Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Peer Pressure

When I was fourteen years old, my family moved from a state where I had a lot of friends to a state where I had none, from a school program that was challenging but also stimulating to a school that didn't want to just take it on my parents' word that I could handle a challenge and so afforded me an education where all homework was easily and efficiently completed during the lunch hour.  I went from a school where I had learned to navigate among the cliques and gangs to a school where I didn't know who to avoid and who to befriend.  Rather than trust my instincts and just befriend people who reached out those first few days at school, I pushed everyone away lest I fall in with the wrong 'type'.  My ninth grade year of school, right on the heels of one of my most fulfilled and happy years of school, was one of my least fulfilled and happy.  By choice.

It's funny looking back years down the road and realizing what a vulnerable little girl I was and how big all of it felt.  It's funny to realize too that the school I was moving into was much less hard to socially navigate than my previous school which was not only larger but also encountered countless gang problems on a daily basis.  At my old school, I was bullied and pushed around, painted on, spit on and verbally abused.  I had learned there to avoid attracting attention.  In comparison, my new school and my new peers were all incredibly welcoming and kind.  But the previous school had taught me my lesson - I kept my head down.  (Cue: Keep Your Head Down by TXVQ ??)

Well, in all honesty, I didn't really keep my head down.  During my first semester at the new school, I observed people.  I watched them all, silently without words and without comments.  Little by little, I started to understand the dynamics of the school and its social structure.  I started to figure out which students were the clever ones who put down others in order to get a laugh from the ones who were genuinely clever.  I started to figure out which ones were kind to your face from those who were kind all the time.  I started to figure out which ones cared about popularity and appearances.  Which ones cared about grades.  Which ones cared about dating.  Which ones cared about sports. 

I also started to see how much people care about what other people think.  I realized how much I cared about what other people think. I cared - I cared a lot - I cared so much that I would often give in and change my actions to match the actions of those around me.  And all too often, the company I kept was not uplifting or inspiring.

So, perhaps for the first time ever, I learned to stand on my own even if meant standing completely alone.

I still care about what people think - I probably always will.  I still don't really know how to navigate the social world - I probably never really will.  But if I become a good person, an educated person, a helpful person, it is because I choose to do so.

(Although having my wonderful, good, educated and helpful friends help make all the difference.)  (^_^)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Smokey the Bear Wants You

Hands down, this is my favorite Mary Tyler Moore Show episode.  Rhoda meets a great guy who seems to be absolutely everything she wants in a man, both personality and social and economic standing in the world.  Until...

Rhoda: "He's a forest freak, that's what."
Mary: "Just because he asked you to go on a hike?"
Rhoda: "No,  he just gave up a vice-presidency of a big company to go back to college to study to become...get this!  A Forest Ranger!"
Mary: "A forest ranger?  uh...why?"
Rhoda: "He has some stupid idea about being happy."

The episode interestingly addresses the concept of choosing careers and even second careers, our hopes versus our realities:

Mary: "Murray, have you ever thought about it?  If you could do something different with your life, you know, anything at all, what would you do?"
Murray: "Oh, I'd do a lot of things. I'd climb some of the world's great peaks. I'd build a little kind of raft and sail it to Tahiti.  Wallpaper my rec room."
Mary: "How about you, Mr. Grant?"
Mr Grant: "Me?  I'm happy just doing what I'm doing.  I'm happy running this newsroom and...I'm happy telling people that this conversation just doesn't interest me."
Ted: "Oh, well, wait a minute.  Don't I get a chance?"
Mary: "Sure, Ted.  What would you do?"
Ted: "You mean, if I could be anything that I wanted to be?"
Mary: "Right, anything!"
Ted: "I'd be Cary Grant."
Murray: "That's a person!  We are talking about a way of life."
Ted: "I don't understand."
Murray: "What else is new...Now look, Ted.  Just forget about a specific person.  Now, what would you like to do if you dropped out?"
Ted: "You mean, if I couldn't be Cary Grant?"
Murray: "Right."
Ted: "I don't know.  I haven't given it much thought.... I guess I'd be a king!"

Recently, I found a similar question asked of my dear Shinee boys:
MC: What would you be if you were not in Shinee?  (I'll put them in the order in the photo so you know who is who)
Onew: Lawyer
Taemin: EMT
Jonghyun: Teacher
Minho: Fireman
Key: Ke$ha

(I knew there was a reason Key was always my favorite)

But joking aside, I've been in a lot of conversations with people who are trying to figure out their lives.  They've spent some amount of time (even years) walking down a certain path and find themselves hitting a wall.  After trying to break down that wall again and again in hopes of changing themselves for the path, they start to vaguely wonder if maybe that wall is there because it's not the right path rather than that they aren't the right person yet.  But it's a struggle to know what is best, what is right.

Thoughts?  Advice?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Birthday Cake

Dear Self,

I think it's time to finally accept that another birthday has passed. 

Just because you're older than the heroine of your favorite book and you still haven't found your own blue castle doesn't mean that you never will...

Just because you have no idea what you're doing with your life doesn't mean that you never will...

Just because you haven't gotten that degree you've been fighting for doesn't mean that you never will...

I have a feeling that one day you will look back on this part of your life and realize that these days were influential to the rest of your life. 

I hope that you look back and see that they were happy and fulfilling and that your life has turned out better than you ever could have imagined.

I hope you don't look back and think, "Now why didn't I get myself a birthday cake?" 

Here's to you and your 30 years on earth! 


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Time Piece

They say things run like clockwork when they run correctly and promptly and predictably because that's how clocks run...until they don't.

As my grandma said, "I think a nice clock in its proper place looks majestic."
"When it works," my aunt smilingly countered.

Last week, I ran into a clock that didn't work like clockwork.  In fact, it didn't work at all.  I found it under a pile of stuff in my grandma's new apartment and heard the story about how it came from my great-great-grandfather John Villhard.  I tried winding it and turning its gears in hopes of getting it to work - I might have even had visions of magically fixing this clock - in vain.

Anecdote 1:
Watching me try to figure out the gear system, my grandma spoke up, "True story!  I once tried to fix a clock and when I got done, I had some pieces left over."  

Most likely, that will be the fate of this clock too.

Anecdote 2:
Me: "I always wondered how you set a clock back in the day.  What if you forgot to wind it and the clock ran out?  How did you know how to reset it?"

I laughingly imagined my ancestors taking the clock that I was fiddling with and riding into town with the clock on their laps so they could go to the town bank and reset the clock.  (This is of course assuming that your town has a bank and that it has a clock that has correct time)

My aunt laughed at my proposition as we tried to imagine hauling a grandfather clock into town just to set it.  So then we decided that pocket watches could serve the purpose of giving the correct time.

All of this, of course, depends on the accuracy of each time piece to keep correct time.  Which really just meant that back in the day when clocks were mechanical, because of the obvious difficulty of synchronized clocks, time was less exact and therefore, few things besides clocks ran well, like clockwork.

We all stopped and thought a little bit more about when we put away our schedules and our busyness and simply let life happen when it did.  ...

Anecdote 3:
My aunt: "Maybe you could get something for that clock at one of those antique roadshows."
Grandma: "Oh, but those are usually clocks that are made from a nice piece of wood with some sort of style that actually run."
Me: "Are you implying that you just gave me a clock that isn't made from a niece piece of wood and doesn't have style?"  (We already know it doesn't run)

One man's junk is another man's treasure.

What all of this means:
Life goes on.  Time continues to tick by.  Let's hope we're all making the most of it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I am running an experiment today and everything was running normally...

Until the room started shaking.  At first I thought it was a large truck outside rumbling past but then I realized that literally the entire room was shaking and it felt like the rumbling was coming from below the lab.

So I ran outside to investigate.

To find an entire lab of graduate students also tumbling out of the building worriedly looking back at our building, wondering when it was going to blow.  A lab next to ours also came outside and started calling to us, asking us what we had been doing in our building and what had gone wrong.  

You see, our lab used to have a nuclear reactor in it.  And now it houses a supersonic combustion wind tunnel.  (Yes, that means we're blowing things up at speeds faster than the speed of sound)

So we all had good cause to sprint when the building started shaking.

It turns out it was an earthquake, 5.8 earthquake 30 miles outside of Charlottesville.

<Sigh of relief>

"Oh Good!"  I exclaimed to the maintenance guy who told me the news.  He laughed.  But then stopped when he realized that my excitement was not due to love of earthquakes but because it was much better than the alternative.

We all go back inside.

Just another day in my lab...


Are there people that you have a crush on?  People that you admire and somehow always finding yourself understanding and relating to everything they say or do?  You just know if they were somehow in your little circle or somehow their circle intersected with yours that you would be the best of friends.  Or rather, that you would be a blubbering idiot around them because your love for them would overcome any ability to speak coherently about anything that would help them see how perfect you are for each other.  Because in all honesty, that's how my crushes on people within my circles actually go.

So I've compiled a small list of people that I have a crush on.  (in no particular order)

1. Yen-J: Ask to me pick a favorite song of his.  I can't - it's not that I like them all or that I like them the same way - His music is all very different and it expresses a variety of emotions and experiences.  However, all if it somehow always connect with me.  Not only that but the way he talks about his music and the way he talks about his life, I feel like we must be looking through a similar lens.
Source: Facebook

2.  Makoto Hasebe:  This crush is no secret.  I've liked him now for over a year and I talk about him as if he were my best friend.  But truly, the more I know about this kid, the more I think, "We should be friends!"  I first noticed it when I saw him in the World Cup.  The feeling deepened when I started reading his blog and noted that he liked to talk about interesting and curious things around his house and on trips he took.  But the kicker was when I saw a video of his house and realized that he owned floor to ceiling bookshelves full of books!  While Google translating his blog and his book, I've been amazed at the insights he has and the way he manages his life.  I admire him and worry about him and even laugh at him (with him) on occasion.  It's not about the soccer.  It really isn't.  In fact, I don't even know if he ranks as a good soccer player.  It's about the person.  And I like that person a lot.
Source: Getty Images

3.  Jeffrey R. Holland:  I know we aren't supposed to really have favorites when it comes to General Authorities because the messages they give are all important.  However, over and over, when life gets hard I find myself turning back to messages he has given.  "The Other Prodigal"  "Some Things We Have Learned Together" "However Long and Hard the Road"  I have read or listened to each of these talks at least a dozen times.

4.  Neal A. Maxwell: On that same note, I have a huge crush on this man.  Our circles actually did cross once.  He came to the MTC while I was there and spoke on Hope (one of my favorite topics).  I lived half in fear and half hope that he would come over to ask questions of me and my companion.  The responses he gave to nervous missionary responses were warm and kind and uplifting.  I also think he is very attractive.  My roommates laugh at me about this.  It turns out they never think of General Authorities as attractive or not.  But seriously, seeing his face just makes me feel happier.

4.  John Steinbeck:  During my junior year of college, I read a Steinbeck book a week.  In that manner, I've almost read everything this man has written.  He pushes a lot of boundaries in his writing.  He creates truly fantastically evil characters as well as amazingly flawed heroes that have me squirming the entire book until the end when it all comes to an end and I find myself crying at the beauty of the message.  When I read his Travels with Charley, I got to read his own personal voice.  I loved it.  I felt like I was on a road trip with my best friend.  I felt bad that we left his wife at home.  But it was an amazing journey anyway.

5.  Moroni: I first discovered Moroni and I were kindred spirits when I was on my mission.  More and more, when life gets tough, I go back to him and his writings.  For a man who preached the gospel to people who would only end up getting in a war that wiped out their entire nation, I have always been impressed by his faith and his confidence in the Lord.  But I also love that he lets us see his weaknesses and his sorrows.  Once his people were gone, I feel like the people in our times became his friends.  He said he saw our times.  He started writing (and living) for us.  And I love that.

6.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:  Psalm of Life.  Enough said.  Every week, when I contemplate that weekly postcard to Makoto, I always keep turning back to this poem.  And have to stop myself because I already sent him the entire poem.  But not just that poem, Longfellow's views of nature are magnificent.  And does anyone else think it entirely romantic that years and years after his wife died, he wrote a poem about how he still missed her?  He was such a good gentle family man.  I would liked to have known him.

7.  Allen Say:  I first discovered him in the children's book Grandfather's Journey.  Since then I've read an autobiographical novel as well as a few other children's books.  His artwork is beautiful and inspiring but his story and the way he tells a story... I feel like I'm sitting at his feet and just taking it all in and seeing the world through his eyes.  It also helps that for a girl who feels torn between two cultures, he feels the same way.
Source: Houghton Mifflin Publisher's Website

8.  Xinran: She wrote a book called China Witness but she allowed the voices of the people she interviewed shine through.  She did the same with Good Women of China so that I finished each book not only feeling like I had gone on a journey with her but that I had also made a lot of new friends in the process.  I am amazed by  the perspective and attitudes she has taken from being a reporter in China during a difficult period for the media.
Source: Random House Publisher's Website

9.  Hayao Miyazaki: My roommate in college first introduced me to him.  We sat and watched Howl's Moving Castle and stayed up until 2 am to finish it.  Then we got up the next day and watched it at least 1 or 2 more times.  I couldn't get enough of it.  Each time I was learning something new about the story and myself.  Miyazaki manages to capture the essence of childhood and he manages also the capture a beauty in his films that is a fascinating mixture of East, West and imagination.

10. Anne Morrow Lindbergh: In her books, I find the voice of a good friend who is sitting down with me during hard and better moments and discussing our lives and sharing our thoughts and opinions.  We laugh and cry together.  And we keep going.

All images from Wikipedia unless specified.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

All Roads Lead to Rome

This is the story of a postcard printed in Italy...

bought in Boston, Mass., USA...

and given as a gift in Charlottesville, VA, USA...
On which was written Latin...

to send to Wolfsburg, Germany...

to a Japanese soccer player.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Newest Favorite Technology

We already know that I get a kick out of Google translate.  Granted, it is a great technology that I use on a daily basis in order to keep up with information and people all around the world.  However, sometimes, it is just so off that I just have to laugh and laugh and laugh.

Recently, Youtube unveiled a closed caption Beta application that utiliizes Google voice recognition technology to provide captions for videos.  My friend, J, found this technology while listening to a Tongan football player complete an interview for ByuTV reporters.

Some of my favorite lines:
"North of the necklace with you before you started"
"Clinton's welfare and untrustworthy Canada"
"that's really that first night of export from someone that he can we trust"
"that's really what refrigerators about."
"Latino with you've regarding then begin to know what the photo board member of the form you print"
"And almost entire here by the time you cried"
"Gray tabby background margaret great thanks"

Are you sure this interview is about football?  It hints more towards American foreign policy. (??)

I thought that I'd be playing with this new technology on Youtube more but it turns out I don't actually watch anything in English on Youtube.  The Beta testing for translating Captions though...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Honesty is the best policy

Dear ハセさん,

I know that you're an honest guy.  During the Asian cup, when Inoha scored a goal, you honestly admitted you had been telling him not to keep moving up the entire game.  When your recent postcards came out for Wolfsburg, you divulged that your left eye had been edited in because you still had a bandage over it when the picture was taken.
Source: Makoto Hasebe's blog (via hashimotofetish Tumblr) 
Note the nice photoshopped left eye

Source: Vfl Wolfsburg-Fussball Website, Makoto Hasebe
A few days later, without the bandage and without photoshopping
Doesn't he look like he's wearing guyliner?  

So, when asked about the sudden, shocking and sad death of previous National teammate, Naoki Matsuda, I had to cringe when you gave a bluntly honest, "He was a bit wild but a really warm-hearted person."  It just felt so raw for a person who had recently passed.  Shouldn't you speak a little more kindly about the dead?

And then I found an article  at by Ken Matsushima telling me just what sort of legacy Matsuda left behind.  Apparently, during one game, Matsuda, serving as captain, got mad over a ref's second yellow (red) to his teammate and snapped.  I will quote Matsushima-san here so you can get the full color of the story:

"The Marinos captain [Matsuda] closed the distance between him and Naza in three steps, and launched a powerful kick right into the Brazilan’s backside. He then returned to the referee, and with spittle flying from his lips he launched into a full-scale tirade.

First he tore off his captain's armband and threw it on the ground, and then he took off his jersey and threw it in the referee's face. The astonished official stared blankly for a few seconds, then raised the red card and pointed Matsuda towards the changing room.

As he stormed from the pitch Matsuda tore off first his boots - which he threw back in the direction of the referee one at a time - then his socks, which he balled up and launched towards the crowd before stomping down the changing room hallway stripped to his skivvies." (Source: Remembering Former Japan international Naoki Matsuda - never one to go quietly) 

Now I've heard of some ways to show your frustration at a ref's call but this one had me laughing in disbelief.  Really?!!

Now back to your description.  "A bit wild"  No kidding!

I guess you'd softened up the truth more than I gave you credit for.


P.S. Good luck tomorrow in the Japan v. South Korea game.  がんばれニッポン!

Growing up is Optional

Dear Man at the side of the road,

With all the construction going on in Charlottesville right now, I've almost ceased to notice it.  The big trucks, the big orange signs and cones, as well as the dozens of people in hard hats working and directing traffic - it's as much a permanent fixture on my route to work as the Pink Cadillac.  

So I didn't think anything of the hole in the middle of the road as the workers helped traffic navigate the single lane around least until I saw you standing there, wide eyed, transfixed on the scene before you, with an expression on your face half-wonder/half-delight.  Suddenly I took notice of that hole and realized how awesomely cool digging holes is/was.  

I remembered that I once spent a whole hour while in college watching the construction workers on my campus dig a huge hole (in which is now housed an entire building entirely underground).  I laughed when I came to myself and, looking around, found a whole group of other students all watching as enthralled as I.  

Thanks for reminding me that it's the little things that make life a wonder.  


Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I'm counting down the time until Makoto Hasebe decides to finally post on his blog again (it's been 3 days already)

I'm counting down the minutes until Super Junior releases their new MV resulting in me either giving them a "second chance" (for the hundredth time) or parting ways forever.

I'm counting down the days until I get to see my adorable niece and take a billion pictures of her and listen to her say her favorite word, "Baby" and hope she decides to take her first step while I'm there and sing kpop with her and dance with her and listen to her addicting, adorable laugh and celebrate knowing her for an entire year.

Monday, August 1, 2011

House of Dreams

Take a good look at this house.

It doesn't look like much to you, perhaps.  It's just an inconspicuous house in a small little village in the middle of Illinois.

But you weren't in the car with all of your siblings when this house came into view and everyone started yelling, "White swing is mine!"  or "I've got red!"  And you weren't in the race around the back of the house to the world's best swing set.

You weren't there at the dinner table to eat the world's best food made by Grandma and hear Grandpa tell the best stories about growing up during the Great Depression, owning a movie theater during the Golden Age of Hollywood and serving in the war.

You weren't there for the hundreds of pool games around the world's best pool table and the brackets that would start with the small girls (myself and my sister) and move on up through the ranks of the older siblings and on to the adults.  The best honor was to play against Grandpa.  I never made it past the first game ever (yes, my sister really was just that much better than I)  But it was enough even just to listen to the world's best record player and watch everyone else play while I ran up and down the stairs.

You weren't there to sit in the Grandpa's best leather chair and pretend to work the crossword puzzle.  My legs were always too short to reach the ottoman but it didn't stop me from always trying every time I visited.

You weren't there in the den where we all crowded in and spent countless hours, poring over photo albums and listened to Grandma tell stories about growing up and dating Grandpa and going on more trips than you could count.

You weren't there to sit on the couch by Carol's side and listen to her talk about things she gets excited about and knit the world's longest scarves.

You weren't there to play the Washer game out in the backyard while the adults avoided the bugs by sitting up on the deck that Grandpa built himself.

It's not that all the memories in it were happy or even exciting.  Some of them were heartbreaking and some downright boring.  I got sent to bed without dessert more times than I can count.  I usually only got to swing on the best swing set when my older, faster, taller siblings all got bored with it.  It was there that I watched my grandpa suffer from cancer.  It was there that I cried to my mother about my fears of growing up.

For those of who have moved and moved and moved again, this house is all we have left of a childhood, of roots.  Our entire lives, us kids always thought, "This is the BEST house!"  If only it weren't in the middle of a state none of us live in, we would have bought this house up long ago with plans to live in it for forever.

It wasn't really a surprise that this house sold so quickly - it IS the best house after all.  But I don't think the new owners truly comprehend just how much of a gem they bought.  If only the walls could talk...

Goodbye, House of Dreams.