I've been to Korea twice with my parents to visit my ten aunts and uncles and many, many cousins. Both times, we ventured out of Seoul to a small village near Tongduchon, up near the 38th Parallel. After making the rounds of family visits, my uncles took us out to the countryside to visit the graves of our ancestors.
The first time I went with them, I had no idea where we were going or why. It seemed like we were just taking a scenic drive in the countryside. After driving for half hour or so away from my #2 uncle's house, we parked alongside a busy road, waded through a thicket of tall grasses to a hillside covered with neatly-groomed round burial mounds. The site is edged by trees and not visible from the road or marked in any manner. If you were driving by, you would not know that a cemetary is hiding there. After trudging up the hillside, we found a small black obilisque with white writing on it--the grave marker of my grandfather. In 1990, on my first visit, my grandmother was still alive; in 2000, she had passed away and her grave was next to my grandfather's.
At the gravesite, my uncles spread a small cloth on the ground, brought out fruits, soju, and some tiny ceramic drinking cups. My mother and her brothers then lined up in order of age, stood facing my grandfather's grave and solemnly bowed. Then, together, they got on their knees, bowing their heads low to the ground several times. When they were done, they each drank a cup of soju, and then poured a second cup on the grave. "For Father," my mother explained.
After the children did their bows, it was my turn, along with my cousins who were along for the ride. On our second trip, my husband and sister-in-law were with us, and took their turns bowing, along with my nephew, who was only 20 months old at the time. He mimicked what the adults were doing, and showed his respect. He was remarkably quiet during the entire ceremony, as though he intuitively knew that something solemn and ponderous was happening. Afterwards, we sat on the ground and they drank the remaining soju and talked about their parents. My mother cried just a little on the second trip, remembering her mother. She had not been able to attend the funeral, and this was her opportunity to say goodbye.
Last week, on Love Thursday, I posted a photo of some flowers that Frank sent me for our anniversary, but that was only about half the the story. September 1, 2006 marked our tenth wedding anniversary. Frank and I decided to wait a couple of weeks to actually celebrate it.
Much to my surprise, on Monday, September 11, I received a dozen beautiful, long-stemmed red roses delivered to my office. That Frank, he's so sweet...
On Tuesday, another bouquet arrived. This one contained purple irises (the first flowers he ever brought me, on our first date), and orchids and star gazer lilies--flowers that were in my bridal bouquet. I was the envy of my officemates.
On Thursday, another dozen roses arrive in a box. This time, with a Waterford Crystal vase. We got Waterford Crystal from our wedding registry, and this is something that I just love. Wow! I'm just floored by all this.
On Friday, bouquets arrived about every two hours, until I had a total of eight! One of them came with a teddy bear. My favorite is an arrangement of yellow roses, lilies, and purple dahlias. The delivery guys are really stunned when they find me. I'm really stunned as they keep on coming. One of my coworkers remarked, "I think I am falling in love with your husband...and I don't even know him."
By 4pm, my cubicle was so crowded, I couldn't get any work done! People are stopping by from other offices to see the flowers. Some want to snap photos to send to their husbands. So, I picked up Alex to see the flowers and he helped carry them to the car.
Frank came home with two more bouquets, one dozen red roses and one dozen white roses, making a total of ten. What a wonderful anniversary surprise! We spent the weekend at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, had some great food and even made s'mores over a fire just outside our room. I am so blessed to be married to such a thoughtful man, and have such a sweet son!
Frank and I celebrated our 10th anniversary two weeks ago, but since we were in the middle of painting our house, delayed the "celebrating" until this coming weekend. All week long I've been receiving flowers delivered to my office. I now have 3 bouquets--one dozen red roses, one mixed bouquet, and a small bunch of multi-colored roses. I sit in a cubicle at work, and people have been stopping by to see the flowers all week.
I love you, Frank! Thank you for ten wonderful years, a terrific son, and a life full of surprises. I'm looking forward to fifty or sixty more!
On September 11, 2001, I was asleep, warm and cozy in my California bed when the first plane hit the
tower in far off New York City. I was awakened by the phone ringing.
It was my sister-in-law in Texas, who tearfully told me that "America
is being attacked. They've bombed the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon and another one is headed for the White House. Turn on the
I thought I was dreaming, or at very least, my sister-in-law had
gone off the deep end. I turned on the TV and woke up my husband.
Every channel was filled with the "breaking news" and amateur video of
the planes hitting the towers, chaos in lower Manhattan, and the lost
United Flight 93, which no one knew what had happened to at that time.
The nightmare played out on television, with rumors and conjecture
reported as fact, and no one knowing really what was happening.
My husband was scheduled to leave for Taiwan that day, but his
flight was canceled. No flights out today. I was glad that he would
be home with us and I would not have to worry about him for 18 hours.
I didn't think I could take it.
It was my son''s first day at Preschool Family, and we heard that it
was open, so we took him. Some of the parents had not heard the news
yet. The others talked about it quietly, not wanting to alarm our
one-year olds, who were happily playing with the toys in the
classroom. "Make it a normal day for them," the teacher said. "Normal"
was far from what I was feeling. I wasn't sure if things would ever be
One month after 9/11, we decided to go to New York. Tourism was
down, morale in the city was low. I lived in New York in the 80's, and
my friends there are part of my chosen family. I wanted to see them,
feel them, hug them. They were traumatized and sad; they had stories
to tell. I told my mother we were going and she begged me not to.
"It's too dangerous," she warned. "It's not safe there."
What I wondered it this, "Is it safe anywhere?" People died that
day by going to work. The firefighters and police officers put
themselves in harms way every day; they knew what they were doing was
risky, but it was their job. To protect and serve. The people
who worked in the towers, the bankers and brokers and restaurant
workers, went to a place where they thought they were safe. They had
no idea they put their lives on the line by going to work. I go into an
office building every day and it never crosses my mind that it might
blow up and crumble to the ground.
We went to New York anyway. The mood was still somber, the air
still foggy. The people at the hotel were grateful to see us. This
was not the hustling, bustling, vibrant city I spent eight years of my
life in. This was a city of sadness, a city whose spirit was broken.
All over lower Manhattan, there were posters of people who were lost
with handwritten notes that said, "Have You Seen..." with smiling
faces staring back from the flyers. It was a hopeful endeavor by
friends and relatives, that somehow their loved one would turn up,
dazed and confused, but still alive.
My friends told me their tales. One had quit her job in the towers
a few months before. Another, a pediatrician, helped set up emergency
triage rooms for victims who never came, and ended up taking blood
donations from people who were covered in soot and ash, who came to
give what they had to give, grateful that their lives had been spared.
One saw the towers burning from his office window. Another talked
about walking endless blocks to find a bus to the Bronx. It was
surreal, they all said. Like a bad, bad dream.
Years ago, someone gave me a self-help tape called, "Fear the Fear
and Do It Anyway." It was all about how fear holds us back from
progress, from moving forward. "The only thing we have to fear, is
fear itself," said Franklin Roosevelt. And yet, the spectre of 9/11
strikes a chord of fear in many people. The worst legacy of 9/11 is
that hollow fear, the fear that terrorists are poised to strike at any
Since then we have traveled outside the US on many occasions. Each
time, someone has asked me if we have a death wish traveling outside
the US and cautioned against it. Each time, there has been a little
pit of fear in the bottom of my stomach, that somehow we won't return.
Each time, I "feel the fear and do it anyway." Each time, I've been
glad I did, and been rewarded with experiences and memories that make
it all worthwhile. I remember and honor those who died, living their
normal lives, doing what was expected, what was normal to them. By
canceling trips or changing how we live, we do them a disservice.
I remind myself every time I board a plane that the point of
terrorism is not to kill individuals. It's not the 2,996 individuals
who were taken from this earth way too soon on 9/11; it's the fear
instilled in the hearts of millions. Fear of traveling. Fear of
people based on their religion. Fear of living your life. Fear of
water bottles and chapstick on airplanes. It's not that I don't think
it will happen again--it has, in Madrid, in London and around the
world. It's not that I think I'm somehow immune. It's just that when you succumb to the fear, the terrorists truly do win.
Every time I board a plane, whether to London or Cincinnati, I feel
a little twinge of fear, then do it anyway. Osama bin Laden? Can kiss
my American heinie.
Late at night, I've been surfing around the web looking at lots of great sites. Upside Up has a link to Noah's Video. This is a strangely hypnotic video made a compilation of photos set to music. Noah has evidently taken a photo of himself every day for six year straight. I could not take my eyes off of Noah's unblinking stare while his hair danced around to the music. Check it out.
Three of my favorite blogger, Amalah, MetroDad and Mr. Nice Guy have all been plagiarised by some chick on MySpace who pretended to be a nanny in Las Vegas, but her life stories were all taken from these three hilarious blogs. "Claudia" has been shut down by MySpace, but the postings on these three about the incident have left me laughing so hard I nearly lost control of key bodily functions. At least you could say that Claudia has good taste in blogs, because these are three of the best.
As for me, I've been inducted as the newest Kimchi Mama, a group blog for moms with ties to Korea. There are some awesome writers there, and I'm very proud to be among this wonderful, insightful group. The discussion on the blog and in the comments runs from where to get Korean groceries online to racism to the Korean War...and that's just this week.
My home girls over at Silicon Valley Moms Blog had a fashion frenzy on Thursday, posting different viewpoints on fashion every hour. It was fun to read about fashionable moms, unfashionable moms, what to wear and what not to wear. I'm in there, but only in a photo of the PAMP board meeting. Other than what happened this week on Project Runway, I've got nothing to say about fashion.
Career Mom Radio is off to a great start and we now have three official episodes up! Episode 1 dealt with Work-Life Balance, Episode 2 deals with Tips & How-tos for busy moms, and Episode 3 is on How to Launch a business. I'm in Episodes 1 & 2. Next week, the topic is "Mommy Stories" so we'll see what the group comes up with--I'm sure it will be fun. I've been named Associate Producer, so if you have any suggestions for futue shows or would like to contribute, please e-mail me.
I managed to miss International Blog Day, but had I known about it sooner, I would have picked the following 5 international blogs to refer you to:
Itisi Kate is a blogger in the UK who writes about music, politics, her five (yes, five) sons, and other things that strike her fancy. I found her by sort of randomly selecting a flag at the NeoCounter site one night and have been visiting her ever since.
Khadija is a US born woman living in Libya. She stopped by my blog, and it has been interesting to read about her daily life. She has another site that is dedicated to Libyan culture and is also a fascinating read. I wish that I had read her sites before we went to Libya in March--it is so much more insightful that guidebooks. People in Libya were so kind and hospitable to us and we had no idea what to expect.
Wired Temples (Malta) is a very cool blog about all things Maltese. I've written a number of postings about our very short visit to this very lovely island-nation. One of them was quoted in Wired Temples, which probably accounts for why I get a lot of visitors from Malta. I'd jump at the chance to go back there, and keep up with Malta via this blog.
The Department (Australia) is the blog of Kt, who I found randomly looking at sites through BlogHer. She has amazingly beautiful photography and can make the simplest things look poetic and profound--a pile of rubberbands, a staircase, cupcakes. Her portraits of people allow not just beauty, but character to shine through. I go back periodically to see the photos and read the occasional haiku. I'm a big fan of this blog.
Little Mummy (Scotland) is not a blog about Egyptology, as Alex might think, but a parenting resource and information blog by Erica, Executive Producer of Career Mom Radio. Erica's blog has loads of useful tips and information for new parents.
So, these are a few of the places I've been and people I've seen this week. No travel for us anytime soon, since school has started and I have little vacation time from work. Instead, I'll be out wandering the web...
When people ask Alex if he has brothers and sisters, he says, "No, I have cousins!" Alex loves and admires his older cousin Nico (in red) and Nico's sister, Desi. They look enough alike that they are sometimes mistaken for brothers and sister. Happy Love Thursday!
UPDATE ON COMMUNITY LOVE
Last week, I posted on the DonorsChoose challenge that I've signed up for to fund grants for teachers in St. Tammany Parish, Lousiana. The schools there were affected by Hurricane Katrina, either by wind and water damage, or by receiving "overflow" students from schools that were shut down. Many teachers lost all of their classroom contents, some built up over years and years of teaching.
I am pleased to report that one of the grants has now been fully funded! I chose one called "You've Got Mail" that was for purchasing mail cubbies for a kindergarten class in St. Tammany Parish. The teacher wrote me the following note:
Oh my goodness!!! I am so excited about our new mailboxes. The kids will be so happy to share their little notes and receive little notes from others. They also will have a place to keep their own papers instead of misplacing them around the room. Words cannot express the gratitude of something so simple like this gesture that will have a lasting effect on my children for years to come. Thank you so very much!!!
If you'd like to participate, hit the "DonorsChoose" button on the right side of this blog. Any amount is welcome! You can donate to a particular challenge or as a gift certificate that I can use to fund one of the projects. If you dontate $100 or more to a particular challenge, I believe you will receive a note from the class.
If you're a blogger, please consider posting a Bloggers Choose challenge on your blog. You can fund projects in your local area or in any other area. In the spirit of Love Thursday and in honor of Back-to-School season, please help!
Summer crept up on us, and to say that I was less than prepared is an understatement. I went back to working full time in April, so I panicked and signed Alex up for every camp I could think of to fill in the childcare over the summer. When I got the job, we were planning to send him to kung fu camp, take a week's vacation in Canada, and maybe do the musical theatre camp that he enjoyed during Ski Week. Then, suddenly I had a job and Alex's summer schedule became a Problem That Must Be Dealt With.
I think I overdid it a tad, and Alex ended up with:
1 week kung fu camp (with babysitter before and after who tried to teach him Spanish)
I had to have an Excel spreadsheet to figure out where to drop him off every week and what supplies to take (Is it swimming day? outdoor play so he needs a hat and sunscreen? pancake day so go light on breakfast? Do they need empty milk cartons or wire coat hangers this week?) He was thoroughly ticked at me when he showed up in shorts and a t-shirt one day, because I had forgotten to note that it was "Dress Like an Ambiguously Gay Pirate Day" or something like that. I had no idea until I noticed that the counselor handing out the name badges looked like she had a very, very rough night and had black eyeliner smeared all around her eyes and was wearing a bandana to cover a really bad case of bed-head. As it turns out, she was dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Carribean, or Keith Richards, I'm not sure which.
It all passed in a haze of summer heat, long days, and many, many art projects involving popsicle sticks, tempura paint and hot glue. To his credit, Alex rarely complained, and only once or twice wistfully asked if he might have a day to just hang out at home and watch Yu-Gi-Oh reruns. I believe he said, "You go to work, Mommy, I'll just stay here and eat popsicles and watch TV until you get home." His greatest ambition, it seems, is to be a latch-key kid.
Back when I was a kid, I went to exactly one camp, an all-day Girl Scout day camp that lasted about four weeks. My mom walked me to our neighborhood school in the morning, and a big yellow bus hauled about twenty girls from my neighborhood to the site just outside town. We sang all the way to camp, such immortal tunes as "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt", "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" and of course the melancholy lament, "On Top of Spaghetti." (On top of spaghetti/All covered with cheese/I lost my poor meatball/When somebody sneezed.")
We were out in the woods all day long, learning to make fires, tie knots, and survive in the wild if all you are left with is a box of graham crackers, marshmallows and a Hershey bar. We maid "sit-upons" out of oil cloth squares and yarn, which we tied around our waists. These nifty inventions came in handy for not getting your shorts dirty when you had to sit on the muddy ground, hence the name. We learned how to macrame, whittle a stick into a dog figurine, and make a God's Eye using sticks and yarn. We learned to identify trees and which plants were edible and which were poisonous. We all got poison ivy and sunburns.
I suppose this was to prepare us for the time when we joined a Luddite
commune and decided to live off the grid for a while, or for being contestants on Survivor. Or, maybe it was
just because it was fun.
My fondest camp memory was that the reward at the end of the summer was a week of over-night camp in cabins. At the overnight camp, we told ghost stories, made more fires, and competed with other units for some kind of carved Stick of Supremacy. We gave each other nicknames like "Mouse" and "Grover." One year a girl in my cabin wet her bed the first night and was dubbed "Peanut," but we were sworn to secrecy as to why we called her that. Until now. Sorry, Peanut.
Camp, it seems, has changed. I don't recall ever being asked to memorize Newtonian Laws of
Thermodynamics, which were prominently posted in my six-year-old child's camp room at Camp Kinetic, each written in a different colored marker so that the would-be first graders would not confuse "Bodies at rest stay at rest" and "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." Interesting, since he can't even read anything beyond a Bobbook yet.
Alex's camps were fun enough, I suppose, but each one seemed to be somewhat technical (except on the days when they got to throw water balloons at the counselors). Alex learned rudimentary physics, Egyptian mummification techniques, how to build a Ferris wheel, how the extinction of an endangered species affects the ecosystem, the value of recycling, the mating habits of dinosaurs, and other things that I suppose will be useful cocktail banter when he is a Fortune 500 CEO someday. Maybe next year, I'll send him to Excel Spreadsheets for Junior Entrepreneurs or Web 5.0: Technology for People Born During the Second Bush Administration...or skip right to the chase and send him directly to Foo Camp.
I'm leaning toward doing what my brother did for my nephew, and send him to Camp Grandma for a month. At my parents' house, he will go fishing with Grandpa, eat lots of homemade sugary treats, camp out in the backyard, and learn to love kimchi-flavored milk, a phenomenon that occurs when kimchi is fermented in the same refrigerator with milk. I still think that milk tastes funny when it doesn't have an aftertaste of garlic and red pepper, with a mild undercurrent of bok choy.
I thought I'd gotten over most of my back-to-work guilt. Recently, I overheard Alex tell his Grandpa Jim, "You know, my mom used to stay home and take care of me, but now she doesn't." That little phrase stabbed me right in the heart.
He said it very matter-of-factly, as though we just turned him loose in the wild, with no more than a flint and a compass in his pocket.
I'd like to think that if we did set him loose in the Silicon Jungle, he'd at least have a chocolate bar, a few marshmallows and some graham crackers, because I know what it takes to survive in the wild.