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.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Where you been hidin'?"

Y'all, I auditioned for something today. I sang. I haven't sung in over a year and a half, and I was beyond nervous. Two of my friends came for moral support, but they had never heard me sing before, and I really didn't want to embarrass myself in front of them. But I did it! When I finished, the guy auditioning people looked at me and asked "Where you been hidin'?", so I guess I did alright.

 I'm not going to say what this "something" is, because there were a lot of singers who auditioned for it and I don't want to jinx it. No matter the result, I'm just glad that I conquered my fear and went for it. I forgot how good singing feels! It really is a magical sensation; there's nothing else quite like it. I've been yearning for a way to get back at it, and maybe this "something" will be it. We'll see.

**UPDATE 10/20** I didn't make it. S'alright though.

Monday, October 14, 2013

My Walk with Girdie **repost**

**This is a repost from a Japanese-English blog research project that I'm participating in.  It was originally written on October 8th. I had to be careful not to write too informally using English that can be easily understood, so I apologize in advance if the writing sounds awkward or stiff**

Hello, everyone! Today I would like to talk about dogs. At the end of my last post I included a picture of myself with my dog. Her name is Madison and she is my best friend! I love animals so much, and this semester I started volunteering at an animal shelter called Capital Area Humane Society (CAHS) in Lansing. Every Saturday and every other Tuesday, I go there and mostly walk dogs and play with them in their kennels. I also play with cats so I can get more used to them.

 Today I got to walk a very special dog named Girdie. She is 6 years old and she is special to me for two reasons. The first reason is that she is a coon hound mix. My own dog Madison is a basset hound and hounds are my favorite kind of dog, so I was very happy to be able to spend time with a hound today.
The second reason why Girdie is special is her physical condition. In the pictures below it might look like she is pregnant, but she is really just overweight. Although I felt sorry for her when I first saw her, once I started interacting with her I realized that she is very energetic and loves to be outside and move around. We walked for a mile through a forest, passing swamps and a small lake, and she never got tired. I have no idea how she got as big as she is, but her size and weight do not  stop her from being a sweet and happy dog, and that is very inspiring to me.  I would adopt her if I could! But I do not have the money or the space to take care of another dog. I hope that Girdie will find a good home soon, but I look forward to spending more time with her until then.  
There are many animal shelters in America, and some animal rescue organizations have become quite popular. I wonder if animal rescue is as popular in Japan?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Go to Sleep! God is Trying to Tell You Something.

This is going to sound crazy, but I don't care! God spoke to me through a dream, and I'm going to tell you about it!

For years I've been struggling with fear and not knowing what I want out of life. This week was another rough one, and since today's Friday and I had a couple hours to spare, I decided to take a nap. This is something I rarely do.

I don't usually remember my dreams, but I remember seeing a well-known actress and a well-known talk show host doing an interview. I had seen these two women do an interview before, but the conversation they were having in this dream was completely new to me.

The actress was talking about her success, and what she believes is necessary to become successful and find fulfillment. This is what she said:

It doesn't make sense...
You would be mistaken...

To consider an idea, action, or goal

And then dismiss it because, "No one has done it before."

Because those are exactly the things that you should be trying to do. Those are the things that you are meant to do.

And then I woke up.

I don't care what anybody says, I know that that was God speaking to me. I'm not quite sure what my purpose is (what I'm supposed to do that "no one has done before"), but I know for sure that I have one. I've been focusing on the wrong things and asking the wrong questions all this time. And now it's up to me to stop being afraid and figure out what my own never-before-done thing is.

Thank you Jesus for revelation, rest, and revelation through rest.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

BOOKS! (White Teeth)

My AP English teacher recommended this book to me my senior year in high school, and I finally got my hands on a copy of it earlier this year. I actually finished this book over a month ago, but I left it at home when I moved back to school, so this is the first chance I've had to write about it. This novel is truly a work of art and I already know that due to my immature writing prowess and the time that's passed since I read it, it's unlikely that I will do this book justice. Nevertheless, I will share with you what I read and what I thought of it. Here goes!

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

It is hard to say what this book is about in just a sentence. One could say that this is an immigrant story with multiple levels. Or rather, one could say that this a journey through the interconnected and overlapping immigrant stories of two families and their individual members.

I mislead you in saying that the web "starts" and "ends" with the main characters, since much of their motivations and experiences are tied to their family histories and are implied to continue on through the next generation. But basically,  the web starts with the friendship between Archibald (an Englishman) and Samad (a Muslim man from Bangladesh). The two meet while fighting for Britain during WW2 and become friends shortly afterward.

Then the web extends to include their wives: Archie marries Clara (the daughter of Jamaican Jehovah's Witness immigrants), and Samad marries Alsana (immigrates from Bangladesh as part of her arranged marriage to Samad). Both women are significantly younger than and unsatisfied with their husbands. They reluctantly become friends.

The web expands further to include the two families' children, who are born around the same time and are friends from a young age. Irie is the biracial daughter of Archie and Clara. She is intelligent but has an image and identity crisis stemming from her lingering sense of placelessness. Magid and Millat are the identical twins sons of Samad and Alsana. The former, Magid, is selected by his father as "the good son" who will uphold Muslim traditions and become a scholar, and is sent away to Bangladesh without his mother's knowledge at the age of 10. He indeed becomes a scholar, but ultimately disappoints his father's expectations because of his secular interests of study. The latter, Millat, embodies exactly what Samad hadn't wanted his children to become. A handsome, smooth-talking, foul-mouthed "bad boy", he spends his time listening to rock music, hanging with his South Asian gang buddies, and floating amongst his large and ever-increasing pool of female lovers. Ironically, despite not being interested in doctrine nor living it in practice, Millat  is the twin who is fiercely proud his heritage and his Muslim roots, even joining a radical group of Muslim youths as a teenager.

Despite their efforts, the three "immigrant" or "foreign" parents in this novel (especially Samad) are all too aware of how being in Britain has reshaped who they are. At various moments and in differing ways, they exhibit a fear of losing hold of their roots, which in their minds is equivalent to losing themselves. They yearn to avoid being tainted by their host culture, getting washed over in the process of assimilation, and in the end no longer belonging anywhere. Having sensed this process already going on within them, they seek to redeem themselves and preserve their traditions through their children, who need to be "saved".

This trio of first- and second-generation British youths, however, are not as concerned with roots or familial obligations, are more concerned with their individual desires and destinies, and are more easily influenced by the surrounding British/Western/secular/popular culture. As such, they are constantly fighting to discover themselves and be who they want to be, amidst demands from their parents and a society that attracts them yet does not recognize nor appreciate them. Irie, Magid, and Millat's experiences are defined by a sense of being stuck in the middle, being mired in chaos and grey areas, living amongst  unclear definitions and unanswered questions. This sense is continued, and the two families are even further tied together through these children. As teenagers, Irie has sex with Magid and Millat in the same day, becomes pregnant, and reconciles herself to the fact that she will never know which is her daughter's father. Each of the three goes their separate ways later on, and yet, like their parents, they remain inextricably tied to each other.

This novel has an open ending with hardly any resolutions. My assumption is that Zadie Smith intends to send the message that there is no solution to the issues of belonging and identity among immigrant and ethnic minority individuals. These issues ought to be examined and discussed, but they are too deeply intertwined with  living, breathing, experience to ever be resolved.

Favorite quotes:
 "To Samad, as to the people of Thailand, tradition was culture, and culture led to roots, and these were good, these were untainted principles. That didn't mean he could live by them, abide by them, or grow in the manner they demanded, but roots were roots and roots were good. You would get nowhere telling him that weeds too have tubers, or that the first sign of loose teeth is something rotten, something degenerate, deep within the gums. Roots were what saved, the ropes one throws out to rescue drowning men, to Save Their Souls." (p. 161)
"It just goes to show, you go back and back and back and it's still easier to find the correct Hoover bag than to find one pure person, one pure faith, on the globe. Do you think anybody is English? Really English? It's a fairy tale!" (p. 196) 
 If you're looking for a long yet entertaining read that will make you think critically about culture and identity, White Teeth is definitely it!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Certified, Official, Red White & Blue BS

Pssh, and Ma wanted me to consider working for the government. People like her devote 20+ years of their lives to it and then they get deprived of their livelihood until further notice? No. thank. you.