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Obviously. Part Two.

18 Jun

Obviously, this post is about Father’s Day.  And obviously it’s a good thing it’s a holiday, because my post ideas have been slim to none.  (also, it’s really hot, so I prefer to spend my free time complaining about the heat while lying down in front of the air conditioner.)

No surprise here, my dad is super awesome, and not just because he majored in philosophy for his first year of college. Father E. spends his time actually helping people, because he wants to.  He’s not into things of the material variety.  His attention span is either 5 minutes or 5 hours, and subject to change on a whim.  He enjoys pacing.  And it only took me 24 years to realize admit that we are very similar, in that we both enjoy being temperamental and forcing our family members to deal with it.  We also enjoy arguing about abstract ideas, while drinking coffee and quoting Joni Mitchell and Joseph Conrad, until one of us calls the other pretentious – because we are pretentious.

And writes some pretty poetic e-mails – I’m not even kidding.  I also once got a text waxing poetic on the Kansas sunset, to which I replied “Exactly how high are you?” 

“But if he were a song
He’d be a complicated melody

-India Arie

He’s a good person, and he’s supportive of me.  If I bring up a new country I want to live in, or a career I’ve been toying with, his response is usually, “Good. When?” 

And he’s such a tightwad, that I can only assume I won’t have to take care of him in his old age, financially speaking. (because I’m going to guilt my older brother into doing it)

I also have yet to date a convict or take off my clothes for money, so I’m fairly certain I wasn’t gifted any daddy issues.  Thank you father.

And no post about him would be complete without this video, which sums up everything I can’t.  It’s also hilarious.

You can also revisit this fabulous post, which is also an homage to my dad.

Arlington National Cemetery, 2009 (aka the summer of my bitchin’ tan)

Celebrating my college graduation at Hotel Congress in Tucson, 2010

College Graduation, or That Time the Handouts Stopped: A Tragedy in 3 Parts

And of course, my favorite pic:

On a ferry in Thailand, 2011


And of course, I’d also like to wish a Happy Father’s Day to Tator Tot’s dad, Mr. Potato Head.  He surprised no one by being a wonderful father.

Contented sigh.


So today I’m thankful for my dad.  I realized I must be pretty lucky if my chief complaint is that he sneezes offensively loud. But in my defense, it’s so loud.


Strong Female Lead

14 May

A few weeks ago, my friends and I were discussing Netflix, among other things we used in our past lives (like Hulu, Target, and drive-throughs).  I mentioned that Netflix was always recommending movies and TV shows with a “strong female lead”, based on my queue.  This became a running joke throughout the night, as we discussed what fabulous, independent ladies we are (example: When I had Netflix, I totally paid for it. By myself.)

And someday I’ll fill you in on my OCD list of TV shows and must-watch movies, but for right now, I will just leave you with a short Strong Female Lead post…a theme I think will find its way into this blog a lot.  All joking aside, I think women are badass, and I’m big on female empowerment. (please see previous Mother’s Day post, or any post involving my friends)

So today’s Strong Female Lead is my sister-in-law Mandy, who graduated with her Master’s Degree this weekend.  She’s going to be an amazing teacher, and she’s already a fabulous mama.  And she’s nice to me, even when I’m the bitchiest sister-in-law imaginable. (that’s a therapy discussion series of posts for another time)

Congrats Mama, we (my millions of readers fans and I) are so proud of you! It also greatly pleases me that Tator Tot will grow up with a Strong Female Leading lady, much like Mandy and I have (Mandy’s mom is the total HBIC, which is awesome).

That scowling guy in the background is so jealous of the blonde cuteness happening front and center.


Today’s song/video/quote, which I dare you to listen to and NOT dance along:


Today I’m thankful for Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kristin Wiig, Megan McCarthy, Mya Rudolph, and all the other hilarious and intelligent women who are making it cool to be Strong Female Leads.

Have a happy start to your work week y’all!



14 May

Obviously this post is about Mother’s Day.  On this site we proudly celebrate any holiday of my choosing. (spoiler alert: this does not include Flag Day, Columbus Day, or Children’s Day) 

I think you can generally determine how good a mother one is, by the general excellence of her children.  So clearly my mom should teach a master’s class on this shit.  Same goes for Tator Tot’s mom (hi Mandy!), my friends’ moms, and Ryan Gosling’s mom.  However, to my ex-boyfriends’ mothers – you should be ashamed of yourself.

This is the quote I put on Monica’s card, because I’ve always thought she was a perfect blend of intelligence, hardwork, style, and charm:

“Think, Travel, Celebrate, Charm, Decorate, Dress, Live – colorfully.”       -Kate Spade

Eric, Monica, and me in Seoul

As any of my friends can attest to, I talk about my mom all the time – the words proud and grateful are about as close as I can get to describing my feelings for her. She is my favorite person to shop and gossip with, but she’s also more interested in my thoughts and my goals, and will never ever be the kind of mom who pressures me to get married or have kids.  She never makes me feel guilty for living far away, or for being really confused about my future. (but she does cry at the airport every time, which is like watching a puppy die. Repeatedly.) Bonus: she let me bring some of her amazing handbags and accessories to Korea this year, which is the most selfless thing anyone has ever done aside from actually giving birth. And she laughs at my jokes (but to be fair, I’m really funny).

In short, she’s the coolest.

My all-time favorite pic of her, taken in Thailand last summer.

So thank you to my mom, and all of the other mamas out there for all that you do, which is innumerable, unimaginable, and never-ending.  It sounds super awful, but I salute you!

Also, it should be obvious that today I’m thankful for my mom.  And for Mandy, because I can’t imagine living in a Tator Tot-less world.

One time on a trip, we got dressed in our respective hotel rooms, only to meet up and realize that we were wearing the exact.same.outfit.




Austin City Limits music festival, fall 2009

Mandy looking fabulous, even though she had to take Tator Tot to the hospital – fall 2010

Tator Tot and Mandy

And now for my all-time favorite TV and movie moms:

Lucille Bluth, Arrested Development: The original HBIC

Claire Dunphy, Modern Family – I’m told I remind people of her all the time. We are both blonde Claires, who make a lot of faces and just want people to do what we say.


Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls: witty and pretty and bright

Sally Fields, Steel Magnolias: Her impassioned speech at her daughter’s grave gets me every time.


Happy Mother’s Day y’all!



I Can’t Quit You

7 May

What started as a fun travel blog, later became a chore.  So I took a break; I felt like I was too focused on writing about my experiences instead of actually experiencing them…but after another fab conversation with Monica, and a writer’s-dilemma post from my friend Jenna, I realized it was time to get back to it.

Writers write.  So if I’m not writing, I’m not a writer.  And that made me uncomfortable.  So in the hope that motivation will win out over my penchant for self-indulgence, I’ve decided to make myself write every day.  Even if it’s just a paragraph.  Or a quote.  Or a picture with a caption. Something. Anything.

But, let’s quickly catch up.  During the last 8 months, I…

-met and fell in love with my nephew. I happily wear the crazy aunt hat.


-got my TEFL certification, despite my best efforts to avoid scholarly pursuits outside of Jeopardy

-left Korea, amid a flurry of parties and tears.   3 months later I came back, amid a flurry of parties and tears.

-Dated someone I thought was really amazing, but we broke up because he wasn’t.

-Went to Malaysia for New Year’s Eve.  And Taiwan for a 3-day weekend. (pics of Taiwan to come- Malaysia will not be mentioned on the blog again due to aforementioned break up and my self-respect.)

-Became a kindergarten teacher.

-Got violently ill à la Bridesmaids at the Incheon Airport.

…and today I cut all my hair off, which was much needed.  I am metaphorically and literally lighter.  The last 4 months have been a challenge, and now that I’m finally coming out on the other side of it, it’s time to write again.  You’re so welcome, friends.


Today’s quote:

“And in the spring I shed my skin
And it blows away with the changing wind”     
  –Florence and the Machine, “Rabbit Heart”

And lastly, to stop the constant self-deprecating humor, and for my own spoiled peace of mind, I’m going to write something I’m thankful for everyday – which is cheesy, but significant nonetheless.  Like a good episode of Gilmore Girls.

Today I’m thankful for how utterly humbling the last 4 months have been. (please see public food poisoning in above list) And I’m thankful they’re over.

Fam Fam Goes to Thailand

29 Aug

alternative titles:

National Lampoon’s Thailand Vacation

Beer & Whining in Thailand

Epic Tans and Other Meltdowns

Summer vacation came not a moment too soon: I had been itching to travel, needing to catch up on sleep, and downright desperate to see my family.  And I also wanted to go to Thailand.  And lucky for me, it all came together. . . .just a day later than we planned.

Our vacation started off as they always do – with an epic airport meltdown.  This one was caused by American Airlines, who delayed a 40-minute flight to Chicago, which ended up setting our trip back an entire day.  While this hardly effected me, my family added some extra travel time to a 20-hour trip.

Luckily their spirits were boosted when they finally arrived in Seoul, and had a reunion with their favorite daughter. (me)  Seeing the family in Seoul, for the first time in 11 months, was surreal, emotional, and completely normal all at the same time.  Eric said it best when he just hugged me and said “It’s really been too long.”  Yeah, it has.  We spent the day killing time in the airport (due to the monsoon outside), which was surprisingly fun because: 1) the airport is really, really nice and has free wifi and 2) we were reunited.

Killing time at the airport, while regressing into the children we are

We arrived in Phuket at night, found a beautiful hotel, and promptly went to sleep.

Relaxing in Phuket

Bright and early the next day we took a taxi, then a 2-hour ferry to Kho Phi Phi, the island where we would be staying for the next 5 days.

And the next week consisted of:  swimming, tanning, napping, relaxing, eating, massages, fish pedicures, catching up, gossiping, drinking, complaining, laughing at each others’ expenses, Eric doing his summer homework, shopping, and even a bit of kayaking.

The second time fish have eaten my feet this year

It was a perfectly relaxing vacation.  There was no schedule, and no “have-to’s”.  And the landscape was truly stunning – words just sound silly trying to describe something that didn’t even look real.  Turquoise ocean interrupted by jutting cliffs, and untouched jungle. . . well it’s not something our little Kansas fam took lightly. (as evidenced by our pictures, most of which don’t have people in them, and our myriad Jurassic Park jokes)


Low tide

We all took a much-needed break from real life and just relaxed together.

Nights that start with buckets. . .

. . .end in 3-hour, hilariously honest and insightful conversations between siblings (but we really missed you Ben & Mandy!)

The Dean Takes a Holiday

Practicing our water ballet while making fun of the other guests

We also relaxed back into our familiar patterns, as only families can do.  That means: my dad asks any question that pops into his head then half-heartedly listens to the answer, my mom tries to stay positive until she has enough and goes swimming solo, Eric does whatever Eric does all day and we see him at dinner, and I have zero patience for anyone, while being secretly overjoyed that my family is here to complain at.  And then 5 minutes later, we all laugh at each other and resume having fun.  It also helps that I do a spot-on impression of my mom while Eric does a perfect imitation of my dad, meaning every dinner is a comedy hour.  Or a roast, depending on sensitivity levels. 

I love this picture. Her laugh is legendary. And I inherited it.

Yes, we are those tourists

We left very relaxed and very tan.


Island-living suits us.

The next 4 days were spent in South Korea, which is another post, soon to come.

And while I was really, really bummed to leave Thailand, it’s just like I told my family: “Don’t be sad you guys.  We’ll all be back here in the future for Eric’s third wedding to a really inappropriate, much-younger woman.”

I'm sure I have no idea why my family bought me a shirt that says Little Miss Grumpy.

Monk Livin’

24 May

*Please note that once again, all pics are stolen from Megan.  It’s recently come to my attention that my camera is old and in need of replacing, so I’m now relying on other people for documentation of my awesome life. Thanks Meg!

Last month, Ms. Megan and I teamed up once again.  This time the excursion was a temple stay – a program that allows outsiders to live like a monk for a weekend.  This was one of my must-do things before leaving Korea, and spring was a great time for it.  The weather was perfect – and most of the temples are up in the mountains, so it was really beautiful. This was also a good excuse to not wear makeup or play Carmen Sandiego all weekend.

Saturday morning we boarded another charter bus, and headed about 3 hours outside of Seoul, to Magoksa Temple, located in Cheung Chong.

Partial view of the temple grounds. Please notice the lanterns, which were strung all over the place.

As soon as we got there, we were divided up into boys and girls, and then given our monk clothes for the weekend.  The clothes consisted of khaki parachute pants, and a pink jacket type thing.  And yes, I did the MC Hammer dance immediately after putting on my parachute pants.  These outfits were insanely comfortable.  Paired with my black converse sneakers all weekend, I looked pretty fly for a monk white girl.

We were then introduced to the basic bows and chants.  While a half-bow is super easy (simply bending at the waist) a full-on monk bow is a work out.  To do this:  place your hands in front of you in a prayer pose.  Bend your knees, lowering yourself to the ground.  Place your forehead and elbows on the ground, along with your knees so that all 5 points are touching.  While keeping your elbows on the group, lift up on your hands.  Then return to kneeling, then standing pose, all without using your hands.  Repeat.  A million times.

We then took a tour of the grounds, which consist of a lot of small temple buildings, most used for praying, and some for sleeping.  The whole place was decorated in colorful lanterns, in preparation for Buddha’s birthday, which was May 10, a national holiday.

One of the temples, which housed 1,000 Buddhas.

Next, we went to the stream, where we were treated to an exercise in trust and patience.  First we had to partner up, with one partner wearing a blindfold.  We then had to hold hands and guide our partner over the stepping-stone rocks across the stream, which was actually a good distance.  We then switched and repeated this.  Thank god I trust Megan.  We got a good system going, which consisted of a lot of “little step, little step, little step, ok BIG step!”  And thanks to her, my feet stayed dry.  So did hers, for the record.  We also had a great time watching other people sticking their feet out and blindly moving it around, hoping to find a rock at the end.  Some got their feet wet, but sadly no one fell in.

I even trust Megan enough to take a good pic of me.

Then it was craft time.  No, really.  Under the supervision of monks who laughed at our sub par motor skills, we made lotus flower lanterns, and prayer bead bracelets.  While my lantern was a hot gluey mess, my bracelet is pretty sweet.  I wear it when I’m feeling all spiritual and what not.

Then it was gong-ringin’ time. After watching a highly skilled monk play a huge drum, we were allowed to go up and ring the gong, 2 by 2.  Which was pretty bitchin’.

Megan, in front of the beautiful structure that housed the drums and the gongs.

We then went to the pagoda statue/monument, where we said a prayer, and walked around the statue for about 15 minutes.  In silence.  Which was very peaceful.

We then had dinner.  All of the temple food is strictly vegetarian.  Also, the monks believe that not even a kernel of rice should be left on your plate, so you must only take what you will eat.  It is also frowned upon to talk during meal time.  Unfortunately, I misjudged the kimchi, and wound up with a lot of it on my plate.  I just couldn’t do it.  So I quickly gave my plate to the monks, apologized, bowed, and ran away.  (shrugs)

We then had tea time with our monk, a big jolly guy we got to hang out with all weekend.  Fact: I had to fight the urge to hug him all weekend.  We asked him questions, and a lot of the information was actually really interesting.  For example, most monks don’t decide to enter into the lifestyle until they are in their 30s or 40s.  And for the record, there are lady monks as well.  And monks are divided into 2 groups: those that meditate all day, and those that do administrative type tasks for the temple.

Fact: I love this man.

Divided once again into boys and girls, we retired to our separate rooms and went to sleep. At 9pm.  And once again, we slept on the floor.  Sunday, we were woken up. . . at 3 am.  Which just means it’s dark and kind of cold, and everyone is highly disoriented, but too tired to complain.

We went to the temple where we chanted and bowed with some of the monks.  Then we spent 30 minutes learning the art of mediation.  And of course the monk gave us a topic to think about, which of course everyone thought about for 5 minutes. . . before drifting off into thoughts of caffeine, internet access, and what to wear tomorrow.  Or was that just me?!  Either way, at least I didn’t fall asleep, like our program director who, impressively, snored loudly while maintaining his mediation pose.

Then we got hardcore.  It was time for the 108 bows.  Remember earlier how I described the full-on monk bow?  We did that.  108 times.  We bowed to an audio recording, which explained what each bow was for.  There were 4 sections, some asking for forgiveness for past transgressions, some discussing acceptance of our present lives, and some offering prayer and hope for our future.  And while I am highly skeptical of all religion, I thought this was extremely beautiful.  Mainly because the 108 different sayings and vows were so applicable to everyday life.  They were simple things we can all do to be better people; things like selflessness and getting rid of our own egos.  This was, surprisingly, my favorite part of the weekend.

It was also my cardio.  It took us 30 minutes, and by the end we were sweating.  So it was spiritually and physically cleansing.  And I was just proud to say I did it.

Then we had breakfast, which included a lot of ceremony.  We had to place our food in certain bowls, in certain ways.  We had to help pass out the food to each other.  We ate our small, vegetarian portions in silence (but please note, breakfast was delicious).  We then did a cleaning ceremony, in which we used a yellow radish (the bane of my culinary existence in Korea) and water to clean each bowl, before eating the radish and drinking the water in the last bowl.  Which was disgusting.  Because I hate yellow radishes.  And because the water tasted like yellow raddish, mixed with bits of leftover food from the other bowls.  So I thought of it like a shot – breathe out, drink it fast, and try not to puke at the end.

Surprisingly delicious.

We then did a few chores like sweeping and cleaning the dishes, before having free time, in which I napped.  Megan of course took a picture of me, because: “You looked like a dead child.  Or like a dead Ooompa Loompa.  Don’t worry, I took a picture.”


Next was our hike.  Please note, all of this is happening before 11 am.  Our monk led us up into the nearby mountains, for a fairly easy, relaxing hike.  We took a lot of pauses, where he asked people to sing songs. . . so we heard everything from Nelly to kindergarten chants we use for teaching.  The monk loved it.

The hike took place in the most beautiful woods I’ve ever seen.  It was straight out of a Disney movie.  The trees were huge and twisty, and the whole place was covered in purple flowers.  It was exceptionally beautiful.  And very peaceful.


After the hike, we had more free time, where I slept again.  Then another meal.  Then we changed into our regular clothes, turned on our cell phones, and boarded the bus.

After exiting the charter bus in Jukejon (much closer to my home than going all the way into Seoul) I wandered into one of Korea’s largest department stores, Shinsagae. (like Nordstrom’s rich, Asian cousin)  Despite being dirty and exhausted, I made my way to the Starbucks, where I finally injected some caffeine into my veins.

I was home napping and playing Carmen Sandiego by 4pm, despite having done a full day’s worth of activities, which made the weekend feel very, very long.  But wonderful.  It was peaceful.  And rejuvenating.  And I was proud of myself.

Another thing that keeps jumping out at me from the weekend was a particular girl on the trip, whose mom had come to visit her from America.  The mom was always joking with her daughter or playing with her hair.  And I couldn’t stop staring at the mom.  And then it hit me:  I haven’t seen my own mother in 8 months, and I miss her more than I even realize.  I was so jealous of this girl, whose mother was with her – I honestly didn’t realize how much I had missed those simple maternal gestures; like how my mama always touches my hair, or complements my outfit, or gives me a hug.  Let me tell you, it is very strange to go without that for so long.  Especially when, on a day-to-day basis, I find myself doing those same things to my kids (well the ones younger than 13, who still think it’s cool to hug the teacher).


While I was sleeping. . .

22 Apr

An entire month passed.  Without a single post.  And with many an angry Facebook post on my wall about said lack of blogging.  I apologize. . . at first I was just completely uninspired and I didn’t want to force out some super lame posts.  And then the days sort of turned into weeks, and now it’s been a month, and that’s just stupid.  So here we are.

So during the last 30 or so odd days, I’ve been:

-Watching NCAA basketball. . . at least until both Arizona and Kansas lost on the same weekend.  But I did log some pretty fun (early morning!) hours watching the games via laptop here. Highlights include a 4am watch-party date with Bossman, and a few (loud) expletives shouted while watching Arizona play Duke – while I was at work.

-Finishing my 30 Day Shred, which seems like a million years ago. That was possibly the most anti-climactic workout moment ever.  I finished the 30th day and thought “now what?”  Turns out, now means a normal workout routine to avoid any future 30 day shreds.


-Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day:  . . . at a festival in Itaewon with hundreds of my closest, drunken foreigner friends.  In order to pay homage to the Irish in the most authentic and sincere way possible, we got good and day-drunk.  We drank, listened to the bands, laughed at people, got 3rd degree tongue-burns while trying to eat some street food, and fell asleep on a bus.  And of course I also (once again) extolled the virtues of the Boondock Saints to Lauren.

Soju on the left. Orange soda on the right. Someone who's going to regret it in the middle.

-Going on ridiculous adventures: A few weeks ago, some friends and I joined a group tour to the south of Korea, where we hiked Jagged Ridge and went to the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival.  What was supposed to be a relaxing, nature-loving weekend turned into the near-death experience of a lifetime. More on this later, once my PTSD subsides.

-Planning more trips: This weekend I’ll be getting my zen on during a temple stay. And next weekend, our boss is bankrolling a company trip to Nami Island for some moral-boosting fun.  I can only hope this retreat includes both norebanging and trust-falling. More on both of these to come.

-Battling two serious addictions.  The first is with Dexter.  I avoided this steamy serial killer for years, but found myself completely hooked last month. Obviously I had no choice but to stay in and watch all 5 seasons.The first step is admitting that you are powerless to your addiction, after all.

Social-life killer/ serial killer

My second addiction happened just this week.  I have reignited my passion for Carmen Sandiego, travel, trivia, and wasting time all at once!  I’m obsessed – I play it at work until my computer dies.  Only then do I realize that I’m at work, and should in fact be working.

Where in the world is that saucy minx?

-And previous Cherry Blossom Festival aside, I’ve also been enjoying the cherry blossoms closer to home.  Namely, on the way to work everyday, and last weekend at Yeouido Park in Seoul – the place to be (especially if you’re a couple and you own matching outfits. No. Joke.)  I’ve never been much for plants of any kind. . . but cherry blossoms are amazing.  All beautiful and fluffy.  It’s finally spring.  And we finally have pretty stuff to look at.

If only I could have class outside

-Writing for the Go! Girl Guides site:  Despite my lack of motivation over here, I’ve kept up my weekly posts on all things Korea, women, and travel.  You can check out my stuff here

-And lastly, I’ve been battling some hardcore homesickness.  Oddly, it didn’t hit me until around the 6-month mark.  And then it hit me. Hard.  Definitely spurred on by the fact that my family went on an amazing Florida vacation without me.  And that Tator Tot is getting cuter (and chubbier!) by the day.  And that college basketball always makes me think of my parents, some of the most loyal Jayhawk fans you’ll ever meet.  Luckily, I’ve had some good Skype dates with the parents recently, and I’ve channeled the homesickness into excitement for our reunion in Thailand this July (Hooray! Elephant rides and bottled water for everybody!)

So there you go, all caught up on the last month.  I promise not to go all MIA again.   Here’s hoping your last 30 days were as fab as mine!