Friday, December 31


It's December 31st again. When did that happen?

Last year about this time, I expressed the heart-twinging, tear-producing nostalgia that sometimes strikes me like a speeding train at the end of a calendar year. This year ... I don't feel that as much, and I'm not sure why. Instead, I close out this year and look forward to the next with a touch -- or more -- of unsettlement and fear, which strongly overcoats the annual excitement and hope I also normally feel.

I suppose it doesn't help that I'm totally in the throes of the common cold right now -- not the flu, thank God -- and thus, nothing in the world seems right. I don't want to shower, I don't want to go out, I don't want to be around people, I don't want people to be around me, I don't want to eat, I don't even want to -- gasp! -- watch reruns of "Trading Spaces" on The Learning Channel (although I quite enjoyed "The Ellen Degeneres Show" the past couple of mornings -- she is very funny and smart). I am grumpy and sleepy and tired and morose and utterly, supremely, completely clogged up in the sinus area.

It also doesn't help that The Chief lost his beloved sister to cancer, that Gran is starting to act and feel her advancing age, that Omma is now preparing herself for Gran's passing, that the war in Iraq has no apparent end, that our citizens and innocent Iraqis die by the dozens daily, that a huge segment of the world is suffering in plain view right now, that an even huger segment of the world is suffering and we can't see it.

I look forward to a year in which my comfortable, secure, amazing job comes to the end of its term, in which I may or may not find the love of my life, the One to live the rest of my days passionately and wholeheartedly with, in which many of my friends keep moving forward in their lives, diverging further and further away from me, in which I and those I love will get busier and busier, in which I will have more obligations and responsibilities, some of which I shoulder gladly, others which I wish I could pass of on others, in which I may lose loved ones.

But this is not to say that the past year hasn't been good. I've grown up and I know it. That is always my goal, year after year -- to grow. I look like I'm sixteen years old, but that doesn't mean I have to be trapped inside my body, right? This year, I bought a condo, took on a mortgage, dealt with lawyers and banks and other random people who wanted my money and lots of it. I killed an inordinate amount of scary bugs with minimal screaming, only because there was no one around to do it for me. I grocery shopped for myself, discovered the art of portioned freezing, and packed lunches to save money here and there. I honed the art of knowing what I want and not settling for less. I got into one very very minor fender-bender, and spun out on ice only four or five times. I got new tires on Good Girl, and developed such a good relationship with the guys at my local tire shop that they know my voice on the phone now. I took a break from a bad situation, despite fears of fractured friendships and unrefreshed hearts. I came back into a better situation, more focused and more impassioned. I accepted a challenge presented by a trusted friend, and closed out an Applebee's restaurant on a weeknight in the process. I gamely wore a cardstock foul pole as my friends all laughed at -- no, I'm sorry, laughed with -- me. I focused, refocused, focused again my energies at the office. I forgave and tried to forget a hurt, forging a new, albeit still awkward, path.

I learned a lot in the past year, too. I learned that bad things happen to good people and there is no explanation except that God cries too. I learned that people get sick, people get better, that medicine is good, that disease is scary. I learned that maintaining a friendship is a lot harder than it looks, especially if you're being called on your deficiencies and encouraged to do better. I learned that children grow very quickly and I have to watch what I say around them. I learned that love does conquer all things. I learned that seeing how someone treats those he really loves is more indicative of one's character than how he treats selfish, self-absorbed me. I learned that living on my own is so so great, but also ... lonely sometimes. I learned that I don't like men who can't and/or won't make the first move, or show the least inklings of being able to take care of me. I learned that snowboarding is very, very scary, but also hysterically funny. But that might just be the sight of me in snowpants. I learned that physical fitness is a good thing, and if a mountain bike helps in the process, go for it! I learned that I really miss my friends when I don't see them in a week. I learned that IM is a decent way of maintaining those 'long-distance' friendships and engaging in lively, honest conversations. I learned that Block Island is a beautiful place. I learned that Block Island with my L.O.L.'s is even more beautiful. I learned that as wily as I am, I am surrounded by people who are wilier ... and infintely more funny. I learned that my friends love me. I learned that it's hard to be friends. I learned that I need to take better care of myself. I learned that I can take care of those around me better than I have been.

I did a lot this year. I bought a condo. I painted it, me and my traveling cabal of home decorators. I went to two weddings, but vandalized only one newlywed couple's home, and there, kidnapped one precious pair of ducks for whom I no longer hold any responsibility so help me God. I went to Block Island. I baked a really awful ass-like cake, some kick-ass cheesecakes, several hundred cookies, a couple of pecan pies, and a handful of other cakes. I successfully resurrected the bundt cake. I hosted a baby shower, a barbecue and a cocktail party. I came this close to winning a game of Monopoly, but you really just can't beat the reds and yellows. I finally got up to eat at the Culinary Institute of America and toured FDR's birthplace (this time of my own volition and not as part of some cramped school trip!). I saw my second and third stage plays ever. I went to the beach for the first time in about eight years. I went ice skating for the first time since seventh grade (and still hated it!). I saw my favorite painting at the Met again. I saw Madonna, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, and Missy Elliott in concert. I ran two 5ks to benefit womens' cancers. I went camping. I picked up golfing and ended up not being too horrible at it, although we shall re-evaluate in the spring. I hosted my sister and her husband and their two disgustingly adorable girls, one of whom looks charmingly like Sonic the Hedgehog. I went to five baseball games and strolled the Coney Island boardwalk for the first time evah.

So, I don't really know where the fear comes from. I guess I fear the unknown. I fear my Gran dying, and I fear more the fact that Omma seems to be at peace with it, as if it's alright. I fear that I'll turn thirty without having found The One. I fear that I won't have a job come the fall. I fear that I will be a horrible Missions/Outreach team co-leader. I fear that nothing at NHF will change. I fear that my friendships will change. I fear that love will leave me, or that people will become too busy to love me. I fear that Cheech will go to Africa again and come home sick and exhausted. I fear that the tsunami in southeast Asia won't be the worst of the worst we'll see. I fear that the war will never end. I fear that I'll let my life become stagnant and the same. I fear that I will get sick with some horrible disease, which of course I have no chance of getting, but if I read about it, I'm convinced I have the symptoms. I fear that I'll become too poor or too lazy to start making the small but significant changes to my home that I've been longing to make. I fear that terrorists will strike again. I fear that Shrub will be even stupider (and yes, I just said "stupider") in his next term.

But ... even as I write this, I know this isn't about me. It shouldn't be about me and the things I fear. It shouldn't be about fear, for if I profess what I do, then ... even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. I may hope nothing for myself; I only hope in the Lord; I must be strong and take heart. I must utilize all my resources to go after the job towards which He is leading me. I must spend more quality time with Gran so as to make each day more meaningful and memorable. I must be a comfort to my mother and lead her to Him as her solace. I must trust in the Lord and lift my abilities and responsibilities up to Him, to use me as He intends at NHF. I must pursue my friendships with grace and love and forgiveness and honesty, and let His spirit break down the walls that hurt and confuse. I must place my heart in His hands and let Him lead me towards my earthly love. I must abide by His timing, and not rush to meet my own arbitrary deadlines. I must read the news every day and never lose focus on the fact that this earth is His creation, that everything in it is beloved by Him, and that I must be part of the maintenance and care of this planet and all who dwell in it. I must raise awareness among my friends and neighbors regarding those in need. I must be a wise steward of my finances, managing well that which He has provided for me.

Hmm. I guess there is a lot to look forward to in 2005. I suppose I just need a shift in my worldview -- to not look at circumstances as "Things To Do Wrong or Not Do At All," but as "Things I Can Still Achieve, Accomplish and Love Successfully, Even If It Takes All Year." My fears are misplaced; better to channel my energy towards flipping fear on its head and coming up focused, dedicated, deliberate, compassionate, kind, hopeful, and when all else fails, prayerful and reliant upon friends and family.

My hope, my prayer is that all of you, my nominal amount of readers, would also be able to face your fears and spit in their faces in the new year. In a time of war and devastation and uncertainty, at a time when kids grow up too fast and the world does nothing to slow them down, during a period when everything is confusing and nothing is clear and life moves just a tad too quickly, it is not for us to put up our hands and signal resignation or even tacit acceptance. Perseverance is the name of the game, in friendships, in family life, in the office, in spiritual growth and understanding, in love, in caring for creation, in making the daily hum-drum not so hum and drum.

My deepest desire is that 2005 bring all of us a deep and abiding peace, a greater affection and understanding for and of each other, the best of health, and the greatest satisfaction of our souls.

See you on the flip-side.

One hundred and thirty-five thousand.
I can't conceive that.

I read in the paper this morning that in Finland, a nation of about five million people, four million dollars had been raised in donations to the stricken southeast Asian nations. FOUR MILLION DOLLARS. That's one dollar from four-fifths of the country's citizens. Imagine what the United States could give if four-fifths of Americans gave just one dollar to help the tsunami relief effort. Imagine!

I also read that in Britain, TWO MILLION DOLLARS had been raised in ONE HOUR, after news of the devastation broke. IN ONE HOUR.

Britain upped its pledge of support to NINETY-FIVE MILLION DOLLARS ... the World Bank is offering another TWO-HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS to its international pledge, bringing the final (for now) total to FIVE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS ... my one hundred dollars seems so paltry, but multiply that by your donation, and yours, and yours, and yours, and yours, and yours, and yours ... no amount is too small to help rebuild an area that has, in a simple word, been vaporized, to give sustenance back to those who have absolutely nothing.

That fifty bucks you were going to spend on the open bar New Year's Eve party tonight ... that shopping spree your husband gave you as a Christmas gift ... the hundreds of dollars we're going to receive on New Year's Day from relatives ... the forty dollars you saved buying something on sale or off of eBay instead of going retail ... money right now has a better direction in which to flow ...

Thursday, December 30

UNREAL . . .

One-hundred and twenty thousand.


R.I.P. . . .


Artie Shaw, 1910-2004.
OH MY GOD . . .

One hundred and fourteen thousand.

Wednesday, December 29


According to The New York Times:

Food is being rationed carefully with some local shops charging double or triple the going rate for eggs, rice and other staples.

Are you freakin' KIDDING me?! What is WRONG with you people?



"In Muslim society, God only gives us his goodness and we have to learn lessons from a disaster like this," said Zulkarnain, a 33-year-old salesman who escaped the flood waters with his family. "This may be God saying he is angry with human conduct in the world."

Perhaps the end-times are near. Who are we to turn away from God?



"There are instances where bodies are decomposing, and they're being photographed and fingerprinted" before being taken to mass graves, said Harim Peiris." "And there are instances where entire families have been wiped out."



Eighty-thousand, four hundred and twenty-seven.


R.I.P. . . .

Jerry Orbach, 1935-2004.

Tuesday, December 28


Not to be petty at a moment when countless are suffering, but ... what is it about women that we always need to feel like we're outdoing some other woman in order to feel validated and better about ourselves? Can't we just leave well enough alone?


Fifty-two thousand.

Forty-thousand, and counting.


Have a heart, wouldja?

Monday, December 27


Twenty-five thousand.

Twenty-five thousand people dead.

One-THIRD of them are children.

Can one even begin to comprehend that?
Can you? CAN YOU?

Let us not think we are completely helpless.
Sure, we have credit card bills to pay, and Christmas money to deposit, but ... think outside the box.
We can deal with some increased interest rates.
People need to live.

Give to:
1. WorldVision
2. Save the Children
3. International Red Cross

Sunday, December 26


The best part about working out consistently is that I see results. My posture is straighter. My stomach is flatter. I feel stronger. My shirts and sweaters hang more nicely. My back pain is gone.

The not-so-great part is that my pants don't fit anymore. And I can't afford to buy new ones or get my current ones tailored. Thus, I cinch them with a belt and walk around looking like some clown who couldn't find a job with a proper circus. That, and the fact that I still can't sleep at night.


I am feeling so, so, so nauseous right now. I can't tell if it's the cheese from the pizza I had for lunch, the flu, a stomach virus, general stress and anxiety about my life, some other life-threatening disease (because of course it has to be a life-threatening one), or really bad indigestion. I have a feeling it's the latter because I kind of feel like if I just take a really really awesome poo, I'll feel muuuuch better.


Christmas was nice this year. It's not that big a deal for our family, now that we're all grown up. I buy all the presents for Omma, Appa, Gran and Cheech, and Cheech sometimes pays me back for his share. Everyone almost always knows what they're getting. Sometimes there's a small, full, but fake Christmas tree; sometimes we're too busy to get it out of the box and put it up. But the best part, really, is the awesome home-cooking we get to devour for about two and a half days straight, eating full meals approximately every 1.5 hours. That, and not showering all day, sitting in the same sweats and watching all manner of good and bad television while dozing in and out of consciousness. Oh yeah. You totally have to have Christmas at my house.


I can't believe the year is drawing to a close. It's gone by too quickly. I'm not just saying that ... it really has. So much has changed, but ... so much hasn't. How strange. My only fear is that 2005 will be more of the same. Sameness is so ... boring.


Despite the fact that I'm totally disgustingly nauseous right now, I'm watching "After Midnight: New Orleans" on The Food Network at this moment, observing Cafe du Monde and other cafes fry enormous amounts of beignets in humongous vats of oil. OH YUM YUM YUM YUM. LOL, remember our beignets at Cafe du Monde? Ohhhhhh, to have a beignet and a cafe au lait right about now ... YUM YUM YUM.


Omma said an interesting thing to me the other day: she said I'm the type of girl to meet a man, date him, fall in love, then approach the eve of engagement in a very short time because I know so well now what I want, need, require in a husband and a lifelong love. Then I'll bring him home to Omma and Appa, and they'll be like "when the heck did THIS happen?!?!?!" I think she's right. I've always wanted to be with someone for, like, eight years before getting married, kind of like my parents were. But they had too much drama in those eight years. Who needs that when I make my own drama plenty well all by myself? Nah ... instead, I see so many "success" stories around me, couples who dated for a short while, mere months even, before deciding "this is the one for me" and taking the plunge. They live now so happily -- not perfectly, but happily -- and faithfully and lovingly. Yeah, that could be me ... Besides, my parents are too nosy to involve them any earlier than engagement anyway.


TinyCricket is already busting my chops, but here's my Friday Favorites two days late:

What is your favorite Christmas memory? Like I said, Christmas was never all that big a deal for our family, although I always loved, loved, LOVED the new books I got and would often want to just go to my room to start reading them, forgetting about the presents that other people had to open or the Christmas breakfast that had to be eaten. Some years, we'd get together with Caro and her family, and then it would just be mayhem, with the kids singing for their gifts, running around someone's basement involved in some intense child's game, stopping by our parents' dining room chairs to grab quick bites of dinner. One of my favorite photos from Christmas is a picture with Cheech and I sitting on Appa's lap in our old house, in front of our tall fake tree that was so prettily decorated. Appa is so young-looking; no white hairs, no belly, no tired face. Cheech and I couldn't have been more than 4 and 9 years old, respectively, and we are holding our gifts to our chest, giggling at Appa's tickling fingers. That picture always tugs at my heart a bit ...


Given the disgusting burps emitting from me tonight, I'm going to have to go with indigestion. Ew. But does indigestion come with fever and chills? I mean, how bad does your indigestion have to be to cause fever and chills?!


Over 11,000 people dead in South and Southeast Asia from the fourth largest earthquake in the world since 1900, and the resulting tsunamis. Sigh. 11,000 people, gone in one fell swoop. How can the human mind even begin to comprehend such an event, such a loss? How can this be? How, how, how?

Talk of this brought a lull to our dinner table tonight; I started to put down my spoon, overcome with sadness and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. Then, Appa put it best as he stated solemnly, shaking his head, "We are fortunate."


Friday, December 24


I just read a newspaper article which quoted a woman as saying "If people want to make Christmas a Christian holiday, that's up to them."


And by the way, we insist on giving Christmas gifts to each other because someone decided that since the three Magi gave presents to JESUS CHRIST, we should also give presents to each other.

It is NOT about light displays and pretty trees and gift wrap and gift certificates and sales and "Happy Holidays" and cards and baked goods and that thing you've been wanting for so long and you can't believe so-and-so didn't get it for you.


And I'm spending cheese.
Cheech loves it when I say that.

Brand spankin' new tires on Good Girl.
I know the difference is miniscule, but the treads are now so very high, and I am now so very tall in my car.


Now, I just need to poo so I can go workout, come home to bake some more goodies, wrap the last of the presents, then head to my parents' place for the weekend ... a whoppin' three miles away. Hey, even grown-ups need sleepovers at mom's place now and then.

Thursday, December 23


You can say what you want about Oprah Winfrey -- her near-cult status creeps me out sometimes too, and though she gives things away to her audience members in need, those items are all donated and it's not like she's paying for them -- but I think that one thing you can't say is that she's uncaring.

Of course, Oprah is wealthy beyond imagination, so she's in a position to be caring, but still, I am still touched in the ways that she goes above and beyond the normal call of duty, that call which most of us who are also in a position to be caring ignore. And because she cares, she wisely takes advantage of her status, her celebrity pull, her implicit media trustworthiness, to exhort her viewers -- and Lord, there are millions of those! -- to care as well. Today, Oprah devoted her show to the work of her Angel Network in South Africa, namely on the behalf of children in need and those suffering with AIDS without access to -- or even knowledge of!!! -- medication such as anti-virals.

In response to the aura du Oprah, the Angel Network amassed SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS to provide Christmas parties in twelve South African regions for children. The Network also collected ONE MILLION DOLLARS to purchase new school uniforms for all of the students in one particular South African region. And I'm only twenty minutes into the episode, which I taped because I knew, knew it would be so, so good, but already, Oprah has handed to Alicia Keys a check for FORTY MILLION DOLLARS to support Keys' Keep a Child Alive organization, providing medical aid for South African children suffering from HIV and AIDS.


Sure, Oprah's got it. That's why she's giving it. But the lesson hits home ... I don't have forty million dollars. I only have forty dollars. Forty dollars that I was going to use to furiously bid on EBay for a stupid watch that isn't going to help me or enhance my life or help anyone else live his or her life. What the hell kind of fool am I?

Tuesday, December 21


I come home from a very nice evening with an old beloved friend (or a beloved old friend), turn on the boob tube to catch the end of the "27th Annual Kennedy Center Honors," see Elton John tearing up at Fantasia rendering a version of his hit "Sad Songs (Say So Much)" -- he really does look so honored and he blows her a kiss (just as he blows Heather Headley a kiss now for her version of "Your Song" which rocked, by the way, and why do I not own any of her albums?) -- and then, comes ...

Kid Rock.

Kid Rock in a black t-shirt and jeans and black cowboy hat. Kid Rock with a rock n' roll band. Kid Rock with his long hair and bad skin. Kid Rock and his raw scratchy voice. Kid Rock on stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, rocking it out in front of Shrub and wife, and all of Washington and Hollywood's elite.


But it gets weirder. Kid (I assume that is his first name) is bringing us his interpretation of "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting." And it's quite good -- I mean, it's rock n' roll, so he can't really mess it up. Even Sir Elton John is bopping his head along with it and seemingly smiling. And I'm thinking, "poor Kid -- there he is, rocking his heart out for these stiffs, and they're just sitting there being all Washington, D.C. boring. I would hate to be him." Oh, but no! I am so wrong, because here they go, one by one, popping up like gophers in the prairie, clapping their hands and swaying back and forth in that slightly-less-than-soulful way most non-musicians have. The only people I can affirmatively identify are Angela Bassett, Courtney B. Vance and some folks who look like Cabinet members. Or they should be Cabinet members because if they were any stiffer, they'd be dead. But there they all are, even the other honorees and their significant others: Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, Sir John's partner David Furnish, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Dancing. Clapping. Swaying. Singing along at the tops of their lungs.

WEIRD. I can't explain it, but I am SO, SO, SO weirded out by this. And all I can think is ... I wonder if Laura Bush is enjoying this?



We went to see Mrs. D tonight. Luckily, unlike the last couple of Christmases, she was home and we caught her before she went to spend the holidays with family members. And once again, I am overcome with so much feeling, so much emotion, so many memories that aren't even really mine, and such a deep, deep longing to hold onto her and all that she means to me and my family.

Mrs. D is the widow of Mr. D, who died, amazingly, fifteen years ago. Fifteen years! Has it already been fifteen years? Only that revelation would stun Appa into silence over tea and carrot cake. Mr. D gave Appa his first job in America when Appa and Omma landed in New York -- a job in his pharmaceutical department at Burke Rehabilitation Center, in White Plains. Mr. D didn't speak loudly to Appa and Omma because they could not understand English. Mr. D didn't leave Appa and Omma out of his social events just because having them there would be awkward for their other guests. Mr. D didn't mind me sitting in his big chair behind his big desk, using his letterhead stationery to draw pictures of him with his fancy ink fountain pens. Mr. D mentored Appa and hired him full-time when Appa received his American certification. When Appa decided, in 1983, to branch out on his own and open his own pharmacy, Mr. D begged Appa to stay, probably because Appa was a good employee whose loss would be felt by the department, but probably more because Mr. D didn't let go of his friends, no matter how much they wanted to leave his orbit. Mr. D, in essence, made Appa the American man he is today. Mrs. D is, in every sense, an extension of who Mr. D was, and he lives in our lives through her to this day.

We only see her once a year. We should see her more. Cheech and I still get birthday and Christmas cards from her, a check for $25.00 enclosed each time, written out in her graceful slanted script. Shamefully, only in recent years has it occurred to us to send her Christmas cards of our own, written not at our parents' urging but at the urgings of our own hearts. Completely embarrassingly, we only discovered her birthdate this evening. April 27th. I will never forget it now.

But every time I see her, every time I answer her questions about my life, every time I listen to her and Appa kibbutz about the people Appa and Mr. D used to work with, every time I listen to funny stories about her and Mr. D and their family, I think "this woman can never ever leave us." She's 73 now, and walks a hefty two miles daily, and renovates her home, and volunteers her time for the benefit of others, and puts up a full-size Christmas tree every December. But she will leave us soon, and I just don't want her to. For then, who will we have left? Who will Appa have left? The bridge between his former life and his current life, between the Motherland and the new land, between obscurity and endless dreams -- if that is washed away, what will Appa have left?

Tonight, I noticed Mrs. D's possessions. I noticed her 45-year-old furniture, all made of fruitwood and probably heavy as all hell. I noticed her wicker-trimmed, leather-seated, curved-back lounge chairs, chairs that designers dare to replicate nowadays and resell for $2000 apiece. I noticed her bar set, complete with old glass decanters. I noticed her intricately-carved mirrors and chests of drawers. I noticed her not-so-cheesy tchotchke collection, deliberately laid out within her precious curio cabinet. I noticed a perfectly maintained 40-year-old black-and-white television set, contained in bright red plastic, rabbit ear antennas tucked neatly into their notches. I noticed the painting from Korea that Appa had given to Mr. D so many decades ago. I noticed the thoughtfully collected, wrapped, unwrapped, hung ornaments on Mrs. D's Christmas tree. I noticed the immaculate chandelier, corny by some standards, precious by mine, its brass plating burnished away, but the white pebbled glass hurricanes intact with nary a scratch nor a crack. I noticed especially Mr. D's collection of pharmacy school textbooks. The second edition of the Pharmacopeia of the United States -- it was that slender a volume?! The mere eighth edition of the Merck Manual. Pharmaceutical Latin. Introduction to Semimicro Qualitative Chemistry Formulae. I opened a volume, careful not to disturb the fragile binding: Mr. D's notes scribbled on a piece of notebook paper tucked between the first and second pages. I felt I was touching history, and I suppose I was. The history of a man who graduated from pharmacy school in three years, in 1948. The history of a man who gave my own father a history in this country.

I wish I were older. I wish I had been born earlier so that I could remember the life Appa had, working daily with Mr. D, having occasional dinners with the D's. I wish I could remember more clearly being carried on Mr. D's extremely tall and burly frame and accepting -- gracelessly, I'm sure -- the treats I know he offered me every time I visited Appa at work. I wish I had known Mrs. D's birthday earlier, or that I hadn't wasted my teenage years thinking that these yearly visits were an obligation instead of the unmitigated pleasure and enormous learning experience they are now.

Mrs. D took note of my ooh-ing and aah-ing over the chandelier and the bookshelf full of old hardcover textbooks. She told me that she would include me in her will and give those items to me. I grabbed her and told her "that better not be for a long, long time." She laughed me off, but little she knew how heartfelt those words were as they fell from my trembling liips. A will? You mean that document that only becomes effective after you die? Oh no. No, no, no.

"Please take good care of yourself," I instructed her as we said our goodbyes. It wasn't just a greeting -- do you think she thought it was just a sentiment? Did she know I was being purely selfish, needing to see her again next year so I could hear more, absorb more, learn more, grow more? Did she know I had noticed that she was a little more stooped, a little more slender, a little more wrinkled, a little less light on her feet? Oh, would that it was Chistmastime 2005 ...

What is your favorite...
1. ...Bath soap?
Origins' Gloomaway.

2. ...Shampoo? Aveda Rosemary Mint.

3. ...Toothpaste? Tom's of Maine Natural Tartar Control & Whitening, Peppermint.

4. ...Deodorant? Tom's of Maine, Unscented

5. ...Personal care appliance? My Tweezerman slanted tweezers. They'll pluck anything out of everything.

Yankee tickets go on sale in thirty minutes. As the Cheechster was saying the other day, I never thought it would happen, but I too am excited for April to roll around. Fresh start, that's what I say. Even if "fresh" doesn't necessarily mean young, new, hearty, excited, thrilled-to-just-be-in-the-majors pitchers. Sigh. How come no one listens to me ...

The dilemma, though, as C has so graciously pointed out, is that ticket prices are higher. A lot higher. Which means that the hot dog prices are also higher. And forget my beloved cold cheese fries. I'm sorry, but if the hot dog doesn't do my laundry and rotate my tires and write my draft decisions for me, I'm not paying $9.50 for it.

So ... I must whittle my wish list down to those few games that I really want to see, that I really can see. I need to find the perfect evening that I can take Appa out for some $8.00 peanuts and a $15.75 beer. I need to still be able to pay my mortgage. I need to just get off my lazy butt and go to a local bar to watch the games with my friends. A $7.00 Black Russian with Grey Goose and some HOT french fries -- oh sorry, freedom fries (are we still hating France, or is that over now?) -- at the local joint make any victory seem all the sweeter.

Thus, my weird wish list o' games for the 2005 season is as follows: Opening Day against Boston, a June afternoon against the Chicago Cubs (baaaaaa) and a September evening against Boston. I hate Boston. I might even be sick of Boston. And yet I am compelled.

Bring on the $7.75 cotton candy.

Monday, December 20


I think I'm addicted to EBay.

But wait! That's not even the worst part. The worst part is that I'm addicted to EBay, and am absolutely, utterly, one-hundred-percent convinced that I can finagle a Swiss Army Officer's watch for $65.00 or less, an entire season of "Little House on the Prairie" DVDs for $20.00 or less, an amber ring set in platinum for $5.00 or less, and a Coach leather market tote for $45.00 or less.

I have been out-bid on all of these items (and more, because there are actually SIX seasons of "Little House on the Prairie" on the market right now) several times over. All signs point to "you are delusional and cheap and you will never win any of these auctions with your ridiculously idiotic bids," but still I press on. Or click on. I refuse to pay more than the limits I set for myself, so each time I lose an item, I go back and search for a new offering of the same thing. Six days, four hours and eighteen minutes left? I put my name on the list, set my maximum bid, and watch all the other knuckleheads waste their money around me. Silly, silly them.

I shall have the last laugh. I swear it. And then I shall look at my $38.00 watch (normally retailing for $375.00) and tell you what time it is. And smirk to myself as I do it.

Sunday, December 19

(*&&^%$#@$#$^%*^&(* . . .


I hate f*cking PMS.

Wednesday, December 15


The former German chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, recently suggested that "multiculturalism can work only in an authoritarian society." (N.B.: the quote is from The New York Times, not Schmidt.)

I I confess, I had to Google "authoritarianism." I have no idea what the above statement means.

Do you? Discuss.

Tuesday, December 14


The United States Supreme Court has just ruled, in Florida v. Nixon, that it is NOT ineffective assistance of counsel for a defense attorney to concede his/her client's guilt in a capital case, particularly in a case like Nixon, where the evidence of guilt was so overwhelming that it would have been utterly laughable for counsel to argue innocence. In other words, defense counsel can stand up before a jury, weighing all the aspects of a capital case that must be weighed -- in both the guilt and penalty phases -- and say "my client is guilty, sure he is, but please don't sentence him to death." Is this zealous advocacy?

Yesterday, the high Court ruled, in Devenpeck v. Alford, that a police officer's valid reason for arresting someone does not need to be closely related to the stated reason for the arrest. In other words, a police officer can arrest you for disorderly conduct, for example, and those charges can later be dropped for whatever reason, but the arrest can still stand if the officers also had probable cause to arrest you for impersonating an officer, for example, even if they did not TELL you this in the first place when they arresting you. So does this mean now we all have to be mind-readers and be wary just in case there's another reason for us to get into trouble, and we just don't know about it yet?



Ironic that the woman who has been portrayed as a money-hungry, greedy, self-serving, vicious, child-ignoring, nanny-abusing, husband-leaving bitch is named GENEROSA.

Oh well. She's dead.



Driving home last night, I tuned into National Public Radio to catch their take on the recent news of Daniel Pelosi's conviction and Scott Peterson's death penalty verdict. The studio announcer asked the reporter-on-the-scene: "We just heard about Scott Peterson receiving the death penalty in California. Why is that Daniel Pelosi is not facing death after his conviction for the murder of Ted Ammon?"

Long pause from the reporter-on-the-scene. Finally, her pained response.

"Because New York State does not have the death penalty."




NHF faces lots of change in the new year ... I HOPE TO GOD.

I hope we come to love each other more, scold each other less, be more gracious and generous towards each other. I hope we laugh and talk more, complain and grumble less, roll our eyes at each other never, and humble ourselves before each other past reason. I hope the immature grow up, learn to put their egos aside, be unafraid to try new things and step away from the things they feel oh-too-comfortable in. I hope the selfish become selfless, the busy realize they really aren't, the stingy become steady givers, the lazy get off their behinds and start pulling their own weight, the reactive learn self-control, and the unaware learn to open their eyes and see the world -- or even just the room -- around them. I hope the hyper chill out a bit, and the super-mellow get excited. I hope frustrations are overcome by grace, I hope arrogance is overcome by self-knowledge, and shyness is overcome by friendship. I hope people are prompt to gatherings, responsive to invitations and question, calm in times of hurry, helpful in times of need. I hope we come to appreciate each other's skills and talents, but not rely on our own so much that we take offense, or are unable to raise up others in place of ourselves. I hope to hear less gratuitous noise, and in its stead more passionate praise. I hope to see Christ made the center of our church, not us.

Present company NOT excepted.


Reading: "Lucrezia Borgia," by Sarah Bradford and "Magical Thinking," by Augusten Burroughs
Listening to: "Love.Angel.Music.Baby.," by Gwen Stefani

Monday, December 13


Thanks to Friday Favorites:

What is your favorite...
1. ...Blog? (you don't have to say Friday Favorites)
Almost all the ones linked in my sidebar.

2. ...Shopping site? UPromise, without a doubt. My little eggs will thank me, when they are college-aged humans, for being an unapologetic capitalist.

3. ...Entertainment site? Eep. Does Yahoo! Games count? Nerd.

4. ...Personal site? eBay and iVillage and The New York Times and Once again, nerd.

5. ...Reference site? webMD. Sigh. Nerd.

Damn, I'm boring.

So ... after almost three days of deliberations, the jury gives Scott Peterson the death penalty.


And the cynic rears her ugly head: let the fifteen-plus years of appeals begin!

Via The Unlimited Mood, the things I am addicted to:

... kimchi bokkum ... really good fiction novels ... all my email accounts ... eBay ... true love ... "CSI:" ... coffee w/Splenda ... baking ... cookbooks ... Burt's Bees lip balm ... linguine with garlic and oil ... biographies ... Home & Garden TV ... flannel pajamas ... InStyle Magazine ... worrying ... flossing ... Yankee baseball ... heel-stomping rock n' roll praise music ... fundraising for cancer research ... making lists ... researching everything on the Internet ... keeping calendars ... washing my hands ... J.Crew dress pants ... Fresh pear cassis perfume ... my hairdryer ... room-temperature water ... IM ... Omma's jap chae ... The New York Times AP news ticker ... and some other things too ...

Wednesday, December 8


Oh, how my heart lurched watching President Bartlett strain to roll himself down the aisle of Air Force One in a wheelchair, to speak to the press in person. My thoughts progressed forward, after hearing C.J. announce "ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States" to the press corps, and seeing the screen fade to black. I could see the press people rise to their feet, then their faces slowly registering shock, dismay, disbelief at seeing the President roll in in his wheelchair. I could see their brains struggling to comprehend, even as their hands moved as quickly as possible, trained in the art of relaying news and keeping the public immediately informed. I could see the dedication and acceptance of the inevitable in C.J.'s eyes as she watched her Commander-in-Chief face the nation. I could see the resolution in the President's eyes as he spoke without a quiver in his voice, looking the members of the press corps squarely in their eyes.

Scenes from next week's episode flash across the scene: the President falls from his wheelchair, must be carried about by his Secret Service detail like a child, begins to give up.

Don't even tell me this isn't good television.

Oh ok, the part about the asteroid ... that's kind of annoying, in a "Days of Our Lives" sort of way.

Tuesday, December 7


They exist now. The sixth day of December, day of Appa's and Wonger's birth. Nineteen days before Christmas. The day of the new winter's first snow. Okay, it's not officially winter yet, but no one seems to have told the damn cold front that.

The worst part of the freezing cold is that everything ... well, freezes. And as if me being a dork normally isn't enough, I am SO afraid of falling and breaking my leg that I walk like an ass when I suspect the ground might be frozen over with black ice. I don't bend my knees. I lean forward at an awkward angle. I half-shuffle, half-step. And I grab for any firm grip I can find in my near vicinity. I am, in essence, an eighty-year old lady with osteoporosis trapped in a twenty-nine-year old ostensibly healthy body.

But the best part is the snuggling. After work today, I came home, wrapped myself in a fluffy down blanket, courtesy of Ha, and took a mini-nap. At Omma's place for dinner, I folded my legs under me, twisted to the side, and tucked my feet under Appa's legs to keep them warm as we ate. We munched on birthday cake and sipped hot Korean barley tea, refilling frequently, as we laughed about everything and chatted about nothing in particular. Putting my coat on to return home, I zipped my parka all the way up to my lower eyelids, and felt the condensation form as I smooshed my face into the inside of the coat. Once home, I jumped into my flannel "Little House on the Prairie" pajamas and relocated into the fluffy down blanket to hop on Bob and see what was up in this vast snowy world of ours.

Sometimes, it takes the cold to remind me what keeps me warm.



Encouragement is such a nice thing. It's like ... well, it's like being wrapped in a fluffy down blanket, actually.



I have anger management and grudge-holding problems. According to Omma, this will all dissipate by the time I hit 51 years old, which is approximately when she let go of anger and grudges.

Good to have something to look forward to.



I want to delve into my subconscious and tickle it for answers, for my blood tests are normal, my blood pressure is low, my bones are strong, my muscles are unatrophied, my white blood cell count is normal, my appetite is standard (if not slightly tapeworm-ish at times), my gaze is steady, my heartbeat is constant.

But I have yet to get a good night's sleep, and have dropped another couple of pounds, necessitating my doctor to rebuke me with "No more. NO MORE. NO MORE!!!!!!" And I could only respond with hound-dog eyes and down-turned lips, "But I'm not doing anything!!!!"

Maybe I'll get some sleep when I turn 51.

Sunday, December 5


I know I always lambast others for being childish, but I'm going to join the crowd for a moment and express some childish pet peeves myself ... things I just can't abide and can't tolerate like an adult should be able to ...

... selfish, stingy folks ...

... folks who are so used to having certain things done for them that it never occurs to them to step up, say the first word, and initiate something or take on a responsibility themselves first to cover those who always do in every other situation ... until it becomes evident that an event might turn out to be fun and successful, in which case their voice is the loudest championing the cause ...

... self-absorbed folks for whom it is always about them, them, tedious them ...

... senseless chatter that is so gratingly loud that one cannot hear one's own thoughts ...

... a perfectly rational, well-laid, foil-proof plan that is -- sigh -- foiled ...

... folks who chew with their mouths open ...

... folks who have no consideration for other people's property -- other people's expensive property ...

... folks who think they are entitled to certain treatment, a certain position, certain respect ... but don't earn or deserve any of those things ...

... folks who drive like imbeciles and STOP for NO RATIONAL REASON in the MIDDLE of a MAIN THOROUGHFARE to STARE at some NONDESCRIPT BUILDINGS ...

... and of course, immature folks.

I need to go to bed before I grumble anymore. Thank goodness for a mellow-yellow Praise Team practice and a quiet evening with a tiny crowd, watching a (gasp!) bootleg copy of "The Incredibles" ... for the second time ... which doesn't compare to Jaime's 5th time ... my sanity is still somewhat intact.

Saturday, December 4

DO IT NOW! . . .

If you read any book next, read this one: "The Rule of Four," by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason.

It is so, so, so good, I devoured it in three and a half hours, sucked in as if by an industrial-strength Oreck vacuum from the very first words of the prologue.

Read it without delay.

Friday, December 3


It is done. Thirty-five Christmas cards, hand-addressed and stamped. I have about ten more "maybe" recipients on my Christmas card list, but those will have to wait until another purposeful evening.

It is done. Broccoli sliced and steamed. Cheese melted, milk warmed. Artichoke hearts quartered and drained. Mushrooms sliced and reduced. Spinach thawed and squeezed dry. Three casserole pans filled and ready for baking for Sunday's birthday fete at NHF.

It is done. Two sinkfuls of dishes, pots and pans washed and racked into the dishwasher to dry. Countertops washed and wiped dry. Stovetop scrubbed and swiped clean. Ingredients put away.

It is done. Two Christmas packages packed, taped and addressed, ready to be carried out to the car and delivered unto the United States Postal system. Damn, I wish I had toys like those I'm sending when I was little.

It is done. Living room storage closet organized. Less-often-used items boxed and hoisted to the top shelf. Handbags corraled inside a larger tote. Sleeping bag and camping items amassed together. Extra paper products for those long Super-Scrabble nights stacked and shelved.

It is done. Two loads of laundry folded, three shopping lists written and re-written, replies sent to two important emails, checkbook balanced, calendar updated, my weekend timetable set.

Finally, I put my feet up to watch more reruns of "CSI:". And I realize there is one thing I have not yet done.

Pending. Redemption of gift certificate to the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa.

I'll have to update my calendar again.

I can't tell what's louder: the clamor around me, or the echo of the clamor inside my head.

Serenity now!

Thursday, December 2

WHAT IT IS . . .

The worst thing about Ivana is not even that she dropped her skirt and showed her undies for twenty dollars to try to win. I really don't think that's the worst thing about her, although it reaches the furthest depths of stupidity and bad business sense, as well as pathetic desperation.

The worst thing about her is that she has no leadership qualities. Even the one instance of seeing her in an Apprentice Boardroom setting evidences her greatest flaws. Her body language, her verbal language, her defensive stance -- everything about her bespeaks immaturity and lack of wisdom and the ability to examine herself. In fact, I'd venture to say that Ivana has never looked at herself deeply to discover what her strengths and weaknesses are; she doesn't know herself well enough to act her age and to behave as a businessperson should.

Why in the world would you roll your eyes at the person who can make or break you? For that matter, why in the world would you roll your eyes at anyone? I have been in situations where I have witnessed people allegedly in leadership positions rolling their eyes at others. It doesn't even matter at whom they were rolling their eyes, whether the recipient of the rude and immature gesture was an older and wiser being, or a younger and more immature being. The fact remains that to roll your eyes at someone is a gesture of the utmost lack of respect. It's just out and out dismissal, a slap in the face, and it makes the other person feel like crap. Lord knows, I have mentally beaten myself up so many times after rolling my eyes at someone. It's a wonder to me that people continue to do it, especially people who should know better, and to see Ivana do it on television to the three people who can keep her going in the game just burns me up inside.

Why in the world would you treat a boss or even a colleague in a tough business setting as you would treat one of your high school friends? Save the casual dramatics. Save the tossing up of the hands and flipping of your head. Save the petty snipes and personal attacks on people who aren't even there to defend themselves. I see people around me do these things all the time. EVERYthing is a big horrible drama. EVERYthing merits an hour of complaining about the allegedly faulty actions of another. EVERYthing deserves a heavy sigh, or a sullen drop back into one's seat. EVERYthing gets a moment of the thought "why me; why do I have to deal with this bullsh*t?" For God's sakes, GROW UP.

Why in the world would you say, or even think "I'm smarter than s/he is"?!?!? How do you know? Smarter about what? And what does it matter anyway, who is smarter, if ultimately you are going to behave like an imbecile and dig your own professional grave by your childish actions? How dare your ego be so big as to think that you deserve to say or think something like that? It's a hard lesson we all have to learn, and a lesson I resisted learning for many, many years. But it's true: there is or will always be someone smarter, prettier, more intelligent, more friendly, nicer, more compassionate, more capable, more handsome, better at your common task than you. Always. Ivana just doesn't know that yet. Sigh. Poor vacant Ivana.

And to be utterly superficial for a moment: Ivana had that annoying pursed lip thing going on, as if to physically demonstrate "I'm a business woman. I'm a professional. I'm going to purse my lips because it makes me look hard and serious and capable." As if. Pinched face = pinched heart, my mom always said. Ain't that the truth ...

The other thought that I couldn't get out of my mind throughout tonight's "The Apprentice 2" ... if I had to work in the Mars/M&M factory, I think I'd puke my brains out. I'm not averse to a little nibble of sweetness now and again, but to be immersed in it and surrounded by it? OH GAG ME. The L.O.L.'s will recall The Trip To Hershey Land and the great sugar-induced headache that followed me throughout the tour. Multiply that by a factory, and you've got me, lying on the floor unconscious, overcome by noxious chocolate fumes. GAG. BLEH.

Another thought I had ... that Jen girl, the blond lawyer formerly of Team Apex is a robot. Really.



I just discovered some major holes in one of my favorite long-sleeve t-shirts. What the?!?!? What is the point of those fancy lavender-cedar closet planks and the charcoal humidity-and-odor-reducer baggies from The Container Store, a/k/a God's Gift to Type-A Personalities Everywhere, if something is going to freakin' eat through my favorite shirts?! And ew of ew's, what if this THING keeps eating my clothing? Where IS it? ACK!


HELP ME . . .

No matter how late I get home in the evening, no matter how tired I am, I always manage to prepare myself a homemade, healthy and well-balanced dinner, usually created entirely from scratch or the freshest ingredients.

Not tonight. Oh no. Tonight was Hamburger Helper night. The three-cheese Hamburger Helper.

I haven't had Hamburger Helper since my poverty-stricken days as a law student. Oh man, it was so, so, so good.

Ivana is NOT going around saying "$20 and I'll drop my skirt! $20 and I'll drop my skirt!"


That woman ... nay, girl, is a spazz. She's incompetent. She's stupid. She's desperate. She has no control. She has no self-control. She is a disgrace to women who are trying to succeed on valid, solid merits. Indeed, she is a disgrace to the business industry at large, and to anyone who has worked honestly and devotedly to accomplish anything

If she doesn't get the axe from The Don tonight ... GRRRRRRRRR.

Bernie Kerik as the nominee for the new Secretary of Homeland Security ... INNNNNNNteresting ....

Wednesday, December 1

WILMA? . . .

The other day, I told one of my best friends -- against my will, by the way -- the names that I had picked out and hoped to use upon any children I might have in the future. I presented four names: two girls' names, two boys' names.

And really, the best thing about best friends is that they can do this without any hesitation or qualms or interference from the mental filter, a/k/a conscience: furrow their eyebrows; scowl for a moment; shrug slightly; then say "Oh. I see."

No further comment.

Just when I thought my wound had almost closed, they had to go throw a 25-pound bag of salt on it, damn them.

Sports Illustrated has named THE STUPID BOSTON RED SOX as Sportsmen of the Year 2004.


Sunday, November 28

EEK! . . .

Julia Roberts gave birth to her twins two months early!
(I don't know why that is big news for me, but it is.)


SNORE . . .

I'm still pooped from Thanksgiving, and just when I thought I'd get a break from doing things ... well, just one more weekend to keep my chin up before I snooze down for a few ...



Screw dry cakes. Dry cakes are boring. Next up: cheesecake.

Friday, November 26


And despite extreme leftover food coma, my brain still seems to be functioning largely as normal, so here we go again ...

What is your favorite...
1. ...meal?
There's nothing better in the world than what you can get at home, if your mom can cook like my mom, but as far as home-cooking goes, I like to go old-style-Korean-ghetto. Hook me up with some steaming white rice, thick and spicy kimchi jigae with slices of juicy pork swimming around in it, and a fried egg with the yolks broken. OH YEAH.

2. ...dessert? I am not a big dessert fan, but if you were to twist my arm, I would offer up a close tie between C's ginger snap ice cream with humongous soft chunks of ginger snap cookies and crystallized ginger ... or a small, hot slab of syrupy pecan pie with a perfectly round scoop of cinnamon-vanilla ice cream on the side, melting all over the hot dessert plate.

3. ...vegetable or side dish? I love almost all vegetable side dishes ... Korean zucchini rounds, creamed spinach and steamed asparagus round out my top three.

4. ...comfort food? See #2. Then add Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, with chopped onions and peas and a generous dash of cracked black pepper, as a close second place.

5. ...cookie? Errrr ... can I say my own? Cranberry-toffee-chocolate-oatmeal. Soft and warm. Uh-huh.

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Thanksgiving with the nuclear family rocked. As did the fact that we had no turkey on the table. Man, that made our lives SO much easier, and our mouths SO much less tired from chewing dry, tasteless, icky fowl. Why it took us almost thirty years to figure out that none of us enjoy turkey is utterly beyond me. However, lack of tryptophan made us no less sleepy after our Thanksgiving meal. We promptly washed the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, then changed into sweats to dive under big fluffy Korean blankets to watch hours and hours of bad television and doze. It was totally awesome, and everything I dreamed Thanksgiving with the family would be.

The cake, however, was another story. It looked like it should taste good; heck, it looked exactly like the magazine photo. But be ye warned: just because it looks like it should taste like heaven, doesn't mean that it does.

Exhibit A: note the perfect ring of drained and chilled mandarin oranges, formerly in light syrup. Note the meticulously removed pomegranate seeds (my lack of skill in removing them left all manner of trippy streaks all over my kitchen counters and cabinets, and yes, even my face). Note the perfect swirls of cream cheese-powdered sugar-orange zest frosting.

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Exhibit B: then note the completely under-baked innards of the cake. Sigh. Note also that under-baking a dense cake such as this results in a strange, doughy, chewy, brick-like consistency that just makes you GAG. Finally, note that when following a recipe, do not be afraid to question authority. When some gut instinct tells you "add more cinnamon and nutmeg because it's just fun and will probably add more flava to the cake," FOLLOW IT. Bland, doughy, chewy bricks just don't taste good.

Rest in peace, pumpkin-nutmeg cake. See you never.

Nevertheless, yesterday, I was thankful for my family and for the abundant and delicious non-cake food on the table, for warm blankets and a pecan pie that turned out halfway decently.

Wednesday, November 24


Baking be done.

In the span of fifty-two minutes, I created the batter for a two-layer pumpkin-nutmeg cake; slid the two pumpkin-nutmeg cake pans in the oven; washed the dishes; de-seeded one very large and juicy pomegranate; drained a can of mandarin oranges in light syrup; baked the pie crust for the pecan pie; made the pecan pie filling; took the pie crust out of the oven to cool; washed the dishes; whipped up the cream cheese-orange zest frosting for the pumpkin-nutmeg cake; washed the dishes; took the pumpkin-nutmeg cakes out of the oven to cool; filled the cool pie crust with the pecan pie filling; slid the pie into the oven; washed the dishes; flipped the pumpkin-nutmeg cakes out of their pans to cool; washed the dishes.

After I watch the first half of "The West Wing," I shall frost the top only of one pumpkin-nutmeg layer cake; place the second layer on top; frost the top only of this layer; then top the frosting with a ring of mandarin oranges filled in with pomegranate seeds. I am this close to having my cake look exactly like the photograph in the magazine. AWESOME.

I feel very accomplished and good about myself tonight.

Cheech is right ... why should I reserve giving thanks for one measly day a year? Bah humbug to that! Today, despite my earlier grumpiness, I discovered that I have much to be thankful for and to celebrate ...

... I stayed safe on the slick and nasty roads today, despite some really bozo-ish drivers out there. GET OFF THE ROAD, YOUS.

... a J.Crew store manager (hey, retail therapy really works sometimes) assisted me after I expressed frustration at one of his saleswomen and her incompetency. As I thanked him profusely, he began to walk away, then turned back and said "you look like you could use one of these," and handed me a $50 gift card. FIFTY DOLLARS. I didn't even know how much he had given me until the cashier rung up my purchase. And then, when I tried to find him as I left, to thank him once more, he was nowhere to be found. For real.

... I went for my quarterly haircut, and said to my lovely Maria "you know what, you've been dying to hear these words come out of my mouth. Do with my hair WHATEVER YOU WANT to do with it, whatever you have wanted to do with it since you first set eyes on my head three and a half years ago. (Just make sure it's still shoulder-length.)" Maria clapped her hands in glee, gave me a high-five, and went at it. And she did WHATEVER SHE WANTED with my hair.

... I had a great workout, and thus, feel like a buff goddess. Sometimes, no matter what reality says, how you FEEL is what really matters.

... and of course, I still have the pie crust to pound away at, and the whirring of my Empire Red KitchenAid Artisan mixer to look forward to.

So, this evening, I am thankful to God for His providence, His angels expressed through the kindness of strangers, artists who are more creative and more talented than I, endorphins, and the generosity of friends who enable me to bake my heart out.

The holidays are hard, on many levels, and this year seems harder than years past ... living and being alone magnifies the difficulty sometimes, even while my family and closest friends are all within a thirty-mile radius ...

And as The Season (I don't mean baseball season) approaches, I have much on my mind ... my health, Gran's health, my financial health, the health of my friendships, the health of NHF ... I carry much anger and resentment for things that I should have let go of months ago and wounds that keep being reopened by insensitive folks around me who call themselves my friends ... I am burdened with anxiety about my future job, my future personal life, my future at NHF ... I am made curious by mixed signals, questioning glances, and impossible possibilities ... and Lord, I wish I could just get ONE good night's sleep ...

Thankfully, there's always the baking to be done. I'm gonna go home and pound me out some pie crust dough tonight and let the pulsating sounds of my Empire Red KitchenAid Artisan mixer melt my troubles away ...

Or else you'll get hit with a lawsuit as utterly frivolous as this one. First we had hot coffee ... then we had "wah, wah, wah, McDonald's makes me fat" ... and now we have flying shrimp.

Oh, give me a break. Stop wasting my tax money. I do enough of that on my own.

Tuesday, November 23

GULP . . .

Okay, so I just wrote about eleven pages worth of blog entry, complaining about everything I could think of to complain about, and criticizing everyone I could think of who existed for me to complain about, and exhorting people to behave better than they have been behaving.

But then I deleted it all because it was garbage. I'm just going to shut up and suck it up for now, because it's just the right thing to do at this time.


Monday, November 22


Well, yes, He probably did. He probably planned the whole darned three-year misery known as law school and Socratic training as one more way to put us mere mortals in our place ... or at least to teach us to think more logically and write more concisely, which is actually much harder than it seems like it should be. God created lawyers, and courtrooms, and judges, and yes, even the United States Constitution, and the men in powdered wigs who wrote the Constitution. And God probably even planned for those wise, powdered old men to establish the separation of church and state, for He in all His wisdom probably knew what would happen to people's relationships and to society overall if public life were to be governed by those of a religious Judeo-Christian majority, with a Judeo-Christian perspective, to the exclusion of all others.

But the question remains for me, and other Christian lawyers like me: what exactly does separation of church and state mean and how are we to work within it? If Jerry Falwell had his way, it would mean doing away with the "extreme rationalism that draws a strong distinction between faith and reason." Or so implieth Bruce W. Green, the dean of Liberty School of Law, the law school whose chancellor is, sigh, the Reverend Jerry Falwell. In a way, Dean Green (ok, that's just funny and it made me giggle) is correct, for many of the leading Christian -- and I'm NOT talking Falwell's followers -- writers and thinkers and apologists directly and unapologetically wove reason into their faith, and indeed made their faith so reasonable and logical, that no atheist could shake or refute it. Jonathan Edwards, J.I. Packer, C.S. Lewis -- now these were intellectual powerhouses who knew what they believed in. And that is as it should be, for we all who believe or proclaim to believe should be able to rationalize and explain our faith in a logical and infallible manner. There should be no distinction between faith and reason, for they are not mutually exclusive, and never were.

However, and there always is a however. I'm not against living and working with social and political conservatives -- such is the diversity of this country and idealistically speaking, I believe this social and political spectrum makes the cogs of America turn in the cycles that make life go 'round. But do we really want judges who will be "presiding under the Bible?" Do we really want attorneys who don't want to be committed to being good divorce laywers, but want to be "reconciliation lawyers" instead? Not that this is inherently wrong, for yes, I agree that murder = bad. Stealing = bad. Actions and hatred which turn human against human and create chaos and hurt and pain in society = bad. These things should be punished or redressed or healed, and prevented if at all possible. But the law is the law for a reason: it is evenhanded. (It can be made MORE evenhanded, but for now, it'll do until we can figure out a way to make it better, and until we can raise up officers of the court who will apply it more evenhandedly.) Despite what Christian law schools contend, I don't believe there is moral relativism in law school or in the law practice as we know it today. There are corrupt lawyers and scumbags among us, as there are in any profession or line of work, but the teaching of the law itself, I have never viewed to be morally relativistic. As my Contracts professor screamed into my brain (he evenhandedly screamed at every single student in the first semester class): "THE LAW IS THE LAW IS THE LAW. AND THAT'S IT."

I believe there is "a law that's fixed, that's uniform, that applies to everybody, everyplace, for all time." That is God's law, the law presented in the Bible, the law by which all believers abide or strive to abide. It is the law given to us by Christ who commands us first, to love our God, and second, to love others as we love ourselves. But Christ also commands us to submit to earthly government, to be in this world, though not of it. To contravene the law is the law is the law here on earth ... is that really that much of a service to God as much as it is a disservice to our earthly community?

If the concern of Christian lawyers is not becoming one of the "nameless, facelss lawyers who populate the giant law firms in New York and Washington and Chicago, grinding out thousands upon thousands of billable hours, often toward no end other than getting rich and determining whether one huge insurance company will have to write out a check to another huge insurance company," then my answer to that is simply ... don't. Don't go there. Don't work for those law firms. If you believe in behaving 'morally,' then just do it. If you believe in treating your clients and adversaries as Christ treated you and as you would treat yourself, then just do it; behave thus. If you believe your calling is to transform lives by enacting social justice, then do it. For crying out loud, Jesus was all about social justice: don't forget that He fed the hungry, rescued the downtrodden, allowed His feet to be washed by a repentant prostitute, healed the untouchable by placing His very hands upon them, took precious time to speak and play with undervalued children, and forgave the sins of the unforgivable. But if you're going to take the oath of a lawyer, if you're going to sign that piece of paper that says you swear to uphold the Constitution and serve the needs of your clients zealously and honestly, then stand by your oath. Why is it okay to renege on these sworn promises, to tell your divorce clients that you will not zealously represent them in their divorce but will try to get them to reconcile perhaps against their wishes, to inject religion where it should not be? Why is it okay to say "well, God's judgment trumps civil judgment, so I'm not going to work within the existing framework, so there!"? Will God love you more and give you a better seat in heaven for breaking your oaths and fighting the system here on earth, the very system I believe He placed here as a method of keeping order and enacting justice as well as we mere humans can manage?

This is my constant struggle ... how do I be a Christian lawyer? What exactly do I have to do differently, or more, or less? It is my fervent belief, and I'm sticking to it, that God put me in law school, that God put me in this job, that God gave me a career to abide in at least for a short while. But does He want me to take the black-letter law that I've learned in the three years of training that He provided, and turn it about in His name? I don't know ... Am I alright with the fact that people can break oral contracts and get away with it, that people are discriminated against, that people are murdered and raped and abused, that people can find loopholes that enable them to fulfill their greediness, that people are hurt, that people spill coffee and themselves and get reimbursed for their own stupidity by the hundreds of thousands of dollars? No, of course not. But aside from applying the law as best as I can ... what is my further responsibility? How else does God call me to apply my skills and training? And is He really saying that I was trained incorrectly to begin with?

I guess it just comes down to this simplicity: if you are a Christian, you are a Christian. Doesn't matter if you're a lawyer, a doctor, a homemaker, a teacher, a pizza delivery person. God will judge you, people will judge you, based on how you act and live during your time here on earth, whatever your training, wherever your offices are located, whoever your clients. Have you done your job well and to the utmost of your ability? Have you loved others as you have been loved? Have you shown others what it is to love as Christ loves? Well, then ...



Sometimes, I think The New York Times does it on purpose, because it will take a juicy article about Liberty School of Law, and place it smack next to "Many Who Voted for 'Values' Still Like Their Television Sin". People don't want to separate faith and reason, but they will separate "entertainment versus politics."

The number one and two shows in the nation right now, according to this article, are "CSI:" and "Desperate Housewives." Now, you all know how much I absolutely adore "CSI:." But my undying love doesn't absolve the show of its 'sins': gore, guts, blood, 'adult content and themes'. I haven't watched "Desperate Housewives," partly because I'm usually never in a position to watch television on Sunday evenings, but mostly because I'm just not interested. I hear there's a lot of gratuitously naked people in it though. And just yesterday, PEK exhorted us in his sermon to not get sucked into television 'news' shows such as "Access: Hollywood" for they are not really so much NEWS as they are gossip and demeaning exposes meant to blow the lid off of people we look up to, in order to titillate the viewing public.

But the old adage holds so true, and Kevin Reilly, NBC Entertainment president, said it again: "We say one thing and do another." What we do and proclaim and accept as proper or improper public gets turned on its head once we are in the cozy and dark privacy of our own homes. This has always been the case, and probably always will be so. It just strikes me as highly amusing and more than just a little annoying to read about Falwell's constant blathering, then imagine him sitting in his living room watching "Entertainment Tonight" and being smugly satisfied at the fact that no, Britney is no longer a virgin.



It seems that when I find one thing in the morning news about which to get all jacked up, I find another, then another, then another. "Enforcement of Civil Rights Law Declined Since '99" didn't do much to calm me down.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University (whoever they are) conducted a study and found that:

* criminal charges of civil rights violations were brought against 84 defendants in 2003, down from 150 in 1999
* FBI and other federal investigative agency recommendations to prosecute civil rights cases occurred 1,900 times in 2003, down from 3,000 in 1999
* the number of complaints about possible civil rights violations received by the Justice Department has remained constant, at about 12,000, for each of the past five years

I'm not saying nuthin' but ... would Shrub and John "I'll Uphold the Constitution When I Feel Like It and Apply It Against Whomever, Whenever" Ashcroft have anything to do with this alarming trend? Can I get a whut, whut? It's hard to get an answer to the first question, because "[t]he Justice Department had no comment about the study." Dang, they didn't even take the time to refute it!

Alright, to be fair and evenhanded (for that's what I'm all about, you know, with my lawyerly training and all), I have to also include that the report merely "speculates that [the decline] could have resulted from federal prosecutors and investigators having spent far more time than in previous years on terrorism cases after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." But STILL. In the interest of being even more evenhanded, allow me to inform you that the article goes on to state that:

* only civil rights and environmental prosecutions declined from 1999 to 2003, even as the total Justice Department caseload rose by about 10%

Chew on THAT.



My morning rant winds up with a piece that brought a smile to my face. Normally, I shun human-interest stories that are supposed to warm the cockles of my heart (I always skip those pages in People Magazine), but when I hear that at least eight of the thirty-two newly-announced Rhodes Scholars are immigrants or children of immigrants, I am truly, deeply gratified and proud.

The face of America, presented unto the world, is swiftly changing. We're serving our nation well. We're educating and growing ourselves. We're seeking new experiences, more knowledge, greater scope. Our voices are getting louder, our faces less foreign. We're here; we're making it.

Sunday, November 21


Ok, seriously, how cool is it that U2 is on "SNL" tonight ... and that they closed the show with yet another song ... and that everyone in the band but the drummer walked into the audience as far as their wires would let them ... and that when the song ended, Bono said "one more?" and huddled with his band to see what song they could sing next ... and that after that, he might say "one more" again?

SO cool.

These guys are well on their way to becoming living legends ... and with good reason. This ain't no freak show.

Saturday, November 20


This morning, I woke at the butt-crack of dawn -- no, for real -- to make the not-so-long trek to Hackeysack, New Joisey for my first visit to the Beyond Day Spa at the Hackeysack Medical Center. Side note: M informed us that all the maternity ward patients' gowns, and possibly all the gowns for all the patients in the hospital, were formerly designed by Cynthia Rowley, and are currently designed by Nicole Miller. And indeed, it is a lovely medical center. Back on track ... I give Beyond Day Spa a resounding B+.

I did not totally enjoy:
- that I had to get up at the butt-crack of dawn to get there, though admittedly, we called to make appointments on Thursday, and thus had to be fit into their already packed schedule. But when you're in desperate need, a first-thing-in-the-morning massage doesn't sound too damn bad.
- that it's in Hackeysack. I mean, Soy is there, so it can't be all that bad, but it's just kind of far. Of course, when you're driving with JKA, everything is within thirty minutes, rain or shine, so perhaps this is not really a valid factor.
- the food selection, and I know JKA had something to say about that too. Last time we went on a group spa outing, she took the entire tray of cookies from the food cart, set it on her lap, and proceeded to eat the cookies, one by one. Hey, she was hungry. Now, I'm all for healthy food, but honestly, when it comes to that weird trail mix, I just pick out the dried fruit. Birdseed is too hard to chew, and it's just not that tasty if it's not lightly salted.
- the fact that it was FREEZING COLD throughout the spa. I put on my robe, see below, and sat inside the dry sauna just to warm up before my massage. And then the massage room was cold! Brisk, one might say. And then my masseuse's hands were cold! Icy, one might say. They warmed up later, but that first touch was painful, I tell you ...

I did totally enjoy:
- the really kind staff, from the front desk, to the locker room hostess, to the therapists. Non-fake but broad smiles, non-threatening and non-snooty body language, clear instructions and suggestions. It was just a very pleasant experience to interact with them.
- the dry sauna. Ok, I know I was a total dork and sat in there with my long, floor-length robe on, but I was cold! See above. Still, it was nice and smelled good.
- the hot towels laid on me during my massage. Oh MAN, that was nice. They made me downright snore! (I was also congested, so that might have had something to do with it, in addition to the fact that I had to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn.)
- the showers. I do believe this was the best spa shower I have ever stepped foot in. No mildew, no dampness, no water stains. It would appear that someone swoops into the shower stall / towelling area after each woman showers and wipes down the entire room -- awesome! I know, I know ... it's just a shower, but who doesn't love a hot shower after a wonderfully relaxing massage? I almost fell asleep standing up ...
- the ROBES. Oh, my good Lord, the robes ... heavy, thick terry-lined, luxuriously satiny cotton on the outside, floor-length, wraps allllll the way around your body. Oh man, it was nice. The best robe ever. Seriously.

AND they redeem your parking ticket.

If you're in the area, try it out. Prices are comparable to and very very slightly lower than New York City rates, but the staff and facilities are far nicer than your average NYC day spa. Ask for Erin for a cold-hands-that-become-warm deep tissue massage ...

And now, I eagerly await my next massage outing ... I mean, they SAY it's good to receive regular massages to maintain optimal health. Who am I to disagree?

Friday, November 19


Okay, so it ain't the sadly-defunct Friday Five, but it'll do. Thanks to Friday Favorites, we can have the tradition live on ... here's last and this week's:

What is your favorite...
1. ...currently airing television show?
Hands down, it has to be the original "CSI:." It is the one show that I MUST watch every week, no matter what, and it always, ALWAYS, holds my limited attention span to the fullest. (N.B.: "CSI: Miami," "The West Wing," "The Amazing Race," and "Without a Trace" follow VERY closely behind.)

2. ...television show of all time? Eeep, I might be really embarrassed admitting this, but it's gotta be "Little House on the Prairie."

3. ...television show that got cancelled? Cancelled? Ended? It's hard to tell the difference sometimes. I'm going to go with recent memory and say "Friends." Yes, its time had run, but still. It was a reliable Thursday night date.

4. that you wish would be made into a television series? "Pride and Prejudice", the BBC version starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I would love, love, LOVE to see those folks on television every week.

5. ...television show that should be made into a feature movie? "Little House on the Prairie," and I'm not talking about those silly and vapid little made-for-TV movies either, like the one where the blind school blew up. Remember that? I know you do ...

What is your favorite...
1. ...classic (old) movie?
Errr ... I don't think I've watched enough "classic" movies to give an educated answer, but of my limited selection, I shall choose ... an even tie between "Roman Holiday" and "The Philadelphia Story."

2. ...comedy movie? "Bring It On." Do you even have to ask?

3. ...action movie? I can't remember the last 'action' movie I watched. Does the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy count?

4. ...drama movie? "The Godfather." Didn't even think about that one.

5. of all time? Okay, more embarrassment ... "The Sound of Music." It evokes memories of the holiday season, my family wrapped up in blankets in front of the TV, bad voice-overs done in the Korean version (with everything but the songs dubbed into Korean -- hilarious!), flannel pajamas, home-cooked meals, and a time when things were just ... simpler.
FOR REAL . . .

"Truman," by David McCullough, is the only non-fiction book to date that has made me cry. I cried throughout Harry S. Truman's last weeks, and throughout his funeral services. Read it. It's soooo good. And Truman was a very nice man.

Thursday, November 18

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Bill Clinton's presidential library opened today in the rain ... and these cute photo ops ensued ...

Bill Clinton: "Am I the only person in the entire United States of America who likes both President Bush and John Kerry?"

Originally uploaded by chaesq.

President Bush: "A fellow in Saline County was asked by his son why he liked Gov. Clinton so much. He said, 'Son, he'll look you in the eye, he'll shake your hand, he'll hold your baby, he'll pet your dog - all at the same time.'"

Tuesday, November 16


This, according to the New York Times:

[Condoleezza Rice] has told friends she looks forward to a period of diplomacy less clouded by memories of the Sept. 11 attacks. And on the weekend after Mr. Bush won re-election, Ms. Rice gave him a memo on how the United States might improve relationships with countries in Europe and the Middle East. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Bush announced that he intended to visit Europe "as soon as possible" after his inauguration.

Let's hope so.

Colin Powell is stepping down as Secretary of State. DON'T DO IT, MR. SECRETARY!!!!

The only voice of reason in Washington, D.C. is returning to private life. I guess he deserves it. He is -- or at least seems to be, by all accounts -- an honorable man unafraid to stick to his guns of integrity, a church-going man, a family man, a diplomat and a peace-maker, an intelligent man, a dignified man, a man who listens more than he speaks, a wise man, a man with whom you'd like to have a scotch on the rocks while discussing foreign policy, a man with whom you'd like to share a bag of chips while hooting and hollering at the contestants on the new season of "The Amazing Race" (which premieres tonight). Actually, no. I bet he doesn't hoot and holler much, or eat potato chips. But I bet he would enjoy "The Amazing Race."

He deserves private life. He deserves to spend some quality time with Alma and the three kids. He deserves to have some quiet inside his head, slippers on his feet, and a job he loves sauntering off to every morning. He did not deserve the last four years of bullshit that Shrub dished out to him every day on a silver platter, then instructed him to deliver unto the unknowing masses.

I know all that, and I know that having Condi Rice be the next Secretary of State will be an historic event: the first black woman to be the nation's top diplomat, and only the second woman ever to hold the post. But why do something for history's sake? For someone as accomplished and intelligent as she is, she has now turned into nothing more than a yes-woman. Images of her and Shrub's heads pressed together hatching another dastardly plot to rule the world make me nauseous still. She's the natural choice because we all know Shrub can't make any decisions on his own, and he loves to surround himself with people who will say "uh-huh, exactly, just go to war," but please. The next four years have to -- HAVE TO -- be different, and having Condi Rice be our Secretary of State will change the entire face of American diplomacy (or in Shrub's case, NON-diplomacy). God be with those in the State Department now; boy, am I ever glad I never passed THAT test. Incidentally, having Condi's Number 2 step in as the next National Security Advisor is merely a portent of our doom. We're screwed. As Hooch would say, "Second verse, same as the first." And it's not just me; a tried and true Washington insider speaks thusly:

Should Rice's nomination be approved, her top deputy, Stephen Hadley, will be promoted to national security adviser, the senior administration officials said.

The moves drew initial negative reaction from a former secretary of state who served Bush's father.

"I do not believe that you should have in the secretary of state someone who has spent their last four years in the White House next to the president," Lawrence Eagleburger told CNN's "Paula Zahn Now." "I do believe you need tension between the State Department, the Defense Department and the National Security Council.

"If the rumors prove correct and her deputy becomes national security adviser, everybody is going to speak the same language," he said. "Whatever influence, for instance, Colin Powell had is going to be much less under these new circumstances."

Uh-huh. You know it.

Saturday, November 13

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
A short while back, my sister-not-by-blood and her family came to visit and stay with me. Having her here with me was like she was never gone; having her gone back home is sadder than ever. As we do on all of our visits with each other, we stayed up all hours of the night guffawing, arguing political points, browing the Internet playing nerdy trivia games, reminiscing, hearing each other's life updates. This time, with her and hers on MY turf, we hit the city and the Central Park Zoo, where, naturally, we couldn't resist the temptation to stick our heads into some holes. Sigh. Some things never change ...

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
This is easily one of my favorite photographs to gaze upon, EVER. The grounds of Hyde Park were stunningly beautiful, and this picture captures it all. And of course, the brilliantly red fire hydrant. What a hoot!

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
I know, I'm a nerd. And if David McCullough is right (and of course, he always is), FDR was kind of an arrogant jerk anyway ... but they were just calling out to me to sit next to them and be cheesy. I couldn't resist.

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Is this my inner desire coming out? Thanks to the game students at CIA (Culinary Institute of America) for tolerating our foolishness ... damn, I look good in a toque ...
UPDATE . . .

One pound of bay scallops is ... a LOT of scallops.
OH, NO, IT DI'IN'T . . .

It snowed last night. My car has a light dusting of WHITE SNOW on it.

Damn. There go my hopes for a balmy 65-degree winter.



I have never bought seafood from the seafood section of a grocery store or a fish market before. Today, I must buy bay scallops. I'm unsure of how I'm going to do this. Do I go up to the person behind the seafood counter at my local Super Stop & Shop and say "Hi, I'd like a pound of bay scallops, please"? Or is it self-serve, where I tear off a big plastic baggie and grab the scoop and pick out the best-looking scallops myself? Do I have to take a number, or will the seafood counter-person call out to me, "Can I help you, miss"? And what am I looking for anyway? Is there a difference between bay scallops and sea scallops ... other than that one apparently is from the sea and the other comes from a bay? What if the bay flows into a sea? Do I want the big plump scallops just because they look like they'd be really tasty and juicy, or do I want the little ones because they are actually what one would call 'bay scallops'?

Ugh. As a dear friend would say, I think too much. Let me hie myself to my snow-covered car and venture into the unknown.