Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mature Panties

I went into a Victoria’s Secret store recently to buy some panties for a gift.  I explained to the salesgirl (she wasn’t old enough to be a saleslady or a saleswoman) that I was looking for something cute that would be appropriate for a young teen.  She took me to a display of bright colored panties in styles ranging from thongs to hip huggers.  She explained to me that the panties were on sale for “5 for $26” – a good price for Victoria’s Secret panties.  She then went on to say, “…and the best part is that you can mix-&-match!  You could buy three pairs for your gift and then get two pairs for yourself.  I can show you the area in the back where we have our mature panties.”  Mature panties!?!?  What exactly does a mature panty look like?  Is it wrinkled?  Does it have wisdom?  Has it been around the block a time or two?  Obviously, that wasn’t what she meant by mature panty, but still, do I really look like I wear mature panties?  A few years ago our niece and two of our daughters got into a conversation at dinner about panty styles and they laughed hysterically about granny panties – you know the ones they were talking about:  white cotton, full cut, fit at the waist.  Now, I won’t go into the type of panties I wear, but they’re certainly not granny panties and I wouldn’t even call mine mature panties.

I recently learned that in Italy it is thought that you will have good luck in the coming year if you wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve.  No granny panties or mature panties for me, but red...I can deal with that!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Santa -- Still Alive and Well

Last night, as my family sat around our family room opening presents, laughing and talking, I found myself sitting back and just enjoying the scene – taking true pleasure in simply having everyone together.  I know there will be a time when we can’t all be together for Christmas so I want to completely embrace and treasure what it means to have our entire family together and enjoying each other.

This year, as I worked on an ornament project that involved twenty-seven years of Santa photos, I had the opportunity to do a lot of reminiscing.  With every photo I worked on, I was reminded of how small our children once were and about how true it is that they do grow up so quickly.  However, even as I nostalgically reminisced about their childhoods and Christmases past, I also realized that the more adult Christmases we are now having are also special.  Decorating the house is easier with a houseful of grown-up types to help.  Grown children shop for Christmas gifts on their own time, with their own money and with their own gift ideas.  Christmas Eve dinner isn’t just a mom’s responsibility; it can be prepped and cleaned up by adult children.  And yet I believe the childhood joy of Christmas still lingers in each of their hearts.  Helping with decorating, they appreciate the work that goes into creating the magic.  Planning for and selecting their own gifts is an exercise in noticing and valuing who each of their siblings are.  Christmas traditions take on the varied personalities of the people they have become.  And last night, when our dinner had been eaten, our Christmas program had been performed and all our gifts had been exchanged, there was no childhood dawdling with the hope of catching a glimpse of Santa, yet I think each of them – each of us, went off to bed with Santa in our hearts.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rockin' the Sexy Look

At a party a few days ago, I had my trusty bedazzled reading glasses perched on my head so that I could easily slide them down onto my nose and read small print – actually, it’s all small print these days.  Throughout the evening I spoke with many folks who were also finding it necessary to resort to reading glasses.  It was a fun, age-deprecating topic that many of us understood.  In fact, when I first went looking for this particular pair of reading glasses in the bowl where I keep my glasses, a guest chimed up, “Oh, sorry, I have a pair of your glasses right here.  I needed to borrow them to read the quiz.”  No worries – I have lots of reading glasses.

While many of the adults among us commented on and laughed about my bedazzled reading glasses, my youngest kids seemed embarrassed that I so blatantly flaunted my visual infirmities.  Not only was I wearing a pair of reading glasses atop my head, but they were bedazzled.  They stood out.  I was trying to joke with the teens about my “sexy” glasses, but all I was getting were eye rolls – that is until one young lady, a friend of my son, gave my glasses a good look, smiled at me and said, “Oh, yeah, Debbie – you’re rockin’ the sexy look.”  Now, some of you might think she was being sarcastic or perhaps even sucking up to her friend’s mom, but I decided to believe she was being sincere and revel in my sexy look.  After all, it didn’t hurt anything to believe her and several of my friends and I felt a moment of joy at the thought that our need for reading glasses could actually be interpreted as sexy.  Several years ago I wrote about men wearing reading glasses and looking sexy, now, I’m happily rockin’ my own sexy look.

Friday, December 9, 2011


After being in Korea for a week, yesterday afternoon I had the chance to Skype with my two oldest daughters.  It was late night for them; my middle daughter was doing homework and my oldest daughter was just keeping her company I guess.  We talked about what they have been up to this week and what their brother and I have been doing.  It was great to see their smiling faces and hear their laughter.  About twenty minutes into the conversation a thought hit me and I blurted out, “Wow!  You two look really Asian!”  That brought on a round of laughter; even my youngest son sitting next to me snickered.  My middle daughter, through her laughter, said, “Mama, we ARE Asian!” while my oldest daughter, also through her laughter, said, “Yeah, well that’s a big surprise.”  After a week of seeing almost nothing but Asians, suddenly their Asian-ness – their looks, their expressions, their beauty – jumped out at me from the computer screen.  We all laughed about my obviously silly statement, but the reality is, while I know they’re Asian, while I’m thrilled that they’re proud of their Korean heritage, when I look at them on a daily basis, I don’t see “Asian”, I just see my kids.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Am I Glowing?

This trip to Korea with the Holt Christmas Gift Team is always a wonderfully uplifting, emotional trip that is a roller coaster ride of tears, laughter and smiles.  Yesterday was no exception.  Yesterday we visited Holt’s Ilsan Town.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of Ilsan; 50 years ago Harry Holt and David Kim began building a community on a hillside north of Seoul that would house children waiting to be adopted as well as those who were, most likely, not adoptable.  Today it is home to almost 300 mentally and physically handicapped residents who live in group homes, go to school, work, establish relationships – basically live a real life.  Our team’s arrival is always the source of much excitement and joy as we bring, and receive, Christmas joy. (see my entry, Folks This is Why I do This)

Yesterday we visited the newly remodeled Memorial Hall where exhibits tell the story of Harry and Bertha Holt and their mission to find families for the world’s orphaned children.  I know the story.  I’ve read about it, watched videos about it.  I’d been to the “old” Memorial Hall, but yesterday’s visit hit my emotional button hard.  I barely made it through the door before the tears starting flowing.  The pictures of children in need; the story of one man who gave of himself beyond what most of us can even comprehend; the woman who became Grandma to thousands of children – the words, the images filled my heart and, yes, I cried.

The visit ended with a trip into the workshop area where residents do piece work for local businesses.  This employment gives the residents purpose, experience and spending money.  As we walked down the window-lined hallway we could see people working on their projects, chatting with their co-workers and, when they saw us, there were often enthusiastic waves and smiles.  We went into the large room at the end of the hall and three young women, all apparently with Downs Syndrome, came up to us to shake hands, smile, hug and talk.  One young woman, who actually spoke a little English, even showed us how she does her job and, when one of our team members tried to emulate her task, she quickly made it clear that he was not doing it properly.  As we prepared to leave, one of the three women came to give me another hug.  Then another one came and the three of us hugged.  Finally, the third woman came over and we had a full-blown group hug – what we call a family hug.  It felt wonderful!

As I walked out of the building I realized that I’d started the morning with tears – tears that washed my face and cleansed my spirit, and I’d ended the day with one of the best hugs of my life – both my face and my spirit glowed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Today They Will Hold Their Son

Yesterday our Christmas Gift Team group of 30 was joined by a couple who is adopting through our agency and who had arrived in Seoul the night before to pick up their 3-year-old son.  They were supposed to have had a little tour with a college-age volunteer, but since our group was already planning a tour of the Holt offices and the city of Seoul, the agency sent them along with us.  They were introduced to the group and they explained that they were in Seoul for the week and would be meeting their new son on Tuesday (today) and would hopefully be able to take him with them permanently on Wednesday before flying home to their other two boys on Friday.

Our Christmas Gift Team was still getting to know each other since most of the team had only arrived in Seoul the night before, but we’re an enthusiastic bunch, here to learn about Holt’s programs and bring Christmas joy to those Holt serves.  I spent some time talking with this couple who were plopped down in the midst of our merrymaking.  I especially wanted to connect with them about our shared experience of adopting a little bit older child since our youngest daughter was just shy of three-years-old when she came home.  We had a couple of short conversations and one longer one over lunch.  I know they were pleased to be with our group for the day, but as I watched them, I realized that it was quite clear that their reason for being here is very different from ours.  While we were laughing and enjoying the camaraderie of a shared mission, they were anticipating, with both eagerness and nervousness, the meeting they will have today with their son and his foster mother.  They were no doubt thinking of the months of paperwork and waiting they have endured; of the love they feel for a child they’ve never met, of the hopes, and perhaps even the fears, they have for the coming days, weeks, months and years.

When we arrived back at the hotel last evening, as the rest of us headed in different directions for dinner, I saw the couple in the little lobby convenience store.  They look glassy-eyed with jet lag and, no doubt, a big case of nerves.  I’m on my normal Christmas Gift Team “high” and, when first seeing how tired they were, was glad that my emotional “high” staves off any exhaustion (that will come when I return home), but as I said good-bye and wished them well for today, I remembered, with tears in my eyes and a tug at my heart, just what they were going through – in their minds and in their hearts.  I realized that, regardless of what a memorable, meaningful day our team has today, it will not even begin to measure up to the memorable, meaningful day this couple will have.  They may be exhausted, they may be sick with nervousness, but today they will hold their son.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bulgogi in an Earthworm Pot

The title doesn’t really have anything to do with what I’m writing about; it was simply too good to pass up.  When I read the English description of a Korean dish, “Bulgogi in an earthenware pot,” my son thought I said, “Bulgogi in an earthworm pot.”  Needless to say, he was a little appalled at the idea.

Over the last fourteen years, during seven trips to Korea, I’ve noticed slight, but consistent changes, specifically regarding commuting around Seoul.  The streets of the city used to buzz with ultra-small compact cars, much like the Smart Cars that are cropping up in the US.  A sedan was an anomaly.  Now, the streets hum with luxury sedans and the ultra-small compact car is an odd sight.  Traffic signals and signs used to be a “suggestion” for drivers and pedestrians were cautioned to always watch before stepping into a crosswalk because cars had the right of way.  Now, there seems to be a much higher expectation that drivers will follow the rules of the road and that pedestrians in marked crossing lanes should expect to be able to cross safely.  Motorcycles and scooters used to take over the sidewalks whenever it was to their advantage.  Now, pedestrians seem to expect that motorized vehicles will stay on the streets, within the lanes of traffic.  It doesn’t feel as much like Seoul, but there’s still bulgogi in earthenware pots.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Have Guts - Will Travel

Just as I’ve made great changes over the years in how I feel about football, I have also changed my thoughts about flying and traveling.  While I always loved the idea of traveling, I was so afraid of flying that I preferred to keep my feet on the ground and to limit my travels to those that could be reached via cars, buses and trains.  At one point during my banking career, I had been promoted to the newly created position of compliance officer for the bank’s trust department.  The department head wanted me to visit a couple of other banks that had established compliance departments to see how they functioned.  The problem was, the other banks were in San Francisco.  When my boss called me into his office to discuss the pending trip, I explained that I didn’t fly.  He responded, “Well, what the hell do you think you’re going to do?  Take the train?”  That’s exactly what I did.

I did fly occasionally, but I never enjoyed it and with each flight I was convinced that I would die.  I envied friends who could hop on a plane as if they were getting into their car.  I knew the statistics about the safety of air travel.  I knew that my horizons would expand if only I’d fly, but it was so uncomfortable for me that I avoided it whenever possible.  Then, fourteen years ago, my oldest son and I flew to Korea to pick up my youngest son – the same son who is sitting beside me on the plane right now as we head back to Korea.

That first trip to Korea was eye opening for me.  The differences in culture, food, art, lifestyle were so surprising to me that I knew I wanted to experience more and I knew I’d have to fly to make that happen.  My ease with flying didn’t happen overnight, but I eventually realized that I no longer walked onto the plane expecting to crash.  My stomach no longer turned in knots as the hour of takeoff approached.  If someone said, “Let’s travel,” I found myself ready to hop on board.

And now, several years and many trips later, I have attained the ultimate “I’m a traveler” feat.  I have gone from needing to check two fully loaded, to within ounces of their weight limit, suitcases to packing for this trip in the one, now allowed, checked bag and that bag weighed in seven pounds under the limit.  I know that’s still not the same as those who travel with nothing more than a duffel bag on their back, but for me, the transition from not flying to flying and now being able to pack efficiently and lightly makes me feel like I am truly an experienced traveler.