Friday, March 29, 2013

Mountain Pose: Stop Trying So Hard

"You are as perfect as you will ever be. Right now, in this moment." -Belinda Thurston, Just B Yoga

Field Trip to Ann Arbor!

Yesterday, I went with my Korean history class to UofM. And yes, we went in a bus with a big green "S" on it!

I got to see a lovely and talented photographer friend of mine from highschool.

And I ate Korean BBQ for this first time at this wonderful restaurant. Everything was delicious, and I ate so much that my back hurt (apparently with me that's a thing).

A short, surprisingly fun break from school and campus that I really needed. I have to admit, I can't stand UofM, but I kinda love Ann Arbor. It's a college town and a real city at the same time. And from the architecture to the shops to the bustle, you can feel that this has always been a place where things are happening. But I'll take my green and white school near our desolate state capital anyday.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Y'all I'm going to Japan!!

This past Monday I FINALLY got accepted to my study abroad program in Japan! From now until takeoff I have a lot of tedious paperwork and other things to take care of, but it will be worth it. In less than 3 months, I'll be in the countryside in Shiga Prefecture studying here:

The green-roofed building is the Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU) in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture

I'm so excited!

Friday, March 22, 2013

What does your Walk look like?

I overheard this conversation this evening,

Girl: "God is working on me. I don't spit on people no more!"
Her friend: "Girl, you used to spit on people?"
Girl: "Yeah well, uh..."

 Umm, I guess everyone's Walk is different? Seriously though, Amen and won't He do it! :)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As Winter Ended, I Made Up with My Roommmate

On the second to last day of winter (Monday), I made up with my roommate. And I know it was nothing but God, because we had had a drawn-out argument through text messages, and I really loathed her that day. But what do you know, Kammy came back to our room that night, FINALLY suggested that we talk, and we had a long and much-needed conversation about our issues with ourselves and each other. Basically our 5 months of silence boiled down to an inability to communicate, misunderstandings and differing interpretations, incorrect assumptions, mutual frustration, and fear of being the first one to say anything.

Does this sound familiar? I think a lot of conflicts people have with each other are rooted in these. My experience with my roommate has taught me this:

When you have a problem with someone, address it as soon as you notice it and say something. The longer you wait to speak, the more reasons you'll come up with to avoid talking, and the more painful and stressful it will be to start The Conversation. Say everything you need to say at that moment, not passive-agressively or spitefully, but in a clear and honest manner. Most important of all, reflect on what the other person says to you in response. Communication is simultaneously the simplest yet most complex  solution to people problems. It sounds basic, but really, all you have to do is open your mouth.

It's true though. We talked for nearly two hours, and after that it was like the past 5 months had never happened. There's no tension,  we don't avoid each other, we speak whenever we see each other,we joke and talk, I actually bother to help her wake up and get to class on time. It's like that dark cloud that surrounded us never existed at all. Obviously Kammy and I aren't suddenly besties now, nor do I think we will ever be. I still don't trust her completely. And I'm not going to get rid of my earlier post about our problems because I'm really proud of it and I meant everything I wrote at the time. But it's so nice to have a conflict finally resolved. It's even nicer to have someone to talk to at the end of the day, instead of just stewing in enmity and silence.

Forgiveness is truly a blessing and a hard-won life skill. God will give you peace in your home and life if you ask for it and are willing to try. It might take 5 months for it to happen, whatwith fear and stubbornness and this wonderful thing called God's divine timing. But it will happen. You just have to open your heart and your mouth, and say something.

Monday, March 18, 2013

"Bow Down, B****es!"

Hey, Beyonce said it, not me.

Anyway this speaks to my current situation so much, it's awesome. I need to repeat this to myself everyday. J

Friday, March 15, 2013

"Don't Agonize, Organize."

Thank you, Professor B. Coming from the prof of my most difficult, demanding, and overwhelming course I have this semester, that's really helpful. But that's so hard to do, especially when you're lost and confused.

I've never questioned why I came to college, nor contemplated dropping out and doing something else more than I have this semester, especially this week.

I've lost focus of everything. I don't know what I want, I don't know why I'm here, I don't know anything at all. I haven't given up on any of the new things I started this year, but I've lost the enthusiasm and "why not?" attitude that was propelling me forward. Now I'm just tired.

 I guess this is what a rut feels like. My short time on earth has taught me that these times come in cycles, which means that they will always come every now and then. You can't stop the cycle. The only thing you can do is shift it so that it becomes successively less devastating each time. Hence, my short time on earth has also taught me that when you get in a rut, it's time to pray and do something new.

It's time to pray and do something new.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

He's probably just friendly, right?

There's this guy who only works at the vegetarian/vegan station in my dorm's cafeteria. At least that's the only place I ever see him. Since I go to that station everyday, and he works there every now and then, our paths cross every two weeks or so. And everytime I go there to get some food, he tries to talk to me.

Each successive time, he's tried to extend the converstation more. The first time, he kept looking me straight in the eyes, like he was making eye contact with me on purpose. The second time, he asked me why I looked so sad (apparently my blank face looks like a sad face to others) and told me to smile. The third time, two days ago, he asked how my break went ("fine", I lied), asked if I went home ("yeah", lied again), some more banter blahblahblah, and told me to have a great week.

It's surprising and a little awkward. He's a nice guy, so him talking to me doesn't bother me. But guys never talk to me, and it's definitely not the ideal place or time to try to have conversation when he's supposed to be working and there are other people waiting in line behind me. I told Ma about it and the first thing she said was, "Well is he cute?" The last thing she said about it was, "Well, maybe one day he'll want to come out from behind the counter and talk to you. There's nothing wrong with having a new friend." Of course she didn't mean friend in a strictly platonic way, you know how moms can be.  Next time I'll try to pay closer attention and see if I can pick up on any signs. But it's entirely likely that he's just bored, friendly, and is like that with everyone. Yeah, he's probably just friendly.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Arizona Observations

In the midst of my griping and subsequent stewing over having an awful spring break, I remembered the premise of this blog: to point out and discuss what I see. So I figured that while it's still fresh in my mind, I should put down some things I noticed and learned about Arizona, specifically the Phoenix metro area.
  • For a place in the middle of the desert, it's pretty beautiful! Cacti and other plants you won't see in Michigan are everpresent; even the sides of the highways/freeways are pretty scenic. Mountains surround you because you're in a valley, and some of them are even purple!
  • There are a lot of restaurants in the area. So if you can afford it, you never have to cook if you don't want to.
  • There are a lot of gyms/fitness centers there as well. People in Arizona may eat out a lot, but they must not keep it on for long. They seem to have a more active lifestyle and go outside more than people in Michigan. The pleasant weather is probably a reason for this.
  • Shopping centers and grocery stores are also pretty ubiquitous in the area.
  • Citrus is everywhere! A lot of people have their own orange or lemon trees in their yards, which is awesome if you love free produce and citrus is your favorite kind of fruit (like me).
  • Schools, especially elementary and middle schools, are everywhere. I take it that that there are a lot of teens, 20- and 30-somethings in the area who are having kids.
  • Arizona has the most children in the system (foster care/CPS/juvenile detention/etc.) than any other state in the nation. My stepmom told me this. She used to work for the Arizona department of corrections, and J lives with my dad and stepmom now, so she knows quite a bit about it. I guess even though a lot of people are having kids, apparently not all of them are able or care enough to take care of them. Consequently there's a huge demand for social workers there. Due to the shortage of them, the social workers are spread too thin and the job is so demanding and stressful that the turnover is really high.
  • Baseball is a big deal in Arizona, or something. Apparently the Diamondbacks are hosting the World Baseball Classic this year, or whatever. I really couldn't care less about sports so I don't know the specifics.
  • There aren't that many black people in the area, and those who live there are kind of spread out. Other than at church and maybe ASU, you won't see a large concentration of us in one place.
  • Conversely, as to be expected in this southwestern state there are a lot of Mexicans/Latin Americans/Hispanics/however such individuals choose to define themselves in the Phoenix metro area. Restaurants, shops, and stands run by them are prevalent, as is written Spanish language.
Perhaps the routine of the average white middle class resident there is shop, eat out, work out, go to work, work out, eat out, shop, and have babies? Granted, my observations are limited because I mostly stayed in the suburbs (Mesa, Gilbert, Tempe, Chandler) and didn't spend time in Phoenix, where I assume most of the action happens. But there you have it.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Things People Give Me #4

1am red eye flight = free blanket! Thin as it may be, I'll take it. Thanks, Delta!

Things People Give Me #3

In the midst of all my griping, I forgot that I received something this week! While I was in his office, my dad gave me a Rubik's Cube. Before becoming a principal he was a math teacher, and he happened to have a box of them there. I've never owned a Rubik's Cube, so even though it'll take me forever to solve it and I received it during a very frustrating and embarrassing experience, I'm excited about this thing. Thanks, Dad!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Arizona Day 6 (Friday - Final)

Finally! This day has arrived. Just like yesterday morning, my stepmom and I got up and went to Freestone. This time it was a yoga class, so I was excited for this one. I worked up a good sweat, and it just felt good to be in an actual yoga class again. Then we came back, and I packed my things.

Dad took half the day off and came home from school early. He walked in and said, "Okay Danielle, what do you want to do today? Whatever you want to do, we'll go do it right now." I suggested the zoo. But of course, we had to wait for J to come back from school before we could go anywhere (he had a half day too). Then it started storming so I figured, never mind. But Dad had decided, "Okay, we'll go to the zoo and then after that we'll go to the movies or go shopping or something." Right, because every girl just loves shopping and going to the movies in her spare time, and it's safe to assume I'd be the same way. Never mind that I'm too much of a cheapskate and a critic to go to the movies lately, and I have a luggage weight limit to abide by. Like I've written previously, he's really good at deciding things. Consulting? Not so much.

But I digress. The point in my including this detail is that he was trying to cram this whole day with activities, as if he just now realized, Oh, Danielle's here. And Oh, she's leaving tonight. But it's too late for that. Y'all knew I was coming months ago, and I've been here all week. The opportunity for all that has passed. However, he was insistent (as always), so we headed to the Phoenix Zoo.

I  left my camera at the house because I hadn't anticipated actually doing anything today, so all of these pictures were taken with my iPhone.  Not too bad, huh? Anyway, we were able to walk around a little bit before we got rained out and decided to go... where? You guessed it. Back to the house. So again, I'm here, with my cold and wet feet, writing about how my day that was full of potential ended up being a waste just like the others this week. I think today's failed zoo excursion was both sign and confirmation that Spring Break in Arizona was just not meant to be.

My flight isn't until 1am, so now I'm just counting down the hours.  All I want to do is not be bothered by anyone, be taken to the airport on time, and go back Michigan.

Arizona Day 5 (Thursday)

A benefit of being short? You can do yoga in cramped spaces like these.
The past couple of days, the fatigue and tension in this house have been palpable. It's starting to make me stressed, and I don't even live here! Even Bear the dog is stressed, and he's a dog! Something is seriously wrong here, but I can't do anything about it, and it's no use getting riled up over problems that aren't mine. I was really tense last night, so what did I do? You guessed it... yoga! Last night I did another Melissa West video, the theme of which being fertility. In a way, you could say that this session was about creativity just like the last one I did was.

This morning, Cynthia and I went to Freestone again for a zumba toning class. This was my first time doing zumba and it was a challenge having to do all that movement with weights in hand. It was fun, though! The instructor was energetic and I worked up a good sweat. Maybe when I get back home I'll try a regular zumba class.

Then we rushed off to a Native American reservation in the middle of nowhere so we could visit Dad at his school. He's the principal at a middle school there and has been bugging me all week to come, and I wasn't enthusiastic about the idea. But sometimes he can be annoyingly persistent and it really couldn't be avoided. Plus, I've been spending all my time with Cynthia and J this week, and since Dad's the only one in this house that I'm actually related to I guess it'd be wrong not to spend time with him too. I guess. I don't absolutely hate the idea of spending time with Dad, and I was intrigued by the idea of being on a reservation for the first time, but I didn't want to go because:

1) He never asked me if I wanted to go. He wanted me to come so he decided on his own that I would. He'd say things like, "I can't wait for you to meet my students," or "Are you excited to come visit me at the school?" But the explicit, considerate question "Would you like to come visit my school?" never came out of his mouth.

2) I knew that he would only parade me around the school to his staff and his students, bragging about how brilliant and perfect I am, as if those things were unequivocally true (nobody is perfect) and as if he had had something to do with it.

And that's exactly what he did. He dragged me around campus, interrupting every single class so that all of his staff and all 90 of his students would know who I was. I felt used. I know most parents like to brag about their children, but seriously, you're the principal and you're interrupting every single class just so you can put your daughter on display? Come on, now! And then, he'd try to introduce me or explain to his students how much of an example I was, but he couldn't get the facts straight.

Dad (to a room full of students): This is my daughter, Danielle. She goes to the University of Michigan.
Me (to him): Michigan State University, they're completely different schools.
Dad: Oh right, right. Michigan State.

Dad (to another classroom): She took all AP classes in high school. [false] And Danielle, what year did you graduate, 2006?
Me: 2011.
[Students in the class giggle because it's so embarrasingly obvious that he doesn't know what he's talking about.]

He doesn't know much about me, hardly raised me, and had little to nothing to do with my success in school and life. Yet he wants to take credit for it all and show me off like I'm some kind of trophy. It all just felt so phony and arrogant. The most accurate thing he said was:

Dad: She got her brains from her mom.

But even that felt like an empty platitude. It's not like I asked to only have one parent be actively and intuitively involved in my childhood. Just think how I might've conquered the world if I'd gotten my mom's "brains" (nurturing) and his too! Anyway, like I said, I knew this would happen so I wasn't surprised. But it wasn't all bad. All of the teachers and staff were really nice and a lot of the students were pleasant. And I guess in some way it's always interesting to go to your parent's job and actually see what they do everyday.

After all that, Cynthia and I rode back through the desert the way we came, so I got some nice photos of the mountains and the landscape.

Despite my ordeal, today was a welcome change since I actually went out and did something. But I have to say that tomorrow is my last day here and I am beyond excited to go back to Michigan!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Arizona Day 4 (Wednesday)

Today we had to get up early because J had a court hearing. Obviously I can't talk about the details (partly because I don't know them all). I will say it's sad that a great kid like him has to go through so much at such a young age. It's not even like he has no one in this world. He has relatives, but no one who's supposed to care about him cares or is fit to look after him. I wasn't allowed inside the courtroom because this has nothing to do with me. So, as per usual this week, I got bored and took pictures.

We had to go to Phoenix for the hearing, so we had a long ride there and back for me to take a few more pictures.

Then, as per usual this week, we came back to the house and this is where we've stayed since mid-afternoon. It's not so much being cooped up that bothers me. It's that there are a lot more issues going on in this house than I anticipated before I got here, and the atmosphere isn't very conducive for enjoying oneself. Spring Break is supposed to be fun, right? I'm not mistaken, am I?

Two more days, Danielle. Just get through two more days...

"Ooh, is there food in here?" Sorry Bear, no food.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Arizona Day 3 (Tuesday)

Today was another slow day. As you can judge by my previous post, I've come to accept that this break is going to be slow rather than exciting. Today was the first day of break that I've been able to sleep in since Friday, which was pleasant. Since we won't be going back to Freestone until Thursday and I didn't want to get too far out of practice, I got up and did some yoga to the video below. Melissa West is the #1 Canadian yoga teacher on YouTube, and I started watching her videos before I went to a studio for the first time. The video I did today is the latest in her series "Namaste Yoga", and the purpose of this class was tapping into creativity. Lesson of the day: If you need to unleash your creative energy, open up your hip spaces!

After I went with my stepmom to a nail shop, we ate at this place called Pacific Rim Asian Kitchen. Can't say that I was impressed. I don't know if I'm a snob or if I don't like Japanese/Asian food and don't want to admit it yet, but I always walk away from Asian food restaurants feeling disappointed. Maybe I've just been going to the wrong ones. From the get-go, I know that what I'm eating isn't authentic. (Not that I'd know what authentic is, since I'm not Asian. But when the restaurant is a franchise or is owned/operated/staffed by primarily white people, you can almost always be certain that whatever you put in your mouth is Americanized.) And since I've been craving authentic things lately, especially food, I really can't be bothered. So it wasn't awful, but I can't say that I loved it.
After that, we came back to the house and after eating dinner we went to the library so J could do his homework. I didn't have anything to do and couldn't sit still long enough to read the book I had with me (I always keep one on me). So I took pictures. There was a particularly large and intricate dollhouse on the display that piqued my interest.

And now I'm here, writing about another pleasant but uneventful day. Eh, maybe I should've stayed in Michigan?

Probably, but you can't beat views like these.

Desert Reunion: I came at a bad time, didn't I?

I don't hate being here. I'm just bored.

I was told that unlike my previous two visits, this time we weren't going to sit around all week. We'd go out and do things, and this would be fun for me. This week would be all about me. However, as I suspected, that wasn't the case. It's understandable, though. It's kind of hard to cater to family members and guests when you have an extra child with extra needs under your care. That kid should be the center of attention. But then, don't invite guests! Apparently said kid has been here since February 14, so I wonder why they bothered telling me that I'd have tons of fun when that wouldn't be possible despite even their best intentions. I'm not trying to be ungrateful. I'm just saying that if I knew I was just going to sit around and have to hang out in the wings or in the periphery, I might've stayed at home. So I'm bored, and I've noticed a few things.

This blended "family" is a bit of a façade. Why? Because there are too many things that aren't to be discussed. What kind of man my dad was during his first marriage and how he hasn't changed a lot since then. What went down at my stepmom's job that lead to her being unemployed. Their money troubles. Why they pretend not to hate it in Arizona as much as they do. How J got in the system and ended up in their house. No one talks about these things.

I understand that I needn't know everything, that some things are better left unsaid even between the people who actually live in this house. My problem is that there seem to be too many unspeakable things, and I'm stuck on the outside.

Hence, my stay here is also a bit of a façade. Tourists are persuaded to go to places because they're told they'll be immersed in their destination. They think they're in it and a part of it, when really they're just temporary, usually unwanted, sometimes obnoxious observers. I am an observer in this house. This is my third time being here, and I'm almost just as uninformed about the area and this "family" as I was the first time I came 5 years ago. I feel like a tourist in this place and this house, because I haven't been allowed to know what's really going on. Such ignorance is not a luxury that a family member should have. I'm imposing and I'm starting to think coming here was a bad idea.

I write all this not to say that my spring break is a bust. My break is going great, as slow as it might be. Though I may not be out and about like I thought I would be, I still have plenty of time to read and write. Plus it's nice to be able to see people you haven't seen in 3 years. And who's to say that things won't pick up during these next 3 days I have left here? I just wish that I were included more in this family, seeing as how I am family. And I wish this blended family of mine didn't have so many secrets. The atmosphere is so weird and heavy this way. Everyone has hard times, and I'm sure I could understand if y'all would just tell me about it. EVERYthing doesn't have to be okay ALL the time.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Arizona Day 2 (Monday)

Inside of Freestone
Today was another slow day, but it was productive. I'll be maintaining my yoga/exercise practice at the house and at Freestone Recreational Center this week. At 8:30am I went there with my stepmom for my first pilates class ever, and it was really fun!

Then we went to the grocery store to get some food for me and for the house in general. I'm the only vegetarian in the house. Based on our prior conversations about my eating habits, I thought my stepmom would be cooking as long as I told her what I wanted to eat. At least that's how it happened when I was here three years ago. But while we were at the store, she made it clear that I was to cook my own food this time around. Which is fair. I was just surprised because I hadn't intended on cooking today (or this week at all, frankly). But I did! I made eggplant parmesan, and I must say that I've still got it! I might not cook often, but when I do it's almost always good!

Coco, my stepmom's other dog. "Get off my lawn!"

Arizona Day 1 (Sunday)

By the time we arrived from the airport and everyone went to bed this morning, it was around 2am. I stayed up for another hour or so because I didn't feel like going to bed. So I didn't end up falling asleep until 3:30am, and Dad woke me up at 6:48am for church later that morning. Surprisingly I wasn't tired. I was alert all through service and everything. But once we came back to the house and ate? Pssh, it was over. That jet lag hit me hard and I napped for 5 hours, y'all. Overall an uneventful but restful day.

PS- I have a Samsung camera but Intelli-studio crashed today, so I guess I'll be using Google Picasa 3 to import photos from now on. I have no complaints so far.

Lemon tree in the backyard. There's citrus everywhere here.

Bear, one of my stepmom's dogs

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Spring Break: Detroit✈Arizona (Saturday)

Or I guess to be accurate: Detroit (5:30pm EST) ✈ Minneapolis-St. Paul (7:00pm EST) ✈ Phoenix (1:25am EST).

For Spring Break this year, I'm staying with my dad and stepmom in Arizona for the week. In the past I've had this habit of never writing sufficiently about the trips I go on. Either I can't commit myself to sit down and do it, or nothing I put down sounds right or really conveys the experiences I've had. But this is a new blog, so I'm going to do better this time, starting with my first trip of the year.

I got home Friday and spent some time with Ma and Madison. Then today I got up and had Ma braid my hair...

Ma: "What are you doing?"

Had some last-minute cuddle time with Madison...

And was off to DTW. My first flight was completely full, but I had an aisle seat, so that was convenient. We took off late, but managed to get to Minneapolis-St. Paul about 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

I sat in MSP Int'l for 3 hours before my next flight and let me just tell you, MSP is not an airport. It's a mall. It's like Somerset, but with boarding gates. Unnecessary but convenient, I guess. But I digress. Luckily this flight wasn't completely full, and I got an entire row to myself. Again took off late, but managed to get here about 30 minutes early.

My dad greeted me at baggage claim, and a curious thing happened. He said, "Everybody's been waiting for you to get here." Everybody? Last time I checked, it's only you, Cynthia, and the dogs in the house. So unless there's some surprise late-night welcome party, what do you mean by Everybody, Dad? Then he follows with "Did Cynthia tell you that we have a kid living with us now?" Turns out, Dad and Cynthia have a 13 year-old white boy named J living with them now. He's their foster child.

Now I already knew that this was something that Cynthia wanted and Dad didn't (he went along with it anyway). I knew that they had gone through all the necessary processes and were approved to have a child placed with them. However, I did not know that they had gotten a foster child already. Why didn't they tell me? I know that I probably don't call often enough to give me the right to know everything about their lives, but they've known since October or November that I was coming. Yet they conveniently forgot to tell me about this new addition. That's a little inconsiderate isn't it? Maybe they thought if they told me, I wouldn't have come. That might have been true. But still, a little heads-up would have been appreciated.

It's ironic, really. I'm actually family, but I'm the guest. He's the temporary resident, but he knows the house better than I do. Eh well. He seems like a pretty good kid. I don't know his story yet and I'm not sure that I will before I leave. And I know it sounds selfish, but this is my spring break, so I really hope I don't end up on kid duty. Luckily he'll be at school all week so that probably won't be a problem. However, I do hope for his sake that Dad isn't too mean to him. It's clear that he only puts up with J because of Cynthia, and I really don't want it to become a Cinderella situation where he treats J like crap while I'm the evil stepsister who gets treated like a princess. J's just a kid and even though his presence is unexpected for me and not ideal for my dad, he doesn't deserve that.

So yeah. I'm here. I'm tired. Goodnight.

I cut myself while at MSP. Don't judge me; adults need band-aids too sometimes.

Flying is a Miracle.

Flying is a miracle. Being able to decide to go somewhere, leave here, and arrive there is a wonder and a blessing in itself. But to be able to do so sitting above the clouds, not doing any work to propel yourself forward, being shown how small you are, how small the world beneath you is, how beautiful God's works are, and how great He is.... That is a miracle.