A Little Bit

When scientists, the government, companies, advertisers say something - anything - is "safe," they follow the industry standards.  As a scientist, especially, they must follow good research techniques.  I clearly understand that.  In my lay terms, this, though, is what they mean:

The amount of ingredient "x" used (as directed,) would not cause you permanent damage, or at least not for a long time.  Because there's only a little bit in the toxic item, which deems it "safe."  Really.  That's the scientific definition of something being considered safe or at least doesn't cause cancer.  You know, like TV & video game violence don't cause crimes.  And some things, there's such a little bit of it, and everybody puts that little bit in, that the government doesn't make them disclose it on the ingredients list.  Like lead in your red lipstick.  Or softening chemical in your ice cream.

Here's the thing with me, though.

There's only a little bit of surfactants in soaps and shampoos, fragrances, stain-resistant and water-shedding coatings, parabens (preservatives in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals,) fluoride, lead (in your red lipstick,) pesticides on your fruits and vegetables, hormones, bleach, bisphenal-A so that they won't harm you.  But what about the manufacturing process?  The workers?  The remnants?

Did anyone test what happens to us and our kids who are in aggregate ingesting
a little bit of hormone in our beef, pork, chicken, eggs and milk,
a little bit of mercury in the approximately 14 vaccines that our babies get,
a little bit of lead in your red lipstick,
a little bit of preservative in our soaps, lotions, cosmetics (which they find lodged in breast tissue,)
a little bit of the petroleum-based estrogenic fragrances in our air fresheners, soaps, candles, shampoos, make up, fragranced markers,
a little bit of bleach on our cut carrots and diapers and tampons,
a little bit of plastic off-gassing from our new car seats, carpet, coats, shoes, pajamas, nail polish
a little bit of plastic leeching out of the pellets they put in farming soil,
a little bit of plastic leeching from our canned goods, paper plate coating, toys.

But don't worry; it's SAFE.


I Saw You Standing There

I saw you standing there, putting on your helmet.  A silver BMW. 650 cc.  I approached you.  I was bold like that, even then.  I asked if it was yours, the motorcycle.  You blushed.  Why, yes! Yes it is.  The blush was not for me, the bold young woman, but for your lie.

The bike was your dad's, a man who lied easily, without even the blush.  The one who lied to your mother business trip after trip, denying the significance of late night dinners with young women.  You didn't lie as easily.  Your pale skin flushed each time, punctuating your blue eyes, dimples, while your blond hair swept over your forehead.

The blush, I thought, was your True Inner Self, that you were really Good, but corrupted by Nurture.  I would reveal this True Inner Self.  Because I would really understand him.  And rescue him.  He was truly a kind man.  He had a sweet nature.  It was unfortunate that he was divorced from a wife.  They married too young.  They were so different.  She had their two children and was with her parents.  Bad things happen to good people.

He was sweet. And kind.  And patient.  And I wasn't going to marry him, after all.  It didn't matter that he didn't have the same foundational beliefs about life and death as I did.

So I prayed for him, that he would become a Christian.  Doesn't that seem like the right thing for a Christian girl to do?  No, you see, I prayed so that my desire would be justified in His sight.  Because deep down inside, I knew it was not a good place to be.  Should we do something that we know isn't right and then ask for forgiveness?  That's manipulative, isn't it? Abusing someone's love?  Whether your earthly father or your Heavenly one, should you deliberately get into a bad situation knowing you can get him to fix it?  "Look, I want this (him,) and I want you to make it right."  God the Vending Machine.

The first time I went to his duplex, which he shared with a roommate, I saw a woman's things about.  At my questioning stare, he blushed.  Yes, they're her things.  Well, we're not divorced yet.  Well, we're living apart.  Well, I haven't called a lawyer yet.  No, we're not technically separated.  But she knows, she knows.  That blush.

"It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light."

In the dark of night, my fingers coiled around the phone, I paused.  I asked, "Are you alone??" This time, I could almost hear him blush.  I saw more than heard the rustle of sheets.

Of course, his wife didn't know.  This woman didn't, either.

But I did know.  As the dawn approached, exhausted from crying, I stumbled into The Other Woman: me.  Me, the unblushing liar.  I could see myself  standing there, having been a part of all the lies.  But most painful of all, the denial of everything I Believed, and lying to myself.


Why I Decided to Home School

(I'm sorry there are some misleading advertising links.  I actually have some links.)

Last night, I went out with the moms from the home schooling coop.  I had so much fun.  It was silly and serious, insightful, resourceful and we stayed way too late.  It confirmed for me, though, how different each one of us, and our families are.  You can't assume the reasons for why people home school.  They are almost limitless.  Since I've had so many people ask me why I decided to home school, I thought I'd write a post.  Lord knows I need to write something or close shop.

Contrary to the title, I thought I'd start by telling you the reasons that were NOT a factor in my decision:

  1. It is NOT because I'm a Christian.  In fact, my religion has almost nothing to do with it.  I do not believe the Biblical mandate to care for my child includes keeping them at home and doing everything myself.  No.  I don't grow the food we eat, I don't weave the cloth for clothes and I personally don't have to stand over a text book.
  2. It is NOT because I want to make him into my brand of Christian.  Except that of course, I do.  What parent doesn't want their children to think like they do? to have their philosophy that has been honed for 30-40 years?  But it's not because I want to shield him from other religions.
  3. It is NOT because I am the only one who knows what's best for my child.  Sometimes the perspective of an outsider gives needed insight.
  4. It's NOT because there's a conspiracy to brainwash my child.
  5. It's NOT because I think the world will end in 2015 and I want him home when that happens.

The bottom line for why I'm homeschooling my son is that I RAN OUT OF OPTIONS.

Crazy as that sounds in the US of A, I really felt there was nothing out there quite right for him.  I was willing to do anything, everything to get him to the right place, educationally speaking.

Initially, my public school was just too big for my little guy.  Later, they lied to me about him.  Deliberately hid his learning disability in the testing summary.  I used to be a huge proponent of the public school system.  Now I'm for Vouchers.

You may or may not know that our son has Asperger's Syndrome (please don't say he has Autism.)  Along with that turf comes Sensory Integration Disorder, Tourettes and a Language deficit.  There are plenty of schools for Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia and Dyslexia.  Or Autism.  Children who can't make it in a "regular" school setting.  But not for my very high-functioning, happy but weird Aspie.

I even looked at a private school for special kids an hour away at $36K a pop.  Never mind how we'd have paid the $36K.  Yes, they served special kids, but not Asperger kids.
Out of options.  In this country.  (shakes head.)

So, what drove me to this craziness of home schooling?  Because it is kinda crazy.  What pushed me over the edge was a)  Bully Alpha Boy, and the school's inability to properly handle the situation.  And there were other reason:
b) Classmates
c) Asperger's and Sensory Overload
d) Developing His Gifts

a) The Bully Alpha Boy:

In 2nd grade, a new boy entered my son's small class.  An Alpha.  Chris was a big, athletic, dynamic boy.  From the very first day, Chris told my son in recess that he couldn't play.  All the other boys, boys tending to be the pack herding type, went along.  See, the priority of boys (and men, I'm afraid to say)  is playing the game, not caring about the heart of one goofy boy.  I talked to one boy's mom once about all this.  She was satisfied that her son wasn't one that was actually taunting my son, but just went along with it.  I wanted to bring up the quote about people who watch and allow evil to be done, but I held my tongue.  Proud of me?  No, I'm not sure either.

And the girls?  Well, they're busy creating their own social order.  They became aware of gender differences and would not play with him.  Or any other boy.  These are important, formative times for children. 

On the first day of 3rd grade, Chris told J he couldn't play.  The other boys went along.

On the first day of 4th grade, Chris told J he couldn't play.  The other boys went along.

But that year, a new boy entered the class and the dynamic seemed to change and Chris no longer targeted my son.  He targeted the new boy.

And you're wondering, "Why didn't you do anything about it?"  I did.  I tried.  I went with their suggestions.  But after 2-1/2 years, of going it their way, I was at the end of my rope.

Wait.  It gets better.

This new boy said to my son...they're both 10 years old, remember.  TEN, okay?  He said to my precious son, "I'm going home to my room, lock the door, read until I'm bored, then kill myself."  Completes it all by making a hanging motion with his neck and hand.  TEN.  I had long emails and talks with his mom.  Tears.  She was sorry and all, and they talked to their son, but,  in the end, does not feel there is a problem. When I alerted the school, the Superintendent emailed me stating basically that it's not uncommon for children to express wishes to die and in fact his son did too at that age and oh he's fine dontcha know.


b) Classmates

Yeah, you need those to have a school.  I get that.  Contrary to popular notion, children are NOT silly, and they do NOT have a sense of humor. Conformity is the rule of the day, here, not fun and joy and creativity.  There's one non conformist in the class.  But it's a girl.  She's definitely a contender for "wife."  In 15 years.  My son's not perfect, but he is fun, sees joy in everything and so creative I have to tell him to stop.

Listen, I'm not the "world is a terrible place full of conformists" kind of person.  I'm pretty conventional myself.  But my son's energy, enthusiasm and creativity?  I'm not having a bunch of sourpuss 10-year olds squash that out of my son.

I know I can't protect him forever.  But I went into home schooling saying to him, "Let's take a break."  Let's spend a year not being taunted, stared at, made fun of, ostracized, ignored.  Let's spend one year where Arianna doesn't scream in your face, "SHUT UP!"  Let's spend one year when you aren't called a liar when you say you can't help your tics.  Let's take a break from Dylan having DAILY meltdowns.  Let's take a break from classmates saying, "Ewww!" about your lunch, while they're chomping on  Fluffwiches.

c) Sensory Overload

Having Asperger's means that everyone knows another language that he doesn't know.  If you've been around bilinguals, you'll understand.  You understand them while they're speaking English, but when they break out into Spanish, you're lost, right?  Same thing for my son.  Except that it's every day.  He gets most of the sentences, except if it has an unknown figure of speech, or sarcasm, or a subtle facial expression.  He heard the words, but he doesn't get the rest of what makes up communication.  It's a foreign language that he'll never be fluent in.

My son has a sensory imbalance.  He sees/hears/feels too much of some things, while he sees/hears/feels too little of others.  He bumps into you, steps on your toes and doesn't realize.  But he can hear every car horn, vacuum, siren and squeak for literally miles around.  Hard to concentrate that way.  And he is neurologically unable to block it out.

Seven hours of  a) b) and c) is too much for even this energetic boy.

d) Development of His Gifts

By 4:30 PM, my son was wrung out and done.  DONE, I tell you.  I'm not sure he could spell his name by then.  I knew school wouldn't get easier, but harder.  More homework.  More independent thinking and analysis.  I wasn't even sure he'd make it at this rate, forget music, art or soccer.

His strength is in music and art.  Once a week of each, squeezed between this holiday and that holiday and the teacher being out sick and jockeying with the other kids in the supply cabinet wasn't going to give him what I wanted.   It's not the school; it's the US.

This kid has perfect pitch.  He hums a note and says, "Hey mom, that was an A."  Not typical kid conversation.  He loves sounding out any song on the keyboard. Or piano. Or trombone.  Or guitar.  He "Yeehawed!" the first time he heard Beethovan's 8th Symphony and often hear him blasting Handel's Messiah.  He imitates Dinosaur Train, and he imitates Dave Matthews.

At 6-1/2 years old, he started drawing buildings in perspective.  (This usually happens around 10.)  He still can't draw a person, but he can draw you a floor plan with matching elevations and a perspective view in a couple of hours.  As you can well imagine, some adults can't do this.

So when this kid is completely wiped out by 4:30, how will he get homework done, AND go to his piano lesson?  Nope.  Can't be done.

Hence, The Kraybill Home School.

Where I am Superintendent, Principal, teacher, bus drive and lunch lady.

And mom.


To Live

When I was going through my Gong Li and Chinese cinema stage, I watched a movie called To Live.  It is the story of a family which loses everything.
Yet they persist.
Strive, toil, work.

Theirs is a common story during the upheavals of China's recent history.  But there are many others - the Irish, Russians, Jews, Koreans and so much in Africa.  Natural disasters.  Natural consequences of Man's actions.  And the deliberate, incomprehensible cruelty of Human upon Human.

When life can be so hard, when we can be so hateful to each other, why do we persist in living?

Years ago, I was at a client site with a co-worker.  She was following me in the exit stairwell, when she tripped on her pant cuff and fell head first onto the concrete landing.  As she lay there, a black pool of blood growing around her head, I thought I saw Death floating by.  This tenacious, determined woman lay in a heap, her fashionable clothes unable to define her, actually having betrayed her.  She recovered.  But there, in the fluorescent rays of the fire stairs, I saw the gauzy film of life torn, waving in a breeze.

I picture the surface between oil upon vinegar.  Before you stir it up.  Such a clear line of demarcation, and yet there is really no barrier there at all.  That's what I saw that day - how easily one can plunge into the other side.
 Why do we want to live?  
Why do we think living is good, and dying bad?  Or do we?  Do you?  Even Dr. Kavorkian would refuse be be a tour guide to the other side for a healthy patient.

People struggle and suffer, and yet they persist in struggling and suffering, to survive it - not to end it.  Exert.  Grind.  Labor.  Strive, toil, work.  Are they crazy?  Are they stupid? Weak?  Strong? Or are they Hopeful? 

Some people do want to end it. But it's considered an aberration.  The mentally ill get put in "safe" rooms [formerly known as the padded room,] so they won't try to end it for themselves.  Dr. Kavorkian is considered a monster even though his patients clearly wished to die.  Police, fire fighters, social workers all intercede when someone tries to end their OWN life.  Prisoners, even on death row, can get put on Suicide Watch, ironically, to NOT have them die.

My mother struggled for 10 years with a degenerative brain disorder.  Her mind still worked, but her body increasingly did not.  If you've read my blog and read bits about my mother, you'll remember that she was the Original Princess.  She was the favored child of a wealthy family, who loved art and design and looking stylish.  And there she was, only in her mid-50s [not far from my age now,] laying prone, barely able to feed herself.  And yet I never heard her ask to end it.

Were I captured and tortured, I might maintain hope that someone would rescue me, or that I might find a way out.  Or even the absurd notion that the captor might release me.  Even while knowing he might torture and/or kill me.  But I could have hope, couldn't I?

What was the hope my mother had?  What is the hope others have who are stuck in the poorest, filthiest, most pathetic regions of the world?  What is the hope North Koreans have?  Or is merely not being sent to one of their many concentration camps, not being caught, enough?

In the worst, seemingly worst situations, is there always a kernel of hope?  Hope that the disease would be cured? That the dictator will change? That tomorrow will be better?  And if so,

Where does this Hope come from?

Is it evolutionary?  Over millions of years, did this spiritual kernel of hope grow for survival?  But is survival good?  Who, or what, determined that?  Where did this desire to survive come from?  Might there be something programmed into us, our spirit, that undefinable core, that tell us Life is right and Death is wrong?  After all, in the Genesis story, when the Serpent tricked Adam and Eve, what he introduced to Paradise was Death.  And God himself shed blood - an animal sacrifice, a death - to cover their "issue."

Whether you see Genesis as an allegory or truth, it's a great story of the human condition, isn't it?  We dwelt in paradise where there was no death, with complete communion with an eternal Being.  When an enemy enters the garden, he brings with him Death.  The slithering masqueraded one, to bring enmity between The Good and His Creations, was to bring Death.  Death is the Enemy

And I think we all, somewhere, somehow, know it.  We are Life.  The Enemy is Death.  It didn't grow in us.  It is a primal, essential part of us.  Those who push it away and voluntarily walk through that film have lost an essential part of their Humanity.


Discussion Closed

Maybe I've had a rough week.  Or two.  Maybe how I'm feeling now is real and it's all the other times when I'm busy with busy-ness that I don't think properly.

I see a day when I won't be allowed to be a Christian.  In my lifetime.  Already, I am not allowed to believe what I believe.  Apparently, I, and my fellow conservative Christians, are prejudiced on the scale of the KKK for believing that marriage is for one man and one woman.  That is what I believe the Holy Bible teaches.  But then also, I see a dismissal of the Bible as some random book that Christians use to justify our hate.  Sure, that's been done in the past, the present and I'm sure will in the future.  For every and any Belief structure.  Ever.  Not just Christian.  But I am starting to see a dismissiveness about the Bible, that frankly I don't see about the Qur'an, the I-Ching, the Tripitaka.

Maybe because in our country, we have a Christian heritage, and there have been so many Christians in our paths that have disappointed or disgusted us.  Because we went to Catechism as children, we think we know what Christianity is about.  Or we see the radio or tv personality that spends a little too much time talking about homosexuals and not enough about the thousands of other topics we could grow in.  And I'm sorry for the spewing they have done.  The public shame and hatred.  So maybe it's the ole "familiarity breeds contempt."

Maybe we paint ourselves as closed-minded because we have a set of beliefs. And we paint ourselves as hypocritical because we can't follow our beliefs.  I know I can't follow what I know.  I can't even follow a diet.  Our worst offense, I think, is that we don't "accept all faiths."  (Although some Christians do.) I'm not even sure what that means.  If you are of a religion that doesn't believe Jesus is the Savior, how can you be accepting of Christianity?  If you're a Jew and you marry a Christian, how can you accept a religion that is waiting for the Messiah and one that already has one?  Unless of course, nobody really believes any of it.  Or.  You're constantly doing the figurative cocktail party version of religious dialogue.  You know,

"How's Ramadan going?"
"Oh fiiiin fine.  And your prayer wheels?"
"Oh great.  Couldn't be better.  Good seeing you!"
"Good seeing you, too."

I see a day coming when this country will join the approximately 40 countries where being Christian is not allowed.  Wait.  Let me be specific.  There are some countries where you are actually not allowed to be Christian or you'll be jailed, tortured and/or killed (Arabia, Iran, Mauritania.)  There are others where you can live there as a Christian, but puts severe restrictions (Algeria, Indonesia.)  You can have a Bible, but not in the native language.  You'd be jailed and/or killed.  And then there are countries where you are technically allowed to be a Christian, worship and talk about it but the persecution ranges from pressur to abandon it to attacks and killings (Nigeria, Laos, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Nepal.)

I don't think I'll ever be jailed or tortured for being a Christian here in the US, but I won't be allowed to maintain my religion without being ridiculed and labeled "hateful."  Oh wait.  That's already happening.


A Good Person

We all want our villains to look mean and nasty and our nice guys to, well, seem nice.

When I was in grad school, our class went for a summer studio in Spain.  One young woman met some American boys and went off to an island for the weekend.  (I think I've told this story before.)  Some of us less adventurous asked her if she wasn't scared?  Her answer, was "They were really nice and they were American!"

Do I have to spend any bloggy real estate to explain why that statement is completely stupid?

I thought not.

It reflects, though, what many of us think, that we can tell if someone is wicked or not.  A Good Person  doesn't do Bad Things.  If they do, they get put in the other column and become a Bad Person.

Except that they do.

A Good Person might snitch some supplies from the office closet.  Or let a friend get involved with someone they knew was mentally ill.  Or forget a friend's birthday.  A Good Person might get themselves in trouble at the investment bank and try to hide the tremendous losses.  And these people might look very much like your dad, your neighbor, even you.

A Good Person might not report a crime.  A big crime.  Over decades.  While simultaneously doing lots of Good Things; working hard, honestly, giving to good causes.  This person is being discussed in two ways, both, I believe erroneous:

A.  He is now a Bad Person and everything he did was Bad.  Nothing he did in his life matters anymore because he did this very Bad Thing.
B.  Yes he did a Bad Thing but he did so much Good so let's cool our jets.

The first point of view demands that we paint him only as a villain.  The serpent.  The Joker.  The evil nemesis.  B. wants us to whitewash the Bad, as if his Deeds, his Works atone for the Bad, like a global tally sheet.  The fact of the matter is, Joe Paterno, like all of us, was Good and Bad.  The Bad choices he made do not get a reprieve because of all the Good things he did.  The Bad Thing remains objectively Bad whether committed by Adolph Hitler, The Buddha, or a beloved football coach. 

Most of us live unremarkable lives, doing seemingly unremarkable good - being kind to a neighbor, loving our children, doing an honest day's work.  But if we're honest, we live doing unremarkable bad - yelling our our kid, rolling our eyes about our in-laws, cursing out the other driver.  Were I to see that shower?  I know without a doubt, I would have tackled that guy and pulled the boy out.  No doubt.  But in humility and truth, I can't say I'm a better person than McQueary or Paterno.  At the same time, I have no scruples saying that wickedness won here.

In the end, maybe none of us are Good or Bad, but Human, capable at times of doing Good and too often capable of doing Bad.


On Losing My Mother

My mother died in 1987.  As that time came back, I slowly remembered it was July.  I remembered it was hot; that I had to get there in a hurry.  Late July, I think.  It's July again, but 2012.  I do the math and, slowly, realize it's been 25 years.

25 years.

They waited for me to get there - Korea - from Boston.  That I should see her and say my goodbye.  But I couldn't.  When I got there, to their living room and saw the small, simple casket, I couldn't see her.  I couldn't stand the notion of someone lifting the lid.  My aunt encouraged me to see her; that it was important to fully understand that she was gone.  The man from the funeral home was there, ready to lift that lid.  But I still couldn't.  I collapsed on my dad's shoulder and begged him not to open it.  For me, I had no trouble fully understanding that she was gone.  That she was in that box, for 3 warm monsoon days, waiting.  Forever.

My good friend just lost her dad.  She is 42.  An adult. A grown-up.  Maybe it hurts more the more memories you've chalked up; the deeper understanding you have of what it is to lose a parent.  I was 27.  I don't know if it hurts less or more.  Not that it really matters.

I flew back, went through my days competently.  I had to find a job, and I did.  I interviewed well, showed up on time, did a good job.  But emotionally, I was needy and behaved inappropriately, blind to others' needs, blind to my own deficiencies.  I'd fall asleep in my new apartment, in my new bed, having put in a full day at my new job.  But every night, as if a clapping thunder had awoken me, I'd sit up in bed, my heart pounding, a dreaded sense hovering over my stupor.  Every night, for years. 

At some point, I no longer woke with a pounding heart or a sense of dread; I simply awoke.  At 11, 12, 2, 3.  For over 20 years.  I don't know if it had simply become habit or what.  I still have trouble sleeping.  Someone suggested that if I worked hard all day, I wouldn't have trouble sleeping at night.  Circumstances are such that I no longer have to see that person.  It's a good thing, too.

I was 27.  Just out of graduate school, embarking on a career.  I'd guess my mom would have been proud of me.  I don't know.  I do know that I never had the chance to get to know her as a grown-up.  Maybe 27 seems plenty old to some of you readers, but I know how young I was, how much I needed to grow, indeed, how much I would grow.   In painful ways I never wanted to.

A year or two before she died, she had a choice to go on vacation, or fly me to Korea to see her.

She chose the vacation.

I think the hardest part was growing up and realizing that I was not the most important thing in her life.  That by my mom and dad moving to Korea, not only did I lose my physical home, but I also lost my psychic dwelling.  I slowly came to realize the existential loneliness that philosophers over the ages have contemplated.  I.  I alone.  Separate and independent from my mother. Where do I dwell?

I sought a home at my brothers'.  At an aunt's.  At friends'.  All of them were fraught with awkwardnesses not of their doing, but as circumstances of our days.  Who could I turn to that was completely and totally on My Side?  Where could I "let my hair down" and rest?

In the letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul writes, "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."

And there I dwell and hope to, the rest of my days.


Fashion Friday: Summer Dresses

95.  101.  91. 84. 83. 84. 81. 88. 88.
Temperatures for the near future here.

There's nothing more comfortable than a cool casual dress in this warm weather.  Nothing to bunch up.  Anywhere.  And as I've gotten older and wider, shorts don't flatter me as well.  So I really splurged and bought several dresses to carry me through these warm days.

The criteria for me, are as follows:
1.  Sleeveless.  [Did I say it's HOT??]
2.  No layering required.  [Did I say it's HOT??]
3.  Does not show panty lines.  [I know that there are women of a certain age who would GASP at the notion of a lady not wearing a slip but well...did I say it's hot??]
4. Wash-n-wear.
5.  Last but not least, modestly priced.  I'd even say inexpensive.

Hey, remember this post from last year about what to wear for the Fourth of July?  This is what I wore to watch the Fourth of July parade:

I was the red to my boys' white and blue:

It looks bit dressy, I admit, but it is really a simple take-off on the t-shirt dress.  Red cotton jersey dress by Andrea Jovine, gold and linen ballet flats by Ann Klein Sport, both purchased at Marshall's.  The dress is snug at the top, with an empire waist and a skirt that billows away from my body but is cinched with the band at the bottom to give it a modern twist.  The satin gold necklace is from Hallmark (yes, as in cards,) and gold drop hoops by JLo.

The next dresses are all in great patterns that do wonders for hiding problem areas and meeting criteria #3. 
What I wore yesterday:

Jewel-tone paisley dress by moa moa [sold at better department stores, but I got at a thrift store.] Handmade geometric earrings from a boutique, chain mail necklace from Charming Charlie's.  Jeweled "Nora" sandals by Mia.

Here are two more I got also from Marshall's:

And here are a couple of outfits I put together from Polyvore. They can be really simple [as long as they FIT well] and you can jazz them up with colorful sandals or even flip-flops and a fun tote:

Summer Dress Block

Fun summer backpack to go with anything! From Target.

Summer Dress Gray

Summer Dress Green

Summer Dress Green by blackbeltoma featuring rhinestone shoes

Whatever your style, you can find summer dresses to keep you feeling COOL and looking HOT!


First Day of Pool Season

Our little town doesn't have a local pool.  Instead, there are several private club pools you can join.  It's nothing luxurious but clean, safe and just the right size.  I can pretty much scan the whole place and find who I need to find.  The lifeguards all know the families.  Once, when Boo snuck to the bathroom without letting me know, I had all the lifeguard hollering his name.  Cuz they all knew him.

There are probably 4 or 5 school districts represented and we don't go to school with most of the kids, not do we travel in the same circles.  Most of these kids, I see only during the summer.  So it's fun to watch them grow these past 8 seasons.  And watch my boy grow:

2006, age 4


And the big day when he learned to swim!

With his baseball-coaching Unca Paul, 2010

With his dad, 2010

And May 28, 2012:

Growing into the lankiness of boyhood.


Memorial Day

By circumstances of history and geography, nobody in my family served in the US military.  My oldest brother, born in 1953, was eligible during the waning years of the Vietnam War but was never called.  I remember my parents figuratively wringing their hands wondering if he'd be drafted into the obligatory service of the Korean Army.  We weren't citizens yet and if he were called, we wouldn't have had any protection from the US government.  [Yes, they'd draft you but not protect you.]

I just went to my 30th college reunion.  Memorial Day weekend came and went.  My husband recently lost 2 uncles.  His mother has crossed over from the peaceful days of retirement into the waning, translucent days of memory loss, loneliness and depression.

It's no surprise then, that I have been thinking about the passing of days. As it was Memorial Day, I looked for these pictures of my dad and his one older brother, who served in the Korean Army and Air Force, respectively:

I think this was around 1950.  There were 4 boys in that family; one went to be with the North Koreans.   The other, a geeky, brainy young man, was captured by the North Koreans, for their "brain trust," no doubt.  These 2 brothers were able to escape the Communists coming from the north and served in the South Korean military.

Ten years later, my dad was at Kimpo Airport in Seoul, heading to Brandeis University for a PhD in Mathematics.  My uncle rose in the ranks of the Air Force.

Back then, Korea was still reeling from the Japanese Forced Occupation, WW2 and the Korean War.  Unlike the bustling industrialized powerhouse it is today, it was a poverty-stricken, physically destroyed Third World country.  Only the biggest roads were paved; children played in the dirt in rags.  The people were small mostly because of the lack of good nutrition.  My dad and uncle would have been quite a vision at 5'-9" and sturdy of build.  It was said that people in the streets would stop and stare at my handsome uncle, wondering if he were an American movie star

My grandparents left their home in Haeju, now in North Korea,  lost a father to Japanese torture and imprisonment, and lost 2 sons.  Now a 3rd son was headed to the other side of the world.  No jet planes direct from Seoul to NYC, but instead, a prop plane that hopscotched from Seoul to Tokyo to Hawaii to Chicago before landing at Kennedy. Never mind cell phones, there was barely such a thing as overseas calls of any kind.  Remember, these were the days of black & white TVs and 3, maybe 4 channels!

Maybe they were so used to losses that this kind of joy and opportunity overrode any sadness they were sure to have.  Maybe their deep and abiding faith in God helped them through.  There's no "maybe" for me.  I'm sure as I can be of anything, that their God, was their source of strength and confidence.


All Religions Are Not Created the Same

"Why do we make the catastrophic error of thinking that all religions are right and that it does not matter whether the claims they make are objectively true?

All religions are not the same. All religions do not point to God. All religions do not say that all religions are the same. At the heart of every religion is an uncompromising commitment to a particular way of defining who God is or is not and accordingly, of defining life's purpose.

Anyone who claims that all religions are the same betrays not only an ignorance of all religions but a caricatured view of even the best-known ones. Every religion at it's core is exclusive...

...What the person means by saying, 'You must be open to everything' is really, 'You must be open to everything that I am open to, and anything that I disagree with, you must disagree with too'.

Ravi Zacharias in Jesus Among Other Gods.
Every religion think it is Right, or at the very least, the Best.  Or it is not truly a religion, is it?  Why have a religion that says, "I think this is right, but go with that other one if you feel like it."  Even if there is no God, per se as a Being, in the religion or belief system, there is clearly the thought or pursuit of the Best or the Right or the Eternal of some kind.  The person open to all religions, is not open to Nazism or the KKK or even the part of Christianity that says things they don't like.


What I Wore 5.23.12

I feel like I've been running ragged just running errands. I've been to functions that required me to get cleaned up, but all this ragged running has not left me the wherewithal to get my camera.  So all the Wheres will be "running errands."

What: So I wore this tunic top recently but found a better way to wear it.  I like it better with a scarf; I feel less bare.  It also allows me to show off my new Talbot's espadrilles.  Brown tunic top by Zara Collection over a fluorescent green cami.  Brown capri leggings from Kohl's, hand printed silk scarf bought at an artisan shop years ago.

What: White v-neck tee from Talbot's, denim A-line skirt by, black patent wedges by Me Too.  Mixture of gray jewelry.

My photo spot has a little to be desired.  This is much better, right?  I finally figured out another way to configure my camera and you can watch my garden transform through the season.

What: The Talbots tee again, but this time under a black knit jersey cardi with skinny jeans.  Black modified Mary Janes by Naturalizers Natural Souls.  Love my new vintage Bakelite bangle bracelet in pumpkin, with a handmade amber and gray beaded necklace.

See what other moms wore at The Pleated Poppy!

Educating Boo

Several years into our marriage we decided it was time to start a family.  We were older, and we had had enough years to get to know each other and enjoy our child-free time.  As I made my application for the Worldwide Pregnancy Club, I noticed some rules of engagement. 

When a woman enters that distinguished group, it appears that all the world is an adjunct member, whose opinions and advice is readily dispensed.  In any venue.  I saw strangers approach pregnant women and touch them, uninvited, in sensitive areas.  Even men, whose consciousness of social respectability and sense of decorum would prevent them in other circumstances, were seen reaching out to touch the extended sensitive areas.  I told my husband that I would wear a sign that said, "Don't touch me."

But it made me wonder what about a pregnancy allowed such behavior.  Pregnancy, the direct result of physical intimacies that these strangers would never broach, somehow entered the realm of public discussion.  Does the universal experience of child-bearing and child-rearing bear itself to become public property,  allowing for some kind of global membership?  Does the whole world become a member of the Board of Trustees for your pregnancy?  As offended as so many were by Hillary Clinton's It Takes a Village, I always thought, and still think, there is truth to the idea that we all affect each other and take a part in educating our children.

I've recently decided to home school my son. 
I wanted to give you a few seconds to let that sink in.  Is your response in the same realm as what others have said to me?
"How will he get socialized?"
"Home schooled children are weird."
"You won't have any time to yourself."

[To be fair, I've had as many people say to me, "Only you know what's best for your child."]

There is something global, universal about how children are raised and I have found that the words "home school" is the equivalent of the extended belly which gives people permission to touch me in a personal spot, in public, uninvited.


What I Wore Wednesday - 05.02.12

I don't have a lot of pictures this week.  My excuse this week?  My son has a Science Fair project due on Friday.  NEED I SAY MORE??

What I Wore: black and white patterned cowl-neck, bat-wing sleeve sweater from the clearance rack at Kohl's.  I love it because the cowl drapes gently creating a nice neckline for me, and the tails are long enough to cover some of my "problem" areas.  Black flare pants from at least a million years ago, which are a tad short for my bronze and jute platform sandals by Talbot's.
Where: Church.

What I Wore: Yes, I did.  I wore gym pants in public.  Even though I wasn't at the gym.   Or even exercising.  CHAPS polo style top to match Adidas gym pants in slate and marigold.  Large silver stud earrings.  Love my Sally Hanson Salon Manicure (c) polish called Good to Grape.
Where:  Running errands.

Check out the other styles at The Pleated Poppy!


Things I Love Thursday - Talbot's

This is not a fashion post.  In fact, it's not Friday, the day of the ubiquitous Fashion Friday posts.  Which I love. But today, on this Thursday, I love Talbot's because they've done a bold thing:

They are showing women who are... real women. You know, sorta like you and me.  Looky here:

OK so they're still thin and they're probably NOT poor, but look - wrinkles and NOT ridiculously stick thin!  Woohoo!!   Hey check out this brief video:

I don't know if Talbot's is pandering to the demographics of America. As far as I know, they're still trying to make a buck and so I know their first priority is not necessarily for the betterment of society.  I don't expect it to be and I really don't care.   In fact, I don't think they're the first ones to do this.  But every one that does, and stops women [and girls] from feeling inadequate, gets a Kudos from me!

Small steps.


All Ten

"And God spoke all these words, saying: 'I am the LORD your God…

ONE: 'You shall have no other gods before Me.'

TWO: 'You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.'

THREE: 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.'

FOUR: 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.'

FIVE: 'Honor your father and your mother.'

SIX: 'You shall not murder.'

SEVEN: 'You shall not commit adultery.'

EIGHT: 'You shall not steal.'

NINE: 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.'

TEN: 'You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.'

Not that people these days even respect the 10 Commandments.  The basis that we can buy into, all over the world, the basis for justice in almost all realms, is seen as "religious" and contrary to public display.

Number 4.  That's a kicker.   Nobody follows that anymore.  Never mind that the Sabbath was made for us.  That WE would rest physically, spiritually, emotionally from the struggles of Life.  And rest in Him.  A hundred reasons why we go out to eat, stop at the grocery store, travel, golf and what not (thereby making other people work.)  Not the least of which that Commerce demands that we work on Sunday, either overtly because everything is open on Sunday now, or covertly because they try to squeeze every ounce of life out of employees.  But keeping a day of rest?  It's right up there with 'do not murder.'

Hey, me too!  Yes, I just have to get ONE MORE THING for lunch or dinner or Monday morning. I find all sorts of reasons why I can do the VERY things I believe I shouldn't.

There are 10. Ten.  You can pick and choose the ones you like, but then, don't think of them as the Ten Commandments.  Call it your own Thing.


What I Wore Wednesday 04.18.12

What I Wore: Brown tunic top by Zara Collection over a leaf green cami.  Brown chinos by Lauren and brown patent/suede ankle boots by Bandolino, from a couple of winters ago.  It might be a bit too monochromatic, but I had my orange purse for a pop of color.  Matching necklace and drop earrings in pearl, pink and brown.
Where: An  Open House at a special school I was considering for our son.  I have to confess, I think the neckline is too low.  Next time, I think I'll wear a scarf.

What I Wore: i.e. denim jacket over classic men's oxford shirt from Talbot's, and khakis from Ann Taylor.  My most comfy shoes, by Privo.
Where: After taking all these photos, I realized how cold it was that day, so I quickly went in the house and changed out of the denim jacket and into a real coat!

What I Wore: One of my favorite tee shirts, which alas, needs to go onto the next life.  Worn with a lime green cardi by Jones NY over black skinny jeans.  Black patent wedges by Me Too.  I wore simple silver jewelry - oval hoop earring and bangle bracelet - to go with the large silver buckle on the cardi. 
Where: Church.

What I Wore:  Ribbon-edged black tee from Ann Taylor from several years ago, roll-up shorts in mustard from GAP last year, and new striped espadrilles - which I love love!  Simple silver jewelry.
Where:  It was 88 degrees today!  Changed into this to pick up the child from school.

Visit everyone else at The Pleated Poppy!



Religion is:
"I obey, therefore I am accepted."

Christianity is:
"I am accepted through what Jesus Christ did, therefore I obey."

Religion gives you control.  You can do, say, be on your terms.  You do your duty or desire, you've paid your dues.  Now you can get what is owed you.

Christianity is all about what God is doing in me, to me, by His Grace.  Now He can ask what He wants from me.


Truth often is.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. ~1 Peter 2:24
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 Wore Wednesday 04.11.12

What I Wore: Black empire-waist tee - my new favorite! with a black/gray/white silk scarf; tan boot-leg chinos by Mossimo for Target, and denim jacket by Arizona Jean Co.  [I have a dark wash denim jacket, too, but I thought this wash better balanced the tan pants.]  I wore black flat slip-on shoes. 
Where: Meeting with my pastor, and daily running around - errands, pick up child, etc.

What I Wore:  I know, isn't this an exciting outfit?  Hey, what's important is what I DIDN'T wear: sweat pants and an over-sized hoodie! [Didn't want someone to shoot me.] Again the tan chinos, with brown Privos, a pea green top and turquoise fleece jacket.  And make up.
Where: To a county park with my 9-year old son - to go down the playground fire pole - for him, that is! watch people fish, skip stones, walk around the lake.

What I Wore: Ann Taylor wool slacks in charcoal, with Aigner pumps, Talbot's  classic navy double-breasted blazer and Talbot's orchid classic shirt.  Bunch of silver jewelry, including my "dogwood" set.  [Hmmm - I think my jacket's too long.]
Where: Church on Easter Sunday

"Dogwood" earrings

What I Wore: Pinwale cord skirt by Old Navy, rust tee from Talbot's, animal print cardi by Rafaella.  Saddle color sling-backs by Karen Scott, silver tote by Tignanello, "dogwood" jewelry from TJMaxx.  It was a blustery, chilly day so I went a little Fallish.
Where: To chaperone my son's Chess club

Visit the other mom stylistas at The Pleated Poppy!


Finding His Way: Theology with The Boo

I was listening to NPR and they were talking about religion.  I love NPR, but when they talk about religion, it's usually what I consider the non-committal, embrace-the-world kind.  [Except that religion is about what you *believe,* which means there are things you *don't* believe.]  The woman they were interviewing said she didn't pray much anymore, but was "finding her own way."

Teaching Moment 101.

"Boo, when you get older, you'll meet people who say they are looking for God, but they are finding their own way..."

"But there's only One way, mom.  Jesus is the way."
I was proud of the brain-washing my church, his school and I have done.  Nothing is worth doing that isn't worth doing well, and all that.  Cuz you know, brain-washing is partly what good parenting is about.  [Chew with your mouth closed, wash your hair, clean your room...] If you let them "find their own way" as children, they'll get lost.  I wouldn't let him find his own way to the store let alone his own way to Eternity.  He may reject our faith one day, or find a different version.  He may say one day, "This is not the path I want," but he'll at least know that I knew the way and I carefully led him down the path that I thought was right.

"That's right, honey.  You don't have to look all over and get lost on your own, because the Bible tells us which way to go."

I continued, "Boo, way on the other side of things, you'll meet people who say you have to look for God a certain way, that you have to say certain words in a certain way in a certain place and tell you exactly what to do...."

He interrupted me:
"Like a bully!"
I was stunned.  Out of the mouth of babes.  Isn't it true?  Maybe everything you need to know, you really did learn in Kindergarten!  Or at least 4th grade.  My Boo has had a Bully in his class for the 3rd year in a row.  I would never wish this on my child, or any child, but here is where the Ugly has been transformed to Good.  My Aspie has learned what a Bully is.  Were it not for his [and my] suffering for 3 THREE three years, I'm not sure he'd know.

Bullies.  Bullies of the worst kind.  The ones that take the weak and the trusting.  The ones that blind you from Grace.  Not just the Koreshes and the Jeffs.  But also the more subtle; the ones that say your clothes have to be a certain color and a certain length; the ones that want to make God black & white and rules all over.

Moonie Wedding
I pray that you will recognize a Bully when you face one.  I hope you know that any God worth His salt doesn't boss you around and make you feel badly about yourself.  That a Good God doesn't bargain with you and make you do stuff to earn His love.


Finally...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.    ~ Philippians 4:8


What I Wore Wednesday 04.04.12

I am always surprised when it's Wednesday again!!  I don't have a lot to show you.  But I've put some Polyvore outfits together of the kinds of things I've been wearing.

What I Wore: It was one of those unseasonably warm days we had recently, so I didn't have to wear a jacket or sweater.  Banana Republic khakis, black silk blouse, a bunch of shiny silver jewelry and my lace-up wedge sandals by Moda International.
Where: Pre-theater party, before seeing a terrific local production of "Toys in the Attic" by Lillian Hellman.  It was a casual group at a friend's beautiful home in the country - something like 80 acres, 2 barns and a stream...  I didn't have to walk through the yard so, hence, the ridiculously high wedges!

Stuff I've been wearing, sorta, the basic jeans, tee and denim jacket.  I love me my denim jacket!


04.04.12 by blackbeltoma featuring a pima cotton tee

And on those warmer days, I got my shorts out.  I love navy and I especially love it with yellow.  I'm going to have to go shopping and get more!

WIWW 04.04.12