29 December 2009

Holiday Reading: My Life in France

Books are some of the best gifts in my opinion, and I got three this Christmas.  It made gift time stupendously gratifying.  When I saw the crisp pages and book bindings, I squealed, jumped, and danced around.

My good friend L. generously gifted me with one of those books--a paperback volume of My Life in France by Julia Child.   I devoured it in 2 days.  Child and Prud'homme made me feel as if I was in France, not in my parents' home lounging around in my well-worn pjs.  Everytime I opened the book, I was transported to Paris, to that indescribable insane happy feeling of joie de vivre, living life with gutsy aplomb. 

I immediately wanted to read sentences or paragraphs off to whoever was sitting by.  Julia had such a fun, carefree approach to life--I found her immensely appealing, and the similarities between her and Paul and J. and I were encouraging.

I learned more about Julia and Paul and fell in love with their relationship.  They supported each other and you could tell that individually, they felt free to fully discover and pursue who they were truly meant to be.  Marriage didn't stifle or oppress them but provided the support and inspiration they needed.  They actually achieved the paradoxical yoking of individual journey and marital devotion.  With each page, I dove deeper and deeper into a love story that exuded warmth and hope.  Julia was an independent, confident, strong and passionate woman who could honestly say that she couldn't have become who she was without Paul.  Her story was so feminist...yet so domestic.  It defies categorization.  Their love story was a soothing balm to my sometimes cynical marital heart.

Julia lived in a different time and place--post World War II when American culture was a prized export and countries devastated by the war were only starting to think of becoming industrialized.  Child's France is a cheaper, more "primitive" France, viewed by Americans as dirty and not with the times.  Yet the expat communities are thriving, artists are getting by just fine, and jobs seem plentiful.  The dollar goes further and even though Julia says she became "extremely depressed" at their "meager government allowance," you can't help but think they are still living really really well.  Julia doesn't have to work, and Paul's salary still allows her to buy all the cooking gadgets she wants, trips into the country, and gourmet full course dining experiences every week.

Even so, Julia's accounts never left me feeling envious or regretful.  Julia was not one for wishful thinking or even sentimentality (she writes towards the end that her father's death made her relieved rather than sad and it would make trips to California easier), and I detected a consistent sense of gratitude, an acceptance of her limitations and the limitations of the world in which she lived, and an admirable resolve to always push ahead and truly live.

Another gift of the book was how it illustrated without a doubt the importance of place in the development and formation of a person.  Julia could never have been who she was without those years living and exploring in France.  In a smaller excerpt, Julia describes how three years living in Paris shaped her longtime editor, Judith Jones, as well.

Julia exudes an expat sensibility to the tee, a preference for living outside of America, and a recognition of how much place influences one's values and life choices.  Her words that Americans tend to choose comfort and business over deeper values struck a chord. Julia loved France because she felt free and could value people and a different way of life apart from the pursuit of monetary success and security.

In the last few years, after living in the inner city and scraping by on low rent apartments, I've come to value comfort over many other things which is one of the reasons why I'm living in a housing tract in Irvine surrounded by parking lots and not much else.  After reading the book, I made a commitment right there and then to live in a place that would influence and shape me in the ways that I wanted and needed--to be a more free person, engaged with my surroundings, experiencing new art and culture, and challenged to dig deeper and give from my true self.

Where is this place?  I'm not sure what's next.  I have some ideas.  One of them is France.

24 December 2009

london J.

can't help it.  saw this picture that i took of j. in london outside of st. paul's and had to post it.  so gorgeous.  and all mine. merry christmas again!

Merry Christmas!

Here in  H & J land, we've been busy cooking, eating, dancing, wrapping, and decorating.

Mostly eating oh you know homemade spiced glazed nuts, rugelach, shortbread cookies, potato pizza, onion pizza, vegetable barley soup, fruitcake bars.  Really healthy stuff.  We both have big tummies and double chins to prove it.

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and holiday time.  See you in the new year.

18 December 2009

David Lebovitz's winning recipes

Last night after running errands, I had a rocket-like burst of energy and stripped down to my undies and chopped yellow onions for no reason and made this holiday snack mix while screenprinting and mixing ink on my dining table.  Then I sat in a bathtub of scalding water and sweated for over an hour while watching Before Sunset on my laptop which was propped up on my toilet.  I went to bed at 3:30am.

J. wondered if something I had eaten had heated up my body core and given me this frenzied blast of energy but I did have an Americano at 5pm and a diet Coke at 8pm and I think that contributed.

You should try it sometime--stripping down to your undies and chopping onions for no other reason than to feel the satisfaction of dicing something with a really sharp knife.  Maybe it's just me but it was pretty fun.  I have a big tupperware box full of diced onions now.

17 December 2009

Listening to Your Body: Ignatian Spirituality Month 4

One of the things I am most grateful for in the last couple of weeks is how M. has taught me to listen to my body.  It seems to be a theme in my life right now and when practiced, it makes me feel stable and sane.

I know, stable and sane--Hanna?  It's been amazing.

All my life growing up, I've been exposed to a smorgasbord of good and bad theology.  The worst of the bunch was the one that told me to ignore my body and try to figure out what it was that God was trying to tell me by hearing a voice, getting an inner knowing, receiving a sign, etc.  Paired with a puritanical distrust of the body (flesh) and a doctrine that taught that inner struggles and difficult decisions were usually a sign that we need to make the harder choice (for God), I became a mess.  This usually meant that I spent hours days months agonizing over a decision and trying to figure it out in my head or talking to countless number of people for advice or try to find that elusive inner knowing in the midst of overwhelming anxiety.  This naturally led to being an indecisive person that had lots of angst and inner conflict.

15 December 2009

I saw Julie Powell

 she's the little standing speck in the back

A couple weeks ago, I watched Julie and Julia and so I was pleasantly surprised when I unwittingly ran into a reading Julie Powell held at Vroman's bookstore yesterday.

Of course I knew Amy Adams was not Julie but I was still surprised to see the physical embodiment of Julie Powell herself who did not look like a movie star but like a normal woman with longish hair and comfy wrap around clothes.

Let me just say, writers are eccentric. She was kind of quirky and funny and definitely the kind of person who works from home and gets a little isolated.  I liked it.

And then there were the audience members who thought she was their best friend or daughter or niece and asked her really really awkward questions that made me want to shriek and run out the door.

14 December 2009

Screenprinting, Bluefin Tuna, and Donuts

 Jan takes a pass with the squeegee.  Photo credits: moi

 I've been waiting for Jan to load up her high-res photos to her blog so I could share them with you here.  Last Wednesday was a blowout screenprinting bonanza that almost didn't happen and became this magical rolling sashimi eating screenprinting feast complete with donuts from the best mom & pop donut shop in the area.

 wearing a coat with a starbucks apron over it in the freezing  factory.  photo: Jan  

I arrived at the screenprinting factory at 4pm to find out that one of my frames looked like it had dissolved (too many passes with the screenprinting filler)  and wasn't worth inking up.  So I tried to clean it with three of Jan's father's most potent emulsion cleaners and I almost passed out from the fumes with absolutely little to no results.  Our inks and fillers were made by Speedball, not the ink this factory produces.  After about 40  minutes of trying to clean the frame without success in a freezing cold factory, I was ready to throw in the towel.  I googled how to clean frames and found that Greased Lightening is Speedball's recommended source other than their own overpriced option.

Jan and I drove to Lowe's and bought Greased Lightening for 3 bucks and came back to the factory only to find that Jan had locked us out.  She lived 15 minutes away and suggested driving over to her house to get spare keys and at that point, it was dark and windy and wet and I seriously wanted to go home.  But I decided to suck it up and said, ok, sure, let's go. 

We were rolling down the boulevard and Jan said, you know, I really think I should take you back.  I said, no no, let's just go. Soon after I resisted the urge to call it a night, the strange magical moving printing feast began.

On the way to Jan's house, I had this donut craving (everytime I drive to Jan's factory, I get donut cravings because her parents used to own a donut shop before entering the screenprinting business).  We passed a Yum Yum donuts and I said, hey let's stop but it wasn't good enough for Jan.  She looked at me and said, Hanna, I'm taking you to B&B Donuts--that's the best mom and pop donut place in the area.  As she always does when she's getting donuts, she called her parents and asked them if they wanted any (which they always do) and that's when I found out about the sashimi.

"Do you like sashimi?" Jan asked.
"Um yes!" I said.  
"Because my parents have tuna sashimi at home and they told us to come home and eat.  Their chemical salesmen/avid fishing hobbyist friend caught a 200 pound tuna off the shores of Mexico and brought it back yesterday."

Come again???

We arrived at Jan's house and by the time we reached the door with our bag of donuts, Jan's dad, Bob, had confronted us and asked us both if I ate sashimi.  No hi, hello, welcome.  Just straight up, "Do you eat sashimi?"  He was practically buzzing--his excitement at sharing his friend's tuna was palpable.  He pointed me towards a chair and and brought me this:

 (Actually, that's a half eaten plate--I was too busy eating at first to document the momentous occasion)

Before I could put it in my mouth he gave me a knowing look and said, "This is going to be the best sashimi you have ever had in your life."

And by god, he was right.  It was bluefin tuna (the very same bluefin tuna that is going extinct and written about extensively in every food magazine I know--namely that we are going to be the last generation to ever taste this fish which makes me feel kind of guilty but only a little) and it melted in my mouth like butter.  I had eaten an early dinner at 4pm that day but once I saw that tuna, I realized I'd better stop telling Bob and Jan's mom that I was full and just eat.  We ate and ate and ate and ate.  Jan's family likes to eat it with a mixture of soysauce and wasabi so potent that it is almost green.  Jan had a hard time breathing a couple of times from the wasabi flare up her nose.  There was a heaping bowl of kimchi and just pan-fried thai noodles.  Her parents were delightful, entertaining me with the latest about Tiger Woods from the Thai community perspective (he's half-Thai and from the area), and sending me home with a ziplock bag full of ice and a red tuna fillet for the lucky J. OH I was in heaven.

Jan looked for her keys and couldn't find them in her room.  And then she looked inside her bag and found that they had been there all along.

Jan and I drove back to the factory and by golly, Greased Lightening worked.  If it hadn't worked, we would probably have just called it quits on the whole thing.  We started printing and the printing was so much fun that we lost track of time and we became delirious with the fact that we were actually screenprinting and not cleaning and high off fumes and forgot that we were cold and so happy that we had donuts and blue fin tuna sashimi in our bellies until the phone rang and broke the happy humming workshop energy and that's when we found out that it was 10:15pm and Jan's mom was wondering what the heck was going on. The factory is in an industrial warehouse zone next to cargo tracks and really not the safest late at night with noone around and no street lights.  By the time we cleaned and rolled out, it was 11pm and we felt insanely happy and well, kind of insane with how addicting screenprinting is.  I was spooked after the phone call and screamed a little bit when the wind blew against the door.
So here it is, the glorious results of last week's workshop.  Our first screenprinted posters!  For more in depth instructions and tips on screenprinting, go to Jan's blog.  She has a great post with informative tidbits.  I also lifted a majority of my pics on this post from her blog taken with her drool-worthy Nikon (The next best thing to Screenprinting Wednesdays is playing with Jan's new camera and taking hundreds of pictures in a low-lit grungy factory kitchen and having them come out 100 times better than you would think they would turn out).  All photos below of me are taken by Jan. 

 I decided to do a pink single color print of my text-heavy design.

 Then we both noticed a cool marbling effect with the white and red and Jan had the brilliant idea of doing a design behind the pink instead of just random splotches.  I drew a heart.

Then I drew a white tooth in the middle because I mention dentist in the text.

I squeegeed it all around.

And then pulled with all my strength until I was red in the face

And when we lifted the frame, walah!

Jan's print.  It's pretty awesome.  I have a copy.

For a copy of one of my original prints, leave a comment and I will pick with a random number generator. 

Happy Holidays!

Update on poster winners--since I only have 2 comments, both of you get prints!  Each will be slightly different because they are hand-printed.  I'll get them both to you either by mail or in person.  

Jonesing in Pasadena

I'm at Jones Coffee Roasters, my favorite coffee shop in Pasadena, and that in itself feels reason to blog and celebrate.  It's been raining all week so SoCal is at its best--crystal clear for miles, green and hilly, flecked with golden palm trees, blue skies, and fall leaves.

11 December 2009

Crazy French Lady

I've started an unofficial habit of watching French movies late at night on Netflix to immerse myself in the French language.  It's one of my goals to be fluent in French and moreso in Korean.  And apart from doing workbooks and taking the occasional glorious trip to Paris, it seems like the next best thing to improving my language skills is watching movies.

Last night I watched La Vie en Rose and immersed myself in crazy dramatic French prose via Edith Piaf's character.  As I drove to a coffee shop today, I started showing off the French I absorbed to J. the passenger---


Edit Piaf did a lot of that in the movie.  I tried to channel her garrulous hunchbacked voice and googly eyes.  J. pressed his body into his car door and looked at me in alarm.  "Hanna, I have to say--you're really convincing as a crazy French lady."  Aw, thanks J.  You're amazing too.

10 December 2009

Obsessed with...

Lately, I've been wanting to find things to get obsessed about.

Obsession can have such negative connotations but what if you loved something so much that you fell head over heels into it and never wanted to get out?

Last week, Jacob and I raced to the neighborhood cheap theatre to watch Julie and Julia, and I loved it.  The movie surpassed my expectations.  It was smart, funny, endearing, and as a foodie and blogger, I couldn't help sitting there thinking that the movie was made exactly for people like me.

Amy Adams is a commendable actress but Julie didn't do it for me.  Julia did.  Meryl Streep's performance soared and I trembled with giddiness each time she came on the screen. I loved watching Julia discover life in Paris, stumbling around trying to find something to do, and then find cooking with a resounding life-giving bang.  Julia found so much passion and zest in cooking that she became willingly and dotingly obsessed with it finding herself and helping so many others by sharing her joy.

I found her obsession charming and inviting.

Could I get obsessed with food?  I'd love to say yes but to be honest with you, I have physical limitations.  Julia lost herself in the delights of French cooking.  I would love to as well but I'm lactose intolerant and I can't eat too much meat or else I have to go to the doctor and become a vegan for at least a month for everything to get worked out.  Do I want to get obsessed with healthy vegan living....not really.

I told J. my thoughts and he agreed--to be obsessed with something, you can't have physical limitations.  It almost goes against the notion of obsession if you're limited.  My bloated stomach and cramps would surely be a limiting factor.

If you have any ideas around this one, let me know.  Because I'd love to get obsessed with making food (I kind of am already in terms of consuming it).

Could I get obsessed with religion?  I love exploring spirituality but hearing the word "obsession" and "religion" in the same room just sounds wrong, right?  Ditch that one.

What about writing?  Yeah...I could get obsessed with writing.

And what about art?  yes, I could definitely get obsessed with art and design and typography.

I could also get obsessed with yoga.  It sounds really hot to get obsessed with running but one step at a time.  Running and I--our relationship always sounds sexier than it actually is.

So what could you get obsessed with?  Free original screen printed poster by yours truly for one random commenter.  And if you're the only commenter, lucky you! 

09 December 2009


I've been thinking about the word freedom a lot lately, ever since M. introduced it into our Ignatian spiritual direction times.  This entire week in my meditations, I've asked for more freedom in my life, freedom to be my true self.  It has been exhilirating to ask for that and meditate on it, and I have felt a sense of freedom, a lightness of wings, a feel of flight.

Last night, I read a chapter called "Women and Spiritual Direction" in Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction by Margaret Guenther and I was enthralled by the wisdom and insight of her words.  Another way of putting it could be--what my former spiritual director (I'll call her R.) did wrong and why.  But that would be limiting the scope of the chapter because it did much more than show what spiritual directors should not do or should do.  It showed me a particularly feminine/feminist way of understanding women's experience of spirituality and what to be aware of--about myself and about my relationship to spirituality and religion.

According to Guenther, women's greatest sin is not pride as Milton in Paradise Lost argues.  It's self-contempt--hatred of self, hatred of body--to the point of rejecting the idea that God could love them.  Self-contempt leads to a rejection of inner authority and a passivity that leads to hidden rage and triviality and an inability to mature and grow.  (Guenther talks about "sin" with sensitivity, how sin is a word to talk about what keeps us from receiving God's love not to bring judgment)

Within the sacred space of spiritual direction, rage and anger can be experienced and processeed--and indeed need to be for healing and growth to happen.

Another thing that I found fascinating was the idea that many women feel an innate sense of guilt and shame--even if they can't point out anything specific that they have done wrong.  It cripples them and in its most extreme form, makes them feel as if they shouldn't even be living.

Sobering topics but refreshing to read because I saw an articulation of my experiences along with other women I know.  I especially loved a quote from Madonna Kolbenschlag who wrote in Kiss Sleeping Beauty Goodbye that women experience a "moment of atheism" when they outgrow their faith and realize their view of God was distorted.  It's a sharp, on the money way of describing the loss of God that occurs with confrontation of religion distortion and pain.

So what does this have to do with freedom?  I find feminist discourse liberating and reading Guenther's feminist interpretations of spiritual direction was just that.  It provided useful instructions on avoiding the pitfalls of guilt and shame from patriarchal religion and an alternative to finding spiritual freedom as a woman.

07 December 2009

Omelet with Caramelized Shallots

try doing this:

Make this Caramelized Shallot recipe.  Savor the aromas and eat it while it's hot.  Save a couple for later.  Put it in the fridge.

When you're ready, chop up one of your shallots and use the hardened butter to make a French omelet Julia Child style.

Sprinkle with some coarse Kosher salt and chopped parsley. 

It will make your day.

03 December 2009

Ignatian Retreat, Month 2-3: Making Spiritual Decisions

This story is a bit intense in that I share some negative experiences with spiritual direction. I don't often like to share negative stories (it has a good ending) but I think that it could provide helpful "what not to dos" for those interested in this kind of thing.

A couple months ago, I wrote about my first month in the 9 month Ignatian Spirituality program. I had my reservations about my director but I gave her a chance and she came through. There were ups and downs but the ups seemed to be winning out.

Until that is, a few weeks ago when I came home with so much anxiety that I could barely fathom the thought of prayer. I was so disturbed by my session with my director that I was yelling and bursting into tears while J. sat by bewildered.

screenprinting with jan

Every week, Jan and I meet for art time and this fall, we tackled screenprinting. We really didn't know how to start and spent a couple of sessions sitting around bookstores browsing how-to books. We took a deep breath, ordered supplies, and jumped in yesterday. It was deceptively simple and complicated but thoroughly enjoyable. The hours flew by.

Here's Jan working on her screen:
See all those little black lines? She needs to fill them in with drawing fluid...with a toothpick.

02 December 2009

The Groundbreaking

When I travel, I feel alive--and I know I'm not alone in feeling this. Traveling brings us squarely to the present and we don't want to leave it. The best travelers among us know that once you get to the destination, you have to put the maps and guidebooks aside and open yourself to the wonders of a place and the gift of universal language. We make new friends, end up getting lost, and everyday is an adventure--the unknown spills out before us and we welcome it wholeheartedly. We open our mouths and let the new experiences wash over us, melting on our tongues like a flaky buttery croissant or an afternoon rainfall. Our hearts burst with gratitude--for life, for ourselves, for the unexpected.

29 November 2009

UN Updates: Visit our website

If you'd like to find out more information about what I'll be doing at the UN in February, check out this newly launched website. You'll meet the other delegates and find out all about what this Beijing + 15 initiative and Status of Women meetings are about.

28 November 2009

Karaoke: True Colors

I've loved watching Glee this fall. I especially love looking up lyrics and belting out to tunes and feeling like I'm a musical star all over again. If you've stumbled upon this teeny blog of mine, please do me the favor of hitting play and singing along. It'll make you feel really good and happy inside.

24 November 2009

The Three Amigos of Interfaith Dialogue

I've been feeling led towards interfaith dialogue and movements lately--it is a result of becoming more contemplative and growing in awareness that all humans are spiritual beings and that religion is a shell, a form for connecting with God and we need greater understanding of both. I love this article in the NYTimes today--it highlights the beauty of interfaith dialogue and friendship.

Three Clergymen, Three Faiths, One Friendship

23 November 2009

Cesar Milan: A Self-Help Guide

Last night, I indulged myself with some Dog Whisperer action via Hulu.com. Now, I love Cesar Milan. But after a few seasons, I tired of his 911 style episodic formula--it reminded me too much of reality cop shows that respond to crisis with "Bad Boys Bad Boys" songs and testosterone.

However, it had been about a year since I last saw an episode so I took a look and decided to watch the following:
Dog Whisperer: Run Home Roscoe! (season 5, episode 17)
Season 5 : Ep. 17

Oh, I had so much fun. The only thing better than being with the dog you love is to watch someone else love dogs more than you.

Cesar loves dogs. And he loves to rehabilitate them. With his silver hair, toned physique, and charismatic Mexican accent, he exudes what every self-help fan loves: confidence and easy to follow directions.

In this episode, Cesar helped Roscoe, an Akita, learn how to walk with a leash. Roscoe was incredibly fearful of the leash and refused to move. The owner had not been able to take it on a walk for the 2 years that he had had him. Cesar forced the dog to confront his fear of walking outside the grounds of the home (lots of yelping and jerking and panicked leaping about). As I listened to Cesar talk about how essential it is to help a dog overcome fear by confronting it and continuing to move forward and not back so that the brain is moving forward and creating new paths, I had a startling thought. Oh my gosh, I thought. That's me. I have trouble with my brain paths and when I'm confronted with my fear, I automatically try to move backwards, not forward. I began to see the connections between my fears, my brain paths, my need to confront and move forward. Aha!

Exercise, discipline, affection is Cesar Milan's "holy trinity" according to today's NY Times. Yes, I need those things, I thought as I watched his show.

By the end of the show, Roscoe was a confident Akita, no longer sulking and afraid. He got a bath for the first time in two years, he was confident around other dogs, and he could enjoy the grassy parks by his house because he had learned to move beyond the gate and walk on a leash.

I felt a deep sense of happiness, for Roscoe and his owner, George, and myself. Because you see, if Roscoe can do this, then so can I.

Cesar's ending line is classic: "Because he was willing to change, George has not only helped Roscoe, he has helped himself." That's what America likes to hear! Way to go Cesar for your genius! You combined dog training skills, America's favorite self-help language, and TV into one irresistibly entertaining, enormously profitable empire.

At the top of the most emailed NYT articles today is one about using Cesar's tips on your kids. So timely. Click here for the jump.

19 November 2009

News Watch: New EU President Writes Haikus

From the LA Times:
Herman Van Rompuy, the prime minister of Belgium, is to become the EU's first full-time president on Jan. 1, filling a post aimed at helping strengthen and streamline the alliance. Known as
an effective mediator and a composer of haiku, including a widely circulated poem on hair loss, Van Rompuy will move from one office to another in Brussels, the seat of both the Belgian government and EU headquarters.

I had to track this down. Found it on the Times Online here.

Hair, originally written in Flemish Dutch:

“Hair blows in the wind/ After years there is still wind/ Sadly no more hair.”

The sparseness of the haiku form lends itself well to the subject matter does it not? I felt the loss acutely.

08 November 2009

3 Books Giveaway

I've been promising to clean out my shelves and put a few more books out to pasture. Here they are:

The Patron Saint of Liars by well known author Ann Patchet was written before she became famous. It was a good read for my flight at the time but I didn't get what the point of the book was. Maybe you can figure it out and we can talk. Set in the 1960s, the book follows the choices Rose makes in getting married, leaving her husband, and ending up at a home for unwed mothers.

The Conscious Bride was a great alternative companion to the wedding planning frenzy during my engagement. Sheryl Paul, the author, is a professional bridal counselor and Scripps College alumni, and she guides the reader through the emotional and spiritual challenges of becoming a bride. Bottom line: it helped me realize I'm not crazy for not jumping up and down and feeling like a princess. I recommend it as a nice easy to read tonic to all the bridal magazines and planners out there.

This Wild Darkness by Harold Brodkey is a memoir on dying. I got this book for a Spiritual Autobiography Writing class in college. A cosmopolitan, established writer, and New Yorker with AIDs, his writing voice is all together very dignified and put together. It's interesting to hear a man of his experience and worldview describe the raw emotions experienced when confronting death and pain and sickness and shame. I believe it was published posthumously.

If you'd like one or all of these books, leave me a comment or email me and I'll get in touch with you about the details. As always, a $3 per book shipping fee is suggested.

05 November 2009

UN, here I come!

I am so excited to report that I will be attending the UN Commission on the Status of Women meetings in late February with a young adult delegation from the Episcopal Church! Just found out today with a call from the head office and I breathlessly replied, "That's amazing, I feel like I just won a radio contest!"

Dork. Ha.

Thank you to all the friends who have helped me keep pursuing my dreams and keep my passions alive. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about women's issues and find ways to serve women around the world.

I find out more about this opportunity in December and from then, will launch into fundraising to attend the meetings for a week in NYC. I invite you to come along for the ride, and I look forward to blogging throughout the process.


Unfurl your heart and lighten your burden. Watch it lift and spool out, carried by the wind that is rustling like a ribbon like a river into branches and leaves and birds and pink shorelines spotted by glory and hope and desire.

27 October 2009

My very own headshot

Erin Sullivan of Erin Sullivan Photography took my headshots last week. We had a blast goofing off in Old Town Pasadena. She made me do the sexy walk and let me just say it looked like the painful walk. I looked like I was part hobbling/part grimacing/part ahhhhhhhhh. Oh it was so much fun.

Exposed brick, a blazer from Anthropologie--all genius moments of splendor.

19 October 2009

San Francisco in October


Last weekend, I went to the Bay area. I actually did not see San Francisco but I was in Palo Alto and ate Burmese food in Burlingame and that is close enough. Mingalaba, the Burmese restaurant, was sooooo good. Oh my gosh. I ate so much that I was tempted to undo my top button. I felt like I was venturing into grandma territory (my grandma walks out of buffets holding her pants up by the hands because she loosens everything with each course). The service was impeccable (we were offered red wine while we waited and complimentary rice pudding dessert at the end) and the food just melted in our mouths. We gasped, we gurgled, we inhaled, we stopped speaking.

J. was up there for a conference so while he discussed hate crime law and critical theory, I went for a run along the beautiful tree lined streets around Stanford's campus. The homes were quaint and full of character and hard wood floors. They also have fall foliage in Northern California! The trees were oh so lush with golds and oranges. I thought of moving.

I also got to hang out with the fabulous Liz Song of lizsong.blogspot.com in her new barn digs. I was in love with her new place. She lives on one side of the first floor of the barn and has the entire 2nd floor to herself. Three words. 360 degree views! She has windows facing every direction. There was so much space, and Liz made the most of it with simple and stunning decor. Chartreuse greens and blues filled her walls. Cozy rugs and couches, rustic wood pieces, and a streamlined office area made it an ideal creative work/play haven. I was inspired and wished I had a camera to share it with you.

This time, travel inspired me to come home and make it as beautiful and inspiring as possible. Cheers to Liz for sharing the inspiration.

Note about the picture: At the barn, Liz opened my eyes to the wide world of Photoshop actions. Hence my first attempt at photoshopping--J.'s face.

15 October 2009

Ignatian Retreat: Month 1

In July, I wrote about signing up to do the 19th Annotation Ignatian Retreat at the Sisters of St. Joseph in Orange, CA. Here is an update one month after my start in September.

When I first met with my spiritual director, I was nervous, a little agitated, and wondering if this was going to work out. You see, I expected to meet with a liberal white nun at the convent, not a middle aged Korean medical doctor in her dusty and cluttered medical office 45 inconvenient minutes away from my house.

I had so many stereotypical concerns. Was she going to give me unsolicited advice? Was she going to say really blunt things? Was she going to be an extension of my mom? And why did I get paired up with her anyways? When Sister Barbara, the director of the program, asked me at orientation if I needed the Korean handout (after I had had an interview with her in English), my suspicions were confirmed. They paired me with a Korean because I'm a Korean! It felt like one of those unfair, annoying, discriminatory moves that happens to me from well meaning people.

The first few sessions with my director were OK. There were some red flags. She advised me on how to choose a church for my unborn children. She told me I was unconventionally blessed to be married to a man that supported my spiritual journey as well as J. did. When I shared my treasured vocational dreams and realizations with her, she said, "You're excited and emotional right now and that doesn't mean it's God. You need to keep praying." Kill me now.

I wondered if I should switch and in fact, many of my friends told me I should. But I decided to give it one more chance, and I'm glad I did.

In the past, spiritual directors have jolted me with their insights. They have made me cry uncontrollably with their very presence. They have given me their progressive and liberal encouragements to flee fundamentalism and evangelicalism and love myself. They have shown me a God that I longed for and couldn't name.

My director didn't really do that. Sometimes, she did the opposite and reminded me of what I did not want to be hearing. But as the weeks progressed and we delved into the Ignatian scripture meditations that were outlined for me each week, I sensed the value of her wisdom and guidance. Ignatian retreat direction is very specific--she helps me stay committed to the one hour of scripture meditation and prayer each day and helps me talk about it and see God in my experiences. Within that structure, our relationship comes alive.

The Ignatian experience, like life, is fluid. There are lows and highs. Last week, a day did not go by that I did not cry from despair. You see, the scripture meditations were bringing up my fears and it was quite gutting. Thank God for surfing--it cleared my head and helped me get back to it instead of abandoning the practice.

Then, there are the highs. Facing my fears opened my heart to receive God's love and this week, I received God's presence and peace in deeper than deep ways, along with a beautiful vision for my life. These have been beautiful and unforseeable times, and I have been seeing that God's love can drive out my greatest fears and give me immense freedom to follow my heart.

I am on my fourth week of the 9 month retreat. I have met with my spiritual director seven times and the rest of the program retreatants twice. 8 more months to go. Each day, I struggle to do the meditations, and I struggle to do them for a full hour. But it's getting easier as time goes on and in some ways, it feels like learning to ride a bike. I'm learning to pedal without falling down, and I'm looking forward to riding with the wind on my back.

12 October 2009

I sliced his tush

picture by IceNineJohn
Last Saturday morning, I went surfing at the famous San Onofre Beach. I donned a rented wetsuit, very much like the one in the picture above, except that it was loose in the chest and arms and had bright blue running down the middle. I held my surfboard too--with both hands--and hobbled along the beach without falling over. Good thing I was with three other first time surfers, one of whom wore a bright red and purple wetsuit designed for scuba diving (hi martha!).

Ah surfing, how shall I write about thee? Paddle paddle paddle. Keep your head above water. PADDLE! KEEP PADDLING! Keep your head up! Oh you fell off? Good, better now than later. Keep paddling. Your arms are tired? Count--1, 2, 3, 4. This is exercise. C'mon. Keep paddling, over here, to the right where the waves are breaking and where the rest of the surfers in the know are.

That's my surf instructor Jeff talking.

This is me.

Um, Jeff? How come even sitting on my surfboard is hard? I keep falling off. I can't even balance sitting down. My arms are sooo tired...keep going Hanna (I revert to talking to myself in the third person). Paddle, must keep paddling. Must keep doing cobra pose and keep my head up. The temptation to lie down on this board and nap is so great...gurgle gurgle gurgle...saltyyyyy.

Surfing is about having buff arms, shoulders, neck and back. It's about being able to do cobra pose for an indefinite amount of time while paddling with your arms in choppy water. Knowing yoga helped.

Jeff was a great instructor. He gathered up surfboards from his friends so that we would all have one to use. He brought us a collection of wetsuits so that we could save money and not have to rent unless it didn't fit. He was patient, kind, funny, altogether groovy.

I caught a couple of waves but chickened out of standing up (Ah, but riding the waves just lying on my stomach was so much fun!).

Hmm, what else did I do?

Oh, there was that one slashing incident.

Slashing what?

The slashing of Jeff's tush.

Jeff, the surf instructor?

You slashed your surf instructor's butt cheek?

Oh my gosh, yes.

I will never live this down.

My biggest fear with surfing was that my surfboard fins were going to slice someone open. I may have media reports mixed up but I have this vague memory of hearing news about kids dying from riding their surfboard into someone's head.

Well, I ran it over Jeff's bum as he was trying to help the Rev'd Martha catch a wave. I was so excited about catching another wave until I realized in horror that I was headed directly for Martha and Jeff. I almost ran over the priest and scared the sh*t out of her because I was screaming my head off. I had no idea where Jeff went.

Waves are crashing, my wet hair is sticking to my face. I'm clinging to my surfboard. My screams are still ringing in my ear. Jeff finally bobs up.

"Ugh," he groans. "I think your fin sliced my tush."

As he hoists himself onto his board again, I see the glimmer of an unmistakable slash running across the left cheek of his wetsuit. I am mortified and get a mucho serious case of the giggles.

Have you ever harmed someone in such a funny way that you're both mortified and insanely tickled at the same time? I started gurgling into the seawater again because I could barely keep my head up I was laughing so hard and embarassed and trying desperately to paddle away.

When Jeff came up to shore, he said in front of the whole group, "Hey Hanna, I think you actually sliced my wetsuit!"

(Um, yeah Jeff, I saw that but didn't really feel like pointing it out)

We could see his butt. There was a 7 inch gash and a hole the size of a quarter in the middle of it. The whole area was ringed in red and I thought he was bleeding. He told us the inside of the wetsuit was red and it wasn't blood. Thank God.

While I was mortified, Jeff thought it was the funniest thing in the world. He kept strutting around, shaking his head, and saying, "Hanna, I can't believe you sliced my butt. I guess I'll have to get a new wetsuit."

Oh dear.

06 October 2009


Since my titillating post, I haven't felt much inspiration to write. Maybe it's because it's hard to beat the entertaining value of sexual content.

Yeah, maybe so.

But regardless, fall is here and that is reason to celebrate! I love fall and over here by the coast, the wind makes you shiver and the skies are grey and rolling and lit with soft orange light in the evening. J. stopped several times yesterday to look out the window and say, "It's so beautiful. So beautiful."

I'm looking forward to weekly art get togethers with my artist friend Jan. She's a Cerritos girl and regularly makes trips to LACMA and elsewhere to get her art fix. She pushes me to make the drive to go to free lectures and engage with modern art. For autumn, we're discussing possible projects with watercolors, ceramics, and Christmas presents.

This Saturday, I'm getting a free surfing lesson with the UCI Episcopal Fellowship. $10 for a wetsuit.

I'm meeting with Myra House board members tomorrow to discuss ways in which I can help their PR and marketing projects. If you're in the area and if you've never stopped by, make an appointment and visit! It's an incredible place that nurtures a deep spirituality connected to the earth, contemplation, sustainable living, and community. The chapel is gorgeous--hardwood floors, floor pillows, Taize style fabric sculptures and candles, icons, exposed beams. My soul breathes a sigh of relief when I'm in there. Sung Sohn, Ph.D. was an architect before he turned to theology and pastoral ministry.

I'm going to go to the Back Bay as much as possible--it's my new place to unwind and let loose and take big gulps of air and get some exercise.

I'm also looking forward to the launch of a new website for my freelance writing and a headshot session with my good friend, the talented Erin Sullivan. She specializes in portraits and she's gonna make me look fabulous and writerly.

Next up: Going through my books for more giveaways.

26 September 2009

A titillating campus housing moment

**Be warned, adult content! Read at your own risk.

I just have to share this story with you because it is so funny and absurd and downright squeamish. But be warned, it does involve adult content so don't tell me I didn't warn you.

In the graduate housing complex that I live in, sound travels. The buildings are arranged in U shapes around parking lots so that it forms a courtyard of sorts and sounds just bounce of every which way. If a couple is having an argument, you can hear it loud and clear if you're walking by outside.

Every quarter, people move in and out but of course, the big move is fall quarter. That's when you can really sense the change in energy. Lots of new people moving in, new cooking smells wafting up (we live on the 3rd floor and the new people who live beneath us are killing me--every night they make ribs or curry and bake chocolate chip cookies afterwards).

We also got a new neighbor in the last week who is very expressive when having sex. The first time I heard the woman yelping, I thought, goodness, she's having a good time--and her windows are wide open. Her groans and moans turned into something orgasmic and high pitched and giggled and that's when I thought, dear lord, this is a bit much! I couldn't help giggling myself.

Since that special first inauguration into the sexual life of my new neighbor, she has been having an orgasm without fail at 10:30pm each night. Every night, I'm laying in bed ready to go to sleep or sitting on the couch finishing up a last chapter in a book and there she starts up again! It's really remarkable how regular she and her partner are.

So last night, when Jacob and I were chatting in the living room, we of course heard "that woman" go at it again. Her moans kept climbing and climbing and climbing and right when you knew she was just screaming her head off and having a grand ole time, one of our neighbors yelled into the courtyard, "BE QUIET!!!!!"

Our eyebrows shot up in shock. We fell over laughing hysterically. Apparently, someone had had enough and couldn't handle it anymore. I'll never forget that "Be quiet!" It was the be quiet of all be quiets. It was low and mean and so well projected that you knew everyone in the three surrounding apartment buildings felt silenced under its spell. "That woman" did fall quiet. And I wonder if she will stay quiet. But until she proves us wrong, I'm going to be giggling to myself whenever I have an odd moment.

24 September 2009

Paulo Coelho

I've been on a Paulo Coelho kick lately. Come to find out, many of the world's readers have been on a Paulo Coelho kick for some time.

Since reading The Alchemist, I have read Brida, Paulo Coelho: Confessions of a Pilgrim, and last night, I finished By the River Piedra I wept.

Brida is named after the main character, an Irish woman in search of her soul mate and spiritual truth. Her search leads her to pagan rituals and initiations and the discovery of herself as powerful strong woman and witch. Yep, that's right. Witch. Brida is not for close-minded readers, especially those who would have a hard time seeing the intersection between Christian spirituality and Wiccan spirituality. At times, I had a hard time wrapping my head around some of the spiritual concepts that Coelho was writing about but I appreciated what he was exploring nevertheless.

In Brida, I found a woman I could identify with and in her search for mystical experiences, I recognized my own mystical experiences with God. At the same time that I was reading Brida, I was reading the biography of Paulo Coelho by Spanish journalist Juan Arias. The biography was fascinating and insightful and I was able to see more of what Paulo was trying to do in Brida because he spoke at length about his writing process with Brida.

The biography is set up as a Q & A so that the questions and responses come across clear and unadulterated. There were many moments when I would stop and stare at the pages and yell, "Yes!" I think that Paulo's gift lies in being able to articulate spiritual truths so well, especially in the context and metaphor of Journey.

In my last post, I wrote on travel and what travel does for me. For more reflections on travel, I highly recommend Paulo's biography. He speaks at length about how travel has shaped his life's journey and provided him with the experiences and encounters to give him courage and wisdom to keep following God and his dreams.

By the River Piedra I wept was a quick read, about 2 hours. The themes of following your dreams and learning to break free of the rules imposed on you by family and society were present as in the other books. This one was interesting though because Paulo placed the two characters in a charismatic Catholic context (speaking in tongues, gifts of the Spirit etc.) and took them to Lourdes and other sacred sites in France. In the midst of this very Catholic setup, Paulo wove in ideas about the feminine divine which is present in pagan and other major world religions. This one out of all the others that I have read felt the "preachiest." It felt like he had a concept and then had created a story to support the concept--instead of the other way around where a concept flows organically out of a story. I still appreciated the story and his ideas however. As always, I sat around musing and pondering his thoughts, being encouraged by many passages, and wishing that I had someone to discuss it with. At one point in my reading, I turned to J. and said, "I feel like he has described everything that I've learned and gone through in the last 6 years!"

I can see how Paulo gets responses at book signings and conferences such as "You were describing my life in this story" or "I have gone through the exact same thing, how did you know?" In The Alchemist, Paulo describes the soul of the universe, the language of the world that we can all tap into and do when we follow our dreams. I can attest that he has tapped into this language that speaks to our hearts, and I wonder if he will do the same for you.

13 September 2009

On Travel

Traveling has many benefits but one of the best things it does is to teach me the gift of action.

At the beginning is an idea for travel. The idea takes time to shape and form. I spend many minutes mulling over if this idea should become something real that happens to my body or something that stays in my head.

For me, the notion of travel is not real until the plane ticket has been bought. I spend hours searching for the right price but most importantly, the courage to say yes.

Once I get to my destination, I disappoint myself. I have traveled enough to feel that I am a seasoned traveler. But even seasoned travelers get rusty.

Mistake #1 (perhaps the biggest and only mistake you can make)
I think that I can figure things out on my own and fail to act.
I clutch my guidebook at baggage claim and look through it to find information on how to get from the airport to my first hotel. I can't find the right information. I turn to my partner in veiled panic. We discuss together and come to a loss quickly. We don't know what to do. We are afraid to look like stupid Americans in a foreign country. So we discuss all the possibilities of what the ambiguous phrases in the guidebook could mean about how to find an ATM or cell phone card or transportation. We come up with three, possibly 4 theories as to why we are in our current predicament.

Finally, a wiser member of our party says, "Hey, there is no way that we can figure this out on our own. Let's just ask someone for help." And goes over to the information desk and asks in English and the problem is solved, pronto.


When J. and I arrived in Venice, we were all fumbles and no action. We were afraid to act, to make a mistake as vulnerable tourists. But by the time we had traveled through Italy and arrived in Rome a week and a half later, we had learned to recognize our limitations faster and ask for help as soon as we recognized them. We had learned that the only way to get something done was to act.

We learned that smiles, "Scuzi," "por favore," and "grazie" can go a long way. As Paulo Coeho says, when you have a dream, you will find people who are willing to help you get to your dream.

Gracious Italians and fellow travelers helped us at all times. By the end of our time, we never had a moment wasted where we stood around stymied and muttering amongst ourselves about possible tangential solutions to our problems (most of which had to do with being lost). We took action, we reached out to others, and found our way again and again.

If I was lost and the map was unhelpful, I learned to ask for help from one person, then another, and then another, until I had what I needed to find my destination. The first person gave me lots of hand signals for right turns and lefts. The second person was incredibly friendly but had no clue. The third person let me borrow her close-up map which ended up being the wrong neighborhood. But those three people combined gave me the right combination of information and support to venture out on my own, to keep my tired legs going over the cobblestone paths and find my address at the end of an improbable alley.

When you make a mistake, you truly do learn from it. You learn more Italian phrases. You learn to use more hand motions. You learn more of the universal language that communicates friendship and desire.

The spirit of traveling is the spirit of action and I am so grateful for it. Once that plane ticket is bought and you've reached your destination, you find that it was all worth it--the money spent, the strength it took to face your fears and muster the courage to say yes to your desires. Again and again, without fail, traveling shows how decisions and actions bring change, how mistakes are part of the journey, and that the true pleasure of life is being on the way and following our hearts.

Back in my apartment, I can see my old spirit--the one that used to sit dejected looking out the window, full of ideas but feeling discouraged. This old spirit would look at the dirty dishes or piles of laundry and think, "I wish I lived in a cleaner place. I wish this place wasn't so dirty." And then return to sitting and wondering how life could feel so hard.

Now I have the lived experience to say to it: Do something, anything, and you will be on your way to your desires! The only way to get something done is to act. You must move your body, reach out to someone else, tip the dominoes and let the chain of action begin.

10 September 2009

Free Books: Home by Marilynne Robinson

The spirit of decluttering has entered me via living in small spaces in Europe. I'm going to try and give away stuff regularly, especially books that I'm happy to pass on.

Today's giveaway is Home by Marilynne Robinson. If you would like this book, let me know in the comments and send me an email with your address. I'm too poor at the moment to pay for shipping so if you can send me $3 in the mail for media mail postage, we'll call it a happy fair exchange.

I just finished this book yesterday and a post may come up soon.

Back from Europing

Before I plunge into my overflowing email inbox, I thought I'd post some thoughts on my trip to London and Italy. I just got back last night from Rome and the memories and differences of time abroad compared to my life here are acute and distinct.

Has it only been 17 days since I left for the Continent? It feels as if I have passed a short lifetime, such was the difference of life abroad.

In London, I felt as if a part of me that I had forgotten existed came alive. Even though there are some marked aspects of British culture that would seem to make me run the other way (like the absence of good Korean food and food in general although things have vastly improved, the lack of vernacular about racial/political identities--Asian Americanness etc., the bad sausages (yeah I really do prefer American and Italian sausages), the damp and chill)--I still feel this strong kinship and understanding with British culture that I felt when I was there 9 years ago. In an almost visceral way, I feel as if I belong in ways that are hard to explain. It's like the sky is the limit and I feel this optimism about life that is overpowering. My creative juices flow and it's like my heart is opening to the universe.

Sigh. Yes, why am I in America again?

We flew to Venice and while we were there, we had the most delicious pasta with clams--briney, chewey, earthy, and delicious. A visit to the Basilica of San Marcos solidified any questions I had about my desire and call to study religion, spirituality, and sacred spaces.

In Florence, we partied it up with a wedding party of 50, drinking wine, eating prosciutto and cheeses and steak until we burst, laughing for hours, and crying freely at the remarkable display of love between Dan and Sarah and their family.

A very hot and awful train ride later, we were in Cinque Terre basking on the Ligurian Coast, sitting where the waves crashing on the rocks could mist us with their salty spray. The hike from Vernazza to Corniglia was breathtaking and glorious and the seafood stew cooked in an earthen vase (lobster, mussels, clams, a whole octopus came flying out) in Monterosso was unforgettable.

In Rome, we visited the Vatican and took lingering walks in the evening through the cobblestone streets. We drank cocktails with hipsters in Trastavere and continued a conversation that had sprung from the beginning of the trip about how we could come back and live on the Continent for an extended time.

24 hours later, we are back in southern California. We have already had soontofu and reveled at the spaciousness of our apartment. It's good to eat an apple fritter again and wake up early to a pacific coast sunrise. But I'm counting the days till I can go back.

Gelato flavors eaten:
- Pistachio
- nocciola
- Bailey's
- fragola
- caffe
- cioccolato negra
- cioccolato fondente
- menta
- stracciatella
- noce
- limone
- melone
- fico
- pesca

Steps climbed:
10, 417. (Actually, I have no idea. But it was a lot)

Daily Breakfast:
Espresso or Americano (the cappuchino made my stomach hurt) and a croissant

Memorable shopkeepers:
The twins of Il Pirata, a Sicilian bakery in Vernazza

Memorable dish:
Polenta e funghi

Favorite wine:
Cinque Terre white wine

A memory that comes to mind right now:
Eating grapes picked fresh from the vineyard high above off the Ligurian coast trails


21 August 2009

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

On Tuesday, my friend Lydia visited me from her tenure at Yale Divinity School as a 3rd year MDiv student and presented me with two books for my birthday. One was on cupcake recipes and uber cute and the other was called The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

I'd never heard of The Alchemist but Lydia assured me that I would love it and that in fact, she was very intrigued to hear what my response would be like. Among her description of the book was that she had cried while she read it and that her brother (a prolific reader) had thought it was boring.

My interest was peaked.

On the cover of my book was a sticker that said it had been a bestseller for 20 years. And the image on the front depicted a dark castle on a hill with sand blowing around it.

Was this a tale of mystical intrigue and medieval secrets? A lingering romance?

According to Wikipedia and Paulo Cuelho's website, The Alchemist is Brazil's literary bestseller of all time. I started the book Wednesday afternoon and finished it in bed that night. Was it amazing? Yes. Will this book impact my life? Yes. Was it a literary masterpiece? Not in my opinion. Should it be considered a classic? Yes. So maybe it is a literary masterpiece? Well....

The language of the book did not blow me away. The storyline was solid and interesting but not a whole lot of frothing fun. I can see why Lydia cried and her brother was bored. BUT-- I have never read a book that described the process of following your dreams as well as this one.

The Alchemist is a work of fiction, a fable, set in the Arabian deserts, following one Spanish shepherd boy as he tries to follow his dream. What he learns along the way changes him and becomes a part of his Personal Legend. In the intro, Paulo outlines everything he learns by telling the reader the 4 obstacles you will face as you try and follow your dream. The story fleshes out the obstacles and helps you live that experience through your imagination. The intro becomes priceless condensed wisdom that you can take with you to inform your journey. And the story stays with you and reminds you of that wisdom.

I recommend picking up a copy and reading the inside cover summary, Paulo's introduction, and then his bio at the end of the book. Then you will see why this book is worth reading. Paulo is one of those present day mystics who had a dream that he was tortured for (by parents and paramilitary groups), which he then abandoned only to be led back by the intervention of visions and strangers telling him to go on a pilgrimage and nurture that dream. He is a Catholic, a spiritual person, and someone who seems to truly fulfill the role of wise elder in our society.

The Alchemist encouraged me to keep going and to be wise to the realities and sufferings and rewards of following my dream. I think it will do the same for you.

12 August 2009

Job Search Good News

I've been actively job searching for the last three months and passively searching for up to a year. In the process, I've learned some things about the job search process that's helpful for the psyche and spirit.

Here are a few below:
  • If you look at a job description and you're not sure if you should apply, apply anyways. Positive action is always better than passivity. The process of applying gives you the chance to get better at tweaking your resume, writing a cover letter, and improving your interview skills.
  • Don't be afraid to network. I've learned not to feel so awkward and nerdy about calling up people that a friend knows but whom I otherwise have no connection with other than my interest in a job or organization. You can always come up with a few intelligent questions even if you feel like you don't know where to start and feel extremely self-conscious. Networking helps you feel better about the job search by taking you out of isolation and expanding your range of future opportunities. If they don't want to talk to you, they'll let you know. But almost every time, they will want to help you with some useful info.
  • Use the job search process to learn about yourself. Just today, I was working on a new application and realized something new about my vocational process. The job I'm applying to is in a different field and upon brainstorming, I realized that I had a storehouse of experiences that I never mentioned on past resumes because they weren't related. The discovery helped me realize that I need to consider another field of opportunities.

05 August 2009

Italia here we come!

J.'s best friend, Dan Chen (an amazing wedding photographer), is marrying the love of his life, the beautiful Sarah Krusen (who is also a filmmaker in her own right) in Florence, Italy. For two such artistic, creative, and free-spirited people, North America venues would just not do so they chose Florence. Their invitations were styled after passports, our rsvp cards were boarding passes, and they invited us to witness their vows in a beautiful ancient chapel.

For months, Jacob and I debated whether we should go or not because of our current financial state (i.e. unemployment for me). Then we decided to finally face that we could not go. We shed some tears and moped for days. But last week, after a heart-breaking phone call from Dan who offered to pay for part of J.'s ticket and go into further wedding debt, we decided to dig a little deeper and find a way to go. Lo and behold, my parents had some frequent flyer miles on hand to match up with ours and allow both of us to go.

The frequent flyer mile program ended up working out in such a way that we had to fly to London first to get the best deal then fly to Italy and come back through Rome. I am ecstatic! J. has never been to London, my favorite city, and I know he's going to think he died and went to heaven. I'm going to take him to my favorite haunts as well as Oxford, my favorite academic town. We bought guidebooks today and we're looking forward to traipsing around Venice, Florence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, and Rome on a budget.

We'll be departing on August 24 and coming back Sept 9. I welcome your suggestions for places to eat and experience.

30 July 2009

Alta Cafe

I'm at Alta Cafe in Newport Beach and I love it! It's in this cute little house on a closed off street with loads of character and now I can breathe a sigh of relief because I didn't think a place like this could exist 10 minutes from where I live in nearby Sterile City. Nelly Furtada is on overhead.

p.s. I have a new haircut and it makes me feel like a new person.

28 July 2009

Sisters of St. Joseph in Orange

What is it about nuns and convents built in the 1920s that gives me heebie-jeebies ( in a good way) and makes me feel all weepy inside? My skin gets all prickly and hyper-alert and I feel as if I've entered a thin place (a Celtic term to describe holy places where the veil between God and this world feels thin). Yesterday I met with the Director of the 19th Annotation Retreats at the Sisters of St. Joseph in Orange. We had a quick interview and by the end of it, I was on my way to starting the program. The orientation starts on September 10 and progresses till June.

What is the 19th Annotation Retreat?
This retreat is based on the 30 Day Retreat developed by St. Ignacius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits). Since the 30 Day Retreat requires a full time participation that most working people can't do, it's been broken down into a 9 month program that you can do each week.

The program consists of these exercises and commitments:
  • a meeting with a spiritual director once a week
  • one hour of Ignatian prayer and 30 minutes of journaling a day
  • once a month group meeting with everyone else doing the 9 month retreat
I've done shorter forms of Ignatian prayer (it includes reflecting back through your day, listening to yourself and becoming aware of the movements of your heart) at other retreats and was drawn to the rhythm and structure it provides. My good friend did this program last year up in the bay area and said "it totally changed how I view God." I'll be updating the blog on what my experience is like over the course of the next 9 months.

Along with my current interests in all things Catholic, I just finished reading The Catholic Imagination by Andrew Greeley. He is my new favorite author of sociology and religion. Check out his website--he's a priest, sociologist, Chicago native, Irish, journalist, and author of fiction novels.

26 July 2009

Cupcake Bliss

Yesterday, we had a housewarming party and Lori, one of J.'s department members, brought her signature raspberry champagne cupcakes. Lori is a cupcake baking fiend--in the few months that I've known her, I've probably tried at least 7 different cupcake variations. But this one was really amazing. Delicate bunches of champagne grapes adorned each cupcake filled with raspberry jam and topped with lemon curd buttercream frosting. Each bite took me to another place.

I also made this coconut shrimp recipe and true to the 5 star rating by over 700 reviewers, it was absolutely delicious, simple, and a mad hit.

23 July 2009

Henry Louis Gates Jr. Arrested

When Henry Louis Gates Jr., a renowned scholar, tried to open his jammed front door, a neighbor reported a disturbance to the police where upon arrival, the officer refused to believe that Gates was the owner of the house even though he showed proper identification. Nuts.

From the Boston Globe,
“Because of the capricious whim of one disturbed person . . . I am now a black man with a prison record,” Gates said. “You can look at my mug shot on the Internet.”
Full article here.

Sojourners blog commentary here.

21 July 2009

Tuesday in L.A.

picture by davidagalvan
This afternoon, I met up with my college friend Theresa in L.A. She is 5 and a half months pregnant and visiting from Singapore. Her baby bump was so cute. I took her to Casbah Cafe in Silverlake for a bohemian tea and catch up time. We had iced coffee, iced fresh mint tea, and a plum tart that was overpriced but absolutely delicious. It made me want to make this plum cake that I saw recently. Later, we joined our husbands at Chichin Itza for a yummy Yucatan dinner.

Then for a non-edible last course, Theresa and Carl took us to his brother's 8th floor rooftop apartment in the Pico/Arlington area and showed us a 360 degree view of Los Angeles. J. and I gasped. It was amazing. We watched the sun set, reveled in the view, and talked about moving there.

20 July 2009

To create, not react

A friend sent me an email this morning with information on interning for a religious community blog. I took a look and what I saw convinced me even more that there is a serious need for a religious community/blog that does not exist solely by being in opposition to others but on looking forward and creating.

Every single post on this self-described "progressive Christian" blog (which I won't name) had to do with criticizing what others had written, how certain people/posts/movements weren't scriptural, and how other religious leaders were wrong.

I told J. "It's as if they are saying 'I exist in order to bash your existence.'"

J. responded drily, "It all started with the Reformation."

Yes, the Reformation was spurred by opposition which then spurred generations to call their opposition faith. Opposition based on reaction which frankly doesn't lead to much other than furrowed brows and a perpetually bad taste in your mouth.

As my friend Cristy says, "Not about reaction but creation!" Let's create.

"Losing my religion for equality" by Jimmy Carter

In a recent Op-Ed, Jimmy Carter takes a stand against the oppression of women by religious groups by severing ties with the Southern Baptist Convention and joining with the Elders,
"an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity"
He says that after 60 years, it was time to leave the SBC. My biggest question was why it took him 60 years to finally leave the SBC over treatment of women and children. SBC's views on women have long been known to be restrictive. Whatever the reason, it gave me chills to read such a clearly articulated denouncement of religions' treatment of women and offer an alternative form of elder leadership.

This line resonated with me the most:
"The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable."
I love that line, "as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority." Click here for the column at The Age, an Aussie newspaper.

(Via my friend Jen A.)

Other related article, here.

New name, New look

I've followed up on my inkling for a change with a new url address and blog name. It's time to move on from the austere image of a nun flying into the sky (which served me very well last year-I'm quite grateful) and on to more color, fun, and engagement with a larger community.

You will see more posts on events happening around town, book reviews, design finds, and anything else that catches my eye or thoughts.


17 July 2009

Surprise friday

I forgot how fun it is to do something unexpected and say "yes" to an idea. After searching fruitlessly for the right cafe in Newport Beach, I sat in traffic to hit up some favorite spots in Long Beach. I ate a bean taco, potato taco, and fish taco at Hole Mole. I sat outside and licked my fingers and spooned salsa into my mouth and watched people wash their cars across the street. Then I decided, hey, why not? and drove my car over after my meal to run around before the timer timed out, foam bursting out of my brush and hitting my face and shoulders. It was wet and fun and sweaty. Now I'm drinking a ginger peach iced tea at Portfolio, an artsy air conditioned spot in the Arts District. Life feels good. And that all happened for less than $10.

Book Review: A Year in Van Nuys

Every week, I meet with my new friend Joleen for a cup of coffee (sometimes a sample cup of Trader Joe's coffee) to discuss the all important questions of life direction, job search status, and ideas. We've been meeting for about 2 months and I have to say, we've hit our stride.

Yesterday, she suggested that I write a book about my life living in the OC and she gave enough compelling reasons that I decided to give it some serious thought and read this other book I had seen in the bookstore for ideas: A Year in Van Nuys by Sandra Tsing Loh.

I've come to admire Sandra's writing recently for its wit and humor and ability to make me laugh a lot. J. checked out A Year in Van Nuys from the library for me and I finished it in two sittings. And here is what I have to say about this book (published in 2001).
  • It's really really really funny. I laughed a lot, especially in the beginning.
  • I was surprised at how much I related to her experiences. (Do L.A. freelance writers really have that much in common?)
  • She is so self-deprecating and revealing! How does she still have friends?
  • The ending does totally peter out and only worth skimming as many Amazon.com reviewers write.
  • It is a writer's writer kind of book. It's all about her writing life and how much it sucked that year.
  • It almost made me want to quit all this freelance business and study for the LSATs and be happy having stable income.
  • Most importantly, it was a case study on exactly what not to do if you want to be sane and happy and be a writer.

Here's what her painful stories reinforced:
  1. Get a life and get out or you will end up stuck in your bedroom for 3 years with writer's block and loathing self-pity.
  2. Read the Ennegram, Type 4. Learn how to deal with envy or it will destroy you.
  3. Have a regular practice of taking yourself lightly, forgiving yourself, and working on loving others.
  4. Have a regular practice of centering, whether that be prayer, photography, or something else.
  5. Do anything constructive to regularly get out of your head and your own thoughts.
  6. Be a contemplative.
  7. Be kind and serve others.
  8. Live fully in the moment.
  9. Do Welcoming Prayer a lot.
  10. And the list could keep going on.
I wouldn't use her book as a model for a book on living in the OC but overall, a quick enjoyable read. Some parts--her agony, her self-loathing, her moans--were a bit too negative and not funny enough to bear but all the other stuff, the parts when she really is spot on, hilarious, and you actually realize this is all useful info to help you avoid the same mistakes--well, that's nice.

For the complete opposite of Sandra Tsing Loh, check out The Happiness Project. This woman has a law degree and is writing a book about being happy.