Sign of the Times

I was texting with some family members at lunch today.  We were expecting them from NY, through the snow storm.  "WRU?" and such.

Boo looked over at me and signed "I love you."

And I returned the sign.

Boo said, "Look, mom, I'm texting with my hand!"


To My Non-Christian Readers

This is one of Christianity's "high holy days."  I hope that you will look beyond the dilution and silliness and petty fighting and garbage that goes along with this season.  And forgive us.

Can you see the beauty of Buddhism and Islam and Judaism?  I hope you can see the beauty of Christianity: the earthly birth of Christendom's god.  A young man and a young woman being obedient and submissive to their God.  Our King of Kings being born in humility, in a dirty, smelly stable.  Blood.  Pain.  Followers of every kind - kings and herders.  Foreshadowing His death.

I wish for unity in diversity.  I wish to set aside our differences and love each other for the human beings that we all are.  No, not agree, but appreciate.

I hope for all of you, that Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control descend on you.

My Love to you all.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast."
- Ephesians 2:8-9


What I Thought

Disagreeing with someone doesn't mean you hate them, right?  You can think of many people, many issues with which you disagree and hate is not a factor, right?  Right?

I don't need to give examples, right?

Ok, so there are people that I really, really dislike because of their views.  You know, that I disagree with.  But it's because I DISRESPECT them.  Like a local-yokel Communications major trying to run for president.  Of the United States.  Or that Big Fat Liar dude.  And that Glenny-come-lately.

These days, I hear proponents of homosexual marriage banty about the the terms "bigot" and "hate," when speaking of those of us who disagree with them.  The public stance is, "if you disagree with us, you hate us and you're a bigot."

Gosh, I didn't know I hated homosexuals.  I didn't know I was a bigot.  Sure I harbor prejudices like everyone.  But I am one to look deep into myself and really try to cleanse myself.

I thought I saw all people as being made in the image of God.  I thought I tried to respect people for all they are, not just a part.  I thought I vehemently disagreed with those who single out homosexuals as being worse sinners or perverts or blah blah.  I thought that I believed we were all sinners and that I am saved only by the Grace of God and not of my own doing.

That's what I thought I thought.


Not Too Hot

HH isn't feeling too hot.
Oma isn't either.

Boo made his daddy a cup of hot tea.
His daddy made him and his oma breakfast.

Me?  I'm sittin' on my a$$ blogging about it.



North Korea, smaller than the size of the state of Mississippi, has the most political prisoners in the WORLD.  The genocide in Darfur, so tragic, has something like 400,000 victims.  Scholars guess that in the 90's in North Korea, 2 to 3 million people died from starvation.

The peak of the famine was around 1996.

Fifteen years ago.  I wonder if my uncles would have been alive then, and if they, in their seventies, already stooped over from decades of poor nutrition, in their sunset years, couldn't move south to the sunshine, but instead, if they starved to death.  My dad's big brothers.  I wonder if they married and had children.  They might have been grandfathers.  I wonder if they saw their grandbabies die, their ribs stretched over by grey skin

while Kim Jong-Il was drinking Hennessy cognac, watching DVDs, talking to his sons in Europe.  Maybe being driven around in his Mercedes, surveying his kingdom of starving children foraging for bugs and twigs.


Human Bein'

All those moppets have equal value: whether bein' white, beige, tan, brown, athletic, handicapped, mute, blind, deaf, happy, sad, made in China or Macao.  I need know only this, that they are all made in the image of their Maker.

Once they start walkin' and talkin' - it's a different matter.  Born that way or made that way, they're walkin' and talkin' now.

I have the right and the responsibility to judge whether the walkin' and talkin' is acceptable, or not.  Acceptable.  (Loaded!)  We all do it.  Judge: Decide.  I see other moppets doin and talkin things I find unAcceptable.   They - obviously - think it is Acceptable.  I have the right and responsibility to differ.  But some of them moppets are startin to insist that I accept what they walkn and talkin.  Not very liberal of them.

According to them moppets, me a bigot bein'.


Sunday Sounds

Boo:  It's amazing that you love me.  That you love me forever. 
Me:  Yup.  I love you.  Forever.
Boo:  How did you know that?  Where did you learn to do that?  Did God love you first and teach you?
Me:  The Holy Spirit gave it to me.  All good things come from above.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."  - James 1:17


Fuzzy Segue

I reached across the dinner table to remove a white fuzz from Boo's hair.

Boo: Ow mommy, what are you doing?
Me:  You had something on your hair.
Boo:  What is it?
Me: I think it's a goose feather from my jacket or something.
Boo:  I always like to see the Tooth Fairy.
Me:  \\figurative head scratch// What brought that up?
Boo:  I thought the white thing might be the Tooth Fairy's hair or something.


I Am

Boo did a little booklet in school for Bible class.  He had to look in the Bible for the various images Jesus gives us of Himself, which he had to illustrate:

Flash light and candle:

Bread and toaster:

Gate with people in Heaven above:

Jesus raising someone from the dead:

Shepherd telling the sheep, "Eat what you can," something I always tell him:

Grapes on the vine:

We raise our son to believe in the God who created the Universe, the author of Love, one who cares about every little thing in our hearts. It brings me great joy to see him learn this every day, at home, church and school.


Watercress Again

I was at a Korean grocery store last week and was so taken by the beautiful watercress, that I bought four bunches.  At an American grocery, that would have been 1/4 of my food budget, but I got these amazing, fresh and at 99 cents a bunch!

I had a post about Watercress just this past summer, but let me show you two slight variations.  Follow my previous post about soaking in salt water, rinsing, cutting and blanching the watercress.

Drain, then squeeze the excess water out with your hands:

Here is a more Korean way of making them, basically by eliminating the Oyster Sauce from the previous recipe I posted.  For two bunches of watercress,  I used about 1/2 t. of sugar, 5 Tblsp of soy sauce, and 1 minced clove of garlic.  Mix.

Add chopped scallions.  Then put the watercress in and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top.  This is called "minari moochim," (미나리 무침) or seasoned watercress.

Some people serve the watercress raw, like a salad, adding vinegar to the mixture above, to create a dressing.  That is terrific too, especially in the summer - fragrant and crunchy!  Just make sure to soak it in salt water and rinse thoroughly to remove as much pesticides as possible.

The second way is to serve it is warm mixed with just Oyster sauce and garlic.

Last night, I served it warm with Oyster sauce (top left) and cold Korean style (top right) with cabbage kimchi (bottom left,) dried laver (bottom center,) and radish kimchi (bottom right.)  Below are pictures of the dried laver seasoned with olive oil and salt, the oyster sauce and the two kinds of kimchi.

You can find all those things at the corner Korean grocery store.  (jk) Or the chains H-Mart and Assi. Bon appetit!



The sun.

The ocean.





The planets.


Ponder these things and their beauty, enormity and power.

I would rather honor the One who is the source of, or made these than those things themselves. If I am making up the notion, I'd still rather live in a transcendent way that hopes for, longs for, believes in the Power that created, instead of the creation.



I sat outside on the deck this morning.  In my sleepwear and green slippers.  I wore a fleece hoody and down vest, wrapped a ragged blanket around myself.  I sat outside in the 44 degree weather, looking out at my world, coffee mug and novel in hand.

She emptied several cupboards and left them open to air, and once she washed half the kitchen ceiling and a door.  Sylvie believed in stern solvents, and most of all in air.  It was for the sake of air that she opened doors and windows, though it was probably through forgetfulness that she left them open.  It was for the sake of air that on one early splendid day she wrestled my grandmother's plum-colored davenport into the front yard, where it remained until it weathered pink.*
- Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

I grew up in a place where caring for the house involved 2 maids for our household of 8.  The "cleaning" part of housekeeping (caring for the home) was separated out and done invisibly.  Even today, I am slightly shocked that my house gets dirty.

When we moved to the U.S., my mother had to do what those 2 maids did.  And she was not happy about it.  I learned to separate out the jewel-like yolk of housekeeping that is caring for the souls within, and saw only the , goopey, nutritionless slime of the egg white called housecleaning.  My mother traded the confines of Korean society that gave her all the freedom she ever wanted, for the freedom of American society, that constricted her to vacuums and back-breaking trips to the grocery store, where she had to drive herself, load up herself, put away by herself.  To the tangle of unmade beds and laundry; the tangled pile of rope that was the English language - that held her down like a slave. The irony was wholly lost on her as she banged that vacuum around, inevitably while we were watching our favorite TV show.  In English.  While we sat on our asses.

I still get a tightness inside me when I think about housecleaning.  My mother's unhappiness  weighted down my natural tendency toward obsessiveness.  So I became obsessively neat but not necessarily clean.  A mis-squeezed toothpaste tube would send me into the technicolor fogginess of insanity, but I cleaned the toilet only when the shock of dirt forced me to it.  I color-coded my closet but was merely annoyed that the windows got dirty and turned away, assuming they would clean themselves. I would pick up the largest dust bunnies by hand, slightly fascinated that they created themselves while I wasn't looking.  Once I started cleaning, though, I would clean with compulsion and irritation for hours, until I gave up half-way, exhausted, defeated by the whorling, exponential nature of dirt.

Aunt Sylvie, who returns from a vagrant life to care for her 2 nieces, lives the world not defined by walls but by the openings.  She doesn't live by the solidity of life but the airy flow of life, as if she herself should fly.  Her sister, the girls' mother, did just that - flying off a cliff in a borrowed car.  I wonder if it is her love and admiration for this sister that brings her back to the walls of her childhood home.

Housekeeping freed me from the leaden weight I thought I had to carry around called housecleaning: Sylvie's independence, her love of air, her obliviousness to the dry, cracked leaves in the foyer.  Confetti of the cosmos called autumn leaves sit in the corner of my dark foyer.  So what?  So, I sat on the deck today, the icy air crowning my head, being what and where I wanted to be

Twenty-five years later, I'm reading the book again.   Twenty-five years later, I live my life with the fullness and freedom of House Keeping, not merely cleaning, because of this book.

I am sure I looked ridiculous on the deck this morning, (I am not immune from the definitions set by society,) but inside me, I have air.  So what? Here's what.  Sylvie and Housekeeping taught me to have air, to breathe, to be able to say "so what."

* Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson @1980 Picador, NY


Let It Be

A section of dried vine.  It was in turn a staff (which turned into a snake,) a plow, a lawn mower, a whale's tail.  Lift it -  slap it  on the gold and orange ocean - so like the sound of water being broken.  He sings a whale song with amazing mimicry.

We made our way from one trail marker dab of paint to another - like so many bindi on the trees' foreheads.  He saw a face on one rotting trunk.  "Look, dad!"  Ridges on felled trees made by beavers.  Rapunzel vines sinuously, sensually wrap around a beech tree.

Miles Standish, Powhatan, Plymouth fill his history slot.  "Let's be Indians, dad!"  He yells and his voice is clear, perfect.  Like God is listening.  God is listening.

The shu!crunsh of our steps, the lapping of the lake, the coos of birds.  And only the slightest Doppler woosh of a car assuring me civilization is near.

Stooping over moss or a rock I see eternity; looking a mile back to where we started and I see a moment. The closer I look, the deeper I see.  Moss jungle, bark canyon.

And to an 8-year old, a vine can be anything, if only you let him.


Pipe Dreams

I just think it's funny that an 8-year old thinks about stuff like this:

Comment by my mechanical engineer brother:
1. Left side animal is propelling the gear for the well gear.
2. The gear is related to the pulley on top of the well which operates the bucket.
3. When the bucket reaches the top, the automatic tilting mechanism pours bucket into a trough into a spigot.
4. Right side animal opens the spigot knob if he wants a drink.
5. Whenever the bucket gets stuck in the well, the right side animal takes the elevator down to fix the problem.

It seems so obvious and logical to me!

Great minds think alike.  Apparently.


Che Sera Sera

"Mom, I'm going to miss you when I marry my wife."


My Thoughts on Halloween

I did not grow up trick or treating and we don't do it now with our 8-yr old son.  My parents were not religious, but they didn't want their daughter going to strangers' homes in the dark to bring home candy.  I never felt like I was missing out either, when all my neighborhood friends went.  That was just me.  I've always had an independent streak.  Finally, when I was 15, I agreed to go with a group of girls.  They made fun of, and played pranks on the older folks. I'm stuffy like that. I did not enjoy it and never went again.  In fact, I think I left them early.

I have a friend who tells me to "lighten up," and in general I could probably lighten up a bit.  But I personally feel that it is not OK to "lighten up" about Death, which to a Christian is the Enemy, no matter how fun and pretty or cute this society makes it.

Our pastor is preaching on 1 Corinthians 8, which has something to do with Christian liberty - as in living your own conscience (based on the Bible.)   I do not condemn my Christian friends who feel differently than I do, and I am in no position to judge people who do not have the same belief system as I.

Our church asks us to consider using this time to interact with neighbors. They ask us to stretch ourselves so that we are living IN the world; not segregated from it.  I totally agree.  However, using Christian Liberty, I understand that others don't or can't feel comfortable going to a bar.  I have no such compunction.  I remember one of my most interesting conversations about my faith occurring at a steelworker's bar in Pittsburgh over a couple of beers.  I, in turn, don't feel comfortable being in the Halloween setting.  It's not because I'm weak or in denial; it's something that I've come to believe over decades of thought.  Cuz, you know, I think a lot!  We choose to interact with our neighbors throughout the year.  For the last two summers, Boo and I would go strawberry picking (at local organic farms,) then bring a pint to several of our neighbors.  It is a delightful time for mother and son, and a delightful reason to talk to our neighbors.  I hope it is a great lesson for our son to learn the joys of giving, the joys of relating.

Wouldn't you know?? even though we are very low-key about why we don't celebrate Halloween, ("It's just not something we do."  "We don't celebrate death.")  our son is endlessly fascinated by it. (insert eyeroll here) But at this point, it's a non-negotiable for us.  How will we handle it in the years to come?  I don't know, but I know this:

"Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet*" and I will trust our God will guide us, step by step, like the soft, gentle light from a lantern.

*Psalm 119:105


That's Italian!

Every night is our special time, Boo and me.  We snuggle, we read, we pray.  Tonight, we opened up a book by an author by the name of DiPaolo.

"That sounds like an Italian name," I say casually.

Boo:  "Mom, do they speak Italian in Italy?"
bb:    "Yes, they do."
Boo:  "I knew it!  I was checking to see if you knew."


Fashion Friday: Making My Own Skinny Jeans

I took this pair of bootleg jeans....

 and made meself some skinny jeans!!

If you want to know how I did it, then read on.

So I've been looking for some skinny jeans that are appropriate for me: 50, chubby, 5'3", muffinable, Korean proportioned me.   Oh, and cheap.  Blackbelt shopping cheap.

I went to Chicos because their jeans will keep the muffin from overflowing.  But at $79-89?? and literally needing to cut 8" off the bottom??  Every other pair I looked at had the additional problem of being low-rise.

This past week, I opened up my winter pants drawer and found a pair of jeans I'd forgotten about.  They have a touch a Lycra, a deep rise and are a dark wash boot leg jeans.  They were the perfect length and the perfect price: $7.  Seven dollar jeans??  Yes! at the thrift store.  (Check back for my post on shopping thrift stores.)

1. Make sure they fit well at your waist and hiney.
2. Make sure they have Lycra.
3. Check all seams along the legs to make sure they are single stitched like this:

not double top stitched like a lot of jeans:

4.  You know they can't have pleats, right?  Right??
5.  They should be black, dark denim or white, without any bling.
6. Flip them inside-out, start pinching and pinning to what you are comfortable with.
7. Keeping the stitch length as long as your machine will allow, sew.
8.  Flip them back right-side-in and try them on.  Do this as often as you need to get it right before making your final stitching run.



True Value

I believe that all humans are valuable, having been made in the image of God.
I believe everyone is gifted in different ways.
And those who are less gifted have something important to give to the world.
I believe God has a place in this world for each one of His children.
I believe that no matter what you are given in this life, you can rise above it, or rise because of it and triumph.

I can give a convincing argument and actually believe all that.

But when it's my own son, I have to face that what I really value is intelligence.  The kind that gets you into an Ivy League university and hired into a corner office.

When we were getting ready for Boo, HH and I prayed that he would be smart.  That was the only thing we prayed for.  Yes, yes, healthy.  But above all, smart.  We didn't ask for athletic or pretty or tall or charming.  We asked God for Smart.  I am sure HH meant it when he said because it would be the right fit.  And I must have believed that too.  But dig a little deeper and I meant I wanted Smart because Smart means an Ivy League education, a nice marriage and a house in the suburbs.

Last summer, a dear, sincere friend and I were laying on our chairs at the pool chatting about this and that.  She knows about Boo's struggles and asked me if it was harder because I was smart.  I have long believed that to know I was intelligent was to understand I was merely the recipient of good genes that were passed down to me; that it was not my own doing

Even as I answered, "Yes...."  Even as the word came out of my mouth it rang false...dissonant...arrogant. 

As the week went by, that exchange kept coming back to me.  Raising Boo is NOT hard because I am *so* smart!  It is hard because I am Impatient.  Is impatience linked with Intelligence?  No!  May it never be!  Quick-tempered by nature,  I get impatient with this child, this special treasure, this precious one because....?  Why?  Merely because of my nature?  or is there something stinking in the cellar?

Here's what I learned: I get impatient because I am not actually interested in helping him learn, but because I want him to fit into my world.  Fit into my mold of Smart = Valuable.  Fit into this peg, dammit!

Fill in the blank.  Push the right button.  Pull the right lever.  Ding! Ding! Ding!! Then you will be of True Value.  In my eyes.

 And that is just. plain. dumb.


Fashion Friday, or Shift Picks for the the Body Shift

There are so many great dresses out these days.  For me, I'm glad we've moved on from the flowey and flowery to the Structured Shift.  I have never pretended to be a fashion blog, but I'm so happy about this turn in fashion, I thought I'd share!

Although I've lost 7 lbs, I've got about 20 more to go.  I've found as the years go by that I can't be wearing the flowey polyester fabric that clings in the wrong places.  And it's always the wrong places, isn't it??  And there seems to be more "wrong places" as my body shifts in ways I never would have dreamed.  I always needed clothes that were a heftier fabric, and designs that were more structures, and now more than ever.  And were I so blessed to be a svelte older woman, I would still have to consider whether certain styles were appropriate for me, as an older woman.  The shift is not, like anything else, a cure-all.  And hence, not all the styles below will work for everyone.  Heck half of them might not work for me!  But I heart them!

Were I down by 10 more pounds, I'd be maxin' out my cards* for these**:

Carolina Herrara Spring 2011 Runway
There seems to be a lot of gray this season, but it's a great color. I love me my black, but gray can seem a bit more casual and less severe. (And on a blog, it's easier to show the details in something other than black.)


Calvin Klein
This dress if not technically a shift, but I thought it would be flattering for some of us that might want to hide the middle area and upper arm area, without looking like we're hiding something.
Suzi Chin
Here's a shift that might not be to a lot of people's liking but I've always loved color blocking in that retro 60's or 70's style. This particular take on it would be really slimming because of the bold stripe of white in the middle, the black along the sides, and the slight A-line of the shape:

9 West
I was debating whether this looked a little Mother-of-the-Groom-ish, but hey, I'm at the Mother-of-the-Groom age!  although Boo has another 17 years or so before he's the marrying age.  In the end, I put this in because this dress would be very flattering on almost anybody, as long as you're not spilling out of the scoop neckline.  And how you style an outfit can make or break it:
Suzi Chin
God save the Queen and all, but this is NOT the look we're going for:

I mean, when you're the Queen of England, wear what ever you want.  But for now, think about these options.  This is what I'd recommend:
  • I would NOT buy this in purple but try it in the lovely berry, or preferably, the black:

  • I would NOT accessorize with pearls that your mom gave you.  Or the ones you wore at your wedding.
  • I would NOT have anything satin near me
  • I WOULD try for edgier, fashion current accessories such as:
    • textured hose
    • strappy modified gladiator sandals or embellished pumps:
Various brands all available at Macy's
 or if that's a bit much for you, then these more modest, trendy pumps or sandals:

    • a funky clutch
Matchy satin clutch?  No.  Edgy lace clutch?  Yes!

    • and slightly over-the-top jewelry
    Betsy Johnson, Jessica Simpson or Givenchy.
     But not all at the same time, you understand.  A pair of wild trendy shoes would be plenty, so keep your other pieces more sedate.

    I love animal print.  But I wouldn't wear a whole dress of it.  But this giraffe print I like, because it's not literal in that child's coloring book way, but a bit abstract, more like shattered glass:
    Eliza J

    I thought you'd want to know that I took each of those images and "fattened" them up by 20%. (All their heads look a little squished, right?)  I wanted the dresses to look a little more realistic.

    So there you have my shift picks for the shifting body! (Do not say that 3 times fast.)

    * Jk'ing cuz I'm not that kind of shopper, and also because some of these are not affordable by this mere mortal.

    ** All items except Carolina Herrara runway found at Macys.com


    The Kitchen Window

    I have this great view out my kitchen window.  I love watching the neighbor kids play; Boo running up and down what we might loosely call "lawn."  I love having the neighbor boy kick the ball over to our side and watch him retrieve it.  It symbolizes our warm and friendly relationship as neighbors.

    But at dusk?  At night time?  They call this "The TV screen."  [Never mind that it's as boring as real TV.]  We've playfully talked to each other on the phone, while waving at each other through that screen.

    Fabric name: "Fresh"
    "What's a girl to do?"  I am not a fan of curtains.  Or lace.  Or frou-frou of any kind.  Short of a renovation or expensive up/down mini blinds, I was left with a trip to Joanne's Fabrics.  I went in thinking I wanted white, or muslin or something plain and severe and architectural.  But this caught my eye:

    It reminded me of my childhood.  I think my mother had bright yellow curtains in our kitchen that she made.  Isn't the kitchen full of memories for you?  For many of us women, isn't there a special connection to our mothers that was made and broken and made again in the kitchen?

    So, my intellectual architectural self had to step aside and let my emotional reminiscent side thread the bobbin, set the stitch and press the seams down on this one.

    I'll miss the view but I don't think my neighbors need to see reruns all year long.  ;-)


    Do the Hustle

    Death be not proud.

    We know you're dancin' up there, buddy. The Hustle will come back to you like...well, like riding a bicycle. But we miss you down here. See you later, sweet, sweet friend.


    Fashion Friday, or Blackbelt Strikes Again

    Blackbelt, dressed as an ordinary mom, stealthily by day or night, frequents thrifts stores and yard sales...all in the name of fashion justice.

    Just last week, she found and rescued these fashion basics, bringing them to a warm, loving home, where they will be washed inside out with mild detergent and hung on satin hangers.

    Black cotton jersey.  From H&;M.
    Worn with a tank under, a bit like this?

    I am always warm.  So even in the winter, I am wearing short sleeves.  I've got plenty of V-necks because that's more flattering on me.  But I needed some scoop-necks to wear under denim jackets or cardis.  It's hard to find good basics, I found this deep scoop neck is more flattering on me than a more modest one.

    By Ideology.
    I was scanning the internet for the right look, and I found one at my friend Jo-Lynne's blog:
    From Francesca's Collection
    What do you think? Pretty close, huh?

    This one, too, but a longer silhouette that I can wear over leggings:

    It's brand new!  It's organic!  and it's actually a grey-purple.  By Toggery.

    And look at this beautiful silky top! I want to find a pair of straight jeans in an unusual color to wear with this:

    In 2 shades of gray by cdr

    Closest I could get but not this tent-ish.

    I've been looking for a sporty winter something:

    Eddie Bauer down vest

    I'm not the outdoorsy type but here's an outdoorsy look that'll help me pretend!

    And last but not least, this black, silk top from my favorite store - TJMaxx:

    On clearance for $7

    I'm thinking something like this - with skinny jeans or a pencil skirt.  (I wish I could belt it but that's not the style for me at this point):
    Not perfect, but really wanted to show you!

    All six items for a grand total of $26.00.  SCOooRE!!!

    *Thanks to Eddie Bauer and Ann Taylor, my stylists.  ;-)