Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Grandpa 10

Grandpa has the nerve to pass his cold on to me, then yell at me about how long it took me to get up this morning.
 
Grandpa: It is almost high noon, and y'all just now gettin' up. And why are you eatin' soup?
 
Me: You got me sick.
 
Grandpa: How'd I do that?
 
Me: You were sick, we're in the same house, and now I'm sick.
 
Grandpa: I didn't even come near you. So you can't put that on me.
 
Me: ...Ok, Grandpa. If you say so.

Learn to accept it and say "Thank You"

Tonight my Aunt Fay asked me if I was looking forward to going to Paris this coming summer. I told her that I'm too unsure and nervous to be excited about it. This is what she had to say to that:
 
A blessing is a free gift, so there's no need to be anxious about it when it comes your way. What are you going to do, turn it down? Sometimes it's hard for us to recognize and accept blessings because we don't feel like we deserve it, but obviously it must have been meant for you if it came to you in the first place. You can't do anything to earn a blessing, but what you can do is be grateful and thankful,  and show God that you're grateful and thankful.
 
 

Monday, December 30, 2013

100 Things That Happened This Year (part 2)

Y'all, this has proved to be so much harder than I thought it would be. It would've been easier to remember what happened throughout the year if I had been taking notes along the way. Maybe I'll do that next year? Anyway, for now, here's the rest of my list of happenings for 2013:
51) To my surprise, the good friends I've made since coming to college haven't gotten tired of me yet.
52) To my even greater surprise, I still managed to make new friends this year.
53) I received my first Rubik's cube.
54) I got out of Korean dramas (out of habit) and got back into Japanese ones (out of necessity).
55) I started cooking/baking for fun again!
58) I got a 3.5 in a class for the first time in my entire college career, and though I was disappointed and it lowered my GPA, it wasn't the end of the world.
59) I had a phone conversation with the professor who gave me said 3.5. She didn't change my grade (I hadn't tried to convince her to), but we had a really nice conversation about me being more vocal, about how much she respected me, and about how intelligent she thought I was.
60) I took a Korean history class through my school's rival. One of the most tedious yet interesting courses I've ever taken.
61) I FINALLY switched from iPhone to Android (Samsung > everybody else).
62) I read the book of Psalms. I read a number of other Old Testament books this year, but Psalms was my favorite.
63) I finally visited the Eli Broad Museum, aka the Spaceship.
64) Ma and I took pictures in a photo booth on my birthday.
65) I got a first-hand look at the foster care system which increased my sympathy for foster kids and my respect for social workers. It also further convinced me that I'd never want to be a social worker.
66) I took a Zumba class for the first time.
67) I was introduced to the wonderful world of "performance studies" and "ethnomusicology".
68) I applied, interviewed, and got to the final round of considerations for a research assistantship translating French-language documents from post-WW2.
69) I tried out for an acapella group on campus.
70) Working at an animal shelter led me to discover that I'm probably allergic to cats.
71) I shopped (thrifted?) at Goodwill on a whim.
72) I accepted the fact that though its arrogant and pompous school will always suck for being arrogant and pompous,  Ann Arbor is a far superior city to EL/the state capital.
73) Fruitvale Station, The Butler, 12 Years a Slave. Each of these films left me emotional.
74) Ma set the table for Thanksgiving and put up a wreath for Christmas, two things that haven't happened since I was a kid.
75) I got my grown-up driver's license and I liked the way I looked in the picture.
76) I saw Balé Folclórico da Bahia perform live (their 25th Anniversary Show "Bahia of All Colors").
77) Two different administrators at my school encouraged me to apply for National/International Fellowships and Scholarships. Never followed up on it because I decided they weren't for me, but I appreciated the gesture.
78) I considered auditioning for 'The Voice'.
79) I decided that if I ever did audition for 'The Voice', I would sing this song.
80) I got off one high horse and started drinking pop again, but only occasionally. 
81) I stayed on another high horse and refused to drink alcohol, even though it's legal for me now.
82) Some selfish fool hit my car and ran, and I was really shocked and frustrated about it at first. But then I figured, You know what, this is what people do, they break things. And now I can look at my dented front bumper and laugh.
83) I used a planner for the first time since high school.
84) I read a children's book for the first time since... well, since I was a child myself.
85) My aunt let me have a family portrait of me and my parents from 1994 as an extra birthday/Christmas present. Sometimes snooping does pay off.
86) I worked an art festival convincing strangers to let me take pictures of them in yoga poses.
87) A really nice young stranger stopped to tell me his life story, and even though I kind of dropped the ball, that experience was a really great lesson in humanity.
88) Ma and I went to the Detroit Jazz Festival for the first time!
89) I won the bidding for a picture of a Senegalese boy atop his camel at a student African photo exhibit.
90) I climbed one mountain, and attempted to climb a second one. Both of which were in Kyoto.
91) I met a very special person named "L".
92) I became friends with another very special person named "Ivy".
93) My dad sent me books for Christmas (I don't think he's ever done that before).
94) My dad sent me a hand-written letter (he's definitely never done that before).
95) I got my first physical copy of a Tokyo Jihen CD.
96) I shopped for myself at Macy's for the first time.
97) I exchanged cards with a stranger on my birthday.
98) I biked 9 miles for the first time in over four years.
99) It might not seem wise, but my first time walking two dogs at once was with a pair of pit bulls this fall. Other than sore arms from being pulled through the woods, they didn't give me any trouble.
100) I spent a month trying to come up with a "100 Things" list, and it's helped me realize that even though I tend to think of my life as boring and static, I've actually had quite the colorful year.

Thanks for taking the time to read about my year. Best wishes to you all in 2014. Be Happy and God Bless!

100 Things That Happened This Year (part 1)

I saw that someone had done a list like this on Facebook, and I thought it would be a good thing to do to help me reflect on this year and be more grateful. Y'all should give it a try too if you have the time. If today and tomorrow won't give you enough time, there's always next year. Anyway, here goes, in no particular order:
1) I started practicing yoga.
2) I started this blog.
3) I went to Arizona for a week.
4) I went to Japan for two months.
5) My dog turned 10.
6) I turned 21.
7) My mom decided to stop relaxing her hair.
8) I told a few people about this blog, and a few started reading it.
9) I took the JLPT.
10) I moved into a single room in my dorm, just me myself and I.
11) I went to a Christian conference that changed my life.
12) I joined an Asian Christian fellowship/bible study group and became acquainted with some pretty cool people.
13) I told my best friends about my secret, super embarrassing dream of becoming a singer-songwriter.
14) I started writing songs again.
15) Madiba passed away, and I cried.
16) I started seeing a therapist.
17) I participated in a Japanese-English blog project and got paid for it (my first time earning money in college!).
18) I became a volunteer at an animal shelter.
19) I changed churches.
20) I discovered Fela Kuti.
21) I read 3 French-language novels, 2 French-language plays, and 4 French-language short stories
22) I stopped calling my dad on the phone.
23) I decided that I definitely do not want to go to grad school anytime soon.
24) I auditioned for the Black Power Rally.
25) I joined YouTube and Instagram again.
26) I had a pretty spectacular karaoke night with my best friends for my birthday.
27) Ma, me, Madison, Ma's friend, and her daughter had an all-girls Thanksgiving together.
28) I started watching TV regularly again/keeping it on for background noise.
29) I went to a club for the first time, and met Talib Kweli!
30) My president started his second term.
31) I read over 20 books.
32) I developed a crush on a guy friend of mine, but got over it quickly.
33) I came to enjoy eating tomatoes.
34) People remembered my birthday.
35) I started planning out two of my life goals. (Ms. founder/CEO, here I come!)
36) I had a really terrible roommate experience. But it taught me a lot about myself and how to deal with difficult people/people in general.
37) I got a marketing internship but then gave it up because it didn't feel right to me, and I knew I couldn't commit to it like I'd thought.
38) Japanese/Asian-style karaoke!
39) Ma booked us a trip to San Francisco.
40) I was able to spend time with my friends from elementary/middle/high school in between returning from Japan and heading back to school.
41) I didn't have to pull an all-nighter (never have).
42) Milk tea, Japanese curry, green-tea flavored snacks, and takoyaki!
43) I finally got up the courage to go to French conversation tables at my school.
44) The University of Loo-uh-vuhl won the NCAA Championship and I made sure folks knew about it.
45) Summer Skype dates with Ma every Thursday, 7 PM Japan Time.
46) I got a video camera and actually used it for a little while.
47) I developed a strange fondness for public transportation (thanks to JR trains, subways, the Shinkansen).
48)  My family did a collective fast.
49) I got my first parking ticket.
50) I started keeping a daily journal because Sue told me to, and it's turning out to less of a task than I thought it would be.

Check out part 2 to find out what else has happened for me in 2013!

Disney's Strategy: Scare some sense into them

Watching the part in The Little Mermaid where Ariel signs the contract with Ursula, is stripped of her voice, and turns into a human.
 
Ma: This movie's supposed to be for kids, but it's a little too scary if you ask me.
 
Me: What are you talking about? That's what Disney does! Use fear to teach kids lessons. How else will they learn?
 
Watching the part where Ursula becomes ruler of the sea and turns into a gigantic raging sea monster.
 
 
Me: Uh... was this movie as scary when I watched it before? I don't remember it being like this.
 
Ma: See? I told you!
 
 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Grandpa 9

My family is talking and joking over breakfast.
 
Uncle R: Y'all sure are doin' a lot of coughin' and sneezin' around here. Stay away from me, I don't know y'all.
 
Aunt D: I know that's right.
 
Grandpa (to Aunt D): You the one who brought all that mess here.
 
Aunt D: Pops, if I got it,  I got it from you.
 
Grandpa: Naw, that was you. Soon as you called to say you were on the road comin' here, I got sick.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

On Repeat: "Doin' It Right"

I know this song has been out for a while. I don't keep up with Daft Punk, so please excuse my being late on this.

"Doin' It Right" came on while I was at the mall yesterday, and as it played I couldn't help bobbing my head along with it. I kept thinking, Hmm, this is different. I like it. But I couldn't figure out who was singing it. When I looked it up, I found out that it was Daft Punk featuring a musician who calls himself Panda Bear.

At first, I misheard part of the lyrics as:
If you lose your way tonight that's how you know your path is bright

When really, it goes:
 If you lose your way tonight that's how you know the magic's right

But it's the same sort of message, so I wasn't too far off. This song is on Daft Punk's 2013 album Random Access Memories. And as to be expected from them, it's a groovy tune that encourages listeners to just let go and see what happens. What a great message to consider as we close out this year and prepare for the new one.

Merry Christmas, everybody!


My Grandpa 8

Ma gives Grandpa a disclaimer as he opens his present from us.

Ma: Now your gift this year is eclectic. Everything in that box don't go together.

Grandpa (pauses unwrapping his present and stares at Ma): Is that how life is now?

My Grandpa 7

I've finished opening all my presents.
 
Me: Wow,  I've received so many thoughtful and practical gifts this Christmas. I hadn't expected to get so much from people.
 
Grandpa: Well, like I told you this is the last one. You're 21 now. After this year, it's flat.
 
Me (grinning): You mean no one's going to give me anything?
 
Grandpa: Nope.

My Grandpa 6

I'm opening a present from my aunt, which includes a black backpack with white crosses all over it.
 
Me: Ahh yay! I was about to pay $40 for one of these yesterday at the mall, and now I've got one with crosses on it!
 
Grandpa (glancing at the bag and then back at me):  Are you holy?
 
Me:...I'd like to think so.
 
Grandpa: You not supposed to think about it. If you holy you supposed to know!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Grandpa 5

At an unusually crowded restaurant, one of the few that's open on Christmas Eve around here.
 
Hostess: Name, please?
 
Grandpa: ___well.
 
Hostess (starts to add us to her list of waiting parties, then stops): How do you spell that?
 
(Grandpa obliges, but she only manages to jot down a number of misspellings despite his corrections. The best she can do still has "___well" written as  ___wbll.)
 
Grandpa (mumbling to me as we sit down to wait): We need to send her back to school.

My Grandpa 4

Grandpa (comes up behind me and whacks me on the head with his medicine bag): Girl, we gon' have to send you to Sudan if you keep wearing that thang on your head.
 
By "that thang", he means the turban I've been wearing on days where I don't feel like combing my hair down, such as today.

My Grandpa 3

Grandpa: 'Bout to get these lemon pies out the way so I can have a break.
 
Me: Can I help?
 
Grandpa: When was the last time you were in a kitchen?
 
Me: Uh... a few months ago, I guess.
 
Grandpa: (silence...)
 
 
Needless to say,  he didn't let me help.

My Grandpa 2

I'm watching both 'Martin' on TV and Grandpa as he makes a pie.
 
Martin: Two years ago, before I met my girlfriend, I tried to sleep with my neighbor Sheneneh.
 
Grandpa (giggling): How he gon' sleep with hisself?

My Grandpa 1

Grandpa and I have been on the exact same page when it comes to cereal preferences,  since I was a young'n. From childhood til about middle school, it was General Mills Honey Nut Clusters. Since middle school to this day, it's Kellogg's Smart Start.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Let your words be anything but empty"


Hers are the words that I sometimes wish someone would stop me on the street and say. I tear a little  every time I hear this song. Thank you, Sara.

Unconditional Love

"I love you just because you exist." - Dark Girls (2012) 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

ドラマ (Dorama) Time! 3

Now that I've FINALLY finished 'Starman', I'll share my favorite from the last round before moving on to the current one. (I know, it's almost winter and I'm still evaluating dramas that I watched during the summer, but as usual schoolhasdevouredmylife so cut me some slack.) Now, as for the dramas I actually finished: 'Juui Dolittle' was great but a little corny at times. 'Gekiryuu' ended with nearly all the mysteries solved, and all the characters having endured challenging changes, learned life lessons, reconciled with their pasts and decided to move on. 'Starman' shifted its emphasis from science fiction to family/friend relationships and got a little sappy and silly toward the end, but overall the drama was still fantastic! So 'Starman' wins.

The following are dramas that I started either toward the end of summer or during this semester. This time around is going to be a little different, because I've already finished all the dramas below. I'll select the "winner" at the end.

Woman - NTV/2013

I honestly can't remember why I started watching this drama, other than because I read that its ratings were high and that Oguri Shun ('Juui Dolittle') was in it. 'Woman' is a heart-wrenching drama centered upon a single mother's struggle to come to terms with her husband's death, make ends meet, and raise two children with little help. She constantly puts herself last and endures one hardship after another, but she makes sure to put on a cheerful face in front of her children so that they don't worry. This drama is also about family, as the woman (named Koharu) reluctantly reconnects with her estranged mother, stepmother, and half-sister. The process of reconciliation incurs a number of setbacks, as Koharu learns some ugly truths about her father, discovers how her husband really died, and learns that she has cancer. It all sounds like a lot to handle, but what I loved about this show is that none of the dramatic moments or events are overdone. The acting is superb and the story is laid out in a realistic manner, putting the spotlight on a sector of the population (single moms) that doesn't tend to get as much attention in Japanese society.


Summer Nude - Fuji TV/2013

Literally, the only reason I started watching this drama was because Karina is in it. She's a very recognizable actress and she's one of my favorites. I really didn't know or care what the drama was about until I watched the first episode. After watching I realized that the show featured Yamashita Tomohisa ("Yamapi") as its male lead, whom I vaguely recognized as a popular singer-songwriter/idol-turned-actor. So basically, given its cast (which includes another favorite actress of mine named Itaya Yuka),  'Summer Nude' was expected to be a summer hit. The show is a light-hearted romantic comedy about love and friendship. Karina plays Natsuki, a chef who quits her career to become a wife, but is left by her groom on her wedding day. Asahi (Yamashita), a photographer, snaps a photo of her at the worst moment of her life. Afterwards, Natsuki retreats to a beachside town to run an old friend's restaurant for the summer and sort her life out. Asahi also lives there, and the two become acquainted through their shared group of friends. What follows amongst this group of young friends is a number of love triangles, confessions of unrequited love, an inability to move on from past relationships or failures, and some determined steps taken by each character toward following their dreams. Moving along at a steady pace, this drama is very easy to watch and features a number of storylines that help you feel connected to each character in some way. The only thing I don't get is the show's title. What in the world is 'Summer Nude' supposed to mean? Maybe because summer is a time for letting go of inhibitions and exploring possibilities, "nude" is supposed to represent being free, open, and vulnerable? That's just a guess, but I really have no clue.


Legal High (リーガルハイ) - Fuji TV/2012

Last but not least is this fun legal drama/comedy. I read the hype about this drama when it first came out. But the lead actress (Aragaki Yui) had also played a lawyer a couple dramas before this one, and since I'd just watched that show, I didn't want to see what I thought would be the same role played over again. Oh, was I wrong! Rather than a domineering career woman, Aragaki plays a rookie lawyer who has high ideals concerning justice and morality. After leaving her first law firm, Mayuzumi Machiko ends up becoming the associate of Komikado-sensei, known as Tokyo's top lawyer who has never lost a case. Though he is an excellent lawyer, he's also a petty, rude, conceited, insufferable know-it-all who's not above tricking people or paying bribes to win his cases. He also only takes on cases from which he knows he'll receive an exorbitant fee to fund his wealthy lifestyle. The two constantly bicker while battling against their mutual enemy, the firm for whom both Mayuzumi and Komikado used to work. This drama is refreshing because not only is a different societal issue addressed in each episode, but this comedy is actually funny! I don't remember watching any other Japanese drama that's made me laugh so much.  I will definitely be watching this show's second season, which actually just ended yesterday.

It's tough to pick my favorite this time around because all of these shows were wonderful in their own way. In terms of which drama held my attention most, I'd have to go with 'Legal High'. But because it reminded me of my mom and her struggles as a single mom, 'Woman' comes at a close second.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

BOOKS! (The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea)

This is only my intoduction to Mishima's work, but I can already tell why he's regarded as one of Japan's most important 20th-century authors. In this book he displays a mastery of descriptive writing and a remarkable ability to make commonplace situations violent and absurd. A woman who's lived as a widow for five years with her 13-year-old son falls in love with a sailor and decides to marry him, but her son rejects both the sailor and the relationship. Sounds ordinary, right? Try that when the woman fools herself into believing that her life is wholesome, the sailor can't give up his obsession with the sea, and the kid is a voyeur who has teenage sadists for friends.
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima
13-year-old Noboru idealizes the sailor and the sea. The one, masculine, is the ultimate emblem of manliness. The other, feminine, is both a temptress and the ultimate emblem of freedom.
He hangs out with a group of intelligent yet morbid and cruel boys his age who reject the adult world and are obsessed with objectivity, death, blood sacrifice, and (sick-and-twisted) heroism. They have ideals that are impossible for adults or any other simple humans to satisfy, let alone understand. They are convinced that they are geniuses and that they control the world and reality, which are both certainly and irreparably empty. Also, they have a particularly unyielding disdain for fathers.
As the owner of a luxury clothing store, Noboru's mother Fusako lives by pretense, image, and style. But when she meets a sailor named Ryuji, she develops a sexual relationship with him which quickly becomes romantic and serious. She then finds herself struggling internally. On the one hand, she wants to be a respectable widow, mother,  and businesswoman. On the other, she desperately needs to assuage her loneliness by giving herself physically and emotionally to the man she loves.
Noboru and his mom's lover have one point in common, in that they both see the sea as a gateway to the infinite. Ryuji has derived his identity as a man from his life at sea. He draws correlations between manhood/glory, glory/the sea, the sea/freedom, love/death, glory/death, and woman/glory/death. All of these concepts are inseparable in his mind. He settles down with Fusako, but he still feels the sea calling him and is not sure if he made the right decision to give up the sailor's life.
Noboru's disdain for Ryuji grows as he becomes more involved with Fusako, moves in, and assumes the role of man of the house. Not only has he intruded upon Noboru's life and territory, but the once-bright heroic sailor has degenerated into a mere lowly "landsman". His resentment toward his mom and soon-to-be stepdad is intensified by the fact that Noboru has been spying on them having sex from the very beginning. When the couple announce their marriage to Noboru, he and his comrades agree that the sailor must be destroyed. I'll choose not to spoil what happens in the end.
This book is beautifully written. So beautifully that the intense moments of yearning and violence ebb and flow to the reader seamlessly and almost unexpectedly, like waves. It's not terribly difficult to get through, but it can take a while to understand what all is going on and get a grasp of each character's story/mentality. If you want a concise yet profound read that will leave you asking "What in the world did I just read?!" at the end, this is for you.
Favorite quotes:
"...essentially he belonged neither to the land nor to the sea. Possibly a man who hates the land should dwell on shore forever. Alienation and the long voyages at sea will compel him once again to dream of it, torment him with the absurdity of longing for something that he loathes. Ryuji hated the immobility of the land, the eternally unchanging surfaces. But a ship was another kind of prison" (p. 16).
"[Fathers] stand in the way of our progress while they try to burden us with their inferiority complexes, and their unrealized aspirations, and their resentments, and their ideals, and the weaknesses they've never told anyone about, and their sins, and their sweeter-than-honey dreams, and the maxims they've never had the courage to live bythey'd like to unload all that silly crap on us, all of it!" (p. 136-137).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sessions with Sue 3

Today we mostly talked about my habit of denying myself and suppressing my musical passions in favor of safer, more quantifiable options. I'm fearful and I'm too serious, and that part of me often dominates over what can be healthy for me. Here are a few notes that I took from our conversation:
  • Need to build trust in yourself, to know that what you believe in won't be taken from you so easily.
  • All you need to know is "I want to sing." Own it. You're not an imposter or faking it. It belongs to you. Put it out there, and the universe will open up for you.
  • PLANT THE SEED! (And don't make excuses.)
  • If you could internalize "I'm smart, I'm a good student," why can't you internalize "I love to sing, I'm a good singer"?
  • One day, you'll get to a place where you're not afraid of your father's anger.
  • Great artists take pain and turn it into something that's manageable.
  • Maybe you're not as fragile as you think you are.
  • You deserve more than one tissue; that's what therapy's about.

Deck the Door








Whaa? The lady who never decorates for Christmas got a wreath?? With baubles? AND bells?? Ma's moving on up!



Took me aaaall the way back!

 
Was on my way to freedom (read: driving home from school after my last final). Mix 92.3 dropped this on me and I wasn't ready! Y'all don't even understand, Brandy and Moesha were my ABSOLUTE FAVORITES when I was little! I forgot how good real R&B feels!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Washing Dishes

Just a cloth, some soap and water, and a little pressure.
 
Feeling the warm water soak your hands and slip through your fingers.
 
Calm as you notice bubbles emerging, disappearing, and then forming again.
 
Stains fall away from steel and plastic and glass, almost without putting up a fight. Soon it's as if they were never there to begin with.
 
In a trance as you watch the work of your hands, making things clean.

Or spotless, clear, pretty, perfect, beautiful, right... whatever adjective that just doesn't seem to describe you or your life no matter how hard you try. 
 
Then you're done. And now you can say that, even if small and inanimate, at least you were able to make something clean.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Madiba

Came across this on one of the guys' floors in my dorm. Dude's got skills. And here I was, thinking that young people didn't care about anybody or anything that really mattered. This is beautiful.



Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sessions with Sue 2

Yesterday we talked about a lot of things, but one very important topic did emerge from our conversation. This was the topic of masks.

On Thursday I went to ACIV's last meeting for the semester, and the guest speaker was a hilarious and intelligent young black Texan named Sean. Speaking from the theme of "faking it", he discussed 3 main masks that people hide behind on a daily basis.

People use the "Fine Mask" when something is wrong or has changed, but they don't want to acknowledge it. (Consider the daily American conversation: "Hi, how are you?" "I'm fine, how are you?" "I'm fine".) These people are isolated and do not allow themselves to be honest with others. This is me. On the other hand, perhaps people do acknowledge something's wrong, but don't know how to fix it. They might employ the "New Mask", going from one new thing to the next new thing, trying to fill their emptiness (Consider friend-hopping, mate-hopping, trend-hopping, always coming up with a new hobby or career, going to conference after conference, reading every self-help book under the sun. This list isn't exhaustive). These people often feel empty or like a lost cause, because nothing seems to be working. People are also known to use a "Good Mask", by which they try to demonstrate that they are good people or are better than others. (Consider attending church, having morals). These people often judge others based on what they personally choose not to do. I am ashamed to say that this is also me.
 At the end of his message, Sean passed out green paper masks to each of us in attendance. He told us to prayerfully reflect on what our individual masks were and then write them down on the green ones in front of us. I was too embarrassed to write mine down, so I took my notes form Sean's message and the green paper mask to my appointment with Sue yesterday, and she had me do the exercise then. I found that my main masks are:
  • Outward positivity/being positive for others
  • Composure
  • Good grades/achievement
  • Being okay with everything and everybody
I rely on these in order to protect myself and maintain a distance between myself and others. Sue explained to me that neither my masks nor my motivations for employing them are inherently damaging or dangerous. The all have good and bad to them. The issue for me is that I let the dark sides of them control my life in such a way that I tend to hide from people and be dishonest with them and myself.

So yeah, that's where I am right now. Sue had mentioned me developing a personal wellness plan, and to start she wants me to write a journal everyday about how I'm feeling and what I'm thinking about my behavior, particularly in regard to ways that I estrange myself from others. We'll see how this goes.

I have friends, and they love me!

We even sing together sometimes!

Last night/this morning I had a wonderful time laughing and singing and yelling at a noraebang (a super-secret-hidden Korean karaoke spot that was surprisingly nice given its shady location).

 
I'm so blessed to have been able to spend time with some of my favorite people. It really meant a lot to me that all of us were finally able to be together at the same time.

Thanks for celebrating my birthday with me! I love y'all!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

BOOKS! (Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts)

This is the other book I was able to read for leisure recently. When I was in the arts track at Compelling, one of the staff members used passages from this book to teach her lesson. I snagged the last copy at the conference bookstore at the end of that weekend.

Imagine: A Vision for Christian in the Arts by Steve Turner

This book is meant to encourage Christian artists not to confine themselves in regard to the art they do or how they receive others' art. In other words, Christians don't just have to create and appreciate what has been designated to be "Christian art". We need to lighten up! God is the creator and master of all things, which means he rules over art as well. He can work through various kinds of arts and artists, and that includes artists who are considered heathens, back-sliders, non-believers, or even atheists. Art doesn't always have to have a point, and when it does, it doesn't always have to become a sermon.

Truth is what matters most, and as Turner writes, truth doesn't just belong to believers. Of course, Christians have a duty to fortify their faith, continuously seek God, and not submit to worldly thinking. But this does not mean that they should shut themselves out from the world and the people in it. Christians also have a duty to harness their human creativity, create, and connect. Ultimately, the divine purpose of art is to communicate or tap into truth in a way that makes people reflect on human experience and think beyond themselves. Art helps people see things differently.

This book is a relatively short read, but offers a wealth of wisdom for Christian artists or supporters of the arts who struggle with the questions What is art supposed to be?Is God in all art? and How far is too far?

Favorite quotes:
"...we should look at works individually. Rather than asking, Is this artist saved? ask Is this piece of work technically excellent? Is it a valid expression of the artist's view of the world? Are form and content well integrated? Is truth communicated?" (p. 11)
"Some art is simply playful. It may be about nothing more than itself. It attempts neither to tell a story or to make a point.... To some Christians, this is a wasted opportunity, a sermon with no content, a Bible exposition with no substance. But playfulness is an important component of art and perfectly in keeping with a Christian understanding of creativity. Look at the animal kingdom. Can't we sense a spirit of playfulness in the designs?.... 'God,' Picasso once said, 'is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant, and the cat. He has no real style. He just keeps trying other things'" (p. 53-54)

BOOKS! (How to Be Black)

Recently I did something unprecedented since coming to college. I read for leisure, and I didn't even have to wait for a major school break to do it! In one week I read two books, and they had absolutely nothing to do with my classes. It felt like I was reconnecting with my old bookworm self, and it was blissful. First up is an honest work that is sure to get people talking.

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston

This book is a New York Times Bestseller, and even though it's only been out for just under two years, I read that it's also in the process of being made into a TV show. Pretty cool, right? It's always inspiring to see creators get recognition for their work. Plus, I have a semi-personal connection to this because my yoga teacher is Thurston's older sister. Small world. Moving on...

Deliberately released during Black History Month (a.k.a. February) of 2012, How to Be Black is part biography, part social commentary on the joys, struggles, and realities of being black, and part group discussion. When addressing certain issues or experiences Thurston includes input from a group of his comedian/writer/artist/activist/conscious people friends, which he refers to as "The Black Panel." As can be deduced from the title, most of the people on this panel are black. But for the benefit of white readers, Thurston also included one of his white Canadian friends just to be "fair". (Because you know, for some white people nothing is truly diverse and conversations about race are never  fair if they don't include them. Sorry, Thurston's sarcasm must be rubbing off on me. Moving on.)

Let me say right off: This book does NOT teach people how to be black. Thurston basically chose this title for its shock value to get people interested in it. What this book really does is humorously yet intelligently discuss what it can often be like to be black.  This includes dealing with non-black peoples' often low, demeaning, or constraining expectations of us. Thurston's primary goals are to drop knowledge and make readers laugh. To an extent, he sheds some light on "our" story by telling us his story.

This is also not a "we hate white people" piece. (Everything isn't always about y'all, believe it or not. Sorry, sarcasm again. Moving on...) In addition to poking fun at how little most white people understand us, he offers an over-arching lesson or theme: "Being Black" means whatever we as black people want it to be. We can make anything "something that's black" or "something that black people do", because no matter what we're doing we'll always be black while doing it. We must not confine ourselves to the narrow definitions of blackness that we use against each other, and worse, those same narrow definitions that non-black people continue to set for us. We still have a lot of progress to make in this country, and we can't do it alone. The key is knowing and loving ourselves proudly, making ourselves seen and heard, and being willing to help non-black people understand us so that we can all collaborate better.
If you're curious about "the black experience" or just want something funny yet intellectually stimulating to read, I highly recommend this book. It might also bring you some fun times as you catch strange looks from people who see you reading it in public, if you choose to do so. My favorite chapters are "How to Be the Black Friend", "How to Be the Angry Negro", "How to Be The (Next) Black President", and "How's That Post-Racial Thing Working Out for Ya?".
Favorite quotes:
"Since then [the 1960s] there's always the concern that our nation's black population will rise up Nat Turner-style and exact revenge through violent revolution. Much of this rage has been effectively muted and channeled into commercial hip-hop, unrealistic dreams of professional sports careers, and daily doses of poison masquerading as nutrition in the form of poorly stocked grocery stores and fast-food businesses in black neighborhoods. There's just not a lot of rioting energy left, with so many distractions" (p. 188).
"It shows our values as a culture when somebody says, 'I don't want to be called a racist.' Really what they're saying is, 'I want you to like me. I don't want to not be liked. I want to still be okay with you.' They don't mean, 'What I really want is to know and understand experiences of people of color so I don't sound ignorant.' That would be great. And so, it shows that, as I have said, we are operating at this third-grade level of race relations. And it's that third-grader that goes, 'Please like me, do please like me,' versus 'Can I understand?'" (p. 243). 

95.

"Bring back Nelson Mandela, bring him back home to Soweto..."

Rest in Peace.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Things People Give Me #8 (Birthday Edition!)

I wasn't going to do this for my birthday, because I like to write about occasions when I receive something unexpectedly (as opposed to on a day when people are supposed to give me things). But I know that I haven't written one of these posts in a while, and I wanted to share this humbling experience with you.

As you know, yesterday was my birthday. But it was also the birthday of a residence hall staff member who lives on the same floor as me. Let's call her G. Two days ago I was really stressed and wanted to do anything but work, so I figured, why not make a birthday card for G? I did, but it was very basic and plain. A half sheet of printing paper folded in half, with a flower drawn on the front and a short message on the inside. The message went something like, I know I don't know you, but I saw that today's your birthday. And since we have the same birthday, well... Happy Birthday! Something like that.

I forgot to mention that I've never met G. I learned about her birthday from a bulletin board in the hallway a while back. Yesterday morning, I slipped the card under her door and went about my day.

This afternoon, I returned to my room after classes and found that this had been slipped under my door.

G made me a card in return! How kind is that? Hers is like a supercard, though. She wrote a message in a real card, then stapled it inside of a construction paper card that she had cut out and decorated. It opens like a book, with candy canes taped between the construction paper and stock pages. Her message:
Danielle,
Thanks so much! It meant a lot. Next Semester I will try my hardest to get to know you and the other girls.... I wish you a very Happy Birthday as well. I'm glad you're here also.
Sincerely, G
P.S.- I didn't know what flavor you liked so please enjoy both. :) I hope you like them. I know I do. The orange one is sour patch kids. :)

Wow. This was such a wonderful surprise. Maybe I should make birthday cards for strangers more often. Thanks for your kindness and creativity, G!

"Shining for the World to See..."

I woke up this morning with this song in my head, and it's been with me all day. Shine brightly, y'all. :)


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

21.

smile.21.poke.sillyface
I'm honored to be alive.

For me, every year there's always something wonderful about walking around on December 3rd and knowing Today is my birthday.

Any complaint or negative thought I could have, I just follow it with, "...but it's my birthday!"and it's like everything's all better. It makes me giddy.

Last night I was feeling really down, for no significant reason. I was tired and stressed. But midnight came, and I saw that "12/3" on my alarm clock, and nothing else mattered. I called Ma at that moment. She didn't even say hello; she just answered the phone singing "HAAAAPPY BIIIIIRTHDAY, HAAAAPY BIIIIRTHDAY, HAAAAPY BIIIRTHDAY TOOO YOUUUUUU!" Once I regained my breath after laughing so hard, I thanked her for raising me and keeping me alive for 21 years.

It's my birthday, y'all. I know I just posted a prayer about being ungrateful and from day-to-day it's hard for me to stay positive about myself and my life. Nonetheless, I know that I am still here for a reason, and being able to celebrate another birthday is a beautiful blessing. God has allowed me to see 21 years, and I am thankful.

I'm honored to be alive.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Ungrateful Prayer

Lord, please forgive me for behaving and thinking ungratefully. Give me grateful eyes, so that I may see past what I don't want. And give me a grateful heart, so that I may appreciate what I do have.

"We are Infinite."

I stumbled upon this movie over the weekend, and watching it made me reflect on my own life.

The scene where, after being ignored and bullied, Charlie meets a couple of strangers at a football
game, and those strangers (who later become his friends) invite him to sit with them, no questions asked and no strange looks given. The scene where everyone at a party gives a toast to Charlie and he's speechless because, "I didn't think anybody could see me." The scene where the dark memories from Charlie's past resurface, he relapses, thinks everything was his fault, and doesn't see any other option but to...

Those parts of the movie really touched my heart. Because I know what it is to feel like no one sees you. And I know what it's like to want to tell people your truth, but you don't really know how because you don't want to hurt them or make things worse for you.

Everyone goes through something and each person deals with their struggles differently. This film reminded me that there's nothing wrong with feeling pain. Sometimes, you can even share that pain with others, and no one will judge you for it. Things can get better and you can be okay, even better than okay, regardless.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Post-JLPT laughs

Me: Wait, today's December 1st?
 
Ma (commences eye-rolling): ...Yes, Danielle.
 
Me: But seriously though, where'd November go? Is it really December all ready?
 
Ma (commences head-shaking): ....
 
Me: Why are you shaking your head at me?
 
Ma: Danielle. It's been December all day.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sessions with Sue 1

After 13 years of living in darkness and denial, today I did something that I've been afraid to do. I started seeing a counselor. This may make me seem weak to some of you, but at this point I can't afford to keep worrying about how things make me look. I'm turning 21 a week from today, and I wanted to use this symbolic time of transition as an opportunity to make things right and learn how to be happy.
 
As I approach real "adulthood", I've learned that there's a difference between being ready to do something and recognizing that it's time to do something. It's been time for me to talk to somebody for years, but I was always too afraid, didn't feel like I was ready, believed it was for weak people, was certain I didn't need it. But I do need help, and there's nothing wrong with that.
 
This morning I met with a lovely woman named Sue. When I arrived at her office we sat down, she had me fill out some forms, then she asked me "Now, why are you here?" So I basically told her my life story. I hadn't meant to, but it wasn't possible for me to tell her about all the problems I'm dealing with without going back to the beginning (which was age 7 or 8), and talking a lot about my dad. Plus, I rarely have the opportunity or feel safe enough to talk about myself and my feelings in front of other people, and I just had so much to let out! So I just talked and cried, talked and cried. And she listened.  She offered her input and asked me questions here and there, but mostly she just listened. In our conversation she pointed out the following things, some of which I was already aware:
  • For a long time I have been, and to a lesser extent I am still being, emotionally abused.
  • What I experienced during my childhood was not normal. It was trauma.
  • I suffer from depression and anxiety, and the things that I feel are not my fault.
  • I did a good job of recovering in the best ways I knew how. I am no longer at the lowest point. Now I just need some assistance and tools to help me get the rest of the way.
My head's still pounding from all the crying I did during that hour that flew by. But you know what? I've also been feeling lighter all day. It's difficult, it's painful, it's awkward, but expressing your reality out loud to others is a really cleansing and empowering experience. I know I just started and it's not my place to get on a soapbox or anything, but I suggest anyone who's even considering counseling to give it a try. Even if it doesn't solve all your problems, sometimes it's worthwhile enough just to have someone to talk to.

Anyway, that was my morning. Just thought I would share. Love y'all.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Yoga Wisdom: Don't Fight Yourself

"You can't compete with the bones you've been given."
-Tara (Just B Yoga)

"I don't believe in Jesus."

While waiting at a bus stop with two of my friends this afternoon (I'll refer to them as "Esse" and "Jay")  this conversation arose:
 
Esse (to Jay): I want to stop celebrating Christmas, but if I told my parents I didn't celebrate Christmas anymore, they'd look at me crazy.
Me: Why don't you want to celebrate Christmas?
Esse: Because I don't believe in Jesus.
(This is news to me.) Me:...Oh. You don't?
Esse: I mean I'm down with the Lord and all that, but no I don't really believe in Jesus.
Me: Hm, okay. But which "Lord" are you referring to?
Esse: You know... (looks upward) the Lord. 
 
Then the bus came and things had already started to get awkward,  so I let it go.
 
Obviously I'm disappointed about my friend's choice. I tried not to show it, but I'm pretty sure she could tell.  (Besides, she brought it up in the first place, and you can't just spring "I don't believe in Jesus" on a follower of Christ and expect her to jump for joy.) 
 
Of course, young educated people questioning and/or rejecting religion, faith, or certain aspects of the two is nothing new. But a couple of things strike me as strange here. First: In referring to the "Lord", she was certain that she was referring to God and not to Jesus. This confused me, because growing up in the church (Esse grew up Christian too) I've always heard that term of reverance in connection to both Father and Son. After all, though Christians recognize them as two entities, they also believe them to be one in the same. So in my mind it doesn't make sense to use that term for one and not recognize the other, because they are inseparable.
 
The second: That she was using a Christian term to deny faith in Jesus.  Obviously the word "lord" is used in many ways in the English language and followers of Christ do not own it. But Esse used the word in a way that is particularly characteristic of Christians, "the Lord". I'm not sure what to make of this. Maybe because that term is also commonly used by black people (Esse is also African/black/however she chooses to identify herself) in everyday conversations to refer to a higher power (or the Higher Power), she feels that using it will allow her to still connect with that culture while remaining sufficiently ambiguous? Or maybe because she's in this ambivalent state of having her own beliefs yet not wanting to estrange herself from her parents, Christian thought and ways of speaking still influence her even though she rejects Jesus?
 
I really don't know. I am confused, as I think she is. To be honest, as I've gotten to know her I've had a feeling that she wasn't a typical believer, but I hadn't anticipated that she wouldn't be one at all. I want to be an understanding friend and I'll love her regardless, but I can't say that I'm not disappointed.
 
I'll be praying for you, Esse.

Although, now I am interested in learning about how many other black people/people of African descent are out there who don't believe in Jesus.  For most of my life I'd assumed (ignorantly, I'll admit) that nearly all blacks living in the US were Christian, but Esse has shocked me into acknowledging that that's not exactly the case. You learn something new everyday. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

On Repeat: "Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am"

For my final project in one of my classes I'm analyzing two tribute/charity albums produced by the Red Hot Organization that are dedicated to Fela Kuti.  Fela Kuti did many things and is known today by many titles, so I'll just say that he was a Nigerian composer, musician, and political activist who is credited with founding the music genre known as "Afrobeat". The albums dedicated to him are  titled Red Hot + Riot (2002) and Red Hot + Fela (2013).

Back when I was familiarizing myself with Fela's music, before I'd even gotten my hands on the Red Hot albums, "Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am" struck me so unexpectedly. Its sadness touches me in a very deep place, and it's simply mesmerizing. Not only that, but this song's groove is just so smooth. There's a certain attitude, a coolness even, that gives the song an easygoing feel even amidst its sad lyrics. It creates a space for you to grieve, groove, and heal all at the same time. The tune's infectious, and though I'm still new to his work, I must say that this is my absolute favorite Fela Kuti song.

I'm still learning how to understand pidgin English lyrics, but from what I've gathered this song's message is like the idiom "no rest for the weary". Everyday people are just trying to get by, live good lives, and make the best of what they have, but authorities and people who have power over them seem to have no sympathy and won't leave them alone.

There's a version of the song on both Red Hot album's, but I think the more recent one sounds more like the original. It also emotionally affected me in a similar way. Below is Fela's original from 1972, and My Morning Jacket/Merrill Garbus/Brittany Howard's rendition from 2013. Enjoy!




Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Good mood.

In a bad mood and want to be in a good one? In a good mood and want to stay that way? Start complimenting random people, especially strangers, and see what happens.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Let Bookworms Be

Ma came to visit me today and dropped off a book that I might need for a research project. I'd left it at home and asked her to look for it, which I knew would be problematic because I have so many books. Too many, she might say.

Sure enough, as we sat together over dinner she complained about the trouble she had to go through to find that one book. She was awed by the number of other books she found, and the variety of places in which she found them. Mind you, these are written treasures that I've accumulated from elementary school to the present: lining bookshelves, left in bags and old backpacks, piled onto desks, stacked in storage bins and drawers and cabinets, laying out in the open. Most read but many yet-to-be-read.

I know Ma was half-joking about it, but I fail to see what the problem is. After all, you can never, and I mean absolutely never, have too many books.  Right? So I said to her:

Who bought most of those books?

Who now has a child who can actually read and enjoys reading?

I thought so.

Wisdom from PostSecret


Via PostSecret

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Birthday Burden

Exactly 3 weeks until the big 2-1, and I have no plans. To be honest,  I keep forgetting about it. And my parents have been asking me what I want, but I have no idea.

It's actually become a hassle trying to come up with things for people to give me. As a kid and being a December baby, I always had birthday/Christmas lists. But now it's like, why do I have to ask people for things on my birthday? I have enough "things". I don't really need anymore "things", you know?

How about a hug? I don't get too many of those these days. Or maybe a kind word? Or a letter? Or let me see your face, let me touch your face. Spend time with me! All of that, plus a red velvet cupcake or two (or four) would be nice. I promise I'm not trying to be difficult, but there's really nothing fantastic you could get me, because I can't think of anything to ask for.

It's going to by my day, right? So let me not want anything,  if that's how I'm feeling this time around. I understand that gift-giving isn't completely about the receiver, but I'd much rather feel love than have it handed to me wrapped in fancy paper.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Compelling! Day 3 (final)

I sit here in my room today, after everything has ended, and I am still overwhelmed.

This morning I sat down at my small group table, and one of the guys whose name Travis turned to me and said, "I wanted to wait to say this, but your song was beautiful, it was amazing. I just wanted to make sure you got a compliment yesterday and today." Thank you, Travis.

Today was a Q&A session with the panel of staff that's been working with us in the "God at Work in the Arts" track this weekend. I hadn't submitted any "burning questions" questions yesterday, but the questions that were submitted got some really good discussion going about things that have been bothering me. Below are a few highlights.

On fighting against the desire to compete and be perfect:
"God calls each of us within our art to be in different places, and we have to be okay with that."
On overcoming writer's block:
"90% of everything you come up with is crap. Write the crap (and keep it, revise it), 'til you get to the good stuff."
On how far is too far:
"Good art proclaims truth about God, the world, and yourself."
On whether or not God is in all art, "secular" or not:
"God is in everything that's true. Approach art as an explorer, not with judgment."
"Christians often forget about the human side of Jesus. We need to remember that people are human."
"As a Christian in the arts world, you need to not be shocked by things."
On how to approach art that seems to go against God or be anti-God:
"We need to learn to be good interpreters, because God's calling is higher." 
"Loving and affirming your artist friends will take you a long way."   
 On how to reach our peers and impact our artist communities:
"Reach out during those in-between moments; take advantage of small opportunities."
"We've been strategically placed in relational networks, and we need to build trust between us and the people in them. This requires time and risk. Sometimes it means being countercultural." 
"Presence is key!"
 
My small group


Yesterday we spent a lot of time discussing the vision and calling that Ezekiel received from God, as recounted in chapters 1-3 of the book named for him. After seeing God, receiving his instructions from Him, eating a scroll that He handed him, and being lifted by the Holy Spirit back to Israel, the prophet said, "And I sat there, overwhelmed among them seven days" (3:15 ESV). That's how I feel right now. I can't think straight. I'm confused. I am both inspired and distraught. Inspired because I've heard, done, felt, said, and thought things that I hadn't anticipated. Distraught because in the presence of God I've realized that everything I've thought about myself, my life, my "art", about nearly everything, has been off-base. Like way off-base. Like I've been living in a cave with blinders and earplugs my whole life, off-base. I don't know what to do next. But I do know that I'm different now. I must be.

I am beyond glad that I decided to do something different and go to Compelling! This experience was completely new to me, so I tried to not go into it with too many expectations. And after a weekend full of Jesus, art, learning, prayer, fellowship, worship, and more Jesus, I am in awe. Thank you to all of the beautiful people who were there with me. God bless you.



Saturday, November 9, 2013

Compelling! Day 2

I was overwhelmed today, but in a good way. I've been going since 9:30 this morning and I had to leave the conference early tonight because I was overwhelmed, and I just needed to sit by myself and process a number of things. Because I am so out of sorts (in a good way), I won't get too much into the details of everything we did today. Here are a few thoughts and verses that came up in our discussions, though:

"You connect closer to God through failure; if you're not failing, you're disconnected from your Creator and you're not living life."
"A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men." Proverbs 18:16 (KJV)
"And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.
Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads." Ezekiel 2:5-6 and 3:8 (ESV)

Today was the day I've been simultaneously dreading and looking forward to. After having a huge jam/create/reflection session, it was time to share our art with our tablemates. When my turn came, I sang a song that I wrote a couple of months ago called, "Grace of God". I thought I was in the clear; I had just finished the bridge and changed keys and then... I burst into tears. You don't understand how monumental this was for me. I was facing 3 of my biggest fears in succession: singing in front of people, singing something I'd written in front of people (essentially exposing myself), and I crying in front of people. You notice how these all have to do with appearances and what others think? Yeah, I'm working on it.

Anyway. So I sang and I cried and I couldn't finish my song, and I started to be disappointed in myself because I had broken one of the cardinal rules that I've used to guard myself for the past 13 years: Don't show people too much of yourself. Do NOT break character. Because you will fail, and they won't like you, and everything will fall apart. But then, something magical happened. The folks at my table supported and encouraged me. All of them listened intently as I sang, no one told me I sucked, and no one laughed at me when I cried. No one looked down on me. In fact, most of them gave me pretty awesome compliments. A dude named Warren patted me on the back. A girl named Mary told me she even envisioned a variety of beautiful colors in her mind as I sang.

As we closed for the day, that same Mary hugged me and said she was really glad that she met me this weekend, "I like the way you think about life. The things you were saying, the questions you were asking, they were all just... they made me think about a lot of things I've been struggling with. You're awesome." And I was awestruck. Someone actually benefited from meeting me in some way? Me? Really? Not only that, but I touched someone without even trying to. Wow.


Fear not.
And then, to top it off, one of the staff members from our table took me aside and prayed for me. I was leaving, but this staff member, Bianca, stopped me before I got out the door and said, "Can I pray for you? I'd really like to pray for you right now." And she did. No one's ever done that for me before. No one's ever stopped me like that, as if to say Hey, I see you. I care about you. Let's take a minute to hold hands as I speak to God on your behalf. It was absolutely beautiful. To be honest I felt a little awkward, and after she finished I rushed out of there so I wouldn't start crying again. But it really was beautiful.

And these were just small personal moments I experienced. There was so much more we discussed and that I reflected on, and it's going to take me some time to work through it all. I am accepting, however, that it's time for me to rethink everything. And I mean, everything. Maybe I'm making a breakthrough?

Compelling! Day 1

Today (Friday) was the first day of Compelling, an annual Christian conference for college students that's organized by the Michigan InterVarsity organization. Over 700 students from across the state come to this conference, and though we do spend time together as a whole, the special feature of Compelling are the tracks. A "track" is basically a course that you sign up to take when you register, and you spend most of your time with the group of people who chose the same track as you. Each track has a specific theme and purpose, and they
basically set the tone for your Compelling experience. I chose "God at Work in the Arts", because even though I'm too afraid to share my voice and the songs I write with people, I still create things. And for that I consider myself an artist, even if I might be a poor example of one.
 
This is my first time ever going to a Christian conference. Thanks to Bryen, I joined a group called Asian Christian Intervarsity at my school this semester, and he and other people in that group convinced me to register for Compelling. And contrary to what I'd predicted, I didn't chicken out! So instead of a typical weekend of reading, studying, assignments, and checking off to-do lists, I have a whole weekend of Jesus, art, learning, prayer, fellowship, worship, and more Jesus ahead of me! As you can imagine, I am outside of my comfort zone in many ways.
 
I inadvertently arrived at the campus neighborhood where the event's being held an hour and a half early, so I thought I'd go into the nearby cafeteria and find a cozy corner to nap in. But before I could do that, I ran into my friend Josh. He really wanted to sit and talk with me, so that's what we did. I told him about Compelling and how I was nervous about having to share my gifts with the people in my track. When I mentioned that I sing and write songs, he asked,
"Is that something you'd want to pursue?"
"Yeah, in my dreams maybe. But I don't think that's possible for me."
"What's stopping you?"
"Well... I don't have the look or the connections.  And I don't know if I'm good enough."
 
Cut to "God at Work in the Arts." Here I am with my nervous self, expecting to be trapped in a talent competition where everyone is better than me and no one minces words criticizing me and what I do. But I walk in, sit at my assigned table with seven other people, and all we do is talk. No pressure. Just, seven lovely people, kind people, who seem happy to meet me, care about what I have to say, listen to me when I speak.... and most of all, they speak my language because they're creators ("artists") too! And not even just them, the whole room was just full of people who spoke my language!  I was so relieved! I won't get too much into everything we talked about as a table and a large group because I'm still trying to process it all. But we started with two questions about art that I want to share with you. Here are the questions and the responses that people gave:
 
Art is...
truth/what is true
what you feel
to create/an act of creation
communication
anything that's pretty
refreshment of the soul
expression through expressions/expressing yourself/an expression that leaves an impression
finding yourself (no one else can re-produce what you produce)
reading
finding God
life and death
how/what you perceive it to be
 
The purpose of Art is...
to make people think/to invoke thought or introspection
to help or make people feel
channeling your inner soul
to transcend walls/break down barriers
to tell a story/teach and educate/ convey stories and lessons
to heal in a universal language
to challenge
to help you find your own identity
to provide and express freedom
to relate to one another
to explore
to create explosions/ to affect catalytically
to give to your audience
 
Isn't that awesome? The overall theme of Compelling this year is "City Without Walls". This means being boundless and limitless, not only in our individual actions but also in our ability to reach new people and draw them to Christ. The lady who leads our track said today that art has a special ability to communicate about essential needs, about how people are really doing. Furthermore, what artists want most is "to create truth, beauty, and a sense of wonder in the people around us. To captivate and impact them. Go deeper." To think, once I get over myself and my issues, that I could actually captivate people? Make them feel something? Impact their lives? What a wonderful and fear-shattering existence that would be.
 
Like I said, I'm still trying to make sense of everything we've been discussing, and I'm sure I'll have more food for thought as the weekend goes on. I just want to be open to this experience so I can gain all that I possible can from it. Wish me luck. Pray for me.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Off-track Prayer

Lord, please forgive me for being discouraged.  I get discouraged easily, and when I get discouraged I become inconsistent.

Lord, please forgive me for being inconsistent. When I become inconsistent, I easily get discouraged.

Lord...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Plans

 

Not eating or giving out candy. Not dressing up or going out. Just chilling in the comfort of my own home, with this furry old lady. Same game plan since 7th grade.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

3 Lessons I've Learned about People through Working with Dogs

1) They are not always as they seem, so give them a chance.

Us volunteers don't know the histories of the animals we work with at the shelter. We don't know where they've come from. Sometimes I assume that certain dogs will be aggressive due to their size, their breed, or the shelter's designation of them as "high energy" dogs.  I've learned, however, that "high energy" sometimes just means "strong", or "jumpy", or  "loud", or "I'm going to be really excited to meet you, but please don't be alarmed if I get in your face or bark at you". In my experience, it has never meant "aggressive". To be honest, some of the biggest dogs I've met have been the most patient, and some of the rowdiest dogs in the kennels are cool as a cucumber once they get outdoors. Point is, you really never know who you're dealing with until you give them a shot. Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised. And if instead they play too rough or try to nip you, that's okay. Just put them back, walk away, and know that you tried.


2) We need to be grateful for simple things and cherish simple desires.

These dogs are well-fed and well-sheltered, get medical care and at least minimal daily TLC. But do you know what these dogs get excited about the most? Being taken outside. Their greatest joy is going outside, and they're more than happy with just that. Can you imagine people being like this? Not just content, but ecstatic about being outside! When was the last time you felt grateful for mobility? When was the last time you acknowledged the gift of being able to go out as you please, rather than being stuck inside a room that might not even have windows?


3) Make the most of the occasions you have to interact with people. Give them all the goodness you can, because this might be the first and last time you ever see them.

Some dogs stay at the shelter for weeks or even months, so we volunteers become used to seeing them and develop relationships with them. But for volunteers like me who only go once or twice a week, we might work with a dog once and then never see them again because they've been adopted out. We might've anticipated seeing them again or trying to get better at handling or understanding them. But in the end we don't get that chance because we have no control over who will still be there when we return. So we have to make the best of the little time we have with them: make this walk the most fun it can be, make this belly rub the most satisfying it can be, make this respectful distance between us as calm and appreciative as it can be.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Your Elders Have Got Jokes

If y'all need some hilarity in your lives, start having conversations with old school parents. Or just old school people period. I'm telling you, it will make your day. Most of the time they're not trying to be funny, they're just being honest. But that's what makes their quips golden.

This is what Ma had to say when I brought up the facts that 1) parents these days try to be nicer when disciplining their children, and 2) she never said the word "please" to me when I was a kid:
"I sho' didn't! 'Cause I don't be negotiating with no kids! People try to be friends with their kids, and then wonder why they don't listen and turn out with problems."
When I brought up how she would discipline me in public from time to time:
"Come on now, stop exaggerating. I didn't hit you THAT often in the grocery store. You turned out alright though, didn't you? Well then." 
And when I suggested we see Don Jon this weekend:
"Naw! I don't want to see no movie about some guy who's addicted to porn! I don't even know why he made that movie. What's the point?"

I can't breathe.