Virgin's Guide to Burning Man

A Virgin's Guide to Burning Man can be found here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tasting Grace is on the Move

Tasting Grace is moving! I have designed a new website, and with the help of my husband Toby, have set up Tasting Grace at a new location: So for those of you who are following through google reader, google friend connect, blogger dashboard, or rss feeds will need to update the web address (sorry!). The new website is through Word Press instead of Blogger, so should be much easier for nonmembers to make comments.

The website design is done 100% by yours truly, so I'd love to hear feedback and commentary on whether you like the new art and layout.

Sorry for any inconvenience, but hopefully the new site will be cleaner and easier for everyone in the long run!

Spontaneously Not Spontaneous

I am spontaneous. I love going out on random expeditions at the drop of a hat, whether it be just out to a movie, visit family, or to scamper off to a foreign country (when the wallet permits). If a friend calls me up wanting to do something fun, I have no problem dropping everything to show up on their doorstep seven minutes later. And I'm adaptable. I can go with an itinerary or without.

Unless I have serious work to do. Then I either need a little extra cajoling or perhaps an hour or two to finish up and then head out.

I kind of like this part of my personality. It gives me freedom and variety in my life, and I think inserts a dollop of vivacity and fun in my otherwise reserved demeanor. If I had to write a Top Ten list of things I like about myself, this would probably be on it.

So it comes to my surprise and dismay when I learn that actually I don't always do well when there is no plan at all and I expect there to be one. This isn't true in foreign countries because...well, frankly, I generally expect things not to go as planned in foreign countries. But if I have notions that things will pan out one way and then everything is suddenly up in the air, I get frustrated. I seethe. Especially, as my husband points out, when the lack of plan gets in between me and the consumption of food within reasonable intervals. I get grumpy and sarcastic and am suddenly that old man grumbling incoherently at innocent passersby.

I don't think it's a control issue because I don't always feel I need to be in control or always have to have my way - though things going my way is, of course, desirable. But it might be true that the crux of the biscuit lies somewhere in the category of whether I feel the plan changes involved consideration of me. For example, if someone says they'll visit at a particular hour, but then calls 15 minutes after they were supposed to arrive to say that, actually, they'll be there in another half hour. And then this happens repeatedly until half my day is wasted waiting - because what can you do for half an hour when you're prepared and expecting to leave? - when I could have spent the time doing something else until the time the person actually showed up.

And this is when I face the fact I'm a self-centered curmudgeon who appreciates punctuality, and failing punctuality, at least an apology. Nothing big, just some token to show they realize they've been obnoxious. Because people should always be thinking of the effects their actions have on me, right?

...No? ....Oh. Darnit.

I mean, because that's the consideration I would show them.

...and I expect everyone to act like me., that's not what I mean either.

So, yes. Self-centered curmudgeon. Must work on that. Oh, the failings of being an only child.

P.S. This post is my 100th post! I had actually hoped to celebrate with the unveiling of my blog's new location, but am still waiting for new location to be ready. It's thisclose to being ready, but alas, it is not. So I'll have to settle for Ugly-Truth-About-Self blog instead.

Friday, August 7, 2009


The yogini walked around the class dabbing essential oils in our palms; some mixture of roses, citrus, and yleng yleng. As I rubbed the oils between my hands and brought the scent to my face, I was hit, forcibly, with the scent of my grandmother. She died two years ago, and still her scent has the power to undo me. Overcome, I lay there, crying in shavasana.

My grandmother was the salt of the earth. Raised on a farm in Supunburi, Thailand, she knew what it was to till the soil and set ancient roots. She gave birth to five girls, and when her husband met an untimely passing, she raised them on her own. She was solid, heavy-boned. Her skin looked like worn, browned leather, but felt like soft butter cream. Barely 4'11", she was compact in size, but dynamite can come in small packages. She didn't talk much, but she never hesitated to tell it like it is.

She used to tell my father, who had quite inappropriately never paid a dowry when he married my mother, that proper Thai women will massage a man's feet when he comes home from work. My dad would eye my mother and say, "I don't get any of that." My grandmother would retort, "You get what you pay for."

Because we lived on two different continents for most of my life, I never spent much time with my grandmother, and most of the time we did have together, I was fairly young - around 7 or 8. She spoke only Thai, and at the time I spoke only English, so most communication revolved around sleeping, eating, and making funny noises at each other until we both heaved with laughter. With such little verbal communication between us, I don't suppose I can say I knew her in the way most people know others. But somehow I don't feel that I needed to. Because sometimes, when it comes to family, words are superfluous. I feel in her my blood, and in my bones, and it is there that I know her.

My Asian grandmother was like a solitary storm cloud hovering on the south east horizon. She was silent and steady, heavy with the volition of ancestral spirits. Though diminuitive in size, her presence was larger than life. She was hardened, tough, and weathered by the processes of time. But there was a depth to her; a depth so profound that one couldn't help but always keep her in the corner of one's eye, even when she was far away. She was the matriach. It was foolish to make a move without first considering her. All of life moved below her, under her watchful eye. When she passed, it was like the heavy storm cloud dissipating into the light. Though she is gone, the memory of her is an indelible imprint; like a footstep pressed into sand.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

You Capture – You

I have a confession to make.
I'm a mommy blogger wannabe.

I want into that club. But no matter how badly I might want to, I cannot join that club because I am missing one key ingredient: a child. I want children. I want to hear the pitter-patter of little feet down wooden hallways. I want to read my kids stories, to see their first steps, hear their first words, and meet their first friends, favorites, and loves.

But since I cannot have children or even a house just yet, I have to soothe the beast that is my biological imperative by any means I can. So I embarked upon a project to take our tiny little shoebox apartment and upgrade everything I could to make it a home. (To see the results, you can go to my blogpost on it here.)

So this is me. Laying bare my heart's desire and my modest attempts to seek it.

This is my hand, painting my dream, that I may call it a home.

These are my feet, bearing me upon the precipe, that I might reach for the sky.

This is my face wishing, and my heart thrumming, that I might satiate the beast within...
... just one day more.

“I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul.” - Calvin & Hobbes

For more self-portraits, check out Beth's website: I Should Be Folding Laundry and this week's You Capture challenge!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Things I Wish I'd Learned in High School

When I look back on my high school education, there's not much I can think of that I learned that's really stuck with me over the years. Geometry? Pssh. Biology? Ha! History? Doubt it. Most of what I know of history I learned after high school. Pretty much only some books I read in my Literature class and the lessons on how to write essays really stuck with me.

And really, I'm not feeling like I'm missing out on too much for not remembering most of those four years because in my daily life I just don't encounter such things often.

But what I do wish is that high school had a Life Skills class. This class might be similar to Home Ec, which my school actually didn't have. But a Life Skills class would be more comprehensive; not just cooking or carrying an egg around, pretending it's an actual child. It should be a year long course, senior year, when students realize that hey, maybe this stuff could come in handy. (Yes, I know, I hear teachers and administrators grumbling "Good luck finding resources for that.")

It would include segments on:
- How to write a business letter and resume

- How to do well in a job interview, and other professional etiquette

- How to change your oil & tires, and other basic car maintenance
Because you never know when you'll actually need this kind of information. Or at least, if you'd rather not spend the dough to have someone else do it for you (because pedicures are much more fun ways to use that money).

- How to use a sewing machine
I confess. For the life of me, I cannot use a sewing machine. I can sew well by hand, but that takes forever. So I borrowed my mom's machine and I got online instructions on how to thread it and of course it was step-by-step with illustrative pictures for mounting the spool and getting the thread to the needle. But then the complex bit with the bobbin was reduced to "you just put the doohickey in and around the thingamabob, turn and pull the loop up tight and there you go!" Wait, what? The more sure I was I had finally gotten it right, the bigger disaster I created when I actually tried to use the thing. In the battle between me and the machine, the Singer won.

- How to understand credit cards, mortgages, and manage them wisely
Credit crisis. Need I say more?

- A whole month could be devoted to conflict management
In college, I took a class on conflict management and it was definitely one of the most useful classes I've ever had in my life. People don't know how to deal with conflict, and often end up exacerbating the argument when they're just trying to resolve it. Little do they realize, their own actions are what fuels the conflict more than anything else. Learning how to stand up for yourself, listen to what the other is saying, and still find ways to de-escalate a tense situation is a lesson everyone can use. Might save a marriage or two. At least, people might come to understand that everybody has a role to play in creating a conflict and that we all must own up to our own responsibility when things go wrong. Nobody is only victim, much as we might like to think so.

- How to be a good citizen
More than just understanding the process and knowing the institutions (which is what your Government class is supposed to cover), students should be taught the importance of various civic duties like voting and charity & community service, as well as how to perform such functions. But they should also learn more about other roles they can perform as a citizen, such as: buying products in a socially conscious way, engaging productively in discussions with others about politics to learn about different points of views, serving in the military, and the myriad ways they can make themselves heard (not just once every four years at the ballot box). Not saying everybody has to do all these things all the time, but students should be encouraged to engage with society in deeper and broader ways.

- How to live in a more eco-friendly way
This is a huge topic, so maybe it would work best to be directed by class interest, beyond such staples as recycling and being product conscious. But it could cover anything from energy efficiency to urban farming, all in ways that are simultaneously cost-conscious. Ultimately, people are free to choose to live life how they want to, but I do think these things are becoming a big enough fact of life that people should know at least how to go about living in a more eco-friendly way, should they decide to do so.

True, we live now in the great age of the internet, where most of this information can be found online. But who wants to learn everything the hard way? (wink) Are there any life skills you wish someone had taught you, or that you think more people need to know?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Something's in the Water

The weirdest thing just happened today. I was thinking about things I just need to get up the gumption to go out and fight for. Things that require leaving the comfort of "I will do it someday" to actually go out and do right now. There will almost inevitably be frustration and disappointment...but the dream is worth fighting for.

And as I was thinking those thoughts, I strolled across a blog I read regularly that spoke right to me and told me to get out there and fucking fight for it, and what the hell are you waiting for, already? Pardon my french.

And I was thinking: What a strange thing to come across something I needed to hear when I wasn't looking to hear it. Was it fate? Was it coincidence? And as I was thinking those thoughts, I came across a blog I've never read before in my life that said, quite randomly, at the very bottom of its page:

I don't believe in coincidence.

Message received.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Nesting Pains Soothed

For those following the Nesting Pains saga, today we find its culmination. In the final fit of turning Shoebox Apartment into Home, I painted our kitchen cabinets and living room walls (landlord be damned). And the result is deeply satisfying.

I sought to try out a new aesthetic: something along the lines of vintage Victorian; classy, with a little funk.

These were my tools.
This was the coffee I cracked myself out on.
This is what the kitchen used to look like.
This is what it looks like now.
Instead of the drab old gray, I introduced a sunny, minty green. With cute little accents like these.
And these.
Then I took our boring, white living room walls and painted them a lovely, dove gray, which complements so nicely the new kitchen green.
And looks so elegant with the white trim, and blends so well with our new bathroom decor.
I especially love little details like this pink orchid against the gray wall.
And the gorgeous new pillow covers I found on Etsy (from seller Clee27).
I'm still waiting for my new table runner to arrive in the mail, but once it does, my renovations will be complete.

A little paint will go a long way towards soothing one's soul.