My friend from DC took a mental health break by visiting me this weekend. A remedy of shopping, talking and eating - sans either of our six-year olds. But Boo wanted to make sure Aunt Jess knew her way around our house. . .



Monday BFF

Donna Bigus
Priscilla Rodriguez.

BFF's before BFFs.
Sit next to me.
Be my partner.
Double dutch.
3 - 4, shut the door.
In school.

I'd go by their house, on my purple spider bike.
After school, a Saturday? a Sunday? Summer?
Sun shining on
sparkly banana seat got hot in the sun.
sparkly squishy handles
streamers wavering.
I'd stand there, untangling them.

Nobody invited me.
Priscilla would look up then down.
Our stand next to me's forgotten.

Donna, hair hanging over one eye, like always.
No, I can't play.
But the other eye jumpy, looking back at her house.
I can't play.
Digging her toe in the lawn.
Then a jump, when a grown-up voice calls her name.

Turn and run.
Leave me holding my bike
untangling my streamers.
Leave me.

Sit next to me.
Be my partner.
Double dutch.
3 - 4, shut the door.



JFK - 1967

In the plane.
The deep "brrrrrrr."
My knees aching. My mom holding me. Wanting Salonpas.

A long, dull corridor. Everything hard and square and colorless.
My mom, struggling with us 4.
A soldier approaches us. My mom nods.
He carries me in his arms.
I can hear him breathing.
In rhythm to the jostling of his steps.
I wonder if he regretted asking to help?
It was my fault I was too heavy.
Just inches away - a big nose, pink skin. Again.
A strange smell. Milk?

A car.
Bright city lights above.
My Dad driving.
My Dad.

I am all electricity.

I know this is the start of something big.
It's not home.
It's not comfortable.
It's something exciting I can't control.



Zen Cast

It's the beauty that moves me.

What you may see is cold. Boring. Even, dull. What you sense might be de Chirico's Melancholy.
What I see is Order.

It's birth, like all births, is violent. The earth is scarred, the workers exhausted, fighting with gravity and the sinfulness of humanity.

But in maturation, peacefully the structure sits in space. Stable. Gracefully it hovers. Reflecting its surroundings. As if to say, "Yes, I exist. Yes, you exist and I am listening." Not piercing violently. Not showing off with stars and gold and pinnacles. Like a monk in gray robes, in prayer.

Our close friend who works there and got us past the food court and video screen sees the guts of the building. In the most grotesque of terms, I am sure.

As an architect, at every line between floor and wall, panel and door, frame to frame, I see the dream that disseminated to a team that spread through fingers and nerves to pens and keyboards. The realignments, the corrections, the red slashes, the late nights, the power play, the anxiety, money changing hands reluctantly, the resentment of one trade for another. I see code books and officials and council meetings and insurance agents and accountants. I see the welder who gets it right, the scheduler, the trucker, the crane operator, the erector, all getting it right. Or wrong. And the ensuing angers.

I see how two lines on a drawing came to exist as two lines on a wall hundred of feet in the sky that only an architect would notice and love and honor and cherish.

Robert A. M. Stern, Architect.

OCD? Anal Retentive? Personality disorder? Control freak? Yes. Manifest in our frail humanity, yes, yes, yes and yes. In God? He ordered the universe and knows the number of hairs on our head, and yes, calls us by name. Order and beauty.

So I wandered in the peacefulness of line meeting line, panels hugging frames. Sculptural elements, a shock of color here and there. Tone on tone, maizes, creams. Sky.

Cast in clouds and dreams.



Saturday Morning

Do you remember your Saturday mornings? Watching cartoons in your jammies? the weekday routine thrown asunder? Well, actually, I woke to a Beethoven symphony while my dad made pancakes. But you get the idea.

Here's our "family" room. You can tell I use the term "family" loosely, since Boo seems to have taken over:



In Any Language

Bedtime is our special time, me 'n Boo. He snuggles into me and I read him a book. Review his Bible verse. Pray. Lately, we've been reading E.B. White's The Trumpet of the Swan. It has all the elements that draw my boy into the story of a silent cygnet: the outdoors, an adventure, a secret, and some silliness. All the trumpet swans call out, "Ko-ho! Ko-ho!" But Louis the Cynet has no voice.

Last night, I slept with Boo, not wanting to be awakened at 5:30 by HH getting ready to go into the City. (That is an hour that only exists conceptually in my mind. It's not actually a time that exists in my life, because whenever it is that the clock shows that time, I intend to be asleep.) Boo and I woke up together, Boo all squishy and warm with sleep. Hair all askew, eyes squinted to the light, a little frog still in his throat.

"Ko - ko- ko," he said gently, nodding his head with each syllable, then explained, "That's 'I love you' in Ko-ho language."

Good morning, dearest one.



Life in the Burbs: Nearly Spring Edition

I love where we live. After years living in various cities - Boston, Philly, Pittsburgh, St. Louis - I had to face something that surprised even me: I am a small town girl. (Non sequitur: the use of the term "girl" to refer to grown women gives me the heebie-jeebies, but you know, what I said, it's a saying. It wouldn't sound right if I said "I'm a small town woman." Y'know??)

Now that I'm a mother, I like where we live even more. (Non-sequitur #2: yes, it's annoying that I have to drive everywhere. Even places that are close enough to walk are inaccessible because there are no sidewalks.) Our neighborhood is two roads off a major thoroughfare. We're a 35-house neighborhood built mostly in the late 60's and early 70's. That means good, solid construction and lots of mature trees.

I love watching Boo ride up and down the middle of our street. It makes me happy. Happy. I love tootling up and down the neighbor's driveways with him on my Wal-Mart bike.

I love that we have great neighbors and Boo can go climb their tree without some old man coming out, swearing and waving a cane at him. I'm glad none of the neighbor dogs bite. Bark annoyingly and incessantly? Yes. Bite? No.

I love when the neighbor boys are doing skateboard tricks down the block. When Boo talks to them, they'll stop and let him try standing on the skateboard. 12-year old boys aren't usually that sweet. Anywhere.

I love that the trees soften our world. We live up a hill. It's cooler here when it's blazing hot. It's less blustery when the cold wind is whipping further down. It's quiet here when the traffic is whizzing or coughing by, down a couple of streets. You can hear the ringing of the kids' voices in between the rubbery WHOOSH then clunk! of the skateboards.

One of the questions I had as a new mother was, "How do I know when to let him play alone?" That comes as you watch him grow, and learn your child's character. But more importantly, when you know where you live, and you know your little hatchling is safe in the neighborhood nest. Now, at nearly 7, I can let him go up the street while I tinker in the carport. And I love that.



Target Market

Our little town is turning into another bituminous field of land erosion, ozone depletion and consumerist overspending. Across the street from the "old" plaza with the grocery store and dry cleaner, they're building a New Plaza with a grocery store and dry cleaner. And Target. And Best Buy. And. And.

As we're driving by the construction, Boo says, "If someone was selling you, mom, I'd buy you."
Thought bubble:
Is there a learning opportunity here?
Should I point out we don't buy people?
How can I make this positive?
I stumbled over and edited past several options before settling on an awkward chuckle and a "Why, thank you, honey."

"I don't think anyone else would buy you."

Why, thank you . . . I think.



Hold Me Tightly, Lord

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing*

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

*R. Robinson, J. Wyeth


Beat of a Different Drummer

You've heard that phrase a time or two, haven't you?? Hey, if the shoe fits. And yes, it fits. I've always been this way. Marched to a different drummer, that is. Maybe it's my glass-half-empty mindset that makes me feel this way? Maybe. But I think I am actually off-beat.

I see those who seem to hear the same beat, the same rhythm, like so many aligned majorettes.* Kicking and twirling. Turning and smiling. I join them, swept up. I go along for awhile and even think I'm one of them. Enjoying the beat. I can hear it.

Then. Then the rhythm becomes too relentless for me and I lose focus. Suddenly, I'm out of formation. I've injured someone. I sing instead of march. I get stares. What are you doing? What are you talking about?

Not 'NSync. I dust myself off. Look around. I get my bearings and look at myself. Then I remember: that's not my beat. Fortunately, I find others out in the field like me, who prefer to let the sequins and batons go by.

*Now if you were a majorette, don't get offended. I'm just trying to make an analogy. I used to be a cheerleader.


X-Ray Vision

Well we all know that ambulances come to fires because people may have gotten hurt. This is my foot x-ray by Dr. Boo.

He said this x-ray shows my foot is broken.




I debated whether this should be on My Exurbia or here. I decided here. Jinsok used to pull this around. The "wings" turn and the itty bitty ducks "quack" by squeaky wheels.

Not a battery in sight.

And it's his dad's.

Think any of the crap these days will last 45 years? and grow in charm and delight?





Only You

As a treat for a week's worth of wise behavior, I take Boo to see fire stations on Fridays after school. It's Spring Break for Boo this week, so we've been indulging in several of these treasure hunts. (I know - it's not Spring yet. And no, I don't know why the school has it so early. Yes, they also have Good Friday and Easter Monday off.) We trekked for miles the other day, following the computer print-out. We built up an appetite!

So there we were, waiting for our bibimbap, when the manager comes over to chat. She asks if Boo is my only one. She nods knowingly and says "I guess he gets spoiled." I really wanted to proclaim, "NO! He's not! At all!" but I politely whimpered, "I try not to." Her parting words, her conclusion, as it were: "Very hard not to spoil."

Which leads me to ask, where did the notion that only children are spoiled come from? For me, it's very easy not to spoil him. With one, I have the energy and time to implement the tips and techniques I've gleaned from friends and books. With one, I have the focus to live by our philosophy about Family. I encourage him every day to be Christ-like. To instill in him that he can do all things through Him.

Maybe people have different ideas what "spoiling" a child means. To me, it's when the child doesn't have the appropriate sense of his place in the world, in society, in the family. Anyone who thinks more of themselves or treats others with disrespect, to me, is "spoiled." Yes, I gift him with way too many clothes and my house is like a toy factory. I know I have way too much stuff. How did this happen?? I guess one yard sale at a time! But. Here's the big caveat. I teach him to be polite, appreciative, thoughtful and careful. That he is still a child. We are the adults and we rule the roost, so to speak. By nature a one-child family has a different rules of engagement. We like that - we like that he has a bigger part in our exchanges. But Hubs and I never waiver on the notion that he is not in charge. I have a friend who has seven and just returned from Ethiopia with three more. And I bet she does all the good things I'm talking about. But she and I are very different creatures. I couldn't do what she does. My brain isn't programmed that way.

If you know me at all, or if you've been reading my blog, you might guess that I think things through carefully. My conclusions may not always be right, but boy, that wrong decision required a lot of thought! We thought of all the ifs. The supposes. The inevitables of having an Only.

Before Boo came to be with us, our case worker relayed to us a story of her own life. She and her husband had two grown children. As they reached the teen years and merged into maturity, she realized that she would miss having children in the house. She began to regret that they hadn't had a third. And here's her wisdom: at the time she was having children, she could only "do" two. She could not have guessed back then into the future what she would feel and so she cannot, will not regret it now. Maybe a somewhat obvious understanding, but one that came by after many years of living. And here's the bottom line for me: I, today, this person, have the comfort for being the mother of one child. I am barely the kind of mother I want to be, I don't want to stretch beyond my elasticity. I can only make decisions with the information that I have; I can't see the future. Regrets later? Maybe. Maybe not.

We ended up finding 11 fire stations that day. I could do that, with ease, with patience, with joy, with my Only.


Blackbelt Poops Out

That Boden skirt looks aweful on me. I know. The first rule of shopping is: "always try things on." Anyway, it makes me look like I should braid my hair and go yodeling.



My Exurbia

I would love all of you to come visit me at My Exurbia. There's a cute little button on the right below with a camera lens that you can click on. It's my very first button! I know. Shucks.

Poke Him

Mrs. Wartenburg
Mrs. Tomaras
Mrs. DeHaven
Mrs. Biederman

Stagecoach Elementary School. Those were my teachers when we arrived in Longisland, New Yawk.

I can picture my first grade classroom, but I can't picture my teacher's face. Like the grown-ups on Charlie Brown. I didn't speak any English. I don't remember being scared. I should have been. I sat behind a curly-headed boy with a red shirt. It had a hole in the shoulder. I stuck my finger in it. He didn't poke me back and he didn't friend me. In fact, I think I was unfriended.

I vaguely remember going to another part of the room with a teacher and looking at a book about Jane and Spot. Pretty silly book, I remember.

My next memory, I see a child say to another, "CANIBORROWAPENCIL." Awhile later, I gave it a try. CANIBORROWAPENCIL. Ding! Someone hands me a pencil! Hey, I can do that!

And that, is how I learned to speak English.


A Little Bit Brighter


Read wonderful book
until 2
put it down
Fall asleep on the sofa
Get up at 9
have HH brew coffee every morning
Cuddle with Boo
watch Kipper
Eat breakfast
on the deck
at 11:30
macaroni salad
in my slippers
Check, check and double-check.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Now listen to Boo calling to his dad
love hanging on every word
ringing through leafless trees


Blackbelt Strikes Again

I had an awesome day yesterday. After weeks of the doldrums and despair, I had me a good one! Woohoo!

I started off meeting this adorable blogger mom for lunch, who shall remain nameless. It was our first time meeting face-to-face. Was it wierd, you ask? Oh yeah. It was also great and exciting and funny, too! The parking ticket? Not so funny. Hmph! We met in Chinatown. She told me she was wearing a big navy coat with an orange scarf. I was going to tell her I am East Asian, which is usually what I tell people. Decided against it this time. Ha! We ate VIETNAMESE food. She treated me for my birthday! Yeah! Thanks, Lora! Oops! Let the cat out of the bag! ;-)

On my way home, I had about 20 minutes, and we can't let that go to waste, now, can we? I stopped at my friendly neighborhood Goodwill store and scored on these:

This Boden summer skirt:

How cute would that be with strappy kitten-heels, bangle bracelets and a tank top? Love the button details.

And this LOFT fleece top in pale mint. I wish you could feel how soft it is, and how warm it's going to be in bed! Each for $3.50!


Green-Eyed Monster

I had heard of these people. Americans. I would be living among them soon. I heard they had pink skin. Some had yellow hair. And orange. Their eyes could be blue, or even green. I tried to picture them in my 6-year old mind, only half believing my grown cousin who told me this. After all, people have black hair and brown eyes. PERIOD.

Then, I saw one. Clack-clack-clack. Another trip with my mom to the U.S. Embassy in downtown Seoul. 1966. And there she was. The tallest human being I'd ever seen in my entire little life. She had cottony, orange hair and skin so pink she looked like a dime-store doll. She leaned down to me, parted her big red lips and said "Wpoarr arrrttarirr riryrrir!"

She scared the hell outta me.




My son is quickly approaching 7. This time in his life brings strong emotions for me. I was just shy of 7 when I arrived at Kennedy Airport from Seoul, Korea. Snippets - scenes, sensations, smells.

We were in Seoul, bustling, noisy, smelly - back in 1966. My mom held my hand so tight it hurt. Dressed in silk and wool, her hair up, clack-clacking in her spike heels, looking every bit the spoiled daughter of a rich family. She didn't know this would hurt her, that this would make her wait 2 years to get a Visa, the officer waiting for a big envelope of cash to cross his desk. This Visa would let her join her husband in the U.S. and be a family again after 5? 6 years apart. Time after time, she wore her custom-made clothes, trying to make a good impression, when all it did was confirm to the bastard that it would be worth the wait.

Clack-clack-clack. Trying to keep up with her so my hand wouldn't hurt more than it already did. Those were the days that when you got lost, you were lost. For good. You got sent to an orphanage and then some white people might adopt you, if you were "lucky." (Remember Toby Dawson?) No TV. No phones. Maybe a radio. How would you find anyone? My mom held me tight. So tight I can still feel the ache.

We'd get home from these trips downtown. My mom would lock herself in a room and cry. Not soft whimpers, but the wretched, anguished cry of a helpless woman used to getting her way. The day she delivered the bribe, she got the stamps in our passports. She stopped crying and started packing. We were gone in less than a month.

When we arrived in the U.S., she would have other reasons to cry.


44: Talk About Random

I saw this on someone's faceBook and thought it was random enough that it was actually sort of funny. Whether I am or not is another story.

1. Do you like blue cheese?
Absolutely not. Never.

2. Have you ever smoked pot?
Absolutely. Loved it.

3. Do you own a gun?
Absolutely not. Never. Right up there with blue cheese.

4. What flavor of Kool Aid was your favorite?
Vodka. Oh wait. That was Jello. I don't know.

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments?

6. What do you think of hot dogs?
I don't think about them. Do you??

7. Favorite Christmas movie?
Ewww. Hate mushy and hate slapstick and those are the 2 genres they seem to fall into.

8. What do you drink in the morning?
Coffee. And don't talk to me until I have.

9. Can you do push ups?
Yes, in a girly way.

10. Favorite piece of jewelry?
My engagement ring. It really defines our relationship. . . his generosity to me.

11. Favorite hobby?
I'd say reading. Thrift-shopping and yard sailing.

12. Do you have A.D.D.?
Q: How many kids with ADD does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Hey, let's ride bikes!

I stole that from the faceBook page. Seriously, I think I do! That's why I literally could not read text books. My eyes would just skip and careen all over the place!

13. What is one trait you hate about yourself?
When I get bi...I mean "cranky."

14. Middle name?
No, that's my middle name.

15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment.
1. Is this boring?
2. Why am I doing this? I sound so boring
3. I should stop.

16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink.
Coffee. Vitamin Water. Cranberry Juice.

7. Current worry?
Being 49.

18. Current hate right now?
Insensitivity and racism against the poor.

19. Favorite place to be?
Anywhere with Hubs and Boo.

20. How did you bring in the New Year?
Like every year: asleep. We awaken to distant fireworks, roll over and mumble "hppy nw yr" and go back to sleep.

21. Where would you like to go on vacation?
Almost anywhere if it were free. :-)

22. Name three people who might complete this.
Such a dumb question. I refuse to answer it.

23. Do you own slippers?
Yes. It's a Korean thing.

24. What shirt are you wearing?
Eddie Bauer fleece.

25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
I've never done that and it doesn't sound appealing to me. I prefer crisp cotton.

26. Can you whistle?
No, can you?

27. Favorite color?
Any color is beautiful in the right context.

29. What songs do you sing in the AM?
Right now? "Fireman Sam" theme song.

30. Favorite girls' name?

31. Favorite boy's name?
Noah. Easy to say in Korean.

32. What's in your pocket right now?
Pocket? I'm female. I don't put things in my pocket.

33. Last thing that made you laugh?
Boo. Of course.

34. What vehicle do you drive?
Beat up 97 Honda Accord. I know that doesn't sound like me. But you don't know how cheap I am. And plus, it wasn't beat up until I had an altercation with our trash can.

35. Worst injury you have ever had?
Not being able to get out of bed after being in a car accident.

36. Do you love where you live?
I'd shout it from the mountain tops: YyyEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSsssss!!

37. How many TV's do you have in your house?
That work? Two.

38. Who is your loudest friend?
Francesca Calabretta.

39. Do you have any pets?
No pets. That's a condition of our marriage.
We have goldfish, but that doesn't count.

40. Does someone have a crush on you?
I wouldn't want to know.

41. What is your favorite book(s)?
Too many to list! History of Love is up there.

42. Do you collect anything?
Clothes. Fabric.

43. Favorite pro-sports team?

44. What song do you want played at your funeral?
My Hope is Built on Nothing Less. The words are on my grandparents' headstone in Korea.


Fashion Fo' Pa*

I don't have my mom anymore, but I re-create bits of her in my world, in little ways. My mother owned chairs just like these in Korea in the early Sixties. When I saw them on craigslist, I jumped at them. Sight unseen, I sent HH to pick them up to - I don't even know where.

One of the chairs is missing one of the little black rubber feet and the wrought iron leg keeps slipping between the decking.

We were in one of those big box hardware places when - lo and behold! I came upon an entire shelf of these things! In all sizes! The ones that would be the right size only came in white, though. Deep in my heart, I knew they wouldn't be right, but I asked my Hubs if it might work on those black legs. He didn't think they would. And he thought of the perfect illustration for me:

"Honey, it would be like wearing black stockings with white shoes."


* Update 5/25/09 -I found out recently that people actually spell "faux pas" as "fopa." I just want to assure you that I know how to spell, and my title is a play on words since my husband, or "pa," made the right-on fashion observation.