After about an hour of reading this:

my daughter sculpts these:

I recognize this need to put a book or pen down or walk away from the computer to go make something with your hands. My daughter does it instinctively. Unlike me, there is no conflict of shoulds informing her. I should read another chapter. I should write another paragraph. As natural as taking the next breath, she switches engagements, putting the book down and picking up the clay. After some time immersed in words, she re-enters the three dimensional world in a tangible way. She plays with clay. There is much to be learned from this moment. Vital to the creative process is re-engagement with the physical world.

Jamaica Kincaid gardens. Emily Dickinson loved to bake. Flannery O’Connor ran a bird farm. I can imagine her getting up from two hours of writing and going outside to pet her peacocks. Barbara Kingsolver farms. Nabokov chased butterflies.

Without hesitation, I shall now leave my words and go chop some celery.

Published in: on November 30, 2011 at 11:17 am  Leave a Comment  

On Being Called a Bitch

It’s happened twice.

The first time was at a playground. My youngest was three years old. She was playing on a mega jungle gym, the kind with a long ramp, multiple slides, and climbing walls, when a boy of about thirteen rode his bike up and down the ramp. There were small children all around. I told the older boy to stop and bike on the path. He got off the ramp and biked in front of me, back and forth, as if pacing. On his third round, he had worked up the gall to call me bitch in passing. I let it go. He was young and insolent. I wasn’t his mother. But then, he did it again. The boy was clearly showing off in front of his friends; a huddle stood off to the side snickering. I walked up to some women who were grilling hot dogs. I asked if any knew the boy on the bike. One raised her hand. There was some resemblance, the don’t-mess-with-me look in their eyes. I told her what had happened. She called her son over and scolded him in Spanish in front of me and in front of his friends. She was loud. She must’ve told him to apologize because the boy quietly told me he was sorry. I accepted, picked up my daughter, and left the playground.

The second time happened yesterday. I was driving down Rt 1, while a young man was trying to cross. With backpack over one shoulder and a styrofoam take-out container in his hands, he got to the double yellow lines and waited for a chance to get to the other side. He looked awfully close, so I slowed down but didn’t stop because I was in the midst of traffic, cars behind and beside me. As I passed him, he yelled, “Bitch!”

At first, the name-calling is startling. Once I get over the initial shock of it, I think about what actually happened. A stranger has verbally abused me because I took some action to protect myself, my child, and even perhaps him from potential harm. In that light, I don’t mind the name-calling so much. I invite it. Being called a bitch by the likes of young men with an inflated sense of entitlement indicates I must doing something right.

Published in: on November 29, 2011 at 12:13 pm  Comments (4)  

Mondays With Mom #8

Four couples. Three days in Seoul. Three days in Kyung Joo. Four days in Beijing. Ten days in Pusan. My parents are finally back home. Of course I missed them, but I really missed my mom’s cooking. Today’s lunch felt like a reunion.


Squash, perilla leaves, and greens

Chicken in bulgogi sauce

Fish cakes

Jjang Jo Rohm (marinated beef)

Pickled raddish


Potato salad. Hurry home, John.

What’s a trip to Korea, if you don’t bring back cotton underwear?

Published in: on November 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm  Comments (5)  


When I’m grateful, I feel a mix of things: happiness, surprise, kindness, humility, indebtedness and a touch of guilt. I’m happy and surprised to hit the jackpot, but do I deserve it? Who is responsible for these gifts upon my lap? I want to give back. I want to give forward. Gratitude comes with it the urge to reciprocate, the urge to create among us a perpetual rhythm of giving and receiving.

Happy Thanksgiving!
With love,
Ellie, Sophie, Patti and John

Published in: on November 24, 2011 at 3:13 pm  Comments (2)  

Little House in the Woods #2

My husband is building me a lake house. The worst is over. The house has electricity, running water, a furnace, and an exterior. The interior is still a mess, but it has heat now, so it’ll be warm while he puts in kitchen cabinets, builds walls, installs flooring… He started in the spring and has been away most weekends building; this, while holding down a full time job during the week. The man is obsessed. This is his art. When he’s creating, he wears his favorite Levi’s. They are historic.

John and his jeans.

Furnace in the basement/crawl space.

The house so far.

Published in: on November 23, 2011 at 7:59 pm  Leave a Comment  


I’m not good at it. I sat silent in classes during my undergraduate years, which wasn’t hard to do in big lecture halls, but I was an English major. Most of my classes were based on participation in discussions. Silence got noted. I managed because my papers were well written, and the professors were generous enough to overlook my preference not to speak. It wasn’t until graduate school, I spoke up. I had to. I was teaching courses by then. However, my trepidation never did go away. My old habits of clamming up are still here, and they play a part in why I haven’t blogged in a while. A bit of a battle rages inside, and all the physical symptoms, accelerated heart rate, sweaty palms, dry throat, butterflies in my stomach, return. Do I speak? Do I say what’s on my mind and in my heart? Do I share?

No, because it’s risky. What if I don’t say it quite right and it comes out all wrong and all stupid and I get my feelings hurt because you got your feelings hurt and we don’t like each other anymore? No, because it’s private and none of your business. No, because there’s always that sneaking suspicion you are swine and what I hold are pearls.

Yes, because sharing, even with all the anxiety-ridden buildup, once done, eases something in me. Once done, the symptoms subside. Yes, because there are connections to be made, stories to be told, experiences to be rendered on the page so that we don’t feel so isolated and alone. What if Maxine Hong Kingston refrained from sharing THE WOMAN WARRIOR? What if Louis CK never spoke of what it’s really like to be a parent? What if Chris Billing decided his film LOST SPARROW was too personal to share with the public? Yes, because writing lets me communicate in a way that I don’t get to in the usual comings and goings of daily living. Besides, what’s the use of all this pearling, if the pearls remain shelled, never to be seen, worn, touched, admired, rubbed against teeth to determine if genuine, and perhaps even tossed.

Published in: on November 22, 2011 at 11:41 am  Comments (2)  
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