Saturday, August 25

FRESH START . . .

I'm migrating.

I'll return now and again, but if you'd like to follow me where I go, please let me know via comment.

It's been grand.
FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG . . .

At first I thought it was just because he was a guy: he'd spill food or drink on my carpet and instead of apologizing and/or rushing to the kitchen to get a wet paper towel to clean up his mess (like ALL of my other guests ALWAYS do), he would mush the spot around with his finger a bit until the stain had spread over a larger area, dissipating the saturation of the stain colour a bit. I tried to be nice and patient, so instead of pointing out his messiness in front of everyone, I would make a mental note to myself to return and clean that spot up later. I did not attribute to him any sort of selfish lack of awareness, or meanness, or anything other than the fact that perhaps his mother doesn't make him clean at home, and so he simply doesn't know how to.

But I know better now. For in doing some house-cleaning, I discovered a piece of window hardware hidden behind a bit of clutter. An important piece of window hardware. A piece of hardware that keeps the window open and prevents the window from FALLING INTO MY ROOM WITH ANY GIVEN GUST OF WIND. I knew immediately what had happened: he had opened the window and had allowed this piece to fall out and had not replaced it, for after he left that room way back when, I had noticed that the window was propped up with something else. The window was so stubborn and tight, it had NEVER needed propping up. But now, it will ALWAYS need propping up -- at least until I spend a lot of money to pay someone to come and fix my window structure -- because this important piece was allowed to drop out and was not put back in.

And the worst part is this: HE DIDN'T EVEN TELL ME. At least have the decency to say, "Hey, I'm sorry, I broke your house." At least leave me with SOME ability to give you the benefit of the doubt and SOME room to think you're a good guy at heart. At least be HONEST. At least offer to HELP fix what you broke. At least PRETEND you care about people other than yourself. At least leave me and others with the impression that you're not a selfish, self-serving, lying infant who not only can't clean up after yourself (in SOMEONE ELSE'S HOME, no less!), but also can't take responsibility for breaking things that DON'T BELONG TO YOU.

Actually, it gets worse: he likes to criticize others for not living up to his standards of what he thinks they should be. BUT AT LEAST OTHERS DON'T BREAK MY HOUSE!

ARGH.

(Post-script: he hasn't been back to my place since, and I'm not surprised. If I broke someone's house and fled without saying a word, and it was pretty clear that I was the culprit, I would feel too ashamed and wretched to show my face too.)

***

FOCUS . . .

Driving home this morning from running errands, I drove past two maroon-coloured vans. They were going kind of slow, so I had the time to read the gold print that ran along their sides. After I passed the first maroon van, I almost slammed on my brakes, right in the middle of the highway. I was so shocked, because I thought the lettering read: "Great Communism Church."

WHAT?!?!?!

I quickly recovered and revved up a bit to overtake the second maroon van, driving a bit in front of the first one I had passed. I HAD to have a second go at it, you know?

Thankfully, my curiosity was satisfied in a much less shocking way: "Great Commission Church."

Phew.

My first-grade teacher always did tell me I read too quickly for my own good ....

Thursday, August 23

NEEDLED . . .

My conscience has been needled.

Several months ago, I was complaining and bemoaning a particular condition, a "state of things" that I disagreed with. This "state of things" prevented me from being a part of a community I had once been intimately tied into, and I spent a long time stewing in deep anger, resentment, and self-imposed loneliness. I finally worked and prayed through it, and I think God really did change my vision and my heart about the "state of things." By the start of this summer, I made my way back into the community I so longed for, and although I wasn't totally happy about the continuing "state of things," I just accepted it and trusted that God would bring me around, even despite myself.

Just about two weeks ago, I discovered that a miracle had occurred. The "state of things" didn't bother me anymore. In fact, when the "state of things" didn't exist temporarily, I even sort of missed it. And just the other day, the "state of things" made me really happy, and I was happy that my home was the place where the "state of things" could exist in peace and care.

And then today ... I embarked on a new adventure that has the side effect of eliminating the "state of things" completely from my life and from the community. I will likely never experience or be in the vicinity of the "state of things" again. I feel just terrible. Some would say that this is God dealing with the "state of things" once and for all, leading the rest of the community to focus on some other important things it needs to focus on right now. But I would say that I still feel badly. As if all my months of complaining and bemoaning struck a chord in the Lord's heart, exasperating Him to the point of saying, "FINE. You hate this 'state of things'? I'll just remove it from you. NOW, how do you feel?"

I know the Lord wouldn't do that, be exasperated with me and act out His will so crudely and make me feel this wretched. Nevertheless, my answer is: "I feel guilty."

Wednesday, August 22

SO TRUE . . .

The more I think about it, the more I am sure that Mrs.G is totally correct: it's a shame that I will be experiencing something really neat, something that could edify and bless people around me, something that will be thrilling to me and will make me so happy, and something that folks around me could and should completely support and pray for me about ... and I can't and won't share about it with anyone but the select three who know because of the prospect of gossip and undercurrents that would cast my excellent experience in the most negative and sordid of lights.

That stinks.

(By the way, Mrs.G is so nice and she does good math, unlike me. This is her latest theorem, as yet unproven, but hopeful nonetheless: MC Estoppel+even more knowledge=powerhouse for God)


***

You know what else stinks? Decision-making stinks. Especially the "either way you play it, you just can't win" decision-making.

I have to choose between two things I love. Well, more accurately, on the one side is something I have only recently come to love dearly, but which cost me a great deal to learn to love. So much effort and agony went into growing this love, that honestly, it just seems like a waste to walk away from it now, even for just a short time. And on the other side is something I haven't yet experienced but am SURE that I will love. So much prayer and excitement went into pursuing this love, that it just seems like it was meant to be and I dare not walk away from it at all.

And lying right in the middle is a third choice. Not a bad choice, but a second choice, nonetheless. I might seriously regret choosing Door Number 3, or I might think it was the wisest, most profitable compromise I've ever made. Might, might, might. What a cursed word.

This stinks, this stinks, this stinks.

(But all this complaining immediately makes me sick of myself complaining: after all, don't I have some great options in front of me? Whatever I choose, I am edified. Whatever I choose, I am supported. Whatever I choose will be temporary but enriching. Whatever I choose will be turned by God for His glory. So maybe it doesn't stink after all. It's just a little bit difficult.)
PRAYERS . . .

... for loved ones to know and follow Jesus.

... for God to not give me a selfish husband.

... for my friends' dreams to come true.

... for a clear path to walk.

... for my own dreams to come true.

... for rescue, recovery, healing, an end to suffering, restoration and aid.

... for the strength to be a good helper.

... for guard against insecurity, fear and hopelessness.

... for rest.

Friday, August 17

ROUND-UP, a/k/a BREAKING MY HEART . . .

I don't know anything about mining and have never been even remotely interested in it, but following the story of the trapped miners in Utah is like reading the most exciting, most tragic, most harrowing, most gut-wrenching book ever written.

Miners get trapped but are presumed alive. Air holes are drilled into the space where the trapped miners are believed to be; oxygen is detected, but no carbon dioxide. A camera is dropped into another hole and signs of life are seen, but still no miners. A microphone is lowered and when all other machines are turned off, some sort of noise is heard over a span of five minutes - no one knows what that noise was. Rescue workers start drilling a bigger hole and need to go in about 2,000 feet; 800 feet in, the hole collapses again and several rescuers are killed. Rescue efforts are put on hold until the mountain is deemed safe, but no one knows when that will be. And looming over all of these events are the friends and family members who are beyond waiting at this point; "dread," "anxiety," "fear," "sadness" all seem like the most inadequate words these days.

Lately, we've been talking a lot at NHF about praying for big things, believing on God for humongous miracles, and not being people who would relegate miraculousness to days long past. So I guess we just all have to keep on keepin' on ...

***

At least 510 people are dead and 17,000 people displaced by the magnitude-8.0 earthquake that hit Peru earlier in the week. And as if that wasn't devastating enough, now the local police are warding off looters and mobs by shooting their weapons into the air. It's a terrible thing all around.

***

Tuesday night, four coordinated truck bombs went off in a residential area in Iraq, killing at least 250 people. Add this to the list of things I don't comprehend: deliberately choosing a residential neighborhood, housing your countrymen, women and children (whether you like them and their religious beliefs or not), and blowing up four enormous trucks with the singular goal of killing as many of them as you can. The hardness and evil that must have been in these perpetrators' hearts and minds is more gruesome to me even than the imagined sight of mangled and dead bodies.

***

A crazy-huge flood in North Korea has killed about 85 people, left about 60 people missing, left 300,000 people homeless, destroyed 58,000 homes, decimated 222,400 acres of farmland, and wrecked more than 800 public buildings, 540 bridges, 70 portions of railway, 30 water reservoirs, 450 agricultural structures and 500 electricity towers. It just doesn't seem fair, does it, to kick these folks when they're down. The effort is to see truth, that it's not a kicking as much as it is a divine act with some sort of purpose, a good purpose somewhere down the line. Not our will, but Yours.

***

Two South Korean women who were being held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan arrived in Seoul today. During an airport interview, one woman apologized for causing such concern. WHAT?!?! Woman, you did a GREAT thing. You went to Afghanistan on a mission of mercy, help, grace, love. You were brave and adventurous, and you survived a hard, horrifying ordeal. What in the world do you have to apologize for? Shame, instead, on your country-folk, who raised you up in a culture where you have to apologize for being bold and big-hearted and loving your God.

***

And on the home front: what does it take to bring loved ones to the banquet table? To stir in their hearts a longing for all that is good? To melt from them the ice-casing of bitterness, insecurity, pessimism and a criticizing nature? To show them love and not have them hold it off at arms-length? To have them lay down the things they hold up as defensive walls, and see just a little glimmer of light?

Answer: lots and lots of prayer, lots and lots of tears, lots and lots of patience, lots and lots of every good thing only the Lord can give me.

Thursday, August 9

MUST REMEMBER THIS . . .

It's true, people are not what they seem on the outside. A person's facial expression, her tone of voice, the amount of sleep she had the night before, can colour so much. But none of these things speak her heart and soul.

I make many assumptions about people -- ironically, usually about people I don't know very well. In contrast, it's the friends closest to me -- the ones I know the best and whose inner thoughts I probably could accurately plumb -- whom I afford the greatest caution. I could safely make assumptions about them and their thoughts, but I don't; I am more wary to not step on their toes and to not delve into them too deeply or sharply. I see now that I've got it backwards.

Instead, I should exercise safety in abandon with these closest and dearest. Assume the best from them and allow the same. And the space and grace that I afford to them now, I should instead focus onto those I have yet to warm to.

Duly noted.

Tuesday, August 7

NIBLETS . . .

Let's say that there is a plate of food on a table. It is delicious, the tastiest morsels of any food imaginable. It is hot food that never gets cold, cold food that never gets warm. It is satisfying, warming, nourishing, strengthening. It is cooked perfectly inside and out. It is free, and it is always available - one never has to ask permission to eat it, or to come near it, or touch the plate on which it sits, or even to shove one's face right into the middle of it. It never diminishes - the more one eats, the more the plate is refreshed and replenished, so that one can always eat more. And no matter how much one eats, one never gets bloated, gassy, sick, nauseated.

If such food existed, and one had a little nibble of it and knew how wonderful this food was, why would one not keep coming back for more? Why would one take a shy bite or two, then walk away from it? Why would one hold it at arms' length, staring at it, grumbling about not eating it, complaining about the plate on which it is presented? Why would one come late to and leave early from the banquet at which such food is offered?

I don't know either. It confuses me.

***

This isn't the food I'm talking about, but these are some things I produced over the weekend. I've discovered a particular talent for making frosting from scratch (my arteries clog just watching myself throw the ingredients into the mixer) and decorating cupcake tops. And I've reminded myself to never make entire large cakes, anything larger than 6 inches around. It just won't turn out the way it's supposed to, and gravity will always, always work against me. (The memory of the droop in my fridge makes me giggle now, but at the time I was too chagrined to remember to take a photo. It's a shame -- it really was hideous.)

I love the colour of red-velvet cake:



Red-velvet cupcakes with white-chocolate-cream-cheese frosting and chocolate sprinkles:



Chocolate-sour-cream cupcakes with peppermint frosting:



Lemon cupcakes with cream-cheese frosting and shredded coconut:



***

And here's something else I'd love to nibble on for a long, long time:


I tell you, those folks over in Cupertino really know what they're doing. Things like this make me wonder: how many computers CAN one woman decently have?

Monday, July 30

TURMOIL . . .

Another Korean hostage - a man - has been shot dead by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

UGH. My stomach. If I feel like retching all the way over here in suburban New York, what must the friends and family of this man be feeling back home in South Korea? What must peace-loving Afghans be feeling as they watch the public face of their country be transformed into that of a murderer?

I love (in the hating sort of way) how the Taliban says they shot this hostage dead because the governments involved in the negotiations did not listen to their demands. Uh, NO. I think it would be more accurate to say that the Taliban shot this hostage dead because they are a morally bankrupt gang of killers and oppressors.

I am torn by governments' unwillingness to negotiate with terrorists (or in this case ... no, yes, they're terrorists). On the one hand, I think that is the higher calling of a legitimate government - to not stoop to the base, disgusting level of people like the Taliban and give them any sort of legitimacy or claim to power by conversing with them as if they are rational players. On the other hand ... these hostages need to be freed!

I am also confused by the reaction of the church back in Korea, from which the 23 kidnapped Koreans came. I understand that they, too, want more than anything for the 23 -- now 21 -- to come home safely, unharmed, alive. But to disclaim spreading the Gospel, if that is indeed what this team was doing ... isn't a Christian's claim that life with Jesus - dead or alive - is better than life without? Aren't we called (and don't we all proclaim with confidence, when we're safe and comfortable) to lay our lives down for Christ and His Gospel? But what do I know - I'm not scared, hungry, sick, injured in a Taliban holdout somewhere in the middle of Afghanistan. If I were ... would I, too, say I was only there giving medical aid and was decidedly NOT proselytizing?

Wednesday, July 25

GLORY . . .

It is reported that one of the kidnapped Korean missionaries -- Pastor Bae Hyung Kyu -- was killed by his Taliban captors today.

What a stab to the heart. Not only because I'm Korean, and a Christian. This event -- all events like this -- should stab the hearts of any human being capable of any compassion, any sense of right and wrong and justice.

But part of me is also ... envious? My thoughts the past couple of months have been filled with pictures of heaven, images of what it must be like to live in Perfection, a place where there is no terrorism, or kidnapping, or torture, or fear. A place where there is not just happiness, but JOY. A place where Creation has been redeemed and peace rules. RULES. A place where the days and nights are filled with glory. GLORY. What an unimaginably wonderful word.

Pastor Bae is in glory. I'm so sorry he had to go so early, and at the hands of such wicked, wicked people ... but I bet he's so happy there. Godspeed.

Sunday, July 22

WOF: WASHINGTON . . .



NHF's women headed back to D.C. last weekend for Women of Faith's Amazing Freedom 2007 regional conference. Good times ensued. And to this day, I can't figure out why we look like a cheerleading squad in every group picture.

Friday, July 20

PRIORITIES . . .

Between 18 and 23 South Korean Christians have been kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the front-page story on The New York Times website is about road-tripping in Alaska.

Blech.

Well, THIS part-South-Korean Christian is going to be spending the night in prayer and in hope, and in paying attention to some of the deeper, more important things occurring in the world right now. I just feel that it's the least I could do, to care a little bit about:

Bae Hyung-kyu (43)
Lee Sun-young (37)
Seo Myung-hwa (29)
Cha Hye-jin (31)
Seo Kyung-seok (27)
Ko Se-hun (27)
Kim Ji-na (32)
Kim Kyung-ja (37)
Yoo Jung-hwa (39)
Je Chang-hee (38)
Shim Sung-min (29)
Lee Joo-yeon (27)
Yoo Kyung-sik (55)
Song Byung-woo (33)
Lee Young-kyung (22)
Han Ji-young (34)
Kim Yun-young (35)
An Hye-jin (31)
Lee Sung-eun (24)

Thursday, July 19

PONDERATION OF THE DAY . . .

At what point in a friendship is it alright to say, "You are just like your mother!" when you know that you don't mean it as a compliment, and that it won't be received as one?

Wednesday, July 18

TRANSFORMED . . .


So, I was reading a review of the movie, "Transformers," and the reviewer wrote something like, "I went to see 'Transformers' and I was transformed."

Well, I wouldn't go that far, for I've had far more transformative experiences, but I will tell you straight up: this is the best action movie I can remember ever seeing in my entire life. The visuals, the CGI, the sound editing, the action scenes ... Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg have put out a quality action film.

And the best part was this inexplicable feeling of happiness. About a quarter of the way through the movie, I started to tear up with silly, juvenile salty tears of happiness. I was SO HAPPY that this movie was made. It was the awesome magnification of every Transformers cartoon episode I ever watched, and the realization of every stupid, small Transformers game I ever played with Cheech in the basement of our house when we were little. Megatron was as big and as bad as he could ever have been in my imagination, and Optimus Prime was as grand and as good and as honourable as I could ever have conjured him to be. To see my childhood up on that screen, huge and loud and Technicoloured like that ... I may not have been transformed, but I was certainly transported to a happy place. I am SO HAPPY this movie was made. Everyone in my age bracket must see it, at the very least to have that special nostalgic spot in their heart and memory rubbed and satisfied.

I know, I know, it's just a movie. A CGI movie, with talking robots and long, loud action sequences. But sometimes, you need a good fight scene, a zippy car chase, and a story where the good guy wins in the end.

(Bonus: Shia LaBeouf is wonderful and Peter Cullen, who voiced Optimus Prime in the original cartoon series in the 80s, returns as Prime with a vengeance!)

Wednesday, July 11

DELICIOUS . . .


"Ratatouille" was SO. GOOD.

The two or three scenes where there are hundreds of rats in the frame: not so good.

But everything else: SO. GOOD.

Bonus points: the son of an old family friend, Peter Sohn, voices one of the main characters in the film. Good times!

Saturday, July 7

GOOD PEOPLE . . .

My faith in humanity got a big, fat, superhuman boost tonight, and I am convinced -- CONVINCED -- that I am surrounded by good people.

And one of them is DYC.

DYC, who was going to provide me with some emergency information that I needed to complete a personal project.

DYC, who offered to drive 30 minutes to his office on a Saturday night that he should have been spending in quiet relaxation with his wife, so that he could obtain this information for me.

DYC, who -- along with his angelic wife, by the way -- decided to see a movie near his office SO THAT they could drive to his office to obtain this information for me.

DYC, who ran around his office (and the offices of his colleagues -- eep!) looking for this information.

DYC who, unable to find this information in his or his colleagues' offices, called me while then running to meet his angelic wife in the movie theater.

DYC, who then continued to give me options regarding how he could obtain this information for me, including (1) "I'll go back to the office after the movie (which ends after midnight) to continue my search for this information;" (2) "You email me more details about the information you need, and I'll do the work of getting it and sending it back to you in more complete form;" and (3) "I'll let you into my office anytime you want, tonight or tomorrow morning, so you can obtain the information yourself using my resources."

DYC, who has now promised to meet me at 8.30 on a summer Sunday morning at his office, so that he can let me into it and give me access to key resources for a couple of hours.

Yup. That DYC ... the Y doesn't stand for anything, but he's still good people.

Tuesday, July 3

iDID IT . . .



I touched the iPhone yesterday, spent a few minutes playing with it. Changed the wallpaper. Watched a music video. Listened to some tunes. Looked up directions on GoogleMaps. Wrote a Note and threw it away. Flicked through the news on the Web. Made some Calendar entries. Turned the image horizontally, then vertically, then horizontally again. Manipulated the settings. Checked the stock ticker and the local weather. Opened email. Expanded, then shrank, the screen size of webpages. Flicked through albums, contacts, maps. Made the screen go dark by holding it up to my ear, then go bright again by bringing it down to hip level.

It is everything they said it would be, and a little more -- no joke. The Hype is real. I still don't have $600 with which to purchase The Hype, but my Apple core is satisfied knowing that The Hype is real.

(And I sort of, a little bit, just with the tiniest part of me, want one.)

Friday, June 29

CONFIRMATION . . .

My judgment of Ms. Goody Two-Shoes has been confirmed. I feel better because now I know I'm not being critical without reason. But I don't feel better because the majority of our community still thinks she is sweet, kind, compassionate, honest, gracious, forgiving, gentle, merciful, docile and as Christian as can be.

Folks tell me that people's true nature comes out in time, that meanies like her will be discovered just like the rest of us were at some point in our lives. But truly ... waiting for "in time" makes me soooo itchy ...

Thursday, June 28

iDAY . . .

Tomorrow, June 29th, is iDay. You know, the day the iPhone drops. For once, I won't be the Mac-sucker, and I will NOT be purchasing one for myself, although B and I have been going back and forth daring each other to fork over $600 for a cell phone.

But of course, it's much, much more than a mere cell phone. It's got pretty Mac things on it! A feast for the eyes, I hear. And I'm putting good money on the fact that someone at church will manage to get his hands on one, so I'll wait my turn to play with it then.

Still, I can't get over the hype. The loyalist in me demands that all new Mac products are hype-worthy, but the buzz over the iPhone and all the press surrounding iDay does, admittedly, make me giggle a little. (And feel a not-insignificant pang of "Eek. What if it doesn't live up to the hype?") In line with all the other media outlets going buckwild about iDay, I give you my local newspaper's hints for the 29th:

"Tomorrow is iPhone day, and if you want one, you'd better start planning today. (That's unless you are reading this from your laptop as you camp outside an Apple Store in Manhattan, where lines have been forming since Monday.)

Here is what you need to know:

- The iPhone goes on sale at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Apple Stores and corporate-owned AT&T stores.

- Expect long lines and arrive early to assure your success, particularly if you go to Apple Stores, which will be magnets for people from all over the Lower Hudson Valley.

- Bring water and food. A buddy would be nice to help spell you for bathroom breaks.

- Don't forget a credit card. Be prepared to pay $499 or $599, depending on whether you want the 4 gigabyte or 8 gigabyte iPhone.

- You won't need to sign up for a service plan with AT&T on the spot because the iPhone is activated through Apple's iTunes. You just buy the box and go. You pick your calling plan at home. Plans start at $59.99 a month for 450 minutes and unlimited Internet and e-mail and 200 text messages.

- If you really aren't up to standing in line, but must have an iPhone tomorrow, some enterprising folks are offering their services as "line waiters" on Craigslist.org for fees ranging from $150 to $350. In a post on the Westchester Craigslist, a mom whose three kids are heading to The Westchester in White Plains said her children are college students who want to earn extra summer money. If you go this route, it might be smart to avoid giving cash to strangers.


WOW.

Wednesday, June 27

MORE THUMBS UP . . .

"Bridge to Terabithia" ... sweet, sweet film. Rent it.

Tuesday, June 26

GOODY TWO-SHOES . . .

I know all about Ms. Goody Two-Shoes. I used to be one. I grew out of it. But I can still spot one from several miles away.

She is prim and proper, almost a throw-back to ladies of the '50s who wore blouses with high collars and pearl-based jewelry. She smiles with her lips pressed together and laughs with her hand lightly covering her mouth. She is quiet in a crowd, not because she is shy or humble, but because she is either (a) storing up points for being demure, or (b) telling herself how glad she is not to be one of the garrulous, laughing, overly-forthright women surrounding her. She smiles and chatters prettily for the men in her social circle, charming them with the China-doll image she has created for herself. She reprimands people whom she thinks has done her wrong by beginning her rebukes with, "I really wish you had ..." She has no ability to get over herself and her exaggerated view of her own skills, talents, worth. In a church setting, she presents herself as holy, spiritual, prayerful, kind, deep. She butters up to the male leaders in the church. She doesn't cross her legs, and presses her eyes together just so when she prays. She contributes silently, then lashes out, out of the sight-line of watching eyes, when her contributions aren't acknowledged in the way she thinks they should be. She shares nothing of her own heart, but offers righteous-sounding platitude upon platitude to those who are fool enough to share their hearts with her.

Oh yeah. I know all about her. I'm not her anymore, thank God, but I know ALL. ABOUT. HER.

Sunday, June 24

PROMISES . . .

If and when God ever blesses me with a child of my own, I will never use him or her as an excuse:
    * to only talk about him or her
    * to not pay attention
    * to not feed my own soul -- whether alone with God, with other believers, or at church on Sundays
    * to not pay more attention to myself or my spouse
    * to "be out of it"
    * to be late
    * to feel and act superior to others, more knowledgeable, more experienced, simply better
    * to make others feel inferior, lacking, less complete as a person
    * to not be aware of what is going on around me, near or far
    * to shirk my responsibilities and duties
    * to interrupt conversations with or care of friends
    * to not pull my fair share of hard work and manual labour
    * to leave people out
    * to close myself in
    * for anything which I cannot stand by on my own

Others might be tempted to say to me, "You'll know when you're a parent" or "You say that now, but ..." or "Who are you to judge me using my children as an excuse in any of the above manners?" But they would be wrong to (1) assume that they actually do know better, (2) predict that I'll reverse myself, or (3) claim that I'm not in a position to observe and resolve to be different. For one thing, my position of observation is as yet objective and definitely on the outside; it's a better perspective from out here, and for sure, in learning what TO do as a future parent, I'm also certainly learning what NOT to do. And for another thing, and more importantly, my greatest role models -- my parents -- managed to avoid the above pitfalls, grow in their faiths, pull their own weight, be generous with time and heart and money, strengthen their friendships and nurture people around them no matter their status or lack thereof. If they can do it, so can I.

Friday, June 22

BUSTED . . .

I saw "Breach" last night. I recommend it with two thumbs up, certainly for Chris Cooper and Laura Linney, and yes, even for Ryan Philippe. And make sure to watch the DVD extras, too.

***

CHRONIC . . .

I've watched friends and acquaintances suffer from a variety of chronic conditions, and I've heard of people who suffer from chronic pain. I have felt so bad for them and wished that I could heal them with my own hands. But, like so many other things, I just don't know until I've gone through it myself.

This new back pain of mine ... I can't even find the right words to describe it. What I can say is this: it hurts not only my back, but my mind and my heart. Sometimes, the stiffness is so severe that I feel like all of my bones have fused together and I can only move as one glued-together unit. Other times, I can't breathe because my muscles are spasming so rapidly. And even other times, I have to move so slowly and cautiously, lest an unaware movement trigger the sharp ache that I dread.

And the worst part is exactly that: the dread. As I wake each morning, I think, "is today going to be a good back day or a bad back day?" As my friend reaches to hug me, I think, "do I have to hold him off in case he squeezes me too hard, or can I relax?" As I sit up, bend over, turn around, step down, lift objects, reach my arms out, or ironically, lean back for a stretch, I think, "is it coming - is the pain coming?"

I am worried. I am stressed out. I am overly cautious. I am scared and grumpy and sleepless. I'm so tired. All because of a wee little spot of pain on my back that radiates unhappiness throughout.

Thursday, June 21

SO CLICHE . . .

The reason cliches are cliches is because they are TRUE.

Case in point: if at first you don't succeed, TRY, TRY AGAIN.

Tuesday, June 19

SECOND VERSE NOT SAME AS THE FIRST . . .

The first is always the best.

"Ocean's 13" was ... eh. Visually = STUNNING. My eyes were gorging on the sumptuousness of the colours and shapes.

But the movie itself ... I was bored because the cast was bored. Actually, no, I enjoyed Casey Affleck and Scott Caan. And I don't know why I get such a kick out of it, but I do: I simply LOVE the fact that the Chinese actor is not translated, internally or for the audience. However, as for the rest of the film ...

Sigh, I need to go rent "Ocean's 11" so I can erase the memory of 12 and 13 from my mind.

***

SCIENCE & GOD . . .

We're going through a series called "The Beginning and the End" at church lately, and by all empirical, philosophical, theoretical and theological accounts, there is no reason for the diametric opposition between science and religion (or more precisely, science and Christianity). Why the two are constantly pitted against each other, why one cancels the other out, why proponents of one are always ridiculing proponents of the other, is all beyond my ability to fathom. And as always, I'm going to blame the media, for they write paragraphs like this:

"Three-century-old manuscripts by Isaac Newton calculating the exact date of the apocalypse, detailing the precise dimensions of the ancient temple in Jerusalem and interpreting passages of the Bible -- exhibited this week for the first time -- lay bare the little-known religious intensity of a man many consider history's greatest scientist."


The strong intimation is that because Newton was one of history's greatest scientists, he could not also have been a man of religious intensity, curiosity and/or fervor. How could great science and great faith (or even religious curiosity) have possibly resided in one man?

What an irresponsible intimation. It would only make sense that a true scientist, one who pursued truth in the world and how the world operates, would also delve into religious matters. Duh.

Thursday, June 14

SAD . . .

Ruth Graham, beloved wife of Rev. Billy Graham, died today.

Go with God.

Thursday, June 7

NEW YORK, NEW YORK . . .



Originally uploaded by chaesq
A little while ago, a friend and I went to the Met to check out the new Greek and Roman Galleries. While it wasn't the quiet, uncrowded, dramatic and dimly-lit vision I had expected and wanted (from seeing all the newspaper and magazine photos) it was still quite thrilling. There will always be something about light streaming down from the skies that seems to fill me with the very greatest and boldest essence of life. There will always be something about old, intricate, beautiful sculpture carefully chiseled by an ancient artisan that makes me marvel and scratch my head and catch my breath. There will always be something about the Met that satisfies ...



Originally uploaded by chaesq




Originally uploaded by chaesq
"The Three Graces" ... took my breath away.



Originally uploaded by chaesq
However beautiful the things at eye level and above are, I can't help always looking down at my feet, to see what I'm standing on. I prefer not to think of it as a strange quality; rather, an attention to detail that perhaps I might share, in however a rudimentary fashion, with those detail-oriented artists who created the happiness I might find below me. The tilework in the Galleries is scrumptious. I wanted to shout at everyone to "look down! Look down!" But then again ... I sort of liked having the floor all to myself.



Originally uploaded by chaesq




Originally uploaded by chaesq




Originally uploaded by chaesq
The day just could not have been more beautiful. We strolled all over Central Park, ostensibly looking for a place to settle down to read and relax. But frankly, it was more relaxing to take in sights like this, viewed from the Belvedere Tower overlook. Gorgeous. I love this town.

Wednesday, June 6

THE STRAW . . .

Sometimes all it takes is one short phrase to break me: "We missed you."

***

BEARING UP . . .

Thirty-one years ... Thirty-one years have passed and I'm embarrassed to admit that I am only now learning what it means to care selflessly for someone. To take on someone's problems and hurts and pains as my own and to carry them with both hands and my whole heart. To be faced with someone who has nothing to give me, not even the energy to reach out for me or smile at me or speak coherently to me, and to have to fill that person up with the little that I have myself. To overcome my tiredness so that another can be refreshed. To sacrifice my time and space so that I can give rest to another. To listen without speaking. To put myself aside for a short (or long) time so that another can take precedence. To do so cheerfully and lovingly, without resentment, without looking at the clock to see when it'll be my turn to receive.

It's exhausting. It's exhausting for the perfect soul; all the more so for me, who does it all so poorly. As imperfectly done, it is satisfying and right, but exhausting nonetheless. And I wouldn't have it any other way, for the cliche is correct: it IS better to give than to receive.

***

TICK-TOCK . . .

The countdown is on: now that the new 15" MacBook Pros, with LED screens have been released, the only big thing left to come - this year, anyway - is the mini-laptop. 13.3" is the word on the street. Super-thin. No optical drive, but who needs one anyway? Wide-screen viewing. More screen real estate. Faster everything. LED screens. I hear the Apple angels singing their joy now ....

Friday, June 1

HONOR . . .

What a stand-up guy. I'm not going to start to imagine this world without him. God may be happy to have him home, but this world will suffer for the loss in massive ways.

“My whole life has been to please the Lord and honor Jesus,
not to see me and think of me.”

- Rev. Billy Graham

Thursday, May 31

TO END THE NIGHT . . .

First
    * First job: mother's helper
    * First screen name: I don't recall
    * First funeral: Austin N.
    * First pet: short-lived goldfish
    * First piercing: ears
    * First tattoo: n/a (yet)
    * First credit card: Visa
    * First kiss: Leroy, in elementary school stairwell
    * First enemy: Linda D.

Last
    * Last car ride: was 7 minutes long
    * Last kiss: how gauche to tell
    * Last movie watched: "Dreamgirls" on DVD (second time is still enjoyable)
    * Last beverage drank: bottle of Poland Spring
    * Last food consumed: strawberries
    * Last phone call: SS
    * Last time showered: this afternoon
    * Last CD played: Michael Hedges, "Beyond Boundaries"
    * Last website visited: eBay.com

Now
    * Single or taken: single?
    * Gender: female
    * Birthday: in autumn
    * Sign: Scorpio
    * Siblings: one
    * Hair color: dark brown
    * Eye color: dark brown
    * Shoe size: 5 1/2 - 6
    * Height: 5'2"
    * Wearing: a pair of shorts I'm trying to break in
    * Drinking: water
    * Thinking about: the Gospel of John
    * Listening to: the sound of me typing

***

GREAT READ . . .

I finished The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. I don't know why I didn't pick this book up earlier; had I known I would be gripped by it and zip through it in one and a half days, I would have done so months ago! I enjoyed it very much, was moved to deep sighs and some unshed but heavily-collected-in-the-corners-of-my-eyes tears, and am already on the waiting list at my local library to read Hosseini's next, A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Strangely, I think one of the qualities of The Kite Runner that really drew me in and kept my attention was the frequent appearance of delicious Afghan or otherwise Middle Eastern food on the pages. The kabobs, koftas, curries, yogurts, rice dishes, fresh pomegranates that the characters ate ... aside from giving me a serious jonesing for some kabobs of my own, these foods -- the descriptions of them, the appreciation of them, the creation of them -- really made me want to be IN the story, IN Afghanistan, IN these characters' lives and homes. (I wonder if Hosseini wrote those food-related words purposefully, or if they were just an elemental detail that did the fortunate work of hooking the reader.)

Imagine my deep disappointment when I came to the last page of the book. Not only was there nothing more to read of this smooth story, but the only decent food I had in the house was omelette makings. Sigh.

Friday, May 25

IN MEMORIAM . . .

I almost forgot that this is Memorial Day weekend. I have a project due on Tuesday morning, so I'll be working through my "holiday." And besides, getting to work in my pajamas, on my deck, on a blanket in the grass, at a coffee shop ... the concept of "holiday" is sort of lost on me anyway.

But I thought it was important to mention ... I and others like myself, in my generation in this country (and those coming after) have no concept of war, suffering, deprivation, sacrifice, fighting for an ideal. We like to be sullen, argue, complain, turn away. And shamefully, we forget that there were those who, with honour and courage, followed our flag into situations we ourselves would flee from.

I don't have to agree with an administration, or like a policy, or desire to achieve a particular goal. But I do have to give proper remembrance to those who served and died. Whether we concede it or not, they died for this country, our country, and for this sacrifice and humility and for the sheer bravery of doing something I'm not brave enough to do, they deserve my thanks.

World War I: 116,708
World War II: 407,300
Korean War: 36,940
Vietnam War: 58,209
Gulf War (1991): 382
Gulf War (2003): 3,486 to date

Blessed Memorial Day.
WHAT I CAN'T GIVE . . .

I hate to be so vague, but for now, it's enough, even for me ... to reference back to my last post: the burden is still there, and there's still nothing I can do about it. I can't fix it, I can't make it go away, I can't talk about it, I can't give advice or a pill or money or anything like that.

But I can give rest in all of its forms: a hug, a quiet space, room to think and breathe, air-conditioning on a sweltering day, a firm bed to catch undisturbed sleep, a cup of sludgy coffee, a table at which to eat a slow and satisfying meal, a spot in the sun for catnaps, a short spoken prayer to represent all the long unspoken ones, a trove of funny and frivolous stories to rest and entertain the mind.

And when rest is given, I, too, can rest.

***

BOOKWORM . . .

I'm reading like a fiend lately. Something about lying on a blanket in the warm sun, the bleating of newborn lambs in the background and a light iced coffee leaning against my arm, turns me into a voracious reader.

It dosn't bode well, though, for the sunburn on the backs of my legs.

Wednesday, May 23

TEARS FLOW . . .

There are burdens in my sphere that are not for me to carry. Really heavy, awful, sharp burdens that grow and spread like virulent tumors. They don't belong to me; have nothing to do with me, in fact. But that doesn't stop me from wishing with all my heart -- longing, even -- to take those burdens onto my own shoulders, just so those whom I love can take a break for a short while.

How much pain can one person handle? How much can despair and hopelessness, anger and frustration, devastation and helplessness build up in one person without causing some kind of scarring implosion? How much more can one person bear up?

It just doesn't seem right or fair, that the best ones among us would be the ones called to endure the worst that life can offer. There is little justice in beating down someone who will simply roll over and say, "beat me here, too."

I would give so much, all of what I have, to be able to push that best one aside and slide in there instead, saying, "beat ME."

Saturday, May 19

LESSONS FOR TODAY . . .

1. I am not a man. Adrenaline kept me going this evening, helping Soybean and her family move into their new home. But now that I'm sitting down and all my muscles are settling creakily and painfully back into their rightful places, I'm realizing that I probably should not have spent the whole time being the only one to climb into the moving truck to move all the boxes out to the front. I was bending at the knees and using my hips for leverage and all that. And the packing was so wisely done that most of the boxes were completely manageable. But the bottom line is, there were probably about 70-80 boxes. Some of them were heavy. And there was furniture too. Including a particularly stubborn and unwieldy office chair with a swivel bottom that kept swiveling. I should have let someone else -- a man, stronger and bigger than I, and with more capable lifting muscles -- climb into the truck. It's just that the inside of the truck looked so fun, and the guys looked like they were having a blast walking up and down the stairs carrying what I gave them ...

2. I cannot and should not do it all. Even if I can, even if I know how, even if I think (or even know) that I can do it better than anyone else, sometimes, I should just sit down, shut up and enjoy the ride, letting someone else drive for once. And underlying it all, I should take pride in the things in me that are worth taking pride in, and not let these things grow into unhealthy hubris and paralyzing sensitivity. Besides, I'm gettin' on in years; I should revel in letting others do the work!

3. Each baby smells different. I spent some time today with three babies under the age of 1. They all smell different! I thought there was only one 'baby smell.' Now, I know there are at least three. I don't know what creates the 'baby smell' (and I bet if I knew, I'd be grossed out, for I suspect it has something to do with body odor, breast milk, or some weird baby-dry-skin condition).

4. I am not a tall woman. This is a lesson I re-learn about twice a year. Sometimes, it's when I look at a group photograph and I see that I'm the shortest one in the picture. Other times, it's when I'm standing next to someone taller than I, and when I turn to look at them, I see that their eyes don't line up with mine. But sometimes, like today, it's when I try on an item of clothing and realize it just doesn't hang right: the tunic top looks like a dress; the shirt looks like a tunic; the mini-skirt appears to be tea-length; and the hip seams on the pants curve around my thighs.

Friday, May 18

WAFTING THROUGH THE BRAIN . . .

I'm trying to decide these days what issues are important to me, as I look ahead to Election '08. The war in Iraq looms large, naturally, although even there, I straddle the line, hopping back and forth, on any given day saying "Pull out!" and the next given day saying "We can't BUT stay in!" Social issues demand my attention too: abortion, health care, civil rights, immigration, education and others. Issues that used to matter, no one really talks about anymore, and I wonder why: the death penalty, prison reform, affirmative action.

And over all of this, I'm trying to figure out one more thing: as a Christian, what am I supposed to be caring about? Granted, I live in a foregone-conclusion state, so my vote, realistically, doesn't matter. Don't even get me started on how sad that is to me, for I am one who takes my vote very, very seriously, and will often tear up with emotion at the magnitude and freedom of my act of voting while still inside the voting booth.

Folks are carping on Rudy Giuliani and his many divorces. Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton attend church, but who knows the state of anyone's heart by looking at their outward activities? There's the whole slew of Christian conservative right candidates, but they just make the acid in my stomach roil into overdrive. (And sadly, there's another whole slew of people who just don't have a chance of winning anything.)

I wonder if these people's personal morality and religous beliefs (or lack thereof) matters? I never thought that the American president was also a moral and religious authority. It would be NICE, of course, if that was the case, but realistically, it's not going to happen (and never did, despite our glamorizing and idealizing of presidential heroes past). The bottom line, I think (for now), is that our country needs a leader. Someone who can maneuver us wisely and carefully through our various diplomatic messes; someone who will be strong, but nice, to our international neighbours and try to build a global community (which is sort of inevitable at this point anyway); someone who will care about American students receiving excellent education; someone who will do their utmost to take care of those who need taking care of in this country; someone who will fight drugs, racism, violence, injustice; someone who will make retiring worth it for those who have worked hard all their lives; someone who will do something about the fact that the majority of Americans can't afford health insurance (hi, me); someone who will restore the image of the United States as a nation that can be looked to for guidance and hope and leadership and constancy.

If this leader was a Christian, one who loved Jesus and wanted to obey Him, that would be so ... I can't even express in words how great that would be. Strong and humble. Loving and wise. Kind and compassionate. Fearless and bold. Open-minded and truth-knowing. Placing others above himself, not to his own detriment, but for the benefit of others. A model, a leader, a trailblazer, a deep well of thought and conviction.

Where is this guy?

Tuesday, May 15


Columbia University Commencement
Originally uploaded by chaesq.
A PEFECT DAY . . .

I was on campus today for an interview and ran into the College's Class Day. Apparently, Matthew Fox of "Lost" and "Party of Five" fame spoke, as did John McCain. John McCain was booed; his graduating daughter was not. A perfect day for a graduation ceremony -- sunny, breezy, warm. Happiness, triumph, accomplishment floated through the air and I sucked it in, adopting it all as my own.

I love my alma mater. I really do. It's just different, better. It just is, and I'm a little bit sorry for anyone who has never and will never benefit from a Columbia education. I am different and better because of my college experience, all of it. I would not have had those experiences anywhere else in the world.

The interview, the rest of my afternoon, my evening was all perfect. All because of a perfect start to my perfect day, on a perfect campus.

***

PERFECTION CONTINUED . . .


Merritt Pkwy
Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Today's perfection just kept going and going. I drove about 150 miles today, and I loved every moment of it, even the slow trolling for parking in Manhattan. I knew where I was at every turn, I knew where I was going, the roads were clear and smooth, I found parking within 2 minutes at each stop, and with all four windows down and a sunny breeze blowing in and out of her, Good Girl was in a great mood too.

I love driving in any case. Whether stuck in traffic or on an empty road, whether coasting down a four-lane highway or winding my way with two hands down a suburban back-road, I love being behind the wheel of my car. I love having a destination, sometimes guided by my own hand-written directions, and seeing my starting point fade away behind me. I love when cars and drivers commune on the road and we all keep pace with each other, leaving just enough space for safety, but sticking close enough for companionship. I love letting someone merge in front of me, then having the favor returned by someone else; it's the ultimate in paying it forward. I love having my blood pressure rise at a jerk of a driver cutting me off, then taking deep breaths and focusing on blue sky and the smoothness of pavement in an effort to cool down. I love my left arm getting tanned by the sun from hanging out the window for too long, and the left side of my fair getting all tangled from blowing in the wind. I love navigating around an unfamiliar city, then getting lost on purpose, then choosing to take the long way home.


120
Originally uploaded by chaesq.

I could probably live out of my car and be perfectly happy. Sometimes, I berate my friend for doing things in behind the wheel that are totally inappropriate and dangerous: reading, jotting notes, typing on a laptop, even watching portions of DVDs. Today, I joined the Club of Inappropriate and Dangerous Driving Activities, and whipped out my camera. I couldn't resist witnessing actual sun-dappling and the sheer beauty of the road before me.

***

NEWS . . .

Jerry Falwell died today.

I guess I don't have much more to say about this. I think, in my heart of hearts, Rev. Falwell loved God. Just because someone stands up strongly, even antagonistically, for the Christianity he believes in, doesn't mean he doesn't love the Lord. Nor does it mean that he doesn't want others to know and love God, and be loved by Him. The only perfect, loving, completely compassionate evangelist was Jesus Christ, and even so, folks hated Him (and still do, to this day). Humans are imperfect, and the way we speak and preach and love is imperfect. So went Rev. Falwell. Despite all of his imperfections, I think he knew Jesus and loved God.

I didn't agree with all of his tactics and his rhetoric; I disagree in the same way with -- and stand against -- those like him, those in the so-called "Christian conservative right." I think there's got to be a better way to win souls to eternal life in the presence of a glorious and loving God. But I do agree with something Rev. Falwell said once: “We are born into a war zone where the forces of God do battle with the forces of evil. Sometimes we get trapped, pinned down in the crossfire. And in the heat of that noisy distracting battle, two voices call out for us to follow. Satan wants to lead us into death. God wants to lead us into life eternal.”

Following Satan into death has got to suck a lot, I'd imagine. Given the choice, I would choose, and I have chosen life eternal with God. Better to be with Him than not with Him, methinks. I also think Rev. Falwell is there too, and maybe God's giving him a little introduction to heaven, accompanied by a small talking-to, a tiny bit of "Hey, it might have been nice if you had talked to people a little more nicely ..."

Still, I have to respect a man who was not afraid to stand up for what he believed in, however popular or unpopular the stance. That alone is a rare characteristic in these days.

Monday, May 14

UNDERSTANDING . . .

It's not my place to begrudge.

My role is only to support, understand, listen, carry, accept, love.

... doesn't mean it's easy ...

Sunday, May 13

OMMA . . .

Happy Mother's Day, Omma.

Most of my friends are Omma's also. They are all great Omma's, whether they think so or not. They can compare themselves to each other all they want; they can read all the parenting magazines they want; they can agonize about their choices all they want; they can doubt themselves all they want; they can wish all they want to be like other Omma's. But in my eyes, they are each a unique, special, wonderful, imaginative, creative, energetic, loving, generous, wise, strong, humble and all-around excellent Omma.

Happy Mother's Day, Ommas.

Saturday, May 12

MY BROTHER'S KEEPER . . .

I have this thing ... I have this thing where I feel responsible for every bad thing that happens, every misunderstanding that transpires, every ill feeling that arises, every event that doesn't go just the way it's supposed to. At least in my sphere of people and occurrences. Not for things like the war in Iraq or the tornado in Kentucky, although those things are wretched and I wish for such pain and suffering to also disappear.

But it's just this: I hate seeing people sad, mad, upset, frustrated, unhappy, disappointed. I hate it even more when I know that one whom I love is sad because of, mad at, upset at, frustrated because of, unhappy about, disappointed in another one whom I love. When I see these things, I feel the desperate need to fix them. Or at least to apologize profusely for them, even though I personally have neither direct nor indirect involvement in causing them.

Some might call it compassion. But given the stomach ache roiling my gut, the anxious butterflies in my heart, and the furrow in my brow that even Omma's loving fingers could not smooth away, I'm wondering if it's a little less compassion and a little too much martyr/saviour complex. I hate the attitude of "I wash my hands of it" that plagues so many of us, but perhaps there is a time and a place for it ...

***

FANCY . . .

I went to the fanciest birthday party today. It topped any bat- or bar-mitzvah I ever attended (disclaimer: my bat- and bar-mitzvah attending days were yet in the 80s, when folks did not spend $50,000 on the party, which now might include a special appearance by Usher, aboard a luxury yacht that cruised around Manhattan island, with goodie bags containing platinum jewelry).

There were cotton tablecloths, real-not-paper linens, an ice sculpture, a three-tier birthday cake, heavy silverware, an open bar, floral centerpieces, a guestbook at the sign-in table at the entrance to the party hall, and a top-level buffet spread. About 70 adults (and a large smattering of children) really enjoyed ourselves; it was so great to just relax, eat, gossip, catch up, reunite with old friends, remark on how fast the kids were growing up, and to enjoy the generosity of our hosts.

In fact, it was all quite nice ... even if the birthday boy was just turning 1.

Dang, we don't do things like we used to, huh?

Friday, May 11

MYSTERY DU JOUR . . .

I am bleeding profusely from the outside crease of my right hand's index finger's middle knuckle. It doesn't hurt, but I can't even begin to figure out where I got this cut. And I'm not even going to start worrying about why it won't stop bleeding, 35 minutes after I discovered a fat rivulet of blood rolling down the outside of my wrist ...

Thursday, May 10

BURN . . .

Dang. Three NHF weddings so far this year, and I haven't been invited to a single one of them. As Mabel's former middle-school kids might say: "Buuuuuuurn!"

Frankly, I'm probably only 'entitled' to be included in one of the three celebrations. But I give good gifts ... folks are missing out!

***

SUNNY DAYS . . .

Four and a half days of sunny days, inside and out. I could almost see my future ... (and yes, it was bright enough to wear shades).

***

BACK TO THE BOOKS . . .

I have a Bible study to prepare and put together, interviews to study for, and a pretrial brief to write. But I've fallen in love with reading again -- it helps to have such sunny skies and glad company to share the books with -- and I have a pile of four library books to get through. (Yes, I've finally caught on: I don't have to purchase every book I'm interested in. That's what my local library is for. Oh, happy day.)

Final Exam, by Pauline Chen
Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life, by Alison Weir
Cage of Stars, by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Insatiable, by Gael Greene

And I just finished Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance, by Atul Gawande. Excellent!

Sunday, April 29

PUTTING THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE . . .

A while back, I heard someone say that Biblically-speaking, a woman can't sit around waiting for her husband to become respectable before respecting him. Sometimes, a gal's got to dole out the respect first and watch her husband grow into it and take on respectability as a permanent mantle.

I think the same is true for giving trust and being trusted.

My ego is so big that I can't believe people would not trust me, either with tasks or with words. When it comes to tasks, certainly, I get the job done. With words ... well, I try. I'm pretty good at keeping secrets, usually because I forget them soon after hearing them. There was that infamous season where I kept forgetting that Mabel was pregnant, even while her belly was expanding before my very eyes ... eh, bygones. And I try, I really, really do try, not to speak ill of people behind their backs or to their faces. I like to think that I'm thoughtful, caring, deeper than I am shallow, a good listener, prayerful. I'm not nosy; I ask after people if I think they need to be cared for; and I don't ask after people if I think they desire privacy instead. But what if I'm none of those things? What if I'm not trustworthy at all? Ouch, that smarts a bit.

But maybe it's tit for tat, trust for trust. Maybe the understanding that people don't always trust me is what I get for not trusting a single person around me, except my blood family. (Maybe this is what I get for growing up in a house where we were taught NOT to trust anyone but blood family?) If I'm honest, even among my closest and dearest, I plague myself with a few ounces of mistrust -- can I really confess this, can I really brag about this, can I really fall on my face without them laughing at me, can I really show my true self and not be hated? It's difficult not to; who out there has not experienced the sting of being betrayed to one degree or another? Unfortunately, even within my Christian community -- we are yet human, after all -- my lists could go on and on: the times I laid bare a shortcoming and had it later used against me when I fell short again; the times I boasted of an achievement or skill and had it later thrown in my face when I couldn't live up to my own standard; the times I shared a secret and had it later repeated back to me from several different sources; the times I discovered lies, half-lies, white lies being told about me, behind my back; the times I needed care and found no care coming from the place I assumed it would naturally flow from; the times I think people just don't care, so I am freed of an obligation to share.

How do I keep on keeping on in the face of these events? How am I to trust if everyone renders themselves untrustworthy? I know that grace and forgiveness tie into all of this, but these things, also, are hard to give when I'm not receiving them in turn. It's a big fat roundabout, and I wonder if the bottom line is this: trust first, take the ensuing stings, keep on trusting and wait for trust to be returned. Walk in a straight line.

But heck, forget about the giving -- I want to be trustworthy, too. This, I have not the least idea of how to accomplish (particularly difficult because I thought I was trustworthy already. Big eep.). I suppose there is no need for everyone in the world to trust me with themselves; I couldn't carry all of that and myself anyway. Still, if I bind myself with certain folks, certain groups of people, particular communities, then not only do I have an obligation to give of myself and not be selfish with who and how I am, but others also have the obligation to step over the line and offer themselves to me as well. If we all were like me, waiting on my side of the middle line for folks to prove themselves so that I can bestow upon them the wonders and depths of me (please know how sarcastically I speak of myself!), then there would be no friendship and no community at all. Oh, that is so sad for me and so sad for all of us. So the challenge for me now is to lessen the sadness of others, to be at the middle line already with a broad heart, a closed mouth, open ears and a wise mind. I guess that's the way to do it, to earn trust and grow friendship.

Put it out there first, and see what follows ...

Friday, April 27

STROLLING . . .

I took a stroll down memory lane this afternoon. Winding down from my interview after a week during which my mind whirled non-stop, I suddenly found myself with nothing to do. Nothing to read. Nothing to watch on TV. Nothing to cook. Nothing to clean. Nothing to wash. Nowhere to go. It was bliss, and nostalgia took over.

I Googled everyone I could remember from my history, high school years on. Everyone is doing fascinating things, and most have gone the route we all had long expected them to go. I wonder if some of them would look at my life and consider me predictable as well. Curious.

And then I Googled myself and came across some old blog entries. It's funny (funny-haha and funny painful) the things that weighed on me over the past few years. But in the middle of all this funniness, I came across an entry that made my heart squeeze in pangs of pain, frustration and disappointment at the sameness of my weights: a rant about my care group. It was a different group back then, but sad to say, my ranting hasn't ceased. Is it me? Or is it the group?

The saga, I'm sure, is to be continued ...

***

NOT SO COMFORTABLE . . .

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in Washington, DC right now, and as expected, his presence here has stirred outrage and protest about Japan's kidnapping and use (there's no other word for it; just "use") of Korean and Chinese "comfort women" during World War II. An estimated 200,000 women were kidnapped by the Japanese military and thrust into sexual slavery for its members during the War, and to this day, Japan has not apologized -- not outright, anyway -- for it. (In fact, earlier in the years, Abe had the balls to suggest that comfort women never existed, that their kidnappings had never occurred. Balls!)

This issue tears me up inside. On the one hand, I'm disgusted. It wouldn't matter to me whether it was Korean women who were used, or women from another nation (although admittedly, the fact that they were Korean and I am also amps up my sympathies). The whole idea of sexual slavery, that which happened sixty years ago and that which is happening now around the world, turns my stomach and raises my ire past the roof of my head. My angry self demands an apology for such atrocities and violations.

But then, I flip to the other hand. Who would be apologizing to me? And who am I to be apologized to? It makes me think of the oft-repeated demands here in the States, from African-American groups asking the American government to apologize for this country's history of perpetuating slavery in its early years. Slavery and the inherent prejudice underlying it is anathema to me, and though I'm not a Black American, as a minority in this country, I loathe the residual racism that lives on into the new century. But does an apology from a government 200 years removed actually mean something? I can understand how it is symbolically significant ... so, is that enough? To have a symbolic expression of remorse?

It's one thing if current descendants of slaveholders could meet and apologize to current descendants of held slaves. I think that would be different; there is a connection, a responsibility -- NOT a blame -- to apologize that trickles down (just as there is a responsibility to forgive). When someone in my family does something to hurt another, I apologize on their behalf. I believe the situations to be similar. And likewise, if current descendants of Japanese military men who abused the sex slaves apologized to currently living comfort women (there are only about 300 Korean comfort women alive today), there would be great significance.

I don't know how these things play out among nations, whether the significance of an apology (and acceptance thereof) is diluted or magnified when you're talking country to country, government to government. As for me, if I were wounded in some way, my government accepting an apology on my behalf would be ... eh. I'd want to hear it for myself, from the person who hurt me.

But then who knows? I haven't, thankfully, endured an ounce of the pain and trauma that these now-elderly women have. I have the lucky privilege of NOT having to stand in their shoes to decide what sort of apology would satisfy me. I can't speak in their place.

(Disclaimer: I also come from a home that did not display the traditional hatred towards Japan and its government and/or people. Sure, my folks and their families were affected by the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula, and once in a while now, my parents will wryly comment that they can't remember the Korean word for something, only the Japanese term they were taught as youngsters. But because of more personal circumstances, they choose to reserve any bitterness for the leaders of North Korea. And ultimately, because they are among the most faithful Christians I have the honour of knowing and being loved by, they stick firmly to the principles of forgiveness and the granting of limitless chances. Which, after all, is what it's all about.)
WILD N' CRAZY . . .

Today, I did something wild n' crazy. I wore a pantsuit to an interview. Jeepers!

***

FIVE ON FRIDAY . . .

A list to jump-start the weekend. I don't know where I got it, so I apologize for the uncredited lifting ...

5 Everyday Favorites
1. Kona coffee
2. Hot shower
3. Fresh air
4. B
5. A good book

4 Mood-Lifters
1. B
2. The Bible
3. Penguins
4. Michael Hedges' "Gospel"

3 Reasons to Get Out of Bed
1. Kona coffee
2. Sunshine
3. To pee

2 People I Love
1. Appa
2. Omma

1 Thing I Love About Myself
1. My heart can still break.

Wednesday, April 25

SNIFF THIS . . .

People are so nosy. You just can't trust anyone these days.

Monday, April 23

LEGENDARY . . .

For sure, with the passing of the years, living legends stop living. Boris Yeltsin, dead today at age 76, was a living legend in my eyes, being the one who stood at the helm of the former Soviet Union right at the time I was starting to fall in love with all things Russian. In my juvenile, high-school eyes, he was the "good guy," come to do away with the "bad guy" times of Mikhail Gorbachev. How embarrassingly simplistic I was in those days! Still, it's fun and warm to look back and see the people that stick in my memory and heart, merely by their association with the things that became important and special to me.

I wonder if we have a sufficient appreciation these days for things and people of historical significance, those that made a difference and impacted the world for better or for worse, those kinds of folks that really only come around once in the lifetime of a nation. We excoriate them when they're around, we laud them when they're in retirement, and we wish we had paid more attention when they're dead. That is the way of things, I suppose, and there is a rightness to it, in a strange way. Nevertheless, men like Boris Yeltsin ... they sure don't make them like him anymore.

***

LOVELY . . .

What a lovely article about the solidarity of university students. Long live intellectual freedom and education.

Sunday, April 22

SEEING GREEN . . .

Happy Earth Day, y'all.

Turn off the lights when you leave the house and brush your teeth in the shower. Recycle paper, bottles and cans. Keep your car well-maintained; even gas guzzlers can do their part. Open the window instead of turning on the air-conditioning. Bring your own mug to the coffee shop. Use a tote bag at the grocery store. Cancel those unbrowsed catalogs. Recycle old cell phones and batteries. Unplug unused appliances, big and small. Do cold water laundry. Walk or bike, don't drive, to your local library to take out books that you won't have to buy (or cause to be packaged and shipped).

It's the little things that matter on this gloriously sunny day in New York.

Saturday, April 21

THE ANTI-YUCK . . .

I can't exactly pinpoint why I've been thinking about this so much lately, but I'm extremely grateful that I did not grow up in a culture of laziness and complaining.

My parents are the two least lazy people I know, and I'm so thankful for it. They weren't psychotic about it; it's not like they were active 24-7-365, running around doing things just for the sake of doing things. But everything that was in their purview to do, they did. Whatever steps they had to take to take care of themselves and keep themselves healthy and sane, they took. Whatever they had to do to fully care for and love Cheech and I, they did. Whatever responsibilities they had to work or church or their friends, they undertook with joy and cheerfulness. Our family had a very full life -- school and work during the weekdays, errands and church on the weekends. Entertaining at home one Saturday night, going out to visit friends another Saturday night. House-cleaning, laundry, cooking, doctor's appointments, car maintenance in between. And the wonder is that my parents did it all without complaining. About anything.

In fact, I can't recall a single instance where I heard my parents complain. When various grandparents passed away and they had to leave immediately to catch planes to the Motherland, it was "don't worry about us, you take care of each other and we'll be back in no time." When the new pharmacy burned down and my parents had to wait three months for it to be restored, it was "well, we haven't had a vacation in 12 years, so we might as well enjoy this time." When the air-conditioning blew out in the middle of summer, and the boiler failed in the middle of winter, it was "well, this is what happens to older homes and this is why repairmen exist." When their church split and they had to worry about the spiritual welfare of their family, it was "God is teaching us something during this time, so let's be patient and obedient." When my dad's favorite car was stolen, it was "I suppose the car's time has come and it's time to buy a new, safer one." When Omma's rheumatoid arthritis started to really flare up, it was "this is what happens with age, and it's a reminder to take care of my body better." When Appa had a cancer scare, it was "God is reminding me that I'm human and that He is in control of my life, not me." And whenever Cheech and I complained about anything -- as spoiled Gen-X and Gen-Y-ers are prone to do -- it was always, "Seriously, think about it: what do you have to complain about?" Never in my house did one hear "I just can't DEAL" or "Omigosh, I'm gonna DIE" or "Why me?"

I still complain a lot. And I still suffer the occasional bout of extreme laziness. But I think I'm far better off than most, thanks to my parents and the kind of home and environment they created for my brother and I. Not a day went by in my house where my parents didn't express a deep appreciation for the life God had given them to live. Not a day went by where Cheech and I weren't reminded of the importance of helping people, being a useful and productive hand, working well as part of a team, and at the very least, fulfilling our personal responsibilities 100%, without cutting corners. Not a day went by where we were allowed to be selfish or self-absorbed, thinking that the world revolved around us or worse, that the world owed US something.

I'm really thankful that these are the lessons that are ingrained in me, as flawed as my living them out might be. I used to feel odd about who I was, thinking that I suffered from severe Martha-syndrome (working bitterly in the kitchen while Mary got to sit at Jesus's feet and listen), and that I had to rid myself of this quality. But now I'm starting to see the difference between bitterness slavishness and joyful service. I really appreciate that my parents taught me to work, for my own benefit and for the benefit of those around me. I really appreciate that because of my parents, I value stepping outside the boundaries of just what I need to do for myself, and lending an extra effort to help someone else, even in the very tiny and seemingly insignificant things. I appreciate that I am someone who can see beyond myself, not because I'm a doormat and don't fulfill my own needs, but because I've been taught that after I'm taken care of, it's nice to make sure others are too. And I really appreciate that I have the ability to keep on learning how to keep my mouth shut. Complaining, bemoaning one's own circumstances, throwing out phrases like "I just can't deal" or "Omigosh, I'm just going to DIE," are just so unhelpful, and I simply want to be helpful, as much as I can. I want to encourage people with my words, not discourage. I want people to know that I care and think about them, not just about myself. And I certainly don't want to be someone who throws words out carelessly, without thinking, and definitely without meaning them.

Thanks, Omma and Appa. With all the yuck that is in this world and in the people in this world, and for sure in me, I'm glad that I also have in me a little of what it takes to start to combat the yuck.

Friday, April 20

RETURN TRIP . . .

I became nostalgic for this place today ...



Temple Church courtyard, in Inner Temple, London
ALWAYS REMEMBERING . . .

Columbine, 8 years ago.

***

THEY SPEAK . . .

The shooter's family has offered a statement of sorrow, mourning, confusion and pain.

I am so thankful for this article. I am so thankful that people are able to realize that the shooter's family is also in some sort of immeasurable, unforgettable pain. I am so thankful for their understanding. I'm thankful that this family is being protected.

I wonder if they were part of a church community. The Korean church community in Virginia is enormous. I hope they have a community of faith to turn to, I hope they are being embraced and loved and cared for by this community, I hope they are not being shunned in the way that Koreans are so good at doing sometimes, unfortunately.

***

STILL ANONYMOUS . . .

I went outside by myself for the first time this week, today. I know, it sounds like such a weird thing to say, but sometime in the middle of the week, I became very afraid of being seen, of having people know that I was Korean-American, of being hated for it.

I returned to the place I called home for six years, the Upper West Side. Surrounded by the Columbia community, I felt wonderfully anonymous, wrapped in world-awareness, openness (of the best variety), intelligence, acceptance. I suppose that's what a university environment is all about -- the free and intelligent exchange of selves. I'm so grateful for what Columbia was to me over a decade ago, and what it remains to me now.

No one looked at me twice; no one spit at me; no one said anything insulting to me; no one noticed me. It was great. I am so silly sometimes, so over-sensitized, I suppose. That doesn't stop me from being thankful that when I can't fully be me, others -- strangers, even -- can affirm who I am anyway.

Thursday, April 19

REMEMBERING . . .

Today is the 12th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombings. Where did those 12 years fly? I wonder how the survivors and families are doing, how the city is faring these days. I pray only for the best.

No matter what, this is my country. I stand by her.
THERE'S ALWAYS MORE . . .

Appa emailed me last night and told me to be careful and not go outside. He fears I'll be retaliated against for being Korean.

I wasn't scared until he said this. I figured people in general are rational, that they will know the difference between one imbalanced person and me, that they will not be driven to revenge against people who share the same background as the shooter, that they will not be taken over by raw emotion. Now, I wonder the opposite. Do I really have reason to fear for my safety? Do I really have cause to think that people will look at me differently from now on? Will others no longer evaluate me by my own account, but by the account given by some stranger hundreds of miles away?

I was always proud to be a Korean-American. When people asked me my background, I was so thrilled to share it, to talk about it, to let them know that I come from a people who are industrious, hard-working, faithful, dream-chasing, ambitious, proud. Today, I'm stricken by a sudden crisis of identity and confidence. What will happen the minute the word "Korean" comes out of my mouth from now on?

I hate that I'm scared to be me. I hate that I don't feel safe today as an American, and that I don't feel like I can rely on other Americans to back me up, countryman to countryman. This is a bad, bad feeling.

***

I KNOW JESUS CHRIST AND YOU ARE NO JESUS CHRIST . . .

Apparently, in some of his mailed-to-NBC rantings, the shooter compares himself to Jesus Christ, dying like He did.

Uh, NO. I REJECT THIS CHARACTERIZATION AND I REJECT YOU, SHOOTER, FOR DARING TO MAKE SUCH A RIDICULOUS COMPARISON.

Jesus Christ lived His life in peace. Jesus Christ endured humiliation, temptation, suffering, pain and all this world had to hurl at Him with humility and obedience to the Father. Jesus Christ retaliated not one bit for the things He had to bear. Jesus Christ not once turned from the path of love, grace and simplicity. Jesus Christ not once considered revenge although He had all the power and resources in the world to exact it. Jesus Christ died after deepest degradation and hours of painful suffering nailed to two pieces of wood, so that people might have eternal life through the shedding of His blood and the taking of their sins upon His shoulders. Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself so that people would no longer have to suffer as He did.

Jesus Christ did not kill people because they hurt Him, made Him angry, taunted Him, caused Him to suffer. Jesus Christ restored life, He did not take it. Jesus Christ's anger was righteous and glorifying to God, not self-serving and hateful. Jesus Christ did not inflict further pain and suffering upon a world already chock-full with both. Jesus Christ ranted for the purpose of speaking truth and defending the holiness of His perfect God and Father, not for the purpose of launching vitriol against humanity. Jesus Christ did not flinch from the near-impossible life of bearing difficult things, and He did not stray from a message of peace, forgiveness and unconditional, powerful love. And Jesus Christ did not die in some bizarre, militant, violent blaze of glory; He died with the weight of the world on His shoulders in complete submission to God and humility before man, knowing with the cleanest of consciences that He still overflowed with love and grace, even unto His last, ragged, humble breath.

To even imply that Jesus Christ would look upon the events at Virgina Tech and think, "oh, look, someone whose handiwork I approve of because he died just like I did" is horrific, ridiculous, misguided, stupid, and WRONG. My stomach churns all over again.

Tuesday, April 17

DISJOINTED THOUGHTS IN DISJOINTED TIMES . . .

So many of the photographs I've seen of the VA Tech shooting coverage includes pictures of people praying. In groups standing at makeshift shrines; with heads bowed to their knees in chapel prayer services; at the convocation ceremony; clutching each others' hands. I trust that God hears every word spoken to Him; He can't but help hear the things His children say to Him. I also trust that He speaks back, with wisdom and in His time. I hope and pray that some of those who are talking to Him know Him and are able to fully receive His comfort and strength in these days. I also hope and pray that those who don't know Him but are talking to Him anyway -- because they just don't know who else to turn to, and something inside them says "God will listen if you talk to Him" -- will come to know Him. America may be a secular nation, but still, when we are pushed to the wall, we come together in prayer, believers and non-believers alike. There is a reason for this. Even in times like this -- maybe especially at times like this? -- let God be lifted high and glorified, and let His power and grace flow down on all of us, to restore us.

...

The postman who delivers to the family of the shooter said it best: "No parent deserves this." That's so true. I confess, there have been times that I've wished really bad things to happen to people I detest, folks who really hurt me or angered me. But there are things at which even my over-active imagination draws the line. Nobody deserves to be shot up, killed, maimed, executed, traumatized like the victims of the shooting. Neither does anybody deserve to suffer that which the shooter's family must also be enduring now. The news states that the police have taken them away from their home in the suburbs. I assume this is for their own protection? Lord knows, there are enough other imbalanced and ill people out there who would consider it no small thing to harass, torment, exact revenge. But where would they go? Where would they possibly go, where they will not only have to carry the weight of the loss of a son in the prime of his youth, but also the stabbing knowledge that he was the one who caused the loss of so many others?

...

What is it about the "loner" tag? I knew lots of loners in my various school environments. I went through a loner phase. I think I'm going through a loner phase now, for crying out loud! Is that all it takes? I have so many questions like this. Is it really rare for students to write macabre and disturbing things in their creative writing assignments? Was this guy, and others like him, a weirdo and a freak before, or did he just turn into one in hindsight? I have no deep understanding of the psychological nitty-gritty, and the things that educators must contend with and balance on a daily basis. But if it's not okay to be a creatively writing loner ... then what do we do with all of them out there who might not turn into a mass murderer, and just need some nurturing and understanding and friendship, just like everybody else?