Thursday, June 28, 2012

Through her eyes

I spent the good part of the last month hanging out with my niece, Phoebe. Phoebe is nearly 16 months old. She's at the stage where she understands a lot of language, but doesn't have many words down yet... just 'Dat!', 'Da Da' and 'Mu ma'. "Dat!" is used extensively to point things out, show excitement, say what she wants. She also has a few very useful sign language expressions that help her out a bunch.

Being with her is sort of like hanging out with a tiny, Italian genius who doesn't speak a word of English but uses her hands a lot. She amazes me on a regular basis with how much she comprehends, remembers, and prefers. It's like her mind is on a constant data-collecting mission. I think sometimes people underestimate the inteligence and 'person-ness' of little people. But if you have patience and really listen and watch, they are right there with you, trying to communicate, telling jokes and getting to know you.

When we flew together down to LA, I took Phoebe on my lap, and together we watched out the window as the luggage was loaded onto the plane, the little man waving us away from the gate, the plane lining up for take-off as other planes took off in front of us, and finally our own take off. Phoebe was mesmerised, in awe and delight of what was happening around us. What an incredible reminder to not switch-off and instead to open our eyes and our minds.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Clogs, cabins and canoes.

About 3 months ago, I rewarded my year of hard work by buying a beautiful new pair of clogs. Now, being a maker sort of person, I wondered where on earth these shoes were being made. It was obvious to me that they were being produced in the US, which is pretty unusual because there aren't too many shoe manufacturers left in the States. I went home, and patiently waited for my special one-of-a-kind clogs to arrive.

When they finally came, I noticed the inscription, "Made By Sven". Turns out Sven Clogs is a small scale clog manufacturer in Minnesota. It's owned by a woman called Marie Rivers, who's been making clogs for over 20 years by a small team of craftsmen (or craftswomen as it turns out). Basically, it's my dream company.

On a whim I wrote to Marie that night. I told her who I was, and how much I loved her shoes, respected her company philosophy, and politely inquired whether I could come an apprentice with her and learn how to make clogs.  Half and hour later, I was on the phone with Marie planning the trip. AMAZING!

So this Friday I'm off to Minnesota to learn the craft of clog-making. I'll be living in a little log cabin on a lake for 2 weeks, driving Marie's old Volvo, and hammering leather to my hearts content. For a nerd like me, this is a dream come true.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cho Cho

Yesterday, I headed down to Discount Fabrics, my favorite SF fabric store, and found some stripe denim to make Phoebe a pair of engineer overalls and matching cap. I haven't made any clothing in so long, and it was really fun to get back to the sewing machine. She's pretty stinkin' cute in them:)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The truth of it

"The only way to feel is to be truthful"

This quote sort of blows me away. I think when you make a big change, there are always going to be ripple effects through your community. I've spent the last month talking to my dearest friends, and it's clear to me that everyone is challenged by facing the truth of their reality. It's different for everyone; be it their jobs, their love life, their kids, going back to school, or their homes. It's hard to stay true to your path, and to face reality as it is, rather than what you think it should be.

I didn't grow up really learning to face reality. In some ways that's been helpful to me. I think all designers are a bit wacko that way- what kind of person wants to alter other people's environments?  But I'm trying really hard right now to see things for what they really are, and be true to my desires, dreams and values.  I don't think you can stay in this open zone for long, it's sort of like starring at the sun. But I do feel like everyone needs to come up for air every once and a while, to look at things with clarity and honesty and see life for what it really is.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

To boldly go

I've had some people say to me that I'm 'brave'. I'm not brave. Bravery is battling cancer or standing up against oppression. I'm just dealing with life, and being open about it. It might not be a smart move to be honest on the internet (you never know who's reading), but for whatever reason I don't believe in shame.  I have a fundamental belief that we are more the same than different. That if I have felt these things, you probably have too. So why keep it secret? My life doesn't look like what I thought it would look like when I was 25. But then again, I was a bit of an idiot when I was 25.

Like I said Day 1 of this experiment, I hope that you'll come on this journey with me. At the time, I didn't realize how big of a journey it would be, or how vulnerable I would feel writing about it. But I believe in it, and it feels like a rudder that is helping me steer the course.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Tao of Pop Music

I have a dirty little secret: nothing makes me feel more alive than running in the sunshine, listening to fist-pumping pop music. It fills me up with joy, and I have to control the urge to raise my hands in the air and pump them like a raver girl.  This might make me incredibly superficial, or finally prove that I have terrible taste in music, but I don't care. There's something incredible about the soaring operatic highs of a good pop song that makes you feel like you are on top of the world, super-bionic and powerful.

I'm a true believer in self-improvement, therapy and self-analysis. But sometimes, sometimes it seems better to not dig in the dirt. Better not to scratch the scab, and instead let yourself skim across the surface. To do the easy things that make you feel good, like running, pop music, blockbuster movies and sunshine. Sometimes simple is actually better, because there might actually not be an answer and instead it's just how things are.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Yesterday, my friend Johanna and I drove up to Sonoma county and toured around a bit. Johanna and I met freshmen year of collage as roommates, nearly 20 years ago. Some old lady in the admissions office put us together, and cosmically altered both of our lives. We became fast friends, and lived together in college. She followed her boyfriend and future husband to San Francisco, and I followed and fell in love with California. For the past few years, I've only seen her for a lunch here and there; A quick catch up and gossip session.

So far on my creative sabbatical, I've really mostly been playing catch up with all the friends that I'd left on auto-pilot for the past few years. I'm guilty of the notion that old friendships just are, and don't need watering.  In the last 2 months, it's been so incredible to reconnect with my people, and to remember how important those connections are in my life. To sit on the floor, drinking cups of tea, playing with their kids, and just chatting. The past week has been a hard one for me, and I've been sort of blown away by the love and generosity I've felt. From putting me up in their granny apartment, to letting me be a constant third wheel, to reaching out with a loving email or phone call. It's amazing how much strength we can draw from our loved ones, and how they help us reconnect to who we are as an individual.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The id of break ups

Self-definition is a tricky thing. Who we see ourselves as helps guide us, keeps us making good moral decisions and is an anchor to us. It also can be a bit of a crutch, and lets us hold onto things for too long. For a long time, a big part of my self-definition was framed by my job; I took pride in being a successful, strong creative professional. But at some point I started believing it was me, that I needed it, and that's when the relationship got a bit sticky.

The same thing is true of relationships. Break-ups are hard because not only to you end a close bond with someone you love, but you also break the view of yourself. You are no longer the couple. You are no longer Jack and Diane. The myth and history you had been building goes up in a puff of smoke, and you're left standing there, in your sweat pants with a pint of Ben and Jerry's in your hand, just you and what's left of your own personal history.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying this experience is all bad. I'm just saying that where ever you are in life, it's important to keep grounded in you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Reality bites

Argh..... I don't want to write this post. With all my heart, I don't want to write this post. But it's either say it now, or stop writing because otherwise I'm pretty much lying by omission. So here it is, guts out, heart on the table, balls to the wall; My partner and I decided to call it quits this week. Writing it down seems to make it more real, which is the last thing I want it to become.

But, there it is, reality. I'm trying to face it. To deal with what is real instead of what I wish was. I'm not going to go into the details of it. He is a private man, and wouldn't choose to have his laundry aired. 

And now the world has opened up to me, unteathered, rootless, floating. I can do anything, go anywhere, be anyone. That feeling gives me vertigo, and makes me want to hide out somewhere watching HBO and eating Chinese take-out. I'm making a concerted effort to keep my head above water. No sad love songs or drunken bitch sessions. 

I've run away to San Francisco to give us both time and space to heal. Back to my old stomping ground. Back to my big brother who has gotten me through all three of my big break-ups. Back to the West Coast, which still smells like home.

It's time to listen to dumb pop music, read self-help books, and go running in the sunshine.

Monday, June 11, 2012


This weekend, I went to see my friend Sarah and Teresa's play, Destructo Snack USA.  During the play, Sarah has a 5-minute uber-tantrum. She storms off the stage, slamming doors, hurling trash cans, crying loudly in the near distance. As she flung herself around the stage, I sheepishly related. Though the grown-up response to lack of getting-your-way manifests itself much more subtly, it's still there.

We were chatting about this afterwards, and my friend Jess, who's a school teacher gave me a good insight; When you're feeling that way, what age are you? That feeling of robbed autonomy spins us into 2-year old melt-down behavior. Watching my niece last week fighting to feed herself, it's so ingrained in us to want control over ourselves and our destinies. The funny thing is, sometimes it's just that someone else  has made a choice for us that sets us into this state. It's natural not to like having other people make choices for us, we don't like being passive players in our lives. As with your toddler, just because you didn't choose peas, doesn't mean you don't like peas. So when you feel the urge to scream and throw yourself around the room because life hasn't gone your way, you can have your inner parent step in and put that little person in a time-out.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Tommy and Jane, circa 1921
While I was in the UK, we visited my cousin and her family in Oxford.  My sister was explaining to our second-cousins-once-removed (who are 6 and 5) the family tree.. the web of our family which crosses generations and continents. It made me think of this photo that I found of our grandparents- the two people who connect us all. They were probably in their early 20's, it may have even been before they were married. They are so playful and bashful in this photo, like they don't quite know each other yet. I can almost see the blush on my granny's cheeks. My grandfather is so handsome and kind looking. It's impossible for me to look at this photo without seeing my sisters cheeks, my brother's forehead, my cousin's smile, my aunt's eyes, my mum's face.

They had no idea at the time who we would be or what we would do. They had no idea of the stories that would be told about them, the legends and the family lore. They probably couldn't imagine their grandchildren sitting around the dining room table, drinking wine and watching their own children play with each other.

Friday, June 1, 2012


Phoebe's great-great grand father, Benjamin Moore
When you're younger, I think it's easier to take your family tree for granted. There seems so many more exciting things out in the world to explore, and pondering your great grandfather doesn't sound that enticing. I've been staying with my uncle and aunt in England for a few days, digging through old family photos and hearing family stories. I'm here with my sister-in-law and brother, and their little girl Phoebe. My first niece connects all the dots for me, and puts me in a bit of a state of awe about the idea of generations and family

Like any family, there have been adventures, accomplishments and tragedies. I've learned that my great grandfather was a grocer's son, who somehow worked to becoming an accomplished Bio-Chemist. I try to imagine his life, and the strength and determination that he would have needed to leave his small town in Belfast and travel the world. And then I think of little Phoebe, who's other grandparents left Korea for a better life in the US. How amazing it is for these two worlds to come together in this little beautiful person.