It's Still Thanksgiving Back Home

Dang, I miss my family.

Some November goodness...

First snow.

Bike ride.

Bike ride face.

Motivation in winter = Miracle.

The HubbO and Miso = My True Loves!

I could wish really hard that I was at home eating fried turkey. I would inevitably be tackled mercilessly, drug to the floor and then tickled until I almost peed, all the while my throat growing hoarse with my screams for help being entirely ignored by the rest of the family sitting around the table. Because my cousin, Danny, is at home. I could wish really hard that I was sitting next to Uncle Mitch and Aunt Yvette, listening to my mother's laughter. I could predict the amount of time my dad felt was socially acceptable to be downstairs until he climbed back up the stairs to his hermit hole. I could wish really hard that I was talking about poop with my brother-in-law, while my sister gagged and rolled her eyes at us. I would tell her the turkey was so "moist." And maybe add that "I heard that murmur!" I could wish really hard that I was there to hear my cousins snoring in the bedroom and the living room.

Or, I could be thankful for my warm home here in Wonju. For my mother-in-law sleeping on my couch tonight (at her insistence). For my kitties snuggling in bed. For my kids making me laugh so hard today. For the man I'm falling asleep beside. For this new wakefulness stirring in me.

And The List remains the same.


The Gift of Good Books

I love it when what I'm reading all comes together for me, when what I read meets me where I am. I don't have to stretch to reach it, turn over to be touched by it, or look anything up in the dictionary. It just sinks right down into my soul and tweaks it a bit. I'm living in these words from Don Miller's Through Painted Deserts this week:

I want to keep my soul fertile. For the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page reccurently.
I've been thinking a bit about discipline and what that looks like for me. And it's funny because I normally think about discipline as the inhuman ability to do the same thing over and over. Like my father. But for me, I think discipline is more about the ability to change things. Even the things that are comfortable. Sometimes most of all the things that are comfortable. What I'm trying to say is that all our lives, we'll be in the process of changing. I think that's the real discipline: to be able to accept when the time for change comes and to not spend time mourning the death of the things that should die, but to get busy having thing born inside you. I've been changing a few things, small things. But it feels good. Sometimes though, we get all caught up in the changes we should be making, in the life we should be living, and we forget that all the good stuff isn't holed up hiding out in our future selves somewhere. So, to temper this responsiveness in my soul:

You feel like this life is always leading up to something, but it isn't. I mean life is just life. It's all happening right now, and we aren't going to be any more complete a month from now than we are now. 
So, the changes are important. Discipline is important. But it's not like I'm ever going to be a more complete person. I've somehow found myself unconsciously buying into this idea that I'm incomplete. I need to buy things, to subscribe to things, to eat certain things, to acquire certain things to be complete. But really, I'm complete already. As complete as I'm going to get. I just have to LIVE now. And living is definitely NOT the same thing as consuming. Consuming is exhausting work, and I'm tired of it.

And then, after reading this book a few weeks ago, I come across a few passages in Wendell Berry's The Gift of Good Earth, which is beautiful. Never thought I would describe a collection of essays from the late seventies and early eighties on agriculture as beautiful, but so be it. It's also profound.

A second law is that anything diseased is more profitable than anything that is healthy. What is wrong with us contributes more to the "gross national product" than what is right with us.
In a healthy culture, of course, personal health and frugality would not be difficult- they would not be perceived as "disciplines." They become difficult when disease and waste become normal.
And maybe you guys are all rolling your eyes with that "duh" look on your face because you think about these kinds of things on a daily basis. For me, this is not necessarily new territory, but a new way to see things I've been looking at for a long time. And to understand that I'm finding certain "disciplines" difficult not just because I am broken or damaged or don't have enough intestinal fortitude. But because where I live, disease and waste are normal. And rewinding, moving backwards is almost always counterintuitive and hell, it's just hard. Because personal health and frugality are not prized by our cash economies or our entrepreneurial spirits.

I've been valuing indulgence, treating myself, and getting what I want over personal health. I've been valuing instant gratification and the quick-fix or most convenient solution over frugality. And although it feels easier, it's not. Like I said, it's exhausting and I've nothing to show for it. But working hard for health and working hard to live simply- that's worth it. I will always have something to show for it.

So I guess, I'm changing. And then, I'm being okay with the fact that I'm living life now. That when I make these changes, I don't somehow become more complete. But that with each change I learn how to live a little better, a little more fully. And reminding myself what's important: health, simplicity, frugality.

What's important to you? What changes are you making?


Filling the Cracks

It's winter outside. And somehow I'd forgotten how dang cold it gets in Korea during the winter. I mean, I was only freezing my butt off at my wedding in February, but returning in August completely erased my memory of all wind chills and snowy sidewalks. But the wind is back.

The wind? Not my favorite. The wind has a way of reminding me that I do not know how to keep it out. I will get dressed in my cozy, warm apartment and think that I have all my bases covered. I'm layering, I'm wearing my heavy coat, wearing my lined boots, remembering my polar bear hat. But the wind lets me know otherwise. It comes in through the cracks, baring weak spots with a shocking icy sting. And I remember I've left my scarf because the wind is saying hello to my neck. I've forgotten my gloves because somehow the wind is holding hands with me in my pocket and fingering my wrists. I make a mental note to search again for my lost long underwear because these jeans are not cutting it. The wind is just ignoring them, acting like they do not exist.

Last night I was sitting at the bus stop with Kenny. Apparently, the wind was feeling neglected and was trying to get our attention by doing some crazy dance through all the tiny cracks in our winter attire. I was running my mouth, as usual. Talking about some things that had annoyed me throughout the day, mentioning how some of my coworkers were really great and I was enjoying working with these people, and then complaining a bit about some acquaintances who make me feel awkward sometimes. And then, Kenny stops me. And he says, "Danielle, I know you don't mean to do it, but you are like that sometimes. You know how you complain about people talking on the bus? Or whispering around you? Or excluding people on the sly in conversation by talking about something they're not familiar with or able to discuss? Sometimes you do that. I'm not saying it to hurt you, and you don't do it on purpose. But I thought you should know."

And dang it if those words weren't colder than the winter wind. His observations cut straight through my thick coat and seared some truth on my insides. Because so many times I walk around thinking, I've got it together. I'm not being a horribly inconsiderate person. I'm doing just fine. And then I start to complain. And the minute I open my mouth, my husband is there to shove those words back in. He holds up my own words in front of me, making me see myself in my own mirror. And sometimes, it's really ugly. But now I can see where the cracks are. Now I see the weak spots.

So tomorrow, I'm wearing a scarf.


Good for your soul

new headphones+old music=good stuff



This weekend we lugged the cats up to Kenny's parents' house in Seoul. It was an ordeal, but the kitters seem to enjoy exploring the new digs and are comfortable enough to lounge around on the furniture, displaying their soft round bellies to the ceiling.

This afternoon, on my way to Gwanghamun to meet Jennifer for some good eats, I rode my old bus. Good old blue 340 bus. And I walked against the wind past the apartment I lived in last year. And I rode the escalator down into the guts of Cheonho station. I felt like I was at home. Good grief, I thought, I only lived here for a year. But when I was there today, I knew where I was. Maybe that's what home is: knowing where you are. And somehow knowing where you are scoots a little insecurity out of the way and makes a place for you there.

I didn't live there long. But good things happened to me in this place. I discovered an entire country here. This is where Korea starts for me. Everything I learned about this country, about the people, and about myself spiders out from the 9th floor of Platinum River Apartments. And then it all doubles back into that little room where it was cried over, shouted about, and processed through. I got engaged here. I cooked horrible food in my apartment. I met my friends in the backstreets and down by the river here. Maybe that's what home is: where good things happen to you. And the good things that happen shove a little of the unfamiliarity out of the way and make a place for you there.

I've felt this sense of home before while we were spending a week or so in London at the tail end of Le Honeymoon. I just knew where I was. The place was familiar. I had only lived there a year, and not even in London at that. Exeter is a far cry from London. But James and Dennis were there. And perhaps that's why I felt comfortable, like I was being received into the city again. Maybe that's what home is: where the people you love make their lives. And they make small spaces in their city for you with the love in their hearts that moves some of the strangeness to the side and that pocket just opens up enough for you to slide into your place there.

I belong in Rome, Georgia, too. There are invisible footprints I fall back into every time I wind my way up the S curve on the hilltop campus of Shorter College. I learned to ask questions there. And maybe that's what home is: the place that helps you ask questions. Because asking questions seems to displace a bit of uncertainty and make room for the answer. If there is one. And when there's no answer, well, you've got a bit more elbow room to swim around in with your question.

Of course, I am at home in Tennessee. In the wood cabin with the red roof and the glowing porch lights on Poplarwood. Because when I'm there, I know where I am. And good things happened to me there. And the people I love still make their lives in that house. And it's the safest place I know of to ask hard and uncomfortable questions in.

Maybe those of us who wander aren't missing out on home so much as everyone thinks. Perhaps we're just lucky enough to have more than one.


Rage Redux

Last night I was waiting for the bus. I am an expert at waiting for the bus because I do it at least twice a day. But last night was different.

First, I was cold. And maybe it was my fault because the sun was shining when I left the house, inviting me to leave my fleece at home and just wear a light jacket. I blame the fierce wind that ignored all my clothes and whipped my entire body into a tight, aching, chillbumped mass. But does it matter whose fault it is? No. I was cold. Second, I was carrying a heavy bag of groceries. I was trying to get to the apartment and have dinner ready by the time Kenny got off work and headed home.

Third, the bus stop timer thingy was broken. They have put up these beautiful computerized screens at select bus stops in Wonju that list the buses and how long you have to wait. I find that knowing how long I have to wait decreases my impatience by at least 75%. However, when the screen flashes that the server isn't working, it's absolutely unbearable. Because now I have to wait for the bus, I don't know how long, but I could know how long if the stupid thing was working. In my opinion it is better to wait at the bus stand without this sign rather than waiting at the bus stop with this sign out of order. It made me hot, but not hot enough to kill the chills.

And finally, Wednesday night must be Ajummas Shop and Ride the Same Bus as Me Night. Because I waited for about 10 minutes and every other minute or so, the bus stop filled with more and more ajummas, all ignoring the fact that I had been standing there freezing, with the plastic bag handles digging into my hand. They line up along the sidewalk with their perms and their stretchy pants,and the disdain rises into my throat. I'm almost choked by it. The bus finally comes and I'm shoved out of the way as they all clamber onto a bus that doesn't have any free seats anyway.

It's instant. I am transported back a year ago on a platform in Cheonho-dong. I am watching that one woman with no chin run to the front of the long line everyday to make sure she gets on the train first. And I am washed in rage. It broils in my belly and seeps up into my eyes that threaten to overflow. I feel like I'm going to be sick. The heat and the nausea bring me back to Bus 34 hurtling down the street, jerking in and out of gear, grinding to a standstill 5 feet after the bus stops. This driver is doing a dance on the pedals, gas then break, gas then break, jolting the bus towards my house.

I'm angry. It's the old rage, come back to visit. The one that burns the inside of my brain with resentment and irrational thoughts of entitlement. It is stupid and it is awful, but it is strong. And shortlived, thank God. By the time I get off the bus, I've cooled down and don't even remember to tell Kenny about it when I get home. It's funny how well-adjusted you can believe yourself to be.

Plus also, The Rage never truly dies.


Housewifery or Gasp! She Cooked AGAIN

So, I think I'm finally getting the hang of this whole housewifery business. I mean, let's face it. If you're a wife and you have a house, you're a housewife whether you are otherwise employed or not.

I don't think I'll ever be one of those people who just loves to cook or bake. I'm not that gal. But I am finding joy in cooking for Kenny. I know it's just a sandwich, but I slapped some cheese, omelet, and bacon between two pieces of bread and grilled it for our lunch today while Kenny was in the shower, and it was heavenly. And it was surprising. I just got dressed and thought, I'll make some sandwiches now. I didn't agonize over it, overplan it, or discourage myself by thinking about how unsuccessful I might be. I simply made the sandwiches. It was my fifth time to cook this week (I've finished dinner just now so make it six!), and I'm getting more comfortable with the idea. On Monday and Tuesday morning I was up before 9 (MIRACLE OF MIRACLES, I know) and in the kitchen whipping up some juk (Korean rice porridge) or omelets. I've even convinced myself that next weekend, I will attempt to make shikhye, a Korean sweet iced rice drink. Already purchased my barley malt and everything.

I feel like I am changing, or rather being more fully born into myself. I like seeing that I am not who I think I am. I do not have the limits I convince myself exist. And isn't it so fitting that it would be food to teach me this?

Okay, now I must go see if my dwenjang chiggae is up to par! And fold laundry. And wash poop off of BoBear's back feet. And also catch up on more of season 5 of The Office with the HubbO. And write.

I am in love with our homelife.


Just a Small Reminder...

A wonderful little reminder that CHRISTMAS IS COMING, in case you forgot. This is from Jessica Hagy's site Indexed where she publishes a daily index card that helps her organize her thoughts "without resorting to doing actual math." I mean, hello? I NEVER do actual math. I do Danielle Math, as Kenny has dubbed it, which sometimes resembles real math but is always a little off. I don't know. Even Rummikub starts to give me a headache after a while; just looking at all those numbers starts to make my brain feel like it's done too many crunches.

I've been neglecting the old Wonju Wife blog of late. And with good reason, too! The HubbO came down with something last week that looked and acted suspiciously like (dunh dunh duh dunnnnnhhhh) Swine Flu. Oh yes, the influenza o' pig threatened to infiltrate our household. We went up to the hospital on Saturday to have him tested and they said, "We'll call you in 2 hours to let you know." Um,  it's Monday. Still haven't gotten that call. We are guessing it's not swine flu and is probably just regular old boring-but-still-as-crappy flu. Anyway, not kissing is getting really old, let me tell ya.

Also, I've been thinking. I've been thinking a lot about travel as I'm working on our book project. And I have come to the conclusion that the thing you must do while you travel is wonder. You must wonder what life is like. And while you are wondering, you must never assume. Because when you assume you understand someone else's way of life because you spent a week in their town, a month in their village, or three months in their country, you lose something. Assumptions and knowing somehow put up a wall that keep all of the wonder out.

I'm going to start sharing a little bit more about our honeymoon and the things I learned about myself, about my husband, and about the world in general here. Those posts will serve as jumping off points for the chapters I'm writing, and hopefully take a little of the pressure off, because let me tell you. Writing for you guys: awesome, fun, no-pressure (okay, but just the tiniest bit of pressure) and rewarding. Writing for an editor: freaking intimidating, wet-your-pants scary, and oh-my-god-did-I-say-I-was-a-writer? kind of nervous. And it's scary. Because I've been given this beautiful opportunity and if I fail... Well, let's not talk about it. Let's pretend I'll just write my little wrists off and everything will be swell! Okay? Okay.

And travel isn't the only thing that's been on my mind. I've been thinking about this blog and what it's become. It's gone through a few transformations over the past two years. Honestly, I can't even remember what it was BEFORE Rage in the A.M. Rage was about loving and hating Korea, loving and hating myself in this country, and loving and hating, well everything. Then ChubbO Chubbington came along and I berated myself continually and lost a bunch of weight and complained about food and wrote about 500 posts on donuts. But somehow, it was still sort of about Korea. And then Wonju Wife came along. And now, it's pretty much about MY life (oh, and I live in Korea). So I've been thinking a lot about how I'd like to do something helpful, you know? Give a little back to the community that gave so much to me when I first arrived. So, that's in the works.

Plus also, I finally finished all the Harry Potter books. And dear J.K. Rowling, I am a little lost without Harry now. I have my brain back, but I was enjoying giving a large chunk of it to him and his adventure. Now, I must stop talking about him like he's someone I regularly sit down and have a cuppa and chat with.


Hanji Weekend Recap

*Warning:This post is picture heavy. 

A few weekends ago, my dear friend Angie came down to Wonju to visit with us and to see the kitters. We worked together last year and you might also recognize her as the amazing woman who did my hair for the wedding! Anyway, we love us some Angie.

So, first we hit up a coffee shop and then we rode the bus up towards Chiaksan. We meant to have a look around the national park and to hike in for about an hour or so and then back out, but we didn't have time and the weather was kind of crap. So, we settled for a craft session at the Hanji Museum (it's really more like a store than a museum though). Hanji is Korean handmade paper and Wonju hosts the Hanji Festival, although there are other hanji spots around Korea. We purchased small DIY hanji kits and then proceeded to an upstairs room with big tables and a hanji expert.

 Clearly, we went straight to work. Well, Kenny did anyway.

Angie and Kenny finished well before I did. Mostly because every other step I would freak out because it wasn't perfect. And the hanji lady would come over and fix it for me. I liked painting the glue on the paper and then painting the paper onto the box with even more glue. We walked around downstairs in the "museum" part of the building while we waited for our hanji products to dry.

This is part of a series they have set up in the museum. It depicts the hanji-making process. Each step in the process is made of hanji. Pretty cool, huh? They had all sorts of furniture, dishes, art, and even a hanbok made entirely out of paper. I liked this little paper guy.

Angie's masterpiece.

Kenny did the big green thing with the bird. And when I saw his bird, I wanted one. So I begged the hanji expert lady for one. And what do you know, she went and found one for me! So I have a little blue bird box. I had a great weekend with Angie, and I'm pretty sure she had a great weekend with the kitters!
This one's for you, Ang!


The Tigress

Since Bo got the spotlight yesterday, I figured I'd give Miso an equal chance to make you all awwww over her face. Sometimes, she's so cute, I have to resist the urge to squeeze the life out of her. She's got a hilarious personality. She is intently watching the cursor move as I type this. She is constantly alert. She is also a good sister. Bo can't seem to figure out how to cover his business in the litter box. He just kind of scrapes at the sides of the box and never makes contact with the sand. So Miso is always standing guard outside their potty while he goes and then she jumps in there and covers it up for him. She also cleans him, because let's face it, Bo takes after his mother and baths are not his fave.

Kenny has been in Seoul this weekend spending time with his friends and attending a wedding. I have stayed in the house, only going out when I needed groceries, and the kitties seem to be thrilled with this arrangement. They've been following me around, meowing at me, and generally keeping me very good company. Have I told you we don't watch TV anymore? We just watch the kitters. And although I might be turning into Crazy Cat Lady, I haven't felt the least bit lonely with the little guys around. Who could feel lonesome with this face hanging around?

I mean, really. And she's getting heavy. I keep trying to find the word for it, for how satisfying it is to pick her up and feel her weight fall against my arms. She's just so, I don't know, substantial. And I love to pat that belly!

Anyhow, the weekend's almost up, and I'm pretty sure by now Snape is a bad guy. Only one more book to go...


It's November. Which is followed closely by December. And we all know what that means....


So, now that we've got that out of the way... I present the latest adorable and squeeeish picture of the boy cat.

I am determined that November shall be the month we finally cure him of all remaining tummy bacteria and he stops tracking poop throughout the house and we stop  having to bathe him twice a week. Because let me tell you, cleaning Bo is more stressful than cleaning poop. November shall also be the month in which I finish up the Harry Potter series. And thank God, too, because I am a slave to J.K. Rowling. It will be nice to have the inside of my head back, although this romp throughout the wizarding world is definitely exciting and suspenseful. But, I need my brain back in order to do normal everyday things like wash the dishes, blog, and have conversations. November will also be the month in which I get around to telling you about my awesome last half of October. November is also being cancelled, for those of you residing in Korea.

And now, I must return to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Because as smart as I convince myself I am, I really have no clue whose side Snape is on!
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