Tuesday, December 16, 2008


If you've been watching tv the past few weeks, you may have come across a few clever ads for Lexus. The first one I saw was the commercial where the girl talks about her Xmas pony. Personally, I could never related to liking horses, but it was cute.

The next commercial I happened to see showed a kid staying up all night playing with his new Atari 2600. It made me think about all the times I went over to my friend's house to play with her big brother's Atari. We played a lot of Space Invaders, Adventure, Tank Battle, and Pacman. I didn't get to own a video game system of my own until college.

The third commercial shows a boy riding around the house on his Big Wheel. This one probably hit home more for me. While I don't actually remember receiving my big wheel, I certainly remember riding it around the neighborhood. I remember turning it upside down and to make it into a spinning wheel against which I could make noises with sticks and leaves. The commercials Mattel used to run showed kids who could do cool spins with the brake handle. I could never manage to repeat that cool stunt.

These Lexus commercials have been playing for awhile now. The local tv station ran a news segment about how car sales have plummeted except for Lexus. The dealership manager credits the recent commercials for increasing sales. I have to credit Lexus and their ad agency for a job well done that really played to people's happy memories.

The other night, the Big Wheel commercial played again. For some reason, it really hit me that these marketers are targeting my age group. It's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just weird how obvious this is. I can't help laugh. It's like when those Time-Life commercials try to sell you "Hits from the '80s" and you realize you've reached that age that you made fun of 20 years ago. I just can't believe it's that time already.

Do you suppose kids under 18 have any appreciation for these gems of childhood? I guess they didn't include Rubik's cube because it's not a big ticket toy. What are THE toys people will remember 30 years from now? I think the Wii would replace the Atari. Other than that, I don't have any good guesses.

My "toy" this Xmas? I have a beautiful KitchenAid Professional 600 Stand Mixer sitting on my counter (bought on sale).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Temporary insanity is back

After almost a year, I dread it's return. This morning, I noticed a few drops of blood in the toilet. The monthly monster is back.

Along with the physical aspects of it all so too are the side effects. For me, the biggest inconvenience is the mental toll. I seriously believe that I suffer some significant synaptic misfirings for a few days each month.

I was a bit down on Friday. When Tim got home, I just cried for awhile. The loss of my job, the stress of interviewing, and all the depressing news about the economy was too much. I haven't had a breakdown like that in quite some time. Seriously, I can't remember the last time I felt so miserable (though I can remember many times feeling like this through the years).

And then last night, I found myself in a dark funk. A panic set in as I sat down to research my interview presentation.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Boredom set in

Honestly, I like not having to get up early, commute, work for 8 hours (okay I probably do non-work stuff for at least an hour), commute again, and they scramble to find dinner before crashing on the couch for the rest of the evening. It's nice to be able to escape the house whenever I choose and do whatever I need to. On the other hand, the boredom is growing.

The truth is that I'm a lazy and very simple person. While some friends who have been unemployed have volunteered, quilt and knit, read books, go cycling for days on end, I don't have any hobbies that I could do day after day and be content. I have a pile of cards, gifts, scrapbooking supplies and laundry all around the house, but all I can do is sit here and feel sad and bored.

I have now been jobless for one month. While the time definitely passes by, I can't say it's been very fulfilling. I also find that I'm at a bit of a crossroad in what would be an ideal job. There's still part of me that is hungry for a challenge and to feel important. On the other hand, I don't want to work from 7am to 7pm every day to get ahead. I want a job where I have some interesting projects but where it's okay to put everything down at 5:30pm and go home. I don't feel like that's possible with what I do now. The problem is that I like what I do.

I just had another phone interview with a hiring manager. This is the same company that I've been talking to off and on for several weeks now. I must say that it was a much more productive conversation. We connected better this time and were straight forward with our concerns about each other. It was revealed to me that the group wasn't sure about whether to continue interviewing with me. Apparently I was very "difficult to read" during the interviews. They couldn't tell how interested I was in the job as opposed to just having decent hours and getting a paycheck . I am on the borderline as a candidate. Argh... .

This was very eye opening and great feedback. When I meet people, I think I tend to be a bit reserved. Coming into this particular interview, I was also overly scrutinizing since the initial contact had been so confusing. The concern on their part centered around how structured I seemed to want things to be. I guess I must have seemed robotic? The company is not in a situation to be a hierarchical place. I was asked to clarify my behavior in case they had misinterpreted. I explained that my mind had already shifted into a mode of trying to assess what actions I would take as the new person on the team. I emphasize my experience in different stages of a company and how that could help the group step up their current practices.

It felt better talking to the hiring manager because I felt like we had a much more personable talk. I don't want to work with someone who's very serious. It must be part of the getting older problem. I was naive and open-minded when I first got out of college. I think now I am very easily suspicious, doubtful and make too many assumptions about things. It's a very difficult habit to remind myself to break. I see from this that I need to improve on that otherwise it's going to take a lot longer to find a job!

My discussion seemed to alleviate the hiring manager's concerns enough to have me come in for a final presentation interview. There are two other candidates who have already completed the entire process. A third person will be presenting the same day as I will. We all have unique strengths though none of us have the perfect resume for the job (so I was told). I am hopeful, but I know not to set my expectations to high.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Charity gears

While I have time off, I made a commitment to volunteer at least once per week. I must admit that twice a week would be better, but I've been taking advantage of the time to get out and exercise before the weather gets worse and scoop up some good sale prices.

The organization I've been volunteering with is a group that helps children. They have various drives during the year and the holiday one involves helping agencies with gifts. In the past, I've simply purchased the requested gift for a specific child. Last year, my friend and I went to the warehouse where we helped sort gifts and fill gaps where kids wishes weren't fulfilled. It's amazing how many unique requests can be fulfilled, but it can also be frustrating when I child asks for something rare or inappropriate.

I really like the kids (or parents) who ask for simple things such as a pair of shoes, a backpack, or a CD player. I wonder what they do with kids who ask for big items like iPods, electric guitars, and video game units. You want the kids to be happy, but you can't allow them to have unrealistic expectations. Last year, we had a six-year-old who wanted a pogo stick. Maybe it's the conservative parent in me, but there's no way I'd give such a young kid a toy like that or at least without a helmet and pads. There are also the challenges when kids ask for unique items like Bettie Boop. We had this group of four girls who clearly talked to each other before they made their requests. One girl's wish was fulfilled by someone, but the other girls' wishes, for whatever reason, weren't as lucky. The warehouse stocks many great items, but it's not like having Target and Walmart next door. We seriously debated breaking up the set of Betty Boop items so that at least three of the girls got something. You know that girl who got her wish would brag in front of the others. Keeping within the means available and doing the best possible to give kids something they want is tough.

This year, I'm on the other side of the production. I'm helping out in the office. It's a great way to give without shelling out money, and it gets me out of the house and around people for a good chunk of the day. My main job has been processing donations. Donations are recorded, processed, and acknowledged. The amounts range from $5 to over $1,000. I even happened to run across a fairly generous check sent by my neighbor. It reinforces what good people I have assumed they are. It must feel really good to write those checks.

The one important thing I've learned that people should know is about the small donations. In general, any amount of cash is appreciated. What I didn't realize is that the person who gives a $5 check ends up wasting the organization's resources because it costs more than the gift to process and acknowledge the donation. I have a friend who said she gives a few dollars to organizations each year because she feels guilty when the solicitation comes in the mail. Now that I've seen the time the office people take to process the check and the office supplies involved, it's important to advise friends to pool gifts as one check or give cash anonymously. Otherwise, each check will be processed and acknowledged which is not the best use of time.

The coolest thing this year was hearing about a birthday party where the birthday boy decided to choose a charity to sponsor. He and his classmates are 7th graders in a private school. From an online book of charities, he found this organization and sought them out because they help kids. The logo of the invitations included the charity's logo and guests were asked to donate in lieu of a gift. The group of some 25+ kids collected over $2,000. I hope that I can instill in my children a sense of empathy and appreciation for people.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A last-minute, second interview

Coinciding with my layoff notice was an e-mail from company recruiter asking if I was interested in a job opening. Curiously, this was a position I had hoped for way back in January. The company did in fact post an opportunity of interest the same week I accepted my now former job.

I couldn't help think it kind of odd that they've been unable to fill the position for over six months, still it seemed like great timing for my new job search. They seemed quite interested in my resume and eager to schedule a time for me to interview. It's always nice to feel wanted.

Finding a new job is going to be challenging. My most recent job really was ideal because it matched so much of my search criteria. I wanted something in a new product area, something that challenged me to be more strategic, and an environment where the people I worked with were more similar in background to me. We were a small group of similar age, experiences, interests, and we could also laugh and have fun together. This on top of being smart people who were comfortable consulting and learning from each other. With all my work history, I've learned that it's nice to like the products you work on, but the key is to respect and enjoy being around the people with whom you'll spend forty hours of your week.

The interview with the company seemed to go well. I'm very excited about the company and its products. They have a very cutting-edge and impactful product. I've been interested in the company since I went to an association meeting where the president talked about the company. The three department people I talked with all seemed intelligent and friendly. The challenge was figuring out the work style of my potential manager and whether or not we'd be compatible. While she is probably incredibly competent, I worry that she could be pretty intense. I want to learn, but I don't want to feel like I have to be serious all the time.

That was two weeks ago. This week, at the last minute, I received a call asking if I could come in the next day and meet with the SVP for one hour. It felt a bit unnerving to have to sit with management for that long. Would I be grilled with technical questions and have to endlessly discuss my qualifications?

The hour felt like it was mostly spend listening to him talk. He repeated much of the information we discussed before though with more detail. I felt somewhat like an analyst listening to a investment presentation. It was like trying to be sold on the product. In my mind I kept wondering whether he was expecting me to interrupt with critical questions to demonstrate my strategic thinking and vision of my responsibilities. He stated that the next step in the interview process depended on whether I was still interested in the position. He tossed out the rhetorical question of whether I might be happier in a larger, more stable company rather than this start up (of 350 employees). They want to be sure I'm interested and prepared to take on the responsibility of managing a new department.

At the end, I was told that if I expressed interest that they'd consider me in the pool for a 2nd round where candidates would be asked to give a presentation to demonstrate speaking skills and analysis techniques. I'm excited about the job but still a bit unsure whether this is a group of people I will be happy working with.

Overall, I'm just still trying to understand the point of this interview. Granted, I had only spoken to the SVP via phone. This was probably his chance to confirm his stamp of approval. Are they unsure of whether to continue with me or are they unsure of my level of interest? And was I supposed to talk more? I mean it was strange how much of the hour he talked. Why not also touch base briefly with the hiring manager? I know I'm very intelligent and have a great resume, but I suck at reading people. I never know what to make of interviews.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Barista dreams

Before going to college, I always heard about student spending large amounts of time studying at cafes and developing a palette and addiction to coffee. My older cousin was a big fan of good coffee. So I went to a few cafes in my college career. I spent several evenings with a dorm friend trying to study at cafes and drinking mochas, but it never stuck. Granted, part of the problem was that I simply had poor study habits, but I also never felt the caffeine boost that other people swore they *needed* to survive.

Today, I basically like the taste of coffee, lattes and mocha especially, but I don't regularly crave it. When I'm at a nice restaurant and order a scrumptious dessert, I definitely feel a strong desire to complement it with a hot and fragrant coffee drink. I'll splurge once in awhile if I have a gift card for some local coffee shop.

When it was time to create a wedding registry, I debated whether to ask for something coffee related. Given the limited amount of kitchen counter space, I was not going to ask for anything that would eat up space and collect dust. I opted for this cool looking gadget called the Bialetti Mukka. It came in a sleek aluminum finish and a cute spotted cow pattern. Since it's a stove top espresso and milk pot, I thought it would be a good compromise to have something that would let me make the occasional latte but not take up a lot of space.

We received the mukka more than one month before the wedding. Tim said it was okay to open the package to know what we'd received and make sure that nothing was damaged. I agreed, however, that we could not open and use anything until after the wedding. Still, I browsed the instructions and read up on other people's reviews of the product. While it can work very well, the comments definitely made me concerned about the skill required to make the mukka work perfectly. I decided we should return it.

My reasoning was this. Since we don't drink coffee regularly, buying drinks from the store was a reasonable expense. Alternatively, I still have a very old Krups espresso machine sitting somewhere in my parents' garage. I earned it long ago when I worked at Crate & Barrel part-time as part of a sales contest. It's probably not as much the coffee drink as operating a fancy machine that appeals to me. Assuming that's true, I'm sure I'll be happy playing with the older "toy."

Just before the wedding, we received a heavy package from Costco. My dad's cousin sent us a beautiful, $300 espresso machine. While it was a very generous gift, we hadn't asked for it. If we drank coffee regularly, I would have had a blast playing with this espresso machine. But practical me, I returned it and applied the credit towards our banquet costs. The bad thing is that they've asked a few times how we like the machine. At the post-wedding brunch, she asked if we drink coffee and whether we'd tried the machine yet. She commented how they use it every morning and have saved a lot of money the past two years. When they sent us copies of the wedding photos they took, the card asked if we were getting the hang of using the espresso machine and to be patient because it takes practice. We don't want to hurt their feelings, but it sucks to have to lie about it.

When my parents came up for the wedding, I asked them to dig out the old espresso machine. It's nothing fancy, but it's still in very good condition and simple to use. I finally took it out this morning and cleaned it up. Calcium deposits had really built up inside the water tank, so I spent some 1.5 hours flushing the system with dilute vinegar and then several cycles of water. I wiped down all the parts and refreshed myself with all the dials and accessories that make the machine work. I picked up some decaf Peet's on my way back from hiking.

I wish I had taken a picture, but I must say that my first attempt at a soy mocha latte turned out great! I had my doubts about getting soy milk to froth because I thought the fat content mattered, but it really came out nice. I used an Irish coffee style glass mug. It showed off the beautiful chocolate color of the latte topped off with a two-inch high, ivory mountain of foam and tiny bits of chocolate settling on the bottom. I overloaded the foam just enough so I had to slurp up the foam that began to spill over the side. No store could have made it look better. The latte had a pleasant and mild taste. I can't wait to make a mocha latte for my hubby tonight to eat with my homemade triple-chocolate brownies. Hmmm, maybe Starbucks will take me if my other career plans fall through!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Potholes and detours

I've been kind of letting the whole thing sink in so I didn't bother to mention that I got laid off last week. Everyone at the company knew something was coming. I kind of figured I'd get laid off in January; I was a couple months off.

During my honeymoon, I was a little frustrated to be missing two important events. First, our company was holding their earnings call. The next day, an all company meeting was scheduled for the afternoon. This meeting had been moved around three times and finally settled on the day before I returned home.

As soon as I got back to work, my colleagues filled me in. The earnings call was more than people expected. An analyst asked point-blank when the company would be having layoffs. The executives must not have been prepared because my manager said they poorly answered the questions. Our president didn't dodge the question and instead said that a first round of layoffs would be in the next few weeks. Imagine hundreds of employees listening to this teleconference at their desks and learning this. Such as critical announcement should be first made to employees in person, not during a call with financial analysts.

The next day, our president confirmed that HR was busy preparing for layoffs. The financial situation of the company is not dire but clearly spending needs to be curbed. No plans were spelled out. It definitely put a damper on the rest of the week. To make matters worse, HR sent out an e-mail cancelling a planned happy hour in the cafeteria schedule for two day later. Come on, if you knew that spending was an issue, cancel it earlier, not after scaring everyone with looming layoffs.

A director send out an e-mail to form an unofficial happy hour in his department to make up for HR's cancellation. It was a good way for everyone to get together despite HR. When my colleague left the party, he thanked the director for organizing. The director wished him a good weekend and added, "good luck on Tuesday."

"Tuesday, what's on Tuesday?" My colleague couldn't figure out what he was talking about. After a few seconds, he realize that it must be a reference to coming layoffs. It was just so strange that the guy had been so open about it. Clearly, he had warned his whole department. I wish our manager had given us some warning.

Tuesday seemed like a very regular morning. Still, I was keeping my eye out for anything unusual. At my last company, I saw six layoffs over the span of two years. I learned all the signals and knew the procedure. The question was how my new company would conduct the layoff - call only affected employees to a meeting or call everyone to different meetings. So when I received an e-mail at 9:30am that read, "mandatory HR meeting" I wasn't sure what to think.

My gut told me that I was getting laid off, but I wanted proof. My colleagues had gone off to a meeting so I couldn't ask them. Instead, I sat quietly listening to passers by. I figured if anyone else received the e-mail I might overhear them mention it in the cubes nearby or at the copier. Nothing, it seemed like a regular day for all the people sitting around me. I knew that could only mean one thing.

At least I'm getting paid through the end of the year. We were given our walking papers and a cab voucher to take all of our belongings home (for those who use public transportation). I consolidated my files, erased my personal files, and packed up all my personal effects. I said a brief goodbye to my manager who had to leave for the airport. She also gave permission to my counterpart to go home early. It wasn't exactly the most fun day to hang around the office.

It's a really frustrating situation. On the one hand, it's good timing because it gives me the opportunity to wrap up all the post-wedding stuff. You wouldn't believe how much of time is filled with wedding and cohabitation related errands. On the other hand, this is fairly bad timing as it's not easy to find a job right before Xmas, and we had been hoping to start looking for a house. It's so frustrating to not be able to buy a house when we really want to have more space and start planning for a baby. We've decided we'll probably still try for a baby starting January whether or not I have a job. I just hope that I can find a new job before any bump starts to show (if we're lucky enough). Added to all this is the fact that I really liked my job. It was challenging, but I really felt like I was part of a great team of people whom I respected, could learn from, and had fun with. That's a hard thing to find.

I have a job interview coming up. I'm hopeful but not as enthusiastic as I would like to be. I plan to volunteer once a week to get myself out of the house. I also carpool with Tim and spend a day at the local library and then go to the gym before picking Tim up to go home. We're extending our holiday vacation now that I have more spare time. I'm making the best of it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One thousand, one hundred eighty-three and then some

For the past week, I've spent an enormous amount of time sorting through wedding photos. Weddings are one of those events where you are completely dependent on others to capture memories of the people, scenery, and action going on around you.

Our photographer sent us some teasers about a week after the wedding. We also encouraged guests to upload their photos onto a shared website Tim created through Shutterfly. Ten people took us up on the shared website. Two people posted pictures through Picasa, one set on Flickr, another on Photobucket, and two people sent us CDs with their photo files. We got to see many great shots of things we had no idea were going on while we visited with guests. The one thing I take away from what photos people sent is "remember to share photos of things other than the bride and groom." It's nice that we have dozens of angles of our ceremony, but it'd be better if we could see who was sitting next to whom and what was happening at the reception tables. I will definitely keep that in mind for the next wedding I attend.

Now comes the hard part of sorting through all these wonderful photos and decide on what will go into our final photo album. We'll probably have two, one informal book we'll print online, the other will be a fancy (and expensive) leather bound book with the thick pages that weighs 10 pounds. The big difference is how many pictures we will use. The online books tend to be 100 pages with 1 to 9 photos per page which you design yourself. The professional wedding books are a total of 55 photos over 30-40 pages where one chance to edit up to 10 photos is allowed before it goes to print.

As I go through and try to whittle down all these photographs into a tidy 500 to get from my official photographer, here are so fun pictures:

I could have imagined a more beautiful autumn day for a wedding. It had rained just two week earlier so we set up a whole Plan B timeline in case of weather. Good thing we didn't spend too much thought on it. Instead, Mother Nature graced us with a perfect 74F day, light wind, and clear skies. Not many people know about this place for some reason and yet it's so close by many things. I'm so glad we chose to have an outdoor ceremony. With all the activities we two enjoy, this was the place for us. Just before the ceremony, as the guests hid under the trees for shade, a light wind shook some leaves from the tall trees. It was like watching a romantic movie as I saw the golden leaves fall like golden confetti over everyone. I knew it would be a marvelous day.

I probably know little to nothing about florist. I can't say that I've ever bought anything from a shop. Naturally, I fretted constantly about the flowers. Having a proposal that list what flowers will be included in the wedding was not enough. Sure, we talked about ideas after looking at pictures, but how was I to be sure I'd end up with something I'd like? I have to say my breath was taken away by what was delivered to the hotel. The flowers were perfect, and she even managed to add flowers that I thought I couldn't get because they're normally out of season this time of year. (Hmmm, yeah, they're probably imported from somewhere and not "green" but I'll compensate for it somehow because it was worth it!)

My brother-in-law's girlfriend has just become a wedding photographer. We wanted her to enjoy the wedding, so she wasn't paid to do anything she didn't want to. Still, it was great to have a "second" photographer with a different artistic style. I really love some of her more artsy images.

I surprisingly did well in my $45 Naturalizer shoes (on sale with 20% friends and family discount - yes!). From the moment I found them, I was determined to wear them because I thought the style was perfect and the pearl white color matched my dress better than anything else. I thought for sure I'd have ten blisters on each feet and be walking bare foot after an hour. Luckily, they held up for a good 4 hours before I abandon them for slides and then 1-inch sandals.

But of all the details I shopped, fretted, fussed, and struggle over, my favorite is our cake topper. We're by no means the first to do it, although it has become a little harder now that you can't request them free from the company. Despite that, I wrote the company and told them of our love for the video game of their creation. I longed for the pieces I needed that I could not buy from the company without buy a set that cost $50 to $100. The customer service agent accepted my request and my obvious determination to obtain my cake topper and went so far as to give me a complete set of LEGOs from which I could created my bride and groom rather just the three pieces that I had requested. She has no idea how much that made my day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Crazy bridal fashion

I stopped by to give my catering manager and sales manager thanks gifts this week. Tim and I debated for a few days what would be good to give them for their efforts. We settled on a bottle of wine along with a stemless wine glass set. We figured that by having one food item and one useful item they'd at least get to enjoy one thing (in case they don't like the other).

Catching both of them at the hotel can be tricky. During the wedding planning phase, I definitely ran into days they were out of the office. The issue is that they don't have the same day off week to week. I was thrilled when the front desk person told me they were both present.

It was lovely to see them. I'm sure they were happy to know that I wasn't there to agonize over details or fret over things that weren't perfect. I can't help wonder how my bridal demands and hysterics compare to others they've worked with. The three of us had a fun chat.

While we talked a little about the wedding itself and looked at my Polaroid guestbook, the bulk of the conversation moved on to the crazy weddings out there. First, I mentioned a very popular local spot for pictures where we must have seen seven other wedding parties wandering about the grounds. What was eye catching were the number of *brightly* colored bridesmaids. Maybe it's a trend among the younger brides, but I just couldn't stand the hot pink bridesmaids along with their matching hot pink stretch Hummer. Eeck. The bridesmaid in chocolate and lavender looked fine. Then there was the fluorescent-like aqua and kelly green bridesmaids. Unique but how will one ever re-use those colors unless they come in a set?

From there we started talking about all kinds of crazy styles - tatoos, 1920s, hoop skirts, multi-color wedding gowns, big hats. The movie "29 Dresses" was cute and mostly just entertaining because I thought the bridesmaid dress they created for the movie were funny. I actually kind of like the goth wedding. The catering manager jumped in saying that she had just booked a woman for next year who will indeed be having a goth wedding at the hotel. She said the bride wears the style well and has purple hair they will be hyped up more for the wedding. Boy, I'd love to get a peek at that event.

The craziest wedding images were shared by the sales manager. The website address alone gives some idea of what to expect - Hot Ghetto Mess. (The website itself is quite an eye-opener for me.) She described a summer wedding where the bridal party wore LEATHER. Yes, imagine five to seven black women dress in tight leather dresses. This was a posh wedding where being in the bridal party meant each woman also received a 2 carat diamond Tiffany bracelet. To top it off, the bride wore a white leather gown trimmed with white fur. I haven't found a picture of the bride, but this might be the bridal party . The outfits look great, but in my circles there's no way anyone would go for this in a wedding.

To each their own. It definitely makes for great entertainment!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Up for air

Don't know if anyone's still out there, but I've returned for a little bit. I'm happy to say that I'm now married!

It was pretty those last few weeks before the big day. You always think you have more time and then suddenly you realize there are more things to do that weren't on the list. So yes, Tim and I spent every waking hour that wasn't spent at work, at home designing programs, sewing, typing up instructions, putting together gifts, handling last-minute requests.

The weather cooperated wonderfully. No one could have asked for more perfect weather. At the rehearsal, the sun felt like a heat lamp on the skin. Thankfully, the weather report was accurate in predicting that the temperature would drop to a very agreeable 74 F for Saturday. There was only the slightest breeze to blow papers, hair, or veils. Everyone was amazed at our beautiful backdrop.

The only wrenches thrown into the mix were the parents. Tim's family wanted to have a private lunch and did not want to come down to the hotel for photos in the morning. Because of this last-minute change, we did not think about the fact that the boutonnieres and corsages needed to be transported to the ceremony. Hence, only my family wore flowers during the wedding. We didn't realize this error until we got back to our hotel room and found a shopping bag full of flowers next to the door. Oops.

My mother was a more thorny problem. Basically, we accept the fact that she was looking for excuses to dislike Tim's family. (They aren't good enough for me in her eyes because they are a different ethnicity and she strongly holds to old country prejudices.) The rehearsal dinner was a nightmare. The Chinese banquet place essentially tried to squeeze out a little more money by short-changing my mother-in-law. We had been promised four tables seating about 10 people each. Instead, they squeezed us into three 12-15 person tables. Then they proceeded to only serve enough food for 10-12 people. My mother immediately came over and yelled at me for embarrassing her in front of the relatives.

Being at my breaking point from general wedding stress, I couldn't help but start crying. I lost my appetite for half the meal. It took numerous conversations between my dad, my mother-in-law, her Chinese friend, and my aunt before my mom could at least calm down. Did it even occur to her how much she was embarrassing me by making such a fuss? I think she blames my in-laws for being cheap rather than realizing the restaurant manager was trying to pull a fast one. I don't think I saw her smile all night. Thank goodness for my reasonable, patient, and loving father.

There's never enough time to talk to everyone, but I feel like I was at least able to say a few words to all my friends over the course of the evening. Tim and I did our best to make sure that we ate most of our dinner. We managed to stay on schedule and still have fun.

More details later...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Look before you leap

Tim read this in the news today. It's kind of sad, but then I also think of the "Darwin Awards" and how this one will probably get on the list. I also can't help think it's one less person who's jail time we don't have to pay for. Rough but true.

It's just hard to imagine this happening. Yikes!

Car-burglary suspect vaults wall, falls to his death on Telegraph Hill
Thursday, September 11, 2008

12:29 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- A car-burglary suspect fell to his death early today after he climbed over a wall on San Francisco's Telegraph Hill while trying to flee from police, apparently unaware that on the other side of the wall was a 200-foot cliff, authorities said.

The incident began at 12:30 a.m. when police received reports of a someone breaking into a car on the unit block of Alta Street near Montgomery Street, east of Coit Tower.

Plainclothes officers set up surveillance in the area and spotted the man getting out of an Audi, said police spokesman Sgt. Neville Gittens. Police tried to stop him, but he took off running. At one point, he stumbled and a screwdriver fell out of his pocket, police said.

The man jumped over a 3-foot wall at the end of Alta Street and plunged the equivalent of 20 stories. He was pronounced dead at the scene, west of Sansome Street.

His name was not immediately released.

Officers found that a Subaru and possibly a third car had been broken into, Gittens said.

Louie Mandecote, a caregiver for a resident on Alta, said the incident was unnerving because "this neighborhood is so quiet."

Mandecote added, "It's a long-way drop from where Alta Street is. He probably doesn't live here if he didn't know that."

E-mail Henry K. Lee at hlee@sfchronicle.com.


Major stress week in progress. I had a Klondike bar, tater tots, and some red flame grapes for dinner. Not too healthy eh?

Anyhow, let's just say that while I think my dress is gorgeous, it's not the best choice for a petite woman given it's a sheath dress (meaning you can only hem the length at the bottom), and it has beading which makes alterations very tricky and expensive. Having a chiffon overlay is messy because the bustle is not easy, and the weight of the whole dress is causing a (lack of) cleavage issue. As much as I love my gown, if I had the opportunity to do it over, I'd pick something with no beading, that has sexy straps, and has a seam at the waist that can be altered.

On the bright side, my bridal shower is this weekend. I can't wait to just relax and enjoy a little time with my gal pals (and an hour with my dad). Oh yeah, and the presents are a nice bonus!!!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Clocks and other things that need to be synchronized

Tim and I made the BIG move this past weekend, he moved in. Over the past few weeks, he's been frantically packing his things. It kind of threw a wrench into our normal habits. The Olympics probably didn't help much because that was time he could have spent cleaning and organizing. Instead, he watch with me for a couple hours and then stay up a little later to do some packing each night.

Originally, he had proposed moving in at the end of July. That was back in May. But time passed and he did nothing. So at the end of June, he asked if it would be better to wait until after the wedding. I told him I didn't like the idea. For one thing, why not save the money paying rent and a mortgage (you know, practical me). For another, the holidays and travel will make it more complicated to try and move after the wedding. Hence, he gave notice on August 1st.

I *finally* got to see his apartment the week before the move. Slowly, he was bring over boxes of things while I was desperately trying to donate away clothing and junk to make space (something I'm still doing because I have such a hard time parting with perfectly good things that take up space in my closet ;)). The place was just as I remembered it - dusty and messy.

The dust was sooooo bad, that on moving day I insisted he had to wipe down anything that came into my condo. I actually set up my vacuum on the driveway and sucked up every nook and cranny of dust and dirt on his mattress before it set foot in the house. When I shook out his flannel sheets... well, I guess this is what it would be like to be caught in Pigpen's dust cloud .

By then end, he was packing everything and worrying about throwing out stuff later. As a result, we also have a storage rental full of boxes. Every weekend when it's not about the wedding, he has to try and get rid of stuff. My fear is that it won't really happen until we buy a house where he can spread out the junk in a garage - oh joy. Not that he'd keep it, just that we have to drag it around for a little longer so that he can take more time to sort through it all. Ugh. (Thanks goodness I try to throw out or donate at least two boxes of stuff every year.)

It's about day four of living together. I know everything is hunky-dory this week, but I know it's going to start feel weird. After all, it is my place and I haven't made much space for him. I still need to clear half the bathroom drawers for him. We both would love to have a living room that's livable. For someone who's been as messy as Tim, even he finds the random boxes and papers a little frustrating.

The important thing for this week is working on sleep patterns. I need to be at work after 8am. He complains when someone schedules an "early" meeting, meaning 9:30am. His usual work hours start at around 10:30am. That translates into an 11pm wind down time for me whereas he tends to stay on the computer until 1am. This doesn't work when the bathroom is open to the bedroom.

I hear him brush his teeth at night and then he likes to chat in bed for at least 30 minutes before sleeping. I like talking about the day with him too. The thing is that I'm ready to fall asleep before he reaches the bed. In the morning, I feel bad making all kinds of noise at the sink when I know he could be sleeping.

Tim's been very sweet about it. He says he doesn't mind getting up early. He simply does more online reading in the morning. As I left this morning, he promised that we'd go to bed by 11:30pm tonight. It is nice to know he's always there.

Friday, August 29, 2008

More or less?

I'm avoiding cleaning to do something more fun. Since I don't want anyone attending the wedding to guess at what it may look like, I'm asking you dear friends to help me with your opinion on colors.

The background that's important to know is that our wedding colors are burgundy and golden yellow. Our invitation were inspired by this illustration. Basically, we have a lot of color options.

Our reception's dance area is a beautiful glass ceiling. But as night falls, it will be black. I thought it would be nice to continue the outdoor feeling by adding some paper lanterns. Based on discussions with the hotel, it is only possible to hang lanterns on wires that will run the length of each pointed ceiling section (there are three sections, each with a chandelier).

For the sake of cost, I've decided that if I do decorate, I'll have them set up two wires in the middle section. The center or middle area where most people will dance since the left side is where the DJ will set up (see black speaker) and the right side is where people come in and out of the ballroom area through the arches. The lanterns I hang will be tied to different lengths of fishing wire to add dimension.

The big question that I must answer by the end of the weekend is what color lanterns to buy. So I've generated two mock ups of what the room might look like once set up. (Thank goodness for Photoshop!) Obviously there are caveats to keep in mind when looking at this. For example, I don't know that these are the actual sizes of the lanterns. These simply represent size proportional to other lanterns. All in all, I think this is a pretty good visualization of what is possible.

The difference here is that one color has been removed:

I don't have a preference at this point, just thoughts about why one might be better than the other. They both look nice, it's a question of what seems appropriate for a wedding evening.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Head Scratch

My mother-in-law to be asked if my mom should be extended an invitation to my bridal shower. Keep in mind that my mother is some 500 miles away. She thought it would be a good way to make her feel included, meet the in-laws, and have her involved more in my wedding plans. I agreed and she called my mom last week about it.

I was surprised this morning to see this e-mail from my dad to my brother [and me]:

"MIL called asking mom to go to the bridal shower. We need to attend a wedding for a friend's son that day. All we need is for one of us to go to the wedding. Since mom doesn't like to travel alone, I'll go to the shower, and she can go to the wedding. While up there, I can also meet MIL, see the hotel and the wedding ceremony location, and also see some model homes with you. I'll arrive in the morning and leave in the evening. I won't stay overnight. Just want to make sure that you will be free that day to drive me around."

Huh? It's hard not to laugh after reading this. It just sounds ridiculous. I immediately called Tim to ask exactly what his mom discussed with my mom. When I read the e-mail to him, he just laughed. Where do parents come up with these decisions?

My dad did later write and acknowledge that him coming by the shower would be odd but he only meant to stop briefly to meet my mother-in-law and drop off a few gifts. (Gifts? From who?)

I have to give kudos to my mother-in-law. She is wonderfully kind and thoughtful. I'm lucky to have her. I'm glad that at least some of our parents will meet before the wedding.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Makeup is a Mystery

There are times when I seriously think I should have be sent to a workshop on why I need to do all the things that women do when planning a wedding. I’m a very organized person, so getting things done is not the issue. The big problem for me is understanding why certain things are done and in what manner I should do them.

Frankly, I probably rushed into a lot of things because I didn’t think my final choice would matter all that much. In some situations, I had the impression that I did not have the time to do the research I needed to do.

One of the most foreign subjects for me has been hair and makeup. I didn’t start moisturizing regularly until my mid-twenties. I didn’t start moisturizing before bedtime until five years ago. Eye cream is something I dabble in when I remember. Exfoliation is something I started doing only because of the wedding. Facials? I’ve never had one – ever. It’s been a very slowly evolving process.

As for makeup, the only thing I can say I consistently do is fill in my brows. That’s something I remember picking up after reading some Glamour magazine article talking about putting on a minimum every time one steps out of the house. The logic made sense to me and I’ve found that the few minutes it takes to add a bit of shadow is worth how it frames my plain face. Most work days, I’ll also throw on a bit of neutral eye shadow. Lipstick is unlikely because I’m not one to remember to apply it every couple of hours. I stand a better chance with tinted lip balms.

With all that, here’s what I have done in the past four months. In May, I had my first makeup test with a recommended Channel artist. She did a very nice job, but given that it was my first run. I just felt it average. Also, she charges $300 which was above what I had budgeted. After thinking about it for a month, I told her that I couldn’t go with her due to price.

In June, I went for a trial run with an Asian beautician who does both hair and makeup. I think she thought it a bit odd that I wanted to do a trial run of the makeup. It’s like she expected me to just show up on my wedding day and have perfect makeup. Yeah, right. Inside the salon, everything seemed to go well. I was a little frustrated with how long everything took but felt I couldn’t complain much for the price. Hair and makeup would be less than $150 though I’d have to drive 20 minutes to her salon. I felt like it was put on pretty thick to cover my freckles and blemishes. (There’s an Asian artist for you.) Unfortunately, when I recently looked back at the flash photos we took afterwards, I realize that I look like a ghost. No kidding! She tried to lighten my skin color and so my face doesn’t match my neck one bit. Yuck!

Technically, I’m still booked with her, but this week I need to tell her that I just want to do my hair. The debate is whether to bring a picture and tell her the truth to see if she can change things, or just say that I’ve decided to do my makeup myself?

Last month, my friends took me to Nordstrom’s to help with my frustrations over makeup. They sat me at the Bare Escentuals counter where a decent woman applied my makeup. It was an introductory job, and we all felt very satisfied with what she did. It looked natural and didn’t feel heavy. I talked with her and negotiate $100 for makeup (and she’d come to the hotel).

I went again this weekend to experiment with colors and try out my individual, false eyelashes. Since I wear very little makeup on a daily basis, it was hard to gauge what was the right amount of makeup, plus the store lighting was awful. I knew that I would need to go outside. Even just walking through the mall, I felt like a clown, probably due to the long false eyelashes. Driving home, I could see in my visor mirror that the pinkness of the makeup on my face did not match the natural color of my neck. It felt wrong.

I happened by another makeup store. I was curious to check out a new sheer foundation by a local makeup artist. The guy at the store approached me and we talked about the product. He offered to try some on me but I explained that I was already wearing makeup for a test run. I told him I was wearing Bare Minerals. I took advantage of the situation and asked what he thought of it. He said it looked fine for day wear and that the lipstick color was perfect for photos. He advised that you want to go a little more dramatic than normal for wedding photos. He cautioned me that Bare Minerals while a great everyday product, is not ideal for photos. He says it has a finish that shows up poorly in photos. He definitely encourage me to try the foundation that I picked up. When I left the store he also offered his services for my wedding.

Tim’s probably not the best person to ask for makeup opinion, but in the grand scheme of things, his opinion matters most because I want him to think I look beautiful at the wedding. He said it looked a bit dramatic. I asked if he recalled the other times I’d had makeup trials and he seemed to like those other times better.

We snapped a couple pictures. The ones in the shade looked fine. However, whenever we used flash, be it to reduce the harsh sunlight or illuminate the inside of a building, my face looked a bit shiny. Granted, I have oily skin, but it had only been a few hours since the makeup session. I can’t imagine I got that oily. Plus, the shine was consistent all over my face leading me to believe it was something about the makeup.

I looked at the pictures again later and checked my face in various lights. I felt uncomfortable. Wearing the makeup for more hours did not change the shine. I also noticed my eyes felt a little agitates and tired. I don’t know if it was the eye shadow products or the false eyelashes. When I took off the makeup, my skin felt slightly irritated. I don’t recall any of this happening as a result of the other two makeup trials. Am I imaging things? Am I allowing myself to be influenced by the concerns I’ve read on the Internet and by the makeup store guy?

I wrote the makeup gal late yesterday evening. I told her that I am not confident in the makeup and explained my concerns about the pinkness and shine. I asked her for suggestions on what might be done to correct the problem. Part of me wants to stick with her, but another part of me just wants to do it myself.

So now, I truly understand why it's so important to start shopping around early. I know that I shouldn't make commitments until I've experimented with many products and talked to several people. It's tiring, but not I see why it would have been better to have several sessions over a period of a couple weeks so I could compare more easily. Leaving it until two months before the wedding is stressing me out!

I hate confrontation and I’m getting *uncomfortable* telling these people that I’m unhappy and trying to give them direction on how to make things better. Do I give the Asian woman or Nordstrom gal another try? Should I grovel and try and get artist #1 to take me back for the $300? It just seems so expensive… . ARGH! Now I really wish I'd learned better techniques for applying makeup. HELP!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympic Sleep

Why do moths leave a powdery residue when you smash them? I just hit one flying around me as I sat down to blog and now I've missed the weather report. :(

Part of me could fall asleep the minute I put my head down. Another part of me sense my second wind is coming. The Olympics are awesome to watch but the network is torturing me and many people on the West Coast. I don't think I've gone to sleep before 12:30am since the Olympics started!

The swimming was awesome, the gymnastics controversial, and the injuries heartbreaking at times. I don't have cable so my only link has been the network and an occasional check of Telemundo for those less mainstream events. It's really amazing to realize that a group of people can all of a sudden switch from gregarious and talkative to silently focused on a grainy analog image of bodies splashing in the water to a photo-finish. I love how these games bring people together.

Thoughts so far:

- It's the strangest thing to hear that a shooter was disqualified for doping? It's not really an athletic contest. (But I heard it was probably a drug that helped prevent any hand shaking.)

- Where did all these fast Jamaicans come from? Did I miss them in 2004? The 100m sweep was amazing.

- I'm Asian and I *know* some of those Chinese girls were under 16. Give me a break. How much cheating is going on with China? I love the ideal of the Olympics but it's situations like this that really tarnish the image.

- Even in China, it's all about the money.

- What will they be replacing baseball and softball with?

- Kerri and Misty are *the* bomb.

- The commercials have been pretty cool. Tim likes the United commercial. I thought the Coke commercial with the birds was cute. The GE ones have been pretty funny too.

- What will Phelps do now?

- I feel for Alicia Sacramone and hope she knows that no one blames her

- Football? Oh year, that.

- Why is all the good stuff shown after 10pm? It's not live, just start earlier so we can watch live with the East Coast!!!! Some of us don't have Tivo.

- This tiebreaker rule in gymnastics is lame. Make them both go again.

Ack! A bug... gotta go!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Our take away

If you remember back a few months ago, I was researching the ideal wedding favor. I came up with something that spoke to our travel interests and doubled as a table card - luggage tags.

Unfortunately, the tags I thought I wanted were a bit outside of the budget. Most people I know budget less than $2 per favor, but I'm willing to go as high as $3 if I really like what I find. Now that I've revisited the task, I've found some appealing options. (I also wanted to share in case someone else is interested as it's hard to find well-priced, good choices.)

1) Two-tone leatherette tags: Tim tends to prefer these. I think it the design probably appeals to the males better. It's not the greatest material but it doesn't look like it will immediately fall apart. ($2.52/each + optional printing)

2) Color luggage tags: I like the idea of selecting tags that complement our colors - burgundy and gold (brown or tan). I'm waiting for the samples to arrive to see if I like the quality of the leather. (ranges $2.15 to $2.55 each)

Honestly, I like them both. I've been trying to picture how they will looks set up on the reception table. The luggage strap allows for the tags to sit upright so people will find their names. Either way, I think it'll look awesome. I just need to figure out which color scheme I prefer. I figure I have another week or so to make up my mind.

On a funny note, remember the Crate & Barrel tags that originally inspired the whole idea? Within two weeks I happened to visit four different stores last month. Someone seems to have bought out all the neon green luggage tags at the those stores. How much do you want to bet they'll appear at some one's wedding some time soon?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Changing the details

Now that there will soon be a man seeing me every morning and night, I’ve considered what to do with my current stock of underwear. Do men really care about what their women wear?

I have underwear, I swear, that I can date back more than ten years. It’s still mostly wearable. If you examine closely, you would see that the small elastic threads woven into the band are disintegrating. No doubt the years of hot dryers and stretching it over my bum have worn them down. Still, the cotton is in good shape. Gradually, I have thrown out a majority of the underwear from that era of my life as I convinced myself that underwear that needs to be held up by my pants is probably not ideal. The other thing that works well is asking myself, “what do you want people to see if you end up in the hospital?”

How do people decide when it’s time to throw out underwear? Until there’s something clearly wrong with it, it gets worn, washed, and restocked into my drawer, then the cycle repeats itself. With clothes, the criteria are complicated yet clear, it’s either the wrong size (i.e. it’s too small) or it’s gone out of fashion. Underwear is such a daily thing that I don’t really think about it. Unless I need something that doesn’t create panty lines, is low rise, or has athletic qualities, it’s just something to keep my bum covered. I'll pick the color or fabric that fits my mood. My inventory runs the gammut - granny panties, thong, lace, bikini, boy shorts, in cotton, spandex, nylon, and mesh. It used to be all cotton, but the synthetics have creeped in over the years. I still like the idea of natural, breathable fabric, it just doesn't hold up the same way. Maybe it is kind of like clothing in how it evolves.

I’d be curious to know what the average number of panties stocked by American women is. I must say that I probably have a good months worth of underwear, partly from trying to infuse my drawer with newer looking underwear but also because it certainly saves me from doing my laundry more frequently. (After all, small loads waste water so why not wait until the load is full.)

As I try to streamline my closet and drawers for Tim’s impending move, I find it hard to let go of underwear that’s still good but maybe not the most attractive. Going back to my earlier question, “do guys really care what underwear you wear?”

When I asked Tim this question the other day, his honest but appropriately worded answer was, “I notice when you wear panties I like.”

There have been many clearance sales over the past month. I made myself browse through the piles of colorful panties to look for cute patterns and colors that would be eye-catching for Tim. I want cute, I want playful, I want sexy, but I definitely can’t stand uncomfortable. A part of me is having fun because the stuff I picked out is cute. Another part of me wonders how long it will matter – does it, will it always?

I tested the first new pair out last week, a black nylon panty with lace edges and a red and pink cherry pattern. Yeah, he noticed. :)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Unusual ceiling

Help!!! How do I hang lanterns when the ceiling doesn't allow for hooks or clips? Anyone know if there is a magic way to attached fishing line so I can hang some paper lanterns so that they look like they're floating in mid-air?

(I've been told by the hold that they could use tape for my lanterns. Somehow I doubt tape can hold up a ton of lanterns and I don't like the idea of blue painter's tape all over the yellow cross beams.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


It's official, Tim has given notice at his apartment. We have until August 31st to move him into my place.

Originally, he had considered moving in in July, but we put that off because of a Yosemite camping trip that had been scheduled back in February and could not be changed. The extra time sounded like a good thing at the time, but frankly the time has flown by and neither of us took much advantage of the extra month.

Quite to my dismay, I'm the one who is behind. You see, since he's moving into my place, I'm the one holding things up. It's very true that empty spaces tend to fill up if given the chance - it's called entropy. In the four years I've been here, I've managed to go from supplies to fill one bedroom and kitchen to completely filling (and overfilling) a kitchen, hallway closet, dining room, living, and two bedrooms (including two walk-in closets). Thankfully, the early roach incidents kept me from storing things in the one-car garage.

Now, I have two week to PURGE. I have a box on the floor of the kitchen and two boxes strewn about my bedroom waiting to be fed with treasures that I must abandon. My attitude towards the move has taken some adjustment. Tim patiently has been pointing out that I've been only willing to make minimal space for him rather than giving him half the space. It's really hard, I've been the only one here for four years. It's taken me many weeks to see that I've taken the wrong approach towards welcoming Tim into "our" home.

I totally understand how this can be awkward for him. After all, everything has been put where *I* think it should go, not where *we* decided. I lose perspective at times because I'm struggling to let go of things that I've been used to having around. At times, the though has crossed my mind to simply throw everything out and start over just to make it quicker and less painful. Since I'm such a bargain hunting shopper type, however, it isn't in my nature to give away my stuff for nothing and pay full prices for new stuff. (Besides that would be a waste of resources and an example of bad consumerism... .)

My strategy thus far has been this:

- eliminate clothing that I have not worn in two year or know that I cannot fit into without losing 10 pounds
- remove items that will become obsolete (e.g. futon mattress to be replaced by Tim's bed, analog tv)
- remove items that will be upgraded by wedding gifts (e.g. mismatched dishes, glassware, and utensils)
- move into storage items that are unlikely to be use in the next six months (e.g. Xmas decorations, extra furniture, extended sets of kitchenware, linens, photos and CDs that have been copied into iTunes)

The garage will become a temporary staging area for incoming and outgoing boxes. My poor car will have to suffer a dull "stoning" from the neighbor's tree each evening as the wind and squirrels knock down the season's seed harvest from the branches.

I get a small reprieve tonight, however, as we'll be watching and cheering on our favorites on the "So You Think You Can Dance" finale. Woo hoo!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fly on the Wall

I was waiting for my ride after work today. As I sat on a cement curb, three twenty-something guys gathered opposite the light pole to my right.

As I marveled over my new, cute wallet, I overheard one of the guys seeking advice from his buddies.

"...we've run into each other twice. It's got to be meant to be. She's hot, I mean, I'm nothing much to look at, but she's great. What should I do?"

"Is she single?"

"I don't know."

"What do you mean, did you get a look at her hand?"


"That's always the first thing I check."

Being out of the dating scene, I found this whole situation rather entertaining. Women naturally, and constantly, talk about dating and relationships. It was fascinating to hear about the chase from the perspective of the opposite sex. It was rather bizarro to find three guys asking for advice from each other.

There have been many times I've talked about rings with girlfriends. We know when it's a good idea to fake a wedding ring to wart off unwanted attention. We freak when a guy gets friendly even though they clearly should notice an engagement or wedding ring on the hand. We've experienced times when the lack of a wedding ring has given a guy false hope of meeting a cute, single girl.

I couldn't help want to sneak a peek of these three curiosities as the friend continued to ask questions about the hot girl. The one talking the most had a clumsy voice. I wondered if his voice reflected his appearance in some way. His friend had a sharper, more social demeanor. Up to this point, I hadn't heard the third guy speak.

It was like peering through a camera viewfinder. The lightpole limited my angle on the trio. In my quick glance, I saw two indiscernible side profiles and one young, white guy. He was average, slightly geekish, with a curly, brown beard. I wondered if these guys were university students or leaving their start-up jobs for the day.

The guys continued to chat as we all waited on the platform. Mr. Clumsy kept asking whether he should take action. The next time they run into each other, what would be the best move? I'm guessing that he also knows her from elsewhere because his familiarity and interest went beyond two encounters.

Gradually, the conversation moved towards bearded guy's drama. He shared that he's been chatting with this "really, sweet girl." He talked about how friendly and thoughtful she is, not gorgeous, but genuinely sweet person.

The most recent e-mail was a source of concern for him. I missed exactly what the issue was, but he fretted about next steps.

He was considering calling her and asked his buddies, "when should I call her?"

"Take it easy, don't rush it."

"Yeah, I know. But what do you think about 9 o'clock. That seems like a good time."

"Yeah, that sounds okay. But ... just apologize and move on."

"I agree, acknowledge it but don't discuss anyone more. She's gonna think... ."

"You sure? I mean ... "

"Just take it easy and be cool, you don't want to blow it."

I swear I never imagined hearing guy talk like this. There were times I wanted to offer some kind of female insight, but my guess is probably no better than theirs. It was strange to find guys that would so openly talk about their dating quandries, as if they were subtly asking for help. It's normal that both sexes worry, and worry, and worry about making the right impression. I just never imagined that I'd hear three guys giving each other advice and talk about their feelings. I suppose it's nice to know men and women have more similarities than we realize.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Things one learns from Polaroids

As a new Polaroid junkie, I joined Flickr to read and learn more about how to modify my cameras for different film, how to maintain it, and how to take better pictures.

A couple weeks ago there was a strangely titled posted "Beware of books..." that I had initially ignored because it didn't seem technical in nature. But after seeing dozens of posts added to this discuss each day, my curiosity got the best of me. The original post was followed by many comments expressing humor, joy, entertainment, gratitude, amazement, etc. With no explanation or embellishment, the first posting was simply a link to this. (WARNING: Careful about viewing this in a public space due to details in the photo - rated "R") How could I resist looking?

There isn't much to say. Nothing really surprises me these days. I wouldn't mind having one of the books for fun. As a kid I remember seeing one on a "3-2-1 Contact: The Bloodhound Gang" episode and was tempted to try and create my own using construction paper. I'm impressed with the guy's carving skills. ;)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Auctions and Crafts

Since my new job is keeping me pretty busy, I've adopted a policy of blogging almost never during work hours. Because of that, I have to admit that I've fallen quite a bit behind on logging what I've been up to.

Every time I'm supposed to be cleaning house, I'm inevitably doing one of four things... watching tv (mostly "Hell's Kitchen" and "So You Think You Can Dance"), play Lego Indiana Jones per the bidding a one carefree fiancee, surfing the Internet for wedding ideas, or wandering the local chain crafts stores. The results of my past month of auction bidding and craft store wandering have resulted in a couple of distractions. They've made for a very, very messy living room floor. My place is strewn with wedding related thing be it shoes, contracts, pictures, stamps, magazines,and now scrapbooking materials (especially with the awesome 4th of July sales). I can't imagine living like this for another three months. I desperately need to find a way to store this stuff in a more organized manner!

The first and key item I searched for is something that fits in the black bag you see there, an old-fashioned technology that makes me feel like a kid with a new toy. I have spent a grand total of $37 plus $30 shipping to purchase these awesome Polaroid cameras. The middle camera is one of the last consumer models sold by Polaroid, circa 2006? The other two cameras are lovely "antiques" that sold for some $200+ in 1980 and 1982. It's strange to think they're as old as my brother. Tim laughs at me when I coo and awe over how cute and interesting my "new" cameras are. Becoming a Polaroid junkie comes at a price, it's called $1 to $2 per shot. And since the film will stop being produced early next year, one either has to give up the hobby next spring or make room in the refrigerator for a lot of boxes.

The main purpose of buying a camera in the first place was to have a scrapbook guest book. Many brides select a photo booth or other delayed-gratification plan to capture all the guests. We thought this would be a fun way to allow people to express themselves not only through a photo but also in the way they dress it up on paper. We hope that my relatives and other older folks will tap their rusty, creative brain cells to come up with something that reveals their personality. (Okay, wishful thinking.) Among our friends, we're sure to get some great art.

The second part of this project means buying supplies with which people can make their scrapbook pages. I feel like that little girl who used to go to Paperdoll and buy a 10 cents tab of stickers when I was lucky enough to stray away from my mom at the mall. I'm not a scrapbook person, at least not in the past... seven years. Things have changed a lot since my simple but fun travel albums. The number of choices in paper, stickers, embellishments, etc. is totally overwhelming.

Every time I've walked into the local craft store my minimum wandering time has probably been 40 minutes. In the beginning, I didn't really have any strategy. I simply bought sheets of paper that fit two criteria - on sale and pretty. Over the past month (or two) I've collected a decent sample of papers that looked like they could make for a story. As Tim and I have worked through our wedding colors, invitation, and website, I've honed in on colors that fit the theme. Today, I was proud to finally finished amassing the color palette of background papers we will provide to our guests.

I'm SOOOOo excited. We're both incredibly happy with the colors that I came up with. It fits with colors that are very commonly "wedding" yet nothing is so girly individually that guys will stay far away like it's garlic to a vampire. There's burgundy which is Tim's favorite color, a fun word page with burgundy and yellow with orange tones, a warm yellow, ivy-embossed white, and a light beige/tan. I was aiming to match the hues of the wedding flowers, my bouquet in particular.

The next big challenge for me will be to create my own scrapbook. It's meant to chronicle our courtship and wedding planning process. Not only will it be a cute way to remember all that we've been through to get to this special day, but hopefully it will help people who are unfamiliar with scrapbooking some ideas on what to do with their Polaroids.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

No wonder it seemed long

Two weeks ago, I was surprised by a message left on my answering machine. I had just come home from work and was tossing a few groceries into the refrigerator as I listen to the mystery messages. The bridal store was calling. I figured it was simply an update of my predicted gown delivery date. Part of me wondered if there was some change I'd have to worry about. Instead, I was happily surprised to hear they had received my gown and would be shipping it to me shortly.

Wow! That's six weeks early! I was pretty impressed and rather anxious to see the gown. And sure enough, just four days later, I eyed a long, cardboard box resting against my front door. I dragged it into the kitchen and took a photo with my digital camera to mark the momentous occasion.

Given that it was dusk and I was standing in dim, fluorescent light, I must say I was a little horrified by the color of the dress. I had ordered ivory thinking that it would simply look off-white. On the floor of the kitchen, however, it looks more cream than white. The yellowness was a big disappoint, and I questioned whether I had made a major miscalculation.

On the other hand, I was still very happy with my choice. I love the style of this dress, chiffon, beading, embroidery and all. It's more princessy than I would have imagined myself choosing, and yet, it was the most beautiful thing.

I immediately went upstairs to try it one. I was surprise to find that the gown was much longer than I had been led to believe it would fall. Since the skirt section has beading, we had very carefully discussed how it would be altered without destroying more embroidery than necessary. The plan was to remove the bottom trim and bare chiffon areas, but the length would stop just below the begin of the embroidery. In this case, with more than four inches dragging on the ground, I saw that the embroidery would have to be cut into. What had gone wrong with the calculations?

I fretted for many days over the dress. I love it, but felt like I was going to be in for some tough decisions and alterations more complicated than I had imagines. Thinking this might take more time, I immediately set up a consultation with an alterations person for the following weekend.

This past Wednesday, I got a random call on my cell phone. I didn't recognize the area code. The woman on the phone said she was from the bridal store. In my mind, I figured she was following up to check that I had received the gown. You know, good customer service.

"Hi, this is xxxx from the bridal store. How are you?"

"Good, and how are you doing?"

With some hesitation, "not so good this morning. I wanted to ask if you have your gown?"

"Yes," now feeling suspicious and curious, "I've tried it on twice but it's actually sitting in the box right now."

"Oh good. I'm afraid there's been a slight error. It's hard to believe, but you and another woman both happened to order the same dress in the same color during the same week. The only difference was the length of the gown, she ordered the standard size and you have the shorter length. I'm afraid I made a mistake and sent you her gown. When the other woman called about her dress, the manufacturer said they'd already sent the dress to me. That's when I realized I had made the mistake. Since hers is a standard length, it was much faster to make. Your gown is considered a special order."

"Oh, okay. I guess that explains why it seemed a bit long."

Awkward pause. "I wanted to ask if you've done anything with your gown such as alterations?"

"No, not yet. I was actually going to take it for alterations this weekend."

"Thank goodness. Can I ask you to send the dress back to me?"

"Uh, sure."

"I'll go ahead and send you a UPS shipping label and you can use that to send it back."

"Okay, that means I'll probably drop it off at UPS on Saturday."

"Oh, great, that's wonderful. I really apologize for the mistake. I'll call and double check on when yours is expected to arrive."

Once I hung up the phone, I couldn't help but laugh. I mean, what else are you supposed to do in this kind of situation. It was nice having the dress early, but the length was certainly not ideal. She's just lucky I took good care of the dress and hadn't altered it yet. Who would have imagined this could happen!

I dropped off the dress after running some errands this morning. It's kind of sad not to have it here. I really want to see my dress. At least I got to match up my shoes before sending it off! :)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Loving Day

The never ending saga for Asian men is interesting to read here. I know I've had many male friends complain, complain, complain about how unfair the dating world is for them. Even here on the West coast where the Asian density is significantly higher than the national average, it seems Asian men struggle to earn an image that accurately describes their capabilities and personality.

Yul is probably one of the few "pure" Asian men who was able to publicly break the mold. Most of the "Asian" men who end of earning any sex symbol status are usually happas. It's really sad how much the American expectation and stereotypes have affected the confidence and self-esteem of good-hearted, caring men.

I am definitely not a "sexy" Asian female (though Tim would say otherwise ;)). I would have to agree that American culture and Hollywood have definitely promoted the exotic female personna and it's not always a good thing.

I had briefly heard of the Loving verdict on interracial marriage. At first I thought it was just some story. After all, how strange is it that the person in the legal battle had the last name "Loving?" Given everything that's been happy with gay marriage rights in California, how come this example has not been more often mentioned as a landmark shift in legal acceptance and change in attitudes. How long would an expert say that it trly took for general society to accept what the law had already made part of "normal" society?

Opening the box

By Jeff Yang
Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Where race meets sex, angels fear to tread. Jeff Yang dives into Asian America's favorite taboo topic: interracial romance and the "gender divide."

I remember when, the week before I left for college, my parents sat me down to tell me about the facts of life. The lecture wasn't about sex — my father, a physician, was prone to oversharing the grosser aspects of human anatomy, so I was horrifyingly aware of the mechanical aspects of reproduction as early as elementary school. No, the wisdom they sought to impart related to the Theory of Dating Relativity. Which is to say: The more similar your partner is to you without actually being a blood relative, the better.

Children of close family friends? Perfect. If that's not possible, try someone whose parents are from the same hometown. Taiwanese is better than mainlander or Hong Konger, Chinese of any type is better than other Asians, but if you must stray outside of Greater China, focus on East Asia before Southeast or South Asia ... and so on and so on, in an ever-expanding series of concentric circles.

My parents weren't being racist (or at least not maliciously so): Their beliefs were shaped by the reality in which they were brought up, and the culture to which they'd immigrated. They'd seen the challenges faced by people in mixed relationships, and they wanted my sister and me to have an easier life. Things weren't easy for mixed couples in the 1970s, particularly among immigrant groups, where social networks were critical yet fragile, and most community support systems were contingent on "insider" versus "outsider" status.

But have things changed? With last week marking the anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the landmark June 12, 1967 Supreme Court decision that upheld the right for men and women of different races to marry, it seemed like an appropriate time to explore that question.

Statistics support the notion that interracial relationships are on the rise in the Asian American community: Mixed couples represented over a quarter of all marriages among Asian Americans in 1980, and over a third of Asian American marriages in 2006. And interracial couples with Asian partners are increasingly depicted in movies, TV and other popular entertainment, to the point where their racial differences are often not even germane to their characters' storylines.

What many commentators have pointed out, of course, is that both the numbers and popular culture reflect a reality in which only half the Asian American community — the female half — are players. Call it the doubletake test: Seeing an Asian American woman with a non-Asian man is no longer noteworthy, but an Asian American man with a non-Asian woman still turns heads. That gender gap is reflected in interracial marriage statistics as well: According to the U.S. Census' 2006 update, 19.5 percent of Asian American women outmarry, compared with 7.2 percent of Asian American men. And that, to some, speaks volumes about the sexual desirability and social status of Asian men in America.

As blogger Dialectic wrote on the popular Asian American online forum TheFighting44s (where four out of the top five most popular posts relate to interracial relationships): "If heterosexual white male patriarchy and what it did in the world were not so powerful, I think it would be fair to say that Asian American women and men would be 'out-dating' or 'out-marrying' at similar rates, and that we wouldn't elevate whites, denigrate ourselves, or worry about whether we're sexually and personally worthy of others to nearly the same extent that we do now."

Lover of another color

That's what makes it so intriguing that a small but thriving subculture has emerged (where else?) online, of non-Asian women whose expressed romantic preferences are for Asian men. They're represented by communities like AznLover.com, a social networking site dedicated to celebrating "AM/XF" relationships — romances between Asian men and women of any background.

The site is no recent novelty; it's been around since 2004, and, having expanded dramatically from blog to forum to full-fledged social networking community, now has over 6,000 active registered members and a constant flow of lurkers. According to Tom C., the site's owner, about 60 percent of the site's 30,000 unique visitors per month are Asian males, with the rest being "females who admire them." The site isn't unique — Tom admits that there is a surprisingly large number of online communities dedicated to similar interests — but AznLover is among the oldest and largest, and distinguishes itself, its members assert, by not being focused on making romantic connections.

"It goes without saying that relationships happen here," says Tom. "But AznLover's real mission is to help debunk the common stereotypes associated with Asian males, to provide community between people with similar issues, questions and curiosities, and to foster interaction between females of all races and Asian males, so that they realize that, yes, they too are 'sought after items.'"

Some who sign up for the site are women already part of AM/XF couples, seeking to become more informed on the cultural and social issues that they're confronting, and to connect with females in a similar situation. Kristina Nicholas of Santa Cruz joined AznLover hoping to better understand her Japanese American fiance: "We'd just become engaged, and I was looking for other women in my situation to gain insight and even support for the challenges that might arise from marrying into a different culture," she says.

Others, like San Francisco resident Elizabeth M., joined the site hoping to make new friends (and more). "I joined the site to find like-minded individuals who understood my love of Asian men," says Elizabeth. "In the process, I feel like I've grown a lot as a person — I've learned from many people's experiences in travel and relationships, I've learned more about different cultures. And I feel like I've made a difference in helping people cross boundaries that most people don't discuss and aren't even aware of."

That includes psychological boundaries, like the ones faced by Melissa Palmer, an AznLover from Detroit, MI who calls herself a "white chick from the whitest-white background imaginable." "My vast knowledge of the Asian male was based on John Hughes movies and influenced by the regional racism toward Japanese at the time, so I'd already made my decision regarding Asian men; I just wasn't attracted to them," she says. "But fast forward to the near present: What started as a friendship with a Chinese male grew into love. One day, it all came flooding out — we admitted to each other that the pull was there. God, I love that day!"

For Asian American men, AznLover feels like a kind of parallel dimension, where their status is inverted: Rather than being exiled to the margins, Asian males are at the center of this particular universe; not just "accepted," but revered. "I love the fact that people on the site acknowledge the beauty in Asian men," says Harry Li, a Malaysian American member living in Texas. "Society still makes women feel self-conscious about saying they like Asian features, or particularly, Asian guys, so even if they do, they won't let their attraction out in public. At AznLover, we all know why we're there — we share a common bond, in that one group has the qualities, physical and otherwise, that the other appreciates."

The politics of desire

Appreciation can be a double-edged sword, of course. Being rejected is problematic, but so is being objectified. "There's a type of privilege in being sexually desirable, but that can come at a cost," says Carmen Van Kerkhove, proprietor of Racialicious.com and host of the podcast "Addicted to Race." "Asian women have been dehumanized by being put on a pedestal, and I'm wary of the same thing happening to Asian men. Some guys may roll their eyes and say, it'll take a long time to get to that point, but there's a fine line you have to tread in not trading one set of racist assumptions for another." (That's something that's long been an issue in the LGBT community, where activists have long protested the exotic imagery that pervades the depiction of Asian men — imagery all too similar to how Asian women have historically been stereotyped in mainstream media.)

And objectification, meanwhile, is a two-way street: There's also the question of whether some Asian men who seek to level the romantic playing field are less motivated by racial justice than male entitlement: the desire to jump to the top of the social totem pole by bagging sexual big game. "I do find it disturbing that some of the more extreme views I've seen are focused less on social equality than on Asian men attaining the same set of privileges as white males, whom they see as having the pick of women," says Van Kerkhove.

The "pick of women" generally has its own racial dimension. As Alicia Powell, a 24-year-old, black female AznLover member says, "I think Asian men are brainwashed to want white women. And it's too bad, because I'm attracted to Asian men, and I think black female / Asian male couples are beautiful. It's messed up that many Asian American men dismiss women of other races. But they see stereotypes of black women in the media, and they see white women depicted as glamorous, so that's what they think is right for them."

Honeybee love

If the central concern of Asian American men were truly equality and universality rather than social status, Asian male/black female couplings would seem to be natural, given that the black community has its own gender disparity in outmarriage rates — in the other direction: Black men are twice as likely as black women to have a nonblack spouse. Yet statistics show that "Asian man/black woman" is the least common of all interracial combinations, representing less than 0.01 percent of all marriages in the United States — a total of just 6,000 couples across the entire country.

That's led some people to call for an active love connection between these two underrepresented romantic populations. In April, New York sex, dating and relationships columnist Twanna Hines decreed in a hilarious (and much quoted) post on her blog FunkyBrownChick that it was "time for the Asian American male community to get down with the brown."

"My inspiration for the post was a friend back in Chicago, who was always completely against dating anyone who wasn't black, period," says Hines. "I'd invite her to parties, and because my friends are such a diverse bunch of people, she'd always ask me first, 'Well, are any men whom I'd want to date going to be there?' Which was a code word for black men. Anyway, she called me up, and began the conversation, 'Guess what? I have a new boyfriend ... and he's Chinese.' And it really got me thinking, hey, if even Karen's doing it, maybe she's on to something. Maybe we're seeing the beginnings of a trend."

Maybe Hines is right: Small but vibrant informal social networks are springing up, like the "Black Woman and Asian Men Interracial Connections" group on Meetup; "Asian Men that love Black Women" on Facebook; and the Yahoo group "Asian Men Who Love Black Women" — which suggests in its introduction that "As the number of (available) Asian women and black men declines, the Asian man is left without a pool of wife material. The black woman is in the same category. It is only natural that the two should seek each other out to form a loving relationships."

Pop equals hot equals sexy

Ultimately, however, it's hard to see these disparities as being anything but temporary — and local. Any sexual imbalances that exist due to the unique alchemy of sex, race and class in the United States fade in the face of a globalized world; one in which the playing field is different, and so are the players and rules. In the Caribbean, for instance, intermarriages between black women and Asian men are relatively common. In fact, asserts AznLover member David Nghiem, a globetrotter who recently completed an epic bicycle trip across the entire length of Latin America, "Outside of the 'anglosphere' — North America, England, Australia and New Zealand — things are completely different. Asian men are in general seen as dateable, sexy and interesting. Most of the world has their own media, in their own languages and subtleties, and Hollywood's attempts to spread stereotypes about Asian men and their sexuality literally stops at the anglosphere's edge, simply because the rest of the world doesn't understand it and doesn't care."

There are, after all, billions of Asian men in Asia, and in the pop culture coming out of Japan, Korea, China and India — the pop culture that increasingly rules the universe — their sexual desirability is hardly in question. As the balance of economic and social power shifts outward beyond America's borders, the political aspects of race and romance inevitably become secondary to the personal. Which points the way to a new Grand Unified Field Theory of Dating, if you will, which I'll have ready for my sons when I send them off to college: Date whoever the hell you want, and stop worrying so much about what it means.

Susan Del Vecchio, a 31-year-old AznLover member in a long-term committed relationship with a San Jose-based Vietnamese American she met on the site, agrees. "I think people overthink and overanalyze the nature of romance," she laughs. "I grew up in a little 200-person town in Missouri, where there wasn't an Asian person for hundreds of miles. But even as I was growing up I found myself preferring guys with dark hair, who had certain kinds of features. Once I got out and started to see the world, I narrowed my tastes down, and by the time I hit my 20s, I found myself only going out with Asian guys. It was a purely aesthetic choice: I just think Asian men are beautiful. And if you don't, too bad. As I used to say back in my dating days, 'That just means more men for me!'"

For interracial couples of all backgrounds and combinations, June 12, the anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia decision, marks the day that made the consummation of their love possible. It's no wonder, then, that there are those who think it should be a day for rejoicing. Ken Tanabe, a graphic designer and biracial issues advocate living in Brooklyn, has been working for the past four years to do just that.

"My father is Japanese and my mother is Belgian," says Tanabe. "I first encountered the Loving case purely by accident. I was Googling something unrelated and it came up; I couldn't believe I had never heard of it. I was a good student, yet I never learned about it in school. And to me, the case was up there with Brown v. Board of Ed. The laws that Loving v. Virginia struck down could have easily prevented my own existence."

Inspired by the grassroots efforts that led to the creation of Juneteenth — June 19, Emancipation Day, now a holiday in 29 states, including California — Tanabe decided to build a campaign to establish June 12 as a holiday — Loving Day — remembering that landmark case, and celebrating freedom of the heart. Loving Day events have sprung up across the country (Tanabe has created a free celebration kit with materials to help people plan their own, downloadable as a .pdf file at the LovingDay.org Web site), but the largest is still in New York: Last week, over 1,000 people attended the festivities, presided over by renowned DJs Spooky and Rekha and sponsored by Asahi beer, Zipcar and Puma.

But Loving Day isn't just about having a party. "Things are getting better for interracial couples and multiracial individuals," says Tanabe. "However, social acceptance might not matter that much to you if your best friend or your mother is threatening to cut you out of their lives. We hear a lot of those stories: Racism against couples often occurs behind closed doors. The Loving Day Project is about counteracting the prejudice you might not immediately see."

That prejudice extends far beyond interracial couples, as those fighting for the full legalization of same-sex marriage know. Those advocates will also readily affirm that Loving v. Virginia is a critical precedent in the road map guiding that fight as well. Love knows no color, no shape or size, no age or gender — in fact, love knows nothing but love. Which maybe makes Loving Day something all of us should celebrate.