Dear Reader,

My manuscript has received several glowing rejection letters so far, most saying just about the same thing. The consensus is that my book needs a stronger plot. If I am to deliver a revision with a thicker plot before the kids’ summer break, I must get to work and give blogging a rest for now. Bummer. Will miss you. Wish me well.

Until next time…

Published in: on April 18, 2011 at 7:34 pm  Comments (15)  

A Blank Wall

I read somewhere: Buy what you love, and in the end, all the pieces will somehow end up making sense in your home.

I’m still testing this theory. The following were found in thrift stores and collected with the common theme: my affection.

This was a silk Adrienne Vittadini scarf. Irresistible. I decoupaged it onto a wooden board and had no place to hang it for a long time.

Loved the retro feel.

How can you say no to a painting of apples?

A signed print of the lighthouse in Annapolis Royal.

A signed watercolor of two girls and a red wagon of cats in a Sardines box. This one had a story.

A signed silk screen print of a hibiscus.

Does the grouping work?

Published in: on April 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm  Comments (1)  

Rebel Yell

Everyone else was standing in line, so we did, too. My mother, father, sister and I waited for our turn to ride our first roller coaster. We had no clue what a roller coaster was. I was six years old.

This was our first trip to Kings Dominion. We went with two other families. I was the second to youngest child in the group. There was a boy younger than I who wore a suit that day, and I distinctly remember noting how inappropriate that was. My mother had dressed me and my sister in new outfits, selected and purchased for the occasion. A pair of metal studded shorts, hats, snoopy socks, brand new sneakers, and shirts cropped to show our midriffs. Many pictures would be taken to send back to family in Korea. We had to look the part. We had to look like we were living the life.

Chugging up that first hill did feel like we were living the life with the view of the amusement park sprawled out before us. I sat with my father. My sister and mother sat in the car in front of us. I enjoyed being up high, looking down at the people, and seeing as far as I could see. The breeze blew. The air felt better up in the sky. Then, we dropped. Lifted out of my seat, I gasped for breath, squeezed the metal bar with my sweating hands and pressed my forehead against it, hearing my father laugh and my sister giggle and my mother moan, aigo umma aigo aigo umma aigo. Paralyzed, I fixed my dumb gaze on my new sneakers dangling from my snoopied legs and submitted to being still and silent, unable to ask when it would all end.

Me and my sister, not looking amused.

My dad made sure to capture the roller coaster’s first drop.

The three families.

Published in: on April 14, 2011 at 3:32 pm  Comments (5)  

How Grandma & Grandpa Met

It was the spring of 1947. She worked as a nurse at Providence Hospital in DC. He was a patient, waiting to get his tonsils out. The orderly was off that day, so she had to go down to St. John’s Hall, the men’s floor, to bring him in for surgery. She checked his chart and learned that he was entering the police academy. He joked about it, and she joked right back. He asked her out on a date. She said she didn’t think she could do that. They flirted all the way to the surgery room. He was a talker. The doctor told him to stop talking. He said he wouldn’t stop until he got the nurse’s phone number.

The surgery was on a Thursday. He called her on Friday. On Saturday, the two went out on their first date to see the cherry blossoms.


Published in: on April 13, 2011 at 7:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Little House in the Woods

We’re building a second home up in the mountains of Western Maryland. The trees have been cleared. The land graded. Now, the foundation is being laid.

Like all things we do, this is on a shoe string budget, most of it do-it-yourself. We designed an efficient one floor house with all the plumbing centralized in one location, kitchen-dining-family area in one open space, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a mud room in the back with a toilet and sink, and an overhang. My husband wanted to clear the lot, grade the land, and lay the foundation himself. I talked him out of it. He also wanted to build the shell of the house in our driveway, rent a tractor trailer, transport the panels to the mountains, and assemble the wall panels himself. I talked him out of it. We went with a local builder to construct the shell of the house on site.

After that’s up, John can have at it with putting in electric, siding, plumbing, hvac, insulation, floors, interior finish…

Published in: on April 12, 2011 at 2:18 pm  Comments (3)  

Mondays with Mom #7

so much depends


battered with

fried in

Watercress pancakes next to kimchi pancakes, my favorite.

Watercress salad.

Drumsticks with potatoes and carrots.

Stir fried cabbage and carrots with marinated zucchini.

Korean latkes.

Green kimchi.

My mom in her first kitchen in America. Arlington, VA. 1977.

Published in: on April 11, 2011 at 5:15 pm  Comments (6)  

The Purple Ice Pack

This morning while packing the girls’ lunches, my younger daughter inquired, “How come Sophie gets the purple ice pack?” I answered, “Because your lunch bag is bigger and needs a bigger ice pack. The purple one is too small.” She still wanted the purple hockey puck of a freezer pack. And if she’d seen me putting the purple one in her bag, she would’ve asked, “How come Sophie gets the big white ice pack?” Can’t win.

Being a younger sister myself, I know what Ellie feels. “How come Nan…” was my mantra growing up. My illusions of being treated second best dominated my childhood. Although it trained me to be more aggressive, stand up for myself, and get my share, it did take its toll. My mother told me a story of going shopping with me back in Korea. I was two or three years old. When she picked up one pair of underwear or socks to purchase, I’d stare her down until she bought two, knowing full well the one was going to my older sister. The you’d-better-give-me-mine-woman look in my eyes made her pick up another pair. As a parent, I understand perfectly well why she would buy one pair rather than two. It has nothing to do with love. Looking back, I wish my mother hadn’t been so easily swayed by the emotional irrationality of a three-year-old. Did her compliance justify my feelings? Did it give me a taste for the kind of victory I’d seek for the rest of my childhood? I never really snapped out of my misperception until Ellie came along.

My mother also told me this story. A month before she was leaving Korea to come to live in America, her mother bought her younger sister a refrigerator. This broke her heart. She cried like a baby because she wanted a refrigerator, too. How come she gets one? How come I don’t get one? Her mother said, “What are you going to do with a refrigerator? Take it to America?” A refrigerator was a senseless gift a month before departure. Nevertheless, it broke my mother’s heart because it represented the care and attention she would miss out on by leaving the country. Years later, she was able to see the source of her sadness, but at the time, she wanted that frig.

When Sophie has her “How come Ellie…?” moments, I can reason her out of them. Ellie is getting a new pair of sneakers because her old ones don’t fit anymore. Your shoes still fit your feet just fine. When you grow out of yours, you’ll get a new pair. But Ellie is different. When she feels something, it’s reality. She won’t reason. I was just like that; I refused to be reasoned out of my feelings. So, do I give her the purple ice pack on Monday? As much as I want to end the grievance and simply give her what she wants, I’m troubled by the long term effect it may have on her. After all, the birth of her second child is a long way off.

The stare down.

Published in: on April 8, 2011 at 11:51 am  Comments (7)  

At Grandma’s

When I’m 86 years old, I want to be able to live alone, take care of my home, drive, learn how to battle with Pokemon cards, sew costumes for my grandchildren, make dolls for them, teach them how to play old maid, bake crumb cakes, hold engaging conversations with my children, and have no fears.

Sophie and Ellie with grandma.

A lesson in how to battle with Pokemon cards.

A game of old maid.

My mother-in-law made these dresses based on Kaya, the American Girl doll.

She made matching dolls.

Published in: on April 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm  Comments (7)  

Wide Eyes

In the summer of 1994, I returned to Korea for the first time since immigrating at the age of three. My aunt and uncle met my parents and me at the airport and drove us back to their apartment. During the ride, my aunt told me to get my eyes fixed while I was visiting. She knew the best doctor. It’s cheap here. Everyone does it. It’ll look so natural. I didn’t quite know how to take this urgent recommendation for plastic surgery from my kindhearted and enthusiastic aunt, who hadn’t seen me in over twenty years. Get my eyes fixed? For what? I had enough trouble breathing the air here, did she really think I would allow someone to slit the lids of my eyes? Get my eyes fixed? My vision was just fine, thank you, fine enough to see that the Pusan hillsides heavily accessorized with glow-in-the-night neon red crucifixes had little to do with heaven. The crosses reminded me of the signs back home that showed the way to the nearest emergency exits.

The decision to get your eyes “fixed” has everything to do with how you see, how you see yourself, how you see others seeing you.

When Ellie was 5 years old, she wanted to change her eyes, declaring that they were too wide, too round, too big. According to her, wide eyes were ugly. She would stand in front of the mirror, slant down her eyes, and say, “This looks better.” She believed this because her sister, mother, aunt and idol-of-a-cousin all had slanted eyes. Wishing to be like everyone else, she couldn’t see her own beauty.

In AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD, Annie Dilliard distinguished the beauty earned with age as superior to the automatic beauty of youth. “Our beauty was a mere absence of decrepitude; their beauty, when they had it, was not passive but earned; it was grandeur; it was a party to power, and to artifice, even, and to knowledge. Our beauty was, in the long run, merely elfin. We could not, finally, discount the fact that in some sense they owned us, and they owned the world.”

Why not claim the grandeur of owning the world, rather than wishing to be elves again?

Published in: on April 5, 2011 at 5:44 pm  Comments (2)  

Mondays with Mom #6

When my mother was a girl, she wanted to be a dancer. When her father ended her lessons, she turned to her mother, who had no power to make demands on behalf of her children. My mother finished high school, but never went to college. She married young, had me and my sister, and followed my father’s dream of life in a foreign land. I wonder how often she woke up in the middle of the night to the stink of her dreams denied.

My mother dances as the boy.

Published in: on April 4, 2011 at 6:33 pm  Comments (7)  
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