Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Worst Thing

I have another sad post tonight, though fortunately it is not my own sad news.  A very dear friend’s nephew passed away.  He was just a bit younger than Brett – less than two months old, I believe.  He was born with a very serious congenital heart defect.  He underwent two surgeries in the first two weeks of his life.  He was discharged from the hospital and, from what I understood, was doing really well.  I rather thought he was out of the woods. I guess I would have been wrong about that.

This news really shocked me, even though common sense would tell me it shouldn’t have.  I have known this friend since we were practically babies ourselves.  The family is so kind and caring and loving.  It makes utterly no sense that something so terrible could happen to such good people.  They are strong believers in God and are some of the most faithful people I have ever known.  I know that they will need it in the days, weeks, and months to come.  It is one thing when an older person, such as my grandmother dies.  We all hate to lose loved ones, but it doesn’t feel so unfair when the person has had a full life painted with wonderful experiences and people.  It’s really hard to understand why an innocent child should have to suffer and then be robbed of the chance to live a life similar.

Before becoming a mother, I could never have hoped to understand what my friend’s sister-in-law must be enduring right now.  There is no pain greater than the loss of a child.  As I’ve said before, my grandmother never really got over losing my mom.  No parent should ever have to bury their child.  It upsets the natural order of life.  I had to go in and check on Brett after hearing this news, just to make sure that she was sleeping safe and sound in her crib.

If there is nothing else to learned from such tragedies as this one, it is that we should hold our loved ones close every day.  We must be grateful for the time we have been allowed with them.  I will try so much harder now not to complain when Brett is being a pain.  I would take a million moments filled with crying, pooping, barfing, and hair pulling (mine, not hers, obviously) than have to go through that.  There is nothing in this world more precious than my daughter.  Nothing.  She is the light of my whole life, and I can’t think what I would do if something happened to her now.

So please be thankful for the special people in your life.  I have to remind myself sometimes to be grateful for things.  I just wish it didn’t take something like this to remind me.


Oscars Round-Up

I’m not really much of a movie buff.  I’m particular about the movies I watch, as a general rule.  My husband will watch anything.  I tend to be selective, and once I find some movies that I like, I will watch them over and over again to the point of ridiculousness.  My husband also says I don’t know anything about good movies, although I disagree with that evaluation.  Even though I don’t watch everything that comes out, I always like to see who wins the Oscars for the year.  I don’t necessarily think the nominees for the Academies necessarily even reflect the best movies out there, but I’m a gossip hound, and I enjoy watching the campaigns, the dresses, and making bets with myself concerning who will win.  This year was an interesting one.

I have to start with Daniel Day-Lewis because he’s my favorite actor.  Actually, I don’t think it would be outlandish for me to make the statement that he’s the best screen actor living today.  I think you could make arguments for others, especially those involved in theater, such as Sir Ian McKellan and Kevin Spacey, but DDL is just my favorite.  I have a lot of love for McKellan, Christian Bale, and Spacey, but nobody quite compares to Day-Lewis, in my mind.

I guess before I go any further, I should say that I haven’t seen a single one of the Oscar-nominated films for this year.  I’ve been busy with the kid, and I just don’t have time to go to the movies anymore, unfortunately.  Also, we don’t necessarily get all of them over here in Korea, so I often end up waiting until they’re released for purchase, which suits me fine.  It doesn’t bother me at all that I didn’t seen Lincoln, because I frankly don’t agree with the mainstream history of Lincoln, and I sincerely doubt Spielberg decided to buck the trend of Lincoln worship.  That said, my qualms with the interpretation of history shown in the film have no bearing on the quality of DDL’s performance.  And let’s be honest – from the clips I’ve seen, it’s his usual inspired awesomeness.  I’m not sure you can compare anyone else to DDL.  Maybe Bale.  Those method actors – they’re an interesting lot.

I very much enjoyed his acceptance speech.  It was funny in what I found to be a mildly awkward way – the sort of humor I enjoy.  It seems sincere.  His thanks to his wife was touchingly sweet, and it’s nice to see that there are couples who escape the Hollyweird trend of divorce, drama, and disillusionment.  Of course, they don’t live in Hollyweird, so that probably helps tremendously.

My favorite part was seeing DDL and Meryl together.  They are, in my opinion, the two finest screen actors alive, and it’s a real treat to see them just sharing space together.  Would it be possible to put them in a film together?  I feel like the cameras would catch fire from the sheer awesomeness of their performances.  I can’t get enough of Meryl.  Did you notice that she didn’t even open the envelope on screen?  She didn’t give a dramatic pause or anything.  She just said it as though, “Of course it’s Daniel Day-Lewis.  I just gave those amazing accolades to the rest of you so that you’d feel good about yourselves when you lose.”  Love her.

Incidentally, this DDL’s third Oscar for Best Actor, which makes him the only man to ever accomplish the feat.  Jack Nicholson won twice for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and As Good As It Gets.  He also has a Supporting, but I forget the name of the movie.  So Daniel Day-Lewis is officially in a category all his own.

The non-surprise of the evening was AnnE Hathaway winning Best Supporting actress for her role as Fantine in Les Mis.  I haven’t seen it, but I want to.  I’m a big fan of the play, and I loves me some Hugh Jackman!  Now there is a class act.  He is the example which all others in Hollywood should follow.  He is gracious, polite, and nobody ever has a bad thing to say about him.  Would that there were more like him.

Anyway, AnnE.  Here’s the thing: I like Anne Hathaway.  I really do.  I think she’s gorgeous, though apparently some think she’s a bit strange looking. I think the large features are fabulous, and honestly, I like her hair cut short.  That said, I want her to go away for a while.  She has campaigned so damn hard for this Oscar.  It’s fantastic that she’s willing to work, but I don’t like the try-hard, and I think actors’ work on-screen or on-stage should speak for themselves.  I know that looks and likability are a huge factor in winning, but Anne just turned me off with the constant barrage of interviews and photo shoots and what-all.  She’s exhausting.  She’s a fantastic actress, but she’s exhausting.

Her speech was obviously rehearsed and overdone.  Maybe I’m too finicky.  I don’t like the rehearsed speeches nearly as much. They seem less genuine, and let’s face it – the long list of thank yous is trite and overdone, never mind boring.  I couldn’t even listen to her whole speech.  Okay, I’m done.

By all accounts, Anne gave a great performance.  She has a lovely voice, as I heard it from watching “I Dreamed a Dream” on YouTube.  I think it was kind of a given that she was going to get this award.  She works hard, and I think she most likely deserved it.  Having said that, I hope her PR team advises her to chill out for a bit and take a short break.  Overexposure can be a terrible thing.

Christoph Waltz won his second Supporting award, and I suspect, as someone else mentioned, that it could be thanks to Harvey Weinstein.  He has a lot of pull at the Academy, for better or for worse.  That said, I adore Christoph Waltz.  He is sex on a stick to me, and here’s why: he fluently speaks four languages that I’m aware of – German, English, French, and Italian.  I melt for linguists.  I really do.  When I watched his first scene in Inglourious Basterds, I was in love.  Watching him switch from German to French to English transported me back to university, to Europe… I majored in German and French, and language is the jam, as far as I’m concerned.  Also, the guy has excellent comedic timing.  Those Germans.

Anyway, I didn’t see Django Unchained.  I heard it was pretty damn good, and I like Tarantino and his revenge fantasies a lot, so I’m not surprised.  Kill Bill is still going to be his masterpiece, but he is good at what he does, and I think he has found a great collaborator with Waltz.  That’s the thing about Tarantino – he finds people with whom he has a good fit, as a director, and he casts them over and over again, and I think that’s okay.  It works for his style of film.  

The big surprise for the night was Jennifer Lawrence’s win for Silver Linings Playbook.  I’ve already heard rumblings about Weinstein’s influence, and I suspect there’s more than a grain of truth to that.  Lawrence is only 22 years old – the second youngest to win a Best Actress.  The youngest was Marlee Matlin, I do believe.  I have never seen one of JLaw’s movies.  I like her interviews – she seems genuine and personable.  She has that amiable, girl-next-door quality that most people find endearing.

I think she was honestly surprised that she won.  I was, too.  I was thinking Jessica Chastain would get it for Zero Dark Thirty.  I felt bad for her that she tripped up those stairs, but then again, Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper rushed to scoop her up, soooo… Yeah, I don’t feel so bad now.  Her speech was good – from the heart and unaffected.  I really don’t think she was acting.  I think she didn’t know what to say and wasn’t really expecting to win.  If it was put on, she’s a better actress than I’m giving her credit for.

I think she’s a bit young, and I’m not sure, based on reviews, that her performance was really worthy of an Oscar, which makes me think Weinstein was involved.  She’s his new it girl, from what I’ve read.  I hope this won’t raise expectations of her to impossible highs or tank her career before it begins.  When you’re awarded such an honor so young, where do you go from there?  Some actors work their butts off their entire lives and never see an Oscar.  Christian Bale and Gary Oldman are two off the top of my head whom I hold in far greater esteem who still haven’t won.  It will be interesting to see how the next few years go for her.

Anyway, as far as Argo winning for Best Picture, sure, why not.  I’m no fan of Ben Affleck, but I heard the movie was good.  I didn’t really have a horse in that race, so whatever.  Honestly, I was really hoping Sally Field would win for Best Supporting Actress, although I think all of them were good.  There were moments that I really wanted Anne to lose, just to take her down a peg, and I’m saying that as a fan.  I would have been happy for any of the Best Supporting Actors, as I think they’re all excellent and more than deserving.  And DDL?  Well… There’s no competition.  It might have been nice to reward Joaquin Phoenix’s outstanding performance, but let’s face it, that guy does not have two fucks to give about the Academy or anything else in Hollywood.  I’m sure his attitude contributed to his not winning.  Well, that, and he was up against Daniel Day-Lewis.

Anyway, I’m sure there are lots of folks who won’t agree with my evaluations, and that’s cool.  Like I said, I haven’t even seen the movies, so I really shouldn’t even be writing this.  I love my gossip and celebrity garbage though, and it’s hard for me not to care just a bit.  I try not to place too much value on the Oscars, but there is definitely some merit to winning one, and I do occasionally get a bit invested in who wins and loses.  I’m still pissed about Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love) beating out my girl Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth) back in 1999.  It was engineered, plain and simple.  SIL was a generic movie with a used-to-infinity Romeo and Juliet plot line, and Paltrow’s performance was just like all of her period performances, good but not inspired.  Cate Blanchett was and is amazing.  Period.

Okay, I’m done.

Ninety-One Things

I’m still adjusting to my grandmother being gone.  It’s been strange.  I’ll go hours or even a day without really thinking about her, and then I’ll think of something I’d like to ask her or tell her, and I remember then that she’s not at the other end of the line anymore.  At that point, I usually say it out loud and hope that she’s listening.  I haven’t even really been crying that much anymore except, strangely, whenever I do the dishes.  Perhaps enduring unseemly work in a crappy kitchen invokes memories of Grandma.  She was bitter until the very end that Grandpa never renovated her kitchen.

I have a lot of memories of my grandma.  Many of them are somewhat intangible, like memories of her general personality or just the feelings of talking to her.  Those things are hard to convey through spoken or written mediums, I think.  Still, I’m going to give it the old college try.  I’m going to list (because you know me and my lists!) 91 things that I miss, remember, or loved about Grandma – one for every year of her life, plus one for the birthday she just barely missed, which was coming up this Friday, February 22nd.

1. Grandma wore makeup every single day.  I honestly can’t remember a single day that she didn’t “put on [her] face.”  I know there must have been one in there, but I can’t remember it.

2. She hated it when her feet got too arthritic to wear snazzy shoes and heels.  I’d whip out my strappy Gucci sandals, and she’d get jealous and wish she could still rock a Manolo.

3. Every day I came home from high school (junior/senior years), she’d be sitting in her chair by the front door, and she’d always ask how my day went.  It drove me nuts because high school is the same every day: a shit show.  I appreciate it a lot more now.

4. She always let me play my music in the car.

5. Even though she really didn’t understand the gay rights movement, she tried hard to get behind it since she knew I had several gay friends.  I never figured out if it was because she was trying to stay hip or because she legitimately thought it was time to overcome that sort of prejudice.  I suspect the former.

6. She took me to Diamond Grove Cemetery to learn how to drive in her gigantic Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham.  I always joked that she was so convinced that I was going to kill us that she thought we might as well be near our final resting places.  Seriously, getting that tuna boat to corner around the old tombstones that kind of hang out towards the road was an uphill battle!  It was still easier than driving Grandpa’s even more enormous Suburban through the mud holes of Possum Trot Road.

7. One year at Thanksgiving, as I leaned over to take one of the hundreds of cookies that she had out on the dining room table, she patted my stomach and said, “I’m not sure you really need that, honey.”  Less than five minutes later, she looked at me and said, “You should have a cookie.  You look hungry.”

8. And speaking of cookies, whenever we had company, Grandma would always buy about 2-4 boxes of muffins and cookies and just leave them out on the tables around the house.  She would eat maybe one a day, and the rest of us would scarf them down and gain 5 lbs. in three days.  She never gained an ounce.

9. She got her nails done every week.

10.  She was incredibly bitter about the fact that Grandpa never renovated her kitchen.  The kitchen at their house sucks like few others, but I honestly can’t recall a conversation with my grandma from the last five years or so that didn’t eventually come back to the fact that she didn’t have a nice kitchen but he got to go hunting in Canada.

11. She went to Europe with Great-Grandma Howe and Great Aunt Dixie, and she hated the Italians.  She’d call them communists and remind me that they would never give her change – only buttons and candy.  It made her really angry.

12. She loved to gossip, but she never would own it.  She always pretended like she didn’t like to sling it, but then she’d always have the dirt for you.

13. She always let me have slumber parties when Grandpa was out of town.  I’m pretty sure most of my friends were scared to hang around when he was in town.

14. She never did understand why I liked hockey so much when I was younger.  (I still love hockey, in case anyone is curious.)  I think she thought that nice girls don’t play hockey.  As a direct result of this love, she once told me that I should have been born a boy.

15. For as long as I can remember, she drank a cup or two of coffee every morning.

16. And thinking of coffee, when we still had the cabin at Matanzas, she used to buy Entenmann’s crumb donuts, and we’d sit on the swing early in the morning in the summer, and she’d let me dunk my donut in her coffee.  We’d watch the barges and the fisherman go by.

17. She made the biggest, best lasagna in the free world.  They often weighed nearly 20 lbs.  Yes, we weighed our lasagna once.

18. I can’t remember a day she didn’t eat ice cream.  She usually had a bit in the afternoon, but she always had a bowl at night.  She also fed the dog ice cream.  Out of its own bowl.  That dog lived better than most people.

19.  She always made seven layer salad for company, especially to go with the lasagna.  I never cared for it, but the stuff never seemed to last that long.

20. I don’t know if my grandma invented this, but she sure loved it: peanut butter and tomato sandwiches.  I think it’s a Howe family thing.  I’m also possibly the only person in the family who doesn’t like them.  Seriously, am I the only person who thinks peanut butter and tomato sandwiches are strange?

21. When I was really little and still lived with my mom, I remember going to spend the night at Grandma’s.  For one thing, it was a huge treat.  I slept in her bed, and in the morning, I’d “run away” from Molly, their old German Shepherd/lab mix.  She’d run around the edges of the bed, and I’d try to evade her.  Grandpa would come downstairs and use the downstairs bathroom to get dressed and shave, as I recall.  That was back in the days when the gold drapes in the house matched the gold shag carpet.

22. My mom had a wiener roast one time at our house on Finley.  It was fall, and my Grandma and I were dressed alike in red sweaters with red barrettes in our hair.  Mom’s old cat, Bobcat, bit Grandma, and it really ticked her off.  Bobcat was pretty mean.

23. I got really sick once when I was still with my mom, and she and Grandma took me to Springfield to see Dr. Soler.  I slept in the backseat with my head on Grandma’s lap.  That was back in the day before carseats were mandatory.

24. One time when I was in fourth or fifth grade, I went down to my friend Megan’s house to play.  The girl across the street, Lindsey, had a trampoline, and we went to play on the trampoline.  I was supposed to be home at 7pm, but I stayed late because c’mon, trampoline.  Grandma sent Grandpa out in the truck looking for me to make sure I wasn’t dead.  When I got home, she was freaking out, crying and what-all.  I never came home late again because you suck if you make your grandma cry.

25. During the election of 1992, I really wanted my grandparents to vote for Ross Perot because I felt a man who explained the economy on graphs and  such was a man who knew what he was doing.  My grandma told me that she voted for him, but I heard her telling someone later that she’d voted for Bush, and that was the first time I really ever realized that adults sometimes lie.

26.  And speaking of lies, I’m 99% certain that, when she was young, my grandma was a smoker.  Most people back in the day were.  Grandpa used to have pipes all over the place.  Heck, he probably started smoking when he was a kid.  Anyway, for as long as I can remember, my Grandma would deny that she was a smoker.  She always told me that she only ever smoked a cigarette once in her life, and it was with Grandma Howe and Aunt Dixie, and she hated it.

This one time, my uncle Harry must’ve either decided to mess with her or decided that it wasn’t right to lie (or both), and he reminded her that he and my uncle Chris used to go down to the corner shop to get her smokes for her.  I guess that shut up her “I never smoked” tirade for the night.  My dad also told me once that she and my mom used to sit out on the back steps and smoke Kools.  I could see my mom smoking Kools, but my grandma?  Weird.

27.  My dad was never a champion truth-teller, but he told me a story once when we were having drinks at the Heidelberg pub in Columbia, MO.  He said that my grandma had a key to his and my mother’s place on Sandusky, and sometimes while they were at work, she’d come over and rearrange the furniture.  He said it drove him nuts.  I’ve always thought this was far-fetched, but then again, I also remember Grandma constantly rearranging the antiques and things in her own house, so who knows?  Maybe an older member of my family will verify or debunk this someday…

28.  Grandma hated winter.  A lot.

29. Grandma also used to have this absolutely hideous pair of snow boots that had fox fur around them.  On one hand, I feel like they should have been luxurious because of the fur.  But then again, they were hideous.  She wore them for years.

30.  She always told me that two of her goals in life were to have four kids and sixteen grandkids.  She had four kids, ten grandkids, and nine great-grandkids, so even though she didn’t technically meet the goal, I think she felt pretty good about the whole thing.

31. She also told me that she was sure that her grandma (Lair – they called her “Odo” for some reason) was the best grandma ever.  She always said she wanted to be a good grandma like that.  I think she was the best grandma/mom ever, so I’d say she accomplished that one!

32. She used to clean her jewelry with a yellow porcelain bowl, an old toothbrush, and ammonia.  It stunk to high heaven, but it did a good job.

33.  She loved geraniums.  When we used to plant the flowerbeds in the spring, we always had scads of geraniums.  I’m not sure if it’s a result of Grandma’s love for them and their resulting overpopulation of the gardens, but I really hate geraniums now.

34.  She was the best damn back scratcher in the free world.  Seriously.  Apparently, she had to do it at night for all my uncles and my mom, so by the time I was demanding it, she was an old pro.

35. She used to stand by the door and watch whenever there was company coming.  Her mom did the same thing, and funnily enough, I have to refrain from doing the same thing.

36. She impressed upon me at an early age how rude it is to keep people waiting, and I still detest being late, for myself and others.

37. She was so particular about her car.  She knew instantly if there was even the tiniest little scratch anywhere on it.

38. She really liked Southwestern/Mexican/Native American jewelry.  The turquoise dress and matching jewelry she wore for my mom’s wedding came from Mexico.  She also really like those necklaces and bracelets… What are they called? … Fetish necklaces!  That’s it.  Dang, I can never remember.

39. She looked really good in coral and turquoise.

40. Whenever I burped in the house, she’d tell me I sounded like an old trucker.

41. On Black Friday, we’d always go and pick out the Christmas tree.  We almost always got a Fraser fir because they shed less.  And every year, we had to bicker about which tree had the straightest trunk.  I’d come back with Grandpa in the Suburban, and then we’d haul it home.  We’d put it in the tree stand, and Grandpa would always make me wire it to the stand so that it didn’t tip over.  Prior to this, he would invariably moan about how crooked the tree was, even if it really wasn’t.  This would always prompt Grandma to tell me the story about how one year Great-Grandpa Howe cemented a tree into a bucket because it was so crooked.  This never made the pain of dealing with Grandpa giving me orders any easier to take.  (For anyone that has ever dealt with Grandpa’s “supervision,” you know whereof I speak.)

42. Whenever we had drinks at home, she always had a Greyhound (grapefruit juice and vodka), a glass of wine, or a beer.  At the Country Club, she always had a glass of blush wine (usually Zinfandel), and after dinner, she’d usually have creme de menthe and vanilla ice cream.

43. I remember her being a very calm driver.

44. If we were having a family get-together for a holiday, she would frequently start worrying about it six months ahead of time.

45. She visited her mother every single day that she was in the nursing home.  She’d bring her clean clothes back and visit for an hour or two before picking me up from school.

46. I’m not exactly sure, but I think her two favorite movies were “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Driving Miss Daisy.”  So anything with Jessica Tandy it.  I think “Home Alone” was her favorite Christmas movie.

47.  And thinking of being home alone, she wouldn’t even leave me to go get groceries until I was about 9 or 10 years old.

48. I remember the first time she and Grandpa dropped me off at summer camp, and she loved Clearwater.  (Everyone who goes there does, I think.)  Looking back on it, I think she wanted to go to summer camp herself.  I always got the impression she enjoyed going there as much as I did.

49. She was absolutely generous to a fault.

50. I don’t think she ever really saw any fault with me, my mom, or my uncles, even though obviously none of us are perfect.  I honestly think that, in her mind, we could do no wrong, even if we were blatantly doing something wrong or screwing up.

51. I can honestly say that we both really enjoyed watching HGTV and wishing for or bashing the houses featured on there.

52. I think she really wanted to get onto the Internet and Facebook, out of sheer nosiness, if nothing else.  Of course, I’m confident that Grandpa thinks the Internet is witchcraft engineered by the NWO, so that was never to be, but I think it would have been hilarious for Grandma to be on Facebook.

53. Grandma was non-confrontational to a fault.  She would go to most any lengths to keep peace in the family.

54. She got really annoyed and offended if she didn’t get a thank-you for gifts.

55. Sometimes when she was bored, she’d sit and look out the windows at the neighbors, like Gladys on Bewitched.  I would point this out to her and she’d deny it, saying, “Oh, I’m just fixing the curtains!”

56. She had more nervous energy than just about anyone I’ve ever met.  Even when I was a kid, I really can’t remember Grandma sitting still for very long.  I could never decide if she was naturally that way or if having four (and really five) kids and a husband plus a huge house to take care of made her that way.  She told me that when her kids were little, she’d frequently go to bed around 1am and get up around 5am.

57. She never got over my mom.  I feel like, in a lot of ways, she was always a taboo subject around my grandma, because even after 15 years or so, it was hard for Grandma to talk about her.

58. She loved shopping.  Loved it.  I mean, I enjoy a good jaunt around some clothing stores, but I’m sure she loved it more than I do.

59. She and Grandpa used to take their shanty old motorhome and snowbird in Arizona and Mexico.  She once told me that they drove across Kansas with her leaning out the window and holding onto part of the awning so that it didn’t blow off that beastly vehicle.  Also Grandpa took out a guardrail on Mingus Mountain once, and I think Grandma nearly had a stroke on the spot.

60. She was fanatical about locking the door.  Uncle Harry once said that you could go outside for 90 seconds to take the trash out and be locked out when you came back, and it wasn’t really much of an exaggeration.  Incidentally, I am also a fanatical door locker, as a result of growing up like this.  I can’t stand to look at an exterior door that is unlocked.  I don’t even really like interior doors that are open.

61. She refused to ever have her knees replaced, and I wish she hadn’t been so stubborn about it, because I think it would’ve helped her a lot in her later years.

62. She kept on teaching school even after she had kids, which was a real oddity back in the 40s and 50s; women really didn’t teach after marriage.  I like to think that Grandma was an inadvertent feminist.  She would never have considered herself as such.  I think she would have just said that she loved teaching and they needed the money, at the time.

63.  I was scared to death of spiders as a kid, and I’m not much better now.  She would always kill the spiders that got into my bedroom.

64. She never seemed to really believe that she was old, and you know, I’m not sure she ever really felt it, mentally, which is pretty awesome.

65. Even though she always shrunk up my jeans, she still did laundry better than anyone else I know, and my cousin Kari once said that the towels at her house were the softest in the world, and I so agree.  I have never been able to replicate the cleanliness of her laundry or the softness of her towels, regardless of fabric softener or machine.

66. She never learned how to swim.

67. My grandma was pretty darn good-looking as a young woman.  Actually, both of my grandparents were pretty attractive.

68. Grandma was pretty done playing around waiting for Grandpa to propose, so while he was on furlough from the war, she pretty much told him that if he wanted to get married, they had to do it this time or she wouldn’t be waiting around when he got back.  So they got married.  She told me, “Margaret, I’d still be waiting, if it had been up to him!”

69. She never really had anything good to say about my father with one exception: “Well, he was a good cook.”

70. She told me a story when I was a kid about her Aunt Louise, and it stuck with me.  Her aunt told her that she needed to have her own checking account, even when she was married, because a woman needs her own money that she can spend and save as she pleases.  She always stuck by that.

71. Of all the things Grandma knew how to cook – and she knew how to make an awful lot of things! – I don’t think she ever considered herself good at making stuffing.

72. She used to tell me a story about my mother and how she would overdraw her checking account constantly while she was at college.  Grandma said, “Margaret, I got so I hated to go to the mailbox because I knew there would be another overdraft notice from your mother’s bank.”

73.  Grandma had surgery in between having my mom and having my uncle Harry.  In fact, when she got pregnant with Harry, the doctor really didn’t want her to have Harry because of her health, but she insisted on it.  Harry would probably deny this up and down, but I’ve always said he was the favorite, and there’s a reason for that: he was the one that everyone tried to convince her was a bad idea, but I think in her mind, he sort of turned out the best.  She always took his opinion more seriously than any of the rest of us, that’s for sure.

74. Once I was home from college for the holidays, and I’d been over at my cousin Kari’s house.  I’d left a pack of Camel Turkish Golds in my North Face vest pocket, and it got picked up and washed before I had a chance to relocate the smokes to another place.  They got washed and left a huge mess all over my vest and the washer.  Grandma confronted me about it, and I made up some bullshit excuse about only smoking socially when I’m around other smokers, and you know, I honestly think that she convinced herself that I was telling the truth.

75. She would often fry cheesy eggs and sausages for breakfast when there was company in the house.  This was on top of the muffins and cookies that would already be on the table, just waiting for you to walk by.

76. When I grew my hair out and dyed it black, she told me I looked like a witch.

77.  She used to come out to the football field and listen to the marching band when I was in it in high school.  I think she legitimately enjoyed it, even though we pretty much sucked.

78. She loved to go antiquing, and she used to go quite often with Angie and Shelly.  She once told Shelly at an auction (I think), “Jew’em down, Shelly!” completely forgetting that Shelly’s dad is Jewish.  She felt bad about that for ages.  … I always thought it was kind of funny, but nobody ever accused me of being at all PC.

79. Whenever she wanted to get something done around the house, like make a large purchase, she’d wait until Grandpa went to Canada for a fishing trip because she guessed, quite rightly, that if it was already done when he got back, he’d just shrug and move on, whereas if you tried to do it while he was actually there, you’d meet with serious resistance.  That’s how she bought the Caddy.  Grandpa came back and there was a big ole car in the driveway, and he just looked at it and didn’t even blink.

80. Instead of framing new pictures, she’d just stick the new pictures on the frame over the older picture.  Most of the larger pictures on the wall in her bedroom were covered with tons of smaller ones.

81. In her later years, she had tons of chickens around the house.  Not real ones, obviously, but wooden, ceramic, plastic – any sort of chicken, really – could be found all over the house, particularly in the kitchen.

82. When I was a kid, she used to hang all of the bedsheets out on her really long clothesline in the summer.  I used to play in between the hanging sheets and pretend that nobody could see me.

83. The lake at our old cabin was fed by the Illinois River and thus had the quality of being rather muddy.  We’d always come back up the hill to the house covered with sand and mud.  Grandma had an old number four washtub out back, and she’d get the hose and the high-pressure handle and spray us down before we came inside.  In retrospect, we probably looked like dogs getting a bath.

84.  She knew how to set a holiday dinner table.  She always had silver, china, crystal, and candles out.

85. She belonged to one of the local Methodist churches and was a lifelong member of the Order of the Eastern Star.

86. She and my grandpa got together after she invited him to a Rainbow Girls dance.  Rainbow is affiliated with OES.

87. She loved dogs.  She had two dogs that she loved in my lifetime, Molly and Abby.  Molly was a German Shepherd-Lab mix that my mom gave her and Grandpa, and Abby was a Golden Retriever.  Abby died about two months before Grandma.

88.  I remember when she told me that my mom had died.  I came downstairs from my bedroom, and she pulled me into the TV room and explained that Mom was gone.  I didn’t really understand death, at that particular point, and had thought for a while that dead people came back after three years.  I have no idea where I got that notion, but in any case, I remember sitting on her lap in Grandpa’s chair and crying.

89. She tried umpteen times to trick me or guilt me into revealing Brett’s name before she was born.  I wanted it to be a surprise, and every single time I called, she’d bother me about it.  I’d tease her about it, and then she’d deny that she was fishing.

90.  She always blamed my dad a bit for my mother’s death, and to this day, one of the few positive things I ever heard her say about him was, “Well, he was a great cook.”

91. My grandma was the the best grandma in the world.  She was really more like my mother, and I’m going to miss her forever.  I miss her every day, actually.  A lot of people don’t have great parents or even good ones.  I was lucky enough to have my mother who loved me and my grandma who loved me just as much.  I miss you, Grandma.

Korean Legal NGO Filing Complaint with UN Regarding E2 HIV Test

Good morning, all.  I just got this bit of news via Expat Hell, so I figured I’d pass it along.  All E2 visa holders in Korea are required to undergo HIV testing before they are issued a green card.  This has been standard for as long as I’ve been here.  This testing is not required for Korean teachers in the same position.  Some have made the claim that it’s discriminatory, which I am somewhat inclined to agree with.

Anyway, Lawyers for a Democratic Society is taking testimony from volunteers regarding their experience with this test and its results.  Any E2 visa holders, past and present, are invited to submit information which will be used in the report to the UN.

Follow the link to their site.  Here is a reprint of the post on their site:


MINBYUN – Lawyers for a Democratic Society is currently seeking testimonies from those that have been subjected to mandatory HIV testing in order to receive or renew an E2 visa.

The Korean Government has yet to explain the link between classroom teaching and HIV infection, require that Korean nationals with the same employment undergo testing, or provide any official data to support a link between sex crimes and E2 visa holders. Due to the discriminatory nature of the testing and under the premise that it is in violation with Korea’s commitment to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we will be sending a letter of allegation to the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia and related intolerance.

If you are interested in giving your testimony please send the following information to by February 23, 2013.

Date of the incident(s):
Date and length of contract(s):
Details such as the following:

-If you were allowed to choose the hospital where you were tested
-If the hospital staff communicated with you in English or if you needed a translator
-If you were provided with any education or training on the prevention of HIV
-If you ever felt mistreated or harassed related to HIV/AIDS
-If you were pressured to take the test more than once within a year
-If your results were reported directly to you or through an employee at your school, the immigration office, or the MOE
-If you feel that your test results resulted in harassment or termination
-If you refused to be tested and subsequently were denied a visa or terminated

Please provide us with a way to contact you for further details. Depending on the volume of replies we may not be able to respond immediately, but we will follow up with those that will be included in the report.

Thank you.

Highway to Hell

I know that I’ve mentioned umpteen times about the state of the roads in Korea.  To say that they’re dangerous is putting it mildly.  Even walking down the sidewalk can be a potentially life-threatening endeavor.  I’ve had more close calls than I care to relate, both on foot, in the car, and on public transportation.  Korea has some of the highest accident rates in the developed world.  People make excuses about it, but honestly, there comes a point when you no longer care.  As my grandfather says, “Excuses and alibis ring up ‘No Sale’ every time.”  Today is the day I officially have zero fucks to give.

While walking down the grocery store, my husband got hit by a scooter boy while crossing one of Shin Masan’s largest intersections.  At any given time from the hours of 11am to about 2:30am, this crosswalk is bustling with people.  There are scads of cars passing through every minute, and it’s the sort of place where one has to be careful.  If some idiot in a new Audi isn’t running a red light, some agashi tottering along on five inch heels with her head buried in her smart phone where she’s checking out her friends’ comments of her pictures of herself on Kakaotalk will walk straight into you and then look at you like it’s somehow your fault.  Basically, this intersection is a hazard regardless of the time of day.

Anyway, my husband was hustling over the crosswalk, which was packed as usual.  Out of nowhere, a scooter boy at the front of the red light line decides that he can’t possibly wait another 20 seconds for the light to change, so he floored it and jammed that scooter into the intersection.  My husband was right there, and there were scores of people on all sides, so there was nowhere for him to go.  The guy knocked into my husband, who promptly grabbed him by the shoulders and shoved him to the ground.  The guy looked totally dumbfounded as my husband started yelling at him in Korean that he’s an idiot and to watch where he’s going.  Fortunately, neither party was injured.

My husband and I have nearly been killed probably dozens of times now.  My husband walks a lot more than I do, and he has very nearly been bowled over by a local in a large car probably at least twice a week for the last three years.  I was nearly run over while I was nine months pregnant, and the guy didn’t even look back.  My husband attempted to tackle the back bumper, but that didn’t work out so well for him.

Everyone who has stepped foot in Korea knows how the roads are here.  I’ve given up attempting to make sense of it.  I have gotten pretty damn good at anticipating the idiot moves the whackos around me are going to make.  I have a sixth sense about when a lane-splitter is going to turn into a jerk who will cut you off and shove you into oncoming traffic.  It’s a gift.

The scooter boys like the one my husband had a run-in with today are like taxi drivers in training.  I’m not sure if the taxi drivers are the worst people on the road, but they’re in the running.  They drive about 30 km/hr too fast, they swerve in and out of traffic at high speed, they split lanes, make random U-turns, and slam on the brakes at the last possible moment.  They’re a nuisance, to say the least.  I have been driving along the beach road between Masan and Changwon, checked my mirror, driven on, checked back 10 seconds later, and a taxi will have come out of nowhere and be right on my tail. It’s incredible.

The taxi drivers are the natural enemies of the bus drivers.  When I was riding the bus on a regular basis, I loathed the bus drivers.  I thought they were all insane.  And they are.  The thing is, I’m not sure they were always that way.  I think years and years of dealing with the fuckery of the Korean roads and drivers has made them that way.  I have a lot more respect for the bus drivers, now that I have a car of my own.  Navigating narrow roads, crazy drivers, and having to pull over every 15 seconds – no easy task here, believe me.  I give the buses a wide berth and let them in when they need to, and as a result, I have never had an incident with the buses.  I used to be afraid that the bus drivers would try to kill me, but now I realize they only use their powers for evil when provoked.  I’m always polite to the buses and give them a wide berth, and I find that they extend the same courtesy, generally.

The taxi drivers do not share my compunction towards politesse.  They park right in the middle of the bus stops, cut the buses off, and weave in and out of the bus lanes.  Bus drivers hate that nonsense, understandably.  Buses don’t exactly stop or corner on a dime, and they’re usually laden with passengers.  I’ve heard of bus drivers getting so angry at taxi drivers that they have gotten off the bus at the bus stop and punched out a taxi driver who refused to get out of the bus rank.  My husband has seen bus drivers actively retaliate against taxis who have cut the bus off or forced to make an emergency maneuver.  I’m all for it.  Not doing anything about rude people is the same as condoning their behavior.

Anyway, scooter boys are just like cab drivers, but they’re flying around on these crappy little motorbikes that are about one step up from a Soviet-issued moped.  They’re invariably carrying a box full of jajamyeon and fried dumplings, and they don’t give a crap about intersections, lights, other drivers, or pedestrians.  They perform driving feats that are likely outlawed anywhere outside of a motocross track.  On the one hand, I respect their command of the vehicle.  On the other hand, they’ve almost killed me numerous times, so I hate them.

I’ve seen a fair few wipeouts from the scooter boys.  One happened right at the bottom of our apartment hill.  It was a McDonald’s delivery guy.  Today, however, it was a scooter boy inflicting damage on my husband, and that just ticks me off.  I’m glad my husband shoved him off of his scooter.  I would have suggested kicking a man while he was down.  Pulling these sorts of crazy stunts is ridiculously unacceptable.

Okay, I know that I said I wasn’t going to talk about the myriad lines of crap excuses I hear for why Koreans drive like maniacs, but I lied.  The most common thing I hear is that Korea has developed so quickly that it hasn’t had time to get its head around driving rules.  Bitch, please.  Every licensed driver has to take a written test that is ostensibly similar to the ones we take in the West.  Theoretically, everyone on the road should know the rules associated with operating motor vehicles.  The fact that 97% of the people on the road act like they’ve never read the rules but, instead, invent them as they go along, leads us to one of two conclusions.  The first is that the test is woefully inadequate and in no way reflects a person’s ability to operate a car.  The second option is that everyone, at one point, knew and understood the rules and, as soon as they passed the test, proceeded to ignore all of those rules.

The only thing I think you can reasonably get a ticket for here is speeding.  Oh, and illegal parking, if you’re me.  I’ve never seen anyone else get ticketed for this sort of thing, let alone towed.  I’m just an unlucky bastard.  There are trap cameras, but everyone’s GPS systems indicate where they are.  I don’t even have it and I know where they are.  The police don’t issue tickets and are ineffectual.  Basically, the prisoners run the jail.  This would theoretically work fine in the West, where we generally police ourselves in terms of social etiquette.  For example, if someone cut in front of you at Wal-Mart, you’d probably tell them to step off, wouldn’t you?  Besides that, on the roads, most people are at least mildly concerned about safety.  It has never seemed to me that this is even a moderate concern here.  I have seen families riding around with toddlers hanging out the window and four more people crammed into the back of that Daewoo Matiz.

It’s possible that self-policing wouldn’t really work in the West.  I’d drive faster, I can say that for certain.  However, I would continue to play by the rules, for my own safety as much as anyone else’s.  Besides that, who wants to wreck their car?  Seriously.  If you’ve just taken out a big loan to pay for that new SUV or Prius or whatever you prefer to drive, why would you want to drive like a maniac and endanger ruining that brand new car and jacking up your insurance prices?  Most people demonstrate this sort of common sense, to some degree.  Man, that type of logic does not exist here.  And it makes me rage-y.

You might have, at some point in this article, thought that this could be a one-off and that my husband might have been in the wrong.  He wasn’t.  The pedestrian light was green.  I have two friends who have been hit by cars here.  Both of them wound up in the hospital, and one nearly lost her arm.  Another guy was killed in a scooter accident in Changwon last year.  One of the guys in town who rides a motorcycle once told me that, if you ride a bike here, it isn’t a question of if, but rather a question of when.  There’s a cheery thought.

The bottom line is that scooter boys are just taxi drivers without the standard ajeosshi uniform and such bad soju/kimchi breath.  To be clear, I have had some great taxi drivers here.  By and large though, they drive like crazy people and will sometimes pretend not to understand your Korean.  My husband has more problems with this than me, weirdly, even though his Korean is excellent.

If you’re going to drive in Korea or even walk, be careful.  For the love of God.  Don’t become a statistic.  Watch where you’re going, because I guaran-damn-tee that the other guy won’t.  They will run you over and hurt you and then you’re going to be up the proverbial creek.  If you insist on driving here, I recommend getting a slightly larger car, if you can afford it.  I would never advocate having a scooter or motorcycle, fun as they are.  Save it for the open highways of God’s country in the USA.  Don’t tempt fate in the ajeosshi-wagon (as Expat Hell put it) clogged streets of the concrete jungle that is Korea.  You have been warned.