What the Crap Wednesday (Christmas Eve Edition)

So, it's Wednesday, the day before Christmas, and I'd just like to say...
What the crap?
Because I'm working today, like the rest of the dutiful Koreans who labor on through the holidays, but unlike all those super-efficient and disciplined Koreans, I have nothing to do. My principal told me yesterday, "So, you know that tomorrow is a play day?"
"A play day? Well, now I know."
"There's no English class."
"No English class? So we don't have to come in?" (We already knew the part-time teacher had the day off).
"No, you have to come here."
"What should I do?"
"You can just do what you want."
"Riiiiiiiiight." I tried to keep the do you realize what an idiot you are? look off my face, but I'm not quite sure how successful that was.
So, I'm here. At school. Have no class. Did some cartwheels in the gym to entertain my kids. Felt the disdain of the Korean teachers and their game planning closing in around me, so I have shoved off to the office to, well, write you a blog.
Let's reiterate: At school. On Christmas Eve. No class. Not wanted.
What. The. Crap.

Also, I've done one of my disappearing acts again, although this time it was not some ploy for staging yet another come back, because they are oh-so-popular here at the O of Chub. Rather, I'm writing outside my blog at the moment, working on a few things, and I'm very happy to be doing so because I thought I was dead, but turns out, I'm not. But seriously, what about last week when I posted everyday? What the crap? I just churned out the love for you, on a daily basis. Thought about you on the train and what I wanted to tell you everyday. Thought about you while sipping my caramel macchiato and munching my donuts (even though I swore I wouldn't have any more until after wedding. What the crap was I thinking?). Wait... what was the point of this paragraph?

Also, did I mention that I'm at school today? The whole day? With nothing to do? No responsibilities whatsoever. Oh? I said that already? Right.

It really doesn't feel like Christmas at all. I kind of found myself unprepared this morning when I woke up. I just sort of disconnected from Christmas this year, despite all my Christmas song listening and all my Grinch- and Elf-watching and hot choco-drinking. I miss the family and because I'm sort of the Watchman of Tradition, making sure Mom doesn't shirk on her Santa duty or kill herself trying to get the lights on the tree the right way or forget to bake those pecans I like so much, I feel like things are slipping away a bit. And I know that Kenny and I need to make our own Christmas traditions, but our first Christmas was spent in Israel, the second across the world from each other, and this one is sort of weird all around. (And can you really top Bethlehem on Christmas Eve? I think not.)
So, in honor of my non-Christmasy feelings and my longing to be at home to sort of safe guard Christmas (or my idea of it) , watch this video. I make a Christmas mix every year, and this song always gets put on there.

It's Christmas Eve and I feel like it's just another anonymous day I must wait through in order to get to the next one. What the crap?


I Went Ice Skating

When I first stepped onto the ice, I could barely stand up and I felt my dignity fall to pieces with every stumble and trip and frantic wave of my arms. But then I looked around and noticed everyone else had stored their dignity along with their shoes in the lockers. Most of us were terrible, bent almost double with wings out to the side in an effort to keep ourselves off the ice. Something joyous was happening on the rink as people kept crashing into one another, cutting one another off, and having two- or three-person pile ups. Whenever these strange webs of arms, legs, scarves, and ice skates were woven on top of the ice, the glowing faces would laugh so hard it would be near impossible for them to regain their feet. People leaned on the wall around the rink laughing so hard their eyes were squeezed shut; teenage girls laughed with their heads thrown back in one of the few moments where that adolescent self-consciousness faded into the background. Couples made slow, steady ruts in the ice, around and around, supporting each other, clutching suddenly for one another, falling together, holding hands and hugging the wall.

Of course there were the good ones, the showoffs, with their comfortable leather boots, laced up properly, gliding in wide arcs, weaving through the amateur, stumbling counter-clockwise crowd. And there were the young boys who knew they were cool, and for knowing ceased to be cool at all. We, the laughers, we knew we weren’t cool, and we knew they were just pretending. We ignored them.

I got better after Kenny adjusted the plastic straps that clamped down across my feet. My feet were encased in a large plastic prison of a boot and despite the pain, I was able to push myself across the ice, polar bear hat atop my head. I touched people, reached out to steady them if they were close to the wall and trying to reach safety, or if I was the one groping for anything to steady myself. Or not being able to stop, instead of tackling them, sort of bear hugging them a little further down the rink. I apologized every time, but they didn’t seem to mind. We laughed some more.

Of course, we were all in this whirling crazy circuit together, but there was still a primitive element of fending for oneself. Boys and girls would grab each other and take their friends down with them, slamming into the ice in places that would remember that cold impact with purple, green, and blue pain tomorrow. Some people skated with their hands outstretched, as if they were making a way for themselves, reaching out for whatever was to come next.

The ice was bumpy from our blades. There was shaved ice in little clumps across the rink and shored up against the wall in drifts. And I thought— as we tripped and glided around the rink in wild sporadic fits of inelegance and then grace— I thought we are cutting through something. Cutting through all the pretense and artifice that keeps us from enjoying each other’s presence ordinarily. Because ordinarily, we do not enjoy crowds of people or others grabbing us so forcefully. But here, because of the laughter and the bright lights and the wind in our faces, we did not care. We were real. We were all a little off balance and we were all the same distance from the ice. It was sliding underneath us and we were each vulnerable to the great white slick below. But it was a carefree vulnerability, one that puts everyone at ease and in a good mood and makes it easy to laugh when you bust your butt on the cold hard ice.

Despite the uncomfortable skates, I spent a beautiful hour on the ice. I wobbled and tried to fly many times, once finding myself hanging from the wall, legs splayed in opposite directions. One of my legs went underneath another woman standing beside me and we looked at each other and we laughed.

Because our lives sometimes feel like a spinning top, a circular inevitability, never ending and much too fast, we become unhappy and we stomp through our lives like spoiled children. But this night, we acknowledged the circle, we rejoiced in the circle, and the blades of our skates carved the goodness of our lives into the ice. Around, around, around. Together, we sailed, stumbled, crawled, and pushed ourselves around, around, around.


How To Think About Stuff While Walking and Drinking Coffee

As I was walking back from lunch today with my caramel macchiato disappearing quickly through my straw, I thought about how the woman at the counter smiles, every time, the same smile. She knows what I'm going to say, but still, just in case, she asks me what I would like. And everyday I order the same thing.

And for some reason that made me think about communities. As I continued to walk, it occurred to me that there are two kinds of communities (although I admit there are many more than just two.) One is formed by happy accident, sewn together by our habits, our addictions, or our routes to work. These are the kinds of communities weaving us together with threads of circumstance, proximity, and convenience. We serve each other because it's easy. We interact with each other because we're in the same place and the same time. These types of communities are not chosen. I don't think "Gee. I'm joining a community," when I walk up to the counter and order my daily tall iced caramel macchiato. So, there are the communities that you take part in maybe without even noticing them. And these are also good because when you do notice them you can appreciate them and think how wonderful it is that you've secretly been interacting within a fellowship of all sorts of people and you didn't even know it. But now you're pretty sure that the barista's smile as she hands you her beautiful caffeinated creation is something that helps you get through the rest of your day with the monsters. And you hope that your smile and your cheerful thank you helps her through the rest of the drinks she has to make. 

And then there are other kinds of communities. The ones you choose to be a part of. And they take some work. I'm thinking in particular of the expat community here in Korea. It existed for me mostly online, and even then it wasn't something I really participated in. I was on the outside, even from an internet standpoint, too shy to comment or too ready to say exactly what I thought. But when I made an effort to meet these fabulous people in person, it was worth it. Yeah, yeah, blah blah blah, we've heard it all before, you say. Well, perhaps. But.  I wanted to be a part of something and it was work, actually. Every time those people get together it's at least an hour away from my house, and it's usually time I spend away from Kenny and time I spend not doing laundry or reading or writing or various other things I could use as excuses. But it's always worth the effort. And I find that it's the communities you work to be a part of that nurture us and help us to grow the most. It's communities like this that come together and support people in need. It's communities like this that teach you how to laugh at life and at yourself. It's communities like this that make your life richer and deeper. 

Actually, this isn't at all what I wanted to say. I thought it out and I wrote some notes down in the front of the collection of short stories I'm reading on the train, but it came out all wrong. Oh well. Participating and being part of communities and sharing goals or interests or weirdness or whatever- it's always worth the effort. 

Anyway, watch this video. Because it will make your life better. Guess where I found it? Oh yeah, it was over at Tamie's blog. I'm going to have to make a tag soon so that you can look at all the places I've linked to her blog over the course of the past few months. It's getting a little ridiculous and she probably thinks I'm some crazy stalkerish person who reads every post in a pose of anticipation and excitement, never goes away unsatisfied, but does have to cleanse herself of the envy that constantly rises within because her writing is just. that. good. Well, if she thinks that, then she's right! Anyway, watch this video. It's as awesome as you are. 


How to Slack Off

Feast your eyes upon Polar Bear Girl actively engaged in Seoul Metro transit. (Or, a really easy way to get out of writing a post, but still looking great because I've posted everyday this week so far. Plus, it's my 101st post for the BlogO, and I figured instead of throwing the list of 101 Things You Probably Could Have Guessed But Don't Care Anything About up here like most of the cool kids do, I'll just post 101 pictures of myself. Or however many I feel like before I get bored with it all.)

Exhibit A: Serious Bear. Bringing serious joy to fellow commuters. 

Exhibit B: Secret Bear. Ready to spill the beans if offered appropriate number of donuts. 

Exhibit C: We're not real sure. 

Exhibit D: Wait... what the crap?

Exhibit E: Surprised Bear. 

Exhibit F: Tell It To You Straight Bear. Not related to Korean Bears in any way. 

Gratuitous Exhibit: Donut=Pure ChubbO Ecstasy. 
Yep! There are coffee beans on my chocolate donut. Doesn't get any better than that. 


How to Be Caught By Surprise

There are these moments that I witness, these miniscule seconds of a facial expression or movement, where I see it. I used to see it and be uncomfortable. But now, I feel a sadness that rustles in my gut like a cat swishing it's tail while it sleeps. I saw it today on the subway. A man jumped up from his seat and asked, "Where? Where?" and it was all over his face. Maybe he'd been sleeping, maybe he'd been thinking about what he would say when he saw her or him or them. But he had been elsewhere, outside the confines of our subway car stopped at the station. Both men on either side of me answered him, one even beginning to stand up as he called out the station, maybe in response to what he saw on the man's face. 

It was a pure unmitigated vulnerability. I see this on so many faces when the person is too caught up in the moment to hide it. But it's always there, isn't it? It's there behind the laugh or the snide remark or the silently pressed lips. And whenever I see that vulnerability, that complete and utter lack of pretension, show, or knowing-it-all-ness, I want to cry. Because when I see that on someone else's face, I see myself. I see our humanity. It's so close, but we work so hard to keep it at bay, to keep it hidden. 

But really, if we were more open and honest and said, "I don't know" more than we said, "let me tell you," or if we began to stand up to help someone with their questions, or if we said, "that's okay," more than we said, "how could you?" we would be different, wouldn't we? I would be different. And I think that the sudden emotion that jerks me out of my collection of short stories and into the questioning man's life is not only a reaction to that vulnerability, but a desire for it. 

And I'm trying to tell you exactly how it felt as the words on the pages in my book got all fuzzy and jammed up like rush hour traffic: I thought about how when we open ourselves up, we not only have to open ourselves to the good things, but we make ourselves susceptible to the bad things, too. And I thought about my Subway BFF and the courage and openness it took for him to speak to me. And what a happy liar I was, staring him in the face and rejecting what he so kindly offered me, what I so badly wanted to say yes to but didn't know how. 

We have grown careful not to expose the fragile parts of ourselves. And with just cause. Because fragile things break easily, crumble quickly, and sometimes they become irreparable. But perhaps we should not be careful not to expose ourselves, but to be careful when we do expose our tender bits. And we should be careful when others expose theirs. And maybe one day, I will stop writing about being vulnerable, and become open to others in a real, authentic way. 

Because there are certain times, when I see that vulnerability, usually exhibited as shock on someone's face, I am not moved to tears, but rather disgust. And for the same reason that I want to cry, I feel dirty. Because I see myself there. I identify fully with that exposure. And I want very badly to deny it. 

All this because a guy fell asleep on the train and got lost, disoriented. And the men on either side of me did not despise his utter confusion, but situated him with a few kind words and a small gesture. Perhaps I've been thinking too much and too hard about it. But there it is. And I'm giving it to you in the name of exposure and vulnerability. 

I am beginning to believe that every act we place the label vulnerability upon is really just another way of saying "Love me. Love me. Love me. For no reason, just love me."


How to Make Yourself Look Incompetent, or Mentally Ill

Attending the Biweekly Hip Hop Dance Class at My Gym

I was standing at the far end of the room, watching him in the mirror, trying to get my body to relax. This is not ballet, Danielle. This is not ballet or even jazz. This is hip hop, loosen up. But the body wouldn't listen and it seemed it was in cahoots with my brain. I simply couldn't remember the steps. Sure, he had only shown us once or twice and really fast at that, but everyone else had remembered them and was doing them no problem. For a few minutes I thought maybe I was getting old. This was it. The ol' physical fitness was already down the drain at 25. Well, that's what you get for not taking care of yourself. You can't just neglect your body for 5 or 6 years and then expect to jump right back into it with all the facilities still up to par

And then I thought maybe it wasn't just my body. Perhaps it was simply a lack of training. We simply don't memorize in the West like they do here. All these women have been memorizing things their entire lives. All of their schooling is based on tests which can only be passed using rote memory! I mean, instead of being able to sound out words, my principal keeps asking me if it wouldn't sound better if they just memorized the books. I mean, sure, it might sound natural, but it wouldn't mean they could read. So maybe I was really just mentally deficient in my memorization skills. So, I tried to stop using my brain so much. Feel the movement. Ignore the way this particular combination scrunches your back fat like that. Feel the way your feet should go, stop watching everyone else, watch yourself. Feel the dance, feel the rhythm. I was giving myself the Patrick Swayze Dirty Dancing pep talk and it was getting ridiculous. It wasn't helping. I flailed and attempted to hip hop my way through the hour. 

After class, all the ladies retired to the gym locker room. 
Nice Girl 1 began undressing, pulling her shirt off and discarding her bra into her locker. 
"How did you like the class?" she asked in English so beautiful it made me want to hug her, bra or no. 
"It was fun, but I feel like a total loser. I can't remember any of the moves!"
"No! You can dance," she assured me as her pants dropped to the floor. "I saw you!"
"Oh no. Please don't look at me. It's bad enough that I have to look at me in that mirror."
Nice Girl 2 turned her perky bare breasts in my direction, jealousy brimming over before I could make my eyes find her face: "We come on Tuesdays."
"I'm sorry?" 
"Almost all of us come on Tuesdays."
Nice Girl 1 was completely naked by this point. She grabbed her shower towel and said, "Yes, it's the same dance. So, maybe you will do better if you come on Tuesdays, too."
"It's the same dance?" I was so relieved! I wasn't an absolute moron with an inferior Western memory! I was a normal girl who did her best to look as exposed as possible* in her large sports bra and panties the size of both Nice Girls. 
"See you next week!" Nice Girl 1 walked into the shower room and I told myself that next time, I would take all my clothes off. 

Tonight, we did parts of the same dance over again. And we learned some new stuff. And I was decent. I still made the most mistakes of anyone, but heck, it was fun and I burned an hour's worth of calories. My nudity was up to everything but the panties this time in the locker room, so that was an improvement. The thing is, I don't shower there, so there's really no reason for me to get naked. I live right down the street and that way I don't have to haul shower stuff to the gym and back. But next time, I might just!

*Have you ever stood with someone or several persons, all undressing? It feels weird to be dressed. It's better to be half-dressed or even to pretend you're in the process of undressing than to be fully clothed while naked Korean goddesses stand around and chat. Weird how wearing clothes can make you more uncomfortable than not wearing clothes. Naked together is better than clothed alone! 


How To Make Koreans Smile Before Noon

How to Make Koreans Smile On the Subway:

Yep, I'm doing it. I'm rocking the polar bear hat. I have a better picture of the polar bear hat rockingness on the subway, but that picture is on our new camera. And our new camera's memory chip does not work with my memory chip thingy, even though my memory chip thingy says it does. So, when I figure that out, I'll put up the better, more appropriate picture. And perhaps I should be a more self-conscious blogger (as if that's humanly possible) and just wait for the right picture to write this, but whatev. I'm tired and I have a bajillion tons of gooey yuck in my sinuses that make my head hurt when I bend down to help my students write the letter A. So, sub-par picture it is. You get the idea, right? Adult-size white girl with huge eyes gets on the train and wears this hat with all the seriousness of a Louis Vuitton headpiece. They love it! I mean, everyone on the train is either pretending to be asleep so that they don't have to give up their seat to the older person standing in front of them, or they're staring at the foreigner. So, I decided to spice up the second option. I got close to 10 smiles on the way to work this morning, made Angie choke on her breakfast 김밥 when I walked into school, and even got a 귀 여워 (Korean equivalent of cute) from the Hyundai lady who bagged my kimchi and lone potato this afternoon. 

My kids LOVED it. They all squealed with glee as they exited the elevator this morning, reminding me of the plagues in the Old Testament that came in waves. I was giving out Polar Bear High Fives all day because the sides of the hat run long like a scarf and turn into little paw mittens. Today, as I rock and rolled it down the hall, celebrity style as only the foreign teacher can do, every child called out, "Polar Bear Teacher! Polar Bear Teacher!" Yep. I wore it all day long. And it was fabulous. And the guy at Tom n' Tom's who makes my tall iced caramel macchiato everyday (yes, iced even in the winter because I'm drinking it inside where there is heat!) gave me a huge smile. And normally he's so somber. I want to talk to him, have a real conversation besides just ordering, saying thanking, and telling him it was delicious. He is one of the reasons I am getting back into my seriously focused Korean studies. That and because all my expat friends are shaming me whenever we go out in public. And because one time, in March of 2007 to be exact, Kenny said, "When you speak Korean, it's like eating chocolate." 

It's one of those things where people think it's a joke and they're completely thrown off when  you see that you're wearing your ridiculous hat in all seriousness as if it were not a ridiculous hat. Although I know that my hat is ridiculous, I appreciate it and I will continue to wear the hat so that everyone on my morning commute will start calling me The White Polar Bear Hat Girl instead of just The Weird Girl when they think about me in their heads. Which is quite often, I'm sure. So, if you see a Polar-Bear-topped white girl bobbing around Seoul, give me a shout, yeah?


Chubbo NoMo?

This is the one in which I call for your comments. Those of you who stop by all the time without leaving your name or number, now is the time to put yourself out there. 

ChubbO ManifestO

So, being a ChubbO is not necessarily a physical state of being, although it can manifest itself around your hips, back, and stomach (and your armpits, armpit chub is the worst!). Being a ChubbO is more of a mindset. Even though I have lost a good number of pounds, anytime someone says the word donut, I pretty much jump and up and down and clap my hands like you just told me I won something. Even though I can fit in a decent size pair of jeans now, I can still be instantly cheered up just by the prospect of a delicious meal. And although I am (a smidge) happier with the way I look when I stand completely naked in front of my mirror, I can't deny that my appetite hasn't changed one bit. Perhaps the way I feed it has changed. I have learned to say no to The Belly when it growls at me; I have learned to reward The Belly because it deserves a good meal three times a day and not because I did something awesome; I have learned to tune The Belly out when it cries for the entire piece of tiramisu; and I have learned to tune in to The Belly when it needs something good and veggie-like. But despite this, my passion for food has not lost any weight. Being a ChubbO doesn't require a certain kind of food to be devoured. It is the joy and attitude in which you devour it that constitutes your eligiblity for ChubbOness. And so, I still consider myself a ChubbO, because it's from the inside out that we live our lives. 
End ManifestO.

Alas, I've been getting some grief about the old blog handle (which is the cousin of my love handles). Now, I feel a bit uneasy changing up the title of my blog so frequently because it seemed only yesterday I was punching the keyboard and snarling as I wrote with The Rage. So, Rage in the AM had to go because although it's a nice feature and keeps popping up now and again, I didn't feel it was sufficient. And now perhaps I have outgrown ChubbO as well. (I may have shrunk, but my online persona has been inflated with every beautiful and tasty donut of a comment you leave here). So, instead of being all clever and stunning you with a fabulous new look and new title for the blog, I'm asking for your opinion (which I will probably ignore all together and do whatever I want because that's just how I roll. It's a Buckley woman thing and is why my father never offers opinions anymore, even when we ask for them). But anyway, I want to know what you think. Should I give ChubbO the axe? Should ChubbO fade into the woodwork and simply be a recurring theme that emerges every time I dream about a donut or eat my weight in kimchi bokkumbap? Or should it stay as it is because as the ManifestO clearly explains, you don't have to be chubby to be a ChubbO at heart. 

And if it goes, along with those two inches and an entire cup size in my bra, what do I do now? Where do I go from here? 


Imagine All the People: Subway BFF

[This post is part of a series, Imagine All the People. These posts aren't sequential or essential to one another. They're just about people who have come into my life and taught me something, or changed the way I saw the world, or simply made me laugh.]

As I was coming home today from school, I saw on the platform a group of middle school, maybe high school, boys. I don't think they are really feeling, thinking people yet.  I think middle school boys are shells pumped full of hormones and misdemeanors waiting to happen. And they were laughing. And it wasn't the laugh where somebody just let out the most excellent fart of the year and almost killed their entire peer group. It was the kind of laugh directed at someone. The kind of laugh that always hurts. And I thought about our capacity for hurting each other. And then I saw him. 

He was standing a few feet away from the laughing boys, their age and their size. But he wasn't wearing their school blazer. He was wearing a heavy blue coat that was a too big and sliding off one shoulder. He had a smile on his face. He was absorbing their laughter. He slouched forward as if their ridicule had smacked him in the chest. But something about his smile wasn't right. There was an emptiness around his eyes that let me know how things were. Perhaps he was just weird.  Or, perhaps he was the boy I sometimes heard talking too loudly to his mother on the phone in the subway car, his mind straggling years behind his adolescent body.  All this in a few seconds. My eyes watered as I made my way down the platform, away from the pain we give each other for no reason at all. 

And I was reminded of someone else. He had been on the subway with me months ago. How could I have forgotten him? I'm not sure how many days he had been on the same train in the afternoon as I was. I'm not sure how many days it took for his courage to grow, if any. But he was carrying a duffel bag and he said, "Excuse me." I looked up from my book with wonder because no one in Korea says Excuse me.
"I just learned English." He said it like it was done and over. Finished. He learned it and now he's using it. The transaction had taken place. He was wearing a black jacket and his cheeks were round and reminded me of the dinner rolls we sometimes had at Thanksgiving. 
"Oh, well, you're very good at it."
"Thank you. I want to be your friend."
My eyes widened a bit as I tried to take this in and figure out what he meant. "Oh?" was all I could manage.
"Yes, I'd like to be friends and talk."
"Okay, well, I'm a teacher and a private tutor so I don't really think I have time to teach another class." 
"No. I don't want a class. I want to be your friend. Forever."
"Oh, forever!"
"Yes, I want to be your friend forever and talk to you."
What was I supposed to do with this? I had never had anyone ask me to be their friend forever before, not in a genuine way and not with those dark eyes shining at me like that. I had the thought that he could be dangerous, but no. He was sincere. 
"Well, I don't have very much time. I work kind of far from my house and I commute and I have a boyfriend here. So, I'm quite busy." What was I saying? I had NO life outside work and Kenny. None, whatsoever!
"That's okay. I can meet you every time." I knew he meant any time. So I tried to change the subject and imagined meeting him for coffee. What would we talk about?
"What do you do?"
"I work at a bakery. I bake things."
"Oh, that must be nice."
"No. I bake things."
"Oh. Well then..." He just kept looking at me as if changing the subject hadn't worked and he was still waiting for the answer to his question. It was my stop. I had to get off and transfer. He transferred with me, but stayed a few steps behind me. On the next train, he got on  few cars down and smiled at me. I smiled back.

And walking home from the station, I thought, "What was I thinking? Of course I want to be his friend forever!" I looked for him everyday after that. I saw him once. He was carrying his duffel bag and walking quickly. Maybe he had things to bake. 

So many times I cite language as a barrier. And that time it wasn't. And today, on the platform, I wished so very hard that I knew enough Korean to go up to the boy standing alone looking at the group of students mocking him in some way I couldn't understand. I wanted to go up to him, hold his hand, and ask him to be my friend forever. 

Ah, but the things I want to do, and the things I do remain separated. They only write long letters to each other and never seem to meet face to face. 


personal advent

It's the season of anticipation and waiting. And Tamie keeps writing amazing things EVERYDAY, that I am telling you to go check out.  Her Advent series is making me want to abandon my posting and simply repost what she writes so that all my readers can feast on the beauty not only of her writing, but of how she is living a life that produces such work. 
I think I've come to the end of a personal advent. I have been waiting for inspiration to come. I have been waiting for the breath of something new to breathe. I have felt hollowed out and empty, but the edges have been rimmed with longing and desire. There is something I have been wanting to write. A story I have been needing to tell you. But before I could write anything it was like I had to learn to put sentences together all over again. This ache was so powerful that when I tried to write it,  the words weren't enough. They were small and wouldn't hold my meaning. Not at all. Everything I tried to say just slipped off the commas, fell right off the page. Instead of writing, instead of pressing a relationship into small 12pt. blocks of print, I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry and that would be the dedication page. And then I would laugh a lot and drink some coffee and laugh some more. That would be chapter one. Chapter two would be crumpled paper, hurt and ripped. But crumpled without bitterness. Hurt and ripped without malice. Just hurt. But the tears and laughter and coffee and hurt wouldn't make any sense when you opened the envelope. It would just be silence. 

I have been waiting in the silence. I have been feeling this... this thing, underneath my ribs, pushing and struggling and writhing to get out. And yesterday, as I rode the train and listened to the jumble in my head, I knew that I had something. Where I didn't have anything before, I had something. And it was almost palpable. I could almost spit the sentence out into my hand, fully formed. And I rushed to work and bypassed all my kids coming in to school and sat down and emailed it to myself. 

And now, I have to stop waiting. Because waiting gets easier with time, doesn't it? When you are waiting for something, the pressure isn't on you, really. It's on the thing that is coming toward you. All expectation is cast and lassoed around what is drawing near. But it's arrival! Oh, the arrival is scary. Because now, it is my responsibility to stop waiting and to write. I thought that the last day of my advent would be a joyful one. But instead I feel heavy and full. 

Maybe what I write down will be nothing. Maybe it will just be a way for me to say goodbye, to accept that some things are short and beautiful, like fireworks. Kenny told me tonight that fireworks are beautiful because they are bright and because they are brief. And he is right. So I will write my firework. 

I know this might seem vague and stupid and silly. But I thought I would share with you in a vague and stupid and silly way what is going on inside me. That although I am still waiting on so many things, there are some things that I am no longer waiting on. It has arrived. It is here. And I must welcome it, make room for it, and write it.  


Look at Me, Look at Me!

For those of you who just can't help themselves:

Here are some pictures from the latest engagement photo shoot! We had a lot of fun. The madness is almost over. 

For those of you who can't be bothered:

For those of you who are angry that all you've seen in this post is wedding crap, here is something completely unrelated and random and hilarious. Gotta love Flight of the Conchords, eh Tariq?

And now it's my bedtime. I did get a good night's rest last night. Apparently the God of the Sleepless had mercy on me. However, it was a bit of trouble actually falling asleep because I was so nervous about sleeping. I was like, "Go to sleep, Go to sleep, Go to sleep go to sleep gotosleepgotosleepgotosleep!" And therefore sleep stood off in the corner mocking my pitiful attempts to lure him into bed with me. But after a while, he could resist me no longer and I had weird dreams until my alarm went off, which I snoozed for an entire half hour! So thank you to all of you who petitioned the Great Master of All Things Soporific on my behalf. 

By the way, I love you. And I'm not just saying that, either. I find myself thinking about you during the day. And at first I feel all socially retarded and disconnected from real people. Then I smack myself in the face and say, "Your readers and fellow bloggers are real people and you are SO lucky to know so many quality non-porno, non-stalker, non-freakish ones!" Now go waste some time on YouTube watching all the Flight of the Conchord videos available to you. 


Rage at All Hours of the AM

I just came out of a cleaning coma, in which I went to such lengths as removing the glass off the top of my desk (dang, is it heavy) and scrubbing both sides. The apartment is sparkling and pretty, except for one pan that's soaking in soap and water next to the sink. Also, the bathroom is still a mess because there are only so many hours in a day, and I had to take a few to stare at the beautiful masterpiece that is my wedding dress. (Yes! It came to today!) And I realized as I surveyed the pristine condition of my living space that my insides felt dirty and there was a bit of a fester in there somewhere. 
And I thought that I would come here to clean a space inside myself, because it is healthier to rage here, than say get up out of the bed in my t-shirt, pull on only a jacket and my biggest boots, forget the pants, and stomp over Bridget Jones' style across the street and start kicking every piece of damn machinery they've got running over there. 
There are no words. 

Okay, maybe there are a few words. WHY! WHY? Dear God of all things that must have sleep to survive teaching the monsters all day, why? I do not understand how this construction company can be justified in jackhammering at all hours of the night. Let's see... it started about 12:30 last night. Granted, I wished I was asleep by then, but I wasn't and that's not the point. It's not as if I have a contract with the workers over there: You start work after my bed time and give me ample time to be into a deep circadian rhythm that cannot be shaken by an earthquake, kay? Negative. 

Maybe if the drilling into the concrete had a rhythm, then maybe I could do it. Maybe I could fall asleep to the sounds of metal against hard things bouncing between the buildings, filling the entire street with a raucous cacophony of destruction. Which is another thing I don't understand. Why, now that the building is up and the restaurants are advertising an opening in a week, why are they now digging large ditches into the streets and the sidewalks around the building? (If you know the answer to that, don't tell me. I really don't care. It's stupid, whatever the answer is.) 

Alas, there is no rhythm whatsoever. There is only the sound of the big jackhammer pounding like a drunk tap dancer who is attempting to dodge the rotten tomatoes of his audience. Speaking of rotten tomatoes, last night I was on the verge of insanity. I understood how people slipped into madness. I began to imagine all the crimes that we label "senseless" as probably being somehow instigated or at least heartily encouraged by the noise of construction sites. 

The drilling began at 12:30 and did not stop until around 2:30, at which point I had fully sunken into the saddest surrender. I had already thrashed around in my bed, muscles taut and fighting the noise, fighting the urge to break things, to injure something or someone. I had also gone through the crying phase, where I sobbed uncontrollably, collecting pools of hot angry tears and snot on my pillow case. I finally stopped crying, just as suddenly as I had started. I resigned myself to another night of no sleep and reluctantly turned on the light and began to read. 

I read until it had been quiet for 15 minutes. Well, not quiet, but the drill had been silenced at least. Then, I decided that perhaps my body was so incredibly exhausted that I could fall asleep. I turned out the light and prayed all sorts of not-so-terrible curses on the construction workers: that they would have the rest of the night off, that they would lose all electricity and power making further drilling impossible, that the only guy who could expertly run the jackhammer would have a serious but short-lived bout of intense diarrhea. All of these things I asked God to rain down upon the jerks across the street. 
Honestly, how is this not illegal? Please tell me. How? And how the hell is everyone else in my building sleeping? Are Koreans simply immune to noise pollution all together? I've adjusted quite a bit and have no problem with the general traffic and buses and honking and drunkards' shouts and songs. But the jackhammering goes straight to my brain. It kills every ounce of patience and goodwill within me. My bones echo with the emptiness of bitterness and fury. 

The thing is, I got a few hours of sleep. But the concrete busting began once again at 6am. Now, I know that a lot of people get up at 6 am. It's not an unreasonable time to wake up if you're anyone else in the world. But I give myself 15 minutes max in the morning if I'm showering. 5 minutes max if I'm not. See? I can sleep happily until 8 and still make it to work on time with a 4o minute commute. But noooooooooooooo. I have to toss and turn in the abyss of sleeplessness in the wee hours because someone has to have a stupid hole in the earth right this moment. 

What. The. Hell? How am I supposed to get sleep? This happened before, right when I got back from the States. But it was a weekend and so I didn't fret too much about lost sleep because I could sleep late. However, by Tuesday (the shenanigans began on Friday night), I was ragged. I decided to go sleep at Kenny's house to get a decent night's sleep. But I can't do that every night and it's incredibly inconvenient for everyone and it's just plain weird. 

Ear plugs, Danielle, ear plugs! I hear you, darlings. It's like using a piece of Scotch tape to fix the hole where the water's coming in. 

Can you feel my pain? I am tempted to knock on all the doors on my floor and ask how they are sleeping. How do they do it? But it seems that Koreans require much less sleep than I do anyhow. Actually, it seems that most people in general require much less sleep than I do. But I can't help that. And I need my sleep, people. 

I am already pitying my monsters tomorrow if I don't get sleep tonight. I can already hear their desperate cries: "I like Danielle Teacher NO!" Yeah, we're working on the whole "I don't like" thing. 
I like nighttime construction NO! 
Let's all have a moment of silence in which we urge, nay beg, the Lord to grant me a peaceful, jackhammerless night so that this blog may rest in peace, instead of being stirred by the waters of The Rage. 
I wish all my compatriots in Korea a good night's rest, without construction and with sweet dreams of beautiful comments to leave on my blog. And for the rest of the world, may your sleep be deep and leave you refreshed enough to write many, many comments on my blog. 


from The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

She looks up. "Henry, who's your favorite Beatle?"
"John. Of course." 
"Why 'of course'?"
"Well, Ringo is okay but kind of a sad sack, you know? And George is a little too New Age for my taste."
"What's 'New Age'?"
"Oddball religions. Sappy boring music. Pathetic attempts to convince oneself of the superiority of anything connected with Indians. Non-Western medicine."
"But you don't like regular medicine."
"That's because doctors are always trying to tell me I'm crazy. If I had a broken arm I would be a big fan of Western medicine."
"What about Paul?"
"Paul is for girls."
Clare smiles, shyly. "I like Paul best."
"Well, you're a girl." 
"Why is Paul for girls?"
Tread carefully, I tell myself. "Uh, gee. Paul is, like, the Nice Beatle, you know?"
"Is that bad?"
"No, not at all. But guys are more interested in being cool, and John is the Cool Beatle."
"Oh. But he's dead."
I laugh. "You can still be cool when you're dead. In fact, it's much easier, because you aren't getting old and fat and losing your hair." 
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