? The multiple piercings? Would I be just as scared of a woman? And now that the all of that, especially the tattoos and piercings can be seen on every other stay-at-home mom and teenager in every suburb, what do those signals mean, anyway? When you get tattoos of skull and bones and dragons on your arm, when your son gets the nose and eyebrow piercing, what is that telling the world? Is it OK if said son is dressed in Abercrombie? Is it OK if you're driving a hybrid SUV? Can we no longer judge what is safe and what is not? Were we ever really able to? or were they prejudices we were allowed to harbor because it wasn't questioned? Was it actually less safe in the poor, latino neighborhoods? or was it less safe on the roads in the upper-middle-class white neighborhoods after all the 2-martini lunches?

What scares you? Is it the entire neighborhood? Why? Because of the poor? the color? I had a boyfriend who worked in Chinatown as an ESL teacher. Everyone he worked with was East Asian. Except him. He was in the society registry. He was in the signers of the Magna Carta thing. He wasn't the hardest worker and his job was in jeopardy. One day, he was complaining about his boss and the work environment, "I see all these slanted eyes looking at me." Clearly, he felt threatened. He transposed his unease into racism. And that. That, was the beginning of the end for us.

Are your fears perception or reality? Here are some questions I ask myself. I've developed them over the years as I've analyzed prejudices and sense of safety. It's simply what I use to question myself; to help me get one step beyond where I am. It requires me to look beyond my initial reactions. It requires me to look. And think.
Look. Think.

If I'm in an unfamiliar neighborhood:
  1. What do the residents think? Are there bars on the homes? If the residents don't feel safe, it ain't safe. Get out, fast. Especially if you're the wrong color. Don't be naive.
  2. Is it clean or dirty? Do the residents express a sense of responsibility and pride by caring for their homes and property?
  3. Are there viable businesses? I don't mean pawn shops and bars. Is there a town center with a drugstore, a grocery, a burger joint? Chances are, there's a sense of community, belonging, responsibility, which engenders safety. Unless, of course, there are bars on the windows. (See #1, above.)
If I see people different than me:
  1. How are they different?
  2. Look past the differences and see the meaning
  3. Are they well-put together, albeit not in your "style?"
  4. Are they kind, simply using different words?
I'm no fool. If I feel unsafe, I get out, first. Then think later. But I do think about it. Because I want the world to be better. I want me to be better.

Strive for peace with everyone . . .
-Hebrews 12:14 (ESV)
After this I looked and there
before me
was a great multitude that no one could count,
from every nation, tribe, people and language,
standing before the throne
and in front of the Lamb.
-Revelations 7:9a (NIV)


Tale End

Do you know the old show Zoboomafoo? It stars a lemur named Zoboo, supported by brothers Chris and Martin Kratt. It's a great show that's silly and informative.

Boo has been particularly interested in the wild cats, including the lynx and serval. He told us at dinner that Chris and Martin were trying to find all the spotted and striped animals they could.

". . . and oma? the first aminal they saw was a hiney-nah."


Back From Fishin

You understand that I did not fish. I did not fish. I do not fish. It was purely for the Boo. His uncle and one cousin came from Californiyay to fish at Cape Cod, where another uncle has a house and boats. Everyone should go get a relative with a vacation house.

I would like to declare that this vacation was a complete and utter success. You be the judge:

I think we're in New England:
He caught 7 fish!
Bike riding on the block:


Hermit crab. A record I think, at lasting a mere 4 hours before meeting its Maker.



Goodbye picture: California uncle #1, cousin Stephie, Uncle #2:

Home to daddy!


Heard On The Radio

I had the radio on this afternoon as I was driving home from Worship. It was one of those low-keyed stories retold by this guy with that NPR-montone voice. He was confessing his vacation disasters. Disasters that he admits are his fault. At one point, he said something like this:

This whole racism thing, I just don't get it. Me? Well, I really don't like people. There are so many things to dislike, and you're going to pick color??
Well, I got a chuckle, anyway.

Application, II

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic,
love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 3:8 (NIV)
How do apply these commands in the trenches? Unless we strive to understand the depth and breadth of love and all its applications, we will not be able to live it out. Love is not just a good feeling, although He blessed us with the rush of chemicals in our brain. Love is a choice.

". . .we need to become racially literate, not post-racially blind."
- Lani Guinier, Professor, Harvard Law School
I have rarely read a piece about race that I agree with so whole-heartedly. Professor Guinier uses Professor Gates' arrest to encourage us to break out of the 1963 images of race and seek to become "racially literate." Originally an op-ed piece from The Chronicle of Higher Education, it was reprinted in the Harvard Law School website.


Link-on Blogs: Art and Memory

momster - Irene Nam is a photographer, an expat in Paris. It must be so hard being her! Irene's images have the serenity of a filled void, a thought-full pause, a dreamy reality. There's a diChirico-ness without the despair or loneliness. [You can buy her images from her shop, but all proceeds go to Save the Children, which provides "community-based reproductive health and family planning services."]

Heather Duncan - I found her while searching Richard Diebenkorn, one of my favorite artists. Her images had me from hello. She also has a studio blog and she says some interesting things to say.

Break My Heart - I don't know Bruce Richards, but he must have been a U.S. G.I. in 1960 when he took these pictures of Korea. From 1910 to 1945, Japan forcibly occupied Korea, making us their slave state. The soul of the Korean people were bruised and squeezed, but not broken. Despite having to wear Japanese style uniforms, cut our hair, change our names. Forbidden to speak or write Korean. They tried to kill our history, our culture, our literature, our spirit. Just five years after Japan's defeat in WWII, the Korean war started and lasted three years into the middle of 1953, something my parents lived through. These pictures, from 1960, are from just seven years later; the year I was born.