Monday, January 31

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Day One, Whistler, B.C.

No major falls. Great conditions. Nominal bruising. Obtained sore muscles. Busted my left knee again. Looked good in my extra-large jade-green helmet, a/k/a "The Mother Ship Calling You Home."

Deep tissue massage at 4pm. Luxurious steak dinner. Zonked out at 10:30pm.

It's so, so awesome here. God is in the mountains.

Friday, January 28

I just got sucker-punched.

I'm a big nerd and a big sap. This is nothing new for those who know me. But perhaps even they would be surprised to know that voting in an election is a cathartic, emotional, highly moving experience for me. Everytime I flick that lever, or fill in a circle with a number-two pencil, or check a box, I feel such GLADNESS that I am voting, that I can vote. Yesterday evening, I was listening to an NPR report about children of Jewish Holocaust survivors, and how their parents' memories become their own, in a sense. And I suppose in a less traumatic way, I carry the 'memory' of my parents having grown up in a less-than-democratic society, under an oppressive military regime, unable to vote or speak out. And I am so appreciative that they came here, where both they and I can make our voices heard, no matter how loud or soft, whether the impact be great or miniscule.

So today, the headlines read "Iraqis voting around the world," and I am so, so deeply moved. Expatriates in this country are currently driving hours, even days, to contribute to the rebuilding of their motherland. On Sunday, come hell or high water (both seem likely these days, no?), Iraqi citizens will select a new National Assembly, and its first task of order will be to create a new Constitution, pursuant to which Iraq will ultimately govern itself.

I consider how much I take for granted the Constitution that reigns over me and protects me, here in what is universally known as the land of the free. I think upon those who, over two hundred years ago, expended blood, sweat and tears to create it, who dared to envision and imagine the perfect country, the perfect government. I look back over the decades of turmoil and change and upheaval and peace -- all that has brought us to this day. It occurs to me that I never think about them, or the document they birthed, or the legacy they left. I can't imagine what it must have been like to be on the cusp of history, making a lasting impact on infinite generations to come, taking the leap of independence into self-governance, for better, sometimes, or for worse, sometimes.

That's so awesome. I can't imagine it, I will never live it, but that is SO. AWESOME.

Sustained prayers abound for peace, progress, dedication, courage, freedom and a new understanding of the world order ...

Monday, January 24


What is your favorite...
1. ...Outfit?
Ain't nothin' like a black power suit with high heels, baby! But when I feel like being comfortable, it's my J.Crew weekender jeans with a thick turtleneck sweater. Oooh, yeah.

2. ...Article of clothing? Currently ... any of my cable-knit wool crew-neck or turtleneck sweaters. Sooooo warrrrrm.

3. ...Formal accessory? (i.e. tie) The amber and silver ring I got for five dollars off of eBay. I don't care that it might not have any value whatsoever -- it makes my stubby fingers look long and slender and sometimes, vanity just trumps.

4. ...Thing to wear on the weekend? Summer: nothing. Winter: flannel pajamas with thick and decidedly unfeminine athletic socks.

5. ...Shoes? Dress: black Zoe pointed-toe 3" heels. Casual: Merrell trail runners.

Saturday, January 22


After waking this morning to take a phone call, I drifted back to take a nap and during this nap, I had the best dream ev-ah. It was so ... lovely and (no, no, it wasn't sexual, relax) romantic and sweet and heart-warming. Yes, I know it probably only lasted about three minutes, but those three minutes of dreaming ... it was the kind of dream that I want to think about all day long because it made me feel so loved.


I groused to The Gang last night about how I think it's so stupid that people hear "snow" in the forecast and promptly rush to the grocery stores to stock up on food and water. What, do people not keep food and water at home? Can you not drink FAUCET water? Sheesh.

But then of course, this morning, I went to the grocery store myself.

In my defense, I bought not a single bottle of water. Instead, I stocked up on schnacky comfort foods, like Stove-Top Stuffing and clementines, and a steak for tonight's snow-bound dinner. So there. I'm not a big dork like everyone else out there.


Alright, so it's snowing. I didn't think this would really happen. As per usual, I expected lots o' hype, little action. But Craig Allen of WCBS news proved to be correct, for once. It's a light but driving snow. I still fully expect that it will sprinkle thus for about two hours, then stop. Then we'll all feel like fools. And then JKA will call me to come over and play Scrabble and eat cookies, and I'll have to rush because I still will not have showered or gotten fully dressed.

Seriously. There is no snow.

Friday, January 21


Christian conservatives (Lord, I hate that phrase) are condemning SpongeBob SquarePants for promoting homosexuality.

SpongeBob SquarePants is a big dorky yellow sponge whose daily highlight is burping the alphabet, for crying out loud!

Don't we Christians have better things to do? You know, like healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the needy and helpless, and loving one another? Do we really care about a CARTOON SPONGE? Is getting rid of a CARTOON SPONGE really going to make more of a difference in children's lives than a loving, faithful home where the parents teach their offspring about offering Christ's love to others of His creation? FOR REAL.

Thursday, January 20


Secretary of State Colin Powell bid farewell to the State Department yesterday, concluding his long and venerable tenure of service to this country. He says he won't be back in the public eye and won't be running for public office, but I hope he's just kidding. We need him, and more men and women like him to lead us, and to be a beacon to the world.

Secretary Colin L. Powell's Farewell Remarks
C Street Lobby
Washington, DC
January 19, 2005
(11:00 a.m. EST)

(Applause and cheers.) Thank you very much. Thank you, all. Thank you. Whew! (Laughter.) Thank you so much, my dear friends. This is an exciting day for the Powell family. We close yet another chapter of our life and move on to something else. But it is a chapter that will always bring us the fondest memories of serving with a group of wonderful people for the last four years.

I remember the first day that I came into this lobby and was greeted with warmth and affection by all of you. That morning before I left to come down here, Alma said to me, "Remember now, you're not in the Army anymore." (Laughter.) "And don't go down there and start acting as if it's an infantry battalion." (Laughter.) And I said, "Yes, dear." (Laughter.) Then I immediately came down here and saw the crowd, and I started treating you like you were an infantry battalion. (Laughter.) Because you were my troops. You were America's troops. You are wonderful individuals. You are wonderful families. You are wonderful patriots who serve your nation as its troops in the far-flung outposts of American diplomacy. You are in the first line of offense of America's foreign policy.

And I want to thank President Bush for giving me the opportunity to serve as the 65th Secretary of State and the opportunity not only to be his foreign policy advisor, but to be the leader of this magnificent Department.

I want to thank everybody in the Department, whether you are Foreign Service, Civil Service, Foreign Service National or all the components thereof, whether you are here in the Department, whether you're USAID, the Peace Corps, OPIC and all the other organizations that flow into the State Department family. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I also want to thank all of the family members who are in so many of our missions around the world and here in the Department for the sacrifices they make. Alma and I know a great deal about family sacrifice as a result of our 35 years in the service, but the sacrifices that I see our spouses and our children in the Foreign Service and the Civil Service and all of our other components make are equal to anything that we asked of our children. And I want to pay special tribute to the families.

I know that the kind of support and loyalty that you have given to me, you will give to my successor, Dr. Condi Rice, a dear friend, somebody I have known for many years and who I know will bring gifted leadership to the Department and to American foreign policy.

I also want to pay a special tribute to all the members of the senior staff who have worked so hard, and there are two individuals especially who walked in with me, who have been friends of many years' duration and formed part of the immediate leadership team. You've gotten to know them well. One we call Buddha, and that's my Deputy Secretary -- (laughter) -- Rich Armitage. (Applause and cheers.)

The other individual who had so much to do with the revitalization effort in the Department with respect to getting more people into the Department through our Diplomatic Readiness Initiative, or what we have done with information technology, what we have done with refurbishing our facilities around the world, helping get the money we need from the Congress, a guy who really is quite a leader, and he and I drove up together in my PT Cruiser on the first morning that I came here -- (laughter) -- and this was before DS got control of me -- (laughter) -- DS realizing that I almost had an accident out front here while I was pulling up in my PT Cruiser -- and that's Under Secretary for Management Grant Green. (Applause and cheers.)

You all know that I have always focused on the concept of family. We are one big family and we exist to serve the American people. We serve the American people by helping the President execute his foreign policy. We have much to look back on with satisfaction, many successes that we can take credit, along with the President, for. Whether it is the effective response that we made to the global war on terror when it was shoved at us on 9/11 and how we have responded and pulled together the world in this threat to civilization. How we have succeeded in getting rid of two of the most despotic regimes on the face of the earth, in Kabul and Baghdad. And even though the task is difficult, how we will see to it that these two nations, Afghanistan and Iraq, have the freedom and democracy that their people richly deserve. And that will happen, and you had a lot to do with that. (Applause.)

We have reached out to friends and partners around the world. We have helped to expand the transatlantic community through the expansion of NATO, through the expansion of the European Union, helping and watching, through creating a better relationship with the Russian Federation. In our first nine months, everybody was concerned that we would destroy that relationship because of the debate over the ABM Treaty. But, in effect, the President showed what kind of a foreign policy we would have. We pressed forward with the elimination of the ABM Treaty because we needed to go to missile defense, and we did it in a way that the Russians understood why we were doing it. We were patient. We took our time. We explained it to them. And after we told them we had to withdraw, six months later, rather than there being a big rupture, we signed the Treaty of Moscow and put our relationship with Russia on a new strategic footing.

We did the same thing in our relationship with China, the other major nation that, at one time, might have been called an adversary. We had a problem, you will recall, in early April of 2001, with the collision between our airplanes, and everybody thought this relationship is going to a deep freeze. But instead, with patient diplomacy and listening to the Chinese and their concerns -- their listening to us -- we solved that problem, and over the last several years have put U.S.-Chinese relations on the soundest footing that they have been in decades.

If you look around the world at the kinds of things we have done, whether it is our interaction with the Indians and the Pakistanis on the subcontinent to defuse a conflict situation and let them know that we were their friends, each in an individual capacity, and, working together, helped them resolve some of the difficulties.

If you look at what we did with our Asian alliances and alliance members and partners, it is an excellent condition.

If you look at what we did to deal with those problems that are so vexing in the world with respect to poverty, with respect to disease, with respect to hunger, we have much to be proud of: doubling of our development assistance funding; the HIV/AIDS program, where we are in the forefront of the world's efforts.

If you look at how we solved problems in Liberia or in Haiti or what we have done with patient diplomacy over the years to bring us to that marvelous moment last Sunday when I was privileged, on behalf of the President, on behalf of you, to witness the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement between the SPLM and the government in Khartoum, bringing this 20-year-old war in Sudan, hopefully, closer to an end.

When you look at what we have done with respect to free trade, when you look at what we have done with respect to our interests in our own hemisphere and in Africa, it is a record that we can all be proud of.

You are the ones who do it. I am up on the seventh floor with my wonderful colleagues from the sixth and seventh floors, who are assembled behind me like a choir. (Laughter.) We trust they will not break out into song at any time. (Laughter.) But we are the leaders and we have the privilege of being your leaders, but we know how it gets done. It doesn't get done because I give a speech or I go here or I go there. It gets done because you do it every single day. You do it by the way in which you go about your work and the way in which all of your colleagues in every one of our missions around the world go about their work.

They are the carriers -- you are the carriers -- of America's values. You are the ones that go out, not to lecture, not to impose, but to let our works go before us to show what democracy can bring to people in the way of a better life. You are the ones who demonstrate the importance of individual rights that everybody should be free. You are the ones, by the way you do your job here, the way all of our people, our embassies around the world, do their job in connecting with the citizens of that land, tell those folks what America is all about, what we believe -- freedom, human dignity, economic openness -- all for the purpose of not imposing American values, but showing how American values can benefit the world if they are adjusted and adapted to the needs of a particular country.

We have demonstrated that in the broader Middle East and North Africa as we have launched the Forum for the Future to help those nations reform themselves with our help. We have demonstrated it in our continuing effort to work with the nations of the Middle East, and especially with the Israelis and Palestinians, to move forward so that a free, reformed, democratic state of Palestine could be created to live side by side in peace with Israel.

We have not shrunk from the challenges. We are focusing on Iran and North Korea and trying to persuade them that there is a better way. We put the spotlight on these kinds of problems. We solved the problem in Libya of weapons of mass destruction. We hope other nations that are thinking in those terms will come to the same conclusion that the Libyans did.

So we have much to be proud of, but you are the ones who should be proud of what we have done. It has been my privilege to serve you, but you are the foot soldiers of the battalion. I am so proud that I have had this chance to serve my nation once again. When I step down from this job I will have had close to 40 years of government service. Thirty-five of those years were in the United States Army. I will never not be a soldier. You can't serve for 35 years and say, "I'm no longer a soldier." So the Army will always be dear and precious to me.

But I want to say to you here today that after four years of being with you, serving this Department, the relationship is the same. And even though I step down as your Secretary, I will never leave you. I will always be a part of this wonderful family. Thank you, all, and God bless you. (Applause and cheers.)

Wednesday, January 19


They are still counting the dead.


Have you heard of the uproar at Harvard University over its president, Lawrence H. Summers's recent statements about innate differences between the sexes, and how these differences might or might not be a contributing factor as to why fewer women succeed in math and science careers?

OH NO! There are innate differences between the sexes that might make one gender better at something than another? Nooooooo, say it ain't SO!

Critics -- nay, more than just critics -- those who are furious at President Summers say that he and his words serve to perpetuate discrimination against women in these and other fields, and discourage young women -- his own students -- from pursuing their goals in the mathematics and sciences. They say that he has not done enough to hire and retain women faculty at Harvard. Many Harvard (or is it Radcliffe?) alumnae have vowed to never donate to the University again.

This is very interesting for me to read and hear, coming off of a women's retreat where it was emphasized for me that women are created differently from men. It never occurred to me that this difference might be a bad thing, and I don't understand President Summers's opponents' eagerness to interpret negativity from his words. As far as I have read about this "intellectual tsunami" (as one University dean termed it, which to me is in more bad taste than Summers's allegedly discriminatory words), Summers was propounding a theory, among other theories, including the facts that "faculty positions at elite universities required more time and energy than married women with children were willing to accept ... and that discrimination may also play a role."

Is someone going to say that these are also not viable theories for why fewer women succeed in the fields of math and science? But wait, to step back even more, isn't everything about math and science theory anyway? So now, a whole bunch of mathematicians and scientists are going to blast away at Summers for stating a theory? What rubbish and hypocrisy.

Mary C. Waters, the chairperson of the University's sociology department, posed the rhetorical question, "If you were a woman scientist and had two competing offers and knew that the president of Harvard didn't think that women scientists were as good as men, which one would you take?" I can't even believe a Harvard professor is being so obtuse and narrow-minded (actually, maybe I can). President Summers DID NOT SAY that women scientists were not as good as men. He DID say that fewer women succeed in the math and science fields. THOSE TWO STATEMENTS DO NOT MEAN THE SAME THING, and Ms. Waters should know better than to say what she did, in my humble, merely-Columbia-educated opinion.

But you know what ... for me, the ultimate deduction is as follows: women are different from men, in so many ways. Biologically, chemically, mentally, physically, emotionally, and any other -ally you can think of. That is undeniable, but to read "lesser" or "bad" or "inferior" into these differences ... I just don't understand that. It is as if women as a population carry around a big ol' chip on our shoulder that presumes that we are weaker, stupider and less capable than men, and we are just waiting for someone to say it, so we can rise up in false indignation and create a big stink. WE'RE DIFFERENT, GIRLS, SO LIVE WITH IT.

And even more than that, the differences are not universal. DOI. As if anything about humanity is anymore! Some women are really, really excellent at math and science, and they should be afforded every opportunity and ounce of support to succeed in these fields. But some women really, really stink in these fields and could care less about them. I would even dare to state that the male gender shares the same dichotomy of skills and interests. SHUDDER TO THINK, right?

Eh, whatever. I just want to throw my hands up at the state of us. We pick a fight over anything and everything. We actively look for differences and points of argument. We love to bring someone down and humiliate him and make him feel bad for stating a theory. A THEORY, PEOPLE. We love to feel like victims and we love to blame others for keeping us down. We love to "fight The Man." It's just so silly, and THAT makes me furious.

Tuesday, January 18


How does one even begin to describe in mere human words -- in not the most emotive language, no less -- one of the most amazing and fun weekends one has had in a very very long time? One begs the forgiveness of her witnesses and proceeds forth anyway ...

Friday night prayer meeting ...
I haven't been to a PEK-led Friday night prayer meeting at NHF since ... well, since the first one, and admittedly, that was because I and the gang I was with had to. (I know, I know, how wretched am I?!) It wasn't that I always had something to do. Nay, sometimes, I sat on my ass knitting some hideous half-project or watching an episode if "CSI: Miami" I had already seen. But this past Friday, my presence was once again "required," to put together little projects for the NHF Women's Retreat, and then to gather with the retreat organizers, as well as the regular prayer group, to pray for the retreat weekend in particular.

One interesting thing about living a life of faith is how easy it is to forget all the small, seemingly impact-less factors that contribute to the very growth of faith. Certainly one of those factors is prayer, and not just "rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub, yaaaaaay God!" prayer, but prayer for and by a group of people, spoken out loud, lifted up communally, shared implicitly, even if not spoken aloud by everyone. And so it was that on Friday evening, after punching holes, laminating cardstock, hooking nametags, filling goodie-bags and cleaning up the remnants of our dinner, I found myself silent but part of a group of people praying with one purpose, to one God, in one voice. How powerful it was, and how silly of me to forget that power.

And as I stayed silent, I communicated my own prayers to our Father, things I felt too shy and too self-conscious (ironically) to speak aloud in front of others. I asked God to make me less shy and less self-conscious around the thirty or so women with whom I'd be spending the weekend. I asked God to change my personality, just for forty-eight hours, and make me not ACT busy so that I could avoid talking to, sitting next to, socializing with, eating with a woman I didn't know or didn't know very well. I asked God to make me forget about all the hard, sad, bitter, heartbreaking and worrisome things that have been burdening me, and instead make me -- MAKE ME -- think upon only Him and only what He wanted me to learn over the weekend, if anything. I asked God to help me swallow my pride, forget my ego, not worry about what I was wearing or how I looked or how big the developing pimple under my nose was going to grow (quite small, thank God!). I asked God to make me to not criticize anyone for anything, even in the quiet of my own mind, and to make me like an open-hearted baby, ready to reach out to anyone with a goofy smile.

And of course, He did all these things. I can't tell if God worked these miracles in me because a small part of me didn't believe He really would. I didn't fully believe that I would behave any differently than I had in prior retreats. I didn't fully believe that God would make me into the kind of woman who would uncritically embrace new people, new faces, new women. I didn't fully believe that God would remove my pride and my ego from me, and make me into the kind of woman who could share the deepest of her heart with other women, unafraid of their criticism or judgment. I didn't fully believe, but God forgave my unbelief and answered my prayers anyway. Freakin' unbelievable.

And so, my faith in praying in groups was restored. Even if I sit quietly, listening to and absorbing the spoken words of those around me rather than speaking aloud myself, I am refreshed and touched in a way that I am not when I am alone. Power in numbers has new meaning ...

Saturday morning ...
I'm not a morning person. Yes, I get up early and yes, I function quite well in the morning. But I normally am at my best when I have at least two to three hours of silence in which I can think about all the things I need to think about before I can address the needs of the day. Chatter, phone calls, bustling bodies, speeding motorists, all serve to throw me off, and usually make me grumpy until about lunchtime. But after picking up JKA and setting off to run the errands and make the preparations we would have to care for before the retreat got fully under way, I found myself deep in discussion about career choices, giggling over the existence of McDonald's one-dollar coupons, figuring out how to maximize Dunkin' Donuts Dollars, squinting through the windshield to find the driveway into our retreat center, then galloping all over the massive grounds of the center to find the correct entrance, finally kicking ourselves for not seeing the large-as-a-barn keypad right in front of our noses at the front of the obviously-main building. Sigh. How many young professionals do you need to open a locked door with an easy key code, right?

A speedier-than-imagined settling-in period, and the retreat was under way. Women streamed into our conference room doors, grabbed coffee and donuts, chattered and giggled, cooed over the goodie bags and greeted our amazing speaker, Dr. Elaine Eng. And I was smiling and functional, and not one ounce resentful that my morning routine had been thrown off! Will wonders never cease ...

Dr. Elaine Eng ...
She is a blind Chinese-American woman, physician, wife, mother, speaker and author. My brain exploded at reading her c.v. and oozed out my ears. For real. And she spoke wisdom like I had never heard. Simple things, simple truths. No big words, no frills, no pretensions. For crying out loud, the woman brought a cross-section of a plastic uterus to demonstrate to us once and for all that we women are wonderfully and fearfully made by God, IN HIS IMAGE.

And though I know I am not alone in feeling this way, throughout the weekend, I felt like she was speaking straight at me. Every word out of her mouth struck a different chord in my soul. I learned that God has made no mistake in creating me, not physically, not emotionally, not biologically, not spiritually. I learned that there are concrete ways I can lessen my worrying and my constant anxiety. I learned that in all troubles, I need merely to gaze upon the beauty and awe of creation to see exactly how great is my God. I learned that spiritual growth isn't something to win or lose, but something to practice, practice, practice. I learned that submitting to one's husband -- my future husband -- is not slavery, and that the counterpart command to the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. In other words, the husband must DIE for his wife. I learned that the woman described in Proverbs 31 was a caretaker, a businesswoman, hard-working, industrious, well-dressed, beautiful, wily and wise. I learned that I must learn to lean on other women, more than I have been leaning. I learned that instead of searching for Mr. Right, I need to strive to BE Miss Right, a godly woman so as to meet a godly man. I learned that being obedient does not make one lesser than the one whom she obeys.

Oh, to hear such simple, straightforward words. No holds barred, but no judgment given. Just the level wisdom of a woman who really has seen it all ...

Four women ...
I normally dread small-group time at retreats. What, exactly, is the purpose of shoving a small group of people together for the short-lived, clearly temporary and socially awkward purpose of having them answer questions together and pretend to love each other enough to love each other deeply? What, exactly, indeed ...

Dr.K said it best: it's not that you take joy in others' suffering, but knowing that others suffer reminds you that you are not alone and you are not weird and you are not deficient or inferior. NHF has an extraordinary number of incredibly self-sufficient, strong -- physically AND mentally, faithful, capable, well-dressed, put-together women. On the surface, we look like perfection. Perfect jobs, perfect families, perfect homes, perfectly busy and fulfilling calendars, perfect clothes, perfect hair and makeup, perfect accessories, perfectly adorable babies, even. It can be, and is, a difficult standard to try to meet Sunday after Sunday. And yet to see and hear any one of these perfect creations say "my life sucks, I'm a bad wife, I'm a bad mother, I'm a bad daughter, I never trust God with anything, I'm unhappy with my job, I question my singleness, my marriage, my divorce, the existence of my children, my own life" is liberating, to say the least. It's not that I or any of us take joy in another's imperfection. I am not jumping up and down in glee, pointing my finger and shouting "I knew you weren't perfect! I just knew it!" Rather, I am bowing my head and wiping my tears, so humbled by the honesty of women I don't know as well as I should or could, and grateful for the opportunity to care for them, and be cared for by them.

And I really was cared for by them. To be able to bare my soul, even just a corner of it, was freeing, as most confessions are. And to put myself aside and care for another was refreshing, for I am totally boring and I'm sick of me and my own damn whining. Dr. K's words, in particular, moved me and rattled my world view so completely: "Dear God, make her to live to meet Your standards, not the standards of this world, or of the people around her."

Eh, us girls ... we're not so bad after all ...

Baby Jesus with a man's face ...
By the elevator niched two nooks which held two small statues. One statue was of a man -- perhaps meant to be Jesus or a disciple -- with creepy eyes. Every time I passed him, I actually -- and foolishly -- lifted my right hand to cover my face from him, for I did not want to mistakenly look at him, and discover that his eyes were following me! For I know that is within the realm of possibility.

The other nook held a statue of the Virgin Mary holding and extending forth the baby Jesus. Baby Jesus had his hands extended out towards the viewer. Yet he had the Face. Of. A. Grown. Man. I hate that. I hate when artists make baby Jesus have a man face. Shiver! Talk about creepy. The first time I saw it, Banana and I giggled hysterically for a few seconds, then I kept on giggling because it creeped me out so bad. Ick.

Speed Scrabble ...
One should never have to define the words one creates. That's just not fair.

Who the heck sleeps alone?! ...
Each retreat participant had her own room. HER OWN ROOM! What IS that? We never sleep alone on retreats -- that is Just. Not. Done.

How childishly unnerved I was! A sparse room, containing one twin bed, one lamp, one desk and chair, one armchair, one sink, one mirror, linoleum floors. And no one else! With whom would I stay up into the wee hours chatting and giggling? In front of whom would I be self-conscious about snoring or farting during my sleep? (Don't ask -- I've been known to pass gas in all manner of places and circumstances.) And for the record, there was just something super-creepy about the rooms. Creepy, perhaps because there was no one else in it! Oh, dear.

Nonetheless, after slinking from room to room trying to see if anyone else was as dismayed -- no, frightened -- as I, I bravely took a deep breath and closed my door. I changed into my pajamas, washed my face, set out my clothes for the next morning, set my alarm clock, and lay down. And promptly fell asleep. At the most pathetically early retreat-weekend hour of 1:00 a.m. Oh, pish, my days of pulling all-nighters at retreats are long gone.

A.D.D. under control ...
No, I don't really suffer from A.D.D.. Not officially, anyway. But most "quiet times" during retreats, I'm unable to focus on the quiet time available to me. The hour that I could or should be praying, meditating, reading the Bible, taking a prayerful walk or journaling is often spent napping, packing my belongings, or puttering around with self-made busy work, cleaning up or re-arranging chairs or some other nonsensical and unnecessary task.

But Sunday morning found my butt planted in a chair in a quiet corner of the center's dining hall, face lifted to the weak but warm sunlight streaming in through the windows, sipping hot thick coffee, ready to read and pray and study and write. I did all those things. Not for very long -- we only had about forty-five minutes at our disposal -- but for real. How lovely to have a moment to be still and relaxed, to reflect and consider, to make certain resolutions and to ask for help in making others, to sip coffee and savor the very taste of it, and even to recognize the Lord for making the all-hallowed coffee bean. I look back at that span of time as God's gift to me: He knew I wouldn't be able to handle two busy, conversational mornings in a row, so He gave me back my morning routine.

Sing praise, sing praise ...
Oh, goodness, did we evah.

Was it that I was PMS-ing? Was it that I was coming off an emotional, satisfying, honest and liberating weekend retreat? Was it that I am just a humongous mushball who cries at the cotton (the fabric of our lives!) commercials? Perhaps.

Or perhaps it was the driving drumbeat. The enthusiastic lead guitar hopping up and down. The second guitar who barely played for lifting his hands in honoring the Lord. The smiling vocalists, smiling at the unseen and powerful. The voices around me singing so loudly -- more loudly than ever -- I couldn't even hear my own voice. The women around me whom I had come to understand an iota better. The men around me whose lives might be changed by the love and prayers of the women in their lives. My beloved meatballs crawling all over me and trying to force-feed me Nabisco goldfish with stupid grins on their faces. Seeing the Alien and the Melon, having grown so big, and realizing the weight of my responsibility in contributing to their growth, physically, emotionally, biologically, spiritually.

Oh, how I wept. Tears of joy enough to fill a bucket. A big bucket. I even half-fully lifted a pacifier to the skies before realizing I was giving a fleecy red beanie-dog with a green nipple sticking out of its mouth to the Lord. I'm sure He wouldn't have complained, but ... it was a nipple, for heaven's sake.

I lost five dollars ...
After asking Dr. K to make an announcement at NHF about an upcoming baby shower, I bet her five dollars to also announce the new mother's need for a smaller sized bottle nipple, mainly for the purely childish purpose of making her say the word "nipple" in church, from the altar, over a microphone. Damn it if she didn't do it and with a completely serious face too! It helped that she is a pediatrician, so people took her seriously and flinched not at all at the fact that she said "nipple" twice; nevertheless, I gladly handed over the five dollar bill, and Dr. K volunteered to make many more announcements for me.

I've turned into her part-time job.

Ugly dresses and boring speeches ...
The unimaginable occurred on Sunday evening: I started to fall asleep while watching an awards show on television. The Golden Globes just didn't do it for me this year. I didn't have Joan and Melissa annoying the hell out of me on E!, the entire pre-awards hour was taken up by the men watching the end of some stupid football game, everyone's dresses were ugly and all of the women's NIPPLES were showing through their bodices, and I hadn't seen any of the movies and most of the television shows up for awards. I was completely disinterested, AND I was exhausted from staying up late for several nights in a row.

It wasn't until Jaime threw a baby pillow at me while I was dozing on the couch at Camp Capio that I realized, "OH. MY. GAWD. I just fell asleep during the Golden Globes." Pigs flew that night.

The princess and six frogs ...
7:00 a.m. on a day off of work, and I'm sitting in a freezing car, waiting to do something that I'm not sure is going to be worth it. NHF's first major social event of the year, and with Cheese at the head of the social committee, of course it had to be snowboarding. And of course, the other two women going on this expedition live close to the slopes so they are driving themselves, so of course, I end up in Camp Capio's faux-minivan with six man-boys who, first of all, show up late, then spend the hour-long drive giggling (in a very manly and mature way, naturally) at each other's crude stories and lecturing at each other about the correct way to snowboard without falling or hurting oneself. Are we there yet?

(Naturally, I sat in the front seat, even though I was the shortest and smallest person in the car by about two feet and an average of about sixty pounds. Yes, I am a princess -- and damn, that butt-warmer was nice -- but that is what I deserve for BEING ON TIME.)

The nauseating anxiety that kept building in the pit of my stomach at the prospect of leashing myself to a big piece of metal (or whatever the hell it is) and launching myself down a big mountain in the path of other people leashed to like objects pretty much dissipated after my first run down. No major wipeouts, no broken limbs, no incredibly embarrassing incidents, and I didn't even care that I had icicle snots attached to each of my nostrils. It wasn't until after my second run down that Mrs.G bothered to tell me we had just done a black diamond trail. WHAT THE F*CK? Do I not have "goofy, uncoordinated and fearful novice" written all over me? Does the fact that I stick my butt out like I'm riding a horse not indicate that I am not capable of boarding a black diamond trail?

Apparently, no one knew. We just went. And I survived. Twice. No, three times, although the third time down, I crashed so hard I landed on my head and neck and skidded for a few feet before coming to a stop on my back, with my head facing downhill, my board lying uphill, and me seeing tweeting cartoon birds circling above my eyes. I knew only PEK was behind me and I hoped he would just pass and let me suffer in peace, but as I lifted my head feebly to wave him by, I saw him approach me with "Oh my gosh, are you okay?" And as he tried to navigate towards me, he crash-landed and ended up in essentially the same position as I. The blind leading the blind -- it's a beautiful thing.

That was it for me. Even the really easy green trails sucked. I mean, who the heck snowboards on flat land? It's just impossible and you don't learn anything except how hard it is to snowboard on flat land. But my thighs were done. My spirit was still having fun, despite the crash-landing, but my body was failing me. My fear of picking up speed caused me to snow-plow all the way down, putting much more pressure on my knees and exerting much more muscular energy than necessary, and I was weary by mid-afternoon. Besides, the daredevils were being constrained by slowpokes like me, so I sent them off to do their boy thing, and I sipped coffee from the lodge while admiring all the folks who came whizzing (or in some cases, walking) down the mountain, at all level of skill and grace. I listened to three grizzly Russian men in full-on snowsuits at the table next to me hit on their middle-aged waitress and enjoy their Manhattan clam chowder with gusto. I watched a man fall asleep while reading his book and drinking a beer. I watched a table full of round-faced Koreans smoke and drink their way into a frenzy. I watched wee little kids come flying around the final corner of the trail with no poles and with their two-foot-long skis formed into a perfect V-shape. I watched multiple minor collisions and one emergency ski patrol stretcher come zipping down the mountain carrying an unfortunate passenger. And I considered the day that I had had, sheepishly patting myself on the back for surviving the unknown black diamond and not eating too much snow, and coming away with just a few small bruises and no injury to my ego at all.

Plus, I had this cool helmet -- the Jade Beacon, we like to call it -- that even Mrs.G could see from several hundred yards away. "No offense, but I saw you coming down the mountain," she says. No offense taken! That's what it's FOR, so you can SEE me. The mothership calling you home.

Post-script ...
Could I BE in any more pain right now?

I thought a couple of Advils and a long session of stretching would limber me up enough to get me up in the morning, but no. I had to roll myself over and over to the edge of the bed, then roll onto the floor, then get up on all fours, then slowly place a foot at a time on the floor to come to a standing position. Sitting on the toilet was an exercise in patience, and brushing my teeth felt like I was sawing through a redwood tree all by myself. Washing my hair, drying my hair, putting clothes on -- all ordeals. And the worst was yet to come, for I still had to descend two and a half flights of stairs just to get to my car, which I yet had to climb into. Oh, Lord ...

My thighs are burning, even though I'm just sitting here trying my best to make no sudden and unnecessary movements. My neck, back and ribs are stiff and sore from my final crash landing. I have a strange bruise on my elbow, which I can only surmise was created by all my jabbing of those who made fun of my horse-riding posture. I have a large bruise on my knee, which even my knee pads could not prevent. I have matching bruises on the fronts of my ankles and the backs of my calves from where the boots rubbed me just a little bit the wrong way. I have sore jaws and a blister on my tongue from when I bit down really hard my last run down. And I have this most sexy windburn on my face ...

Snowboarding is not my first choice activity, by any means. But knowing I can do it, knowing I can learn better skills, knowing that I have people around me to encourage me and wait for me when I'm being poky, knowing I have someone to lean on when getting off the ski lift ... well, as G.I. Joe would say "knowing is half the battle."

Too bad the battle involves snow-making machines that don't make snow as much as spit out ice.

I can say what I want to say about the war in Iraq. Oh, I'm sorry, most media outlets are now calling it a "conflict." I can criticize all I want and call Shrub all the names I want. I can lament the foreign military presence in Iraq and the bombed out skeletons of what used to homes for Iraqi citizens. I can say "yes, I'm glad Saddam Hussein is gone, BUT ..." and lift my nose in disdain for what I largely have considered a colossal waste of money and human life. I can even let my most pessimistic self come forth and scoff at the possiblity of a truly democratic nation being birthed from the ashes of war and destruction.

But I can't say that I love my right to vote here in America as these men do, and I can't say that I have the same passion and faith in my political process as these men do, and I can't even begin to feel the hope that these people feels for the people and country that they evidently still love so much.

And because of that, I am humbled.

Saad Algharabi, 31, drove nine hours in a van with his family, including two infants, from Jacksonville, Fla., to get to Nashville. "I would drive 10 hours, 20 hours - I would drive to California - to have my vote counted for once," Mr. Algharabi, who came to this country from Iraq nine years ago, said as he waited in 20-degree temperatures outside the basketball court [in Nashville] where Iraqis were registering. "This vote is worth more to me than any drive."

"We can vote, and that means we are human beings," Hydar Albussairi, 28, said. "Now we are human beings."

Thursday, January 13

A+* . . .

During the course of my average day, I have the opportunity to observe a mother interact with her school-age children. Aside from everything else I hear and see and notice, I also note that the mother does a lot of her children's homework assignments and projects. Book reports, dioramas, creative things, charts, research, drawings, printouts, collages, etc. This mother is often on the internet looking up bugs, or at home typing out reports, or running off to the store to purchase items which she will use to cobble together her children's assignments.

Perhaps I ask too much of today's children, but ... is this not wrong?

Who am I to say anything? I don't have children, I have no idea what kids these days go through in their daily academic lives, I don't know how much homework they have or how busy they are with other things in their pre-adolescent little lives. I know you can't drive yourself to the store if you are, like, eleven years old. I know that usage of the internet by young children should be heavily regulated, I know that it could take a little kid a long time to research something if he or she doesn't know where to look (although kids don't really use BOOKS anymore, and GOOGLE makes everything so super-speedy anyway).

But is it really so awful to say to a kid, "Buckle down and do your own damn work"?

(Of course, now everyone has free reign to criticize how I will raise my children. Sigh.)

Wednesday, January 12

THAT'S IT! . . .

Jennifer Garner -- speaking on "The Tonight Show" right now -- sounds EXACTLY like Melissa Gilbert, especially during her "Little House on the Prairie" days.

LAW & WHAT THE . . .

1. Rondo was on "L&O" tonight as a wary-but-honest Queens detective. LOVE THE STAGE MAKEUP.

2. ADA Southerlyn was a lesbian? Did we know this? If not, why did they include that as her third-to-last line on the show? Buh-bye, Elizabeth Rohm.



My secret talent is bearing fruit slowly but surely.
I can't wait for it to be used!
But I best not jinx myself ...



Everytime I hear or read about an illness or disease or condition, and if it's remotely contractable by someone like myself, I manage to psyche myself into thinking I have it, or am at serious risk of contracting it.

Today, I believe I have either pelvic inflammatory disease or uterine cancer. Or the hyperthyroidism (seems to be the condition of choice among Korean women my age, unfortunately) is acting up and three blood tests have all turned out false negatives.

Oh, I might also have the flu, but probably not, since I'm not at all achy, snotty, feverish or chilled. It's just that everyone around me has it, and it's really just a matter of time, you know?


C.I. NO. WAY. . . .

"Alias" inspires me to be dramatic, surreptitious, suspicious, wary, on-the-lookout, sneaky, smart, observant, learned, multi-lingual, good at math, intuitive and physically fit enough to kick your ass.

Unfortunately for me, I'm a big wimp who hates pain, hates hitting people, can't imagine shooting a gun, takes forever to figure out the obvious, walks into walls while tip-toeing down a hallway, knocks over glasses of water onto her office computer's keyboard while reaching for the bag of potato chips, and can't control her facial expressions. Pretty much the only thing I can do is read a map truly accurately, organize the CIA office's file cabinets and affix lovely labels to the file folders, and suspect everyone around me of everything imaginable ... for no apparent reason.

This is why I watch the television. "Better her than me," I say to myself ...


DOI . . .

The search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is officially over.

They didn't find any.

I'm a nerd, but this truly is the kind of stuff that gets my juices flowing and makes me lick my chops in anticipation.

Today was a big day for Billy and the Supremes, and the biggest decision of all finally came down on the Blakely matter. I'm still parsing through it because no one up there writes totally coherently, but if you're also interested in the most recent antics of the Great Halls of Justice, a/k/a the Supreme Court of the United States, check out SCOTUS Blog and gaze upon the wonders of federal Sentencing Guidelines and new immigration laws that allow the U.S. government to detain illegal non-citizens for up to six months (or more!) if "reasonably necessary."

I love the unequivocally equivocating language. God bless the law!

Tuesday, January 11

ME FOUR . . .

A la Juice and TinyCricket:

You Are the Individualist


You are sensitive and intuitive, with others and yourself.

You are creative and dreamy... plus dramatic and unpredictable.

You're emotionally honest, real, and easily hurt.

Totally expressive, others always know exactly how you feel.


As I sit here meticulously researching fonts, font sizes and graphics; scoring card stock with a letter opener; sizing and trimming labels; and conceptualizing the perfect nametag for the upcoming NHF women's retreat, it occurs to me: I'd be a really great event planner, and that is something for which I would actually consider leaving the law.

Now all I need are clients, start-up capital, a stocked and staffed office, fruitful contacts, supplies wholesalers and approximately eighteen more hands.

I mean, is it really that impossible? I'm almost thirty ... and there are so many thirty-year-olds out there who have started their own businesses and succeeded ... what am I so afraid of?

Monday, January 10

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
When all available adult eyes turn away, THIS is what happens to my goddaughter and her nefarious brother.

L.O.L.s, remember that "Far Side" cartoon from Schapiro 12, the one with the nursery school on one side of a low fence and the pack of dingoes on the other side? And the punchline that read "trouble brewing"? Remember that?

Yeah. That's what these kids are. TROUBLE. BREWING.

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
If you look closely enough, you can see "GUILTY" printed on their foreheads ...

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Okay, so he's looking slightly less naughty. But you know he still is. Naughty. N-A-U-G-H-T-Y. However, that bowl cut makes everything forgivable, doesn't it? Oh, to be a small Asian boy who has no control over his hairstyle or the mother who wields the scissors.

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Ahhhh. MUCH better for EVERYONE involved.

Saturday, January 8

ON THE GO . . .

A very productive day, indeed. Very productive.
Of course, now I'm pooped.



What is your favorite...
1. ...Music style?
I honestly do enjoy most styles of music, even if hearing it for the first time, with the great exception of heavy metal. I just don't get it, and my ears just can't tolerate it. It annoys me and gives me a headache. Barring that, I'm all over jazz, gospel, rock n' roll, classic rock, folk, classical, vocal, Broadway, pop/Top 40 (although most of that annoys me too), Motown, R&B, rap, anything guitar and/or piano-heavy, etc.

2. ...Popular song? Right now? Hmmm ... I'd have to go with "Yahweh," track #11 off of U2's latest, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb." Close runners-up are ... John Mayer's entire album "Heavier Things" ... Gwen Stefani's "Harajuku Girls" ... Madonna's "Live to Tell."

3. ...Movie song? "This Woman's Work," by Kate Bush, from "He Said/She Said," starring Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern. Side note: I saw this movie in the theater with my parents. That was a weird experience for reasons I can't recall right now, but I do remember that it was weird. And my parents thought it was the stupidest movie they had ever seen, except for "The Marrying Man," starring Alec Baldwin and Kate Basinger, which I also saw with my parents in the theater and THAT was awkward because there was just a lot of romping sex in the movie, and really, I shouldn't have had to have endured that with my parents sitting right next to me. Sigh.

4. ...Showtune? Tied for most favorite: most of the female vocal-heavy tunes from "Chess": "Someone Else's Story," "Nobody's Side," "Heaven Help My Heart," and "I Know Him So Well." Sob. Gets me every time.

5. ...Guilty pleasure? (group, artist or song) Without a doubt, N*Sync and Justin Timberlake. I don't know what it is, but I just can't turn away from them/him.

You know, I've noticed ... I can't pick a favorite. For each question asked of me, I have like eight. Or I treat it like a Miss America pageant and add runners-up. What a dork!

Friday, January 7


600 South Africans die of AIDS everyday.


Thursday, January 6


Hullo, Beanie Baby.
What an absolute pleasure to meet you!

Wednesday, January 5

EEK . . .

Uh-oh, it finally happened.

After three years, I'm sucked into "Alias."


But already the complaints begin ... "assassin-client privilege"? Oh PLEASE. Rick Yune is such a dork. And oh yes, please, make the Asian man the bad guy who thinks he's a reborn samurai and make him engage in some dastardly Japanese samurai sword-play.

And why does Jennifer Garner always look like she has a mustache, and why does she purse her lips so?n

I like the idea of 'tranquilizer lips,' though.

Tuesday, January 4


I love feeling like a doormat.
And I can't even give anyone a guilt trip about it because it's my own damn fault for being an asshole and an idiot who can't stand up for herself and demand the care and respect she deserves.

Oh, but who gives a flying fuck.
156,000 people are dead in southeast Asia.
They definitely have it worse than just being taken for granted.

Sunday, January 2


One hundred and fifty-five thousand.

Saturday, January 1


Happy January 1, 2005, y'all.

Really, and I'm not just saying this, the twilight of every evening and the dawn of every morning should be celebrated as we celebrate the turning of the calendar year. For is not every day a gift, a new opportunity to live again, a reminder that time is in motion and a signal to us to face forward?

How long, I wonder, will I be able to fall asleep actually anticipating a new dawn, and how long, I wonder, will I wake up thinking "another day, another chance, I've got to make the best of it!"


Nothing bad happened in Times Square ... phew. I am morbid, yes, but I also just like to know things are alright. Besides, I'm sure Colin Powell and his vanful of Secret Service agents did their part to keep the Big Apple safe tonight.

Of course, the other thing about Times Square I couldn't help thinking about ... where do all those revelers pee?

I shudder to think.


Other parts of the world observed moments of candlelit silence at their respective midnights. I kind of wish we in America had done the same, if only to show the same degree of sympathy and acknowledgement that we received in our time of grieving. Have we already forgotten? Or can it be that we just don't care? Eh, maybe the world doesn't have to operate on a quid pro quo basis ... but it might have been nice, no?


Speaking of other parts of the world ... in California, it's still 2004. In South Korea, they rang in the new year ... well, yesterday.

Isn't that weird? So which new year is the correct new year?


I missed an evening with the gang at the Alien's house ... but my spirit was with them. I needed to be home with my family this year. Good times were had by all, including my parents who are still wearing plastic "HAPPY NEW YEAR 2005!" hats on their heads. And yes, it's now 12:49 a.m. and I'm about to go to sleep before they do.


The flipside has come. Let us proceed!