Monday, December 31, 2012

Beautiful Things

A year and a half ago, at a service at MPPC, I heard a song that made me cry. It was played as background music to a video then. I have completely forgotten the video, but the song is burned into my mind. I remembered it in fall 2011 and looked up the lyric snippet I remembered: "You make beautiful things / out of the dust."

And I found it, and cried again. It was a hard moment in our marriage, and it took hope and faith for me to sing along. Things were not as I had imagined they would be, and I couldn't see a way forward. This song was my cry of pain and my cry of trust.

I bought the whole album by Gungor: "Beautiful Things," the song and the album are called.

 This past Sunday, O. and I were at MPPC together, and what song should the worship leaders close the service with but "Beautiful Things"? My heart was quiet as I listened and joyful as I sang along. Things are so different now than they were when I first discovered this song; things are so much better. God has been faithful and he has made beautiful things in O.'s and my relationship. Our marriage will be a beautiful thing someday, and indeed it is already, and if it ever crumbles to dust, I will still trust that Christ will remake it into a beautiful thing, and make it new--make us new. Make me new.

Welcome, 2013. Come, Emmanuel.

Food Poisoning

Yesterday was a milestone in our young marriage: I witnessed O. vomiting for the first time.

On Saturday night, we had taken my parents out to dinner at a local Mexican place they've started going to recently. The food was good and we admired the Diego Rivera art (posters, but the images still spoke) on the brightly painted walls. O. downed his entire burrito, a corner of mine that I couldn't finish, a lime soda, and my mother's leftovers.

Home, bed, sleep. Around 2am O. got up, and moaned to me that he felt sick. In the morning, he still had a stomache ache, but we made it to the 8am service at church (albeit a bit late, but that was my fault) for this great sermon. We intended to drive up to San Francisco after that and explore Golden Gate Park, which O. hasn't seen. But since we hadn't had time for breakfast before church, we stopped at home to eat.

It was very fortunate that we did stop, and that we lingered, because O.'s condition deteriorated rapidly. After he threw up violently, we had to conclude that SF was out of the question for that day. O. ended up lying on the couch most of the day, looking and sounding miserable, and arousing all my affection and compassion. I read him 40 or so pages of Roald Dahl's charming book The BFG, which we had started the previous day. He ran a fever and worried that he wouldn't be able to take our scheduled flight (8:15am tomorrow).

He ended up swallowing a couple of my parent's traditional Chinese stinky pills (no obvious effect on him, but my mom says he should have had four, the full dose), and two or three cloves worth of minced garlic, one clove at a time. Thank God, in the morning he was all better, and was able to enjoy our last day here.

O. has seen me vomit from motion sickness a few times already, but yesterday's episode was the first time I saw him reduced to that level of physical discomfort. I would never wish it on him again, but on the bright side, I do feel a little closer and more intimate with him now. Even food poisoning can have a silver lining.

New Year's Resolution (3)

I resolve to see more of New York City while I still can!
  • visit each borough at least once (I haven't been to the Bronx or Staten Island or Brooklyn)
  • go to the Bronx Zoo and the Central Park Zoo
  • see a show on Broadway with O.
  • visit MOMA once a month
  • visit the World Trade Center memorial
  • see the Cloisters
  • walk all over Chinatown at least once
  • go on a walking tour (if I can find a free one)

California Horizons

O. and I are planning to move out here to California at the end of June, after my sister graduates from her east coast school. I can't wait--well, I can wait and I am glad to stay a while longer because there are plenty of things still undone in our current life in NJ/NY. Places to see, relationships to deepen.

But I can't wait to look out on the horizon and see mountains every morning, purple-blue against the clear sky. I can't wait to exercise in the sun all year round, and to breathe hard without the insidious sense that I am poisoning my lungs. I can't wait to visit the marshes weekly or even daily and see the waterbirds swimming and diving in a habitat that has been preserved or restored intentionally, not wantonly filled in and built on.

Yesterday evening, Mom and I drove out to the Foster City dog park with my parent's little poodle. The sun was beginning to set as we unleashed the dog. She tore back and forth across the green grass--imagine that, green grass and flowers in December! The water in the marsh just across the park's fence reflected the glowing sky. Beyond it the mountains stood, and beyond them an open sky.

New Year's Resolution (2)

In the first six months of 2013, before we begin another cross-country journey and move (this time together), I want to finish reading certain books. It will be like a semester of pre-grad-school--only more like high school, because the subject matter is not well-focused well-rounded.

Here are the books, all of which I started reading at least six months ago:
  1. Gesture and Thought by David McNeil -- has the most interesting ideas
  2. Adger's Core Syntax -- this will be the hardest read by far; it's so technical that I only made it 5 or 10 pages in during my junior year after my introductory syntax class made me think I loved syntax.
  3. The Barbarian Invasion -- This book I bought on impulse after Tim Keller said in a sermon that it was a great read. I never liked history class but I'm enjoying this book, although I'm sure I'll like it better if I read it more consistently so that I don't forget all the names between readings.
  4. Old Testament Theology -- got this book exactly three years ago, started reading it this summer but haven't gotten out of the introduction. Non-fiction takes so much discipline for me to read.
  5. Teach Yourself Turkish -- now that O. is home all the time, I think I can make good progress on this one!
I'll put links in another time, right now I need to power through five more blog posts to meet last year's resolution ;)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year's Resolution (1)

In 2013, I will floss my teeth every day, unless my hand is grievously wounded or there is no floss anywhere in the city.

Hold me to it, readers.

2012 Gratitude

Highlights of 2012 (5): What are you most grateful for this year?

I'll put down the top five things in my life/year that I'm most grateful for, in order of importance:
  1. Improved communication and communion with O., particularly for the breakthrough conversations we had in mid-October than changed so much.
  2. New friends and old--who would be higher on this list if it weren't for the fact that I am equally grateful for them every year. 
  3. Our house, which is so much better than our 2011 dwelling and which is now occupied by only us and the bunnies.
  4. Bunnies, babysitting, the other part-time job, and grad school applications: things that keep me occupied and give me a sense of purpose or accomplishment.
  5. Health.

2012 Learning

Highlights of 2012 (4): What was the most important thing you learned this year?

Probably the Speaker-Listener Technique, our marriage counselor's first lesson for us. This communication protocol is priceless for any kind of sticky conversation, provided both parties agree to it. It's essentially an algorithm for clear communication, and it goes like this:
  1. Select an object, let's say a waterbottle, to represent "the floor."
  2. Choose one person to be the Speaker. The other party will be the Listener.
  3. The Speaker takes the waterbottle. He or she now has the floor (the right to speak).
  4. The Speaker says a sentence or two about the topic at hand. (Some types of statements are not allowed, for instance name-calling.) Ideally he or she uses "I"-statements but this isn't required.
  5. The Listener may ask a clarifying question if he or she is confused. Then the Listener reflects or summarizes what he or she understood from the Speaker's statements: "I hear you saying that..." "What I heard you say was..."
  6. If the Listener has understood correctly, the Speaker confirms this and the process returns to step 4. If the Listener's statement was not an accurate paraphrase, the Speaker restates him or herself and the process returns to step 5.
  7. When the Speaker has said as much as he or she wants to say at that point, he or she gives the water bottle to the Listener. Now the Listener has "the floor" and becomes the Speaker; the previous Speaker is now the Listener.
  8. Repeat steps 4 through 7 as necessary.
  9. Exit the conversation, having avoided a lot of misunderstanding.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Person

Highlights of 2012 (3): Who is your Person of the Year — the person who had the biggest impact on your life, or who provided the most inspiring example for you?

It's O.!

Is it cliche to cite my husband as the most influential person in my life? If it is, I don't care. We are still so early in our marriage that his presence every day is a novelty, and he startles me regularly. I hope it is always like this. 2012 was definitely a better year for our relationship than 2011; I look forward to seeing what 2013 brings us.

2012 Decision

Highlights of 2012 (2): What was your biggest question or biggest decision this year?

Will O. quit his job? When? What will happen next?

Those were the early November questions. O. did quit and is now unemployed. We are living off savings and my meager income, which will carry us for quite a while. Hopefully I get into grad school and get a stipend starting in September! For now, O. is doing lots of housework and plotting to earn money through private tutoring in computer science, and hanging out with me, and generally being so much happier than when he was working that I can only conclude that the decision was worth it.

2012 Challenges

It's Ten Thousand Questions Day! This week at Ten Thousand Questions, the theme was Highlights of 2012; I intend to answer the five questions today (in five posts, since I am still aiming for 100 posts this year...).

Beginning with Monday's question: What was your biggest challenge this year?

Well. 2012 had quite a few challenges. From December 2011 into January 2012, I spent my first Christmas and New Year's away from my family, staying for a week (or more?) with O.'s family in Florida. We also had to find a subletter and move in the first half of January. February brought the mundane adventures of learning my way around the grocery and hardware stores in the new town.

March and April were filled with failed attempts to hang curtains, as well as the acquisition of two adorable rabbits who presented ridiculous furry problems. In May I forced myself to drive in New Jersey for the first time (during a torrential downpour, as it happened; I arrived 30 minutes late to the vet appointment).

In June (or late May?) I spent a week away from O. at Basileia. That joyful week, though, confronted me with the fact that I felt more confident facing new people and a new situation without O. than with him, and that it was easier for me to keep my relationship with God in good order when I was away, on my own. A new friend advised me, sternly, not to think about going back, but to think about moving forward. Her words echoed in my mind when I got home to O. and confessed my discoveries to him.

Somewhere in there O. fasted for seven days--a miserable and worried week for me. Plenty of marital challenges this year, definitely.

July's trip to Turkey was accompanied by the joys and frustrations of spending many hours of the day in close quarters with relatives on both sides.

August was the beginning of a new job with our church, which has challenged my communication skills and my ability to assert my preferences. That's actually been the major struggle recently, although the conflict of a few weeks ago seems to be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. I just hope our negotiated plans work out.

September began a babysitting job, which is mostly fun. Disciplining a three year old and changing his diapers definitely challenges me, though.

Oh, September. Suddenly it all comes flooding back: L. and J. and their two cats moving in with us due to a housing crisis for them; our failure to establish expectations at the beginning of their stay, which stretched for two months; our refrigerator unwontedly crowded with bottles of salad dressing and mustard and a dozen other things; three jars of peanut butter in the overflowing pantry; limited bathroom access; cat allergies; the rabbits stressed out; practically no alone time with O. And meanwhile, O. gradually deciding to quit his job, hopefully leave the tech field altogether, and strike off in a bold new direction (though just what direction was unclear). Thank God we were already in counseling at that point!

October was more of the same.

November started with a hurricane, during which O. gave his two weeks' notice, with my ambivalent consent. During a non-trivial portion of that week, the atmosphere inside the house matched the winds and storms outside. L. and J. found a new place to live at last and moved out just after the storm. Then Thanksgiving, then December, and Christmas, and here I am at the end of the year.

Conclusion: 2012's biggest challenge, by far, was sharing the house with a stressed-out couple, two highly allergenic cats, and occasionally a very energetic five year old girl--for two monthsWould I do it again? Maybe. But I would plan it a heck of a lot better and not be shy about asking for changes, because, by gosh, it's my house. And I would not harbor the cats for more than a week.

Retirement Home

There is no denying that my parents are older now than they were a few years ago. Bifocals and presbyopia are dinner conversation, and hikes are shorter, particularly following my mother's bunionectomy (what a word). Names are shouted across the house, and they are not always heard.

After witnessing my father's deafness in one instance to my mother's calling of his name from several large rooms away, I remarked to O., "When we get old, let's live in a little house so that we never have to shout for each other."

"How about a dome house?" O. suggested.

I had never heard of such a thing in real life. O. described to me a geodesic dome house with a wooden frame, but he was fuzzy on the details. An internet search was soon mounted, quickly leading us to a website for an entirely different sort of dome house: one manufactured by a Japanese company and made from "the fourth generation building material: expanded polystyrene!" You can watch the promo videos, hilariously dubbed in a lovely Australian accent, on the company's website, but a better viewing experience can be had courtesy of Youtube. Embedded below:

This is the house of the future! That is, my future. I hope they are still making these things when O. and I are ready to retire. We'd like the "tow dome" construction, please.

I doubt these houses will catch on in the U.S., but I can imagine them doing well in Japan, as illustrated in the 480 dome village in the video. Having lived in Japan, I recognize a thousand subtle Japanese influences and assumptions in the design--most obviously, the compactness of it. What American would call a 44 sq. meter dome "really spacious"? These dome houses made me nostalgic for the world of my childhood, a vaguely remembered Japan.

Anyway, I seriously am interested in living in a dome house someday. This looks way more convenient than a treehouse, and almost as cool.


Here I am typing away on my mother's ergonomic keyboard, the keyboard I often typed essays and emails on in high school. I am sitting on her rolling chair, which I have sat on many times over several years, but though I never learned to adjust so much as the seat height on purpose.

I have been "home" in California for a whole week. This visit, I have felt vividly that this is not home anymore, not really. California is a home for me, my parents are a home for me. But this is not the house I live in, the place my stuff is (mostly), or even, at this point, the home of my very closest family member. O. is my closest family now, and we have our own home. That is the place that everything is the way I have arranged it to be (mostly); that is the place, now, that is most comfortable to me.

How very strange, to have my own home and have it not be here. My heart is divided between California, which is the land I love, and a little house in New Jersey, which is an island of comfort and familiarity in a great expanse of the unfamiliar. How amazing, really, to be able to call two places home. It's a luxury.

The Bible has it that we are strangers and aliens in this world, and our true home is in heaven. One interpretation is that we shouldn't get too attached here or settle down. But I have yesterday's shining sea and golden cliffs still glowing behind my eyelids. I have beloved books alphabetized on bookshelves. I have a husband and parents in this house, and I have homemade cookies in my stomach. How can I deny the home-ness of this?

This came to me: Heaven as true home doesn't make this present gift of home less real or good. Rather, this good gift, the sweetness of this home, is a foretaste of a sweeter, deeper home. Let me magnify heaven, rather than diminishing earth.

God, I am thankful for home.

Friday, December 28, 2012


On Christmas day, my family was singing "Here we come a-caroling," and the lyrics I remembered did not match the words in our songbooks. I remembered a version from a long-ago video featuring Peter Rabbit and other Beatrix Potter characters in a cozy village, in which the carolers sang, "Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too."

"What the heck is a wassail?" S. responded.

We had to look it up. Wikipedia provides the following:
Wassail (Old English wæs hæl, literally 'be you healthy') refers both to the salute 'Waes Hail' and to the drink of wassail, a hot mulled cider traditionally drunk as an integral part of wassailing, an ancient southern English drinking ritual intended to ensure a good cider apple harvest the following year.
Good to know!

And to top it off, we discovered this fantastical song in one of our less explored caroling books:
Wassail, wassail, all over the town,
Our bread it is white, and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the maplin tree,
So here, my good fellow, I'll drink to thee. 
The wassailing bowl, with a toast within,
Come, fill it up unto the brim;
Come, fill it up, that we may see:
With the wassailing bowl I'll drink to thee. 
Come, butler, come bring us a bowl of your best;
And we hope your soul in heaven shall rest;
But if you do bring us a bowl of your small,
Then down shall go butler, the bowl and all.
This page lists five more verses but our version ended after v.3's threat of sending the stingy butler down to hell! They don't make Christmas carols like they used to...

Point Reyes

We drove two hours up the coast to Point Reyes National Seashore today. After a picnic and many deer-sightings, O. and I began a six mile hike to the coast, where blue sky meets blue water, and the cliffs of the coastline weave in and out.

Along the way, we discussed the different kinds of questions we ask people around us. The discussion centered around how questions ("How can I help this person?" "How will this person change?") as opposed to why questions ("Why did this person react so strongly? What motivates this desire?"). How questions look forward to the future, while why questions look back to the past for answers, we noted.

Every so often, the discussion was interrupted by a tiny yellow bird (a wren?) flitting through moss-festooned branches, or by a hazardous patch of mud in the trail. Once, we met a red-bellied salamander hurrying along the trail.

By the time we reached the beach, my feet were sore. I liberated them and walked the next two and half miles on the sand in bare feet, occasionally numbed by frigid Pacific waves. I think I lost several layers of calluses.

Sun, sky, sea, soul-searching conversation: a blessed day.

Monday, December 24, 2012

"Life of Pi"

Last Tuesday, O. and I had a movie date. I was originally inclined to see "The Hobbit," but after watching the trailer for "Life of Pi," I was convinced that it was a movie worth seeing on the big screen. O. was pleased.

My skepticism about the movie stemmed from encounters with the book years ago. At the time, my parents were reading it, and a copy was always hanging around the coffee table. Tantalized by the life raft and tiger on the front cover, and the word "magical" on the back cover, I often flipped through it, reading snippets. The floating island fulfilled the promise of excitement and mystery, but the other chunks I read were a disappointment.

The movie, however, delivered the magic. From the opening tour of the Indian zoo, to the fantastic ocean scenes, "Life of Pi" is visually gorgeous. The landscapes of India, the marketplace full of colored scarves, the proboscis monkey at the zoo; the huge waves of the storm that sinks the ship; the glowing plankton and jellyfish, the jumping whale, the shining fish passing through the water; the endless sky: with so much beauty, the story is hardly necessary to make the movie enjoyable. The tiger, Richard Parker, terrifies but also enchants. (For instance, he can't get back into the lifeboat after jumping into the ocean to catch fish, and he is absurdly pathetic as he clings to it by his claws, fur waterlogged and ears flattened back.) Pi's acting, solo for much of the film, is completely convincing. The story, even at its most tragic, contains enough absurdity and beauty to tip the balance well away from despair or boredom. All in all, it was a great movie to see in theatres, if not necessarily one I'd watch over and over.

Some more notes:
  • O. jumped a lot during the movie. He told me he found "Life of Pi" more exciting than "Skyfall." The tiger, sharks, and shipwreck scared him in a way that explosions and violence don't.
  • I enjoyed the treatment of religion, particularly Pi's encounter with a priest in a chapel where he has gone to drink the holy water on a dare. As a Christian, I don't agree with Pi, who calls himself a Muslim-Catholic-Hindu, but I liked his presentation of his beliefs, which fit comfortably within Hinduism's open arms. I think this is the only time I've seen a discussion of Hindu philosophy in a popular movie.
  • I kept getting distracted from the story by wondering about how they made it and whether the tiger was real. More research necessary here.
  • Pacing was uneven: after the floating island, everything sped up dramatically and rushed to the movie's end.

Year end reflections

Seven days left in the year, and seventeen posts to go before I hit 100 posts for 2012. It feels odd to be writing to fulfill a quota, "inauthentic." But a goal is a goal, writing requires discipline, and it peeves me to see the total post-count diminishing each year when I look at my blog.

Why have I been writing less? I know I always write less in the summer, when pools of sunshine beckon me outside. I write less during holidays when my schedule is disrupted. I used to write more when I was upset because I would process through writing here as well as in my journal. But that was when fewer people knew about this blog and none of them were the people who upset me. Now I write less when I'm upset or stressed; I process elsewhere.

For over a year, I had all the solitude I could want. Home alone during the day with nothing assigned to me but housework, and even that assigned only by myself, I expected to write and write. But as it turns out, inactivity makes me depressed, and depression makes me inactive. I wrote little and read less.

Now I have two part-time jobs, pet rabbits, and a stay-at-home husband. I have less spare time, but more energy and more ideas, which inclines me to write more. On the other hand, solitude does not fall into my lap. This discourages me from writing.

Over the next week, expect several (I won't promise 17, but that's what I'm aiming for) short posts. I'm "home" in California, which historically has led to me not writing, but this year it feels like a reprieve from so many obligations, and I am determined to catch up, record, process, describe, capture, share: write.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Winter Clothes

Winter forces me to think about clothes. This year, with more time on my hands and more adults in my social circle than ever before, I have been more conscious of how I dress, and I've gotten more comfortable putting outfits together rather than just throwing on a t-shirt.

I discovered, this season, that I love wool: wool socks that cushion my feet from the cold tile floor; the red wool coat that is almost as warm now as it was when I got it 9 years ago; the wool hat with ear flaps, made in Nepal, that I purchased on impulse in the Student Activities Center one Thursday. The hat has accompanied me to more than one wintry bonfire, and it carries the smell of smoke hidden within itself, and imbues my hair with it so that I smell like a campfire after a day of walking around the city.

My most recent love is the wool sweater. Long ago, when all my shopping trips were initiated and accompanied by my mother, I acquired, at a used clothing store, a thick wool sweater manufactured by Eddie Bauer. It is Christmas-red, with white snowflakes sewn on, and it is the warmest garment I possess. When I was younger, I couldn't stand the scratchiness of wool, but my skin is more tolerant now, and the weather is colder. I wore that Christmas sweater at least three times a week this fall and winter, starting sometime in October.

I never thought I would become partial to sweaters, especially not wool sweaters. I guess I'm growing up.

Husbands, Wives, Clothes

Dear O.: I know I've been hassling you lately to get rid of some clothes and to go shopping with me. I know it's a pain, because I was not always on this side of the great divide between the keeper of old clothes and the promoter of new clothes...

I grew up hearing my mother complain regularly about the sagging necks on my father's t-shirts, the frayed edges of his beloved red sweatshirt, the poor condition of his well-aged tennis shoes. He has always disliked shopping and getting rid of old things. I shared his dislike, and always felt worried about my own well-loved shoes and t-shirts when his were criticized. Of course I assumed I would never be in the position of telling my husband, "You need new shoes, and that shirt has got to go."

Meeting O. only reinforced this expectation. When we started dating, he was better dressed than me: always in a well-ironed polo shirt and black (cargo) pants. A common outfit for me, busy Californian college student that I was, was still a t-shirt from summer Day Camp plus a pair of patched jeans.

What I didn't realize was that O. was not entirely responsible for his wardrobe. In retrospect, it is obvious that an engineering student, living at home with a mother who cares more about his appearance than he does, would not be doing his own ironing, and that if his mother likes shopping (which O.'s does), she would regularly offer him new clothes. It is obvious now that as her responsibility and opportunity to clothe O. were severed by his moving out and our marriage, O.'s wardrobe would lose its crispness. At the time, however, I was oblivious.

Thus, in the past year and a half, as holes have gaped wider and wider in each of O.'s three pairs of shoes, admitting water, mud and the occasional pebble, I was surprised to find myself saying, "Honey, how about getting a new pair of shoes?" and then, "I'd like to buy you a new pair of shoes," and finally, "You have to get new shoes!" As small holes opened at the pocket-corners of one t-shirt and then another, I found myself asking, "How attached are you to that shirt?" I was shocked to discover that it really does bother me to see two tiny circles of skin peeping through his shirt. I can't say exactly why it bothers me, but it does.

Somehow on the other side of that age-long debate between the keeper and the tosser. It's a strange place to be, but I feel all right about it.

And O., we have to go shopping again sometime. I'm sorry.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Linguistic Privilege

I spent all day yesterday composing my personal history statement for UC Berkeley & UC Santa Cruz (mostly for Berkeley since Santa Cruz did not provide any instructions whatsoever). In the process, I discovered some things about myself and my motivations in studying linguistics and wanting to document and preserve endangered languages. (I think I discovered things, at least, although a case could be made that I invented explanations rather than discovering them.) Here are some thoughts that didn't make it into my final draft, about linguistic privilege and the impact that living in Japan as a linguistic minority had on me:
In California, I would have been a member of a privileged class, comfortable without ever recognizing the advantages accorded to me. Growing up in California would have meant hearing my native language all around me; understanding the words used by teachers as well as my classmates did, if not better; exploring entire libraries of books meant for me, because they were in my language. These privileges belong to the linguistic insider, and because I did not experience in Japan, I recognized them when I gained them years later in California, and I recognized that my Spanish-speaking immigrant neighbors were deprived of these privileges.
I perused Ethnologue last night while working on my essay, and reacquainted myself with a statistic I'd like to share here:
6% of the world's languages are spoken by 94% of the world's population; the remaining 94% of languages are spoken by the other 6% of the world's people.
For so many of those four hundred twenty million people (7 billion people x 6%), there is nowhere they inhabit a position of linguistic privilege.


I am still working on applications to graduate school (Pick me, Berkeley!), but all I want to do is bake Christmas cookies, preferably with lots of chocolate in them.

It's been three days since I brushed my hair, and I haven't gone outside yet today. All morning, I stayed in my pajamas: black yoga pants and a purple plaid flannel hoodie purchased from a used clothing store when I was in fifth grade, topped with a fleece jacket that is roomy for O. and huge on me. An hour ago I finally realized I was hungry and thirsty and needed to use the bathroom, so I got up, changed into jeans and my own fleece, and discovered that Pipkin had unrolled half the toilet paper in the bathroom *again.* Made myself a delicious burrito and a strong cup of tea, returned to my laptop and my seat by the window.

The rabbits are sleeping, one by my feet and the other in the kitchen. I am counting on caffeine to keep me from emulating them.

Berkeley's website informs me that my application must be submitted in 12 hours and 35 minutes. Time to apply myself.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Evening Moment

O. is whistling in the kitchen, some variation on a hymn. I hear him getting out a pot for spaghetti, moving things around. I am sitting by the front windows, trying to write my personal statement. The shooting in Connecticut is all over the internet, grief upon grief. Still the sun washes the sky in orange and pink, and the naked tree silhouettes retain their fragile beauty.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Two books

Late last night, I finished reading The End of Sexual Identity, a slim volume by cultural anthropologist Jennell Williams Paris which taught me the history of the concepts homosexual and heterosexual, and argued that the concepts in themselves are deeply problematic. We have made sexual desire into a primary identity marker, thereby consigning ourselves and each other to categories based on feelings. Paris suggests that we leave behind the categories of heterosexual/homosexual and ground ourselves more deeply in the identity of being beloved (of God).
Today, I started reading Ursula K. LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness, the account of a alien male ambassador on a planet where all the humans are androgynous hermaphrodites five-sixths of the time, only becoming male or female during estrus for reproductive purposes. Here there are no homosexuals or heterosexuals or even men and women, because sexuality does not enter into identity at all. It is strictly compartmentalized into the brief period of kemmer (estrus), rather than influencing every aspect of life and social interactions as it does for us.

Quite the juxtaposition. Paris speaks of settling into being a woman or being a man, regardless of particular desires. LeGuin describes the what-if of not having a man/woman distinction in the first place. The ideas are strikingly similar in some ways but at the same time deeply opposed to each other.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In which a rabbit is temporarily absent

Hazel is at the vet, recovering from being neutered. The house is quiet without him crashing around the living room and threatening to pee on the couch and eat my laptop cable. He should be back tomorrow along with most of his energy.

I submitted my first application for graduate school yesterday, and now I am taking a much-desired break from applications for a few days. What this really means is that I am frantically trying to catch up on Communications Coordination for church, for which I have been doing the bare minimum lately. A newsletter is supposed to go out the day after tomorrow, and I don't have any of the articles written.

However, today was a real break, because O. and I visited King Spa, a Korean sauna/spa. We might have postponed the trip indefinitely if the Groupon generously given to us by friends had not been expiring today. I'm glad we were forced to go today, because it was a great experience. More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Diversity Statement in 680 characters

Stanford's graduate application requires a diversity statement of up to 700 characters long.  Crafting one was a challenge. Here's what I came up with (20 characters to spare):
As I entered the playground, my peers paused in the sandbox, shouting, "Gaijin!" Stranger, outsider: this was my identity in Japan from ages 4-10. At home I learned to read English; at school I fell behind, the sole non-native. When my family returned to California, ignorance of games and sensitivity about personal space branded me a foreigner still.
Today, my race and culture blend and shift: Korean/Caucasian, Californian/Japanese. With parents of two races & a husband from Turkey, diversity is home. Being white in Japan, Asian in Menlo Park, & female in computer science earned me empathy and communication skills vital in a diverse community. These I offer my classmates.