Wednesday, December 30, 2009


2010 is my year, baby! I can feel it. If you've been reading here for any length of time, you might have seen one or more of my escape attempts. They're sort of reminiscent of the castaways' efforts to leave Gilligan's Island. You might not be quite old enough to be a Gilligan's Island fan, so let me summarize, just in case: A small group of innocent victims volunteered for a short pleasant tour to an exotic location. Some of them HAD to go on the tour, because it was their job. The rest of them were just along for the ride. Alas, things did not go quite as they had expected: the weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed. Onto a deserted island, with a giant hole in the side. The boatmates, of varying attractiveness, intelligence, and temperament,made many, many, brilliant plans to get off the island, only to see them thwarted by ham-handed operator errors. Is any of this ringing a bell?

The similarities are striking, I think. All except the varying attractiveness intelligence and temperament part, of course. All the folks here in our little slice of paradise are exceptionally gorgeous and whip-smart, and super polite. Take my friend, Pam, for example. She just posted her Christmas pictures on Facebook, and she is a beaut, for sure. A right vision in her Christmas finery. All she needed was my festive Christmas ornament necklace and she could have been on the cover of Vogue. Hey, that reminds me! You guys are not going to believe this; I totally have to tell you! My Aunt Ina, who lives in the poshest part of Oregon, if such a thing can be said to exist, says that all the fancy gals in her town are wearing ornament jewelry! It's quite the trend among the smart set there. Can you believe how they ripped off my idea?!?!? They probably thought they would get away with it since I'm stuck on this island peninsula. Well, I'm onto them!

And I'm not done with Gilligan's Island, either. I just have to say here that they didn't have it so bad: there were plenty of coconut cream pies, stylish clean clothes and an efficient bicycle-powered dishwasher. The weather was beautiful, they had American radio and they were infectious disease free. Even the occasional visitor, some of whom looked exactly like one or more of them! I have none of those things here, people! And what I couldn't do with a body double, let me tell you. The possibilities are endless, and extremely intriguing. But you won't hear me complaining, no sir! Because this is the year I'm getting out of here. I know, I know, you're smart to be suspicious. I've been working on it for a while now, to no avail. You might remember the time I pretended I was crazy, or the time I tried to hitch a ride on Air Force One, or the time I seriously considered stowing away on our van as it headed out across the Pacific on a freighter, just to name a few zany episodes.

Hey, have you noticed how my thoughts are kind of wandering? That can be a sign of dementia, right? Maybe I should give that pretending to be crazy thing another go. I think I was really close to making that fly, don't you? It's my year, you know. And I'll try anything once twice.

Stories from Korea wishes you the very best 2010: May you have lots of pies, only good visitors and no midnight fire alarms.

Book Report

Poor old Osan, I know I mostly write about the lousy things. But there are a few sweet bonuses here if you look hard. Really hard. One of them is the library- it annoys me that it doesn't open until 10 a.m., but it IS open every day, unlike many stateside public libraries. Our community is small and a lot of people just use the library for internet access. I go several times a week and I rarely see anyone else checking out books, but there are always a bunch of people on the computers. That's good for me, because I can often snap up brand new books I'd normally have to wait months to read. Some books I've recently read are Ted Kennedy's 'True Compass' and Patricia Cornwell's 'The Scarpetta Factor'.

I have been devouring mysteries since the second grade when I read every single Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew novel even though they scared me so much I had to have my mom walk me down the hall to go pee even during the day. I actually don't read much fiction anymore, and I don't even know why I read Patricia Cornwell at all. Her Scarpetta books suck and each one is more outlandish and ridiculous than the last. And yet, I keep picking them up, I guess hoping she'll come up with one that's mediocre like the first couple of ones she did. I find that's true of many of the detective series I've read, and I'm pretty sure I know why. Writing is hard. Even this stupid blog. This post, for instance, I've had in a draft for five days, and I'm going to publish it as soon as I'm done, even though it's not very good. So I can really relate to what those overburdened popular novelists are going through with their big fat advances. I did recently read an exception: 'U is for Undertow' by Sue Grafton. I've read every one of her Kinsey Millhone mysteries since she started with 'A is for Alibi'. The early ones were pretty good, but they started to deteriorate around 'H' and get pretty lame around 'N'. But 'U', the latest one is the best of the bunch, really outstanding. For a mass market mystery series, I mean. Yeah, yeah, yeah, but I'm a lowbrow reader, you should know that by now. Here's a partial list of the detective series I have read, so you can offer me suggestions for new authors, if you're so inclined. I didn't love all of these but I did at least finish most of them:

Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone)
Faye Kellerman (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus)
Jonathan Kellerman (Alex Delaware)
J.A. Jance (J.P. Beaumont/Joanna Brady)
Nevada Barr (Anna Pigeon)
Patricia Cornwell (Kay Scarpetta)
Robert Parker
Dick Francis
Michael Connelly
Carol O'Connell (Mallory)
Ruth Rendell (Inspector Wexford)
Elizabeth George (Thomas Lynley)
Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum)
Dennis Lehane
Ridley Pearson
John Grisham
P.J. Parrish
Peri O'Shaugnessy
Kathi Reichs
Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child
Sara Paretsky (V.I. Warshawski)

Right now I am also reading Stephen King's latest giant novel, 'Under the Dome', also snatched from the new book shelf at the library. I passed up the latest Kingsolver for it, that's exactly how lowbrow I am. I would have taken them both; I do like a nice big stack of books but those two piled together are taller than my laundry mountain and that's a bit daunting even for me. Plus I think Kingsolver is overrated, though I did like 'Animal, Vegetable or Mineral'. I have read a lot of Stephen King and I can sort his books roughly into three categories: The Good (The Stand, It, The Talisman, Black House, The Green Mile, Firestarter, The Dead Zone, Bag of Bones, Christine, Duma Key, Misery, Pet Semetary, The Tommyknockers) The Bad (Cujo, Salem's Lot, Carrie, The Shining, From A Buick 8, Lisey's Story) and The Ugly (Needful Things, Insomnia, Gerald's Game, The Darktower/Gunslinger series, Desperation, Dreamcatcher, Rose Madder). For the most part, I think the 'Ugly' ones are the ones he wrote while in his coke phase and they are totally unreadable. The 'Bad' ones I just didn't like, or I thought they were too yucky. 'Under the Dome' is similar to 'The Stand', as they both focus groups of people who have been isolated in one way or another. I do like it, but I'm about a third of the way through it and it's getting pretty creepy in a 'Lord of the Flies' kind of way. Since I think Stephen King has a certain prescience and I live on a teeny tiny military base on a peninsula next to an evil empire, I am finding it increasingly alarming. I'll keep you posted, IF YOU CAN STAND IT.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


This is our last Christmas in Korea, so hurray! The season has gotten off to a slow start because we've been sick and grumpy. And in Korea.

But last night we went to the squadron Christmas party and it was awesome: tons of inappropriate behavior (not by me, this time), free lousy beer, karaoke renditions of a lot of old country songs, and a meal of 'Honey Grazed Ham'. What more could you ask for? I'm not really sure that they fed those pigs ONLY honey, because the truth in labeling laws here are pretty weak, but I really like to picture a field full of fat happy hogs slurping up honey off the ground. It sort of reminds me of myself, blissfully drinking tequila off the cleaning the floor.

The night started off with a bang. I was getting ready, and I went all out: the festive Christmas ornament necklace, eyeliner, shadow AND mascara, the works. I came out the bathroom and Weston was stunned:

Weston: Mama, you look brand new!
Me: Thanks, Sweetie.
Weston: Way prettier than regular!
Me: Thank you.
Weston: I really like the way you look. You look a lot more like Miss Janelle now. You look really different.

Ummm, okay, I think I get the picture: usually I'm a haggard wretch and but once I slop on a little pleasant-smelling oppression I look GREAT. Or not great, maybe, but a little more similar to my more attractive friend and neighbor. Thanks! I GET IT NOW. PLEASE STOP WITH ALL THE COMPLIMENTS. I'M BLUSHING.

Then, I won a ton of stuff in the raffle. Lloyd tried to stinge me out of tickets, but I wasn't falling for it, and it was a good thing. I won three blankets, and this little ceremonial Korean sword. I hate the sword, but luckily one of my friends was fond of it and I swapped it for some way better stuff that I would describe except for it might crimp my re-gifting style.

Tonight is Christmas Eve and we will open a few presents, then tomorrow we'll open the rest, then attend our final Christmas party in Korea. Now, that's merry! Merry Christmas to all of you from Korea!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I think we call agree that tequila is an extremely useful substance. Versatile, too. There's nothing better if you're looking to land yourself in a filthy bathtub with abrasions around your waist from diving through a very small bathroom window after running down a dark alley after a guy in a bronco offered you some wine coolers while he was chopping coke on a box of bullets with a giant hunting knife. Not that I would know. His name was Lloyd, too, isn't that a freaky slash creepy coincidence?

Anyhoo, that was a long time ago, and after that I wasn't much of a tequila fan, not that I'm any too picky about filthy bathtubs. But here at Osan, the best drinking is at the Chili's, and the wine selection is weak to say the least. So margaritas it is, and with a lot of effort, I have overcome my tequila aversion. Last night, I sat there for several hours with one of my favorite friends, and sucked down quite some volume of frozen green happiness.

After a few, I noticed something funny: I had a stinging sensation right in the middle of my upper lip. Right there where teeny tiny babies get their nursing blisters. The parallels astound, but I won't go into that here. I got to thinking, and when that happens, you know a brilliant idea is soon to follow.

So, here it is, and it kind of matches up nicely with my latest cleaning scheme. The tequila abraded my lip because it's caustic, right? Especially when you mix it with lime juice and salt! And I'm always looking for a way to clean the grout, the burnt on crud on the stove top, and the disgusting ring in the washing machine. Well, okay, that's a lie. I really couldn't care less about any of that. But I MIGHT try to get it off now that I have this tequila idea. We could share: one shot for the floor, one shot for me. One shot for the floor, two shots for me. It's not THAT outlandish; people do use vodka to clean, you know. You can read about it here. That would never work for me, though. I've worked really hard but I still haven't managed to vanquish my longstanding vodka phobia. I'm definitely willing to give it a try, but someone better come check on me in a few days.

Friday, December 18, 2009


I am so very relieved; there has been no apparent backlash against my anti-poetry tirade of the other day. I keep whirling around, trenchcoat flapping, to make sure there are no mad poets skulking around as I go about my daily business. So far, so good! I'm not THAT worried, I have an idea that any poet worth his or her salt would really stand out here. They're all dirty, with long scraggly hair and ugly little mustaches, right? And that's just the women. Hyuk, hyuk. There is definitely no one like that around here, so I'm moving on with my life free of a pervasive fear of deadly poets.

It's a good thing, too, because I don't have the energy to be afraid. Last night, Shane was awake in the night for hours. From approximately 01:22:17 to 03:34:22. We don't leave him alone to scream, though I can certainly understand the temptation, and so Lloyd was in there with him. Until Lloyd had to go to work at 02:45 in the icy snow, on foot, at the behest of a person I will call, ummm, 'Dick Schmucky'. It wasn't one of our Osan Schmuckys, of course, as they are all kindhearted souls who hand out fine chocolates and big fat cigars instead of late night assignments, but rather one of the Schmuckys from elsewhere. Lloyd couldn't drive to work because our van is on the slow boat to America (I would be dying of envy, or stowed away, but I get very seasick) and he couldn't bike because it was snowing and he has a road bike with skinny tires. The alarm blared, Lloyd had to get up, and Shane was still awake. Eventually, he drifted off to sleep while I lay frozen in position, terrified to move for fear the noise would start again.

We knew in advance that he was going to have to go in and also that Shane was likely to wake up, so we had a plan: Lloyd was going to sleep in the boys' room hoping to get Shane right back to sleep, because it seems to work better for him than for me, while I slept in our room with the alarm clock. It would go off, wake me, and I would go wake Lloyd up. All these complicated logistical arrangements are necessary because the last time Lloyd had to get up in the night to go to work, the alarm woke up everyone in the house except for him and I had to get up and shake him awake after I tried to flush the clock down the toilet to silence its hateful shrieking. Seriously, the sound is otherworldly. In fact, I call the thing 'the hateful clock' because it is so heinous. And, to make it better, we have two of them. They are atomic clocks, similar to this one, given to us several Christmases ago by my in-laws. Two of them, do you get it? One each, so that we can both get up on time, up and at 'em from our twin beds, located several rooms apart, right?

You can tell we need a lot of things here, but a new alarm clock is at the top of my list. Only not a regular, noise making alarm clock. I need something revolutionary: it should utilize some sort of pinching, poking or biting system designed to instantly wake Lloyd while simultaneously silencing his screams and dampening his thrashing so as not to wake me or the boys. I asked my Facebook friends for help, but they didn't really get what I was going for. One of my them did have a useful idea involving a stun gun and a gag. That might work, but I was thinking more of a timer-operated leg-trap type device. Oh, and he could sleep inside a soundproofed isolation pod. The in-laws would like that, and it would be easy to clean up the blood. I'm a little sleep deprived so my scheme could probably use a little work. As always, input is welcome here at Stories from Korea.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On Poetry

Ever since I wrote the last post, I've been feeling a little guilty about my disdain for poetry. I realize I also insulted a large percentage of my friends and some wonderful bloggers that I don't even know, but funnily enough, that doesn't bother me a bit.

I was a little delirious, but I seem to recall expressing some full-on hatred for poetry, and that's probably not quite accurate. I would hate to be responsible for an entire genre jumping off a cliff, you know. I don't actually hate poetry. I just hate other people's poetry, just like everyone else does. There are a very few exceptions, of course. My favorite poem ever is 'Patterns' by Amy Lowell, and I can certainly appreciate a nice lowbrow limerick. Literary poetry is another story entirely; I'm far too obtuse. If you have something to say, just say it! Or don't, I don't care, but don't write some cryptic missive about it and expect me to enjoy puzzling over it or appreciate your use of some weird words that no one ever heard of, okay? Here, click on this. It's called 'Wonder' and it's a prize-winning poem. What the hell, right? Crazy. I wonder, all right. I wonder what the hell you're talking about. Only I don't care enough to figure it out. Why don't you just make it easy on all of us?

I like the idea of poetry, and I like the puzzle-like aspect of it, where you try to fit an idea into a certain format, like a sonnet: fourteen lines, ten syllables each and a certain rhyming scheme. But when I'm done, I certainly don't expect someone to READ it. Sheesh. I don't want to see your completed crossword puzzle, after all, no matter how big and complicated it is. I better shut up now; I don't want any angry poets to come beat me up.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Let me just admit right up front here that I am only writing this post so that the poem won't be at the top. The photo of Lloyd on Air Force One during President Obama's recent visit to Osan is completely irrelevant to anything I'm typing right now, or anything that might or might not be residing in my head. I simply can't stand to have a terrible poem at the top of my blog. What if some fancy publisher is clicking through blogs, looking for someone to give a multi-million dollar advance to for a memoir? When I look at new blogs, I always leave immediately if there's any kind of poetry, because I hate poetry. Someone with the refined taste of a publishing house would no doubt have similar feelings.

If you are, in fact, such a reader, please be assured that there is much more than bad poetry in my repertoire. I invite you to peruse the posts listed on the upper right, or read 'My Life in Cats', which I especially like, but alas, is neglected up there on the right because it is neither particularly funny nor objectionable. Under no circumstances should you click on any of the 'Good Reads' or 'All the Latest' because all those blogs suck. Trust me, you wouldn't want to give your hard-earned cash to any of those clowns. Sure, they're funny, touching, wise, whatever. They can't hold a candle to Stories from Korea, and don't you forget it!

The rest of you might be pleased to hear that we're on the mend. Unless I just called you a clown. Sorry! Did I write that out loud? It's the sickness; I just can't control myself. Wankers. Dammit! I have to go; they're at the door with the nets again. They're always after the tortured, brilliant artists; it's so typical.


Don't say I didn't warn you! But at least it's short, right?

Woe to us, poor family
We've been sick an eternity
Coughing, choking, puking, more
Juice, tea, tissues galore
No wine, long sleepless nights
Grody meds and bitter fights
Hour upon hour of lousy shows
Day upon day of whiny no's
Meals are vile, drinks are worse
Why were we visited with this curse?
Alone, the laundry will kill me
What can it be, this vexing malady?
It's as bad as bad can be
It must be an Osan allergy!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Just so you know, we've all been sick for about a million years. Fever, earaches, stomachaches, dizzy spells, and coughing. Even vomiting, and not the good kind. And here's the scary part: I have a strange compulsion to write a poem about it, so you might want to steer clear of Stories from Korea for a few days. I don't want you to get sick, after all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I have decided I must have a syndrome. Everyone should have at least one, you know, and I've been looking for mine. Well, here it is: Order Aversion Syndrome (OAS). I'm pretty sure I've always had it, but new advances have allowed me to finally diagnose it. You might have it, too. In the hope that I can help others, I'll just tell you my story. I don't know how the disorder got started. My mother is tidy, my father is not untidy, my sister is obsessively extra-neat. My husband is tidy tidier than me, and so are my kids. For real, and that's bad.

My front closet floor is piled high with a mixture of shoes, boots, hats, coats, shopping bags and empty wine bottles. My pans are stored in three different places in the kitchen, intermixed with storage containers and mixing bowls. When I go to put one away, my disorder causes me to place it totally at random. I am unable to fold clothes or towels the same way twice. Sometimes I just shove things in drawers, of course, or just leave them in the laundry basket until Godzilla could hide in there, but sometimes I do fold. Usually when I'm trying to avoid something even more unpleasant. Because my disorder renders me unable to fold a series of items all the same way, my laundry stacks look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This, as you might imagine, is very unsatisfying, thus reducing the probability that I will fold again anytime in the near future. See how insidious it is? My books are piled willy-nilly on bookshelves in four rooms. Amelia Bedelia might be next to 'Bowling Alone', or she might be next to 'Positive Discipline' or she might be next to 'Rocks and Minerals'. Who knows? The disorder makes it a crapshoot every time!

Oh, I've tried all sorts treatments for the disorder, believe you me. I've bought an organizer and scheduled tidy tasks: clean the bathrooms on Tuesday morning; mop the floors on Friday afternoon, and so on. I've tried the Flylady, and really, she just annoys me. I've borrowed a friend's labelmaker and labeled all the shelves and drawers. I swear, she made it sound like the thing had magical powers, but unfortunately, it didn't transform my home into a serene oasis of order and beauty, although I DID think I saw a golden unicorn dancing around behind the dusty blinds. I was going to link to her here but then I realized she might get mad at me for making fun of her labelmaker. To be fair, it's a LOVELY labelmaker and I'm sure that any less-than-optimal outcomes were solely the result of operator error. And, of course, I've devised all sorts of brilliant labor-saving cleaning schemes, for which I am STILL unrecognized by the Nobel or any other prize committee.

But now, I'm done. Done trying to fit in. Done trying to conform to your orderly world. I don't have to have neatly folded clothes or pans that can be located. It's just not for me. And if it takes too long to find Amelia Bedelia, maybe we'll find Mrs. Piggle Wiggle where it fell down behind Little House on the Prairie, and read that instead, and that's order enough for me.

Friday, December 4, 2009


As you must surely be aware by now, Stories from Korea is an EXCELLENT place to get your handy household tips: parenting, cleaning, cooking, jewelry design and the like. I take this responsibility very seriously, indeed. Did I say 'responsibility'? I meant 'privilege', of course.

Our departure from Korea is getting ever closer. So close now that using months is meaningless, and a smallish number of days/weeks remain. Naturally, there are many, many things to do to get ready for our move, and I have been trying very hard to make sure that I am wasting my time doing jobs that will stay done rather than wasting my time doing work that will have to be done again tomorrow, or later today, such as dishes, laundry, cooking and bathing children.

This policy allows me to spend my time wisely, and gives me some unique opportunities. Think about it. Wouldn't you love to take that annoying ambulance with the ear-piercing siren that a so-called friend gave your kids and those holey sweatpants your husband insists on wearing every single day, and the book that will make you kill someone if you have to read it one more time (I'm talking to you, Toby's Alphabet Walk) and put them all in a giant trash bag, toss it in a dumpster and LEAVE THE COUNTRY? Oh, and the little pieces of toy sets that are scattered willy-nilly all over the house, the vase you've always loathed, the muffin pan with rust spots, and those pants that never fit right? Oh yeah, baby, buh-bye! And I have the perfect response if anyone starts asking nosy questions: 'Oh, no, Darling, it must have been lost in the move. Such a shame.' BWAHHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously, everyone should move away from Korea. I highly recommend it. And now, I must run. I'm out of trash bags and that simply will not do.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I feel clever, oh so clever.....

It's Tuesday, so naturally I was at the Thrift Store bright and early this morning. I scored some nice goodies: a Michael Kors skirt for $3, a few books, some crafting stuff for Weston, and a pair of cap guns. As I was about to check out, a particularly entertaining customer was talking to the staff, so I pretended I was looking in the glass case by the register so I could keep eavesdropping. You would not believe the characters that hang out at the Thrift Store here. Oh. Well, maybe you would. Never mind. Anyway, as I casually looked over the jewelry, watches and little trinkets, I saw it. The most beautiful three-strand shell pink necklace the world has ever known. I waited ever so patiently for the clerk to come get it out of the case for me, and then quickly checked the price tag. How much would it be? Five bucks? Ten?! Would it fit in my holiday budget?? My quivering fingers turned over the tag. $1.50, my friends; can you believe it? I snapped it up so fast the crazy Thrift Store people thought I needed medication.

I tried it on as soon as I got it home. Perfection in pink, it was. But something was missing. Just the littlest thing. Something, something, what was it? And then my eye fell on some of my Christmas ornaments. The little flesh-toned orbs I bought last year for the nursing-themed Christmas tree that the Breastfeeding Support Group entered in the decorating contest at the Officer's Club. They are all different skin colors: bronze, tan, chocolate, peach and pink. The perfect matching shade of pink. Could it be? It's so crazy it just might work, I thought. Trembling, I affixed the ornament to the center of the bottom strand of the necklace. It was just right. I felt BRILLIANT. If you have ever met me, you know that I have no talent whatsoever and that this stunning success is something on the order of Scooby Doo proving Fermat's Last Theorem.

Of course, not everyone can pull off a Christmas ornament around her neck, but I'm just the girl to do it. And, there's not a lot of places you can wear something so fabulous, but I'm working up a list: The BX, the Commissary, the library, the playground.....