grumpy about politics (what a lovely pool of republican presidential candidates)

I’ve been hearing about all the Republicans throwing their hats in the ring for the presidential primaries. Eight have declared and about seven more probably will? That’s a whole lot of ego to choose between. Out of pure curiosity, I googled around and found an article that gave a photo list of folks who have Announced and folks who are Likely to Announce. Other than Fiorina (female) and Carson (black), it’s the usual collection of doughy-faced, middle-aged white men. Carla heaves a sigh as she shakes her head sadly.

They all look the same to me, by the way. If you haven’t already read about the incredible unreliability of cross-racial identifications by eye-witnesses, you should go and do that. Just google it and all manner of scholarly work comes up. I first learned about it in law school and it has never stopped bothering me. It’s astounding, really, when you think about how many peeps have been sent to prison based on eyewitnesses pointing fingers at them.

I’ll just go ahead and admit that pretty much all middle-aged white men kind of look the same to me. I have trouble distinguishing Ted Cruz and Scott Walker, for instance. They look like the same person to me. If I saw one of them committing a crime, I could easily finger the other one in a line-up, quite innocently. Santorum and Ryan, same thing. Political candidates make it even harder by all wearing the same stupid blue suit and red tie and waxing their hair identically. What do they do, have SuperCuts parties once a month?

I’ve hypothesized that it’s because I’m half-Korean and spent the first ten years of my life in Korea. I used to think that would mean I’d be better at ID’ing both Korean and white faces, but my reality seems to be the opposite, especially when it comes to middle-aged men. All middle-aged Korean men kind of look the same to me, and all middle-aged white men look even more the same. Also all young Hollywood heartthrobs look the same to me. Exactly the same. They probably all use the same surgeon. Or maybe it’s the cross-racial identification thing. I don’t know anymore.

Why am I talking about this? Oh. Doughy candidates. When I see that sea of white faces, one of whom will be the presidential nominee (because let’s face it, Ben Carson doesn’t have a real shot), I feel in my bones why President Obama is so passionately hated by ultra-conservative racists in America, why they call him “Osama” instead of “Obama,” why they need to believe he’s not an American citizen, why they need to call him a Muslim. It’s plain and simple fear of what’s different. Because President Obama looks just like every black man these peeps have ever feared. All black men look the same to them.

This is hardly a novel thought, I know. I think about it these days, though, and I feel a bit sad that we’re heading back to the days of a not-demographically-symbolic (thank you, Wayne Lapierre for that tasty tidbit) white guy as president. I know, I know, Hillary might still win, but I’m not really optimistic about that. I think some white guy will beat her. Then we can start calling the White House by its proper name: The White Guy House.

Jesse was just three years old when Obama ran for the presidency the first time. Jesse would roll down her window as we drove through neighborhoods and loudly chant “OH-BAH-MA! OH-BAH-MA!” whenever she saw a yard sign for his campaign. When he won, I was super excited for a whole slough of reasons, but a three-year-old doesn’t really get most of that stuff. I liked most of Obama’s platform for reasons having nothing to do with his race, though I surely didn’t mind that he was a minority. But I didn’t grasp the true scope of what a black president meant culturally until one day when Jesse and I walked past a black teenage boy somewhere. He was just some ordinary kid. Jesse stared at him and asked me, with the pure innocence only small children can muster, “Is that President Obama?”

I can tell you without shame that I cried because my heart was so full. Kids in America grow up connecting black faces to gangsters, drug dealers and drug addicts, criminals, car thieves, thuggish pro athletes, and all other manner of negatives. Yet here was my daughter, an American-born mostly-white kid, looking at a young black man, and what she saw was the president of the eff-ing United States. If you need me to explain why that’s huge, then it wouldn’t make a difference if I tried.

The Obama presidency created what I believe (or desperately hope) is a seismic paradigm shift in the mythology of race in America. Let’s hope that shift doesn’t just snap back to the past, despite the symbolic demographics of the nominees we’ll likely be voting for this time around.

grumpy about the construction project (nothing happened today. Just… nothing)

Nothing happened today on our construction project. I sent a missive to The Bank last night basically saying this: come on, you fools, you ought to be able to tell me how long it’s gonna take to reach closing!! Seriously! Also I liquidated some assets so we have enough cash to take to closing. Unless The Bank has not accurately estimated the amount of money we need to bring to closing, in which case I guess I’ll liquidate some more. And each time that changes it has to all go through underwriting again, because I have to produce an assload of documentation confirming that the money in my bank account (for which they have 90 years of records) came from my investment accounts (for which they also already have 90 years of records). I don’t actually know what “go through underwriting” means, but there’s some guy somewhere called an underwriter who has an incredible amount of control over this part of my life right now.

I don’t think I’d want to be called an underwriter. It sounds too much like undertaker. Which by the way I think is one of those crazy words that quite poetically describes what the person does, i.e., take the dead body under ground. Kind of creepy really. The underwriter, by contrast, is perfectly capable of killing well-designed loan opportunities, so he’s less of a care-providing person and more of an assassin.

Anyway, I sent a somewhat obnoxious, needy, whiny, and loosely demanding email to The Bank People last night. I complained and snarked. I wagged my figurative finger. I typed the whole thing on my iPhone, so I was especially grumpy by the end of it. I said I wanted some transparency. I want to know exactly what additional hoops we need to jump through before we get to closing, so we can decide whether we’re even going to be able to do this project this year.

Today, The Bank did not respond. Nothing. Wall of Silence. Apparently, someone did call our design/built person, Kristi, to iron out some meaningless language details in our bid proposal. But that is all. No one called me, e-mailed me, texted me, or sent me flowers.

Bad form, Bank. And so much for transparency. I’m giving serious thought to walking away from the deal and wiping my hands of it. We’d lose a couple thousand dollars in various fees that we’ve already incurred in this excruciating process, but I would be free of noxious banker oversight. I hate being beholden to anyone, and I hate the thought of some inspector — not from our city, mind you, but some guy acting on behalf of the bank — wandering around my home eyeing all the work and making completely random decisions on whether my contractors get paid.

Anthony’s been out of town. He gets back tomorrow night. Let’s hope I don’t do anything foolish before my rational and practical man gets back, like calling The Bank and telling them to go suck it because nothing happened today.

grumpy about the construction project (oh god. financing. I think I’ll do that facebook list thing instead)

Our renovation plan is SO BIG that we have to finance some of it, because we are not rich as Roosevelt. We’re using a curious mortgage product offered by Fannie Mae (which is to say, if a big bank gives us a loan that fits the profile, Fannie Mae will buy the loan and the bank bears no risk). It’s an interesting way to finance a large renovation. We’re basically refinancing our existing mortgage to a larger number, based on an appraiser’s assessment of the future hypothetical value of the home when the work is complete. There’s just one closing right before the work starts, instead of having to do a construction loan and then convert all the debt over to a traditional mortgage when the work is all done. It’s kind of cool, easier and a lot less risky than the more common construction-loan-converting-to-a-traditional-mortgage approach. There are down sides, but this is the right approach for us and with rates so low it was an easy choice.

Yaaaaaaaawn…. zzzzzzzz.

Hey you. Wake up.

I know. It’s boring. It’s a little technical for me too, but I’ve had my head buried in this shit for months now and I’m finally deflating like an old birthday balloon. Getting things lined up to close on this loan is starting to feel like putting the camel’s ass through the freaking eye of the needle, and I almost want to walk away. There’s all the financial documentation to collect, and there’s all the contractor documentation, and the appraisal, and the bid reviewer (aka, backseat driver on the project who works for the bank and controls the purse on draws), and dealing with the loan processor and (indirectly) the underwriter as well. It’s all so anal retentive. You’d think it would be easier for Anthony and me. We have good income, and even better debt-to-income ratio, i.e, our only debt is our modest mortgage. We have savings. We have incredible credit scores. But we still have to jump through hoops like circus animals.

There’s still the part of me that knows we have a 99% probability of closing on this loan in 2 weeks, despite my misgivings. Of course, I thought it would be in one week for sure, but now it’s not. So never mind that 99% certainty, which I felt just a day or two ago. Nix that. New 99% certainty on hand. Because once you’ve jumped in this rabbit hole, there are so many emotional, physical, and financial sunk costs that it gets really hard to back out. They have us by our figurative nuts. So there’s a 99% probability something will happen, whether it’s closing on this loan and getting the fucking project going already, or me bawling like a baby for three days straight because my dreams have crumbled to ashes.

At this point, I’m not sure which would be worse.

* * * * * * *

I was going to sit here tonight taking care of some paperwork relating to the construction project, but I’m just too depressed by the bullshit swirling around financing issues. Thankfully, my cousin posted up a viral list on Facebook.  “Every answer must start with the first letter of your first name!” I don’t know why, but I stared at that list with a stink eye for a good long while. Here’s what I thought as I stared at it, the line items commingling in my head with all the grumpy agite I feel about this stupid construction project.

First name : CARLA. Easy. that’s me.  That’s not a Challenging start. That’s stupid.

An animal: CATTLE.  AKA, people seeking financing for renovation projects.

A boys name:  CARL. Because C is for Carla, that’s good enough for me, OOOOH Carla Carla Carla starts with C.

A girls name: Hey wait a minute. How is this different from first name? Oh. Oh, my bad. Sorry, I lost the thread. First name Carla tells me what letter all the other words start with. Check.  ( … heeeey, that starts with C too!)

An occupation: Contractor. Duh. We have an awesome, awesome design/build Chick named Kristi driving our renovation train. Sure, she’s K — but very close to C really, it’s all there phonemically.

A color: Cream. The Color the prior owners painted all of our walls — brownish Creams, yellowish Cremes, greenish Cremes. It Could not be more depressing or hideous. The whole house is so boring Cream that it makes me want to sCream. I am renovating our entire house in order to justify repainting the walls some Color other than Cream.

Something you wear: Coveralls, because I’m painting the walls interesting Colors someday soon.

A drink: Caffeine. Yes, that Counts. It can be in Coffee or soda, I won’t Care when we’re in the middle of the Construction project. I’m gonna hit the Counter of whatever shop I’m at and place my order thusly. “I’d like a large double caffeine, please, no lid.”

A type of food: Damn, I can’t say Korean unless I misspell it. Ah. Carry-out. What we’ll be eating a lot of if my 99% probability Comes to pass.

Something found in the bathroom: Ceramic tile. Everywhere. Which I hope to lay myself unless the mortgage company requires that a bonded Contractor do it. Isn’t the fact that I live in emotional bondage enough to qualify me?? Apparently not.

A place: Cave. Where I will want to be in a Couple months. Oh, even better. Cape Hatteras. I hope to be there in July.

A reason to be late: Cholera. Really, that’s what I thought. That’s all I’ve got on this one.

Something you shout out: Collapsing! Collapsing!!! (while having a nightmare about what happens to our roof when they pull out the wall on that side of our house.)

I will take deep Calming breaths and try to stay Coooool for as many days as it takes us to get to Closing on our Construction loan.


Grumpy about the construction project

In the eleven days since my last post, many amazing and spectacular things have happened in my life.  The most important is this: we are eleven days closer to the end of the school year. I just realized — as I stare at this rapidly diminishing glass of wine sitting before me (hiccup) — that I only have to make Jesse’s school lunch eleven more times. Since I’m likely to deliver carry-out twice in that time (I’m anticipating episodes of Extreme Laziness), that’s actually only nine more times.  I can’t even begin to find words to express my feelings, which lie somewhere on the boundary between relief and hysteria.

Meanwhile, for the past almost-four months we’ve been planning out a renovation project.  A big one. It’s taken several months to arrange it all, and I’ve been feeling weirdly superstitious about it — like I don’t want to mention it, except I have a big mouth, so I have, only with a coy hand. Which is lame, right?

Anyway, we’re at the tail end of the road, so I think at this point it’s less like a train pulling into the station and more like a rabbit hole into which we’ve already jumped. We’ve got the architectural drawings and bid in. We’ve got financing wrapping up as of today, and we’re 95% likely to close on the refi next week — unless something goes wrong, which hypothetically it could, because now I’m not being coy.

Hold on a minute. I have to take a break from typing because I’m having another anxiety attack about this situation. Just a sec.

* * * * * * *

Ugh. Hold on.

* * * * * * *

Okay, I think I’m back. I’ve got the gut pain under control, and I don’t think I need the brown bag anymore.

We’re knocking out an entire wall on one side of the house and pushing the house out by 8 feet. It’s going to be like a stretchy-dink job (the opposite of a shrinky-dink, get it?). There’s this little breezeway between our house proper and the separate garage. We’re going to fill it with house. In that two story expansion, we’re going to fit a mudroom, a new bathroom, and a workable kitchen (as opposed to the shit hole I currently cook in).


Seriously, my kitchen sucks. I cook, a LOT, and I have about 2 linear feet of workable countertop, and a crappy sink, and my dishwasher’s been broken for about three years. Maybe longer, I’ve lost count.  And I hate the cheap tile on the floor. Something’s gotta change.

In anticipation of the Big Work, we’ve done some preliminary stuff, because we’re cheap. First we took out the wall-to-wall carpet. Look back a couple posts and you’ll see some photos of the room we were refinishing for starters. We got that done, and we’ve moved our beds and dressers into there. Then we pulled out the carpet in the rest of the upstairs area. Look at the difference it makes to take out shitty carpet.

Stairway before.


Stairway after, and this isn’t even refinished yet.


Yes, that’s some weird, almost-creepy head carved on the stair post. I have no explanation for it, except maybe it’s supposed to be some sort of ship’s gnome for good luck, because the house has a sort of ship theme to it. The carved head came with the house, it’s original from the 1940’s, and the kids aren’t afraid of it. They put hats and Christmas wreaths on it. Some plumbing or electric guy came in one day and said it was “occult.” I was like, dude, it’s just some head on a post, and he got all huffy and emphatic. “It’s OCCULT.” And then I was like, dude, get out of my house. Freak (the dude, not the head).

What in the world was I talking about? Oh. Carpet. Right, so we got the carpet out. Taking wall-to-wall out is hellish, or at least it was in our house. I think whoever installed it must have owned stock in a staple manufacturer. There were so many staples attaching the carpet to the stairs that the risers are practically shredded at their bases. Look at this staple gauntlet.


Every time you get poked by one of these staples, blood flows like Niagara Falls. Also pain, much pain.

Then under the carpet is the true horror for sufferers of dust mite allergies. Carpet padding.


This is the most disgusting stuff on the face of the earth, and it too is stapled in. Pulling it out is like, is like… pulling out a fluffy sheet of dust mites. I had to wear a crazy mask and crazy eyes to survive it without choking to death.


Once all that shit was out, we had to pull out the millions and millions of staples left behind. Ugh.

Then we got  the dumpster.


Twenty feet long. Four feet high. Looks to be about 8 feet wide.  You work out the cubic yardage. We need it for some demolition we’re going to do, but also to just get shit out of the house because the renovation is going to require a lot of space. We’ve given the house a colonic, and now the dumpster is half-full of the detritus of 10 to 20 years.


More will go in before we’re done. It feels so good.

But this is all an aside, an emotional tactic my subconscious mind is using to distract me from the reality of what’s coming. Some time in the next week or two, large equipment is going to land in my driveway, and a wall of my house is going to be pulled off, and my kitchen will be gone for 3 months, and my life is going to be chaos.

Well… my life is already chaos. I guess it can’t get much worse. I’ll survive by telling you all about it.

grumpy about potty mouth

I’m leaving Whole Foods with Nick. He’s been surprisingly well-behaved. He hasn’t broken anything. He hasn’t begged. He hasn’t run off and gotten lost. He hasn’t intentionally smacked or pressed his face into any stranger’s ass. As I pull out of my parking space, German engineering acts up in my nearly-ancient VW and tells me the rear passenger door on Nick’s side is open. I pull over.

“Nick, your car door isn’t closed all the way.”

“Aw shit.”


I look in the rear view mirror. “What did you say??”

Nick fusses about with opening the door and re-closing it completely. “Mommy,” he answers, in a didactic tone that tells me he thinks I’m simple or deaf. “I said SHIT.  Shit shit shit.”

“Don’t say that, Nick.”

He giggles. “Shit shit shit shit.”

“Nick, cut it out. You’re not allowed to say that.”

“Why not? You say it.”

“Because only grown-ups and babies are allowed to have potty-mouth. Not five-year-olds.”

Nick responds to this notion concisely, plainly, in a sing-song groan. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaw.  Shit.”

Grumpy about my daughter (Good lord, she’s ten)

I don’t understand how ten years have passed since Jesse was born. I’ve looked at photos. I’ve aged at least 20 years in that time. Maybe it’s because I’ve lost so much sleep; maybe I’ve been awake during the gone decade as much as normal people are awake in 20 years.

Motherhood has been a challenging, emotionally exhausting journey with Jesse, a climb made tougher by our mutual self-loathing and cynicism, her developmental quirks and tics. Some days it feels hopeless, what with the keening and whining issuing from both our mouths. I wonder sometimes if she’ll ever be happy. 

Jesse struggled through her green belt testing for tae kwon do last night; it was preceded by hours of extreme performance anxiety, expressed in pretty extreme  ways. Anthony reported that after Jesse messed up some moves a little during testing, she started crying. She kept crying, and she kept going. So I was proud. But I wish she could have had more fun, like most other kids, and felt more pride.

When this tae kwon do studio gives a child their new belt, the instructor always asks: now that you’re a higher belt, what do you plan to change and improve in yourself? I asked Jesse to consider this answer for when she receives her green belt and has to announce to the class what she wants to change: “cry less, have more fun, and take things less seriously.” She looked at me sidelong with a  contemplative green eye and said nothing.

On Jesse’s birthday, after she and Nick went to sleep, I pulled out the external hard drive and rummaged through a decade of photographs. They tell a different story of Jesse than I tend to remember, one filled less with sadness and more with joy. Maybe I’m the one who needs to cry less, have more fun, and take things less seriously. (I’m looking at myself sidelong right now, with a contemplative brown eye.) Maybe all the unhappiness Jesse experiences is just on the surface. Maybe under it is something deeper and stronger than the bitter pills of Jesse’s anxiety and miserable self-esteem, something more abiding.

Jesse was born just 5 pounds and 14 ounces, a diminutive doll with porcelain skin, eyes of violet and a passionate temperament that could move her from raw rage to uncontrolled glee in a blink of her enormous puddly eyes.

one hour into life

one hour into life

Dang, she was a cute wee thing.




Her eyes eventually turned to green


but not much else has changed.

The photos I looked at showed me a little girl with an abiding love of the outdoors.


A little girl with loving and connected relationships with her parents.



A little girl who’s sweet on her baby brother.

100_2220100_2962IMG_1959IMG_2093IMG_7339IMG_6972IMG_6138 copy

A little girl who’s not afraid of a little magic.


A little girl comfortable with silliness and individuality.


A little girl made of strength and sass.


A little girl who experiences stress, to be sure.


But who also has courage enough to take risks and partake of triumphs.


A little girl who knows how to revel in simple happiness.


And in recent pictures, I can see shadows of the woman she’ll someday be.


I love so much about Jesse. She has courage without boundaries, and I know this because she soldiers on despite her endless parade of fears and anxieties. She’s passionately altruistic, generous, introspective, intuitive, critical. She has an artist’s eye and soul. She sees what’s beautiful as readily as she sees what’s ugly. She strives. It’s practically trite to say that I’m blessed to have her as my daughter, that she embodies so many qualities that I cherish.

But I can also say this. Even if Jesse was a coward, selfish, shallow, emotionally blind, vapid, unkind, lazy, ugly — even if she was all those things, I would still love her. Because I’m her mother. And that’s good enough for me in this life.

Grumpy about laundry (socks)

Jesse asked me to find her a pair of white socks this morning. I told her to go look in the laundry basket, which has 3 loads of unfolded, but clean, clothing stuffed in it. She looked at me and shrugged helplessly, so I went to stare at it myself.  

Aha. Whites at the bottom. I thanked my lucky stars that Jesse hadn’t done the digging, which would have sent laundry flying like flour in the wind. 

I dug down and hunted, finding one little white sock at a time. I kid you not, these are the socks I pulled.   Seven socks and not a single match! This day isn’t starting out on a good sock. 


Grumpy about parenting labels

I’ve mentioned before that I used to read a lot of parenting books. According to one collection of them, I’ve fucked up a handful of parenting practices I’ll call Group A but I’ve done all the things in Group B right. According to another collection, I’ve done everything in Group A correctly, but I’ve fucked up everything in Group B. 

As you can imagine, I’ve been conflicted about this for a long time. As mommy blogger after mommy blogger says, each in her unique, compelling, and totally interesting voice, I’m tired of being judged and labeled. It’s been almost a decade since Jesse was born. It’s time for me to be my own person, to embrace my own labels for myself, and to sing my own song from the top of my own imaginary mountain like that lady in the Swiss Alps with the nuns and Nazis and all those crazy kids. 

After intense and extensive research, reading and meditation, I’ve reached the enlightened conclusion that I am (and will always be) a child-directed anti-authoritarian attachment-helicopter free-range self-directed-discipline parent. (Is there a parenting book for me out there? Well?) 

It took a great deal of mindful mindfulness to get here, but thanks to this epiphany, nothing has changed for me today.