Monday, December 30, 2013

From Cover to Cover

I so enjoyed my post last year summarizing my year through my reading that I thought I'd try the same thing again this year.

Overall, it was a year of fluffy fun reading interspersed with reading that challenged my religious perspectives and my world views.  All in all, I've gone on an emotional journey that has had its ups and downs but one I don't regret taking.

The Books of 2013 That Changed my Life:

A Life of Jesus by Shusaku Endo -
One-liner blurb: Explaining Jesus Christ to an audience unfamiliar with Christianity
My thoughts: This book challenged my previously conceived notions of Jesus Christ and turned many events entirely upon their heads.  I didn't realize how concrete my view of Christ was and how limiting such a view could be in my faith.  I realize that my new perspective is not perfect either but being open to a different idea of Christ than I've conceived is a nice step in the right direction.  Endo's perspective on the events leading up to and including the crucifixion now stand in parallel in my faith with other interpretations.

The Messenger by Markus Zusak
One-liner blurb: An ordinary man is given the chance to participate in other ordinary people's lives and somehow the result is quite extraordinary.
My thoughts:  I should have expected nothing less from the author of The Book Thief (which also changed my life but not as significantly as this one).  I summed this book up to my friends as "The Gospel".  By that, I mean, this life feels like a challenge to me, to stop worrying only about ourselves and to see if ordinary people with no special abilities or even special interests can impact someone else's life for the better.  This books shows that it's possible; but at the end of the day, people will always change your life for the better more than you will change theirs.


Books of 2013 That Changed My Perspective: 

The Sea and Poison by Shusaku Endo
One-liner blurb: Vivisection on American prisoners during WWII emotionally scarred one of the doctors forever.
My thoughts: Hats off to Endo for tackling a difficult topic; I can't imagine that this was received well by critics.  He not only alludes to the war crimes committed by Japanese soldiers during the war but he also raises the question of what we define as 'moral' and under what circumstances those morals hold or are overturned.  When I finished this book, I was like, 'What did I just read?' and thanks to some good friends, I was able to discuss it and figure this book out.

The Book of Lights by Chaim Potok
One-liner blurb: Semi-autobiographical story of a young Jewish rabbi who serves as a chaplain in the Korean war and finds himself asking questions about his faith.
My thoughts: The part of the book that made this book a stand-out was when the main character traveled to Japan and saw people praying sincerely at their Shinto temples and wondered, "If we believe that our God is the one true God, then who is listening to their prayers?" It was an interesting dive into faith and believers in other faiths.  The side character who struggled with the choice to drop the bomb on Japan and its aftermath brought a poignant touch to the question of "us" vs. "them" as well.

Escape from Camp 14... by Blaine Harden
One-liner blurb: The story of a man who was born and raised and then escaped from a political prison camp in North Korea
My thoughts: After reading other North Korean books, I was ready to go into North Korea when it opened up and love and serve the people until they were healed.  Hahaha, this book showed me now naive my thoughts were.  I didn't think the answers would be easy or simple but now I'm starting to realize that I have not the training, understanding or well, anything that would aid in making 'healing' possible.

Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz
One-liner blurb: A boy in an addiction therapy facility learns to face his demons and survive
My thoughts: I always get emotionally invested in the characters' lives but this one especially rang true with me.  Can we survive the bad stuff that happens to us?  How do we face the broken parts of ourselves that we don't want to admit even exist?  I found myself cheering the main character on in part because I wanted to cheer myself on through my struggles.  This book changed the way that I view my problems and how to address them.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
One-liner blurb: The author spends a year living up to the ideals for women canonized in scripture.
My thoughts: If I believe the Bible to be the word of God (and I do) then should I be living like a woman in biblical times?  I expected to balk at the entire treatment of this but also to enjoy the good sense of humor along the way.  I found it exceed my expectations on both counts; many thoughts and points made throughout the book impressed me and helped me realize a little more about what it means to be a woman of faith.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
One-liner blurb:  A concierge of a hotel in Paris finds unlikely friends in rich 12 year old girl Paloma and enigmatic Japanese man Ozu.
My thoughts: "You are not your sister."  Those words alone turned this book from a good read to a perspective changer.  What is holding me back from truly living?  The ending though is tragic and kind of negates the power in the statement that marked this book for me so maybe I'll just continue living in my own happy world of the mantra "people can change"?


Honorable Mentions: These books didn't change my life per se but they definitely made it a lot more fun
Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
Johnny Wander Series by Ananth Panagariya and Yuko Ota
A Matter of Magic by Patrica C. Wrede


Authors I Discovered in 2013: 

Markus Zusak - His books are moving and his storytelling style is so different in each book that I marvel they were written by the same person.  Seriously, how did he create such interesting narrative styles?  I highly recommend both The Book Thief and The Messenger.  I definitely cried partly through both of them.

Jessica Day George - She came as a recommendation from a friend and I found her books a delightful fun read for those days when you want a satisfying fairy tale with good characters and plot.

Benjamin Alire Saenz - I've read three of his books now.  The first one came as a recommendation from a friend who wanted someone to discuss the book with.  I so enjoyed that I picked up two more of his books.  He definitely uses a lot of language in the books but getting past you, you meet some characters that you find yourself cheering on.  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Off to Massachusetts

I'm back from Boston and back from Christmas overall, actually.

Boston was surreal.  It was like meeting up again with my best friend...from a previous life.  As I roamed the shop before the Orchard House tour, I was browsing the titles of the books by Louisa May Alcott and realizing, "Hey! I've read every single one of these books!"  Multiple times.  I think there was a time in my life when I rediscovered them every two or three years and sprinted through them all over again as though it was the first time.

That sums up my entire trip.  Everything was so familiar, but as though I had experienced it all as a different person.  At nights before I went to sleep, I would calculate what time it was in various places around the world just to ground myself in reality.  

My trip was incredibly international.  We made (and ate) Spritz cookies and spaghetti eis from Germany, and rice porridge from Norway.  I met people people from Japan, Armenia, Norway, China, and Puerto Rico.  I ate Thai lunch one day, Italian sausage another day and Moroccan Christmas eve dinner.  It was a lot of fun but definitely kept me hopping, trying to keep everything straight in my head.

My sister and I did some cultured things like go to Orchard House, attend a candlelight Christmas Eve service at a local church, and visit Faneuil Hall.  We also did some really random things such as walking to the North End in cold rain just to see the marker for the Molasses Tsunami and stop by the Massachusetts State House halfway there so we could get warm.  We walked a different way to Tufts so we could stop by Grandmother's house and stopped by a friend's house to sing Christmas carols and give her warm gingerbread.  We watched a lot of bad Christmas movies including a modern retelling of Little Women and a few really good ones like Silent Night and It's a Wonderful Life.

In any case, meeting up with a best friend from a previous life or not, it was a lot of fun.  Thanks for the great trip, Meli.
Orchard House

My sister and I outside Orchard House.  

Us at the Boston Temple. 

"Well, I guess we do owe one offering to the cookie gods."  
"Yep, our own burnt offering."

Make way for ducklings!

Me in the Massachusetts State House.

Okay, so breaking the mold after you create a staircase so it can be one of a kind is cool.  Being excited about said mold breaking might make me nerdy.

"We were just walking by and we saw that there were tours here."
"Yes, Second floor on the left."
"You could have just said, 'Hi, we're here to get warm.'"

A pretty door

I begged my sister for spaghetti eis and she was quite obliging

Hugging Jumbo the Elephant, the official mascot of Tufts University

Awesome clock that also serves as art

Beautiful ceiling in the State House

After walking through cold rain, we found the little plaque and took a picture as proof.  Feel the love, Isa!

An awesome charcoal drawing of Abraham Lincoln.  I kind of like the reflection of the lights and myself, too.

Kon'nichiwa snowman.  At least that's what I called him before I bowed 'hello' in return.

Jedi lights?

"Erin, quick, grab us our Christmas dinner!"

"Grandmother's House...is the pudding done?"

Yay, shadow peace signs!

Holding On

"From time to time everyone endures a barren period in the life of faith. Prayers bounce off the ceiling unanswered. Hymns stick in one's throat, and whatever delight one once felt in the contemplation or worship of God withers away.

"In such circumstances Christians should 'do what is in them -- that is, they should keep on keeping on. They should keep on with their prayers, their hymns of praise and their daily round of duties. Even though it seems like they are walking through an immense and limitless desert with oases few and far between, they plod on, knowing that obedience is more important than emotional satisfaction and a right spirit than a merry heart.

"To such people, 'God does not deny grace.' They live in hope, however, that sooner or later the band will strike up a polka and the laughter and the dancing will start all over again."

~David Steinmetz, found in the talk Hold On; It's all True by Robert Millet

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Scenic Route

I'm in Boston!  with my eldest sister!

Today, on the way back from my church, my sister decided to avoid the highway because of the heavy fog reducing visibility.  Instead, she decided to take a quick turn onto another route home so that we could drive along her favorite road to see her favorite view of Boston.

Then she realized what she had just decided to do and we both laughed.

We stopped and took pictures anyway.  So, here you have it, folks: the best view of Boston.

(My sister had to point me in the right direction as I couldn't actually tell where Boston was)
Visibility 100 yards?


Isn't this gorgeous?

This is not actually in the direction of Boston.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Life Imitates Literature

Every time I put on my coat - either one - I feel so gloriously happy.  The rest of Virginia might be sad about cold weather but I'm not.  There's nothing so calculated to make an absolutely penniless, unemployed person feel as luxuriously accomplished in life than to own two coats.

Probably because I read about  the joy of owning two coats in a book (Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster).  Probably because I have a wonderful friend who gave me the most beautiful wool dress coat before she went to balmy Egypt for a year, leaving me with two nice coats.  

In any case, every time, I leave the house, I have to check to transfer my wallet, keys, phone from the pockets of one coat  to the other and I love it every single time.  


It got me thinking - I live a lot of my life imitating books.  

When I was seven (or eight), I put gum behind my ear before I went to bed like the gum-chewing girl in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, effectively requiring me to get the world's ugliest haircut and banning gum in our house for years.  

When I was in college, my friend and I convinced our friend to let us bake him a cake for a birthday that would occur several months later, simply because his name was Tom, and Old-Fashioned Girl had once so fashioned just a situation.  

I once tried to start a Philomathic Society based on a book, but no one would go for since they didn't like the word 'math' in the title.    

When I was a child, I tried to force myself to be a stoic based the book Stoneface.  

I keep the annual American Mayday celebration - dropping off flowers at doorsteps - because of the book Jack and Jill.  

I follow the Japanese tradition of tying Tanabata wishes to trees, but rather than use traditional Japanese methods, I've picked up my methods from The Ornament Tree.


I really wonder if I've ever held an original thought in my life.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

It Happened

Today was not a typical day.

I investigated channel flow with a stick (and saw vortex shedding).

I packed a box of supplies for a fluid mechanics course I'm teaching in January.

I caught up with some friends I haven't seen in a while.

I watched a movie I've wanted to see for several years now (The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer starring Cary Grant and Shirley Temple).

I stayed in my friend's lab with her until 1:30 am, working and talking about everything but mostly about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I came home and uploaded my dissertation.

It was a good day.  A once-in-a-lifetime kind of day.

I'm glad I lived it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Week Off

Pics from Thanksgiving and beyond

Just Chillin'

We made chocolates for Uncles' birthdays! (Just like they do at the Lindt factory in Germany - or so I convinced her)

Smoothie Mustache 

Smoothie Mustache - day two

My attempt at a smoothie mustache was not as successful.

Monday, December 9, 2013

My life is a sitcom

Episode 1: Caught doing embarrassing things

<Annie and I drive up to catch our friend Wil taking pictures of a culvert>
Me: Oooh, what's new with the draining?  Did all that rain last night get backed up?
Wil: Umm...I can't believe I got caught being nerdy.
Annie: We love it.  We love seeing you get excited about your field of study.
<Joseph comes out to join us>
Annie: Joseph, how did your date go?
Me: Oh yeah, how was your date last night?
Annie: Last night?  You went on a date last night?
Joseph: Yeah, it was good.
Annie: Who did you go with that last night?
Me: Wait, who did you go with that other time?
Annie: Oh wait, maybe we don't want to know.
Me: Why don't we want to know?
<Annie looks at me and I look at her.  Then we look at Wil and Joseph and Joseph shrugs>
... <awkward silence>
Wil: So, yeah.  That happened.

<Later>
Me: So, wait, why did we have to stop talking about Joseph's date?
Annie: I think Wil's interested in her!  They're asking out the same girl.
Me: Oh, awkward!


<Annie sees me in the kitchen sitting in front of the oven>
Annie: Are you seriously watching the garlic bread toast?
Me: Uh...yes.
Annie: <laughs> But why?
Me: Last time, it all burned.
Annie: So, you're going to watch it this whole time?
Me: Yes!  The smoke alarm went off!  Jerry is probably upstairs laughing at my pathetic attempts to cook.  I'm determined not to burn it all again.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Stop and Think

Last night, I had an interesting dream.  The first part included espionage and I won't go into details about it but somehow in the process it landed me in Russia at a Mormon singles' conference.  (For those not in the know, this is intended for people over the age of 30.)

So, there I am, sitting at a table at this conference, introducing people to my sisters and anxiously waiting for dinner to start.  I look over and notice a blonde young man with sad eyes who rather looks like this.

So, we start talking - mostly because I'm curious about why he's even attending the singles' conference.  It turns out this kid has just returned from his two year mission and was in attendance because the prophet was speaking at the conference.  (That still doesn't really explain it but it satisfied my subconscious so let's go with it).

Anyway, this kid's story was pretty impressive.  When he was about 16, he had met some Mormon missionaries and became genuinely interested in changing his life around from the rascal life he was living before - we didn't go into details.  Without the support of parents (his father had passed away and his mother was always working to support the family), he started making changes and joined the church.  He continued to improve his life and graduated from high school and served a mission.  Now, he was going to college - one of the first in his family.  I was impressed by him.  He was so good and doing so well.

So, why was he so sad?  Then, he started telling more of his story.  Back when he met the missionaries, he casually mentioned it to a friend.  Before he knew it, that friend and that friend's entire family joined the church.  The missionaries liked teaching the lonely sixteen year old boy but they LOVED teaching the entire family.  And it seems, that's how things went from thereon out.  No matter what he worked to accomplish, his friend did it better, with more people in awe who applauded the results.  This boy changed his life around; the other's family entirely changed and were even sealed together and held prominent callings.  This boy served a mission but nowhere near as "cool" as the friend.  Essentially, this friend and the friend's family were as golden as you could get.  As he told me his story, I watched his face with some sadness.  Because he would never achieve the status of his friend, he believed that he was always a failure.  The comparison and the feeling of failure from such comparison was destroying that beautiful soul of that young man that I somehow to admire in that short time.

I looked into his face and wanted to simultaneously hug him and shake him.  Instead, I said, "I wish you could see yourself.  You're amazing and you've accomplished so much.  You've got to let your jealousy and hatred go.  You're just hurting yourself by comparing yourself to this other family.  You'll never see how far you've come that away.  And you're just going to get eaten up inside with your jealousy."

And then, I woke up before I got to see his reaction.  But in waking, I started to wonder if I needed to listen to my own words and take my own advice.  Or if others do as well.

Leading Questions

More Niece conversations

<listening to the song Will You Marry Me>
Baby: <smiles at me> Erin, will you marry me?
Me: Yes.  Will you marry me?
Baby: Yes.
Me: Awesome!
Baby: Now, ask me in Japanese.


<Baby spies Gwiyomi's partly eaten cupcake on her high chair>
Baby: Gwiyomi's birthday cupcake
Me: Yep.
Baby: She didn't eat her cupcake!
Me: Nope.  She just ate the icing.
Baby: But someone has to eat the cupcake.
Me: Haha, I see where you are going with this.  But no, you can't eat the cupcake.


<I decide to put a blue ribbon in my hair for church and Baby watches me>
Me: There.  I think that works.  Do you like it?
Baby: Yes!
...
Baby: You know, my mommy really likes the color blue.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Half Truths

Sister: For bedtime tonight, I told Baby the story of the first Thanksgiving.
Me: Yeah?
Sister: And then she wanted to hear the story of the second Thanksgiving.  So if she starts mentioning some weird stuff tomorrow about Thanksgiving, you'll know why.  I was making stuff up.

(Apparently the second Thanksgiving included building a house out of bricks so that the big bad wolf would not blow it down.)

<Sister hands Baby a pair of chopsticks>
Baby: Here, Mommy, have one.  I don't need two.

<at dinner>
Me: Itadakimasu!
Baby: Erin, you always say funny words.

Baby: Troth, Troth.
Me: Huh?
Baby: That's what you sound like with your funny words.
Me: Really?  Ok, troth, troth.

Baby: Gwiyomi isn't saying anything that makes sense.
Me: Gwiyomi is just talking Baby talk.  That's what you said when you were a baby too.
Baby: You remember me when I was a baby.  Does Gwiyomi remember me when I was a baby?
Me: Well, umm...she wasn't actually around then.
Baby: Huh?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rapt Audience


Practicing my presentation in front of an impressive group of individuals.  My only complaint is that the Korean kids kept going to sleep or demanding software updates.  :) 

D-1.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Marathon Weekend

I can't even remember the last time I took a Saturday off.  My sister ran a marathon in Richmond while I took care of her baby.  We had a lot of fun, as you can tell from these pictures.  

So, it turns out Richmond is an extremely historic city, which I had never realized before.  I mean, I should have realized.  It is the capital of the Confederacy and has had settlers in it since 1611 but for some reason, I never really wanted to explore much of the city until this weekend.  

So, after watching Tangled clips and Frozen clips for an hour and a half, I finally coaxed my niece to leave the hotel to go walk down the street.  I was determined to at least see the White House of the Confederacy which was only five blocks away.  We got one block away before my niece decided she was not walking any more and I had to carry her back to meet up with another sister.  So much for checking out historical buildings.  

Me wearing Baby's sunglasses

Baby wearing her own sunglasses - they were too big for her face

Time for Christmas yet?

Gwiyomi and her momma - taken by Baby

Baby checking out Gwiyomi's book

More of Gwiyomi - taken by Baby

My camera has about forty shots of this - taken by Baby

Gwiyomi and her momma - so cute

Gwiyomi 

My sister and Baby - Baby apparently prefers to be behind the camera

I didn't realize she was taking this picture - taken by Baby

My camera also has about twenty shots of this; I love the feet shot though - taken by Baby

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Lessons in Aunthood

I'm watching my niece while my sister is running her first marathon today.

She's three now and quite smart.  Yesterday, during the packet pick-up, I took Baby outside so that she could run around.  What I thought would be an exercise in wearing her out resulted in a full-on workout with Baby goading me on.  "Are you tired yet?  I'm not.  Keep going."  "Now we're going to do a new activity - touch your head, touch your toes, now jump as high as you can."  We did those until she was tired too.  At the end of it, I did enough jumping jacks, lunges, ladder sprints and those bending jumps things that I was sore the rest of the night.

Today, someone thought it was a brilliant idea to buy her a playdough kit to play with during the race.  The playdough is bright pink.  Baby manages immediately after opening it to stick playdough in the one plastic "tool" that came with that was not supposed to have playdough jammed into it.  So, I'm digging out the playdough and then I look up and see Baby smashing this bright pink playdough into the hotel carpet.  "Baby! Oh no!  It's going to make a mess."  She looks at me like I'm crazy and then scrapes the playdough off to reveal a bright pink spot.  I immediately move her over to the tiling in the entrance.

It's going to be a long five hours.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Distraction

I have a meeting with my professor in twenty minutes and I'll be honest: I'm terrified.  I am so afraid he's going to tell me that my chapters are unprofessional and need major overhauling when my dissertation is due to my committee in three days.

So, I'll give you a glimpse of the music that I've been listening to lately in between writing, and editing, and writing and editing and editing some more.

Sweet Serendipity by Lee DeWyze

My roommate and I realized this song described me perfectly.  Especially since I really am down to one pair of jeans.  ...


Return by Lee Seung Gi

I once had a dream that he and I were buds so yeah, there's that....

Growl by Exo

I can't tell you who is who but it's a good song and dance anyway...

Never Let This Go by One Ok Rock


 The lyrics don't quite make sense but the tune is so awesome that you want them to...



Update

My life right now.  



Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Humanity

I wandered over to Clemons today in an attempt to write.  

I sat down at a carrel and then proceeded to read every message written on it.  Some of the messages are crude references, or invitations "for a good time".  People have scratched in their initials or their Greek initials or simply initial hearts initials.  Many of the comments express the stresses of normal students - "I hate spherical coordinates."  "I hate studying."  "I'm going to ace this test!"  "Last final ever!"

But this is what's kind of amazing - most of the comments are written by students hoping to inspire and help each other.  "You are awesome!  You got this!  Faith in yourself is the 1st Step to Success!"  "I'm here for you"  (with another written under it, "Yes, really!")  "It is only in the depths of our exhaustion and madness that we approach understanding our true selves - Richard Wagner" "You are loved."  "It's almost over!  Hang in there!"  "Don't give up.  You got this!"

People respond in a conversation-like manner.  "Thanks!"  "Agreed!"  ":)" "Amen!"

And despite the fact that I have now joined the dozens of other students who have sat at this carrel, stressing over my load and my future, I feel a sense of camaraderie with these people.  People, who as beleaguered as myself, looked up from their book or their computers and scratched something out either to inspire themselves or for some unknown classmate out there who might find themselves in a tough situation.

Either way, I'm impressed and inspired and encouraged.  THANKS.

D-27.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

At the Heart of It

I found this video today while looking for something to do for English class.

How to Fly the World's Fastest Plane

By the end of it, there were tears in my eyes.

It's a beautiful airplane, with some great technology.  It flew supersonic, as a matter of course.  And the men flying it got pretty close to space - I always like to imagine what space looks like and feels like and the thrill of being there.

I have a very confusing relationship with my field.  I really love aerospace engineering.  But I have no idea how I fit into it.  I love the technology that comes out of it but it also terrifies me.  The repercussions of my field have a large impact on the types of wars fought and the manner that wars are fought, as well as the types of peace sustained.  It's a fine line to walk.

What will I do in this field?  What kind of job will I hold?  How will I contribute?  Will I even be able to contribute?

I've been asking these kinds of questions now for fourteen years.  I've tried several times to entertain other options and each time, I come back.  I can't seem to walk away from something that, at the heart of it, I love.

I'm in the right field.  But is the field right for me?  I honestly don't know.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Chance of a Lifetime

My roommate and I, sometimes of a night, pull out our ukuleles and sing, "The best things in life are free."  We smile at each other.

But I don't think I've ever believed it.  Not really.

Last night, restless but determined to do something, I coaxed my roommate to take some dirt we had made to a friend.  So, off we went, in the crisp fall air to our friend's house, where we found her sheepishly finishing up a painting.  (She insisted she wasn't an artist - we weren't convinced)

Then, began a delightful catch-up session with one of my dear kindred spirit friends.  She told us stories about her most recent play, about her experiences working at historic Williamsburg and her annual autumn trips up to Boston, MA.  My roommate and I hung on to her every word, building our own castles in the sky.  Boston, you see, is a bit of a Mecca for the romantics that we are.  (And the much hoped-for destination of my roommate come graduation)

Our dear friend thrilled us with stories about her trip to a Green Gables-esque bed and breakfast, about her pilgrimages to all the great Transcendentalist writers, as well as her love affair with apples.  We have to go!  My roommate and I cried out.  Even while I listened, though, I thought: One day.

One day - this has become a mantra for my life in the past few years.  Those things require time and money - two luxuries that I simply don't have.  Instead, I content myself with the castles in the sky and feeding off the crumbs of others' adventures.  All the great experiences though, with this mantra, feel far away.  And in my time-poor and money-poor state, they feel like the experiences that I will never get.

My friend found out we enjoyed listening to her obsession over apples and pulled out a few heirloom gems for us to try.  We tasted the Hidden Rose apple which reveals a beautiful pink interior flesh and supposedly tastes like raspberry lemonade.  (Try as I might, I could only taste, "apple")  We expertly nibbled on the Lady Apple, which is the oldest cultivated apple in existence.  And we gloated over the Starlight Pippins ("stolen apples") from some famous person's overgrown garden whose name I can't remember, which had a satisfying sort of tingle when you bit into it.  Our very own heirloom apple testing!

We shared stories and laughed until our sides hurt and promised ourselves we needed to do this again, very soon.  The hours had passed like mere minutes.

As my roommate and I walked back home, my whole life felt brighter.  My roommate soaked in the autumn smell and dreamed of Boston.  I stuck my hands in my coat and realized that this sort of memory was something that had cost very little in time and money but would encourage me and buoy me up for a long time after.  I almost wanted to remain in that moment forever and then laughed at myself for the absurdity in wishing I would be stuck in ABD, stressed and frenzied dissertation writing mode forever.

Turns out you can enjoy some of the best things - friendship, laughter - for free.  Now.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fan Girl

I've liked the Bundesliga now for over 3 years (since the 2010 World Cup).  Yes, a lot of that interest has been Hasebe-centered.  But for the record, the only Bundesliga jersey I own is Schalke's.  (And yes, in the Riveirderby today, I'm cheering for the Blues.)

Being a fan of a league on a different continent in a foreign tongue has its setbacks.  For one, I can't watch games ever.  Secondly, Google translate can only do so much.  Third, no one I know knows anything about the Bundesliga - even the ones who say their favorite team is Bayern.  (Grr...Bayern)

In spite of these roadbumps, I thought I had been making some pretty good progress.  I now know that PK can stand for Penalty Kick or Pressekonferenz.  I know the difference between the Europa League and the Champions League.  I know game schedules and standings.  I recognize players and names from just about every team in the top flight.  (Heck, I even know know how to casually use the words 'top flight' in context.)

But last week, while looking through the Bundesliga website, I found a reference to something called the Humba.  Which apparently, is becoming so famous that kids in Africa thought "the Humba was in fact the German national anthem, such was its upbeat, foot-stamping rhythm, and very German essence."

How have I never heard of this?  What is this amazing song?

As much as I can tell you, the player of the winning team yells out, "Give me an H!  Give me an U!  Give me an M!  Give me a B!  Give me an A!"  (which, is it just me, or do 'H' and 'A' sound almost identical?)  And then everyone jumps up and down and chants, "Humba, Humba, Humba." It sounds exhilarating and hilarious.

And as anyone from UVa can attest, there's nothing so fun as jumping up and down in the cold singing made-up words:  Wah-hoo-wah!  Wah-hoo-wah!  Univ-V, Virginia!  Hoo-rah-ray, Hoo-rah-ray.  Ray, ray, UVA!

Addendum: My roommate and I found the song with lyrics.  It's our new house song and we sing it and jump up and down whenever we can now.  (As in the past half hour since we discovered it.)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

In a Name (on little or no sleep)

Here are snippets from a conversation my roommate and I had while I tried to convince myself that "less than four hours of sleep is legit" and she tried to convince herself, "No, I really do need the next three hours to sleep" after coming back from her eight-hour shift at the hospital.  I'm putting quotes but I don't remember who said what.

"Do you think that they shortened names in the Book of Mormon for nicknames? I mean, sure, he's Jeffrey R. Holland in the scriptures, but he's Jeff in real life."

"Yeah, we could shorten Nephi to just 'Neph'.  That's actually pretty awesome.  I want to name my kid Nephi so I can call him Neph."

"Yeah, I'm not naming any of my children Nephi.  Maybe my cat...er..."

"Lemuel could be shortened to 'Lem'.  Hahaha, Laman would be shortened to Lame-o!"

"Would we call Alma 'Al'?"

"How do you ever shorten Amaleki?  If you call him 'Amal' it's so close to Alma, you'd always  get those two confused."

"Or maybe their names in the Book of Mormon are the nicknames."

"What if we're completely mispronouncing the names in the Book of Mormon?  They spoke Hebrew and wrote in reformed Egyptian.  Surely, our American pronunciations are wrong."

"But Joseph Smith met several of them, right?  He had to have learned how to pronounce it."

"Or he pronounced it wrong every time.  And poor Moroni, maybe, he cringes every time we say it.  Every time, every single one of us talks about him, he's up in Heaven, groaning over how much we butcher his name."

"Maybe he's like, 'Dad, why couldn't you have given me a simpler name?  Like yours?"

"And Mormon's like, 'Well, son, we couldn't both be named Mormon.  That would have confused everyone.  I'd have to give you a nickname and shorten it to Momo or something.'"

"Hahahahaha.  We have the best conversations when we're both exhausted.  We should always make a point to talk to each other when we're both sleep deprived."

2AM And I Must Be Lonely

I went looking for good 2AM songs to jam to while I worked and found this instead.

Star Date with 2AM.

Date at 2AM with 2AM?

Sleep would be nice too.  But dissertations don't write themselves.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Silverscreen Sightseeing

(1) Lee Tadanari once used movies - Gladiator and Roman Holiday - as guides for what he should see and do while on vacation in Rome.

(2) Last night, while watching Walk, Don't Run with my roommate (while working on English class lessons) I realized I'd missed a great opportunity to check out some of the filming locations from one of my favorite movies.

(3) One of my friends recently got back from New York City, where she made a point to go and visit places used in the movie You've Got Mail.


What movie locations would you like to visit?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Confusing Myself

Friend: How was your day?
Me: I had my meeting with my adviser.  And then I had a meeting for my job next semester.
Friend: You got a job?
Me: Not a real job.  I'll be teaching kids Fluid Mechanics.
Friend: ...So, like twenty-year olds.
Me: Huh, what?  No, kids.
Friend 2: Erin, you call everyone 'kids'.  We're 'kids'.  Hasebe's a 'kid'...
Me: Oh yeah, even President Obama is 'kid'.  No, these are actual, legitimate elementary school-aged kids.
Friend: Oh, haha.  Cool.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Message

This summer, I deleted all the old posts to my blog.  I just needed a clean slate.  The blog was just getting so boring.  A pump can only break so many times before you start to think I'm making it up.  If we're being completely honest, I started to think that I was making it up.  Or taking a hammer to my lab in my sleep.  Or hiring someone in my sleep to take a hammer to my lab.

I pondered that blank slate of a blog for a while.  I still want to write.  I still want to blog.  But I wanted to write something worth reading.  I thought about book reviews.  I contemplated inspirational quotes.  Or good news articles.  I really was hoping for humorous essays. 

The blog remained empty.  Life kept happening.  I moved apartments, had another pump break and found myself peering yet again into a strange and dark UNKNOWN of a future.   

Then, I read a book: I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak.  Read it.  Please read it.  It's a book about a man who shares messages with people that he is directed to, through clues given to him on playing cards.  It's intriguing and compelling and moving enough that I even cried.  (But note: if you are squeamish over foul language, this one has it)  

At the end of it, I found something I have been missing: people

People changing people.  Every day, we meet people who change our lives, change our perspective, help us when we're down.  I want to focus on those people, the ones who change me, the ones who inspire me, the ones who challenge me.  

I get so abashed writing about people.  People don't like to be focused on or mentioned or put on display.  And mostly, I'm afraid of people's reactions when I focus on them or mention them or put them on display.  Will I write something that offends or hurts?

But honestly, when it comes down to it, for me, this life is about people.  Flawed human beings interacting with flawed human beings.  In some ways, the results are atrocious.  The news is filled with examples of how some people hurt and abuse, mistreat and negatively impact others.  The wounds take years, lifetimes and even generations to heal.  On the other side, in some ways, the results are miraculous.  A person comes into another person's life and causes them to do something unselfish, unanticipated.  That person finds herself being changed by her interactions with others.  That person starts caring, helping, listening and loving.  Suddenly, that interaction is not so ordinary - ordinary people are now doing extraordinary things.  But the funny thing is, not one of us flawed human beings gets only one or the other.  We are both.  We mistreat some people.  We love others.  Sometimes, we even mistreat people that we love.

So, forgive me if this blog is about people and my thoughts about people and my interactions with people.  Forgive me if you're one of the people I mention.  Most importantly, forgive me if I say something that offends you or hurts you.  The flawed human being that I am is trying to interact with other flawed human beings.  The results are not always perfect or miraculous.  But they're definitely worth living.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Book Review

One-line blurb: Xinran gathers the stories of women she has met who had to abandon, give up, or abort their baby daughters in China.

One-line concluding message: We must not underestimate the pain and suffering that any mother who has given up a child endures.

Notes:
I love Xinran - she is one of my favorite authors.  This is the fourth book of hers that I have read.
It's a very serious book that deals with a very serious premise and tone and at times, graphic descriptions.

Thoughts:
For some reason, I picked this book up casually.  I'd been reading a slew of young adult fairy tale books and longed for some non-fiction.  Once I realized the seriousness of the content of the book, I had to put it down and then approach it in a better mindset.  Xinran is a master storyteller, including you in her own life and in the lives the women she meets in such a way that you are re-living that moment with her - you can feel the awkward silences, hear the nervous clearing of throats.  Although I had known something of the situation with girls in China, I had not realized the variety of circumstances or methods that daughters were abandoned, etc.  The book definitely had a clear purpose in letting adopted Chinese girls know a little of their backgrounds.

The book left me personally very sad and frustrated with the culture.  Not just the culture that demands that rural families have a male heir to provide for you in the afterlife, or the culture where appearances must be kept up and so unwed mothers must give up their babies, or even the culture that forces parents to spend significant time away from the home to invest in their country/work.  I do feel for the situations of the various mothers, and for the tens of thousands of babies who don't make it and for the thousands who get adopted overseas.  But I'm also left asking, "Surely, if such a culture devastates and haunts the mothers, the fathers are affected in some way too?  And the grandparents who demand grandsons?  And the sons who are born at the sacrifice of their sisters?"

So, in the end, what do we tell our adopted daughters about their birth mothers?  Probably not the truth, until they are old enough to handle the gruesome details of a harsh reality.  If the letters in the appendix are any indication, you tell your daughters a happy story about how their mothers really did love them and didn't want to give them up.  You spend your time investing in Chinese history and culture so these daughters will love their mother country and their Chinese mothers.  Beautiful sentiments, but I think, in the end, everyone is still left asking questions with no answers, and hurting without an antidote.

Do I recommend this book?  Yes, with reservations.

Monday, October 14, 2013

In Agreement

Me: Baby's coat is Miracle-on-34th-Street adorable.
Sister: Yes, it is.
Friend: What's so adorable?
Sister: My daughter's coat.  It's a red dress coat.
Friend: You're right.  That is Miracle-on-34th-Street adorable.

(I'm just so glad that people understand what I mean)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hard of Hearing

I'm talking on the phone with my sister while she is buying Cheerwine for another sister.

What I thought she said: Now, tell me how to get to Dubai.

Me: ?!! What?!  That's quite the change in topic.

What she actually said: Now, how many do you think I should buy?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Badly Done, Emma

All day I felt like crying. So I decided to go on a walk with friends.

It was like a modern adaptation of Emma and her friends going on a lovely outing to Box Hill. We tried to be witty and funny which just resulted in being annoyed with each other which just escalated until we parted, fuming. (Except one of us. I don't think he fumes. Which just annoys me...)

In any case, I went back into my apartment and reflected on my actions, my words and, even more importantly, my intentions.

Am I a friend or not?  Well...then, act like it.   

Esse quam videri

Monday, September 30, 2013

Hair Loss

<At the hair salon>
Me: I have pretty thick hair.
Hair stylist: Yes, it really is. <after cutting for a while> Wow, you could REALLY get lost in a head of hair like this.
<she pulls out a bobby pin>
Me: <sheepishly> Oh yeah, I put that in a few days ago.  Oops.


<Sitting at the table with my head in my hands>
Friend: Regretting your haircut?
Me: No.... Should I be?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Potluck

Me: Is that my rice cooker?
Ward Member: No, sorry, it's mine.
Me: Oh, yep.  I can see that now.  I wonder where my rice cooker went.
Ward Member: Maybe your husband picked it up.
Me: That would be awkward, seeing as I don't have a husband.
Ward Member: Oh, sorry.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Running

I always gets the most compliments on my hair post-run and post-shower.

It's an unexpected side effect of running.

But I'll take it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Actions Speak

At the start of the school year, my roommate and I made two new friends.  Except, with one, we felt that we had chosen him.  He never said much.  My roommate and I wondered if he even liked us.

Last night, my roommate came out into the living room where this friend and I were studying.  She had gone to bed earlier but due to stress from her job, couldn't sleep, "I'm kind of having a panic attack."  

Our friend went and got some scotcheroos he had made the night before, and we sat with her until she was calm.  He still didn't say much.  

As it turns out, when it comes to being a friend, words are optional.  


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Reality Check

Friend: Erin, you think everyone is awesome.  You see a homeless man on the street and say, "Wow, that person is so amazing.  I wish I was just like him!"  

Do I really do this?  

Is that bad?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dinner, Jerk?

Me: Do you want some bibimbap?
Daniel: What did you just call me?  Bimbo?  What does that mean?
Me: Haha, I didn't call you anything.  Bibimbap is what we're eating for dinner.
Daniel: Ohhh, I thought you said it with a comma.  As in, 'Do you want some, bibimbap?'
Me: Yeah.  Sorry.  No comma.
Daniel: Sure, yeah, sounds good.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Autumn

Friends roast marshmallows 
Under the bright, rabbit moon.
It's fire pit to go!

We talk about life,
Anecdotes from recent past.  
Dream of tomorrow.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Babyisms

<Baby carries a toy downstairs and drops it.  She picks it up and comes over to me>
Baby: My computer just jumped out of my hands!
Me: ?? Where did you learn that phrase?

<at dinner>
Me: Do you have a boyfriend?
Baby: My boyfriend is Nolan.
Me: Really?
Baby: Yep.  I like him.
Me: You're three!  You're too young to have a boyfriend.
Baby: No, I'm not!

<holding her hand and running to catch up with my brother-in-law>
Baby: See, I'm running just like Mommy and Sarah!
<next day>
Baby: Mommy, carry me upstairs.
Sister: Mommy is too tired to carry you.  I ran yesterday.
Baby: I did too!

<Baby very VERY angry with her mom>
Baby: Mommy, you will NOT leave this world!

<in the car>
Baby: Mommy, we both have toes!

<in the car - Baby is playing a game on the phone>
Sister: Baby, this is boring sitting next to you.  I'm going to sit next to Erin.
Baby: No, sit next to me!
Sister: But you're playing a game on my phone.
Baby: <busy playing game>
Sister: And you're not even talking to me.
Baby: <still playing her game> Mommy...

Oops

<at Sweet Frog>
Me: <singing> Again and again and again.
Sister: Is this song Korean?
Me: Ha!  No!  It's American!
Sister: <unfazed> But what language is it in?
Me: <actually listening to the lyrics> Oh, it's korean


<at the race>
Sister: We need to cross the street to let these cars pass.
Me: <while holding my crying niece, I fall in a hole and trip and fall into the road in front of the line of cars>
<My niece starts crying harder although I had turned so that I took the brunt of the impact>
Runner 1: Are you ok?
Runner 2: That was quite a fall.  Are you hurt?
First-aid biker: Do you need any assistance?
Me: <thoroughly embarrassed> No, I'm fine.  I'm just clumsy.

A Weekend with the Nieces

Some baby loves her chili

Gwiyomi has some awesome bedhead

Breakfast is always more dramatic in dim lighting

Abandoned Teddy