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losing my sh*t

Couples who don’t argue?  Whatever.  I view them in the same way that I view the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot–that is, with disbelieving fascination.  I’ll believe it when I see some crisp photographic evidence.

I’ve read a lot of incisive articles in Cosmo about relationships.  And they all tend to focus on the communication styles of the spouses.  Once angered, I am like a spewing volcano and there’s no point in trying to deal with me until all the lava has flown into the cooling ocean, which may take minutes but usually takes a few hours, depending.  I read something in GQ last month about an angry wife being like a bear.  When Tom is upset, he needs to resolve things as soon as humanly possible, often with suffocating hugs.  But even a baby knows you should never try to hug an angry bear.  If we’re arguing late enough in the day, I’m probably still mad by bedtime.  In my experience, going to bed angry can result in some truly deep and restorative slumber.

If holding a grudge was an Olympic sport, I would be its Mark Spitz.  I would win the gold in all of the events in two consecutive Olympics, and they’d have a photo of me on the Wheaties box with my six medals splayed just so on my torso.  And any time you talked about anyone else’s skills at holding a grudge, you’d have to end your conversation by saying, “yeah she’s good, but she’s no Yoona Park.”  I am still holding minor grudges from events that happened a decade ago.  Tom described my hands as “pudgy” in approximately 2001 and I still haven’t recovered.  He, on the other hand, can’t remember what we argued about last week.  Which may be why we keep having some arguments over and over again.  I made this point to him once and he seemed receptive, until he promptly forgot about the discussion 17 minutes later, in order to make space in his brain for the latest episode of the Bachelorette.

I’m entering the point in my life where friends are separating or divorcing.  And selfishly, going through that with others makes you want to examine your own relationship for the fissures, and to fill them in before the cracks become unbridgeable canyons.  I am unabashedly nuts about Tom and not ashamed to say so here.  So I am resolved.  The next time Tom wakes the beast, the beast will take the hug like a champ, and be grateful that her husband made the effort.

who wouldn’t want to hug this guy?

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ways to wear: black tee at work

Tom loves the WSJ. I find it to be a miserably dull little paper (except for Rachel Bachman in the sports section, love her) with its stupid little drawings, and no, my resentment has nothing to do with the fact that I don’t understand 90% of the subject matter inside it. Anyway, the WSJ covers fashion but in the tone of an intellectual talking about tv–the paper wants you to know it’s slumming. Maybe that’s why the fashion in the WSJ always seem two seasons behind. Just the casual observation of someone whose wardrobe is 80% J. Crew. I can only imagine how lame the paper feels to someone who actually knows something about clothes.

Point being, you know the power suit is well and truly dead when the WSJ says it is. A few weeks ago they ran a story on the death of the power suit, accompanied by photographs of some hideous alternatives. I have suits for court, but I hate them. They are uncomfortable, hot, and mannish, even when there is a skirt involved. ESPECIALLY if there is a skirt involved. I don’t know why that is, but it just is. Plus, people think suits are easy to coordinate, but they aren’t. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what to put under the suit that won’t make me look like a corporate drone, and it’s usually for naught.

Give me separates any day, especially cheap ones. I bought a slinky but fitted crewneck at the Gap a couple months ago and have been wearing it to work a lot. It was actually at Gap Body and on sale, so I have a nagging suspicion that it’s actually the top half of a pajama set. Whatever. Anything to avoid wearing a suit.

No one at work is going to give you a hard time about wearing a maxi. At worst they will think it looks weird, but look, genius is never understood in its own time. And long skirts are genius, because they are elegant, offhand, and comfortable–all at the same time.

Paperbag waists look so cute but I find them challenging. Cinching with a neon belt makes it a little easier.

Black with navy: do it. These shoes: buy them. They are walkable and not hideous, which IMO is the best you can hope for in a work pump. This pose: not serious. Happy Tuesday.

downers: your BMI

I hate weighing myself and do it as little as humanly possible.  But my doctor is always trying to weigh me, so I know I’ve been anywhere between X and Y pounds (a 20 pound range, leaving out pregnancy) since I reached my full height of 5’8″ and 1/2.  The Y was when I was in college, eating Panda House three times a week.  The X was about five months ago after six days of a cleanse and a particularly virulent bout of the flu.  I have little hope of attaining that number again, but it’s nice that I can cling to it in rough times.  It’s like how I cling to the fact that I got a perfect score on my verbal SATs whenever some troglodyte corrects me on my grammar or some ignoramus assumes I can’t speak English.  By the way, it’s amazing how much English you can learn from a steady diet of romance novels.  And yes, it HAS been really hard waiting until my 71st post to mention my SAT score from 17 years ago, thank you for asking.

In any event, you’re not supposed to care how much you weigh.  Instead, you’re supposed to care about your body mass index (“BMI“).  But I’m not sure the BMI thing works as it should.  Tom, not liking the results of his own BMI calculation, immediately dismissed the concept of the BMI as junk science.  And in his case, I’m inclined to agree.  We worked in reverse and calculated what he would need to weigh at his height (6’4”) to enter the lower end of the normal range, and it was like, 147 pounds.  I don’t want him to be unhealthy, but I also have myself to think about, and given that he is 8 inches taller, I require that there be more of a difference between our weights than the equivalent of a fat house cat.

Anyway, no matter how you slice it, the Body Mass Index is a downer.  So BMI: thanks for playing, but I reject you.

yoga fail

It’s been a busy spring, work-wise. But now it’s May, and we’re entering the Summer of Yoona (“SOY”). As part of SOY, I have reintroduced myself to yoga and have been going most weekday mornings at 6:00 am.

I’ve flirted with yoga in the past but it’s never stuck.  And I’m not saying it’s sticking this time, because it’s only been three weeks.  But I feel better about this yoga (Corepower) because it moves quickly, is less hot, and is not so focused on the deep and complicated breathing that is so integral to yoga at other studios, and which I am utterly incapable of performing.  That’s right–I’m that kind of yoga person.  The kind that “does” yoga, not the kind that “practices” it.  The kind that asks her friend Patrick if he’s “good” at yoga, and is confused when Patrick responds that yoga is not about being “good.”  Say what?  Patrick could have been discussing astrophysics in Swahili and we would have connected better during that conversation.

Basically, the zen stuff is nice but what I really want from yoga is Jennifer Aniston’s arms.  And I think Corepower might get me there.  But it’s not perfect.  To be perfect, the studio would have to cut out the poses I can’t do.  By that, I’m not talking about the poses that I can’t do correctly–because there are lots of those.  I’m talking about the poses that I can’t do at all, like the Camel and the Crow.

I’m ok with my inability to do the Camel (above). Because I can physically do the Camel; I just can’t do it without regurgitating my last meal and passing out.  So it’s really a choice that I’ve made, and that means I’m owning my failure.  But the Crow!  The damn Crow.  The Crow haunts my dreams and turns them into nightmares.

This guy is making it look easy, but it’s not.  I’m convinced my inability to do this pose has something to do with my head/hair, which is quite large, because of the huge brains.  And it’s doubtful I will ever be able to do it, because to learn it, I have to practice it, and practicing this move could kill me.  If you screw up most yoga poses, you fall on your butt.  If you screw up this one, you fall forward, head first, and unless you are Flash Gordon, your arms can’t get in front of you fast enough to break your fall.  As my friend Kathryn says, she prefers her nose unbroken.  As do I.  So the stakes feel high.

I learned exactly how high the stakes are when Tom caught me practicing the move in our bedroom.  After asking what I was doing, he said, “Oh, the Crow, I can do that sh*t,” and then proceeded to hold the pose for .08 seconds before falling forward and skidding about 12 feet on the fir floors, on his FACE.  I don’t know how it felt, but it looked really bad.  You know, this story actually tells you all you need to know about Tom, whose sole experience with yoga consists of a free ten-day trial completed a year ago, the highlight of which was the class in which he fell into a deep slumber during shavasana and began snoring.  I know it happened because I was there, having spent most of the class trying to avoid getting kicked by one of his flailing white legs.  Despite his limited experience, Tom assumed he could just rock up into the Crow without having to work for it.  The balls on that dude.  I am in awe.

But therein lies the lesson.  Because, of course, I’ve not worked at it either.  In this age of immediate gratification, it feels odd to be unable to achieve something that appears so readily achievable.  I’m not giving up.  I’ve got a mound of pillows set up in my carpeted closet and motivation in spades, thanks to my coworker Josh Ross (at top), who can do the Crow.  Josh Ross, for the record, can barely touch his toes.  If Josh Ross can do the Crow, I can do the damn Crow.  I mean, I’m Asian.  Yoga is (South) Asian.  I simply refuse to accept the idea of a universe in which Josh Ross can do the Crow and I can’t.

One day there’s going to be a post on this blog with nothing in it but a photo of me doing the Crow.  In yoga speak, I’m setting my intention.  So stay tuned.

remember the Gateway

At a car dealership last night, I wanted to buy a new car and the salesperson was making it really hard to say no. Luckily, Tom was there, doing his best “tough guy.” As the price dropped lower and lower, Tom leaned back in his chair, folded his arms across his chest, and played hardball, both with the salesperson and me. To the salesperson: “We aren’t looking to buy right now.” To me: “Yoona–remember the Gateway.”

Whenever I want to buy anything on an impulse, Tom brings up the stupid Gateway computer I bought 12 years ago. Recent transplants from NYC, we had just rented an apartment and were keeping our purchases modest. But eventually all things come to an end, and so it was with my frugality. I can be disciplined, financially, for periods of time. But inevitably, I crack. The severity of the cracking is directly proportional to the length of time that I have deprived myself. And so it was that one evening, after months of penny-pinching, we walked past a Gateway store, and I decided I had to have a computer, that very night.

Boy, was it a beaut. The monitor itself was probably three feet square. It had a 40 GB hard drive and less memory than my current digital camera, but back then, it was top of the line. Everything I would need for gaming, said the Gateway rep. I nodded my head in silent agreement. I didn’t game, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want the option of becoming a gamer. Same with the speakers. Back then, I didn’t know how to play music on a computer, but it seemed silly not to have the subwoofer, when all was said and done. With all the necessary embellishments, it cost something like $3400, which is the current price, I believe, of an entry-level Kia. But being newlyweds, Tom was still eager to please me, and also eager not to be single in a town in which he knew no one. And so he nodded his acquiescence, even though his eyes were troubled. As for the computer, it was probably obsolete by the time we drove it home.

I shouldn’t have bought the Gateway, but that doesn’t mean I should have to hear about it for the rest of my life. I remember the damn Gateway. I could hardly forget it, as it’s currently sitting in my basement in a huge cow box because it weighs 7000 pounds and is too heavy to dispose of. I shouldn’t have to hear Tom’s voice in my head when I stand at a Starbucks counter waffling between a grande and a venti, reminding me to “remember the Gateway.” Enough already.

whole grain banana snack cake

Most Mondays, I bake some type of loaf cake and keep it on a stand for my kids to snack on when they come home on Tuesdays and Thursdays with their manny Zach. Since it’s for the kids, I try to keep it relatively wholesome. But that’s a fine line, because my kids aren’t horses. Get the nutritional value too high and they’ll throw themselves on the floor and act like you tried to feed them jellied oxtails.  Once, when I made zucchini bread without shredding the zucchini fine enough, Finn pulled my head down towards his, stuck the bread in my face, and demanded to know what the green stuff was.

I have a couple loaf recipes on rotation, but I’ve never been inspired to post about one of them before. Until this one. No white flour–instead, it’s made with a combo of oat and whole wheat flours, and takes most of its sweetness from overripe bananas. Plain yogurt adds a slight bite. If you’re thinking “what the hell is oat flour,” don’t sweat it–you can make your own by whirring a cup of rolled oats in your food processor.

The best part of the cake is the texture–airy and bouncy, but toothsome and satisfying. It eats like a coffee cake, but has the added nutrients from the whole grains. The original recipe has a crunch topping and chocolate chips, but you can leave off one or both and it’ll be fine.

If you’re like me, you don’t have the patience to mess around with a recipe that doesn’t hit it out of the park every time. Whether you eat it or smell it, this cake just works. And that in itself is worth something.

Banana Crunch Cake

Recipe from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oat flour (I whir a heaping cup of rolled oats in my food processor to get 1 cup oat flour-don’t worry if you can’t get it super fine)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour or 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter (fine to nuke til soft or melted)
  • 1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup mashed banana (probably 2-3 large bananas)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (non fat to full fat is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips or toffee pieces (optional)

Crunch topping (optional)

  • 3/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup light or brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Grease and flour an 8-inch-square pan. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. For cake batter: Whisk flours, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, stopping to scrape the bowl between eggs. Mix half the dry ingredients until moistened, then mix in bananas, yogurt and vanilla. Scrape the bowl down again before adding the remaining dry ingredients and nuts and chips (if using). Mix until everything is evenly moistened. Transfer batter to the prepared pan.
  3. For topping: Combine oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a small mixing bowl until well blended. Stir in melted butter until large crumbs form. Stir in chopped nuts. Sprinkle the topping over the batter in the pan.
  4. Bake until the edges pull away from the pan and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes. Remove cake from the oven and place on a rack to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

downers: composting

Six months ago, as part of its ongoing bid to secede from the United States and get annexed by Scandinavia, Portland instituted mandatory composting. The city provided every house with a cute 3-gallon composting bucket, and began picking up garbage bi-weekly, instead of every week. The second move was a brilliant piece of brinkmanship, as it forced recalcitrant families to compost into their yard bin, in order to save their now-precious garbage space for primo trash, like diapers.

Compost bucket

composting as nature intended: full of healthy juicing scraps. bin and photo, Grant Us the Luxury

As with other nature-related things (e.g. camping, the ocean, birds), I love the idea of composting more than I love the reality of composting. I mean, I support the idea of reducing waste–if you can’t get behind that, that’s weird–but the reality of composting has added a layer of stress to my already stressed-out existence. And sometimes, it’s not even just stress that’s added, but abject fear, and horror. And those are emotions I shouldn’t have to deal with in performing a household chore, unless I’m cleaning my boys’ toilet.

Why the fuss? If you don’t compost, let me lay some groundwork for you. The cute little 3-gallon pail sits on your kitchen counter, and you fill it with table scraps. Any kind of food scraps, including meat and fish bones. Once that bucket fills up, you transport it outside, and dump it into the curbside yard waste bin, which gets picked up every week. The first issue is that table scraps–especially when mixed with other table scraps–are gross. While it may not be ecologically sound, the beauty of putting table scraps down the disposal is that once they are disposed of, you don’t have to look at them again. With composting, you are confronted with what you had for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, over and over again, every time you open up that pail to put more scraps in.

So why not just empty the pail more frequently? Because emptying it more frequently would mean more frequent trips to the curbside bin. And what lies in wait inside that green bin, simply put, is some scary-ass shit.

Not even the fecund mind of Stephen King could do justice to that green bin and its contents, but I have to take a stab. The bin gets food waste dumped into it every day. For a full week, the food waste sits there and does what food waste does, which is to rot and attract wildlife–and I’m not talking about puppies and kittens. I’m talking about the kind of animals that are more properly characterized as vermin. In the winter, it’s not so bad, because the food just rots in the cold. But now that we’re getting into summer, the things happening inside that bin are downright primeval.

20120508-215301.jpg

Unfortunately, as it turns out, you can’t transfer scraps to the bin without opening the bin. There’s a lot to deal with once that lid is open, so it helps to have a game plan. Here’s mine. First, stop breathing. The noxious odors and gasses coming from the inside of that bin are most certainly poisonous if inhaled. Best to close your eyes too, because the one time I opened them I swear I saw movement inside, and that movement may have been maggots. As a child, I was scared of two things: nuclear war and maggots. So it’s a real thing for me. Third, close your mouth. You have to open the bin with your mouth closed, or you may accidentally ingest one of the 100 flies that will fly into your face. Fourth, and this is the important one–for God’s sake make sure it’s light out. At night I get so jittery and panicked that I might encounter a rat, that I have missed the bin entirely when dumping out the contents of the pail. It makes me sad when Tom has to pick spaghetti and meatballs off the driveway on his hands and knees, in the dark. Especially because there may be rats out there.

I suppose there’s a chance that time will take the edge off of the composting. But it’s been six months, and it’s still scary.  I get the value of composting, like I get the value of carrots, and math. And being forced to compost has made me a lot more mindful about not cooking excess food–which may, ultimately, be the real benefit of composting.  So I’ll continue to compost.

But no one, not even the City of Portland, can force me to like it.

boobs ‘o plenty

I’m not a virtuous person. I make a lot of snarky comments and swear a lot, and sometimes I drive closer to aggro bike commuters than I probably need to, just because they annoy me. But for all my faults, I’m not judgmental about how other moms parent their kids. I used to be. But then I had children, and struggled to breastfeed. I learned that no matter how much you will it, sometimes you don’t get the breaks. And life goes on.

Portland is a bad place to have trouble with breastfeeding. The only thing that Portland loves more than composting and small-batch roasted coffee beans is breastfeeding. Because breasts are natural, milk is natural, and as any Portlander will tell you–natural is the way to be. One day, someone in Portland will figure out how to produce hemp milk from their breasts, and then we’ll be able to prove, once and for all, that Portland is superior to Seattle.

But back to my breasts. From the first, Finn wouldn’t latch on. And when he did manage to latch on, the pain was indescribable. I visited the lactation clinic so many times in the first six weeks of his life that I practically lived there. For anyone who has wanted to breastfeed their child and couldn’t, you know that there is no worse emotion than the despair you feel when you cannot give your child the one thing that your body was supposedly designed to provide. So I soldiered on, through cracked and bleeding nipples, innumerable plugged ducts, and three bouts of mastitis.

And it was never enough. Finn still drank formula half the time, because my supply was low. I had him during law school, so I pumped in the school library and carefully carted my milk home in ice packs. My supply dried up completely while I was holed up studying for the bar exam. In the end, I managed to nurse both Finn and his brother for seven months each. And it tore me up that I could not give them more. Last week, I opened my best friend’s freezer to find bags and bags of her breast milk. And even though it’s been almost two years since I last nursed, I felt such a stab of raw pain looking upon that bounty, that I realized I had never let go of the guilt I felt at not being able to nurse my boys as I wanted to.

I guess I’m writing this post to say what I wish someone had told me, back when I was struggling. And that is this: it is ok not to breastfeed. Being unable to breastfeed, or choosing not to breastfeed, doesn’t make you unnatural. It doesn’t make you less of a mother, and it doesn’t make you less of a woman. It just makes you less of a breastfeeder.

Being a parent is hard enough without the second-guessing. We make the best decisions we can, with the knowledge and resources available to us. I did the best I could. As every mom does. Time to cut ourselves some slack. So here’s a toast to my under-producing breasts, and a thanks for their months of embattled service.

ford, forever

Everyone makes sacrifices in a marriage. Because Tom’s dad worked for Ford almost his entire life, Tom has insisted from the moment we began commingling funds that we drive only Ford or Ford-owned brands. For twelve years, I’ve been happy to oblige, because I’m a giver. Actually, as a Korean, I’m predisposed against Japanese cars anyway. I feel similarly conflicted about Japanese food, although I’ve managed to choke down vast quantities of tempura and green tea ice cream over my lifetime. Anyway, buying Ford felt patriotic, like baking an apple pie in cutoff jean shorts.

Now that I’ve cruised around in two successive Ford Escapes for the past twelve years, I feel that I’ve done my time. The mandate is starting to chafe a little. Especially since Ford sold off Volvo and Land Rover. I don’t need a status car, because I need that money for clothes, but I’d like something a smidge nicer. The need for a new car became more dire last week when Finn asked me why my car is “so old,” and “so small.” Which immediately made my armpits break out in a cold sweat, and led me to start asking the same questions of Tom.

My need for a new car is no longer about me. It’s about the children.

It is my weakness that I love new, shiny things. My disenchantment with everything I own begins as soon as I tear off the price tag. Which just goes to show how much I have suffered for the cause. Because not only is my current Escape not new, it is actively falling apart. The outside trim is coming unglued, and makes a jarring clanging noise when I close the back doors. While the outside is rusted out and old, the inside is a hothouse, teeming with life. I refer to the car as “the Biosphere,” because flies have been born inside of it, and lived full, rich lives, feasting on the apple cores and bagel crusts that my children leave to rot under the seats. If you think I’m kidding, I’m not. Here’s a fly I recently killed, on my dashboard. We coexisted peacefully for weeks until he started flying directly in front of my face while I was driving. I mean, they can live in my car, but they can’t DRIVE.

Anyway. I want a new car. It needs seating for seven. Best if it’s a Ford. What should I get?